Monday, December 31, 2012

Mini book review: The Dog Stars by Peter Heller

I am on quite a post-apocalyptic roll here, what with recent readings of The Road, Immobility and now Peter Heller’s The Dog Stars. This latest foray into our bleak future takes place in rural Colorado after the flu has decimated the planet. Hig, a bush pilot and fly fisherman, lives near an airfield with his old dog Jasper, growing vegetables, guarding and protecting the homestead with his surly neighbor Bangley. The two men have figured out how to live near each other, despite Bangley’s violently misanthropic tendencies – although I suppose he does have good cause to be so cranky since most strangers they see try to kill them in this vaguely Road Warrior-esque world. One day, years after the plague, Hig hears a voice over the radio in his plane and he decides to see who else may be surviving out there, thinking surely there’s more to this life, tattered as it is. Heller writes The Dog Stars in an abstracted first person narration, which I didn’t particularly care for but which was more fulfilling than the oblique Immobility. Not all questions are answered and there are some sad parts to get through, but ultimately The Dog Stars contains a little hope … which is always a good thing once the apocalypse rolls around.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Mini movie review: Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work

I first heard of this documentary in the local paper last year (?) when it was shown at the SundanceFilm Festival in Park City, where it was very well received. I am only a casual Joan Rivers fan – I don’t know her stand-up at all and I’ve never read any of her books – but I do like her scathing repartee on the red carpet and Fashion Police, and I enjoyed her recent guest spot on Louis CK’s show,Louie. This documentary, which follows Rivers around for a year, shows a side of Joan never seen before, starting with the opening credits where we see her WITHOUT ANY MAKEUP. I found the movie to be interesting and quite touching, in fact: an intimate look at this incredibly hard-working woman who seems compelled to keep working, who worries about money (since she supports innumerable family members, plus her large staff, plus her own life of luxury), who has fought hard for everything she has and opened doors for women comics, who is fiercely protective of her family (but not so much so that she won’t occasionally use them as stand-up material). One of my favorite scenes was when Joan and her grandson were delivering Thanksgiving meals to shut-ins. They met a woman suffering from MS who used to be a photographer and whose tiny apartment was stuffed to the gills with negatives, slides and photographs. Joan Googled the woman when she got home – Flo Fox – and was literally moved to tears as she read her story, remarking on how sad it was to see such a beautiful, edgy, bohemian artist struck down by the disease. Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work shows Rivers’s humanity and grit, that underneath the drag queen clothes and layers of plastic surgery beats the heart of dedicated, loyal fighter.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Mini movie review: The Hunger Games

What can I say, really, about the movie version of The Hunger Games that hasn't been said a gajillion times over.  I loved the book - was startled and upset when it ended and I didn't have the second one in the series lined up - and very strongly feel that both the books and the movie[s] are SO MUCH better than that Twilight crap that everyone loves so much.  Better stories, better writing, better characters/role models, better acting - all of it's better.  That being said, I did have a couple of minor quibbles with the movie:

  • I think Jennifer Lawrence is a fantastic actor (and really, really need to see Winter's Bone which I haven't gotten around to yet) and she did a very nice job with Katniss but she ain't kidding anyone for playing fifteen years old.
  • I understand the need for world-building but it sure seemed like there was an awful lot of build-up and pre-Games and very little time actually spent during the actual Hunger Games for such a long movie.  That being said, the District 12 Reaping was really horrific and well-done.
  • No one even remotely looked like they were starving, which is a HUGE part of the books, especially when it's called the Hunger Games.
  • JL's Katniss seemed much less calculating and conniving than the book's Katniss.  Of course, the stupid DVD I had skipped so badly that I couldn't watch the last 10-15 minutes, so maybe I missed something there.
Anyway, I loved the book and liked (but didn't love) the movie; I'm looking forward to seeing the next installments but will re-read the remaining books so be sure I know what's missing.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Mini movie review: Black Christmas (1974)

Before Halloween, before Friday the Thirteenth, before there were hardly any slashers at all - there was Black Christmas.  This 1974 gem is a horror classic: a group of sorority girls, getting ready to go home for the holiday break, are terrorized by an unseen, unknown assailant.  SPOILERS AHEAD.  The first to go is meek Clare, suffocated and put in a rocking chair in the attic; next is the bawdy house mother.  Hot mess Barb, played joyously by a gorgeous Margot Kidder, spends most of her time drunk and then gets stabbed to death, in her bed, by a CRYSTAL EFFING UNICORN.  (That one is done rather artfully, actually.)  In the end, it isn't even clear if Final Girl Jess is going to make it out alive.  None of the kills are done on-screen but the tension is ratcheted up by a series of creepy, menacing phone calls the sorority house keeps getting, plus you never learn who the killer is or why he's doing it.  Only that he's there, lurking in the house, killing pretty girls.  If you are a fan of the slasher genre, you owe it to yourself to see Black Christmas - the original one.  I hear the 2006 remake is appalling.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Mini movie review: Bernie

