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View from the Peaks: a “Twin Peaks” episode review

Pilot – “Northwest Passage”

I was 8 when “Twin Peaks” first aired on April 8, 1990 and while I was not allowed to watch it I remember my mom setting the VCR to record the newest episode; I remember the TV Guide section of the newspaper printing a graph to show how everyone was connected; I’ve seen references to it in “Psych”, “Gravity Falls”, “Veronica Mars” and “Community”; I have spent most of my life knowing the quotes “Who killed Laura Palmer?” and “This as a damn fine cup of coffee.”

But I never watched a single episode… until now.

After some initial confusion over picking the original or international pilot (the internet told me to stick with original) my DVD booted up and I was introduced to the Log Lady – which left me feeling like I was watching public access TV in Night Vale.

The introduction of the major plot point happened fairly quickly and then we spent the next 45 minutes watching everybody cry. Like, bad soap opera crying. At the drop of a hat. Really, the sheriff walks into your classroom, doesn’t say a word, but somehow you look at him then look at an empty chair and start bawling?

donna cryingThen another girl is missing but before we can blink she’s walking out of the woods in a torn and bloody nightgown. This prompts the arrival of FBI agent Dale Cooper and we discover that Laura has a super small piece of paper under her fingernail with the letter R on it, which the FBI agent says is a clue to a serial killer.

At this point we move away from the crying and on to the part of the episode I call “When is this show taking place?”. Without the major trends (mod in the 60’s, disco in the 70’s, or punk in the 80’s) to pin the time frame, Twin Peaks plays on the small town time warp; the teens are set as jocks vs bikers, the doctor makes house calls and knows everyone by name, and the local dinner is so chock full of kitsch you can hardly find the pie.

The episode finally fizzles out to the end and I’m left wondering what the heck I just watched. But a lot of people – who generally have good taste in TV – have told me this show is awesome so episode two here I come.

Quote of the episode: “The Norwegians are leaving! The Norwegians are leaving! The Norwegians are leaving! The Norwegians are leaving!”


Find it on Amazon

Twin Peaks: The Complete Series (The Definitive Gold Box Edition)

Mythica: A Quest for Heroes – Engaging Fun for Fans, by Fans

group

Premiering today exclusively on CONtv, Mythica: A Quest for Heroes is the first installment of the Mythica trilogy from Arrowstorm Entertainment. The next two parts (Mythica: The Darkspore and Mythica: The Necromancer )will also debut on the new streaming channel later this year.

The story of Mythica: A Quest for Heroes is fairly typical of fantasy-adventure films: a temple is raided, a woman is kidnapped, and her sister, a healer-priestess, hires a team of would-be heroes to find and save her. Along the way they face dangerous creatures (ogres, orcs, etc.) and learn about themselves.

Here’s what isn’t typical: The first hero to sign on for priestess Teela’s quest is a young woman named Marek, a young magician with a club foot. It is Marek who finds the rest of the group, and convinces them to join the quest, and her story is really the heart of the film.

Marek is played by the incredibly engaging Melanie Stone, who infuses the part with the perfect balance of eager anticipation and fierce tenacity. Her teammates include Adam Johnson as the noble warrior Thane, and Jeremy Stormoen as the delightfully roguish thief, Dagen. Rounding out the party is Nicola Posener as Teela.

All four are relative unknowns, with a few genre credits and bit parts in more mainstream productions, and all four are relatable and watchable, but it is Stone who really grabs the camera’s – and the viewer’s – attention. I enjoyed her performance in this film so much that even when the plot was somewhat predictable, I was never bored.

The supporting cast, including Kevin Sorbo as Marek’s mentor Gojun Pye, is as interesting as the core four. Of particular note are the performances by Christopher Robin Miller as Hammerhead the Innkeeper/Bartender and Sebastian Michael Barr as Marek’s friend Egan.

If Anne Black’s direction feels, at times, as though we are watching a well-plotted LARP adventure, that doesn’t detract at all from the story. (Black is also one of the writers, along with Jason Faller and Kynan Griffin.) After all, the Mythica series was inspired, in part, by RPGs. A combination of digital and practical effects – an impressive array considering the size of the filmmakers’ budget – enriches the film, and Nathaniel Drew’s soundtrack was a delightful surprise.

