Dazzling: Andy Serkis stars as Caesar, the leader of the ape nation in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. *Photo supplied
Dazzling: Andy Serkis stars as Caesar, the leader of the ape nation in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. *Photo supplied

Liberty Theatre

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

***

Stars: Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Toby Kebbell.

Director: Matt Reeves

Rated: PG-13

Showing: Fri-Sat 2:30pm, 6pm, 9:30pm; Sun 2:30pm,  5:30pm; Mon-Thurs 2:30pm, 6pm, 9:30pm.

Runtime: 126 minutes

Action drama, sci-fi.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is an action-packed epic, a moving sci-fi allegory rendered in broad, lush strokes by the latest state of the computer animator’s art.

Yes, you will believe a chimp can talk, ride a horse and fire a machine gun. These evolved animated apes have fur with feeling, expressive faces, fangs and eyes that show them well on their way to being human. Dawn illustrates the accelerating pace of improvements to CGI — with performances built around motion-capture-suited actors Andy Serkis and Toby Kebbell, among others — in sequences so dazzling your jaw will drop.

The first scientifically evolved ape, Caesar (Serkis), has led his tribe into the Muir Woods, where they’ve built a village, mastered fire, SSL (Simian Sign Language) and horseback riding, isolated and safe from human interference.

“Humans destroyed each other,” Caesar counsels. So apes must live by a higher code: “Ape not kill ape.”

Then some humans, led by the curious and compassionate Malcolm (Jason Clarke), encounter the colony. Caesar strikes a pose at the head of his legions, and the humans, even though they’re armed to the teeth, tremble. The Ape in Chief doesn’t stutter when he issues an order to the intruders.

“GO!”

Of course, the humans have need of something within ape territory. Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) is ready to arm the troops and invade. But Malcolm, his Centers for Disease Control girlfriend (Keri Russell) and sketch-pad happy son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) are given a couple of days to work out a treaty, get the electrical power back on and save humans and apes from what is sure to be a bloody war.

It’s hard to know who to root for, which was always the point of these movies. Yeah, we’re obligated to hope humanity doesn’t go extinct, even if we brought this down on ourselves. But the apes in Dawn are awfully appealing, learning the hard way that ape lesson of Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey”— that murder and treachery are the traits that make us, and them, most human. 

Neptune Theatre

How To Train Your Dragon 2

****

Stars: Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler.

Director: Dean DeBlois

Rated: PG

Showing: Fri 2:30pm, 7:30pm; Sat 4pm, 7:30pm; Sun 2:30pm, 6pm; Mon 2:30pm, 7pm.

Runtime: 102 minutes

Animation, action,
adventure.

The sequel to Dreamworks Animation’s successful 2010 run of How To Train Your Dragon expands on the emotions of the coming-of-age tale of a boy and his dragon. We return to the Isle of Berk five years after Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) showed the Vikings dragons were not evil creatures.

Speciality Theatre

Transformers: Age of Extinction

**

Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Nicola Peltz, Jack Reynor.

Director: Michael Bay

Rated: PG-13

Showing: Fri-Sat 2:30pm (3D), 6pm (3D), 9:15pm (2D); 

Sun 2:15pm (3D), 6pm (3D),  9:15pm (2D); Mon-Thurs 

2:30pm (3D), 6pm (3D), 9:15pm (2D).

Runtime: 165 minutes

Action/comedy/sci-fi

The special effects are sharper, less blurred, and the robots far more defined in Transformers: Age of Extinction. Four films into this series and the giant-thinking, wise-cracking, lecturing alien robots have a look that finally suggests weight and metallic wear and tear.

Stanley Tucci and T.J. Miller come in as human comical relief, and John Goodman and Ken Watanabe provide new voices, sometimes used for comedy, as new Autobots. And if Age of Extinction makes you feel dumber just for having watched it, well, that’s the price of popcorn these days. If it keeps Michael Bay out of trouble for years at a time (this is the start of a new trilogy), we’ll just grit our teeth and bear it. n

Think Like a Man Too

**

Stars: Kevin Hart, Gabrielle Union, Taraji P. Henson, Meagan Good, Michael Ealy, Jenifer Lewis, Romany Malco, Dennis Haysbert.

Director: Tim Story.

Rated: PG-13

Showing: Fri-Sat 2:45pm, 6:15pm, 9:30pm; Sun 2:30pm, 6:15pm, 9:30pm; Mon-Thurs 2:45pm, 6:15pm, 9:30pm.

Runtime: 106 minutes

Comedy.

Sequels, as 22 Jump Street joked, are always “the same, only worse”.

So any pretense of insight into the battle of the sexes and any real connection to stand-up comic turned self-appointed relationships expert Steve Harvey’s book, Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, is long forgotten in Think Like a Man Too, the sequel to the surprise hit of two springs back. 

Kevin Hart has become the break-out star of this ensemble, so Too is basically a star vehicle for the Manic Little Man — with Las Vegas as the playground for this Bridesmaids meets The Hangover movie. n

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