“Plastic” Is Fantastic


Trash Film Guru

Maybe I’m just a crusty old-timer who yearns for days gone by, but goddamnit — I miss having comics on the store shelves that were sick and wrong.

Oh, sure, plenty of series have moments here and there designed to shock — Saga is certainly famous for it, although such instances been fewer and farther between lately — but books with a genuinely twisted and perverted core premise are in painfully short supply, and have been for some time. Thank goodness (or, more likely, its polar opposite) then for a couple of upstanding gentlemen I admit to never having heard of before named Doug Wagner and Daniel Hillyard.

Granted, the first issue of their new Image Comics five-parter, Plastic (which comes our way under the auspices of the suddenly-surging 12-Gauge Comics studio/imprint) isn’t going to make you suddenly forget all about the work of gleeful reprobates like S. Clay…

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Film Review: Free Fire (dir by Ben Wheatley)


Last night, I saw Free Fire, the latest film from the visionary British directing-and-screenwriting team of Ben Wheatley and Amy Jump.

Free Fire takes place in Boston in the 1970s.  We know it’s the 70s because of all the wide lapels, the flared jeans, and the impressive facial hair.  In short, everyone looks like an extra from Thank God, It’s Friday.  Note that I said Thank God, It’s Friday and not Saturday Night Fever.  None of the characters in Free Fire could pull off John Travolta’s white suit.  As much as they try to pretend otherwise, everyone in this film is low rent.  No one is as clever or street smart as they believe themselves to be.  Even more importantly, no one is as good a shot as they think.

The film takes place in a decrepit warehouse, the type of place that is strewn with rats and hypodermic needles.  Chris (Cillian Murphy), Frank (Michael Smiley), Steve-O (Sam Riley), and Bernie (Enzo Cilenti) are members of the Irish Republican Army and they’ve come to the U.S. to purchases weapons.  Chris and Frank are no-nonsense professionals.  Bernie is a well-meaning moron.  Steve-O is a drug addict who, the previous night, got beaten up after he smashed a bottle across the face of a 17 year-old girl.

Working as intermediaries are Justine (Brie Larson) and Ord (Armie Hammer).  Justine specializes in keeping jumpy people calm.  She and Chris flirt as they wait for the guns to arrive.  As for Ord — well, let’s just say that Ord was my favorite character in the film.  He’s always calm.  He looks really good in a suit.  And, whenever things get intense, he’s always quick to light up a joint and make a sarcastic comment.  This is probably the best performance of Armie Hammer’s career so far.  (Or, at the very least, it’s the best performance of his that I’ve seen.  I hear that he gives an excellent performance in the upcoming Call Me By Your Name.)  Certainly, this is the first film that I’ve seen, since The Social Network, in which Hammer seemed to be truly worthy of the hype that has surrounded his career.

Finally, there’s the gun dealers themselves.  There’s Martin (Babou Ceesay), who seems to be fairly low-key professional.  There’s Gordon (Noah Taylor), who is a henchman who looks disconcertingly similar to Chris.  And then there’s Vernon, who is from South Africa and who is constantly talking and smiling.  Not surprisingly, Vernon is played by Sharlto Copley.  Finally, Harry (Jack Reynor) is a driver who desperately wants to impress Ord.  Harry loves John Denver and he also loves his cousin.  In fact, he loves his cousin so much that, when he recognizes Steve-O as the junkie who smashed a bottle across her face, Harry pulls a gun and starts firing.

The rest of the film deals with the resulting gun fight, which is complicated with two mysterious snipers (Patrick Bergin and Mark Monero) suddenly open fire on both of the groups.  Who hired them and why?  That’s a mystery that could be solved if everyone stops shooting and yelling at each other.  Of course, that’s not going to happen because 1) no one is a good enough shot to actually get the upper hand and 2) almost everyone in the warehouse is an idiot.

At it’s best, Free Fire mercilessly parodies the excessive violence of modern crime cinema.  When it comes to crime films, most people just remember the shoot outs so Free Fire takes things to their logical extreme by just being a 90-minute gun fight.  At its weakest, Free Fire occasionally becomes exactly what it’s parodying.  The film’s structure — one night in one location — proves to be limiting.  At times, you find yourself really wishing for a flashback or at least a little exposition to explain who everyone is outside of that warehouse.  The cast is full of good actors and they all give good performances but the characters are, at best, thinly drawn.  At times, it was difficult to keep track who was who.  I especially found myself mixing up Michel Smiley and Sharlto Copely.  It was all the facial hair.

