Monday, December 30, 2013

SAFE HAVEN: The Growing Anti-Institutionalist Villainy of Nicholas Sparks

Ah, the sweet sting of being a fan of Nicholas Sparks adaptations. You know there's a formula. You YEARN for the formula, and yet, you can't help turning a critical eye on the way each film tweaks the essential Sparkiness of rain-drenched, Carolina-tinged romance. Such was the case with Safe Haven (McStreaming!). We've got the beachy setting, we've got the painfully obvious objective correlatives ("New Start" paint primer anyone?) and we've got the script-crossed lovers, but what has changed is the nature of the obstacle between the two Abercrombie and Fitched B-list paramours: the patented Sparks obstacle (Sparkstacle?) that threatens to interrupt and dismantle the happily-ever-after of the film. If you actually care about such things, spoilers follow.

Films based on Sparks' "novels" always feature a cosmically-tinged "bad guy"--a force that plays the villain of the melodrama. In silent films he was the easily recognizable stock villain. In the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, this trope would take the face of Snidely Whiplash, strapping the heroine to the railroad tracks of certain doom. And in most of the Sparks adaptations, this incarnation of evil was just as uncomplicated, and just as unstoppable as that train. Former films feature villains such as CANCER (A Walk to Remember, The Last Song), or ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE/DEMENTIA (The Notebook), or TOO MUCH WATER (Message in a Bottle, Nights in Rodanthe). But lately in Sparksland, the bad guy is much less random, and much more human.

Both The Lucky One (2012) and Safe Haven (2013) place villainy in the character of a police officer. The Lucky One pits Zac Efron (a, crucially *retired* Marine) against a local sheriff deputy who is the former husband of the film's female love interest, relatively unfamous Taylor Schilling. Safe Haven takes the idea of the somewhat ominous local cop and raises it to Sleeping with the Enemy levels, giving heroine Julianne Hough a not-quite-ex-husband who is an alcoholic and abusive Chicago P.D. detective framing her for murder and hunting her down after she escapes his clutches and finds herself in an idyllic oceanside North Carolina complete with Josh Duhamel healing powers.

On the one hand, I can see this development as positive. Though Sparks is undoubtedly, creepily, conservative, it might be progressive to read this new, more localized and embodied source of evil as a critique of the institutionalization of power. Both The Lucky One and Safe Haven show how dangerous men manipulate existing power structures (the justice system) to further their own toxic domination. The conservatism of the small towns Sparks lauds then becomes a corrective to modernist demonstrations of power, and calls for a (nostalgic) return to interpersonal values.

However, then I think more, probably more than anyone should ever think about a Nicholas Sparks film, and fear that making abusive ex-husbands the villain takes the power (and the blame) away from random fate, and places it squarely in the hands of the female heroines. Both Schilling and Hough chose these men, and are rescued from them by the new, better male heroes (Efron and Duhamel). Sparks has introduced human culpability into the equation, and situated it squarely on the woman's shoulders. It's like the damsel in distress refused to block Snidely Whiplash on Snapchat.

Though it's never acceptable, fair, or remotely logical to blame the victims of domestic abuse for the crimes of their partners, Sparks' replacement of random acts of nature with former romantic partners seems a particularly ominous turn. If anyone other than me can bear it, we'll see what happens with The Best of Me next year.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Gravity is Raymond Carver in Space

My advice to you: Don't take Gravity literally. Director Alfonso Cuaron is an extraordinarily writerly director whose films, from Children of Men to Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban demand their audiences think symbolically. If you watch Gravity through the lens of a thriller set in space, it's predictable, prosaic, and a bit trite. But if you watch it through the lens of parable, it unfolds like a lotus flower.

The cast list and screenplay of the film are spare. Sandra Bullock as Dr. Ryan Stone and George Clooney as Matt Kowalski are among the only faces you'll see and certainly the only ones you'll recognize (though you might also catch a clever intertextual bit of voice casting), and there are stretches where no one speaks at all. That might lead one to believe that the visuals are the real focus and contribution of the film, because they are masterful and startling. I am a firm anti-3D-ite, but this is one of the few films where it makes sense, not because of how far the scene extends towards the audience, but because of how far it recedes. The disorienting and infinite depth of space is crucial for exploring the film's primary concerrn: grief.

Ryan Stone's character has suffered a loss as devastating as it is random, and the catastrophic debris field that untethers her from her ship and sends her reeling into the abyss is an externalization of the way grief unmoors the human mind and heart. Understanding the film as a meditation on mourning makes every scientific fact about space becomes a way of literalizing the airless and groundless isolation of suffering. And also a way to think about returning to life.

Which is where Raymond Carver comes in. Stories like "A Small, Good Thing" and "Cathedral" suggest that our salvation and our healing comes from living in this world, with other human beings. That the things we make and the things we say have the power point towards a grace that is expressed materially but experienced interpersonally, in the space between one struggling soul and another. Though the scope of Gravity is vast in comparison to Carver's intimate bakery shops and dining room tables, the intimacy remains the same. I won't reveal the conclusion of Gravity, but I will say that, to paraphrase the opening title card, life is impossible in this space, and it is desperately important to find someone to tether yourself to, and to make it to a ship that will take you home.

