War for the Planet of the Apes

As written for West End Magazine.
Image Credit: Chernin Entertainment
Matt Reeves (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Cloverfield) returns to the director’s chair for War for the Planet of the Apes. Taking post-apocalyptic battle movies to a new level, it’s both high-energy action and emotional roller coast as you try to decide where your allegiances lie. For those concerned that it will fall into the trap of so many franchise sequels, don’t worry: strong characters, plot, and moral quandaries would make it successful even as a stand-alone film.
After a huge personal lose, ape Caesar (Andy Serkis) is torn between his duty to lead and protect the apes, and his thirst for revenge against the Colonel (Woody Harrelson).
A long journey to face off against the Colonel and his men leads to new discoveries and new challenges for everyone trying to survive in the new world.
The opening scenes are understated in a wonderful, almost vintage way. With a slow, quiet build up, Reeves (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, 2014) draws viewers back into his world of intelligent primates. Moving from an eerie, almost silent forest to a battle for life and death, you’re immediately invested.
Characters on both sides of this ongoing conflict have been carefully crafted. As more is learned about each ape and human’s backstory, acts that seemed cruel become a little less black and white.
Steve Zahn joins the cast of this latest Apes film, adding some unusual comedy. While laughing may feel out of place at first, his physical comedy and quirky personality was conveniently placed to traverse slower plot points and make necessary connections between scenes. His caution and self-preservation held a juxtaposition to the gung-ho, ride or die attitudes of other characters.
For those who haven’t seen Rise or Dawn of the Planet of the Apes recently or at all, don’t worry too much about missing out. While the story definitely carries on and fans of the series will see familiar faces and make connections a little quicker, this film can still be enjoyed as a standalone feature.


Image: Black Bear Pictures

2016 gave us some great based-on-true-event films, and 2017 looks set to continue that trend. Built loosely around the mining scandal that befell Bre-X in 1993, Gold brings adventure, crime, and suspense to the big screen once more.

Prospector Kenny Wells’ (Matthew McConaughey) business is just like his liquor, on the rocks. Having taken over his late father’s company, Wells has been unable to land a big contract and he grasps at his last available straw. Michael Acosta (Edgar Ramirez) is a geologist living in Indonesia. When Acosta is approached by Wells to find the gold the geologist was once so sure exists beneath the jungle, a little persuasion is required. Soon enough, they’re off, obtaining funding (though only enough to scrape through by the skin of their teeth), workers, and core samples; but they find nothing. Just as all hope seems lost, what should appear? Gold.

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Red Dog: True Blue

Image: Screen Australia

Whether it be the beauty of the Australian outback, an adorable dog, or the story of a young boy and his best friend that draws you to this film, you won’t go away disappointed.

Director Kirv Stenders returns with Red Dog: True Blue, both part prequel and sequel his 2011 Red Dog that captured (and broke) so many hearts. Without spoiling too much, the prequel part of the tale tells the story of young Sydney boy, Mick (Levi Miller), whose mother sends him to live with his grandfather after the death of her husband. Michael’s grandfather (Bryan Brown) owns and runs the NAME cattle property. Living this rural and remotely is a challenge for Michael at first, but when a storm brings a little red pup, Blue (Phoenix), to his side, things start to change.

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Image: Columbia Pictures

As time goes on, the population of the earth has been and continues to expand exponentially. There is a theory that with overpopulation we are destroying the human race’s chances of survival. What happens when an individual decides to take action against that?

Director Ron Howard returns for this third film based on the books by Dan Brown. When symbologist Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) finds himself in hospital being treated for a head wound and no memory of the past 48 hours, it becomes a race against time and people unknown to find out what he had been working on.

With the assistance of Dr Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones), Langdon has to crack the puzzle leading to the next plague as the future of the human race hangs in the balance.

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Deepwater Horizon

Image: Summit Entertainment

The Deepwater Horizon was an offshore oil drilling rig owned by Transocean and leased to BP. On April 20, 2010, a blowout occurred causing an explosion and an inextinguishable fire on the Horizon. Two days later the Horizon sank, leaving behind an open oil well which resulted in the largest oil spill that has occurred in U.S. waters.

Hearing about these events on the news are bad enough, but for many it can be difficult to comprehend the enormity of such an occurrence. Seeing them adapted to film can help to bring a clearer understanding of what the crew of the Deepwater Horizon went through.