About 30 minutes into Free Fire, I was already composing a bad review in my head but, by the final shot (and yes, the double meaning is totally intentional), Free Fire had won me over.  It’s an experiment that doesn’t really work but it’s so relentless and dedicated to seeing its story to its conclusion that I couldn’t help but appreciate the film’s efforts.  When the guns finally did stop firing and the end credits started, I was shocked to discover that, without even realizing it, I actually had gotten just a little caught up in the film’s story.

Ben Wheatley and Amy Jump previously gave us one of the most memorable films of the decade (so far), A Field in England.  Free Fire might not quite work but I’ll always make the time to see the latest from Wheatley and Jump.

 

A Movie A Day #104: True Blood (1989, directed by Richard Kerr)


Ten years after being wrongly accused of murdering a cop, Raymond Trueblood (Jeff Fahey) returns to the old neighborhood.  Ray has just finished a stint with the Marines and he is no longer the irresponsible hoodlum that he once was.  He wants to rescue his younger brother, Donny (Chad Lowe), from making the same mistakes that he made.  But Donny now hates Ray and is running with Ray’s former friend, Spider Masters (Billy Drago).  Spider is also responsible for framing Ray for killing the cop.  When he is not trying to save his brother, Ray falls in love with Jennifer Scott (Sherilyn Fenn), a tough waitress who is soon being menaced by Spider.

Like Crime Zone, True Blood is typical of the type of B-movies that Sherilyn Fenn was stuck in before being cast as Audrey Horne in Twin Peaks.  It’s a nothing part but Fenn is authentic and sincere in the part and, as usual, Fenn’s performance is one of the best things about the movie.

Overall, True Blood is predictable but it is still better than the typical late 80s B-movie.  Chad Lowe is never believable as a member of a street gang but Jeff Fahey does a good Clint Eastwood impersonation as Ray and Billy Drago is, as always, a great villain.  Fans of Dawn of the Dead will want to keep an eye out for Ken Foree as one of the detectives investigating Ray.

TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.12 “The Black Widow” (directed by Caleb Deschanel)


Twin Peaks

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome back to Twin Peaks!

Here we are at Episode 12 of Season 2, “The Black Widow” was directed by Caleb Deschanel, who happens to be the father of Emily (Bones) and Zooey (New Girl). The episode opens with Bobby Briggs (Dana Ashbrook) paying a visit to Ben Horne (Richard Beymer). Ben is somewhat down on his luck, having learned the truth about Audrey’s (Sherilyn Fenn) visit to One Eyed Jack’s and Hank (Chris Mulkey) informing him that the brothel has been taken over by Jean Renault (Michael Parks). Ben gives Bobby a mission to follow Hank and get him on film, handing him a camera. Anything mischievous or crazy, Ben needs it for blackmail.

On the way out of Ben’s office, Bobby watches a screaming Lana Milford (Robyn Lively, who I found out is actress Blake Lively’s sister) as she runs through the hallways. Given the title of the episode, I think we may be able to get an idea of what happened.

Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) is finally settling down in Twin Peaks, and with a realtor in his office, he’s given two options for Open Houses. Being Dale, he leaves the decision to chance with the flip of a quarter. The quarter spins and lands on the picture of a third property that was left out. The realtor tells him that the property is known as “Dead Dog Farm”, and no one really stays there long. It’s the place for Dale and he asks to see it right away.

Judy Swain (Molly Shannon, SNL)  from the Happy Helping Hands Organization stops by the precinct to speak with Andy (Harry Goaz), Lucy (Kimmy Robertson) and Dick (Ian Buchanan) about little Nicky (Joshua Harris). Judy has some interesting news on Little Nicky. It turns out that his parents were killed by mysterious circumstances, and he was bounced around to various homes. Judy doesn’t say whether Nicky had a hand in his parents death, but we can figure the best course of action here maybe to get those Megiddo daggers from The Omen and take that little kid to a church.

