Why “Easter Island Head” Would Make a Better Batman Than Ben Affleck

Ben Affleck Batman Easter Island

Ben Affleck’s chin is going to make an amazing Batman, but why did Hollywood settle for second best?

Don’t get me wrong. Ben Affleck as the new Batman totally makes sense to me. Mainly because I believe, like the brilliant producers of the upcoming film Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, that “he’s got the chin for it.” Which is all that matters. His chin is solid. It’s got a cleft and everything. Little bit of stubble, not too much. And it’s big. Hell, the thing’s so massive it freaking weighs down Ben’s entire jaw. That’s why he never quite closes his mouth after delivering lines.

I mean, playing Batman can’t be so hard in the first place. Doesn’t exactly require method acting. It’s pretty straight forward stuff for an actor. I’m pretty sure you just have to be able to jut your chin forward at the right moments. Like when you’re about to say a line or something? Jut the chin. And make sure it’s fully lit by the lights behind the camera.

Seriously, that’s about it. There’s nothing complex about Batman. There’s nothing in his backstory that would require any kind of nuance or finesse on the part of the actor. He’s a straightforward guy, Bruce Wayne—what you see is what you get. As long as the actor can jut his million-dollar chin, stand with good posture, and avoid laughing during takes, everyone involved in the production will be happy.

But here’s the thing. As much as I agree that Ben Affleck has the chin for the job, I also believe that there are even better choices out there. Why not shoot for the moon, right? There’s actors with just a little more acting range than Affleck, and with even better chins.

Yes, that’s right, I’m thinking about the Easter Island heads. Basically any one of them will do. Drape a bat cowl over one and freaking roll cameras. Easter Island Head has quite a few advantages over Ben Affleck when it comes to playing Batman. Check it out…

Advantages to Re-Casting Batman with an Easter Island Head

  • Easter Island Head was never in Daredevil.
  • Easter Island Head doesn’t leave his mouth open after delivering lines.
  • Easter Island Head has similar acting range to Ben Affleck.
  • Easter Island Head wouldn’t complain about the batsuit being too tight.
  • Easter Island Head is 43% more threatening than Ben Affleck.
  • Easter Island Head was never in Gigli
  • Easter Island Head doesn’t command a big salary
  • Easter Island Head doesn’t mistake a Boston accent for “acting.”
  • Easter Island Head is always available for reshoots.

See what I mean? Ben Affleck’s good, but Easter Island Head is better. And, in light of Ben Affleck’s recent complaining on set about being slightly too fat for the batsuit, perhaps it’s not too late to nip this thing in the bud and recast the roll. I’m sure at least one of the Easter Island Heads will take the call.

What do you think, Readers? Who would make the better Batman? Ben Affleck or Easter Island Head?

 

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The Heartwarming Tale of A Man and His Lightning Bug


Lightning bug in bottle

Philip the Firefly clinging desperately to his bottle cap life raft.

“Free Willy Philly”

If you stopped by yesterday, you learned that an errant lightning bug had somehow managed to navigate its way all the way from my back patio to my bedroom, where it then dive bombed my head and settled onto my computer desk. On the desktop, I noticed how his left wing twitched—he tried but he couldn’t seem to get airborne again. Figuring he was damaged goods, I scooped him up and named him Philip and dropped him into an empty Poland Spring bottle, all in that order. I was too lazy to take him back outside, and figured I’d see how he was doing in the morning.

As promised, I will now update you on the situation with Philip. The update is: I set him free! It was such a tender moment! There was heartwarming music playing and everything. I laughed. I cried. Remember the movie “Free Willy” when the whale jumps over the kid in order to escape captivity and the kid’s all happy about it? That was me when Philip crawled slowly onto the patio table and, after a pregnant pause, fluttered his wings and ascended a whopping four inches to find the bobbing leaf of a potted fern, where he remained for hours.

You want details? Here’s how it went down. I unscrewed the bottle cap, and, with Philip clinging to it, I placed it on the table. I pretended it was like a little escape pod for him. At first I didn’t think he was going to fly.

And he didn’t launch, not at first. He climbed out of the bottle cap and took a stroll on the table top to stretch his legs. For me, it felt like when you take a cat outside and let it just sit there and soak in all the mad chaos of the colorful world beyond the screen door. Philip didn’t seem to know where to go or what to do.

lightning bug on table

At first, Philip seemed stunned from the sensory overload of being free for the first time in…24 hours!

It’d been a full 24 hours since he’d last seen the outside. He’d gotten so used to his Poland Spring condominium, I wasn’t sure he could ever reintegrate into the real world. He was like Morgan Freeman getting released from Shawshank prison—lost and scared and possibly considering hanging himself. It could have gone either way. To be honest, I was kind of happy. After writing a whole blog post about him yesterday,  I felt like me and him had something going on. It was easy to imagine a whole week, or even month, of blog posts related to our computer desk adventures.

After he launched and landed on the fern, I knew that I’d be losing a dear, dear friend. In denial, I scrambled for excuses to keep him anyway. Perhaps he was away from his lightning bug clan for so long, they would no longer recognize him when he showed back up into familiar airspace. They would beat him and cast him out in the same spirit as when a mama bird kills her own baby bird once she smells some human on it.

Yet I knew he’d live far longer bobbing and weaving on the cool breeze of the summer dusk than he would in the hollow, humid silo that was his Poland Spring condo. Plus, I liked the idea of him getting “back in the game” and finding a mate and having kids, and then his kids having kids. And in this way his DNA would probably even outlive my own.

The story of his brief encounter with the Giant would be passed down orally through the generations. This same story, btw, would likely be the thing that got him laid in the first place. In which case you could say that I’d helped Philip get laid, probably many times over, with many different lighting bug babes. I was his wingman.

