TV Review: The Walking Dead 7.16 “The First Day Of The Rest Of Your Life” (dir by Greg Nicotero)


(SPOILERS, OF COURSE)

I will be the first admit that I’ve been very critical of season 7 of The Walking Dead.  I’ve spent weeks complaining about the pace of the story and episodes that didn’t seem to go anywhere.  I have been very open about my frustration with the one-dimensional villainy of Negan and my feeling that Rick Grimes is an incredibly overrated hero.  I don’t take any of that back.

But you know what?

The seventh season finale of The Walking Dead was pretty damn good.  Don’t get me wrong.  It wasn’t great.  There were still pacing problems.  There was still way too much time spent on Negan chuckling before launching into one of his marathon monologues.  I would have preferred that, instead of ending with Negan announcing, “We are going to war!,” that the episode had ended with the war already over and Negan vanquished.

But, even with all that in mind, The First Day Of The Rest Of Your Life was a well-executed finale and it went a long way towards making up for some season seven’s weaker moments.

At first, it didn’t seem like that would be the case.  When the show started with Sasha in what appeared to be a cell, I will admit to rolling my eyes a little.  “Please, God, no more cell monologues,” I thought as Negan popped into her cell and proceeded to give a monologue.  Now that I know that Sasha was in the process of committing suicide, her scenes with Abraham and Maggie are undeniably poignant.  But, at the time that I was first watching them, I have to admit that my first thought was that Abraham was getting more dialogue now that he was dead than he ever did while he was alive.  When Abraham said that Maggie was carrying the future in her, I thought to myself, “She’s been carrying the future for two years.  Is that baby ever going to be born?”

And, when Dwight told Rick that he had a plan and Rick asked to hear it, the only thing that kept me from throwing a shoe at the TV was that I wasn’t wearing any.  “Rick doesn’t have a plan!?” I snapped, “All this time and he hasn’t come up with a plan!?  No wonder Carl’s always looking for a new father figure!”

And then, finally, when the Scavengers revealed that they had been working with the Saviors all the time, I chalked it up to another case of Rick not being the strategic genius that everyone always seems to assume that he is.  As Rick stood there with guns pointed at him, I mentally prepared myself for the task of having to sit through yet another Negan monologue.

At the time, I didn’t realize how skillfully The Walking Dead was toying with me and my expectations.  In retrospect, I can see how perfectly the show played me.  Of course, I would be frustrated with Rick.  And, of course, I would be dreading the idea of another Negan speech.  And, just when I was on the verge of giving up, the show gave us…

ZOMBIE SASHA!

The moment that Zombie Sasha burst out of that coffin is destined to be remembered as the 2nd greatest moment in the history of season 7.  This was the only time that I can think of that anyone on the show made a deliberate decision to use zombiefication to turn themselves into a weapon.  I’m going to assume that Eugene secretly slipped her some poison before she got in the coffin.  It was too bad that Sasha had to die but, if you have to die, die with style.  At least this is one death that Rick wasn’t indirectly responsible for.  The blame for this one can be put on Rosita.

You may have noticed that Zombie Sasha was my choice for the 2nd greatest moment of season 7.  What was the first?

RESCUE SHIVA!

After the disruption of Zombie Sasha, the Saviors thought they had regained control of the situation.  Carl and Rick were on their knees.  Negan was starting another monologue.  I was starting to get frustrated again.  And suddenly, out of nowhere, a tiger pounced!  Ezekiel and the Kingdom showed up and basically kicked a lot of Savior ass.  Negan fled.  He may have extended his middle finger as he drove out of there but there’s no way to deny that the bully finally get his ass kicked.  After all that has happened over the course of this season, it was nice to see Negan not only twice fail to complete a monologue but also get his ass kicked by a bunch of Renaissance Faire actors.  It was pure chaos and it was beautiful.

As for the rest of the show, Rick somehow quickly recovered from being shot in the stomach and Michonne survived getting beaten half-to-death.  Carl still has his one good eye and Father Gabriel showed up long enough to let us know that he’s still alive.

The Saviors lost a battle and, when Season 8 begins in October, it’s going to be time for war.

I’ll be watching.

Will you?

