The Tuesday Zone: The Diner Scene from ‘Mulholland Drive’ (2001)

The Tuesday Zone

You'll have to forgive me. This isn't a movie review or analysis—not really. But this is my 100th Tuesday Zone article, and as such, I am going to take some time to talk about a part of a movie that I am passionate about.

Mulholland Drive (2001) has become one of David Lynch‘s best-known films, in part because it has his trademark weirdness, and in part because it’s incredibly well-made. It got the 28th spot on a “Top 50 Greatest Films” list by Sight & Sound, who produces once every ten years what might be the highest regarded “best of” list in film. But I’m not here to talk about the whole movie. I’m just here to talk about The Diner Scene.

Surely nothing bad can happen at a place called Winkie's, right?

The Picture Factory
Surely nothing bad can happen at a place called “Winkie’s,” right?

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Mindless Action Mondays: The Equalizer (1985)

MindlessActionMondaysBy Drew Parton

Next week, I’ll be headed to the cinema to check out the Denzel Washington/Antoine Fuqua reunion The Equilizer. But I thought I’d do a short review of the 1985 TV show source material that will eventually allow me to compare it to the upcoming movie.

the-equalizer

Universal Pictures

I’ve described the TV series to friends as “Burn Notice, if Michael Westen was a cold-blooded bastard” or “Taken, if Liam Neeson was a stuffy English gentleman and cared about more than just his family.” Edward Woodward (better known as the head of the NWA in Hot Fuzz) plays Robert McCall, a retired spy who decides to atone for his past by using his specialized skillset to help everyday people.

Relativity Media

Relativity Media

And finally remove that accursed living statue…

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Second Breakfast Disgraces Himself Again

SecondBreakfast-01

Admittedly, I don’t watch a lot of sports movies. Maybe it’s the fact that they mostly seem to follow the same inspirational story arc, maybe it’s the fact that I’m not into that many sports, or maybe it’s the fact that watching a clearly staged game isn’t as exciting as watching one live; who knows? Nonetheless, I indulge in smatterings of the sports genre here and there: A Knight’s TaleBattlefield Baseball… you know, the classics. Anyway, trifecta completed:

Cool Runnings (1993)

Music by Hans Zimmer!? Source

Music by Hans Zimmer!?
Disney

The Plot: After an unfortunate accident disqualifies three Jamaican sprinters (Leon, Rawle D. Lewis, and Malik Yoba) from competing in the Olympics, one of them becomes possessed of a radical alternative: bobsledding. You might not, at first glance, consider the two sports interchangeable, but these three runners seem satisfied. Of course, one does not simply become an Olympic athlete in three months in a sport you’ve never heard of in a climate that doesn’t support it… without the proper training. Where the hell are a bunch of Jamaicans supposed to get a professional coach for a winter sport? In disgraced former bobsledder John Candy. I realized recently that that’s all I want to be in life: a disgraced former bobsledder. I just want to be able to say that about myself. I know I said that all I want in life is to be a symbol of justice for the common man, but this might trump that. Continue reading

SciFridays: “Tusk” (2014)

Baddie – Madness, slow-brewed over time.

Lesson – Maybe, maybe a walrus is superior.

I’m taking a quick break from Shame September because Tusk came out, and I needed to go and see it. I encouraged a friend of mine to drive all the way up to Austin for it, and as a result, that required a playlist. I humbly suggest you give it a listen.

Tusk has a unique hook. Directed by Kevin Smith, it’s a tale about a podcaster who travels to Canada to chase weird life stories, which inevitably leads him into the clutches of a madman who wants to transform him into a walrus. Naturally, my interest was piqued, and I’ve been waiting a longggg time to see this movie.

Never, and I mean never, has a movie made me silently word, “What the…” this much. It’s also the first movie I’ve ever attended where people left in the middle, which was confusing for reasons I’ll elaborate upon in a bit.

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A Bomb in the Lasagna: “Johnny Mnemonic” is the Best and Worst of 90s Sci-Fi

SharkWeekBomb-02

A few months ago during my last semester of school, my screenwriting professor gifted everyone in the class with a package filled with books, music, and DVDs, telling us that the contents of these packages would be “everything we need” both in the class and, dare I say, in life in general. Amongst my collection of goods was a copy of the 1995 Keanu Reeves cyber-punk vehicle (but not that 90s Reeves cyber-punk vehicle) Johnny Mnemomic that I finally watched this week (it was a busy semester and summer).