Anyway, once Philip landed on the fern, I hung around for a while waiting for the big moment when he launched again, this time disappearing into the vast expanse of the yard. I never happened. Not on my watch. What he did was he just stayer there on the leaf. Didn’t move. It was as if he was too sad to leave his new mama. I went inside and did some things and I came out an hour later and still, there he was! Hadn’t moved a muscle. I had to jostle him to see if he was still alive. He was.

firefly on leaf

This is what lightning bugs do during the day: sit around on a leaf somewhere and wait for night.

And then it occurred to me. What was going on was real bonafied science! There was nothing wrong with Philip; he was doing what all lightning bugs do during the heat of the day: hanging out on a random leaf somewhere waiting for the coolness that comes with the night. Philip was literally going to sit there on his ass until it started to get dark, and then he’d take a shower and brush his teeth and go try and get laid. Exactly like an unwed human male!

Science! I had always wondered how lightning bugs occupied themselves during the day—and Philip’s parting gift was to finally give me the answer: they boringly wait for the dark!

At some point, a few hours later, I came back outside to check up on Philip, but he was no longer there. He’d flown the coop, likely in search of an even better, more well-shaded leaf on which to wait out the daylight. I looked off into the yard and gave a John Wayne-esque “goodbye” nod to the trees, and I went back inside to do what I always do on the weekend: sit around and wait for the night, just like my pal Philip.

Philip is free. He’s out there right now, waiting for later. Waiting for the night. Waiting for his time to shine. He’s thinking of what he’s going to wear, what he’s going to say. He’s had quite a life, has quite the story, he’s positively glowing with confidence. I’m pretty sure he’s going to pull some really bright firefly tail tonight.

Read my first post about Philip here: The Lightning Bug That Tried SO Hard to Get Captured 

 

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Philip: The Lightning Bug That Tried SO Hard to Get Captured

lightning bug in bottle

Philip in his private condo.

I found myself trapped in a car with nothing to do but talk about bugs. I initiated a nice conversation with my fellow riders, total strangers btw. About lightning bugs. More of an argument, I think. I had a strong opinion. My point was that they were the absolute best kind of bugs. Besides the fact that they can actually light up, they are slow (and therefore easy and fun to catch), friendly, and they have an interesting signature look. Even not-lit-up, they’re fun to look at.

At least this is the case with the kind that live by me, which have a sort of orange head-plate with a small black dot in the middle. It’s like the back of their head is a big orange eyeball always glancing at the sky above them. Or, you might say their bodies look like little tubes of lipstick and their orange head plate is the actual lipstick peeping out. Flying, glowing lipsticks—that’s lightning bugs.

Anyway, not two hours after I had engaged my captive audience in a random discussion about lightning bugs, I was sitting at home at my computer reading emails or watching cat video and suddenly I felt something small flick off my head. I caught it all in my peripheral vision: something had come in for a crash-landing, bounced off my head, and was then flailing around upside down on the desk. Turns out it was a freaking lightning bug.

I don’t live in a barn. Bugs don’t normally fall from the ceiling and bounce off my head. You’ll have to trust me when I say this little guy’s journey from the backyard all the way to my bedroom must have been a rather wild, confused time in his short life. And no, he hadn’t come in through the window, because I checked the whole bedroom and there were no open portals through which he could have come. He came to me via channels and valleys and mountains of the entire apartment building. Came through my door, past the foyer/living room, hung a hard left into my bedroom, and then suddenly ran out of gas and put her down right there on my desk. He was cool and collected when he did it, I bet.

This event was, interestingly enough, the first time I’ve ever known a lightning bug to find its way inside a house/apartment. It had always been a point of curiosity to me that, unlike spiders and earwigs and ants and this and that kind of home invader, lightning bugs never show up in your house unless captured and brought in for study. This guy must have been drunk on leaf-nector or plant mites and simply got himself way lost. It just so happened that I had an empty bottle of Poland Spring on my desk. You can guess what happened next.

Philip—as I’ve come to call him—found himself the proud new owner of a big tall condominium. All expenses paid. It’s got two microscopic air holes, and little mini-baths of water caught in the grooves at the bottom. As for food, apparently adult lightning bugs, which can lives for months and months, don’t eat very much. If I end up keeping him for a while, I’ll probably roll up a juicy-looking leaf and tap it down into the bottle. If for no other reason than to give Philip something to look at.

Don’t worry, I’m not a monster. I would have taken Philip outside and freed him right away, but he didn’t seem able to get his wings to work. Which is how he came to dive-bomb my head in the first place. Poor Philip seems to have had a major malfunction which promptly resulted in an end-of-mission (to borrow from NASA-speak). Fear not! I will give him another chance to fly later on today. If he can get himself airborne I’ll just say goodbye and watch him fly away toward the trees. Beforehand I’ll make sure nobody’s watching, in case I cry.

But if he can’t fly? Then I might just have to Cathy Bates him, a la Misery. Actually no, that reference is all wrong. Philip is a good friend of mine. I guess this is more like Mac and Me. Or, better yet, Batteries Not Included.

A lightning bug that can’t get airborne isn’t going to live very long, I’d wager. The food chain’s got all kinds of wild beasts out there that will swing by and gobble him up before he even realized he’d been evicted from his condo. Without flight, I’m going to say that Philip would have a longer life hanging out on my computer desk.

Aw. Looking down at him, we just shared a moment. Via random antennae wiggling he sent me a message. Philip seems to want to be set free. Either that or he’s looking for a date. He keeps staring at me with those little black dots set in the orange head-plate, wiggling his lightbulb butt at me. He could be a she. The name’s Philip either way, but there’s a 50 percent change he’s a girl. I know nothing of such things. I’m an equal opportunity captor, either way. All I know is that Philip’s a fine-looking bug. Not gross in any way. Lightning bugs rule, what else can I say? Long live Philip!