A Movie A Day #85: Blue Skies Again (1983, directed by Richard Michaels)


As Lisa said in her review of Night Game, Erin asked for baseball reviews today and there is no way you can turn down Erin.  So, I watched Blue Skies Again on YouTube.

The Denver Devils is a minor league baseball team that is coming off of its worst season ever.  The new owner (Harry Hamlin) is only concerned with making money and does not know anything about baseball.  The veteran coach (Kenneth McMillan) does not have the respect of his players.  Teammates like Ken (Andy Garcia), Calvin (Joseph Gian), and Wall Street (Cylk Cozart) are worried that they could lose their place on the team at any moment.  The only good news is that two sports agents (Mimi Rogers and Dana Elcar) have found the perfect prospect for the Devils.  This player can play second base.  This player can catch a grounder and turn it into a double play.  This player can hit the ball out of the park.  The only problem?  The player’s name is Paula (Robyn Barto) and she’s a girl!

Robyn Barto was asked to audition after a casting director saw her playing softball for her community college.  Blue Skies Again was her first film role.  In the role of a professional baseball player, Barto was a very convincing softball player.  But Barto was likable and had an engaging screen presence so it’s too bad that this movie was not only her first but also her last.  In the publicity leading up to the release of Blue Skies Again, Barto got to throw out the opening pitch at a Dodger game but that was it for her time in the spotlight.  According to one article that I found that was written ten years after the release of Blue Skies Again, Barto never regretted not having a film career and ended up coaching the softball team at her old high school.

Blue Skies Again was not only the debut of Robyn Barto but also the first feature film for both Mimi Rogers and Andy Garcia.  Garcia does not get to do much but Mimi Rogers shows off the sexy and fun screen presence that always makes me wonder why she never really became a big star.

Blue Skies Again is an okay movie but it does not add up to much.  No one wants to play with a girl but then she gets a hit so everyone changes their mind.  It’s the type of movie that, today, would be made for Hallmark or the Family Channel.  It’s a nice baseball movie but it can’t compare to the real thing.

 

 

TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.1 “The Pilot” (dir by David Lynch)


(In anticipation of the upcoming revival on Showtime, we’re rewatching and reviewing every single episode of the original Twin Peaks all through April!  Enjoy!)

“She’s dead, wrapped in plastic.”

— Pete Martell (Jack Nance) in Twin Peaks 1.1 “The Pilot”

When I was thinking about how I was going to open this review of the pilot episode for David Lynch’s iconic (and soon to be revived television series), Twin Peaks, I thought that I would start with this simple statement:

Twin Peaks opens with tears.

Then I rewatched the pilot on Netflix and I discovered that I was actually very incorrect.  Though I always think of the tears whenever I think of Twin Peaks, the pilot does not open with them.  Instead, it opens in a very David Lynch-like fashion — with signs of normalcy while Angelo Badalmenti’s ominous theme music provides hints that all is not as safe as it seems.

Really, it’s silly to try to talk about the pilot of Twin Peaks without including the opening credits because, in their deceptively simple way, they really do provide a road map of what’s to follow:

The opening credits, with their mix of shrouded atmosphere, man-made machinery and seemingly placid nature, are about as Lynchian as you can get.

Then again, the town of Twin Peaks is about as Lynchian as you can get.  Located only a few miles from the Canadian border in Washington State and surrounded by beautiful mountains and glorious wilderness, Twin Peaks is a town that seems strangely out of time.  Twin Peaks takes place in 1990s but, at times, the town seems to be stuck in the 50s.  Not the real 50s, of course.  Instead, it’s the 1950s of television, movies, and the popular imagination.  It’s a town where soulful loner James Hurley (James Marshall) wears a leather jacket and drives a motorcycle while teenage vixen Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn) dresses like Natalie Wood in Rebel Without A Cause and waits until she’s safely at her locker to slip on a pair of red high heels.  Audrey’s father, ruthless Ben Horne (Richard Beymer), makes plans to sell the town to the Norwegians while, at the local diner, wise Norma Jennings (Peggy Lipton) wearily watches over her customers.  It’s a world that could only exist in a dream and what a dream it is.

