The Mutants Below

Beneath the Planet of the Apes is the first of many sequels to stem from Planet of the Apes. Four different installments were made in the 70’s, yet I had no clue any of them existed. That’s mainly due to no one ever talking about them. Planet of the Apes is the only classic afterall. I decided to watch the sequels years later without much knowledge of how they continue the story. Beneath the Planet of the Apes takes place immediately after the world was discovered to be Earth. Charlton Heston returns, but he’s dropped almost instantly. Instead some guy named Brent is the lead. He’s a fellow astronaut that goes looking for Taylor. Instead he ends up finding Nova and the apes, including Zira and Cornelius. This is the only movie in the franchise where Roddy McDowall doesn’t play Cornelius. What follows is probably the reason nobody talks about this movie. Beneath the surface is a society of mutated humans with telepathy that worship an unexploded nuclear bomb. You heard that correctly. Most of this stuff doesn’t even involve the apes. The concept is just too weird to fit the world that’s been established in the first film. When Dr. Zaius and his soldiers discover the underground city (SPOILER ALERT!) everyone dies. Seriously Brent, Nova, Zaius, and even Taylor all die either before or after the bomb wipes out the entire planet. The unnecessarily grim nature of Beneath the Planet of the Apes is the reason it’s my least favorite of the four sequels. The only highlight is hearing Nova speak.

3. Beneath the Planet of the Apes

The “Divine Bomb”

Preceded by: Planet of the Apes & Followed by: Escape from the Planet of the Apes

Take Your Stinking Paws Off Me, You Damn Dirty Ape!

Planet of the Apes is the classic tale of an upside down world where apes are the dominant species. It’s a concept that could have very easily been campy, but everything behind the scenes ensured that wouldn’t be the case. Respected actor Charlton Heston stars in what is perhaps the most iconic (non-biblical) role of his career. Ironically he’s the only major celebrity not wearing a monkey suit. Although the makeup may seem dated by today’s standards, it was groundbreaking at the time. Sure the mouths sometimes didn’t move properly. It didn’t stop the film from winning an honorary Oscar for Best makeup. Coupled with thought-provoking themes of class, humanity, war, and even faith, and Planet of the Apes became one of the most talked about movies of the late 60’s. My parents first introduced us to Planet of the Apes at a very young age. With all its profanity, blood, and nudity, Planet of the Apes is the most intense G rated movie ever made. Strangely enough the original, along with the series it spawned, has become my families most consistently watched sci-fi movie franchise…

1. The Planet of the Apes

Zira and Cornelius (apes) study Taylor (human)

Planet of the Apes follows a crew of astronauts that crash land on an unknown planet in the distant future. Taylor, Dodge, and Landon are the only ones to survive. Since I missed the opening on my first viewing, I never realized they had a female crew member who didn’t make it. They wander the vast desert in hopes of finding some semblance of life. Only to discover a race of primitive humans that cannot speak. We’re introduced to the apes in the most well executed way possible. When a horde of apes on horseback hunt the humans with nets and rifles. Taylor and his crew get caught in the crossfire, leaving a now mute Taylor as the lone survivor. He discovers a society of apes consisting mostly of chimpanzees, armed gorillas, and wise orangutans. While treated like an animal at first, Taylor’s intelligence leads to his study. Zira and Cornelius find a way to communicate with him, but it’s not long before Dr. Zaius takes notice. He uses everything in his power to convince them not to seek answers. All that disappears when Taylor speaks for the first time. The scene is as shocking as it is powerful when he says the now iconic line, “Take your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty ape!” Unfortunately this just turns Taylor’s world into a madhouse. With his fate in the balance, Zira and Cornelius free Taylor and his mate Nova in hopes of finding answers at the Forbidden Zone. They’re ambushed by Dr. Zaius and his soldiers, but it’s not long before he’s subdued and the truth begins to come out. After sharing an awkward kiss with Zira, Taylor and Nova travel even deeper into the Forbidden Zone. Although they may not like what they find. SPOILER ALERT! In what most would call the greatest twist ending in film history, Taylor finds a now buried Statue of Liberty. Learning at last that it was Earth all along. It’s Heston’s delivery of “You maniacs! You blew it up! Damn you! Damn you all to Hell!” that really sells the impact of the moment. Although it’s unlikely apes could ever surpass humanity, the thought that we could be the ones to destroy our planet is a distinct possibility. Planet of the Apes gave us a world closer to our own than we thought.