The creators of the Mythica trilogy have said in interviews that this project was created by fans for fans, but it was also supported by fans: a Kickstarter campaign was a crucial source of funding for the first film, and the Kickstarter campaign for the second installment (link here) was launched yesterday.

If you’re looking for a highly intellectual film, Mythica: A Quest for Heroes isn’t it. If, however, you want to spend an enjoyable hour and a half watching some really likable characters on a journey, not just to save Teela’s sister, but also toward camaraderie, then point your web browser or Roku device of choice toward CONtv, pop some popcorn, and have fun.

 

Click here to watch Mythica on CONtv NOW! 

The Minions Run Amok in Universal Studios

If you know me, you know that Despicable Me is one of my new favorite movies. The minions are these adorable alienish characters that help the main character, Gru. In this fun video the minions run all over Universal Studios and take over various parts of the park in celebration of Universal Orlando Resort’s brand new ride, Despicable Me Minion Mayhem which opens July 2nd.

Pixar Forever Stamps Now Available

Disney/Pixar Forever Stamps

If you love Pixar as much as I do, you’ll want to check out these new forever stamps from the postal service. Check your local post office to get your own sheet with five different designs including:

  • Flik and Dot from “A Bug’s Life” (1998);
  • Bob Parr (Mr. Incredible) and Dashiell “Dash” Parr from “The Incredibles” (2004), with “Dash” also shown running in the background;
  • Nemo and Squirt from “Finding Nemo” (2003);
  • Woody, Bullseye, and Jessie from “Toy Story 2” (1999); and
  • Boo, Mike Wazowski, and James P. “Sulley” Sullivan from “Monsters, Inc.” (2001).

 

The back of the stamp sheet shows blue-pencil sketches of characters from these movies interspersed among text that exhorts readers to mail a smile to a loved one. Postal Service art director William Gicker of Washington, DC, worked with Disney•Pixar to design the stamp art.

 

Customers may view the Disney•Pixar characters Forever stamps, as well as many of this year’s other stamps, and vote for their favorite stamps on Facebook at facebook.com/USPSStamps, through Twitter@USPSstamps or on the website Beyond the Perf at beyondtheperf.com/2012-preview. Beyond the Perf is the Postal Service’s online site for background information on upcoming stamp subjects, first-day-of-issue events and other philatelic news.

Taking Care of Your Clothes With Downy, Bounce and Janie Bryant from Mad Men

Downey Wrinkle Releaser

I’m horrible when it comes to taking care of my clothes. I dump them all in together, wash them cold and HATE ironing. SO I was very excited when I was offered “The FabricCare Guide” by costume designer, Janie Bryant, who is best known for her work on Mad Men.

A page from the Fabric Guide by Janie Bryant

The guide is a beautifully illustrated book with illustrations and pictures of garments from the show. There’s even tiny fabric swatches! If you want first class advice on how to take care of your own clothes like a pro (or just want a really fun Mad Men tie in) check out the downloadable guide here: www.downywrinklereleaser.com/janiebryant.  There’s also a coupon there so you can try Downy’s Wrinkle Releaser for yourself.

“One thing I’ve always been passionate about is how important presentation is to having great style,” said Bryant. “Looking pressed and polished is often just as important as what you’re wearing and the best way to pull off that look is to know how to take great care of your clothing.”

The advice is tied in with Downy’s new Wrinkle Releaser. For folks like me who hate ironing it’s a welcome relief. You simply spray on, tug and smooth out the serious wrinkles and hang it up. Obviously it’s not a last minute product (unless you’re willing to go out with a damp shirt or pants), but it is a nice alternative to ironing. I used it on a skirt that I had forgotten to hang up immediately out of the dryer and it reduced the visible wrinkles pretty quickly (and I didn’t burn anything down). And, the plus side is it smells great!

I also received a bottle of Bounce’s new ironing spray. It acts like starch, but without the annoying smell or flakes you sometimes get from starching your clothes and ironing. For the times that I do have to iron I’m happy to have this around.

Both are available at big box retailers like Target and Walmart or check your local grocery store.

