War for the Planet of the Apes marks the best picture to date of summer 2017

War for the Planet of the Apes (20th Century Fox)


Score: A+

Rated PG-13 -- 133 minutes

"The best picture to date of the summer of 2017!"

For the moment, WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES should be a lock on a Best Picture of 2017 nomination. But if I was a betting man, I would predict that very soon, Caesar and his Apes will be joined by DUNKIRK and DETROIT as the three summer films who may be nominated for the most important Oscar of them all.

It is a testament to the extraordinary talent of Matt Reeves that in his fourth directed film, he was given a $175 million budget to work with. The film DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES brought in an astonishing global box office of $708.8 million. Today, his fifth directed film is released to the world.

WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES is my first film of 2017 to receive a score of A+. For those of you who like a perfect movie, I suspect that film students from around the world will be studying this towering achievement for many years to come. Thank you, 20th Century Fox, for believing in Mr. Reeves.

For those of you who loved the NBC police drama, HOMICIDE: LIFE ON THE STREET, Mr. Reeves cut his "director chops" working occasionally on this seven-season masterpiece.

The flawless script is penned by Mark Bomback and Mr. Reeves. I cannot give enough praise for two actors who are at the top of their game –Woody Harrelson (as The Colonel) and Andy Serkis (as Caesar). Please be sure to read my follow-up review HAIL CAESAR! just below.

The studio synopsis of this war begins with: "Caesar and his apes are forced into a deadly conflict with an army of humans led by a ruthless Colonel. After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind. As the journey finally brings them face to face, Caesar and the Colonel are pitted against each other in an epic battle that will determine the fate of both their species and the future of the planet.”

During this challenging and unpredictable time in the history of the United States of America, in this film, we see two extraordinary charismatic leaders. My money is on the monkey. The vengeful Colonel is looking for genocide. Caesar only wants his tribe to live in peace. Is it a frightening analogy of today's world?

Note the outstanding performances of Steve Zahn (as Bad Ape), Amiah Miller (as Nova, the mute girl), and the second-in-command orangutan, Maurice, played by Karin Konova.

On the technical side, kudos to Michael Seresin and his camera, and to Michael Giacchino for his haunting musical score. If you are looking for a historic blockbuster, you will not be disappointed. In fact, you will be thrilled that a movie can actually be this good. And like I often write: for the full impact of the experience, see it in a theater that has the state of the art big screen and sound. That is the way that a motion picture today is intended to be seen!


One of the most interesting articles published about WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES appeared in the New York Times on July 9, 2017. The article was written by Roslyn Sulcas and was entitled, "The Actor Behind the Ape". Currently a seven-year resident of London, England, she writes about film, theatre, and culture news, as well as writing about dance for the New York Times.

In her recent article entitled, "The Actor Behind the Ape", she, like so many film critics including myself, strongly feels it is time for the Academy to open up the performance Oscars to acknowledge today's marriage of acting and technology.

When you see the brilliant Andy Serkis on the screen, you are watching the process that is known as digital transformation. It is not as simple as one would think. It is terribly complicated, but the result is flawless. The level of the strength and emotion of an ape, his posture, his eyes, and his mouth. You may not realize it, but you have seen Mr. Serkis before. You heard the word "precious" coming from his mouth as Gollum in THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY, and again, as Leader Snoke in STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS.

I am quoting Mr. Serkis from the New York Times article: "An actor in a performance-capture role receives a script, works on psychology, emotions, motivation, and goes on set to be shot in exactly the same way as any other character. That performance is used to cut the movie, and it's that performance that creates emotion, pace, and drama. The visual effects render the character, just like putting on makeup, except here it happens after the fact.

I strongly recommend that you read the entire article.


The sixth Spider-Man film in 15 years, with a solid CinemaScore "A" grade as well as a solid "A" score, was the box office champ during its debut week in the United States and Canada. The estimated box office take last weekend was $117 million in ticket sales. This far exceeded both the studio and analysts’ projection. It is easy to understand why.

Spider-Man is the world's best-loved superhero. It is the second-highest opening of all time for Sony. Tom Holland is the third actor to play the lead character and he is wonderful in the role. The $175 million picture is directed by Jon Watts. Spider-Man is also Sony's most valuable franchise, totaling $4 billion in global receipts. The film was produced by Marvel Studios.

Last week, I gave a rave review for Tom Holland's performance. I also noted how great it was to have Iron Man, played by the Robert Downey Jr., being given so much screen time. SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING is a lot of fun. You won't be disappointed.



The positive social media buzz has begun. Director Christopher Nolan compares casting Harry Styles to Heath Ledger in THE DARK NIGHT. DUNKIRK will tell three different stories -- the beach, the sea, and the air.

"A masterclass in craft, as well as heart-pounding and heartbreaking."

I can honestly say I've never seen anything like it. Almost a silent film, with an incredible score. Full review coming next week.


While most Las Vegas film critics will probably review the 3D sci-fi flick VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS -- this critic is going to review GIRLS TRIP. Sometimes the early Hollywood buzz is a pretty good measure of what might be one of the worst films of the year; another Hollywood buzz might say, "the summer's word-of-mouth comedy sensation." I'm going to the latter. Newcomer Tiffany Haddish steals this movie. There is also a terrific lead cast that includes Queen Latifah, Kate Walsh, and Jada Pinkett Smith. GIRLS TRIP is R-rated. Full review coming next week.


This film is from A24, the same studio that brought us last year's Oscar-winning MOONLIGHT. Directed by David Lowery, the film co-stars Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara. I have so many mixed feelings about this film. Not the acting, nor the production values. However, this is a spiritual metaphysical film. On many levels, it is a haunting story, intensified by the use of lighting, sound, and music. Not everyone is going to enjoy seeing a movie about a dead man's ghost, the mourning of his wife, and the reality that every one of us, one day -- will say our last goodbye.


This intense film based on a true story recreates the summer of 1967 when Detroit burned. It was one of the darkest moments during the civil unrest in the United States. This R-rated movie runs 142 minutes. The Oscar gold director and writer were responsible for THE HURT LOCKER and ZERO DARK THIRTY. DETROIT opens nationwide on Friday, August 4, 2017.


Congratulations to for our 2017 Emmy Nominations. NBC was one of the leaders of the pack with 64 nominations. We are very proud of the following nominees:

THIS IS US: Nominated for Outstanding Drama; first time one of the four major networks were nominated for this category in six years. Total nominations: 11. Sterling K. Brown, Milo Ventimiglia, Ron Cephas and Chrissy Metz earning nominations in the Actress and Actor categories.

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE: 22 nominations. Most ever! Ever!! Most watched season in 42 years. Nominees include Alec Baldwin, Melissa McCarthy, Vanessa Bayer, Leslie Jones, and Kate McKinnon.

THE VOICE: In its 10th year, it receives eight nominations including Best Reality Show.

HAIRSPRAY LIVE: Seven nominations. Next Easter, the Broadway live series will present JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR.

DOLLY PARTON'S CHRISTMAS OF MANY COLORS: Named as a Best Television Movie nominee.

Looking ahead to what's coming this summer? Bob Fisher has the blockbuster box office guide to this summer's movie season!