Friday, December 30, 2011

Book review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

In Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus, the circus arrives without warning, popping up in fields outside of towns and cities with no advance notice.  The tents are all striped black and white; the ground is painted black and white swirls; a wrought-iron fence encloses the grounds. The circus is only open from sunset to sunrise - no exceptions - and nothing can be seen stirring behind the fence during the daylight hours.  But when dusk comes, the lights come up, making the tents glow and gleam, and the iron gates swing wide.  Le Cirque des Reves - the Circus of Dreams - is open.  It is a wonder, this Circus.  Every tent, every costume, every attraction is dressed only in shades of black and white.  There are contortionists, fortune tellers, carnival food booths, black panthers and snow leopards, aerialists and tumblers, mazes, rides, wondrously constructed clockworks.  The townfolk who come to the Circus are amazed and awestruck, and many come back again and again.

The Circus is not just entertainment, however.  It is also the battleground between two magicians who have been set against each other by their mentors, who themselves are ancient competitors.  Pretty Celia is the Circus's resident illusionist; overflowing with natural talent, her particular skill is manipulating inanimate objects - honed when, as a child, her father sliced open her fingertips over and over again, forcing her to learn to heal herself quickly.  Marco's magic has been studied and learned: his patron plucked him from an orphanage and isolated him with nothing but books for company.  He is strong in compulsion and visual illusion and now helps to manage the day-to-day operations of the Circus.  At first Celia and Marco do not know the other to be their opponent but after a few meetings figure it out.  A few meetings after that, they fall in love with each other, much to their patrons' chagrin - which only complicates things when they learn that this magical duel they have been bound to will result in the death of one of them.  What makes it even worse is that their fates are inextricably linked with the Circus and all its members.

I struggled a little bit at first with The Night Circus.  The novel keeps the reader at a distance, partly because it is set 1873-1903, partly because it is written in the third person/present tense, partly because the chapters skip around in the timeline and it can be difficult to keep track of  what has happened, partly because the author maintains a fair amount of reserve and doesn't delve too deeply into her characters' heads.  But I warmed to it, in large part because the descriptions of the circus are charming and because I wanted to believe in a magical circus - I would love to see Le Cirque des Reves.  In The Night Circus, magic is real.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Bad Haiku about: Superhero Movies (II)

As you can see, I'm trying to work my way through the back catalog before Joss Whedon's The Avengers comes out, whenever that is.  So I watched Thor the other night:

sweet well-muscled oaf
ride the Rainbow Bridge 'cuz I
can do CPR

Am I on a roll or what?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Mini movie review: Horrible Bosses

As you know, I am constantly looking for movies that both Mr. Mouse and I enjoy.  And by "constantly" I mean "every now and again when Mr. Mouse demands that I rent something other than horror or fantasy or science fiction."  I know that he likes dumb comedies, like 40 Year Old Virgin, Anchorman and The Hangover; I know he likes 90 minute movies; and I also know that he likes Jennifer Aniston.  So I got us Horrible Bosses, which pretty much hits all three categories.

The plot is not particularly complicated.  Three friends - Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day - are plagued by evil, nasty, horrible bosses at their respective jobs.  After all but promising Bateman a promotion, and subjecting him to terrible head games, Kevin Spacey snatches said promotion away at the last minute, pocketing the money and humiliating him in front of the company.  When the affable owner of the chemical company at which Sudeikis works dies, his idiot cokehead son, Colin Farrell in a prosthetic comb-over, takes over, threatening to run the company into the ground and liquidate all its assets to fund his various vices.  Dental assistant Day is subjected to overt sexual harassment by his hot and horny dentist boss, Jennifer Aniston; his friends don't think he has much of a problem really, because they've seen what she looks like, but her behavior is pretty appalling.  When the guys have had all they can take, they hire ex-con Jamie Foxx to teach them how to kill the bosses.

The best part of this movie is the bosses, each actor chewing the scenery like crazy and clearly enjoying themselves.  Farrell, who gets the least screen time, is pretty funny - ignorant, brash, homely as hell.  Aniston is fun too: talking wicked dirty and cussing up a storm, getting nearly (but not quite) naked.  I think Mr. Mouse enjoyed her scenes.  I found Charlie Day's character extremely funny for some reason, although I don't usually like such shrill performances.  I don't know if it was the lines or his delivery, but he made me laugh out loud quite a lot; I may have to check out Always Sunny in Philadelphia to see if he holds up.

Horrible Bosses is not fantastic cinema, but it's short (97 minutes) and entertaining enough.  You could certainly do worse, if you're in the mood for a dumb R-rated comedy.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Simply having a wonderful Christmastime

I finished up preparing for Christmas last weekend - tree up and lit, presents wrapped and sent, card signed and mailed, cookies baked - and I'm feeling so happy about being done with it all that I cannot be bothered to put together a Christmasy post this year.  What I can do, however, is link to winter holiday-themed past posts and invite you to browse, if you are so inclined.

Christmas Spirits
New Christmas Cookie Recipe
More Cookie Recipes
Dog Cookie Recipes (because I always make homemade dog biscuits for Xmas)

There.  Ho ho ho, y'all!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Bad Haiku about: Superhero Movies (I)

Whoa - how'd that week get away from me?  I fully intended to post something sooner and instead I went and neglected this poor little blog.  Sorry!

In any event, it's time to start a new series (or mini-series, depends on how many I manage to do - for example, haven't gotten very far with my Read It Watch It Watch It Again project) called Bad Haiku about: [some subject].  In this case, it's about a superhero movie, Iron Man 2.  I'm doing this because I recently watched IM2 and really should do a post about it, since that's what this blog is all about, but I don't have much to say about it pluswhich everyone in the world has already watched the dang movie and what do I really have to say that's new?  Nothing but bad haiku, that's what.

frantic and busy
not as good as the first one
liked Mickey's whips tho'

That's some good stuff right there.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Book review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

In 2044, humans have pretty much murdered the Earth.  Nearly all the fossil fuel has been depleted, leading to a serious energy crisis; the environment is shot to hell what with climate change, people are starving, plants and animals are dying off in record numbers, the seas are rising.  It's a crappy world outside and so most people, if they've got the means, spent most of their time in the OASIS - a massive virtual reality program.  School is taught there, people's jobs (if they have them) are there, and in your free time you can live and game in limitless scenarios.  The guy who created OASIS, James Halliday, was an eccentric genius, obsessed with the 1980s.  When Halliday died without heirs, he launched a game, hiding an Easter egg in a series of complex puzzles located throughout the OASIS.  The person who finds the Easter egg gets all of Halliday's money.

Wade Watts, Ready Player One's narrator, avatar name: Parzival, is one of tens of thousands of gunters ("egg-hunters") who are obsessed with the quest.  He and his online friends - no one ever meets each other in real life, because real life is too depressing - have spent years delving into '80s pop culture trivia: movies, music, arcade games, video games, RPGs.  But when Parzival unexpectedly finds and solves the first puzzle, the game is on like Donkey Kong and it's a race to the finish.  Not everyone will make it, either: a powerful corporation has hired hundreds and hundreds of gunters whose only job is to find the egg, and they will stop at nothing - not even murder - to reach the prize first.

Ready Player One is written by Ernest Cline, screenwriter of Fanboys, the 2009 movie about Star Wars fanatics.  Cline clearly knows his 1980s pop culture as this first novel of his is stuffed to the gills. I grew up in the 80s so I recognized a lot of the references, although since I am not nor have ever been a gamer I missed a lot of those.  At first the 80s overload seems a little forced, like Cline is just listing stuff to prove how much he knows.  But as the novel progresses, the info-dump becomes more organic.  It's a fun little book, nothing too strenuous, a combination quest/coming-of-age tale flavored with just enough science fiction and fantasy.  I did feel like it was written to be made into a movie but I can't imagine trying to secure the rights to all the books, music, movies, games, etc., dropped into the story.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Current state of affairs

Oh, yes, it's the midseason slump here at ol' FMS.  The only current show I'm recapping is on break for the holidays.  I've got two DVDs waiting for me to watch them, but I haven't gotten around to it yet.  I'm reading Ready Player One and am close to finishing, so that'll be a post soon enough.  So, yeah, kinda slow around the  little blog.

In other television thoughts: Mr. Mouse and I are just shaking our heads at the thought of Community going on hiatus - that show is so brilliant, so funny, so spot-on so much (like that fanTASTIC Glee parody tonight) ... I guess it's just too smart for too many people.  (Much like late, lamented Arrested Development and Better Off Ted.)  American Horror Story is definitely NOT too smart for most people; I haven't seen the latest episode yet (altho I got spoiled for the reveal about Violet - thanks, Google entertainment news blurbs) but it is just a hot mess that doesn't know WTF it wants to be.  Both Mr. Mouse and I are watching Hell on Wheels and while it has its occasional moments - when Bohannon woke up to a chicken staring at him, f'rinstance - mostly it reminds me how much it is not Deadwood.  I'm keeping up with Grimm and Once Upon a Time too, because I love fairy tales and I keep hoping that the writers/showrunners for those shows who used to work for Buffy will get their acts together.  And on it goes.