 

I received  free samples of Bounce Ironing Spray and Downey Wrinkle Release along with a hard copy of “The FabricCare Guide” for free, but all opinions are my own and I do my best to give my honest, amazingly insightful review of any free products I receive.

Dear TV, I Love You

I Love TV Tshirt

I Love TV shirt is available at redbubble.com (click picture to see)

Every so often I have an epiphany about myself and other people. It’s usually one of those, “hey not everyone thinks the same way I do.” This one came to be awhile ago, but the other day in conversation with my friend Lisa we started discussing it. We’re real fans of TV. The big difference between how we watch TV and how other people watch TV? We know writers, producers, actors and their real names. It seems like a small thing (and sometimes I really screw up names because I have a real hard time remembering anyone’s name), but I’ve always been really interested in the writer names on TV shows. Stephen J. Cannell was one of the first ones I remember learning when I was a kid. I knew Rick Berman from Star Trek and Paul Gross from Due South. I understood their importance in making the shows I was watching and it still kind of surprises me when people don’t know the names behind their favorite show.

But, I love TV. I love episodic storytelling. Movies are too short. Just as I get immersed in the story, it’s over. I think I’ve seen more movies this year than I have in a long while (and it’s like five). Books are great, but there’s a length and interest problem there. But, like Golidlocks in the Three Bears house I find TV “just right.”

My parents can tell you that my love affair with TV started at an early age. I used to be so glued to the TV that they couldn’t get my attention while I watched. Seaseme Street sucked me in and wouldn’t let go. The thrall has continued and is helped along by Netflix, Hulu and other devices to watch TV on. It’s more than mindless entertainment, my friends and I spend hours discussing it, dissecting it, quoting from it, and learning from it. Yes, learning. I worked through a lot of my own personal issues by watching them played out by characters on TV. As David Grenwalt once said (about writing) at a Paleyfest panel, “there’s nothing like taking all your pain and putting it in the mouths of pretty people.” The same can be true of watching it on TV.

So yes, this my love ode to the television format of entertainment. I hope that scripted TV lives long and prospers.

Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23 Premires Tomorrow!

I’ll admit, I was dubious about watching this show. I only had a vague idea of the premise, despite seeing the billboards all over town. In a way, I’m very glad I didn’t know much about the show when I first sat down to watch the episodes available in advance on HuluPlus (and iTunes).

I already knew of Krysten Ritter’s brilliance from her role in Veronica Mars and have heard of her amazingness on Breaking Bad. If it wasn’t for Krysten I probably wouldn’t have tried out the show. Of course, there’s a lot of talent that’s gone into creating this series. Krysten’s co-star is Dreama Walker (Gossip Girl, The Good WifeDollhouse. The show was created by Nahnatchka Khan, who wrote for American Dad! and produced by Jason Winer (one of the well-known directors from Modern Family).

My favorite part of the show? James Van Der Beek, who plays a himself in a fake comedic way that will keep you in stitches. The idea for his crazy character came from the producers seeing James Van Der Beek’s Funny or Die videos that mock his role as Dawson in Dawson’s Creek. You can see some of this awesomeness in this short clip:

If slightly irreverent, situational comedy is your cup of tea… sit down in Apartment 23 and take a swig. Just don’t trust the girl who lives there.

Women’s Day Features Dr. Oz on Cover, First Man on Cover in 30+ Years

Women's Day Magazine Cover with Dr. Oz

(photo credit: Brian Doben for Woman’s Day)

Dr. Oz, whose daytime TV show inspires millions of viewers, is on a mission to help get Americans healthier. His show attracts a largely female audience so it’s no wonder Women’s Day breaks it’s tradition of having women on the cover and has Dr. Oz for this issue instead.

There’s a lot of great information about Dr. Oz’ life, childhood, and his marriage including interview answers like these:

On being an outsider:

Every day in elementary school, I would get off the bus and kids would pick on me. I was in so many fights, I thought the principal’s office was a classroom…I thought I had to prove something because I came into an environment as an outsider…When you’ve been an outsider, you never forget what it feels like. It’s an instant and lifelong way to connect with people, especially when they’re feeling different.