Bernie was on Mr. Mouse's list and I gladly moved it up the queue so we could watch it.  As it turns out, I liked it quite a lot and he thought it was a little boring, and wished the Coen brothers had directed it instead of Richard Linklater.  But apparently this movie is a fairly faithful retelling of what went down in the little East Texas town of Carthage in 1996, when Bernie Tiede, a sweet, thoughtful, generous, caring, gay, 38 year old assistant funeral director, shot 81 year old Margery Nugent - his friend and employer and the most hated woman in East Texas - in the back four times and then stuffed her in the garage freezer.  After Bernie was found out about nine months later, when Marge's stockbroker became suspicious that he never got to speak with her himself, no one in town could believe it - or wanted to.  No one liked Margery at all, so they weren't outraged when she turned up dead and hidden under the pot pies.  But everyone loved Bernie and were outraged that he was being prosecuted.  Shirley MacLaine plays Margery Nugent and Jack Black, finally playing it straight (so to speak) and not as the buffoon he usually is, is quite good as the loved and lovable Bernie, a man pushed unwillingly to the brink.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Recently read

The Twelve by Justin Cronin - The eagerly-anticipated sequel to the wonderful The Passage, The Twelve didn't quite live up to expectations for me.  The first third of the book follows new characters, giving some history into the first few days and decades after the virals were let loose upon the world.  The rest returns to Peter, Amy, Alicia and the rest, as they continue to fight the virals after their successful defeating of Babcock at the end of the first book.  There's some fairly unsubtle us vs. them, a la The Stand or, more recently, The Walking Dead, which made it feel like Cronin wasn't trying too hard.  Still, there are some heart-rending moments, and the big climactic battle is pretty exciting.  The Twelve ends clearly setting up book 3 ... wonder how long we'll have to wait for that one.

Immobility by Brian Evenson - This is a post-apocalyptic novel, bleak, spare, well-written, that pretty much leaves you in the dark the whole way through.  Set in Utah (the main character goes  almost right by my house on his way up to the LDS vault in Little Cottonwood Canyon) after what I assume is a nuclear holocaust, Josef Horkai, crippled and amnesiac but unfazed by the extant radiation, is set on a quest.  The reader is as clueless as Horkai: something happened to the world and almost all the people, but we never really learn what; there are some survivors whose bodies adapted strangely to whatever happened, but we don't know why; a long time has passed since whatever happened, but we don't learn how long; we don't really ever understand who, what, why or how.  I get that Evenson wants his readers to share in the protagonist's discomfort and unease, but generally I like to understand what's going on a little better.

The Secret Race - Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-ups and Winning at all Costs - Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle - Quite some time ago, Mr. Mouse asked me to get The Secret Race from the library; he wanted to read the book but he didn't want to give Tyler Hamilton any money because he didn't like him attacking Lance.  There was quite a long wait list and then finally, after Armstrong's recent implosion when he was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles, Mr. Mouse (and I too) got our hands on the book.  After reading it, Mr. Mouse remarked, "If even a quarter of what Tyler says is true, then Lance is a real asshole."  True that.  This book is a scathing indictment of the rampant doping going on in professional cycling.  Tyler never singles Lance out - everyone did it, all the time, because that was the only way they were going to win - but Armstrong clearly uses his money, power and connections to his best advantage.  The amazing thing is that none of these bike racers, Hamilton included, thought what they were doing was wrong.  Sure, they knew it was against the rules but if everyone's doing it, what's the difference?  Hamilton is pretty unflinching and doesn't shy away from his own malfeasance.  I found this book fascinating and terribly sad.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Walking Dead S3E8 "Made to Suffer" (12/2/12)

There's a lot of person-to-person fighting and violence in this mid-season finale.  It's the whole "people are the real problem, despite the zombies" thing.

We open with a brand new bunch of survivors, running through the woods, fighting off a pack of walkers.  There's Tyrese, shovel-wielding Sasha, Teenaged Guy, TG's Dad and Zombie Fodder.  They comport themselves fairly well but Zombie Fodder gets bitten on the arm.  They keep running and climb through a hole in a chainlink fence to get into a crumbling brick building.  Zombie Fodder says they should leave her behind, and Sasha agrees, but the rest of them are not ready to let her go quite yet, even knowing that she'll turn.  Sasha is also nervous about going into this big building they know nothing about but Tyrese points out that it's better than another night in the woods (probably).  The camera pulls back as they enter the building and we see that it's actually the backside of the prison.

Woodbury.  After Andrea leaves the apartment, the Governor pays a visit to his zombified daughter, Penny. The poor thing is pathetic, drooling and growling and snapping at his throat.  He tries to get her to respond to him - aside from trying to eat him - but finally gives up, putting the hood back over her head and shoving her back in her closet-cage.  Elsewhere in town, Glen and Maggie await their fate.  Glen is in rough shape but he rouses himself to get up and go over to the zombie corpse on the other side of the room.  As Maggie watches, he pulls the zombie's arm off and strips out two sharp-ended bones (this is totally disgusting, btw).  Now they have weapons.

