Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

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Apes. Together. Strong.

Some people have said that Dawn is to the Planet of the Apes franchise as The Dark Knight was to the Batman franchise. I’m almost inclined to agree. Set 10 years after Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Dawn of the Planet of Apes sees Caesar running a very well organized ape colony in the middle of the forest. They’ve established a strong civilization there, complete with housing, an ape highway of sorts and even a school for the young ones. As you can imagine, all good things must come to an end.

The smart ape colony is discovered by a group of humans from a fortified San Francisco stronghold and, while there is an “apes do not want war” sentiment on both sides, an unfortunate series of inner conflicts inevitably leads to many casualties on both sides. The thing is that there really isn’t a “good guy” and a “bad guy” side to this, as both the humans and the apes are simply doing what is necessary to protect their families. We really start to recognize just how human-like the apes have become. We start to recognize that the apes trusting all apes above all humans is faulty, just as humans thinking all apes are bad doesn’t work either.

Whereas the first film explored the coming of age for Caesar and the mass exodus of smart apes, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes sees a far more mature society of apes rife all the strengths and pitfalls of their human equivalents. Yes, the connections to imperialism are obvious enough (here we go with the “noble savage” again), but Dawn really presents a heartfelt journey that will inevitably lead to many more Apes films.

Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)

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I should have known better. Given how I felt about the third Transformers movie, I should have known that Age of Extinction would be another futile exercise in frustration. At nearly three hours, it’s also a torturous adventure that never seems to go anywhere, filled with illogical plot holes and repeated slaps in the face for all fans of the original Transformers franchise.

If Marky Mark’s daughter is underage and she’s secretly dating an older guy, isn’t it even creepier that he carries around a copy of the law that gets him out of statutory rape accusations? If Frasier is bent on wiping out this alien robot scum, then why is he partnering up with an even more powerful robot alien who could be even scummier than the worst Decepticon? And how on Earth did Optimus Prime sneak his way into that old building without destroying a giant hole in it?

Yes, giant alien robots fight some other giant alien robots. Yes, there are slow motion explosions and some gratuitous sexual innuendo. And none of this can make up for this tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Why do I keep giving Michael Bay my money?

Pompeii (2014)

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Realistically, Pompeii has very little to do with the iconic city that was frozen in hot ash by Mount Vesuvius. Instead, it’s a big budget affair that borrows from other films like Gladiator to present some of the brutality of the Roman Empire. Kit Harrington, who you likely know as Jon Snow from Game of Thrones, plays a slave who becomes a gladiator. He earns the respect of another combatant who has been promised his freedom after one last fight, but that one last fight is not at all what they had planned.

Long story short, we get treated to some decently choreographed bloodshed, an angry love triangle (sort of), and an exploding volcano as something of an afterthought. Pompeii is just a guilty pleasure that is ultimately forgettable. Apparently, even outside of Westeros, he still knows nothing.