What’s New on the Site
“A Head Full of Ghosts” is a Darkly Gorgeous bit of Pop Culture and Organic Terror
Genndy Tartakovsky Returned with an Incredible Final Season of Samurai Jack
“Alien: Covenant” is a Solid Entry into a Franchise that I Love
What We’ve Been Reading
Clint’s Reading List
Fire & Stone – Paul Tobin, Kelly Sue Deconnick
What do you get when you toss Xenomorphs, Predators, and Engineers together with a human crew and an evolving construct? Yup, you get a hell of a comic. A few years back they began releasing a large crossover series, with all 3 of the major creatures in this universe coming together to mesh. The story follows a colonization crew from which a sick man infects his android (construct) friend with the black goo. They have landed on LV-223, the planet from Prometheus, and have discovered a lush jungle instead of the shattered shale and stone of the film. The android begins to evolve and dangerous things ensue as a ship escaping Hadley’s Hope from LV-426 is also there, containing Xenomorphs. The plot follows multiple timelines and characters as we chug along to see the creatures, the real reason to read this. The human plotlines are iffy, but the android Elden is the star of this show. As he evolves and changes, physically and mentally, we’re given something frightening to contemplate as we see him have real reasons for going after humanity, personal reasons. The androids have always been the most interesting and diversely layered characters in the Alien universe (and this is very much the Alien universe, with Predators sprinkled in for flavor) and Elden is an expansion on this.
Alien 3: The Gibson Script – William Gibson
I got into these scripts a few years ago when a podcast recommended them. The third film in the franchise had a very troubled production history that landed us with an entertaining mess of a film that David Fincher has basically disowned after directing it (his debut film actually). While the film is only sort of worth watching I think that the history is very fascinating, with 3 scripts online for reading and tying into the final product. Gibson, famous for writing the novel Neuromancer, wrote one of the better ones and it is a doozy. The novel has seeds in Alien: Covenant that can be seen as well. This story, unlike the final film, gives Ripley and Newt happy endings and lets them go free while we, as viewers, follow Corporal Hicks and Bishop the android as they move forward in their war against the Weyland/Yutani corporation and the Xenomorphs. I love it and I have to say I think any fan of the franchise would love checking these out, particularly those who are Alien 3 apologists.
What We’ve Been Watching
Red Desert – Michelangelo Antonioni is one of the titans of cinema, his dramas all of moving and potentially aimless while sucking you into their worlds and attaching you to the characters. Ennui is subjective in terms of enjoyability, but to me it’s a fascinating bit of representation for the 60’s, the other section of it that we don’t see in the American hippie era. What Antonioni does is layer things up in a way that asks you to look at why these characters are so damaged, so broken, when nothing is really and truly wrong. It circles back to the decisions we make, and where those decisions come from inside. His muse, Monica Vitti, is in perhaps her finest form here. Usually her characters embody the ennui theme, rotating between flat and depressed or manic and excitable. In this, however, she is allowed to take that depression and display it in her face, her movements, her actions, and her dialog. This is new for the director and the actress, who have worked on 3 other films before, but I think it might have been the use of color this time around that really drove him to allow it. Red Desert displays an industrial wasteland on the coast, but rather than let it be a broken and ugly thing (the standard go-to for filmmakers using this kind of setting) he paints it, makes it bright and beautiful, and uses it to make everything pop more. His final film with Vitti sees him allowing her to do so as well, her platinum hair exchanged for a deep auburn red and her standard clothing exchanged for blacks and dark greens to contrast her further to the landscape. This is the second to last watch for me in the Antonioni/Vitti collaboration, with La Notte still left to see, but this may be one of the most gorgeous in the director’s set so far.
