Category: TV Reviews


“I will see you again in 25 years” – Laura Palmer, Twin Peaks finale, 1991. Close enough!

Just as Samurai Jack finally got to wrap things up (one day earlier, to be exact), a show even more overdue for a continuation gets just that. A show with a truly singular legacy. The series itself, which masterfully mixed all sorts of genres and tones, influencing decades of TV to come; the books, that delve into even more dark corners of the titular town; the film, which explored murder victim and town sweetheart Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) more intimately than ever; and the special Blu-Ray release which, among other things, showed us deleted scenes that would have restored some of the show’s eccentric humour and character for the film, but migh have ruined the pacing and the downright horrific mood. As Red Letter Media speculated, the final frame of the film, showing Laura smiling again at last, may have signified the end of her agony, but also the knowledge that at some point in the future, the tale will continue. The Black Lodge is said to exist outside of time and space, so who’s to say what its inhabitants know and do not know?

Indeed, Twin Peaks has finally returned and so too has David Lynch to the director’s chair after years of trying other things, along with fellow show creator Mark Frost. Set 25 years after the original series, as promised, it shows us what happened to the old characters we love – the quirky townsfolk, the law enforcement, the high school kids, the families, others we might see later – and how new characters are headed for a journey of mysteries and eccentricities they scarcely suspect. The camera work, lighting, ambience, scenery and music are just as powerful in this as they were back in the day, but complaints may arise as to how it is slower in pace and darker in mood. To me, it seemed appropriate. I bought for each second that this is truly what’d come of the world of Twin Peaks over the decades we never saw. It is sadder; it is more modern yet still so very familar (not unlike the closing song by Chromatics); the dark magic of the Lodge has spread.

Of course, there are some actors who will not be returning to reprise their roles, which is either due to disagreements or, well, death. This is especially unfortunate with characters like BOB, who are such a central part of Twin Peaks lore that it is hard to imagine the show without his sinister presence.

It’s reasonable to assume that BOB will continue roam the Earth in the form of, spoiler alert, the dark doppelgänger of Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan, still great) from the Black Lodge, wherein the real Agent Cooper still wanders. Re-casting him would be futile; nobody else could create a grin as bone-chilling as that of Frank Silva. The equally iconic Log Lady appears briefly, in the final scene Catherine Coulson shot before she too left us.

Having seen the opening two-parter, I can affirm that Lynch is still in great shape (not just the directing, but also the dream-esque horror imagery that no other artist would have conjured) and that out of all the countless reboots and continuations of the year, this is thus far the one I am the most satisfied with. Not too different, not too reliant on fanservice; it was like returning home to find that while things have understandably changed, it is still very much home. So put on some coffee, get yourself a plate of cherry pie, and share my joy that, indeed, the gum is back in style. Let’s rock!

5/5

Worth skipping.

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If 2016 was the year of sequels and reboots, 2017 is the year that our old favorites straight-up came back, or at least got to resume where they left off. Already we’ve seen the return of Samurai Jack, just one month from now we’re getting more Twin Peaks, and, oh, Lasagna Cat. Don’t forget Lasagna Cat.

And now, thanks to the magic of Internet fandom and crowd-funding, a new season of Mystery Science Theater 3000 has come to Netflix, ready to provide us with more deliberately corny sketches followed by a human plus his robot friends commenting over a B movie aboard their space station. Alas, and I may step on a few toes when I say this, MST3K is probably the comeback I was the least excited for, mostly because I never felt like the series needed to continue and also because the last people to have portrayed the main characters – Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett – moved on to do RiffTrax, thus giving the fans a quencher all the same. Therefore, this new season feels more like it belongs in reboot territory after all and not only because Mike is no longer our host and the robots are all re-cast. I’ll bet you the J. Elvis Weinstein fans are angrier today than ever.

Some who did return, however, are people before the Mike era, such as show creator Joel Hodgson (even if actors from later seasons are slated to cameo), here to pass on the torch to a new generation of riff-ers and evil scientists supplying said riff-ers with torturous films. Jonah Ray is our host, Hampton Yount and Baron Vaughn voice Crow T. Robot and Tom Servo, and the son of Dr. Clayton Forrester’s henchman TV’s Frank is played by Patton Oswalt. Forrester himself apparently had a child too (presumably before he was turned into a Star Child by an enlarged VHS tape), played here by Felicia Day.

The film that Jay and the bots are forced to watch is Reptilicus, a Danish monster movie that Cinemassacre covered a long time ago – this is all I know about it, aside from the fact that it involves a dragon-like puppet and green slime.

The episode is technically not bad and I had a good time watching it. I didn’t find Felicia Day terribly funny and some of the riffs were, expectedly, weaker than others (the pacing was also off, with a new joke being made before the punchline of the last one had sunk in) but it was lovingly put together, with the campy special effects, obscure references, and all that. I suppose I just feel like I haven’t really wished for this day the same way I’ve longed to see the ending for Twin Peaks and Samurai Jack. Like I said, we’ve already had RiffTrax and Joel himself even tried out an idea called Cinematic Titanic, but considering the reception of the latter show, I guess it makes sense he’d want to tread safer waters in the not too distant future.