 

Connecting with his audience:

When I started doing TV, I was a terrible communicator. I’d talk to women who had bad things happen in their lives, and I’d just jump in with answers instead of fully listening to them first…In many ways, it was about working through a lesson my wife, Lisa, has been trying to teach me throughout our marriage: You don’t fix a feeling, you hear a feeling.

 

Keeping his marriage strong after 27 years:

I sometimes say that in 27 years of marriage, I’ve been married to three different women, and Lisa’s been married to three different men: the student, the surgeon and the talk show host. People do change during a lifetime, and we should view this as a positive instead of panicking and backing away. We don’t want to stay static, because it’s dynamism and newness that keep attraction and a marriage strong.

For more with Dr. Oz, go to http://www.womansday.com/droz  and pick up the May issue of Woman’s Day, on newsstands April 10th.

How Once Upon a Time Surprised Me

Once Upon a Time Promotional Shot of Emma, Henry, Snow White, Prince Charming, Mr. Gold, The Evil Queen and the Huntsman

I don’t know exactly what I was expecting when I started watching ABC’s Once Upon a Time, but it wasn’t this. I figured it would round out my Hulu queue, keep me entertained, but not be anymore than a 5 in my list of Fall TV shows I’m watching. For most of the first episodes it was true, but then, Jane Espenson joined.

I can’t say it’s entirely Jane’s doing that this show has rocketed up the list of one of my favorite shows to watch this season. I think a major decision to focus on the characters rather than the complex storyline was really what made the show so compelling. After all, the series is telling stories that everyone whose grown up with fairytales knows all too well, but they’re adding in enough twists and turns to keep it surprising and enough illusions to make it delightful.

For the past couple months I’ve been struggling with this idea of complex story lines. I love them myself, some of my favorite TV shows have a large mythos and big, overarching plotlines. Yet, lately it’s seemed that those shows have gone a little too crazy with the complexity. Shows like Lost, Fringe and even Eureka have bogged down telling great stories with great characters in a confusing mess of multiple time lines and alternate histories. If I, as a watcher who loves time travel and science fiction have a hard time keeping up I can only imagine what the casual viewer thinks of such shows. So I think it was in the show’s favor to scale back the complexity and move forward with the compelling characters.

Even with compelling characters, it’s hard to tell compelling stories. As a culture we’ve been hearing stories of these fairytales for hundreds and hundreds of years. So it’s up to the writers of Once Upon a Time to remain true to the stories that people love, but keep up the surprise. While not every episode is stellar the show has managed to keep me engaged and keep me guessing. The latest episodes about Little Red Riding Hood and the Mad Hatter have been pure TV magic. They’re episodes that remind you why you watch TV in the first place, to be surprised, delighted and have your expectations subverted.

So keep it up Once Upon a Time I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Berklee School of Music Teaching some Rock and Roll Online!

Now I took some classes in undergrad in music and they never seemed as awesome as this. Berklee School of Music has an online school is launching a class on Rock History, which threatens to put my theory class to shame.

The class is taught by Steve Morse. According to the press release Morse brings a lifetime of real-world experience to the material. Steve was the senior rock writer at the Boston Globe for over three decades, and has contributed to other top-tier press outlets such as Billboard and Rolling Stone. He has also served on the nominating committee of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Steve has a rich background in Rock History, having interviewed and developed strong, decades-long ties with dozens of the most important artists and bands in rock, including the Rolling Stones (first seeing them in 1966), U2, Paul McCartney, Aerosmith, AC/DC, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Marley, Metallica, Joni Mitchell, Eric Clapton, Pearl Jam, Stevie Wonder, Coldplay, Tom Petty, and many more.

The really fun part of the online class? Students will see never-before-seen video interviews with rock legends like oe Perry of Aerosmith; Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead; Mike Mills of R.E.M.; Ernie Isley of the Isley Brothers; George Clinton of P-Funk; producer Jack Douglas (who has worked with Aerosmith, Patti Smith, and John Lennon); promoter Don Law; Amanda Palmer; Hugo Burnham of Gang of Four; and Duke Levine (who has played with the J. Geils Band and Aimee Mann).

 

The spring terms starts April 2nd, 2012 so register soon if you want to join!

To register, sign up at https://www.berkleemusic.com/openhouse-signup/

To learn more about the Rock History online course, visit: www.berkleemusic.com/rockhistory