Neil Fox on film (10.08.11)

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Rise Of The Planet Of the Apes

In a summer dominated by sequels and prequels it’s time to welcome another retread-franchise firestarter to our screens.

It was a tough call to know whether the reboot would fall in line with the mercurial original film starring Charlton Heston or the decidedly lacklustre sequels.

Alas, it falls between the two, but then that’s not necessarily a bad thing as the original is a masterpiece and the others are, well, garbage. Pretty much.

This ‘origin’ tale, as it is being billed, seeks to tell the tale of how the world came to be run by apes in the first place.

James Franco is a scientist responsible for creating, or realising, super intelligence in apes.

When he cottons on to the dangers he tries to halt testing, but his greedy boss decides to carry on and all hell breaks loose in the form of an ape uprising.

It’s interesting the film is being released in a week when rioting and uprising is central to the UK news agenda. Not that the themes are linked.

Here we have a loud and entertaining film that works hard without ever really managing to hammer home the message about the oncoming doom of humanity if its current course is upheld.

The trouble is, the script and human performances are no match for the WETA special effects.

Andy Serkis takes on the role of Caesar, lead revolutionary ape. As with Gollum and King Kong, he is the master of creating nuance and empathy for visually enhanced characters. His performance is astonishing and the effects are incredible. No matter if you can’t get on with the message, it’s worth seeing for these alone.

Truly revolutionary and a fantastic example of the power of cinema.

The Smurfs

One of the worst films ever. For kids, adults, dogs or chairs.

Utterly devoid of any charm, style, wit, intelligence or love, this cynical-beyond-belief cash-in is cinematically offensive.

The plot involves the little blue men being chased out of their village and into the ‘real’ world by Gargamel (Hank Azaria).

Chaos and laughter should ensue. It doesn’t.

Nausea does instead as every cliché in the book is trotted out for our consumption. Awful.

The Devil’s Double

While not a Smurf-like disaster, this is a pretty bad misfire.

It tells the intriguing true tale of the body double of Saddam Hussein’s psycho son Uday.

A young man, a school friend of Uday, is urged through threats to take the role on and is surgically enhanced to ensure he always convinces.

It’s a great idea and Dominic Cooper in both roles does well.

The problem is that the film’s tone is way off and is delivered, surprisingly, like a low-rent British gangster movie.

It’s off target where it needs to be for such a brilliant starting idea. As a result, it’s a clichéd mess of offensiveness and missed opportunities.