Thursday, April 24, 2014

Bibo


Time for another short film!

As evidenced by yesterday's post, I stumble across short films every now and then and decide to post them here. Most skew toward a certain direction of interest, but some are admittedly only tangentially related to the stuff I usually go on and on about (Comics, Sci-fi Movies, Myself), so when I saw this one, I thought: "Well... it does have a robot in it...", so I put it up. Anton Chistiakov and Mikhail Dmitriev--two people I am not familiar with at all, mostly likely because it looks like this is the only thing they've really done and put out there--wrote, directed, and produced. It's called Bibo, and it's the story of a robot who has long out-lasted his creators.

Let's watch together, shall we?



A classic trope: The things we leave behind. Very melancholy, as required. It certainly looked great, but I don't know if there's much else going on there. Maybe it needed a little more regret, a little more longing, a little more of the tangible loss for the character. It was on the right track, I think, but in the end it fell a little short.

till next time,
Jon

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

PROXiMITY


PROXiMITY is a short film by Ryan Connolly and Seth Worley. They don't seem to really have a website for the film, which is weird, so I linked to what I found. I don't know... That's the Internet, I guess. Very professional and not shoddy and cheap at all. Anyway, from IMDB page:

After waking to find their ankles rigged with proximity triggered bombs, two men find themselves bound together while being forced to play a twisted game of survival as they are hunted by their captors.

A bit of a run-on sentence there, huh? Seriously though, I love how they were able to work the title into the synopsis. Way to ring that bell, guys. "Wait... Proximity triggered bombs?? Proximity? Why, that's the title of the movie! Oooooh... it's all so clear now..." Heh... Okay, so let's do a little pre-viewing speculation from off of all these hints: the lack of a real website, the half-ass synopsis containing the title, the mere fact that it's on the internet exclusively... none of this really inspires much confidence for me, but... fuck it, let's give it a shot and see what's what, right?

Surely we've watched worse...




...And don't call me Shirley.

So what do we have here? To start with, we have your basic Battle Royale set-up, the twist of course being in the title: everyone is collared and paired off and the pairs have to stay in close... wait for it... proximity. See what they did there?

There's some basic visual cues for simple visualizations: Good guys in white, bad guys in black, yadda, yadda, yadda. simple, but effective enough for shorthand. In the plus column for them, there's some really good action here. Not to mention some great tension with a really good use of the beeping and the lights on the ankle collars. That was all really well done. And it definitely looks great too. Professional lighting. Good camerawork. A lot of short films and amateur efforts really under-estimate the importance of all that, so good on these guys.

The downside is the weak ending, of course. It needed more of an explanation, more of a reveal of the whole set-up at the end. What was going on? Who was running it? For what purpose? And why did the White Shirt Winner end up as one of the Black Shirts at the end? I mean... that's the meat of the whole thing, right? Or was it just a chase film? If it was... eh, that definitely lowers my opinion of it, changing it to the short film version of a Michael Bay film, all sound and fury, y'know? I don't see the point of that kind of shit.

Either way, the weirdest part of all is that it mentions at the end that you can go to this weird half-ass paysite and download a High Quality version of the short that comes with the "bonus" of an hour of special features... What? An hour? What the fuck for? An hour of special features about an 11 minute short film? Ah... no thanks.

Oh well, these things happen, people.

Let's just move on,
Jon

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Darwyn Cooke's Batman Beyond


Darwyn Cooke is a well-known comic creator. His biggest book is probably DC: The New Frontier. Set in 1950s America, it's all about how the Golden Age of comics became the Silver Age using the Cold War and the Space Race as parallels. It shows, among others, how a character like Batman went from the noir avenger of the night he was initially envisioned as, to the more familiar Adam West-like Batman of the 1960s. Cooke's art is a more stylized update of the classic Golden Age style, lots of clean lines and squared jaws, and it's a really nice contrast to the more serious story line of New Frontier. It's a really attractive book and fun read, you might want to check it out. He is also partially responsible for Catwoman's most recent costume. Notable for it's more utilitarian leanings, eliminating things like the stupid high heels most female characters are inexplicably drawn wearing, in favor of a more professional and realistic type of boot, it's a nice step in the right direction.

Plus, it looks pretty awesome, check it out...


Pretty cool.

So, it makes sense that since Cooke is pretty connected to the Bat-verse that he would be next up with an entry into the whole "really, really short film in celebration of Batman's 75th birthday" thing that is apparently going on. However, Cooke's short film has nothing to do with Catwoman. This time, where Bruce Timm's previous offering was an homage to Batman's early years, Cooke's short is one from Batman's late ones... his very late ones. In fact, it stars the new Batman from the animated series Batman Beyond, a show set 40 years in Bruce Wayne's future, featuring a young man named Terry McGinnis, who gets taken under a very old Bruce's wing and trained as the new Batman, waging his endless war on crime in a hi-tech fancy-schmancy futuristic version of the Bat-suit.

