A Quickie With Lisa Marie: Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (dir. by J. Lee Thompson)


(WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW)

Released in 1972, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes was the fourth film in the original Planet of the Apes saga.  Taking place two decades after the end of Escape from the Planet of the Apes, Conquest details how Caesar, the son of Cornelius and Zira, eventually rallies his fellow apes to overthrow humanity.   Caesar, in this film, is played by Roddy McDowall and Conquest features what is probably his best performance of the series.

Conquest of the Planet of the Apes is definitely the most radical film of the series and it’s probably one of the most radical films of the 1970s.  Once you peel away the sci-fi/fantasy wrapping, you’re left with one of the few “mainstream” studio films to ever promote the idea of overthrowing society with a violent revolution.  Even when viewed today, it’s odd to consider that this violent and rather dark film was actually given the same G rating that was otherwise exclusively given to children’s films.  Obviously, the poor critical reputation of the Planet of the Apes series kept the Hollywood censors from really paying attention to what they were watching.

Director J. Lee Thompson goes for a far different direction from the previous more television-orientated directors involved with the series.  Thompson emphasizes that savage, totalitarian aspect of future human civilization.  This is a film in which the most sympathetic human character (the circus owner played by Ricardo Montalban) is graphically tortured and murdered within the first few minutes of the film.  This is followed by Caesar being given electro-shocked treatment by the cheerful torturer Kolp (Severn Darden, who is a chilling villain) and finally, Caesar and his fellow apes violently overthrowing society while the futuristic city burns in the background. 

Director Thompson reportedly based the ape uprising on contemporary news reports about the Black Panthers and it brings a real sense of urgency to the film.  What sets this film apart is that director Thompson is clearly on the side of the Apes and by the end of the film, so is the audience.  McDowall’s passionate performance is neatly contrasted with an equally impassioned performance from Don Murray (who plays Breck, the racist leader of the humans) and the audience is firmly on McDowall’s side by the end of the film, cheering as their own civilization is destroyed.

Originally, Thompson wanted to end the film with McDowall giving a fiery speech announcing that the time of man was finished.  However, this finally proved to be too much for the film’s producers and, at the last minute, the scene was clumsily redubbed to allow Caesar to suddenly — out of nowhere — have a change of heart and call for a peaceful co-existence.  This revised ending — though it did leave things open for yet another sequel — is an undeniable weakness.  It just doesn’t feel right.

With that in mind, here’s Thompson’s original, unseen ending, in which Caesar watches as his apes followers murder Don Murray.  It gives you a feeling of the type of film that Thompson was going for:

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The Lisa Marie Bowman Bad DVD Commentary Drinking Game


If there’s one thing that experienced film watchers like you and me know, it’s that a bad DVD commentary track can really be a traumatic experience.  There’s nothing worse than sitting down to watch your favorite film, turning on the commentary track, and discovering that the film was essentially made by a bunch of dullards.

Luckily, that’s why God created alcohol.

And, to help you through the trauma of it all, here’s the official rules to the Lisa Marie Bowman Bad DVD Commentary Track Drinking Game.

Director On A Commentary Track:

Take a drink anytime:

  1. The director claims that an unimpressive scene shot around a staircase is meant to be an homage to Battleship Potemkin.
  2. The director claims a poorly edited sequence is meant to be an homage to the French New Wave.
  3. The director cites Orson Welles as the reason he became a director.
  4. The director brags about fighting with the ratings boards.
  5. The director clearly cannot remember an actor’s name.
  6. The director says that a certain scene would have been better if he’d been allowed more time to film it.
  7. The director whines about how the movie was marketed.
  8. The director spends five minutes telling you how an obvious special effect was achieved.  Take another drink for each subsequent minute that he spends on it.
  9. The director claims that his main concern, while filming a sex scene, was to make sure the actress was comfortable.
  10. The director brags about ignoring the script while filming.
  11. The director claims that people still approach him and say that they love the mediocre film that you’re currently watching.

