Posts Tagged ‘Rolling Stone’

“Game of Thrones” thoughts, Season Seven, Episode Five: “Eastwatch”

August 14, 2017

But for all the awe-inspiring imagery and white-knuckle tension, this is still a show that allows its actors to do the storytelling. There were almost too many intimate moments to list, but seven hells, we’ll try: There’s the way Lord Randyll Tarly reached out to hold his son Dickon’s arm, one last act of fatherly love before their fiery execution. There’s the tears in Jon Snow’s eyes as he touched Dany’s dragon, moved by its power. There’s the more or less open attraction these two rulers now have for another, visible to everyone from Tyrion to Jorah Mormont whenever the regents exchange so much as a glance. There’s the eerie, dead-eyed look Cersei shoots Jaime when he tells her he met with their little brother, and their embrace when the Queen tells the Kinglsayer she’s pregnant. There’s the villainous smirk of Littlefinger as he makes his moves, contrasted against the bright-eyed self-confidence of Arya Stark as she works to uncover them. And there’s the mix of regret and rage on Samwell Tarly’s face as he departs the Citadel, sacrificing his dreams for the greater good.

(By the way, Sam: When Gilly tells you that a maester annulled the marriage of Prince Rhaegar Targaryen so he could marry someone else in a secret ceremony in the same kingdom where Jon was born [cough, cough], you might want to listen!)

If there’s a bridge to be found between the massive political forces at work and these smaller, more personal connections, it’s in the episode’s closing sequence. The assembly of Jon Snow, Jorah Mormont, Tormund Giantsbane, Gendry, Beric Dondarrion, Thoros of Myr and Sandor Clegane – and their transformation into the anti-zombie Magnificent Seven – is simply a smaller version of what the Mother of Dragons and the King in the North hope to do on a larger scale. Seeing this dream team of Westerosi tough guys walk off into the frozen no man’s land beyond the Wall is epic fantasy at its most heroic.

But it’s also more than that. The crimes and betrayals these men have committed don’t matter at all compared to the menace that is the army of the dead.The mystically minded Beric has it right when he says that no matter their beliefs or their reason for fighting, they’re all on the same side, for the same reason: the common struggle of humanity against the forces that would destroy us all. Solidarity forever – their union makes them strong.

I reviewed last night’s lovely episode of Game of Thrones for Rolling Stone.

“Twin Peaks” thoughts, Season Three, Episode Fourteen

August 14, 2017

The flipside to Andy’s stairway to heaven is Sarah Palmer’s ongoing descent into hell – a journey, it seems, that’s literal as well as psychological. When the matriarch is hit on by a barfly, it sounds as if she can barely get out the words to reject him: “Would you sit back where you were,” she she stammers. “Please.” He turns vulgar, and potentially violent, at which point actor Grace Zabriskie’s eyes go wide. Then Mrs. Palmer reaches up … and takes her own face off, revealing a void inhabited by snake-like tongue, a ghostly hand, and an enormous, terrible grin. “Do you really want to fuck with this?” growls her voice from within. She puts her face back on. And then she bites an enormous chunk out of her harasser’s neck. When the bartender comes over to see what happened, Sarah turns cold. “Sure is a mystery, huh?”

It’s a horrifying scene, and not just for the obvious reasons. The Black Lodge is not just a supernatural locus of darkness; it’s an opportunistic infection that enters our world where our boundaries are worn thin by all-too-human evil. A quarter of a century ago, Mrs. Palmer was helpless to stop her possessed husband from assaulting and killing her daughter Laura (and other young women too) before the entity inside him devoured the man in turn. How do you recover from that? The allegorical answer offered in this scene, and its vision of corruption beneath the surface, is that you don’t. The Lodge, which first used her as its mouthpiece during a scene you may have forgotten from the original series finale, has eaten her away from within. (And while it’s tempting to wish that Laura had her mother’s powers when facing any of the men who abused her, you should recall that the original series’ posthumous heroine chose death rather than allowing that kind of evil to inhabit her.)

I reviewed last night’s episode of Twin Peaks for Rolling Stone.

“Game of Thrones” Season Seven Halftime Report: Who’s Dead, Who’s Alive

August 8, 2017

Ice? Check. Fire? Check. Thrones? You bet. Game? Not anymore.

