Film Review: Cherry 2000 (dir by Steve De Jarnatt)


Okay, so this one is kind of weird.

Remember how, a few nights ago, I watched and reviewed something called Prison Planet?  No?  Well, I don’t blame you.  I wish I could forget about it too.  Anyway, the movie that aired right before Prison Planet was yet another futuristic tale that was largely set in a desert wasteland.  This movie was originally released in 1988 and the title was Cherry 2000.

Cherry 2000 takes place in 2017, or perhaps I should say that it takes place in 2017 as imagined by someone in 1988.  In this film’s version of 2017, both the economy and the environment are a mess, America is divided into warring urban and rural zones, and all human emotion and creativity is being stifled by government bureaucracy.  In short, Cherry 2000‘s version of 2017 is a lot like the real world’s version of 2017…

In the future, everyone’s still obsessed with getting laid but all of the bureaucratic red tape has made things difficult.  Having sex now means first getting a lawyer to draw up a contract.  In order to avoid all of the legal complications, men are now marrying specially designed sex robots.  Again, this probably seemed way out there in 1988 but, in the current world, it just looks like my twitter timeline.

(Do they have sex robots for women in the world of Cherry 2000?  As far as I could tell, all of the sex robots in the film were designed for men’s pleasure, which doesn’t seem quite fair.)

Anyway, Sam Treadwell (David Andrews) is a business executive who thinks that he is deeply in love with his robot wife, Cherry 2000 (Pamela Gidley).  However, a mix of sex and a broken washing machine causes Cherry to short-circuit.  When Sam tries to get her repaired, he’s told that it’s a lost cause.  Cherry is beyond repair.  Add to that, apparently the Cherry 2000 model is no longer being manufactured.  If Sam wants a new Cherry, he’s going to have to go into Zone 7 and get one out of an abandoned factory.

So, of course, that’s what Sam does.  The only problem is that Sam is a business guy and Zone 7 is the most dangerous place in the world.  Why is it so dangerous?  Because it’s ruled by a warlord named …. Lester.  (No offense meant to anyone named Lester but that’s not exactly the most intimidating name in the world.)  Lester is played by B-movie mainstay Tim Thomerson, who appears to be having fun whenever he appears on-screen.

To help guide him through Zone 7, Sam hires E (Melanie Griffith).  E is the film’s saving grace, largely because she kicks everyone’s ass.  The great thing about E is that, from the minute she first appears, she makes no secret of the fact that she finds Sam and his sex robot to be just as pathetic and ridiculous as we do.  Griffith plays the role with just the right mix of humor and annoyance.  If I ever have to guide anyone through a desert wasteland to a sex robot factory, I hope that I can do it with half as much style and panache as E.

Anyway, Cherry 2000 is a weird little mix of the western and science fiction genres.  For a film about sex robots, it actually has a rather goofy and almost innocent feel to it.  It’s a film that raises a lot of issues but which is also smart enough not to spend too much time on any of them.  Director Steve De Jarnatt also directed one of my favorite 80s movies, the charming apocalyptic love story Miracle Mile.  Cherry 2000 may be a mess but it’s definitely a watchable mess.

A Movie A Day #256: Thrashin’ (1986, directed by David Winters)


Cory Webster (a young Josh Brolin, who looks identical to older Josh Brolin) is an amateur skateboarder from the Valley who hopes to win a downhill competition and score some sweet corporate sponsorship.  Chrissy (Pamela Gidley) is an innocent blonde from Indiana who is staying with her brother in Venice Beach.  Cory and Chrissy are in love but there is only one problem.  Chrissy’s brother is Tommy Hook (Robert Rusler), leader of The Daggers, a punk skateboard gang.  There’s no way Hook is going to let his sister go out with someone from the Valley.