Actor On A Commentary Track:

Take a drink every time:

  1. The actor describes his acting technique as being “intuitive.”
  2. The actor brags about performing his own stunts.
  3. The actor describes a co-star as being “the most dedicated performer” he’s ever worked with.
  4. The actor admits to not being sure how he got his role.
  5. The actor says that he’d spent the night before filming a difficult scene getting either drunk or stoned.
  6. The actor claims that people in airports still shout lines from the film at him.

Actress On A Commentary Track:

Take a drink every time:

  1. The actress starts to nervously talk about everything but the film while her nude scene is currently playing out on-screen.  Or:
  2. The actress suddenly stops talking from the minute her nude scene begins until it ends.
  3. The actress makes it a point to loudly gasp every time there’s an act of violence on-screen.
  4. The actress claims to have voluntarily “taken time off to raise my family” after making the film you’re currently watching.
  5. The actress attempts to argue that the terribly exploitive movie you’re both watching is actually a celebration of “strong women.”

Producer On A Commentary Track:

Take a drink every time:

  1. The producer explains that he hired someone because “we had the same lawyer.”
  2. The producer spends five minutes detailing how he raised the money to make the movie.  Take another drink for each subsequent minute until the producer loses his train of thought.
  3. The producer spends five minutes detailing how he decided to market the film.  Take another drink for each subsequent minute until the producer loses his train of thought.
  4. The producer takes credit for a funny line, a good performance, or a well-executed shot.
  5. The producer starts a story with “There’s a funny story about that…”
  6. The “funny story” turns out to not be that funny.

Executive or Associate Producer On A Commentary Track:

Take a drink when the executive producer starts talking and then another one for each subsequent minute and just keep at it until the movie’s over.  Seriously, executive producers always offer up the most boring commentary imaginable.

Screenwriter On A Commentary Track:

Take a drink every time:

  1. The screenwriter spends 5 minutes telling his life story as opposed to commenting on anything happening on-screen.  Take another drink for each subsequent minute until he finally get back to the movie.
  2. Anytime the screenwriter admits that he essentially received credit for “rewriting” a spec script written by some younger writer who had to settle for a “story” co-credit.
  3. Anytime that the screenwriter describes the film as a “comment on” some faddish social or political issue.
  4. Anytime the screenwriter comments that a scene was in a different place in his original script.
  5. Anytime the screenwriter complains that a one-liner was ad libbed.
  6. Anytime the screenwriter spends five minutes on an anecdote about how he grew up in the streets and knows how to fight.  Take another drink for each subsequent minute of chest pounding.
  7. Anytime the screenwriter claims to have based the story on a personal experience that you’d rather not know about.
  8. Anytime the screenwriter says that his script was inspired by a Greek or Egyptian myth.
  9. Anytime the screenwriter claims the idea for the film came to him while at a spiritual retreat.
  10. Anytime the screenwriter brags about how he massively improved the source material in his version of the script.
  11. Anytime the screenwriter specifically drops the names of a famous person who has nothing to do with the film you’re watching.  Take another drink if the screenwriter refers to that famous person with a nickname — i.e., Marty Scorsese, Bobby Zemeckis, Steve Spielberg.
  12. Anytime the screenwriter says, “So-and-so called my agent and said it was the best script he’d ever read but it could still be better.”  Take another drink if the screenwriter starts to laugh in the middle of the word “better.”
  13. Anytime the screenwriter brags about getting paid to rewrite someone else’s script.
  14. Anytime the screenwriter mentions that he had to write quickly to make sure the script was done “before the strike started.”
  15. Anytime the screenwriter uses a big word in such a way that it’s obvious that he wants to make sure you understand that he’s a writer.

Film Critics or Historian On A Commentary Track:

Take a drink every time the critic spends 5 minutes explaining his own incoherent interpretation of what the film is actually supposed to be about.  Take a drink for each subsequent minute until the critic finally starts to make some sort of sense.  Expect to get drunk fairly quickly.