A recording of a statement given by Mike Williams, the Chief Electronics Technician, opens this movie. The sound but lack of visuals on the screen make you pay closer attention to the words of Mr Williams, this bringing to the forefront of your mind that this isn’t just a movie. This is a dramatisation of a real situation that real people went through only 6 years ago.

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The Girl on the Train

Image: Dreamworks Pictures

Piece by piece this tale of deceit, misdirection, adultery, and murder builds together.

Based on the bestselling novel by Paula Hawkins, The Girl on the Train is the story of three women; Rachel (Emily Blunt), a divorced alcoholic, Anna (Rebecca Ferguson), the new wife of Rachel’s ex-husband, and Megan (Haley Bennett), nanny to Anna’s daughter. When Megan goes missing we are drawn into the spiral.

The story itself starts relatively slow, building and layering upon itself. I personally started to get a slightly unsettled feeling the longer I watched, largely in part to the feel that you’re an outsider looking into somebody else’s life. While you are told the story from the points of view of the three leading women, it’s still difficult to feel like you belong.

As the story progresses, its jumps from person to person, forward and back in time, gradually form a puzzle. The longer you watch, the more of the picture you can begin to fill in for yourself.

While the movie on its own isn’t necessarily spectacular, the acting from the main cast is quite outstanding. Emily Blunt in particular is a stand out figure. Her portrayal of an alcoholic, emotionally unstable woman who can hardly trust what her own memory is telling her will have you on the edge of your seat.

If for no other reason, Blunt’s performance makes this film one to see.

Captain Fantastic

Image: Electric City Entertainment

What is the best way to raise a family? It’s a question that has been asked countless times throughout human existence; and the answers and opinions continue to change.

Ben (Viggo Mortensen) has a path that he believes will be the best for his children. Living in the woods of the Pacific Northwest, the six siblings Bo, Kielyr, Vespyr, Rellian, Zaja, and Nai live by a strict regime to ensure their peak physical fitness and an incredibly high level of knowledge. If there is a book written on a subject, chances are at least one of Ben’s children have studied it at one stage in their lives.

Being so far removed from the outside world does have its downfalls. Lack of advanced medical facilities for example. The family’s mother has been in hospital for a while now and, when she passes away, it throws the children through a loop. They have to leave their small section of paradise to travel to their mother’s funeral, and on the way, they find out just how little they knew of the world. It’s not only the children who are affected. Ben himself has to see other people’s ways of life for the first time in a long time. The comparisons between how different people live their lives and raise their families are stark.

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Image: Warner Bros.


On January 15, 2009, US Airways Flight 1549 suffered dual engine failure due to a bird strike. Thanks to the skill and quick thinking of Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the plane was able to perform a forced water landing. There were no casualties. All 155 souls on board survived.

While the public and the media hailed Captain Sully as a hero, an investigation was underway to assess whether the decision to land on the Hudson River had been the right one.

Right from the first seconds, this film is a masterpiece. Director Clint Eastwood has you tensed on the edge of your seat as you watch the events unfold.

The quiet of the opening scene is one of the few times I found a lack of musical score to not be a hindrance; it really allows the viewer to focus and try to process the magnitude of what they’re seeing.

Both Tom Hanks (as Sully) and Aaron Eckhart (Co-Pilot Jeff Skiles) have their considerable talents on display in this film. Skiles’ stead-fast support of his captain during the investigation is admirable to say the least.

There was one moment in particular for me when Tom Hanks reaffirmed his status as a brilliant actor. It has been a long time since an actor’s performance has nearly brought me to tears, rather than the story itself. Having been the last one off the aircraft, to the best of his knowledge, and rescued from the waters of the Hudson River, the captain requests a count, saying “155, that’s my number”. The palpable relief when Captain Sullenberger finds out that everyone on his flight lived? I have goosebumps just thinking about it.

The fear that must have been felt by passengers and crew alike as they heard the Captain’s instruction to “brace for impact” is simply unimaginable to me. And yet, throughout the decent, the focus of the captain and co-pilot and the constant mantra of the cabin crew to passengers, instructing them “heads down, stay down. Brace, brace, brace,” was right there, re-enacted for us by Eastwood, Hanks, Eckhart, and others. My words simply do not do it justice. I cannot recommend this movie highly enough.