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Sunday, December 31, 2017

Eight movie wishes for 2018

On the eve of 2018, I’d like to share eight movie wishes for the coming year. Perhaps some Hollywood magic will make every one of them come true. 

I wish for:

1. Ready Player One (March) to be as good as the combination of the page-turning book + director Steven Spielberg magic. Anything short of “This generation’s Back To The Future,” and I’m like, totally disappointed.

2. Oscars to get over itself and last year’s envelope mishap, and focus on the films and craft. Ugh, I know the marketing angle of that will be hard to resist, but it’s a tacky tactic and I can hear the tired Kimmel jokes already. He’s better than that.

3. The Overboard remake (April), starring Anna Faris,to be the modern Goldie Hawn style comedy that we did not get last year with Snatched. I also want her to get back together with Chris Pratt, so that we can have an Overboard/Jurassic World crossover. Not really.

4. AMC Theatres to settle its dispute with Movie Pass, so that I can use mine to see writer-director Damine Chazelle’s (La La Land, Whiplash) new 2018 film First Man and writer-director Barry Jenkin’s (Moonlight) new and curiously titled film,  If Beale Street Could Talk.

5. That the opening date move of A Star Is Born from May to December 2018 is a sign that this film is strong enough to delay it to award season — and not in need of time to fix. This remake stars Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga in the Redford and Streisand roles and I’m intrigued.

6. The new Star Wars story, Solo (May) to be good enough for audiences to want more than one.

7. More Laura Dern in 2018. Everything she touched last year was better for it: Big Little Lies, The Founder, Twin Peaks and Star Wars: The Last Jedi

8. A supercalifragilisticexpialidocious year at the movies. To be blunt, I’m counting on Mary Poppins Returns (December), starring Emily Blunt and Lin Manuel Miranda, to save the year. 

Happy 2018, everybody!

Friday, December 15, 2017

The Florida Project

Best films of 2017 2018 Oscar Academy Awards Oscars
State of shock.

After about 15 minutes of watching the brat kids at the centerpiece of Sean Baker’s (Tangerine) The Florida Project, I wanted to walk out of the theater. I’m glad I didn’t; it won me over.  

There are two sides to this film; much like the views of life in this outside-Orlando town is to the children and adults who inhabit this film. It’s no accident that the very real moments on screen happen outside of the most magical place on earth, in the Sunshine State.  

Credit to Baker and the actors, the characters slowly become more real than most onscreen. Plus, Alexix Zabé's camera work pulls you into this world, and William Dafoe has rarely been better.  

The realism isn’t as perfected as Richard Linklater's (Boyhood), but it’s approaching that level of film excellence. Except for the final minutes, there are no film cheats nor trite treatments of borderline poverty in America. Baker got it just right, and this film will surely stick with you long after watching.

In a nutshell: Not a Friday night film getaway, but you should find the right time to see this story

Award potential: The Academy Award nominations will likely be kinder to this film than those of Golden Globes, who like big stars, and SAG which focuses on ensemble casts. 

Expect nominations for Best Movie and Best Supporting Actor (Dafoe) and possible nominations for Best Screenplay (Baker), Best Cinematography (Zabé) and Best Supporting Actress (Brooklynn Prince), a long shot for the young actress.

The ten buck review: Worth ten bucks.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Disaster Artist

brothers in film
A cinematic mess-terpiece.

If the title of “worst filmmaker” has not previously been awarded to director Ed Wood (Plan 9 From Outer Space), then that dubious honor would have to go to Tommy Wiseau for The Room, a 2003 cult classic still shown today under the billing of “the worst movie ever made.”

Hilariously, that mess of a movie became its own bit of mess-terpiece cinema, as audiences have lined up for midnight laughs ever since. Fourteen years later, it has inspired another bit of cinema. If you enjoy stories from Hollywood, this will be one of your favorite films this year.