It makes sense, then, that this is a movie that makes you want to talk. The subtlety and elusiveness of the subject provokes further articulation and investigation. Most of what is written above came out of a marathon post-mortem I had with contributor Jonathan Alexandratos, my favorite date to the movies. Gravity gives you room, and and an invitation, to fill the space between with language and thought and wonder.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Brief Interviews with Hideous Men Is an Appalling and Disgusting Farce

Note: I have not read the David Foster Wallace collection on which this film is based. But even my admittedly beginner's knowledge of Wallace (his subtlety, his empathy, his unwillingness to rely on crude stereotype) leads me to believe that this "adaptation" took some very, um, hideous liberties. 

It is rare that I feel compelled to actually verbalize "Oh, fuck you" to a film I am watching. It is also rare that I think to myself, "John Gray [of Men are from Mars, Women are From Wherever "fame"] makes this movie seem sociologically complex." Brief Interviews with Hideous Men (2009) has the dubious honor of invoking both these responses.

A brief (pace director John Krasinski) primer on the film's wholly unironic categorization of desire:

Heterosexual Men: Disconnected from and terrified and ignorant of their own sexual needs, smug to the point of figurative auto-erotic asphyxiation, psychologically violent to themselves and women, emotionally handicapped, and weaponizers of intimacy.

Heterosexual Women: Mute and wounded.

Homosexual Men: Invisible.

Homosexual Women: Same.

Trans or Bi Men or Women: See above.

Oh! And nearly everyone is white.

This film, which assumes a self-satisfied and omniscient tone about heteronormative sexuality from minute one and, in its one and only admirable quality, consistency, doesn't drop it for the entirety of its 80-minute run-time, manages to import all the most noxious aspects of toxic masculinity and normalize them. Men and women are mutually suspicious of and aggressive towards each other, to the point that infidelity is figured as a moral high ground and rape a path to growth and enlightenment. Truly, this movie must be seen to be believed. (Author's Note: Don't ever see this movie.)

Brief Interviews with Hideous Men unbelievably stakes its ground on the argument that sexual, emotional, and psychological violence must be met with violence, and in fact, that such violence is the only path to empathy. The film takes the most clumsy and half-assed stereotypical "differences" between men and women and makes them the structural premise of the film. The movie revels in not only the objectification of women, and men, but the institutionalization of remarkably prejudicial and dangerous assumptions about the nature of gendered identity. I honestly can't believe it exists.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Searching for Sugar Man Is Nonfiction Magical Realism

*NB: The film's promotional materials reveal a plot point that the movie's chronology withholds. If
you'd like to be surprised, read no further, but by all means, rent.

There are some documentaries that unsettle you to the deepest core of your being, putting you right off your brunch. I'm looking at you, Capturing the Friedmans. There are others that remind you that though the world can be a place fraught with suffering, it is also replete with miracles. Searching for Sugar Man is definitely in the latter category.

The 2012 film (and that year's Best Documentary Feature winner) chronicles the rise and fall and unexpected re-rise of a Mexican-American singer-songwriter with all of Bob Dylan's poetic lyricism and righteous anti-establishment rage and none of his success: Rodriguez. After a couple of years in the late 60s and early 70s playing gigs in places named thing like, unironically, The Sewer, Rodriguez returned to a job in construction and a brief flirtation with local politics, surrendering his hopes of a musical career. Haven't heard of him? You must be American.

What neither he, nor his producers, nor (probably) his record label knew was that while he was demolishing buildings and doing whatever one does with drywall, his music was fueling the anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa, and the artist himself had become a quasi-mythical figure around whom rumors of a spectacularly gruesome onstage suicide were as widely and ferociously traded as the bootleg copies of his two albums.

Because of the nature of a dictatorship, South Africans had very little unsanctioned information about the world outside their borders. But even though his fans (which, it seems important to note, seem to be largely white) didn't know who or where Rodriguez was, they did know that his lyrics criticizing unjust economic and social practices (inspired by his native Detroit) gave them a vocabulary with which to resist and begin to dismantle the cruelties and perversions of human dignity they were witnessing. And when a couple of musicians and writers try to hunt down the true biography of their poet and prophet, a pretty magical reunion takes place.

One of the journalists interviewed by the filmmaker describes this unlikely series of events as sounding like "a bad PR campaign" because it was so unlike how he understands the world to work, and Searching for Sugar Man feels like a myth while watching. Rodriguez remains an elusive figure throughout, even after he is rediscovered. He slides through different names and identities as purposefully and smoothly as he walks through the largely abandoned streets of the working-class neighborhood where he still lives in Detroit, and is clearly uncomfortable talking about his remarkable story. But it's a story that makes poets of his his fellow construction workers and family as they marvel at how their unassuming friend and father lives a dual life as a South African rock star. Though not quite reaching the heights of exuberant aesthetic grace achieved by Man on Wire, Searching for Sugar Man will make you believe in fairy tales.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A Double Feature! Fast & Furious 6 and Now You See Me

Sooooo I'm moving clear across the country in a week.  WHOA!  A WEEK!  I need to pack.  Huh.  Anywhoodle, I managed to squeeze in two movies this past weekend but had totally forgotten to post about them.  Hey, I'm still better than Tracy and Jonathan who have been sitting on their Star Trek post for weeks.  Just kidding!  Love you guys!