Tell me, what are you watching these days?  (Yes, Joe, I know I have to go back and finish T:TSCC S2, but that seems like more of a summer show to me.)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Mini movie review: Red State

I would call myself a casual Kevin Smith fan.  I love Clerks and Dogma; I like Mallrats, Chasing Amy and Zack and Miri Make a Porno; I don't much care for Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back or Clerks II, and didn't bother to see Jersey Girl.

Red State, the little horror/thriller that debuted at Sundance last year is a departure for Smith: a new genre for him and a movie that is not super-saturated with self-consciously clever dialogue.  Three teenagers, out looking to raise some hell, run afoul of an extremist fundamentalist Christian preacher and his cult/family.  The preacher is scary as hell: eloquent, charismatic and madder than a hatter.  We are told that a neo-nazi group gave a recent statement clarifying that they have no affiliation with this guy - when the neo-nazis are nervous, you know it's bad news.  The ATF gets involved and the situation quickly (the whole movie is only about 88 minutes long) disintegrates into a friggin' bloodbath, because the crazy religious folk have got themselves a whole bunch of machine guns.

The cast is way impressive:   John Goodman, Melissa Leo, Anna Gunn and Matt L. Jones ("Skylar" and "Badger" from Breaking Bad), Michael Angarano (Sky High), Kyle Gallner (Veronica Mars and Jennifer's Body), Stephen Root (News Radio and True Blood), Kevin Pollack,Kevin Alejandro ("Jesus" from True Blood), Mark Blucas ("Riley" from BtVS), Patrick Fischler (most recently from Grimm).  The preacher is awesomely played by Michael Parks, whom I didn't recognize but who has a fairly long works list on

I'd rank Red State up there in my "like" category.  Part of that is because the subject matter is just not pleasant enough for me to want to watch over and over again, like Clerks and Dogma.  But it's a tight, fast-moving, disturbing, bloody, well-acted little movie that surprised me - good job, Kevin.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Walking Dead S2E7 "Pretty Much Dead Already" (11/27/11)

The group of survivors is having breakfast out at their tent site.  Maggie catches Glen's eye from the farmhouse porch and shakes her head; Dale catches his eye and nods.  Glen speaks to the gang: "The barn's full of walkers."  Everyone but Dale: WTF?!!?  Then they all go out to the barn and peek in through the gaps in the barn siding.  Shane is like, it's easy - we make this right or we leave this place.  Carol protests, not wanting to leave until Sophia is found.  Darryl backs Carol up, saying he's sure they're close to finding the girl.  Everyone starts shouting while Rick says wait, let me talk to Herschel about this.  Dale says he already talked to Herschel  and it won't do much good.  Everyone starts shouting again and the noise and the live peoples' proximity get the barn zombies all riled up.

Later, Shane circles the barn, looking either for a way for him to get in or for the zombies to get out.  This riles the barn zombies up some more.  Glen tries to talk to Maggie but she's mad at him for bringing his group up to speed, because now her dad is totally going to kick them out.  Darryl goes out to the horse barn to saddle up another mount to continue the Sophia-search.  Carol follows him out there and tells him to not go until he's healed more: she doesn't think they'll find her daughter and she doesn't want to lose Darryl too.  Instead of making Darryl feel good that someone cares about him, he gets pissed that she's giving up, calls her a stupid bitch and stomps off.  He's obviously using finding Sophia as a means to assuage his guilt over losing Meryl.

Dale tries to talk to Andrea about her burgeoning relationship with Shane, whom he doesn't trust.  She asks him to stop trying to protect her but she's gentle about it.  After she leaves the RV, Dale starts fussing with the big bag of guns.  He looks troubled and like he's up to something.

Rick tries to talk to Herschel, but the old veterinarian doesn't want to talk about the "really sick people" he's got in his barn.  When Rick presses the issue, Herschel tells him that his group has to be gone by the end of the week.  Rick protests that if he kicks them out, it could mean death for many of his group - Herschel was never out in the new world, he only saw what was shown on t.v.  He begs Herschel to let them stay: "We can't go back out there!"

When Rick comes out of the farmhouse, Shane pounces, saying that they either kill all the barn zombies or they get the hell out of here.  Rick finally tells him that they can't leave because Lori is pregnant.  Shane pauses, then says okay, but we should be allowed to carry our guns here on the farm.  Rick agrees with him but doesn't want to anger Herschel during their "negotiations."  Inside, Maggie is mad at her father, quoting some relevant scripture when he protests that Rick's people are not his responsibility.  They are interrupted when Jimmy runs in to tell Herschel that "it's happened again."  Herschel heads outside and asks Rick if he will help him.

OMIGOD WILL THESE PEOPLE EVER STOP TALKING?  I read an article about this show calling it "The Talking Dead" and jeezum, that's about right.  Shane goes to find Lori and basically tries to convince her that he's a better man for this world than Rick is, Rick isn't tough enough and can't make the hard decisions, Shane has saved Lori's life more than Rick has ... and he knows that she's pregnant and he thinks the baby is his.  Lori's like, no, it's not yours, it's never going to be your and even if it is yours, it isn't yours, and nothing you can do will change that.  Shane: "I don't need to."  Ooh, that was vaguely threatening. He stomps off to the RV, looking for his big bag of guns.  But Dale has taken them.

You have got to be kidding me: what Herschel needs help with is rescuing two walkers who have gotten themselves stuck in some quicksand-like mud.  He tells Rick that if he's going to stay on the farm, he's going to have to get used to treating walkers like very sick people.  Then he hands Rick a long pole with a noose on the end - like you'd use for an aggressive dog - and they haul the zombies out of the mud, leading them back towards the barn.

Darryl takes Carol out to a creek where he's found more of those Cherokee roses.  He apologizes for his behavior earlier - he just wants to find Sophia.  Shane has tracked Dale down out in a swamp and demands the guns back.  Dale tells him no, and he'll shoot him if he has too.  Shane calls his bluff and of course Dale doesn't shoot him.  He gives the guns back to Shane, saying that this shitty new world is exactly where Shane belongs.  Maggie and Glen make up and smooch.  That probably means she'll get killed off soon.  Which would be sad but seriously?  Someone needs to die because this is all b  o  r  i  n  g.  The stakes need to be raised a bit.

Most of the gang regroups on the farmhouse porch.  Shane storms up and starts handing out guns.  He's decided that it's time to clean out the barn since Rick won't do it.  Then they all see Rick, Herschel and Jimmy bringing the two muddy walkers out of the woods.  Oh hell no, screams Shane, furious.  They all run over to the dooryard of the barn, circling Herschel, Rick and the leashed walkers.  Shane starts ranting about how these aren't living people, because living people couldn't take this: he shoots a bunch of bullets into one of the walker's torsos.  Then he puts one in her skull, dropping her.  Herschel falls to his knees, shocked, horrified, powerless.

Shane runs to the barn and busts open the doors.  Rick shrieks at Herschel to take the leash of his walker so he can stop Shane but Herschel just mutters and stares.  The barn zombies pour out of the barn.  Shane, Andrea, Darryl and T-Dog line up and start shooting.  Glen looks at Maggie and she gives him a terrified, tearful nod and he joins the firing squad.  It's a slaughter.  It's long overdue, in my opinion, but it's like shooting fish in a barrel.  Our survivors are grim and scared, Herschel's people are simply overwhelmed and cringing.

Then, just when you think all the barn zombies have been killed, Zombie Sophia lurches out of the barn.  Carol screams and tries to run to her but Darryl tackles her and holds on tight.  Andrea sobs; Carl and Lori sob.  No one can shoot her, not even big-talker Shane - all they can do is watch her stagger closer.  Until Rick, the guy everyone thought couldn't make the hard decisions, steps up and puts poor little Sophia down.  Who's weak now, Shane?

Okay, the last five minutes was super-cool but it was a long time coming.  Pluswhich the emotional payoff is meh: I just don't care that much about Sophia because we didn't really get to know her and she was disappeared for too long.  They need to kill off someone we've connected with.  But not Darryl - I kinda lurve Darryl.

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

Friday, November 25, 2011

Mini movie review: Black Swan

Is there really anything left to say about Black Swan?  I mean, everyone - EVERYONE - was talking about it last year when it came out, and Natalie Portman won an Oscar for her role as the delicate ballerina slowly quickly driven mad by her quest for perfection as the White Swan/Black Swan lead in Swan Lake.  Since I knew I wouldn't see the movie until it came out on DVD, and then I knew I wouldn't see the movie until we got a decent television, I ended up reading far too many reviews and critiques beforehand, although I suppose it's not like I really got spoiled for anything.  And as I was watching the film, I felt distracted, mostly by what I'd read about real ballerinas critiquing the film: Portman's poor arm movement, the fact that no company director would act like Vincent Cassell did.

