And more from our Liz: “Dirty Dancing” tangos again … Call me old-fashioned, but spare me the iPad
“WHILE THE rest of the species is descended from apes, redheads are descended from cats,” said Mark Twain.
* * *
THE OTHER day I mentioned that no matter how often I see that famous last scene in the first “Planet of the Apes” movie — Charlton Heston discovering the ruined, half-buried Statue of Liberty — I cry right along with him. It is a powerful moment, still.
Nothing else in the “Apes” franchise ever came close to the original, although almost all the films had some merit —“Beneath the Planet of the Apes”… “Escape from the Planet of the Apes” … “Conquest of the Planet of the Apes” and “Battle for the Planet of the Apes.” There were two TV series (one animated) and Tim Burton’s unfortunate 2001 remake of the original, starring Mark Wahlberg.
With original ideas in short supply, it seemed a given in this era of the “re-boot” that the “Apes” franchise would be revived. And indeed it has been, with Rupert Wyatt’s “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.” The surprise is — it is terrific!
It’s the tale of how the apes were genetically engineered in the first place, how they became such clever (and vengeful) little monkeys. I won’t give anything away. The film’s human stars are James Franco, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, Tom Felton and Brian Cox. They all perform their tricks admirably. The atmosphere is tense and ominous — well, we know what’s coming. It’s not campy, the grown-up and very much irritated apes are not cute or eye-rollingly over-the-top.
And why is that? Because director Wyatt made the brilliant decision to create the apes via the technology of CGI. Many “Apes” purists were wary. Humans in ape makeup were de rigueur. But let me assure you, these CGI creatures are fantastic — every expression, every movement. If things keep up at this rate, we might have to consider adding “Best CGI Actor” at the Oscars. (This year’s winner would have to be Caesar, the big man in the laboratory, who learns much more than the human scientists could ever imagine.)
Even if you’ve never seen a “Planet of the Apes” movie — if that is, ah, humanly possible — this is a fabulous summer sci-fi thriller. And die-hard fans of the franchise can’t help but be pleased.
Of course, if you insist on Mr. Heston in his loincloth, screaming, “Take your paws off me you damn dirty apes!”— that’s what DVD is for.
* * *
SPEAKING of remakes and lack of imagination, Kenny Ortega, who choreographed 1987’s “Dirty Dancing” has signed on to direct a remake of that movie. Not like the 2004 prequel, “Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights.” Nope, this one will take us right back to the Catskills in the 1960s where good girl “Baby” becomes infatuated with the resort’s dancing instructor, Johnny Castle.
Having just been quite pleasantly surprised by the “Apes” re-imagining, I don’t want to get down on this before the first foot of film is shot, or anybody has been cast, but —come on, who on earth will have the chemistry of Patrick Swayze at his sizzling peak, and Jennifer Grey at her most vulnerable and adorable? Not to mention the invaluable contribution of the late Jerry Orbach as Baby’s father.
I recall attending an early screening of “Dirty Dancing.” When the lights came up, every woman — and a number of men — looked flushed, vaguely guilty, and all were wickedly smiling. One PR woman — not given to flowery excess — passed me on the way out and declared, “This is the sexiest thing I’ve ever seen. Patrick Swayze is a god!”
We’ll see what Mr. Ortega dreams up for the new “Dirty Dancing.” Zac Efron, maybe? Efron has been a favorite of Kenny’s since their Disney “High School Musical” days. In fact, when Ortega was attached to the coming remake of “Footloose,” he very much wanted Zac in the Kevin Bacon role. But all that fell through.
* * *
A FEW NIGHTS ago I saw a commercial for the iPad. It was a well-done spot, about how we will all continue to read books and newspapers and magazines, share and save photographs and movies, teach children, find out where to eat and where to play and how to get here from there, but “the way we do it will never be the same.”
I don’t know. It kind of gave me a chill. I don’t want to live my life with my head bent, looking into my hand. And I consider myself a modern woman with a youthful outlook who keeps on top of news and trends. The iPad is just one trend too many.
I was reminded of inevitably changing times when I received a newsletter from the wonderful Carole Stuart of Barricade Books. She writes that because of the ease of ordering on Amazon, “Bookstores are ordering very cautiously. But books that you can hold in your hand remain a vital part of our business. What sells a book is still the same old word of mouth. If you hear about, read about it, a friend tells you about a good book, you are more likely to buy it. Whatever the format, as long as people are buying books, we’ll be supplying them.”
Carole adds that her company, Barricade, has plunged into the world of e-books, to be read online or on Kindle.
I get it. But still — as long as they supply books made of paper, with proper pages to turn, I’ll stay old-fashioned in that way.