The Disaster Artist takes us behind the scenes of that disaster and provides us with one of the funnier films of the year. James Franco brings on the biggest laughs as Tommy. His brother, Dave Franco, brings laughs but mostly heart to the film as Tommy’s friend, roommate and The Room co-star Greg Sestero. Seth Rogen, as filmmaker Sandy Schklair, delivers the rest.

It's not necessary to have seen The Room to enjoy this film about friendship, dreams and accidental art. But afterwards, you’ll probably want to.
In a nutshell: Definitely not the worst movie of this year

Award potential: Franco’s memorable performance puts him on the short list for Best Actor Oscar nods, but to me there is a sense that he’s having more fun making this film than should be allowed. That, plus his disastrous Oscar-hosting stint, should put him on the snub list by the time we get to Oscar nomination time. The film and Franco should do well in the comedy category at the Golden Globes.

The ten buck review: Worth ten bucks.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Alan's Golden Globe Nominee Predictions 2018

NBC Golden Globe Awards
The Golden Globes are voted on The Hollywood Foreign press, which is 89 foreign journalists who choose to live in Southern California — so who knows what they think? Apparently, I do. I have an 87.5% accuracy rate in the past, so here goes.

Best Picture (Drama) 

Call Me By Your Name 
The Post

The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Spoilers: The Darkest Hour, The Florida Project, All the Money in the World

Best Picture (Comedy or Musical) 

Get Out
I, Tonya 
Lady Bird
The Disaster Artist

The Big Sick
Spoilers: The Greatest Showman, Downsizing, Victorial & Abdul, Beauty and The Beast

Best Actor (Drama) 
Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread
Jake Gyllenhaal, Stronger
Timothée Chalamet, Call Me By Your Name
Tom Hanks, The Post 

Spoilers: Christian Bale, Hostiles, Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel, Esq. 

Best Actress (Drama) 
Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Meryl Streep, The Post
Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
Jessica Chastain, Molly’s Game
Vicky Krieps, Phantom Thread 

Spoilers: Jennifer Lawrence, mother!, Michelle Williams, All The Money In The World, Salma Hayek, Beatriz at Dinner

Best Actor (Comedy or Musical) 
Matt Damon, Downsizing 
Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out
James Franco, The Disaster Artist
Hugh Jackman, The Greatest Showman
Kumail Nanjiani, The Big Sick
Spoiler: Steve Carrell, Battle of the Sexes

Best Actress (Musical or Comedy) 

Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird
Margot Robbie, I, Tonya
Zoe Kazan, The Big Sick
Emma Stone, The Battle of the Sexes
Judi Dench, Victoria and Abdul 

Spoilers: Annette Benning , Film Stars Don’t Live In Liverpool, Helen Mirren, The Leisure Seeker, Kate Winslet, Wonder Wheel, Gal Gadot, Wonder Woman  
Best Supporting Actor (All categories) 
Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water
Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
Michael Stuhlbarg, Call Me By Your Name
Christopher Plummer, All The Money In The World 

Spoilers: Armie Hammer, Call Me By Your Name, Jason Mitchell, Mudbound Patrick Stewart, Logan  
Best Supporting Actress (All categories) 
Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
Allison Janney, I, Tonya
Holly Hunter, The Big Sick
Rosamund Pike, Hostiles
Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread 

Spoilers: Tiffany Haddish for Girls Trip, Kristen Scott Thomas for Darkest Hour, Mary J. Blige for Mudbound, Allison Williams for Get Out!

Best Director 

Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk
Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water
Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird
Jordan Peele, Get Out
Steven Spielberg, The Post 

Spoilers: Luca Guadagnino, Call Me By Your Name, Martin McDonagh for Three Billboards; Ridley Scott for All the Money in the World, or Joe Wright, Darkest Hour Good luck, all! Nominations will be announced 7:00 a.m. Monday, December 11.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

The case for Logan as one of the ten Best Pictures of the year

dc vs. marvel

Why a nomination for Logan is super deserved

With the exception of Nolan’s World War II film Dunkirk, and Spielberg’s journalism drama The Post, the 2017 Best Picture Oscar race is free of the usual categories we expect to see. It’s the kind of year where the next likely nominations are a horror film (Get Out) and a creature feature (The Shape of Water). With a small lot of films that worked in 2017, perhaps this is the type of year where a quality super hero film could join the ranks of Best Picture nominees.