So this will be quick and relatively painless because I have some packing to do.

Fast & Furious 6 was a good movie.  And not in the sense of how Fast 5 was good 'for a Fast and Furious movie' but actually good.  Sure, the large, overly muscled men grunted at each other a lot.  And yes, Michelle Rodriguez growled along with them.  And the stunts were beyond ridiculous.  The death toll was INSANELY high.  The damage was beyond comprehension.  BUT IT WAS STILL GOOD!  I think it helps that there's a big enough cast to distract you from any one person's performance.  Oh and we get to see Michelle Rodriguez brawl with one of my girl-crushes Gina Carano.  Oh and Luke Evans was the perfect villain.  He was Bond-level, which is a good thing for this kind of franchise.  So if F&F is your bag, you won't be disappointed.  Plus it was in London, how bad can it be?

And now for the #2 movie last weekend...Now You See Me.  Aside from the twisty end, which I still don't buy, I really enjoyed this film.  It was fun, funny, clever and exciting.  The magic was trippy, the acting was great, the story was interesting and the pacing was pretty good.  NYSM had a stellar cast (Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrleson, Mark Ruffalo, Isla Fisher [she's busy lately], Dave "the less obnoxious" Franco, Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine.  Woody had to be my favorite (he got the best lines) and Eisenberg my least favorite (I don't buy him as a cool guy).  It's the perfect summer movie.  So sit back, relax, munch on some popcorn and enjoy yourself.  You won't be sorry.  Just let me know if you think the ending/explanation was hinky.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Am I the only one watching Orphan Black?

I seriously hope not because I want to see a second season of it.  Orphan Black airs on BBC America here in the colonies and I am really digging this show.  But if you don't know anything about it, I don't want to spoil it for you.  Just give it a shot and see what you think.  Luckily for you, BBCA is doing a marathon on Saturday, leading up to the season finale.  So set those DVRs now.

The story is interesting (here's the IMDB description: "A streetwise hustler witnesses the suicide of a girl who looks just like her and falls headlong into a deadly mystery.") and moves along at a great pace.  My favorite part is the cast, led by Tatiana Maslany.  She's phenomenal.  I'm shocked I've not noticed her before because the girl can act. In the course of the series, she has to sort of take on other personalities and sometimes those personalities take on other personalites.  Ugh, I can't get into it without spoiling the show for you but just trust me.  Maslany is phenomenal at mastering the slightest difference in character.  Now that I'm writing this, I'm thinking of another show that asked something similar of it's female lead...Dollhouse.  Listen, I love me some Faith and I think Eliza Dushku is wonderful.  However, Maslany is much better at subtlety. 

Anywhoodle, I got sucked in by the end of the second episode and have enjoyed almost every minute of it.  There's mystery, science, science fiction and one dude even has a tail!  And MAX FREAKING HEADROOM is in it!  What more do you need?

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Office - series finale

And that's how you do a finale. 

I had my issues with The Office and gave up watching 2 seasons ago but there was no way I was going to miss the finale.  I'm so glad I didn't.  I think what I liked most about it was that even though some situations had changed, the characters still stayed true to themselves. The finale was sweet, funny and awkward just as the show had always been.  Plus the final episode had just the right amount of nostalgia, while also giving us an idea of where these beloved characters were headed.  I laughed, I cried, I wanted to go back and see what I had missed in the past 2 years.

Well done, folks.  And thank you!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Great Gatsby

Hello.  My name is Alisa and I'm a Baz-aholic.  I've spent countless hours watching his films and reveling in the opulence, splendor, romance and heartbreak.  I got on the wagon with Australia (I only vaguely remember a half-naked Hugh Jackman and have blocked the rest) but found myself back off with The Great Gatsby.

So in all bloggy truly have to be a fan of Mr. Luhrman's to enjoy Gatsby.  And it would help to also be a fan of Moulin Rouge since, as Buzzfeed pointed out, they're basically the same movie*.  If you're looking for a faithful adaptation of Gatsby then I'm pretty sure you need to look elsewhere.  Here's another admission of mine...I've not read F. Scott Fitzgerald's story in (GULP) 23 years!  Yikes.  That makes me feel old.  Anywhoodle, I will not be comparing the film to the novel.

So as a fan of pure aesthetic and as someone who can be distracted from a lackluster story ("Ooo, shiny!"), I will say that my biggest complaint was a lack of love between the titular Gatsby and the love of his life, Daisy.  I just don't think enough screen time was spent with them TOGETHER.  We got a lot of pining from Gatsby and really only a little bit from Daisy.  Gatsby seems to be in love with the idea of a Daisy he knew years ago.  Daisy is in love with idea of his wealth and the attention she'd be sure to get from him.  Beyond that...meh. 