It was a good show, especially because of moments like this: (Dialogue Note: "Schway" is your typical kind of future-set show's super-future-like street slang. It means: Cool ...But only in the context of the show, people, never in real life. Never in real life...)


Well, huh... I did not remember that last part... Apparently, ol' Brucie was about to treat himself to a trip down Memory Lane and then celebrate his birthday in a more traditionally Batman kind of way: angry, alone, and in the dark...

Anyway... like I said, occasional weird cartoon masturbation allusions aside, it was a good show. Neo-Gotham was portrayed as a huge megaplex, very Blade Runner-like, a massive cyberpunk sprawl with giant skyscrapers and flying cars and out-of-control killer robots, and Terry--with a very crotchety old Bruce riding shotgun in his ear via the Internet--facing a whole list of villains, both new and old. Terry and Bruce's relationship is very well done too, a mix of antagonistic father-son, strong allies, and loving mentor-student. They do a lot of good character opportunity there, and of course, there's a deeper connection between the two than first suspected. The show manages to be an easily recognizable Batman show and yet also stay its own thing.

It's worth checking out, as is this short...



Not bad, right? It's another amuse-bouche short, so it's hard to really say whether or not it's actually good or actually bad. It's blink-or-you'll-miss-it short. But for what it is, it's fun. I enjoyed it.

Superstitious and cowardly,
Jon

Monday, April 21, 2014

Films I'm looking forward to - Gone Girl

Man, do I love David Fincher movies. 

That's not a question; it's a statement. I do love David Fincher movies. Fight Club. The Social Network. The Game. Se7en. Even Aliens 3 and the American version of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I love them. Okay, sure... maybe not Benjamin Buttons, but then, no one loves that terrible movie, so no big whoop. And Zodiac? Zodiac is one of my all-time favorite movies ever. Seriously. I love that film. Many of you long time readers might remember that I mentioned it in my Hot 100 list of movies awhile back. Find the Director's cut, if you can. It's engrossing and atmospheric and so, so great. Highly recommended. I love it. So obviously, I would concede the fact that it's fair to say that I look forward to his films.

And so you'll understand why, when I heard Fincher's next film was going to be Gone Girl, that I sat up and took notice.


Gone Girl is a book by Gillian Flynn. A murder mystery thriller, from the author's website:

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick Dunne’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick Dunne isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but hearing from Amy through flashbacks in her diary reveal the perky perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer? As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister Margo at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was left in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?

I haven't read it yet. It's been on my To-Be-Read List for awhile now. I haven't been avoiding it, it's just that my To-Be-Read Pile goes pretty deep. However, with the movie coming, I will probably bump it up the list and order it soon. I've heard nothing but good things. But... and this is kind of cool, apparently whether or not you have read the book before seeing the movie won't matter in this case because author Gillian Flynn wrote the screenplay too... and she changed the ending.

Very interesting. Let's check out the trailer.


That is a powerhouse trailer, folks. Powerhouse. I am very much looking forward to this film.

Not gone... or a girl,
Jon

Monday, April 14, 2014

Batman: Strange Days



Bruce Timm is a well known name when it comes to Batman. He's the man behind the Batman Animated Series that debuted in 1992 and as a result, responsible for the iconic style that drove DC's animation for the better part of the next two decades. At this point it is probably fair to say that he is perhaps as defining an influence on Batman now as the men responsible for his creation (Bob Kane and Bill Fingers), so it makes sense for him to return to Batman just in time for the Caped Crusader's 75th Anniversary. For those of us familiar with his work, it's probably not surprising to see him return with an homage not only to his original Pulp era, but to his actual first adventure, the one appearing in May of 1939 in Detective Comics #27.


75 years is an incredible run, it's a testament to how malleable the character of Batman is, how his many different elements can be used to put him in a wide variety of adventures and how easily he can be used to say and be many different things to many different people. The always erudite and insightful Film Crit Hulk has some interesting things to say on the subject here, if you're interested. It's a long article, and some of you might have issues with the voice, but I urge you to ignore all that and dive in, it's a good read that is well worth your time. Then, once you're as caught up on those link tangents as you want to be, check out the video below, it's the previously mentioned return of Mr. Timm to a character he has helped to define. It's a bit of a big deal in Nerd-world right now. It's shorter than the Hulk article, of course, but is perhaps just as revealing as to Batman's core appeal.

Watch it. Enjoy.



Cool, huh? You've got to love that Noir/Pulp style. It's so definitively of its time period and yet so easily timeless. In the end, this short might be too short to really be anything, more of an amuse-bouche than an actual meal, but whatever, beggars, choosers, yadda, yadda, yadda. I really like the choice of Hugo Strange as the bad guy. Despite what some might assume, a Mad Scientist is much more in line with the Batman's roots than someone like the Joker or the Penguin would be. I'm not sure if the big thug Batman was tussling with was Solomon Grundy or if he was just a generic big monster guy, but either way, it's a nice illustration of the character's limitations and the type of obstacles he regularly faces. Yeah, good stuff. All around, it was all very classic, the gear, the look, the feel, very well done. Tear Gas bullets... Did you see that? The bad guy can fall to his (presumed) death, but he can't be shot, I guess. 

I suppose that's a big part of Batman too, right?

Amuse-bouched,
Jon

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Hey, whattaya' know... the 2nd half of the 4th Season of the Walking Dead didn't suck.


It would be fair to say that I'm a zombie fan. It would be fair to say that I like comic books. And it would be fair to say that while I was once pretty excited about The Walking Dead TV show, in the time since I have been largely disappointed by it.


It may be one of the more successful shows currently on television, but it is hands down one of the worst. I mean, it looks great, sure, the effects and the gore are top-notch, but who cares? Shouldn't that be a given? It's a zombie show. "I just tune in for the zombie action," some folks say. Well, you must demand better, my friends. You must demand better. Barely developed characters. Meaningless scenes. Hack dialogue. Terrible World Building. Complete absence of  narrative focus. False drama. I've talked about all of this on here before. I talked about the First Season here and here and I talked about the Second Season here. Feel free to peruse those links at your leisure, but in a nutshell: Dumb as fuck is being kind, people.


I mean, that's obviously just a joke, but it does point toward the larger issues and that is what makes the show so bad. So bad, in fact, I gave up on it.

Since then, I would occasionally hate-watch it, mostly because I'm a sucker, but also because I like zombies, and each time I would find myself aggravated to no end by the dumb shit the characters would do as they ran about in the aimless little circles that make up the threadbare and glacial plot, mewling hammy soliloquies completely disconnected from the brain-dead story and the entire fictional reality of the show's world, and never ever making sense. It was mind-numbing. Even worse, even more aggravating, was the things they wouldn't do. How many episodes did the characters look over at the fence in mild concern while a horde of zombies shook it relentlessly... Shouldn't you people be addressing this potential problem? But no. They don't. Not until it's too late and the fence collapses. Why? Because False Drama and Hack Bullshit, the hallmark of this shitty show.

It's the worst.


Drives me nuts...

So, we're all clear on my thoughts on this show now, right? Have I made it clear enough? Huh? Yes? No? If you're still unclear, well then I recommend you go read those old reviews I linked to in the opening paragraph. If you're still unclear after that, well then, my friend, you might be part of the problem. But for the rest of you: You understand my feelings, yes? Good. I hope so. I hope at this point I have made that abundantly clear.

Because here's the thing... ever since returning from the mid-season break? The Fourth Season has actually been NOT awful. In fact, it's been kinda Not Bad, maybe even "All Right". That this coincides with the firing of pretty much all of the old guard behind-the-scenes, the end of the seemingly endless slog that was the prison story arc and the tedious presence of the Governor, not to mention the deaths of several of the most terrible and most criminally inconsistent and under-developed "characters" is probably not a coincidence.

Now... just to be clear... I don't know if I would call the show "good" yet. Not yet. But it's definitely better. Much, much better. In fact now, while I still have a few complaints, they're more of the regular variety. They're more the type of thing you might reasonably expect to find in a half-decent show, instead of the bottom-of-the-barrel swill common in the earlier seasons. These more recent episodes are more like something worth watching, something I might recommend a person check out, if you have the time. I realize that this is quite the 180 degree turn-around from my previous held position. I hope you realize that too and give it its due weight. Let it never be said that I won't re-evaluate my opinion based on new output.

But you don't quite believe me, do you? Or maybe you can't believe me? I get it, man. I get it. I understand your reticence. I really do. It is with this in mind that I've decided to review the last eight episodes, all for you, so you can see and maybe believe.

That's just how I roll.


But first! If you're going to jump in and check out these episodes, in order to understand where the show is at this point, you have to understand what has happened up til now...

Just kidding. Fuck that shit. Nothing's happened. Nothing but stupid shit. Have you ever watched a dog wildly chase its own tail and then crash into something and fall over? The first three and a half season were pretty much just like that, but with more zombies. Shit happened. Explosions. Blood. Nonsense. Stupid crap. You don't need to know the intimates of the characters' backgrounds, where they been, or anything like that. For one, because there really aren't any fleshed-out backgrounds to speak of, that's kind of part of the problem. I think the motto of the original writing staff was: "Backstory? Fuck that." At this point, most of the complexity people attribute to the "characters" is more due to simple longevity, rather than writing, so don't worry about it. And for two, let's be honest, you already know what happened. You've either seen the show before or you've heard about it enough in other ways (maybe from me), and if not, you've probably seen a zombie movie or two. Night of the Living Dead? Dawn of the Dead? Even 28 Days Later--despite it not actually being a zombie movie--you've seen that, right? So to answer the question: What happened in the earlier seasons? All that stuff. Zombie stuff. But not nearly as good or interesting.

Don't worry about it. You're smart. You'll figure it out.

Besides, one of the most impressive strengths of this new writing staff, that I've noticed, is how they have aligned their new story direction with the old story lines just enough, succinctly re-explaining any old stuff they might need, all while smoothly moving away from the massive pile of hacky crap. They're not fussing with unnecessary details. They're not dwelling on what came before too hard. They're ret-conning without re-writing. It's pretty well done for the most part.

SO... my advice to all of you out there, is that you just act like the series is starting right now, in media res and be okay with that. Let the old stuff alone, walk away and let it die.

Trust me, it's just better that way...


That being said, there are a few important things to keep in mind. Quibbles, maybe. Maybe not. And maybe not for you either, to be honest, maybe this is more for the writing staff moving forward. Whatever, I'm gonna talk about it anyway because I fucking want to and besides, if I have one main complaint about these episodes, it's this: The Timeline. Why is this a problem? Because it's important. Because the timeline means certain things can happen at this point and certain things can no longer happen. And they seem to be having a few issues with that.

Let's examine it...


So the show starts before all of the Zombie Apocalypse Shit hits the Fan of Civilization. While trying to stop a car full of bad guys, hero Rick ends up in a coma. Tres melodramatic. Then he wakes up. And when he does, he finds himself a couple of weeks into a zombie apocalypse. I'd say no less than two weeks and probably closer to a month, some people say two, but that seems like a long time for Rick to survive without water, so I say a month. The rest of the first season itself can't be more than a week, so at the close of the First Season: One Month, Give or Take, Post Zombie Apocalypse.

The Second Season picks up a few days later, maybe only a couple, maybe a week, but not more judging by how the characters interact. Despite the fact that it seems to go on forever and is maybe the worst season of television ever written (although I will cop to possible hyperbole there), the Second Season only lasts a week or two. So, at the close of the Second Season: Two Months, Give or Take, Post Zombie Apocalypse.

Season Three opens and it's Spring. An entire Winter has passed. I've seen some people claim almost eight months have passed, but the show takes place in the south, so it can't be more than six, right? Either way, the rest of Season Three--once again, despite seemingly being interminable--can't last more than a couple of weeks, so let's say, seven months, all told. So at the close of the Third Season: Nine Months, Give or Take, Post Zombie Apocalypse.

The Fourth Season opens and a bunch of time has passed again. Enough to grow some crops and build up stuff around the prison, so at least three months, maybe four. I've seen some people say six, but that just makes me wonder why they haven't patched the holes in their perimeter and killed all the zombies that hang out in the bowels of the prison. Six months? Why wouldn't you at least have picked up all the knocked over filing cabinets and spilled papers in the offices? Quit living like pigs, people. Come on! Anyway, let's say four months have passed. The rest of the first half of the fourth season is only a few days at most. So, at the close of the First Half of the Fourth Season: Thirteen Months at least, probably more, Give or Take, Post Zombie Apocalypse.

That's over a year in the In-world Time-line. This is important because it speaks to the characters' lives and experience. You've all seen movies. Charlie Sheen gets off the plane in Vietnam and he is as green as a spring day, but by the end of his tour, after a year in Vietnam, he's all tan and dirty and wearing a headband and a sleeveless t-shirt and smoking cigarettes. His squint and cock-legged stance tell you that lessons have been hard-learned and knowledge key to his survival has been gained. After a year, he is now experienced. He's a veteran.

A year in a Post Zombie Apocalypse landscape should have the same effect.

And going forward, that is what it looks like the show's biggest issue is going to be, a weird side effect resulting from their attempts to fix the show. See, while trying to right the ship, after the last couple of tries have kept running it into shore, the writers will want to hit certain notes and establish certain tones and realities for their new fictional world, classic situations and lessons, things that were missed in the first few seasons or--as is more likely the case--were horribly bungled. The problem is, if the characters have been out there for over a year--and they have--then you just can't do some of that any more.

Hmmm... I'm supposed to be doing something...

The new Showrunner (I believe he's the third or fourth one now) is named Scott Gimple. I don't know his work really, other than this, but I like what he does. He had written a few episodes before this, but he did one in Season 3 that kind of heralded his new position and kind of showed what he would be doing when he took the helm. It's considered one of the better episodes. I'm not going to bother recapping it here, but it involves Carl trying to get a picture of his now (thankfully) dead mom, Lori (the worst). It's better than it sounds. Anyway, it is also a good illustration of this new issue I'm talking about. In the episode, there's a hitchhiker. The characters don't pick him up, even though they pass him a couple of times. The show does this to show that the characters have learned some hard lessons about this new world they live in when it comes to strangers and their own survival. At the end of the episode, the hitchhiker is dead, killed by zombies, and the characters take his backpack and gear. It's a good way to show how the new world works and what it means to survive and what you have to sacrifice in order to adjust.

So what's the problem, you ask?

Well... at that point in the show, it had been at least eight months--probably more--since the whole Zombie Kerfuffle happened, so where the hell has this hitchhiker been? He looks like a kid trekking across Europe. No weapon, no scars, like he had been up in Vale, just chilling with his bros and then he comes ambling back down to find... whoa, dude.. zombies, bro... After eight months? Where the hell has he been? In the first season this would have been okay. The first couple of weeks? Sure, okay. But a year later? No. It's been a year. Where has he been? I can understand why they did it and why they wanted to, I just hope they stay more mindful of the realities/rules of the fictional world they operate in, of their time line. I mean, it's their rules. They set them up, so they should be much more vigilant of abiding by them. I guess that's what I really want: Play by the rules you set up. No cheating. The stories are better when you do that.

...But I digress. I'm sorry, but I do go on. Let's just get down to brass tacks, shall we?

Caution: There may be Spoilers...

Season 4 -  Episode 9 - "After"


This is the first episode back and I'll just be honest up front, it's the roughest of the bunch. It's a bit heavy-handed and it's all set-up, but I still give it a pass. The previous seasons were all such crap, they really do need an episode just to clean up the board and re-set. So... the prison is in flames and overrun by zombies, lots of people are dead everywhere and everyone else has to make a break for it. Carl and a sick and staggering-about Rick end up crashing in an abandoned house and Carl has to care for his injured father, even though he's all teenage-princess-pissed at him. This episode is all about personal growth. Carl is still terrible throughout, of course, but the image of him ramming into a door and bouncing off and falling over is a sweet, sweet salve for that annoyance. Rick doesn't grow at all. He's passed out. It can't be helped, the whole "Rick is sick in order to put him in a closet dramatically for the length of the episode so that Carl can grow as a person/character" bit is direct from the comic, so blame that for being lame. Michonne meanwhile mopes and wanders just like she always has, but they use that to lead her to a somewhat cliched but much needed "I want to live" moment and she ends up hooking up with Rick and Carl again. See, it's all about re-setting the board. The rest of the episodes get better, promise, so stick with it.

Season 4 - Episode 10 - "Inmates"


In the wake of the big slap-fight at the prison, several Redshirts are devoured by goo-smeared Extras who are just happy to be there. Most of the characters with names (presumably) scatter in all directions. This is the companion episode to the previous one, but it isn't as maudlin. Okay, Daryl's a little mopey in his redneck emo way, but that's for the ladies. And he's with Beth who is not only a ray of sunshine, but probably feels faint for having to do so much in a single episode after two and a half seasons of just holding the baby in the background or maybe setting the table. Glenn's a little extra whiny too, but he does wake up all alone and surrounded by zombies. Also, he can't find Maggie and since they're married and often have the sex at each other, this is perhaps a little understandable. Also also, he gets major points for going back and grabbing his riot gear suit. This is a good thing, people, because if the characters act more according to the realities of their world, there is less chance of stupid shit. Plus, it's just nice to see that the writers are even thinking about it at all. Anyway, while leaving the prison he runs into one of the few surviving brand-new characters from last season, and former dumbshit ally to the dumbshit Governor, Tara. In the previous season, she was basically just a lesbian and a big talker, so it was nice to see her do other stuff. Anyway, she is driven by guilt, due to her having assisted the stupid Governor, to help Glenn find Maggie. Maggie, meanwhile, is with Sasha and Bob. Who? Exactly. They're all looking for Glenn. Oh, the irony... Meanwhile, Tyrese has the two creepy little girls and Rick's baby, but he's a terrible babysitter and the children almost get killed, if not for Carol, warrior of the wasteland, showing up. And here is where we're introduced to the focus of the season. Along the railroad tracks is a sign telling them to follow the tracks to a safe haven. It's a long ways away and it's never clear who exactly went all that way to hang the sign, but whatever. This is the thrust of the back half of the season, one every group will eventually fall in line for: The journey to Terminus. Safe Haven. Follow the tracks to safety. Simple and effective. I like that. The episode ends with Glenn fainting because he's all mad or something and a truck pulls up and a trio brand new and recognizable comic book characters get out. Say hello to Abraham, Eugene, and Rosalita, folks, not to mention the end of all the set-up. Really. I promise. Kind of...

Season 4 - Episode 11 - "Claimed"


Michonne is the most interesting development in this episode and the most obvious representation of the show's new direction. Those of you out there who have been watching the show regularly might be shaken by the fact that she's suddenly walking around smiling and talking and generally acting like a human being and is no longer a weirdly out-of-place sneering mute super ninja. It is a little awkward, but it's a good thing. I mean, yes, she still has a magical Real Deal Holyfield Five-Body Blade in the middle of God damn Georgia that she uses one-handed to cleave zombies in half like they're made out of butter (out of Butt-tah!), and yet never seems to sharpen it, but... whatever, it's a zombie show. I'm fine with that, if it means she's no longer a one-dimensional zombie killing machine with dreads. So, her and Carl wander off to find supplies and become BFF all forever and shit while Rick rests in the abandoned house. Too bad for Rick, bad guys show up and they seem mean. While slipping out, Rick has to kill one, who then becomes a zombie who attacks his buddies. In the confusion, the trio slip off into the woods and find the signs pointing to Terminus. A narrow escape! But you just know those bad guys will show up again though, because one of them is the guy who played Dodger on China Beach and he's ALWAYS a featured bad guy. Meanwhile, Glenn wakes up in the back of the new people's truck, realizes he's going the wrong way, and throws a bitch fit. The new people stop the truck and Glenn goes stomping off in a huff. He's leaving to find Maggie. Tara tries to talk sense to him. You see, Eugene (the guy with the mullet) claims to be a scientist and knows what started the plague. Abraham (the guy with the mustache) is taking Eugene to D.C. and he is very dedicated to the mission. Rosalita (the one without a penis... presumably), I don't know... she's cute. Anyway, they all argue long and loud enough to--surprise--draw zombies. And that's where the issue I talked about earlier rears it's ugly head. Eugene picks up a rifle (an M-4, to be exact) and while trying to kill zombies, he shoots all wild and willy-nilly and ka-ka-ka-raZY! And he shoots up the truck. And now they all have to walk, so they join Glenn's hunt for Maggie, but Abraham promises that it's only until they find a new vehicle. Very convenient.

And a bullshit cheat.

It's a bullshit cheat for a couple of reasons. 1. It's fucking dumb. 2. There is no way anyone, no matter how unfamiliar they are with guns, could shoot an M-4 all wild and spinning and uncontrolled. It just doesn't work like that. There's a reason it's the basic rifle of the U.S. Army. And 3. Because it's been over a year since the Zombie Apocalypse. In that time, you can assume everyone on the road has lived through at least three breakdowns. The first one being the first days zombies showed up, of course, when everything went crazy. The second one probably being when they were in the initial FEMA or whatever large camp most people would have probably ended up in because they were seeking shelter, the place that inexperience and too large a population would eventually cause to collapse and get overrun. The third time would have to be whatever smaller group they were with before they ended up as a handful of stragglers who have newly found each other. Sounds right, right? And in that year's time, with all that experience, a person would have had a little bit of experience with guns, even a little bit, especially when they're on an important mission with a gung-ho soldier, right? And here's the kicker... he DOES have experience, because we see him cock the rifle, we see him get it ready to fire, so he knows how to use it. He has experience. That's why it's a bullshit cheat. Not only is it not possible, but it doesn't make sense even if it was. But they had to keep them together and on the road, right? I understand that, I just wish they had come up with a more interesting way to pull it off.

Season 4 - Episode 12 - "Still"


This episode was all about Daryl and Beth. They try to find shelter in an old Country Club and find a former hiding place that went feral. Lots of dead bodies. Beth is getting a little truculent and bitter because, in the past year or so, her family of maybe a dozen or so are now all gone. She believes she's the only one left, because she doesn't know Maggie is still alive. She's always been a good girl and she wants to drink away the pain. Daryl doesn't like all the raw emotion and he's getting testy. Zombies eventually show up and chase them off and Daryl takes her to a run-down old shack he had found at some previous point while exploring. Inside is a Still and a lot of moonshine. The duo proceed to get drunk and bond. There's actually some good and naturalistic character work going on, some levity too, as they play a drunken game of "Never Have I Ever" which all culminates in a well-done and cathartic emotional climax for them both. We learn a bit more about Daryl too. None of it is real surprising (at one point he basically does a redneck version of John Bender's speech in the Breakfast Club), but it's well done. Best of all, we learn a lot about Beth, someone who was always barely a character before now. I mean, I think the only way she's survived until now is mostly because the writers just kept forgetting to kill her off. Her name should have been: And Beth Was There Too. But after this episode, she has some depth. Unfortunately, the dread and zombie tension are well-done enough that you can't help but start to feel real nervous for Beth, know what I mean? Anyway, the previous three episodes were all fine, I enjoyed them, but they were more "much improved", y'know? This episode is the first one that actually felt "well done".

Season 4 - Episode 13 - "Alone


When I first read the synopsis, it was something about "Bob does so and so" and I was like: Who? Oh. The drunk medic. Anyway, like the last episode, this one is mostly about Maggie and Sasha and Bob. And just like last episode, each character, their personality, and their motivations are explored and revealed. Barring a few awkward moments, it's all pretty well done. The trio has found the signs pointing toward Terminus and Maggie is determined to go there, hoping Glenn is doing the same. Sasha doesn't want to go because if Tyrese isn't there, then that would mean he was probably dead and she doesn't want to deal with that. Bob has survived so many groups being torn apart by zombies, he's just happy to be with other living people. There's a couple of good zombie fights, one in heavy fog and another where Maggie uses a street sign like a big battle axe. And the trio eventually comes to the realization that they need each other to survive, so they end up heading for Terminus together. Meanwhile, Beth and Daryl are bonding, having found a recently abandoned Funeral Home, even though it's well-stocked with stuff. Also, whoever was there, they have been giving the zombies proper burials. The duo decide to only take some of the supplies, in case anyone comes back. Beth does some singing, of course, then they have dinner. Eventually Daryl hears a dog barking and he goes outside to yell at it, because he's just had a stroke or something. He doesn't even look to see if it's the dog on the porch before flinging open the door like a stupid idiot. And is it the dog? No, of course not, it's a million zombies standing quietly on the porch like fucked up Jehovah's Witnesses. "Can we talk to you about Jesus? RRRRAARRGGG!" I mean, what the fuck? There's a lot of cheats there I don't like at all. A very poorly done transition. I mean, why not just have the zombies come crashing in the windows? So dumb. Anyway, in the chaos, Beth and Daryl get separated and by the time Daryl catches up, all he finds is Beth's bag in the road and red taillights zipping away. And before he can run after, he's surrounded by dudes and uh, oh... one of them is Dodger from China Beach and he's leading a sort of White Trash Brigade, lots of mullets and tank tops and unironic meshback hats. Daryl ends up joining their group and doesn't really mention what happened to Beth for the rest of the episodes. At best, all he ever says is: "She was just gone." Why wouldn't he mention the car? And is she really gone? I'm betting she either shows up at Terminus or the Funeral Home guy has her, whoever he is. Of course, next time we do see her, she'll probably die immediately after... Sorry Beth, you were the longest-lived of all the Redshirts.

Season 4 - Episode 14 - "The Grove"


Carol, the warrior of the wasteland, and Tyrese and Rick's baby and those two super creepy little girls are still on their way to Terminus. Mika is the smaller little girl and she's too sweet. Carol says, if she doesn't toughen up, she'll die. Lizzie, meanwhile, is crazy as a shit house rat and thinks zombies are just misunderstood and she has a tendency to snap and lash out violently. She's going to be a problem, because she's totally nuts and getting nuttier by the day, even going so far as contemplating letting a trapped zombie bite her. But what do they do with her? That's an issue that's tabled though when they find a nice house with pecan trees and some deer grazing nearby. Carol thinks it's a good place, even after a local forest fire spills a buttload of charred zombies into their backyard, and Tyrese is feeling skittish at the thought of Terminus and meeting more strangers, so they decide to stay there. But then Lizzie stabs Mika to death, because she's looney tunes, and she would have stabbed Rick's baby too, but Carol and Tyrese stop her. There's a lot of emotion and questioning about what to do with Lizzie, which leads to Carol having to execute the girl like a rabid dog. The fallout from that horrible moment and all the guilt and anger and sadness leads to Carol admitting to Tyrese that while back in the prison, she was the one that killed Tyrese's sick girlfriend in order to stop the spread of a killer flu within the confines of the prison. Tyrese decides to forgive her, but says he won't forget it. It's an intense moment. After burying the girls, Carol and Tyrese and Rick's baby continue on, toward Terminus. This was maybe the best episode of the bunch. It was tough and emotional. It didn't flinch or pull any punches. It manages to do better in one single episode what the second season was completely unable to accomplish. It was very well done and the way the level of complexity was handled really bodes well for the future of the series.

Season 4 - Episode 15 - "Us"


In the second to last episode of the season, we get a smorgasbord of stories slowly gathering together. Glenn, Tara, Abraham, Rosalita, and Eugene are closing in on Maggie and Bob and Sasha. Eugene hitting on Tara is pretty funny. It's nice to see some regular normal humor in the show, y'know... like people do. Rick is farther back from those groups and Michonne and Carl continue to bond as they follow the tracks. Meanwhile Daryl is stuck with Dodger and the White Trash Brigade and he discovers that the group is actually tracking Rick. He finds this disconcerting, but luckily one of the White Trash Brigade is super jelly of Daryl and really wants to fight him and this distracts from the conversation. Dodger says no fighting and explains the group's simple rules to Daryl. No lying. No stealing. If you want something, just say you claim it.  Daryl has lived with people like this before and figures: When in Rome... But the super jelly White Trash guy won't let it go and tries to frame Daryl for stealing, but it backfires and the group beats the guy to death for his infraction. Daryl finds this disconcerting as well. The next day they set out and we then see that they are gaining on Rick and Michonne and Carl. Meanwhile, Glenn and the others come to a train tunnel that obviously has a ton of zombies deep within it, so Abraham refuses to take Eugene into it. Too dangerous. He and Eugene and Rosalita split from Glenn and Tara, opting to go around. Glenn has to make sure Maggie isn't in there, alive or dead. Inside the tunnel... zombies. Glenn and Tara almost make it, but they get cornered and they're screwed, but then Abraham and Eugene and Rosalita come roaring in from the other side in a minivan and shoot all the zombies. Bonus: They also have Maggie, Bob, and Sasha with them, who they met on the other side of the tunnel. Glenn and Maggie hug and probably do it, because tradition. Eugene convinces Abraham to go to Terminus with the others, before continuing onto D.C. and so the whole group piles in the minivan. The rest of the trip is quick. Terminus is a huge railway station. It is weirdly quiet, easy to enter, and devoid of zombies. They have gardens and tables with umbrellas and Tasha Yar disguised as a nice hippy lady welcomes the group and offers them bbq.