TP-Molly Shannon

Sheriff Truman (Michael Ontkean) calls out to Andy as they have to make a run to the Great Northern. A tragedy has occurred. Sure enough, the next scene gives us the recently deceased Dougie Milford (Tony Jay) laying in bed. Doc Hayward (William Frost) declares it – a heart attack. Apparently, Dougie was in the throes of passion when his heart gave out. Mayor Dwayne Milford (John Boylan) says his brother couldn’t refuse a beautiful woman, and on seeing Lana in the hallway, he calls her out as a witch and a succubus. Hawk (Michael Horse) approaches Lana and attempts to console her, listening to her state that she’s cursed. Her Prom Night date in High School tried to kiss her, but his braces malfunctioned, leaving him with a lockjaw. Knowing a thing or two about curses, Hawk tells her not to worry and that when things go down, he’s the man. The scene ends on a laughable note.

Gym Class at the High School. The coach introduces the newest member of the wrestling team to her peers, Ms. Nadine Hurley (Wendy Robie). She challenges her crush Mike Nelson (Gary Hershberger) to a sparring session. Mike sets Nadine up in a grapple hold, but she easily tackles him to the ground. She manages to also put him in a head lock and even body slam the poor fellow. Mike is down and out for the count, waiting for someone to throw a python on him and call it a day. In the next scene, we see a damaged Mike as he makes his way down the hallways of school. He reaches Donna and begs her to help him get Nadine off his back. She tells him that maybe an older woman is what he needs.

At Evelyn Marsh’s (Annette McCarthy) residence, James (James Marshall) meets Malcolm Sloan (Nicholas Love) Evelyn’s brother and the family chauffeur. If you recall from the previous episode, James is staying with Evelyn to fix her husband’s Jaguar. He was given the job by his sister, and without it would have probably gone on to drink himself into a corner. He alludes to the idea that her husband Jeffrey (John Apicella) beats her often, and to get back at him, she damages his things. Apparently, she was the one to put the Jaguar in traction. Malcolm leaves James to deal with the info he’s just provided.

Irene Littlehorse (Geraldine Kearns) brings Cooper to Dead Dog Farm.

A tiny digression here. Angelo Badalamenti has a sweet eerie tune here that sounds very much like something Charlie Clouser (Saw, The Collector) would have worked on. The closest contemporary sound I could find was as a song called “Talk to Me” by Porcelain Raft. If you get a chance, give it a listen. I wouldn’t be shocked to discover Badalamenti was an influence to them and others. This might also explain how Trent Reznor’s involved in the Revival.

Anyway, Irene and Cooper find that Dead Dog Farm was recently visited. As they go inside, they discover more clues. It appears someone’s been there in the past few hours (how Cooper realizes that is beyond me, but he’s Cooper. He deals in luck and sorcery, we’ll just accept it). He discovers baby laxative in the sink, and cocaine in a chair. With a smile, he tells Irene that they have to contact the Sheriff. The trail has become hot, and he wasn’t even trying.

Dick and Nicky are at their campsite, and Dick is trying to fix a flat. Nicky is being somewhat annoying by playing with the steering wheel and honking the horn. Dick yells at him, and Nicky puts himself out of the way, somewhat happy at the mayhem he’s caused. However, when the jack on the car gives way and almost injures Dick, Nicky runs and hugs him, worried about if he died. Dick seems a little surprised by this, and it’s something of a bonding moment between them. Then again, perhaps Nicky was just setting a trap for Dick.

At the preceinct, Truman and Cooper are talking with Colonel Riley(Tony Burton) regarding Garland Briggs’ (Don Davis) disappearance. There appears to be a connection between some messages from deep space that pertain to Agent Cooper. According to the Colonel, the source of the messages weren’t from space, but from an area very near to, or practically in Twin Peaks. The Colonel mentions that Briggs’ disappearance is a very serious thing with extreme ramifications to national security.

At the Marsh residence, James is finished fixing the Jaguar. He asks Evelyn about her husband, about what he’s done to her. She argues the point, but after a kiss and the honk of a car, she goes on alert. Jeffrey has come home, and she runs out to meet him.

Audrey meets Bobby at the Great Northern, congratulating him on the job he’s acquired with her father. She also asks him if he’d be willing to work with her as well. Misunderstanding the meaning of business, he leans in for a kiss, which she deftly evades. He smiles, saying he likes the way she thinks and heads to Ben Horne’s office.

That scene bothered me a little, and this may have to do with the idea that at the time, Lara Flynn Boyle was dating Kyle MacLachlan. Since the two of them were together, it supposedly caused a bit of a rift between she and Sherilyn Fenn. The setup that would have possibly led to an Audrey / Cooper courtship was derailed and by this point, it looked like the writers weren’t entirely sure of where to put Audrey in the scheme of things. As long as she was far from Cooper, it worked out. That’s just my speculation.

