“The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer” (Book Review)

“The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer” (Book Review)

During the height of its popularity, people debated the secrets of Twin Peaks all the time. It became the most popular show to create water cooler discussions, since there was always so much going on, so many strange things, and so many secrets.

One of the secrets of the show was the mysteries held within the diary that Laura Palmer kept, and left behind with her Meals on Wheels shut-in friend before she died.

The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer was released between Seasons 1 and 2 of the show, and provided die-hard viewers with some major insight into one of the major characters of the show- even if she was never actually alive on it. The book became a New York Times best seller, and was penned by the daughter of series creator David Lynch, Jennifer Lynch.

laura3Instead of arguing about the merits of the writing- it does a good job to read mostly like a diary written by a teenage girl- it is more important to focus on the things that it revealed about Laura, as her secrets were beginning to become exposed on the show.

Laura was definitely the epitome of a character struggling with duality. She was a good girl gone bad, and The Secret Diary takes us through her fall from grace, as she discovers her raucous sexuality, and love of drugs, particularly cocaine. Laura is constantly conflicted about who she is. She is the teen queen of Twin Peaks, respected and loved by all, but she has a very dark side that she tries her best to cover up. She falls in with the wrong people, and makes poor decision after poor decision, always trying to escape her own dark side by doing things that ironically bring her closer to the dark side.

One of the interesting tidbits from the book are her involvement with BOB, the psychotic killer and representation of all evil, that haunts her, and taunts her, throughout her life. It is the interactions that she has with BOB that lead her to sleepless nights, which eventually lead her further into drugs and sex. For those who have watched Twin Peaks, and understand the role that BOB had in her death, it is an interesting case of foreshadowing, without revealing too much about how she is going to end up dead.

But she knows that she is, that she has started down a path that will provide no happy ending for her.

The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer offers us some nice insight for the show. It creates a back story for the most secretive character in the town. Many of the things that emerge from the diary are seen or re-created in the film prequel to the series, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, which chronicles the final week of Laura’s life prior to her murder. For those who would have read the book between the seasons, it also gives us a little information that is not revealed until season 2, which would have made people who read the book know things that others did not, such as the final location of her true diary. There are also clever tie-ins with the show, in that some pages of the diary are ripped out, as they are in the show. This is done so that not too much is revealed, such as the killer, or the twisted relationship that she had with her father. It is one of the more intelligent book tie-ins to go along with a television series: giving us enough to keep watching, but not so much that we have no reason to keep viewing. It is a good teaser.

laura2Laura is a messed-up girl. As we move forward through the series Twin Peaks, we realize how damaged and broken she was, that she was not the prom queen that everybody wanted to see in her. She was a tortured soul, and barely kept her life together for a long time before she died.

There are a couple of curious things that the book raises. How was Laura able to be such a good person, while hiding such a dark side? As in, how did she have enough time to tutor Johnny Horne, deliver Meals on Wheels, teach Josie Packard English, go to school, date Bobby Briggs, do a ton of cocaine, work at Horne’s department store, also work at One Eyed Jack’s, sleep with half the town of Twin Peaks, participate in forest orgies, maintain a friendship with Donna Hayward, and fall for James Hurley? This is the busies girl of all-time! Also, she tried very hard to hide her dark side from the outside world, trying to keep it contained. But judging by the amount of sex, partying, and drugs that she took part in, how is it that nobody ever revealed or spoke about her secrets? How could her wild life, which involved so many people from the town, still be unknown to everybody? These are the slight flaws that are raised by The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer, simply because we now know so much more about her than we do from just watching the show.

This is definitely a quick read, and a pretty good one for true fans of the show. It allows us to see behind the character that really serves as the centerpiece of the show, since it is her death that brings everything together, and begins to unravel the secrets of the mysterious town.

Advertisements

Boyhood (Film Review)

Boyhood (Film Review)

There can be little doubt that Boyhood should be considered one of the greatest coming-of-age films ever made. Because it really does show characters growing up.

The concept is simple enough, but has never really been seen on this kind of scale before. Putting together a cast, a filming parts of a movie over a dozen years, in order to show them actually growing up, while maintaining a firm storyline throughout.

boy3It was a bold choice by the great director Richard Linklater, and it truly has paid off, with the large number of Oscar and Golden Globe nominations and wins that Boyhood has already racked up. Consider the idea of selecting a young boy to focus a film on. What if as he grows up, he becomes a terrible actor, or no longer fits the role that you had initially envisioned? It was a huge risk, but Linklater did well in his choices of the cast, and they all worked out in the end.

