Reel Critics: Special effects the real star in 'Planet of the Apes'

"Rise of the Planet of the Apes" is really a jail-break movie. The inmates are not human criminals in jail. The prisoners here are innocent chimpanzees, orangutans and gorillas held in cages for medical experimentation.

A pharmaceutical company develops a drug to control Alzheimer's disease. Testing on captive primates reveals it profoundly advances their intelligence. But the apes are kept cowering by a malicious security guard. His harsh treatment generates sympathy for them and propels the movie's underdog story arc.

As testing proceeds, a special ape named Caesar becomes the most intellectually advanced. Like a simian version of Spartacus, he takes charge and leads the pack's revolt against their human masters. The special effects are flawless as the battle moves to the Golden Gate Bridge.

Andy Serkis, through motion capture technology, is the true star of this film. He gives credible life and emotions to Caesar, using the method he made famous as Gollum in "The Lord of the Rings."

In this movie, the humans are shallow stereotypes and the apes are the real people. It's all predictable but well-crafted and highly entertaining.


'Point Blank'

Not to be confused with the 1967 Lee Marvin classic, "Point Blank," a taut French action film, has you in its grip from the opening seconds.

A handsome nurse's aide (Gilles Lellouche) comes to the aid of the wrong man at the wrong time. When his very pregnant wife is kidnapped, he's trapped in a true cops-and-robbers conspiracy where no one is to be trusted.

"Point Blank" is 88 minutes packed full of suspense and frenzied foot chases that will leave you gasping.


'The Devil's Double'

"The Devil's Double" is based on Latif Yahia's horrific account of his forced enlistment as the body double for notorious Uday Hussein, Saddam's oldest son. British actor Dominic Cooper gives a star-making turn playing both roles so well, you'll forget that you're watching one person.

Uday is a drug-fueled, cigar-chomping, sadistic monster — think Middle Eastern "Scarface" — making Saddam look like a reasonable man by comparison.

Latif's role is more subtly nuanced as the sad-eyed "good man in a bad job."

How he escaped, much less survived, those days of brutal excess makes for a truly gripping film.

JOHN DEPKO is a retired senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office. He lives in Costa Mesa and works as a licensed private investigator.

SUSANNE PEREZ is a Costa Mesa resident and executive assistant for a company in Irvine.

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