Saturday, January 20, 2018

Coco and the Last Jedi

Continuing with the catch up, I'll review one movie where I caught the midnight showing, and one that I caught super late on New Year's Day.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

I'll first come out and say that I thoroughly enjoyed The Last Jedi, and I also realize that I'm in good company. Next week I'll give a more detailed spoiler-filled analysis, responding to several of the complaints lobbied against this film. For now, this is the spoiler-free quick review.

The Last Jedi picks up immediately after The Force Awakens. The First Order continues to destroy what is left of the old Republic, and Rey looks to Luke Skywalker for answers and training.

In some aspects, this was the best Star Wars movie I've seen. The plot was interesting, incorporating certain devices never used before in the previous movies. There was an amazing amount of development among several characters such that the sum total may be even more than the total character development of the original six movies combined. (The Force Awakens also has a good amount of development.) The fight scenes were a whole level above anything we've seen before. Some visuals were beyond amazing. And as always, the musical cues were spot on.

In other aspects I was disappointed. The CGI for Snoke (and other characters) looked bad to me. Sure, it was detailed, but there was a large amount of uncanny valley, making him look fake. Some plot twists really disappointed me. (We are warned in the trailer: "This is not going to go the way you think.") Most of the MARVEL-type jokes felt out of place. Someone thought it was a good idea to insert a political statement. The length of the movie was a little too long.

I caught the "midnight" showing on a regular screen, and a week later watched it in 2D IMAX. I can't say how elated I was to learn a non-3D version was available. I realize the studios sacrificed the extra $3 per ticket to allow this to happen, but it was good for us consumers, and I wish more distributors would go this route. Unless the movie was shot in 3D (not converted), most movies are actually more enjoyable in 2D IMAX than in 3D IMAX. Though, with that said, I was disappointed that the 2D IMAX version was nothing more than the regular screen proportions thrown on a bigger screen and louder speakers. In other words, you don't get the extra stuff above and below the standard screen. Instead you get the black bars -- wasted screen.

If you haven't seen it yet, catch it before it leaves theaters, and then you too can decide for yourself if you really love it, or if you really hate it.


I believe Coco would be near the top of my list of movies I've seen from 2017. (I'll have to make a list next week.) It may even top my list of all PIXAR movies. The story is awesome, and the imagery wonderful. Plus, it evidently provides an accurately view into the whole Day of the Dead traditions -- Mexicans seem to love it.

Miguel secretly learns to play guitar in a family that has shunned music. When he comes to learn that his great grandfather was a famous musician, he tries to follow his dreams and ends up in the spirit world.

As a PIXAR movie, you can expect the usual tropes, plot twists, and those little nagging things in the back of the brain that tell you, "this can't possibly work" if you think too much about it. But the good story holds it all together, and somehow tricks you into thinking there's something real behind the fantasy. By the end of the movie, my whole family was in tears, even the two kids who never cry from anything.

The music is also amazing, with real guitar playing in the animation. And did I already mention how great and detailed the whole animation is?

If you've missed this movie, it still isn't too late to catch it at a discount theater. It's worth seeing the animation on the big screen, though I bet on the small screen, the story will still captivate you.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

A Game of Thrones -- Book Review

With all the hubbub about the TV show, I decided to start reading the books. Book number one is called A Game of Thrones, and the series is called A Song of Ice and Fire. The TV show is named after this first book.

The prologue captured me immediately, and I knew I was in for a ride when two of the three players died instantly, and the third died in the beginning of the first chapter. That sent a strong signal that no character was safe. It turns out that even though one death near the end is predictable, there were plenty of surprises along the way.

I must admit that there was a part somewhere in the first 200 pages that felt like it was dragging, and it took a while for me to really get into it, but before I knew it, the book was done.

The book primarily follows the travels of Eddard Stark as he becomes Hand of the King, but there are plenty of other plots and subplots, and this is where the book shines -- the story is amazing, the world building is phenomenal.

The prose itself wasn't very exciting, and often Martin would go on and on, tempting me to skip a couple of paragraphs. Also, for a fantasy book, there wasn't much fantasy. It was like a Robert Jordan book with 95% of fantasy elements removed, leaving a strong extract of politics and preparations of war. In other words, he successfully provided exactly what's promised in the title: a game of thrones. Those who play it win or die.

