War for the Planet of the Apes Movie Review

The latest iteration of the Planet of the Apes saga that began nearly a half century ago concludes on a major franchise high note. What Rupert Wyatt began in satisfying fashion with 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Matt Reeves continued with success in 2014’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is elevated even more so with War for the Planet of the Apes. Mr. Reeves returns behind the camera with an epic and sorrowful tale of Caesar’s (Andy Serkis) constant battle between his species and the humans remaining to fight them.

The third installment also continues the perfection of the motion capture wizardry that brings the apes to life. It’s been enormously impressive in parts 1 and 2. It’s taken another leap forward in War. That said, we’re grown accustomed to legions of these characters being seen in our blockbusters. A compelling story must follow and it’s present.

When Dawn concluded, Caesar had dispensed of treacherous right-hand ape Koba but knew what was left of the human race’s army would hunt him. War opens two years later with Caesar, his family, and the other apes dwelling in the woods. Their nemesis here is a demented colonel (Woody Harrelson) and his devoted military men. Tragedy strikes and it pits Caesar on a revengeful mission against the Colonel, who isn’t too far removed from the character of Kurtz in Apocalypse Now. Harrelson is a great villain here with his own backstory in this dystopian world.

War introduces us to some new characters – both real and generated. There’s a mute young girl (Amiah Miller) who joins the apes on their joinrney. Series aficionados will reocognize her signifance quickly. Steve Zahn also brilliantly brings “Bad Ape” to life, a former zoo inhabitant who provides some much needed comic relief to the proceedings.

Yet this trilogy has focused mostly on Caesar and Serkis’s absolutely astonishing portrayal of him. The effects team goes even further in making him seem so very real. The writing and the actor’s commitment succeed in making his arch very emotional.

War for the Planet of the Apes is the best of the three and the other two were both quite solid. This is the end of this particular Apes chapter, but Reeves and his team leave us with the possibility of more and wanting it.

***1/2 (out of four)

War for the Planet of the Apes Box Office Prediction

Arriving as one of the most critically acclaimed blockbusters so far this year, War for the Planet of the Apes hits theaters next weekend. This is third franchise entry of the current reboot of a series that will celebrate its fiftieth anniversary next year. Matt Reeves, who made 2014 predecessor Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, is back directing with Andy Serkis bringing back his innovative motion capture work as Caesar. Woody Harrelson is our head human with Steve Zahn and Judy Greer among other ape characters.

20th Century Fox wasn’t shy about early screenings for critics and the result is a 95% current Rotten Tomatoes score, topping 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes (81%) and Dawn (90%). That should help scare off potential franchise fatigue in a summer that has seen plenty of it (including Pirates of the Caribbean and Transformers).

Rise debuted six summers ago to $54 million and an eventual $176 million overall domestic gross. Three years later, Dawn reached higher with a $72 million premiere and $208 million total stateside. War stands a fair chance at posting the best opening yet and it almost certainly will outpace Rise. 

I’m predicting this third helping of this well-regarded franchise will end up just below what Dawn rose to out of the gate for an opening in the mid 60s.

War for the Planet of the Apes opening weekend prediction: $63.4 million

For my Wish Upon trailer, click here:


Oscar Watch: War for the Planet of the Apes

The third installment of the current iteration of the nearly 50-year-old franchise War of the Planet of the Apes doesn’t open for two and a half weeks. Yet 20th Century Fox felt fit to lift its review embargo quite early and for good reason.

War is receiving some of the best reviews of a series that already garnered considerable acclaim and box office success. The film stands at 95% on Rotten Tomatoes, outpacing the 81% of 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes and 90% for 2014’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Its solid worth of mouth should make War a potent force at multiplexes on July 14th.

Which brings us to whether or not the picture could swing into the minds of Academy voters. In one sense – it’s seemingly inevitable. Both Rise and Dawn were nominated for Best Visual Effects Oscars and it would be very surprising for War not to follow suit. When it comes to other categories – probably not. Even though this threequel is getting the most fawning notices from several critics of the trio thus far, a Picture nomination seems unlikely.

Finally, I would expect some chatter for Andy Serkis and his motion capture work as Caesar. Yet an acting nomination for him also probably isn’t the cards. Even with its considerable reaction so far, it appears Visual Effects will be War‘s sole nomination.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Summer 2015 Movies: The Predicted Century Club

The 2015 Summer Movie Season officially kicks off two weeks from today when Avengers: Age of Ultron blasts into theaters. It will compete for the largest domestic opening of all time (where it needs to beat its predecessor) and is highly likely to be the season’s highest earner. That got me to thinking – while Ultron is poised to gross $500 million or higher, it’s been the $100 million mark that studios still like to brag about. This prompted me to look at the past five summer flick seasons and how many pictures reached that milestone.

