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James Franco and those damn dirty “Apes.”

James Franco and those damn dirty “Apes.” (photo)

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Variety is reporting that James Franco has been cast in a prequel to “Planet of the Apes” entitled “Rise of the Apes.” He’ll play a “young, driven scientist who becomes a crucial figure” in a war between mankind and genetically engineered super-apes. If he’s very lucky, he may even yell “You maniacs!” while wearing a loincloth. The film goes into production in July for a June 2011 release.

Though the project is being billed as a prequel, it’s also something of a remake. The original “Planet of the Apes” series bore its own prequels — three of them, in fact, necessitated by the fact that Charlton Heston only agreed to return for the first “Apes” sequel on the condition that he got to SPOILER ALERT! nuke the entire world in order to ensure he wouldn’t get asked to do any more damn dirty ape movies. Sadly, Heston was once again outsmarted by those dastardly primates; a couple of them survived the explosion and traveled back through time to the present, which is where Fox set three more films in the series before finally retiring the franchise for a couple decades.

Of the three previous prequels, the proposed storyline for Franco’s “Apes” bears the strongest resemblance to 1972’s “Conquest of the Planet of the Apes.” In it, the now-grown son of said epoch-hopping simians leads the world’s population of enslaved apes, who are kept as pets after a space virus kills every dog and cat on the planet — Damn you all to hell, space virus! — in an armed revolution against humanity.

Headache-inducing time travel paradoxes aside, “Conquest” is actually a pretty interesting movie, far edgier than most modern Hollywood sequels (or non-sequels, for that matter). Honoring the allegory of the original “Planet of the Apes,” “Conquest” is a none-too-thinly veiled civil rights parable, with the super-intelligent Caesar (Roddy McDowall) cast as a Malcolm X-esque freedom fighter. Honoring the original “Apes”‘s mega-depressing ending, “Conquest” concludes with nothing less than the fall of humanity.

052102010_conquest2.jpgCaesar fights his captors, sets fire to the compound where he and his fellow apes were kept, and gives an impassioned monologue against oppression. “From this day forward,” Caesar declares, “my people will crouch, and conspire, and plot, and plan for the inevitable day of Man’s downfall… the day of the writing in the sky, when your cities lie buried under radioactive rubble!” Then Caesar and his ape troops beat all the surviving humans to death.

Test audiences were so (understandably) freaked out by the brutality of a movie about dudes in rubber monkey masks that Fox recut the conclusion in an attempt to soften it. The theatrical version ditched some of the mass slaughter and added a conciliatory coda to Caesar’s speech. Yeah, the world’s afire and mankind’s on the downward slope, but Caesar says he’s going to be a humane ruler. So it’s a happy ending!

As Tim Burton already proved, cooler prosthetic makeup does not a better “Apes” make. More than the (admittedly terrific) John Chambers masks, the original “Apes” movies were great because they took risks, buried all sorts of timely social commentary into their sci-fi stories and had their courage to carry out their cynical convictions to explosive extremes.

The synopsis for the new film sounds like it shares “Conquest”‘s basic outline, but it’s hard to imagine a 2011 blockbuster ending on a downer like a metaphorical race war. Casting the intrepid Franco — who’s so fearless he just announced he’s returning for a second stint on the soap opera “General Hospital” — is a good first step for “Rise of the Apes,” but if they really want to make something worthy of the series’ legacy, they better be ready to go all the way with it.

Here’s the original “Conquest” ending:

[Photos: “Conquest of the Planet of the Apes,” 20th Century Fox, 1972]


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.