So no, the pilot of Twin Peaks does not open with tears.  Instead, it opens with Pete Martell (played by Jack Nance, the star of Lynch’s Eraserhead) going out to fish.  He tries to get a kiss from his wife, Catherine (Piper Laurie), but is coolly — but not cruelly — rebuffed.  One gets the feeling that this is a ritual that they go through every morning.  It’s only after Pete has stepped outside that he sees the girl on the shore, naked and wrapped in plastic.

That girl, of course, is Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee).  The high school homecoming queen.  The girl who did volunteer work.  The girlfriend of football player Bobby Briggs (Dana Ashbrook).  The daughter of Leland Palmer (Ray Wise), Ben Horne’s lawyer.  The best friend of Donna Hayward (Lara Flynn Boyle) and the occasional rival of Audrey Horne.  The secret girlfriend of James Hurley.

It’s after Laura is discovered that the tears begin and those tears dominate the first 30 minutes of this 90-minute pilot.  Deputy Andy (Harry Goaz) is the first to cry.  Laura’s mother (Grace Zabriskie) cries when she gets the news.  Leland cries.  Donna cries.  At the high school, a girl runs by a window, screaming.  The school principal announces that Laura has been found dead and breaks down into tears.  Only a few people don’t cry.  Ben doesn’t cry, knowing that a murder could ruin his business deal.  Bobby doesn’t cry, even when he’s arrested under suspicion of having committed murder.  (He was the last person known to have been with Laura.)  Audrey doesn’t cry and instead, appears to faintly smile at the chaos around her.

And Sheriff Harry S. Truman (Michael Ontkean) doesn’t cry.  However, that’s to be expected.  Harry is the rock on which Twin Peaks is built, both as a show and town.  He’s the least quirky character in the series.  He is law and order.  He’s got a murder to solve and making things even more urgent is that a classmate of Laura’s, Ronette Pulaski, is also missing.

The first 37 minutes of the pilot do a perfect job of establishing both the town and it’s inhabitants.  Everyone has a secret.  Everyone has a motive.  Along with those that I’ve already mentioned, we also meet waitress Shelly (Madchen Amick), who is married to an abusive trucker named Leo (Eric Da Re) and who is having an affair with Bobby.  We meet Bobby’s best friend and fellow football player, a real idiot named Mike (Gary Hershberger).  We meet Donna’s father, Doc Hayward (Warren Frost).  We meet the police dispatcher, the sweetly off-center Lucy (Kimmy Robertson).  We meet Deputy Hawk Hill (Michael Horse) who is as stoic as Andy is emotional.  We meet James’s uncle, Ed Hurley (Everett McGill) and Ed’s one-eyed, drapery-obsessed wife, Nadine (Wendy Robie).  We meet Josie Packard (Joan Chen), who inherited the mill from her late husband and who is secretly Harry’s lover.

And, after Ronette is discovered wandering, zombie-like on a bridge, we meet FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan).  More than anything else, Cooper is who people think of whenever they think of Twin Peaks.  MacLalchlan plays the quirky FBI agent with just the right combination of earnestness and eccentricity.  Speaking into his ever-present tape recorder and praising everything from the trees to the pie to the coffee, Cooper quickly establishes himself as the perfect man to figure out what’s going on in Twin Peaks.

David Lynch once famously described his previous collaboration with MacLachlan, Blue Velvet, as being the “Hardy Boys Go To Hell,” and the same can be said of Twin Peaks.  If the first 37 minutes of the pilot were dominated by sadness and secrets, the final 60 are dominated by Dale Cooper’s enthusiasm and cheerful positivity.  The town may be strange but Dale loves the trees.  Dale may be investigating horrible and brutal crimes but at least he’s found a good slice of pie and damn fine cup of coffee.

“You know why I’m whittling?” Dale asks Harry at one point.  “Because that’s what you do in a town where a yellow light means slow down instead of speed up.”  Dale smiles after he says it.  It doesn’t take him long to fall in love with Twin Peaks.

Throughout the rest of the pilot, we get more hints of a world that’s threatening to spin off of its axis.  Dale and Harry run into Dr. Lawrence Jacoby (Russ Tamblyn, who co-starred with Richard Beymer in West Side Story), who was Laura’s psychiatrist and appears to be in need of some therapy himself.  When they look at Laura’s body in the morgue, the lights flicker on and off.  When Dale finds a scrap of newspaper — featuring the letter “R” — underneath Laura’s fingernail, he grins as if he’s just made it through his first Communion.  When Harry and Dale go to the local bank, a moose’s head just happens to be lying on the table in the conference room.  It fell, they’re told.  Despite all the strangeness, they go about their business.  They’ve got a murder to solve.

“Mr. Cooper,” Harry says, at one point, “you didn’t know Laura Palmer.”  But, as quickly becomes obvious, no one knew Laura Palmer.  No one, for instance, knew that she was doing cocaine.  And Bobby didn’t know that she was seeing James, or at least he doesn’t until he watches a video that Donna, James, and Laura shot inn the mountains over looking the town.  Laura, who we’ve previously just seen as a dead body, is so happily alive in that video that it’s a bit jarring to see her.  You half expect her to come out of the TV, like the girl in The Ring.  The video ends with her smiling, as if she’s daring both Cooper and the show’s viewers to try to figure out who she actually was.  Only later is it revealed that, in a plot twist reminiscent of Dario Argento’s Four Flies on Grey Velvet, James’s motorcycle is reflected in Laura’s eye.

Life goes on in Twin Peaks.  Audrey, the character to whom I most relate whenever I watch this show, sits in her father’s hotel and penetrates a styrofoam cup of coffee with a pencil.  “What would happen if I pulled this out?” she asks before doing just that.  Audrey walks into the hotel’s conference room and tells the Norwegians that she’s feeling sad because her best friend was just brutally murdered, destroying her father’s business deal.  (“The Norwegians are leaving!  The Norwegians are leaving!” a hotel concierge vainly yells.)

(Perhaps not coincidentally, Norway was also the home of Henrik Ibsen, whose theatrical melodramas often dealt with many of the same themes — greed, infidelity, the corruption that comes with progress — that are present in Twin Peaks.  An Enemy of the People could have just just as easily taken place in the American Northwest.)

Meanwhile, the local police come across the abandoned railroad car where Laura was murdered and Ronnette raped.  Andy calls the sheriff’s office, in tears.  “Tell Harry I didn’t cry,” he begs Lucy, “but it’s so horrible!”  It’s a moment of very real humanity in the middle of this odd and disturbing mystery.  When Andy begs Lucy not to reveal his very human reaction, it’s more than just shame on his part.  It’s an indication that perhaps the only way to solve this mystery is to sacrifice one’s emotions.

And, as Andy said, it is horrible.  When Dale and Harry walk through that railway car, we are reminded that, as quirky at the show may be, a very disturbing crime is still at heart of it.  Among other things, they find a half-heart necklace (the other half is with James) and, written in blood in the debris, a message: “Fire Walk With Me.”  As disturbing as this is in the pilot (and this scene really is Lynch at his best), it’s even more disturbing if you know who will ultimately be revealed to have been Laura’s murderer.  But that information will have to wait for a later review.

It easy to believe that arrogant Bobby Briggs killed Laura but Cooper only has to talk to him for a few minutes to realize that he didn’t do it.  Bobby may be a jerk and a drug dealer.  And Cooper is surely correct when he says that Bobby never loved Laura.  But Bobby is a bully, not a murderer.  When Bobby is released, he and Mike go looking for James.  As unlikable as Bobby is, Mike — with his blonde hair and all-American looks — is somehow even worse.  At least Bobby is open about being an bad guy.  Mike hides his darker instincts behind a carefully cultivated facade of blandness.  Looking at Mike in his red letterman jacket, you really do want someone to claw his eyes out.

Mike and Bobby look for James at the Roadhouse, one of the most important locations in Twin Peaks.  It’s a place where illicit lovers (like Norma and Ed) meet and where Julee Cruise sings haunting songs.  Bobby and Mike may not find James but they do find a fight with Ed.  This leads to Bobby and Mike spending the night in jail, which, ironically, is where they eventually find James.  James has been arrested as a suspect in the death of Laura Palmer.  In their cell, Bobby and Mike start to bark like wild dogs.

And so, a pilot that started with the humanity of tears ends with animalistic howls of anger, hate, and jealousy.

And so, Twin Peaks begins.

