TIME Television

Lizzy Caplan: Masters of Sex Wouldn’t Be the Same Made by a Man

Masters of Sex
Lizzy Caplan as Virginia Johnson and Caitlin Fitzgerald as Libby Masters in Masters of Sex Michael Desmond—Showtime

The show's female creator is important — but not for the reason you might guess

With the second season of Masters of Sex premiering July 13, the women who make the show what it is — creator Michelle Ashford, along with executive producers Amy Lippman and Sarah Timberman — spoke to TIME about how the show addresses the mechanics and the pleasure of sex, all while avoiding voyeurism.

But that’s not where their feminine sides really show through. Star Lizzy Caplan says that there’s no way to say whether a sex scene written by a man versus one written by a woman is more gratuitous — but that there is one element of the show’s arc that wouldn’t be possible if the show weren’t created by women. And, ironically, it’s something that has very little to do with sex (though it does contain spoilers for last season):

Our show would look completely different if it were run by a man instead of Michelle supported by two other strong women. I think the first thing that would look a lot different would be the love triangle between Masters and his wife and Virginia. I think we still have a lot more story to tell there but one of the things that fascinated all the women — Caitlin Fitzgerald, who plays [Masters' wife] Libby, included — was the fact that Virginia and Libby really did cultivate this loving friendship with one another while all of this was going on. The care given to that — not making the Libby character super two-dimensional and the Virginia character this man-eater — I think that has a female touch written all over it. Also, especially in the second season, there’s a lot revolving around Virginia and Dr. DePaul, played by Julianne Nicholson. Again, the meticulous care given to that relationship is something that only a woman would understand. There is a deep emotional love connection in female friendships and I don’t even know if guys are aware that’s going on.

But that’s not to say that Caplan doesn’t think their depiction of on-screen sex isn’t woman-friendly: “I think they’ve managed to do that,” she says of the show’s racier scenes, “where it doesn’t feel like it’s being made for 14-year-old boys.”

TIME Culture

How Women Are Doing on TV, According to the Emmys

Actresses Julianna Margulies, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Taylor Schilling.
(L-R) Juliana Margulies, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Taylor Schilling Getty Images (3)

Female actresses are better off doing TV than film

The Emmys are a seriously flawed institution: Great shows get snubbed while flailing ones clean up, and this year is no exception. (You’ll be hard-pressed to find a TV critic who preferred this season of Downton Abbey, which got 12 nominations, to The Americans, which got just one.) Ratings determine what stays on TV, and other awards like the Golden Globes often honor those who are snubbed at the Emmys. So while the nominations released this morning don’t mean everything, they often act as a barometer for how female actors, writers, directors and producers are doing on TV.

A slew of studies released this year revealed that the gender gap in Hollywood is still alive, well and as depressing as ever. But there’s a silver lining: TV is offering women a number of opportunities, including more robust and challenging roles for actresses and more options for those behind the camera. In a Hollywood Reporter roundtable of women on TV this spring, six women that the publication deemed to be “Emmy contenders” spoke about the advantages of working on the small screen.

“The film world is becoming quite flimsy for women,” said Julianna Margulies, star of The Good Wife. “They’re also not scared of women working in television. My unit production manager is a woman, two of my executive producers are women and three of the writers…The hardest thing about being an actor, and especially when you’re a woman trying to also have a family and a relationship, is to maintain some sort of normalcy. With television, you might not be home a lot, but you have a routine.”

“There’s just a deeper level of sophistication in the writing of female characters on TV,” added Vera Farmiga of Bates Motel.

The Emmy nominations prove this year that that’s true. The actress categories were arguably more competitive than ever before. Here’s why this past year was a great one for women on television.

Orange Is the New Black cleans up

Orange Is the New Black, a show with an almost entirely female cast, received 12 nominations. Netflix doesn’t reveal how many people stream its various shows, so while many critics assumed that people were tuning in, skeptics could still make the argument that the female-minded show wouldn’t appeal to men. But a prestigious Emmy nomination proves that the show isn’t just a one-trick pony: Orange Is the New Black actually got better after a well-reviewed first season. And more good news: The establishment is recognizing a show about people who are otherwise marginalized in our society.