The book comes to an end when the pages stop -- small stopping places for each of the plots and subplots -- but no real conclusions. It was like "Come on guys. I had to stop somewhere. You're going to read my next book anyway."

I'll get around to it sometime later this year. I hear it gets even better.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Ragnarok and Justice League

Now to play a little catch up. Here are a couple of superhero movies that came out last November.

Thor: Ragnarok

This movie was a lot of fun, with no slow parts, plenty of action, awesome cinematography, funny dialogue, and decent plot. Yet, I found myself getting annoyed with Marvel's constant tying in with other stories in the Marvel Universe. I would have preferred if this movie were more of a standalone. In fact, you could have removed the Hulk entirely and the plot would still be intact.

Thor and his brother end up facing a new foe that could destroy Asgard. However, they become stranded on some random far away planet. Thus, they must first get off the planet and gather allies to fight this foe.

The movie is bold and is not afraid to change things up. Yet, I doubt I will remember much of the plot a year from now -- like with most Marvel movies.

And how again did the Hulk end up on the same exact planet (evidently on the Guardians of the Galaxy side)? I didn't even remember him disappearing in an earlier movie. Yes, I know that this borrows from an actual Hulk storyline from the comics, which is pretty cool, but still too much reliance on coincidences.

Most people are able to overlook this and yet blast other movies for doing less -- strange, but understandable. Marvel movies do a good job at keeping interest levels high enough so that people don't care much about the plot issues.

Justice League (2017)

I went into the movie theater expecting a terrible movie, and maybe that helped me to enjoy it. It was ... decent. Then again, I tend to like Zack Snyder movies when others don't. I love the darker feel in these DC movies, and the more comic-book looking effects.

One of the biggest complaints against Snyder is that he tends to jam too much plot into such a short time. It becomes too much to process, and the viewer becomes lost and less able to enjoy the movie. But in "Justice League" the plot is a lot more straight forward. Big baddie shows up, the Justice League bands together, and then they try to stop the world from ending. Perhaps this was helped with the last-minute infusion of Joss Whedon's writing. Funny they should bring in the man who helped Marvel's "Avengers" to be a great success. He is the master of the ensemble script!

Yet, some characters just seem to suddenly exist, and -- big complaint from the masses -- we didn't exactly know who they were. Aquaman, Cyborg, and the Flash were all cool and in character, and there was a small bit of character development, but without having seen their origin stories, they just seemed to exist and not do much else.

As usual in Snyder films, the fight scenes are pretty cool and comic-book looking. It was worth catching in the theater, and I'd probably watch again if this happened to be on TV.

My biggest disappointment was that when it was over, there was this big "is that all?" feeling. The plot was easy to follow, but felt very thin. The resolutions at the end weren't very satisfying, though there is a cute cut-scene in the middle of the end credits.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Mel's Year in Review: 2017 and Plans for 2018

Overall, I think I did worse than I had in 2015, making 2017 my officially worst year in fiction writing ever. It also happened to be a very good year for my music company, Melkim Publishing, in which I successfully reached hundreds if not thousands of future customers. So, at least I can report that I wasn't lazy.

Well, except for the last couple of months, when I got hit by a couple of big things that helped me not want to do anything at all.

Now I have a great opportunity to reboot my fiction writing. I'll be starting in January -- this month.

2017 wasn't a complete waste. I did complete and submit "The Last Actuary" in January. It didn't win any prizes, but at least one person liked it.

Including that submission, I submitted a total of 7 short stories in 2017, which is actually one better than I did in 2016.

"When Time Flows West" received Honorable Mention in the Writers of the Future contest (which should be announced more officially in the next few weeks). So, even if I didn't do too much writing, I still have this new feather in my cap.

General stats for 2017:

For 2018, my goal is to reboot the writing machine. I'd be happy to meet a few reasonable goals rather than crazy audacious goals. So here we go:
  • Novel writing:
    • If I have enough funds, I will have "Justice" edited and then put out for sale on Amazon
    • If no funds (most likely the case this year), I will finish the first draft of "Space Cadets"
  • Short stories - complete 4:
    • "The Jesse Flag" (flash fiction)
    • "The Rainbow Flush" (flash fiction)
    • "Godspring" (longer story)
    • "Descendent History" (longer story)
    • bonus: if I feel like it, work on another actuarial story
  • 26 short story submissions
Good luck in your writing, and have a good 2018!

