Film, What We Watched

What We Watched: 07/21/14

By Jack Evans

Apocalypse Now

This week in Films Jack Still Hadn’t Seen: Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now is every bit the stone-cold classic it’s made out to be, with every shot perfectly composed, every actor at the top of his game, every moment significant. I read Heart of Darkness a couple of years ago, and Apocalypse Now follows it more closely than I expected, drawing every ounce of bleakness from its source material. And while the film’s journey into the heart of Cambodia does primarily serve as an exploration into the depths of men’s hearts, that doesn’t mean it’s not damn entertaining or engrossing.

The Darjeeling Limited

As I alluded to last week, Wes Anderson is one of my favorite directors on both an aesthetic and thematic level. Though The Darjeeling Limited is in line with Anderson’s affinity for playful color schemes and meticulous composition, I feel comfortable calling it his weakest film (though I still haven’t seen The Fantastic Mr. Fox). Anderson has proven adept at handling emotional weight, but here he saddles himself with a lot of emotional baggage (and yes, the on-the-nose symbolism is a bit of an issue) early on and winds up struggling to handle it, and though Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, and Jason Schwartzman all give valiant performances, Darjeeling’s comedic elements also struggle to break through.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

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Whereas 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a solid blockbuster that was all the more pleasant for the fact that few predicted it to be so successful, Dawn realizes its predecessor’s full potential. Dawn succeeds in every facet of being a major summer movie: its action sequences are tightly choreographed but also bear an emotional weight, the stretches in between build tension successfully, the camerawork is beautiful and the CGI is incredibly well-handled. Most importantly, though, Dawn gives its characters, both human and ape, depth and motivation (albeit some more than others), setting it apart from the Godzillas of the world. Also, apes on horses.

Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Parts 1 & 2

Like most people my age, I grew up reading JK Rowling’s acclaimed YA fantasy series and watching its film adaptations, so my opinion of said films may be rooted somewhat in nostalgia, but I think that the Harry Potter films, especially the later installments, are pretty solid specimens of filmmaking. The Deathly Hallows Part 1 is especially impressive, largely because, rather than focusing on magical action as the rest of the series does, it’s a road movie with a lengthy heist interlude with conflict that stems more from its three main characters than from some omnipotent evil, along with stunning cinematography and an incredible animation sequence to boot. Part 2 is more in line with what you’d expect from a climactic good-versus-evil battle, packed to the brim with explosive wizardry for most of its runtime, but it pulls on all the right heart strings, which makes it, at least for those of us who grew up with the characters, enjoyable at the least.

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