Mr. Mercedes: A Different Type of Stephen King Horror 

     Stephen King has been enjoying this bit of a resurgence lately, with It recently breaking box office records. Even though thw man has been known for his tale of the supernatural macabre, he does manage to find new ways to horrify you; and Mr. Mercedes is just that new flavor to get a taste of. 

     During a job fair, a man driving a Mercedes plows his way through the crowd injuring and killing many including a young mother and her infant child. Bill Hodges (Brendan Gleeson) was assigned to the case but was never able to locate the killer. Two years later, now retired, Bill begins to receive messages from the killer (Harry Treadaway) taunting him, goading him to kill himself. He just didn’t count on one thing: Bill starts to fight back. 

     I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a Stephen King story that has both the elements of noir along with that of a cat and mouse game. As of this writing there have been 6 episodes (out of ten) and there is nothing supernatural about. Just the ugly depravity of human nature.

     The best thing about Mr. Mercedes is that it is a series so the characters are allowed to flourish under the episodic nature of television. Gleeson’s Hodges is a man broken, haunted by his failure to not only capture the Mercedes killer, but to keep his family together. The most shocking thing, as it were, about the series is that from the first episode we the audience know who the killer is. Treadaway’s Brady has that creepy vibe, but you can tell that he doesn’t want to be that way. Because of his introverted ways, he gets stepped on by his boss and mother, causing him to pursue a twisted sense of righteousness.  

     The series dives into some truly disturbing elements and images that will turn some people off, like the aforementioned job fair scene, but the quiet nature of the game that these to men are playing is just to juicy to pass up. These men have given themselves a perverted sense of purpose towards each other, and it’s only going to get worse for the both of them from here. 

     This time Stephen King has shown us that the monsters we should be frightened of don’t live in the sewers, but the ones that could live next door to us. 

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Don’t Be Upset That Twin Peaks Ended, Be Joyous That It Happened. 

     On September 3rd, Twin Peaks: The Return ended its run with a two part finale. I’m still reeling from so I will do my best to keep some sort of sanity in my thoughts. I sense that a lot of people royally pissed off over how it all transpired; the events, the use of the characters, the explicitly unanswered questions, just take your pick, its all valid. 

     If you find yourself upset, ask yourself this: 

     Do you even know David Lynch?

     The last two episodes (especially the second one) come off as some sort of fever dream that quickly spiraled into a nightmare. This is Lynch at his purest, most surrealist that he’s been in years. From the likes of Lost Highway to Inland Empire this is what the fimmmaker has always done; the dropped plot points, the strayed characterizations, I mean this is pretty common. 

     The final episode, to get back on track here, is a surrealist masterpiece. Based on that one viewing, I legitimately have no idea where to start to make sense. No matter though, when it comes to David Lynch I have come to learn that if you don’t know how to feel, just go with the music and the images. The use of negative space, think of the car scene at its climax, along with the lingering shots, create such a sense of unease, almost as of we’re descending into Hell. I feel a sense of loss, but I can’t even begin to tell you why. The ending just feels sad and open ended and that has always been Lynch’s style. 

     I do have a theory about what it could mean, but that requires some spoilers. 
     Based on the last few episodes, I believe that the events of this series of Twin Peaks all transpire in Audrey’s coma. I am fairly confident that in one of the early episodes it was mentioned that she was in a coma, but in a throwaway line. And then with her dance at the Roadhouse it became pretty apparent. But again that’s my immediate reaction. 

     What does it all mean, this new Twin Peaks? I believe it’s about the fact that you can never go home again. It just isn’t the same. And when you do go back, be prepared to face the demons you left behind. If not then all you’ll experience is the bleakest void imaginable. 

     This ending is going to stay with me for awhile. I knew that since the beginning. 

The Defenders (2017) Miniseries Review

     The Defenders has that Avengers vibe going for it, and that’s a great thing. Here we have four distinct characters, all with their own style, so forgive the skepticism when I came into this, um, miniseries? Yeah, I’m going to call it that. 

     When the series picks up, Daredevil (Charlie Cox) is on his own, Jessica Jones (Kristin Ritter) takes up a case that gets her arrested, Luke Cage (Mike Coulter) is just getting out of prison, and Iron Fist (Finn Jones) is coming back to New York to face The Hand which is run apparently by Alexandra (Sigourney Weaver). After meeting in a brawl, they begrudgingly team up to take down The Hand once and for all. 

     The greatest things about this series is that the interactions between the four leads is just so much fun. The way in that they team up feels natural and no one acts out of character. Think about it, all four of them are lone wolves so having to trust strangers is just not going to be easy. 

     But easily the happiest part for me was the chemistry and banter between Luke Cage and Iron Fist. As a comic book nerd growing up, even I know the chance of seeing those two on a screen was going to be damn near impossible. These are the Heroes for Hire, man!!! What an age we live in. See the two of them laugh, starting to look out for one another just bleeds the comics. I already want their spin off series. 

     Marvel/Netflix keeps up their tally of having villains that are so much better than their big screen compatriots. Weaver just reminds you that no one can be so evil, yet calm, like she can. She actually has an arc, a motive, even an understanding of why The Hand needs to destroy New York. She holds your attention every damn step of the way. 

     At a brisk eight episode, the show doesn’t have time for filler, but it does drag on occation. But I have to say that while Finn Jones has gotten better in the role of Iron Fist, but Jesus Christ, does he have a way to go. He’s great opposite Luke Cage, hell with any of the other Defenders, but when he has to act tough or serious, he sucks. I actually yelled at my screen at him to lighten the fuck up, it just doesn’t come off natural, and you’re full of shit if that’s because of how the character is supposed to be. No. He sucks. Luke Cage needs to be in every scene with him so he can stop sucking so damn much. 

     Stupid Iron Fist moments aside, the show is just a lot of fun if you enjoyed any of the previous Marvel/Netflix series. I was truly apprehensive about The Hand being the antagonists, they were among the shittier things in Daredevil Season 2, and Iron Fist, but this actually made them compelling. The motives are now so clear and defined to put it lightly. It was great to see these characters again (except Iron Fist) and I already can’t wait for what comes next. 
     

Twin Peaks (2017) Review: Episodes 1-2

     “I’ll see you in 25 years”– Laura Palmer. 

     That line. Jesus. I’m still reeling from this premiere. The short of it is that this is pure David Lynch: its not what I expected, while at the same time being exactly what I expected. 

     If that doesn’t describe what David Lynch is (or co creater Mark Frost), I don’t know what does.

     To attempt to keep the spoilers to a minimum, I’ll just rundown some bare bones elements. Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) is still in the Black Lodge as predicted by Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) 25 years ago. Now it appears that there is an opportunity to escape. Meanwhile, there’s a new mystery that seems to have popped up with a high school principal played by Matthew Lillard embroiled in a murder plot involving his possible mistress. I don’t know, I don’t trust anything laid out in front of me. 

     So getting that out of the way, David Lynch wasn’t fucking around when he said that he wanted each episode to be a movie in its own right. It pretty much is though. 

     What really gets me to be honest, is that all of the events in the Black Lodge feel like continuations of the original series, while the new storylines, as it were, have a wholly different feel from before. Lynch was wise enough to see that the soap opera satire that helped to define the original, was no longer relevant in today’s era. 

     With network restrictions a thing of the past, this series goes into the surrealistic imagery with an abundance of reckless abandon. Nothing seems to be held back, well, for the moment at least. As soon as I heard the eerie talk from the Other Place, I knew we were back home. 

     I have always attempted to make the point that it isn’t coherency that makes David Lynch projects special, but the emotions evoked from the incoherent images. There is an epicness in scope; with Twin Peaks itself getting a little short changed at the mement in these two episodes. 

     In all purity, the emotions that this series got me to explore was fascination and fear. Lynch was never one to shy away from horror, and he makes me feel uneasy. I was truly sad though that Sheriff Truman wasn’t there, and that the Log Lady was so frail (The actress would pass away after filming her scenes). But more than anything I was sad about Coop. He never deserved to end up there. 

     As melancholic as I may make this sound, I am already in love with this Twin Peaks. The murder mystery set up feels right out of Lost Highway. Hell, the cinematography feels like a cross between Mulholland Drive and Inland Empire. The sound design is pure Lynch, it felt like being right at home. And as always the choice of music is just sublime, with an 80s aesthetic, commonly used, even though it was a Lynchian trope dating back to Blue Velvet. 

     I can only truly recommend these episodes to fans of David Lynch, not just Twin Peaks. The show is much different now, a more unhinged beast of not giving a fuck. I have no god damn clue what the fuck is going on, or even where it’s going, and that is exactly what I wanted out of this revival. Mr. Lynch, Mr Frost, wecome back. 

     

Power Rangers (2017) Review

     Ah, another property being relaunched as a potential film franchise. The nostalgia kick is too strong to ignore. Growing up, I wasn’t a fan of Power Rangers television show. I knew who everyone was, it was too cheesy for me even in elementary school. 

     Well, we’ve come now to the inevitable film reboot, and I got to say… 

     That it ain’t bad…

     The plot is pretty much what you’d expect from a Power Rangers movie: Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks) wakes up from her deep slumber, and starts causing some shit, meanwhile a group of misfit teens acquire some gems and superhuman powers. Lead by Zordon (Bryan Cranston), the Rangers have to work together to defeat Rita, and find themselves in the process. 

     I genuinely feel that this will quite possibly be the best movie that will ever be made with this material. I mean that as high praise. The acting, writing, and even the directing is a lot better than this movie deserves. Let’s not kid ourselves here; its a giant monster/robot movie. Who the fuck is going to see this to get a thoughtful high school drama in the vein of John Hughes? I sure as shit didn’t. 

     Where the movie broke through was the respect that was given to actually develop and respect the characters. Yes, I’m even including the genetic clone of Zac Efron as the Red Ranger (shut up, he is). My God, even Rita Repulsa was given an intriguing backstory as a fallen ranger (a shiny nickel for those that guess what color she was). Even Alpha-5 (Bill Hader) was actually funny, and didn’t make me want to throw a beverage at the screen. I want a Zordon/Alpha-5 spin off where they just bitch to each other for 90 minutes. Just take my money. 

     Like any good pasta dish, Power Rangers does have it’s fair amount of cheese, especially when they fight the monster, because of course it does. Its a god damn Power Rangers movie!! I don’t give a shit how many Oscars the movie might have won in the future, if there wasn’t those cheesy mecha battles, the film would’ve been a complete failure. I even had a joyous grin on my face when the theme song played. 
     Bear in mind, I never thought the series in all of it’s incarnations was really any good. Just wasn’t a fan. It was too cheap and low budget even for my unrefined tastes as a child. But if the show had been anything like this movie, I would’ve been that guy that wouldn’t shut up about the show. 

     Never have a been happier to be proven wrong about the quality of a film. I never thought I would say that I liked a Power Rangers movie. Never. 

The Ridiculous Joys of Mystery Science Theater 3000

On April 14, 2017 something happened. After 18 years, Mystery Science Theater 3000 returned to effectively grace our screens, simultaneously enhancing and ruining the moviegoing experience for all. 

     The series has always followed some poor dude up in space being forced to watch shitty movies, usually of the horror and sci-fi genre, by some crazy scientist in the name of… well science. Said dude is joined by robots Gypsy, Tom Servo, and Croooow. (Its just Crow). The opening song literally sings to you the whole premise of the show, so I don’t know why I just did that. 

     Anyhoo, this show is the definition of cult series, because not everyone will like. Most don’t, but once you experience it and embrace it, so much fun can be had. 

     I had written before about the sheer joy and lunacy of the Midnight Movie, and it’s now available on Netflix. This show, along with Monstervision, were the Midnight Movie shows for me (they never aired at midnight). 

     Watching the first episode of the new season of Mystery Science Theater 3000, I was hit with the realization that my love of unbelievably shitty films steams from this series. With the ungodly amount of bad films I’ve seen over the years, the show gave me a tool that has endured me to survive: the gift of laughter. 

     I had never seen a show where characters talked back to the screen, making witty asides that would make Oscar Wilde green with envy. Nothing can top a well delivered joke in line with the films being watched. There was never a show like this before, and I’ll be damned if there was ever a show like it since. It’s truly a unique creature, built from television and cinema. 

     Even with the show’s move to Netflix, its the same thing as before! Believe me this is such a great thing. Mystery Science Theater 3000 changed the way an entire generation watched and experienced films, the unsightly horrors from the voids of space. I’m just giddy. 

     I’m hoping a new generation will now pick up the series and have its imagination fucked with, much like mine was. And while I’ve been lamenting this whole “Reboot” fever, I’m not gonna say a bad word about this trend. Reboot All in the Family, I don’t give a fuck, I got Mystery Science Theater 3000. 

     The world isn’t such a bad place after all. 

Ash vs. Evil Dead Season 1 Review 

     The Evil Dead trilogy was something I grew up on since I was in my early teens. You’d think it was Army of Darkness that got me into the mad adventures of Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell), but it actually Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn (the video store by my house didn’t have part one because reasons). I eventually saw part one and loved it, but I kept hoping for part 4 to come out. But after 21 years in my case, and the remake having come out, I gave up on seeing my favorite idiotic hero fight the Deadites once more. 

     Until now…

     Ash vs Evil Dead is that batshit crazy sequel that fans had all hoped for. Now, Ash is joined by coworkers Pablo (Ray Santiago) and Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo) after Ash’s stupid ass read from the Necronomicon and unleashes the Deadites. Again. 

     I didn’t have much trepidation going into this as I do with many other revivals; it has Bruce Campbell (yay), Sam and Ivan Rami involved (yay, yay). After the first couple of episodes I did start to worry, as they didn’t strictly adhere to the formula that the films established, which is the one location thing. 
     The show was fun, but it wasn’t quite the Evil Dead that I know and love, but (spoilers) once they the cabin, holy fuck did the series get fun. Jesus, that energy did not let up. And there were some revelations about the Necronomicon (Ermahgerd)!

     Speaking as a fan boy, and as I lover of Army of Darkness, is that Bruce Campbell still has the comedic chops and charms to play someone so egotistically stupid. I may be alone in this, but the reason I didn’t enjoy the 2013 Evil Dead, was because it was so fucking serious. Yeah, I’m all for unrelenting bloodshed, but Jesus lighten the fuck up a bit. Break the tension, have some fun. My main criticism of the movie was, “Needs more Ash”.

     Now, we got him folks. Season 2 just started, and what better way to start the Halloween season but with your old pal Ash. And always remember folks: Shop smart. Shop S-Mart. 

Stranger Things Season One Review 

     There is no greater joy for a film and television lover when you discover something that is exactly what you’ve been looking for; like finally being able to scratch that itch that’s been fucking with you for months. Netflix’s new series, Stranger Things is that scratcher that renewed my faith in just compelling storytelling. 

     Will Byers (Noah Schnapps) has gone missing. The last people to see him were his friends Mike (Finn Woodhard), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), and Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) while his mother Joyce (Winona Rider) frantically starts to look for him with the help of the local sheriff  (David Harbour). But with the sudden appearance of a mysterious girl (Millie Bobby Brown), there seem to be stranger things happening. 

     The whole show is like a clusterfuck of nostalgia for someone who grew up watching 80s movies and tv shows. As soon as the first episode started I immediately thought E.T., but when the opening credits started I could have fucking swore that this show was created in the 80s. The care and thought that was put into recreating that retro feel is nothing short of astonishing. 

     But all that means jackshit if the show fucking sucked, but it doesn’t. The mystery of the show is too good of a set up, and the entire cast just fucking excel at bringing a real feeling of depth to their characters. All of the characters, especially the sheriff, have a lot of shit that they’re trying to come to terms with. And like any good story should be able to do, pays off in devastating ways. 

     We live in an age where Hollywood studios are trying their best to monetize our need for nostalgic fare with big budget reboots of old films and tv shows, here is a series that manages to get the feel of an 80s story with, hold on for this shit, with an original fucking story. Shit, Stranger Things is better than any movie playing in theaters now. Didn’t even have to leave the damn house. 

      

How The Final Episode of “Angel” Saved My Life

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     I know the title of this post is a bit overdramatic, but hear me out though. We all have that one movie, show, game or book that gave us the hope for a better future in our lives. For me it was Angel, a show about vampire with a soul trying to atone for all the horrific shit he did in the past. As today is the 12th anniversary of the finale, entitled appropriately Not Fade Away, I want to express how the ending of the show became the beginning of my life.
     I have always been a shy, lonely, insecure person. That’s putting it very mildly. When it came to my love life, I didn’t have one. I tried, but it just always ended in embarrassment and shame. I had this unyielding need to be validated through the love of a woman.
     In 2003-2004, I thought I finally found her.
     This girl was perfect for me in every conceivable way. I know this because my best friend at the time told me so.
     So to get on with the whole point, this girl said she liked my best friend, but that at one point liked me as well. Maybe it was out of pity, maybe it was sincere, maybe she owes me for my therapy bills, I’ll never know. So, my best friend told me he liked her and, of course, I gave my blessing because they both deserved to be happy; even if that meant that I would get tossed like a parking ticket.
     How can doing something noble, the right thing as it were, and have it feel like I lost the only shot at happiness?
     This is where Not Fade Away comes in.
     The show was already cancelled at this point, so I waited with anticipated dread that this was the last I would see of my favorite show. Never did I think that it would stay with me for this long.
     So how could a show teach me the true value of “The Good Fight”?  From the beginning that’s what the show has always been about. But right out of the gate, the writers did something that shook me to my core: The prophecy that would have given Angel his redemption, was voided by Angel himself. He had to, in order to gain the trust of Hell’s representation on Earth. He will never become human; he will never be able to atone for his sins. He gave it up.
     The Circle of the Black Thorn, Hell’s representation to be clear, have their hands in everything from politics to… well that’s bad enough. They are so powerful, that you could maybe fuck up their day, but you cannot beat them. But to quote Angel himself:
     They’re not there to be beaten. They’re there to be fought.
     The remaining members of his crew, Wesley, Spike, Lorne, Gunn, and Illyria know that this could be the end of their lives. They know they’re not going to win. But they have to try.
     Imagine emotional pain, and turmoil in the guise of a single episode of your stories, and you’re nowhere near the devastation that Not Fade Away inflicts upon you. When you see one of the biggest pain in the ass characters to ever exist in any medium, archenemy Lindsay, get gunned down by the comic relief of the show… it changes you. Especially when Lindsay gasps that Angel is supposed to kill him…
     Wesley. Fuck. I’ll try to get through this. Wesley got shit on a lot, and that’s an understatement. He recently lost the love of his life because some asshole had to bring back an old god. Winifred, or Fred, was hollowed out from the inside and her soul was destroyed. She doesn’t exist anymore. The god, Illyria, is trying to become human, but Wesley begrudgingly helps her, even if she resembles Fred. Illyria was trying to be nice in taking Fred’s form so Wesley can have one last perfect day, but he said that would be a lie.
     So as the entire gang is all tasked with taking out the head members of The Black Thorn, Wesley is knifed, and lays dying when Illyria appears, because she was worried about him. She then says the saddest fucking line in the history of lines:

    Would you like for me to lie to you now?

     What follows is just the most tear jerking scene you can ever fucking endure. I can’t describe it because I’m in a public place and I don’t want people to see me cry.
     I’m back. And composed. 
     To get further along to the point, and move pass some overwhelming details, the last scene takes place in an alley with no way out. As the remaining characters meet up, this being Spike and Angel, Gunn appears exhausted. Then he realizes that he’s bleeding out. Illyria appears mourning Wesley; wishing to do more violence. As these four characters look on they see the armies of Hell coming towards them (complete with dragon). Its at this moment that the line that sums up the show is uttered after Illyria says to Gunn that he’s fading and will last only ten minutes at best:
   
     Then let’s make them memorable.

     The screen cuts to black as they begin to fight.
     Comic Book continuations be damned, we never did find out what happened to them. On some days I like to think that they made it out no problem. On others, I think they perished in the battle. And I like that ending in my mind. They never gave up. They all knew that what they were fighting was going to get them killed, and they didn’t care. They fucked up Hell’s day. Or hour. Doesn’t matter, what does matter is that they did the right thing, and goddam it they went out in a blaze of glory.
     So how did this save my life? Remember I mentioned that Angel gave up his redemption to gain the trust of the Black Thorn? That’s what did it. Angel realized, like I did, that you don’t do the right thing to get a reward; you do the right thing, because it’s the right thing to do. My best friend at that time deserved to be happy, and so did the object of my affections. When I stood as Best Man at their wedding, I knew that I did the right thing, even though I had nothing to show for it.
     If Joss Whedon, Jeffrey Bell or anyone from the show were to read this, fucking thank you so much. The show made me strive to be a better man, a more hopeful man especially in times of despair. I owe them a Coke.

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                Angel 1999-2004

Why The Netflix Marvel Shows Are Already The R Rated Marvel Films

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     Recently, I heard the head of Marvel Studios Kevin Feige comment on whether the company will ever release an R rated (17 & over) film. This came about from reports that Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice had a longer R rated cut; Feige said in a diplomatic way, that they weren’t going to do that, that the movies were meant for the whole family. This makes sense since Marvel is owned by fucking Disney.
     What I found hilarious about this question, besides that it’s a blatant attempt at fanning the Marvel/DC rivalry, was that Marvel Studios is already doing dark, R rated fare. What they’re doing on Netflix with their properties is enough to quench the vulgarity thirst that apparently a lot of comic book fans have.
     Having just finished the second season of Daredevil, I was amazed at how much more rewarding the characterizations, and storytelling were compared to what the Marvel Studios films have been offering. Sure, Daredevil dropped the ball a smidge towards the end, but its a fuck load better than all of Age of Ultron.
     In the first season, Wilson Fisk was just a hell of an antagonist. A villain that you could sympathize, and understand his motives. This time around that character is somebody who casual fans labelled a hero and that’s Frank Castle, also known as the Punisher.
     The Punisher should be exhibit A in the case of why Marvel should own the rights to all of their characters. With three failed movie attempts, and not one of those being a sequel, the show demonstrates easier what went wrong with the other versions: they portrayed him as a hero.
     Trust me, he’s not.
     The first few episodes terrified me of the Punisher, as you should have always been. Yes, he has a tragic, and heartbreaking backstory, but the man is fucking deranged. No person can be labeled a hero when you’re that unhinged.
  

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   I also feel compelled to bring up the other Marvel Netflix show, Jessica Jones. You mother fuckers want dark R rated stuff? Well its right here. Yeah, on the surface its a cool superhero riff on Raymond Chandler. And if you know Raymond Chandler, then you know shit is going to fucked up real quick.
     The entire show is a metaphor on sexual assault, namely the assholes who force themselves onto women against their will, and boy does this get real ugly, awkward, and uncomfortable real fast.
     And this is a great thing.
     It’s hard some people to empathise with such an ugly subject, and Jessica Jones pulls no fucking punches. Especially when the abuser, Killgrave, is played by beloved Sci Fi icon David Tennant.
     And he’s so fucking charming!
     This character is so god damn vile and despicable, yet so likeable that I wanted to take a long shower. When I said this shit got dark, I wasn’t exaggerating here. Comic book and science fiction works are always better when they’re metaphorical. It makes that horrible, bitter pill that much easier to swallow.
     I get that there’s a lot more you can do with a comic book property on t.v. vs a film, but also Netflix shows that you can do some deep, fucked up storytelling that is ultimately more rewarding for an adult audience. It’s cool that Marvel wants to make the films for the whole family. I can’t show my six year old niece Jessica Jones, or my nine year old nephew Daredevil (well, not yet anyway). We have to remember that superhero movies are for kids, first and foremost. Then you add shit for the adults. Shit, who do you think is taking the kids?