Well, I finally went completely Ape this weekend and I had a blast with my Planet of the Apes box set. Really, I have to thank my co-dork Matt for turning me into a complete Ape-Freak cuz before his Hest Fests I was only a PotA fan. I'd seen the original film and the God Awful Tim Burton remake, but I had never known the glories of Conquest until Matt came around and opened my eyes to those wonderful sequel films. So, thank you Matt.
And yeah, you'll see that I saw the new Twilight flick this week. I'd like to say I was dragged to the theater by my wife, but I went willingly. Wow, it's a steaming pile but it's no worse than any of the others. I'm still baffled by America's obsession with this series but what ya gonna do?
MOVIES OF THE WEEK!
Almost An Angel: A ridiculous situational comedy in which Croc Dundee himself, Paul Hogan believes he's been killed and resurrected as an angel by Charlton Heston's God. Swearing off a life of crime to help teach needy children to box dirty and swindle rich folks. Along the way he befriend's Elias Koteas' self-loathing cripple and his mousy sister Linda Kozlowski. This is some seriously lame comedy and if I didn't have fond memories of the film from childhood I'd probably crap on it, but nostalgia wins the day.
Conan O'Brien Can't Stop: An interesting but somewhat unfullfilling documentary following Conan O'Brien's post NBC cross country tour and his desperate attempts to save his voice and not talk to the people he does not want to talk to. The man is a mad showman and I used to stay up way too late for his manic brand of comedy, but I couldn't find any real depth to this documentary...not sure if I should have been suspecting that but I was kinda hoping for it. Still, the man can make me laugh when he wants to.
Bunraku: Definitely an entertaining viewing experience, but I can't really sing the film's praises. A post-apocalyptic world in which guns have been outlawed and the sword has risen to violent popularity. In strolls two men with no names, cowboy Josh Hartnett and samurai Gackt. With the help of Woody Harrelson's word wise bartender they'll take down Ron Perlman's dreadlocked Woodcutter big bad and rescue damsel in not-so-much-distress Demi Moore. It's a great oddball, weirdo cast but the film feels like overrinsed Sin City. A curiosity, but nothing more.
Terri: Overweight high school troglodyte Jacob Wysocki struggles to understand his monstrous surroundings with the aide of John C Reilly's struggling Vice Principle, scalp picker Chad Markson, and sexual outcast Olivia Crocicchia. It's all fairly typical Sundance cinema but the performances are strong. Yes, the ending feels a bit And Now The Credits Roll Cuz The Script Has Run Out, but I will always appreciate a film of this nature without a bow wrapped ending.
Blue Velvet: "I could never eat a bug." Holy Cow, I'd forgotten how great a film Blue Velvet truly is--man oh man, David Lynch expertly pulls back the curtain on those white picket fences and reveals a world of severed ears, candy colored clowns, and oxygen huffer Frank Booth. Seriously, Dennis Hopper is absolutely terrifying as the big bad of the film and I'm pretty sure he never topped that psychotic performance. The new blu ray is stunning and even though the newly discovered deleted scenes are still just typical deleted scenes, they're certainly fun to watch.
Beneath the Planet of the Apes: A rough sequel to the absolutely brilliant original, Beneath the Planet of the Apes stumbles around at the start with the disappearance of Heston's Taylor and the introduction of Heston Twin James Franciscus, but picks up once our new hero finally gets to the post-apocalyptic underground realm. "All Hail The Bomb!" You gotta love the climax that dares to go darker and more demented than the first film's Twilight Zone twist. And there is a great mano e mano brawl between the two leads...still, Franciscus is not Chuck. And I miss Roddy McDowell and Kim Hunter too much for all this alpha and omega business.
Escape From The Planet of the Apes: So, The Planet of the Apes has gone up in a doomsday mushroom cloud. Where do you go from there? Well, back in time of course! Cornelius, Zira, and Dr. Milo salvage Heston's original space vessel and travel back to modern day 1970s. The first half of the film is rather snappy and light with these Future apes trying to understand primitive man and their fashion sense, but the second half takes a much darker turn and delivers a climax that might just be the darkest ending of any of the films...at least I found it to be the saddest given the loving relationship between our favorite chimps.
