This week’s new films reviewed

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes
Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes

The battle between species intensifies in the action-packed sequel Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (12A)

Blending state-of-the-art special effects with an intelligent script, Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes conjures two hours of animal magic that looks set to be crowned king of the blockbuster swingers.

Tim Burton’s abortive Planet Of The Apes is now a distant memory thanks to the 2011 revamp Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes and this superior sequel, which pushes the art of motion-capture performance to new limits.

Andy Serkis’ exemplary work as Caesar, the super-intelligent chimpanzee who leads the ape uprising, is the film’s emotional heartbeat.

His ability to convey the character’s rage, despair and passion through movement and subtle gesture is breathtaking.

Toby Kebbell is also compelling as Caesar’s war-mongering rival, who believes the key to his species’ survival is the extermination of humans.

Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver’s script elegantly draws parallels between the feuding primates, juxtaposing tender scenes of parenting with bruising skirmishes that create divisions on both sides.

Ten winters have passed since simian flu ravaged the globe.

In the absence of law and order, basic resources such as water, food and electricity are dangerously depleted.

One-time military man Dreyfus (Gary Oldman), who lost his entire family to the ALZ-113 virus, leads survivors in San Francisco.

He despatches a team led by family man Malcolm (Jason Clarke) to access the O’Shaughnessy Dam, which provides the city with electricity.

In the forest that envelops the dam, the scouting party encounters apes led by Caesar, including his ambitious second-in-command Koba (Kebbell), impetuous son Blue Eyes (Nick Thurston) and Bornean orangutan Maurice (Karin Konoval).

Malcolm’s trigger-happy compatriot Carver (Kirk Acevedo) shoots one of the apes and the humans are banished to their stronghold.

Once Dreyfus learns about the neighbouring ape community, he asks Malcolm and co to refrain from telling the other survivors.

“They’re talking apes with big-ass spears!” shrieks Carver.

Malcolm realises that he must earn Caesar’s trust to gain access to the dam so he prepares to return to the forest with wife Ellie (Keri Russell) and teenage son Alexander (Kodi Smith-McPhee).

“If you’re not back in three days, we’re going to go out there and kill every last one of them,” warns Dreyfus.

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes is a slick thrill ride with brains as well as brawn.

The grim mood, which permeates the first half, leads to all-guns-blazing war and director Reeves orchestrates these brutal sequences with elan.

Digital effects are jaw-dropping, giving birth to a realistic army of blood-thirsty apes who cram every chaotic, blood-spattered frame.

The film’s strong anti-gun message comes through loud and clear, but the appetite for destruction overpowers diplomacy.

“I always think ape better than humans,” laments Caesar as his dream of lasting peace founders. “I see now how like them we are.”

PUDSEY THE DOG: THE MOVIE (U)

The sound of a pig repeatedly evacuating its bowels reverberates throughout Nick Moore’s ham-fisted attempt to transform Britain’s Got Talent’s performing pooch into a modern-day Lassie.

The porker’s muck is an apt critique for Paul Rose’s shambolic script that trades in toilet humour and misjudged innuendo.

Some of the performances also beggar belief including John Sessions as the pantomime villain in tweeds.

He suffers the humiliation of a toe-curling flashback in which he plays a mother, father and infant in the same scene.

Hopefully, Sessions was paid well for this half-hearted attempt at career suicide.

Elsewhere, David Walliams delivers a lifeless vocal performance as the four-legged hero, who hopes to travel the world and visit the Empire Sausage Building and Sausage Henge.

The film handily omits to mention that if Pudsey realises his dream of scampering along The Great Sausage Wall, he could potentially end up on a local menu.

Closer to home, stray dog Pudsey (voiced by Walliams) crosses paths with siblings Molly (Izzy Meikle-Small), George (Spike White) and Tommy (Malachy Knights), who are poised to move from London “to some stupid cottage without WiFi” with their mother Gail (Jessica Hynes).

The eponymous mutt stows away in the family’s removal trailer and is discovered when they arrive at their new home in the sleepy village of Chuffington.

While Gail placates scheming landlord Mr Thorne (Sessions), who hates dogs, Pudsey befriends horses Nelly (Olivia Colman) and Edward (Peter Serafinowicz) and a pig called Ken (Dan Farrell), who thinks he’s a chicken.

Pudsey The Dog: The Movie is a poor showcase of the eponymous cross breed.

Viewers of Simon Cowell’s talent search will be well versed in Pudsey’s ability to perform acrobatic feats with guidance from trainer Ashleigh Butler.

On the big screen, he dances and twirls on hind legs, casts the occasional mournful glance at the camera and appears to converse with farmyard co-stars courtesy of digital trickery a la Babe.

Hynes and the younger cast are poorly served and parallel romantic subplots for Gail and Molly involving a handsome farmer (Luke Neal) and a teenage farmhand (Luke Tittensor) are sickly and unconvincing.

“Things are getting better,” promises the chorus of one of the bubblegum pop songs that punctuate the soundtrack.

Only when the end credits roll and we can leave.

The ramshackle plot is interrupted by pointless diversions including the central character’s incarceration in a secret dog prison that inspires a ludicrous Great Escape.

Amidst the pratfalls and a lame running gag about a giant pie, there are faint glimmers of heart-warming emotion including a timely mention of the Women’s Land Army.

However, good intentions are undermined by slapdash character development.

If Pudsey The Dog: The Movie were an animal, we’d put it down humanely after 10 minutes.

RATING: 2/10