Monthly Archives: August 2017

Review: War for the Planet of the Apes brings closure to a grand arc

I finally got around to seeing War for the Planet of the Apes. This is the third installment of the franchise re-boot that began with Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014). The film brings closure to a grand arc in the rebooted franchise and most fans of the series should be satisfied. The movie has also received positive reviews, generated tremendous staying power at the box office, and earned $314 million after four weeks at the box office (on a $150 million production budget).

War follows the attempts by the leader of the apes, Caesar (Andy Serkis, The Lord of the Rings series, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes), to avoid a final show down with the humans. The human population has already been wiped out by a virus blamed on the apes—the Simian Flu—and a remnant of the human population is trying to preserve their owns species by destroying the intelligent apes holed up in the forests of the Northwest United States. Caesar’s ability to communicate and his intelligence are the product of human medical experimentation (and the subject of the previous two films). In War, the humans are led by the maniacal Colonel (Woody Harrelson, White Men Can’t JumpNatural Born KillersHunger Games) who is intent on destroying the apes in what he terms as a “holy war” for the survival of mankind.

War for the Planet of the Apes—the ninth in the pantheon of the franchise—stays true to the original series which grappled with important social issues of the day. The innovation in the first movie, Planet of the Apes, was to reverse the roles of the apes and humans, giving the apes the benefit of intelligence, rationality and social superiority. Similarly, in the War for the Planet of the Apes, Caesar’s character embodies the common virtues of humans—desire for peace, cooperation, rational and balanced thought, grace, and forgiveness.

Caesar is morally and emotionally challenged by the deliberate if unintentional murder of his wife and young son by the Colonel and his soldiers. Their deaths spur him to hunt down the Colonel and kill him as revenge and retribution. Maurice, a wise and philosophical Orangutan (Karin Konoval, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes), provides the balance and metaphysical foil to Caesar’s charismatic leadership. The humans embody the dark side of humanity—unquestioned loyalty, willingness to uncritically follow leaders, the darkness that comes with succumbing to fear.

Screenwriters Matt Reeves (who also directs the movie) and Mark Bomback (Deception, The Wolverine, The Divergent Series: Insurgent) add important dimension to the story by introducing a young human girl into the story. After Caesar and his party kill her father, a deserter from the Colonel’s rogue army, Maurice refuses to leave her to starve or be killed in the wilderness. The girl’s innocence, courage, and willingness to look beyond her species to bond with the apes plays an important role in Caesar’s own personal transformation in his quest. Her role and acceptance also allow War to become more multidimensional than a simple ape vs. human tale, staying true to the franchise’s emphasis on finding common ground and overcoming prejudice.

War for the Planet of the Apes is a fitting sequel to the previous two movies. The special effects immerse the audience in the movie, making the world of the apes as natural and accepting as human life in the real world. The action sequences keep the audience engaged throughout the movie even though the end is never really in doubt. Serkis’s acting gives life to his character in striking ways despite the fact the audience never sees human form. Harrelson finds a way to add dimension in the egocentric, brutal Colonel blinded by his own prejudice and self-righteousness. The screenwriters also do a nice job of infusing references to characters from the older films, giving those familiar with the original series a satisfying sense of closure. While the story is not fresh, the movie is done well.

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Unsafe On Any Campus? earns two gold medals in literary competition!

PRESS RELEASE

Lake Buena Vista, FL (8/5/2017) – The Florida Authors and Publishers Association awarded two Gold Medals to Florida college faculty member Samuel Staley’s book Unsafe On Any Campus? College Sexual Assault and What We Can Do About It, one each the categories of Adult Non-Fiction and Political/Current Events.

Hosted by the Florida Authors and Publishers Association, this prestigious national award is open to books published between 2016 and 2017. Organizers say this year included the largest number of entries every drawing from a national pool of authors and publishers.

Unsafe On Any Campus? is written by Samuel R. Staley, a full-time faculty member in the College of Social Sciences and Public Policy at Florida State University.  Staley joined the faculty in 2011 after 25 years in the nonprofit private sector. He was unaware of the extent of the problem, which is national in scope, until he learned the stories of survivors and their friends while coaching martial-arts based self-defense classes at FSU. Staley holds a black belt in To-Shin Do, a self-defense oriented version of the classic Japanese “ninja” martial art of Ninjutsu developed by ninja master Stephen K. Hayes.

