Category Archives: Best of the Year

Twin Peaks: The Return (Episode 1)

I must confess to the fact that I’m a Twin Peaks newcomer. I haven’t seen any of the previous episodes but I’ve been recapped on the Laura Palmer murder mystery and the ensuing oddities from friends. Having said that, I’m still a devout fan of David Lynch’s oeuvre of idiosyncratic surrealism (The Elephant Man, Dune and Blue Velvet being my personal choices for his magnum opuses).

Lynch’s collaborations with Kyle MacLachlan have been a tremendously fruitful marriage of actor and director. Kyle seems to be readily incorporated into Lynch’s brand of bucolic madness. In the intervening 25 years, Agent Dale Cooper has a nefarious doppelganger: a tanned weekend warrior with a mullet and pitch-black irises. Quite the stark contrast to his well-groomed, fastidious image during his stay in Twin Peaks.

Much like his other excursions into dream logic, the dialogue is serpentine with quotable nonsequitirs such as when Dale advises a lodging employee to hire another bouncer, she cryptically replies “It’s a world of truck drivers.” Along with that, the 217-member cast includes a cornucopia of celebrity walk-ons (Ashley Judd, Jane Adams, Matthew Lillard, etc.) and loopy characters (the absentminded neighbor is my favorite).

Lynch can be oblique but he doesn’t alienate the audience with pretentiousness. Within a reconnoitered building, a man is garrisoning a “top-secret” project which is a glass box that seemingly hypnotizes the people around it. How it correlates to the overarching story is still an enigma but when the guard states that his colleague once saw something materialize inside the box, we are anxiously awaiting a phantasmagorical glimpse ourselves.

Emboldened by a slot on Showtime, the show isn’t bound by network censors and therefore, a highly charged, carnal sex scene can occur before a EVP-esque poltergeist can collide through the booth and savagely slaughter the copulating couple. It’s a genuinely scary set piece. Cooper is largely missing from the premiere episode but the plot now pivots on gravitating Cooper back to the wilderness.

The latest incarnation of Twin Peaks is an unassailable success. It proceeds to ferry us back to the land of Lynch’s gonzo imagination and terrifying quirkiness (the deputy chief gains information from messages from a log). To some, it might be a wave of nonsense or a shaggy dog story with no coherent ending. To me and those who grew up on the show, its puzzling structure is chief among its pleasures.

Rating: 4.75 out of 5


Tristan’s Most Anticipated Films of 2017

As you just saw from Cory’s top ten most anticipated films for 2017, there’s a lot of exciting stuff to look forward to. There’s also a lot to drudge through, but to compare, here’s my own list:

Honorable Mentions: Dunkirk, Star Wars: Episode VIII, A Cure for Wellness, Molly’s Game, Logan Lucky

  1. Holmes and Watson (TBD)


Hot damn am I excited for this one – a reunion of Step Brothers stars Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly finds the charismatic comedic duo attempting the impossible: a humorous take on Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic detective Sherlock Holmes. Ferrell plays the titular detective will Reilly will be the sidekick. It seems like a natural fit for the two, and the only thing that worries me is that Etan Cohen (Tropic Thunder) has only ever directed one other feature: Get Hard. It intrigues me that Kelly Macdonald, Ralph Fiennes and Hugh Laurie have all signed on, however. Hopefully this is more Without a Clue than Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother.

  1. The Beguiled (TBD)


This pseudo-remake of the classic 1971 western has Sofia Coppola hopping in the director’s chair in lieu of the original’s Clint Eastwood. Certainly the auteur is up to the challenge of improving upon her fellow actor-director’s attempt at political allegory, and suitably so: the plot tells of a Union soldier (Colin Farrell) who must rest up from injury at a Confederate boarding school and decides to play each of his caretakers on one another in order to escape. The girls? Elle Fanning, Nicole Kidman, and Coppola mainstay Kirsten Dunst. After some plodding plot lines from The Bling Ring and that weird Bill Murray Christmas thing, I’m beyond excited to see Coppola feast her indie teeth into something juicy.

  1. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (TBD)


Much like Coppola, I have other directors I love enough to be in the seat just by recognition alone. This film is the next from Martin McDonagh (In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths) who has made a name for himself on stage and screen as the go-to rapscallion in charge of black comedy indies. He has his own mainstay in Sam Rockwell, who co-stars as a violent mama’s boy that tries to defend the haphazard way his police department attempted to solve the murder case of a young girl. In retaliation for their failure, the girl’s mother (Frances McDormand) puts up three scathing billboards in their town to protest the police’s efforts. The shining star police chief (Woody Harrelson) has a slightly more deft hand at handling the situation than his deputy, but suffice it to say there will be some dark political satire here, especially in light of what’s happened in America the past few years.

  1. Wonder Woman (June 2)


Despite their best efforts, DC Films has spectacularly failed at producing great movies – living deep in the shadow of their contemporary Marvel. Each time a new blockbuster has come out, and they’ve been a tad rushed and bloated, we’ve been tricked into belieiving we’re getting something beautiful. Count me fooled a third time, as this looks like the vehicle for Gal Gadot to truly shine as Wonder Woman, especially after her unnecessary cameo in Batman v Superman. Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen and Chris Pine join Gadot in this finally realized masterpiece that actually takes a conceit that I appreciate greatly – setting the plot in World War I. By making the thing a period piece, I believe the atmosphere will help the quality greatly, like Marvel did with Captain America. The idea was more obvious there, given that character came out of war, but I still believe this will somehow right the DC superhero ship.

  1. Ferdinand (December 22)


Blue Sky Studios knocked it out of the park two years ago when the revamped the Peanuts franchise with a soft-spoken yet touching tale that captured many of the storylines from that comic’s many years. Now the studio and director (Carlos Saldanha) are attempting to revive the children’s story of Ferdinand the Bull. The original 1938 book, by Munro Leaf, shows a pacifist bull who would rather sit in fields and appreciate the simplicity of life rather than take part in the ghoulish bullfights. I absolutely adore the Disney cartoon that came out two years after the book, so I’m wary of a feature-length cartoon ruining the good feelings that came from that original. I have faith in Saldanha after Peanuts, however, and despite being pushed back twice already, this could be my family’s Christmas viewing.

  1. Baby Driver (August 11)


When Edgar Wright was removed from the Marvel adaptation of Ant-Man, I was very disappointed. I love his ersatz style and impulsive direction of films in the Cornetto Trilogy – Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. So it goes without saying that I have high anticipation for his next original film, which sees standout actor Ansel Elgort (The Fault in Our Stars) work as a getaway driver for several different bank robbers. The rest of the cast includes Jamie Foxx, Kevin Spacey and Jon Hamm. Oh, did I mention this is a comedy? If only Wright had convinced Ryan Gosling to star, it would have been like a comedic version of his films Drive and The Place Beyond the Pines, two of my recent favorites.

  1. Coco (November 22)


As usual, I had to pick one of the impressive looking animated films coming out (and yes, I have Ferdinand on here too) – but Coco has been on my radar for over a decade. Long before Pixar knew their stock would begin falling because of crappy sequels, they had this original gem on their list to make. The story follows young Miguel, who lives in a family that has banned music because of a strange tragic affair that ripped his great-grandfather away from the homestead. However, Miguel is obsessed with late singer Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt) and accidentally unleashes a chain of events that coincides with the Day of the Dead celebration in town. Ghosts and hilarity ensue. Surely Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 3) and Adrian Molina will find the right balance between comedy and sentimentalism that Pixar is known for worldwide.

  1. Thor: Ragnarok (November 3)


I haven’t really loved the Thor editions of the Marvel universe, so this may come as a surprise to our loyal followers. However, I’ve always enjoyed Chris Hemsworth’s performances in the Avengers films, and the caliber behind the cast and the idea for the plot is genius this go-around. While the events of last year’s Captain America: Civil War were unfolding, Thor and the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) were conspicuously missing. Turns out they were tracking down another piece of the device that master villain Thanos is trying to assemble – and first the pair will have to battle each other on a gladiator planet. The film, helmed by Taika Waititi (Hunt for the Wilderpeople) adapts parts of Planet Hulk and Ragnarok, and has been said to be much like a buddy cop story in the vein of Shane Black. Add in several character actors I love – Karl Urban, Tessa Thompson and Jeff Goldblum – and you have my most anticipated Marvel film ever. A lot is riding on this.

  1. Logan (March 3)


The first of my most anticipated films to be released, this is one of the most hotly debated superhero films in recent memory. It looks like an arthouse classic, and it also might turn devoted audiences away. On top of that, it will be the supposed final time Hugh Jackman dons his claws as the X-man Wolverine. In a post-apocalyptic future, Logan finds himself traveling alongside a mysterious young girl and an Alzheimer’s-riddled Professor X (Patrick Stewart) to escape some sort of corporation that may have evolved from Mr. Sinister’s Essex Group. Boyd Holbrook, the company’s head of security, stalks him across the Mad Max style landscape.

  1. Kong: Skull Island (March 10)


Remember when I mentioned how much I like the idea of using a vintage time period in a genre film back in Wonder Woman’s paragraph? In the follow-up to 2014’s Godzilla, the monster universe is going to expand when Vietnam veterans Tom Hiddleston and Samuel L. Jackson head to a strange primordial island at the behest of shady government official John Goodman. What they find there will change the world as we know it, because…well, it’s King Kong. The cinematography and acting talent alone is what will send me racing to cinemas a week after the equally enticing Logan.

Least Anticipated:

Life – A waste of a decent sci-fi idea (scientists develop life in space, resulting in disaster) could have gone a more Ex Machina sort of way, but is more likely going a third-act of Sunshine sort of way. Ryan Reynolds also slings petty quips and Jake Gyllenhaal mugs behind glass doors.

Split – To be honest, I’m not sure if I’m going to love this, because the premise is just evil male version of Toni Collette in The United States of Tara decides to imprison young Anya Taylor-Joy. Of course, the man with the split personality is always reliable James McAvoy, who could elevate this above obvious schlock.

War with Grandpa – A perfect waste of talent, Robert DeNiro is a grandfather beset upon by being forced to move in with his kid. That kid’s kid doesn’t like that very much, setting up…a war with Grandpa. Christopher Walken and Eugene Levy also continue to waste their – and our – time.

Podcast Jan 6 – A Dog’s Purpose, Hidden Figures and the Best of 2016

So we have a double dose of podcasting for you this fine January weekend. In addition to seeing late winter release Hidden Figures, Cory and Tristan got out to the cinemas to witness the best film of 2017 – A Dog’s Purpose.

The biggest part of this weekend’s podcasts is that they also include our top ten films of 2016, as well as our worst 10. The first podcast contains our favorite television episodes of 2016 too!

Listen here for reviews of A Dog’s Purpose and Hidden Figures, as well as the best television of 2016:

Listen here for our worst ten followed by the top ten of 2016:

Remember to comment responsibly below!


31 Horror Movies in 31 Days- The Conjuring 2 (2016)

In an almost unprecedented occasion, the second installment in Ed and Lorraine Warren’s paranormal files is a superior, classy, extraordinarily scary succession to the 2013 sleeper original. Director James Wan plays the audience like a Stradivarius. He is instinctual on when to lull us into a false sense of comfort. Normally poltergeist sightings are relegated to nocturnal appearances but Wan upends the convention for a shudder-inducing gag with Bill Wilkins during a rainy day home from school.

Likewise, the parents would be myopic to the chairs moving autonomously but after Peggy Hodgson (Frances O’Connor) glimpses a turbulent event, she contacts the police who are also eyewitnesses. It’s pretty remarkable that Wilkins is just a surrogate for a more malevolent puppeteer in the wings. While paying lip service to the DeFeo massacre in Amityville, Wan accelerates the opening with snappy jump cuts that synchronized with the rifle.

The only stillborn F/X work in the film is the silhouetted Crooked Man chasing the moppets through the house. Some will animadvert the film for slow patches but I loved the character-driven segments with the Warrens and the Hodgson children. The emotional investment soars during this passage. Ed’s (Patrick Wilson) guitar riff on Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love” is a beautifully romantic ode to his wife (Vera Farmiga). In another brilliant contortion on the recipe, Maurice Grosse (Simon McBurney) is not the Warrens’ territorial rival. He has a saturnine history with his daughter’s passing and he is more of a kindred spirit to the investigators.

