Tag Archives: Reviews

An Android’s Dream: The Legacy of Blade Runner

Released in 1982, Blade Runner remains a pillar of science fiction standing shoulder to shoulder with the Star Wars series, The Muppet Movie, Tremors, Lawnmower Man and Jumper as being one of the greatest sci-fi worlds ever visualized on screen. With the release of the long-awaited sequel, Blade Runner 2049: Blade Runnest, it’s time to look back at director Ridley Scott’s original masterpiece to find out how it was made and why it remains a beloved film.

A Novel Idea
Based on the Philip K. Dick novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, which itself was based on the Presbyterian hymn “Jesus Don’t Make No Robots,” the movie took audiences members on a tour of the future and dared to asked the important question: Are flying cars filled with helium?

After the success of Star Wars, Mary Poppins and The Wizard of Oz, Hollywood was chomping at the bit to make another fantasy science fiction film, and Dick’s novel, about a futuristic cop and a surf contest to save the old library, was perfectly suited for the big screen. British director Ridley Scott, hot of the success of Alien was brought on board to bring the project to life.

“Before that, I had never heard of Blade Runner,” said Scott in a graduation speech he was rehearsing in front of a mirror. “I had never heard of it because the term ‘Blade Runner’ isn’t in the book. In the book, the cops are called ‘Gun Boys’ and so we had to come up with a new name. And just then my cousin’s toddler Benny came in and he was trying to say ‘Parade Plumber’ — I don’t know why — but he was trying to say it. But he had a speech thing because he was a toddler. So it sounded like Blade Runner. And I paid him $4 for that idea, which is a lot of money for a toddler so I really don’t feel bad about that.” Continue reading An Android’s Dream: The Legacy of Blade Runner

Wow, Bob, Wow! A Spoiler-Free Review of the First Two New Twin Peaks Episodes

There are four episodes of the new Twin Peaks available right now for streaming from Showtime. I’ve seen only the first two. I’m tempted (so very tempted) to go ahead and binge episodes 3 and 4 but I will do my best to keep those episodes floating above my head in the WiFi…for now.

I need to savor this.

Writer/director David Lynch is 71. It is a very real possibility that this will be his last major filmmaking project. I hope it isn’t. I hope he keeps making movies well into his 100s. But…this could be it. Lynch’s previous film, the impenetrable but interesting Inland Empire, was released 11 years ago. Do the math and check the calendars. This could be it. It might be the grand finale of his decade-spanning career. So I don’t want to waste it.

If you can’t tell by now, here’s the review of the first two episodes: I love them. For two hours I watched Lynch (and co-writer Mark Frost) ooze out a surreal mystery that was familiar and strange. It was scary and funny. I’m still thinking about it. All of it. I don’t get it. I don’t really want to get it. I just love it.

People will look for meanings to the imagery, and there are meanings…and double meanings, triple meanings, etc., but there’s also a joy in letting each scene play out like its own short film. If you have trouble understanding it, that’s okay. At the risk of sounding like a hippy: Just let it wash over you, man.

People may not like this new Twin Peaks. It’s not like the old show. Some people just want the show. And Lynch understands that, in his own wonderful way.

Without spoiling much of anything, there’s an early scene in the first episode of two people watching a glass box waiting for something to happen. Something happens to them. If you can’t see the metaphor and subtext of this scene, get out now. This is not for you. IT’S FOR ME!

There will no doubt be dozens of websites popping up that will try to unravel the mystery. There will be YouTube videos of fans picking apart every detail in every scene. And I’ll probably visit these sites over the next few months, if only to catch a better glimpse of a still from an episode or to read the comments. But, and this is important, I’m not sure the whole thing will add up to a reasonable conclusion. I don’t expect that. Then again, Lynch loves to subvert expectations. Who knows? Maybe the final episode of this return will solve all the mysteries succinctly and with sound logic. That’d be different.

I’m letting episodes 3 and 4 alone this week. I’ll watch them later. I’m going to slowly sip this cup of coffee instead of chugging it, because it’s a damn fine cup of coffee but there’s no promise of refills.

For more information on my David Lynch mancrush, read about the time I interviewed Lynch and babbled like a dork. For more information on my Twin Peaks theories, unlock the front door and I will sneak into your bedroom and whisper my thoughts while you slumber.

Mastodon: Emperor of Sand (A review…kind of)

I don’t listen to much heavy metal music. I’m not a fan of the Cookie Monster screaming vocals of some lead singers, and the music is usually either too complicated for me to understand what’s happening or so simple that it sounds like someone just got a guitar that has a demo mode.

I’m picky.

In fact, there are only two metal bands I enjoy: Tool and Mastodon. And Tool is more prog-rock than metal at this point (not a bad thing!). That leaves me with Mastodon, a band that is everything I enjoy about heavy metal rolled up into one crazy/scary/cool/loud/creative package. If you don’t like metal music, this band won’t change your mind. But, if you have even the slightest bit of interest in having your face melt off due to extreme rock power, I highly recommend you give them a chance.