Come back tomorrow to see if I ended up setting Philip free. Gee, I must say, this story has really captured the hearts of Americans. It’s something special for sure. Don’t miss out!

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The Nomadic Tribes That Make Up My Social Network

nomadic tribes funny

There is no central government or philosophy to help unify my different tribes of friends.

Today’s daily prompt, presented by The Daily Post, is: If we asked your friends what object they most immediately associate with you, what would they answer?

This is a hard one, actually. This question presupposes that you have some kind of unified group of friends who all hang out with each other and collaborate on new things to say about you behind your back. My friends still do that, but they don’t form together like Voltron to do it. They are like scattered nomadic tribes always threatening to impinge upon the frayed edges of the late period Roman Empire. There’s no contact between the clans, no dialogue. Really, if they could only gather under the banner of a single leader, they could easily conquer me and force me to go to the diner with them all the time. As it is, I am able keep them at bay.

The point of this metaphor is: one Friend-clan would come up with a completely different “Me” object than the next. One clan knows me as a sky diver, the next knows me as a scuba diver. The scuba club would never say “parachute” if you asked them this question.

I honestly couldn’t come up with an answer that would satisfy all the tribes. I wanted to say something lame like “my notebook,” but some of the more feral, dangerous tribes don’t even know I consider myself a writer. They think of me more as guy who drinks vodka out of a gatorade bottle.

But then I figured it out. The one real common denominator, the one object that all my different friends clans would independently associate with me, is…

My head.

Because everything else is totally subject to change, depending on the social environment—how I talk, what I say, what I wear, what weapon I wield, what spells I cast—but my head never really changes. I may wear a hat with some friend clans and go hatless with others, but my head never really changes. Or, if you think the hat thing constitutes a change in head, then let’s just say my face is the “object” that never changes.

Then again, I wear glasses with some friend clans and go face-naked with other. I’d say that probably constitutes a change in face. Therefore I’m going to have to modify my answer again. Now it’s my nose/mouth region. If you asked the leaders of each of my different friend clans which object they most immediately associate with me, it would be my nose/mouth region. Unless you want to say my glasses-wearing constitutes a change in nose, which would force me to simplify my answer to just the mouth region.

Let’s just say the jawline and call it a day. My jawline pretty consistently has a beard growing on it. I don’t do anything crazy like shave the beard in order to hang out with one group of friends, and then, while driving over to the next group of friends, quickly grow it back. I mean, why would I do that? I’ve settled on at least that aspect of my public persona. The beard aspect.

So, yeah, that’s my answer. The object my friends would most immediately associate with me is my bearded jawline. Eh, that wasn’t so hard.

Stop by The Daily Post and post your own response to this prompt!http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/object-lesson/

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Weather Forecast: Blognado!

blognado

Quick! Everyone, run for cover! It’s coming for you like a bat out of hell — Blognado! Roaring through the WordPress prairie, flinging cows, upending barns, and hurling random practicallyserious html links through your computer screen. Quick, duck! Here comes http://practicallyserious.com/2013/06/29/always-having-a-stuffy-nose-6-benefits/ Phew! Close one! Almost had to actually read that funny old blog post about the many benefits to always having a stuffy nose. Oh crap! Here comes a post about unexpected energy efficiency tips to help you save money this summer! It’s heavy and pointy with humor! Duck and roll! https://practicallyserious.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=3072&action=edit Wow, that was a close one. Oh lord, why is this happening to us! We just wanted to enjoy our coffee and look at some cat videos online and now this! Blognado! Oh no, another one. Duck! http://practicallyserious.com/2012/09/03/flash-fiction-the-sea-train/ It’s a random flash fiction story about a special train that glides on tracks that sit suspended on the turbulent the ocean surface. Help! It’s too much entertainment for our WordPress village to handle. This will surely be the end of us…

I suggest that any and all survivors meet up in the practicallyserious archives. There’s hot chocolate there and soup and company and blankets and yes, plenty of entertainment!

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The Bright Future, Where We Drink Orange Juice From Beer Bottles

The other night I saw into the future. It happened as I was enjoying a nice cold Heineken. Normal night. I kept flicking the glass with my finger, as I usually do that when having a beer. Typically, I keep doing it until my fingernail starts to ring with pain, at which point I’d either stop or switch to a different finger. But the other night? I kept going with my pointer finger, and was soon rewarded with a bit of an epiphany.

The self-inflicted finger-pain got me thinking more and more about the glass-quality of the bottle. I realized I was minutes away from dropping a perfectly not-broken glass bottle into the recycling bucket. For empty beer bottles, the recycling bucket is like the Mortal Kombat spike pit—you’re finished, pal! Fatality. Yes, a bottle condemned to the bucket will some day be reincarnated as a new kind of glass product—possibly even another beer bottle, I have no idea how the recycling process works—but no matter what happened it would never again be the proud bottle it once was.

Why even throw it out?, I started to wonder. It’s such a nice polished glass receptacle. Not like its been partially melted or something. Not like there’s a crack in it. The thing clearly has plenty of good solid workin’ years left in it. If it’s not in the prime of its life—which would be before it was ever opened in the first place, I suppose—it’s not far off from those glory days. It’s still got beer in it, for crying out loud!

I started to think about all the drinking glasses in my kitchen cabinet. Whole sets of Ikea-type standard drinking glasses, some big, some small. Some that you want to fill up with milk and just marvel at the solid column of whiteness, some that you want to pour a little rum in and pretend you’re one of the Mad Men. All of these glasses paid for with real money. When one of them breaks? An identical-ish replacement must be bought.

“…the practice of buying 12-packs of beer, drinking them one by one and then throwing them out one by one, is just completely asinine.”

Are these magic glasses in my cabinet? Do they somehow clean themselves or something? Do they show you weird blurry images of the future? No. They do nothing but dumbly contain liquids! They must be washed and scrubbed and dried and all that. Nothing special about any of those glasses when you compare them to my soon-to-be-put-to-pasture bottle of Heineken. Well, okay, drinking glasses are wide-mouthed; they’re far easier to refill than a bottle would be. But I’m talking about a future world where everybody has some kind of tube machine that can easily get your orange juice into an empty beer bottle. Let’s pretend the refilling problem is handled, please.

beer-spill

Glass bottles have an obvious advantage over traditional drinking glasses.

I flicked my bottle again. I could almost see the buzzing ripples of pain oscillate up my finger. Like the building in the Matrix when Trinity smashed into it. I continued on with my train of thought: Is beer bottle glass the same exact type of glass that’s used in drinking glasses? Is it lower quality somehow? Would it turn into a deadly bacteria factory if you used it more than once? Screwing the nice cool tread of the bottle’s base into my palm, I really didn’t think so.

What I concluded that night, and still kinda believe, is that the practice of buying 12-packs of beer, drinking them one by one and then throwing them out one by one, is just completely asinine. You just threw out twelve perfectly good potential drinking glasses! And you’re going to buy more soon enough—and then throw them out too!

“The bottleneck’s not the problem—it’s the solution!”

When you go to a bar, what would you rather have, a bottle or a glass? If you’re smart, you’d always pick the bottle. When some drunk dude bumps into you, the beer in the bottle doesn’t go anywhere. It just splashes around in the safety of the bottle. Not so with the drinking glass. The beer in the drinkin’ glass goes all over your shirt and you smell like a frat house for the rest of the night. When you’re out there on the dance floor making a complete ass of yourself? If you’re a bottle drinker, you can dance and drink at the same time. Glass drinkers have to put their glass down somewhere, and when they come back for it later there’s freaking gum in it.

Man, that bottle was one hell of a wing man, wasn’t it? Yet what did you do with it at the end of the night? Did you put it in your pocket and bring it home for drinking orange juice later? No. You flung it drunkenly at a parked police patrol car and ran away cackling like a witch. Nice one.

Could it be that glass bottles are an underrated, underappreciated receptacle from which to drink your liquids? Not just beer. Any liquids (provided you have some kind of tube machine with which to easily refill and/or clean the bottle, as mentioned earlier). You can run around the house while drinking your fruit punch. You can drink vitamin water while you’re wrestling the dog.

That empty beer bottle you’re about to toss in the recycle bin is, quite possibly, a masterpiece of glass receptacle technology. Why not let’s stop being to wasteful, Readers! Let’s take the idea of “recycling” our glass bottles to a whole new level. Perhaps the day will come when children frolic about in fields of hay w/ beer bottles of orange juice in their hands. Can you hear their laughter and glee? I can. It’s right over there, just over the horizon—the future.

 

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The Outrageous, Undeniable Flaw in 1968′s “Planet of the Apes”

planet_of_the_apes

“You speak very good English for a human!”

I’m going to follow up on my glowing Dawn of the Planet of the Apes review with just a little more ape talk. There’s something I’ve been needing to get off my chest regarding the classic 1968 film starring Charlton Heston. A pretty major flaw in the movie’s logic—I’ll get into it in a moment. As I’ve mentioned in my Dawn review, I’m a big-time fan of the original POTA film; I’ve seen it countless times and know much about the whole Apes mythology. I concede that the movie has aged quite a bit; it is likely to be judged “corny” and/or “boring” by the die-hard Transformers fans who represent the large part of the moviegoing public. I still think it’s great.

The ape make-up still holds up well enough, though this is one area where Tim Burton’s dreadful “reimagining” showed a marked improvement. The Franco-verse ape films bypassed makeup effects altogether and elected to make their apes 100% CGI—a bold but necessary move, considering how the general story lines placed the action in modern day San Francisco and not a New York City of 3000 years in the future.

The Franco apes had to look like apes you’d see at a zoo, not “evolved” apes played by portly humans in full-body gorilla suits. And I believe the filmmakers have pulled it off better than one could possibly dare to dream. Going back on the 1968 film after seeing these modern day ape movies can take some mental adjustment.

“Though the film holds up amazingly well, there’s one little detail that rocks the boat.”

Still, the original POTA, featuring cruder ape-makeup and less elaborate sets and much, much slower pacing than what a typical modern day Michael Bay fan would expect out of his or her blockbuster movie, holds up pretty damn well. Especially when you hear a baby boomer remind you that when that movie first came out—in an era before easy Internet word-of-mouth—nobody knew what they were in for. The shocking reveal at the end of the film was a total M. Night Shyamalan twist!

Some folks went into the movie having not even seen a single trailer, knowing only that the movie was titled “Planet of the Apes.” For these people, the moment when the first ape shows up on horseback was as shocking as it was for Charlton Heston’s beloved character, Astronaut George Taylor. And no one saw the surprise ending coming. I mean, imagine watching that movie and being genuinely shocked at that Statue of Liberty ending. It was Earth all along. Geez, it must have been absolutely mind-blowing to the audience of its day.

For a funny Apes reference, read my review of Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity.

