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In one scene near the end of this third pre­quel to 1968’s Planet of the Apes, char­ac­ters tra­verse aban­doned tun­nels where one bit of graf­fiti reads “Ape­poca­lypse Now!” This tag spells out the ob­vi­ous — this saga’s chap­ter is a clear nod to the 1979 film Apoc­a­lypse Now. In a world in which hu­mans have been wiped out by the simian flu and mon­keys are evolv­ing at a rapid rate, ape leader Cae­sar (per­formed once more by a mo­tion-cap­tured Andy Serkis) trav­els north on a re­venge mis­sion to find a crazed Army colonel gone rogue (Woody Har­rel­son). Direc­tor Matt Reeves tack­les the story with a com­mit­ment to ex­cel­lence across the au­dio and vis­ual com­po­nents of the film, in­clud­ing some of the best spe­cial ef­fects you’ll ever see, won­der­ful sound ef­fects, a com­pelling score, and an eye for mem­o­rable images. The script bal­ances heavy drama with smaller mo­ments, of­fer­ing nice nods to the 1960s and ’70s films. As the apes square off against a doomed, des­per­ate hu­man race in what evolves into a prison-es­cape movie by the third act, the story can feel bleak and emo­tion­ally ma­nip­u­la­tive at times. But it’s also un­com­monly rich for a sum­mer block­buster, akin to set­tling into a thrilling novel for the af­ter­noon. Rated PG-13. 140 min­utes. Screens in 2-D only at Re­gal Sta­dium 14; Dream­Catcher. (Robert Ker)

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