The gimmick of the aging actors put aside, Boyhood is still a very good film, although not a perfect one. There are parts of the film that seem drawn out, and are definitely less interesting than others. It is a long film, over two-and-a-half hours, and it felt like some parts could have been done more quickly, those middle moments that didn’t do as much to advance Mason as a character. But the whole time, we know we are getting somewhere. We don’t have to wonder about what happens to Mason, because we literally see him growing up on screen. From a curious little boy, to a precocious teenager, to a high school graduate who is becoming a man, we see him grow up, and come into his own. And Mason is a good character, and we enjoy watching to see who he becomes at the end.

boy2Mason, and his sister Samantha, grow up with divorced parents, played by Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke. They see their father every now and then, and go through the process of building a strong relationship with him as time passes. We even see how Mason slowly turns into Ethan Hawke, and by the end of the film, Mason is very much reminiscent of another famous Linklater/Hawke character, Jesse, from the Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight trilogy. As they age, the kids face all the trials and tribulations of life. Their mother meeting new men, some better than others, the prospect of moving around Texas more than they would like, leading them to new schools and new friends. Mason has to deal with bullies, and girls, and wanting to be an artist in a world that doesn’t really seem to want more artists. He has girlfriend troubles, and needs to decide on where to go to college. You know…real life.

And that is exactly what Boyhood excels at: creating a scrapbook of real life, in an honest and realistic way that manages to entertain us the whole way through.

Boyhood is definitely a Linklater film. There are some elements of Dazed and Confused in there (including a great cameo by the liquor store clerk from that film), along with some Waking Life. And there is definitely more than a little but of the Before trilogy in there, and it is not just the comparisons to Ethan Hawke’s character in both of the films. Linklater loves his characters who talk about life, and wonder about it. He just does it so magnificently, that it is tough to fault him for going back to the well a little bit and rehashing some of the magic that has worked so perfectly for him before.

boy4There is so much to like about Boyhood, which won the Best Picture at the Golden Globes, and is considered by many to be a definite threat in the Best Picture category at the Oscars. It has even become one of the very rare (there are only 11) films to receive a perfect 100 Metacritic score. There will be people who complain that the film is too long, and that there is no real point to the whole thing. Those can be justifiable arguments, but really, the point is just growing up. It’s something we all have to do, and Linklater captures it perfectly, what it is to grow up as a boy. He provides us with insight and thoughts that so perfectly align with things that his audience would have considered at one point or another in their lives, and it just makes everything so real.

Despite being imperfect, Boyhood is an excellent film, and worthy of all the praise it has received. A must-see.

“Wrapped in Plastic. Twin Peaks.” (Book Review)

“Wrapped in Plastic. Twin Peaks.” (Book Review)

The day that Laura Palmer was found dead on the beach in the small Washington town of Twin Peaks, a cult-classic was unleashed.

Even though the series only lasted for a total of 30 episodes spread across two uneven seasons, Twin Peaks has remained a phenomenon, and consistently viewed as a show that was able to change the face of network television. 30 episodes have created a ton of fan websites, a yearly festival, magazines, books, and even after much desire from the public, who was both fans of the show when it initially aired, and those who have discovered it in the quarter-century since, there will be a new run of episode of Twin Peaks starting in 2016.

plastic2I have written a few items on the show on this blog, as well as more on my often-neglected Twin Peaks blog. If you want to read a review of another book related to the show, please check out https://gatsbyfuneral.wordpress.com/2014/12/13/reflections-an-oral-history-of-twin-peaks-book-review/.

Wrapped in Plastic. Twin Peaks provides us with another view on the series, and one that is incredibly well done in a very short amount of space. As a part of the Pop Classics collection (which also includes books on Showgirls and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), this story of Twin Peaks is done in a great way that provides more information for the Peak Freak out there, as well as the casual viewer, or one just getting into the show. There is much repeated information in here, if you are a die-hard fan and follower of the show, but it still provides enough insight to keep it interesting, over its very brief 101 pages.

Something I especially enjoyed about the book was the nods to the humour in the show. So many things that are written about Twin Peaks focus on the darkness, on the strangeness, and on the the murder of Laura Palmer, and then the following decent of the show from the heights of pop culture after the murdered was revealed. But so many people forget that there were so many moments in the series that were very humorous, and they no longer deserve to be neglected. Author Andy Burns does a great job of reminding us of those funny moments, and how it added so much to the show, as well as giving us a break from the messy lives of the people that inhabited the small town.

plastic3Wrapped in Plastic also does a strong job of citing the influence that Twin Peaks has had on modern television. We often hear about how influential it was, but Burns goes to the point where he describes the impact that this show had on other major dramas of our time, from The Sopranos to The X-FilesNorthern Exposure to Psych. It really brings everything all together, and after reading the book, it gave me a new appreciation of how important this series really was in changing the way that networks viewed the shows they were airing, and how people were watching them, and what they were willing to deal with.