Friday, November 10, 2017

Checkpoint #5 - 2017

I have no excuses. Sure, I was busy the first part of the year putting hours upon hours into my music publishing business. And after I launched Melkim Classical at the end of September, I did nothing and relaxed for a whole month (except for a few projects here and there).

In the fiction world, this meant no working on these stories that are still in my head; no working on my book "Justice" which only needs to be edited one last time and get published; no story submissions; no more stories currently outstanding. I'm still at 6 total submissions.

In other words, these past two months (in which I finally had a good one month chance to be productive) was my worst period so far this year.

Though, there's one good news item: my story "When Time Flows West" won an Honorable Mention in the Writers of the Future Contest. I'm not sure if that puts me in the top 10% or 5%, but at least it's a good sign that I'm not writing total crap. If anything, it tells me that I'd be crazy to stop writing now. Once I find out more, I'll give more detail.

In a funny sense, my worst checkpoint period of the year also turned out to be my best checkpoint period of the year.

Whatever my excuses, or pains, or whatever, I really have no choice but to buck up and just finish the year out strong. I can write at least one short story and reboot the old writing machine.

I did write 15 blog entries, nearly double my last period's output. And again, a little more than half of those are related to Melkim Publishing.

I hope your writing is doing well.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Blade Runner 2049: It Was Worth It

This is one of those cases where it's hard for me to understand why some critics rail on good movies. As I've said many times before, I believe that sometimes critics are either meeting some "I hate this" quota, or are otherwise artificially validating their own existence through being negative. Did you know that a critic once called Beethoven's Ninth symphony "monstrous and tasteless" after its original performance?

Perhaps a lot of us were already preparing for a bad movie, as some recent Ridley Scott productions have been disappointing.

But that didn't happen for me with Blade Runner 2049. Rather, this movie pulled me right back into that world we saw 30 years ago, only with much better special effects and cinematography.

In 2049, newer models of replicants are made to be much more compliant and submissive to their human creators. Some older models still exist, and they are still hunted and destroyed. This time, Ryan Gosling plays the Blade Runner. As he's out on a mission, he learns about events that happened a couple of decades ago, which opens up a nice bag of questions. And ...

Well, I wish I could say more without spoiling the plot, but I can only do so with generalities. Just like in the original movie, this one explores humanity and sentience, and it also comes with plenty of atmosphere, action, and a healthy dose of depression.

I will agree that some the pacing is very slow in some places, but this was just as I suspected going in. Sure, they could have picked up the pace here and there, but at what cost? Sometimes we need a little extra time to process what we're seeing, and you can't have too much atmosphere if it's awesome.

Just like in the original, there were some confusing scenes, though after having watched the whole movie and having had time to process, it all seems to be coming together. I love a movie that makes you think even after the credits have stopped rolling.

Finally, I can't even begin to describe the joy I felt about the producers deciding to release the film in 2D Digital IMAX! I just knew that 3D glasses would ruin the whole effect for me, and the IMAX version was beyond amazing. This is indeed a movie to see now in the theater. Catch it now before it gets relegated to that small screen in the back room.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Journal of an Eclipse

I love eclipses! Solar, Lunar, Total, Annular, Partial -- you name it, I love it. (Well, except for penumbral lunar eclipses. Those are boring.) I'm one of those who screams when clouds cover up the event and then go away right after it's done.

So let's see ... I caught the total annular eclipse, which went directly over Milton High School in 1984. That was pretty cool, but we didn't get to see the corona.

Here's a piece of paper I created back then to capture the projection of the eclipse back then (you can double-click to see a higher resolution image -- bonus points if you can find the Dolly Parton galaxy):

Since then, I've caught countless lunar eclipses, and several partial solar eclipses -- one of which occurred on Christmas Day, which I remember very well, as I tried to use my telescope as a projector, and it melted part of my eyepiece.

But of all these eclipses, this total eclipse of August 21, 2017 is by far at the top of my list. It was my very first fully total solar eclipse, and the first time I got to see the corona. It only took me 48 years to wait for it to come anywhere close to me!

Pictures capture only a mere glimpse of the real thing, and words cannot fully describe exactly what we saw and experienced, but I'm going to try to do so in this quick eclipse log.

A little after 5AM, we left our NC city, which was already in the 95% zone. If you want to catch a total eclipse, though, you gotta get in the 100% zone. We had our certified solar glasses. We even had a pair of solar binoculars. We did our homework of the weather -- realizing we could go to either: Columbia, Greenville (SC), Nantahala National Park, or south of Knoxville. I was happy to learn that the clearest forecast coincided with Greenville, where my aunt and cousin just happened to be in town.

