Review of reviews: Film & Music
War for the Planet of the Apes
Directed by Matt Reeves (PG-13)
Humans rain terror on a simian society.
“Take note, rebooters: This is how you do it,” said Joshua Rothkopf in Time Out New York. A leap above the Nixonera sci-fi flicks that begot them, the new Planet of the Apes movies have a soulfulness no similar franchise has matched. The “broodingly downbeat” third installment chronicles the climactic war between human survivors of a global plague and intelligent primates defending the forest enclave they’ve created. Woody Harrelson plays a villainous human commander, while Andy Serkis returns as the ape leader Caesar, this time using motion-capture technology so convincing that you never think of the character as a special effect. “It feels like a major moment.” The way these apes move and communicate— often through sign and body language—“invites curiosity and sometimes even wonder,” said Stephanie Zacharek in Time. Still, even when the war triggers scenes of harrowing violence and suffering, “this is a spectacle that trusts us to think”—about who we are, what makes a good leader, and why we fight. Though the third act bogs down slightly, the movie rights itself just in time, said Brian Truitt in USA Today. “The satisfying and heart-wrenching climax is a last reminder that Caesar’s new adventure is one of this summer’s best.”
Directed by Jon Watts (PG-13)
A new webslinger breaks in his Spidey suit.
The new Spider-Man movie “gets so many things right that it’s almost difficult to catalog them,” said Christopher Orr in TheAtlantic.com. Among the chief virtues of this “utter gas” of a superhero reboot, though, is its thorough understanding of the title character. As played by Tom Holland, this Peter Parker is an honors student by day, a trainee Avenger by night, and every inch the excitable, nerdy 15-year-old he should be. In fact, “Peter spends most of the movie screwing up,” said Chris Klimek in NPR.org. Ignoring the advice of mentor Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), the kid from Queens deploys his spider-like powers against small-time targets—like a local guy just trying to break into his own car. Such scenes “work like gangbusters as comedy,” while also underscoring how much Spidey needs to mature before tackling the story’s main villain, a wing-suited arms dealer played by Michael Keaton. Alas, the climactic battle between Spidey and Keaton’s Vulture is “a blurred bore,” said Alan Scherstuhl in The Village Voice. You’ll remember the pair’s verbal showdowns, though, because the characters express pointedly opposing worldviews, and young Peter turns out to be “more of an adult than almost anyone else on our multiplex screens.”
A Ghost Story
Directed by David Lowery (R)
A lover lingers on in his afterlife.
“This isn’t a horror movie,” said Dana Stevens in Slate.com. “It’s a philosophical fairy tale.” When a young man in love dies in a car crash, his spirit rises from a morgue table, covered in a white sheet, and slowly walks home to linger, silent and unseen, waiting for some sort of sign from his beloved. That’s Casey Affleck beneath the sheet, and his unnamed character will watch as Rooney Mara chokes on grief, then moves past it. As time marches on, the ghost’s relationship to the house and its residents changes, and “this compact but ambitious movie sends the viewer home pondering galaxy-size questions.” A Ghost Story “does occasionally test your patience,” said Sara Stewart in the New York Post. At one point, the camera lingers for minutes on Mara while she stress-eats an entire pie. Still, this movie is about the experience of her silent witness, and it generates “a shivery melancholy that defies easy explanation.” In the final stretch, when we see the ghost’s wait extend across epochal timescales, said A.A. Dowd in AVClub.com, A Ghost Story “practically glows with mystery and possibility, pushing through the outer limits of its storytelling constraints.”