The acting was pretty solid except that I still just don't get Tobey Maguire.  He was fine, I guess, but I was not impressed.  Leonardo DiCaprio continues to be great, even as Gatsby, and  Carey Mulligan was a good Daisy.  As expected, a number of Australia's finest turned out and gave good performances.  They would include: Joel Edgerton, Jason Clarke, Isla Fisher, and Adelaide Clemmons (aka Michelle Williams, Jr.). However, I was probably most impressed with newcomer, Elizabeth Debicki, who played Jordan Baker.  I'm expecting that we'll see more of her in the future.

The story and plot were so-so and actually served as more of a distraction from the visuals (costumes, sets, etc.).  Oh the visuals.  So pretty.  Just so sparkly, fast and fun: 

I wanted the music to work because I think it did in Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge but most of the songs just felt detached from what was going on in the film.  Maybe I just don't like Jay Z in period movies.

Overall I did enjoy the movie and think it's worth seeing on the big screen...BUT ONLY IF YOU REALLY LIKE BAZ LUHRMAN FILMS.  

*Also supplied by Buzzfeed are reasons why Baz sucks and why he rules

Monday, May 6, 2013

Iron Man 3 (even in 3D) was a darn good time

Did you go see it this weekend?  Everybody else did.  Now don't you feel left out?  No?  Good, you shouldn't.  You'll have plenty of time to catch Iron Man 3 in theaters considering how well it's doing both domestically and abroad.  I will say, avoid spoilers at all costs.  There a pretty cool little twist that happens that, had I known about it, would have ruined the movie for me.  I still had some nitpicky issues overall but they'd spoil other parts of the movie for you so I won't discuss them here.  Other than those, this was so much better than Iron Man 2 and maybe even more enjoyable than Iron Man Original Sauce.  Maybe.

Iron Man 3 landed in the very capable hands of director Shane Black, leaving the franchise's former director Jon Favreau only on set to reprise his role as Happy the driver/security guard.  Black and Robert Downey Jr. work so well together (please see Kiss Kiss Bang Bang if you haven't already) and it showed in this film as well.  The supporting cast, made up of superb actors such as Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce and the (specifically fantastic in this) Ben Kingsley, were all pretty great but then that's expected.  Oh and Gwyneth Paltrow was there too. 

I guess I don't have much to say about it.  And as I said before, my complaints would spoil the movie so I won't go there.  Honestly, pretty much everything worked.  The action was great, the jokes all landed, the acting was solid, the story moved along and I was pretty darn pleased with it.  And really, stay through the credits.   There were only about 8 of us who stayed 'til the bitter end and it was worth it.

I did want to share one thing about my experience and that was the 3D aspect.  This looked relatively good and I wasn't sorry that I saw it in 3D, especially because I got to use a gift card.  I arrived at the theater nice and early (11:40 for a 12:15 2D showing) but that one was sold out.  Instead we had to decide between waiting around for the next 2D show at 1pm or go into the noon 3D show, WHICH WAS BASICALLY EMPTY.  I'm pretty sure the only reason our showing had a half-full audience was because we were all hoping to get into the 2D show and could not.  This just confirms my suspicions that most people still really prefer 2D.


Am I the only one watching The Bletchley Circle?

I suspect I might be. And that's a shame. This series was originally produced for ITV, which is, to the
best of my Wikipedia, the British version of PBS. It's been airing on PBS (motto: "The British version of everything is better") in three parts, the third of which aired last night.*

The premise is thus: Four women who worked as codebreakers at Bletchley Park (like Downton Abbey but much, much smaller and wartorn) during WWII team up nine years later to solve a series of brutal murders in London, using the very mathematical and logical skills that they employed during the war. These women have been largely reabsorbed into civilian (i.e., domestic; i.e., patriarchal) life since the '40s, and additionally, they are unable to tell anyone, including their husbands, about their wartime service. Susan, the ringleader and pattern-finder, has a husband who thinks she's merely "the devil at the cryptogram." The other members of the "Circle" consist of Lucy, an ingenue with a photographic memory, who has married an abusive troglodyte; Jean, the former supervisor whose work as a librarian speaks to her uncanny ability to get information; and Millie, a progressive proto-feminist whose economic circumstances caused her to curtail her world travels and work as a waitress. The series manages to riff on post-war "getting the gang back together" movies, detective fiction, and procedural dramas, all with a feminist twist.

The serial killer is chilling, but what I find most compelling about this series is the way it argues for the pervasiveness of all sorts of emotional and physical threats against women in the post-war world. In addition to the domestic battery that Lucy endures, Millie is sexually harassed and Susan's aspirations to think are kindly, but firmly, dismissed by her husband. The Bletchley Circle argues that disregarding women in small ways creates a climate where it is more likely, if never excusable, that a sick man views women not as humans at all, but rather as playthings he can torture and violate while calmly smoking a cigarette.

In addition to the smart gender stuff, the clothes are fabulous. If you've missed this little bit of British methadone to the heroin of Downton Abbey, it's available on DVD!

* And I have NOT watched yet, so if I'm wrong and everyone on the planet has been watching this series, please spoil not.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Trailer Park Thursday!

Here are 10 movies I will be seeing. Guaranteed.  You should probably see them too. 
But first, watch the trailers.

