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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. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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