Since I am seeing less movies and want to keep writing up reviews, I think I am going to start writing up two episodes at a time for the new reiteration of THE TWILIGHT ZONE. Why? Because I remember watching episodes sometimes when they had marathons on sci-fi with my dad. And if I remember something like that fondly it must’ve been an important part of a great childhood I had. Anyway, so I’m signed up for CBS Access for two months and will review two episodes at a time. So 5 reviews since there are only ten episodes this first season.
Now to review Jordan Peele’s narration separately real quick. He’s the real deal. The best since Rod Serling. But if you take that into account I guess there wasn’t much competition when it came to Twilight Zone’s hosts. Serling was the only one in the original series. There was only narration in the first revival, and then Forest Whitaker in front of a shitty green screen in the second revival. Peele here does it kind of like Serling, mostly on set or in a different shot as part of the set. His diction and prose is too perfection, and whenever he welcomes us to The Twilight Zone, opening and closing, I get goosebumps. Whoever gave it a bad review saying there isn’t enough Peele can go fuck himself. Peele has projects up his sleeve and they are lucky to even be getting these small snippets of him introducing these fascinating twisty stories.
The Comedian (Episode 1)
If The Comedian is my least favorite episode of the entire 10 episode run, then call this revival an absolute success. While I probably would’ve gone with Nightmare for the first episode and The Comedian be a little bit of a sophomore slump then a gradual rise, I think they went with this to ease the audience into it more. The Comedian stars The Big Sick and Silicon Valley’s Kumail Nanjiani as a comedian that doesn’t get a lot of laughs because he tries to get political with his jokes. None of them come from the heart. After his set one night he runs into J.C. Wheeler, played by Tracy Morgan, who gets some advice (makes a deal with) that he needs to get more personal with his act, or he’ll never be successful. So Nanjiani does this, but what he doesn’t realize is, that whoever he puts in his act, disappears from existence.
This episode is a little bit of a slow burn and maybe a tad bit too long. But there is a lot to like. The cinematography, tone, and mood set within the film is absolutely gorgeous to look at. The music is wonderful as well. This is probably the best acting I’ve seen from Kumail Nanjiani, and I really liked him in The Big Sick. But what the episode actually did, which I thought nothing could ever do, was for the first time not make me look at Tracy Morgan in an annoying as shit light. I’m sorry, I’ve never found him funny. I feel sorry for that terrible accident he was in, but I’ve always considered him overrated on his comedy. But here, he’s a creepy older more famous comedian, and the very limited screen time he is in, he’s actually pretty fucking good.
The episode though does have some problems slowing it down. The jokes from the comedians aren’t really jokes per say, they are more just lashing out truths, and they aren’t funny. Maybe that was the point? But I would’ve liked to see a few really good comedic jokes when an episode is called The Comedian. I didn’t understand what the audience thought was funny. Also, it is predictable. I bet you can just guess the ending from what I said. However, the pros edge out the cons, and I still enjoyed watching a new episode of The Twilight Zone. In time, a lot might not be too kind on this episode, but I have a feeling it was a small, un-filling appetizer before we get to the delicious main course.
Nightmare at 30,000 Feet (Episode 2)
A play on the classic episode, and the only good remade segment in The Twilight Zone movie: Nightmare at 20,000 Feet. Now this isn’t a sequel just because the plane might be 10,000 Feet higher (although there is a blink and you’ll miss it nod to the classic Gremlin “THERE’S SOMEONE ON THE WING…SOME…THING!” segment). This is a totally different beast and story and no monster eating a plane wing. It plays on paranoia, self-fulfilling prophecies, and civility. It’s a heavy reflection on what has happened since 9/11. It stars Parks & Recreations Adam Scott, a journalist going to Tel Aviv for a job after he laid low for awhile seeing some heinous shit elsewhere. He finds a little device behind his seat that has a podcast on it. He plays it, and it’s a podcast episode detailing how the plane on which he’s a passenger will disappear in an hour.
Pretty cool concept right? Kind of a mix of Final Destination’s fate themes and Non-Stop’s detective investigation work. Adam Scott gets up from his seat, going about the cabin, trying to listen to the clues in the podcast and stop whatever bad thing is going to happen, from happening. This film has multiple twists in it. I saw the first one coming from a mile away. But the film doesn’t stop there, it has another gut wrenching twist, which was just the cherry on the suspenseful, really entertaining episode that I just witnessed. Some are harping on that second twist, however, if you re watch the episode and just focus on the themes, it is brilliant and totally makes sense. Never take anything for face value with The Twilight Zone.
Like The Comedian, everything technical is there. The cinematography, tone, lighting, music, fucking masterful. The acting is top notch as well, with Adam Scott and Chris Diamantopoulos giving some of their best performances of their career. I love that it was a tight 37 minutes. It wasn’t too short, and it didn’t overstay its welcome. It’s a fast paced thriller sure to keep you on the edge of your toes. This is one episode I’d watch over and over, so many layers to peel back, and once you think your done, you have several more.