Outside Woodbury, Rick, Darryl, Michonne and Oscar watch the men on the wall, trying to figure out a way in.  Michonne leaves for a few minutes, annoying the guys, then returns, leading them in.  Inside the town, the Governor tells Merle that he wants to clean the people out of the prison and then let the biters have it back - he doesn't want to move in there, he just doesn't want anyone else to have it either.  Merle insists that Darryl be spared and the Governor is all, yeah, yeah - and go take Glen and the girl to the "screaming pits" (is what I think he says.)  Meanwhile, Rick's group has made their way into one of the buildings on Main Street.  Rick is impatient with Michonne, wanting to know where Glen and Maggie are being kept - even though she couldn't possibly know this since she herself was outside the walls when they were brought in.  Luckily, a watchman shows up and Rick relieves some stress by threatening the guy and knocking him unconscious.

Prison.  Speaking of luckily, Carol intercedes when a far too interested Axel starts chatting Beth up.

Woodbury.  When the Governor's men come for Glen and Maggie, they attack with their sharpened zombie bones. There are too many of the Governor's people, however, and Glen and Maggie's escape is easily thwarted.  Except that Rick and his group heard the gunfire during the struggle, homed in on the location, tossed in a couple of smoke bombs - that conveniently incapacitated the Governor's men but not Rick's group and also kept Merle and Darryl from seeing each other - and grabbed Glen and Maggie out of there.  They make their way back to the street and soon enough the Governor is informed that the town is being raided.  He tells all the townsfolk to go home and lock their doors, and tells his soldiers to shoot to hill.  Andrea wants to help shoot people but he doesn't want her to know that its her former companions so he asks her to make the rounds and check in on the civilians at their homes.

Rick's group circles their wagons for a moment.  Glen tells Darryl that Merle is alive and here and the Governor's right hand man (so to speak) and still pretty much mean and nasty.  Understandably, Darryl wants to see his brother but Rick lays a guilt trip on him, saying that he needs him to get everyone back to the car, especially now that Michonne's gone AWOL.  Darryl pauses, thinks about it, and says he'll stick with the group.  They reload their weapons and head towards the wall.  And where's Michonne?  She's in the Governor's apartment, waiting for him with her sword drawn.  [Now, in the comics she was given plenty of reasons to hate him and want to kill him, but here he's not really been such a monster and her extreme and murderous antipathy towards him seems misplaced.]  Out in the street, more smoke bombs are deployed - so Andrea and Rick's group can't recognize each other - and lots and lots of shooting.

While Darryl lays down covering fire, the rest of them run for the wall.  Glen makes it over; Oscar gets shot helping Maggie and she gives him the coup de grace before scampering over herself.  Rick has a "I'm still not quite sane" moment when he thinks he sees Shane strides towards him, gun drawn; after Rick shoots him in the head, the guy turns out to be just a guy.  In the smoke and confusion, there's an awful lot of shouts of "Rick!" and "Darryl!" and I find it a little difficult to believe that Andrea and Merle didn't hear any of that.  Rick heads over the wall, leaving Darryl behind to make his way over as best he can.  Nice, Rick.  Let me say this now: DO NOT KILL DARRYL OFF, YOU WRITERS.

Prison.  Beth, Herschel and Carl are hanging out when they hear screams coming down the corridors.  After determining that it's not Carol and Axel (who are keeping watch from one of the guard towers - and I hope that's not a euphemism), Carl grabs his gun to go check it out.  I don't like Carl very much but here he's pretty damn bad-ass.  He finds Tyrese's group cornered by a pod of walkers in the generator room.  He shoots several zombies and yells at the humans to follow him.  Sasha, handy with her shovel, helps clear the way; Tyrese carries Zombie Fodder over his shoulder as she's fading fast.

Woodbury.  As Michonne waits for the Governor, she hears a banging from the locked room.  She breaks the door down and is immediately shocked to see the fish tanks o' zombie heads.  Yes, Michonne, you're right: the Governor is one sick fuck.  Just wait.  She hears the banging again and opens up the closet-cage.  Penny staggers out - but since she's wearing that hood, Michonne thinks she's some poor little girl the Governor keeps chained up.  But then she takes off the hood and Penny lunges at her.  Michonne is all, WHAT THE FUCK and draws her sword.  Then the Governor, who is in the doorway, shrieks "Don't hurt her!"  He drops his gun and pleads with Michonne to spare his little girl.  Michonne is all fuck that and runs her sword through Penny's head.  The Governor loses his mind at this and attacks her.  He and Michonne have a long, brutal, ugly fight that involves:  strangling, clawing, beating Michonne's head against the wall, shoving Michonne's face into a zombie aquarium and more strangling ... until Michonne finally grabs a big shard of glass - thoroughly slashing her hand whilst doing so - and shoving it into the Governor's right eye.  Then there's screaming, lots of screaming.  Michonne is about to cut his head off when Andrea appears, gun drawn, shouting, "What did you do?"  Michonne stares at her coldly and walks out.  Andrea goes to the Governor but pauses, seeing all the zombie heads.  The Governor cradles his now really dead daughter and sobs.