After last night’s incendiary hourGame of Thrones‘ shorter but still stunning Season Seven is now just past the halfway mark, and the stakes couldn’t be higher. The once-sprawling story is down to just three major factions now: King Jon Snow in the North,; Queen Cersei Lannister in the South; and Daenerys Targaryen, a.k.a. the Mother of Dragons,  on her native soil for the first time since her birth. The battles that followed eliminated entire houses and unleashed fire and blood on an unprecedented scale. Meanwhile, the White Walkers are prepping their own assault on Westeros – and if the war between humans continues, that attack will be impossible to resist.

In this status report that catches you up on all the major players, you’ll find the intel you need to prepare for the four episodes that remain … and the winter that’s about to hit.

I wrote a quick and dirty rundown of the events of Game of Thrones’ season so far for Rolling Stone.

“Game of Thrones” thoughts, Season Seven, Episode Four: “The Spoils of War”

August 8, 2017

In “The Spoils of War,” these irresolvable conflicts get cranked up to an even more unbearable level. Jaime is a repentant villain deep into his redemption arc. Bronn is a mercenary who won over characters and audience alike with his wit and wisdom. Dany is a messianic conqueror who’s saved countless lives; the very existence of her her magical beast Drogon is a miracle. How can anyone feel comfortable choosing sides? Sure, House Lannister are clearly the heels in this war, but a victory that reduces beloved characters to ash would be impossible to enjoy.

Writers creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss and director Matt Shakman offer us precious little shelter from the zero-sum nature of this bloody game. Twice, they stage one-on-one conflicts between the major characters: First when Bronn stares down the beast with his massive “scorpion” crossbow; then when Jaime grabs a spear and charges the Khaleesi. These are shout-at-the-screen, cower-on-your-couch moments. Even though it appears everyone involved makes it out alive both times, it’s to the filmmakers’ credit that you feel inches away from the death of a credit-topping character during every second of screen time.

And if you’re afraid, hey, you’re not the only one. After all, nothing sells the menace of the horselords – their tactics based on the real-world Mongols, who cut through armies from China and India to Iraq and Eastern Europe like a hot knife through butter – or the shock-and-awe power of Dany’s pet monsters like seeing seasoned warriors like Jaime, Bronn, and Randyll Tarly (Sam’s tough-as-nails dad) scared completely shitless for minutes on end. It’s so rare for actor Jerome Flynn look anything but cocksure on this show that his panic during the assault should come with a trigger warning. Meanwhile, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau has long been an undervalued member of the cast, but he powerfully conveys the Kingslayer’s terror, horror, and grief at watching his men get massacred. When he makes that almost-sure-to-be-fatal suicide run on Daenerys, it feels as much like his version of “suicide by cop” as a last-ditch effort to save the day.

I reviewed last night’s excellent episode of Game of Thrones for Rolling Stone.

“Twin Peaks” thoughts, Season Three, Episode Thirteen

August 8, 2017

What’s worse: Crushing a person’s skull or crushing their spirit? The back-from-the-dead Twin Peaks has seen its fair share of the former violation, courtesy of the supernaturally strong denizens of the Black Lodge. When those demonic entities are around – whether they’re Woodsmen assaulting radio-station employees or Dale Cooper‘s evil doppelganger shattering a rival criminal’s face with a single punch after an arm-wrestling bout – no cranium is safe. And then there’s the long, wordless scene starring Big Ed Hurley (Everett McGill, making his revival debut), which features no monsters and no murders – but as the credits roll over his sad and lonesome face, didn’t your brain feel under assault?

It’s not as if co-creator/director David Lynch is new to depicting the trials of growing up and getting old. You don’t need to look any farther afield than Twin Peaks‘ own Carl Rodd, played by Harry Dean Stanton, for a portrait of the weariness and wisdom that comes with that territory. (Stanton’s wordless appearance in the filmmaker’s 1999 movie The Straight Story is quietly devastating for the same reason.) Moreover, the visible effects of aging on actors such as Dana Ashbrook (Bobby Briggs), James Marshall (James Hurley), Michael Horse (Deputy Hawk), etc. were enough to take the breath away from any fan who remembered them primarily in their youthful, brown-haired heyday. It’s not that they looked bad, by any means – just that the lines in the face and the gray in their hair, or in James’ case the absence of hair altogether, remind you that you, too, have aged 25 years since our last visit to this sleepy, sinister town.

