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Friday, Aug. 22, 2014

Serkis's talent on full display with 'Apes' blu-ray release

Thursday, December 15, 2011

(Photo)
Actor Andy Serkis plays Caesar in Twentieth Century Fox's "Rise of the Planet of the Apes."
Could this actually be the year? The year the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences, aka the Oscars, recognizes an actor who physically never spent a moment on screen? I thought so when I first caught "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" in theaters, and after watching the Blu-ray release, those convictions are only strengthened.

Motion capture genius Andy Serkis, the actor behind Gollum and King Kong, plays Caesar in "Rise." The argument about nominating CGI characters has been long and loud. But watch some of the special features on the Blu-ray edition of the film and it's easy to see there more of Serkis on screen that perhaps any actor this year.

Sure he gets a little help from CGI artists, but they only animated what Serkis brings to life, not the other way around. His performance as Caesar was one of the best, most heart-tugging performances of the year.

The first major awards, the Screen Actors Guild, were announced Wednesday and guess what -- no Andy Serkis. We have weak performances from Kenneth Branagh in "My Week with Marilyn" and a typical performance from Jonah Hill in "Moneyball," but not Serkis. I guess mainstream awards aren't ready to relinquish their old ways of thinking. I'm still holding out hope for the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards, though.

But on with the review.

Caesar (Serkis), who is genetically gifted after his mother received ALZ-112, a drug to combat the affects of Alzheimer's, is taken in my scientist Will Rodman (James Franco) and begins his life an ape living in a human world.

At first all is well, but as he ages, he struggles with who and in his own words, what he is. Not only can Caesar sign and communicate, the ape also can reason and that's when things get hairy -- pun intended.

After Caesar attacks a neighbor while protecting Charles Rodman (John Lithgow), Will's Alzheimer's fighting father, he's taken to an ape sanctuary and left until Will can find a way to get him out. As he attempts to adapt to his surroundings and it takes Will longer and longer to spring him, Caesar turns from a loveable companion to leader of a revolution.

But it always seems, and might actually come to be a reality someday, it is man who is responsible for man's downfall. Will creates a new version of the ALZ-112 that works the way it should on the apes, but has a disastrous affect on humans. After Caesar refuses to leave the sanctuary when Will bribes its director, he busts out, goes to Will's house and returns with the new form of the drug. Once the canisters are released, voila -- we have super-smart apes. Let the evolution revolution begin

As the film nears its end, there's an epic battle on San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge between apes and humans, one last pluck on the heartstrings and we see what truly will bring about the "Rise of the Planet of the Apes."

In addition to Serkis's captivating and heartfelt performance, Lithgow and Brian Cox, as the sanctuary director, are wonderful. Plus, Freida Pinto proves she's more than just a pretty face.

As I said in my theatrical review of the film, we've heard that digital characters would someday be able to hold their own against their human counterparts. This is the realization of such talk.

With so many remakes and reboots, I thought the filmmakers did a great job of capturing the classic feel of the previous films (I don't acknowledge Tim Burton's film) and making it relevant to today's audience.

The Blu-ray has a bunch of awesome special features including "The Genius of Andy Serkis," "Breaking Motion Capture Boundaries" and "Mythology of the Apes" featurettes. There are also two commentaries featuring director Rupert Wyatt and writers Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver.

Final Cut: "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" is one of the best films of the year and only gets better after watching the Blu-ray special features. This is definitely one revolution you want to be part of.

Movie: 4.5 stars

Extras: 4.5 stars

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Starring: James Franco, Andy Serkis, John Lithgow, Brian Cox, Tom Felton, Freida Pinto

Director: Rupert Wyatt

Writer: Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense and frightening sequences of action and violence