Audrey snoops in on Ben and Bobby from one of the cubbyholes in the lodge. She sees that he was able to get the pictures for Ben, though to what end, we’re not sure.

Josie (Joan Chen) is doing maid duty for Catherine Martell (Piper Laurie) to pay for her scheming against here. There isn’t much to the scene save that Catherine is relishing where she has Josie here.

Cooper records something for Diane, saying that the response to Windom Earl’s first move was printed in the local paper, but he received the response to that move the day before. He understands that Windom is one step ahead of him, and needs to find a way to change that. He also points out that in the time since his suspension, he’s looked for a home, and he has to worry about his defense, which could be a problem.

Just in time, Audrey knocks on the door, presenting Cooper with a package. Inside are the pictures from Ben’s office. Pictures that include Ernie Niles (James Booth). Audrey’s happy here, considering that the information may actually exonerate Cooper, but before she could continue, Cooper’s door knocks again. This time, it’s Denise Bryson (David Duchovny), who is introduced to Audrey.

Tp-Denise-Audrey-Coop

“They have women agents?” she says, shaking Denise’s hand, a glint in her eye that suggests she may have found her calling.

“More or Less.”, Denise responds. Audrey thanks the both of them and kisses Cooper (Finally!!!) before leaving the room. It’s here that Denise points out something I missed in Audrey’s age. Cooper smiles, telling Denise that with her change in perception and identity, he assumed girls wouldn’t factor into all that. Her response is simple and it’s an effective close to the scene:

“Coop. I may be wearing a dress, but I still pull my panties on one leg at a time, if you know what I mean.”

Norma (Peggy Lipton) and Ed (Everett McGill) have a small moment over Pie about the lives they planned, and the plans that didn’t work out. She touches his hand, and says that they can make new plans, but this falls within earshot of someone holding a domino in their hands. Hank perhaps? We’re not shown. They better be careful.

Dick comes into the Precinct, pulls Andy aside and whispers that Little Nicky may very well be the Devil. Called it. Totally called it.

Mayor Milford is in Truman’s office with Truman and Doc Hayward, looking to press charges against Lana over his brother’s death by sex. He yells that she won’t get a red cent of Dougie’s money and storms out.

And here’s one of the best scenes of the episode, if short. Hawk, standing in the doorway of the room with Lana (playing the Ingenue) behind him asks the men in the main room (Hayward, Andy, Truman, and Dick) for some Irish creme to add to Lana’s coffee. Dick breaks into Act 1, Scene 5 of Romeo & Juliet, with Hayward joining in. They’re all transfixed on the redhead in the room, which reminded me of both Rita Hayworth’s introduction in Gilda, the cover models in some of the detective stories that Erin has posted here on the Lens, and Lindy Booth’s character in Cry Wolf. When everyone disperses, a phone call comes in on the line, which Lucy picks up. She finds, however, that she’s unable to reach Truman, Andy or anyone. Walking back to the room where Lana was in, she opens to door to find everyone laughing and listening to Lana’s stories. Even Andy is caught up in the magic. This, of course, infuriates Lucy, who leaves and slams the door behind her. I would have loved to know if slamming the door had any effect on the guys in the room. Whether Lana presents any kind of danger is unknown at this point, but that honestly was a great setup if we do find she’s a Femme Fatale.

We’re back at the diner, with a pair of heeled legs that step into the room. Ernie Niles is having dinner when Denise slides into the seat across from him. Taking out the pictures that Audrey stole, she informs Niles that he’s guilty of a parole violation and unless he helps her (she says, reapplying her lipstick), she’ll do everything she can to make sure he stays there. It’s a cute little scene.

We then find Ernie being interrogated by Cooper and Denise in a cabin under the midst of a thunderstorm. Ernie confesses he had about four kilos of coke, and Denise has him set up a meet at the Dead Dog Farm, where she’ll meet him as a drug trafficker. On realizing that Denise is more than who she says she is, he kind of has a bad reaction and runs to the restroom.

Cut to the Marsh residence. Screaming. Glass breaking. James wakes up to these sounds and when Malcolm steps into the room, he asks if Evelyn will be alright. He states that he once thought revenge, but she stopped him for both of their sakes. This leaves James wondering if he should intervene.