I’m not talking about Patty Jenkins’ crowd-pleasing Wonder Woman, I’m talking about
Logan, director James Mangold's modern Western that elevated the superhero genre to new heights and made audiences forget it was a comic-book movie.

Logan is unburdened of comic book trappings. There is no doomsday villain nemesis, aliens invading our planet or superpower origin story. This down-to-earth film expertly fulfills the promise of the moment we were first introduced to Hugh Jackman and his Eastwood-gruff character in 2000. The R-rated Logan is gritty, raw, original and before the film is over, we finally get to see Wolverine let loose on film. It’s about bloody time; Logan is the Wolverine movie we've waited 17 years for.

It should also be noted that Jackman and the esquisite Patrick Stewart share some powerfully-written scenes that rise above the format. Fans were pleased and first-timers have a stand-alone film to love. Cue the sunset.

Most superhero films aren’t worth ten bucks which makes me respect this one even more. With Logan, Jackman’s Wolverine (the single most iconic onscreen superhero) finally has his The Dark Knight. Oscar voters, I suggest a nomination for Best Picture contender Logan.

The Ten Buck Review: Worth ten bucks.

The Shape of Water

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Sink in and enjoy a fairy tale.

With Shape of Water, Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro (Pacific Rim, Pan’s Labyrinth) tosses a feature creature into the Oscar race during an unusual year that will likely feature a horror film and perhaps a super hero franchise. 

Shape is kinda weird, kinda wonderful and kinda impossible to look away from.

Sally Hawkins (Happy-Go-Lucky, Blue Jasmine) plays Elisa, a mute cleaning lady who makes a monstrous discovery in her 1960s America workplace. Doug Jones ( Del Toro's Hellboy) plays the beast to her beauty and that’s about as much as I’m going to say about a story that has to be experienced before discussing. Richard Jenkins and Octavia Spencer play her friends. Michael Shannan, the film’s cold war baddie.

Del Toro directs this fairy tale with old Hollywood magic, gathering full romantic sensibilities while somehow telling a pulp novel monster story. The story goes far into creepy territory but it’s so well crafted — touching on themes of love, social intolerance and the human need for companions — that no one will be caught laughing.

In a nutshell: H2OMG! It’s weird — and wonderful. It’s clearly going to be the love it/hate it film of the year.

Award potential: It’s a master class of craft and the most likely film to gather the most Academy Award nominations this year, perhaps 12.

Expect a splash of support for this film with nods for Best Film, Director (Del Toro), Cinematography (Dan Laustesen), Screenplay (Del Toro and Vanessa Taylor), Actress (Hawkins’ face showcased every emotion), Supporting Actor (Richard Jenkins), Art Direction (Paul D. Austerberry), Score (Alexandre Desplat), Makeup, Film Editing, Sound Editing and Sound Mixing. 

Octavia Spencer is repeating her one-note performance too often in similar roles and I expect she will be rightfully overlooked this time.

The ten buck review: Worth ten bucks.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Lady Bird

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Lady Bird is the word.

Just when you think you’ve seen every coming-of-age story, Lady Bird flies into the fall movie season. 

Actress (Frances Ha) and writer Greta Gerwig’s solo directorial debut centers on a high-school senior about to leave the nest. She is determined to declare her independence and become someone more than ordinary.

Saoirse Rona (Atonement, Brooklyn) stars as the adorkable “Lady Bird,” and is a fitting Gerwig proxy. In both Rona’s performance and this film, the art is in the keenly observed details. Gerwig articulates every nuance of Lady Bird’s 2002 Sacramento middle class life, and those details graduate up to an irresistible film. 