It still holds up, especially when you mentally adjust for “movie-making inflation.” Crisp and lean writing, great acting, and absence of mindless twenty-minute action sequences for the sake of action sequences. The musical score—subtly emulated in the latest movie—nails it. Re-watching this original film puts me right back into what I call “ape mode.” I feel the need to watch the direct sequel, the controversial Beneath the Planet of the Apes, which picks up directly after the last scene in the first film. I may peruse some old ape comic books I’ve collected over the years. Usually ape mode would stop there, but, once I have my copy of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes on DVD, it’s going to be a welcome addition to the party.

But here’s the thing. I’ve come to realize—somewhat recently, despite years and years of watching this movie—that the original Planet of the Apes film suffers a blatant, glaring plot hole. Really, I’m embarrassed it took me so long to identify this perfectly obvious flaw. I think I figured it out a long time ago as a kid, but my mind wasn’t yet advanced enough to get really bent out of shape about it, and then I forgot it completely.

It’s been hiding there right in plain sight the whole time, and once I figured it out, it became hard to brush it off. A major, major logic gap, concerning the fact that Charlton Heston’s character didn’t know the world he’d crash-landed on was, in fact Earth. Perhaps a simple line of dialogue could have defused this bomb, but there’s no such line in the film—and I should know. This logic gap requires you to suspend your already-totally-suspended disbelief. Stop reading this right now if you want to preserve your Ape innocence.

Charlton Heston must be terrible at “Clue.”

The mega flaw: How can Charlton Heston’s character possibly not know the ape planet was Earth, when the apes all around him are not only speaking, but speaking English? Remember, Heston’s character believed that he’d crashed somewhere in the proximity of Alpha Centauri (the setting of Pierre Boulle’s original novel). I’m totally cool with the idea of eloquent, articulate apes. But why would these “alien” apes communicate with each other with a language invented on Planet Earth, light-years away?

[Warning: I'm about to go FULL GEEK]

Yes, you can submit that their distant ancestors, the humans of the Forbidden Zone, had somehow learned English by listening to radio waves sent out from Earth (a la the Jodie Foster Movie Contact), and then indirectly passed this knowledge down to their world’s post-apocolypic ape population. Though drawing this conclusion feels like doing a lot of homework for the writers of the film. Plus, the apes don’t even have an accent. They sound like your history teacher in high school talking about the Roman Empire.

We Americans don’t have to go very far on our own planet to find exotic variants of the English language. Ben Kingelsy invented his own weird future English accent in the recent film Ender’s Game. It was one of that film’s few inventive decisions. If the apes spoke with a similarly chaotic inflection, suggestive of many years of lingual evolution, I might be willing to buy the Contact theory. By the way—watch Contact. One of the greatest sci-fi films ever made.

Read my review of Ender’s Game

Another, better theory is that Heston’s Taylor, who spent an undisclosed amount of time as a prisoner in the apes’ hospital, had simply learned the ape’s own language. He was a smart enough guy. He was a freaking astronaut. It’s possible that the apes were actually communicating via some strange monkey language, which Taylor was able to slowly piece it together and, eventually, speak himself. In this case, the film’s English dialogue was merely for the benefit of the audience, like the Universal Translator conceit featured in all incarnations of Star Trek. I’m totally willing to throw the filmmakers a bone here. I feel their pain—you can’t have a whole movie of weird monkey language!

But Star Trek was smart enough to address the issue. Universal translators implanted in everybody’s ears—a somewhat wobbly storytelling crutch, granted, but much better than nothing at all. Once the issue was addressed, the audience was willing to shrug its collective shoulders and move on.

Because here’s my real problem with the Apes. By not addressing this blatant logic gap, the writers of the original Planet of the Apes film were either (temporarily) stupid themselves, or they thought their audience was (permanently) stupid, or they thought Heston’s character was (outrageously) stupid.

“Humans. English speaking. Earth-like terrain. I mean, Taylor, do I have to spell it out for ya?!?”

Most signs point to Taylor. He’s the real victim here. He looks pretty dumb when you think about it. How could he possibly be surprised when he finds the Statue of Liberty on the beach, when you really think about it. On top of everything else, he even knew that some version of “humans,” had ruled the ape planet in the distant past! Humans. English speaking. Earth-like terrain. I mean, Taylor, do I have to spell it out for ya?!?

A simple line of dialogue—ugly though it was sure to be—would have made this boo boo go away. “At first I was amazed you damn dirty apes spoke English,” Taylor could have said, “But then I understood: Radio waves!” OR: “Lucky for me, I was able to piece together your language during my year in the hospital. Now it’s like a second language to me.”

Of course, much of this is forgivable when you consider that this film was made in 1968. They still basically thought the moon was made of cheese back then. Brainy science fiction movies were a real novelty, with much lower standards of realism stemming, partly, from a smaller knowledge base vis a vi worlds beyond our own. The movie going public had nothing much to compare this movie to. The idea of humans and/or apes sprouting up, completely independent of Earth, on some faraway exo-planet surely didn’t seem as outlandish to the moviegoers of 1968 than it does to me, a well-versed sci-fi geek type dude.

In the end, I’ve learned to forgive Planet of the Apes this one glaring oversight. I’ve lost enough sleep over it, and I’m willing to chalk it up to a different standard of filmmaking. Still a better standard, too. Nowadays, if a sci-fi movie of such ambition and scope can keep its pool of mega-flaws down to single digits, it’s time to call up Criterion.

Chimps talking perfectly English? I’ll deal with it.

What about you, reader? Fan of the original Apes film? What’s your take on the “mega flaw?”

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“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” Overachieves, Big Time

dawn of the planet of the apes

The only major flaw with the otherwise excellent “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” is that you have to wade through its 2011 predecessor to get there.

