Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Director: Matt Reeves
20th Century Fox
In Theaters: 07.11
Director Matt Reeves takes the helm of the franchise to continue the journey of the intelligent primate Caesar (Andy Serkis) as the world’s population is eradicated due to a manmade virus. With more than a decade past since the last chapter, the apes live peacefully in the forest, educate their children and ponder about the fate of ape existence, but their curiosity is met suddenly with a band of humans looking to repair a dam to restore electricity to San Francisco. Caesar must decide whether to put apes before humans or learn to reestablish his trust with the species that attempted to kill his entire race. Jason Clarke and Keri Russell offer strong performances as the bridge to peace between the two societies, but this is Serkis’ time to shine, once again, as the god of motion-capture filmmaking. Reeves even does the actor justice by giving him top billing in the credits even though we never actually see him. It’s time for the world of cinema to acknowledge the gifts and talents Serkis delivers. Sure, he looks goofy in his skintight suit with plastic balls patched all over, but his performance definitely deserves accreditation from the masses. For the viewers hoping for a beginning-to-end shoot-’em-up summer blockbuster, this is not in the cards. However, this is not a bad thing. Yes, there are mesmerizing action sequences, but it’s preceded by 30 minutes of silence with apes communicating via sign language, and it’s fantastic. –Jimmy Martin
I Origins
Director: Mike Cahill
Fox Searchlight Pictures
In Theaters: 07.18
It’s extremely rare when a science-fiction film comes along and makes you ponder as you walk out of the exit, “What if that really happened?” Such is the case with director Mike Cahill’s chilling exploration into the existence of the human species. When Dr. Ian Gray (Michael Pitt) becomes infatuated with the mysterious Sofi (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey) after a one-night stand, the two randomly find each other and become a couple. While Ian is a molecular biologist exploring the origins of the eye to settle the dispute between Creationism and Evolution once and for all with his lab partner, Karen (Brit Marling), Sofi is a believer in the spirit world and the possibility of chance. After a surprising turn of events, Ian moves on with Karen as the two continue to pursue their scientific breakthrough, but, after the birth of their son and some irregularities to their cause, Ian races across the globe to unearth a seemingly impossible fact that could change the way we look at life forever. Cahill poses the question of spirituality versus science in a fascinating viewpoint with polar-opposite characters to lead us through the rabbit hole. The further you spiral down Cahill’s abyss of intrigue and deception, both sides of the spectrum of believers and non-believers can easily ask the question, “What if?” I Origins is an imaginative and superb addition to Cahill’s deck of mystery cards. With last year’s After Earth, the up-and-coming director has a solid two pair in his hand. Here’s hoping the three of a kind comes quickly. –Jimmy Martin
Land Ho!
Directors: Aaron Katz, Martha Stevens
Sony Pictures Classics
In Theaters: 07.11
Land Ho! is a simple, charming road-trip comedy that follows two aged ex-brothers-in-law as they travel through Iceland in a rented Hummer in an attempt to reclaim a sense of youth. Mitch (Earl Lynn Nelson), a crass, lovable retired surgeon from New Orleans surprises his former brother-in-law Colin (Paul Eenhoorn) with an all-expenses-paid trip to Iceland to help him get over his recent divorce. From the dance club to the Icelandic wilderness, the two argue and bond over the reality of getting old but still living life to the fullest. Mitch’s frequent “doobification” and non-stop sexual references in his booming Southern drawl contrasts with Colin’s serious, uptight Aussie voice of reason—the two varied personalities make a wildly entertaining, comedic dynamic on screen. With its subdued plot, improvised-sounding dialogue, character focus and documentary feel, Land Ho! is much like Michael Winterbottom’s The Trip, but with main characters who are a generation older. Set in the stark, chillingly beautiful landscape of Iceland, it’s a well-made, gently paced meditation on getting old and enjoying life in all its phases. It’s fun and heartwarming, but not in a lame, mushy way. Outstanding and hilarious performances by Nelson and Eenhoorn make senior citizenship seem like a hell of a good time—bring it on! –Cody Kirkland
Director: Ben Falcone
Warner Bros.
In Theaters: 07.02
If you saw the trailer for Tammy and immediately thought to yourself, “What the hell is that movie about?” you are not alone. Melissa McCarthy wearing a paper bag on her head robbing a fast food joint does not get me excited in the slightest, and, sad to say, neither did the remaining 93 minutes of this meandering bore fest. McCarthy stars as Tammy, a foul-mouthed dimwit who’s fired from her job (by her real-life husband and the film’s director, Ben Falcone), and finds out that her husband is cheating on her all in one day. So, she decides to take a road trip with her alcoholic grandmother, Pearl (Susan Sarandon), to Niagara Falls. An enormous pet peeve of mine is actors attempting to pull off improvisational comedy and completely missing the mark. It’s worse than Nickelback. The only saving grace of the film is a brief appearance by Kathy Bates, who strolled in from a more interesting film, gave us some laughs and walked off into the sunset all while my mind was screaming, “Take me with you!” McCarthy, whom I adored in Bridesmaids and The Heat, is becoming a one-note performer, and the routine is well on its way to becoming stale. With all of that, the film’s primary issue is the lack of foundation on being a dark comedy or a melodrama. Either way, I’m just happy Falcone doesn’t have a Michael Bay complex and only made me sit in the theater for an additional 90 minutes. –Jimmy Martin
Under the Electric Sky
Director: Dan Cutforth, Jane Lipsitz
Focus Features
Street: 05.29
Whether or not you’re familiar with the dance music festival that’s become an international phenomenon since its inception back in 1997, the latest film from this concert documentary filmmaker duo will leave any audience member with a deeper understanding of the almost cult-like world of raving. This film follows six groups of festivalgoers from different walks of life and social backgrounds on their journey to, and overall experience of, 2013’s Electric Daisy Carnival, held in Las Vegas. The characters introduce themselves prior to their departure for the festival and explain what attending EDC means to them. From frat bros to veteran ravers, the film does an excellent job of fusing personalities that would otherwise never be classified in the same social group. Over the course of the film, the audience forms an emotional attachment to the characters, and the directors’ use of pathos helps any audience member understand that the world of raving is more than just going to a concert. It’s a world where people who would normally feel outcast from regular society can escape to for a sense of freedom to be who they want to be. The film also includes interviews with the CEO and creator of Insomniac Events, Pasquale Rotella, and a few artists from the list of 200 headliners that played at the festival. Above all, the film wasn’t so much an 85-minute commercial trying to enhance ticket sales as it was an explanation of why people attend such a wild event. As someone who loves these kinds of events and often gets questionable stares from others for attending them, I would recommend this film to more than just my fellow ravers. –Julia Sachs