A Brief Review: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Grade: B-


Aww man. That was such a good action movie.

Commentary: A Classic Reborn

It only seems right that The Planet of the Apes series be re-packaged for us (à la that new Spider-Man movie they’re putting out).  But unlike a lot of remakes of remakes, this movie feels at home within the already vast Planet of the Apes landscape which features 5 movies ranging from 1968-1973, a cartoon series, and the remake which many of us remember which stared “Marky” Mark Wahlberg Captain Leo Davidson.

To be fair, Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) stands as a very apt origin-story that manages, without being cheesy, to explain how it was that Charlton Heston (and later “Marky” Mark Walberg) landed on a planet that was ruled by apes who walked and talked like men.  Interesting enough, unlike either the original or the remake, there were no people in ape costumes.  Modern movie technology allowed Andy Serkis (who also played King Kong in 2005) to make the main character, Caesar, come to life without actually having to climb into an ape costume.

Without spoiling too much, Caesar’s life and rise to power seem to echo that Roman statesman whose name he carries and I certainly see the potential for Caesar to need to watch his back on the ides of March, or the sequel to the pre-sequel.  Speaking of sequels and pre-sequel sequels, The Planet of the Apes is already a rather big movie-verse.  I find it interesting that it has been revived and I am curious to see what they think up for the sequel to the pre-sequel which could very well be a remake of the remake:

Planet of the Apes (1968)

Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)

Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971)

Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972)

Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973)

Return to the Planet of the Apes (1975)

The Planet of the Apes (2001)

What I found particularly interesting was The Rise’s ability to make you sympathize with the apes and to want them to succeed even against humans.  While I still managed to be conscious of the film doing this, making me rather un-empathetic for the human species, the movie-goers I watched the film with cheered particularly hard when the apes won and even harder when humans “got served” by apes.  This was the most skin crawling effect that the movie had.  Particularly because this was not the feeling created in the original films which felt more like stories of what would happen because the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been signed…

Why the B(-): The Remake Rant

We seem to be witnessing Hollywood’s Age of the Superhero/Action Movie Remake.  To be sure, they are box office hits: The Rise of the Planet of the Apes raked in $77 million this weekend.  But there’s something rather special about seeing a brand new movie and getting to know it’s conventions.  I don’t doubt the awe that people felt after watching The Planet of the Apes (1968) in its original form.  And while The Rise of was certainly worth telling, the remakes of remakes are getting rather redundant, right?

Nevertheless, I liked this movie.  Definitely worth seeing in theaters.

As I’ve argued before, there are so many stories that should be brought to life, but are simply being overlooked.

Best Comedy I’ve Seen in ___ Years: Bridesmaids

Friday, May 2oth, 2011

Grade: A+


A comedy with real Oscar potential, I think Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo, hit the nail on the head with this one and their box office numbers prove it.  The #2 movie in the country, second only to the kid friendly comic book hero movie, Thor. I tend not to be optimistic when it comes to major changes in Hollywood, but what I hope this movie demonstrates is that women can write good, profitable movies and lead the cast of good, profitable movies.


Bridesmaids is the story of a woman who learns that stepping in the way of someone else’s happiness doesn’t make you happy.  A fun, sophisticated story of a grown woman growing up and learning to get out of her own way.   And while her way might not look like her best friend’s, it is still a way that can lead to being happy.

Well written and perfectly casted, Kristen Wiig lead a brilliant cast and as one Feministing blogger noted, she does it with a kind of “Lucille Ball humor” that is animated and lively.

From the first scene to the very last, I was laugh-crying: the kind of laugh that forces tears out of your tear ducts.  It was like that.  This is a movie that anyone with the capacity to cry and laugh at the same time can enjoy.

Go see it. Stop reading this. You should be purchasing your tickets online to see this movie tonight, and if you saw it already you should be pre-ordering it from Amazon right now.

Less than Brief Reviews: Madea’s Big Happy Family and Jumping the Broom

Monday, May 16th, 2011

I’ve chosen to do these reviews together since Loretta Devine and a similar message, carried both films.

Average Grade: C-/C+


  • These movies were average. I’ve seen better films with Black actors in them. I’ve seen better films by Black film makers.  I know we can do better.
  • Why was Loretta Devine, a Houston, Texas native cast as a mother from Brooklyn in Jumping the Broom? Someone should have caught that. And if she and all her relatives moved to Brooklyn from somewhere else, that should have been made clear.
  • I absolutely adored the Teyanna Taylor, who played Sabrina in Madea’s Big Happy Family. I especially loved the way she chewed her gum and yelled “Byrrrraaaaaaaaaaaannnn.”  Fantastic. Thank god for her and the other nuggets of disconnected Madea-comedy, because there was so much melodrama in this film, you needed something to remind you that life isn’t always this deep.   I mean, this drama was so thick you couldn’t even get a big tooth comb through it.
  • Both movies were way too long. I could have easily shaved off 20 minutes from each. You don’t need 10 comic relief scenes. The best comedy is woven in throughout the telling of the story.


The messages for both Madea’s Big Happy Family and Jumping the Broom are fairly straightforward: family secrets are not good for anyone. If you’re caring for your sister, aunt, daughter, or niece’s child as your own, please tell the kid. The kid will be fine. It’s much better than having a family secret that could throw the kid into a temporary abyss of not knowing who “they really are”. Women who only have material requirements for the men they get with will likely be unsuccessful with finding a man who will take care of them. No one is asking you to lower your standards… just make the standards high in areas like “honesty,” “maturity,” “thoughtfulness,” “intelligence,” you know, things other than “has a Black card,” “has a 7 figure salary”, cause then you’ll be looking for some who actually exists.  And if you don’t, as was the case of Renee (played by Lauren London), you’ll end up with a cold lump of ice in your chest instead of a beating heart.   Third, men know better and women usually just need a strong man to put them in their place (yeah….). Lastly, “What god put together, let no man put asunder.” Divorce is for losers, and marriage is between a man and a woman as T.D. Jakes reminds us in this Jumping the Broom almost imperceptibly in his discussion about Bible readings with the soon to be married couple (right…).