Prison.  Carl takes Tyrese's group to the empty cell block next to C Block.  He politely offers to shoot Zombie Fodder - after killing his dead mom, it won't be no thang at all - but Tyrese says they'll take care of their own, and then pulls out a hammer.  [Really?  You'd say no to a humane bullet and clobber your friend's brains out with a hammer instead?  That's a little twisted.]  Carl leaves them to it but locks them in.  Sasha doesn't like this and starts yelling and banging on the door.  Tyrese tells her to chill out - they're in a safer place than they've been for months, and Carl has promised them food and water - "Let the man alone. His house, his rules."

Woodbury.  After the nurse bandages the Governor up, all his direct reports (Andrea, Milton, Merle) file in to find out what's going on.  Privately, Andrea's all, WTF zombie heads, and Governor, who doesn't really want to talk about it, mutters that they help him deal with things.  Outside the town's walls, Rick, Glen and Maggie draw their guns when Michonne rejoins them.  She looks really bad and doesn't protest when Rick takes her sword away.  She says that Rick will need her help to get back to the car, or go back in for Darryl, whichever.  "You need me," she says, her voice soft for once.

At the fight arena, the Governor tells the assembled townsfolk that they've been attacked (obviously), but worse, betrayed.  And who did the betraying?  Why, Merle the scapegoat, of course.  Merle is shoved into the center of the ring, wondering what's going on.  And why did Merle betray the town?  Because of his terrorist brother, Darryl, who also gets shoved into the center.  As the crowd gets whipping into a frenzy, screaming for their blood, the Dixon brothers eye each other, finally reunited since Atlanta, although it's probably not quite the reunion either had imagined.  The Governor glares at Merle with his one eye: "You wanted your brother - you got him."

That's it 'til the season restarts next year.  Let me repeat what I said before: DO NOT KILL DARRYL.  I will be so very cranky if Darryl is killed off. It's funny, though, how the two most compelling characters on this show are two who aren't even in the source material.

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

Monday, December 3, 2012

Two worth your time

We haven't had much snow so we didn't feel the need to ski all that much this past weekend; spending more time at the house enabled me to watch two very different movies, both of which I really, really enjoyed: Safety Not Guaranteed and How to Train Your Dragon.

Safety Not Guaranteed is a lovely little indie film, which I've seen described as "a time travel film that's not really about time travel."  Starring Aubrey Plaza (Parks & Rec), Mark Duplass (The Puffy Chair, Humpday) and Jake Johnson (New Girl), it's a remarkable movie in that every main character experiences growth - which is all the more impressive when you realize it's only 85 minutes long.  Jeff (Johnson), a Seattle magazine reporter, and Darius (Plaza) and Arnau (Karan Soni), interns, head south to a small coastal town to investigate a curious classified ad:
Wanted: Somebody to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. P.O. Box 91 Ocean View, WA 99393. You'll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed. I have only done this once before.
Kenneth (Duplass) is the odd, paranoid and yet earnest erstwhile time traveler and author of the ad.  While Jeff alienates him with his douchebaggy ways, Darius manages to make a connection, slowly earning Kenneth's trust and discovering that he may not be as crazy as she thought. As the two of them ready themselves to go back (all the way to 2001), Jeff tracks down an old summer flame and Arnau is reluctantly dragged into his own.  I'm not going to say more because Safety is just wonderful to watch.  By the end of the movie, I was rooting whole-heartedly for the time machine to work - I may have even teared up a little.  Great stuff.

Also great stuff: the animated How to Train Your Dragon in which a scrawny outcast defies the status quo, makes a new friend and saves the day.  The scrawny outcast is Hiccup, an undersized, accident-prone teenage Viking, who just happens to be the only son of the huge and entirely manly head of the clan.  Their island is particularly afflicted with dragons, which fly in, torch the buildings and carry off all their sheep.  The dragons have killed hundreds of Vikings; the Vikings have killed thousands of dragons.  During one nighttime raid, Hiccup manages to wound the fearsome Night-fury dragon, a fast and deadly beast that no other Viking has ever seen, much less killed.  He tracks the Night-fury down the next day, finding it wounded and defenseless ... and is entirely unable to kill it.  Instead he frees it, and it spares his life in turn, and then he sets out taming it and fixing it with a prosthetic so it can fly again.  Of course, when this comes out it doesn't go over well with the other Vikings and it isn't until Hiccup and Toothless (the dragon has retractable fangs) save everyone from certain death that they are accepted.

There's much more to it, of course: the fact that dragons are misunderstood and under the thrall of a more more horrific power; Hiccup's crush on the pretty and entirely bad-ass Astrid; Hiccup's struggles to fit in with his dragon-training peers; the strain between an alpha male father and his bookish, weird son; the charming, sweet relationship between Hiccup and Toothless.  The best parts are absolutely with the boy and his dragon: the animators - who had done very impressive work here, particularly with the ocean, the forests, Hiccup's hair - nailed it with Toothless, who is strong and sleek and full of personality, with some adorable cat-like and dog-like behaviors and expressions.  I must have a soft spot for animated dragons: I cried at the end of Dragonheart (CGI dragon voiced by Sean Connery) and I teared up at the end of HtTYD (but not for the same reasons).

Speaking of voices, How to Train Your Dragon is LOADED with a great cast: Jay Baruchel as Hiccup; Gerard Butler (finally allowed to use his Scottish accent) as Hiccup's father, Stoick the Vast; Colin Ferguson as blacksmith and dragon-trainer Gobber the Belch; America Ferrara as Astrid; Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintze-Plasse, Kristen Wiig and David Tennant as various Vikings.  One teensy quibble: if someone would explain to me why all the adult Vikings have thick Scottish accents while the teenagers are all American, that would be swell.  (Plus, since when were the Vikings from Scotland?)  Regardless, it's a sweet, fun movie and absolutely worth your time.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Walking Dead S3E7 "When the Dead Come Knocking" 11/25/12

Woodbury.  Merle interrogates Glen, who is duct-taped to a wooden chair, trying to find out where Glen's group is shacked up.  He shows that he really hasn't grown that much as a person after all - he is racist, offensive and ugly-violent.  He beats Glen badly but the younger man won't reveal a thing, except how tough he really is.  Maggie is taped to her own chair in the next room and can hear every vicious blow, every ugly word.  It's almost worse for her, not really knowing what's happening to her lover.  Still, it's really bad for Glen.

Prison.  Rick stares at Michonne through the chainlink fence.  She is weakening quickly and as the zombie gore on her dries, the walkers around her get a whiff of what she really is.  They start to move on her and she manages to drop one before collapsing herself.  Carl, who has run up to stand beside his father. can't bear it and begins to fire into the crowd of zombies, giving Rick enough time to open the gate and drag the unconscious Michonne inside.  Carl darts out and grabs the basket of formula.  They check to see if she's been bitten and then bring her into the prison, putting her in a room adjacent to their clean and secure cellblock.  She comes to, nervous at being surrounded by strangers.  When she won't talk, Rick tells her that she'll be safe and they'll treat her wound, but they can't let her leave.  She loves to hear that.

Darryl leads everyone to the cell where an exhausted but lucid Carol is sitting.  Everyone hugs her and Beth brings out the baby.  Carol smiles, then looks around, sees at Rick and Carl and bursts into tears when she realizes what must have happened.  From the other side of the door, Michonne watches.  A little while later, Rick tries again, asking Michonne why she had the formula.  She tells them that Glen and Maggie were taken and everyone gets agitated, nervous and jerky.  Michonne is not inclined to talk more with everyone so touchy so Rick, horribly, pokes at her wound to try to get her to speak.  Finally, when they point out that she  must have come to them for a reason, she tells them all about Woodbury, the town's defenses and the Governor.

Woodbury.  After their latest round of bumping uglies, the Governor asks Andrea to help Milton with something.  Over in the torture chamber, Glen is looking really bad, blood streaming from his nose, mouth and ears, one eye terribly swollen.  He bluffs a bit, telling Merle that their group is really strong, but he overplays his hand when he says that Andrea is still with them.  "Really?" sneers Merle, "Is that right?"

Prison.  Herschel stitches Michonne up as a rescue party is put together: Michonne, Rick, Darryl and Oscar. Rick takes Carl aside and they have a nice father-son moment, the first in a long time.  They talk obliquely about what happened to Lori, tell each other to be careful and even pick out a name for the baby since no one is really a fan of Darryl's choice of "Asskicker":  Carl suggests Judith, after his third grade teacher, and Rick agrees warmly.  The rescue party drives off, leaving the skeleton crew of Herschel, Beth, Carl, Carol, Axel and the newborn Judith to defend the prison.

Woodbury.  Over at Milton's lab, one Mr. Coleman, dying of prostate cancer, is Milton's latest experiment to determine if the walkers retain any of their human selves after transformation.  Mr. Coleman is about to die so he is restrained so that Milton can ask him some rehearsed questions after he reanimates; Andrea is there to put him down when it becomes necessary.  It turns out that Milton has never actually seen a zombie reanimation before (only child, predeceased parents, telecommuter) which makes Andrea roll her eyes - he has no idea what to expect.  She does: Mr. Coleman dies; he reanimates; Milton leans in to ask his questions; and Andrea crushes the Coleman-zombie's skull before it can take a bite out of Milton.

Meanwhile, frustrated with his inability to get any information out of Glen, Merle lets a particularly feisty zombie loose ... while Glen is still taped to that chair.  In a fraught, awesome scene, Glen proves how friggin' badass he is by fending off the zombie until he can shatter the chair against the wall and stab the walker through the skull with a wooden shard.  Seriously - this action scene is intense and fantastic.  Afterwards, the Governor decides to take a different tack with Maggie's interrogation.  And this is where I started to get very, very nervous, knowing what the comics version of the Governor is capable of.  Thankfully AMC didn't go that far - they couldn't, not at their level of cable - but it's still grim.  The Governor starts out charming but when Maggie doesn't fall for it, he makes her take off her shirt and bra by threatening to cut off Glen's hand if she doesn't.  Looming over her and not saying a word, he shoves her face down over the table, standing behind her and taking off his gunbelt.  It's horrible and terrorizing and she is absolutely powerless before him, although she still has the cojones to tell him to do whatever he's gonna do - and go to hell.  The Governor decides to try something else.

Rescue party.  They drive to within one or two miles of the town, then continue on foot to elude any patrols. As they walk, Rick tells Darryl that he's grateful for him taking care of his family while Rick was "working things out."  Darryl shrugs:  "It's what we do."  This may be tested when Darryl realizes his brother is alive.  Then they run into a big group of walkers, too many to successfully fight.  They run for it, taking shelter in a derelict cabin as the walkers surround the building.  Inside, they find a dead dog ... and a sleeping hermit who for some reason (1) didn't mind the stench of his decomposing pet and (2) seems oblivious about the zombie apocalypse.  Once awakened, the hermit won't calm down, threatening them with his rifle until Michonne runs him through with her sword.  Rick decides that this is their best chance and, over Oscar's horrified "You got to be kidding!", they throw the hermit out into the pod of walkers.  As the zombies tear into the guy's abdomen (in an extremely gory shot), the rescue party bolts safely out the back door.

Woodbury.  The Governor and some of his men bring the still-topless Maggie into the room where Glen is being held.  "Now," he says, "One of you is going to tell me where your people are," and puts his gun to Glen's head.  Face to face, Maggie cracks immediately to Glen's dismay, telling about the prison and the diminished size of their group.  Pleased that his tactic worked, the Governor fondles Maggie, then tosses her at an enraged Glen.  Outside, he is incredulous that a group of just ten people could have cleared out the prison, so deep in the "Red Zone" - apparently his people (Merle?) said it couldn't be done.  He asks Merle where his loyalties lie, now that they know Darryl is out there.  Merle pauses for a moment and then says, "Here."  The Governor tells him to send a small group to scout the prison and then goes home to snuggle with Andrea.

Outside Woodbury.  Dark has fallen and Rick's group sneaks up close to the walls, watching the guard change, trying to figure out their next move.  Things are looking to get busy next episode.

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

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The incredibly slowly Walking Dead

I'll get the latest episode's recap up soon, I promise.  Stuff has just come up and I haven't been able to get to it.  For those of us who've read [at least 99 issues of] the comics in addition to watching the show: the scenes with the Governor and Maggie - while tense and awful - could have been a helluva lot worse.  What a yucky guy.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Walking Dead S3E6 "Hounded" 11/18/12

What we've got here is a lot of talking interspersed with some pretty good stuff.  I'm probably going to go light on the dialogue but I promise you won't be missing much.

The Governor has sent Merle and three other fellows, also known as "Redshirts" or "fodder," out to hunt down Michonne.  They're supposed to bring back her decapitated head (for his aquarium collection, I imagine) and her sword.  Out in the woods, using zombie body parts, she leaves them a warning/visual gag that I won't spoil for you here - but even Merle thinks it's clever.  Then she drops down from the trees and slices off one of the guy's heads.  She uses another guy as a shield as Merle shoots at her, catching a bullet in her thigh before running off into the woods.

The A.V. Club reviewer really liked the scenes with Rick on the phone, appreciating the building tension and how they showed a desperate Rick coming apart at the scenes.  I thought that it was obvious that he was losing it, his poor mind trying to come to grips with what's happened.  I guess his slight slide into madness is better and more realistic than the more usual television tropes of just bouncing back to normal right away or going completely batshit crazy.  Anyway, when Herschel hobbles down to check on him, Rick tells him that he's been getting phone calls from other survivors.  Herschel is decent and canny enough not to give anything away when he listens to the empty phone line, but it's clear from the gentle, careful expression on his face that he's concerned about Rick.  What it comes down to is Rick is talking to people he's lost, dead folks like Andrea's sister Amy and the recently-departed Lori, and by the end of the episode he realizes what he's doing and comes to terms with his losses.

Back in Woodbury, Andrea asked the Governor if she can work the wall: she used to be a good shot and would like to keep her skills up.  He asks her if she'd be willing to learn to use a bow and she says yes, so he pairs her up with a teenaged girl who supposedly was a competitive archer in Life Before the Zombies.  The girl is, in fact, a terrible shot and when she keeps missing the one walker that is approaching the wall, Andrea can't stand it any longer.  She jumps down from the wall, ignoring the girl's shouted protests, sweeps the zombie's legs out from under it and stabs it through the skull.  She jumps back up, totally stoked.