Violet & Daisy - I'm happy to see Alexis Bledel branching out a bit.

Red 2 - I really, really hope it's as fun as the first one.

Prince Avalanche - This is so totally my kind of movie.

The Bling Ring - Wow. I just don't get these kids today.  
And I wasn't too sure about the movie but this trailer is winning me over (however the title is not).

The Grandmaster - Not much going on here except for some superb martial arts

Only God Forgives - Refn and Gosling together again?  Yes, please!

R.I.P.D. - Ok, so it's a little Men In Black but it still looks fun.  Alright, a LOT MiB.

Man of Steel - Can't wait! Can't wait! Can't wait!

Romeo and Juliet - I will preface this by saying, just rent the Zeffirelli.  
HOWEVER, I'm curious to see what writer Julian Fellowes can do with Shakespeare.

The Way, Way Back - This is the film everyone talked about after Sundance.  I can see why.

(There was) Pain & (there was no) Gain

I've been putting this review off because the movie has left such a sour taste in my mouth.  Listen, I'm the first person to try and find something good about any movie, even Michael Bay movies.  I'm not one to argue his value in Hollywood.  However I know what to expect when I see one of his movies.  Usually.  And dammit if I didn't really dislike Pain & Gain.  Truly I was hoping it would be a fun, mindless summer action flick.  It really wasn't.  I like the three main actors (Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, and Anthony Mackie) a lot. I've seen these guys be really great.  Ok, I've seen two of the guys be really great, the other just has tons of charm and is good at his wheelhouse-type stuff.  They were not great in this. 

So what was good?  Um, well, it was fun seeing them try to recreate Miami in the 90s.  Though I will say I spotted some vodka on the wall behind the bar in a scene and that brand just came out this year.  When it comes to vodka, I have an eagle eye.  No, I'm not proud of this.  Rebel Wilson was her typical fun self.  Oh and I kind of liked Ed Harris and Tony Shalhoub but then those guys are usually good no matter who the director is.  Again, the Miami part of it was bright and sunny and whatever.  There were a few funny jokes in this warehouse (if you've seen the movie then you know the location) where they spend a good chunk of the film. 

Other than a few of the actors and bright, sunny Miami, there wasn't much to like about Pain & Gain and I'm honestly disappointed by that.  The story is or could have been funny, especially if it is as true as they wanted us to believe it is.  Bay tried to over-stylize it with excessive slo-mo, almost constant moving camera, and pauses with notes on the screen to tell you what's going on.  Anywhoodle, don't bother seeing the movie.  Just enjoy these GIFs that Buzzfeed put out there for you.

Friday, April 26, 2013

How does The Walking Dead series measure up to the books?

THE WALKING DEAD - By Michael Moloney
Introduction (by contributor Jonathan Alexandratos):  I've been working with Michael Moloney for a number of months now.  Michael is 17, and hasn't had the typical U.S. high school experience (he grew up in Canada, educated outside of their standard system).  Perhaps because of this, Michael has an immense amount of knowledge, and can eloquently translate his passions into fantastic, college-level essays.  He is passionate about THE WALKING DEAD, and produced the below piece which analyzes both the comic book and the TV series according to three of Robert Kirkman's criteria for a good zombie narrative, which he lays out in Volume 1 of the trades.  As you read this essay, you'll see that Michael has obtained and harnessed a great talent for writing, at a very young age.  I also think you'll find his points about the comic and the show both sophisticated and intriguing.  Here's Michael's work:
THE WALKING DEAD by Michael Moloney
The Walking Dead is a unique series, as it deals with people pushed to the limits of themselves just to survive against hordes of the walking dead. I prefer the comic to the show, but that's mostly because of the “television changes.” What I mean by this is TV shows will often have to change the vision from the original. In other words they have to up the drama and character bonding to attract a wider viewer base. The comic however is much more streamlined with the horror aspect as well as the drama and character development. For instance, there will often be minor problems in the comic that are resolved easily, whereas in the show it takes 2 issues in the comic for 2 seasons (like the Lori and Shane storyline). But at least they kept the ending to that issue the same, where Carl shoots Shane thru the neck to protect his father (this is the first and last time I liked Carl in the show).The three criteria that Robert Kirkman, the writer of the comic, put in place to make his story as good as it is (as set forth in Vol. 1 of the trade collections) are: dealing with extreme situations, Rick changing throughout the series, and having a realistic Zombie Apocalypse.

The characters barely ever get a breather as something almost always goes wrong as quickly as it goes right. That is definitely one of the series’ selling points that there’s rarely a dull moment. The way most of the instances are delivered is brilliant as well as realistic to a degree. So here's how our survivors’ luck holds out: they start off in a camp just outside of Atlanta, which soon gets overrun by zombies, who, in turn, eat a good chunk of the group (depending on medium). They then make their way to a farm where Karl gets shot, which I rather enjoyed. Could you say why this plot point was a favorite? They stay at farm until it gets overrun by zombies. Currently they are in a prison but given the pattern that's going on, I have a feeling I know where that's going.