Burns takes us quickly through the development of the series, the casting, and the magic of David Lynch and Mark Frost in creating the show, along with notes on several of the episodes in the series. He writes like he truly loves the show, which is great, because let’s be honest…the vast majority of the readers of this book are also going to be fans of the show, and want to read about it by someone who loved it too. He also focuses a fair amount of his time on the development of the themes in the series, such as the duality of the characters, demonstrated primarily by the role of the Black Lodge, and the dopplegangers that are found within. I found this quite interesting, especially when many more connections were made to the prequel film, Fire Walk With Me, as it offered me some views that I had not thought of before.

While Wrapped in Plastic is not as in-depth and intensive as something like Reflections: An Oral History of Twin Peaks, it still manages to get to quite a bit. With the book being so short, I had no trouble reading it in one sitting, in a little over an hour. This speaks not only to the brevity of this work, but to the readability of it. It is very interesting, and it is always great to be taken back into the town of Twin Peaks, and into the lives of the characters in it. And Burns does a great job of doing that, exploring the relationships between the characters, pointing out his observations, along with generally maintained theories about the show.

For those die-hard fans of Twin Peaks, who are clamoring for something to keep them occupied until the much anticipated Mark Frost novel, The Secret Lives of Twin Peaks comes out at the end of the year, and then the 2016 episodes, Wrapped in Plastic is a fantastic place to get back into the world of our favorite town. It does well to be nostalgic, so fans can remember the lofty heights of the show, even remembering its demise with some affection, and it does well to look forward, to see how the fingerprints of Twin Peaks are all over our current television landscape.

Moonrise Kingdom (Film Review)

Moonrise Kingdom (Film Review)

Having recently watched The Grand Budapest Hotel, I can feel myself veering into a Wes Anderson kick, and I decided to start that off with my first viewing of Moonrise Kingdom, since it is on Netflix Canada.

moon2The story takes place in New Penzance, in 1965. A small island that remains relatively untouched from the trials and tribulations of the outside world, we are introduced to the usual group of Wes Anderson quirky characters that make all of his stories really click. The central plot revolves around Sam and Suzy, two 12-year-old kids who fall in love, and decide to run away together. This causes a search party to be organized by the adults of the island, a group littered with Anderson favorites: Bill Murray (Suzy’s father), Edward Norton (Sam’s scout master), and even Bruce Willis (the police officer).

The story of Moonrise Kingdom is so great because Anderson is able to give life to such a perfect and nostalgic time of first love. The relationship between not only the adults, but the kids themselves, provide a very enjoyable look back to a more innocent time, when love was unrealistic and fun. The journey of Sam and Suzy is absolutely great, as they move from awkward to great together in a short span of time. As with most Anderson films, Moonrise Kingdom is great to look at, shot with interesting views and colours throughout, providing a somewhat dream-like quality to the formative time in the lives of the kids.

moon3However, the best part of the film belongs to the two young actors that absolutely make this a great film. Sam is played exceptionally well by Jared Gilman, a young man who is able to take Anderson’s dialogue, and absolutely own it. His oddness, and self-awareness at such a young age comes across as deliciously quirky while still remaining honest and true. His counterpart, Suzy, is played by Kara Hayward, a young actress who will surely be on the road to being one of the “next big things” out there. Her performance is absolutely perfect. She is able to humanize the deadpan Suzy, and make her infinitely likable, despite her overreactions and bottled up rage that she is most often able to keep under wraps. Together, Hayward and Gilman create a fantastic on screen duo, and one that we definitely root for as an audience. They are young, they are lost in their respective worlds, and they want escape, and they manage to find it perfectly with one another.

At times, it is a tender, and beautiful, relationship.

moon4Due to the very high reviews across most sites for the film, it is apparent that Moonrise Kingdom has received the accolades it deserves for being an excellent film. It is not entirely different from anything else Anderson has done in his career, but when it comes down to it, he has made another movie that is fun to watch, has some great subtle humour, many nods to his other work, to the point where Anderson definitely needs to be considered in the auteur category of filmmakers, and provides us with a fun and interesting story that will surely keep viewers entertained for the reasonable run time of the film. For fans of his, it is an absolute must-see and a vital part of his growing collection of very good films. For fans of film, it gives us two new actors putting on display their great potential for more good roles in the future, and in Hayward, a possible future star in the industry.