The “Ozymandias” episode of Breaking Bad

Moira Walley-Beckett was recognized for penning “Ozymandias,” which many consider to be one of Breaking Bad‘s best episodes. The nomination is not surprising, but it does reinforce the idea that sometimes a testosterone-laden show like Breaking Bad needs a woman’s touch. For those of you who don’t remember, “Ozymandias” was the episode in which Walter stole his baby girl away from his wife and son (before realizing he’s made a mistake and returning her). The heart-wrenching shot of Walter driving madly away with his weeping screaming wife on her knees in the road in the background, calling for her child was simultaneously beautiful, tragic, frightening and liberating. It brought much-needed humanity to the show’s final episodes.

Robin Wright in season 2 of 's "House of Cards." Photo credit: Nathaniel Bell for .
Actress, drama series – Robin Wright, House of Cards

Older women get a shot on TV

Most Hollywood insiders would tell you that being an actress over 40 is a death sentence. But not on television. If we look at this year’s female nominees, most are doing some of the best work of their careers as they approach (or exceed) middle age, including Robin Wright (House of Cards, age 48), Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife, age 48), Anna Gunn (Breaking Bad, age 45), Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey, age 79), Lena Headey (Game of Thrones, age 40), Christine Baranski (The Good Wife, age 62), Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie, age 51), Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation, age 42), Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep, age 53), Melissa McCarthy (Mike & Molly, age 43), Julie Bowen (Modern Family, age 44), Allison Janney (Mom, age 54) and Kate Mulgrew (Orange Is the New Black, age 59).

Many of these actresses, like Amy Poehler, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Robin Wright, had long and varied careers before even starting to film their current shows.

Of course, a lot of great actresses were overlooked. Keri Russell was snubbed for her performance on The Americans, which many critics agree was the best drama on TV this year. Orphan Black‘s Tatiana Maslany was passed over for a second year in a row despite giving an outstanding while playing several clone characters, all with different personalities. Elizabeth Moss missed out on a nomination for Mad Men after doing some of her best work on the show. And, perhaps most shockingly, The Good Wife, a show that (spoiler alert!) dispatched of its lead male character and now centers on two strong women, did not earn a nomination for best drama. Perhaps the reason is this was a particularly competitive year for women, and overall that’s great news.

One area that could use some improvement is comedy. Girls and Orange Is the New Black are not really comedies in the traditional sense, and Parks and Recreation is rumored to be close to its final season. I confess I haven’t seen either Nurse Jackie or Mike & Molly but Veep is hilarious. More comedies starring women like Louis-Dreyfus would be a great boost to TV. Some potential future contenders include Broad City and Inside Amy Schumer on Comedy Central, which is making a concerted effort to bring more women to its network.

Find out which ladies will actually take home statues when the 2014 Emmys air on August 25, with Seth Meyers hosting.

TIME Television

Why Was The Good Wife Snubbed by the Emmys?

The Good Wife
CBS/Getty Images

Trying to explain the inexplicable

The Good Wife didn’t get snubbed by the Emmys — it got spurned. Sure, The Americans, Tatiana Maslany from Orphan Black and Brooklyn Nine-Nine all probably deserved nominations too — but those oversights can be rationalized. The Good Wife’s missing nomination defies reason: the show had its best season ever this year — removing a main character in a way that no other network show would dare to do and somehow improving after his departure. And yet still, it didn’t get a nominations.

Let’s talk about this season of The Good Wife. There are spoilers ahead, so if you haven’t seen the show, stop reading right now and go start watching. You’ll thank me later.

Will is dead. Not just dead, but shot. Killing off a likable main character isn’t radical on TV: Game of Thrones beheaded its hero, House of Cards pushed the one person who could stop Frank Underwood in front of a train, Homeland (mercifully) hanged a character that probably should have died in season one. But those shows are on HBO, Netflix and Showtime, all of them prestige dramas backed by cable channels with large checkbooks who pay their writers to take risks. Not so for network TV where main characters are all but guaranteed survival. Even if a main character is killed off, it’s usually on a show (like on Downton Abbey or Grey’s Anatomy) in which there are dozens of other characters to fill his or her void.

