Dallas Voice’s Tuesday Big Movie lineup at the Magnolia

xanadu

‘Xanadu’

Landmark’s Magnolia Theatre’s weekly Big Movie New Classic Series, sponsored by Dallas Voice, screens a different classic film each Tuesday at 7:30 and 10 p.m. The schedule lets movie buffs plan their Tuesdays all the way from now through Mother’s Day. Here is this quarter’s lineup:.

Feb. 23: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Milos Forman directed this five-Oscar winner, based on Ken Kesey’s novel, about madness in an Oregon asylum.

March 1: The Birds. Hitchcock’s chilling allegory, a harrowing portrait of nature striking back at mankind.

March 8: Laura. One of the seminal films of the 1950s, Otto Preminger’s elegant mystery features an iconic performance by Clifton Webb.

March 15: Planet of the Apes. Sci-fi classic (the 1968 version, not one of the remakes or reboots) about the survival of a civilization in a world upside down.

March 22: Annie Hall. Woody Allen’s early masterpiece, an hilarious and moving account of a failed relationship.

March 29: Xanadu. Often consider the nail on the coffin of disco, this bit of fluffy nonsense is now considered a camp classic.

April 5: Medium Cool. The recently departed cinematographer Haskell Wexler made his feature directorial debut with this edgy political drama set during the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

April 12: Paper Moon. Ten-year-old Tatum O’Neal won an Oscar for this whimsically enchanting period piece about grifters during the Great Depression. Directed by Peter Bogdanovich.

April 19: I Ladri di Biciclette (Bicycle Thieves). Vittorio De Sica’s Neo-Realist masterpiece, a drama about a man and his son trying to survive in post-war Italy. Wrenching.

April 26: The Seven Year Itch. Marilyn Monroe at her sexiest in Billy Wilder’s sexy comedy.

May 3: Repulsion. A young Catherine Deneuve electrifies in Roman Polanski’s unnerving thriller about a woman on the brink of madness.

May 10: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. John Huston won two Oscars (writing and directing) and dad Walter won for a third (supporting actor) in this iconic film about greed.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 12, 2016.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Serkis act

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TALKIN’ ’BOUT A (R)EVOLUTION | Bears may be common to in the Castro, but chimps take over the Golden Gate bridge in ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes.’

Andy Serkis’ masterful monkey business is the 800-lb. gorilla in the room making ‘Apes’ worth a look

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

The 1968 film Planet of the Apes was sci-fi at its low-tech best: A human astronaut crash-lands on a world run by talking monkeys in the Iron Age of their society — brutal, feudal, violent. It’s like a Roman sword-and-sandal movie that begins on a spaceship. It’s grimly futuristic and innately visceral, and even today, long after you’ve learned the Big Reveal (the planet is Earth in the future, post nuclear winter), addictively watchable nonsense.

Well, Rise of the Planet of the Apes got the nonsense part right, but a few things else as well, though those seem lucked upon. Unlike its progenitor, it’s a Science Gone Mad sci-fi extravaganza, Frankensteinien in its concept of good intentions unregulated by consequences. (To be fair, it’s a fitting update: During the Cold War, we worried about The Bomb; today, anthrax and genetically engineered chemical warfare are far more frightening.)

A scientist (James Franco) hopes to develop a drug to cure Alzheimer’s (from which, coincidentally, his dad, John Lithgow, suffers!) but his soulless big pharma employer won’t back him. So James experiments on his own with a genetically superior chimp named Caesar, inventing a miracle drug which contains a supervirus the human body can’t kill off and ruin its therapeutic benefits. (Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.)

The science scenes, complete with the money-grubbing boss, are about as bad as lazy sci-fi gets (think Splice), and much of the plotting feels recycled from every primate-loving movie from King Kong to Project X. (There are also more chimps in one facility in this movie than are probably in every zoo in North America.) But you soon realize how little all that matters when Andy Serkis gets to do his thing.

Serkis played Gollum in the Lord of the Rings films, and Kong in the remake of King Kong — not in a costume, but in a motion-capture suit that precisely reflects his movements, including facial expressions, and converts them into CGI reality. (All the apes in the film are digital.) That means the chimps seem far more human than their masters, with genuine emotions and personalities that rarely register on the cookie-cutter villains. It’s weird to realize you’re rooting for the species that will eventually enslave us.

The result is that Franco eventually becomes irrelevant plot-wise, as Rise moves from the category of beauty-of-nature film to Scarface Meets X-Men: Caesar’s so smart, he methodically develops an army of chimps to follow him. (I kept expecting him to say to Franco, “Never ask me about my business.”)

Rise isn’t great , but it is entertaining and will probably piss off creationists to no end. That, along with Serkis’ remarkable FX-enhanced performance, is reason enough to see it.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas