I Like You, Just As You Are: Romantic Comedies Aren’t Dead Yet

When Harry Met Sally, the Nora Ephron-penned, Rob Reiner-directed romantic comedy classic, recently celebrated its 25th anniversary which, aside from the usual nostalgia posts that are now required to accompany a movie’s birthday, inspired many think pieces around the web about the state of the romantic comedy genre itself. “The Romantic Comedy is Dying” the Atlantic proclaimed, while The Playlist pondered a slightly more hopeful question: “Can the Rom-Com Be Saved?” These all seem to be coming from a similar place and circle around the same thesis: audiences are no longer showing up for these movies hence there must be something wrong with the genre itself. But I’d like to take a different stance: there is nothing wrong with the state of the romantic comedy that isn’t also wrong with other genres.
Continue reading I Like You, Just As You Are: Romantic Comedies Aren’t Dead Yet

How to Buy an Album in 2014

If you’ll permit me the briefest interlude of conservatism: it used to be so much easier.

Buying new album releases, I mean. Which isn’t just a regressive statement; it’s a totally counterintuitive one. I could literally buy or, for that matter, listen to for free, almost any album that I would personally have any interest in owning or hearing (this probably isn’t true for a small population of music obsessives, and may not even be one hundred percent true for me, but I can’t think of any true rarities that I’m jonesing to hear and definitely cannot). But certain aspects of buying albums pre-internet that had a certain clarity.

First: the idea that one would buy any album at all, let alone new album releases the day they come out. If you are a person under forty, you almost certainly read the above sentences and either (a.) thought, who even buys albums anymore; (b.) thought, I can’t remember the last time I bought an album; or (c.) are not wholly uninterested in buying albums but can picture someone you know who would read those same sentences and say (a.) or (b.).

A few words about (a.) and (b.): I’m sorry, but generally those are annoying things to say or think, unless you have truly maintained minimal interest in music for your entire life, in which case, hey, I get it, I don’t care about video games. But rolling your eyes at buying albums does not automatically make you au courant. Or if it does, you could be more au courant by having opinions about music itself, not how it is consumed or made.
Continue reading How to Buy an Album in 2014

They’re Not Paying Me At All: Am I an Unlikable Character?

Recently over at the Dissolve, an interview with David Wain about his influences spawned one of their regular “Feedback” columns titled “When the screen becomes a mirror,” Wain and the quoted commenters were discussing Richard Linklater’s Before series and how their reactions to Celine and Jesse over the years were colored by where they personally were in their lives when they saw the films. This in turn led to an extrapolation on that evergreen corner in the garden of feeling things about art: the idea of “likability” and likable characters.

It can be a fine line.
Continue reading They’re Not Paying Me At All: Am I an Unlikable Character?

Cocktail Time!

Creeped out by chimpanzees? Have friends or loved ones potentially making you see Dawn of the Planet of the Apes with them? We’ve put together a cocktail of calming ingredients to help you pregame (or sneak into the theater, if necessary, with a flask or small thermos) so you are prepared for those “damned dirty apes”.
[note: we did test this cocktail & it succeeded in making me calm enough – or drunk enough, after a couple – to agree to watch the first Planet of the Apes film]

The Great Escape

(or, for these purposes, alt. title: “The Ape Escape“)

Continue reading Cocktail Time!

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

Here is my take on Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Please feel free to weigh in with your thoughts — pros, cons, yays, nays, new series rankings, whatever — in the comments section. In other words: have at it, nerds.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Rupert Wyatt’s smart and involving revival of the long-dormant Planet of the Apes franchise, ended on such a note of triumph that it was easy for both casual and committed fans the series to forget how uncharacteristic this was for an Apes movie. Rise had its moments of sadness and loss, of course, both human and animal, and its end-credit map of how simian flu spread across the globe offered foreboding for the next chapter. But its climactic sequences of Apes running wild approximated a bigger, more fun version of the violent outbreak that closed Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, its closest relative in the previous series. The apes weren’t out to kill all humans; they just caused some beautifully shot mayhem in the name of ape freedom. Their endgame was a forest settlement to call their own; the destruction (mostly non-lethal) was just collateral damage.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes keeps the collateral damage, loses the triumph — which makes it a clear successor to the original films.

Continue reading Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

Planet of the Apes Week!

Join us in a world turned upside down by SportsAlcohol.com’s Planet of the Apes coverage!

We’ve got:

…an Apes series primer for the uninitiated.

…an appreciation of Dr. Zira, our favorite chimpanzee.

…a look at a little seen collection of apocalyptic poetry by Apes writer Paul Dehn (with illustrations by Edward Gorey!).

…a collection of tie-in media to get you up to speed on the time that’s passed between Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

…a flashback to 2001, and what Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes taught Marisa about friendship.

…a chat about Rob & Jesse’s disastrous (though never prosecuted) attempt to see Burton’s Apes.

…a rundown of the original concept for Battle for the Planet of the Apes.

…the SportsAlcohol.com ‘Ape Escape’ cocktail that helped Sabrina conquer her terror of chimpanzees enough to maybe watch a Planet of the Apes movie.

…Jesse’s review of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes!

…and a Tumblr with lots of Apes related bits and bobs. Posters! Songs! Trailers! Variety show appearances!


Hail Caesar! The OTHER Battle For The Planet Of The Apes

In talking about the differences between the finished film and Dehn’s earlier drafts, we’re going to be getting into some of the surprises (and the endings) of the finished films.  I did my best to avoid giving too much away in the Primer, but now we’re going to get a little more specific.  So once again, let me just urge you to go watch the series and then come back here.  They’re well worth it!  Anyway, here’s your SPOILER WARNING.

The Planet of the Apes series became one of the greatest and most indelible in all science fiction thanks to the contributions of many talented men and women:

  • Cast members like Charlton Heston, Kim Hunter, Roddy McDowall, Maurice Evans, Linda Harrison, James Gregory, Claude Akins, Natalie Trundy, Paul Williams, and Ricardo Montalban
  • Producer Arthur P. Jacobs
  • Makeup genius John Chambers
  • Directors Franklin Schaffner, Ted Post, Don Taylor, and J. Lee Thompson
  • Writers Pierre Boulle, Rod Serling, Michael Wilson, John & Joyce Corrington

But as the writer of three out of the five films, Paul Dehn could be said to be the architect of original series.  Unfortunately, due to poor health in the last years of his life (his final produced screenplay was for Sidney Lumet’s Murder On the Orient Express in 1974; he would die two years later) Dehn bowed out of writing the screenplay for the finale of the series, Battle for the Planet of the Apes.  The Corringtons were brought in to replace him, and while he provided a final polish on their script, the final film differs greatly from Dehn’s original conception for the fourth sequel.
Continue reading Hail Caesar! The OTHER Battle For The Planet Of The Apes

Ejected from the Planet of the Apes

Rob and I were ejected from the Planet of the Apes (the movie, not the planet) in 2001. We got a chat going to explain what happened.

When was the last time we IM’d each other?

Probably sometime after we saw Planet of the Apes 2001 but also way before Rise of the Planet of the Apes came out in 2011.

Only a decade between the two? It felt like a lifetime

Right? A lot of these franchises get rebooted or whatever way too fast, but we straight up got into long-term relationships and got married in the lapse between Apes movies.

Sabrina and I had been dating a few months. But I don’t know if she had yet to meet my parents when we first attempted to see the Tim Burton Planet of the Apes.

I had met Marisa the spring before at school and we were chatting online a lot that summer. In fact I think her friends went to go see it the same night that we tried and I’m sure I emailed or IMed her about our misadventure.

Oh you guys were totes in touch, but you hadn’t sealed the deal yet

So this is a Google Hangout?

I don’t know if this counts as a real Google hangout because it’s text only Google hangouts are an insidious plot to get unsuspecting people to sign up for Google+

First: background by way of what I’ve been listening to on a loop for the past 24 hours and am listening to RIGHT NOW: I got my cassette-to-computer device working and ripped the audio of Planet of the Tapes, the mix tape I made for the drive to Crossgates Mall to see Planet of the Apes (2001). At least the intro will be available as a download with the transcript of this conversation.

