THE BLOG
08/12/2011 10:57 am ET | Updated Oct 12, 2011

Summer of the Hominids

This is a kind of a film review. Although I'm an evolutionary biologist by training, not a movie critic. And, truth be known, I've seen just three films this summer. Five if you count streaming Network (1976) and Richard Pryor Live On The Sunset Strip (1982) on Netflix. So, let's just call this a strong film mashup recommendation, rather than a review or a critique.

Do whatever you have to do to see the following two films in immediate sequence, back-to-back, double feature style:

Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Project Nim.

The order doesn't matter (although I saw them in this order: Rise followed by Nim).

Plan efficient and timely transport between the theaters if they aren't conveniently located under one roof. For me, it was fortunately a simple matter of walking a few blocks across downtown Santa Cruz between the "Hollywood" theater and the "Independent" theater. The key is to enter into the second film with thoughts, sounds and images from the first one still sizzling in your neurons.

I don't want to say too much about either film -- both have been thoroughly reviewed -- except that there are uncanny similarities, synergies and connections in plot, historic roots in the 1970s, cautionary messages and character developments that I wondered if there was coordination or communication between the writers, directors, actors and entertaining real-life characters. The stories both explored the ape-human relationship and flowed together so much that my memories of the two films have blurred into one four hour ape-a-thon retro chimp-epic.

Was Columbia University scientist Herb played by James Franco, did baby chimp Cesar breast feed from his adopted human hippie mother and which film had keepers who used their shock sticks to make up for their own insecurities?

Either film alone would have been enjoyable and stimulating for vastly different reasons. And perhaps you've already read the reviews, seen the trailers, heard NPR conversations, entertained the nostalgic opinions of friends and made your judgements. But consumed tightly together as a unit, these films are the spectacular docu-blockbuster mashup hit of the summer.

Trust me on this. One plus One equals Twelve in this case.

See them together, and let the neuroses and psychoses, empathies and altruisms, dreams and desires of our evolving Hominidaen family tree entertain and provoke you.

[Note: Disneynature's Chimpanzee doesn't hit theaters until Earth Day 2012, otherwise I'd be recommending an unprecedented triple-feature Ape-Fest].