Anyone on the Commentary Track:

Take a drink every time:

  1. Somebody says, “And welcome to (insert name of movie here).”
  2. Somebody says that they are very excited to be there.
  3. Somebody says that they’re excited that the DVD release will now allow the movie to get the audience that it deserves.
  4. Somebody audibly sighs.
  5. Somebody makes a political comment.
  6. Somebody awkwardly lies, “I’d forgotten how good this film is.”
  7. Somebody admits that this is the first time they’ve ever actually sat through the entire film.
  8. Somebody says, “We couldn’t make this film today.”
  9. Somebody says, “I love this line,” at the exact moment that the line is being delivered, therefore keeping you from hearing the line that they supposedly love.
  10. Somebody admits to not remembering much about making the movie.
  11. Somebody says something in such a low voice that you can’t understand a word he or she just said.
  12. Somebody starts to laugh for no clear reason.
  13. Somebody spends up to five minutes talking about another film they’ve worked on, as opposed to the film that you’re currently watching.  Take another drink for each minute until they finally start talking about the film you’re watching again.
  14.  Five minutes go by without anyone saying anything.  Do another shot for each subsequent minute until someone finally says something.
  15. Somebody actually apologizes for the poor quality of the commentary track.
  16. Somebody says, “Thank you for watching this film with me.”

Review: True Blood Episode 0401 (She’s Not There)


Now that Game of the Thrones has concluded its first succesful season, True Blood has returned for a fourth season.  Though the shows are very different, they have one very important thing in common.  Both of them create a fictional world and then make that world seem as real as the world outside your front door.  Last Sunday, me and Lisa watched the premiere of the fourth season of True Blood

Each new season, it always takes me an episode or two to really get reacquainted with True Blood and Sunday’s episode was a good reintroduction to the citizens of Bon Temps, Louisiana.  Each season of True Blood journey and I’m looking forward to taking it for the fourth time.

Things started off with Sookie (Anna Paquin) in the world of faeries which turned out to look like the world’s most boring garden party.  There she met her grandfather and as soon as he showed up, I yelled, “It’s Lumbergh!” because he was played by Gary Cole.  Things don’t work out that well because things never work out well for Sookie and she and grandpa Cole end up fleeing the faerie world while the faeries shoot lightning bolts at them.  Sookie and grandpa jump into a gigantic pit of lava which returns Sookie to Bon Temps, Louisiana but also kills Gary Cole.  However, both me and Lisa agreed that he’s going to come back somehow during this season because why else would he be played by Gary Cole?

After returning to Bon Temps, Sookie discovers that spending fifteen minutes in Faerie World is the same as being away from the “normal” world for 18 months.  With everyone assuming that she was dead, the entire cast has moved on to new storylines.   Jason’s joined the police force, Bill and Eric are becoming media stars, and Tara’s a lesbian.  After everything she’s been through with men, is anyone surprised?  My favorite scene was Arlene’s baby and all the headless dolls.  Lisa and I used to do that to our dolls all the time and we turned out alright.

At least, I think we did.

This episode was mostly all about setting up things that hopefully will pay off later in the season.  There were a lot of hints of what’s going to come over the next few episodes.  My favorite part of this episode was the pro-Vampire PR campaign and I hope that the show explores this storyline a lot more over the next 13 episodes. 

It’s good to be back in Bon Temps even if I do know that it means that I’m going to have to deal with Lisa trying to get me to let her dye my hair “Pacquin blonde” for the next three months.  As long as I remember to keep my bedroom door locked and not fall asleep while she’s around, I should be just fine (along with being very tired).

Trailer: Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (Official)


I’ll be honest and admit that I wasn’t overly impressed by J.J. Abrams’ Mission: Impossible 3 and when it was announced that a fourth film in the franchise was going into production my initial reaction was an emphatic “meh”. It didn’t help when Pixar veteran Brad Bird was chosen to helm this fourth film. This was a filmmaker who did a great job with Pixar animated films, but still an unknown quantity when it came to live-action projects.

As the months passed and news filtered out from the film’s production the news was positive with many who have seen some rough footage becoming convinced that Brad Bird might know what he’s doing outside the Pixar stable. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol was soon being talked as being one of the most-awaited films of 2011. This newly-released first official trailer goes a long way into adding more positive buzz to a film already hyped up on it.

Also, it has Paula Patton in it, nuff said.

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is set for a December 16, 2011 release.