Why the C-/C+

These particular film makers haven’t really conceived of new types of stories, or different messages to offer their audiences. You can look through any of Tyler Perry or T.D. Jakes films and find similar messages woven throughout. I’m not saying that either story was necessarily bad, or that I disagreed with every aspect, I just think they’re derivative, recycled, surface, and I know we have better stories to tell than of incest, angry women, paternity tests, family secrets, and marriage.  And if we want to tell those same stories: fine.  But we don’t have to use the same troupe of 1-D characters to tell these stories, and we can complicate them so much.  Add thoughtful and compelling layers.  We can do better.

Feminist Critique: Marriage and Love in Black Evangelical Christian Film

Marriage is fantastic for people who want to be in committed relationships with one person for as long as possible, but there’s little commentary on the fact that gays and lesbians aren’t allowed to do so freely.   And the gay/sissy man jokes in these films only exacerbate that very thinking.  In a world that condones the rape and murder of gay, lesbian, and transgender individuals by those claiming to be religious, which one of these mega church pastors or evangelical media moguls will stand up and say it’s wrong to discriminate, wrong to tell people what they can and can’t do with their bodies?

The tradition of jumping the broom in African American families comes from a tradition passed down by our enslaved ancestors in America who weren’t allowed to legally marry. Instead of signing papers and pronouncing the marriage in a civil ceremony recognized by the law, they literally jumped over a household broom to signify their union. Because they weren’t white, they were not considered human. Therefore, they weren’t moral and rational human beings who could make decisions about their heart and had no legal ownership over their bodies, thus had no right to marry. That sounds all too familiar to the language used to argue why gays and lesbians can’t marry in the U.S. They aren’t heterosexual, therefore they are not normal human beings. Their abnormality makes them amoral, and thus, they have no right to marry.

But love is much bigger than marriage. It has been around far longer as well. Love is a feeling deep in your bones. It is so densely woven into the fabric of your being that you can’t cut it out if you tried. If you have it and if you nurture it, it will grow bigger everyday until you can’t move without feeling it in you. There is only one type of it. It’s the kind that parents have for their children. Love is what children have for their parents even after they realize that their parents are only human, and make mistakes too but did the best they could to raise them, and they are thankful and full of love just for that.  It’s the kind that those couples who’ve been together, loving one another for 50 years have. The kind that a 5 year old has for their best friend. The kind that people have for their dogs; the kind that makes them write blank checks to the vets when their dogs get sick. It’s the kind that spouses should have for one another prior to getting married. That’s what love is.

(Love doesn’t kick you underneath the table when you’re saying something he doesn’t like. That’s abuse. And I hope that folks raised a red flag when they saw that in Jumping the Broom. I think it was an epic failure of  the producers, writers, and directors. Anyone who has witnessed, been the victim/survivor of, or studied domestic violence know that that type of behavior is a precursor to a woman having her teeth knocked in. Detective Olivia Benson from Law and Order: SVU would not approve.)

In conclusion, either of these movies are best seen via Netflix, Redbox, or HBO. No need to spend $12 to see these movies in theaters if you haven’t yet. They aren’t life altering.  They were good enough, and I think that if we want to see our favorite Blackactresses and Blacktors carrying amazing films by Black film makers, then we’re going to have to demand better quality.

Otherwise we’ll continue to get movies where the actors are good, the scripts are a mess, and the stories are the same.

A Very Brief Movie Review: Hanna

Grade: A



How can you go wrong with Cate Blanchett?


There was something rather unsettling about not really understanding what was going on in the movie, but I enjoyed that. The acting was superb, Cate Blanchett created an absolutely devilish and obsessive character who reminded me of the Brother Grimm’s Queen in the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The fairytale quality of the film makes this comparison quite palpable. Though the story itself was a little derivative–a little Dark Angel (Jessica Alba’s breakout role), a little Salt (Angelina Jolie’s latest action flick)–I liked the fact that our heroine was a 14 year old girl played by the beautifully strange looking, Sanoirse Ronan.

Feminist Reaction to the Audience’s Reaction

There is a homoerotic scene in the film which I won’t spoil, but which brought out the closet-homophobes (those are people say things like “ewww, that’s soooo gay” in a dark movie theater, but wouldn’t dare say it when people could see their face). Though I wasn’t surprised, I often hear folks say that homophobia is a symptom of the previous generation… but that’s just not true. Even in a scene that could be read a number of different ways, that perhaps wasn’t even meant to be “gay,” people still have nasty visceral reactions to anything they perceive as non-normative, anything that doesn’t fit a heteronormative script. Now you have to go see it to figure out what I’m talking about right?

Go see it in theaters because all good action movies are better that way.


A Brief Movie Review: The Adjustment Bureau

Grade: C+/B-




It was okay. Something like a cross between The Bourne Identity and The Matrix, but without guns.  It moved fairly quickly, but it was not the movie I expected after watching the previews. It was nice seeing a brother on screen, Anthony Mackie, but overall I could have not seen this movie in the theater and been fine with my life.

It’s a Netflix watch instantly film.

The Feminist In Me, or a reason for the C+/B-

Emily Blunt is just taken along for the ride, as you can see in the movie poster. In the film she’s portrayed as passive where Damon has the privilege and knowledge of the “Bureau” and can decide his own fate, and hers. I wasn’t really into that. It could have been a movie about both of them, but it was a movie about him.