Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Walking Dead S7E7 "Sing Me a Song" 12/4/16

Oh dear holy humping hell - why the FUCK are they doing all these extended episodes?  Negan talks and talks and talks and talks and fucking talks and a few other things happen around the edges but there is NO WAY that it merited 90 minutes.  I've bitched before that Andrew Lincoln/Rick isn't a strong enough actor to carry a whole episode.  Well, Chandler Riggs/Carl is soooooooooo not good enough an actor to lift so heavy a load.  At least Jeffrey Dean Morgan/Negan is around to talk and talk and talk and talk ....

Michonne goes out on her own.  She whistles to attract walkers, calmly slices their heads open with her sword and then drags them off.  From the bloody smears on the road, it's apparent that she's done this before.  Rosita drags Eugene off to that workshop he and Abraham found however long ago: she is going to force Eugene to make a bullet for her.  Spencer and Father Gabriel try to get them to come with on a scavenging run but Rosita is focused and tells Spencer to leave her the hell alone.  Spencer is too busy whining about how much Rick sucks to worry about her too much.

As the truck nears the Saviors' Sanctuary, Jesus tells Carl how to jump out of the truck and roll into the driver's blindspot so as not to be seen.  Carl's like, cool, you go first.  Jesus jumps out, rolls away and hides; Carl gives him a little wave and then fades back into the truck, picking out a choice semi-automatic rifle as he hides.  When the truck stops for unloading, Carl fires at will, killing two guys and shouting that he's only here for Negan.  Negan strolls up and Carl is quickly tackled, Daryl warily watching from behind a chainlink fence.

Negan decides that he will try to turn Carl to the dark side because it'll be fun.  He walks him through the complex, an old factory of some sort, showing off as people kneel before him, being benevolent as he promises fresh vegetables for everyone for continuing to follow the rules.  He shows Carl his harem - eight or so attractive women that Negan calls his "wives,' all wearing little black dresses, sitting in a fairly well-appointed room.  Dwight and Daryl stop by, having prepared a crudite tray (I shit you not).  Negan sends the two of them off to fire up the furnace and fetch a mop, then has Carl carry the crudite tray off to his private rooms.

Spencer and Gabriel drive and Spencer can't stop talking about how much Rick sucks.  So Gabriel tells him he's a shithead and that he's walking back to town.  Spencer: ???  Then Spencer hears something, runs out into the woods and finds a zombie - a former survivalist/hunter, still wielding a compound bow and stuck in a tree in a deer stand.  Spencer tugs the zombie out of the tree, collects the weapons and discovers a list in the dead man's pocket of all the supply caches hidden in the woods.  Score!

Negan talks and talks at Carl.  He makes the boy take the bandage off his wounded eye socket, makes Carl "sing [him] a song" while Negan dances around, swinging Lucille like a maniac, switching from menacing to cajoling to jovial on a dime.  Carl still has a little backbone in him but all he can do is tread water here, wondering WTF is coming next.  What's next: Negan brings Carl down to the furnace room.  Everyone is there, including a bound man ("Mark") who broke the rules and is due for punishment.  In this case, it's like how Dwight got punished: by having Negan press a red-hot iron into the side of Mark's face while he screams and then passes out.  Carl and Daryl trade quick looks, like holyshitomigoddidyoujustseethatpsychoshit.  Negan has made his point. I suspect the people living at the Sanctuary will toe the line, at least for a while.

At that workshop. Eugene doesn't want to enable Rosita in her seemingly suicidal quest to kill Negan.  She yells at him and says some mean but true things and repeats, over and over, "Make me a bullet."  Eugene makes her a bullet.

Negan talks and talks at Carl some more, then decides to take him back to Alexandria.  Just before they leave, Daryl is all, "If you do anything to [Carl] ..." and Negan's all, "Dwight, Daryl needs a time-out.  Put him back in his box for a while."  But while he is in his box, someone slips a piece of paper under the door.  There are some keys (?) taped to it and it reads, GO NOW.

Michonne has dragged enough walker corpses into a pile in the middle of the road that one of Negan's people (a red-headed woman) can't drive past.  Michonne ambushes her, taking her gun and her knife and forces her back into the car.  "Take me to Negan," says Michonne.

