Sunday, July 22, 2012

James Franco movie weekend

Can a person ever get enough of the actor James Franco? Well, yes. I didn't think he was that great of an actor after watching his dismal performance during the 2011 Academy Award ceremonies. Fortunately, we managed to not overload our delicate James Franco sensibilities by watching one of his movies yesterday and again today.

Yesterday we watched the Academy-award nominated 127 Hours about Aron Ralston, a canyoneer whose arm was pinned by a boulder after falling in a slot canyon. He stayed in the canyon for 127 hours before freeing himself, hence the title of the movie. Apparently except for the bit with the two hikers, which didn't happen as shown in the movie, everything was very realistic and happened as shown. 

James Franco took up the screen for most of the movie as his struggle and experience trapped in the canyon was shown, and he was able to carry the movie and make it very compelling to watch. He was able to accurately show the range of emotions that Aron Ralston experienced during those five days: his despair, loneliness, anguish, and the realization that he would almost certainly die there alone. James Franco definitely deserved that Best Actor Academy Award nomination; had he not been up against Colin Firth in The King's Speech, he could have won it.

I wasn't expecting the cinematography and music styles used during the movie but they worked perfectly with the subject, helping to convey the stark beauty and isolation of the canyon country and the emotions Aron Ralston was feeling. The music and cinematography are perfectly balanced throughout the movie, working with and not against the script.

While some might think that watching one man trapped in a canyon for an hour and a half is a form of torture, this movie is interesting and compelling enough to make the time pass quickly. It's well worth watching.

I didn't expect as much from Rise of the Planet of the Apes. This movie restarted the Planet of the Apes franchise by providing a new origin story and although it had a huge budget, I figured it would be lacking in plot and believability. I was (mostly) mistaken.

Sure, there are some flaws. When shots are flying everywhere, I expect all the cars to be hit by bullets, and I thought all windshield glass was tempered safety glass. Those are small details compared to the success of the rest of the movie.

The most obvious plot hole was the lack of proper ethics at the pharmaceutical firm .... but really, how unrealistic is that? Aside from that, the sequence of events seemed to be believable. James Franco plays a researcher who is trying to find a cure for Alzheimer's disease. His research on chimps makes them smarter and looks promising but things go awry and he doesn't get the funding he expected. He raises a baby chimp who got the "cure" and resultant smarts from his mother but when the chimp attacks someone he's forced to put it in an ape care facility. From there, the apes begin to rise.

The movie is well-paced and beautifully shot. The real star of this movie is the computer generated imagery. The lead chimp was generated by motion-capturing Andy Serkis (who played Gollum) as he acted out the part and then applying the chimp characteristics. This CGI was flawless: the chimp looked real (with some extra facial expressions) and was fully integrated into the surrounding imagery. I actually thought that the filmmakers had used a chimp in the movie, and I knew better than that before I started watching.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes isn't an inspiring movie, or a classic movie, but it is worth a couple of hours if you've got it. Personally, I find the re-imagination of the origin of this franchise much more interesting than the original movies and I'm interested to see where things go next. 

So there you have it - two good James Franco movies. Who'd have thought?

1 comment:

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