Since it’s a period piece, conveniences like cell phones and other multimedia forms of communication are inadmissible. Wan doesn’t overindulge in the pyrotechnics overload of today’s blockbusters during the high-octane finale with a jagged tree posing an immense threat to the protagonists. Wan also eschews the cliffhanger segue into the ending credits or a trembling post-credits sequence.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Preacher Review (Season 1, Episode 1)

Seth Rogen and his esteemed writing partner Evan Goldberg hardly stray from controversy and their adaptation of Garth Ennis’ graphic novel Preacher is lockstep with their meta directorial debut This Is The End and their truthfully underwhelming North Korean satire The Interview. The outer-space preface of an entity’s arrival to Africa is weirdly hypnotic with a messiah-esque priest being embodied by a malignant spirit and mid-speech, combusting into blanketing blood on the crowd like a Sam Raimi pinata.

Up until now, Dominic Cooper struck me as a smarmy newcomer who was unjustly heralded as the next superstar. However, as the salt-of-the-earth, binge-drinking title character Jesse Custer, he has been given the role of his young career. He is unusually meek with his parishioners’ attentions drifting into near catatonic states. When he quotes scripture, he doesn’t sound like a matchstick man in a crisis-of-faith.

Oddly enough, Rogen and Goldberg are gonzo journalists for the Wim Wenders vision of Texas as a sun-dappled, sweat-drenched hellhole where alcohol and beach chair-lounging are only methods of layabout recreation. In hindsight, they were ideal candidates for this genre-bending hybrid since their main star nursing a beer as often as they incorporate weed into their stoner comedies.

Of course, this decadent cocktail wouldn’t be complete without a bromance at the center and Preacher’s deadpan Irish colleague Cassidy (Joe Gilgun) is a corker. His skirmish aboard a transcontinental flight is a daffy blast. Instead of an assaultive tour-de-force from start to finish, the duo patiently rachet the lunacy in dribbles. On first sight, the connection between Preacher, the events in Africa, the vampiric Cassidy, Russia and a cornfield-chase flashback is borderline incoherent and it requires some stamina to chain the oblique segments together. Nonetheless, the bulk of the feature-length pilot is devoted to introducing us to these ragtag oddballs.

Sometimes, the implication of doomsday violence is the funniest vantage point such as when Tulip O’Hare (Ruth Negga) is wielding a bazooka outside of a basement and the camera is fixated on the agog expressions of the child bystanders inside. In the midst of such unhinged, jet-black humor, Cooper smartly constrains himself as the stable straight-man. He brings gravitas to cockamamie scenes where Jesse is consoling Arseface (Ian Colletti) over his suicide attempt which left him disfigured like a sphincter. Where most of his peers would be insouciant, Cooper is steadfast in his belief of God.

When the Preacher finally erupts in a barroom brawl, the smirk on Cooper’s face is rib-tickling. With much facilitation by Rogen, Goldberg and Sam Caitlin, the show continues treads down this path of audacious anarchy because I, for one, love the jigsaw-puzzle plotting, Cooper’s stellar conviction and the nonsequitir jokes (ex. The news report about Tom Cruise’s explosion at a Scientology meeting).

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Music to Your Ears – Best of 2015

So you’ll notice that Music to Your Ears was on hiatus for the first week of 2015, and technically with this past Monday’s revelation that the great David Bowie had passed away, we didn’t really cover anything new. That’ll be remedied in next Monday’s edition, but for now, I have one last thing to say about 2015. With my year-end lists, I’m terribly succinct and the music one is definitely the one closest to my heart. I always want to be precise with my choices and reasoning for them, so it took me an extra week to get the Best of 2015 Music to Your Ears list out to you. Without further adieu, my top ten albums and songs of 2015:

Continue reading Music to Your Ears – Best of 2015

Podcast January 8th – Best of 2015 Part 2: Films

Cory and I are back this week with part 2 of our Best of 2015! With all the films that we saw this year (Tristan: 44, Cory: 208) there was a ton to talk about. With our longest podcast ever we discuss top tens, worst tens, best and worst performances, disappointments, surprises, films we wished we’d seen and films we’re glad we didn’t see. In all, we cover a grand tapestry that represents what people viewed in theaters in 2015.

Take a trip back with us through the past year in cinema, below:


Stay tuned on Monday for Part 3: Music to finally wrap things up for this past year!

Also, incidentally, this is our 100th post!