There was a moment early on in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes where an army of horse-ridin’ chimpanzees march through the ruins of San Francisco as a calculated show of power. It was a brilliantly composed shot, accompanied by a weird, madhouse soundtrack of discordant bells and flutes, “ape music” that would fit right into the beloved Charlton Heston classic. That’s the moment I went bananas for this movie (sorry). I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing and hearing; I have absolutely zero faith in big-budget hollywood. Review-wise, the best you’ll usually get from me is “it didn’t suck as much as it could have.” But this time I can just come right out and say it like a man: I f-cking loved this movie.

I just a strong feeling going in that Dawn was going to be a better movie than its barely passable 2011 predecessor, Rise of the Planet of the Apes. That movie, though, had the benefit of following Tim Burton’s poorly conceived, poorly executed attempt at an Apes “reimagining.” So, even though it had sloppy directing, clunky writing, and James Franco, fans generally embraced Rise. Fittingly, the character who moviegoers most connect with was the 100% CGI chimpanzee protagonist, Caesar. His character arc, his place in the story, was surprisingly well put together. You watch the movie and you end up caring about the little guy.

But, overall, the positive reviews for that film mostly came by way of “it didn’t suck as bad as it could have.”  It made X amount of money, so a sequel was promised right away. We had franchise potential here. Maybe the second one would actually be good, we all dared to dream.

I’ve racked my brain for a while after seeing Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, trying to remember a time when such a mediocre Hollywood offering got such a major talent upgrade for the sequel. I came up with zilch. This movie is, quite possibly, the greatest sequel of all time when you factor in the disparity in quality between it and its predecessor. How the hell did this happen? I mean, what fatcat hollywood producer wasn’t paying attention as they shot Dawn, and was therefore unable to sabotage the production with last minute script changes? What investors didn’t step in and say they were gonna pull their money unless someone gave Ben Affleck a telephone call?

For an example of one of my typical “good reviews”, Read my Ender’s Game Review

I don’t know how this movie happened, but I’ve very glad it did. I’d qualify myself as a real Planet of the Apes fan. Like a trekkie, except for the Apes. An Apie. I’ve seen the Heston movie so many times growing up I’m pretty sure I could produce accurate storyboards for the whole film, including dialogue bubbles, all from memory. I’ve even become quite fond of that film’s immediate, linear sequel, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, which, amazingly, managed to pull together an ending nearly as shocking as that in the first film. I’ve seen all the rest of the films too, but, for me, everything besides the first two were just curiosity pieces. It was fun seeing the great Roddy McDowall keep coming back and putting on the Ape outfit, but I never really took those sequels too seriously.

Finally, after all these years, I have a third Ape movie to complete my own personal Ape Trilogy. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes demonstrates a genuine understanding of the various elements that made the Heston film work. The desert, fatalistic tone, the dueling themes of racism/intolerance and family/self preservation. There always hangs in the air a nauseating but exhilarating feeling that none of this is going to end well for anybody involved, not even the apes. Director Matt Reeves recognized what made the original movie work and was able to identify those subtle things that, collectively, made that movie such an enduring science fiction classic.

Reeves took this knowledge and he did the impossible: he totally pulled off a 2+ hour movie that starred about 1034 CGI apes w/ machine guns. God, there were SO many ways this movie could have sucked, should have sucked, and Reeves managed to navigate those rapids without capsizing the kayak. My God, man! He had so many opportunities to muck things up. So many creative decisions that could have undermined everything. He could have had the apes talking perfect English to each other, which would have been believable based on what we saw in the Franco movie, but would have been disastrously corny (instead, the apes communicate mostly via sign language, with the occasionally guttural word of English thrown in).

Or he could have had a bearded, disheveled James Franco emerge from the forest and join in on the adventure (Franco’s presence was mercifully isolated into a brief camcorder nostalgia scene). And/or Reeves could have botched the “human” casting—many a good movie is a single casting choice away from being a great movie. All it takes is one Ben Afleck or Ryan Reynolds or to stink up an entire film. This movie was miraculously spared such a fate! Wasn’t the case!

Jason Clarke is a quality actor. He doesn’t necessarily have the marquee looks, but hell, that works in his favor. Makes him that much more believable, and in a movie where apes ride on horseback toting machine guns, we need all the believability we can get. He manages to be a nice guy without ever seeming weak or foolish. I’ll spare you the spoilers. Watch the extended trailer and you’ll basically know exactly what’s going on plot-wise. Actually, don’t watch that—it gives away too much. I’ll just say Clarke’s character, Malcolm, a representative from a doomed community of humans, forges an unsteady alliance with the leader of the territorial, and completely independent community of apes (comprised of the many apes who survived the first movie—plus their kids!).

The lovely Keri Russell plays Ellie, a sort of vet/doctor who comes in handy at exactly the right moments. Actually, as much as I like her, Keri Russell’s character’s timely usefulness, plot-wise, sort of strained my disbelief at times. If this were any other movie, I’d flay this thing alive for some of the “Oh, thank god we brought her along” moments re: her character’s useful medical skills. But this level of nit-pickiness, considering the overall quality of the film, feels like looking a gift ape in the mouth. Plus, we get to have Keri Russell in the first place. We could have someone more along the lines of an Amy Adams—a fine enough actress, but can she roll with the apes?

Gary Oldman’s great as the ape-phobic mayor of a dying city of human refugees. Based on the trailer, I was expecting his character to be a bit over the top, but no. The mayor’s decisions, his fears and hopes and despair—it all works. One of my favorite scenes in the movie, an intentionally awkward, high-stakes standoff between Oldman and another human character, didn’t involve an ape at all. It was a scene that poked some fun at the confusing, conflicting nature of that particular point in the move.

