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Hammerle On … 'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,' 'Begin Again'

Robert Hammerle
July 30, 2014
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“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”

Once in a while a so-called science fiction/action film grabs the summer season by its cinematic throat, forcing all of the other films to dance in its shadow. Excluding the recent “X-Men,” that is precisely the case with director Matt Reeves’ “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.”

In the original film of this new series, released in 2011, you saw James Franco as a scientist raising a young ape named Caesar, only to have him shamefully imprisoned in a facility where he was mistreated with little concern. However, Caesar’s treatment with new experimental drugs led him to an intelligence level equivalent of humans, and he led his colleagues in a spectacular escape over the Golden Gate Bridge.hammerle-again.jpg

Here, Caesar, his mate and two children lead a large ape colony in the forest near the destroyed San Francisco. Human life has been all but eliminated because of a deadly virus named the “Simian Flu,” and the remaining humans and existing apes haven’t interacted in over 10 years.

That changes when a group of humans, seeking a dam to restore electric power, stumble across Caesar’s village. Catastrophe awaits until peace is sought by the human Malcolm, played by Jason Clarke.

Nearly all existing humans have suffered some traumatic loss. And that applies to Malcolm and his teenage son, Alexander, played by Kodi Smit-McPhee. Keri Russell accompanies our duo as Ellie, a woman who, like them, has lost her family.

While Gary Oldman also appears as the manic-depressive leader of the humans in San Francisco, it is the unforgettable performance of Andy Serkis as Caesar that dominates the movie. In much the same manner as he did as Gollum in “The Lord of the Rings” series as well as the recent “Hobbit” films, Serkis brings Caesar to life at a depth impossible to describe, and it will be a crime if he is ignored at Oscar time.

The film focuses on an unfortunate war between apes and humans, and it is precipitated when Caesar is betrayed by his closest ally, Koba, played marvelously by Toby Kebbell. Koba sees war as the only answer, and after disposing of Caesar, he leads an attack on the humans that poses a monumental disaster for both sides.

When Caesar confronts Malcolm near the movie’s finale with the observation that only trouble exists in the future since the apes started the war, I couldn’t help but think of what it must be like to live in the Arab world after Osama bin Laden initiated a war with the September 11 attacks. Like Koba, his limited initial success put all of his people in jeopardy, and it created a world that still threatens to unravel.

While there are many intriguing moments throughout this daring movie, none are more telling than Caesar’s repeated decree that apes are different from humans in that “apes don’t kill apes.” Can we really maintain that human beings are the highest elevated form of life on Earth when we are so willing to repeatedly destroy much of our planet and the humans occupying it?

“Begin Again”

“Begin Again” is a cinematic diamond in the rough that saved an otherwise dismal Fourth of July movie weekend. Director John Carney displayed his magic touch in “Once” (2006), and the strengths of that tiny film are found here.

In short, we see Dave and Greta arrive in New York from England to pursue a record contract. Adam Levine plays Dave while Keira Knightley plays Greta, and their love affair matches their musical abilities. As for young Mr. Levine, the lead singer for Maroon 5, he matches the acting talents displayed by Jared Leto in “Dallas Buyers Club.”

Unfortunately, quick fame has its costs, and Greta takes a hike upon learning of Dave’s transgressions. In the process, she meets Dan (Mark Ruffalo), a depressed, drunken ex-recording executive who excels at embracing his lost past. On the outs with his ex-wife, Miriam (the accomplished Catherine Keener), and his teenage daughter Violet (Hailee Steinfeld), he appears headed for disaster until he inadvertently hears Greta reluctantly sing at a local bar.

The movie takes off like a rocket ship from that point with both Greta and Dan fighting off depression while they put an engaging rock group together to record an album on the streets of New York. The songs are at times magical, and any criticism of “Begin Again” as being a retread of “Once” is woefully undeserved.
hammerle-apes.jpgAs an example, the scene of Greta initially singing in the bar as Dan watches is repeated from several different perspectives. In one, you see a drunken Dan entranced as he imagines unused instruments, lying on stage, playing without human help to provide an important back-up band for Greta. Dan smiles as he rediscovers his strength and you will smile with him.

In addition, there is a recording session on a New York street where Dan’s angry daughter reluctantly joins as a guitarist and several neighborhood kids are asked to sing as backups. The song itself is a knockout, and these two scenes represent the vocal and visual genius of Carney, who also wrote the film. They contribute to make the film unforgettable.

There are some other wonderful supporting roles, the most notable being those provided by James Corden and Mos Def. Corden plays Steve, Greta’s old friend who lends a shoulder. He is wonderfully funny at every turn. As for Def, he fills a critical void as Dan’s old boss/partner who was forced to fire him. Despite his anger, his affection for Dan is never lost, and you know that he will be around the corner to lend a helping hand.

As for Knightley, a beautiful and intelligent actress, she also proves to be an excellent singer. On top of that, she may be the only actress working in film today who has the nerve to not be embarrassed by imperfect teeth. It makes me love her all the more.

This movie is a must see. No excuses.•

__________

Robert Hammerle practices criminal law in Indianapolis. When he is not in the courtroom or working diligently in his Pennsylvania Street office, Bob can likely be found at one of his favorite movie theaters watching and preparing to review the latest films. To read more of his reviews, visit www.bigmouthbobs.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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  1. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  2. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  3. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

  4. When I hear 'Juvenile Lawyer' I think of an attorney helping a high school aged kid through the court system for a poor decision; like smashing mailboxes. Thank you for opening up my eyes to the bigger picture of the need for juvenile attorneys. It made me sad, but also fascinated, when it was explained, in the sixth paragraph, that parents making poor decisions (such as drug abuse) can cause situations where children need legal representation and aid from a lawyer.

  5. Some in the Hoosier legal elite consider this prayer recommended by the AG seditious, not to mention the Saint who pledged loyalty to God over King and went to the axe for so doing: "Thomas More, counselor of law and statesman of integrity, merry martyr and most human of saints: Pray that, for the glory of God and in the pursuit of His justice, I may be trustworthy with confidences, keen in study, accurate in analysis, correct in conclusion, able in argument, loyal to clients, honest with all, courteous to adversaries, ever attentive to conscience. Sit with me at my desk and listen with me to my clients' tales. Read with me in my library and stand always beside me so that today I shall not, to win a point, lose my soul. Pray that my family may find in me what yours found in you: friendship and courage, cheerfulness and charity, diligence in duties, counsel in adversity, patience in pain—their good servant, and God's first. Amen."

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