It certainly helps that all supporting players are fully realized. Lady Bird’s hypercritical mom and unmotivated dad, played by Laurie Metcalf and Tracie Latts, are not one-note stereotypes. And although it was probably tempting to do otherwise, neither are the leaders of her Catholic school. Nor her girlfriends. Nor her boyfriends. Every relationship in this film eventually tugs at your heart.
Watching Ronan spread her wings as Lady Bird is a joy. It is of the best most entertaining stories about adolescence in years.

In a nutshell: This coming of age film gets an A+ for authenticity and originality. 

Award potential: Metcalf, fresh off her Tony win for Broadway's A Doll's House: Part 2, is sure to be a Best Supporting Actress front-runner in what may be her richest role yet. 

Look for nominations for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay and Best Actress as well. A Best Director nod would be a powerful statement towards the originality of Gerwig’s work, but is less likely than above. Lady Bird should do big business with Golden Globe nominations in the Comedy or Musical category. 

The ten buck review: Worth ten bucks.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Justice League

A League Of Their Own. 

Today's model of success for the major movie studios is to build a universe of franchise films, and not create a good film or two. Justice League is the poster child for that unfortunate model, as it spends half of its running time setting up the future films, which is quite a boring ride for a viewer.

It's clear that DC should have collected a few good films before assembling its comic book crown jewel— the collection of A-team heroes that call themselves the Justice League. JL even soils all the goodwill from summer's winning Wonder Woman by turning her (Gal Gadot) into nothing more than a sexist comedian at the expense of a joyless Batman (Ben Affleck), Aquaman (Jason Momoa) and that super duper guy we all know comes back.

DC is much better at TV with Greg Berlanti's "Arrowverse." By the time the established and loved B-characters characters from Arrow, Flash and Supergirl assembled for a guest episode, it was breezily exciting.

Justice League could use some breeze and excitement, but it's too muddled down in establishing other films (the upcoming Aquaman, Flash and Cyborg) or trying to explain past ones (Man of Steel, Superman v. Batman) to find any rhythm. I didn't expect Justice League to be an award-worthy film such as Logan, but it should definitely be the most exciting movie available to comic book fans.

This hot mess doesn't know what to look like either. Aquaman's world has one look, Superman and Batman another. There is attempt to unify the mess with lightning bolts I guess, but imagine how thrilling this could be with a unified look such as what illustrator Alex Ross created for the pages of DC.

What did work? Flash's character, essentially Quicksilver from the Marvel films, adds much needed comic breaks throughout and I looked forward to every scene with the quick-witted speedster. Those big bug baddies, previously seen in BvS, were a stunning foil for action sequences. All of Bruce Waynes toys and vehicles — and Danny Elfman.

If you're as antsy for something to think about as I was during most of the film, focus on how composer Danny Elfman brilliantly weaved all the current hero themes plus his classic Batman (1989) and John Williams' Superman (1978) themes into a coherent musical tapestry. Maybe he should write and direct the next film.

Spoiler alert: In the final act, the bad guy gets big and a hero throws a thing at it to destroy it.

Simply put: Gloomy scene. Group shot. Confusing setup scene.Witty retort by Flash. Repeat for two hours. Ugh, go see the Thor movie instead.

Award potential: Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) and Lois Lane's (Amy Adams) dialogue in the corn field and Cavill's stiff acting should garner some super-sized Razzie attention.

The ten buck review: Not worth ten bucks.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Murder On The Orient Express

big disappointing movies
Hercule Poirot, I'd like to confess. 

I'd like to confess that for most of the year I've been tremendously excited about the possibilities of director Kenneth Branagh resurrecting Agatha Christie whodunits for modern cinema. And I've been thrilled with the killer cast of suspects: Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeifer, Daisy Ridley, Derek Jacobi, Penelope Cruz, Josh Gad and a train-full more. I deduced that this would be one of my favorites of the year, and fell victim to my inflated expectations. It's an OK film at best.

