Twin Peaks (1990)

aka Twin Peaks: Pilot (International Version)

2017 #70
David Lynch | 113 mins | Blu-ray | 4:3 | USA / English | 15

Twin Peaks: Pilot (International Version)

While they were seeking funding for their feature-length TV pilot, creators David Lynch and Mark Frost agreed to demands that they film an alternative ending that wrapped up the episode’s primary mystery. The thinking was that, if the pilot didn’t get picked up to series, it could be released in Europe as a complete movie (why it couldn’t also be released in the US as a movie I don’t know), thereby recouping some of the cash spent on it. Apparently Lynch and Frost forgot they’d signed up for this until towards the end of the shoot, when they were reminded of their contactual obligation and so dashed something off.

But the series did get picked up, and that half-arsed ending should’ve been consigned to the dustbin of history. Instead, Twin Peaks became a massive worldwide phenomenon, and whoever owned the rights to release the movie version exercised said right, naturally including the tacked-on conclusion. Although the rights situation was settled long ago, the ‘extended’ version is still routinely included alongside the proper one on disc releases. I thought it was about time I checked it out — and judged it as a standalone movie, of course.

Welcome to Twin Peaks

Obviously, for most of its running time the so-called “international version” is identical to the broadcast version of the episode. I would contend that is one of the greatest episodes of television ever made. Everything about it is sublime. For starters, it establishes Twin Peaks’ world quite methodically. We’re gradually introduced to the police station, the mill, the Great Northern hotel, the Double R diner, the school, character’s homes — not just literally the locations, but the people who inhabit them, including their relationships to one another, but public and secret. There’s a ton of information to absorb here, but it’s all laid out so neatly that it doesn’t feel like a chore. There’s also a lot of potential plot lines started or hinted at, which makes a good deal of sense for kicking off a series but (as we’ll see in a bit) is not such a good idea for a two-hour movie…

The episode is also incredibly strong in a filmmaking sense. Thematically, there’s the typical Lynchian obsession with the darkness hiding behind seemingly normal, perfect American lives. It’s not just the weird murder, either: pretty much everyone is sleeping with someone they shouldn’t be, or having some other domestic issue. That’s also very soapy, but that’s deliberate. It’s neither parody nor homage per se, but it’s definitely influenced by how soaps perceive and portray the world. Interestingly, at this point Twin Peaks could be considered just a crime drama with a few quirky characters — all the supernatural weirdness the show’s so known for begins in the next episode (and doesn’t fully kick into gear until the second season).

Visually, Lynch’s shot composition is fantastic, with a strikingly great use of the frame and blocking — very precise, very neat, ordered, but not in a self-conscious, Wes Anderson kind of way. It seems mindful of being shown on the relatively small television screens of the era, but also maintains a quality that carries over to this day. Beyond the purely visual, the content it creates is remarkable too. The sequence in the high school, where the news about Laura gradually comes out before it’s officially announced, is incredible — the way people slowly begin to suspect, the way characters react, the way Lynch is unhurried in letting this unfold. Having watched the episode a couple of times this year now, I think this part is one of my favourite scenes in the whole of cinema. The way it builds to that somehow-perfect shot of Donna set at her school desk crying is majestic.

It's not just because everyone hates Lara Flynn Boyle

However, when judged as a standalone movie, Twin Peaks is a disaster.

After an hour-and-a-half of sheer quality, we reach the 19-minute tacked-on ending. This climax is rushed, simplistic, and refuses to touch on the vast majority of the episode’s subplots. I mean, of course it doesn’t — it was a rush job at the end of production to fill a contractual requirement. It wraps up the Laura Palmer case as quickly and perfunctorily as it can, then Lynch basically says a humungous “eff you” to the notion of having to do a movie version by bunging in a nonsensical dream sequence.

For those who are curious but not minded to sit through the whole thing, I’ll outline what actually happens. The deviation comes in the final scene of the episode as broadcast: instead of having a vision, Sarah Palmer has a flashback to when she was hunting for Laura that morning, realising she saw the killer hiding in Laura’s bedroom. (This, at least, is an effectively creepy notion. Was he actually visible in the quick panning shot of the room we saw earlier on? I daren’t go back to check. Seriously.) Sarah has Leland call Lucy, who’s hanging out at home with Andy (their amusing home life, otherwise unseen in the series, is probably the only reason to watch this). Lucy phones Sheriff Truman so he and Hawk can go to the Palmers and get a police sketch of the killer. Meanwhile, Agent Cooper is awoken by a mysterious phone call (there are lots of phone calls in this) from a man who knows unreleased details about the Teresa Banks murder. The man insists they meet at the hospital, so Coop calls Lucy and tells her to tell the sheriff to meet him there with the sketch.

At home with Punky

At the hospital, they discover the mysterious caller is the one-armed man, Mike, who identifies the sketch as Bob. He also babbles some other stuff which I’m not sure has much meaning in this version, but was recycled for one of his later appearances in the series proper. Mike reveals that Bob is currently down in the hospital basement. Harry and Coop pop down there, confront Bob, have a little natter with the creepy killer (who’s creepiness is considerably diluted by his chattiness, if only for the duration of this scene). Then Mike barges in and shoots Bob dead. Coop delivers a kind of one-liner, before a title card informs us it’s “twenty-five years later”. Then the famous Red Room scene plays out, just like it does in Episode 2 — and if you thought it made almost no sense in the context of the series, it makes even less here. Where is Coop now? Who’s the little guy? Why does he talk funny? Why does his cousin look like Laura Palmer? What’s she on about? What does she whisper to Cooper? Why are we being shown any of this?! It came to Lynch in a vision, and he liked it so much he repurposed it for the series, where it eventually came to have meaning (some meaning, anyway)… but here it’s utterly aimless.

Let's rock!

This international version of Twin Peaks was never really meant to be seen, and it’s obvious Lynch and Frost felt that way when concocting its final act. That ending is rushed in what it does bother to conclude — and, compared to all the plots we’ve just spent nearly two hours watching, what it concludes is not very much. The killer isn’t even one of the people we were considering as suspects. Thank goodness this isn’t all Twin Peaks ever was.

The pilot as broadcast is a five-star masterpiece; not just the start of something truly special, but something remarkable in and of itself. The extended standalone version is so ruined by its final 19 minutes that I can only rate it:

3 out of 5

Tomorrow: fire, walk with me.

The Past Month on TV #17

My name is Annie. I’ve been with Laura and Dale. The good Dale is in the Lodge and he can’t leave. Write it in your diary.

Doctor Who (Series 10 Episodes 2-5)
Doctor Who, series 10 part 1This is shaping up to be a top-quality run of Who. You have to go back a good few years to find a similar-length run of consecutive episodes with the consistency this season is boasting. Obviously there are some divided opinions out there (as I’ve noted before, there is literally no pleasing all of Doctor Who fandom), but the consensus seems to be pretty positive.

So, the past month’s episodes kicked off with Smile, which sees writer Frank Cottrell-Boyce return after the mediocre In the Forest of the Night for a much stronger adventure. It plays like Doctor Who meets Black Mirror: emoji-faced robots try to keep people happy by killing those who aren’t. The use of emojis was a neat reflection of current culture, the episode looked fantastic thanks to some stunning location filming, and the Doctor/Bill dynamic is constantly entertaining. It wasn’t perfect: any sense of mystery or investigation was shortchanged by the episode’s own pre-titles that gave the game away, and the denouement was a little muddled on some thematic points. Still, A for effort.

Thin Ice brought to mind previous Whoniverse episodes (series five’s The Beast Below and Torchwood series two episode Meat), but there’s a long, rich history of self-plagiarism within Who so that’s hardly unprecedented. Besides, the devil’s in the details: here’s another evocative location well-realised by the production team, and writer Sarah Dollard keeps things spry — again, Bill’s attitude pays dividends. The structure of her learning something new about the Doctor every episode, and challenging some of his actions and reactions, and in turn him challenging her, is working very nicely.

Knock knock. Who's there?The fourth episode, Knock Knock, by Doctor Foster’s Mike Bartlett, is my least favourite episode so far this series; but it’s not bad, just not all it could be. The horror-movie-styled first half was suitably atmospheric, and there was some great gruesome imagery, but the episode runs out of steam as it goes on, with a talky and hurried resolution provoking as many questions as it offers answers. Guest star David Suchet gives an expectedly strong performance, with some particularly nice notes after the truth about his past is revealed, even if that rushed finale ill serves his subtle transformation. It’s a shame it’s this episode that has the iPlayer-exclusive “binaural” version, because I’m curious about that process but in no rush to rewatch the episode itself.

Finally, Jamie Mathieson — writer of some of the best episodes of Capaldi’s tenure — returns with Oxygen, another superb addition to his CV. At a base level the episode functions as a zombies-in-space thriller, but it’s powered by a cynically satirical setup, which leads to plenty of great one-liners. Clever plot developments allow for some effective sequences (the spacewalk seen from Bill’s semi-unconscious perspective) and some neat “how are they going to get out of that?” aspects to the episode’s climax — yes, we know Bill’s not going to die and the Doctor’s going to regain his sight, but the “how?” matters here.

Of course, as things turn out, it’s not all as neat as expected, and we have a hook to draw us on into the middle of the season. If they can keep this up, it’ll definitely be worth sticking around for the pay-off.

Twin Peaks (Season 2 Episodes 10-22)
Twin Peaks season 2In the wake of the network-enforced resolution of the Laura Palmer storyline, Twin Peaks flounders. The writers clearly took a while to find a new footing, not helped by behind-the-scenes kerfuffles that led them to have to scrap entire prominent storylines (primarily, Kyle MacLachlan vetoed a Cooper-Audrey romance, reportedly because his then-girlfriend Lara Flynn Boyle was jealous of co-star Sherilyn Fenn). Utter phrases like “Super Nadine”, “Ben Horne wins the Civil War”, or (especially) “James Hurley on the road” to a Twin Peaks fan and you’re liable to give them a chill up the spine — and not the good kind.

Ultimately, Twin Peaks’ second season is a lesson in what happens when you take your eye off the ball. David Lynch was away doing something else*, Mark Frost was also away setting up his directorial debut, and by the time they returned Peaks had been bumped to Saturdays (TV’s biggest night here in the UK, but a graveyard in the US), ratings had plummeted, and the writing was on the wall. The last few episodes represent a return to form, and the Lynch-helmed finale is nightmarish filmmaking of a kind you’d be surprised to see on TV even today, never mind in 1991, but it was all too little too late. Of the cliffhanger ending, Lynch has said: “that’s not the ending. That’s the ending that people were stuck with.” Hurrah for the imminent continuation, then, which will presumably wrap everything up… as much as Lynch ever does, anyhow.

* “Making Wild at Heart,” people usually say, but that film was released a month before Peaks’ second season even began airing.

Eurovision Song Contest: Kyiv 2017
Eurovision 2017A dancing gorilla! A man singing a duet with himself! A rap/yodelling mash-up! A Moldovan trio who could apparently only dance with their right legs! A guy up a stepladder wearing a horse’s head in a slate-walled room covered with chalk-scrawled words that looked like it was straight out of a horror movie asylum! Måns Zelmerlöw again! All accompanied by Graham Norton on fine form with his biting, sassy commentary (“All her family play the fiddle. In fact, her brother will be fiddling with her on stage later.”) Oh Eurovision, never change.

Also watched…
  • 24: Legacy Season 1 Episodes 9-12 — more of the same, and it ends with a pointless 12-hour time jump to justify it still being called 24. The US ratings were mediocre so a second season feels unlikely, but if it gets one I hope they find some writers with new ideas.
  • Car Share Series 2 — let’s take its hilarity as a given and get on to the serious point: you can’t end it there! Peter Kay has said they’re stopping because they don’t have ideas for more episodes, yet this is a show where they spend a good chunk of time talking about Christmas but has never done a Christmas episode. I mean, c’mon!
  • Jamestown Series 1 Episode 1 — Sky1’s recommissioned-before-it-aired drama about the first women in America looks lavish, though its plotting is fairly predictable and its dialogue is heavy-handed. Well, what else would you expect from the producers of Downton Abbey and writer of Lark Rise to Candleford?
  • Our Friend Victoria Episodes 1-6 — I don’t think there are many comedians who could sustain a three-hour greatest hits series, but Victoria Wood definitely can.

    Things to Catch Up On
    American Gods
    This month, I have mostly been missing American Gods, the critically-acclaimed adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s novel by Bryan “Hannibal” Fuller (which reminds me, I also really need to get round to Hannibal). American Gods is on Amazon Prime on this side of the pond, so it’ll also allow me to test out my new telly’s 4K capabilities. Shiny.

    3 days until new Twin Peaks

    Next month… it is happening again.

  • The General Unselfish Love for Everyone Monthly Update for April 2017

    Chai-ai-ain, keep us together…

    Any excuse to get some Fleetwood Mac on loop.


    #50 Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
    #51 The BFG (2016)
    #52 War on Everyone (2016)
    #53 Dazed and Confused (1993)
    #54 Now You See Me 2 (2016)
    #55 Nocturnal Animals (2016)
    #56 The Legend of Tarzan (2016)
    #57 The Magnificent Seven (2016)
    #58 Sully (2016), aka Sully: Miracle on the Hudson
    #59 Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
    #60 The 39 Steps (1935)
    #61 Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
    #62 Split (2016)
    Ferris Bueller's Day Off

    Nocturnal Animals

    .


    • I watched 13 new films this April, making it the lowest month of 2017 so far (but only by one).
    • It falls short of the average for the last 12 months (previously 14.75, now 14.08), and of 2017’s average to date (previously 16.3, now 15.5), but it does drag the April average up from 9.67 to precisely 10. (That leaves just June, July, and November as months with averages below 10.)
    • This month’s Blindspot film: one of Hitchcock’s definitive early works, solving the mystery of The 39 Steps.
    • This month’s WDYMYHS film: underwhelming Oscar-winning rom-com Silver Linings Playbook.



    The 23rd Monthly Arbitrary Awards

    Favourite Film of the Month
    A lot of films vie for my affection this month. I was charmed by a friendly giant, found Tom Ford’s latest to be pleasantly provocative, enjoyed some magnificent gunslinging, was thrilled by classic Hitchcock, and chilled by Shyamalan’s return to form. But, to slightly modify this award to “most surprisingly among my favourite films of the month”, one film caught me unawares more than any other: I confess that I half expected to hate Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, what with its lead character seeming like a dick ‘n’ all, but the skill of writer-director John Hughes is not to be underestimated.

    Least Favourite Film of the Month
    Richard Linklater set out to make an anti John Hughes movies with Dazed and Confused, and I guess he succeeded based on this neat little favourite/least favourite mirroring we’ve got here.

    Best Pilot in the Galaxy
    Star-Lord and Rocket can bicker about it all they want, but neither can hold a candle to Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger.

    End Credits Scene I’m Most Annoyed I Had Spoiled
    Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 may have five (five) scenes during its credits, but they’re all a bit something-and-nothing (I can’t even remember what was in them all now, and I only saw it three days ago). But that scene at the end of Split (it comes after the second title card, so I think we can argue it’s in the end credits)… damn, I wish that hadn’t been widely reported all over the shop and I’d instead been able to discover it in situ. That said, it’s so well constructed that it gave me a tingle of long-awaited excitement nonetheless.

    The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
    Since I’ve started posting my content on IMDb my TV reviews have really taken off in the hits. It’s the latest one of these, The Past Month on TV #16 (in which I shared my thoughts on the likes of Doctor Who, Iron Fist, The Crown, and Twin Peaks), that takes this month’s gong. (My most-viewed new film review was Don’t Breathe.)



    Back to just one rewatch this month, which I reviewed at the time:

    #8 Guardians of the Galaxy 3D (2014)

    This is not going to plan.


    We’ll see if the new Pirates of the Caribbean film, Dead Men Tell No Tales Salazar’s Revenge, is the return to form that they’re claiming. And La La Land makes it to Blu-ray over here, so I’ll finally see it.

    The Past Month on TV #16

    Another busy month on the box round these parts, so I’ve once again divided my comments into new stuff (i.e. what was actually on TV this month), old stuff (i.e. anything older than four weeks), plus the usual round-up of quick thoughts.

    Doctor Who (Series 10 Episode 1)
    Doctor Who: The PilotThe 36th run of Doctor Who kicked off with an episode titled The Pilot — no coincidence, that. This is the most newcomer-friendly episode of Who for 12 years, an episode finely calibrated to establish everything for a first-timer but also function for regular viewers too. A lot of that effectiveness can be attributed to Pearl Mackie as Bill, the new companion to Peter Capaldi’s Doctor. After a run of oh-so-special companions running back years, Bill is just an ordinary young woman; but of course she’s extraordinary in her own way: ready to learn, eager to help, full of both inquisitiveness and caring. This is surely the birth of both a fan-favourite companion in Bill and a star in Mackie.

    It’s also a rejuvenation for Peter Capaldi’s Doctor. They arguably tried too many different things all at once when he joined the series a few years ago, making him old and irascible in contrast to the young and friendly Doctors that had preceded him throughout the revived series. He was gradually softening anyway, but freed of the burden of Clara he seems able to fully revel in his kooky kindliness. It’s perhaps the most Doctor-ish he’s ever been, and for Capaldi, a life-long fan of the show, that must be a real delight. It’s already a shame he’ll be leaving us this year, but at least we have 12 (or 11, if some rumours turn out to be true) more episodes to enjoy before then.

    As for this episode in itself, it was more solid than incredible, though that perhaps does it a disservice. No, it’s not going to sit alongside the likes of Blink and Heaven Sent at the pinnacle of all that modern Who can achieve, but it set out the series’ stall well: it’s sci-fi, but a little quirky, a little scary, and full of heart and emotion. It was almost like a Russell T Davies-era episode, but with an unmistakable Moffat-ness about it too — he may be trying to dodge the “fairy tale” mode he adopted for most of his time on the show, reasserting the “this is based in the real world” aesthetic that RTD relaunched the series with back in 2005, but, frankly, Moffat does the former better than the latter, and there’s an edge of that heightened unreality here nonetheless.

    But I think those are niggles and nitpicks. This is a strong opener that establishes a very likeable new TARDIS team to guide us through the season of adventures about to come. Fingers crossed the rest of the run can fulfil its promise.

    Iron Fist (Season 1)
    Iron FistThe last of the Marvel/Netflix series before the Defenders team-up, Iron Fist has certainly divided critics and viewers. It doesn’t begin well: the opening episode is possibly the worst thing yet released as part of the MCU, and I only say “possibly” because I never bothered with Agents of SHIELD after the poor reaction to season one. It’s needlessly slow, repetitive, the characters behave implausibly, and the fights are terrible, looking like a first rehearsal filmed with one take. Things do improve — there are more engaging characters, some interestingly developed arcs, and better realised fights — but it still doesn’t come together as well as it could. For one thing, it makes the running of Rand Enterprises a major element, but has a very vague-seeming understanding of how business actually works. It’s just too simplistic.

    One of the series’ strongest aspects is the unpredictable loyalties of its characters. I don’t mean that they’re inconsistent, but aside from Danny (who’s the title character, so of course he’s a good guy) and Claire (who’s been in every other Marvel/Netflix show, so she’s a known quantity), the trustworthiness and allegiance of almost every character changes at some point; for some of them, at multiple points. Heck, there are even scenes when you can’t be sure whose side to be on, because both have aspects of right and wrong, good and bad. There are better shows than Iron Fist that never manage that level of shading in their characters. I imagine there’ll be a second season, because when doesn’t Netflix commission more of anything, so hopefully they can build on what worked going forward. And maybe add a business consultant to the writers’ room or something.

    The Flash Duet
    The Flash: DuetAmongst the eight Arrowverse episodes I watched this month was this: the much-anticipated musical crossover between The Flash and Supergirl, which star Glee alumni Grant Gustin and Melissa Benoist respectively — hence why (some) people called for a musical episode, which caused the producers to decide to do one. Somewhat ironic, then, that it seemed to go down well with critics (at least per Wikipedia) but less so with fans: its IMDb rating is just 6.0. I find myself in agreement with the latter. It wasn’t bad, as these things go, but it was overloaded with niggles, Like, why cast another former Glee actor as the villain but then not have him sing with the stars? Why is there a plot hole whereby they call said villain the Music Meister even though it was Barry and Kara who picked the musical fantasy? The guy’s powers seem to be hypnotism-based and nothing to do with music. There were only two original songs, one which was quite fun and one which was overlong and a tad cheesy. Neither came close to the delights of the Music Meister’s original appearance, which also managed five new songs (and a reprise) in an episode that was half the length. The episode’s guest cast seems to have been selected purely on the basis of “anyone from an Arrowverse show who likes to sing”. All in all it came across as half-arsed; like they felt they should do it because people demanded it, but didn’t assign enough time or energy to doing it properly.

    The Crown (Season 1)
    The CrownThe most expensive TV programme ever made (or not, whatever) certainly has its budget plastered all over the screen, which hopefully didn’t distract most viewers in the way it did me. It shouldn’t, really, because this is a good drama about the humanity behind the public faces. Its adherence to fact is apparently variable, which I imagine is very irritating to historians of the period, but it works for the fiction. There are great performances all round, with John Lithgow in particular disappearing into Churchill to the point that I forgot I was watching an actor more than once. There’s an interesting plot thread early on about the position of Philip (Matt Smith) relative to Elizabeth — how his role as a husband is challenged by her position as Queen, etc — which goes a bit awry as the series goes on and has other plots to focus on. It’s left quite open-ended, so hopefully it’ll be completed in the second season.

    Line of Duty (Series 2)
    Line of Duty series 2I devoted just 32 words to Line of Duty series one when I finally got round to watching it last October. In summary, it was pretty good but not really great, and the unadulterated adulation that follows the programme around nowadays seemed unmerited. Now I get it, though, because — in a similar fashion to how, say, Mad Max is a decent Ozploitation flick but Mad Max 2 is a reputation-earning action classic — series two is where it’s at. There was much praise for Keeley Hawes’ performance as a downtrodden copper under suspicion of organising a violent ambush of a witness protection convoy, and it’s deserved, but the real star is the writing. There are huge, attention-grabbing twists and surprises, and a mystery that keeps you revising your opinion on what happened right until the end, but perhaps most impressive are the lengthy, intensely procedural interview scenes that could come across as factual and dull but instead are completely gripping.

    Twin Peaks (Season 2 Episodes 1-9)
    Twin Peaks season 2I first saw the debut season of Twin Peaks many years ago during a repeat run (it was a ‘classic series’ even then, though with hindsight it can’t’ve been a decade old at the time), then watched it again when the DVD came out, but this is my first time watching season two (legal complications delayed its DVD release for what felt like forever, and by the time it finally came out I just never got round to it). The second season is infamous for representing a steep decline in quality, though that isn’t yet evident from this batch of episodes, which covers up to the revelation of who killed Laura Palmer and their capture. I’d say it lacks the pure concentrated genius of the first season, having ramped up the quirkiness quotient and, at the behest of the network, rushing the resolution of the Laura Palmer mystery, but it ain’t bad by any means. There’s certainly much to like in the off-kilter characters, the folksy mysticism, and some fantastic performances — Kyle MacLachlan is a constant delight as Agent Cooper, but Ray Wise is frequently incredible as the grieving Leland Palmer. But I guess it’s mostly downhill from here…

    Also watched…
  • 24: Legacy Season 1 Episodes 5-8 — everything I said last time still applies: this is little more than 24-by-numbers. Episode 6 was a particularly irritating example, as a major subplot was hurried to its climax presumably because the writers just got bored with it. Why else rush the plot so massively, in a way that practically ignored the series’ real-time gimmick? I miss the days when the makers cared about maintaining that illusion.
  • Broadchurch Series 3 Episodes 4-8 — it handled its treatment of the issues well, but as a drama Broadchurch 3 couldn’t quite reach the engrossing heights of the first series. Still, it’s a shame there won’t be further cases for the brilliant Tennant and Colman to investigate.
  • Unforgotten Series 1 — ITV’s police drama recently aired a second series, with a third commissioned. This cold case-focused first run features powerhouse performances from a bunch of quality elder thesps (Tom Courtenay won a BAFTA for it, but for my money Gemma Jones as his wife was just as good), plus nicely understated turns from the ever-excellent Nicola Walker and Sanjeev Bhaskar as the coppers on the case.

    Things to Catch Up On
    Car Share series 2This month, I have mostly been missing series two of Peter Kay’s Car Share, which is a couple of episodes in on the telly or available in its entirety on iPlayer. I nearly didn’t bother with the first series (two years ago now!) because I’m not a huge fan of Peter Kay, but someone recommended it and it turned out to be hilarious. I’m sure I’ll make time for the new one soon.

    31 days until new Twin Peaks

    Next month… more Doctor Who, more Twin Peaks, and probably more stuff dredged up from the “must get round to” pile.

  • The Ghostly Monthly Update for March 2017

    If there’s something strange in your neighbourhood, who ya gonna call?

    How about Scarlett Johansson in a skintight bodysuit? I’m sure plenty of people wouldn’t need something strange going on to want to make that call…


    #30 Logan (2017)
    #31 Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993)
    #32 Demolition (2015)
    #32a Deadpool: No Good Deed (2017)
    #33 Long Way North (2015), aka Tout en haut du monde
    #34 Florence Foster Jenkins (2016)
    #34a Hotel Chevalier (2007)
    #35 The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
    #36 Money Monster (2016)
    #37 Room (2015)
    #38 Warcraft (2016), aka Warcraft: The Beginning
    #39 Kong: Skull Island (2017)
    #40 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (2016)
    #41 Ghostbusters (2016), aka Ghostbusters: Answer the Call
    #42 Babe: Pig in the City (1998)
    #43 The Monster Squad (1987)
    #44 Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (2004), aka Kôkaku Kidôtai Inosensu
    #45 Big Game (2014)
    #46 Young Frankenstein (1974)
    #47 Black Dynamite (2009)
    #48 Ghost in the Shell (2017)
    #49 Jackie Brown (1997)
    Long Way North

    Kong: Skull Island

    Black Dynamite

    .


    • I watched 20 new films this March, making it my largest month for nearly a year, since last April’s 21.
    • It’s far head of the March average (previously 12.3, now 13.1) and also passes the average of the last 12 months (previously 15, now 14.75).
    • In terms of my yearly goal, it’s behind where I was last year (two-thirds there at #67) but ahead of every other year (including 2015 — aka The Year of 200 Films — when March ended at #44).
    • This month’s Blindspot film: plugging one of the few gaps in my Tarantino viewing with Jackie Brown.
    • This month’s WDYMYHS film: Room. Normally I’d offer a brief comment, but I already reviewed it in full here.
    • I watched three films starring Samuel L. Jackson this month. Even for a fella as prolific as he is, that’s still quite a number.



    The 22nd Monthly Arbitrary Awards

    Favourite Film of the Month
    A tough contest this month between a couple of films I enjoyed an awful lot, but however much I was entertained by a giant ape beating up other giant monsters, the beautiful artistry of Long Way North just edges it today.

    Least Favourite Film of the Month
    Not such a tricky choice here: easily the worst film I watched this month was the disappointing mess that was Warcraft.

    Best Dialogue of the Month
    You’d think any month with a Quentin Tarantino film in it would have this award sewn up, but not when in the presence of the genius that is Black Dynamite. I’d throw in a quote, but half of the magic is in the delivery.

    Most Gratuitous Arse of the Month
    Plenty of derrières on display this month, between Natalie Portman’s much-discussed bare behind in Hotel Chevalier, Scarlett Johansson’s extremely figure-hugging costumes in Ghost in the Shell, Bridget Fonda’s post-coital stroll in Jackie Brown, and Kong stomping around the place with nary a stitch on as well. But the fact someone bothered to draw the intimation of an arsehole on the dog in Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence takes the biscuit.

    The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
    Following a tip from Caz at Let’s Go to the Movies, I’ve been adding my reviews to IMDb of late. That paid dividends this month, with an extraordinary (for me) number of hits flowing towards Logan



    This blog’s 10th birthday celebrations continued (and concluded) this month by counting down my 100 favourite movies I’ve seen for the first time in the past ten years. If you missed it, you can read all about it here:


    Things are beginning to look up for my Rewatchathon, as I actually rewatched more than one film this month…

    #3 Gattaca (1997)
    #4 The Nice Guys (2016)
    #5 Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie (1995)
    #6 Ghost in the Shell (1995)
    #7 Hook (1991)

    I think I was too young to properly appreciate Gattaca when I first saw it. Now, I think it’s a five-star sci-fi drama/thriller, and it would’ve contended for a place on my 100 Favourites if I’d got this rewatch in a couple of years ago.

    Truth be told, I only watched the first 15 minutes of Power Rangers (then my NOW TV subscription ended and it cut me off), so I probably shouldn’t count it… but I would’ve found another way to finish it if those 15 minutes hadn’t been utterly terrible, so I say it still counts because I’d clearly seen enough.

    This was the first time I’d watched Hook since childhood and, a few moments and images aside, I barely remembered it at all. It has things going for it (the sets are incredible and many of the special effects are fantastic), but it’s definitely the worst Spielberg movie I’ve seen (1941 still awaits…)


    A big year for the MCU kicks off: I’ll be reviewing Iron Fist, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 comes to the big screen (over here, at least).

    100 Favourites II — Statistics

    I couldn’t do a list like that without publishing some statistics at the end, could I? No, no I could not. By my standards this will be a relatively brisk post, though, because I didn’t thoroughly log everything I could have. Nonetheless, I had some observations…

    One thing I was particularly interested to compare was the age of my picks. I know my tastes skew recent — I like “old films”, but I do watch more new(er) stuff and (as demonstrated in my 10th anniversary statistics) I tend to place newer films higher in my year-end lists too. My first 100 Favourites list certainly bore that out as well, as you can see on this graph. Have the last ten years changed that at all? Well, no. Not in the slightest. If anything, it’s worse.

    That’s 49% of my selections — almost literally half — from the 2010s, a decade which at the time of writing only includes seven years. And if you add in the 2000s as well, the last 17 years account for 72%, just under three-quarters of the list. I guess if I tried this again in another ten years some of the more recent films would fall out while the older classics would endure. I must say, I’m not alone in this — it’s something I’ve observed on other public-voted great lists, like the IMDb Top 250 (well-liked new films are always jumping in and then slowly dropping out), or Empire magazine’s 500 Greatest and 300 Greatest polls. The opposite seems to happen with critics’ lists, like Sight & Sound’s famed poll, which Citizen Kane topped for, what, 50 or 60 years, and the rest of the top ten is pretty stable too. But maybe that also changes a lot further down, I don’t know.

    Talking of top tens, precisely 70% of the films on this list were previously featured in one of my year-end top tens. The worst affected were 2007, 2009, and 2012, each of which lost six films. Luckiest was 2016, with all ten top-tenners making the list. 2013, 2014, and 2015 only lost one each. That’s partly thanks to a change of perspective, of course (as you may have noticed, many of the films have shifted around in their ranking), but it’s also simply the case that some years had more films I liked than others. In terms of total numbers in this 100, the worst hit were 2009 and 2012, which only feature four films each. If you want to rank them thoroughly, 2009 definitely fared worse: only one of its films is in the top 50, while 2012 has three in the top 50, including two in the top 20, and one of those in the top 10.

    Conversely, the most successful years were the last four (the ones with the most top-tenners that made it, unsurprisingly). Highest of all was 2015 with 18. I suppose that’s helped by the fact I watched 200 films that year, though 2014 is second with 16 and I ‘only’ watched 136 then. Indeed, rendered as a percentage, 2014 fares best of all, with 11.76% of the films I watched that year making my top 100. Second is shared by 2011 and 2013, each with exactly 10%, while 2015 only comes fourth, with exactly 9%. At the bottom end, the fact 2009 and 2012 were my least successful years in numerical terms (the only two times I failed to make 100) doesn’t help them at all, coming out at 4.26% and 4.12% respectively.

    Here’s a pair of graphs, comparing the years in flat numerical terms and as a percentage of their own year’s total.

    Compared to their previous positions in my year-end top tens, the biggest riser was The Story of Film: An Odyssey, shooting up 13 places from being 2015’s 21st to its 8th now. (I know #21 is not in the top ten, but I did a top 20 that year and noted The Story of Film was 21st, so…) The biggest faller within the chart was Stoker, also from my 2015 viewing, which dropped seven places from 7th to 14th. The worst-affected film not on the list was 2010’s #3, Inception, which isn’t among the nine 2010 films on the list. The #3 films from 2007 (Mean Creek) and 2012 (Master and Commander) also aren’t here, but (as we’ve seen) their respective years don’t feature as many films on the list so they’ve theoretically dropped less far.

    Lastly, directors. There were 82 of them across the 100 films, of which 13 had two or more entries on the list. Top of the pile with four was, of all people, Matthew Vaughn. His films ranged from Kick-Ass in 8th up to Kingsman in 83rd, via X-Men: First Class at #16 and Stardust at #41. Sharing second place, each with three films, were David Fincher (Zodiac at #3, The Social Network at #11, Gone Girl at #66), George A. Romero (Night of the Living Dead at #62, Dawn of the Dead at #63, Land of the Dead at #89), and Steven Spielberg (The Adventures of Tintin at #9, War Horse at #86, Lincoln at #95). Finally, the remaining nine directors with two films apiece were Wes Anderson, Alfred Hitchcock, Akira Kurosawa, George Miller, Hayao Miyazaki, Chan-wook Park, Zack Snyder, Quentin Tarantino, and Denis Villeneuve.

    And now I’m done.

    Should you wish to revisit the excitement, all 200 of my 100 favourites can be found linked from their dedicated page here.

    100 Favourites II — The Top 10

    And so I reach the pinnacle of my list — my most favourite films I’ve seen for the first time in the past ten years. (Well, if we’re being precise, in the past ten years and three months, but not counting anything from the last three months. But that’s less snappy.)

    Over three previous posts I’ve counted down #100 to #11, but here’s the perfectly rounded number everyone loves for a list: the top ten.

    #10
    Dark City


    4th from 2008
    (previously 3rd | original review)

    Before The Matrix there was Dark City, which tackles some of the same philosophical issues as the Wachowskis’ trilogy, only in a less opaque and verbose fashion — and, as I said, did so first. Of course, it lacks the groundbreaking action sequences that made The Matrix such a hit, but as a thoughtful piece of stylish sci-fi noir it probably bests its better-known thematic cousins. I also reckon it’s still a bit underrated… including by me, really, because it’s nine years since I first watched it and I still haven’t got round to seeing the Director’s Cut. (Note to self: fix that.)

    #9
    The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn


    1st from 2014
    (previously 2nd | original review)

    Calling on the same skill set that produced the Indiana Jones movies, Steven Spielberg created an adventure movie that perfectly balances plot, action, and humour. Despite the freedom afforded by crafting the entire thing in CGI (rendered with stunning realism by Weta), Spielberg knows when to hold back and maintain a level of realism, only to cut loose when warranted. The top end of this list definitely skews blockbustery-y — well, it is “favourite” rather than some kind of “objective best” (not that that’d be strictly possible anyway) — but, nonetheless, I think Tintin is a very fine and underrated example of the form.

    #8
    Kick-Ass


    1st from 2010
    (previously 1st | original review)

    As Watchmen was to superhero comics, so Kick-Ass is to superhero films: taking familiar building blocks from other films and TV series, it deconstructs the genre through a “what if someone tried to be a superhero for real” storyline, asking questions about the glorification of violence and the sexualisation of its characters — all while being a funny and exciting action-comedy. Perhaps it’s having its cake and eating it, and that leads some people to miss the point (some by enjoying it a bit too much, some by thinking it has nothing to say), but I don’t think that stops it being one of the best and most thoughtful superhero movies yet made.

    #7
    Let the Right One In


    1st from 2011
    (previously 3rd | original review)

    It’s felt like you can’t escape vampires in film and TV for the last couple of decades, but trust a European movie to give them a unique spin, right? So it’s both a coming-of-age-y arthouse-y movie about two 12-year-olds and first love, and a scary horror movie about violent supernatural creatures. It works by not shortchanging either aspect, instead combining them to transcend genre boundaries. So it’s a genuinely touching, emotional and relatable drama, as well as a creepy and horrific fantasy thriller.

    #6
    Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation


    1st from 2015
    (previously 1st | original review)

    There’s always been a bit of a ‘wannabe’ air to the Mission: Impossible films, like maybe someone thought it could fill the void left by Bond disappearing post-Dalton, only it took so long to make it to the screen that Bond himself got there first in the shape of Pierce Brosnan. Nonetheless, the series has trundled along… though I don’t want to sound like I’m doing it down too much because I’ve always enjoyed it — the second one made my first 100 Favourites list, even. But Rogue Nation is where M:I finally out-Bonds Bond. Mixing action thrills and a genuine sense of jeopardy with just-ahead-of-reality gadgets, a knowing sense of humour, and a cast full of likeable characters, it’s superb blockbuster entertainment.

    #5
    Seven Samurai


    1st from 2013
    (previously 1st | original review)

    A phrase like “three-and-a-half-hour subtitled black-and-white movie” is going to conjure up a certain experience in the minds of most viewers. That experience is most probably nothing like Seven Samurai — although it is, of course, a three-and-a-half-hour subtitled black-and-white movie. On the surface it’s about a bunch of warriors protecting a small impoverished village that can’t defend itself, and it has a lengthy action-packed climax to deliver on such promise, but it rises above that thanks to its reflective attitude towards its characters and their very existence. No, wait, I said it’s not your typical three-and-a-half-hour subtitled black-and-white movie!

    #4
    Rashomon


    3rd from 2008
    (previously 5th | original review)

    I’d wager most would rank Seven Samurai higher in the Akira Kurosawa canon, but I give Rashomon the edge because the form of its storytelling appeals to me. It retells the events surrounding a murder from the subjective viewpoint of each of the characters who were there, and of course their accounts differ. Its title has become a byword for such narratives, but there’s more here than just trendsetting plot construction — it’s a fantastically made film, exquisitely shot and magnificently performed.

    #3
    Zodiac


    2nd from 2008
    (previously 2nd | original review)

    David Fincher’s meticulous true crime thriller may be his best movie — and when we’re talking about the man who made Se7en and Fight Club, that’s certainly saying a lot. It may look like it’s a murder thriller — it is about the hunt for a serial killer, after all — but in many respects it’s more about obsession and addiction, and how such things can come to take over your life. But if you don’t want to ponder that kind of thing, there’s always chills like the basement scene to keep you viscerally engaged. (The slightly-different Director’s Cut is the better version of the film and, if we’re being specific, would be my pick here; but I watched that a couple of years later, so it was the theatrical cut that figured in 2008’s top ten.)

    #2
    Skyfall


    1st from 2012
    (previously 1st | original review)

    The James Bond films have always been action blockbusters, and more often than not immensely popular and successful ones. Skyfall changed the game though: by hiring Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes it was instantly booted into Prestige Picture territory — and still managed to deliver the most financially successful film in the series’ long history, the first billion-dollar Bond. But box office success is not why Skyfall is #2 on my list. It’s the beautiful cinematography; the way it adds thematic weight to the character without breaking the formula; the sense of Bond’s history without over-explicit reverence — and the way those aspects makes it both familiar and fresh at the same time. Plus it delivers on the action, larger-than-life villain, and one-liners just like a Bond film should. Its artistic success may be a case of the stars aligning and lightning striking (the lacking-by-comparison follow-up Spectre proved that), but Bond has rarely been better.

    #1
    The Dark Knight


    1st from 2008
    (previously 1st | original review)

    Eight years and three months ago, when I named The Dark Knight my #1 film of 2008, I wrote that “I’m unashamedly one of those who believe The Dark Knight isn’t just one of the best films of 2008, it’s one of the best films ever.” It’s nice to be able to stand by such a brazen assertion. And, having thought long and hard about what I would declare as my most favouritest movie from the 1,283 new ones that I’ve seen in the last decade, I clearly do stand by it. I love superhero movies, I love crime thrillers, and I love epics, so it’s no surprise that a movie which combines all three — and does them all well — would top a list of my favourite movies.

    Now: what’s a good list without some statistics?

    100 Favourites II — The Penultimate 20

    Week 3 of this list (the first two parts are here and here) sees us hurtling towards the top of the chart — the films that are among my very most favouritest that I’ve seen in the last decade.

    I will say, there are more superhero movies than I expected…

    #30
    Deadpool

    2nd from 2016 (previously 8th)
    I feel like I should’ve matured out of finding Deadpool so entertaining, but it definitely appealed to my inner adolescent. It’s a riot. More…
    #29
    Super

    5th from 2011 (previously 5th)
    More superhero comedy, but Super’s low-budget grittiness and James Gunn-imbued barminess gives it an edge, even as its action climax is viscerally satisfying. More…
    #28
    Before Sunrise

    4th from 2007 (previously unranked)
    Richard Linklater distills the essence of twentysomething life and relationships into one night in the first (and best) of his decades-spanning Before trilogy. More…
    #27
    Citizen Kane

    3rd from 2007 (previously 7th)
    A film now overshadowed by its reputation, if you try to shed the baggage then Orson Welles’ debut still stands up very well in its own right. More…
    #26
    Watchmen: Director’s Cut

    1st from 2009 (previously 3rd)
    The most acclaimed superhero narrative ever penned became a film that is equally as complex and flawed, but also brilliant. More…
    #25
    Gravity

    4th from 2014 (previously 1st)
    Sandra Bullock is stranded in space and we’re right there alongside her in Alfonso Cuarón’s gripping and technically astonishing survival thriller. More…
    #24
    Sherlock Holmes

    4th from 2010 (previously 8th)
    Exciting, funny, with exceptional evocations of how it would feel to be the Great Detective. Not a traditional depiction, but surprisingly faithful. Plus: a proper mystery with a proper solution. More…
    #23
    Toy Story 3

    3rd from 2010 (previously 2nd)
    Lightning strikes thrice for Pixar’s studio-defining trilogy. Funny and moving, it tackles big emotional themes while still providing a kid-friendly adventure-comedy. More…
    #22
    United 93

    2nd from 2007 (previously 1st)
    Paul Greengrass’ 9/11 film almost feels like a documentary, with its naturalistic performances and handheld camerawork. That it was endorsed by the families is another stamp of approval. More…
    #21
    12 Angry Men

    3rd from 2014 (previously 5th)
    Twelve men talk to each other for an hour-and-a-half in this tense, gripping courtroom (without the courtroom) thriller. A directing masterclass from a debuting Sidney Lumet. More…
    #20
    Supermen of Malegaon

    3rd from 2015 (previously 4th)
    This little-seen documentary is an inspirational film about living your dreams even when the world won’t let you. Genuinely, I think it’s an absolute must-see for any lover of film. More…
    #19
    Requiem for a Dream

    2nd from 2014 (previously 8th)
    Darren Aronofsky’s addiction drama may ultimately be grim and without hope, but the verve of the filmmaking transcends expectations. More…
    #18
    Anatomy of a Murder

    2nd from 2010 (previously 4th)
    A precision-engineered procedural crime drama that refuses to deviate from the methodology of the case, but still finds room to deepen its array of characters. More…
    #17
    Batman: Mask of the Phantasm

    2nd from 2012 (previously 4th)
    Boasting an original variation on Batman’s backstory, plus a fine turn from Mark Hamill’s arguably-definitive Joker, this animation is among the very best Bat-films. More…
    #16
    X-Men: First Class

    4th from 2011 (previously 2nd)
    The X-Men begin in this origin story that shows us another side to familiar characters, with a unique feel thanks to its ’60s setting and plot that riffs off Cold War spy-fi. More…
    #15
    The Raid 2

    1st from 2016 (previously 2nd)
    Bigger and grander than its predecessor, this is a sprawling crime epic that still has time for huge, elaborate fight sequences. One of the greatest action movies ever made. More…
    #14
    My Neighbour Totoro

    3rd from 2011 (previously 7th)
    Gorgeously animated with a beautiful soundtrack, Hayao Miyazaki lures you in to a world and tells you a thoroughly nice story with no enforced peril. Refreshingly lovely. More…
    #13
    The Guest

    2nd from 2015 (previously 3rd)
    This ’80s-inspired thriller (with a horror-influenced edge) offers a witty screenplay, engaging characters, stylish visuals, and a fab score. Dan Stevens can definitely be my guest. More…
    #12
    Brief Encounter

    1st from 2007 (previously 6th)
    A romantic affair of cups of tea, discussions of the weather, tea, trips to the cinema, tea, guilt, indecision, and more tea. All the repressed emotions make it truly British. That and the tea. More…
    #11
    The Social Network

    2nd from 2011 (previously 1st)
    Unlikeable brats sit at computers, writing websites and arguing, but with dialogue by Aaron Sorkin and direction from David Fincher that becomes engrossing and exciting. More…

    Next Sunday: the top 10.

    The Past Month on TV #15

    It’s been a busy old month in front of the TV here at 100 Films HQ, and I’m not even going to cover all of it (I find myself with nothing to say about the five episodes of Arrow and The Flash I watched this month). For some kind of semblance of order to what follows, it’s split into “new stuff” and “old stuff” (plus the usual “other stuff” and “missed stuff” at the end).

    24: Legacy (Season 1 Episodes 1-4)
    24: LegacyPreviously on Twenny-Four… There may be no Jack Bauer, the new font for the clock may be bizarrely wrong, and the on-screen text may have abandoned the familiar golden yellow for a soft blue, but everything else about Legacy is same old, same old. If you remember it from 24, it’s here: the suspicious bosses, the scheming associates, the moles, the people accused of doing something bad who are obviously going to be innocent, the heroes going rogue and having to sneak around under the noses of people who are probably good but can’t be trusted right now, the implausible use and abuse of real-time, the unrelated subplots that are obviously going to be related eventually… even CTU’s ringtone is the same. So too is how its directed: split screen is kind of baked into the format, but everything’s hand-held and shot as if people are being spied on. Once upon a time 24’s look was innovative, but that was over 15 years ago. It’s not quite dated looking yet, but it’s no longer slick and modern either. Much like the entire show, to be honest. It’s nothing new, and nor is it a return to form — it’s just more of the same, but without the old leading man. Personally I don’t miss Bauer all that much (for me the format was always the star), but I do lament the complete lack of any attempt at innovation.

    Broadchurch (Series 3 Episodes 1-3)
    Broadchurch series 3DI David Tennant and DS Olivia Colman (or whatever their characters are called) return after the much-criticised second series for a third run that represents a blazing return to form. Nearly every police drama on TV is always about murder, but here our committed coppers are faced with something that seems harder to prove, and all the more distressing and divisive for those involved: a sexual assault. The series was apparently put together with extensive advice from expert organisations, which means on occasion it almost tips a little too far into factual territory, like a “this is how it’s done in real life” dramatisation. Fortunately screenwriter Chris Chibnall is better than that, quickly focusing on how it affects the characters, and on building the mysteries that will fuel eight whole episodes. Suspicion abounds, but if Broadchurch’s first series proved anything it was that everyone can guess the culprit before the end without it undermining the effectiveness of the drama. I think we’re a ways from that point yet, though…

    The 89th Academy Awards
    The Oscars 2017Best. Oscars. Ever! Oh, I bet it was horrendous actually being there having to deal with that ending, but my goodness, as a viewer it was fantastic. It couldn’t’ve been more dramatic if you’d scripted it. Imagine how terrible it could have been, though — if Moonlight had been forced to cede the win to La La Land, for instance (that would’ve sent #OscarSoWhite into overdrive), or if it had been in a category with a sole winner, who in the middle of their no-doubt-tearful acceptance speech was informed they hadn’t won after all and had to embarrassedly hand the statuette over to someone else… But no, it turned out OK. Well, not so for the La La Land guys, but for everyone else, yeah. And the rest of the ceremony wasn’t half bad either. Jimmy Kimmel was the most confident and capable host for bloody ages (and I say that as someone who enjoyed the likes of Neil Patrick Harris and Hugh Jackman) — if the show’s producers know what’s good for them, he’ll be the new regular host.

    Luther (Series 4)
    Luther series 4The recent news that Fox have scrapped plans for a US remake of Luther (because they couldn’t find a lead actor good enough to replace Idris Elba) reminded me that I never got round to watching the original version’s last series, this two-parter that aired back in December 2015. I can see why feeling unable to cast anyone as engaging as Elba would lead them to abandon their remake, because there’s not all that much special about Luther outside of its lead. Some people talk about it as if it’s among the forefront of the Quality TV era that we’re currently blessed with, but that’s just a bit daft — much like the programme itself. It doesn’t know it’s daft — it’s all very serious — but it is daft, really. Sure it’s dark, and sometimes kinda scary, and certainly grim, but its realism quotient is way low. It has much more in common with the overblown heightened world of, say, Sherlock than it does with, say, Elba’s previous great TV drama, The Wire. Anyway, the fourth series (if you can call two episodes a series) continues in much the same vein, as Luther’s dragged away from a leave of absence to help track a cannibal serial killer, while also trying to ascertain who committed the supposed murder of his super-villain girlfriend. Yeah, what a grounded and gritty show this is. Still, if you can stomach its gory pessimism, it’s largely entertaining.

    Peaky Blinders (Series 1)
    Peaky BlindersI’ve been meaning to get round to this since it first aired back in 2013, and for whatever reason now was the time (partly it was brought to mind by writer Steven Knight’s new dark period drama, Taboo). For thems that don’t know, it’s the saga of the eponymous gang, who ruled the streets of Birmingham in 1919, and their plans for expansion into other forms of business, both legitimate and otherwise. There’s a compelling lead performance from Cillian Murphy as the gang’s feared war veteran leader, but he’s surrounded by a strong ensemble, including the likes of Helen McCrory as his formidable aunt, who ran the business while all the lads were off in the trenches, and Sam Neill as the Northern Irish copper sent to Brum to retrieve some stolen munitions. It functions by turns as both a gripping underworld thriller and character study of violent men, on both sides of the law. I hear future series are of even higher quality, which is something to look forward to indeed.

    Twin Peaks (Season 1)
    Twin Peaks season 1“She’s deadwrapped in plastic!” With those immortal words (not the first lines, but never mind) a TV phenomenon was born, and a whole new era of television slowly began. Buffy the Vampire Slayer turned 20 this month and the Guardian ran a piece on how it (not, say, The Sopranos or The Wire) was the birth of TV-as-art. I love Buffy, but c’mon — even if we limit ourselves to ongoing US network drama series, Twin Peaks definitely got there first. Leaving aside its place in TV history, it’s a mighty fine drama, with co-creator David Lynch operating at his most accessible, yet still undoubtedly odd, in a story of an ordinary-looking small town with innumerable dark secrets lurking just out of sight. It’s at times hilariously funny, nightmarishly scary, unashamedly trashy, and absolutely gripping. At least so far — season two is notoriously less-good. Well, I’ve never watched it before, so I’ll find out for myself next month.

    Also watched…
  • Death in Paradise Series 6 Episodes 7-8 — the first episodes with new lead Ardal O’Hanlon seemed divisive, but I like him. Hopefully next year they can come up with some fresh new plotting to match their fresh new star.
  • Elementary Season 5 Episodes 10-13 — by the end of this season there’ll be exactly twice as many episodes of Elementary as there are canonical Holmes stories.
  • Let’s Sing and Dance for Comic Relief Series 1 Episodes 1-2 — oh, no. Despite everyone’s best efforts, the format just isn’t as good as plain ol’ Let’s Dance for Comic Relief.

    Things to Catch Up On
    The Americans season 5This month, I have mostly been missing the penultimate season of The Americans, which is two episodes in Stateside (no idea if there’s still a UK broadcaster; at this point I’m not sure it matters). Long-time readers may recall I like to save up The Americans and watch it binge-ish-ly once the season ends, which is a very rewarding way to watch such an intricately-constructed programme. The downside is that means I’m still a couple of months away from getting to find out what happens this year in “the best drama on television”. I bet it’ll be good, though.

    66 days until new Twin Peaks

    Next month… the final Defender: Iron Fist is released tomorrow. I’ll review it next month (obviously — I mean, this is the “next month” section.) Also! The first episode of the new series of Doctor Who.

  • 100 Favourites II — The Next 30

    Last week, my ranking of 100 favourite movies I’ve seen in the last decade began with 40 films that ranged from screwball comedies to spectacle-fuelled blockbusters, from gritty crime thrillers to artistic animations, from gory horrors to melodramatic epics…

    This week, my typically eclectic selection continues with the next 30 picks.

    #60
    The Nice Guys

    8th from 2016 (previously 11th)
    Convoluted criminality is rendered hilarious in Shane Black’s spiritual sequel to Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. More…
    #59
    Arrival

    7th from 2016 (previously 6th)
    An intelligent, adult drama about humanity, which also happens to be a science-fiction mystery.

    #58
    His Girl Friday

    6th from 2010 (previously 7th)
    Sharp, fast, intelligent, hilariously funny — they don’t make films like this anymore. More…
    #57
    The Story of Film: An Odyssey

    8th from 2015 (previously 21st)
    Mark Cousins’ history of the movies wasn’t to all tastes, but I found all 15 hours to be fascinating and enlightening. More…
    #56
    The Night of the Hunter

    7th from 2013 (previously 7th)
    Charles Laughton’s only film as director is a masterpiece of dread, fear, cruelty, and near-peerless beauty. More…
    #55
    M

    5th from 2010 (previously unranked)
    Fritz Lang’s proto-noir serial killer procedural still has the power to thrill and chill. More…
    #54
    Inglourious Basterds

    3rd from 2009 (previously 1st)
    Killin’ Natzis, Tarantino style. History re-rendered in terms of pure cinema. More…
    #53
    In Bruges

    2nd from 2009 (previously 2nd)
    “There’s never been a classic movie made in Bruges, until now.” More…
    #52
    Byzantium

    7th from 2015 (previously 5th)
    These vampires aren’t glamorous or sparkly, but damaged and discarded in a seedy seaside town of tarnished charms. More…
    #51
    How to Train Your Dragon

    8th from 2011 (previously unranked)
    Glorious animation, with soaring flight sequences and an emotive connection to its characters, both human and dragon. More…
    #50
    Dredd

    6th from 2013 (previously 6th)
    Sharp, efficient sci-fi action with impressive gun battles, dry humour, and Karl Urban nailing the title character. More…
    #49
    Steve Jobs

    6th from 2016 (previously 3rd)
    A gripping character drama with a surprising corporate thriller vibe, magnificently written by Aaron Sorkin. More…
    #48
    Lupin the Third: The Castle of Cagliostro

    7th from 2011 (previously 4th)
    Described by no less than Steven Spielberg as “one of the greatest adventure movies of all time”. More…
    #47
    The Shining

    8th from 2014 (previously 3rd)
    Eliciting dread and almost-primal fear, it’s the most excruciatingly and exquisitely unsettling film I’ve ever seen. More…
    #46
    X-Men: Days of Future Past

    7th from 2014 (previously 9th)
    Surprisingly deep characterisation rubs shoulders with witty and inventive action in this all-eras X-Men team-up. More…
    #45
    Predestination

    5th from 2016 (previously 5th)
    Thought-provoking science-fiction in this time travel mystery that tackles issues of gender and identity — how timely. More…
    #44
    The Revenant

    4th from 2016 (previously 4th)
    Starring Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography, this gruelling survival Western is primarily told with visuals and so becomes a work of pure cinema. More…
    #43
    Oldboy

    6th from 2014 (previously 7th)
    Mixing a straightforward revenge thriller with weird, almost surrealistic touches, Oldboy is kinda crazy, kinda disturbed, but kinda brilliant because of it. More…
    #42
    Hanna

    5th from 2013 (previously 5th)
    A teen coming-of-age movie… with hard-hitting action sequences, surreal imagery, long single takes, beautiful cinematography, and a pulsating Chemical Brothers soundtrack. More…
    #41
    Stardust

    5th from 2008 (previously 4th)
    A truly magical film, packed with wit, action, delicious villains, a star-studded cast, a stirring score, and genuinely special effects. More…
    #40
    North by Northwest

    4th from 2013 (previously 4th)
    Almost everything you could want from a movie: pure tension, action, humour; a mystery, a thriller; a dash of romance. Unadulterated entertainment. More…
    #39
    The Three Musketeers

    6th from 2011 (previously unranked)
    Sword fights galore in this riot of swashbuckling fun, with a lightness of touch that makes for pure entertainment. More…
    #38
    The Grand Budapest Hotel

    6th from 2015 (previously 10th)
    A film full of delights, from the hilarious performances, to the clever dialogue, to the inventive design, to the controlled camerawork. More…
    #37
    Mad Max 2

    5th from 2015 (previously 2nd)
    Post-apocalyptic Australian Western that climaxes with a balls-to-the-wall multi-vehicle chase, one of the greatest action sequences ever filmed. More…
    #36
    Sicario

    3rd from 2016 (previously 1st)
    A dark and morally questionable thriller, incredibly shot by Roger Deakins, artfully helmed by perhaps the best director currently working, Denis Villeneuve. More…
    #35
    Rise of the Planet of the Apes

    3rd from 2012 (previously 7th)
    An intelligent science-inspired drama that just happens to link up to a big studio sci-fi/action series. More…
    #34
    Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

    5th from 2014 (previously 4th)
    The sequel to the prequel to the Planet of the Apes presents a fully-realised ape society and a story of interspecies relations that reflects our own times. More…
    #33
    Django Unchained

    3rd from 2013 (previously 2nd)
    Tarantino’s Spaghetti Western homage is an entertaining, occasionally thought-provoking, rewarding, and thoroughly cinematic experience. More…
    #32
    The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
    2nd from 2013 (previously 3rd)
    One of the most underrated films of the ’00s, Andrew Dominik’s historically accurate movie is a considered, immersive, complex, intimate, epic Western. More…
    #31
    Mad Max: Fury Road

    4th from 2015 (previously 6th)
    Action filmmaking elevated to a genuine art form, but alongside the mind-boggling stunts there’s a surprising richness of theme and character. More…

    Next Sunday: the penultimate 20.