Back at Alexandria, Negan makes Carl take him to his and Rick's house.  Olivia is there, babysitting Judith.  Negan bullies her, makes her cry and then suggests that they go bone a while, just to pass the time.  Shocked, she slaps him in the face.  Negan just laughs, then leans in and tells her, "I am about 50% more into you now." He tells her to go make him and Carl some lemonade.  After she scurries off, he makes Carl take him on a tour of the house.  Carl tries to avoid his little sister's bedroom but Negan isn't to be put off.  He seems quite taken with the toddler, picking her up and cuddling her.  He and Carl sit on the porch, drinking lemonade, Judith in Negan's lap.  Negan is finding this suburban life all quite pleasant, actually, and he muses that maybe he should just kill Rick and Carl and move in.  Carl just glares daggers at him.

What, you ask, has Rick been doing all this time?  He and Aaron are out on a scavenging run.  They find a place with a big sign basically telling people to go away or they'll be shot ... and at the bottom, if they've read this far, then [the guy whose place it is] is dead and they can "have at it, assholes."  Rick and Aaron climb the fence and walk in, thinking they might find guns and ammo.  What they find is a pond with a houseboat moored in the center and dozens of walkers floating and moored around it.  Pretty clever, actually - still protecting the supplies, even after death.  Guess they'll go after it next episode.

I mean, I get all this.  Negan is an asshole, a sadist, an utter lunatic, but he verges on charming as well.  He's certainly the closest thing this show has to someone who is interesting - which is awful because he's a bad person.  But he's more interesting than Rick, certainly, so even though he is a crazy, scary, sadistic motherfucker, so he's almost becoming the main character.  I just find his schtick exhausting.

Previously on The Walking Dead / next time on The Walking Dead

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Walking Dead S7E6 "Swear" 11/27/16

God help us, yet another episode when nothing happens - not even hardly any zombies, which get less and less scary with every season and which have nearly been "reduced to an environmental hazard at this point." (A.V. Club)

A couple of girls walk up the beach, taking out whatever walkers they find washed up on the shore.  They also find Tara (remember her? Last seen after Rick and the Alexandrians took out the Saviors' outpost, after which she and Heath headed out on a two-week scavenging mission.  So it has ONLY been two weeks in the show's time. Bleh.)washed up on the shore.  The younger one, Rachel, is about to kill her - kill all strangers as a matter of course - but the older one, Cindy, keeps her from it, saving her life.  Cindy drags Tara above the high tide line.  This is the current timeline.

Flashback:  Tara and Heath are nearing the end of their two-week scavenger hunt.  They argue a bit about the meaning of life these days - Tara's all, we belong with other people, in communities, together.  Out on a bridge, they get attacked by a swarm of walkers and separated.  Tara ends up getting knocked off the bridge and washed down river, which is how she ended up on the beach.

Now: Tara comes to after Cindy leaves her a spear, some water and a dried fish.  When Cindy heads back to her settlement, Oceanside, Tara follows her and if Oceanside has any defenses, they aren't any good because Tara walks right in.  She skulks around in the underbrush for a while, noticing that (a) there's only women in this encampment and (b) they have a substantial stockpile of guns and ammo.  And then she gets noticed and captured.

I'm guessing that the writers are using Tara as a little bit of comic relief because her lies are appallingly bad when her captors interrogate her about where she's from.  They aren't that rough on her, however, because she gets invited to dinner with the head of Oceanside and several others, including Cindy.  They invite her to stay with them because they don't want her going off and telling anyone else about their community.

They used to be in another place but Negan and the Saviors attacked them, killing all the males over the age of ten.  They ran and found this place, by the ocean with lots of food, and have been killing strangers ever since to protect themselves.  Tara's all, but I have a girlfriend [Ed.: oops] and I have to go back.  So they agree that one of them will go with her, ostensibly to check out Alexandria and see if it might be an ally.

In the morning, Tara, "Beatrice" and "Cathy" leave Oceanside, heading back to that bridge so Tara can maybe find Heath again.  En route, however, Tara figures out that the other two have been told to kill her once they're far enough from the community.  She makes a run for it and almost gets away before Beatrice catches her.

But Cindy has been tailing them and knocks Beatrice over the head, saving Tara's life again.  They go back to the bridge and Cindy says she'll help pick off the milling walkers so Tara can get across.  But first, she makes Tara swear (SWEAR) that she will keep Oceanside a secret.  Tara swears and then battles her way across the bridge, Cindy shooting as many zombies as she can before Beatrice and Cathy show up to take her back to Oceanside.

Once across the bridge, Heath is nowhere to be found but their RV is gone, leaving only ruts in the mud behind.  She shrugs hopefully and then starts walking back to Alexandria.  When she gets there and Eugene opens the gate for her, she has a big grin on her face - but he is only sad because he's the one who ends up telling her about Denise (off-screen).

Later, Rosita finds Tara sitting sadly in the clinic, mourning her murdered girlfriend.  Rosita's all, we have to fight back - all we need are lots of weapons and ammunition.  For a moment, Tara is quiet and we are all meant to think that she's going to give Oceanside up.  But she doesn't, honoring her promise to Cindy and instead telling Rosita that she didn't see anything like that out there.

I dunno.  It was okay, I guess.  It was nice to spend time with Tara, who we really hadn't gotten to know.  But this episode advanced the plot not at all.  Sigh.

Previously on The Walking Dead / next time on The Walking Dead

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Walking Dead S7E5 "Go-Getters" 11/20/16

I almost just can't anymore with this show.  I'm starting to dread watching it and of the first five episodes, the one with Ezekiel and Carol was the only one I enjoyed, followed by the Daryl-centric one that I didn't enjoy but didn't find tedious and/or horrible.  This one, "Go-Getters," is tedious.  There is interminable talking.  So much talking.  Just going let you know that up front.

We're spending most of this week up at Hilltop, where Maggie and Sasha have come for Maggie's medical care.  (She's fine, by the way, just needs to stay off her feet for a while.)  They have also brought Glen and Abraham's bodies with them to Hilltop (why? why didn't the main group take them back to Alexandria?  Could Maggie and Sasha just not bear to say goodbye?) and buried them within the walls.  This proves to be a problem for Gregory, Hilltop's cowardly, sneering, weaselly leader.  He's all, we burn our dead, not bury them!  Plus, you have to leave because if Negan finds out that we're harboring you, it's bad news for everyone.  Jesus promises Maggie and Sasha that they can stay.

For a brief interlude back at Alexandria, Rick and Aaron head out on a scavenging run because the pressure is on to provide for Negan.  Both Michonne and Carl are at best ambivalent about the new state of things.  Michonne stalks out into the woods, telling Carl she needs to work through some shit.  Carl practices throwing darts and his aim is SHIT now because he only has one eye.  Heh.  Also, Enid decides she's going to walk to Hilltop to see how Maggie is doing.  Carl tries to talk her out of it but over the wall she goes.

Back at Hilltop, everyone is awoken in the middle of the night by a ruckus: apparently Hilltop doesn't post nighttime sentries because the Saviors have (1) opened the town's gates, (2) lit a bunch of bonfires and (3) brought in a car blasting music which (4) attracts all sorts of walkers.  Seriously, Hilltop?  No one is keeping watch?  Maggie and Sasha have been locked into their trailer for some reason (?) but climb out through a vent at the top.  The rest of the Hilltopians are COMPLETELY USELESS, even after Maggie shouts at them to get the gates closed.  So while Sasha and Jesus singlehandedly (doublehandedly) take down every single zombie - and there's a lot, so it's pretty badass - Maggie finds herself a tractor and runs over the music-blasting car until it is crunched into pieces and thus no longer blasting music.  They get the gates closed and everybody goes back to bed.

Carl takes a car and finds Enid (wrecking the car in the process, which seems wasteful) and accompanies her to Hilltop.  Along the way, they find rollerskates and skate together for a while, holdings hands.  It's cute, I guess, and shows that underneath it all they're still kids but it seems like an incredibly bad idea.  I mean, can you imagine fighting walkers on rollerskates?

In the morning, Simon, a Negan-surrogate, shows up at Hilltop with a small army.  Simon badgers Gregory for a while before sending the Saviors out to collect half of Hilltop's stuff.  Gregory, who is definitely a coward with a sense of self preservation, tries to curry favor with Simon by turning Maggie and Sasha over to him.  But Jesus has stashed them away in a different closet than Gregory thought, and all Gregory ends up doing is handing over his entire stash of scotch.

Outside the walls, Enid tells Carl that she knows he's out to kill Negan.  She thinks he shouldn't do it, not because that crazy asshole doesn't deserve it but because she's worried about how it might change him.  And they even smooch.  But he's not backing down so she sneaks into Hilltop and finds Maggie and Sasha and they all have grilled cheese and tomato soup together.

After the Saviors head out to load their trucks with their collected booty, Gregory and Jesus have words of sorts, Gregory insisting that Maggie and Sasha must go.  Jesus puts his foot down and Gregory's all, you know, if you want to be in charge you can, but you have to stick around and stop wandering outside the walls.  Jesus is all, no, I don't want to be in charge but these two are staying.  Gregory gives up and walks away.  Maggie and Sasha are all, that dude should not be in charge.  Jesus is like, I'm pretty sure I know who should be (with a knowing look at Maggie).  When Maggie heads off to rest, Sasha asks Jesus if he can find out where exactly Negan lives.  Seems like she's got the same idea as Carl.

So when the Savior trucks roll out, Jesus hops into the back of the one designated for Negan.  He helps himself to some of that scotch before starting to pour it out the back of the truck.  He is only slightly surprised when Carl pokes his head out from behind some boxes: "Hey."

Previously on The Walking Dead / next time on The Walking Dead


Thursday, November 17, 2016

My favorite new show: Sweet/Vicious

Picture this:  a tiny blonde sorority girl and a tiny non-blonde tech whiz girl joins forces to fight monsters on campus.  First thing you thought of was Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Buffy and Willow, right?  Well add this to the pantheon:  MTV's new scripted series, Sweet/Vicious, about Jules (sorority girl) and Ophelia (drug dealer/hacker) who team up vigilante-superhero-style to take down the frat boy rapists at their college.  This time the monsters are people but that doesn't not stop our heroines from kicking all kinds of ass.  It's like if Veronica Mars teamed up with Buffy, minus the superpowers. 

To my great surprise (I mean, it's on MTV for hell's sake), I really like this show.  The first episode just aired on Tuesday but the first three episodes are available on demand.  It's funny and heartbreaking and very clear in its message opposing sexual assault against women.  And in the trying times that are now, it seems especially important.  I do not condone violence perpetrated against people but there is something imminently satisfying about watching young, entitled rapists getting the shit kicked out of them.

Image result for mtv sweet vicious

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Walking Dead S7E4 "Service" 11/13/16

Are you frigging kidding me?  It was utterly unnecessary to have an 85 minute episode for the itty-bitty amount of story that was covered.  Yes, it was a break from unmitigated misery but nothing happened and no-one's character got advanced much at all.  Too much of the Negan and Rick show: Negan is annoying and Andrew Lincoln is just not a good enough actor for such slow-paced focus.  This fucking show.  Seriously, though, when do we get to go back to the Kingdom, King Ezekiel and Shiva?

We are back in Alexandria, with the survivors of the Negan encounter trying to get their shit together after watching their friends get their heads beat in, and the other Alexandrians who weren't there not really understanding the severity of their situation.  Rick is like a sleepwalker.  Michonne, who has hidden a high-powered rifle up the chimney, sneaks out early to go stalking through the fields.  Rosita and Spenser get ready to go out on a scavenging tour in anticipation of Negan's visit later in the week.

Except Negan has decided not to wait for the week he promised them.  Instead, he has arrived at the gates with multiple trucks and lots of heavily armed Saviors and poor Daryl.  Rick opens the gate and Negan saunters in, saying that they aren't there for food - they've decided to come and take half of whatever else Alexandria may have.  And by "half" he means pretty much any damn thing he wants.  He prances around and intimidates Rick, making him carry Lucille as the Saviors move through the town, pulling out furniture and artwork and weapons and mattresses and medicine.  Dwight leers and paws at Rosita and sends her and Spenser out of town - sans guns - telling her to fetch back Daryl's motorcycle.  Rick tries to ask Daryl how he's doing and Negan is all NUH-UH you don't look at Daryl and you don't talk to Daryl or someone gets their head beat in.  Rick quivers into a jellyfish.  Plus, Negan asks Daryl if he wants to stay in Alexandria; Daryl is smart enough not to say anything and Rick's all, wow, they really did a number on him.

Out in that field, ostensibly out of earshot of Alexandria, Michonne wastes a huge number of bullets trying to take down one approaching zombie.  She is a terrible shot and ends up slicing its head in two.  Then, when she makes her way into the woods, she notes that one of her errant shots managed to take down a good-sized deer.  She looks sad about it but at least she can bring back some more food.

Out in the woods, Rosita and Spenser find Daryl's motorcyle, right where it was left when Denise got killed.  As Spenser gets it into the van, he bitches at Rosita about how Rick has fucked everything up and gotten all sorts of people killed and maybe they should have made a deal with Negan before everything got so dire.  Spenser is an asshole but he does have a point.  Rosita detours into the woods, finds a small herd of walkers and methodically takes them out with her hunting knife.  She picks over the newly-still corpses, finding a handgun on one of them.  No bullets, but still it's a gun.

Back in Alexandria Negan is SO ANNOYING that he's barely scary.  He talks and talks and talks and browbeats Rick, who glowers and tries not to glower and mopes.  There's a bit of a tense moment when Carl WHO NEEDS A FUCKING HAIRCUT OMG objects to the Saviors taking all of Alexandria's medicines.  But no one dies.  And then there's another tense moment when Negan cleans out Alexandria's armory and two guns that are listed on Olivia's inventory are missing.  Negan says that she's bad at her job and unless those two guns are found, he'll kill her.  So all the Alexandrians search all the houses and Rick finds the two guns in Spenser's house, hidden in an airduct with food and booze.  Rick brings the guns to Negan and no one dies.

Rosita and Spenser come back and hand over Daryl's motorcyle to Dwight.  Michonne comes back and Rick immediately gives Negan her rifle - which had not been on Olivia's inventory so Negan wasn't even looking for it.  Negan takes the deer too.  The Saviors roll out, Negan warning Rick that the Alexandrians better have something interesting for him when he comes back next week for their payment.

After they're gone, Spenser has the temerity to talk some smack to Rick about Glen and Abraham (asshole move since he wasn't even there).  Rick, proving that he's not entirely a jellyfish, growls that if Spenser says anything like that to him again, he'll break Spenser's jaw and knock out all his teeth.  Prediction: Spenser's mouth will get him in trouble and he dies before the season ends.  Rosita goes to see Eugene and, handing him an empty casing, asks him to make her a bullet.  Michonne is obviously upset with the life that is now in front of them and upset with Rick for refusing to stand up to Negan.  Rick begs her to try to accept things as they are.  He can't take anyone else dying on his watch.  Her eyes soften and she promises to try.  But later, a frustrated Michonne goes back out to her field to see if there are any zombies she can skewer.  There aren't, but she sees smoke: the Saviors have dumped all the mattresses they took from the Alexandrians on the road and set fire to them, just to be complete assholes.

That's the general gist.  There was a scene with all the Alexandrians in the church and Rick making a speech about how they can't fight the Saviors; and Father Gabriel cleverly digs a fake grave and puts a Maggie headstone on it (she's been taken to Hilltop, remember, for medical help), so that Negan thinks she's dead and doesn't go looking for her.  But if I've missed anything, I'm sorry - I just couldn't bear to watch the whole thing again other than in fast-forward.

Previously on The Walking Dead / next time on The Walking Dead

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Walking Dead S7E3 "The Cell" 11/6/16

And here we are, back again for more misery a la The Walking Dead.  Actually, this episode isn't as unrelentingly horrific as the first one - I mean, christ, it's just zombies.  It's not like it's actually scary these days.

This recap will go pretty quickly.  Here's what happens in a nutshell: Negan keeps Daryl in a cell with Dwight as his keeper.  They try to break him but during the process we actually get to learn Dwight's motivation and feel some sympathy for him.  That's it.  And we have to spend a whole episode getting there.

To start, a musical montage:  to the jaunty tune of "A Town Called Malice," Dwight goes about his days, taking what he wants from less fortunate Saviors.  They all make sure to kneel down when Negan comes through though.  There's a fence where various walkers are fastened, by chains or impalement, or what have you.  It looks either like a psychological deterrent for Negan's people or possibly a line of defense.  Could be both.  After watching those captive walkers for a while, Dwight feeds a naked and filthy captive Daryl a dog food sandwich.

We also get to spend some time with Daryl, in his dank, dark cell with a terrible, cheerful song being pumped in night and day so he just can't sleep.  That fucking song ("On Easy Street") almost drives me crazy and I only have to put up with it for less than one episode.  Darryl doesn't look so good.  He's exhausted and starving and shaking and won't look his captors in the eye.  He gets a doctor's check-up and en route there a girl - Dwight's wife from that episode when she and Dwight stole Daryl's motorcycle and crossbow - tries to talk to Daryl, offer some words of warning.  He barely looks like he comprehends anything, although on the way back to his cell, he perks up a little watching the fence of walkers with other prisoners tending to them.  Dwight grabs him, shoving his face into the fence:  "That's you, asshole, unless you're smart.  Your choice.  You can be like them, or me, or them."

Later, when Dwight volunteers to go track down a Savior runaway, Daryl takes advantage of the substitute keeper who (1) forgets to restart "On Easy Street" and (2) doesn't quite latch the cell door.  Daryl tries the door and sneaks out.  Dwight's wife sees him and cautions him against it, saying that she tried to run once and when she was brought back, it was much, much worse.  Daryl is determined, however, and makes it outside to where a bunch of motorcycles are parked.  He frantically runs from bike to bike, trying to start one of them.  But it's a set-up:  Negan and a bunch of thugs come into the courtyard behind him.  Negan offers Daryl a chance to join him, to be one of his guys, to live better than the rest, not to be tied to earning like the others.  All he has to do is give the right answer when Negan asks what his name is.  And the right answer is "Negan."  Daryl isn't ready to say anything, however, so Negan's thugs beat him up a bit before tossing him back in his cell.

Meanwhile, Dwight stupidly gets caught out under an overpass when zombies fall off the edge and on top of him.  His motorcycle gets dented and he is forced to fight for his life.  Obviously he's distracted because someone with his experience shouldn't have been caught like that - there were splattered and broken zombies all over the road, for chrissakes.  He finally catches up to the guy who has run away.  The guy begs Dwight to let him go, asks Dwight to come with him, saying that life under Negan is no life at all - after everything Negan did to Dwight's wife?  Dwight says shut up, she's not my wife.  Other guy: Not anymore.  The other guy is desperate, saying it's okay if Dwight kills him but he just can't go back.  Dwight, looking pretty desperate himself:  "You will [go back], it's the only way."  The other guy pleads with him, then turns around, his back to Dwight, and Dwight raises his gun and sorrowfully shoots him.

When Dwight gets back, he stops by to see Daryl,  reminding him that he's the one who got [Glenn] killed and that he, Darryl, should himself be dead except that Negan's taken a shine to him.  He leaves Daryl with a Polaroid of Glenn's smushed head for a keepsake.  This, plus a new song ("Crying Over You") makes Daryl cry.  Sometime later, Negan calls Dwight and Daryl to his room.  There's a lot of talking in which we learned that after Dwight and Sherry (his wife) stole Daryl's cycle and bow, they were recaptured by Negan.  Negan put a hot iron to Dwight's face and appropriated his "superhot" wife, but now - according to Negan - they're cool and Dwight is one of Negan's lieutenants.  So yadda yadda yadda (Negan really likes to hear himself talk), Negan wants to know if Daryl is ready to join up.  "What's your name?" snarls Negan.  Daryl: "Daryl."  Dwight's all, jesusfuckingchristwhatareyoudoing? But Negan's all, it's cool, he made his choice - ain't my problem if it's a dumbass choice.

Dwight throws Daryl back into his cell, shouting, "You're going to end up in this room or on that fence!"  He seems genuinely upset that Daryl won't save himself.  Daryl, who up until this point has said about three words all episode, looks up at him: "I get why you did it, why you took it.  You were thinkin' about someone else.  That's why I can't."  Dwight slams the cell door and goes out to stare at the fence of walkers.  There's a new one chained there: the guy Dwight had been sent to fetch back, clearly killed by a shot through the back.  Dwight was right.  That guy did come back.

Previously on The Walking Dead / next time on The Walking Dead

Friday, November 4, 2016

The Delayed Dead

The next recap of The Walking Dead will be a little late next week - Wednesday at the earliest.  But I figure that's okay as we've got enough of a horror show with the days coming up to, as well as the actual, election.  Courage, mes amis!  We'll be back with the less-scary zombie apocalypse soon enough.

Monday, October 31, 2016

The Walking Dead S7E2 "The Well" 10/30/16

Thank goodness for this episode: I don't think I could have stood another one full of unrelenting nihilistic misery.  All hail King Ezekiel!

A semi-conscious Carol is being carried on a horse-drawn cart, led by the football pad-wearing fellows who rescued her and Morgan from the end of last season.  Morgan is with her, marking out their passage on trees and mailbox posts.  It isn't all smooth sailing: they are attacked by a herd of walkers, tipping the cart over.  A limping, weak Carol wanders away from the carnage.  In her delirium, she sees real people in the faces of all the zombies coming at her.  As she collapses, more people on horseback show up, helping to put down the rest of the walkers.  They gather her and Morgan up and take them home.