Branagh got some things right. The casting, fresh cinematography and his own performance as the mustached Poirot suggest a franchise of murder mysteries for years to come. 

However, the performances roll in as a hot mess. Dench and Gad's characters, who were standouts in the book, never seem to have a memorable moment onscreen despite the talent playing them. The lush look of this film is over the top and fantastical, which freshens up the classic nature of the story. I wish that same approach had been applied to the performances. Fresh from seeing Thor: Ragnarock enliven its serious series (initiated by Branagh), I couldn't help but wonder how that form of wit would have worked wonders here. The characters play their parts as if they're in TV's Sherlock, but come across more like dinner theater camp. I'm kinda embarrassed for everyone involved.

I can only see this movie as it should have been. For everyone who was hoping this film would resurrect whodunits, a crime had definitely taken place. 

In a nutshell: A train full of witty Brits never leaves the station.

Award potential: None.

The Ten Buck Review: Not worth ten bucks.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best films of 2017 what should I rent stream
Signs of the times.

2017 has been such a poor year for movies and such a strong one for television that it’s tempting to say this entry is “as good as HBO.”

Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) purchases three billboards to make a statement and draws fire from the chief of police (Woody Harrelson), an officer (Sam Rockwell) and half of the town of Ebbing, Missouri. 

Mildred’s quest for justice is a timely match to the many moods of TrumpAmerica and McDormand milks every zingy comic scene and every heart-tugging moment. Put this film on the shelf next to her winning performances in Fargo (1996) and Olive Kitteridge (2014).

Writer-Director Martin McDonagh (Best Screenplay Academy Award winner for In Bruges, 2006) gives us a revenge-and-justice film that suggests consequences for all actions, including revenge. It’s a dark comedy, but it’s a whole lot more fun than another redemptive small town film Nebraska (2013) or pretty much any film this year.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri ushers in the 2017 Oscar-quality movie season. It’s such a thrill to see a good movie in the theater again that I may go buy three billboards to spread the word.

Simply put: Start the bonfire. It's the brightest spark of quality film this year.

Award potential: Oscar-wise, it's this year’s Manchester by the Sea with expected nominations in all major categories and front-runners in the acting and screenplay ones. McDormand is a lock and I’m thrilled to say that Sam Rockwell will likely get a nomination for his scene-stealing role as a backwards cop with mama issues.

The ten buck review:
Worth ten bucks

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Blade Runner 2049

best films 2017 what should I rent
The real thing. 

I re-watched the original, non-director’s cut of Blade Runner (1982) this week to get a sense of how truly revolutionary it was, or if its greatness was some nostalgic, artificially implanted memory. Ridley Scott’s initially underrated film was a mind-blower with narrative and visuals that have inarguably inspired every sci-fi film since — the Terminator, Matrix and Avatar series are just a few.

Let me initially note that Blade Runner 2049 is unlikely to be equally revolutionary, but it is a stunning, mind-blowing and worthy follow up. This is definitely not a cash grab. Director Denis Villeneuve (Arrival, Sicario) masterfully honors the beloved story, builds on it and gives us more puzzles to debate. Scott is executive producer. 

To hint at plot points or characters is unfair to future viewers, but I can say that 2049 is not a heavy action movie. Like its predecessor, it is ultimately a philosophical film that explores what it means to be human, to have a soul, to be real. The poetic script by Hampton Fancher (Blade Runner, Logan) chews on those key questions in a future that has changed less in its thirty years than our world has. 

Key for enjoying this experience, the script does steamroll towards some form of resolution. But as you know with this world, nothing is certain. This showy, confident and nearly three-hour film should please casual fans and film snobs alike. 