Of course I can’t forget Caesar, portrayed via motion-capure suit by Andy Serkis. As was the case in the first movie, Caesar is the undisputed star of the show. This time he doesn’t have James Franco around to sort of humanize him, but now he has his own family, who help him reach emotional heights unseen in the first movie. Really, this CGI ape does some amazing acting. And I’m not talking about him bouncing around with his arms hanging, throwing monkey-fists up into the sky. I can freaking do that (I did it just now in the mirror to prove my point to myself).

I mean his eyes, his face. The artists who brought these emotions to the screen, whipped them up from nothing but ones and zeros and weird Andy Serkis mo-cap grimaces, deserve some real recognition. The emotions, the humanity is what matters—that’s why we cared about the first movie despite its often shoddy storytelling. Despite Franco and his crinkly faced smile. If you can convince me there’s a soul inside, I can forgive the occasionally, inevitable instances of fake milky eyes or wacky gravity. After all, it may be decades still before CGI finally transcends such things; the apes may rule long before then. As long as the film works, I’ll be nice. If the film sucks, I’ll take no prisoners—I’ll closely inspect and ridicule every computer-generated eyeball. Don’t make me do it!!!

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes freaking works. And again I ask: how did this movie happen? I really want to know. The producers could have saved a lot of money, crapped out a movie half as good, and still made a nice enough profit. This film’s goodness was completely unprovoked. Good word-of-mouth is nice for entertainment magazines and Comic-Con, but does it really get more butts in seats? Hard to say because there’s so little data. Good word-of-mouth for a big-budget tentpole is practically a myth. There are no good “big” movies. Some have some nice qualities, sure, but then Sam Worthington or someone shows up and it all goes to pot. I mean it. I’m being general as hell and I don’t care. Again, best case scenario, it’s usually a case of “this Shia LaBeouf movie sucks less than that Tom Cruise movie.” Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is the real deal.

Good word of mouth. The grand experiment starts right here, right now. I pray, in Roddy McDowall cadence, to the Apes: may you indeed inherit the land…of Hollywood. May your example be seen and appreciated by all. Style, artistry, pizzazz, risk—let these things once again teem verdant in the barren wastes of the beast Man. For he is yet weak, and, through incompetence and greed, destroys just about every film property he touches.

Dawn of the Apes shows that accidents can still happen. Good movies can still thrive in the Forbidden Zone. So says the Lawgiver. Hear him!

 

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Even “Pizza Obama” Pretended He Cared About the World Cup

Pizza Obama Who Plays Soccer

The perfect symbol for America’s random World Cup craze: Pizza Obama Who Plays Soccer

I’ll talk about Pizza Obama Who Plays Soccer in a second. But first I need to get something off my chest. I need to come clean. So I’m gonna. Here comes…

I was completely clueless this whole time about what was going on with the World Cup. Who was playing. Who I was supposed to like. Who were the marquee players, the ones to root for. I can say, with certainty, that, during the very strange futbol frenzy that had gripped some of my friends and neighbors, I aggressively maintained my soccer ignorance. I wasn’t about to pretend to care about something just because many of the people in my life were suffering from some sort of creepy mass delusion.

Because no one cared last year or the year before, is my thing. Yes, soccer fans cared—they always did—but not non-soccers fans. And certainly not non-sports fans. Yet, over the past few months it had become thing to interview your friends and co-workers about. You’d hear stuff like “We’re still in it” or “”I can’t believe the Argentina beat the Klingons” coming from the mouths of people who barely talk at all, let alone to you, let alone about sports! By the way, I mentioned Klingons instead of a real team because I already said the United States and Argentina and I can’t really come up with a third team (maybe Germany,  but no, I wouldn’t bet my life on it if you put a gun to my head). So yes, full disclosure here.

Is it because this is the first year the US had a team to represent us? Is that the reason? I mean, that would be a pretty good reason, I guess, but I don’t want to look it up because it’ll spoil this article. Did we not have a team in previous years? I do know that, thanks in large part to David Beccam playing for LA for a few years, soccer has slowly been gaining in popularity here in America. Every once in a while there’d be a commercial advertising bizzarly, corporately named teams, like the Gatorade Netflixers and the Starbucks Samsungs. I noticed how all the players’ uniforms were rippling with little squares with little advertisements on them. It was all very strange, very sell-outy, but I was willing to cut soccer some slack. You gotta do what you gotta do.

But I wasn’t expecting the World Cup—whatever it is—to go over this year like the damn 1983 Cabbage Patch Kid craze, with every Tom, Dick and Harry and Daphne suddenly tuning in and Facebook-posting affected emotional outbursts having to do with the Klingons winning or not winning. I had friends who weren’t even Klingons pretending like they cared about the Klingons.

And really, Facebook surely had a lot to do with the World Cup going viral. I feel that, after a while, feigning an opinion about soccer became just another added step in one’s daily normalcy maintenance plan. If you let your Facebook feed remain silent after an important night of World Cupping, you suddenly reveal to your friends, quite publicly, like you have a mind of your own—and trust me, you don’t want to do that.

So it became neccesary to parrot your peers’ forced interest in the game, or else a 1970′s Donald Sutherland would show up at your door and point at you and do a long, deafening bodysnatcher screech (see video below). And honestly, I get it. The only reason I didn’t participate in the normality frenzy is because I’ve already fallen off that wagon. I’ve already gotten bodysnatcher screeched. But if I was still on that wagon—the normalcy wagon—maybe I would have pretended to care about the World Cup too.

As it is, I refuse even to post a picture of my children on Facebook, on general principle. Not that I have children, but if I did, I’d probably not post pictures of them on Facebook because I’d be too afraid I was doing it just because that’s what you’re supposed to do, and not because you genuinely want to share their drooling, cross-eyed countenance with your particular Facebook mob. Which deep down I might. But who’s to say for sure? Why risk it?