But Big Ed’s return is especially gutting. While at first it appears he’s together with Norma Jennings, the love of his life, at last, it turns out they’re now just friends; she’s actually seeing a corporate suit who’s helped her turn the Double R diner into a franchise. He still wears his wedding ring, but it’s unclear if he’s still together with his one-eyed wife Nadine; at any rate, she seems far more interested in Dr. Jacobyand his goofball anti-government, anti-capitalist screeds. Even Ed’s “Gas Farm” seems to be dying out from lack of business. So we’re left with a vision of this man alone at night, joylessly sipping soup – or is that garmonbozia? – from a Double R take-out cup and idly lighting fires that burn down to his fingers. With his high cheekbones and severe haircut, McGill gives the impression of a childless King Lear, surveying a kingdom of rust with no heirs to claim it.

I reviewed last night’s Twin Peaks for Rolling Stone. The Big Ed scene is one of the most powerful and memorable things Lynch has ever shot, full stop.

The Top 30 Stephen King Movies, Ranked

August 3, 2017

3. The Dead Zone (1983)

David Cronenberg is the man who made “body horror” a thing; Stephen King’s tales of terror derive much of their power from down-to-earth Americana. An odd couple, to be sure. But the Canadian auteur brings out the best in the story of a New England schoolteacher (professional weirdo Christopher Walken, pitch-perfect) who awakens from a five-year coma with the ability to see the future of anyone he touches. Co-starring Martin Sheen as a blustery, right-wing politician rising to power via blue-collar populism and ready to trigger World War III – imagine that! It’s cerebral but not chilly, complex but compelling – and as eerily prescient as its psychic protagonist.  STC

I wrote about The Dead Zone for Rolling Stone’s very gutsy ranking of Stephen King movie adaptations. The Top 10 is going to throw you for a loop.

“Game of Thrones” thoughts, Season Seven, Episode Three: “The Queen’s Justice”

July 31, 2017

Game of Thrones sends a message. You can focus on worldly, bloody matters like revenge. Or you can make the leap of faith and focus on the lives of your fellow human beings. “People’s minds aren’t made for problems that large,” Tyrion frets. Almost in response, Bran Stark tells his sister “I can see everything that’s ever happened to everyone” — a mystical callback to the far more self-interested seven-dimensional-chess advice Sansa’s advisor Littlefinger gave her. Seek triumph, and you’re merely a killer. Seek solidarity, and … well, that’s not quite clear yet. But if winter is here, which of the two would you count on to turn back the cold?

I reviewed last night’s Game of Thrones for Rolling Stone.

“Twin Peaks” thoughts, Season Three, Episode Twelve

July 31, 2017

As played by Grace Zabriskie, who is still utterly mesmerizing in the role, Sarah Palmer looks and acts like her daughter Laura’s murder incinerated her spirit and sanity for good. Staggering through the supermarket to pick up vodka and cigarettes, she has a panic attack at the checkout line, triggered by new items behind the counter. Her dialogue, reminiscent of the screaming driver from last week’s episode, is a crescendo of terror. “The room seems different. And men are coming. I am trying to tell you that you have to watch out! Things can happen! Something happened to me! I don’t feel good. I don’t feel good!” By the time Deputy Hawk checks in on Sarah later that day, she’s no longer agitated, but her flat affect is even harder to behold.

We’ve all got stories, yes. But in Twin Peaks, as in life, some of those stories end long before the lives of their main characters, leaving a lifetime of blank pages to turn, one after another, before the book closes.

I reviewed last night’s Twin Peaks for Rolling Stone. I focused mostly on Audrey Horne’s unusual return and what such scenes say about the unseen stories of everyone’s life, but I wanted to share this concluding passage about Sarah Palmer.

“Twin Peaks” thoughts, Season Three, Episode Eleven

July 24, 2017

It’s simply impossible to predict where this thing will go within any given scene, much less from one to the next. This wild blend of moods and styles draws you intothe resulting drama rather than pushing you out of it. It leaves you desperate to see what these black magicians will do next.

Take the extended sequence at the Double R Diner, featuring Deputy Bobby Briggs, his ex-wife Shelly and their wayward daughter Becky Burnett. It begins as a touching, gutting scene of family drama, in which the estranged couple try, gently but desperately, to help their girl escape her no-good husband Steven. His latest affair sent her rushing to the apartment of the other woman (Alicia Witt, reprising her brief role in the original series as Donna Hayward’s kid sister), guns blazing. It also left Shelly sprawled on the lawn of Carl Rodd‘s trailer park, when her attempt to stop the young woman by clinging to the hood of her own stolen car ended in failure.