Simply put: Titillating visuals. Solid cast. Booming sound. Elevated storytelling. 2049 is a stunning mindbender and worthy heir to one of one of the most influential science fiction films of all time. 

Award potential: Sci-fi and sequels don’t usually do well with Best Picture and Best Director nominations but 2049 should build quite a tally in multiple categories, similar to Mad Max: Fury Road

13-time nominee for Best Cinematography, Roger A. Deakins (No Country For Old Men, The Shawshank Redemption), should be on a short list to get his 14th Academy Award nomination. Maybe he’ll win one. Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch do justice to those iconic themes by Vangelis and should compete against themselves (Dunkirk) for Best Original Score, if not “Loudest.” Harrison Ford and Ryan Gosling are impeccable, but unlikely to compete in the acting categories. Expect nods for Best Visual Effects, Best Sound, Best Sound Editing, Best Makeup and more. 

The ten buck review: Worth ten bucks

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The Mountain Between Us

A perilous journey.

Stranded on a mountain after a plane crash, two sexy strangers work together to survive. They're conflicted on whether to stay put — or run away. To keep alert or fall asleep and rest. Oddly, those are the same thoughts I experienced while watching this film.

When a passerby saw the commotion about the premiere, he asked me what movie I was seeing. As I said the name, The - Mountain - Between - Us, out loud I should have realized what I was about to endure. The mesmerizing duo of actors in their peak (Kate Winslet, Idris Elba) did pull me in early, but eventually I realized I was watching a paperback novel on screen.

The storyline, like those pulpy novels, is never realistic enough for the audience to truly fear for its leads. I was more concerned that Academy Award winner Kate Winslet had to read those laughable lines in the third act than for her character's ability to endure the extreme elements. Let's just bury this one and move on.

Simply put: The scenery and the stars are pretty to look at, but unless you're looking for a pulpy paperback played out on screen, this film puts the word "disaster" in "disaster movie."

Award potential: Razzie potential.

The Ten Buck Review: Not worth ten bucks.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Victoria & Abdul

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We are amused.

Despite its stuffy title and subject matter, Victoria & Abdul is a broad comedy about the most influential broad of the Victorian era, Queen Victoria. The opening line,“Based on real events…mostly,” reads at the beginning and that whimsy continues for most of this entertaining film. 

As a viewing experience, V&A falls somewhere between director Stephen Frears’ other films: the sublime drama The Queen (2006) and the madcap comedy Florence Foster Jenkins (2016). And while Dame Judi Dench never plays Victoria for laughs, there are plenty of amusements on screen.

Dench has played Queen Victoria before; she starred in the well-received Mrs. Brown (1997). This time, she plays the bored, stifled version of the 68-year old monarch as she encounters an Indian servant named Abdul Karren, played by Ali Fazal (Fast & Furious 7).

The encounter, based on Shrabani Basu’s book, Victoria & Abdul: The True Story of the Queen's Closest Confidant, begins an unlikely friendship. A friendship that was recently revealed to the world in 2010. It would be unbelievable if it wasn’t true.

These top actors help viewers understand how this friendship could be— how royalty could yearn for an emotional connection that was unavailable to them from family and countrymen. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of formula and few surprises beyond this revelation, and the harsh shift from comedy to drama is too abrupt at the end. But winningly, the deft comic touch, incredible scenery and strong performances prevail. 

This is a royally fun two hours at the movies.

Simply put: Guess who’s coming for mango chutney? V&A is fun, funny and fully entertaining.

Award potential: Not strong enough to rule on Oscar night in the film and directing categories, but it should do well at the Golden Globes in the Comedy divisions. Dench could ride into the Oscar five Best Actresses as she did for Mrs. Brown, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

The Ten Buck Review: Worth ten bucks.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017


best horror movies 2017
Allegory? Or just gory? 