So down we went. Google Maps put the regular trip time at 2 hours 45 minutes, but even so early in the morning, we hit eclipse traffic and it ended up being closer to 3 hours 45 minutes. Here we are in northern South Carolina with traffic backing up again.

At 8:41 AM, we finally made it into the eclipse zone. My kids were excited, and so was I! Nothing could stop us!

We finally left the highway shortly after 9AM.

We stopped at a McDonald's to get a late breakfast. While ordering, I asked the server guy if he was going to see the eclipse. He was all, "What eclipse?" We told him he needed an excuse to get out during the total eclipse portion. Take out the trash or something.

By the time we left, we heard the manager on the phone asking for permission to let his people go outside for a couple of minutes. Oh yeah!

We arrived at my aunt's house and chilled for about an hour. Then we started scoping out a good spot to watch the show. You see, Greenville has a big problem: trees everywhere! And I didn't plan this event for years only to pick a bad spot at the last minute.

We checked her back yard. Then we went over to my cousin's house and checked out his yard. Still too many trees! Though his pool was positioned such that you could swim while you watched, we had to go somewhere else.

Then my aunt took us to their neighborhood field. It was perfect except for a couple of lights that had the potential of turning on. We also checked out the parking lot of the nearby Mormon church she attended. It had a great view, but way too many street lights.

The neighborhood field was going to be the place.

We went back to my aunt's place where I watched her make a pinhole projector out of cardboard. I also erroneously told her that you could project an image of the sun with a magnifying glass. Turns out you can, but the image is so small and hot that it burns things! Who knew?

When the eclipse started, we were at my cousin's house. He was cooking up hamburgers. We took a moment to look through our sun-glasses, and sure enough, there was a tiny bite out of the sun on the upper right side. I mentioned going to the neighborhood field, but they preferred to stay put.

And you know me ... I didn't plan this thing for years just to ... well, you get the picture. I left with my immediate family and departed to the neighborhood field. I felt bad leaving behind my other fams, but ... science!

Next to the field was this pool, and many were swimming. Music played loudly. I guess that was the thing to do in Greenville. Swim and watch!

My family had a quick little picnic, and I set up my camera so it would be steady for some cool shots. Only, the camera sucked. Here's me trying to catch a pic with the camera looking through my sun-filter glasses.

Can you make out the crescent? I can almost see it ...

By the time we had finished our little picnic, it was already getting noticeably darker. It was nowhere near as dark as one would have expected with half the sun's face gone, but it looked more like a weird lighting trick.

These pictures perhaps ... maybe ... catch some of that weird twilight. The second picture was taken about 10 minutes after the first. You can also see how high in the sky the sun was, which was probably the most annoying part of this particular eclipse. It was probably lower in the sky for those lucky peeps in Oregon.

Also, you'll notice in that first picture above, there are some clouds. I didn't get a good picture, but there were large clouds heading our way. At least twice, it appeared that a cloud was headed straight for the sun, but then a strange thing happened. All the clouds in the sky dried up ... completely! I think they just lost steam as temperatures dropped.

Though, several of my friends told me that some reporter lost his cool out west because one cloud just happened to go over the sun for only those two minutes of totality. On camera he lost his cool, talking about "no, it wasn't okay." It was the main purpose for being there, and it was ruined by a rouge cloud. (Hey ... if anyone can find a video of this, I'd love to include it here. My search came up short.)

As the sun came close to being covered, I watched the last few minutes through my sun-oculars. I got a good view of the bailey beads, and I could see the exact second when it was safe to take off the glasses. Over at the pool, they were playing "A Total Eclipse of the Heart."

Somewhere in there, I accidentally looked at the sun unfiltered with only a sliver left, and I can tell you, it looked as bright and as much a full circle as I'm used to seeing every day when I accidentally look at the sun. I also looked away very quickly, leading me to wonder how people could mess up their eyes. You would have to work pretty hard to keep looking. Then again, it only takes a couple of seconds to do permanent damage.

But let me tell you ... at the very end, the light around us and the temperature dropped immediately in a matter of seconds. And then there it was. The corona shone around the moon, much brighter than I had expected, and there was a strange bluish tint to it. It looked like an origami black circle placed in front of a bright light -- an incredible 3-D effect I've never seen in any pictures or videos.