TriStar Pictures

TriStar Pictures

 

The Plot: The world of 2021 is a dismal and grim, controlled by massive global businesses and ravaged by a deadly disease called NAS that has no known cure. Information too sensitive to be sent over the Internet is carried instead in hard drives installed in the brains of agents called Couriers. When Johnny (Keanu Reeves, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, other things that aren’t my favorite movie of all time) is given data that could bring down evil corporation Pharmakom by a team of scientists, he finds himself on the run from corporate goons, the Yakuza, and Dolph Lundgren as an Assassin Priest (Dolph Lundgren in a wig). With the help of cyborg bodyguard Jane (Dina Meyer), rogue doctor Spider (former frontman of Back Flag and general punk elder statesman Henry Rollins), and a group of low-tech rebels called—ugh—the Lo-Teks led by J-Bone (Ice-T), Johnny needs to get the data out of his head before the info overload kills him, and hopefully recover his stolen childhood memories along the way.

Johnnmy Mnenomic feels very of its time. From the techno, industrial, and grunge inflected soundtrack, to the flowing black leather trench coats that pepper the film, to the depiction of the Internet as a kaleidoscopic bad-CGI game thing place this movie pretty squarely in the mid 1990s; a fact that is in turns charming and kind of distracting. Rather than feeling like a startling view of our technology-obsessed future, the film felt more like a relic 90s counterculture. This is due in part to the aforementioned choices in soundtrack, but also due to the curious slang used throughout the film and in the way technology is presented. Whereas a film like Blade Runner feels timeless even if the technology isn’t of the sort we use now, the tech here looks just too close to what people would actually be using in ’95 to really sell the future aspect.

Right from the start, the viewer is given a lot of information to process. Johnny Mnenomic opens with a title crawl that explains a lot of the background information about evil corporations, NAS, and the Lo-Teks, a move that is generally frowned upon unless you are Star Wars or the old serials that inspired it. While this is probably a tempting move for sci-fi films perhaps looking to cut costs of filming this background info—and probably with no small part being a reference to a certain space opera trilogy mentioned above—it forces the viewer to focus on too many things at once without the aid of visual cues. I actually forgot about the deadly future disease until about halfway through the film when it is revealed that Jane, Johnny’s bodyguard has the disease. This wouldn’t bother me if it didn’t seem like there were easy ways to visually convey this info. How hard/ expensive would it be to show an evil businessman selling overpriced meds to a frail and diseased NAS patient? This is indicative of most of the story problems throughout the film, as characters tend to spout a lot of techno-jargon without really tethering it to something tangible, resulting in some confusing detours in what is an otherwise straightforward chase film, resulting in some weird beats. Tense chases and action set pieces are punctuated by scenes of Keanu Reeves using a VR helmet and gloves to surf the Internet, which seems like it would be kind of tiring.

TriStar Pictures Seriously, if any of you are viewing this post this way you should take a water break, or something.

TriStar Pictures

Seriously, if any of you are viewing this post this way you should take a water break, or something.

 

The cast navigates these technobabble pratfalls pretty admirably, for the most part. Keanu Reeves has been a cultural punching bag for almost as long as I have been able to think critically about film, with jokes about his acting style belonging to that same pantheon of tired jokes people need to give a rest along with Aquaman jokes and Anchorman quotes. Yes, his acting is often wooden or strange, but in this case it seems pretty fitting for the character. Playing a man whose had most of his early life taken from him, it makes sense that his dialogue and slang would have a hollowness of a man without a past trying to emulate the emotion he sees around him. Did I laugh way harder than I should have when he inexplicably shouts “I WANT ROOM SERVICE!” while standing atop a pile of garbage in what’s supposed to be his emotional climax? Yes, but it makes sense for the character. Unnecessary romance with Johnny aside, Dina Meyer’s Jane is a pretty capable, tough character when she’s not falling all over Johnny because the script says so. The other cast members treat the film with varying degrees of seriousness. Takeshi Kitano’s conflicted CEO villain has a solid character arc that is not given nearly enough time to develop, while Denis Akiyama plays his Yakuza king with mustache-twirling evil. Dolph Lundgren, the big bad of the film, essentially runs around shouting faux-Christian nonsense as he stabs people in the hands clearly, flagrantly not giving a shit what’s going on around him (this was his last film before the Expendables, unsurprisingly). My favorite characters are easily the two musicians-cum-actors of the film. Henry Rollins essentially playing Dr. Henry Rollins in oversized nerd glasses (all his tattoos uncovered) and Ice-T gleefully playing a rebel leader in a gloriously crazy costume.