Station Eleven (Book Review)

Station Eleven (Book Review)

Station Eleven has been getting rave reviews, pretty much across the board; and for good reason. It is a captivating, intriguing, mysterious, and complex novel, that never forgets that a book is generally supposed to be entertaining and fun. What it ends up being is a must-read book for all book lovers out there.

Author Emily St. John Mandel has created a complex, and non-linear, narrative that is quite easy to follow, and allows us to enjoy all the jumps in time, character, and setting. She provides unique views through the eyes of several characters, and readers will be rapt with attention as we wait to see how everybody is really connected at the end.

11-3Station Eleven begins with a famous actor dying on stage during a stage production of King Lear in Toronto. A man from the crowd attempts to revive him, but with no luck. One of the young actresses in the play, Kristen, watches as her lead actor, and sometime mentor, collapses and dies in front of a packed house.

From here, the events move to the events of the deadly Georgian Flu, a plague that ends up wiping out the majority of the world’s population. We are provided with the events of the Flu, and are given some touching moments as people die, and others survive. A character, locked in an apartment with his wheelchair bound brother, watching as the news channels slowly click off, provides us with stirring humanity, and a realistic look at what may occur in an apocalyptic world.

There are a ton of stories in Station Eleven to be told, and full credit goes to the author in that they are all interesting. In many cases with novels with several narratives, I find myself reading through certain chapters only to get back to the characters that I really care about. Not here. They are all good, well developed characters, and each one of their stories is unique and interesting. From the past life of Arthur, the famous actor, and his failed marriages, to the traveling Symphony, a group of actors and musicians who travel around the post-flu world performing music and Shakespearean plays, to the dangers of being on the road, to the survivors who have made a home in an airport, which also houses the mythical and legendary Museum of Civilization, and the strange town which is run in cult-like fashion by someone only calling himself the prophet, Station Eleven is full of enjoyment, mystery, darkness, and hope. It is wonderfully written from start to finish, and gives us complete stories on everybody involved. St. John Mandel does a fantastic job of weaving her stories together, making them all important, fun to read, and managing to continually drive the curiosity of the reader, as we are always wondering what is going to become of the characters, regardless of what time frame their narrative is written in.

11-2As for the title itself, it refers to a set of comic books that were laboriously drawn and written by Arthur’s first wife. They were published in the most limited of runs, and one set of the comics are dutifully carried around by Kristen. With only two volumes to the story, she has memorized the story of Dr. Eleven and his trials and tribulations on a space station/seemingly utopic planet that is plagued by the evil doings of members of the Undersea. The Station Eleven comics run as a constant thread throughout the novel, and it is curious to see not only the metaphorical connections to the characters and the present world they are living in, but to actually see what will become of the comic books at the end of the novel. It makes for truly great reading.

There is really nothing to complain about in regards to Station Eleven. It is a fantastic book, a great read for book lovers and casual readers alike. It is in part a dystopian novel, but is not at all bogged down by the growing cliches of the genre. Without a doubt, Station Eleven is deserving of all the accolades it is receiving, and absolutely worth picking up the next time you visit a book store.

The Killing: Season 4 (TV Review)

The Killing: Season 4 (TV Review)

I have to admit that the shine wore off of The Killing once the killer of Rosie Larsen was revealed. Season 3 provided some thrills, and then Netflix decided to release the final, concluding season, in an abbreviated run of episodes that would bring the show to a close. As incredible as the first couple of years were, something was lost along the way, to the point where the fourth season of the show sat in my Netflix queue for a very long time.

kill2The basic gist of Season 4 is that there is a new killing, this one of an entire family of a kid who attends the local military academy. Our two intrepid detectives, Linden and Holder, are on the case, determined to crash through the walls created by the school, and the crusty colonel in charge, played very well by Joan Allen.

As far as the murder goes, it was pretty interesting. In no way was it as all-encompassing as the Rosie Larsen killing and subsequent chase for the killer, but it is still pretty good as far as murder mysteries go. It never seemed as though it was able to keep us guessing like the first murder on the show did, but it was still entertaining, and stuck with the traditions of The Killing, in that it is quiet and violent, haunting and morbid.