If I haven’t already made it clear, I am huge fan of the pilot for Twin Peaks.  Say what you will about where the series eventually went, the pilot was and remains an absolutely brilliant dream of dark and disturbing things.  Having rewatched the pilot, I am definitely looking forward to rewatching the rest of the series for this site and I hope you’ll enjoy the rest of our reviews!

Previous Entries in The TSL’s Look At Twin Peaks:

  1. Twin Peaks: In the Beginning by Jedadiah Leland

Film Review: Fatal Defense (dir by John Murlowski)


Last night’s Lifetime premiere, Fatal Defense, opens with a nightmare scenario.  Arden Walsh (Ashley Scott) is attacked in her home by a masked intruder.  While her daughter, Emma (Sophie Guest), sleeps upstairs, Arden is bound and gagged in the living room.  Fortunately, the intruder is scared off before he can do anything else but both Arden and her daughter are haunted by nightmares afterward.

What can Arden do to reclaim her safety?

Get a gun.

That was my immediate reaction.  Just go out and buy a gun.  The next time you think that you see someone wandering around in the back yard, fire a warning shot.  If that doesn’t work, aim for the head.  See, that’s one reason why I love my sister.  I may be terrified of guns but she’s a great shot.

However, Arden doesn’t get a gun.  Even though her totally kickass sister, Gwen (Laurie Fortier), suggests that Arden take advantage of her constitutional rights, Arden doesn’t want a gun in the house.  Maybe she doesn’t trust Emma.  Then again, she does live in the People’s Republic of California and it would probably be a lot more difficult for her to get a gun than it would be for me to get a gun here in Texas.  Who knows?

So, since Jerry Brown won’t let her defend herself with a gun, what ever can Arden do?

She and Gwen do a google search for self-defense classes and they come across an old Geocities site for Logan Chase (David Cade).  Logan not only knows how to break someone’s arm but he looks good without a shirt as well!  Plus, he apparently teaches his self-defense class in a tiki bar.  Gwen enrolls and, one montage later, she can now kick ass with the best of them!

(While I understand that you can learn how to do practically anything in a montage, I was still impressed.  My knowledge of self-defense is basically either use mace or, if you can’t get to your mace, yell, “I don’t know you!  That’s my purse!”  and then kick like a Rockette.)

Unfortunately, Logan has some issues.  He seems like a nice guy and a good teacher and it’s kind of sweet in a creepy way when he suddenly shows up at the Los Angeles Arboretum, where Arden is apparently one of two employees.  However, Logan is soon talking about how his ex-girlfriend was murdered because she didn’t know to fight back.  He also has a habit of suddenly yelling about how, if Arden doesn’t learn how to defend herself, she’ll never be able to fight off psychos like him.  That may seem like a red flag but he is kind of cute and that GeoCities web site of his was pretty impressive.  But then Logan suddenly puts handcuffs on Arden’s wrists and locks her in the trunk of his car.  Things kind of go down hill after that…

My twitter friends and I had a lot of fun last night, watching and snarking on Fatal Defense.  It was a fun and entertaining Lifetime film, one that mixed over the top melodrama with some real-world concerns.  (I mean, let’s be honest.  We all need to know how to defend ourselves.  It’s a scary world.)  This is one of those films where it’s best not to worry too much about whether or not the plot totally makes sense.  Myself, I was amazed that Arden could afford such a nice and big house.  I guess the Los Angeles Arboretum pays well.  But, at the same time, that’s why we watch Lifetime movies!  We don’t want to see the cramped apartments that most people live in.  We want to see big beautiful houses and big beautiful melodrama.  On both counts, Fatal Defense delivered.

That said, it’s still hard not to feel that Arden could have avoided a lot of trouble if she had just got a gun.

The only defense you need.

The TSL’s Grindhouse: Night Game (dir by Peter Masterson)


Apparently, today is the opening day of the 2017 baseball season.  The only reason that I know that is because of my sister Erin.  I don’t know much about baseball, to be honest.  I know that my city’s team is the Texas Rangers and they were once owned by George W. Bush.  I know that Houston has a team called the Astros.  But, really, the main thing that I know about baseball is that my sister absolutely loves it.

So, when Erin asked me to review a baseball movie today, how could I say no?  I mean, I may know next to nothing about baseball but I certainly know something about movies!