TriStar Pictures I'm sure Ice-T remembers this fondly.

TriStar Pictures

I’m sure Ice-T remembers this fondly.

 

It’s pretty clear that Johnny Mnenomic was a film that was intended to be a much stranger bird that was told to sit up and fly straight by a studio. Gibson has apparently lamented studio meddling in the past, claiming that the film was re-cut and streamlined for general audiences; a fact that I would believe. This is a film that ends with Keanu Reeves and a cyborg dolphin traveling through the Internet to upload a cure for a super disease, for god’s sake. It’s a shame too. There’s a lot of cool stuff embedded into Johnny Mnemonic that doesn’t get a chance to shine in an attempt to fit everything into a 98 minute frame. To use the Blade Runner comparison again, it’s like the sub-par theatrical cut without the benefit of the masterful director’s cut to make up for it.

TriStar Pictures I completely understand why my professor chose this for me now.

TriStar Pictures

I completely understand why my professor chose this for me now.

 

Johnny Mnemonic is a weird movie that is not allowed to be as weird as it should be. It’s a film that gives us industrial opera and cyborg dolphins but drowns them in muddled exposition and a cast that’s not always on the same page. It’s a frequently entertaining sci-fi film, but not a particularly memorable one.

The Tuesday Zone: Eldritch Adaptations (Part 19), or H. P. Noircraft

The Tuesday Zone

The Call of Cthulhu | Die Farbe | In the Mouth of Madness | Re-Animator | From Beyond | The Dunwich Horror | Shadows on the Bayou | “Pickman’s Model” & “Cool Air” (Night Gallery) | Cthulhu | The Whisperer in Darkness | Dagon | “Dreams in the Witch-House” (Masters of Horror) | Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown | “Cool Air” (H.P.L. Collection, Vol. 1) | Short Films (H.P.L. Collection, Vol. 1) | The Haunted Palace | Welcome to Night Vale | The Unnamable | Cast a Deadly Spell

Eldritch Adaptations is a series of reviews of movies based on or heavily inspired by the works of Howard Phillips Lovecraft—better known as H. P. Lovecraft—an American horror writer who produced numerous stories during the 1920s and ’30s. His works have influenced the horror genre and inspired major writers and directors like Guillermo del Toro, John Carpenter, Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates, and many more.

Source

HBO

Remember my most recent review in this series, the one on The Unnamable (hint: you can read it by clicking above)? I praised the writer and director for seamlessly melding schlocky 80s horror and the works of Howard Phillips Lovecraft. As a result, I got my hopes up just the slightest bit for 1991’s Cast a Deadly Spell, an HBO movie directed by Martin Campbell—of Goldeneye and Casino Royale fame—that melds film noir and Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. I should have known to remain cautious, so maybe my disappointment is my own fault.

Nah, it’s definitely the movie’s fault. My theory is that someone gathered every single noir cliché they could think of and just threw them all together in a script with no insight, nuance, excitement, or cleverness. Then, someone looked at it and said, “This is totally inoffensive, so it could probably be a TV movie. Maybe we should throw something else in it so people don’t get too bored, though.” Voila, Lovecraft comes into the picture. Continue reading

Second Breakfast: Celebrating Septemberween

SecondBreakfast-01

I’m sorry, everybody. Octoberween’s still weeks away, but I just can’t wait. I’m totally psyched out for Halloween this year, even though I have nothing going on and won’t be doing anything at all except sitting at home with my obscenely large LaserDisc collection. The air has cooled down, the leaves are dying, the sky is grey; we’re getting there. Besides. Vincent Price is an always food.

The Masque of the Red Death (1964)

The Plot: Everything is fine and dandy in the happy little medieval village of—ah wait, crap. Nothing’s fine or dandy: it’s a medieval village. Things get even worse when a mountain-dwelling holy man foretells the villagers’ deliverance from evil. The deliverance? The terrifyingly unpleasant Red Death plague. The evil? The Satanic Prince Prospero (Vincent Price) who reigns over them. With the Red Death tearing up the countryside, Prospero invites all the nobles to his castle for refuge, zany parties, and possibly a mass sacrifice to Lucifer, but he’ll never tell. BEHOLD THE DEVIL IN ALL HIS GLORY:

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