We were in a drought for so many summers here that we’ve almost forgotten what “normal” is like. Normal in Texas is temperatures in the high 90s / lower 100s with a 30% chance of rain every afternoon, which translates into about 30 minutes of heavy showers almost every day after 3 pm. That’s what we’ve been getting this year, and I don’t think many people are complaining (except those people whose houses have been struck by lightning).
I first discovered the Planet of the Apes around the time the TV series came on in the 1970s. I was hooked immediately. Because there weren’t video tapes or DVDs at the time, it took me a while to see the movies, so my introduction to them was via the novelizations, which were pretty good, and the graphic adaptations at the back of Planet of the Apes magazine, which I stumbled upon at the local drug store. I read the Pierre Boule novel that got this franchise started while in high school. I’ve now seen the movies any number of times, as well as the cartoon version, the ill-advised Tim Burton movie (Helena Bonham Carter made a cute chimp).
The most recent movies have taken the franchise to a whole new level. Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a re-imagining of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes and the new one, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is the modern equivalent of Battle for the Planet of the Apes. These aren’t remakes in the conventional sense, which is why I used the word “re-imagining.” You can trace their ancestry, but these versions have bigger budgets, bigger visions and bigger ideas. They’re smart movies regardless of their heritage, and it seems like they’re getting the recognition they deserve, too, which is nice. Some interesting decisions were made in the latest film. First, only a decade has elapsed since the ape uprising, and the apocalypse came in the form of a simian flu rather than a nuclear war. Most of the apes haven’t learned to vocalize—they use the sign language that Caesar was taught. Unlike Battle for the Planet of the Apes, there hasn’t been a role-reversal, even though the scene where the apes pen up the humans is still there. Different context. Apes shall not kill apes is still a mantra, with as many exceptions as in the original. The characters, simian and human, are multilayered and textured. Even Gary Oldman, who is often just a big crazy meanie, has a human side. I am very impressed by the thought that went into this story and encouraged for what the future may hold. I liked all the little call-backs, too. Like naming the orangutan “Maurice,” a nod to Maurice Evans who originated the role of Dr. Zaius. Well done. Go see it, even if you aren’t familiar with the original series or the previous film. It’s good stuff.
I’ve been aware of Orange is the New Black in a vague way, but for some reason never got around to watching it until the past week, when I binged my way through all 26 episodes. I liked most of Jenji Kohan’s previous series, Weeds, and you can see the same hand at work. Piper isn’t exactly Nancy Botwin, but they have a common ancestor. Nancy even did a stint in prison. One thing I really enjoy about the series is getting to know the backstories of the various inmates. How they ended up in their current situation. These are interesting characters. My favorite is Nicky, the heroin addict with the crazy hair. She gets some of the shows best lines and situations. I just hope that she manages to resist the temptation that was placed in front of her at the end of the second season. Everyone gets interesting character arcs, too, even the guards. Healy, for example, started out as a nice guy and then turned into a bit of prick but, by the end, had sort of redeemed himself. You can understand where he’s coming from and how he could feel betrayed. Pennsatucky is a real trip. The show could make you feel bad for the old lady inmate who got dumped, and the one who had cancer (best use of “Don’t Fear the Reaper” on a TV show ever). Like Piper, you start out wary of Red and manage to turn the tables with her. And “Crazy Eyes”—what a seriocomic tragic character. Gah! Now I have to wait another year for the third season. It will be interesting to see the repercussions of Piper’s actions with respect to Alex.
This season of 24 was one of the best ever. It helped, I think, that it was abbreviated to just 12 episodes. Putting it in England was a nice touch, but the producers also made it a no-holds-barred story, too. No one (except, perhaps, Jack) was off limits for terrible treatment and/or death. Nice cleaver scene, too. Jack is bad-ass, but pissed-off Jack is a wonder to behold. Of course he had to go mano-a-mano with the martial arts guy, but I’ll grant them that indulgence. Bonus points for the use of the silent clock.