Anyway, I’m gonna wrap up this fine Monday rant by explaining the photograph I’ve attached to the post. It was a window painting I saw on a very good (possibly the best) pizza shop in Jersey. The first thing I thought when I walked by the painting was, “Why does this pizza shop have a big painting of Obama on the window?” And then I lowered my eyes a bit and thought, “Wait, what? Why does this pizza shop have a painting of Obama with the awkward body of pizza on its window?” And then I looked down the rest of the way and said, “Huh? Why does this pizza shop have a painting of Obama with a body of pizza who’s also playing soccer?”

I immediately christened him Pizza Obama Who Plays Soccer. And really, to me, he represents the patent absurdity of this year’s World Cup craze. I mean, if the President of the United States, with all his many problems and stressors—including the fact that his body is a floppy, melty piece of pizza—could still find the time to pretend he cared about the World Cup, than really, this contagion has reached biblical proportions.

And I’m aware that whoever drew Pizza Obama’s face was likely trying to, instead, draw the head of some particular soccer star I knew heard of. But hell if it didn’t come out looking like our President doing one of his trademark mega hammy smirks. I can’t fault the artist for this—it’s got to be hard to make a window painting look exactly like who you want it to look like. But what I don’t get is the weird pizza-slice body. I get that a “pizza” theme was necessary, but why didn’t the artist just put a small slice of pizza flapping around in Obama’s free hand? An action shot, Ninja Turtles style?

This, my friends, may be the greatest mystery of all.

Readers, did you pretend to care about the World Cup? Were you soccer fans in the first place? Or simply indiscriminate “sports” fans? Let me know!

 

 

 

 

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Sunday Short Stories: “Get Highpants” Finale!

funny-short-story

Will Agent Edgar Plome (ret) escape certain death at the hands of Assassination Squad 7? You’ll finally have your answer!

Funny Short Stories: “Get Highpants—Part 8 (of 8)

“Oh son. It is you,” cried Plome, his voice warbling with the warmest and gooeyist of affection. But here’s the thing: while Edgar Plome had, at first, genuinely believed the tall, broad shouldered assassin was his long lost son, the accompanying rush of emotion had then caused Plome’s heart to jackhammer like mad in his chest. As usual, this convenient physiological reaction shotgunned a much-needed rush of oxygen into the old man’s ailing brain. Just like that, everything became clear to him; he understand that the assassin wasn’t, in fact, of his loins.

Therefore, when he said “Oh son. It is you” just now, it had merely been a perfectly-acted deception. Plome was well aware that the whole “I’m your father” schtick was the only thing keeping him from getting shot in the face. “Son! Son! Let me see your face!” he continued, relying not on the fog of senility, but the refined acting ability honed from years and years of high stakes undercover work. He moved closer to Styles and brought his hands close to the man’s cheeks, as if getting ready to pinch them.

“He’s going to pinch my cheeks,” thought Styles. He leveled his rifle, trained the barrel squarely on the fuzzy spot between Plome’s eyes. Hampered as always by his tendency to overthink things, he now overthought: “Okay, I will let him pinch my cheeks—just in case this whole ‘I’m your father thing’ has some merit. Which it doesn’t. How could it? I’m black, he’s white. Nevertheless, I’ll see this thing through. Then, depending on the emotional outcome of the impending pinch, I’ll either shoot him or cry and hug him. Because there’s a slight chance the physical contact of the cheek pinching will jar loose some truth heretofore locked deep within my subconscious, thus finally illuminating—“

But Styles couldn’t finish the thought because Edgar Plome had karate-chopped him in the neck. As Styles’s body fell dumbly to the floor, Plome, baring his teeth, hissing like a vampire, broke into a spry series of cartwheels which, by design, transported him across the living room toward the bay window, and freedom.

V. Bastid, the clumsy baby of the assassination squad, was, ironically, the first to open fire. But his aim wasn’t true. Each bullet went right through the spokes of Plome’s cartwheeling body, decorating the wall beyond with a slinky pattern of bullet holes. The other assassins joined in, guns blazing. For the next second or two Edgar Plome’s living room became a smoky Civil War battleground where you couldn’t see much, you could only hear it and smell it. A blinding crackle of heavy gunfire blazed in the smogginess, sent bullets ricocheting this way and that, finally to explode in puffs of wall plaster. The hanging boot snapped free of its string. The tarantula terrarium shattered.

It was a moment of real chaos, but Plome’s gymnastics, along with artful butt-ducks and arm-doges, kept him always ahead of the of the danger. The old man cartwheeled his way right through the bay window, which, quite conveniently, had already been drizzling apart thanks to some stray bullets. He landed on the grass in a standard Batman crouch. Glass shards hailed down on him, pelted his back. One of them stayed and wobbled in his backskin like a baby stegosaur plate.

He could barely feel it. He’d won. With nothing standing between himself and the boxy, tree-y suburban horizon, he POOF! blasted off into a cinematically blurry jog. At that point, even the rookie Bastid could see there was no stopping him. The continuous jogging would keep Plome’s mind sharp and his skill-set fresh. Three assassins, each with rattled nerves to begin with, wouldn’t have a chance of catching him.

Agent Edgar Plome (ret) had escaped.

And so yes, Agent Edgar Plome (ret) has escaped certain death at the hands Assassination Squad 7. And he ain’t done, not by damn sight. Wherever they’s a fight so hungry people can eat, he’ll be there. Wherever they’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, he’ll be there…and so on.

Now do go back and read this ostensibly funny short story from the very beginning: Part 1

Or catch of on last week’s episode here.

 

 

 

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