Scenes I Love: Jason Segal loves disco in Freaks and Geeks


So, I’ve recently discovered an old show called Freaks and Geeks which, despite only actually airing for one season over ten years ago, appears to be popping up everywhere in syndicated reruns.  Freaks and Geeks was about high school students in the early 80s and basically starred a bunch of people who later went on to become famous — Seth Rogen, James Segal, and James Franco (!!!!) all got their start on this show. 

Anyway, today’s scene that I love comes from an episode of Freaks and Geeks and features not only a very fit Jason Segal disco dancing but a nicely disheveled James Franco playing a rpg as well.  Seriously, this whole sequence is just too adorable for words.

A Quickie With Lisa Marie: Escape From The Planet of the Apes (dir. by Don Taylor)


(Warning: Potential Spoilers, especially if you’re good at reading between the lines of my attempts to be all mysterious-like)

Continuing with our look at the original Planet of the Apes films, we come to 1971’s Escape from The Planet of the Apes.

Escape From The Planet of the Apes starts out with a huge problem — how do you make a sequel to a film that literally ended with the entire planet being destroyed?  Escape handles this problem by reversing the plotline of the original film.  Instead of a group of humans going into the future and landing on a planet dominated by apes, this film features three apes going into the past and landing on a planet dominated by the past.  It’s a premise that the film handles with a surprising amount of cleverness and the end result is probably the best of the various Planet of the Apes sequel.  Certainly, it is the only one that can stand alone as a film separate from the rest of the series.

Using Taylor’s old space capsule, Zira (Kim Hunter), Cornelius (Roddy McDowall), and Milo (Sal Mineo, who you know is doomed because he’s the only one of the three who hasn’t appeared in either of the two previous films) escape Earth shortly before Charlton Heston blows the planet up at the end of Beneath the Planet of the Apes.  Slipping through the same vortex as Heston did in the first film, they end up crash landing on Earth in the year 1974. 

At first, Cornelius and the outspoken Zira become media celebrities.  They do interviews with the press, appear on the covers of magazines, and are generally celebrated like simian Kardashians.  However, one scientist — played by a very handsome Eric Braeden (seriously, he has gorgeous hair in this film) — isn’t as charmed by Zira and Cornelius.  Instead, he views them as threats to the future of the human race, especially after he discovers that Zira is pregnant.

The character that Braeden plays, by the way, is named Dr. Otto Hasslien and attentive viewers will recognize the name from a throw-away reference made by Taylor (Charlton Heston) in the original Planet of the Apes.  One of the more interesting subtexts in this film is that, much as chimpanzees Zira and Cornelius are this film’s equivalent to the human Taylor, Braeden’s Hasslien is this film’s version of Dr. Zaius.  Much as Maurice Evans did for Dr. Zaius, Braeden brings a certain ambiguity to his villianous character.  Though Braeden’s actions are ultimately hateful, it’s also made clear that they’re more motivated by fear than by evil.  Indeed, when Braeden first appears in this film, he’s almost likable.  It’s only at the film’s conclusion that we become fully aware of the irony that the human, “civilized” Dr. Hasslien ultimately shows less mercy and empathy to Zira and Cornelius than the ape Dr. Zaius showed to Taylor.  The moral ambiguity of Braeden’s performance makes this a far more resonant film than most mainstream critics are willing to admit.

 As for, Zira and Cornelius, the once-fawing public eventually turns against them as it becomes apparent that for the two of them to exist, humanity has to be wiped out.  Zira and Cornelius find themselves hunted fugitives, fleeing for their lives while the whole planet — with the exception of a zoo keeper played by Ricardo Montalban and another scientist (played by Bradford Dillman — what a great name for an actor) — seems to be determined to destroy them.

Escape From The Planet of the Apes starts out as a likable, rather breezy social satire (much like Pierre Boulle’s Monkey Planet, the novel that Planet of the Apes was loosely adapted from) and that makes it even more surprising when, about halfway through, the movie shifts gears and becomes a rather dark and bleak action film.  It all ends, like many films from the early 70s, in a brutal act of violence that carries a surprising punch to it.  It’s after the end of the film that we truly become aware just how involved we had become with Zira and Cornelius.  A lot of that has to do with the strong performances of McDowall and Hunter who both created characters that came across as real and worthy, regardless of how many layers of makeup they were acting under.  Their chemistry as a couple makes this underrated film one of the surprising gems of the early 70s.

