Friday, December 03, 2010

Camera Obscura: Twin Peaks Reunion; Jeff Bridges As John Wayne; Fulci's 'The Beyond'

For one hour this week immense joy was created by television, as the great "Twin Peaks" show got a most entertaining reunion of sorts thanks to the USA Network series "Psych". Cast members from Peaks assembled for a comic poke at their iconic work, with plenty of references to pie and coffee. Oh, television, will you ever make something as good as "Twin Peaks" again?

NOTE: details about the episode, a commentary and more are here, and kudos to series star James Roday for writing this episode and gathering all the Peaks actors he could. Have a slab of pie James, you deserve it.


Jeff Bridges storms the cinemas this month with two movies which are both re-inventions of previous movies, one in which he starred he some 30 years ago and one where he takes on John Wayne.

I'm a bit more keen to see the second one, a remake of Wayne's Oscar-winner "True Grit" since it is the newest work from James and Ethan Coen, two of the best filmmakers in America. The Coen's version follows the novel by Charles Portis more closely, making better use of Portis' dialog. The way people speak is always a central feature in the Coen brothers films. And while many films have been made over the years aiming to mimic a John Wayne movie, as best I can tell this is the first time someone has done a straight-up remake. (Well, other than a very, very bad TV movie from 1978 called "True Grit" with Warren Oates in the Rooster Cogburn role in a sort of "continuing adventures of" story which is far worse than it sounds.)

Early reviews
are quite tantalizing - "
Let's get this out of the way right now: Jeff Bridges and Hailee Steinfeld own this film, every inch of it. The entire cast is fantastic, with special kudos to Josh Brolin and an unrecognizable Barry Pepper (see if you can spot him), but there's not a moment that goes by in the film when you're not itching to see Bridges' Marshal Reuben J. Cogburn and Steinfeld's Mattie Ross share the screen. The two make up the most memorable on-screen duo we've seen all year -- a beaten-up, smelly, drunken U.S. Marshal and a whip-smart 14-year-old negotiator -- and every scene they share is one you're going to want to watch again. One particular scene early in the film, which sees young Mattie Ross trying to sell back the horses her recently-assassinated father bought, is flawlessly executed and effortlessly charming."

The other new Bridges movie is a sequel to his 1982 Disney film "Tron", titled "Tron Legacy". The first film was pretty weak overall, but for myself (and for many others) the ideas in the movie were always quite inventive - a hacker is physically transported inside to the inside of a computer. The tech just did not exist in 1982 to bring the story the wow factor it needed, and the script was weak, but it has remained a sci-fi touchstone ever since.

In 2010, filmmakers have the wow factor down. And the sequel gets a great boost from the techno music throbbing rhythms of Daft Punk. Director Joseph Kosinski is also working on a remake of Disney's terrible space adventure "The Black Hole", so he surely has much riding on these two films.

Speaking of Bridges though, I did watch his Oscar-winning role from last year as an aging, drunken country music singer in "Crazy Heart" and was not very impressed. The story is a paint-by-numbers tale with little originality, and such half-heartedness really doesn't give Bridges much to work with. However, I give him much credit for making the most of it. He has such natural style and talent, he often makes silk purses from sow's ears.

The Dude abides.

Now let's get really obscure. Tonight/tomorrow at 2 a.m. Turner Classic Movies will air director Lucio Fulci's "The Beyond".

Fulci made some really cheesy and wonderful horror stories during his career, and many consider "The Beyond" to be his best. Director Quentin Tarantino helped revive the movie some years back and sent it round for midnight movies across the country and It arrives on TCM in all it's cheesy gory ... I mean glory.

Film critic Roger Ebert has the last word on this movie, which is about a woman who gets ownership of a New Orleans hotel only to find the basement is a doorway to hell. (And no, Lucio, there just are not any basements in New Orleans) Anyway, take it away Roger:

The Beyond'' does not disappoint. I have already mentioned the scene where the tarantulas eat eyeballs and lips. As the tarantulas tear away each morsel, we can clearly see the strands of latex and glue holding it to the model of a corpse's head. Strictly speaking, it is a scene of tarantulas eating makeup.

In a film filled with bad dialogue, it is hard to choose the most quotable line, but I think it may occur in Liza's conversations with Martin, the architect hired to renovate the hotel. ``You have carte blanche,'' she tells him, ``but not a blank check!''

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