If it was me, I would have run right then, but.. y'know...

Season 4 - Episode 16 - "A"



The season finale starts with a classic Walking Dead cold opening. "Oh no, Rick is sitting alone against an abandoned truck, shaking and covered with blood! What happened? Oh no! Panic! Panic!" Opening credits. Damn it! Then we get a flashback to several months ago, a time between the second and third season where Beth and Maggie's (thankfully) dead Dad Hershel convinces Rick to put down his gun and start farming, a time when the show specialized in stupid unrealistic conflicting messages handled with all the subtlety of a big hammy fucking sledgehammer. Then we jump forward to before the cold opening where Rick, Carl, and Michonne are hunting in the woods and end up running from a horde of zombies. This leads them to the abandoned truck... uh oh. In the middle of the night Dodger and the White Trash Brigade happen on them and start giggling and threatening anal rape, as rednecks are of course well known to do. Daryl tries to talk sense, but the rednecks are pretty damn set on that anal rape and they get mad that Daryl isn't interested, so they turn on him too. Oh, the punching and the kicking! Things look bleak, but the rednecks don't realize who they're fucking with. They soon learn though when Rick tears Dodger's throat out with his teeth. Gross. Talk about a needle-scratch moment, amirite? Rick and the others then make short bloody work of the rest of the white trash brigade, because those four are killer-dillers, man. Then they rest, exhausted after utterly fucking destroying a half dozen rednecks. Daryl and Rick bond as brothers and Carl and Michonne bond as surrogate mother and son. I snark, but they did a good job with this. It seems natural and understated. It's not forced. It works. So then it's on to Terminus. This time the group is smarter. First they stash some of their weapons and then they go in through the back of the train station. However, once inside, the people of Terminus seem harmless. They let them keep their weapons and take them on a tour and offer them bbq. But then Rick notices what could be Glenn's riot gear and Maggie's poncho and then he sees one guy has Glenn's pocket watch that he got from (thankfully) dead Hershel. Guns are drawn. There's shooting and running and confusion and a weird room full of candles and what looks like memorials and epitaphs promising to never forget or trust and to always put "us" first. There's skeletons and dead bodies here and there. I'll be honest with you, it looks like bad news. It all ends with the Terminus hippies cornering them and ushering them into a lone boxcar marked with an "A". Hence the episode's title... The heroes are caught, but who else is in the boxcar with them? Well, Maggie and Glenn's group obviously. The band is back together, people, and they have come to Terminus for two things: bbq and kicking ass... and they're all out of bbq... And next season the Terminus hippies are gonna learn that they have messed with the wrong people. Especially because Tyrese and Carol, warrior of the wasteland, are still on their way...

A nice cliffhanger to end the season...


So that's it. A really well done back half of the season. Strong character work. Good action. Great effects. All around well done. If they keep their rules and timeline in mind, then my hope for the future of the show blooms anew. At the very least I'm interested in seeing what comes next. From the looks of it, they're basically leading into the "Fear the Hunters" story line. It's not set up exactly the same, but the whole encounter on the road with the White Trash Brigade and the glimpses of denuded bones at Terminus lead me to expect this, but who knows, that's just a guess. All I'm really hoping is that it's not leading toward Negan, because Negan sucks. Fingers crossed.

Cautiously optimistic,
Jon

Monday, March 31, 2014

Films I'm looking forward to - The Only Lovers Left Alive


Okay, sure, Vampires are a bit played out. More than a bit actually. But this looks cool. Super cool, in fact. I've actually been waiting for this film for a long time now. I mean, there's a real short list of Directors out there I would tolerate making a movie about vampiric ennui and very few people I would actually like to see star in it... and they've all somehow come together. How could I not be excited for it? Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston in a Jim Jarmusch film about an aimless pair of ancient and too-cool vampires living in the modern world? Ah... yes, please. Thank you. I'll take that right now.

What? You don't get it, do you? "Ugh, vampires..." you're thinking. Look, man, just watch the trailer and be honest: How could you not want to see this immediately?



Heh. Blood pops...

sucks,
Jon