Friday, June 30, 2017

Twin Peaks Season 3 Mid-Season Review

I completely missed season one of Twin Peaks when it originally aired.  For sake of argument, we'll just say I was too young, (don't question it, just accept it).  But the unique power and popularity of this 1990 series could be felt pre-internet buzz.  So prior to the season two premiere, I was curious enough to watch the hour long recap of the first season, explaining all the characters and strange nuances of this small northwestern town.  

And to clarify, it is a small town of 5,120 residence, despite what the welcome sign says at the opening credits.  Apparently, the network preferred a bigger city, prompting creators to add another digit to the population.  Later they justified it by saying the sign has a typo.  Which seems accurate in this unusual town.

So, what I learned from this recap, is there are three elements to Twin Peaks:
1.  A silly part
2.  A mysterious part
3.  A weird part

All of which I love, so I was sold!

I became even more invested watching the intro of season two, with Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) laying on the ground after being shot, talking to himself about the experience... and then suddenly a giant appeared to give him some cryptic clues.

I instantly became a huge fan, re-watching episodes repeatedly, buying magazines about the show (Wrapped in Plastic), getting all the soundtracks, and purchasing several books, including Laura Palmer's Secret Diary, and The Autobiography of Special Agent Dale Cooper: My Life, My Tapes (which I highly recommend!).

So yes, I'd call myself a fan.

And now, based on a passing comment in season one during a dream sequence, David Lynch and co-creator Mark Frost, revive the series twenty-five (ish) years later.

Before diving into season three, I wanted to re-watch the first two seasons, as well as the prequel movie, just to remind myself what It was all about.

I'm glad I did because I made some interesting discoveries. 

Season one is still awesome!  Eight episodes, each one with strange interesting characters, moving the story forward. 

Season two, is not so good.  Of course there's still plenty to love.  But with twenty-two episodes, they had a lot of space to fill.  Often it seemed they had no idea where to go with the story, or what to do with so many characters.

It's interesting to note however, other than creating the show, David Lynch only directed and co-wrote a few episodes.  Mark Frost seemed more involved in writing the series, but mostly they were dependent on a random group of other writers and directors.

So I'm curious, did these other contributors make the show more cohesive?  Dare I say... common? 

Season two started strong, and held up for about nine episodes. But what followed may have been too "mundane" for fans to accept, which resulted in it's eventual cancellation.  Fortunately the finale returned to it's weird roots, and left us all wanting more.  But everything prior to the powerful conclusion felt like it was dragging it's feet, not the jazzy shuffling little person we grew to love.

Soon after the series ended, we did get the theatrical release of the prequel, Fire Walk With Me.  But maybe audiences weren't quite ready to accept Lynch in all his freaky glory. It was booed at Cannes Film Festival, (although currently it's showing 61% on Rotten Tomatoes).  So with such a poor reception, and bad box office returns, the studio cancelled any plans for a sequel.

But maybe in the crazy, mixed up world of 2017, we are finally ready for David Lynch's visual insanity.  But more importantly, as eager as fans are to return, does Lynch want to revisit the town of Twin Peaks?

Well, midway through season three, I have good news and bad news.  There are moments that will put a big smile on your face.  But there are many more moments that will make you question your own sanity, or consider the real possibility that someone might have actually drugged you before the episode began.

Kyle MacLachlan is still an important part of the show, although after so much time has passed and considering his experiences, he's not the same Special Agent Dale Cooper we knew and loved.  And don't expect to see much involvement with other regular cast members.  Many appear as brief (obligatory?) cameos, and seem completely unnecessary to the plot.  But for me, seeing some of those legacy characters appear were the best moments so far. 

It also feels as if the town of Twin Peaks itself is a cameo, since we spend so little time there.  Most of the show takes place everywhere from South Dakota, New York, New Mexico and of course 'the other place' (Black Lodge?).  Is it still Twin Peaks if during an hour long episode, we only spend five minutes in the sheriff's office, and another few minutes in the Roadhouse for a musical interlude?

Which brings me to another great aspect of the series: The music.  I do love the music they chose for season three, but don't expect the same jazzy/industrial orchestra as before.  Many scenes have no music, or at most an eerie music bed, where you might expect something to play.  It's as if Lynch holds back just letting the scene speak for itself.  But later, we get a great band with a full performance in the local biker bar.  It's different, but still good. 

I wouldn't say you should lower your expectations, but simply change them.  If you love David Lynch, and enjoy feeling like your brain is being bombarded by radiation while on acid, you will like season three.

You still get all three elements, (silly, mysterious, and weird), but maybe the balance feels off for me.  Too much weird.  I can appreciate the visuals, but I'm always looking for a story.  I never want to watch a twenty minute Youtube video explaining what I just watched, (which I've had to do).