Off to the right was a bright planet ... most likely Venus. And to the left was another planet ... probably Mercury seeing how close it was to the sun.

I tried to take my picture, but I first accidentally shot this video.

And in a quick fit of frustration, I tried to switch to another setting, but I wasn't going to spend more than a few seconds, and this is what I got:

It looks more like a black hole from Interstellar or that second Thor movie than it does what I actually saw with my eyes. I quickly gave up and just enjoyed it. At the top edge, there was a really bright spot, and I partly worried if it was still okay to look at it. It was a prominence--a piece of the sun blasting into space and coming back down. I can't even describe what color it was--a purply blue red?

Around the horizon, it looked like a sunset--light coming to us from the poor people outside of the eclipse zone only 30-something miles away.

Suddenly a small dot in the upper right started getting bright, just like a diamond. The light around us came back up as quickly as it left. Heat returned, and we all had shadows again.

My friend took this picture. I am full of the angry jealousy.

It was a quick experience that I will remember forever.

The only thing I missed were the shadow bands. I thought I saw some in the corner of my eyes, but it was nothing like what I saw with the annular eclipse of 1984. Back then, there were clear dark lines flowing across the ground like a surreal wave. But this time ... maybe it was because we were in a grass field. But then again, I've yet to hear anyone report about shadow bands connected to this particular eclipse. Maybe they just didn't happen this time. (By all means ... let me know if you saw any, and tell me what city you saw them in.)

We went back to my cousin Andy's house, and caught the last part of the eclipse there. On the way over, we saw this phenomenon: eclipses projecting through the tree leaves!

Then back at my cousin's house, Andy let me look at the eclipse through a welding glass. That was pretty cool. It was a bright green crescent! Pretty.

I also saw the results of my aunt's pinhole projector.


I did a little swimming in my cousin's pool, and then after about an hour, he announced that the last bit of the moon was disappearing. He and I watched the end through our glasses, and then it was done. Sad, but well worth the whole effort.

We left there at about 5PM, and by then Highway 85 was already starting to become a parking lot. We ended up taking the back roads up north. Would you believe those roads were packed, too? And Google Maps kept cutting out.

Here we were on 64.

When we got to 40, past 77, we ended up in a long line where the construction was, and at 9PM, I could only exclaim, "This is ALL eclipse traffic!" It was both frustrating and fun at the same time. It took us a little over 4 hours to get home, and we didn't stop even once (we had gassed up after McDonald's, fearing possible shortages after the event).

Would I do all this again? You betcha I would. In fact, there's another coming up in seven years. I'd have to travel further -- maybe even rent out a hotel. Who's with me?!

Friday, September 1, 2017

Checkpoint #4 - 2017

I've got bad news to report this month. I've chosen to cut back again in my fiction writing in order to devote more time into the Melkim Classical launch, which has been pushed back to September.

Funny story: I learned that download copies sell faster than printed copies plus shipping, so I'm devoting a lot of time getting all my music ready for digital download.

I'm currently at 6 story submissions this year. Two of my submission are still out there in the slush pile.

I didn't get to any new fiction writing.

These past two months, I wrote 8 blog entries, most of which are in conjunction with Melkim Publishing.

I anticipate that in October, I can return to my fiction writing activities. Yay!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Dunkirk: Another Nolan Production

Dunkirk is a remarkable movie. With Germany successfully pushing British and French forces to the sea at Dunkirk, 400,000 British soldiers must be evacuated across the channel back to England. So close to home, and yet so far away, the British air force is unable to provide adequate air coverage, so the armies are exposed to continual German attacks.

The movie starts as a British soldier crosses over a French blockade and arrives at the beach. At first there is a sense of safety, but it isn't long before the first German plane comes flying overhead dropping bombs.

Though I'm no war expert, the film felt remarkably real to me. I can't think of even one scene where I thought, "That looked fake." There were some times that when a bomb or gunfire went off, I actually screamed in surprise. Freakiness.

And this was all done under a PG-13 rating -- proof that you don't need gratuitous gore and swaths of F-bombs to effectively capture a war scene. Though, there were plenty of "bloody's," which I think is supposed to be a swear word? And I think I heard an F-bomb in there somewhere, but it was hard to make out with the accent.

