Full disclosure: I, like many of the people who will go to see Rise of the Planet of the Apes this weekend, have never actually seen an entire Apes film from start to finish. I have, however, watched the famous clips, know the plotlines and have all of the Simpsons references committed to memory. I tell you this because instead of going into this film as a fan of the franchise, I wanted to view it more as standalone summer blockbuster. I believe that even if I was a diehard Aper (that's what y'all are called, right?), I wouldn't feel a substantial amount of yearning to know the complete origin story of exactly how the apes came to take over earth by the year 3978 -- or, I suppose, 5021, if you're a Tim Burton fan . The premise makes sense and everything as a movie, but it can also just be summed up in two words: crazy science.
When a movie comes up with a title first -- as Pineapple Express director David Gordon Green has publicly admitted about Your Highness -- one has to question its quality. (After all, isn't that how Black Knight was made?) But as it turns out, with this the cast and crew, what could have been a paint-by-numbers medieval comedy turns out to be a hilariously vulgar homage to clichéd hero's quest movies.
I love James Franco for balancing out his mainstream movies with smaller projects that are a bit off the beaten path. In Howl, he plays controversial poet Allen Ginsberg, and while the film deals with the famous obscenity trial that was sparked by his eponymous poem, it's not your traditional courtroom drama, and instead it approaches the poem from five very different directions. It's a kind of collage, and the result is a beautiful, artistic interpretation of the poem's popularity, and the life of the man who wrote it.
Gus Van Sant has never been my favorite director, but I respect him as a filmmaker and a humanitarian. Case in point: Last Friday, I attended a charity screening in Portland, Oregon (where Van Sant and I both live) of his latest movie, Milk. Tickets ranged from around $30 to $75. The print was donated, though, so all of the money went to Outside In, which helps homeless youths and others in Portland. According to the organization's director, who helped introduce the film, this is the fourth premiere Van Sant has donated to the organization. Pretty generous, and a great cause. This time, not only did Van Sant speak, but he also got James Franco to miss his classes at NYU to attend and speak at the function. It was a very cool event, and well worth the admission price. (Photographic evidence.) But I know what everyone is wondering: How was the movie?
The recently released Pineapple Express DVD is all it's cracked up to be and more, folks. It's funny, packed with goodies, and so very educational. Here, we share the knowledge, with five things the DVD taught us (we're talking about the two-disc set or the Blu-ray, by the way; you won't learn nearly as much from the cheap, lame edition).
If you look closely at James Franco's T-shirt in Pineapple Express, you'll see that it's one of the most awesome T-shirt designs ever: a shark devouring a kitten. When asked about it in interviews, Franco always credits the design to Pineapple director David Gordon Green, but that apparently isn't the case. T-shirt designers WOWCH created an astoundingly similar design for Urban Outfitters back in 2005, which was apparently tweaked and flipped to create Franco's movie getup. Unless Franco's drug dealer character traded merchandise with the knock-off clothing manufacturer next door, there better be a good explanation for this.
Damn it all, Nicholas Sparks! I told myself if I cried at your eighteen-hanky tearjerk bonanza I would shoot myself in the face. Well consider me dead, mkah? The lesson I learned the hard way is that you don't go into a movie like Nights in Rodanthe expecting it to be anything other than what it is -- a sappy, sad-sack chick-flick that'll have you weeping by the time the credits roll. Writer Nicholas Sparks might very well be the master of this particular strain of movie, something I dubbed the SPOILER ALERT "bone-n-croak" because there's a love story, the requisite "romantic" love scene involving a painfully slow disrobing sequence and some sort of tragic(-ish) death. If you've seen of Sparks' other works (A Walk to [sob!] Remember, The Notebook), you know exactly what I'm talking about.
I fully admit that my inner twelve-year-old could not be suppressed when reading about James Franco and Sean Penn's new project Milk. I will even admit that the juvenile and annoying elementary school playground rhyme, "Milk, milk, lemonade, round the corner..." popped into my head at the end of the first sentence and it took me about fifteen seconds to regain my composure. That said, I dare you to remain a grown-up while reading this. I won't say it can't be done, but then, you're probably a better person than me. The news here seems to be not the project itself--a film about politician and activist Harvey Milk (Penn), who in 1977 was the first openly gay American man to be elected to office--but that Penn, who will play Milk, and Franco, who will play one of his lovers, will don prosthetic penises in all their nude scenes. Dude. I can't even type "penis" without tittering. I hope the make-up artist who had to apply the prosthesis has a lot more decorum than I.
Pineapple Express sets you up to think of it as nothing more than a stoner comedy, from the trailer to the posters all the way to the movie's opening sequence -- in which Seth Rogen's character, Dale, calls in to a talk radio show and tells them that pot needs to be legal because it makes everything better, even "shitty movies." This early in the movie, it hasn't gotten funny yet, so your thought then might be, "Hey, at least they're honest enough to tell us we should be high to enjoy this."