Friday movie roundup: ‘Apes’ is enough
There's just one thing you have to do this weekend at the movies: Go ape.
"Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" is the real deal, an exciting action movie that's also a thought-provoking drama about war, leadership, and the corrosive effects of xenophobia. Ten years after an outbreak of the lab-created "simian flu" has decimated humanity, an ape colony — led by the strong and intelligent Caesar (performed by Andy Serkis) — is thriving in the California woods. When some apes encounter some humans, survivors from an outpost in San Francisco, tension grows as both sides split between peacemakers and warmongers. Serkis' motion-capture performance is full-blooded and emotional, to the point where you may forget he's hiding behind a computer-generated mask.
For a change of pace, there's the modern musical "Begin Again." Mark Ruffalo stars as a washed-up, alcoholic record executive who discovers a shy songwriter (Keira Knightley), who he thinks could be a major star. The songwriter has her own story, as ex-girlfriend to an unfaithful budding rock star (Adam Levine of Maroon 5). Writer-director John Carney, who made the amazing "Once," doesn't quite capture lightning in a bottle twice — but he's got a charmingly scruffy style, and sweetly conveys the healing power of music.
The documentary "For No Good Reason" gets in the way of its own subject, the illustrator Ralph Steadman, whose wild, confrontational art style perfectly matched the "gonzo" writing of Hunter S. Thompson. Steadman is generous as he talks about his artistic process and his wild times with Thompson. But the movie gets too stylized, and sends in Johnny Depp for a boring interview.
Writer-director Paul Haggis' "Third Person" is a tedious collection of stories tied by themes of trust, love and endangered children. Liam Neeson stars as a once-talented author trying to get back his spark, while also having a Paris affair with a younger writer (Olivia Wilde). Other stories involve a recovering addict (Mila Kunis) battling her ex (James Franco) for custody of their son, and an American businessman (Adrien Brody) being seduced by a possible con artist (Moran Atias) in Rome. The dialogue is stilted and self-conscious, and the stories overstuffed with self-importance.
Lastly, Utah maverick filmmaker Trent Harris unveils his latest experimental work, "Luna Mesa," this week at the Broadway Centre Cinemas. It's a trippy story — filmed on the fly in Cambodia, Mexico, southern Utah and other locations — about a globe-trotting photographer (played by local actress/dancer Liberty Valentine) unraveling the mystery of the death of her lover (played by Harris). It's visually fascinating and a bit of a head-scratcher, but worth a look. (The Cricket didn't review the movie, because of his long acquaintance with the filmmaker, but he did interview Harris for this week's Cricket column.)