For that reason, I’m going to take a few minutes to tell you about a 1989 film called Night Game.  Night Game is many things.  It’s a movies that features a lot of baseball, even though it’s not really a sports film per se.  It’s a police procedural, though the film itself suggests that the police often don’t have the slightest idea what they’re actually doing.  It’s a serial killer film, though its killer is never quite as loquacious as we’ve come to expect in this age of Hannibal Lecter and Dexter Morgan.  At times, it’s a slasher film, though it’s never particularly graphic.  Mostly, Night Game is a Texas film.

Directed by native Texan Peter Masterson, Night Game is like the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre in that it is one of those rare films that not only takes place in Texas but was actually filmed on location.  To be exact, Night Game was filmed in both Galveston and Houston.  The entire film has a friendly and quirky Texas feel to it.  Masterson may not have been a great visual director (If not for some language and nudity, Night Game could pass for a TV movie) but Night Game is a movie where the plot is less important than capturing the little details of a time. a location, and the people who lived there.  Though Night Game is 28 years old, it’s portrait of my home state still seemed very contemporary to me.  I guess Texas hasn’t really changed that much over the past few decades.

As for the film’s plot, someone is murdering young women in Galveston and leaving their bodies on the boardwalk.  Obviously, that’s not going to be good for attracting Spring Break revelers.  The film doesn’t make any effort to keep the murderer’s identity a secret.  We see his face fairly early on.  We also see that he has a hook for a hand.  Eventually, we do learn the murderer’s motives.  They’re pretty silly but then again, individual motives rarely make sense to anyone other than the guy with the hook for a hand.

Detective Mike Seaver (Roy Scheider) has been assigned to solve the case.  One thing that I really liked about Night Game was that Mike was pretty much just a normal guy with a job to do.  He wasn’t self-destructive.  He wasn’t always drunk.  He wasn’t suicidal.  He wasn’t always lighting a cigarette and staring at the world through bloodshot eyes while the lighting reflected off of his artful stubble.  He was just a detective trying to do his job and get home on time.  After sitting through countless films about self-destructive cops and criminal profilers, the normalcy of Mike was a nice change of pace.

Mike does have a backstory.  He used to play baseball and he still loves the game.  He goes to every Astros home game in Houston.  He’s in love with Roxy (Karen Young), who works at the stadium.  Things are only slightly complicated by the fact that Mike had a previous relationship with Roxy’s mother (Carlin Glynn).  Don’t worry, Mike’s not secretly Roxy’s father or anything like that.  It’s not that type of movie.

Anyway, Mike is such a fan of baseball that he realizes something.  The killer only strikes on nights that the Astros win a game.  And he only strikes if a certain pitcher was throwing the ball.  The obvious solution would be to shoot the pitcher in the arm and end his athletic career.  However, Mike’s too nice a guy to do that.  Instead, he just tries to track down the killer…

And, as I said, Night Game actually isn’t a bad little movie.  Make no mistake, it’s a very slight movie.  At no point are you going to say, “I’m going to remember that scene for the rest of my life!”  That said, it’s a surprisingly good-natured film and Roy Scheider’s performance is likable and unexpectedly warm.  With all that in mind, Night Game is an entertaining and (mildly) bloody valentine to my home state.

Plus, it’s a baseball movie!  I don’t know much about baseball but, if my sister loves it, it has to be a good thing!

Anya Davidson’s “Lovers In The Garden” : A Blast From The Past With Timeless Sensibilities


Trash Film Guru

Don’t look now, but it appears as though toiling away with too little recognition for far too long is finally paying off for superb cartoonist Anya Davidson, who is having something of a “moment” in the (admittedly rather insular) world of “alternative” and/or “underground” comics. Her strip “Hypatia’s Last Hours” was one of the standout entries in Kramers Ergot #9, the handsome hardback collection of her Band For Life web comics from Fantagraphics was one of the best-reviewed titles of last year, and she’s now followed up those successes with the release of her new long (-ish) form original hard-boiled crime/period piece Lovers In The Garden, yet another distinctive release to see the light of day under the auspices of the Retrofit Comics/ Big Planet Comics co-publishing venture. Set  smack dab in the middle of New York’s 1970s heroin epidemic, this comic definitely wears its Serpico-style “police…

View original post 486 more words