Josh Charles’ departure could have been a death sentence for The Good Wife, but the show embraced it wholeheartedly. His death was realistic and messy: Alicia (Julianna Margulies) gets no closure, but rather is left with guilt over her last fight with her ex-lover, confusion about her marriage and a cut-off voicemail. She tries to hunt down an explanation for why Will called her minutes before his death but finds none. It’s heart-wrenching, but she moves on and so does the audience.

The power struggle following Will’s demise at his firm, Lockhart Gardner, was more compelling than any storyline on the show in years. Old characters like Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski) and Louis Canning (Michael J. Fox) were forced to change and grow in Will’s absence, while new, dynamic characters like Finn Polmar (Matthew Goode), the man who tried to save Will, emerged from the tragedy and propelled the show forward.

No doubt, the competition for Emmy nominations is fiercer than ever. Breaking Bad had an epic final season, Game of Thrones continued to impress both critics and millions of fans and True Detective featured two outstanding performances. They were all shoo-ins. Mad Men, despite feeling stunted because of the mid-season split, cashed in on some of the emotional momentum it’s been building for seven seasons, like Sally’s parting wave to Don and Don and Peggy’s slow dance in the hotel room. But that still leaves room for a Good Wife nomination after an underwhelming season from a flailing Donwton Abbey and an over-hyped House of Cards run.

The Emmys have a history of honoring good shows even when the quality dips, as they have done with Breaking Bad or Mad Men in the past, which is why it’s all the more confusing that they didn’t recognize a great year from The Good Wife.

The most obvious explanation for the oversight is that The Good Wife is on CBS. The shows that were nominated this year hailed exclusively from HBO, AMC, Netflix and PBS. Network television is still considered to be the least prestigious television delivery system, ranking below premium cable channels (HBO), cable channels (AMC), streaming platforms (Netflix) and public television with British prestige (PBS/BBC).

The writers of The Good Wife are well aware of this perception: throughout season five last year, Alicia and her daughter watched an exaggerated (and hilarious) version of what looked to be an AMC prestige show featuring inexplicable sex and violence. The show also embarked on a Emmy campaign that called attention to the fact that they have to produce 22 quality episodes every year, not just eight like some of the nominees. Both clever gambits may have rubbed Emmy voters (and other show runners) the wrong way.

Another reason is that The Good Wife has dropped some Emmy nominations in recent years as it settled into the same routine. The big dramatics of this year’s firm split and murder were supposed to help it make a comeback. Perhaps these plots were perceived as a gambit for nominations or a trick to get a rise in viewership. While House of Cards could ride on last year’s momentum (the first Netflix show to ever be nominated), The Good Wife had to fight its way back into the Emmys’ good graces. It was rewarded with nods to Christine Baranski, Dylan Baker, Josh Charles and Juilianna Margulies but not for the writers.

These are only attempts to explain the inexplicable. In the end, the Emmys are arbitrary and often don’t matter. And if you’re still outraged, take solace in this fact: you’re not alone.

TIME movies

Watch: Here’s the Trailer for Reese Witherspoon’s Wild

The film is based on Cheryl Strayed's wildly popular memoir.


Reese Witherspoon optioned the rights to the book for her upcoming movie even before it became a New York Times bestseller and was selected for Oprah’s Book Club 2.0.

Now the trailer is out for the film, Wild, based on Cheryl Strayed’s 2012 memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. Starring Witherspoon and directed by Dallas Buyers Club’s Jean-Marc Vallée, the film tells the story of Strayed’s 1,100 mile trek to find herself.

Watch Witherspoon play Strayed in the trailer above.

TIME Video Games

Watch Dogs Has Shipped 8 Million Copies to Date, Says Ubisoft

The Montreuil, France-headquartered international games developer reports record first quarter revenue, thanks in part to bumper sales of its newest gaming IP.

This is what lots of buildup and unparalleled anticipation will buy you: 8 million copies shipped of a game that’s really not too shabby, but at the same time nothing like the breakthrough event Ubisoft pitched it as in the lengthy lead-up to its debut. (I reviewed the game here.)

