Damn them! Damn the writers all to hell!

Tim Burton’s Apes slaves under an infernally awful script

“Careful, General—I smell a crappy remake!”
“Careful, General—I smell a crappy remake!”
Credit: 
Photo courtesy of www.planetoftheapes.com

Planet of the Apes
Directed by Tim Burton
Starring Mark Wahlberg, Tim Roth, Helena Bonham Carter, Estella Warren, Michael Clarke Duncan
Currently playing at Capital Theatres and Gardiners Road Cinemas

*

A thousand monkeys working on a thousand typewriters for an hour or so could have done a better re-write of the classic film, Planet of the Apes.

William Broyles, who wrote the recent Fed-Ex-commercial-disguised-as-film CastAway, fails again, this time with his attempt to re-write Rod Serling’s original Planet of the Apes script. The relatively sparse dialogue in director Tim Burton’s treatment is so riddled with cliches that the entire movie comes across as a spoof.

By far the worst groaner must be credited to original star Charleton Heston, who has a sad cameo as an invalid chimpanzee, in which his classic “Damn them! Damn them all to Hell!” speech is reimagined as a pathetic death rattle.

The comic relief of the film is a merchant Ape who is all too reminiscent of the Star Wars franchise's Jar-Jar Binks character. He is responsible for delivering the memorable line “Can’t we all just get along?” The wise-ass ape gets a surprising amount of screen time for a film by Burton, who is renowned for his dark fantasies.

Mark Walhberg delivers an incredibly poor performance that can hardly be excused by the ridiculous script. However, Walhberg does receive his just-desserts by taking part in an inter-species kiss at the end of the film.

Helena Bonham Carter also gives a laughable performance as Ari, the aristocratic ape who cares too much and finds herself allied with the humans.

Blonde starlet Estella Warren is blessed with just a handful of lines, but provides superb eye-candy. Her career as a token sex object can only blossom from here.

The real question I was left with after seeing this piece of tripe was, “How could Tim Burton have ever agreed to direct this movie?” Burton trademarks, such as the dark and twisted cinematography that made movies like Batman and Edward Scissorhands so fresh, are barely evident in Planet of the Apes, and the film suffers for it.

As a final insult to the original film, the infamous Statue of Liberty scene is replaced by a sequence in which a thoroughly filth-ridden Mark Walhberg encounters a Simian version of the Lincoln Monument. Charleton Heston’s devastation at the foot of the buried statue in the original film may seem melodramatic to contemporary audiences, but Lady Liberty still beats the Lincoln Monkey by a long shot.

The conclusion of the 1969 classic asked people to question the humanity’s tendency to destroy its own creations. Unfortunately, the original Planet of the Apes has now become one of those creations—this time destroyed by a terrible remake.

—Sean McGrady


Kiss of the Dragon
Directed by Chris Nahon
Starring Jet Li, Bridget Fonda, Tcheky Karyo
Playing at Capitol Theatres and Gardiners Road Cinemas

**

There are two paths for Asian martial-arts masters to make it big in Hollywood. The Jackie Chan school uses choreographed buffoonery and plenty of slap-stick. The other route hearkens back to Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon and casts the hero as a serious stoic whose only duty is to himself.

So far, this latter path is the way for Jet Li, who barely cracks a smile in Kiss of the Dragon.

It’s sad, because Li is capable of more than speaking softly and carrying a lethal kick. The movies that made him a household name in China cast him as a thinking, feeling boy-next-door type who also happens to thrash villains with bamboo poles.

Li’s understated role in Kiss makes ill use of his talents. Sure, there are clever uses of ordinary objects, like when Li brands bad guys with steam irons, and that trick he does with a billiard ball. But in the hands of rookie director Chris Nahon and producer Luc Besson, Li gets even fewer multi-syllabic lines than Chow Yun-Fat did in the dismal Replacement Killers.

Li plays an undercover cop sent to Paris to help out police inspector Richard (Tcheky Karyo), who turns out to be involved in drugs and prostitution, among other things. After Li procures evidence of the inspector’s corruption, he spends the rest of the movie on the run.

The plot has no surprises, and Li’s character never develops beyond that of a reserved cop who just wants to mind his own business.

Bridget Fonda is clumsily cast as a hooker from North Dakota who is also under Richard’s thumb. Her relationship with Li is like that of most interracial couples to ever grace the screen: platonic, stagnant and artificial. If the shortcomings in the script and characters weren’t enough, the movie includes unnecessarily graphic scenes, culminating in Li’s use of a well-placed acupuncture needle to bring about ghastly results.

Kiss does nothing to help Li’s Hollywood career, and is best ignored until Li’s abilities are put to better use.

—Adrian Liu

The Score
Directed by Frank Oz
Starring Robert DeNiro, Edward Norton, Marlon Brando
Currently playing at Capital Theatres and Gardiners Road Cinemas

****½

If you don’t think Yoda can direct a movie, think again.

It may come as a surprise to the casual moviegoer that Frank Oz—best known as the voice of puppet creatures Yoda, Cookie Monster, and Miss Piggy —recently directed his eleventh film.

What is even more surprising is the multi-generational trio of Hollywood’s best actors Oz snagged to star in The Score.

But then again, The Score is all about first impressions and misconceptions.

The Score stars Marlon Brando, Robert DeNiro and Edward Norton, arguably the most complex actors of their respective generations, as three criminals embroiled in a dangerous con game.

The Score sees DeNiro taking another stab at the action genre after 15 Minutes closed the door on his ill-advised fascination with physical comedy. His character is an aging nightclub owner whose double-life as a con artist has spanned four decades because he doesn’t take risks.

Norton, on the other hand, is a wet-behind-the-years con artist who is too impatient to learn from DeNiro’s long career.

The boys are brought together by fat-man-in-a-mu-mu Brando, for DeNiro’s final criminal score: the theft of a big jewel-encrusted sceptre from the bowels of the heavily-guarded Customs House in Montreal.

There are as many plot twists as one would expect from a heist flick and the surprise ending is a genuine surprise, but what is most compelling about The Score is the explosive chemistry between these Hollywood heavyweights and the innovative direction they received from a puppeteer.

With this film, Oz reveals himself to be a Hollywood contender and not simply a middle-aged man with a puppet on his fist.

Now that he’s done it once, Oz will no doubt do it again—as Yoda knows, “there is no ‘try’.”

—Sabrina Mehra

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