In 2010, it was 13 movies that reached the mark: Toy Story 3, Iron Man 2, Twilight Saga: Eclipse, Inception, Despicable Me, Shrek Forever After, The Karate Kid, Grown Ups, The Last Airbender, The Other Guys, Salt, Robin Hood, and The Expendables.

Things improved in 2011 with 18 films reaching the century club: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, The Hangover Part II, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Cars 2, Thor, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Captain America: First Avenger, The Help, Bridesmaids, Kung Fu Panda 2, X-Men: First Class, The Smurfs, Super 8, Horrible Bosses, Green Lantern, Bad Teacher, and Cowboys and Aliens.

The low mark was the following year in 2012 with just 12: The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, The Amazing Spider-Man, Brave, Ted, Madagascar 3, Men in Black 3, Ice Age: Continental Drift, Snow White and the Huntsman, Prometheus, Magic Mike, and The Bourne Legacy.

Yet the high mark came the following summer in 2013 with 19: Iron Man 3, Despicable Me 2, Man of Steel, Monsters University, Fast and Furious 6, Star Trek Into Darkness, World War Z, The Heat, We’re the Millers, The Great Gatsby, The Conjuring, Grown Ups 2, The Wolverine, Now You See Me, Lee Daniels’ The Butler, The Hangover Part III, Epic, Pacific Rim, and This is the End.

2014 dipped with 14: Guardians of the Galaxy, Transformers: Age of Extinction, Maleficent, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Godzilla, 22 Jump Street, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, How to Train Your Dragon 2, Neighbors, Lucy, The Fault in Our Stars, and Edge of Tomorrow. 

That averages out to 15 pictures earning $100M plus per summer over this decade.

So where do I have 2015 matching up? Not breaking records, but in good shape. My predictions for the year’s $100M earners is 16 and they are as follows (in order of release date): Avengers: Age of Ultron, Mad Max: Fury Road, Pitch Perfect 2, Tomorrowland, San Andreas, Spy, Jurassic World, Inside Out, Ted 2, Magic Mike XXL, Terminator: Genisys, Minions, Ant-Man, Trainwreck, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, and Fantastic Four. 

Of course, there’s always sleepers. And there’s others that I could have predicted but think will fall short: the Reese Witherspoon/Sofia Vergara comedy Hot Pursuit, horror remake Poltergeist, the film version of Entourage, the Adam Sandler video game inspired action comedy Pixels, the Vacation reboot, and the NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton are among them.

As predicted, summer 2015 should see its number of century club inductees on the slightly high end without reaching the heights of 2013. And as always, you’ll see box office predictions every Saturday from me on each and every one of ’em!

Todd’s FINAL Oscar Winner Predictions

Well here we go! The Oscars honoring the best of 2014 in film air this Sunday and after many round of predictions, it’s time to man up and pick up the winners for the final time in all major categories, minus documentary and short film contenders. For each race, I will predict the winner and a runner-up. On Sunday evening or Monday, I’ll post a recap of how I did.

Let’s get to it:


Predicted Winner: Boyhood

Runner-Up: Birdman


Predicted Winner: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Birdman

Runner-Up: Richard Linklater, Boyhood


Predicted Winner: Michael Keaton, Birdman

Runner-Up: Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything


Predicted Winner: Julianne Moore, Still Alice

Runner-Up: Reese Witherspoon, Wild


Predicted Winner: J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

Runner-Up: Edward Norton, Birdman


Predicted Winner: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

Runner-Up: Emma Stone, Birdman


Predicted Winner: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Runner-Up: Birdman


Predicted Winner: The Imitation Game

Runner-Up: Whiplash


Predicted Winner: Ida

Runner-Up: Leviathan


Predicted Winner: Big Hero 6

Runner-Up: How to Train Your Dragon 2


Predicted Winner: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Runner-Up: Into the Woods


Predicted Winner: Birdman

Runner-Up: Unbroken


Predicted Winner: Into the Woods

Runner-Up: The Grand Budapest Hotel


Predicted Winner: Boyhood

Runner-Up: Whiplash


Predicted Winner: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Runner-Up: Guardians of the Galaxy


Predicted Winner: American Sniper

Runner-Up: Birdman


Predicted Winner: Birdman

Runner-Up: American Sniper


Predicted Winner: Insterstellar

Runner-Up: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes


Predicted Winner: The Theory of Everything

Runner-Up: The Imitation Game


Predicted Winner: “Glory” from Selma

Runner-Up: “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” from Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me

My predictions reflect a belief that the following pictures will win multiple awards: Birdman (4) and Boyhood and The Grand Budapest Hotel with 3.

And there you have it…. My final Oscar predictions! We shall see how I do come Sunday evening.


Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Movie Review

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes generally follows the sequel playbook closely. It’s darker and more action packed. We get new human characters introduced that don’t come close to matching the interest we have in the apes. The saga of Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his struggle of loyalty to his species and the human race is what’s truly fascinating.

In 2011, Rise of the Planet of the Apes reinvigorated a series that had stumbled in 2001 with its original restart that was Tim Burton’s misguided effort. Rise was much better than anyone expected. The freshness of seeing a franchise reborn in a legitimately satisfactory manner has been replaced in its sequel with competency. That and amazing visual effects that improves upon its predecessor.

We begin ten years after the events of Rise and the human race has been decimated by deadly pandemic. A small group of survivors dwells in dystopian San Francisco and must access a dam to provide themselves a power source. The problem is that Caesar and his loyal ape followers have set up their home on the way to that dam. And based on the events that transpired years ago, most of the apes don’t exactly trust humans. And vice versa.

Included among the humans is Malcolm (Jason Clarke), who soon forms a bond with Caesar. Our main ape character has not forgotten that humans can be good people and it is a constant source of contention with Koba, Caesar’s second in command who has no use for them. Keri Russell plays Malcolm’s wife with Kodi Smit-McPhee as his son. Caesar has a wife now and two children of his own. The leader of the human pack is portrayed by Gary Oldman, solid as always with not a whole lot to do expect for an effective crying scene.

The last two Apes pictures have been very successful in realizing Caesar as a fully formed character and represents some of the finest CG work to date. Much of the credit, though, is due to the indispensable Andy Serkis and his work to bring him to life. Matt Reeves (who did Cloverfield) takes over his directorial duties from Rupert Wyatt.

As mentioned, there is more action to be had here and it is certainly well choreographed. There’s a shot of Koba on a tank during a key battle sequence that is magnificent. While the action is solid, it is Caesar’s character arc that keeps us interested and keeps this second entry in the reconfigured Apes universe worth watching.

*** (out of four)

Box Office Predictions: August 8-10

This Friday, four new titles will try to knock massive hit Guardians of the Galaxy from its perch atop the box office. They are the franchise reboot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, found footage disaster flick Into the Storm, the Helen Mirren led comedic drama The Hundred-Foot Journey, and dance competition sequel Step Up: All In. You can find my detailed prediction posts on each of them here:





The only newbie with a fair shot of challenging Guardians would seem to be Turtles. However, I am going on the low end of expectations for it. Some have it grossing above $30 million and even closer to $40M, but I believe excitement isn’t quite that high and a robust second weekend for Guardians may hurt it.

Into the Storm looks like a relative flop to me, though some have it outpacing my estimate. The Hundred-Foot Journey should barely top double digits while diminishing results for each successive Step Up flick could hurt All In.

As for holdovers, Guardians got off to a truly spectacular start (more on that below). It will likely fall in the same range as other Marvel hits in their sophomore weekends. In its third weekend, Luc Besson’s Lucy should continue to lose over half its audience. The James Brown biopic Get On Up got off to a disappointing start, but with its A Cinemascore grade, I see it having the smallest decline in its second weekend.

And with that – we’ll do a Top Seven for my projections this weekend:

1. Guardians of the Galaxy

Predicted Gross: $42.9 million (representing a drop of 54%)

2. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Predicted Gross: $28.2 million

3. Into the Storm

Predicted Gross: $13.6 million

4. The Hundred-Foot Journey

Predicted Gross: $10.7 million

5. Get On Up

Predicted Gross: $8.8 million (representing a drop of 34%)

6. Step Up: All In

Predicted Gross: $8.4 million

7. Lucy

Predicted Gross: $8.1 million (representing a drop of 55%)

Box Office Results (August 1-3)

As previously mentioned, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy got off to an astonishingly terrific run with $94.3 million. The very well-reviewed pic boasted the third highest opening of 2014, behind Transformers: Age of Extinction and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It opened nearly $20M above my $74.6M prediction. Guardians may well be in a position to eventually become the summer’s largest grosser. Simply put, the Marvel gravy train keeps chugging along…

Lucy dropped to second with $18.2 million in its sophomore weekend, above my $16.6M projection. The Scarlett Johannson actioner has taken in $79M so far and should certainly top $100M domestically.

Get On Up had a lackluster premiere with $13.5 million, way below my $24.9M estimate. It received solid reviews, especially for star Chadwick Boseman, yet it failed to bring in its intended adult audience.

Hercules dropped to fourth in weekend #2 with $11 million, below my $13M prediction. The Rock’s flick has earned $52 million and should top out around $75M.

In fifth was Dawn of the Planet of the Apes in its fourth weekend with $8.6 million, on target with my $8.5M estimate. Dawn has made $189M and should get to around $215M overall.

And that’s all for now, friends!