The resulting performances are as sumptuous as one of Norma Jennings‘ cherry pies. In Bobby’s frustration with his shitheel son-in-law, actor Dana Ashbrook brings out flashes of the angry young man the character once was. As Becky, Amanda Seyfried is saucer-eyed wonder; her denial that her spouse beats her is as transparent as her parents’ need to believe it is heartbreaking – after all, Shelly herself was once in an abusive marriage. Mädchen Amick radiates the character’s older-but-wiser experience throughout the scene. Eventually, the trio reach an unspoken decision to pretend they’ve gotten somewhere and end the argument – a sensation familiar to anyone who’s repeatedly faced down the same interpersonal issue with no real results.

Suddenly, a familiar face appears in the window, rapidly approaching the diner: Red, the magic-wielding druglord whose taunting of Richard Horne sent the young sociopath on his fatal ride a few weeks ago. He’s also the former Mrs. Briggs’s new boyfriend, and she rushes out to neck with him like a teenager in love – leaving her actual one-time teenage lover Bobby looking like a sad puppy. Like her daughter, Shelly remains drawn to bad boys, even though it seems she has no idea how bad the boy really is.

No sooner does she sit back down than our false sense of security is shattered by gunshots. Rushing outside to confront the shooter, Bobby discovers neither hit men nor homicidal maniacs, but a furious mother in the middle of a traffic jam, berating her gun-nut husband for leaving a loaded weapon in the family car. Bobby stares at the kid who fired the shots – the boy’s “fuck you” demeanor is a miniature replica of his father’s – and winces at the cycle of macho idiocy already at work.

Meanwhile, the car behind the young gunman’s vehicle honks and honks. An older woman is furious about the traffic jam preventing her from getting home for dinner – and it’s clear something is wrong here. As her demeanor reaches white-hot panic, the woman bellows, “Her uncle is joining us! She hasn’t seen him in a very long while!” Wait – whose uncle? “We’re late! We’ve got miles to go! Please, we have to get home! She’s sick!” Then the horror begins: As the driver shrieks and shrieks, a girl rises up from the shadows of the passenger seat, arms outstretched like a zombie, green vomit leaking from her mouth. Then the sequence ends, its final moments chillingly unexplained.

I reviewed last night’s utterly marvelous Twin Peaks for Rolling Stone. I could have written four times as much about this diner sequence alone, but really any given scene from the episode could sustain a full review’s worth of analysis. The show is that good.

“Game of Thrones” thoughts, Season Seven, Episode Two: “Stormborn”

July 24, 2017

Back in the Citadel, Sam is continuing to break the rules that stand in the way of doing the right thing, this time by conducting a risky, and extremely disgusting, operation on Ser Jorah Mormont in an attempt to cure his greyscale infection. While Sam’s dad is off playing power politics with Cersei and Jaime, the son he rejected is risking his own life to save a stranger. “The lone wolf dies, but the pack survives” is a Stark saying, but this maester-in-training would no doubt recognize its wisdom.

So would Theon Greyjoy, but the tragedy is he can’t act on it. Sailing south to Dorne with his sister and the Sand Snakes in order to rally their army, he finds himself in the middle of a gruesome, fiery battle with his uncle Euron’s fleet. And when Yara falls into the pirate king’s clutches, his nephew flees rather than fight. It wasn’t long ago that she risked her life in an attempt to rescue him from a different sadistic captor; when the moment comes to return the favor, Theon leaps into the ocean instead. The sadness of it all is written on both siblings’ faces. There’s no neat redemption arc, no valiant sacrifice, no blaze of glory – just a broken man, drifting among the flotsam and jetsam as Euron’s victorious fleet sails away, one more piece of human wreckage. When Tyrion warned Daenerys’s allies against turning the Seven Kingdoms into a slaughterhouse, this is the kind of carnage he had in mind.

I reviewed last night’s surprisingly moving Game of Thrones for Rolling Stone. Theon and Yara, Missandei and Grey Worm, Arya and Hot Pie, Arya and Nymeria — beautiful work.

‘It’ Star Sophia Lillis on ‘Shocking’ First Encounter With Pennywise, Remake Details

July 20, 2017

This September, Lillis stars in director Andrés Muschietti’s highly anticipated adaptation of horror master Stephen King’s signature work, It. She plays Beverly Marsh, the sole female member of a close-knit gang of teen outcasts called the Loser’s Club. During one long, nightmarish summer, the Losers find themselves face to face with the child-murdering, shape-shifting entity that’s haunted their small town for centuries – a creature that most frequently takes the form of a sinister clown called Pennywise, played by Bill Skarsgård.

“We actually weren’t allowed to see him until our scenes, because we wanted the horror to be real,” Lillis recalls. “Everyone had different reactions, but all of us were like, ‘Wow, what did we get ourselves into?’ One look at him, and… you know, he’s a really scary clown that wants to kill us. I was a little bit shocked,” she laughs. “But then he went up to me afterwards and was like, ‘Hi, how’s things?’ He’s really nice, but I didn’t know how to react.”

Lillis had no such trouble connecting with her fellow Losers, who include Jaeden Lieberher as ringleader Bill Denbrough and Stranger Things’ Finn Wolfhard as class clown Richie Tozier. “I spent all my summer with them, so we got really close. We still keep in touch, send messages to each other.” That closeness helped Lillis connect with her own character. “I relate to Beverly – the way she deals with her emotions, and the way she was around the Losers. I felt that way around the actual actors.”

I wrote a little profile of Sophia Lillis, aka Beverly in the new IT movie, for Rolling Stone.

“Twin Peaks” thoughts, Season Three, Episode Ten

July 17, 2017

If all this reboot did was alternate ridiculous scenes with horrifying ones, it would still be relatively easy to get a handle on: You’d just hold your breath each time the show cut to a new location until you figured out what you were in for, and that would be that. But this series isn’t just a coin that its co-creators repeatedly flip – it’s something more multidimensional and a lot messier. Consider the scene in which Rodney Mitchum, the intimidating co-owner of the Silver Mustang Casino, gets accidentally whacked in the forehead with a remote control by his daft showgirl girlfriend Candy, who’s so intent on killing a pesky housefly that its human landing site failed to register. The emotional cacophony that follows – Candy screaming and sobbing in horror, Rodney howling in pain, his brother Bradley (Jim Belushi!) rushing in to see what’s wrong – makes you laugh. And then you cringe. And then you get genuinely worried for all involved.

This goes double for the trio’s subsequent scenes. The brothers watch a news report on Ike the Spike‘s arrest after his attempted murder of Dougie while poor Candy wonders aloud if her beau can ever love her again. Later, Mr. Jones’ sleazy coworker Anthony Sinclair (Tom Sizemore) shows up at the Silver Mustang on the orders of the Mitchums’ rival – and the evil Cooper doppelganger’s minion – Duncan Todd to pin the blame for a costly insurance loss on Dougie. He hopes that the bros will finish the job the Spike started. But Sinclair is waylaid by the increasingly unhinged-seeming showgirl, who spends an inordinate amount of time explaining the benefits of air conditioning instead of simply showing him into their office.

Both scenes dance back and forth across the boundaries between funny, creepy and skin-crawlingly uncomfortable – a shuffling boogie not unlike the one our beloved Man from Another Place used to dance across the Red Room. So, for that matter, does the whole damn show. Thanks to canny policework by Albert and Tammy, as well as supernatural interventions by the Log Lady and the spirit of Laura Palmer, lawmen like Gordon Cole and Deputy Hawk are closer than ever to cracking the mystery of Coop’s disappearance and duplication. But the creative riddle of Twin Peaks still maddeningly, gloriously unsolvable.

I wrote about the horror of Richard Horne, the comedy of Dougie Jones, and the who-knows-what of Candy in my review of last night’s Twin Peaks for Rolling Stone.

“Game of Thrones” thoughts, Season Seven, Episode One: “Dragonstone”

July 17, 2017

“Shall we begin?”

Seven hells, yes! After a longer-than-ever wait between seasons (for a smaller than ever run of episodes) Game of Thrones has returned – and so, for that matter, has. Daenerys Targaryen, heir to Aegon the Conqueror and rightful ruler of the Seven Kingdoms. The Mother of Dragons has finally touched down on her ancestral soil to reclaim what was once hers. The premiere of the show’s more-anxiously-anticipated-than-ever seventh season, entitled “Dragonstone,” concludes with a five-and-a-half minute wordless sequence depicting her arrival at the island fortress that gives the episode its title. When Dany utters those three words and the show smash-cuts to the closing credits, the message is clear: The game is on at last.