2. The Planet of the Apes

It was Earth all along

Followed by: Beneath the Planet of the Apes

The Birth of Viagra

Love & Other Drugs traces the origin of popular sex drug Viagra. Told through the lense of a love story. After sharing a steamy scene together in Brokeback Mountain, Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal bring the same chemistry to Love & Other Drugs. Only with a lot more steamy scenes. In fact, this is easily the most sexual role of Anne Hathaway’s career. Her Disney image has definitely been shed by this point. As both she and Gyllenhaal have several nude scenes together. Although Hathaway was in the movie a lot less than I thought she would be. Most of the focus is actually on Jamie. A smooth talking pharmaceutical salesman who’s seduced many women. Until he meets the woman who might be the one. Maggie is a young woman with early onset Parkinson’s. She doesn’t want to get close because of her condition, but being a romantic comedy, you know things will have to work out. One thing I wasn’t expecting was just how strong of a performance Anne Hathaway would give. The Viagra part of the movie is actually not the driving factor. Although it does lead to many funny scenes. Josh Gad being the funniest character. Love & Other Drugs takes advantage of its adult themes, but it doesn’t always know what to focus on.

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Jamie and Maggie get intimate

This Ain’t My First Rodeo

Dallas Buyers Club made us reexamine Matthew McConaughey as an actor. Before he was merely that dazed and confused stoner guy with a southern drawl. Now he’s a serious Oscar contender. So how did that happen exactly? Well Dallas Buyers Club played through McConaughey’s strengths. He portrays the real life Texas cowboy Ron Woodroof. A man so macho that it comes as a complete shock to him that he’s just been diagnosed with AIDS. This was back when nobody knew anything about HIV. So anyone who had it was treated like a leper with a death sentence. The AIDS epidemic is another point in history I was fortunate to have avoided. Upon learning his diagnosis, Ron is in complete denial. Until he ends up losing everything and his health begins to deteriorate. With the help of his lovely doctor, Ron begins to seek treatment from outside sources. Leading to the smuggling of unapproved drugs from other countries. Realizing he can profit off it, Ron establishes the titular Dallas Buyers Club. In the process Ron partners up with polar opposite Rayon. A trans individual who helps Ron find more AIDS patients. Their performances couldn’t be more different, but Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto both ended up winning Oscars for Best Performance. What they do have in common is all the weight they had to lose for their roles. Looking like very convincing sick people. In the end, Dallas Buyers Club is all about the well being of its patients. Regardless of who they may be on the outside.

DBC

Ron Woodroof (right) and Rayon (left) sit on a bench

The Salem Witch Trials

The Crucible recounts the horrifying true stories that were the Salem witch trials. In 1692 Salem, Massachusetts no one was safe from being accused of witchcraft. Something that was mainly caused by mass hysteria. Let’s just say I’m thankful not to have been born during this time. Most young people learned about the event in high school when they read Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. A play that my class read during my Sophomore year. We immediately followed it up with the 1996 movie. The Crucible is set in motion by a group of village girls performing rituals and dancing in the woods. Most teachers fast forwarded this part due to one of them being naked. Mine didn’t for some reason. After a reverend witnesses the girls, the town begins to wonder if the Devil was involved. Easily the movie’s most hated character is Abigail. She’s the one who plays up the lie with the help of her mindless followers. Setting in motion the Salem witch trials. Abigail’s primary goal is to get rid of the wife of John Procter. A respected landowner she has known. Daniel Day-Lewis is as good as always and so is Winona Ryder. However it’s Joan Allen’s performance that received the most acclaim. She plays Goody Proctor as a wife trying her hardest to protect her husband from his actions. It’s not enough though to prevent everyone’s eventual hanging. The Crucible should serve as a reminder to never let history repeat itself.

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John Proctor confronts Abigail

Grim Grinning Ghosts

The Haunted Mansion is a Disney park attraction that actually deserved a movie adaptation. If only it wasn’t such a misfire. Unlike The Country Bears, I actually did see The Haunted Mansion when I was a kid. I watched it without knowing its history. My biggest draw was probably Eddie Murphy. Although he’s a big part of why the movie failed. Since his particular brand of humor doesn’t really suit an atmospheric horror tale. Even if the scares are mostly played safe. Not that there aren’t a few disturbing images and/or concepts. The Haunted Mansion opens with the suicide of the mansion’s owner (a Disney movie). Then in the present day a family of realtors is invited to the manor to sell it. Only to end up haunted by ghosts, skeletons, and marital troubles, Characters from the attraction are worked in wherever. Jennifer Tilly was a good choice to play crystal ball psychic Madame Leota. She sends them on a quest to find a key. They serve no purpose to the plot, but the singing busts are the most memorable part of the movie. As a barbershop quartet that sings their signature song “Grim Grinning Ghosts.” Along with a few other public domain songs. The villain is obvious, but I certainly wasn’t expecting Disney’s depiction of Hell. The Haunted Mansion may be the only park attraction in desperate need of tidying up.