Carol remains unconscious for a couple of days.  When she wakes up, Morgan is by her side in a town called the Kingdom.  It is ridiculously clean and well provided for, with windchimes and raised bed gardens and a choir and horseback riding lessons.  It makes Alexandria look like a shantytown.  Carol is immediately skeptical, assuming these people cannot fight and do not know of the dangers outside their walls.  Now that she is better, Morgan takes her to meet the leader of the Kingdom.  He hilariously dances around telling her anything about this guy.

And it's a good thing too because she certainly wouldn't have believed him:  King Ezekiel, a courtly, dreadlocked, Shakespeare-in-the-Park-sounding dude.  With a giant tiger.  Carol stares, open-mouthed.  Morgan, embarrassed: "Yeah, I forgot to say that Ezekiel has a tiger."  Best character introduction ever.

Carol canNOT believe this guy, with his pseudo-British accent and his giant fucking tiger, Shiva.  She pulls herself together, though, and puts on her very best smiling, grateful, overwhelmed act.  "I don't know what the hell's going on in the most wonderful way!" she exclaims, grinning like a madwoman.  Ezekiel tells her that she and Morgan are more than welcome to stay in the Kingdom in exchange for their contributions.  He is very welcoming, offering free apples and pomegranates, all of which she turns down with a smile, saying she still needs rest.  Outside, Carol, to Morgan:  "You're shitting me, right?  This place is a damn circus! I can't be here."  She tells him that she'll leave, just as soon as she can and as soon as he's not looking.  He insists that he can't let her go to her death and she says to him that it really isn't up to him.

Later, Ezekiel, Richard (seemingly Ezekiel's right hand man), Morgan and some other Kingdomites go into town and round up some feral pigs, shutting them in a garage bay with a chained up walker.  Morgan asks what the walker is for and Richard replies that he wants their bellies "full of rot."  This is clear later: after killing and butchering the pigs, Ezekiel, Richard, Morgan et als. hand the pigs over to some of Negan's Saviors as their weekly tribute.  (Richard is being passive-aggressive by feeding the zombie-fed pigs to the Saviors.)  There is a little tension between a Savior and Richard but luckily it doesn't amount to full-on violence between the two small groups.  Morgan asks Ezekiel why the king wanted him along - was it because he fought the Saviors before?  No, says Ezekiel, it's because he knew Morgan wouldn't fight them this time.

Life goes on in the Kingdom.  Morgan contributes by teaching young Ben (the son of a now-deceased friend of Ezekiel) how to fight with the bowstaff.  Carol continues her deception, cheerily chatting Kingdomites up while scavenging clothing and knives.  There's a lot more talking going on, of course, but I just can't be bothered with it.  King Ezekiel's charm only goes so far, even with me.

One evening, Morgan takes Carol some dinner and he finds her room empty.  He is not surprised.  She can't quite leave without taking some fruits from the Kingdom orchard, however, and it is here that Ezekiel finds her.  He encourages her to talk to him before she leaves them so suddenly.  She starts her sweet little thing act up and he calls her on it: never bullshit a bullshitter.  He tells her that he fell for her innocent act at first.  She drops it, saying that he's a joke, the Kingdom is a joke - it's outside that's real, he's selling these people a fairytale.  His pseudo-British accent fades away as he says that people want someone to believe in and people with something to believe in are less dangerous.  People saw a guy with a tiger and built him up into their leader: "I faked it 'til I made it."  He was just a community theater-loving zookeeper who bonded with an injured Shiva before the zombies came.  After the zombie apocalypse, after he had lost everything, he went back to the zoo and she was still there, and she's never left his side since then.  To his credit, Carol listens to him and believes him, understanding his story.  He asks her to keep his secret - his people need to believe in him - and says that if she does, maybe he can help her to leave without leaving.

So what they do is this:  with Morgan along to see that she makes it, Carol goes outside the Kingdom walls and sets herself up in a tidy little gated house not far away.  She doesn't want to be inside with people, doesn't want the responsibility for anyone but herself, doesn't want connections with anyone.  But in this house, she can be alone without being too far from help should she really need it.  Morgan asks if this is what she really wants.  It is.  He understands.  She says that it's good they made it because a few more minutes and she might start to regret all the times she tried to shoot and stab him.  He smiles and tells her that she's his favorite person that he's ever knocked out - definitely top two or three.  It's nice that they've made peace with each other, especially since they're two of the best characters on this frigging show.

Some time later, after Carol has killed and buried the zombie that had been trapped in the house, and cleaned the place up, and lit a fire, there's a knock on the front door.  She is wary and then she hears a deep feline snarl.  It's Ezekiel and Shiva.  He's got a pomegranate and says with a charming grin, "You've really got to try one of these!"  Carol doesn't want to but she can't help smiling a little back at him.

Ezekiel (and Shiva) are totally my new favorites.  I'm pretty sure that dooms them to terrible deaths by the end of this season but for now, they are a much-needed injection of hope, humor and humanity in this dirgeful show.

Previously on The Walking Dead / next time on The Walking Dead

Seventh Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series #17: The Relic

Here we are, on Halloween, with scary movie #17 for this year's Scarelicious October Movie Series.  And what better way to close out the month with a good ol' creature feature? Well, two out of three ain't bad.  1997's The Relic is an older movie, for sure, and it's a monster movie.  But good?  I wouldn't call it that.

Just before the grand opening of a fancy new exhibit on superstition, the Chicago Museum of Natural History receives a shipment of crates from their resident anthropologist, on assignment in deepest, darkest Brazil.  The crates contain the pieces of a relic - the demon-god of a lost South American tribe - and a bunch of leaves.  Also arriving at the museum, concurrent with this shipment, is a horrific monster, a giant bug/lizard/something else, that needs to eat human brains.  It is up to Dr. Margo Green (Penelope Ann Miller), the museum's evolutionary biologist (a/k/a Scully), and Lieutenant Vincent D'Augusta (Tom Sizemore), a superstitious Chicago cop (a/k/a Mulder), to take down the beastly critter.  But not before it wreaks havoc at the museum's fundraising gala, unfortunately.

As other reviewers have noted, The Relic is basically an X-Files episode writ large, albeit with creature effects by Oscar- and Emmy-winning effects legend, Stan Winston.  It's a dumb, dark (in lighting, not tone) movie, and although the creature is fond of decapitating its victims, it is not at all scary.  Penelope Ann Miller's heroine starts off skeptical, then gets shrieky, and then sciences the shit out of the monster, which turns out pretty badass.  But still, even though I did like the monster,  The Relic is a mediocre movie at best.
Image result for the relic

There you have it.  Seventeen! By far the most scary movies watched since this feature debuted - truly Netflix is of great help in making more movies available more quickly. There was the good (The Babadook, I Am the Pretty Thing that Lives in the House, Unfriended, We Are What We Are), the bad (Bad Milo!, All Cheerleaders Die) and the downright awful (Final Girl).  It's been a great month and I've already started collecting titles for next year's Eighth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Seventh Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series #16: I Am the Pretty Thing that Lives in the House

I'm not really sure how to talk about I Am the Pretty Thing that Lives in the House, a lovely little ghost story just released on Netflix the day before yesterday.  There's not much plot but there is a whole lot of detail and atmosphere and I suspect that if I'd rewatched it immediately after finishing it the first time, I would have picked up on a lot more.

Lily is a hospice nurse who has come to the old house at the end of Teacup Road to care for Iris Blum, the failing author of lurid books, the kinds sold in airports.  It isn't clear from the costuming when this story is set but there are rotary phones, VCRs and big boxy cars, so perhaps the 1980s.  The house itself is beautiful: old and plain, New England style, with wide floorboards and no adornments.  Lily tells us directly, in voiceover, at the start of the movie, that she will die before this year's service to her patient is up.  It doesn't take long for the subtle hauntings to start: mold, reflections, a carpet that won't lie flat.  Iris calls Lily "Polly," the main character in her best-selling novel, The Lady in the Walls, and that book is written as though Polly told the author the story of her death.  The ghostly apparitions we glimpse are of a pretty young woman in period apparel, walking quietly through the house; we see a flashback of that young woman being attacked by a grim-looking man.  We also see flashbacks of Iris as a young woman, writing Polly's story.  By the end, it isn't clear who is a ghost at what time.  But a line from the beginning of the movie - "A house with a death in it can never again be bought or sold by the living.  It can only be borrowed from the ghosts who have stayed behind." - holds true.

I Am the Pretty Thing that Lives in the House will not appeal to people looking for a haunted house movie with action or a lot of twisty plot or even jump scares, screaming and rattling chains.  It will, however, appeal to people who prefer atmosphere and creeping dread and pretty shots and ambiguity with their ghosts.