Merle and the remaining fodder manage to track Michonne down and engage her, but a small pod of zombies converges on them, drawn by the gunshots.  The wounded Michonne is off her game, missing one of her sword strokes and gutting a zombie, sending its gory bellyful of intestines spilling out over her.  As Merle and the other guy finish off the other walkers, Michonne gets away.  The last guy wants to chase after her but Merle says that she's headed into "the Red Zone," and is as good as dead.  When the guy complains that he's not going to lie to the Governor about what happened to Michonne, Merle just shoots him in the head, figuring he can do the lying himself.  So, Merle's not entirely reformed, then.

Back at the prison, Darryl, Carl and Oscar are doing a sweep of the lower tunnels.  They pass a door, held closed by a zombie corpse; something inside the room is banging softly on the door but Darryl says they'll get that one on their way back.  As they walk, Darryl tells Carl a long story about how he lost his own mother: she was drunk and smoking in bed and burned the house down around herself.  Carl tells him that he shot Lori before she was able to reanimate.  The boy pauses, then tells Darryl, "I'm sorry about your mom."  Darryl looks at him solemnly: "I'm sorry about yours."

The Governor chastises Andrea for going over the wall but says he understands why she did it.  She admits to him that she did, in fact, enjoy the fights the other night - she just didn't like that she liked them.  Then they flirt, just a little.  Later, he takes her to his back garden for conversation and a drink.  They flirt some more and start making out.

As still gore-covered Michonne collects her pack from where she'd hid it, a small pod of zombies approaches.  She reaches for her sword but they walk right by without giving her a single look, hidden as she is by the coating of zombie guts.  Later she makes her way into the small town where Glen and Maggie just so happen to be making a scavenging run.  As Michonne watches, hiding behind a derelict car, Maggie foolishly proclaims that "it's a beautiful day," thereby guaranteeing that things are about to go to hell.  Lo and behold, as Glen walks out of a market with a basket of powdered baby formula, Merle shows up.  Glen and Maggie draw their guns on him as he turns on the good ol' boy charm, asking how Darryl is.  Glen refuses to bring Merle back with them but promises that if Merle stays here, he'll send his brother back out to meet him.  Michonne watches all this but is too shaky from her wound to intervene.  Merle draws his own gun and grabs Maggie, holding his gun to her head and forcing Glen to drive all three of them back to Woodbury.

Darryl, Carl and Oscar kill a zombie - overkill it really, with multiple bullets and an arrow to the head for good measure - then Darryl pulls a knife out of the corpse's neck.  It's Carol's knife.  He wipes the blade clean, retreating into himself as he wonders what happened to his friend.

Andrea and the Governor do the dance with no pants but they are interrupted when Merle returns to give his report.  The Governor goes out into the hallway to hear what he has to say:  the other three men are dead, Michonne is dead too but he didn't get her head and sword because they were swarmed by zombies.  Merle is quite the liar.  He appeases his boss by telling him "[b]ut I brought you something else."  The Governor asks if Glen and Maggie know Andrea and Merle says he'll find out where they've been holed up.  The Governor goes back to Andrea for round 2, pointedly not telling her that Merle has captured her friends.

As Rick rejoins the group, washed up and seemingly sane, holding his daughter for the first time, poor Darryl sits alone in the tunnels, outside that rattling door.  He pounds Carol's knife into the floor, certain that it's her behind that door, all zombified and waiting for him to kill her.  Finally, he works himself up enough and yanks open the door.  It's Carol in there all right, but she's human, weak and dazed.  Darryl scoops her into his arms and makes his way back upstairs.

Rick and the baby (jeez, name her already), Carl, Herschel and Beth go out to the yard for some fresh air.  Rick glances over at the fence where some zombies are clustered and hands the baby to Carl.  He walks across the field to the fence.  Standing there among the zombies, still covered in guts and holding the shopping basket full of formula, staring back at Rick through the chainlink fence, is Michonne.  Damn - she and Rick are going to have a LOT to talk about.

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

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Walking Dead S3E5 "Say the Word" 11/11/12

Before I forget, check out the good write-up The A.V. Club did on this episode: discussing how badly this show breaks down when it turns from action to dialogue.  Also they talk about how Darryl is awesome, which can't be said enough.

Woodbury.  The Governor has arranged for a party - complete with cold drinks, such a luxury - for the town.  Michonne, of course, is glowering at everyone.  More importantly, the Governor goes to his house where we see him brushing the hair of his zombified daughter Penny.  I think the graphic novel did a better job of showing just how OMFG creepy this is, but man, even here it is so clear that this man is effed in the head, keeping the little girl-zombie alive, locked in his secret room and safely wrapped in a straitjacket.  Interestingly, like a horse, zombie Penny calms right down when you put a bag over her head.