Review: Alestorm – Back Through Time


As long as Alestorm keep doing what they do I will continue to be entertained by them. They are incredible musicians and take folk metal down a unique path. The expectations for a band of their sort are pretty demanding though. You can’t just write good music; you have to be funny, kick ass, and do it all within a narrow context–in their case pirates.


Song: Back Through Time

Three albums in, Alestorm were probably feeling the drain on original material. At first they seemed to resolve it. Back Through Time opens with a GWARish novelty. The band stumble upon a portal into the past and wage war against vikings. With lines like “you put your faith in Odin and Thor, we put ours in cannons and whores,” the door was open to develop a clever concept album.

Song: Scraping the Barrel

Unfortunately, and rather irrationally, the new novelty is dropped almost as soon as they introduce it. They got my hopes up for a rival to GWAR’s Beyond Hell, and instead went right back to the same old topics from track 2 onwards. That’s fine, but Black Sails at Midnight really raised the bar from Captain Morgan’s Revenge. “I want more wenches and mead!” was thoroughly sufficient to amuse me on their first album, where pirate metal itself was still a novelty. On Black Sails the lyrics “matured”. They weren’t just silly, they were clever, well crafted, and effective. Epic tracks like Keelhauled and Pirate Song would have amounted to nothing if they were just more mindless clamorings for loose women and alcohol.

So the second track’s chorus of “Shipwrecked! Get drunk or die!” was a definite disappointment, even if it made me giggle. The rest of the album is pretty much the same mundane thing. A few absurd lines that make you smile every time (“Slap that midget with an oar! Remove his legs with a saw!”), and a lot of mindless demands for booze. I mean, it’s not that I don’t like it. Korpiklaani have been doing pretty much the same thing now for seven albums and I still listen to them obsessively. It’s just that I expected a little bit more lyrically out of Alestorm.

At least they know it. “Many have told us that we can’t go on–That one day we’ll run out of lyrics for songs. But when the time comes to write album four, we’ll scrape at the barrel once more!” It’s just that the whole pirate vs. viking thing seemed so promising and they went nowhere with it.

Song: Death Throes of the Terrorsquid

Among the album’s high points is a pretty epic grand finale. It’s something of a conclusion to the Black Sails track Leviathan. They lost to him last time, this time they win, simple enough. The lyrics are decidedly more creative than the rest of the album. That doesn’t exactly make them poetic, but they’re at least sufficient to not make a mockery of what is a really well written song. As the pirates reach their destination and the squid emerges, black metal vocalist Ken Sorceron of Abigail Williams takes up the mic to add a whole new level of intensity that I hope we’ll hear more of on their future releases. “Epic sea battle” isn’t a theme you exactly hear much of in music, and this song is Alestorm’s best effort to date at pulling it off.

But it’s not my favorite track.

Song: The Irish Descendants – Barrett’s Privateers

The only thing I might love more than Irish folk is Irish/Canadian sea shanties. Stan Rogers might not have written Barrett’s Privateers until 1976, but it became an instant, frequently covered classic of the genre, just as authentic as anything written in the 19th century. Alestorm have established a history of cover songs. Whether covering a proper song (Flower of Scotland on Captain Morgan’s Revenge), turning a shitty pop song into something amazing (Wolves of the Sea on Black Sails at Midnight), or just trolling the hell out of us (THIS fabulous atrocity on the LTD Edition of Back Through Time), Alestorm have been consistent about including at least one cover on every album. This is the first time they’ve tackled a song that was truly excellent in its original form however, and they pulled it off to perfection.

Song: Barrett’s Privateers

The fact that Týr frontman and folk metal god Heri Joensen appears to provide a guitar solo in the middle doesn’t hurt any.

All things considered, Back Through Time is nowhere near as good as Black Sails at Midnight and ranks slightly below Captain Morgan’s Revenge, but that’s no reason to avoid it. It’s still an entertaining ride from start to finish, and one I find myself putting on repeat on a regular basis. Check it out.