The final scene of this episode has Betty Briggs (Charlotte Stewart), weeping over the loss of Major Briggs. Bobby has a great moment here where he tells her of the dream his father had about him and his future. During the storm, the lights go out, and in the darkness, we find Major Briggs suddenly in the living room. How did he get there? Where the heck was he?! He asks Bobby to fix him a drink, and when asked if everything’s alright, his answer is simple.

“Not exactly.”

And isn’t that always how is it in Twin Peaks? That’s the episode. This one was actually really good, and so far the show is holding up well. Tune in tomorrow for “Checkmate”, the next episode in our Marathon.

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

  1. Twin Peaks: In the Beginning by Jedadiah Leland
  2. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.1 — The Pilot (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  3. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.2 — Traces To Nowhere (directed by Duwayne Dunham) by Jedadiah Leland
  4. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.3 — Zen, or the Skill To Catch A Killer (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  5. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.4 “Rest in Pain” (dir by Tina Rathbone) by Leonard Wilson
  6. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.5 “The One-Armed Man” (directed by Tim Hunter) by Jedadiah Leland
  7. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.6 “Cooper’s Dreams” (directed by Lesli Linka Glatter) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  8. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.7 “Realization Time” (directed by Caleb Deschanel) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  9. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.8 “The Last Evening” (directed by Mark Frost) by Leonard Wilson
  10. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.1 “May the Giant Be With You” (dir by David Lynch) by Leonard Wilson
  11. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.2 “Coma” (directed by David Lynch) by Jedadiah Leland
  12. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.3 “The Man Behind The Glass” (directed by Lesli Linka Glatter) by Jedadiah Leland
  13. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.4 “Laura’s Secret Diary” (dir by Todd Holland) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  14. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.5 “The Orchid’s Curse” (dir by Graeme Clifford) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  15. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.6 “Demons” (dir by Lesli Linka Glatter) by Leonard Wilson
  16. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.7 “Lonely Souls” (directed by David Lynch) by Jedadiah Leland
  17. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.8 “Drive With A Dead Girl” (dir by Caleb Deschanel) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  18. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.9 “Arbitrary Law” (dir by Tim Hunter) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  19. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.10 “Dispute Between Brothers” (directed by Tina Rathbone) by Jedadiah Leland
  20. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.11 “Masked Ball” (directed by Duwayne Dunham) by Leonard Wilson

Music Video of the Day: Only The Lonely by The Motels (1982, dir. Russell Mulcahy)


I don’t know how long, or how I did it, but for a long time I thought this song, and Only The Lonely by Roy Orbison were the same song. If that isn’t dumb enough for you, my parents also used to watch the movie Only The Lonely (1991) when I was a kid, which prominently featured the Orbison song. Also, my mom is a big Orbison fan, so I grew up listening to his music. I guess that means it shouldn’t come as any surprise that it took till high school before I realized that when people were saying “ultimatum”, they weren’t saying “old tomato”.

Still, I am surprised it took me this many Mulcahy videos before I started noticing things he likes using. We get several of them in Only The Lonely. First, the use of tables.

Hungry Like The Wolf by Duran Duran (1982)

Second, liquids used as metaphors.

The Reflex by Duran Duran (1984)

The Reflex by Duran Duran (1984)

The Reflex by Duran Duran (1984)

The Reflex by Duran Duran (1984)

Total Eclipse Of The Heart by Bonnie Tyler (1983)

She Loved Like Diamond by Spandau Ballet (1982)

She Loved Like Diamond by Spandau Ballet (1982)

The Thin Wall by Ultravox (1981)

He really seems to like liquids and tables. Finally, we get the most obvious–isolation. In Only The Lonely, it’s the person wandering around a place that may or may not be filled with people, but the person is alone regardless.

Total Eclipse Of The Heart by Bonnie Tyler (1983)

We also get a repeat of the ending of Bette Davis Eyes by Kim Carnes.

Bette Davis Eyes by Kim Carnes (1981)

Lead-singer Martha Davis won a Best Performance in a Music Video for this at the American Music Awards. The song also did well, but it looks like their biggest hit was Suddenly Last Summer, which also has its own music video. The band is still around today under the name of Martha Davis and The Motels.

The video was shot by Andrew Dintenfass, edited by Doug Dowdle, and produced by Jackie Adams. In other words, the usual crew you would expect on a Mulcahy video.

Enjoy!