This week’s major home video releases include a sweet drama about the restaurant business and a big-budget, science-fiction sequel.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
4 stars (out of four)
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief strong language
20th Century Fox
Available on: Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, DVD and digital download
Director Rupert Wyatt’s 2011 reboot of the “Planet of the Apes” franchise (“Rise of the Planet of the Apes”) was a smart blockbuster that used special effects to tell a thought-provoking story about science, bigotry and the rules that dictate human-animal interaction.
Director Matt Reeves takes over for “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” a sequel that maintains the themes of the original while placing a greater focus on action and spectacle. That type of shift has the potential to doom a franchise, but Reeves’ work is so good that he takes the series to new heights.
“Dawn” is more exciting and action-packed than it’s predecessor, but it’s also exceedingly smart, and it features an Oscar-worthy, motion-capture performance by Andy Serkis.
Serkis plays Caesar, the ultra-intelligent ape raised by a human scientist in the first movie. “Dawn” is set about a decade after those events, and much has changed. A deadly virus has wiped out most of humanity, and Caesar has become leader of a thriving community of smart apes who live in the woods outside San Francisco. Since humans are scarce, the apes are used to living in solitude, and it alarms them when a small group of humans enter their territory in hopes of repairing an abandoned hydroelectric dam.
The apes are distrustful, but the human leader, Malcolm (Jason Clarke), convinces Caesar that they mean no harm. As the movie progresses, both species step gingerly around one another, and agitators on both sides push for conflict.
Although Serkis is unrecognizable in the finished film, his performance imbues Caesar with a soul. The ape’s displays of emotion are as moving as any presented by the film’s human characters, and we can only hope Serkis is remembered when industry groups begin doling out awards.
“Dawn’s” other actors, including Clarke, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell and Toby Kebbell, also turn in outstanding performances. This, along with the winning screenplay and spectacular special effects, makes the picture one of the finest of 2014.
Blu-ray and DVD extras include photo galleries and a feature on Serkis’ portrayal of Caesar.
The Hundred-Foot Journey
Rated PG for thematic elements, some violence, language and brief sensuality
Available on: Blu-ray, DVD, digital download and on demand
Director Lasse Hallström has made both dogs and masterpieces during his four decades in the movie industry, but he’s great when he finds his groove, and “The Hundred-Foot Journey” is a nice addition to his catalog.
On the surface, the film is about a rivalry between two restaurants, but viewers who peel back the layers will find universal themes about ambition, familial bonds and the joy of perfecting one’s craft. The story is told from the perspective of a young Indian man named Hassan (Manish Dayal). After he and his family suffer a tragedy in their native land, they move to southern France and open an Indian restaurant directly across from a Michelin-starred, fine-dining palace specializing in traditional French food.
Although the menus and atmosphere of the two operations are different, they compete fiercely. Hassan’s father (Om Puri) and the intense owner of the French restaurant (Helen Mirren) fuel the battle, viewing each other as potential threats.
Although Hassan is the cook for his family restaurant, he is less competitive, and he forms a low-key friendship with Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon), a beautiful chef who works in the rival operation. Among other things, she introduces him to French food, and that ultimately changes both their lives.
“The Hundred-Foot Journey” isn’t deep, but it is delightful to watch the characters interact. There is also enjoyment in marveling at the wonderful dishes Hallström splashes across the screen. As in all great food movies, cooking is depicted as both a science and an art, and it’s difficult to look at the meals without longing for a bite.
As viewers, we can’t taste the food, but there’s nearly as much pleasure in allowing Hallström to draw us in and immerse us in this world filled with wonderful sights, sounds and characters.
Blu-ray and DVD extras include a behind-the-scenes feature.
ALSO OUT THIS WEEK
“As Above, So Below”: Horror movie about explorers who find more than bargained for in the catacombs of Paris. Perdita Weeks, Ben Feldman and Edwin Hodge star. Co-written and directed by John Erick Dowdle (“Devil”).
“One Direction – Where We Are – Live From San Siro Stadium”: Second concert film featuring the guys from One Direction. This outing is built around footage from a couple June 2014 concerts.
“The Strain” – The Complete First Season: Horror shows are hot on TV, and this FX drama is among the best. Created by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan, the action centers on a vampire invasion of New York City. Corey Stoll, David Bradley, Mía Maestro and Kevin Durand star.
“Broad City” – Season 1: First 10 episodes of the Comedy Central show about young women (Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson) doing their best to survive in New York City.
“Jingle All the Way 2”: Direct-to-video sequel to 1996’s “Jingle All the Way.” The original movie featured Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sinbad as father’s battling to obtain a fast-selling holiday gift for their children. Part two follows a similar plot, with Larry the Cable Guy playing the lead role.
“Justified” – The Complete Fifth Season: The upcoming sixth season of “Justified” will be its last. That makes the 13 episodes on this set special for fans. Plotting is centered on a U.S. Marshal (Timothy Olyphant) who dispenses tough justice in the Kentucky town that he grew up in.
“The Simpsons” – The Seventeenth Season: On the air since 1989, “The Simpsons” is the longest-running sitcom in U.S. television history. The animated comedy also has a rabid fan base that should delight at the 21 episodes available on this set.
– Forrest Hartman is an independent film critic whose byline has appeared in some of the nation’s largest publications. E-mail him at email@example.com.