Category - Movie Reviews

“Fire Walk With Me” Paints a Suburban Nightmare

To those unfamiliar with David Lynch and Mark Frost’s “Twin Peaks” franchise and the universe surrounding it, it might seem peculiar to suggest its prequel film to watch but hear me out.

The peculiar mystery that is “Twin Peaks” ran for two seasons from 1990 to 1991 and told the tale of homecoming queen Laura Palmer’s murder in a small, fictitious Washington town aptly called Twin Peaks. The series went on to spawn huge success and cement itself into cult-classic status, even being rebooted in 2017 for a third season 25 years later.

It was clear that Lynch, whom AllMovies wrote as the “Renaissance man of modern American filmmaking,” had a vision for the Twin Peaks town well beyond the television drama. Lynch and Frost worked perfectly together to establish a multi-dimensional setting in the Northwestern town, as well as construct storylines and plot points that dive further than just a murdered teenager. Even when the killer was revealed partway through season two, the show progressed and proved it had more to resolve.

This brings us to the subject of 1992’s Twin Peaks prequel, “Fire Walk With Me.” While the film failed to make an impact in the box office or achieve any sort of critical acclaim, it was extremely successful in Japan. Julie Muncy of Wired writes, “By 1992, Twin Peaks had gone from critical darling to drag. To many, ‘Fire Walk With Me’ played like a glorified TV movie.” The film made back an estimated $4.2 million domestically, a measly take home from its $10 million budget. But that’s what makes it a staple for curious filmgoers: it’s a secret hit.

“Fire Walk With Me” is a distressingly dismal look into the last seven days of troubled teenager Laura Palmer’s life before her untimely, unexpected murder. Originally penned as a five-hour long motion picture but eventually cut to a little over two hours, “Fire Walk With Me” sheds new light on the bleak suburban reality that was Palmer’s life in Twin Peaks and acts as its own standalone film. Funnily enough, the film also marks the first time Palmer is seen alive in the show and not floating dead in the water wrapped in plastic.

The genius of the film is its ability to defy the genres and conventions in which it was bred. While the original series was a campy, detective-style melodrama on cable television, this prequel is a moody, psychological horror with heavy symbolism and sinister themes. Whereas the TV show was very elusive and shiny, hiding a lot behind the red curtains, “Fire Walk With Me” dives directly into the darkness of drug use, prostitution, incest, and rape.

During the last week of her life, we see Palmer do copious amounts of cocaine, cheat on her boyfriend with a friend, aide in the shooting of a drug dealer, face physical and emotional abuse by her father, and have sex with her killer. These interactions happen in real time for Palmer in excruciatingly tortured detail, for the first time in the Twin Peaks universe. Grace Zabriskie, the on-screen mother of Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) said of her performance, “She gave everything she had, she gave more than she could afford to give, and she spent years coming back.”

The unraveling of Palmer’s beloved character comes across unfortunately on screen as a portrait of a young woman in distress. From its translation from television to film, “Fire Walk With Me” doesn’t skip a beat, and Lynch gets away with a lot more in film than he ever could on prime time.

Laura Palmer’s demise on screen can be painful to watch, but there’s a beauty that lies beneath the nightmare. While the film is grounded in grave danger, for Palmer’s fate is already decided and known to the audience, each shot promises something enticing for the eyes to watch. Each image is cleverly framed and lit with masterful intentions, each line is heart-wrenching and sensitive. Within the heartbreak that is Palmer’s death is a fantastical glance at a suburban life all to real.

Captivating as it is quizzical, “Fire Walk With Me” goes above and beyond to put the viewer in the hot seat and make them feel a spectrum of emotions while watching the 134 minute feature. When you strip away its symbolism and supernatural motifs, you’re left with a simple tragedy of a teenager doomed from the start and we can’t help but watch with unabating empathy. Whereas the “Twin Peaks” universe centered around the mystery of Laura Palmer’s death, “Fire Walk With Me” shows Palmer alive and coping with a heavy secret too serious to ignore.

“Fire Walk With Me” is available for viewing on Amazon, iTunes, and Youtube for as little as $2.99.

ATOMIC HOMEFRONT Documents the Devastating Impact of Radioactive Waste  Dumping

In the new HBO documentary ATOMIC HOMEFRONT, Oscar nominated director Rebecca Cammisa documents the devastating impact of illegal radioactive waste dumping.

In 1942, the United States government chose Mallinckrodt Chemical Works in St. Louis  as the processor for the uranium needed for the newly developed atomic  weapons program. For the next 25 years the waste was  sold to the Cotter Corporation, which dried the waste and was responsible for its disposal to an approved dumping ground in Colorado.  In 1973, Cottor Corporation still had 47,000 tons of waste to dispose of. They hired a trucking company. That company illegally dumped the waste in The West Lake Landfill in North St. Louis County.

The West Lake Landfill is just 4 miles from Cold Water Creek, which meanders 14 miles through neighborhoods.  Since 1997, The Army Corps of Engineers’ FUSRAP program has been removing uranium 238, thorium 230 and radium 226, but only in the industrial zones.  Private homes, public schools and parks have not yet been tested.  Insufficient funding is partially to blame. Michelle Seger played in the creek often as a child. She now has stage three non-small cell lung cancer.

There are higher than average rates of cancers, birth defects and other diseases in the area. Recent EPA testing shows that radiation has traveled outside of the West Lake Landfill perimeter. Tests revealed dangerous levels of thorium 230 inside the home of Robbin and Mike Dailey.

To make matters worse, a subsurface fire is moving close to the 47.000 tons of waste. The Daileys have joined Dawn Chapman and other mothers in the area to form Just Moms STL, a group that educates and advocates for government resolution.  The documentary follows Just Moms STL as they travel to Washington, DC  to protest and meet with the EPA.

The residents want a government buyout of their property and relocation. The EPA has said it will build a retaining wall to stop the fire from spreading. At production time, no resolution or wall, have come about.


Monster Hunt

Monster Hunt is a family treat that will have audiences of all ages amazed and enthralled. A collaboration between the animators of SHREK and MADAGASCAR, and China Film Group Corporation– the movie was a huge success in China and earned enough at the US box office to make US distributors take notice.  The US distribution rights to Monster Hunt 2 was picked up by LIONSGATE at Cannes 2017.

Monster Hunt is the story of a fantasy world in which monsters and humans are rival enemies. In the past humans prevailed, causing the monsters to go in hiding either within the confines of their sanctuary or in disguise in human villages. Baby Wuba is the prodigy monster that is said to bring peace between the humans and the monsters. Except that some monsters don’t want peace and neither do most humans, therefore the hunt begins to find baby Wuba before he can fulfill his destiny. The movie was filmed in Chinese with English over dubs. But don’t let that scare you. It doesn’t matter with the animated creatures and is done so well with the live talent that it becomes hardly noticeable. Filmed in China, the landscape and culture only add to the fantasy feel of the film.

The acting is superb and stars Baihe BaiBoran JingWu Jiang  have the makings of  true Hollywood talents. They have a natural knack for comedy that transverses any barriers between American and Chinese cultures. As with any good fantasy tales, Monster Hunt has moral lessons about prejudice and overcoming one’s handicaps.