Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes - Photo 20th Century Studios
Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes – Photo 20th Century Studios

Opening with a brief funereal prologue, mourning the death of the peaceful prophet known as Caesar (Andy Serkis), the sci-fi fantasy “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” skips ahead “many generations” – as primates rose to power after a virus deprived humans of their intellect and ability to speak.

Deep in the jungle, Noa (Owen Teague) is coming of age. His chimpanzee clan breeds eagles and is renowned for their falconry expertise. One day – as he and his friends are climbing steep cliffs, searching for coveted eagle eggs – his peaceful village is invaded by armored ape horsemen who capture his family and friends.

Determined to find and free them, daring Noa ventures into forbidden coastal territory where he’s befriended by wise old orangutan Raka (Peter Macon), a faithful follower of now-mythic Caesar with his “ape not kill ape” legacy, and Mae (Freya Allan), a mysteriously mercurial human female on a mission. 

Their nemesis is Proximus Caesar (Kevin Durand), the dominating bonobo King who is determined to break down the huge iron door of an ancient seaside fortress to retrieve the hidden treasure locked inside.

Chanting “Apes together strong,” he’s counseled by treacherous, opportunistic Trevathan (William H. Macy), a scholarly human scavenger.

Cleverly scripted by Josh Friedman (“Avatar: The Way of Water”) with ape-verse producers Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, it’s adroitly directed by Wes Ball (“The Maze Runner”), utilizing Peter Jackson’s Weta FX Company’s now-perfected performance-capture technology to ‘humanize’ simian characters as the thought-provoking, suspenseful plot progresses.

Kudos also to cinematographer Gyula Pados, special consultant Andy Serkis and Daniel T. Dorrance’s imaginatively crafted production design, filled with evocative, emotional details referencing previous productions, harking back to Charlton Heston’s launch of the franchise back in 1968. 

On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” is an epic, adventurous 8, playing in theaters.

Eileen - Photo NEON
Eileen – Photo NEON

Anne Hathaway demonstrates remarkable versatility in “Eileen,” a low-budget psychological thriller about a woman who works in a Massachusetts juvenile detention facility for boys in the 1960s.

Lonely, bitter, often bullied 24 year-old Eileen Dunlop (Thomasin McKenzie) lives with her often drunk, domineering, widowed father (Shea Whigham), who used to be the town’s Chief of Police. She’s a clerical worker at the detention center and frequently indulges in sexual fantasies that involve a hunky security guard and moving to New York City.

Then, one wintry day, a new psychologist is added to the prison staff: beautiful, platinum blonde Rebecca St. John (Hathaway), a confidant Harvard graduate.

Transfixed by Rebecca’s tawdry, seductive ‘film noir’ glamour, Eileen is thrilled when Rebecca befriends her – since they seem to share a mutual interest in a mysterious young inmate, Lee Polk, who apparently killed his father.

Exuding infatuation, obsession and repressed desire, the unconventional relationship between the two women quickly deepens, leading to some intriguing criminality.

Directed by William Oldroyd from a cryptic, pulpy screenplay by Luke Goebel and his wife Ottesam Moshfeh, based on Moshfeh’s debut 2015 novel, it’s most notable for its jarring, far-fetched, third-act almost-Hitchcockian twist, leading to an unexpected conclusion which – on second viewing – may have been subtly foreshadowed.

Although it looks like grainy film stock – because of the tight budget – cinematographer Ari Wegner used ARRI ALEXA digital cameras with a special Angenieux 25-250 HR zoom lens.

Do you recognize young Thomasin McKenzie from “The Power of the Dog”? This – now-grown – New Zealand actress adroitly captures Eileen’s naïve, multi-layered vulnerability, while Anne Hathaway projects Rebecca’s sophisticated self-importance. 

And automotive buffs may spot a ‘goof’ when Eileen explains to a coworker that her “cat in her car” is damaged, causing smoke – referring to her catalytic converter. Oops! The film is set in the 1960s and catalytic converters weren’t routinely installed until 1975.

On the Granger Gauge, “Eileen is a sinister 6, streaming on Prime Video, Apple TV and Vudu.