The main character, Rick, starts off as a small town cop put in a coma after being shot, only to find, when he wakes up, all hell's broken loose, literally. This is my favorite way to begin a zombie story because of the sense of being completely unprepared, as well it eliminates one of the make or break points: how the outbreak started. Rick changes through out the series as things get more and more hopeless (best friend sleeping with wife, who then tries to kill him, wife dies, lose home after home, friends constantly dying around him, and now he has a tyrannical Governor beating down their door), to the point were he goes a little mad, but we all go a little mad sometimes.

This series is a shining example of what the zombie  apocalypse would be like. It's gritty, dark, hopeless, and best of all there are insane morality choices the characters are forced to make just to survive. Not to mention that zombies aren't the only thing trying to kill them, but humans as well. Then there's the zombies, who look absolutely putrid, which is a good thing believe me. The make-up team is the best at making disgusting, scary, yet plausible zombie make up.

In conclusion. The Walking Dead is a great well rounded series. Unfortunately I don't see them doing well in the long term. Because people will lose interest since the show has a pretty noticeable pattern going on. With that said they could save it if they recycled the story with a new group of survivors. But other than that even the crowds' love of Daryl can't save it from its impeding extinction.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Wakling Dead - Hope you can wait until October!

“Welcome to the Tombs”

So this is it, y’all.  Does anyone else feel like this entire season has been building to this episode?  There were a couple of excellent stand-alone types, but all of it lead to what happened last night.

The episode opens with an extreme close-up of an eye ball and I’m creeped out.  It’s the Governor’s remaining eye and we’re seeing him from the perspective of the person he’s dragging down a hallway.  It’s Milty the science guy being dragged and the Governor stops to fill him in on what it’s been like being Governor recently.  Milty evokes the memory of Penny and it doesn’t work because the Governor is loooong gone.  Milty is now with Andrea in the torture chamber and the Governor wants Milty to kill her.  Instead Milty goes for the Governor who deftly disarms him and stabs Milty in the gut.  Before he leaves them to die, the Governor says, “In this life now, you kill or you die.  Or you die and you kill.”  Heavy.

At the prison, Carl is looking at the family photo and then packs it up.  In fact everyone is packing.  Carl doesn’t want to talk to Rick and is kind of proving that kids not only need to be kids but need a home and some stability.  Stupid zombie apocalypse.  Michonne understands Rick and his struggles as to whether or not he was going to hand her over to the Governor.  In fact she seems really cool about it but probably because he chose to not sacrifice her.  They kind of have a moment together, a total understanding of each other, and it’s kind of nice. 

In Woodbury, the Governor is giving his best St. Crispin’s Day speech to get the townsfolk ready to do some killin’ but Tyrese and Sasha aren’t biting.  They’re all for killing walkers but refuse to kill the living.  Instead they offer to stay behind and protect the women, children, and old folk.  The Governor isn’t thrilled but doesn’t waste time arguing.  They arrive at the prison, shoot up the place and find an empty cell block.  They hear some noises down a hall, go to investigate and wander right into a trap full of shooting and walkers.  The Woodbury folk flee and one kid presumably gets left behind and wanders up to a hiding-in-the-woods Carl, Hershel and Beth.  He’s about to surrender his large gun but Carl just shoots him anyway.  Whoa.  Hershel and Beth are rightly horrified as am I.  Hershel tells Rick who can’t and won’t understand why Carl would do such a thing but he knows Hershel wouldn’t exaggerate such things.

Back in Woodbury, Milty is slowing dying while Andrea is slowly trying to free herself by getting a pair of pliers off the ground with her feet.  She finally gets them but Milty is now undead. 

On the way back to Woodbury, the Governor stops the caravan and starts yelling at people to go back and finish the job.  They start bitching and moaning so she just slaughters all of them.  Allen is included even though he was all for avenging his son. 

Rick tries to talk to Carl and help him understand what surrender looks like but Carl is too busy thinking Rick isn’t killing enough people.  If he was a bit more lethal folks like Lori, Merle and a few others might still be alive.  Ouch.  So Rick, Michonne, and Daryl head off to kill the Governor once and for all and find the slaughtered Woodbury folk.  They also find the one woman the Governor missed.  She goes back to Woodbury with them, helps convince Tyrese and Sasha about their intentions and how the Governor has snapped.  Well she came in handy.  Rick then figures that Andrea might still be in Woodbury somewhere and miraculously guesses she would be where they had kept Glenn and Maggie.  She’s there and still barely alive after a tussle with Milty.  Oh happy day!  Nope, wait, Milty bit her.  Damn.  And it’s in the neck so there’s no cutting off of an appendage to save her.  Double damn.  Michonne cries.  Rick comforts. And Andrea does the valiant thing by ending her troubles on her own terms.  At least she left this crappy life knowing she really tried to keep everyone alive.  Rick leaves her in the room with Michonne and a revolver.  He, Tyrese and Daryl stand there waiting and we hear a single shot and I swear I heard a little gasp from Michonne.

It’s the next morning and a different caravan pulls up to the prison.  Rick’s brought back lots of supplies and a bus full of people who were too young or too old to be soldiers in the Governor’s little army.  Rick, thanks to Andrea, knows you can’t go through this life alone so he’s decided to try and give his son a community.  Maybe Carl will have a chance to do some kid-type things for once.  Rick looks up to find his Lori hallucination but she’s gone.  I’m guessing he thinks he’s doing the right thing for once and doesn’t need her anymore. 

Also, the Governor lives.  Damn.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Well, I saw Admission.  It's another example of my having too high expectations based on those involved and being totally let down.  Tina Fey!  Love her.  She's a comedy goddess.  She is still kind of out of her element as the lead of a film.  I think she should be in some kind of fantastic ensemble movie like Wag the Dog or Broadcast News.  Ok, so yeah, I guess I see her in smart, political, newsy type things, which would be totally typecasting her.  Hmmm...I'll have to think about this more.  Her role in Admission as Portia, a Princeton admissions officer, is still in her scope but I just don't think she should be carrying movies yet. She was one problem.

Another problem was with the plot.  Part of the deal is that she's trying desperately to get a senior at an alternative high school enrolled at Princeton.  If you've seen the trailers then this is not a spoiler: she thinks he's the son she gave up for adoption. The kid, Jeremiah, is quirky and we're told he's smart (5s on 8 AP exams without having taken an AP course and almost perfect SAT scores) but that's about it. Portia spends the bulk of the movie trying to get this kid into Princeton because she sees something in him.  But is there anything to him beyond the fact that she think she owes the kid a chance because of some guilt she has for giving him up years ago?   Oh, he's a ventriloquist too, if that helps.  I can't really get into my full feelings without spoiling the end of the movie so I won't but just know that I had some issues. I will say that it probably could have done more regarding the issue of adoption but it just sort of touched on that subject too.
Portia's love interest was John, played by the utterly adorable and what I wouldn't give to just spend some time with him, Paul Rudd.  The man just gets cuter and more adorable with each movie.  He's the administrator of Jeremiah's school, has an adopted son from Uganda, and is a bit of a vagabond.  I think if the movie might have been more successful if it had been about John and his life.  But it wasn't.

The supporting cast was fine. Lily Tomlin was good but her character was such a stereotype that only showed her layers at the end of the film.  Wallace Shawn is always reliable.  Gloria Reuben of "ER" fame was in it as well and I'm so glad.  When I saw her in Lincoln I realized how much I missed her.  One of the best moments was when I recognized the kid from the television show, "Ed".  The not Justin Long and not Ginnifer Goodwin kid.  So good luck to you, Michael Genadry! You were adorable on Ed, you didn't have enough to do in Admission but here's hoping you get some good roles in the near future!

I guess that's mostly all I have to say.  Oh! They cut some stuff from the trailer, like when the dad chases Portia down with a bundt cake.  In fact, I would have liked to have seen more of the crazy stuff kids and parents do to get into colleges.  I wonder if a lot of that kind of stuff just ended up on the cutting room floor.  Overall the movie was kind of cute, very sweet, but not something I'd rush out to see.

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Walking Dead - Oy with the recaps already!

"This Sorrowful Life"

Now that was a good episode.  About 45 minutes in to the show I wrote this in my notes: "I still can't figure out where (most of) this episode is going."  I mean, the Glenn and Maggie stuff was self-explanatory and just as it should have been, but the rest of it was kind of head-scratching.  AND I LOVED THAT.  I hate figuring out where shows are going.

We open back with the folks at the prison and Rick is filling Daryl in on the offer and the plan to give up Michonne to save the rest of them.  Daryl thinks it's a bad idea and not that it matters, but I agree with him.  Merle is busy shredding a mattress in search for some stashed weed and I realize how totally smart he is sometimes.  Rick tells him the plan but doesn't get much back from Merle.  Rick makes some comment on Merle not knowing who he is and Merle retorts with, "I'm a damn mystery to me."  I love that line and plan on using it in the future.  However Merle's got Rick's number and is the only one who could have made Rick re-think his plan to turn Michonne over to the incredibly vengeful Governor.

Merle chats with Carol a bit about how she's changed, etc.  Carol gets to the heart of his allegiance, and surprising to no one, it's to his little brother.  Speaking of the tasty Dixon brother, he's trying to get Glenn to forgive Merle for all that went down in Woodbury.  It's probably not going to happen though, because Glenn wants someone to be responsible for what happened to Maggie.  Daryl then finds Merle in a maintenance-type room.  Merle proceeds to give Daryl a hard time about following Rick's orders.

Hershel is reading to Maggie and Beth from the Bible and as he does, we see Rick searching for some wire with which to tie up Michonne.  He gets a glimpse of a pregnant Lori and is able to talk himself out of it.  Dude is really struggling and my heart goes out to him.  He just wants a peaceful existence and that's just not going to happen.  Merle takes it upon himself to knock out and tie up Michonne because he correctly believes that Rick could never pull that trigger.  Rick and Daryl figure out what he's done and Daryl, expert tracker, goes after Merle.