Ubisoft just announced the figure in its first quarter 2014-15 sales report. Note that’s 8 million copies shipped, not sold, but still indicative of the game’s popularity — it sold over 4 million copies during its first week on shelves, so wildly successful by any measure. Watch Dogs launched on May 27 for Windows, PS4, Xbox One, PS3 and Xbox 360, and a Wii U version is due later this year.

And it sounds like everything else is coming up roses for the company, financially: Ubisoft reports it had record first quarter sales of €360 million ($490 million), up 374% over the same period last year and notably higher than Ubisoft’s declared €310 million target. Ubisoft also cited strong digital sales growth — up 149% to €84 million ($114 million) thanks in part to Watch Dogs, but also the company’s free-to-play mobile games as well as standalone others like Trials Fusion, Child of Light (reviewed here) and Valiant Hearts: The Great War.

The company’s second quarter outlook is to do €85 million in sales ($116 million), and full-year sales of €1.4 billion ($1.9 billion) — the latter’s just a confidence update and the company upholding an already-announced target. The company’s key releases this calendar year remain Assassin’s Creed Unity (October 28), The Crew (November 11) and Far Cry 4 (November 18).

In any case, the chances we won’t see a Watch Dogs 2 are now infinitely less than zero.

TIME Television

Laverne Cox Is the First Transgender Person Nominated for an Emmy — She Explains Why That Matters

The doctor takes Sophia off her hormones
Guest actress, comedy series - Laverne Cox, Orange Is the New Black

For her role in Orange is the New Black

UPDATED: 4:00 p.m.

Laverne Cox has become the first transgender person nominated for an Emmy award.

Cox has been nominated in the “Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series” category for her role as Sophia Burset—an inmate who committed fraud in an attempt to pay for a sex change procedure—in the Netflix series Orange Is the New Black. Cox tweeted her congratulations to fellow cast members on their nominations—OITNB raked up 12 Emmy nods this year, the most out of any comedy show.

GLAAD, an NGO that fights discrimination against the LGBTQ community in the media, noted that Cox repeatedly “breaks barriers” in her advancement of the LGBTQ cause. In addition to being the first openly transgender individual nominated for an Emmy in an acting category, last month she also became the first transgender person to appear on the cover of TIME.

“Today, countless transgender youth will hear the message that they can be who they are and still achieve their dreams – nothing is out of reach,” GLAAD President & CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in the statement. “Laverne’s success on a hit series is a clear indication that audiences are ready for more trans characters on television.”

GLAAD also noted that this year’s list of nominations is among the most LGBT-inclusive in the history of the Emmys. Nominees include openly gay actors and actresses such as Jim Parsons, Kate McKinnon, Sarah Paulson and Jesse Tyler Ferguson. TV shows featuring LGBT characters and plotlines—such as Orange Is the New Black, Game of Thrones and Modern Family—also had a strong showing.

UPDATE: Cox caught up with TIME to discuss what it’s like to have achieved such a milestone. “I was told many times that I wouldn’t be able to have a mainstream career as an actor because I’m trans, because I’m black, and here I am,” she said. “And it feels really good.” (Nor was she the only one happy about it: “My phone is exploding with love!”)

Explaining why an Emmy nomination is a victory not only as an actress, but also as an activist, here’s what she had to say:

For me personally, I am an individual who consumes mainstream culture. I watch a lot of television. I go to mainstream films. And I want to see myself. I want to turn on the television and see people who look like me who have similar experiences that I have. And I think that trans people want and deserve that; everybody wants and deserves that. We should have representations that humanize our experiences and tell the diversity and the complexity of our experiences. I have mainstream sensibilities. Just because I’m black and trans does not mean I’m somehow not mainstream and not consuming the same culture everyone else is consuming. For so long we haven’t had that kind of validation of our experiences in mainstream culture, particularly as black trans women — but as trans people in general…

I am a patriot and I love this country. What I’ve always loved about this country, in theory, is that this is a place where anything is possible for anybody if you work hard enough, at least in theory. We know that there are systemic things in place that keep a lot of people from reaching their dreams and achieving their goals, but in theory it shouldn’t be about your race or your religion or your gender or your class that you were born into. You should be able to rise up and have your moments. It’s not possible for a lot of people but I just think that in terms of forming a more perfect union and having to live up to those ideals, representation and having everyone’s story told in our media is an important part of that.