Lost in America: "I have seen the future! It's a bald headed man from New York!" An amusing little film from Albert Brooks detailing a marriage on the verge of collapse after the husband fails to acquire the promotion he expected and the wife blows the nest egg at the roulette wheel. Typical Albert Brooks laughs punctuated by typically biting Albert Brooks dialog. The film fails to take it to the next level like in Defending Your Life, but the chuckles are earned even though the film eventually just rolls to a halt. I will say that it was nice seeing Revenge of the Nerds' Ogre playing another kinda ogre. Now where's my bag of Easy Rider cocaine so I can drop outta society?
Conquest of the Planet of the Apes: "Where there is fire, there is smoke. And in that smoke, from this day forward, my people will crouch and conspire and plot and plan for the inevitable day of Man's downfall!" I am amazed at how each film in this franchise manages to climax on a darker note than the previous, but none of the films are as dark, disturbing, or as brutal as Conquest. The child of of Cornelius and Zira, Roddy McDowell is Caesar the chimp that will lead The Apes to Revolution against man. Watching this film is a lot like watching Hitler come to power. Yes, the audience can totally identify with his rage and you might even cheer as the apes burn the city to the ground, piling the bloody human corpses in the gutters. But when that climactic speech happens, it's utterly chilling. A great, angry film.
Battle for the Planet of the Apes: Coming off the apocalyptic Conquest, Battle for the Planet of the Apes is a bit of a letdown. Roddy McDowell's Caesar is not the psychotic despot I would have liked to have seen, and his struggles to live in peace with man and his battles with the brutish gorillas is predictable Hollywood pap. Five films into the franchise, we finally get a somewhat happy ending and a whacky WHA HUH orangoutang cameo from director John Huston. Still, McDowell is so bloody fantastic in this series and their are some fine supporting performances from Paul Williams (Phantom of the Paradise!) and Austin Stoker (Assault on Precinct 13!).
William Shatner's Gonzo Ballet: This is definitely one of the more interesting bits of odd Shatner Cinema. Choreographer Margo Sappington fell in love with Shatner's Ben Folds produced album, Has Been one day after listening to NPR and had the brilliant idea of matching Shat music with the Milwaukee Ballet! Uh, okay. But you know what? It's awesome. Bonkers for sure, but awesome. This is a short documentary with plenty of Shat crazy as well as weirdo interviews with Folds and fellow spoken word madman Henry Rollins. If you are even the slightest fan of The Shat than you must check out his Gonzo Ballet on Netflix Instant.
Breaking Dawn Part 1: "How Bad Did I Hurt You?" asks post-coital Edward Cullen. I don't know about Bella, but I feel like I've had three trips on the train from the worst episodes of HBO's OZ. Ouch. I definitely appreciate America's ability to line up in droves to watch a vampire snack on placenta, go back for seconds, and a mopey werewolf fall in love with a baby. But despite all that absurd nonsense, very little happens in this film. A wedding. Sex. Avoidance of Sex. Sex. Pregnancy. Werewolf/Vampire scuffle. The end. Splitting the book into two films is definitely a smart cash grab.
Planet of the Apes (remake): The Rick Baker makeup effects are still phenomenal, and really get me urning for a Rise of the Planet of the Apes that wasn't mo-cap but that's about all the good I can speak about this 2001 remake of one of Sci-Fi's cinematic classics. Mark Wahlberg is dry when he's not just plain dull, and Helena Bonham Carter's Human Lover is an annoying wreck. Tim Roth is decent, but maybe I just love his look so darn much, and the fact that he can turn his hat into a nasty impaler. The Planet of the Apes remake pretty much rang the death knell on my Tim Burton fandom.
BOOK OF THE WEEK!
Raylan by Elmore Leonard: Woo Hoo! I managed to score an Advanced Reader's copy of Leonard's new novel which won't be hitting retail till mid January. With the success of FX's Justified, Elmore Leonard strikes out to capture the swagger of star Timothy Olyphant in the character he originally created for the novels Pronto and Riding the Rap. And he succeeds. The strange thing about the novel though is that it reads like three episodes of the show rather than one long plot. Raylan sorta wanders in and out of three crimes, all of which are somewhat connected but never fully realized. All your favorite characters from the show pop up here and there but I just don't feel like this book could survive without your love of the television show. A fun, if somewhat disappointing read.