The Greatest Apes: Dazzlingly real, these noble beasts’ righteous war shows just how brutal and inhuman man can be
War For The Planet Of The Apes (12A)
Cars 3 (U)
We all need epics. Great journeys, noble yet flawed leaders, oppression, struggle, injustice, rescues. Here they all are in crashing 3D: every cliche of the adventure movie genre comes snugly wrapped up in hairy heroes.
There are no embarrassing gorilla-suits these days, but computer-generated motion- capture apes, created by actors so dedicated they spent days at ‘Ape Camp’ practising.
So they are extraordinarily believable in their animal movement and behaviour, while remaining tastefully free of both fleas and genitalia. Perhaps their faces are that bit more expressive than you’ll see at Jersey Zoo (as Caesar the hero, Andy ‘Gollum’ Serkis had numerous electronic dots on his face and a camera in his hair to make that happen).
All the hairy heroes in War For Planet Of The Apes are designed by computer-generated motion-capture technology
But that’s fine: the ongoing story tells us when the death-virus of Simian Flu wiped out most of human civilisation, ‘humans got sick, apes got smart’.
So while most of the who-whoo-grunt ape conversations are rendered through bright yellow subtitles, Caesar has evolved enough to develop speech and utters gruff, brief sayings such as: ‘They shall pay.’
He also has a moral conscience, with which he wrestles ceaselessly. Serkis’s gorillafied facial expressions vary during this process, from wise old guru (when worried about his people) to a startling resemblance to Gordon Brown when he’s furious.
Newcomers will have no trouble working out the story of previous films because it is laid out at the start and, in any case, all you really need to know is that the remaining humans are all military, seem to be all male, and use heavy armour and guns against peaceable, spear-carrying apes.
The humans are led by crazed colonel Woody Harrelson, who rarely removes his sunglasses
It is very violent from the start: piles of dead apes. And while it is nearly an hour before the first human faces come to relieve the slight weariness that washes over you when you are looking at ape after ape, the humans are highly unattractive.
They’re the kind of squaddies who daub slogans such as ‘APEOCALYPSE NOW’ and ‘THE ONLY GOOD KONG IS A DEAD KONG’.
It is not difficult to work out that director Matt Reeves and author Mark Bomback want us to draw parallels with America’s wars.
THE film is full of parallels: the apes are captured by a crazy colonel — Woody Harrelson, who rarely removes his sunglasses even by night and utters lines such as: ‘This is a holy war. All of human history has led to this point!’
The director clearly wanted us to draw parallels to America's wars
He also — get it? — is forcing the slave-apes to build a pointless wall. And, as the cages and the work quarry fill with desperate captives, we have a retro Spartacus vibe, with floggings and crucifixions.
When Caesar growls ‘my son and wife are dead’ and has to decide whether to take revenge on a powerless enemy, you think: ‘It’s like Russell Crowe in Gladiator, only with fur.’ When they escape, with a tunnel, it is a simian Shawshank Redemption.
The Colonel’s big worry, by the way, is that while the apes evolve and grow heroic, humanity is going the other way, and even losing the power of speech. That symptom includes a mute but cute girl-child Nova (Amiah Miller) who is rescued by the giant orangutan Maurice.
The Colonel's worry is that the apes are growing heroic while humanity is going the other way
In that role, by the way, Karin Konoval is almost as expressive as Serkis’s Caesar, despite being hampered by having weird eyes in a gigantic flat bright orange face.
And the spectacle? Brilliant, as you’d expect. Michael Seresin’s look is part Lord Of The Rings, part war movie: waterfalls, an underground flood, explosions, huge conflagrations, gunships and a mountain-full of ammunition setting off an avalanche as the hairy heroes flee to the trees.
Having duly empathised with apes, the next challenge of the week was to share the feelings of cartoon motor vehicles who roll their eyes around their windscreens, stamp their tyres in enthusiasm and grit their bumpers in athletic effort. But Pixar films always have some wit and heart. So despite a lifelong dislike of motor racing I rather took to the latest in the Cars series.
Cars 3 is another entirely human-free tale about Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) and his trackmates.
It took only minutes before I was going ‘Awwww!’ at Lightning’s insecurities about growing old
But actually, it took only minutes before I was going ‘Awwww!’ at Lightning’s insecurities about growing old and being overtaken by arrogant youngsters (we’ve all been there).