TIME celebrity

7 Celebrities Who Successfully Hid Their Pregnancies

Eva Mendes For New York And Company Spring 2014 Collection Pop Up Store Launch Party
Eva Mendes for New York And Company Spring 2014 Collection Michael Tran—FilmMagic

Mum's the word

The Internet exploded Wednesday when multiple reports revealed that Eva Mendes is pregnant with Ryan Gosling’s child. But the shocked reaction wasn’t just due to the fact that Mendes is procreating with our collective boyfriend, but also because, if OK! Magazine reports are to be believed, the actress managed to hide said pregnancy from the paparazzi for a whopping seven months.

Although a due date has yet to be confirmed, Mendes wouldn’t be the first mega-star to keep her baby bump under wraps for an impressively long period of time:


2011 MTV Video Music Awards - Show
Beyonce reveals pregnancy at 2011 MTV VMAs Jeff Kravitz—FilmMagic/Getty

As expected, Beyoncé was the queen of pregnancy reveals. The icon let everyone know she was pregnant on her own terms — surprisingly exposing her nearly 5 month baby bump at the end of a live performance at the VMAs. Blue Ivy was born in January 2012.


The BRIT Awards 2012 - Show
Barely-pregnant Adele performs during The BRIT Awards 2012 Jon Furniss—WireImage/Getty

English pop star Adele successfully hid her pregnancy for seven months in spite of attending awards shows through her fifth month. The star successfully snuck into shows late, wore loose-fitting clothes and dodged the press. Her son Angelo was born in October 2012.

Isla Fisher

On Set Of "Burke And Hare" In London - March 1, 2010
Isla Fisher hid her pregnancy from cast-mates on set of “Burke and Hare” Neil Mockford—FilmMagic/Getty

Isla Fisher hid her second pregnancy with comedian Sacha Baron Cohen from co-workers while filming Burke and Hare. Co-stars didn’t notice that Fisher was three months along and only pretending to squeeze in corsets. Elula — whose name was kept hidden for six months — was born in August 2010.

Jennifer Garner

Sea Change Idea Forum Panel Discussion - History Of Progressive America
Actor Ben Affleck, Marian Wright Edelman and a pregnant Jennifer Garner attend the Sea Change Idea Forum Panel Discussion August 27, 2008 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Jeff Vespa/WireImage) Jeff Vespa—WireImage/Getty

Jennifer Garner also successfully hid her pregnancy — and morning sickness — from her fellow cast members while filming The Invention of Lying. “We only found out when it was announced in the press,” co-director Matthew Robinson told the New York Post. Seraphina was born in January 2009.

Ali Larter

Rochelle Gores Fredston Hosts Communities In Schools Los Angeles West Shopping Event at ARCADE Boutique
Ali Larter rocking a baby bump at Communities in Schools Shopping Event on July 29, 2010 Alexandra Wyman—WireImage/Getty

Ali Larter and her husband escaped to Europe for the first months of her pregnancy to keep their expectant status secret. She revealed her baby bump four months in when she “just want[ed] to live my life” again. Theodore was born in December 2010.

Evelyn Lozada

Basketball Wives star Evelyn Lozada hid her baby bump for six months. When fans asked how she did it, Lozada tweeted, “LOL – It was pretty easy. Just stay home & mind your own business…” Leo was born in March 2014.

TIME Barack Obama

Obama’s ‘Between Two Ferns’ Episode Nominated for an Emmy

Obama Visits Tech Hub
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about the economy at the technology start-up hub "1776" July 3, 2014 in Washington, DC. Pool—Getty Images

Obama himself won't get an Emmy, though

An episode of online comedy series “Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis” featuring President Barack Obama was among the Emmy nominees announced Thursday morning.

The six-minute, 30-second episode featuring the President has been nominated for Outstanding Short-Format Live-Action Entertainment Program. It was first published on the humor website Funny or Die on March 11. Galifianakis’ show sees the actor interview a string of famous guests whom he asks inappropriate and awkward questions.

Though Galifianakis is biting, he’s no match for the President who, when asked if he wishes he could run a third time, replies: “Uh, if I ran a third time, it’d be sorta like doing a third Hangover movie. It didn’t really work out very well, did it?”