Not that the waiting for winter to come was ever boring. If it’s a neatly summarized story you want, one that proceeds neatly from beginning to end with no detours or delays, read a wikipedia article. The fact is that without the preceding six seasons’ many twists and turns, few of this premiere’s many beats would have an iota of their impact.

[…]

Yet despite the cast of dozens (seriously, we haven’t even touched Samwell Tarly‘s bedpan-and-broth montage, or Bran Stark‘s arrival at the Wall), the real protagonist of this episode is the audience. From the very first season’s inuagural scene, we’ve known the White Walkers were coming – and from that season’s parting shot, we knew dragons had been born. For over half a decade we’ve simply waited for the pieces to come together, while countless characters fought and died in ignorance of the big picture. How fitting, then, for this episode to feature not one but two gigantic maps – the boards on which the game of thrones is played. We’re getting closer and closer to the moment when the major players see the whole thing for what it really is.

Indeed, like the small-scale replicas of the Seven Kingdoms studied by Dany and Cersei, “Dragonstone” was the Season One model in miniature. After Arya’s lethal prologue, the main action began with the march of the Night King and his army of zombies, and ended with the arrival of the Mother of Dragons and her reptilian children. The show has essentially scripted our anticipation of this grand convergence from day one – a huge difference from basically every single other great show of the era, which kept audiences guessing at the endgame. Game of Thrones is designed to make us the greatest players of all. We’re finally beginning to reap the rewards.

I reviewed the premiere of Game of Thrones Season Seven for Rolling Stone. 

The 25 Best ‘Game of Thrones’ Episodes – Updated

July 14, 2017

2. “Hardhome” (Season 5, Episode 8)

Bran Stark’s plunge, Ned Stark’s death, the Red Viper’s skull-crushing, Jon Snow’s assassination – all of them take a back seat to this episodewhen it comes to shocking the entire Game of Thrones audience. With no precedent in George R.R. Martin’s novels, which merely allude to a cataclysm at the titular village without giving us a clue what happened, “Hardhome” stunned book-readers and TV-viewers alike. After an ominous buildup, the armies of the dead descended on Night’s Watch and wildling forces alike in a literal avalanche of walking corpses, guided by the demonic Night King. As Jon Snow sailed away from a legion of zombified humans, the true menace of the White Walkers was made unbearably clear.

I re-ranked the 25 best episodes of Game of Thrones for Rolling Stone.

The 40 Best ‘Game of Thrones’ Characters — Ranked and Updated

July 13, 2017

37. Wun-Wun

He was a giant among men. Literally. Wun-Wun was the only member of his ancient, towering race to survive the wildlings’ battles against White Walkers, Night’s Watchmen and Stannis Baratheon alike – as well as the only one to cross south to supposed safety beyond the Wall. He wound up battling fiercely for the cause of his one-time enemy Jon Snow, giving his life to defeat Ramsay Bolton and defend the North against its many enemies. He may not have been human, but he was one hell of a guy.

I ranked the 40 Best Game of Thrones characters for Rolling Stone. It’s a very different list than it was when I first wrote one of these a few years ago!

“Twin Peaks” thoughts, Season Three, Episode Nine

July 13, 2017

Last time we visited, Twin Peaks unleashed the fires of the atom and the demons of the Black Lodge. For the follow-up, the show wants to talk about … love. Why not? If director David Lynch and co-writer/co-creator Mark Frost have proven anything in this inventive, powerful relaunch of their supernatural soap opera, it’s that they can do pretty much anything they damn well please. A show that spends minutes on end inside a nuclear explosion one week can depict lovable goofballs Deputy Andy and Lucy Brennan ordering living-room furniture the next.

I reviewed this week’s Twin Peaks and talked about its attention to emotional detail for Rolling Stone.

The 100 Greatest Movies of the Nineties

July 13, 2017

49. Heavenly Creatures (1994) 

Before Peter Jackson took us all to Middle-earth, he brought moviegoers to the mad world of two troubled teenagers – a fictional universe every bit as engrossing as J.R.R. Tolkien’s, but far more romantic and lethal. Based on a true-crime story, the film depicts pre-stardom Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey as Pauline Parker and Juliet Hume, two New Zealand teenagers whose BFF-ship blossoms first into love, then madness and ultimately murder. Jackson’s kinetic camera captures the rapturous swirl of teenage dreams before plunging us into its brutal, bloody endpoint. It’s a beautiful dark twisted fantasy. STC

I wrote about Natural Born Killers, Heavenly Creatures, and The Blair Witch Project for Rolling Stone’s list of The 100 Greatest Movies of the ’90s. My editor David Fear assembled an absolute murderers’ row of writers for this thing — it’s a real treat.