And it is hard not to smile at the buck-toothed old breakdown truck and the hippie VW camper, or to be indignant about the arrogant Storm bragging about his computer-calculated downforce and drag-coefficient ratios.
The point is that every character is a vehicle — not just the racers, the self-operating pit mechanic machines and a cheering crowd of trackside minis and saloons, but even the pushy radio reporters (scruffy scratched cars with giant headphones: yep, recognise that, too).
The point is that every character is a vehicle — not just the racers, the self-operating pit mechanic machines
The story is of Lightning’s struggle not to retire in the face of a newer rival and a sponsor who wants him to become a merchandising brand.
It follows a time-honoured sports movie shape: post-crash despair where our hero lies around in a dark shed in his primer paint, followed by new motivation, overconfidence, discovering who your real pals are, punishing training and, finally, finding generosity on the edge of triumph.
The most interesting psychology concerns a gung-ho female coach — voiced by Cristela Alonzo — who missed her own big chance and spouts mantras such as: ‘You’re old and slow with shabby tyres. Yes, now you’re angry — good, use that!’
The animation, as usual, is extraordinary. And the races, horrifying as they are, feel sufficiently like a video game to quell most (if not all) of my qualms about the film encouraging boy-racers on the public highway.
A KID'S EYE VIEW ON CARS 3
Cars 3 (U)
Verdict: The Cars 2 we deserved
Cars was a film that gripped Ellis Barnes-Church, so Cars 3 had a lot to deliver
Cars was the first film that I really got gripped by and cared about. I loved it. But Cars 2 was lacklustre, so for me, Cars 3 had a lot to deliver. And I’m glad to say it did.
The first five minutes was jaw-dropping — everything from the racing to the banter between the characters to the music felt so much like the first movie — and it was refreshing to return to a world that has become so familiar.
Even the plot (of a rookie coming onto the racing scene against an old and experienced racer) is almost identical to the first one, except that where the first movie focused on the rookie McQueen, this new one focuses on the older racer and how he wants to fight change, especially giving up what he’s spent his whole life doing.
The soundtrack samples some of the first movie’s themes, such as the piston cup theme, and the two staple songs (Run That Race and Ride) remind me a lot of Real Gone and Life Is A Highway.
Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) has been on the track for a while, and he is old and experienced. But when the other racers are replaced by new, faster cars, most notably Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer), McQueen is faced with retirement.
Luckily he refuses to stop and instead trains with the over excited Cruz Ramirez (Christela Alonzo), ending up in many weird situations, such as meeting an old friend of Doc Hudson and racing in a demolition derby against the hulking school bus of death known as Miss Fritter (Lea DeLaria).
It seems the entire second movie has been forgotten about - which is definitely the best thing they could’ve done - so you can skip from Cars to Cars 3 and nothing will be out of place.
The graphics are absolutely stunning — the race scenes mirror NASCAR so well you sometimes wonder if they actually sampled footage from real races. The drives in the forest are amazing; and on the beach, you can see the sand on McQueen and Ramirez’s tires.
Pixar’s strict ‘What if’ formula is once again relevant. In Toy Story it was ‘what if toys had feelings’. In Finding Nemo is was ‘What if fish had feelings’. In Inside Out it was ‘what if feelings had feelings’. And in this movie it was ‘what if cars had feelings’.
Watching Cars 3 it seems the entire second movie has been forgotten about - which is definitely the best thing they could've done
The character of Doc is a major player, as McQueen remembers his deceased mentor and even meets Doc’s old crew chief, Smokey. Using scrapped voice recordings from the first film, Doc (the great Paul Newman) returns in a few flashback scenes and it is nice to see him (Cars 2 hardly addressed Doc’s death).
Getting old is a big theme in this movie. While Lightning fights retirement and refuses to sell out his image, to become nothing but merchandising, Chick has his own talk show, and yes, stills brags about the one and only Piston Cup he won in the first film. (Ironically, the Cars movies are legendary for their merchandising - and this made me want to go straight to the Disney store and buy all the different characters.)
Overall, Cars 3 was a brilliant film that returned to the roots of the franchise and, in my opinion, is even slightly better than the original.
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