Obama then proceeds to try and educate Galifianakis about the Affordable Care Act and registering with Healthcare.gov online or by phone. Galifianakis responds: “I’m off the grid. I don’t want you people, like, looking at my texts.”

While Obama himself is not up for an Emmy for the episode, he has previously received the Grammy for best spoken word album for Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope in 2006 and 2008, respectively.

The 66th Primetime Emmy Awards will be broadcast on August 28 at 8 p.m. ET on NBC. Actor Seth Meyers is hosting this year’s awards.

TIME movies

REVIEW: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Who Needs Humans?

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Movie Film Still
Caesar’s palace: the lord of the apes (Serkis) rules his forest realm WETA/20th Century Fox

The chimps get the best lines and the more potent motivations in this indie-vibe sequel to the irresistible Rise

“Prepare your families,” President Obama instructs a desperate nation. “Know your evacuation route.” It is 10 years after the events of the 2011 hit Rise of the Planet of the Apes, so for the Commander-in-Chief to remain in the White House, he must have seized imperial power, exactly as his most zealous detractors believed he would. And that’s not the scariest forecast in the new sequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. A “simian flu,” created in a lab, has killed most of the world’s Homo sapiens, and weaponized chimpanzees with Mensa IQs run wild across the Earth. It’s Ape-ocalypse Now.

Rise, directed by Rupert Wyatt and written by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, was a wonderful surprise: a parable of parenting in which benign San Francisco scientist Will Rodman (James Franco) raises the genetically enhanced infant chimp Caesar (the great Andy Serkis under all those motion-capture gizmonics) to maturity while researching a serum he hopes will cure his own father’s Alzheimer’s disease. Somehow something goes wrong, and the humane ape foments a rebellion against the men who took him from Rodman and subjected him to beastly mistreatment. By the end of that terrific film, Caesar had led his ape army across the Golden Gate Bridge, toward a handful of sequels.

(READ: Corliss’s review of Rise of the Planet of the Apes)

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, while not nearly the masterpiece proclaimed by many critics, is certainly a fascinating cross-species: a big-budget summer action fantasy with a sylvan, indie-film vibe, and a war movie that dares ask its audience to root for the peacemakers. With Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Let Me In) taking over as director, and screenwriter Mark Bomback (Live Free or Die Hard) joining Jaffa and Silver, the new movie has politics on its mind, just like its predecessor — also like the 1963 Pierre Boulle novel and the original Charlton Heston film five years later. The difference is that this one meanders through the woods for much of its two-hour-plus running time. Only at the climax does it escalate into martial majesty.

In the wake of the flu epidemic, two tribes of foragers now occupy the Bay Area. Above, in Muir Woods, are the apes, led by Caesar. Below, in the wreck of downtown San Francisco, a ragtag band of human survivors have no electricity and are running out of fuel. Neither group has contact with the other until a few humans, seeking to restart a hydroelectric dam up in the forest, encounter a hairier host of primates. Can the two species live in harmony? Reeves and the writers want you to hope so, even as they must realize that any Paris Peace Accord of man and monkey would put the kibosh on a Noon of the Planet of the Apes.

(WATCH: The trailer for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes)

Whereas Rise devoted an hour or so to the hopeful if ominous domesticity of its daddy-day-care plot, the new movie begins by focusing on an ape Eden. The first dozen minutes — after a brief recap of the flu outbreak, and the Obama sound bite for a hurricane advisory turned into a warning of imminent Armageddon — play like the oddest episode of PBS’s Nature. Caesar leads his extended family in their daily routine: riding horses to chase a herd of deer, battling a grizzly bear and sharing such pacific lessons as “Ape not kill ape.” (They’ve apparently learned to speak English from the star of another PBS show: Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster.)

A former Che who wants to be Gandhi, Caesar agrees to let the human visitors — ex-architect Malcolm (Jason Clarke), his nurse friend Ellie (Keri Russell) and his teen son Alexander (Kodi Smit-McPhee, the boy in Let Me In) — do their “human work” in rewiring the dam. That’s not cool by Caesar’s ape rival Koba (Toby Kebbell), once a victim of man’s cruel experiments; he points to his scars and mutters, “Human work.” He plans an assault on mankind, as Caesar and Malcolm join forces to prevent all-out war. If Caesar is the Roman emperor of Shakespeare’s play, then the understandably vengeful Koba is Cassius, a schemer with a mean and hungry look.

