Column, The Movie Diary

There’s nothing to fear

By Dom Cioffi

I have a friend whose son has always been a serious risk taker. In fact, his kid has been a constant source of anxiety for him from as far back as I can remember.

He’s told me numerous stories of how his child used to climb out of his crib in the middle of the night and go downstairs to look for food. A few years later, he would catch the kid riding his bike down hills at excessive speeds or find him lodged up in a tree, far above where any reasonable child would venture.

Now, as a teenager, my buddy is facing the world of snowboarding half pipes and the constant badgering for a dirt bike. His famous line has always been, “If this kid makes it to 18, I’ll be the luckiest father in the world.”

The irony is that my buddy is about as laid back and mellow as they come. His idea of excitement is a round of golf or a Sunday afternoon baseball game watched from his well-worn La-Z-Boy recliner. This guy wouldn’t know a risk from a donut.

I, on the other hand, was a bit of a daredevil in my youth. It was not uncommon for me to attempt multiple flips off the high dive tower at the municipal pool or jump my BMX bike off a shabbily constructed ramp in the backyard. One time, I broke my wrist trying to leap off the swing-set at the playground and on another occasion, I sprained my arm while skateboarding in an empty swimming pool.

So, when I had a child, I was certain he would follow in my daring footsteps. Oddly, nothing could be further from the truth.

My son is so risk adverse that he doesn’t even want to watch other people take risks. As a little boy, he used to freak out when we drove past a car wash. And if I happened to pull in to start the process, he would scream bloody murder as the jets and brushes pummeled my truck.

One summer, we joined some family friends at the amusement park for a day of fun. But while the other kids all pined for rides on the Ferris wheel and Tilt-a-Whirl, my son cowered in the distance, not even wanting the structures within eyesight.

When we go skiing in the wintertime, he comes down the mountain so slowly that my wife and I take turns disappearing so we feel like we’ve had some exercise. And while most kids scream with delight at the thought of a waterslide or rope swing, my son just screams in fear at the mere mention of their names.

But for all of my son’s fears, the only one that really gets to me is his fear of scary movies. Here I am, a guy who loves all genres of film (especially scary films), and I can’t even get my son to entertain the idea of watching them. I would pay money to sit down and watch “Dawn of the Dead” or “Friday the 13th” with him, but he runs out of the room if I even mention the titles.

On the rare occasion when we have watched something borderline frightening, he’s finding a reason to go to the bathroom or covering his eyes and ears while reciting the alphabet. This frustration hit a climax sometime last year when I finally decided to take matters into my own hands.

I have always been a huge fan of the “Planet of the Apes” franchise so when I heard they were at work on the third installment of the most recent reboot, I ordered copies of the previous DVDs and had them delivered to my home. I then sat my son down and calmly outlined the premise of the first two pictures (conveniently leaving out details that might suggest any level of scariness).

I then sweetened the pot by telling him if he watched both movies without leaving the room or covering his face, I would buy him the newest video game he had been dreaming about.

He agreed, but with great trepidation.

Needless to say, he loved the first film and found the second movie even more alluring. In fact, after we finished those, he went back and watched the earlier films from the 1970’s (thankfully, I talked him out of watching Mark Wahlberg’s horrible remake from 2001).

So, this past weekend my son and I ventured to the theater to watch the latest ape release, “War for the Planet of the Apes,” with both of us experiencing the same giddy anticipation.

Set on the heels of the last picture, this film chronicles the ape vs human tensions that have been growing since a deadly virus struck down most of the human race. Now, Caesar and his brethren must endure one final assault that will ultimately determine who will rule the earth.

I must admit, this film was as entertaining and mesmerizing as the first two. The digital effects truly bring the apes to life and allow for unbelievably stunning scenes. And I will repeat what I said after the second picture: At some point the Oscar committee has to recognize Andy Serkis for his amazing portrayal of Caesar. He’s a true artist and will one day be remembered for pioneering performance capture acting.

Whether you’re a fan of this franchise or ​not, run to the theater as soon as possible. This film has it all and then some.

A chest-pounding “A-” for “War for the Planet of the Apes.”

Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at

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