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George At 

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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Picking up ten years after the conclusion of "Rise of the Planet of the Apes", DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES immerses us in a San Francisco dominated by apes in the forests and a small enclave of humans in the city.

Caesar (Andy Serkis) is the undisputed leader of the apes, who over the past decade have all learned sign language and are starting to learn to speak. He has a loving mate and a "teenage" son Blue Eyes, who is anxious to follow in his father's footsteps.

The genetically evolved apes own the forest territory and are living in relative peace.

In the city, a large group of survivors live in the vine covered remnants of downtown San Francisco, led by Gary Oldman as Dreyfus, their inspirational leader.

As all power sources threaten to run out in the months ahead, Dreyfus sends a team out to try and reactivate the hydroelectric dam. Unfortunately it's located in the forest and the fragile peace between the apes and humans is soon threatened.

Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty, The Great Gatsby) is great as Malcolm, who sees the apes as evolved equals to be partnered with. He is unfortunately surrounded by less evolved humans, who want nothing more than to kill all the apes.

Caesar and Malcolm bond, but soon that mutual respect is tested by challenges from both the ape and the human worlds. To say more would be to spoil some of the enjoyable directions that the film takes on its way to an action filled conclusion atop the skyscrapers of San Fran.

Andy Serkis is brilliant as Caesar. The computer effects are so sophisticated that the apes generate as much or more emotion than the humans. We have come a very long way from the ape masks of the 1960's!

DAWN serves as the "Empire Strikes Back" of the current Apes series, improving on the first and perfectly setting up the next film.

The production values are first rate throughout. You film buffs of my age will have fond memories of the vine covered Washington DC of "Logan's Run" when you see the much more realistic vegetation smothered San Francisco.

As a long time fan of the Planet of the Apes series, its great to see the franchise in good hands, avoiding the budget crush of the original series where each film after 'Escape from the Planet of the Apes" had smaller budgets and diminishing returns. By also avoiding all the eccentricities of Tim Burton's attempt at a reboot, the current filmmakers continue to build characters you care about.

Oldman seems a bit wasted until the finale, Keri Russell and Kirk Acevedo are a bit stuck in one mode, but Serkis and Clarke carry the film so high on their shoulders, you barely notice.

Apes riding horses and shooting machine guns could have been really stupid. Not here! This is a great action film with some interesting things to say about loyalty, racism and family beneath the bullets, chases and explosions.

DAWN is even better than RISE and gets an exciting A. Already looking forward to what happens next.

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