As long as we’re spitballing literary allusions, consider George Orwell’s Animal Farm, which posited that pigs would overthrow their landowner and commence to squabbling murderously among themselves. In Dawn, Caesar would be Old Major, the boar who fuels the uprising (Marx or Lenin in Orwell’s parable), and Koba the strong-arm Napoleon (Stalin). The pigs’ initial rallying cry, “Four legs good, two legs bad,” is later corrupted into “Four legs good, two legs better.” Koba thinks Caesar has betrayed the apes’ revolution by agreeing to collaborate with their natural enemy. And Caesar sees Koba as seduced by militarism. “I always think ape better than human,” he tells Malcolm. “I see now how like them we are.”

(FIND: Animal Farm on the all-TIME 100 Novels list)

Reeves is smart to concentrate on the apes. Splendidly realized by actors transformed by visual effects supervisor Joe Letteri, the simians are creatures of remarkable power and nuance. Serkis, who brought Peter Jackson’s Gollum and King Kong to pulsing life, and who deservedly gets top billing in Dawn, plays Caesar as a wise, wizened leader stooped by the burden of wielding power judiciously. Kebbell’s Koba is provoked to operate by brute force because he suffered that in the cage Caesar freed him from. Other chimps undergo subtle or volcanic emotional shifts, and you can detect every thought and feeling on the “faces” of Caesar’s son Blue Eyes (Nick Thurston) and Koba’s son Ash (Doc Shaw). This is brilliant acting, even if the actors aren’t visible. Indeed, the movie invests so much more time and ingenuity on the apes than Rise did that you may wonder if further episodes in the series will dispense with humans altogether.

Maybe they should, because the humans here are mostly limited to rote bravado and fretting. They also lack character shading. Malcolm: good; guy who smokes cigarettes and shoots a chimp: bad. The human in charge down in Frisco (Gary Oldman) blusters a lot but can’t match Koba for Patton-like intensity. The movie threatens to come down with a case of the drabs. At times the story of some Greenies trying to make a big social statement with a hydroelectric dam plays out like a big-budget gloss on Kelly Reichardt’s recent Night Moves, with the same thesis of idealism curdled into terrorism.

(READ: Corliss’s review of that dam indie film Night Moves)

The viewers’ brain may be moved by Caesar’s statesmanlike sagacity, but their guts want war. This is an adventure film, not a Pacifica radio pledge drive. As one of the humans says of the apes, “They’re talking animals! With bad-ass spears!” Guns, too. And when Koba takes command and storms the human’s compound, Dawn finally makes good on its promise of merging action with artistry. Watch and wonder at the tracking shot from a tank turret, as apes seize the means of destruction from men. Listen, too, when Michael Giaccino’s score, which had gone indie-sensitive with pensive solo-piano noodling, revs into full symphonic clamor and roar.

No spoiler alert is needed here: Dawn ends with a closeup of Caesar pondering his lot, like Old Major from George Orwell’s Animal Farm. This “Ape Forest” is no less plangent in musing on both the origin of the species and its potentially awful end. Also, when it gets going, it’s a pretty fine movie.

TIME Television

Confirmed: Rosie O’Donnell Is Returning to The View

Rosie O'Donnell
Rosie O'Donnell attends the 68th Annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 8, 2014 in New York City. Kevin Mazur—2014 Kevin Mazur

She's back.

Comedian Rosie O’Donnell will rejoin ABC’s The View as the program’s producers look to shake things up on one of the longest running day-time talk shows ever, the network confirmed Thursday.

O’Donnell, an often provocative television personality whose own talk show ended in 2002, was previously a panelist on The View but left in 2007 after only one season.

ABC said O’Donnell will co-host The View with current moderator Whoopi Goldberg. O’Donnell will join a heavily modified crew after a series of prominent departures which included the retirement of the show’s co-founder Barbara Walters in May.

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