The main issue that I had with the season was Detective Linden, who had been brilliantly portrayed on the screen over the course of the show by Mireille Enos. She became annoying. As her life is constantly unraveling, and she fails to deal with the issues in her real life, I felt that while she had always come across as a strong, determined woman, she degraded into a whiny nuisance. I felt far less sympathy for her, as we begin to see that all of the things that befall her life are her own poor choices and decisions. A secondary plot of Season 4 centers around the murder that Linden perpetrated on her boss at the end of Season 3, and the cover-up that she engages in with Holder to protect herself. Her new boss is on her tail, trying to uncover facts about the disappearance, and it was unfortunate the way she had fallen from grace from the way her character was initially written. Not that there was a massive difference in her character, just that we just stopped feeling bad for her.

kill3While The Killing was still a great source of entertainment, it definitely was starting to show its cracks by the end of its run, in my opinion. I understand that many will disagree, and argue that Season 4 created a fitting ending for the series, but I didn’t see it. The very ending of the show, once the murder was wrapped up, was odd, and out of place for the way that the entire series had been created and run. It came across as cheesy, and something that was not fitting of either Linden, or Holder.

Perhaps I didn’t love the final year of the show. This does not mean that it is bad television, not by any stretch. The Killing is still a compelling drama that leads us through some interesting twists and turns. Perhaps it was a victim of its own success, not being able to live up to the first couple of years of the show. Still worth watching, as there are plenty of shows that were worse than this finale. It would still rank quite highly on my list of murder dramas that are out there. I just wanted more, and I didn’t want to start disliking a character that we had rooted for over the course of a few years.

Premature (Film Review)

Premature (Film Review)

Premature provides us with one of the most predictable and unoriginal teen films in recent memory, but despite this, remains somewhat watchable.

A simple concept that provides us with a bit of a Groundhog Day and American Pie mashup gives us a high school kid that needs to relive the same day over and over again, until he rights some cosmic wrong and can move on to the next day. The only twist that has been provided to this script, to ensure it is not a complete rip-off, is that our main character restarts the day every time he has an orgasm, usually at some kind of inappropriate time. Then he restarts the day, waking up to his mother walking in on him after a wet dream.

pre3
Will he end up with the school hot girl? Of course not.

The results are unsurprisingly stale and not hilarious.

We get the same pattern of understanding what he is going through. At first he is confused. Then he tries to push the boundaries, knowing that he will have to relive the day anyways (oh my god, he touches the breasts of his chesty English teacher! Edgy!), and then an understanding of what he needs to do to make things right and move on.

Despite average jokes sprinkled in here and there, and an ending that is predictable from minute six of the film, Premature provides some very mild entertainment, mainly because of a couple of the cast members.

The central character is portrayed by John Kama, and he is ok. We don’t really care about him, he is often as dull and annoying as he is enjoyable, but he doesn’t ruin the film by any stretch of the imagination. Sometimes, his dull, bored, uncaring teenager shtick is somewhat enjoyable. He goes through the film, trying to lose his virginity to a girl that is out of his league, while at the same time trying to decide if he really does want to do well on his Georgetown college entrance interview. His father is an alum, and of course wants nothing more than for his son to go to the same school as he did. I suppose this passes as a central conflict, as he needs to realize what he really wants in life. Any surprise guesses at the ending?

Katie Findlay is the best part of the film.
Katie Findlay is the best part of the film.

The only real highlight of the film is Katie Findlay, who plays the female best friend to our orgasming protagonist, Gabrielle. Findlay, who I know best as playing the dead Rosie Larsen on The Killing, is a breath of fresh air in the movie. She is able to come across as cute, fun, and charming, right from the beginning. She is able to use up what little there is of a meager script, and create a female character that we actually really enjoy. Sure, she remains a template from nearly every other teen drama where there is the girl that we all know should be with the lead, but he never sees it that way until the very end, but Findlay makes it work, and we like her. While Findlay has had minor roles here and there, from what I can see on IMDB, she seems like the has the poise and potential for more in her career. She could probably bang out a few more teen roles, but there is potential in her acting, and she is imminently likable on the screen, to the point where by the end of Premature, we kind of wish that the film had been centered on her, instead of the actual main character.

pre5At the end of the film, we know that we have seen this before. All of it. There is actually nothing new in Premature, but it is okay enough to not hate it, or to hate yourself for watching it. I know that nobody is going to fire up Netflix and choose Premature expecting something fresh and original. But this one is exactly what you expect from it, offering nothing new. There are definitely worse teen films out there, like Alpha House, but there a ton of ones that are better. This one is near the bottom of the barrel, but isn’t quite swirling the drain.