THM

A haunted mystery

Country Bear Jamboree

The Country Bears is one of the earliest movies based on a Disney park attraction. Something that would become a bit of a trend moving forward. Why they thought making an entire movie centered around the “Country Bear Jamboree” was a good idea is beyond me. I didn’t see the movie until very recently. Despite being 7 at the time, my initial thought was that it looked bad. Not to mention how creepy the bears looked. Seeing it now I have to say that the movie has a weird kind of dumb charm. If I did give it a chance as a kid, I might have enjoyed it. The Country Bears treats the fictitious group like a genuine country band. The sheer amount of celebrities that agreed to be in this is truly baffling. Beary Barrington is a boy bear who doesn’t realize he’s adopted (despite having a human family). So he sets out to find the Country Bears. Most of the human stuff, along with Christopher Walken’s overacting, is probably the funniest stuff in the movie. The rest is just a generic “getting the band back together” to “save the beloved building” story. Only with animatronic Bears! Which I must admit are impressive. Since I’m not a big fan of country music, I found the random musical numbers to be unbearable (pun intended). Seriously, was anyone really asking for a Country Bears movie?

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The Country Bears

Getting Lucky

Mischief is the 80’s film about 50’s teenagers who are up to no good. Although I was on a teen movie kick at the time, I guarantee I would never have even heard of Mischief if not for one specific scene. A full frontal nude scene by a young Kelly Preston. I never knew the context of the scene. Then I saw the movie and it changed my whole prospective. Mischief for some reason opens with a Star Wars joke. It doesn’t fit the rest of the movie’s tone at all. Jonathon is a loser who pines over the sexy blonde girl next door Marilyn (it is the 50’s after all). The opportunity finally arrives when he befriends cool greaser Gene. With his pointers, Jonathon ends up dating as well as sleeping with Marilyn. That’s when the famous nude scene comes in. At the same time Gene falls for popular girl Bunny. I’m not sure if it was intentional or not, but their subplot is almost exactly like Rebel Without a Cause. The teen romance is fine and all. I just had a problem with the way it ended. Despite seeming to get along well together, Marilyn and Jonathon randomly break up in the end. I guess the moral is supposed to be take things slow, but if that were the case, then why do Gene and Bunny run away together? Then again, Mischief isn’t supposed to be deep.

Mischief

Jonathan and Marilyn prepare to have sex

Pick Flick

Election is all about the high stakes world of class elections. Something my high school didn’t really do. The closest thing to a class election I’ve had was in my middle school civics class. I was a running mate, but my candidate didn’t win. Although 1999 was loaded with teen movies, hardly any of them were critical darlings. Election is the most critically acclaimed teen movie of 1999. Critics were mostly won over by its smart writing and political satire. Even if the setting was high school. Election centers on the perspective of multiple parties during the big mock election. Each character having their own internal monologue. Reese Witherspoon as Tracy Flick is the worst kind of overachiever who will stop at nothing to become student body president. Matthew Broderick as Mr. McAllister is a respected teacher who sees Tracy as someone who must be stopped. So he makes the clueless but popular Paul Metzler run against her. He’s easily the funniest character in the movie. The only problem is that his rebellious, secretly lesbian sister runs just to spite her former lover. Tracy’s method’s may be extreme (and desperate), but its really Mr. McAllister who ends up looking like the bad guy. He grows increasingly bitter to the point where he loses his wife, job, and sanity. Leaving Tracy Flick as the successful future politician. All because of a silly little class election. Election goes to show that even in high school, politics are a dangerous game.

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Tracy Flick votes for herself

Here Comes the Bribe…

The Proposal is one awkward office romance. Although I didn’t see too many romantic comedies at the time, The Proposal was difficult to ignore. Since everyone was talking about Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds on-screen chemistry. They’re hilarious exchanges and believable romance definitely sells the premise. My mom had also seen the movie several times on TV and suggested I watch it. Sandra Bullock plays no-nonsense editor in chief Margret. The boss of assistant Andrew (played by Ryan Reynolds). When she faces deportation back to Canada, the only solution is for them to get married. Leading to plenty of awkwardly romantic gestures. Despite the threat of jail time, they stick to their fake engagement, and head to his hometown of Alaska where his family awaits. Including his nearly 90 year old grandmother. Played by the always on her game Betty White. While less than pleased about their arrangement at first, the two eventually loosen up, and have a genuinely heartfelt connection. Their funniest scene would have to be when they run into each other while naked. While their most romantic would have to be their MTV Movie Award nominated kiss at the end. The Proposal is a rom-com I will gladly say yes to.

The Proposal

Margret announces her engagement to Andrew