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REEL REVIEW: 'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,' indie flick 'Chef' are big hits

REEL REVIEW: 'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,' indie flick 'Chef' are big hits

POSTED: Friday, July 11, 2014 - 4:37pm

UPDATED: Friday, July 11, 2014 - 4:52pm

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

I'm not a big fan of sequels or prequels or re-do's on the screen. I love a good original, and that is why, with all of the versions since 1968, my favorite "Planet of the Apes" film is the original "Planet of the Apes," starring Charleton Heston, as the lone astronaut in a unexpected world of apes no longer living in a primitive environment. The Dawn of a new Ape era has begun.

"Dawn of the Planet of the Apes," leaves off where "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," in 2011 ended. An almost Frankenstein type experiment to genetically alter apes goes terribly awry, and leaves the earth all but annihilated by a killer Ape flu virus. A strong Ape-like warrior named Caesar, played to pliable perfection by Andy Serkis seems to rule all. This time around, an all new cast of humans comes on the scene in quite a melted down version of San Francisco. There are just a few of our specimens left on earth in the form of actor Jason Clarke, who you may remember from "Zero Dark Thirty," Keri Russell and Gary Oldman.

We begin with Caesar dealing with his new kingdom of apes with just as much in-fighting and family drama that humans have long become accustomed to every day. What do you know? Some of the humans are back and want to regain their land from those pesky apes. Now, keep in mind, much time has passed since their "Rise," and these apes ride horses in droves, they can handle guns and any weapon including swords, and speak perfect English, (except for those who still communicate through sign language and the very capable Director, Matt Reeves, is kind enough to provide subtitles!)

An all out war is the only thing left between the humans left on earth and these masterful, mindful apes. Wait, with all of the trials and tribulations of dealing with Earth, can we just Give Peace a Chance? No spoiler alerts here, just incredible scenery, beautiful cinematography and very strong performances, especially by Serkis, who can morph into almost anything as an actor and make it work. I think as human leaders go, we don't see nearly enough of Gary Oldman. It's hard to believe that the director of this film has so few projects under his belt including the show, "Felicity," which starred Keri Russell, and such films as "Under Siege 2." with Steven Seagal. This is a powerful, assertive film, and although it is a little over two hours, you will want to know if "Dawn" will spawn a "Dusk of the Planet of the Apes." I don't think you will need to invest in the 3-D glasses. The cinematography is so overwhelming, you will most assuredly get your simian satisfaction!


Hard to believe that an obscure independent favorite of many film festivals could come out from behind, and act as a "contender," in the heat of the summer box office, where films have to be bigger, better, faster, stronger.. you name it.

This film called, "Chef," is the story of Chef Casper, played with incredible vigor and enthusiasm by Director Jon Favreau. You may recall that he was the man who brought Robert Downey Jr. and "Ironman," to life. "Chef" is his "baby," as he wrote the story, called the shots from behind the camera, got the funding, and made himself the leading man. It all works.

Chef Casper is struggling with a California fine dining restaurant that needs inspiration and an updated menu. His arrogant boss, played by Dustin Hoffman clearly knows nothing about the business except for the bottom line, and his band of sous chefs, played by Bobby Canavale and a wonderfully exhuberant John Leguizamo back their "Chef" 100 percent.

A bad review however goes viral and the Chef goes "postal." There is a wonderful back story involving a very successful ex-wife, played by Sofia Vergara, and his very charming 10 year old son, who wants to spend every waking moment with his Dad, even when his Dad is busy... a true conflict for this Chef who is trying to do the right thing for his business and his son.

Following the biggest social media frenzy imaginable, the Chef winds up in Miami with his son and his ex-wife's ex-husband, played to perfection always by Ironman himself, Robert Downey Jr., to help bankroll the out of work Chef. What results is a fabulous cross country journey that is so well directed that one is literally left feeling "left out" of such a wonderful travel adventure. The scenes of the cooking and the creation of food are by far, some of the best I have seen on film. Every moment involving anything culinary leaves you with your mouth watering. Definitely see this film after eating a meal, as you will devour all of the popcorn at the theater just to compensate for the calories. I was planning on rationing a bag Twizzlers. That did not happen, and rest assured, the wiry pieces of plastic I was consuming was a poor substitute for the incredible food on the screen. If only there was "smell- a-vision." I would pay extra for that in this case.

The film has a happy ending, but I think a more down to earth approach would have worked a little better in the end. The film will however make you respect the power of Twitter, and run home to the kitchen to create something fabulous. All in all, no earth shattering bombs or interplanetary battle was needed here.. Just a fork and knife to simply "dig in!"

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