Their latest album, Emperor of Sand, was released last week. I like it. I like it quite a bit. There’s a song on the album called “Scorpion Breath” and another called “Jaguar God” and those are perfect song titles. It’s a concept album about a guy lost in the desert and there are ancient evils in the barren landscape. The music is strange and diverse. Instruments pop up for a few seconds and fade away like ghosts. It sometimes sounds like there are monsters lurking behind the guitars and drums, with electronic growls and buzzes. And some of the songs are even catchy, which is rare for a metal band.

It’s not Mastodon’s best album. That would be 2009’s Crack the Skye, which featured 10-minute songs about Russian czars and out-of-body experiences. Since that album, Mastodon has gotten a bit more radio-friendly. (i.e. The songs have gotten shorter/less weird.) Thankfully, Emperor of Sand brings back the weird and wild…though the songs are still too short for my taste. (“Scorpion Breath” is only three minutes! Boo!)

My musical taste is…unusual. My “Recently Played” list on Spotify features jazz great Thelonious Monk alongside Cher, Bob Dylan, Lorde, TV on the Radio, Paul Simon, Chance the Rapper and Tom Waits. And today, after I re-listen to the Emperor of Sand album, there’s some Beauty and the Beast action…because that’s a tale as old as time.

This is my playlist right now. My day is wonderful!


Zelda: Breath of the Wild Review (By Someone Who Hasn’t Played It)

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is not only the best video game, it’s the best event a human can experience. From graphics to gameplay, this is Nintendo’s masterpiece — a game so well made that it will anger you to know other video games exist at all. There is no other game, only Zelda: Breath of the Wild. This game belongs perched next to the Mona Lisa, and that our government has not yet publicly praised the game is proof that America does not work.

While playing the game, a light appeared in my mind, and from that light I heard the voices of the dead and they said onto me, “Peace,” and there was peace.

To the pathetic, vulgar mammals who know not of the game, Breath of the Wild is an open-world Zelda adventure in which you guide Link through dungeons and puzzles. This is a launch title for Nintendo’s new Switch console, a device that is equal parts Bible and poem. Failure to buy the system is failure to live a purposed life. Of that, we cannot disagree. Continue reading Zelda: Breath of the Wild Review (By Someone Who Hasn’t Played It)

Daily Transmission #9: Another Online Opinion About “La La Land”

La La Land is a fun movie. The 8,000 online articles and Tweets about the movie and “the return of musicals” and how “the country really needs this right now” are not so fun. Shut up. Stop talking about this movie as if it’s Hamilton 2. Why are so many people falling over themselves to praise La La Land?

It’s just a fun movie. There were many fun movies this year. There are many fun musicals in the universe. Why is this one placed on such a high pedestal? And remember — I liked the movie. It’s not a bad movie. It’s a fun movie.

I would have enjoyed La La Land even more if I didn’t go into the theater expecting the most amazing piece of cinema since Edison first captured moving images with chemicals. There’s a level of hype around La La Land that is impossible to live up to. It seems movie bloggers and critics want La La Land to be a perfect, amazing thing and hope to make it so by will and word count alone.

La La Land is not the greatest artistic achievement of the new millennia. It is a good, fun movie. I’m glad I saw it. I might see it again in a few years.

But come on…it’s not like this is Jesus Christ Superstar. JCS was a movie worthy of hype. JCS is a pop-art masterpiece. JCS is my favorite movie musical.

In Middle School, my summer job was mowing lawns — or rather, mowing lawn. I mowed one lawn. It was the lawn of a family friend who took pity on my lack of employment and offered me $20 a week to mow the lawn. To pass the time (because how could a Middle School kid ever get anything done without rockin’ tunes?) I would listen to rockin’ tunes on my budget walkman at max volume while mowing the lawn. This was before I had a CD walkman and in a decade when “iPod” was how toddlers asked to use the bathroom, so I could only listen to cassettes. The Jesus Christ Superstar soundtrack (film soundtrack, not Broadway) was in my walkman for most of the summer. I had it memorized. I wore the tape out. I loved it. I still love it. I still know most of the words.

If you haven’t seen the movie/stage show Jesus Christ Superstar, here’s the best way I can describe it: Hippies out hippy themselves with their hippiness.

It’s goofy and corny. The acting is over-the-top terrible and the songs sound like they were written by theater kids who stayed after rehearsal to mess around with the piano until their parents pick them up. The anachronistic use of modern weapons and clothes is so forced it hurts the brain. And the “twist” ending is laughable. But it works. It all works so well! It works much better than it should!

It’s a movie of its time. And that’s okay.

No one would make a Jesus Christ Superstar movie today, or if they did, it would be too bland and boring, without any of the heart or sincerity of the 1973 film. They’d get Armie Hammer to play Jesus and Olivia Munn to play Mary Magdalene. Terrence Howard would turn the soulful, complicated Judas into a stale loaf of a character. Seth Rogen would be added as a disciple for unneeded comic relief. There would be big budget special effects and soft makeup that would hide the sweat and grit on the faces of the actors. And a new song and scene set in China would be added to get those precious Chinese movie dollars. It would be too safe.

The 1973 movie was not nominated for best picture (though a few actors received Golden Globe noms). It did not light the world on fire with its box office take of $24 million. It’s remembered more for being controversial (Jesus…singing?!?) than for its music or staging. But it was weird and wild and unlike anything else. And it existed. It actually happened.

That’s why it’s my favorite movie musical.

La La Land is okay, too.