With all that said, this wasn't my favorite Nolan movie. There were several distractions which all seemed to take away from the experience, which I will list here.

#1) Nolan decided to tell the story out of order. Part of this is because there were three parties at play: the armies that were on the beach for days, the ships who took a day or so to make the journey across the channel, and the planes who only had an hour of fuel. So, we see the planes take off near the beginning of the movie, about the same time that we see a ship that left harbor the day before. By the end of the movie, there is a convergence, but along the way the story goes back and forth in time, even showing the same scene four times from different points of view.

I'm sure that if I went back and watched the movie again, I'd appreciate this quirk a little more, but on a first viewing it was confusing. I saw a plane go down once, and when I saw another plane going down it took me a while to realize it was the same plane.

#2) The music by Hans Zimmer was awesome, as usual, but in this case I think it detracted from the movie. It was too loud and too interesting. The entire soundtrack was basically one big Philip-Glass-like treatment of Edward Elgar's Enigma Variations. It was a good and appropriate piece to feature -- it's British and one of my favorite Elgar tunes. But see there? That was the problem. As soon as I said, "I recognize that music," it took me out of the movie.

#3) And then there were the obligatory Nolan actors. As soon as I saw the "Scarecrow," whom I saw in Batman and Inception, it took me out of the movie. Tom Hardy's character wasn't so bad, as he had a mask on the whole time ... wait! And there was even a cameo near the end of someone we've seen in Batman and Nolan's TV show, Person of Interest. I think it would have been much more effective to use far less recognizable characters playing soldiers.

Still ... it remains a movie to see, and I hope it gets awards.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Double Feature: Apes and Spider-Man

So many good movies coming out at the same time! That means: get ready for more reviews. Today you get two.

Spider-Man: Homecoming was as good, if not better than I expected. Good story, good pacing, and believable characters keep the movie going and worth watching.

As the second or third reboot in the last couple of decades (anyone counting?), the writers wisely decided against rehashing the origin story, but at the same time, they were able to catch much of the spirit of an origin story. Peter Parker is already the Spider-Man, but is a young teenager with the usual problems. He knows he has powers, but doesn't know how to use them. He should really be going to school, and dating girls, etc., but he wants to be an Avenger and catch the bad guys. The first thirty minutes demonstrate what happens as he hilariously botches several hero attempts.

Tony Stark makes an appearance to remind Peter he just needs to chill and grow up a little, but Peter comes to learn something big is going down, and no one will listen to him.

The title "Homecoming" has several meanings: the movie somewhat centers around the high school's homecoming dance, and this movie celebrates SONY finally working out a way to have Spider-Man join the rest of the Marvel universe.

Michael Keaton plays an interesting bad guy -- someone who is only taking advantage of an opportunity that lands in his lap. He just wants to make money, but he is willing to hurt people who get in his way. In a sense, his lack of insanity sets him apart from other villains we've seen before. Some may find this boring, but hey ... not everyone can be Heath Ledger.

The effects were decent -- some scenes looked fake when Spider-Man went swinging between buildings, but I didn't care much. I think it added to the quirkiness of the film. When it got to the big action, some of the in-your-face scenes were dark and confusing to follow. Perhaps that was intentional as well.

It was a lot of fun, and I suggest catching this while it's still in theaters.

War for the Planet of the Apes was another fun movie. I had seen the first movie ("Rise"), skipped the second ("Dawn"), and after being lost for a few minutes, I felt like I was quickly caught up and was able to enjoy the majority of this third movie.

Caesar and his band of intelligent apes have established a home in the forests north of San Francisco. When humans come to fight and destroy them all, Caesar learns that they must flee elsewhere in hopes of finding a place of safety.

After the "Colonel" (played by Woody Harrelson) infiltrates and kills many of the apes, Caesar leaves his group to fulfill a vendetta, in many ways becoming like Koba from the second movie. Others join him to keep him in check. Along the way, they pick up a girl who can't speak, and ... well ... it sets up the stage for plenty of fun action and drama. Harrelson does a good job playing the desperate Colonel who is only trying to do whatever it takes to save the human race.

Even though I thoroughly enjoyed watching the movie, I found it interesting that the plot seemed to rely both on deus ex machina (where something comes out of the blue to save the day) and diabolus ex machina (where something comes out of the blue to wreck the day). In other words, too many coincidences.

Still, there were some awesome scenes, and it was all worth watching. I highly recommend catching this in the theater as well.