'Puzzle' is Well Made, but a Few Pieces are Missing

Based on the film Rompecabezas, Puzzle is one of those little-known independent films that sneaks into theaters with little to no fanfare, although the fact that it is being promoted “from the producer of Little Miss Sunshine” should help it get noticed somewhat. Puzzle is a quiet, little film about a woman who discovers that jigsaw puzzles are the key to changing her life. While the subject matter doesn’t sound all that exciting, the film really isn’t about puzzles but instead about one finding their voice, or so it appears. It’s also a message film that has its own agenda expecting the audience to agree with the choices of the main character and applaud her “brave” behavior. Frankly, it just feels manipulative.

Directed by Marc Turtletaub, Puzzle’s most impactful scene comes within the first few minutes. We see Agnes (Kelly MacDonald) cleaning up the house and they decorating it for a birthday party. Then we see her serving appetizers while being ignored by the guests. …

‘War for the Planet of the Apes’ Wraps Up a Perfect Trilogy

Review of "War for the Planet of the Apes."
Maurice (Karin Konoval) and Nova (Amiah Miller) in War for the Planet of the Apes. (20th Century Fox)


This latest Planet of the Apes franchise has been a surprise right from the beginning. Each of the three films (Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and now War for the Planet of the Apes) feel almost independent of each other and only a small handful of characters have starred in each film and all of them are apes.

Review of "War for the Planet of the Apes."
Woody Harrelson and friend. (20th Century Fox)
First, a quick refresher. The 2011 film started with man creating a new substance to help repair brain damage and is tested on a chimpanzee (Caesar played by Andy Serkis) which makes him super smart and makes the drug look super promising. Unfortunately, the drug is lethal to humans, becomes a virus and starts the destruction of humankind as we know it.

Next, in the 2014 film, the story fast forwards ten year with the apes living peacefully in the mountains just outside of San Francisco, while in the man’s world, it is near Armageddon. A group of survivors who somehow were not affected by the virus ban together to destroy the apes once and for all.

Now in the third installment, Caesar and company are still battling humans, but some of the apes are now playing on the wrong team and even after what appears to be strong message of truce between the two walks of life, the conflict between the two becomes worse because of a ruthless (and stereotypical) Colonel (Woody Harrelson). The Colonel wants to control the apes and put them in his prison camp while also keeping out fellow humans. Harrelson is known for his comedic chops, but he isn’t trying to be funny here. The role though is over-the-top and believe it or not, feels like the most unbelievable thing about the movie. Yes, apes talking, shooting bows and arrows and riding horses is more believable than Harrelson’s performance. Fortunately, the Colonel doesn’t sink the ship. Throughout the ordeal, Caesar struggles with wanting revenge while fighting to be the moral leader that he is.

Review of "War for the Planet of the Apes."
Caesar played by Andy Serkis (20th Century Fox)
Two new characters are introduced in the drama, Nova (Amiah Miller) a mute girl whose father is murdered and is befriended by kind orangutan Maurice (Karin Konoval) and Bad Ape (Steve Zahn) who gives some comedy relief as former zoo ape who believes his name is Bad Ape since that is what his trainers referred to him when he was behind bars. Overall though, the film is pretty somber (outside of a great ape escape)

It should go without saying that this is actually an amazing feat in filmmaking. The CGI is spot on and non-distracting. The acting of the actors behind the animation of the apes comes through and is a perfect blend of technology and art.

While there may be more Apes movies in the works, this one wraps up this trilogy nicely with a triumphant note.


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