“Virtually every student will know a survivor of sexual assault by the time he or she graduates from an American university or college,” says Staley, who acknowledges the extent of the problem may vary significantly by college and location. Staley describes his book as a primer for parents, college counselors, and students. “This book is my way of using more than 30 years of professional experience in the field of public policy analysis to explain a very complicated problem and outline practical pathways toward eliminating this scourge on our campuses,” he says.

“The FAPA President’s Book Award exists to promote excellence in the publishing industry by recognizing talented contemporary authors who put both heart and soul into their work. FAPA is proud to be a champion of authors and publishers going the extra mile to produce books of excellence in every aspect.” said Jane R. Wood, President-Elect of FAPA.

Unsafe On Any Campus? College Sexual Assault and What We Can Do About It is a nonfiction book analyzing contemporary campus culture, why it puts college students at risk for sexual assault and rape, and presents a holistic solution that puts harm reduction at the center of strategies and programs.

Ruth Krug, a survivor of campus sexual assault, writes in her Foreword: Unsafe On Any Campus? is  “innovative, practical, and empowering” and “signifies a turning point in addressing rape and sexual assault in college and university environments.” Unsafe On Any Campus? is published by Southern Yellow Pine Publishing.

Medals were awarded at the annual FAPA President’s Book Awards Banquet held this year at the Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace in the Disney Springs TM Area of Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

“We are proud to announce this year’s winners who truly embody the excellence this award was created to celebrate.  We had a record number of entries this year. Competition was stiff! We salute all of our winners for their fine work,” said FAPA’s President, Terri Gerrell.

The Florida Authors & Publishers Association is an organization for authors, publishers, independent publishers, illustrators, editors, printers, and other professionals involved in the publishing industry. It focuses on providing the highest quality of information, resources, and professional development to members and others interested in the writing and publishing profession.

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For more on Unsafe On Any Campus, including discussion questions, videos, and other materials on campus sexual assault, visit: http://www.campusninjaselfdefense.com

To purchase Unsafe On Any Campus?

  • at amazon, click here.
  • at Barnes & Noble, click here.
  • at Southern Yellow Pine Publishing, click here.

 

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Review: Valerian‘s entertaining space romp

Source: www.impawards.com

My rather lengthy review of Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is now live at the Independent Institute. I almost skipped this movie, but I’m glad I didn’t. I really enjoyed it: Valerian is an entertaining space romp with a dash of cool action. I also realize this puts me at odds with most reviewers and a sizable number of movie goes. But I try to call’m like I see’m, and I found Valerian is an entertaining and satisfying sci-fi, fantasy movie.

Writer-Director Luc Besson does a nice job of consciously blending a Star Wars-esque space opera with Avatar-inspired fantasy and adding a European flare. Visually, the movie has a lot going on, and it’s fun to just sit back and watch. Unfortunately, sometimes the flare gets in the way of the plot. Still, the story holds together as a rather straightforward sci-fi, fantasy action yarn.

Besson also adds depth, building real arcs into the characters. This allows him to also build a strong message into the substance of the film, specifically one of the overarching importance of individual dignity, emotional transparency, and peace as building block for relationships and community.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets also has an intriguing backstory as I write over at the Independent Institute,

Americans might be tempted to think this film and comic series was inspired by Star Wars. In fact, if a relationship exists, the influence may be the other way around. The film’s story is taken from the long-running French comic series Valerian and Laureline (1967-2010), which featured epic, diverse universes with inter-species cooperation and conflict. Indeed, the design director behind Star Wars: The Phantom Menace kept bound copies of the comic on his shelf during that film’s production.

The movie has its weak moments—the pace slows in key places, and the dialogue tends to be a bit juvenile—but overall the film entertains. Sometimes, we just need to give credit to a film that is just entertaining.

I scored Valerian 8.5 on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being perfect) based on 8 elements. This translates into a grade of a B and really 4 starts on a 5-star scale (3 1/2 on Rotten Tomatoes).

The full review can be found here:

Review: Valerian Entertains with Focus on Visual Effects and Personal Dignity

My Facebook site—Movie Reviews By Sam Staley—where I am now posting links to all my reviews can be found here:

https://www.facebook.com/themovieswithsam/

 

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