I’ve heard that 2017 will be remembered as the year of the highbrow horror movie. Both Get Out and Stephen King’s It have been both critical and commercial successes this year, and a new fall film, Mother!, boasts an all Oscar-caliber, past-nominated cast (Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Michelle Pfieffer and Ed Woods). 


While director Darren Aronosfsky’s film is superbly crafted and thought provoking, it doesn’t provide enough meat for quality movie lovers nor enough roller coaster excitement for the horror audience. It falls somewhere between. 

Our theater appeared to be divided into those that got the allegory story and were not surprised by, er, revelations — and those that did not. That second group was likely full of the folks leaving the theater in the final arc. It was close to a quarter of the room that left my showing.

Simply put: At the end of the day, neither film intellectuals nor horror fans will be satisfied enough to spend two hours with this.

Award potential: It will spur a mother load of discussion, but no Oscar talk.

The Ten Buck Review: Not worth ten bucks.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Twin Peaks: The Return

 The Peak TV event of the year.

I’ve been mad at David Lynch for over 25 years. That’s how long it’s been since the 1991 finale of Twin Peaks ended abruptly, with a cruel twist to fans. The final minutes closed with central character Agent Cooper becoming possessed by the spirit of Bob, Laura Palmer’s supernatural killer. Cooper laughed through the screen with an evil grin, and I felt like Lynch was doing the same to all of us who invested in the world of Twin Peaks.

There were no answers in the 1992 movie either. The log lady might have warned me, but I was flattened with a prequel that raised even more questions. Whenever I have been asked about my “least favorite” movie in polls, social list and at parties, I’ve had an easy go-to answer prepared: The theater-clearing Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.

That frustration has always been a shame, because Twin Peaks was damn good TV. It challenged what TV could become and it launched the next-level movement that led to The X-Files, The Sopranos, Mad Men and eventually, and ironically, the standouts of “Peak TV” today: Fargo, Breaking Bad, True Detective, Mr. Robot and more.

Twenty-five years later, I forgive you David Lynch and Mark Frost.

The Return has given that infamous cliffhanger a bookend. And it has given its viewers the most dazzling television of the year. It’s possible that Lynch and Frost (Hill Street Blues) weren’t ever taunting us with unfinished plot lines on purpose, as this 18-part series has a full story to tell. Truly, the owls are not what they seem.

Showtime billed this as “Cooper’s return to Twin Peaks” and it has delivered very specifically to that quote. Lynch, who directed all 18 parts, is in top form as he milks every stalled scene for those who are patient enough to travel along.

The Return is bizarre, brilliant, sometimes funny, sometimes frightening and always entertaining. It begs you to turn out the lights, put down your phone and see what unfolds.

This is the (twisted stem) cherry on top of the brilliant season one. In terms of pure satisfaction and elevation of the form, Twin Peaks is an unexpected triumph.

Simply put: Diane, take note: this is damn good TV.

Award potential: An Golden Globe Emmy contender in all categories. Episode 8 should claim multiple trophies and will become an entry in film study. Director Lynch and actors Kyle MacLachlan, Laura Dern and Naomi Watts are clear front runners in their categories.

The Ten Buck Review: Worth ten bucks (or a Showtime description this month). Showtime will run all 18 parts on Sunday, September 3.


How to watch Twin Peaks Parts 1-3

Showtime has released each rich “part” in standard weekly format, allowing viewers to absorb as well as truly anticipate the full return of a favorite character or two or three. I feel sorry for anyone who chooses to binge later.

1. Watch the first season, from 1990 (Showtime). There are 8 episodes.
2. Watch just the first seven episodes from season two (Laura’s killer is revealed), and then skip to the final two episodes (21 and 22). You can go back later, but you’ll lose interest in Twin Peaks if you try to watch the flawed second season.
3. Watch Twin Peaks: The Return (season three), do not binge
4. Halfway through season three, you may find that  theTwin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me movie will provide some info. Addicts only; it won't be entertaining.

5. Watch the final episodes of The Return