“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.

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Rock of Ages (Film Review)

Rock of Ages (Film Review)

Rock of Ages brings the Broadway hit to the big screen, and they do it in the best possible way: dripping with cheese.

I never saw the stage version of this, but now that I have seen the film, I think that I would like to. The story here is simple enough, a young girl heading out to Hollywood with stars in her eyes, where she meets up with her love interest and begins working at the biggest rock bar on the Strip. Here she is able to meet the whole cast of characters, including the burning-out rock star Stacee Jaxx, the biggest thing in music. It is a love story, and a story about fame, as one would expect. There is nothing new here, or particularly original. In fact, the whole film is very predictable and the plot is pretty lame.

But I loved it.

The first thing to discuss in a musical is, of course, the music. It is fantastic. Loaded with rock hits from the 1980’s, Rock of Ages brings new life to the songs, pumping them up, and often, creating them into new, likable, mashups. Probably due to the massive success of Glee, the mashup is an enjoyable new way to listen to old favorites. There is something pretty cool about hearing opposing sides of the street wailing on a version of “We Built This City” crammed together with “We’re Not Gonna Take It.” It’s fun. And that is all that this film tries to be. Fun. If the audience has a good time, then they have really done their job. They are not trying to recreate the musical genre, or provide us with an in-depth look at the perils of the ever-changing music industry. They just want us to laugh a little, and sit back and enjoy the music.

rock3The acting here, while not terribly good, is still fun. The headliner is the beautiful Julianne Hough, who has demonstrated before that she is not the greatest actress, but she makes some movies that are just plain entertaining (I’m looking at you, Footloose). She is always nice to look at, and has a pretty solid voice. She does a reasonably convincing job of portraying the hayseed from Oklahoma that has big dreams when she heads out West. Other stars have smaller roles, such as Catherine Zeta-Jones, Bryan Cranston, Alec Baldwin, and Russel Brand. They all get the chance to belt out some hits, as well. Some are great, some are misses, but overall, it seems like they had a good time putting this onto film. And that comes across to the audience, which makes the whole thing that much more lovable. They are having a good time, and so are we.

rock2A highlight has to be Tom Cruise as Stacee Jaxx. His performance is creepily convincing, as his rock god status is spiraling out of control at the bottom of a bottle, mixed in with groupies, as he is nearing the start of his solo career. Cruise is fun in this role, emulating Jim Morrison and Axl Rose in his stage performances and general demeanor. Love him or hate him, he works in this movie, and by the end, you have a tough time hating Jaxx, even though we probably should.

A little bit Coyote Ugly, a little bit Showgirls, a bit of the “Welcome to the Jungle” music video all mixed together gives us what Rock of Ages is: a fun musical with great tunes. Nothing too complex, nothing too life-changing. Kind of like the 80’s: just a good time.