Glenn and Hershel have a very nice moment, which culminates with Glenn asking for Maggie's hand.  AWWWW!  (this means one of them is sure to die, right?)  Hershel gives Glenn his blessing and then we get a rare but honest smile on Hershel's face.  Glenn cuts a walker's finger off and then uses said walker's ring to propose to Maggie.  Well he doesn't actually say anything out loud about getting married but just handing her the ring seems to be enough.  Just ignore all the moaning walkers in the background and you've got a totally sweet and romantic moment.

Merle and Michonne find a car, he jump starts it and sets off an alarm.  Meanwhile, a tied-up Michonne gets to fight off two walkers while bound to a post.  Damn this girl is good.  Merle cuts her loose and they drive off.  During this mini-road trip, they talk and get to know each other a bit more.  Merle discloses that he's killed 16 men since this whole thing started.  Michonne picks up on the fact that he's actually kept count, meaning he's not a complete loss.  Merle cuts her loose and sends her back to the prison alone because he's got something to do.  Daryl finds Michonne and continues on after his brother.  Merle has found a bar, some booze and some tunes.  He's got a hoard surrounding his car and he slowly leads them Peter Piper style to the meeting place with the Woodbury folks.  I swear we all underestimate Merle on a regular basis.

The walkers keep the attention of the Woodbury folk off of Merle who is now inside a building and is successfully taking out some of those Woodbury jerks, including young Ben of the Tyrese crew.  Ooops.  That won't win any favour from Allen.  They finally realize what's going on and get the jump on Merle.  He and the Governor struggle and the Gov actually bites off two of his remaining fingers.  Wow.  Then the Governor shoots him.
While all this is going on, Rick gathers the prison folks, gives up his Ricktatorship and changes it into more of a Rickocracy.  He wants everyone to have a vote on their future of either hitting the road or staying to defend the prison.  Daryl isn't there to hear this moving and needed speech though.  He's come upon the carnage at that abandoned warehouse.  He spots a zombified Merle and has to fight off his dead brother.  Wow.  It's such a good scene for Norman Reedus.  Daryl finishes off his brother, cries a bit and it's very moving.  I'm sad that he'll never really know what Merle did for his little brother and his new family.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Walking Dead - getting recappy with it

We open with a flashback to quieter times.  Andrea, Michonne and Michonne’s “pets” camped out around a fire.  Andrea inquires about the origin story of the “pets” and Michonne tells her the whole story, going way, way back.  The level of detail she shares about these guys is astounding.  Ha!  Only kidding.  Michonne doesn’t want to talk about it except to say that they weren’t good guys pre-zombification. 

In present day Woodbury (where the bulk of the episode takes place), the Governor’s henchmen are loading up the big guns into trucks while he plays with his amateur torture kit.  Milty the science guy tries to talk some sense into him about the whole ‘killing Rick’s group and torturing the crap out of Michonne’ thing but the Governor is long gone.  Instead Milty decides to let Andrea in on the whole plan and shows her the Governor’s torture chamber including the dentist’s chair of pain.  They’re up above looking in from some type of observation room (with blinds) and he isn’t aware they’re up there.  Andrea has a chance to shoot him but Milty stops her.  UGH!!! Milty, you are such a buzz-kill.  Andrea heads off to warn the folks at the prison that the fit is gonna hit the shan and has to get past Tyrese and Sasha in order to do so.  They half-heartedly try to stop her but let her go and blab to the Governor and Martinez about her leaving.  You’re killing me, Tyrese! 

Martinez takes Tyrese, Sasha, and their two red-shirt buddies, Allen and Ben off to see the pit of spare biters they’ve been collecting.  Tyrese correctly guesses that they’ll be used against the prison folk and wants nothing to do with it.  He and red-shirt Allen fight and Tyrese is definitely the stronger of the two in both strength and character.  Later someone (we don’t see their face) sets fire to the pit of biters and I think we’re supposed to assume it was Tyrese. 

 Meanwhile, Andrea is on the run from a pick-up that’s hot on her trail.  She evades capture from some walkers and ends up outrunning the truck but both wind up at an abandoned warehouse.  Is it necessary to say “abandoned” because aren’t most things in their world abandoned?  Anywhoodle, it’s the Governor driving said truck and this incredibly scary cat and mouse thing goes down inside the warehouse.  He comes close to finding her a few times but she’s able to get the upper hand and lets loose a stairwell full of biters on him and runs out of the building.  It’s at this point where I would have found a way to take his truck from him but then that would be too easy.  Andrea finally reaches the prison, raises her hand in a wave to Rick who is on lookout and then is quickly tackled by the damn Governor.  Rick thinks he saw something and then quickly disregards it as one of his hallucinations.  Fantastic.

The Governor returns to Woodbury claiming to have not found Andrea.  He confronts Tyrese about the pit but after chatting with Milty realizes who the real culprit was.  Then the camera takes a journey down a creepy hallway ending in the Governor’s torture chamber.  We see Andrea is strapped in to the dentist’s chair of utter and total pain and my heart breaks for her.

Dude, I almost forgot to mention the creepy whistling thing the Governor does when he's in a good/torturey mood.  It's the worst tell EVER.  He did it while playing with his torture tools and again while he was chasing Andrea through the warehouse.  I know they want his character to last at least through the rest of this season but he needs to be taken care of already.  He's AWFUL!