Thrashin’ has a plot but it’s just an excuse for almost nonstop, kinetic skateboarding action.  The film is justly famous for the jousting scene, where Cory and Hook battle in Bronson Canyon, seeing who can knock who off his board.  Attentive viewers will be able to spot skateboard greats Tony Alva, Tony Hawk, Christian Hosoi, and Steve Caballero in the cast.  Fortunately, Gator Rogowski is nowhere to be found.

Best of all, Thrashin‘ features an early performance from Sherilyn Fenn!  She plays Hook’s girlfriend and, though her role may be small, it is easy to see the spark that would make her the breakout star of Twin Peaks.  At the time that she made Thrashin’, Fenn was dating a young actor named Johnny Depp.  The film’s director, David Winters, hoped to cast Depp in the lead role but the producers insisted on Brolin, who does a good job even if he never looks completely comfortable on a board.

With its minimal plot and threadbare character development, Thrashin‘ is dumb but legendary, a film that embodies an era.  It also has a killer soundtrack.  Keep an eye out for an early version of Red Hot Chili Peppers, performing Black-Eyed Blonde in a club scene.

Film Review: Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (dir by David Lynch)


“It was a dream!  We live in a dream!”

— Phillip Jeffries (David Bowie) in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992)

Even among fans of the show, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me is controversial.

If you read Reflections: An Oral History of Twin Peaks, you’ll discover that many members of the television show’s cast either didn’t want to be involved in the film or didn’t care much for it when it came out.  Fearful of being typecast, Kyle MacLachlan only agreed to play Dale Cooper on the condition that his role be greatly reduced.  (Was it that fear of being typecast as clean-cut Dale Cooper that led to MacLachlan later appearing in films like Showgirls?)  Neither Lara Flynn Boyle nor Sherilyn Fenn could work the film into their schedules.

When Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me premiered at Cannes, it was reportedly booed by the same critics who previously applauded Lynch’s Wild at Heart and who, years later, would again applaud Mulholland Drive.  When it was released in the United States, the film was savaged by critics and a notorious box office flop.  Quentin Tarantino, previously a fan of Lynch’s, has been very outspoken about his hatred of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.  When I first told people that we would be looking back at Twin Peaks for this site, quite a few replied with, “Even the movie?”

And yet, there are many people, like me, who consider Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me to be one of David Lynch’s most haunting films.

It’s also one of his most straight forward.  Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me is a prequel, dealing with the events leading up to the death of Laura Palmer.  Going into the film, the viewer already knows that Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) is full of secrets.  They know that she is using drugs.  They know that she is dating Bobby (Dana Ashbrook), while secretly seeing James (James Marshall).  They know about her diary and her relationship with the reclusive Harold (Lenny Von Dohlen).  They know that she is a friend to innocent Donna Hayward (Moria Kelly, somewhat awkwardly taking the place of Lara Flynn Boyle).  Even more importantly, they know that she has spent the last six years of her life being abused by BOB (Frank Silva) and that BOB is her father, Leland Palmer (Ray Wise).  The viewer starts the story knowing how it is going to end.

Things do get off to a somewhat shaky start with a nearly 20-minute prologue that basically plays like a prequel to the prequel.  Theresa Banks, who was mentioned in the show’s pilot, has been murdered and FBI director Gordon Cole (David Lynch) assigns agents Chester Desmond (Chris Isaak) and Sam Stanley (Kiefer Sutherland) to investigate.  Chester and Sam’s investigation basically amounts to a quick reenactment of the first season of Twin Peaks, with the agents discovering that Theresa was involved in drugs and prostitution.  When Chester vanishes, Dale Cooper is sent to investigate.  Harry Dean Stanton shows up as the manager of a trailer park and David Bowie has an odd cameo as a Southern-accented FBI agent who has just returned from the Black Lodge but otherwise, the start of the film almost feels like a satire of Lynch’s style.

But then, finally, we hear the familiar theme music and the “Welcome to Twin Peaks” sign appears.

“And the angel’s wouldn’t help you. Because they’ve all gone away.”

— Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee), Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992)

A year has passed since Theresa Banks was murdered.  The rest of the film deals with the final few days of the life of doomed homecoming queen Laura Palmer.  Laura smiles in public but cries in private.  She is full of secrets that she feels that she has to hide from a town that has literally idolized her.  She has visions of terrifying men creeping through her life and each day, she doesn’t know whether it will be BOB or her father waiting for her at home.  She knows that the world considers her to be beautiful but she also know that, within human nature, there is a desire to both conquer and destroy beauty.  When she sleeps, she has disturbing dreams that she cannot understand but that she knows are important.  At a time when everyone says she should be happy to alive, all she can think about is death.  Everywhere she goes, the male gaze follows and everything that should be liberating just feels her leaving more trapped.  For all the complaints that Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me is somehow too strange to be understood, it’s not a strange film at all.  This is David Lynch at his most straight forward.  Anyone who thinks that Laura’s story is incomprehensible has never been a 17 year-old girl.

This is the bleakest of all of David Lynch’s films.  There is none of broad humor or intentional camp that distinguished the TV show.  After the show’s occasionally cartoonish second season, the film served as a trip into the heart of the darkness that was always beating right underneath the surface of Twin Peaks.  It’s interesting how few of the show’s regulars actually show up in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.  None of the characters who represented goodness are present.  There’s no Doc Hayward.  No Sheriff Truman.  No Deputies Andy or Hawk.  No Pete Martell.  No Bookhouse Boys.  Scenes were filmed for some of them but they didn’t make it into the final cut because their tone did not fit with the story that Lynch was seeking to tell.  The Hornes, Dr. Jacoby, Josie, none of them are present either.

Instead, there’s just Larua and her father.  As much as they try to deny it, Laura knows that she is going to die and Leland knows that he is going to kill her.  Killer BOB and the denziens of the Black Lodge may be scary but what’s truly terrifying is the sight of a girl living in fear of her own father.  Is Leland possessed by BOB or is BOB simply his way of excusing his own actions?  If not for Leland’s sickness, would BOB even exist?  When Laura shouts, “Who are you!?” at the spirit of BOB, she speaks for every victim of abuse who is still struggling to understand why it happened.  For all the talk of the Black Lodge and all the surreal moments, the horror of this film is very much the horror of reality.  Leland’s abuse of Laura is not terrifying because Leland is possessed by BOB.  It’s terrifying because Leland is her father

David Lynch directs the film as if it where a living nightmare.  This is especially evident in scenes like the one where, at the dinner table, Leland switches from being kindly to abusive while Laura recoils in fear and her mother (Grace Zabriskie) begs Leland to stop.  It’s a hard scene to watch and yet, it’s a scene that is so brilliantly acted and directed that you can’t look away.  As brilliant as Ray Wise and Grace Zabriskie are, it’s Sheryl Lee who (rightly) dominates the scene and the rest of the film, giving a bravely vulnerable and emotionally raw performance.  In Reflections, Sheryl Lee speaks candidly about the difficulty of letting go of Laura after filming had been completed.  She became Laura and gave a performance that anchors this absolutely terrifying film.

“Mr. Lynch’s taste for brain-dead grotesque has lost its novelty.”

— Janet Maslin

“It’s not the worst movie ever made; it just seems to be”

— Vincent Canby

If you need proof that critics routinely don’t know what they’re talking about, just go read some of the original reviews of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.

And yet, having just rewatched the show and now the movie, I can understand why critics and audiences were baffled by this film.  This is not Twin Peaks the TV show.  There is no light to be found here.  There is no comic relief.  (Even Bobby Briggs, who had become something of a goofy anti-hero by the time the series ended, is seen here shooting a man in the head.)  There is no exit and there is no hope.  In the end, the film’s only comfort comes from knowing that Laura was able to save one person before dying.  It’s not easy to watch but, at the same time, it’s almost impossible to look away.  The film ends on Laura’s spirit smiling and, for the first time, the smile feels real.  Even if she’s now trapped in the Black Lodge, she’s still free from her father.