Twin Peaks: The Return – Damn David Lynch and his craziness. I was late to the game on the original series/film but after hearing how similar Hannibal was to it there was no choice. Then I found out it was David Lynch and that was the straw that broke the camel’s back forcing me to binge it within a couple of weeks. What I found was funny, thrilling, and dramatic in all of the best ways. It kept me guessing without ever letting me get completely comfortable. The limited series, currently airing on Showtime, just started and it is very different in tone but remains a natural extension of the ideas laid down before. Lynch is on-form here, using this as a swan’s song for his career in a way. He announced his retirement from the world of film and it seems television may not be far behind, especially having seen this. He is holding nothing back, allowing the new series to be all at once a continuation of the story and an incorporation of elements from Eraserhead, Mulholland Drive, and Lost Highway. The season has been shot as one 18 hour film, then it was cut into episodes, and it shows. The first two aired as one 2 hour premier and I honestly could not have told you how close I was to the end of the episode. When the credits finally rolled I stopped and thought, “Of course it’s ending here, this is a smart place to cap the premier,” but I had no idea I was close. The next two episodes continue in this fashion and continue building on the absolute insanity and craziness of the premier, all at once very dark and sort of funny but bringing out everything the auteur has in his arsenal. The original cast is all back and in fine form, particularly Kyle McLaughlin, and it all comes together to scratch an itch that I’ve been trying to scratch since finishing Fire Walk With Me.
Riverdale – Speaking of Twin Peaks, this was scratching that itch for me as well. The show is a modern adaptation of Archie comics, popular for decades, and yet in tone does not resemble much of what we’ve come to think of with the comics. The show is a good version of The O.C. crossed with…well, Twin Peaks, and it makes for some damned entertaining television. Murder, relationship drama, aspiring musicians, and so many plot twists that the stress just keeps mounting are all available for viewing on Netflix. I highly recommend this show to anyone looking to just have some fun with something dramatic.
Free Fire – Ben Wheatley’s latest is a stylish throwback to the 70’s style and “simple crime gone wrong” genre. Billed as essentially one long shoot-out, starring an impressive cast of largely talented actors like Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Armie Hammer, and Sharlto Copley, as well as recent up-and-comer Jack Reynor. However, despite its enthusiasm and talent, the premise is quickly stretched thin and action becomes frustrating as the geography of the single shoot-out location is never properly established. This leads to entertaining but overall empty banter between characters that are never quite filled-out, during a shootout where not much matters. It’s an interesting experiment that’s worth a watch for the conceit, but ultimately frustrating for its aimlessness.
Predator – I’d never seen it before! And I’m not really sure what to add that hasn’t already been said. It was a great cure to the tease that I thought was Free Fire. Well-directed action with charismatic machismo lead performances, and immediately iconic character designs. It’s hard to discuss the first Predator film as a stand-alone without referencing the long, sometimes checkered, history of the franchise. But as the first in a series, it’s easy to see why studios and audiences wanted more.
What We’ve Been Listening to
Fuzzy Typewriter – It’s back guys! This was my favorite podcast years back, with their fun discussions or art, artists, stories, and storytelling being absolutely wonderful to hear. They did episodes for Black Swan, each episode of the final season of Breaking Bad, Scott Snyder’s Voodoo Heart, and even the first season of American Horror Story. My favorites, however, were two series they did for buildups to the films Prometheus and Rise of the Planet of the Apes. The hosts went through each film in the original run of the franchise and then the new films, and the discussions brought a lot of history and filmmaking and trivia to the table. These episodes may go up in the new feed, and if they do I recommend listening to them. For now, though, they have 3 episodes up – one for S-Town, a new podcast, one for Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 that is great, and one for Alien: Covenant that I just adored. The hosts, Paul Montgomery and David Accompo, are wonderful audible chocolate on the airwaves and they’re just a blast.
Criterion Cast – My friends are well aware of my obsession with the Criterion Collection of films. This podcast discusses the releases, talking about the films in a critical way as well as going over the releases and the special features for each. The discussion is dry for anyone not really into seriously talking about filmmaking, but each episode is a fascinating discussion on things like performance, cinematography, use of color, and score as mechanisms to convey a story. One of my favorite episodes is on Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby, which is a classic horror film and one of the best available. The discussion is wonderful, and I’ve got many more episodes queued up on my playlist. For those seriously interested in film I think this is a wonderful podcast, and I think those looking into the Criterion collection might find this a good way to see if it is for you.