‘Game of Thrones’: Everything You Need to Know for Season 7

July 7, 2017

When you play the game of thrones, you learn to expect the unexpected. But even so, the previous season of Game of Thrones did something totally unprecedented in the history of HBO’s blockbuster show: It got less complicated from start to finish, not more.

Yes, we are nearing the endgame, which means a whole lot of major players got knocked off the board last year. Now the unholy trinity of King in the North Jon Snow, Queen of the Seven Kingdoms Cersei Lannister and Mother of Dragons Daenerys Targaryen are in undisputed charge of their respective realms. Meanwhile, north of the Wall, the menace of the White Walkers and their eternal winter draws ever closer. This is the real war that all these minor squabbles between rival human factions have done nothing but enable.

And if the true enemy is about to reveal itself, you won’t wanna go into battle without good intel, right? That’s where we come in. Below you’ll find a region-by-region rundown of where everyone and everything stands prior to the start of the new season on Sunday, July 16th. The royals and their retinues, the human and the superhuman, the living and the dead – you’ll find all the info you need, and then some, before winter falls for good.

The annual tradition continues: I wrote a cheat sheet for Game of Thrones Season 7 for Rolling Stone.

“Twin Peaks” thoughts, Season Three, Episode Eight

June 26, 2017

What is clear is the birth of Bob’s bracing message. This disturbing, disorienting episode explicitly ties the demon’s creation to the atom bomb’s detonation, an act of man that rivals, or betters, the dark deeds of any religion’s devil. The connection is no accident. Nor is it without precedent: Ever since the original Twin Peaks introduced supernatural horror into its director’s body of work, the link between otherworldly evil and real-world brutality has been a constant. Lynch treats human cruelty like a rupture in the fabric of reality through which demons of every shape and size can enter — think Lost Highway‘s white-faced Mystery Man, Mulholland Drive‘s monstrous dumpster-dweller and gibbering old folks, Inland Empire‘s balloon-faced Phantom and, of course, the dwellers of the Black Lodge. They all  feed on and perpetuate the cycle of violence that enabled their emergence.

Some experiences and emotions are so cataclysmic that our everyday imagery and vocabulary cannot possibly do them justice; monsters give shape to those feelings, the same way an aria in an opera or a song in a musical gives human passion a voice. In crafting creatures like that denim-clad monster and his dark brethren, Lynch is doing what all great horror does. He’s taking the agony and fear we already feel and, like Dr. Frankenstein in his lightning-streaked laboratory, bringing it to unholy life. The real question this episode asks, then, is no more or less than the one pilot Robert A. Lewis asked when he dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima: “My God, what have we done?”

I reviewed last night’s Twin Peaks, the most artistically ambitious episode of television I’ve ever seen, for Rolling Stone.

How ‘Better Call Saul’ Secretly Became One of TV’s Best Dramas

June 20, 2017

Better Call Saul has also secretly morphed into one of the most visually accomplished shows on the air. Bad‘s riotous visuals echoed its chaotic plot, but this prequel has taken a more austere, slow-and-steady approach to its storytelling – and its cinematography follows suit. Directors of photography Arthur Albert (for Seasons One and Two) and Marshall Adams (his successor for Season Three) favor shot compositions that emphasize the geometry of the spaces that Jimmy & co. find themselves in: rectangular windows, square glass bricks, the diagonal slash of a staircase, the glowing arches of a conference table’s lights. The result is an elegant claustrophobia, in which the characters look pinned to a grid or a game board, unable to control their own movements.

And during the show’s third season, Adams adapted Albert’s already impressive use of different lighting styles into a cleverly coded system, to the point where you could almost tell which character’s story we’d be following before they appeared on screen. Jimmy’s segments are brightly lit by the New Mexico sun or by the glare office-light fluorescents, casting a spotlight on his sins. Chuck exists in a shadowy world of his own making, silhouetted in the darkness of his house against a clean white haze of daylight from his windows or the glow of his indoor lantern. Mike’s nocturnal prowlings are given an amber yellow cast – the color of caution, warning and ear, all subliminally signaling us to slow down and watch out.

Saul Mighty: With some help from editor David Fear, I wrote about how Better Call Saul transcended its prequel roots to become one of the best shows on television for Rolling Stone.