3/5

‘Cow and Chicken’ Review (TV)

Must-see!

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Gotta get back, back to the past. And back to the past we certainly went. One of the most beloved shows on Cartoon Network’s action-heavy “Toonami” block, Genndy Tartakovsky‘s Samurai Jack, has finally gotten its fifth season after eleven years of nothing, airing exclusively on Adult Swim, where Toonami now resides. Thus, you can imagine that it ups the grit and unsettling visuals this time around.

Samurai Jack was known for its cinematic feel, subtlety, mostly-serious tone (especially compared to Tartakovsky’s previous work, Dexter’s Laboratory, and other shows on the network at the time), heavy atmosphere, minimalistic dialogue, and stilistic influences drawn from the likes of Kirosawa, Miyazaki, Frank Miller, 70’s avant-garde and countless more – all while maintaining a distinct half-futuristic-half-ancient look. It was one of those shows I loved watching and wouldn’t be ashamed to revisit in my adult years – which, admittedly, goes for a lot of the weird stuff CN gave us.

It focused on a fearsome samurai voiced by Phil LaMarr, trapped in a distant future where the demonic overlord Aku (Mako Iwamatsu) rules all. As XCII begins, fifty years have passed since Jack was sent here and began his quest to return to the past and undo Aku’s apocalypse. Everything seems right; Jack’s voice, the art style, the sound effects, the imagery, the masterful color choices, you name it.

In spite of all this, I cannot help but feel a little underwhelmed. I get the impression that this season will be more serialized than previous seasons (where almost every episode played like a self-contained short film) and I feel like it could have taken its time when it comes to Jack realizing he needs to put his mind back on his quest of returning to the his time. Seeing him break down almost immediately after we’re reintroduced to him seems, I dunno, not entirely consistent with the slow but effective pace this show has been known for. Also, the Jack we know would not just abandon his sword for good like that, nor would he be quiet so emotional, nor would Aku miss out on a chance to destroy his worst enemy now that said enemy no longer carries the only weapon that can kill him.

I’m sure I’m in a minority when it comes to these thoughts, though, and the episode is generally succesful. I am especially intrigued by the Daughters of Aku – demonic babies who rapidly age into masked warriors – and also to see who shall replace Mako. We’ll see if anyone can do “evil from the belly” quite like he could.

3/5

‘Westworld’ Review (TV)

Highly recommended.

Highly recommended.

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Highly recommended.

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‘Stranger Things’ Review (TV)

† H a p p y   H a l l o w e e n †

strangerthings

Highly recommended.

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The premise of the sixth season of American Horror Story, subtitled My Roanoke Nightmare, has been revealed at last. I luckily wasn’t expecting all that secrecy and mystique to actually result in anything but intriguing marketing, although I must wonder if fans will be satisfied with what the crazy build-up was for. I don’t know that the Roanoke Colony disappearance was deserving of such hype.

Another question is whether or not this will be the story for the whole season. I gave American Horror Story a raving review way back when but it has steadily decreased in quality over the years, much of it having to do with its inability to carry a coherent storyline for a full season – subplots would come and go without warning or end abruptly, the story developments from one episode would be retracted or ignored by the very next, and so on. By now, it seems they’re gonna make a change to the formula of having one semi-self-contained story per season and shake things up a bit. We’ll see how that goes.

In some parts of the episode, which is “based on true events”, we see Lily Rabe and Andre Holland as the “real-life” versions of Shelby and Matt Miller. They retell their dreadful experiences at a mansion they purchased in the vicinity of Roanoke, as their memories are re-enacted by Sarah Paulson and Cuba Gooding Jr. (whether these two are playing themselves playing Shelby and Matt or are fictitious actors who inhabit the same universe I know not, but maybe we will learn this in a  later episode). Basically, a good 60% of the episode is composed of in-universe actors re-enacting an event that the characters involved will obviously survive, given that we see their real-life selves in the interview segments, which leaves us with little tension. It didn’t work in The Fourth Kind (unless the purpose was to make more people fall for the tagline “based on a true story” when attached to horror movies), so why would it work here?

The stuff Shelby sees in and around the mansion includes two spooky twin girls straight out of The Shining, creepy straw dolls straight out of The Blair Witch Project, deranged rednecks straight out of real life, and some kind of pig creature (I think). I guess it’s nice that sound designers for monsters are finally relying on stock “squealing hog” sound effects in a context that makes sense.

For now, I am mostly perplexed by the new season. I don’t know if they’ve given up on trying to make it seem like all the seasons are connected or if they’ve taken the anthology element to a new level by giving us multiple new stories per season (which would be just as well, given how increasingly unfocused each new season has been). For what it’s worth, the fact that they’re changing things around a bit has me interested, as does the interaction between the actors so far (particularly Sarah Paulson and Angela Bassett). I won’t give the episode itself a high rating but take that with a grain of salt and a candy apple.

2/5

Unspeakable.

Works as punishment.

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