Ugh, I prepped for this by listening to the Apes jams bonus tracks on Severe Tire Damage. I learned nothing.

But SO DID I, because those bonus tracks are all over the mix! Weirdly, though I had only seen the 1968 original at the time, the two best They Might Be Giants improv’d Apes songs are in fact my two favorite Planet of the Apes sequels: Escape from the Planet of the Apes and Conquest of the Planet of the Apes.

“This Ape’s For You” isn’t one of your favorite Apes movies?

OK, so to fill in, Rob and I and our buddies did this thing where we made 30-minute tapes for the drive to Saratoga to Crossgates Mall outside of Albany, for the movies we were particularly psyched about.

Our buddies was usually Jesse, Me, Chris, Jeff, and whatever girl had yet to realize we weren’t that charming.

I was trying to remember what the other mixtape-worthy movies of summer 2001 were, and I’m pretty sure it was just Moulin Rouge! and A.I.… which is actually pretty spot-on. But in retrospect, it’s weird that Apes was the only really big blockbuster type thing that got the tape treatment that summer. Which actually makes sense because summer ’01 was a bunch of really uninspired sequels and also Michael Bay’s interpretation of Pearl Harbor.

It ended up being low key as it was me, you, Chris, and Ofy. But the ape tape is important to the story.
Continue reading Ejected from the Planet of the Apes

Going Ape

When I think about friends I’ve had throughout my life, one common thread that runs through all of them is the ability to get excited about something. The “something” is only of secondary importance (though I’m sure if you were passionate about something I find loathsome, a friendship might not work out). But the ability to get into something, feel strongly about it, argue about it, write about it, make lists about it, or just generally be about it is apparently something I find important in people.

While it’s essential that you have the ability to get excited about something, it’s even better if you can muster enthusiasm for next to nothing. Which brings us to Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes.

If you recall—and Jesse and Rob get into this in more detail—in the summer of 2001, there wasn’t much to get excited about. Before Burton’s Apes, the big blockbuster-type movies that year were The Mummy Returns, Pearl Harbor, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, The Fast and the Furious (surprise hit!), and Jurassic Park III. Okay, we also had Moulin Rouge and A.I., but it was a summer of slim pickings. I still went to the movies often, but there was not that much to really rev up the anticipation engine.

With enthusiasm to spare and nowhere to direct it, and being a bunch of kids on college break living out in the suburbs, Burton’s Planet of the Apes became The Thing We Get Excited About among my friends. I don’t really remember how or why it was chosen. (I do have a theory about how suburban upbringings and unconditional love for Tim Burton go hand-in-hand, but that’s a different post for a different day.) I just remember that it was decided: We Will Go All Out for Apes. And we did.

I love this photo, and not just because you can’t see me in it. First off, you can see that we got big group to go to the movie in the first place (six in the photo, me taking the photo, and at least one more in the photo below). If this movie came out today, I don’t know if I could scrounge nearly 10 people to go see it unless it had a good Rotten Tomatoes score.

Also, we brought apes! And monkeys, of all sizes. (I’m pretty sure that purple one up front is mine, and his name is John Flansburgh because I bought him at Serendipity 3 after a They Might Be Giants concert.) One of my friends brought an ape so big, I was afraid they were going to make him buy a ticket for it.


We were definitely Team Ape. You can’t see it in the photos I think a few of us even drew “GO APES!” on ourselves, homecoming pep rally-style. It didn’t matter that the movie wound up falling into the bottom tier of Apes movies and the bottom tier of Tim Burton movies.

It’s pretty easy to find a friend that will go with you to a critically acclaimed, Oscar-preordained, box office smash. But if you find people who will go with you to a possibly junky, head-scratching Mark Wahlberg vehicle—and bring stuffed animals, and write on themselves, and generally root for the apes, well, then, that’s a friend for life.

Before the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes reportedly takes place ten years after the conclusion of Rise of the Planet of the Apes. We’ll have to see the film to find out just what Caesar and his fellow apes are up to now, but in the meantime we’ve watched some short films and read a licensed novel that provide some information about that missing decade and humankind’s struggle with what’s been dubbed the Simian Flu.
Continue reading Before the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes