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Back in 2010, there was a thriving movie blog community. There are very few blogs that have have survived to this day. This very site is hanging by a thread as life and work get in the way of my writing. Not to mention Covid-19 curtailing my cinema going. Listeners to the BBC’s flagship film program will know that the cinema code of conduct is ten years old. To celebrate the anniversary, listeners have suggested updating it for there strange days in which we are living. This made me think of the original code and my suggested additions.

It started with an idea from Wynter Tyson from CinemaScream (now defunct, but you can still read his wise words at Clameur Du Cinema) suggested we propose our own additions to the code of conduct. I thought my suggestion that people not be “Space Invaders” was more relevant than ever. I’m not sure I can endorse my other suggestion any longer, firstly as most cinema’s have done away with boxoffices, and because I almost never read a review until after I have seen a film. This philosophy worked out particularly well recently when I went to see Saint Maud knowing nothing about it, an approach I would certainly recommend with this stunning film.

Here is my original post from a decade ago:

Listeners to Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo’s film review show BBC Radio 5 Live will be familiar with the Wittertainment Code of Conduct. Devised by them with the help of listeners to make cinema going better for all.

Wynter from CinemaScream asked us to post the Code of Conduct on our blog along with our own 11th rule. I couldn’t decide between two so here are my 11th and 12th rules.

11: No Space Invaders: We are not talking about 80’s video games (but I suggest you don’t play them in the cinema either), I am talking about the people who insist on sitting directly in front, behind or to the side of you despite the cinema being nearly empty.

12: Read Film Reviews: The ticket office staff are not there to tell you if a film is any good. If you haven’t decided what movie you want to watch don’t join the queue!

I have posted my Movie of the Month every month for over ten years, until April. With the lockdown, cinemas were closed back in March.  A little slower to return than others I have seen just two movies.

Tenet – Christopher Nolan’s latest film is near impossible to review without describing the plot, you just need to watch it.  The cast is excellent particularly the leads John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, and Elizabeth Debicki.  The effects (famously practical as you would expect with Nolan) and spectacular.  The story takes some time to get into, but once you get a handle on it, it’s far less confusing that has been suggested.  It needs another watch, as I’m sure there is lots more to reveal itself with repeated viewings.Tenet

The New Mutants – Set within the X-Men universe was billed as a horror tinged take on the genre featuring a younger cast.  Shot three years ago and originally set for release two years ago,  it has been beset with reshoots and delays.   The final result is in many ways the smallest film in the franchise, this isn’t a bad thing considering the last time they did this was Logan, the best X-Men movie to date.  Sadly, The New Mutants is no Logan, however it doesn’t plumb the depths of The Last Stand, Apocalypse, or Dark Phoenix.  The setup, is good, the cast is good, the film just lacks any depth.  Surprisingly for the premise and the 15 certificate, it is surprisingly tame and lacks any real horror. the new mutants

Of the two films seen this month, there is a clear winner for Movie of the Month:  TenetTenet Movie Poster

Cinemas are in the process of reopening after four long months.  This is certainly something to celebrate, but as the title of this post suggests, there is another reason to celebrate, this month marks 20 years of my unlimited membership.

Prior to Unlimited I used to buy a 4 or 8 week Mega Pass from Virgin.   Virgin operated two cinemas in the area: The 9-screen located in the Arcadian Centre in Birmingham City Centre (originally opened in 1991 as an MGM cinema, before being purchased by Virgin four years later).  The second was a little further out, but worth the trip.  The 13-screen at Great Park Rubery, was the best cinema I had ever visited at the time with large screens, stadium seating and best of all THX sound throughout.

The Arcadian was closed in the early 2000’s and Rubery sold off to Empire Cinemas a few years later, But I had all but stopped going to both by this time, Virgin had announced the a shiny new venue on Broad Street in the centre of Birmingham.  It never actually operated under the Virgin brand, by the time they opened they had been taken over by the French company UGC. Broad Street

While the name, UGC was a little uninspiring, the was and remains fantastic, and the Unlimited Card was a brilliant idea.  £9.99 a month (as it was at the time) for unlimited movies, what more could you ask?  The price has remained pretty consistent since then going up in line with ticket prices.  You need to see two movies a month to make a saving.  I have averaged two a week, for twenty years.  When you adjust for inflation, and average out matinee and peak prices, it gets complicated, but best guess I have saved £12,000.

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The first film I watched at the new Broad Street cinema back in 2000 was The Perfect Storm.  I was less than impressed.  I remember commenting after that George Clooney had only made a few decent films and would never be a really big star! Shows how much I know!  But I have seen many amazing films since.  My favourite films I have seen at UGC/Cineworld are Mulholland Dr. and Oldboy.  The latter I saw prior to its UK release as part of the Tartan Asian Extreme Festival, then again last year in a  4K Restoration.

While I live with a city with some excellent independent Cinema’s that I also support, may favourite place to watch films remains Cineworld, Broad Street Birmingham.  Now I’m looking forward to another twenty years of Unlimited movies, hopefully without the interruption of another global pandemic!

I’m not a great collector of ornaments, or memorabilia, but do have two things in my house that could be described as both ornaments, and memorabilia.  Model cars, both gifts from my brother.  One from a movie and one from a TV show: a 1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am form Smokey and the Bandit, and a 1969 Dodge Charger R/T from The Dukes of Hazzard.  Both of these cars have become problematic recently, as they both feature the Confederate flag.  I have read reports that Warner Brothers have announced they will stop selling any Dukes of Hazzard merchandise featuring the Confederate Flag*.  At the same time many retailers, including Amazon, and eBay have said they will stop selling items with a Confederate flag.  A quick search on both sites show that General Lee models are still widely available, although now at an inflated price.  General Lee and Bandit One

What does all this mean and why am I talking about it?  Being from the UK, I can look at the flag with some detachment.  A flag is merely a symbol, and as such it on means what we choose let it signify.  To many the Confederate Flag is a sign of an outlaw spirit that the south symbolises for many.  This is why it was so perfect for The Dukes of Hazard, and Smokey and the Bandit.  These were people living outside the law,  but “never meanin’ no harm”.  The authority figures who they were pitted against were either corrupt, or tyrants.  They are after-all from a country whose existence began with a war of independence were it freed itself from it colonial masters.  But this seance of freedom is always overshadowed, and undermined by by those who adopted the flag to suggest that some people are less than them because of their race.  It is impossible to overlook the words of the great filmmaker Spike Lee, who suggested [the flag made him feel] “the same way my Jewish brothers and sisters feel about the swastika”.

In conclusion, I have no problem displaying toy replica’s of cars featuring Confederate Flag, but I would not wave the flag, and would have a problem if I observed anybody doing so.  I would not wear a T’shit showing the it, and would question the reason anybody did at this time!

*Note, The flag in question is variation on the Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia, that was featured as part of: The second national flag of the Confederate States of America.  The version as seen on the General Lee and adopted by racists and white supremacists was never represented the Confederate States of America as a country, nor in that form was it ever officially recognised as one of Confederate States national flags, the  and its variants, in short it is a Confederate Flag, it is not The Confederate Flag, nor is it the “Stars and Bars”, that is an entirely different flag (that was actually The Confederate Flag for a time!).  However the flag in question has become known as the Confederate Flag, so for simplicity I will call it that for the purposes of this article.

And to give a brief flavour of the movies, I am talking about, below is an article I published on this site when I was more prolific, about ten years ago.

* * *

When I was a kid (from the age of around five) The Dukes of Hazzard was my favourite program on TV. It was therefore no great surprise that when as a family we got our first VCR I gravitated to a certain type of movie.

I don’t know what to call it, a genre or sub genre I guess, I’m not sure if anyone has ever given it a name. Sometimes B movies, others were high grossing blockbusters. Usually featuring bootleggers, truckers and small town sheriffs and nearly always set in America’s southern states. Typically the men (it is a very male genre) are simple talking, rough tough men with rough edges but a heart in the right place. The characters often spent their time just the wrong side of the law or taking the law into their own hands. These films were all made in the 70’s and they belong in the 70’s, there have been attempts to recreate the style many times but they don’t really work in the modern era. Quentin Tarantino has given us a nod at the genre but Strangely Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson has probably come closest with the remake of Walking Tall and Faster, but you have to go back to the original movies of the 70’s to appreciate the genre.

Although it’s a 70’s genre its roots go back before that to films like the Robert Mitchum bootlegger classic Thunder Road (1958). Mainstay of 70’s cinema and the genre, Burt Reynolds stars as Bobby “Gator” McKlusky in White Lightning (1973). Reynolds plays a moonshine runner who is let out of prison to help bring down a corrupt sheriff (Ned Beatty) who was responsible for the death of his younger brother. Cars are an important part of the genre and this movie is no exception. Gator’s vehicle isn’t an exotic sport car but a working class hero, a suitably anonymous muscle car, a souped up Ford Custom 500. From the same year Last American Hero sees a young Jeff Bridges as Elroy Jackson Jr. a character based on real life moonshiner turned NASCAR driver Junior Johnson. Also from ‘73 the original Walking Tall stars Joe Don Baker and is loosely based on the life of Tennessee sheriff Buford Pusser who cleans up his small town at great personal cost. Forget the remake and watch the classic original.

An underrated actor, Jan-Michael Vincent. Is probably best know in the UK for the TV show Airwolf, his first entry on this list is in White Line Fever (1975). Returning home from Vietnam and setting himself up as an independent truck driver that predates Convoy by three years. A lot of the movie is of its time, but the themes of fighting against corruption and oppression are timeless.  I started by talking about The Dukes of Hazzard, Moonrunners (1975) was actually the origin on the TV show: directed by Dukes of Hazzard creator Gy Waldron, the Balladeer (Waylon Jennings) introduces us to cousins, Grady and Bobby Lee Hagg, who run moonshine for their Uncle Jesse. A lot of the elements of the movie were toned down for the family friendly TV show but were reinstated for the (rubbish) 2005 movie. Although fictional Moonrunners was inspired by the life of bootlegger turned stock car racer Jerry Rushing. Rushing was a contemporary of and raced against Junior Johnson mentioned above. The movie is dated but worth a look for fans of the genre. I’m not aware of it ever being released on DVD and the hard to find VHS copies date from the early 80’s but you can find it streaming online with the claim it is now in the public domain.

Burt Reynolds returned in Gator (1976) a sequel to White Lightning, with a similar story to the first movie it is very much a case of more of the same, it is most notable as Reynolds first feature as a director. Continuing the theme of returning Vietnam veterans, Rolling Thunder (1977) is the story of Major Charles Rane (William Devane) a former POW who returns home to a small town in Texas. A brutal revenge drama the movie has more in common with Walking Tall than the other films on the list. It is also one of the best movies from the ever reliable William Devane and an early film role for Tommy Lee Jones.  Possibly the most well known movies of the genre Smokey and the Bandit (1977) was a huge hit and spawned two sequels and countless imitators. A lighter more fun and comic film than the others mentioned, the movie is basically one big car chase from Texas to Georgia. Reynolds may be the star of the movie but Jackie Gleason’s Sheriff Buford T. Justice has all the best lines and steels the movie from under him.

Reynolds was back again in Hooper (1978) reunited with Smokey and the Bandit director Hal Needham and co-star Sally Field. It also featured Jan-Michael Vincent. Although very different to the other movies I have mentioned in story and setting, it has the same spirit of character as many of them so I felt compelled to include it. Reynolds plays a veteran stuntman and Vincent the new up and coming rival. It is as much a story of an end of an era as it is a tribute to movie stuntmen. Very fitting as Reynolds and director Hal Needham both began their careers as stuntmen. Is Convoy (1978) an attempt to cash in on the CB radio craze of the time? Or a protest at the 55 MPH speed limit? Or even an exploration of equality or race? Its probably a combination of all three. Like Hooper above it is also the story of an end of an era, and this is the speciality of director Sam Peckinpah. Kris Kristofferson and Ali MacGraw are perfectly cast, but the real star is Ernest Borgnine.

By the 80’s the genre was dead having become a pastiche of itself with movies like The Cannonball Run. But we still have a whole decade of movies to enjoy and to remind us the 70’s was about more than New Hollywood, Jaws and Star Wars.

 

There a lot of movie subscription services available in the UK, I am signed up to two of them, but there are plenty of movies available to stream free of charge.  The BBC selection even includes a Hitchcock film, meaning it has one more than Netflix!  Here are a few recommendations:  

BBC iPlayerbringing up baby

There are some excellent movies available on the BBC streaming service including 23 RKO movies.  Here are a few I would recommend:

 

Spotlight (2015) – The best picture Oscar winner from 2016 tells the true story a Boston Globe report that uncovered the scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the Catholic Church.

Election (1999) – Quirky comedy from Alexander Payne.  Matthew Broderick plays a teacher whose life spirals out of control when he goes against overachieving student Reese Witherspoon.

The Company You Keep (2012) – Thriller directed by and starring Robert Redford.  A thriller of the type they don’t really make these days, probably why it went under the radar on release in 2012.

The Elephant Man (1980) – Atmospheric and beautifully shot true story of John Merrick.  David Lynch’s second feature.

Bringing Up Baby (1938) – Howard Hawks’ delightful Screwball comedy with Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and a leopard!

Citizen Kane (1941) – The best film of all time is a hard burden for a movie to carry; in recent years it has been fashionable to push back against this and claim to not like the film.  Don’t believe the detractors, Orson Welles’ masterpiece may not be the best film ever made, but it is still fantastic.

The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) – Alternatively,  take a look Welles at his follow up.  Butchered by the studio, it isn’t exactly the movie he intended, but is still fantastic.

King Kong (1933) – Forget the Peter Jackson version, or the recent Skull Island, the original 1933 is the true King of the monsters!  stop motion animation was as groundbreaking in its day as modern CGI is now, and Fay Wray is fantastic in the lead.

Suspicion (1941) – Joan Fontaine plays a shy young heiress, Cary Grant the charming but penniless playboy she falls for, and marries.  He may or may not be planning to kill her for her money.  Fontaine won the Best Actress Oscar, the only acting Oscar in a Hitchcock film.

Fort Apache (1948) and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) – The first two of John Ford’s cavalry trilogy.  What more do I need to say.  Watch them!

Cat People (1942) and The Curse of the Cat People (1944) – Low budget horror classic from legendry producer Val Lewton, and director Jacques Tourneur.  The influential movie is a perfect example of less is more in the genre.  The sequel came just two years later and is also excellent.

I Walked With a Zombie (1943) – Atmospheric zombie movie, also from director Jacques Tourneur.  More disturbing than scary,  its  masterpiece of the genre.

All 4 The Warrior

The streaming service for all Channel 4, including Film 4 also has a large selection of movies, here are my picks:

 

Sweet Sixteen (2002) – Ken Loach movie about a teenager determined to raise enough money to get a home for himself and his mother who soon to be released from prison.  The film stars Martin Compston in his first acting role.  Having recently signed for the Scottish second division side Greenock Morton, he was more interested in a career in football than acting.

The Warrior (2001) – Asif Kapadia doesn’t just make documentaries.  The Warrior stars Irrfan Khan (who recently passed away) as a warrior in feudal Rajasthan attempting to give up the sword.  Shot in the Himalayas and the deserts of Rajasthan the film looks stunning.  It won the Alexander Korda and Carl Foreman BAFTA’s.

Slow West (2015) – Revisionist Western, and directorial début from John Maclean, previously best known as keyboard player/DJ and founder member of The Beta Band.  A strange mix of tone, it is often violent, but also very funny, while still remaining at its heart a western.

Slumdog Millionaire (2008) – Danny Boyle’s Best Picture winner launched the career of Dev Patel.  As a teenager is accused of cheating on the Indian version of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” we see flashbacks of his extraordinary young life.

Tangerine (2015) – I haven’t actually seen this film, but it comes highly recommended; director Sean Baker’s next film The Florida Project was excellent.  Shot entirely on an iPhone.

Rakuten TV The Ninth Gate

The VOD site has a small number of movies that are free to stream, my pick of them are:

 

The Ninth Gate (1999) – Curio from Roman Polanski that takes him back to the demonic supernatural of his earlier career.   Johnny Depp is perfectly cast.

The Crazies (2010) – Remake of the George A. Romero classic from 1973.  It isn’t a masterpiece, but it’s a good fun horror.  Radha Mitchell and Timothy Olyphant are always worth watching.

My 5 Triangle

Chanel 5’s streaming service also has a reasonable selection of movies, here are few recommendations:

 

Bad Lieutenant (1992) – Abel Ferrara’s story of a detective on a downward spiral of drink, drugs, prostitutes and gambling, but there is a faint hope of salvation and redemption in his latest case.  Harvey Keitel is truly outstanding in the lead role.

Cold In July (2014) – Revenge thriller from director Nick Damici and his long-term writing partner Jim Mickle.  The plot has enough twists and turns to hold the interest.  The cast is excellent particularly Sam Shepard.

Triangle (2009) – Time loop horror thriller.  A low budget masterpiece from writer/director Christopher Smith.  The success of the film rests on the excellent performance from Melissa George.

eXistenZ (1999) – One of David Cronenberg’s most David Cronenberg movie!  The plot keeps you guessing all the way, and Jennifer Jason Leigh is brilliant.

Camp X-Ray (2014) – Kristen Stewart is fantastic in her first movie after the final twilight film.  Stewart plays a young inexperienced guard at Camp X-Ray at the Guantanamo Bay eight years after 9-11.  The theme of the film is exactly what you would expect, but it is a lot more subtle and nuanced than you would expect.

ITV Hub

only has The Equalizer and a couple of Carry On movies available at the moment. 

 

I Hope there is something here of interest!  

Fandango Day

It was announced yesterday that PM Boris Johnson is to review lockdown restrictions with cabinet over the weekend, and may be “eased” as soon as Monday.  While we are a million miles away from freedom of movement, and cinemas reopening, it will happen one day, but what will the industry look like by then?  Will there be a place for cinemas as we know them, and will people want to attend busy screenings?  As with the rest of our daily lives cinema is changing to fit the new world order, one of the first to react was Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.  The usual rules require a film to be eligible for awards consideration must “have a minimum seven-day theatrical run in a Los Angeles County commercial theatre, with at least three screenings per day for paid admission”.  Under new (temporary) rules, if a film would have had a theatrical release but switched to streaming and/or VOD due to Coronavirus, it will still be eligible for awards consideration (providing it meets the other requirements).

There is another side to this.  Trolls World Tour, the sequel to Trolls (2016) was set for a cinematic/theatrical release just as the Coronavirus lockdown hit.  Rather than delay release as with so many other films, Universal decided to release the movie on VOD in April.  It took, $100million in the first three weeks from the North American market.  While it has some way to go to match the $346.9 million the first movie took, it is good business for the studio at a time when their largest revenue stream has dried up.  I haven’t looked too deeply into the business model, but a quick glance at the costs involved suggests the studio will be taking a larger cut of that $100,000 than they would have with a traditional release.  There are lots of factors to consider, including the fact the film came out just as a lot of parents needed to occupy kids who were unexpectedly off school.  The release, will also negate, or reduce future revenue from a home media releases, but it does show there is an argument for home releasing.  Based on this, Jeff Shell, the CEO of NBC Universal told the Wall Street Journal that following the reopening of they would be releasing films in cinema’s and on VOD.   The fallout from this came when AMC Theatres, the parent company of Odeon declared the decision “unacceptable” suggesting they would no longer show films distributed by Universal.  They were quickly joined by Cineworld who in a statement said “Our policy with respect to the window is clear, well known in the industry and is part of our commercial deal with our movie suppliers. We invest heavily in our cinemas across the globe and this allows the movie studios to provide customers all around the world to watch the movies in the best experience. There is no argument that the big screen is the best way to watch a movie”.Cinewworld Universal Odeon

Some of the films set to be released by Universal (Universal distribute films for other studios as well as their own) include the Candyman remake and the sequel Halloween Kills.  There are also a few smaller little known movies: A British spy film called No Time to Die, a film about street racers called Fast and Furious 9, and something about dinosaurs, Jurassic World 3, there is also an animated movie, Minions: The Rise of Gru.  But I’m sure nobody is interested in seeing those!  In all seriousness, all these movie are from franchises that have had a least one, $1billion movie in their past lineup.  When they went into production, they would have been expecting to achieve this again, probably more.  For those who don’t know, the window referred to, is the time between when a film is shown in cinema’s until it is available for home release.  This dates back to the increased popularity of VHS in the 1980’s and had continued to this day.  The system is voluntary, and agreed between cinema’s and studios/distributors.  This all relates to the UK, although similar agreements are in place across Europe, including some of the continents biggest markets: Spain, Italy, and Germany.  The one nation where it is different is France, a country with a long and proud history of both film-making, and cinema screenings.  Their release window is enshrined in law.  They have a minimum four month gap between cinema and VOD release, and 36 months for SVOD (They are temporarily relaxing restrictions during the lockdown).  Although, they do have a caveat that a film that sells fewer than 200 tickets in the first month, they can apply for a one-month reduction to the window.   This has resulted in a lot of smaller UK and US movies skipping cinema entirely in favour of VOD, and SVOD.  The waters were further muddied two years ago when Cannes film festival got involved  but that’s a rabbit hole best avoided for today!

As it stands we are in a position of stalemate where Universal Films will not be show in Odeon or Cineworld cinemas.  I can’t believe the two largest cinema chains in the UK (45% of the market between them as of 2018) are and one of the world’s major studios (the world’s fifth oldest, and the oldest member of Hollywood’s “Big Five” studios) are going to let this happen.  Somebody will have to back down, or a compromise must be reached.  My first instinct is that the cinema’s are right to protect their interests, and the studio will have to back down.  The more I think about it, the cinema model may be outdated.  Film critic Mark Kermode has long been an advocate of Day & Date Release and often talks about it on the BBC’s flagship film program.  This article quotes him eight years ago! It would certainly help reduce piracy, an argument that has been gaining traction in Spain, who I understand has a bigger issue with piracy than the UK.  We also have to look at what cinema’s will be like after Coronavirus.  I don’t see them filling up on day one after they open.  I am certainly looking forward to returning to watching films as intended, on a giant screen, but am less keen of watching them in a packed auditorium.  I often go to see big releases on opening night (often to avoid spoilers) , this included Birds of Prey this year, and The Rise of Skywalker at the back end of last year.  Will this result in the big releases I mentioned above taking less than expected?

There is also the possibility that we are on the precipice of change in the industry.  If home viewing overtakes cinema box-office will it be the end of big cinema chains? If this is the case will it be the golden age of smaller independent cinemas?  Only time will tell, but first things first, we need beat covid 19 so we can get back to living our lives, and that means staying at home and away from cinemas for a little longer.

I have spent the last few days re-watching the X-Men movies, here are a few thoughts.  The MCU has reshaped cinema, nine of the twenty  movies have grossed over $1billion.  Their success is responsible, not only for imitators, but also setting a new benchmark for film budgets, and what is deemed successful.  Back when a comic book movie looked like Batman & Robin (1997) this would not have seemed possible.  A series of events, or to be more precise films set the foundations that made the MCU possible.  I believe it started in 1998 with Blade, but there are two other franchises that were the key stepping stones: Spider-Man starting in 2002, and X-Men franchise starting in 2000.  At the time I knew the X-Men better than most MCU characters, I’m sure the same is true for a lot of viewers.  From that point of view, it was probably a safer franchise to begin with.  But they still started off small with relatively small budgets.  After all, none of the X-Men were as big or well known as DC’s big hitters, Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, or Marvels big two, Spider-Man, and The Hulk! It’s worth remembering, this is all before Marvel Studios, when Marvel properties were made by other companies under complicated licence agreements that are still being unpicked to this day.  The X-Men movies were co-productions between Marvel Entertainment and 20th Century Fox.   Marvel, 20th Century Fox, and lots of companies are now owned by The Walt Disney Studios.  That’s enough of the business, what about the movies? Here goes:

X-Men (2000) – The first movie X-Men was limited by a relatively small budget.  While $75million is a lot of money (think how many indie movies you could make for that), it is relatively small by blockbuster standards, around half that of The World Is Not Enough (1999), the most recent Bond film at the time.  The financial limitations probably helped with the creativity of writer/direct Bryan Singer, and he his co-writers David Hayter, and Tom SeSanto.  There are a few key reasons the film works: The story starts with the X-Men as a established group, not an origin story.  But we as the viewers have a way into both the world of the X-Men (both the group, and the world they inhabit) with minimal exposition.  We are introduced via Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Rogue (Anna Paquin).

With a vast array of characters within the comic book universe all with their own abilities, it would have been easy to flood the story with them.  Partly due to the limited budget the groups are kept small, with the X-Men consisting of Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), Storm(Halle Berry), and Cyclops (James Marsden).  The Brotherhood of Mutants are Magneto (Ian McKellen), Mystique(Rebecca Romijn), Sabretooth (Tyler Mane), and Toad (Ray Park).  This restraint and the benefit of is shown in later films when the cast gets bloated and it detracts from the story.  This leads nicely onto the next point, the casting is perfect throughout, with a special mention for Stewart, McKellen and Jackman.  The real revelation is Hugh Jackman, a late replacement for Dougray Scott who was stuck doing reshoots on Mission: Impossible II (2000).  At 6’2″ Jackman is a foot taller than the character in the comic book, this is never an issue.  At the time of the first movie, he was a relative unknown, the only thing I had seen him in at the dime was Paperback Hero, a romantic comedy drama.

The plot is relatively simple in a world that is just learning about mutants, but doesn’t accept them there are two opposing views Xavier who believes humans and mutants can live together, and Magneto who believes mutants are superior and should rule the world.  The film is filled with all the ideas that are at the heart of the comic books, the most overt of those are acceptance for people who are perceived to be different.  That people are stronger when they work together as a team.  There is also a recurring idea that no one is all bad, this depicted by Charles’ refusal to give up on Eric/Magneto, and significantly Charles winning in a game of chess.

X2 (2003) – The X-Men were back just two years later, again with Bryan Singer at the helm.  There are two references to the Arthurian novel The Once and Future King (1958) by T.H. White.  Firstly we see Eric/Magneto reading it early in the movie, then at the end Charles asks his class of they know of the story.  While not a blueprint for the X-Men, or the movie X2, there are similarities.  Charles’ School is clearly Camelot, and the X-Men the Knights of the round table.  But who is who.  Charles is not Arthur as you may first think, he is Merlin.  We see in both this and the first film other taking the public lead, such as when Jean Grey address government.  Charles is the power in the background, he also fights with his mind not with his body.  We then have the love triangle between Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot. Cyclops, Storm and Logan.  Most importantly, in this sits Magneto.  But who is Magneto in this analogy?  He is probably a combination of Morgan le Fay (Sorceress, half-sister and sometime ally, sometimes antagonist of Arthur.  Mother of Mordred) and Mordred (Arthur’s illegitimate son who ultimately kills and is killed by Arthur), but who he is, is less important than who he thinks he is! He believes himself to be Merlin and/or Arthur, he even has his own round-table in the form of the Brotherhood of Mutants.  But he can never be Arthur, as his table is never truly round, he is always at the head of it!

Longer and with a higher budget, it is the step up you expect from a sequel.  The story is a little more complicated both telling its own story, and delving into Logan’s back story.  With a new antagonist, Magneto teams up with Charles and X-Men.  This is one of the most interesting things about the film, the filmmakers understand the character.  Magneto never goes all the way to Charles’ side, they team up to fight a mutual enemy, but he is always on his own side, or more accurately on the side of mutants, at least from his own point of view.  The visual effects also go up a notch.  Amazingly this does not come at a cost, the film is as good, potentially better than the first film.  The notable additions to the cast are Alan Cumming as Kurt Wagner aka Nightcrawler.  Brian Cox as Colonel William Stryker and Kelly Hu as Yuriko Oyama aka Lady Deathstrike (I don’t think she is actually referred to by this name in the film).

X-Men: The Last Stand (2009) – Bryan Singer left the franchise to make the oh, so dull Superman Returns and handed directing duties to Brett Ratner.  Although not as bad as I remember, the film isn’t great.  To the credit of the earlier films, recognising that film is its own medium, they did not use existing stories from the comic books, they created cinematic ones in keeping with the mythology of the characters.  The biggest issue with this film, they took a beloved story, “The Dark Phoenix Saga” and developed it, poorly!

The centre of the plot revolves around a “cure” to the mutant gene.  This results in some interesting questions, the most overt being the mutants being a metaphor for homosexuality and the idea that you can’t cure someone who isn’t sick! while touched upon, it is never really explored.  The plot is unnecessarily  bloated, as is the cast of characters.  To its credit, the film looks good, and the visual effects are good, except the de-ageing of Stewart and McKellen that may have been groundbreaking in its day but is truly horrific.

As the previous films worked for their efficient use of characters, this film is dragged back by them, and the need to give them something to do.  Even killing two major characters, and sidelining two more early in the story there are still too many.  The most notable addition to the cast was Ellen Page as Kitty Pryde, a mutant with an ability to walk through walls, or to be precise through just about anything.  Not a new character having had a small part in previous films, but a huge character within the comic books, and portrayed by Page who was on the cusp of superstardom.  As with the comic books, by the time the film was make Logan/Wolverine had become the fans favourite.  In the first film he was the main character (although it could easily have been made Rogue’s film).  The second film had a plot that easily put him to the for front, but here, it always feels forced.  It was clear, Wolverine needed is own movie, and the X-Men needed a to tell a story without him.  Both of these were to come, to good and bad effect!

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) – While I had seen the first two movies many times, and The Last Stand twice, this was my first re-watch of Wolverine.  After a cold open showing the origin of Logan, and Victor Creed/Sabretooth (Liev Schreiber), we get the best part of the film.  The opening credit sequence is truly excellent.  Showing the brothers Logan and Creed fighting together in the American Civil War, WWI, WWI and Vietnam; each time showing Creed getting more bloodthirsty.  The first act with the pair fighting as part of Team X led by Major William Stryker (same character as Colonel Stryker from X2, now played by Danny Huston).  This is brief but good as is the set-up as we see Logan try to live a normal life also works, it is when he gets his adamantium, once Logan becomes Wolverine/Weapon X that the film loses its way.

This is the film that introduces Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) to cinema audiences.  Referred to as Wade Wilson, Weapon XI, and Deadpool, this is the movie that infuriated the fans.  Understandably as it is a million miles from ” the merc with a mouth”.  This is unfortunate, in the early scenes show promise, after they sewed his mouth shut, it was never going to work! Taylor Kitsch’s Remy LeBeau/Gambit isn’t as far from the comic book character, but still isn’t great.  Over a decade later,  the idea of a Taylor Kitsch Gambit movie still keeps comes up every few years but has never happened.  Liev Schreiber is very good as Creed, and would probably have made a really good Logan.

An interesting point of note is the use of the Three Mile Island accident.  This is the first, but not the last time the franchise incorporated real events within the narrative.  The fact that the first (nearly) half of the film is good, but is persevered to be terrible proves the theory that a good final act can save (our perception) of a film, and a poor ending will destroy a film.

X-Men: First Class (2011) – After eleven years, two good, and two not so good movies the franchise took a new direction.  Matthew Vaughn steps into the director’s chair and wrote the screenplay along with Jane Goldman, Ashley Miller, and Zack Stentz.  Expanding on the opening of the first movie with a young Eric/Magneto discovering his powers in Nazi-occupied Poland tells us we are in the same universe as the original films.  Recasting with younger actors and telling the origin story of both The X-Men, and Magneto.  Following the previous films use of Mile Island accident, this film doubles down, and uses The Cuban Missile Crisis.  James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender have the unenviable task of stepping into the shoes off Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen as younger versions of Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr, they are both excellent, particularly Fassbender.  There is more than a hint of James Bond about the 1960’s setting.  Every time I see the film I think how good Michael Fassbender would be as Bond.  The film also gives a new and interesting take on Mystique’s origin and her relationship with both Xavier and Magneto.  With hindsight she is the most interesting casting; it was Jennifer Lawrence’s first big budget movie, when she only had one Oscar nomination (Winter’s Bone), and before The Hunger Games.  The main antagonists are Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) and in true Bond Villain style his henchwoman Emma Frost (January Jones).  Rose Byrne gets to have fun as Moira MacTaggert, it’s a shame she is so underused in future films.

There are so many things about the film that shouldn’t work from the training montages, the period setting, playing with history, and the actors playing a version of the characters to fit with the older versions; but strangely it does work making it one of the best films of the series.

The Wolverine (2013) –  Just over a year after taking part in the Normandy landings, Logan finds himself as a prisoner of war in Nagasaki in August 9 1945, not the time you want to be in Nagasaki.  Most of the film is set in the present day, after the events of The Last Stand.  Following the events in Nagasaki seen at the start of the movie, Logan finds himself in Tokyo.  This is no great stretch for the character, within the comic book Logan has a lot of stories set in Japan and is closely associated with Samurai and Ronin culture, the character has always essentially been a Ronin.

The most stand alone movie in the franchise up to this point, none of the characters introduced appear again, the only character from previous movies is Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) who appears in Logan’s head.  The most interesting of the rest of the cast are the only other mutants to appear in the film (other than a cameo).  Yukio (Rila Fukushima) A precognitive mutant and member of a deadly assassins clan.  And, Dr. Green / Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova) one of the movies main antagonists.

A personal story for Logan on a smaller scale than the other movies within the universe, it is more in keeping with a standalone story.  Logan’s “healing factor” has always been his key to his identity, to take that away should diminish the character, in a way it does, but in doing so, it actually enhances the film by raising the stakes.  The whole film, both in plot, and execution feels more grounded and real (until the final act) than previous films in the franchise.  The Shinkansen fight is excellent. Sadly, the final act is terrible, both in story and visual effects, but the MCU struggles with final acts too, so it isn’t exactly unique!

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) – Days of Future Past sounds like a terrible idea.  Bring the old cast, last seen in The Last Stand, together with the new cast of First Class, and tell a much loved epic tale from the X-Men comic books. However, it really works and is if not the best, close to the best movie in the franchise.  Simon Kinberg provided the screenplay, based on a story by himself along with Jane Goldman, and Matthew Vaughn.  Vaughn was set to direct but agreed to hand it back to the boss, producer and director of the first two movies Bryan Singer.  Understanding that cinema is a very different medium to comic books, the writers took the brave, but ultimately correct decision to not tell the same story as the comic book.  Using a lot of the same characters, and using the idea of travelling back in time to prevent an assignation in the past to save the present/future.

The cast is huge: The bulk of the movie taking place in 1973 with Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), Charles Xavier (James McAvoy), Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto (Michael Fassbender), Raven / Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), and Hank / Beast (Nicholas Hoult).  All are given plenty to do, and most importantly is in keeping with their character, nobody is making up the numbers.  In the furure section we have lots of recognisable characters Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman – who due to the characters slow aging is able to play the part in past and future), Professor X (Patrick Stewart), Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), Storm (Halle Berry), Magneto (Ian McKellen), Bobby / Iceman (Shawn Ashmore), Colossus (Daniel Cudmore).  They are joined by Bishop (Omar Sy), Blink (Bingbing Fan), Sunspot (Adan Canto), and Warpath (Booboo Stewart).  The past section also includes a small part for Peter / Quicksilver (Evan Peters), who in one scene steals the movie.

The film looks, and sounds spectacular.  The visual effects are the best we have seen within the franchise, and the photography and production design are both fantastic.  Thanks to changes in the timeline, this film undoes a lot of the narrative of the previous movies leaving (two in particular) of the original characters in a better place than we last saw them.  Given this was the last time the majority of them were to be used in the franchise, this is great fan service without pandering.   The story also leaves the door open to make future stories easier without having to worry about the fitting the continuity,  Sadly they didn’t exactly make the most of it.

X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) – Be careful what you wish for, The Empire review of Days of Future Past ends with the line “We want X-Men: Apocalypse, now.” Sadly the film is terrible, in many ways the weakest X-Men movie.

Oscar Isaac plays the title villain, En Sabah Nur / Apocalypse.  He is hid beneath lots of CGI and makeup, and frankly isn’t very good. Fan favourite from the comics Psylocke (Olivia Munn) is given a sexy outfit, but no character.  She is given more to do than Mei Melançon did in The Last Stand, we know nothing of her.  Even the outfit doesn’t work, it looks like it doe on the pages of the comic book, but not in the flesh.  And that’s kind of the problem with the film it is all big, bold bright, and brash, you would be forgiven for thinking Michael Bay had directed it, it was actually Bryan Singer.  And that’s the sad thing about it, we know Singer can do so much better,  Michael Fassbender gets a couple of brilliant moments that remind us of this.

The cast is huge again.  As well as the usual suspects, Lucas Till, who sat out the last movie returns as Alex Summers / Havok.  He is joined by new younger versions of characters we have seen in the original three movies: Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), Scott Summers / Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), Kurt Wagner / Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee), Ororo Munroe / Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Angel (Ben Hardy) Kodi Smit-McPhee, and I believe for the first time in the movies Jubilee (Lana Condor). Evan Peters gets to do another set piece as Peter Maximoff / Quicksilver, taken on its own merit, it is the best seen in the movie, but offers nothing new, and isn’t as good as what we saw in the last movie.  There is no place for Wolverine within the corner they have painted themselves into with the timeline; rather than embracing this they squeeze him into the story.

The bigger, bolder and brasher it got the less I cared about it.  A sad end to Bryan Singer’s time at the helm of the X-Universe!  Let’s it to one side and remember the three great films he gave us.

Logan (2017) – Firstly, it is worth mentioning, for my re-view, I watched Logan Noir, the black and white version that comes on a separate disk with the Blu-Ray version.  It’s the first time I have watched it this way.  While it isn’t as spectacular as Fury Road: Black and Chrome, it does add to the atmosphere of the movie, and what a movie!  While I have described Days of Future Past as the best X-Men movie, Logan is something different, in a lot of ways, it isn’t an X-Men movie, it doesn’t even look like a comic book movie.  Written (along with Scott Frank and Michael Green) and directed by James Mangold who was also responsible for the previous movie, The Wolverine.  Not only is this Logan’s  most personal story, it is also the most grounded movie within the X-Men universe.  The cinematography by long-time Ridley Scott collaborator John Mathieson is fantastic (in both black and white or colour).  The low angles give a feeling of space reminiscent of with a western.  This is further enhanced by big mood skies straight out of an Ansel Adams photograph.

Set in a post super hero universe where very few mutants remain, and a 90 year old Professor X and Logan are the last of the X-Men.  Charles is struggling to contain his powers and Logan’s powers are fading as he is poisoned by his Adamantium.  There is often a theme in movies like this where the hero has to balance their own survival with a reluctant search for redemption associated with helping somebody else.   This comes in the form of Laura (Dafne Keen – who went on to play Lyra Belacqua in His Dark materials) recognisable to comic book fans as X23, a young mutant with abilities with a striking resemblance to Logan’s.  Richard E. Grant is wonderfully sinister as the movies main villain Dr. Rice.  Other notsble cast members are Boyd Holbrook as Pierce, the main henchman, and Stephen Merchant as Caliban, a mutant friend of Charles and Logan.

This isn’t a comic book movie for all.  New fans of the genre, those who have come along since the start of the MCU, and DCEU will not find what they are used to.  But it’s the comic book movie we need, one that doesn’t end with a giant something hovering over a major city threatening to destroy the world.  The stakes may be smaller, but not for those involved, making it more personal, and relatable.  Even before the Disney takeover, Hugh Jackman had decided to end his time as Logan/Wolverine, this is a brilliant and fitting end to his seventeen years portraying the character, he is going to be a hard act to follow in the inevitable remake.

X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019) – OK, time to confess, I didn’t re-watch all the movies.  Its less than a year since I saw Dark Phoenix.  It is only available to me by rental, which I wasn’t prepared to pay for as quite frankly, it wasn’t very good.  This is a real shame, it represented so much: The final film in both the reboot since First Class, and of the whole franchise before Marvel/Disney take back the franchise, But most importantly a chance to undo The Last Stand, and tell a better version of the Dark Phoenix Saga.  Most of the cast of the last movie return including Sophie Turner, James McAvoy, and Michael Fassbender, they are all good.  But Jessica Chastain is totally wasted.  This won’t be the last time we see the X-Men, but it is most likely the last time we see these actors portray them, the deserved a better send-off.DEADPOOL

Depending on your point of view, the bonkers, but brilliant Deadpool (2016), and the pretty good sequel Deadpool 2 (2018) may be set within the X-Men universe, but that’s for another day.

As mentioned, last year The Walt Disney Company acquired 20th Century Fox, and with it the film rights for the X-Men.  They soon put all film production within the franchise on hold, eventually cancelling all future films except The New Mutants which was already in the can.  The New Mutants is yet so see the light of day following multiple delays and some re-shoots.  This is despite a 2017 trailer promising a release date April the following year.  Its a great shame as the trailer actually looks good, more of a haunted house horror than a superhero movie.  The two most interesting projects to be cancelled were: X-23; James Mangold was to write and direct the continuing story of Laura aka X-23 from them movie Logan.  And, a Kitty Pryde movie.  Had it been made, it would probably have been an origin story as studios seem to like, if that was the case, it is no great loss, but if they were thinking of a stand alone movie with the character from the existing franchise played by Ellen Page, that would have been worth seeing.  Sadly it is not to be!  There will be new X-Men movies made by Marvel/Disney, I just hope they keep them out of the MCU, as the franchises are probably best not mixed.

 

At last year’s Golden Globes, while accepting the award for best foreign language film, director Bong Joon-ho stated (via his now famous translator Sharon Choi) suggested “Once you overcome the one inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films”.  At the time I intended to write about the first time I personally crossed the proverbial barrier, but didn’t get around to it.  Since then, it has won four Oscars (including best picture, and director), and to BAFTA’s and has grossed over $250million.  What better time to revisit this idea.Bong Joon-ho

The film that made me the breach the “one inch tall barrier” was Nikita (1990) from French Auteur Luc Besson.  The first I heard of it was probably from Barry Norman on Film 90.  As far as I can recall, like most people at the time, he gave it a lukewarm review praising the style but suggesting it lacked substance.  However he showed a clip from the film including part of the big action scene at the centre of the story, I was hooked.  At the time I didn’t visit the cinema often, and had I wanted to, had the issue of being four years younger than the 18 certificate would allow.  I was however, a very good customer of my local video shop!  They didn’t know, or more to the point chose not to ask my age, so sometime the following year, the day the movie was released on VHS (ask your parents) I was there waiting to rent it.

It didn’t disappoint.  With far less action than I expected, and more style than I had ever seen, it was a neon masterpiece.   For those who don’t know it, the obligatory synopsis (warning – spoilers, most of the first act revealed).  A group of junkies break into a pharmacy, chaos ensues, three cops, and all but one of the kids are killed.  The lone survivor Nikita (Anne Parillaud), is sentenced to life imprisonment.  He death is faked by an apparent suicide, she then wakes to be given the option of death, or serve her country as an assassin.  To date, it has spawned tree adaptations  Just three years after the original, there was an American remake: The Assassin (aka Point of No Return) (1993).  There have also been two TV series: La Femme Nikita (1997-2001), and Nikita (2010-2013). All three have some merit,  but are a shadow of the original movie.

Anne Parillaud is perfect for the part.  Throughout the film she goes through a series of transformations, from the feral junkie, the petulant teenager impossible to teach, to the sophisticated killer.  But the real character is then revealed.  The woman who doesn’t know what to buy in the supermarket.  And most importantly the real person, the one who falls in love, and is trapped between by her past and her job, unable to talk about either.  There is action, and it is very slick, but my modern standards it is also very realistic.  Thanks to the 18 certificate, the film can be brutal and violent.  This gives a surprising sense of realism.  But the film has more to offer, the titillation of the action and violence, gets people through the door, but the real appeal of the movie is its portrayal of humanity, despair and distrust.  Made just after the end of the cold war, and the tail-end of the excess of the 80’s.  This is year zero of the Tyler Durden generation “the middle children of history” – “No purpose or place” as described in Flight Club (1999) at the end of the decade.

I was unable to find Barry Norman’s original review, but in looking for it, I found a lot of other  opinions.   It appears Nikita has a 88% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but most of these reviews are more recent.  Back in the 90’s most people and critics seemed to dismiss the film, focusing on the style and/or the violence.  Not surprising, it is after all a key film within what has become known as the Cinéma du look movement.  However, I did find one contemporary review, from Roger Ebert.  As you would expect it is more interesting and insightful; concentrating on the transformation of the character, and the price we pay for decisions.  He called it “a version of the “Pygmalion” legend for our own violent times”.

Back to that one inch tall barrier: It wasn’t the first time I had read subtitles.  I had seen films with sections in other languages.  I also remember my mom watching a French film, I think it was Mourir d’aimer… (1971), which looking back seems bizarre as she hates reading subtitles now!  But most importantly, Director Bong was right it did introduce me to so many more amazing films.  My favourite film of the century so far, Oldboy (2003) is subtitled.  It was a good time to discover subtitled movies, as well as everything that had gone before, within a couple you years of Nikita there were some excelled films released including: Delicatessen (1991), Hard Boiled (1992), El mariachi (1992), Cronos (1993), Three Colours: Blue (1993), Three Colours: Red (1994), Chungking Express (1994), and The City of Lost Children (1995).  People have said to me they can’t read, and concentrate on the movie.  I have never had an issue with this, after a while, you forget you are reading.

My experience of subtitles hasn’t always been perfect.  As a student I had a part time job in bar.  I worked with a French girl who complained she couldn’t go to the cinema in England.  She explained that although she could converse in English she struggled with movies, especially American ones where people either mumble or speak too quickly to under understand.  Growing up she always watched “version originale” films; films shown in the original language but with French subtitles.  It had the dual benefit of being able to read anything she didn’t understand, but also helping her learn English.  I was unable to find her a screening with French subtitles but did take her to see a French film, La Haine (1995).  Not only did she hate the film, but spent the entire screening telling me the English subtitles were wrong!

If you are yet to get past the one inch tall barrier, why not give it a go, their is a whole world of amazing movies waiting for you.  What else are you going to do, watch Gone with the Wind? 

Twin PeaksThirty years ago today saw the premier of the greatest TV show ever, Twin Peaks.  By the time it reached the UK in October of the same year it was already a phenomenon; 34.6 million people watched the pilot on US TV, people were already quoting “damn fine coffee”, and Cherry Pie.  I watched it because of David Lynch.  I had seen Dune (1985) shortly after release, and loved it (despite popular opinion), and had recently seen Blue Velvet (a little young at 14).  Both directed by Lynch, and like Twin Peaks, both starring Kyle MacLachlan.  Like everybody else, I didn’t know what to expect from the show. The Radio Times described it as an “offbeat murder-mystery drama”.  I seem to remember people having a problem with the long-form  story arc.  One review, possibly also in the Radio Times called it a Soap Noir suggesting it had more in common with soap operas than quality TV, which at the time was episodic.  Little did they know that it was a glimpse of the future.  But it is more than that, this is TV at its most cinematic.  After all, it was television directed by a visionary filmmaker, something that would be almost the norm two, and three decades on.  Lynch may be known for his quirky characters and absurd scenarios, but he is also an elegant filmmaker.  Take a scene early on; Laura Palmer’s parents (Ray Wise & Grace Zabriskie) are talking on the phone, she is missing but they don’t know she is dead, we as an audience do.  As they are talking we see a police car pull up in the background.  As with so much of the show it is subtly brilliant.  That’s not to say Lynch and co creator Mark Frost are afraid to lean into the melodrama of soap!  The “Who Killed Laura Palmer?” advertising campaign was directly influenced by the “Who shot J.R.?” campaign from the show Dallas a decade earlier.  Like a soap, there are over thirty main characters.  There are also the strange encounters and conversations , many which are left hanging and are not connected to the plot, but all add to the colour. laura-palmer

Ultimately the long form nature of the show was its downfall for me, for a while at least.  Early in the second series, I went on Holiday and missed an episodes when the recording failed.  An episode or two later I stopped watching intending to pick it up again when re-run.  Ultimately, this opportunity came a couple of years later when I borrowed the VHS from a friend and watched both season  all the way through.  I have watched it all the way through at least three times since then. dale cooper audrey horne

The title sequence shows both the simple splendour, as well and the mundane of small two life.  There is something strangely beautiful about watching a giant saw-blade being sharpened, or is that Angelo Badalamenti’s theme music doing the heavy lifting?  The theme that is echoed throughout the rest of score perfectly captures the grief and melancholy that hovers over the show.  It doesn’t take a music expert to recognise that Laura’s theme (that is repeated throughout the show), and the theme music are of the same piece.  Other parts of the score reflect the absurdity and obscurity of the show.  The music is bizarrely brilliant, and totally timeless; it sounds like nothing else, but is also reassuringly familiar.    The evil lurking under the surface of a seemingly perfect and idyllic community is not new ground for Lynch having explored it in Blue Velvet (1986).  But lets not forget this is a murder mystery, and that is where Mark Frost’s expertise rests, his credits include around fifty episodes of Hill Street Blues as scriptwriter and/or story editor.  If you strip away all the strange characters and events, it is still a great murder mystery, just not one with the conclusion you would normally expect. Part of the brilliance comes with the setting Agent Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) talks about how murder isn’t a faceless event, not a statistic, and how Laura Palmer’s death affected everybody in town.  Pure evil is more noticeable and more meaningful than if it had been set in a large city. Twin Peaks Black Lodge

Like all the best shows, it hasn’t dated (except possibly the 4:3 aspect ratio), even after thirty years.  Initially cancelled after two seasons, but as a final act, Lynch made the boldest of moves.  Taking a storyline that goes back to early in the first season as a jumping off point, he revisited the show (just over) twenty-five years later.   Twin Peaks The Return, as it is sometimes known dove deeper into the supernatural that always been there, often just below the surface.  The result was a very different experience, that makes you look differently at the original show.  Like a film with a very different sequel, you can take Twin Peaks as the original thirty episodes of seasons one and two, or you can take all forty-eight from all three seasons; either way, it was as groundbreaking as it was brilliant! twin peaks the return