But after the movie was over, the more I thought about it, the more I liked it.  It was beautiful, not overwhelming in terms of plot but not boring.  Portman was fantastic and so was Mila Kunis, who was dead sexy.  I did get a not-what-the-director-planned chuckle when Cassell's character asked the character played by Benjamin Millipied, the lead male dancer, if he would ever sleep with Portman's character Nina (no, was the answer) - when in real life Portman and Millipied are having/have had a baby together.  But far and away the scariest part of this movie, far more disturbing than Portman's descent into madness, real or hallucinated, was Barbara Hershey's character, Nina's mother, herself a failed ballerina who had to leave dance to raise her daughter as a single mom.  Hershey was twisted and intense, scarily abusing her poor tender waif of a daughter both physically and emotionally, all in the name of love.  Scary stuff, that.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Walking Dead S2E6 "Secrets" (11/20/11)

It's morning at Herschel's farm and the routine poultry chores are being done: tossing grain out for the hens, gathering eggs, feeding the barn-zombies with crippled chickens.  You know, regular farm stuff.

Glen can't stop staring at the barn.  Maggie asks him to please keep quiet even though he tells her that he sucks at keeping secrets.  Then he goes and pleads with Lori to take better care of herself, now that she's with child and all, and for God's sake, tell Rick what's going on.  She too tells him to please keep quiet.  Andrea stops by Darryl's tent and apologizes for the umpteenth time for shooting him in the head.  He says it's okay, she was just protecting the group, but next time she shoots him she better actually kill him.  Rick and Shane muse over the maps, planning out the next Sophia-search - perhaps north, in a housing development.  Carl is acting out a little bit - taking a gun from Dale's RV and asking Shane to teach him to shoot.  Lori doesn't like it but Rick thinks it wouldn't be a terrible idea and she finally relents.  Most of the group heads off to the fields for a shooting lesson, including several of Herschel's people.  Since Otis was the only one handy with a gun, the patriarch realizes that his people need to know how to protect themselves.  After a few rounds, Andrea is proving a crack shot.

When the gang has gone, Glen can't stand it any longer and spills his guts (not literally) to Dale.  A little later, Dale approaches Herschel and tells him that he heard the moans coming from the barn when he was out taking a walk.  Herschel seems to think the zombies are still people - his wife and stepson are in that barn - and doesn't want to kill them.  He tells Dale that the barn is plenty secure and asks him to please keep this to himself - some of the other folks in Dale's group might not exercise such restraint.

Lori finds Herschel out mending fences (literally) and thanks him again for saving Carl's life.  When she says that her group can earn their keep, Herschel is like, yeah, well, I imagine now that Carl's better you'll be moving on - Fort Benning, wasn't it?  She stares at him for a moment and then stalks off to find Rick.  She's very upset at the thought of having to leave this sanctuary with its shelter and water and medical supplies - and Rick promises that he's trying to get Herschel to reconsider.

Andrea and Shane stay late for advanced shooting practice.  He yells at her, goading her, trying to get her to keep her focus while under stress.  But he goes too far ("Imagine that's the walker that killed Amy!") and she  stomps off.  He chases after her and apologizes, then asks her to come with him as back-up when he goes out Sophia-searching.  Andrea is slightly appeased and agrees to go.

Dale is cooking burgers and musing about the barn-walkers, but is not too preoccupied to notice Lori getting nauseated by the smell of the cooking meat.  She ends up pouring her heart out to him, trying to explain why she hooked up with Shane when she thought Rick was dead, and how scared she is to bring a baby into this horrible new world.  Dale doesn't judge, just lets her let it out.  I like Dale.  Lori then goes to Glen and apologizes for putting him in that uncomfortable situation.  He says it's okay, and can he bring her anything from town?  Yes, yes he can.

Maggie rides into town with him, still pissed about him telling Dale about the barn-zombies.  He tells her that she's been isolated and if she'd seen Atlanta, she wouldn't be okay with keeping the walkers in the barn.  When they get to the pharmacy, she goes into the back for Lori's medications.  The camera is tight on her face so I know it's coming, but I still jump when the zombie grabs her arm.  She screams and Glen runs to the back.  He whacks the zombie in the head with a shelf, which breaks the thing's neck but doesn't kill it, so he has to smash its skull in.  Miraculously, he gets no blood on himself at all.  Which is good because Maggie is a freaking mess, grabbing him and sobbing.

When they return to the farm, Maggie gets in Lori's face, barking that they are not her errand boys and throwing her supplies in her face: "Here are your abortion pills!"  Glen goggles at Lori then runs after Maggie.  She's still so freaked out and tells him that she likes him, he's smart and brave and a leader, but his friends just use him as walker bait and she can't take losing him like that after she's lost so many other people.

Shane and Andrea go to the housing development and start to search each house, calling out for Sophia and/or survivors.  They find nothing but carnage and corpses ... and a bunch of lively zombies.  At first Andrea is not such a crack shot with moving, moaning, drooling targets.  Then she focuses and starts dropping them one after another.  Shane has to beg her to get back into the car.  On the drive back to the farm,  Andrea is still all het up and she reaches across and grabs ahold of Shane's crotch, rubbing and squeezing gently.  He grins at her, she smirks at him and he stops the car in the middle of the road.  "Come on then," he says.

Glen goes back to talk to Lori.  He tells her that yes, it was a close call at the pharmacy but they're okay.  He asks if the morning-after pills will work and she replies that she doesn't even know if she wants them too.  He hands her another bottle of pills that he picked up for her in case her decision goes the other way: prenatal vitamins.  He also tells her that she shouldn't be trying to make this decision alone.  Later, Lori is crying in her tent.  She takes the morning-after pills, washing them down with water, then runs out into the woods and sticks her finger down her throat, horking up the pills.  Guess she just made her choice.

When Shane and Andrea get back to the farm, Dale immediately picks up on the post-sex vibes and gets protective.  He tells Shane that maybe he should leave the group: he doesn't trust him, he's not convinced of his Otis story, and he remembers that time Shane thought about shooting Rick.  Shane is pissed and tells Dale that if he thinks Shane's the kind of man who would shoot his BFF, maybe he should worry about what he might do to a guy he doesn't even like.  Dale looks a little shaken after this discussion.

When Rick stops by his and Lori's tent, he sees the empty morning-after pill packets.  He finds his wife out in one of the fields and asks her if she's got something to tell him.  "We can't leave because I'm pregnant."  Rick is wild that not only was she making the decision about the baby without him, she wouldn't even tell him she was pregnant in the first place.  "I can't live like this - is there anything else I don't know?"  Lori totally mans up and says, "Shane and I ..." but Rick cuts her off, "I know, of course I know.  You thought I was dead.  The world went to shit and you thought I was dead, right?"  Lori can only nod, tears streaking her face.

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

Friday, November 18, 2011

Joe vs. The Walking Dead, part 2

More Facebook conversations between Joe and me:

Joe: How the hell do you keep a barnfull of walkers under wraps for that long?

FM: Exactly!  Like none of Rick's group noticed that the barn was locked up?  (Of course, Rick's gang is a pretty stupid group of individuals - Herschel was correct in that it's a miracle they have for survived for so long.)  And I'm thinking a herd of trapped walkers makes noises - moaning, groaning, what have you - that would be heard out in the quiet country nighttime.  But why do you think he's got them locked up?  Are they family members/loved ones whom he can't bear to kill?  Or are they for some other nefarious purpose?

Joe:  It was mentioned that Herschel wanted to deal with the walkers, presumably because he had some issues with violence [Ed.: like not letting his people carry guns].  He probably isn't working on a cure - maybe it's some kind of zombie dog-fighting ring.

FM: *crosses fingers*

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Walking Dead S2E5 "Chupacabra" (11/13/11)

Dream sequence: the traffic jam, with our survivors plus many of their lost loved ones, plus oodles and oodles of other people.  Helicopters fly overhead and Lori is there with Shane - Rick died in the hospital.  Shane and Lori are worried because the Refugee Center, to which all these folks are headed, has suddenly stopped broadcasting on the radio.  They hear gunfire in the distance and are horrified to see the helicopters dropping napalm on the center.  Lori cries and clutches Shane.  Come on - this show moves slowly enough that we don't need extended dream/alternative reality sequences to bulk it up.

It was a dream since Lori wakes up at Herschel's farm.  Whatshername Sophia's mom suggests that maybe the survivors could make dinner for Herschel's family as a thank you for their hospitality.  Rick comes out with new search grids for everyone.  One of Herschel's group, some kid I don't recall seeing before, wants to help even though he doesn't know how to shoot a gun.  Darryl thinks he'll borrow one of the farm's horses in order to cover more ground.  Up on the farmhouse porch, Glen tells Maggie that they've got another eleven condoms left.  Maggie: "I don't even know if I like you."  Glen: "But you're thinking about it, right?"

Out in the woods on their search, Rick manages to get a morose Shane talking, teasing him about all the girls he done slept with in high school.  They banter and laugh a bit until Shane gets melancholy about all those folks, that time, lost forever.  They walk and talk, walk and talk.  Shane thinks they should cut their losses and give up the search for Sophia: they're putting themselves in danger, looking for a girl who's likely already dead.  "If we'd just moved on, we'd be halfway to Ft. Bend by now, Carl wouldn't have got shot.  Otis would still be alive."  Rick insists that he's not giving up.

Darryl rides Herschel's horse, shootin' squirrels with his crossbow.  He sees Sophia's doll down by the creek and goes to investigate.  I wish he wasn't out here by himself.  He calls for Sophia but gets no answer, so remounts the horse and rides on.  The dang horse shies at a snake, tossing Darryl.  The horse bolts into the woods and Darryl falls down a big cliff back into the creek, somehow managing to impale himself with one of his arrows.

He climbs out of the creek and secures the arrow by tying a strip of his shirt around his chest.  God, he's got lovely strong arms.  He hears some noises in the bushes and has to search for his crossbow, sunk in the creek.  The quiver seems to be lost.  He drags himself up the banking to the ridge, admonishing himself not to be a pussy.  Then he slips and falls back down again.

Rick and Shane return to the farm, both in a snit.  Lori asks what's wrong and Rick tells her that Shane thinks he's weak for endangering them with this search for Sophia.  She tells him that he's making the best decisions he can with the information he has - nothing weak about that.  Herschel then wants a word with him: Darryl took that horse without asking and Jimmy, that kid who joined the search, did not have Herschel's permission to do so.  Rick says they'll need to work on communicating with each other.  Herschel snaps that they should each work on controlling their own groups.

Darryl, having hit his head, is hallucinating his big brother Meryl looming over him.  Meryl says he's going to die out here and it'd serve him right, having left his own kin behind.  He accuses Darryl of being Rick's bitch - "they're laughing at you behind your back, you know that, dontcha?  They're not your kin.  If you had any nuts in that sack of yours, you'd go back there and shoot your pal Rick in the face for me."  Darryl rouses from his hallucination in time to catch a zombie trying to gnaw through his boot.  He beats its face in with a stick, then pulls the arrow out of his midsection, loading it into the crossbow just in time to shoot a second zombie lurching out of the woods at him.  Damn, I hope that first zombie didn't get a tooth into him.

After the commercials, Darryl bandages his wound as best he can.  "That sumbitch was right," he mutters before cutting into his dead squirrel and eating it raw, blood smearing over his chin.  Then he cuts the ears of the zombies and strings them around his neck.  Ick.  He struggles to climb back up the banking and Meryl reappears to taunt him some more, goading him enough to reach the top.

Herschel looks into the kitchen and is pissed that Maggie said the survivors could make dinner for everyone.  "We need to set some boundaries with these people," he tells her, "Don't get close to them - they're not going to be around forever."

From her perch atop the RV, Andrea spots someone lurching out of the woods across the field.  She shouts "Walker!" and wants to shoot it, but Rick, Shane and T-Dog sprint across the field with machetes to meet the zombie face to face.  It's Darryl - and he looks awful, bloody and staggering.  They can't tell if he's been turned until he snarls, "It's about time you pointed that damn [gun] at my head."  Relieved, they stand down ... but Andrea can't tell what's going on at that distance and she shoots.  Darryl goes down, hard.  Rick screams, "No!"

She didn't hit him straight, however, only grazed him.  Herschel comes out, pissed at the ruckus everyone is making.  Rick quickly pulls the string of ears off Darryl's neck before their host can see it.  T-Dog holds up the doll Darryl found, recognizing it as Sophia's.  Back in the farmhouse, Herschel grudgingly patches Darryl up, bitching about his lost horse and how fast they're going through antibiotics.  "It's a wonder you people have survived this long."

Once again, Shane thinks they need to stop searching: Darryl nearly died for a doll - and Rick stomps off.  Shane looks at Lori, saying that he's sorry but someone needs to make the hard decisions in the group.  She gently tells him that the easy thing to do would be to cut their losses - the really hard decision is to stay and help other people.  Outside, Andrea frets about having shot Darryl.  "Don't be too hard on yourself," says Dale, "We've all wanted to shoot Darryl at one time or another."

Dinner with the group is a strained affair, Herschel clearly disapproving.  Sophia's mom takes a plate up to the recuperating Darryl.  She gives him a kiss on the forehead, saying that he did more for Sophia today than her own daddy ever did his whole life.  Maggie and Glen pass notes to each other under the table, planning an assignation for later.  But Maggie doesn't read the rendezvous location until later and is frightened when she reads Glen's suggestion that they do it in the hayloft.  She sprints to the barn.  Glen has gotten there ahead of her and is horrified to see that Herschel has imprisoned a bunch of live zombies in the locked barn. "You weren't supposed to see this," gasps Maggie.

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

Sunday, November 13, 2011


I've watched some stuff lately, none of which has compelled me enough to write a full post about but I thought I'd just throw something up here for the hell of it.

Bridesmaids - Since Mr. Mouse was long-suffering all through October with my horror movies, Bridesmaids was my first conciliatory attempt at a movie we both might like.  Meh.  Neither of us found it as funny as we  had been led to believe, although I think giving yellow Lab puppies as bridal shower party favors is an excellent idea.

Dinner for Schmucks - This was my second attempt and, well, strike two.  We both like Paul Rudd a lot and think Zach Galifikianwhatsisname was the best part of The Hangover (and I keep meaning to watch Between Two Ferns because he's supposed to be great in that), and Mr. Mouse is a big U.S. Office fan, plus it was nice to see some Flight of the Conchords folks getting some work.  We chuckled aloud several times but mostly I thought it was pretty dumb.  Also, Ron Livingston has all of a sudden gotten old.

Hell on Wheels - We watched the pilot last week and while it certainly isn't breaking any new ground, we liked it enough to keep it in the queue.  It sure did remind us of how much we miss Deadwood, however.

Skins - I'm up to series 4 of the U.K. version on Hulu and am still enjoying the hell out of it.  The first two seasons/series were in general stronger than 3 and 4, I think - less sensational (I wasn't really buying the whole Effie hit Katie upside the head with a rock and left her to die in the woods bit) - but I'm finally warming up to the new characters, even Cook, who makes poor doomed Chris from 1 and 2 look like a choir boy.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Girl panic!

I am a longtime Duran Duran fan, from way back in the earliest of the '80s and I am super-thrilled to see the boys back in very fine form in this long-form music video for their song, "Girl Panic."  The sound recalls their glory days and the video stars supermodels, of course - with Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford and Helena Christensen playing Simon, John and Roger.  For the record, Cindy is smokin' hot here and Naomi doesn't look to have aged a day in the last couple of decades.  Watch it - enjoy!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Walking Dead S2E4 "Cherokee Rose" (11/6/11)

Everyone finally reconvenes at Herschel's farmhouse: Darryl, Dale and Carol drive up in the gang's vehicles; Carl wakes up, asking if Sophia is okay.  They do a memorial service for Otis, piling up a big cairn of rocks.  Herschel asks Shane to say a few words, seeing how he was with Otis when he died.  Shane doesn't want to because, you know, he's the one who killed Otis, but he does, lying about how Otis gave him his backpack and told him to run ahead while he (Otis) covered Shane's back.  Everyone seems to buy the story, except maybe Dale who possibly looks disbelieving but may in fact just be shocked at the tale of Otis's self sacrifice.

Afterwards, the gang wants to grid the area using Herschel's maps and do a proper search for Sophia, but Herschel tells Rick and Shane that they're not to go hiking around in the heat what with their respective being down three units of blood and having a sprained ankle.  Darryl is feeling fidgety and goes off to search on his own.  The farmhouse is running short on antibiotics and other medical supplies, so Maggie says she'll do a run to a nearby pharmacy and Rick volunteers Glen to go with her.  In the meantime, Herschel says that he's not comfortable with the gang packing heat all over his property and Rick says his group will lay aside their weapons for the duration.  Andrea is not at all happy about this, so Shane distracts her by showing her how to clean her gun.  Herschel takes Rick aside and tells him that once Carl is fit to travel, he expects Rick to take his people and leave the farm.  Rick looks gobsmacked.

Dale and T-Dog go to one of the farm's five wells to fill some water jugs and they find a swollen, waterlogged zombie splashing around down in the well.  It is a particularly loathesome specimen.  They don't want to shoot it because its blood and/or brains could contaminate the well, so they try to lure it into a noose using a canned ham on a string.  The zombie isn't interested in the canned ham - because as T-Dog points out, canned hams don't kick and scream - and Andrea mutters that they'll need to use live bait.  Everyone looks at Glen.  They tie him to a rope and lower him down so he can try to get the noose over the zombie, who perks up considerably with real food dangling overhead.  The rope slips and Glen drops, screaming.  They catch hold of the rope (they being Shane, Lori, Dale, T-Dog, Andrea and Maggie, and maybe Carol too) and pull poor Glen out before he gets bitten.  "Back to the drawing board," groans Dale but Glen tells him to speak for himself and hands him the other rope.  The lassoed zombie thrashes around on the other end.  They pull the zombie up out of the well, slowly, because it is really fat.  It gets caught at the lip of the well though and when they pull harder, they wind up ripping the damn thing right in half. TOTALLY GROSS.  Blood and guts pour out and the bottom half of the zombie ends up falling back down into the well.  Oops.  T-Dog beats the half-zombie's head in, causing Maggie to turn away in disgust since she's never seen one killed so close before - but the rest of the gang just watches dispassionately.  Dale muses that they should probably just seal up this well so no one drinks from it.

Darryl finds an old abandoned house and checks it out.  He doesn't find anyone inside, but he does find a recently eaten sardine tin and what looks like a little nest of blankets in a cupboard.  He goes outside, calling for Sophia, only pausing when he sees a wild white rose at the edge of the yard.  Meanwhile, Shane, Carol and Andrea go back to the highway to see if Sophia has picked up any of the supplies they left for her (she hasn't - is this lost little girl storyline almost done?) and then go off for some target practice.  Shane ends up talking a little too much and it looks as though Andrea is able to read between the lines and figure out that Otis's death maybe wasn't so much a self-sacrifice as just a sacrifice.

Maggie and Glen ride the farm's horses to the pharmacy.  While she heads into the back, looking for antibiotics, he goes to the feminine hygiene section and picks up a pregnancy test which Lori asked him to get for her - discreetly.  Maggie surprises him and he grabs a package of condoms to cover for why he's in that aisle.  She teases him, saying that he's pretty confident, and he stammers and stutters, totally out of his depth, until she tells him that she'll have sex with him - she's lonely too.  They take off their clothes and do it.

Back at the farm, Rick asks Herschel to reconsider asking them to leave - he doesn't know how horrible it is out there.  Herschel tells him that there are aspects of the situation that he can't and won't discuss (??) but if Rick's people agree to live by his rules, he'll consider letting them stay.

When Darryl returns, he finds Carol in the RV.  He gives her the flower - a "Cherokee rose," so named because the fable goes that it sprung up along the Trail of Tears when the Cherokee women cried for their lost children.  He says he figures no flower is blooming for his brother Meryl, but maybe this one's for Sophia.  You know, they're making Darryl into a very sympathetic character.  They better not kill him off!

That night, Lori sneaks off into a field and pees on her pregnancy test.  It comes up positive, of course, and she bows her head and cries.

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

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Mini book review: Zombies Vs. Unicorns

This book attempts to answer that age-old question - which is better, zombies or unicorns? - via short stories.  Compiled by Justine Larbalestier (Team Zombie, author of How to Ditch your Fairy, among other books) and Holly Black (Team Unicorn, author of the Spiderwick Chronicle series plus more), Zombies Vs. Unicorns contains twelve short stories by different authors, six zombie stories/six unicorn tales, and leaves it up to the reader to decide.
  • "The Highest Justice" by Garth Nix - the most fairytale-ish of the lot and which actually has a zombie in it, despite being a unicorn story
  • "Love Will Tear Us Apart" by Alaya Dawn Johnson - which asks if really good New Wave music is enough to sustain the love between the dead and the living
  • "Purity Test" by Naomi Novik - in which a unicorn and a not-virgin have to rescue kidnapped baby unicorns from a nasty wizard in NYC
  • "Bougainvillea" by Carrie Ryan - you think you're safe from the inevitable zombie apocalypse by living on an island, but then you have to deal with pirates as well as the lurchers
  • "A Thousand Flowers" by Margo Lanagan - an odd story where the first person narrator keeps switching without warning.  Plus bestiality.
  • "The Children of the Revolution" by Maureen Johnson - I always knew there was something off about Angelina Jolie
  • "The Care and Feeding of Your Baby Killer Unicorn" by Diana Peterfreund - unicorns in this story's universe are vicious, poisonous, man-eating creatures, although the baby ones are still adorable
  • "Inoculata" by Scott Westerfeld - and a little child shall lead them, especially if that little child does not entirely succumb to a zombie bite
  • "Princess Prettypants" by Meg Cabot - the titular unicorn does indeed glitter and sparkle and fart honeysucked-scented rainbows but you still shouldn't piss her off
  • "Cold Hands" by Cassandra Clare - just because one of you is dead doesn't mean you have to break up
  • "The Third Virgin" by Kathleen Duey - a grim tale about a very twisted unicorn
  • "Prom Night" by Libba Bray - with all the adults gone, it's up to the surviving kids to police themselves
The stories in Zombies Vs. Unicorns are uniformly decent, some better than others, none of them awful, each of them just long enough to read at breakfast before work.  I was on Team Zombie before I started reading, and I'm still on Team Zombie now that I'm done with the book, but the unicorn stories hold their own.  Plus I now have a listing of a whole bunch of new fantasy/urban fantasy authors to explore!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Some Walking Dead thoughts

My old friend Joe and I had a recent, brief email chat about The Walking Dead where Joe brought up some very good points and I told him I was going to steal his points and put them up here.  So here's me doing that, with my further thoughts included.  Joe is in green.

How many brand new RVs are sitting in lots at dealerships?  Why would you risk running around in a broke ass Winnebago?

Is penicillin that hard to find?  Really?

Guns have silencers, so why not get some or make one?  Ammo shouldn't be that hard to come by either - stop in at most hardware stores or a Cabela's.  There.  Enough to wipe out an entire zombie herd.

How long do zombies survive without food?  With no fresh humans, what are they eating besides the random deer?  They really aren't smart enough to hunt.

The fact that the survivors are so ill-prepared really doesn't make sense what with all the everything lying around for the taking everywhere.  I realize that at the outset of the zombie apocalypse people were maybe too shocked to stock up, but it's been long enough now that they should be getting their acts together.  I can believe that food is a real issue, what with spoilage and inability to grow anything fresh, but if they got themselves some decent vehicles (someone driving a tow truck would be a good idea, to help clear the wrecks from the road (I got that idea right from Stephen King's The Stand, btw)), they could carry enough clothing, equipment and weaponry to last a while.  And it seems like several survivors with automatic/semi-automatic guns could fell a whole herd - and you got 'em all, it wouldn't matter how noisy it was, and your spiffy new RV and tow truck could take you away before the next herd shows up.

I read a zombie novel this summer, My Life as a White Trash Zombie, about this girl who got zombified.  If she ate enough brains, she could maintain her human appearance and composure.  But three days without and her skin started to rot and crack off and she started to smell bad, and it just got worse from there.  If a zombie in that novel went for three weeks without brains, they basically turned into a dried-up, lurching skeleton with no higher function other than feeding.  I think the zombies in The Walking Dead should be somewhat similar with no food: they're never going to die of starvation since technically they're already dead, but they should shrivel and dry up and maybe move a little slower - but they'd still move, animated by their hunger.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Second Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series - Movie #9: Piranha

So sad: this is the final movie in this year's Scarelicious October Movie Series!  I got off to a slow start, I'm afraid, and just didn't get to nearly as many horror flicks as I would have liked to (and Mr. Mouse is champing at the bit, saying it's high time I got a movie he wants to watch too and enough with this horror bullshit).  I'll get to Red State soon, but it'll definitely be in November so it doesn't count.  And yes, it is still October 31 out here in Utah whilst I post this, so even tho' Blogger's datestamp will say November 1st, Piranha was actually watched - and enjoyed - on Halloween.

So, Alexandre Aja's Piranha - what can be said about it?  Bountiful bouncy bare boobs and buckets of blood, and lots of ugly fishies with really nasty teeth, that's Piranha in a nutshell.  It's hilarious and, as I understand it, a callback to Aja's favorite creature features, winking but offering up enough true gore and scares to be a real horror flick in and of itself.  The plot is bare bones: "Lake Victoria," in Arizona, is the site of a rowdy spring break crowd.  The little town is bursting with 20,000 mostly naked college students, swimming, wake-boarding, drinking, etc.  The local sheriff's son, Jake, gets asked by the sleazy Girls Gone Wild-esque director (played with smarmy glee by Jerry O'Connell) to be their location scout for the porno-lite he's filming with two chickies.  Unbeknownst to everyone, a recent earthquake has opened a fissure underneath the lake, freeing thousands of prehistoric piranhas.  Shortly thereafter, mayhem ensues.

I can't decide what was my favorite part: the snickety-snickety noise the piranha teeth made; Jerry O'Connell's piscine penisectomy; Eli Roth's head getting smushed between a couple of boat hulls; Ving Rhames laying waste with an outboard motor; or simply the creative and exceedingly nasty ways Aja showed a person's stripped limbs post-piranha attack.  The cast was impressive too.  In addition to the previously mentioned folks, we've got Elisabeth Shue as the embattled sheriff, Jessica Szohr (Gossip Girl) as Jake's crush, Christopher Lloyd as a pet shop owner, Adam Scott as a seismologist (so much fun to see Adam Scott get to be almost an action hero! at least for a little while) and, in a wonderful cameo shoutout to Jaws, Richard Dreyfuss as a hapless fisherman.  There's no great acting being done here but everyone committed to their roles and everyone looked like they were having a helluva a lot of fun.  Unless they were being systematically stripped of their flesh by those hideous fish.

Piranha was just fun.  Gruesome, gory, gratuitously nude fun - everything a B creature feature should be.  I've never seen Joe Dante's original 1978 cult classic Piranha (which is supposed to be a ripoff of Jaws), but now I don't think I need too.  Non CGI fish would be better, of course, but I'm pretty happy with what I just saw.

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Walking Dead S2E3 "Save the Last One" (10/30/11)

In the farmhouse bathroom, Shane shaves off all his hair.

Flashback: Shane and Otis run through the halls of the high school, the drooling hordes of zombies lurching along behind them, as Rick, in a voiceover, tells Lori some story about Shane's high school derring-do.  Rick and Lori are sitting by Carl's bedside.  Their son is still comatose.  At the RV, Darryl and Andrea can't sleep and decide to walk down the road a bit, looking for Sophia.  Darryl is thinking positively: he thinks that kids are resourceful and Sophia will make her way back to them.  Shane and Otis split up, Shane slipping through a small window in the gym while Otis flees through the locker room to find another way out - he's too fat to fit through the gym windows.  Glen and T-Dog finally arrive at the farmhouse (seriously - what took them so long?) to learn that poor Carl is really not doing well.  Lori tells Rick that maybe it would be for the better if Carl were to die, getting free of this hell on earth in which they live.  This thinking tears Rick up considerably.

Shane and Otis meet back up, but they are out of rifle ammo and only have their pistols.  More staggering and running away from the high school zombies.  Some time later, back at the farmhouse, Carl wakes up and starts to tell his mom about the beautiful deer he saw.  Then, suddenly, horribly, he starts to seize.  When the seizure has passed, Herschel says it's because his brain needs more blood.  Rick rolls up his sleeve to provide another transfusion, even though he's given too much already.

Out in the woods, Darryl and Andrea come across a campsite with a zombie swinging by the neck from a nearby tree.  They read the handwritten sign: the guy got bitten and when the fever kicked in, decided to kill himself rather than become a zombie.  But instead of shooting himself in the head, he hung himself ... which meant that he zombified after all.  Andrea upchucks when Darryl points out that the hanging zombie's legs have been stripped of their flesh by other zombies.  She asks him to kill the zombie but he doesn't want to waste an arrow, so he says he'll do it if she tells him if she wants to live now or not.  She answers that she doesn't really know and even though Darryl doesn't think that's much of an answer, he puts an arrow through the zombie's skull, silencing it.

Shane and Otis keep trying to outrun the high school zombies.  They're down to their last two bullets.

Back at the farmhouse, Herschel tells Rick and Lori that they either try to operate now, without the medical equipment Shane and Otis went to fetch, or Carl will die for sure.  Rick looks at his wife and she, realizing that what Carl remembered from the day was the deer and not the horrors, says okay, let's try it.  Just as Herschel is about to make the first incision, Shane drives up, without Otis but with the equipment.  As Herschel rushes inside to operate, Shane stands there, twitchy and shell-shocked.

When Darryl and Andrea get back to the RV (without little Sophia), Dale returns her gun to her and asks her forgiveness for not letting her kill herself as she wishes.  She tells him she's trying but she's not there yet.  After the surgery, Herschel comes out and says that Carl seems to have stabilized.  Lori goes in to see her son while Rick goes with Herschel to tell Patricia that her husband is dead.  Shane stands in the front hallway and twitches.  When he looks in on Carl, Lori asks him not to leave.  He nods without saying anything and backs out of the room.  Herschel's daughter gives him some clean clothes (formerly belonging to Otis) and shows him where he can shower.

Flashback to Shane and Otis lurching along, barely staying ahead of the high school zombies.  Shane turns to Otis and says, "I'm sorry, man," and then shoots him in the leg, dropping him.  He yanks the pack off Otis's back and Otis grabs him.  They tussle, Otis ripping out a big hunk of Shane's hair, before Shane can manage to get away from him.  Shane runs back to the truck, clutching the two packs, while behind him the herd of zombies has descended upon poor Otis, messily devouring him while he shrieks, letting Shane get away.

In the farmhouse bathroom, Shane shaves off all his hair.

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

Saturday, October 29, 2011

'Tis the season

Just to get y'all in the mood for Halloween:

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Second Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series - Movie #8: Quarantine

Quarantine is the American remake of the very excellent Spanish horror film, [REC].  It's a pretty faithful retelling too:

Set in Los Angeles instead of Barcelona, [and I'm allowed to copy from my [REC] review because this is my blog] a cute little television reporter (Angela) and her cameraman (Scott), shooting a puff-piece on L.A.'s firemen, tag along with two of said firemen on a call to help an elderly woman trapped in her apartment.  When they get to the apartment building, the other tenants are milling about in the lobby, disturbed by the screaming coming from the old woman's flat.  Two policemen take the firemen and the t.v. crew up to the apartment and when they break the door down, all hell breaks loose.  The old lady, fat, foaming at the mouth, nuts and wearing nothing but a blood-covered slip, attacks the rescue party, chewing a hole in one policeman's neck.  Leaving one of the firemen behind to deal with the now-restrained old lady, the rest of them drag the wounded police officer down to the lobby, only to find out that the health department has sealed the building, allowing no-one out for any reason.  Then the formerly upstairs firefighter plummets down the stairwell with a splat, face nearly chewed off.  And now the screaming starts.  The sickness spreads quickly, picking off the trapped people one by one.  There is a lot of screaming - things get very tense very quickly.  This is all shown as a real time POV movie, filmed on Scott's camera and narrated by Angela as they first hope to bring word to the world of what is happening in the building; later, when the power is shut off to the building, the filming is incidental as Angela and Scott make use of the camera's light, and then night vision scope when the light is broken.  Towards the end, the only things we see are what little is illuminated by the camera's light, and then its night vision.

I had my doubts that Quarantine could be as good as [REC] - it very nearly is, and if I hadn't seen the original Spanish movie, this one would have been very scary indeed.  The remake has made a few changes - what is possessing the apartment building's tenants is a particularly virulent, contagious and fast-acting form of rabies, and the editing is a little more frantic, making it difficult to figure out the action at times - but by and large sticks to the original plan.  I knew what was coming but that didn't stop me from watching through my fingers a couple of times.

Another point in Quarantine's favor is its cast, including Jennifer Carpenter (Dexter) as Angela, Steve Harris (The Practice) as Scott, Jay Hernandez and Johnathon Schaech as the firefighters, and, as some of the tenants/fodder (undeveloped for the most part), Greg Germann (Ally McBeal), Dania Ramirez ("Maya" on Heroes), Denis O'Hare (True Blood and American Horror Story) and Rade Serbedziji ("Boris the Blade" from Snatch).  While I think Spanish Angela was braver as a character, kudos to Jennifer Carpenter for friggin' knocking it out of the park in this movie.  I seriously don't think I've ever seen an actor do "terrified" quite so well, even if the never-ending hysteria was wearying towards the end - I was getting a little concerned for Carpenter that she might pass out from all the hyperventilating.

I would still recommend [REC] to everyone but for folks who are unwilling to deal with subtitles, Quarantine will do you fine in its stead.

Next on the list: Piranha or maybe eXistenZ (Mr. Mouse is hoping October ends soon so I will rent a movie he would also enjoy watching).

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Second Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series - Movie #7: Nadja

Well, ... that was weird.  Nadja is an arthouse vampire flick, filmed in black and white with some truly striking shots interspersed with fuzzy-focused vampire-vision scenes.  A post-modern revisiting of Dracula, this strange little movie has Romanian twin siblings Nadja (definitely a vampire) and Edgar (maybe a vampire) Dracul trying to come to terms with their lives in the wake of their despised father's death in 1990s New York City.  Edgar is in love with Cassandra, his caretaker, and living the reclusive invalid's life in Brooklyn, while Nadja, her enthralled young Irish Renfield doting on her every whim, tries to find meaning by going on dates and dancing in clubs and picking up Lucy, a depressed young woman currently estranged from her husband Jim.  Oh, and Jim's paranoid uncle, the one and only Van Helsing (a tripped-out Peter Fonda) is trying to kill the Dracul twins, just like he killed their father.

Nadja is not for everyone.  I'm not sure it was for me as it is abstract and moody, very slow-paced, dreamy in spots, with lots of talking about the emptiness of life (although there is a fair amount of black humor too) and only a little soft-focus vampire violence.  But for folks who prefer their vampire films sleek and stylish with a side of weird - the movie was produced by David Lynch, who has a cameo as a morgue guard - Nadja is perfect.

Next in line: Quarantine - we'll see how the American remake holds up.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Walking Dead S2E2 (10/23/11) "Bloodletting"

We begin with a flashback to before the zombie apocalypse, with Laurie confiding to a friend that she's not sure she loves Rick anymore, and being interrupted when Shane comes up to tell her that Rick has been shot.  Cut to now, with Rick running across a field, Carl in his arms, Shane and a fat guy, Otis, the hunter who accidentally shot Carl, following behind.  At the farmhouse where Otis lives, the patriarch, Herschel, takes charge immediately, hooking Carl up to an IV, arranging for Rick to provide blood for a transfusion (he and Carl are both A+).  From Herschel's examination, the bullet has broken into fragments which will need to be removed.