It feels like Lynch/Frost are dropping breadcrumbs for me to enjoy each episode.  I do like many aspects of it, (great cameos, all the disturbing and unique visuals, and of course the music), and of course I'm eager to know where the story is going.  But maybe it just feels like I'm a drug addict, wanting more and more, and then after each episode, I'm filled with regret.  
Does this mean I've 'peaked' too soon?

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Wonder Woman Review

There are so many things I could say about women, and their portrayal in movies and television!  But as a guy, I'm extremely unqualified to write anything about it, and just barely smart enough to know that I shouldn't even try.

And I really can't say I'm an expert on Wonder Woman either, because I've never followed the comics.  But, I loved the Lynda Carter 1975-1979 series!  She's always been the perfect embodiment of what I felt Wonder Woman should be.  If you're interested, I recommend watching season two and three when the show was moved to a new network and took place in modern times. Even as a kid watching, I remember thinking the World War II stories in season one were cheesy. 

I'd also suggest the Justice League animated series from 2001 which often featured Wonder Woman, as well as her solo animated movie from 2009.  For a long time, I kept shouting, "Why don't they make a live action version of this!"  

But nobody ever listens to me.  Instead, we get:

Is it wrong for me to ask how this version of Wonder Woman... stacks up to others?   I have a feeling I will be apologizing a lot after writing this...

Traditionally, Wonder Woman was associated with World War II.  However, someone at DC/WB decided to move her origin story a bit further back to begin in World War I.  This way nobody would try to confuse/compare it with Marvel/Disney's Captain America: The First Avenger.  But in the world of 2017, I don't think people notice the difference.  It's still a war against Germans.

And the Amazon women on the island of Themyscira don't know the difference either, because they are hidden and completely isolated from the world of men (which could be for the best).  Until Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) shows up accidentally, bringing the war with him.  Typical. 

Yes, this is an origin story.  And as far as theatrical superhero/heroine origins go, this was awesome!  After so many misses from DC/WB, it's nice to finally see them do it right.  They created a fun and cohesive story that kept me entertained from beginning to end.  In my (simple) mind, I don't think they made a movie for women or for men.  They just made a movie that everyone could enjoy.  And if someone tries to tell you it's just a rip-off of Captain America... they're an idiot!  Other than fighting Germans in a war, there are soooo many differences.   

And yes, I know casting Gal Gadot as Diana was not anyone's first choice (or second... or third choice).  But she did fine.  I sort of accepted her accent since she was far removed from America.  I could even accept her physicality for the role.  I know prior to filming, she had been training hard to appear less frail, and it showed.  She had the intensity when needed, but remained feminine as well.  She also played a great fish out of water character, but still appeared emotionally invested during key moments.  I didn't see her (or anyone in the cast) delivering an Oscar winning performance, but none of the acting took me out of the movie either.  I did appreciate all the key characters.  Everyone in their final ensemble were well crafted and interesting, creating a lot of depth to the story.

But all hail the real Wonder Woman here:  Director Patty Jenkins.  I could see the action, and I loved her use of colors!  *gasp*  I don't think DC/WB has accepted color since Christopher Nolan banned them in Batman Begins from 2005.  To me, this has always been the biggest difference between the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and DC.  Marvel knew how to make things colorful.  DC seemed to film everything in mud... in the dark.  After seeing how well Wonder Woman worked visually, I sincerely hope that DC/WB producers can finally understand that sharp reds, blues, and well lit scenes will not terrify audiences.

And I know, a lot of people have said that Patty's use of slow motion during fight scenes was overused, and most likely stolen from Zack Snyder.  To this I say Bah!  I always loved the slow motion fights from Zack!  But I don't think she borrowed/stole this idea from him.  Maybe producers heavily suggested it to her, but I clearly remember watching awesome fight scenes on television from the Six Million Dollar Man, Bionic Woman, Incredible Hulk, AND Wonder Woman, where they often fought in slow motion.  Those were fun!  Okay, sure it's always nice if a movie has impressive fight choreography, but to me, I want to see the camera pulled back so I can watch it.  Sadly, too often you can't see it because the camera is so close, or the scene is edited too quickly.  If those are my options, I'll take slow mo any day.   

So yes, I was pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable Wonder Woman was.  Maybe if you're not into fantasy/comic book stories, this isn't really for you.  But if you are, it's a very well directed movie, with some interesting characters, while making some very powerful statements about war, and gender differences, without being preachy.

But I still think they created the worst theme song ever (which originated in Batman vs Superman).  That annoying guitar riff seemed a bit more buried in orchestration here, but it was still there, grinding painfully into my brain.  Maybe they should have let a woman create her theme song.

Okay, I think I've done enough mansplaining for now.