Since this was a prequel, it didn’t offer up any answers to the questions that were left up in the air by the show’s 2nd season finale.  Fortunately, those questions will be answered (or, then again, they may not be) when the third season premieres on Showtime on May 21st.

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
  21. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.12 “The Black Widow” (directed by Caleb Deschanel) by Leonard Wilson
  22. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.13 “Checkmate” (directed by Todd Holland) by Jedadiah Leland
  23. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.14 “Double Play” (directed by Uli Edel) by Jedadiah Leland
  24. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.15 “Slaves and Masters” (directed by Diane Keaton) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  25. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.16 “The Condemned Woman” (directed by Lesli Linka Glatter) by Leonard Wilson
  26. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.17 “Wounds and Scars” (directed by James Foley) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  27. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.18 “On The Wings of Love” (directed by Duwayne Dunham) by Jedadiah Leland
  28. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.19 “Variations on Relations” (directed by Jonathan Sanger) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  29. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.20 “The Path to the Black Lodge” (directed by Stephen Gyllenhaal) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  30. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.21 “Miss Twin Peaks” (directed by Tim Hunter) by Leonard Wilson
  31. TV Review: Twin Peaks 22.2 “Beyond Life and Death” (directed by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman

Halloween Film Review: Highway to Hell (1991, directed by Ate de Jong)


Highway to HellHighway to Hell, a low-budget take on the legend of Orpheus, opens with a young couple, Charlie (Chad Lowe) and Rachel (Kristy Swanson), driving to Las Vegas so they can elope.  When they stop to get gas, Sam (Richard Farnsworth) warns them not to drive on the back roads at night.  Charlie ignores him and the couple continues to drive through the desert until they are suddenly pulled over by Sgt. Bedlam (C.J. Graham), a scarred and mostly silent demon who is also known as the Hellcop.  The Hellcop drags Rachel out of the car and then vanishes with her.  Charlie returns to the gas station, where Sam tells him that Rachel has been kidnapped to Hell and will become Satan’s latest wife.  After Sam gives him a shotgun and a car, Charlie heads into Hell to rescue Rachel.

Charlie discovers that Hell is even stranger than he was expecting.  The highways are full of VW bugs and motorcycle gangs.  Charlie passes a road crew made up of Andy Warhol look-alikes.  (In a clever touch, they also work for the Good Intentions Company.)  When Charlie stop to pick up a hitchhiker (played by Lita Ford), he is suddenly attacked by a crazed ice cream man.  Occasionally, a friendly mechanic (Patrick Bergin) shows up and helps Charlie out.  The mechanic’s first name is Beezle.  Did you already guess that his last name is Bub?

There are parts of Highway To Hell that do not work.  Chad Lowe seems lost as Charlie and Highway To Hell’s abrupt ending feels like it belongs in a totally different film.  But Highway to Hell has enough odd characters and weird moments to make it worth watching.  For instance, I liked the scene where the Hellcop stops off at a roadside diner that is full of zombies.  Anne Meara plays the counterwoman who won’t stop talking long enough to take anyone’s order.  (It is Hell, after all.)  Jerry Stiller shows up as another cop and, finally, Ben Stiller plays a short order cook who won’t stop yelling.  Ben Stiller actually plays two roles in this movie.  Later, he shows up as Atillia the Hun, eating breakfast with Hitler (Gilbert Gottfried!) and Cleopatra (Amy Stiller).  Hitler tries to convince them that he is actually a teenager named Bob and that he was sent to Hell accidentally.

Despite the film’s title, AC/DC is nowhere to be heard on the Highway to Hell soundtrack, which is obviously a missed opportunity.  In fact, with the exception of Lita Ford’s cameo, there is no metal to be found in Hell which seems strange considering that this movie was made in 1991.  Music aside, Highway to Hell is an entertaining journey into the underworld.

highway-to-hell