The remainder of the search party is still making their way back to the RV, while at the RV, Dale checks T-Dog's arm and sees that he's got a bad infection.  They search the nearby vehicles again, hoping for some antibiotics they might have missed before.

Herschel manages to remove one of the bullet fragments from Carl's belly, but the boy is shrieking and crying from the pain.  Finally he passes out.  Herschel says that the other fragments are in even deeper, plus it looks like there's some internal bleeding, so they need to anesthetize Carl, and put him on a respirator, and open him up.  They'll need additional equipment and supplies for that.  There's a high school about five miles away that had a FEMA shelter set up there - they should have the supplies, but last time they looked, it was overrun with zombies.  Rick wants to go but Shane says no, he needs to stay here with his son.  Shane and Otis volunteer to go and Herschel gives them a list.  One of Herschel's daughters says she'll go find Laurie and bring her back to the farmhouse.

The infection has caused a high fever and T-Dog starts to rant, paranoid, alarming Dale.  As the rest of the group nears the highway, a zombie attacks Andrea as she wanders away from the group.  Before it can munch on her, Herschel's daughter rides up on a horse, bludgeons the zombie with a baseball bat and tells Laurie that she needs to come with her to Carl.  Darryl thinks that's a bad idea since they don't know this girl, but she shouts directions to the farmhouse over her shoulder as she rides off with Laurie.  When the group reaches the RV, it is decided that Dale, Darryl and Andrea will wait overnight at the RV in case little Sophia shows up, and make a sign for her telling her how to get to the farmhouse, while the rest of them will go now to the farmhouse.  When he hears about T-Dog's blood infection, Darryl pulls a baggie of medicine out of his motorcycle saddlebags - Merle's stash, which includes crystal meth, painkillers ... and penicillin.  He hands over the antibiotics to Dale at once.

As they wait at the farmhouse, Rick and Herschel talk.  Herschel is hopeful about the future and finding a cure but Rick is pretty despondent.  When Laurie gets there, Rick takes her in to see their son.  A little later, she questions Herschel about how many times he's done this surgery and it comes out that he's a veterinarian, not a people doctor.  She is not happy about that: "Aren't you over your head?"  Herschel, calmly: "Ma'am, aren't we all?"

When Shane and Otis get to the high school, it is indeed overrun with zombies.  They wait until nightfall and then distract the walkers with flares found in an abandoned police car.  They get inside the FEMA trailer and collect everything on Herschel's list but they've taken too long and when they exit the trailer, the zombies see them.  After quite a bit of running around, fat Otis amazingly able to keep up with the fit Shane, they take refuge inside the high school, barricading themselves behind a metal gate.  The innumerable zombies growl and moan and reach for them through the gate (wouldn't you move out of their line of sight in hopes that they'd forget about you if they couldn't see you, instead of standing there in full view?)  That gate isn't going to last long against all that dead weight.

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

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Second Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series - Movie #6: I Sell the Dead

I Sell the Dead is a funny-ish little (85 minutes) horror-ish movie about two 18th century grave-robbers who, finding their vocation not quite ghoulish enough, end up snatching undead bodies as well as dead ones.  The story is framed as Arthur Blake (Dominic Monaghan, a/k/a Charlie from Lost, a/k/a one of the LoTR hobbits who wasn't Frodo) has been arrested for murder and grave-robbing.  His partner and mentor, Willie, has already been executed for those crimes; when the movie opens, Arthur is telling his tale to Father Duffy (a misused Ron Perlman).

There are a lot of loose ends in IStD, a lot of false starts where you think something is going to lead somewhere and never does.  For example: Willie and Arthur were accused of murder by a trail of body parts leading to each of their abodes.  Arthur says he was framed, yet nothing comes of this - who left the body parts?  I think I know, but it's never mentioned again.  Willie and Arthur are hired by a creepy doctor who needs lots and lots and lots of corpses, the fresher the better - but why?  We never see what he's doing with them or why he needs so many, so what's the point?  When Willie and Arthur begin collecting and selling the undead (vampires, zombies and, very strangely, an alien), we're told that this is much more lucrative work but we don't know who wants these beings or why.  And so on.

There's a little violence and gore but not much and the movie really isn't scary.  There's an awful lot of just talking (and talking and talking - I may have nodded off for a couple of minutes) and while some of Monaghan's line readings are funny but the movie isn't a farce or satire or even just funny enough to be a black comedy.  I give it a resounding "meh."  I seem to be giving those out a lot lately.

Next time (for sure, after TWD):  Nadja.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Second Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series - Movie #5: Open Water

Okay, if I do this movie series again next October, all y'all have to give me some movie suggestions because I'm not doing a very good job of picking them out myself.  The latest less than stellar offering?  Open Water, a tepid hybrid of when-animals-sort-of-attack and man-at-the-mercy-of-the-elements, based-on-a-true-story film about a couple who are inadvertently left behind on a diving trip in shark-infested waters.  Spoilers ahead, mateys!

The pluses: independent, low-budget movie, shot realistically (on video?) with natural light and no CGI, real sharks, actors actually bobbing about in the ocean and not in a shark cage or indoor tanks.

The rest of it:  the actors, unknowns, are pretty bad, although in their defense they weren't given much to work with.  When Daniel and Susan resurface and find the tour boat missing, they take it too calmly - it isn't realistic.  I think there would be some immediate panic, then subsiding to calm/shock.  Their physical condition didn't deteriorate as the hours passed: even though they were in tropical waters, hypothermia will set in after prolonged exposure, not to mention dehydration and salt sores.  Once Daniel was bitten by the shark, I don't think the other sharks would have left him alone to bleed out overnight - I think they would have gone after him, and Susan too, what with all the blood floating about.  And I found Susan's death unsatisfying: I can see how she would just give up but she was wearing a wetsuit and would have been far too buoyant to slip beneath the surface to drown, especially since she'd dropped her dive weights.

The whole thing was just unsatisfying.  I've read reviews saying that people expecting Jaws will be disappointed, that Open Water is more about fear and dread and hopelessness.  Which would have been fine if  any of that had been conveyed by the actors.  Instead, this mercifully brief movie is boring, basically amounting to watching two unlikable characters tread water for 81 minutes.  Ugh.

P.S.  I did manage to get Mr. Mouse to watch it with me and he gets points for calling: (1) no survivors, (2) Daniel dying first; and (3) the camera being found.

Next up (I think): Nadja.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Walking Dead S2E1 (10/16/11)

This was a 90 minute season opener and they probably could have condensed it down to an hour.  Yes, I realize that this show is about more than zombies - character development and interactions among the survivors being as important as the zombies ... but I am of the more-zombies-is-better camp.  I found this episode a tad slow, although certainly suspenseful and exciting in parts.

Our group of survivors is leaving Atlanta for Fort Benning, 125 miles away, in hopes of finding something, anything there in the aftermath of their visit to the CDC.  Rick gives a long monologue about being a survivor, etc., etc., over the walkie, trying to reach his buddy from S1E1 (Morgan?) and warn him away from Atlanta.  Finally, they move on in a small caravan: motorcycle, RV and SUV.  They cruising down the interstate when they are stopped by two things: a huge wreck/traffic jam across the highway and a blown radiator hose in the RV.  As Dale tries to repair the radiator hose, the others search the stranded/abandoned cars for supplies as they need almost everything: water, clean clothes, medicine, gas.

After a while, Rick sees a "herd" of hundreds of zombies lurching towards them, as if migrating.  The survivors quickly hide under various cars, trying to stay silent as the zombies go by.  Andrea is still in the RV, trying to reassemble her gun after cleaning it; a zombie decides to investigate the RV and she hides in the tiny bathroom. When the zombie tries to get in after her, Dale - who is up on the roof of the RV - drops a screwdriver down to her and she ends up staking the zombie through the eye with it, eventually killing it.  You see, they can't use their guns because to do so would alert the rest of the zombie herd.  So when Whatsisname the token black guy, badly cuts his arm on some metal, and a zombie goes after him, Darryl (Norman Reedus, my new favorite, hot off his gig as Judas in the video for Lady Gaga's eponymous song) has to silently shove an arrow by hand through the zombie's brain to save him.

Finally, the herd has passed ... except for a couple of stragglers who see little Sophia when she climbs out from under the car she was hiding under.  Sophia runs away into the woods, the two zombies chasing her, and Rick races after them.  He finally catches Sophia and tells her to hide as he draws the zombies off, and then she is to retrace her steps back to the others.  The zombies follow him further into the woods until he takes them out, one at a time, via a large rock to the skull.  Unfortunately, Sophia does not make it back to the group before Rick does, so he and Darryl head back out to track her.  They find and kill another walker, and note that it has fed recently, so Darryl cuts its stomach open (with many squishy sound effects) so they can see what it ate: a woodchuck.  They suspend the search for Sophia when it gets dark.

In the morning, everyone goes back out to search for the little girl, except Dale (who's supposed to be fixing the RV - but who actually fixed it the day before but doesn't want anyone to know because he's afraid people will want to leave before Sophia is found) and Whatsisname (who is recovering from his cut arm).  Before they leave, Andrea gets in Dale's face: she's pissed that he wouldn't let her die in the CDC explosion like she wanted.  After they've been searching a while, they find a church with several zombies inside.  After Rick, Darryl and Shane kill the zombies, there's a bunch of blah blah blah of talking to God.  Outside, Laurie and Shane argue because he's decided to leave the group since he can't stand being around her and Rick any longer.  After Laurie walks away, Andrea - who overheard their argument - tells Shane that she wants to come with him.

It's getting late but Rick feels guilty and doesn't want to give up the search.  He and Shane decide to search for another hour or so while the rest of the group head back to the RV.  Rick's son Carl wants to stay with his dad since Sophia is his friend; amazingly, Laurie and Rick agree to it.  As Rick, Shane and Carl are walking through the woods, they find a huge deer.  Fascinated, Carl approaches the deer while the men watch, smiles on their faces.  Suddenly, a shot rings out from across the clearing.  Both the deer and Carl fall to the ground.  Rick and Shane rush towards the boy, stricken looks on their faces.

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

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Second Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series - Movie #4: The Devil's Backbone

FINALLY!  A very good movie!  The Devil's Backbone, written and directed by Guillermo del Toro (a favorite here at FMS), is a Spanish (English-subtitled) ghost story, set in 1939 Spain.  Young Carlos has been orphaned by the Spanish civil war and has been left at a remote Spanish orphanage, run by Republican sympathizers.  Carlos is a bright and gentle boy, soon running up against the orphanage's bullly, Jaime, the nasty caretaker, Jacinto, himself a former denizen of the facility, and Santi, the ghost of an orphan who died not too long before Carlos's arrival.  Carlos is given Santi's bed to sleep in and the ghost seems to attach himself to the newcomer, appearing to him often and warning that many will die.

When Franco's Nationalist forces begin to prevail, the Republican sympathizers decide to evacuate the orphanage, but an explosion decimates the place, killing many of the staff and the children.  The remaining orphans, Carlos and Jaime among them, must band together to survive the onslaught of scavengers looking to pilfer Republican monies hidden in the building, as well as to avenge Santi's untimely death.

I don't know what it is, but between the RECs and all of del Toro's work that I've seen, I have a real affection for Spanish horror.  The Devil's Backbone is lovely, beautifully shot, suspenseful with building tension and a couple of jumps, but not at all over the top with gore and violence.  As in Pan's Labyrinth, del Toro has a very nice touch weaving history and scary stuff together.  It won't be for the slasher/traditional horror fan, but for those who like a little bit of sophistication (and subtitles) with their ghosties, The Devil's Backbone is a very good choice.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Second Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series - Movie #3: My Soul to Take

Oh dear.  Oh dear oh dear oh dear.  Why the HELL didn't someone tell me NOT to watch this movie?  What an unbelievable waste of 108 minutes.

A schizophrenic serial murderer is killed on the night seven babies are born, and vows to come back and claim them all.  Sixteen years later, someone is murdering the "Riverton 7" ... is it the killer, back from the dead?  Or is it one of the seven, possessed by the killer's soul?  Seriously, though, who gives a shit?  The story is confused and confusing, dialogue and actions jumping around meaninglessly sometimes even in one scene.  The characters are stupid and undeveloped, caricatures really, and I found it impossible to care when they started getting killed off.  The kills were boring, unimaginative and not scary - and mostly took place out of frame or even off-screen.  Ugh.  I can't even talk about this anymore.

This stinking pile was written and directed by Wes Craven.  WES CRAVEN!  How far the mighty have fallen.

Up next: The Devil's Backbone (which by gawd better be good or else).

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Second Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series - Movie #2: [REC]2

[REC] was the ninth movie I watched last October for the First Ever FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series and wow, I just loved it.  It was original, scary as hell and quite well done.  [REC]2 picks up just moments after the first movie ended.

The sequel is filmed using the same conceit as the first: a squad of four cops accompany a doctor into the quarantined Barcelona apartment buildings, recording the whole thing on their helmet cams.  The entry is sealed behind them and will only be opened upon voice recognition from the doctor - so it behooves the cops to protect him or they'll never get out.  The entry way and staircase are awash in blood but there are no bodies to be seen.  The doctor leads his team up to the penthouse apartment to begin their search for something from which to develop an antidote.  During the search, of course, they are attacked and one of the cops is infected.  When the doctor locks the infected cop in a room and hangs a crucifix on the door, the other cops demand to know WTF is going on.  As it turns out, the doctor is actually a priest and the infected rage-zombies are demonically possessed; the priest needs to procure a sample of blood from the original possessee, who was a young girl years ago, whom another priest was experimenting on in this building.  The cops are less than happy about all this but go along with it.

Around this time, the father from the first movie who went to the pharmacy for antibiotics and was locked out has convinced a firefighter to let him into the building.  Three teenagers with a videocamera see them sneak in through a sewer tunnel and follow.  Unfortunately for everyone, the police outside see them going in and weld their entry point shut.  Now they're stuck.  The movie at this point switches from the cops' helmet cam POV to the teenagers' camera POV, which makes for an interesting switch as the two groups of characters finally meet.  Things go from bad to worse as more infected/possessed rage-zombies come out of the woodwork and whittle the group down one by one.  In the end, the priest and the last surviving cop return to the penthouse SPOILER where they find Angela, the reporter from the first movie, has inexplicably survived.  The last minutes of [REC]2 are back in the penthouse, in the dark, illuminated only by Angela's camera's night vision and her survival goes from inexplicable to explicable, for better or worse.

[REC]2 is by far a weaker movie than its excellent predecessor, although I admit my opinion may be colored by the fact that I watched R2 in broad daylight, which pretty much negates any fear factor.  I still liked the real-time story-telling but it no longer felt original.  I did not like the demonic possession explanation for what was going on; the first movie was scary in part because we had no idea why this was happening to  people; [REC]2 had the priest doing too much exposition and that slowed things down some.  And demonic possession can be tough to do: watching a bloody, disgusting little girl speaking in a hoarse demon voice was too much of a callback to The Exorcist and ain't nothing can compare with that.  The second bottle rocket bit (not the sex doll one) was a nice touch, however.

Sequels are tough to pull off, especially when the first movie is so good and feels like such an original idea (see also The DescentThe Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity].  I appreciate the attempt [REC]2 makes, and I absolutely did the movie a disservice by watching at 11:00 a.m., but even so, the second falls far short of the first.

Up next:  My Soul to Take or The Devil's Backbone, whichever shows up first.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Second Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series - Movie #1: Insidious

Welcome (finally) to the Second Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series!  And, boy, let me tell you - way to start things off with a whimper rather than a bang.  Due to the vagaries of the U.S. postal system, I received our first movie, Insidious, starring Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne and Barbara Hershey, instead of the anticipated [REC]2.  You work with what you get, I guess.

The story in Insidious goes thusly: Josh (Patrick Wilson), Renee (Rose Byrne) and their three young children move into a new home, a big ol' house with nice dark wood trim and a scary attic.  It doesn't take long for things to start going wonky: books spilling out of bookshelves, boxes where they're not supposed to be, the front door opening for no apparent reason, creepy voices heard over the baby monitor.  After exploring the scary attic, their middle son, Dalton, will not wake up.  It's not a coma per se, say the doctors, but he just won't wake up.  Rose is convinced their new house is haunted and they move to another one, installing Dalton there with his at-home IV drip and nasal feeding tube.  But the wonky stuff keeps happening, and seems to be getting worse, so Josh's mom (Barbara Hershey) calls upon an old friend of hers, a psychic, who determines that it is not the house (houses) that is haunted, but poor little Dalton.  It seems that Dalton does a lot of inadvertent astral projection and has gotten lost, his empty body now serving as a possible gateway to our world for a whole host of nasties that are looking for a way in.  They have to get Dalton to return to his body.

Insidious starts well enough when you think it's a haunted house movie.  The tension builds nicely; it's jumpy and the glimpses of the nasties are just enough.  But then the psychic lady and her assistants show up, and the tone abruptly changes to a Ghostbusters meets Poltergeist one, and the bumbling assistants' comic relief is an unwelcome contrast to the earlier creepy tone.  And then it just gets silly when little Dalton gets possessed by a demon and starts throwing people around, and the whole astral projection thing is silly and boring as Josh wanders around the foggy, empty "Further," looking for his lost son, and with about twenty minutes left in the movie I had completely lost interest.

Insidious is billed as being from the creators/producers/whatever of Paranormal Activity and Saw but it just doesn't live up to its pedigree (the PG-13 rating doesn't help either).  The performances are good enough, I guess, although Patrick Wilson looked as bored being in the movie as I was watching it; the music is overwrought and distracting; and the astral projection plot is not compelling.  I give it a solid "meh."

Next on the SAFMSSOMS[REC]2.