Reboots are unnecessary, but Rise of the Planet of the Apes is actually able to exist on its own. And the film is silly in the way that the original Planet of the Apes is, so I'm not really going to fault it for that. I don't think Jeff is really taking too many points off for that either.
It's by no means a perfect film, but it's also true that no one is walking into the theater or popping in the DVD with those kind of expectations. The Tom Felton character is necessary to the story for what he represents, but it feels poorly executed. The CGI looks fantastic at times and possibly does look better than Spielberg's dinosaurs, but then there were other moments when they looked like something out of a video game. Still, you gotta love that Andy Serkis.
The emotion in the film was a bit surprising, and agreed, it's also done in a very refreshing way, given the summer blockbuster crap factory. I've been seeing Alzheimer's/dementia storylines in a lot of films lately, and bringing in John Lithgow to play Franco's father was the right call. Also, if the Franco/Cesar relationship fails, there's no reason to be interested in the movie. For a movie that's a bit on the silly side, their relationship is handled with absolute maturity and heart. In the end, though, this film doesn't alter my top ten list; it's an honorable mention for me.
The Descendants, like Rise of the Planet of the Apes, receives mostly a positive response from me, but there are definite elements to be critical of. Alexander Payne's film about unpredictability was mostly predictable. I agree with Brandon that one of the worst moments of the year is when Sid laughs at George Clooney's mother-in-law because she has Alzheimer's. But from the very first scene with Sid, I knew the film was trying to get me to hate him. I also knew that he would eventually be given a scene where we're proven wrong about him. Usually it's nice to have characters who are fleshed out in the way that he was, but in this case it felt a bit cliched.
The growth of Clooney's daughter, Alex, feels more genuine than the growth of Sid. Our first scene with her makes us think that she's an immature, brat...and she is. As the film rolls along and Alex finds out her mother is dying, she begins to grow and mature. There's more of a performance with Shailene Woodley. And speaking of performances, I thought that this was one of Clooney's better ones. It had more emotion and a down-to-Earth quality. He felt more like a father than the charming, likeable character he always seems to play.
You also have some strong scenes in the hospital when the family talks at Elizabeth. It does make for very compelling storytelling to have these characters show anger and frustration at a comatose woman. Those scenes were packed with emotion and felt genuine. The growth of the Matt King and his two daughters is handled extremely well and it demonstrates how powerful a family can be.
However, this film doesn't alter my list either.