Prison.  Darryl and Maggie go on a scavenging run to fetch formula for the new baby, Darryl pausing to ask Beth to keep an eye on Carl.  Rick is nearly catatonic for a bit, then grabs up an ax and heads back into the prison tunnels.  His eyes are wild, he's feral, more terrifying even than the walkers he brings down, one after another, blood and brains and bone flying everywhere.

Woodbury.  While the Governor speechifies to the townsfolk, Michonne takes the opportunity to break into his house to take back her samurai sword.  She finds a notebook on his desk, a journal with lists of names that devolves into pages and pages of The Shining-esque hashmarks.  When she hears a noise coming from the Governor's locked back room, she tries to break in but has to run when the Governor, Merle and Milton show up to pick up more beer.  Milton thinks they're wasting resources with this party and should be focusing on his experiment instead (whatever that is) but the Governor says no, the people need this and the show must go on.  Meanwhile, Michonne has escaped out the window and wanders around to Milton's warehouse/lab.  She hears a noise coming from a metal cage: a bunch of live walkers are locked inside.  She busts open the lock and as the walkers lurch towards her, she takes them out methodically.  There's an especially nasty kill where she stomps on a fallen zombie's skull - she and Rick should totally team up.  As she finishes killing the last one, she is discovered by one of the Governor's lackeys who has just arrived with a bucket of offal to feed the caged zombies.

After the commercial break, Michonne gets a talking-to from the Governor.  He thinks that she killed his zombies on purpose so he'd kick her and Andrea out of Woodbury.  He says he doesn't want her to go, although her breaking his rules will have to be dealt with, lest other folk get the same idea.  He's in the middle of outlining the possibilities of punishment for her - nothing too grim - when she grabs her sword away from him and holds it to his throat.  He's smart enough to STFU and she leaves.  When Merle checks in on his boss later, the Governor says that there's no trouble with Michonne but could he please send Andrea to him?  He also tells Merle to head out with the "research team" to pick up "more grist for the mill."

Prison.  Axel and Oscar help Glen dig three graves out in the field.  He's pretty brusque with them and goes to vent to Herschel.  Blah blah blah sadness / lost three of our own today / wish we'd just killed all the prisoners right away / T-Dog was "the best."  The dialogue is bad and the acting's not much better.

Woodbury.  The Governor tells Andrea that Michonne has to play by the rules if she's going to stay.  Andrea goes back to their room to find Michonne packing their stuff.  Andrea thinks they've got a good thing going in this town but Michonne is all, this place is not what they say it is.

Prison.  Glen tracks Rick down in the tunnels by following the trail of zombie carnage.  Rick is still acting pretty insane and looks like he smells REALLY bad, all covered in gore.  When Glen tries to convince him to rejoin the others, Rick grabs him and throws him against the wall, then shoves him away.  Without saying a word, he turns from Glen and walks deeper into the tunnels.

Woodbury.  The "research team" drives out to a tap and collects a net full of zombies.  They kill some of them but others that look more promising are laid down and their teeth pulled out.  Later, bags packed, Michonne and Andrea head for the front gate where Merle heads them off.  Michonne is sure that they won't be allowed to leave but Merle surprises her and opens the gates.  She looks at Andrea, giving her one last chance, but Andrea can't bring herself to leave the comfort and safety of the town.  Snarling that she'll move faster on her own anyway, Michonne strides out into the world.  Merle slams the gate closed behind her and Andrea watches her go.

Supply run.  Darryl and Maggie have struck out at the Piggly Wiggly but find a daycare center.  Maggie loads up on diapers, bottles and cans of powdered formula.  As they search the place, they hear a noise in a closet.  Maggie pulls the door open ... to reveal a hissing opossum, which Darryl promptly shoots.  "Hello, dinner!" he exclaims, pleased.  Maggie: "You're not putting that thing in my bag."  They make it back to the prison just after dark.  In the cellblock, the baby is crying and crying but when Darryl takes her from Carl, she quiets down immediately.  Beth prepares a bottle of formula and Darryl feeds her as everyone looks on, grinning at the unexpected soft side to this tough guy.  Darryl asks Carl if they've picked a name yet.  Poignantly, Carl gives a list he's considering: Sophia, Amy, Jackie, Patricia ... Carol, Lori - every woman of theirs who's been lost. To lighten the mood a little, Darryl suggests "Ass-kicker" as a possibility: "You like that, sweetheart?  Little Ass-kicker?"  And everyone watching their televisions goes AWWWWWWW!

Down in the tunnels, Rick has made his way to the room where Lori died.  He finds a nasty ol' zombie in there, a male with a big pooched out belly.  Crazy Rick shoots the zombie in the head, then draws his knife and stabs it in the belly over and over again.  We get the symbolism: he's killing what killed his wife.  Also: Rick is a goddamn mess.

Woodbury.  After dark, the party's main event starts.  To the blaring of "Saturday Night Special," the townsfolk gather to watch a gladiator fight:  Merle vs. some other guy.  The trick is that the ring they're going to fight in is encircled by chained zombies.  The crowd goes wild, chanting Merle's name.  Everyone's way into it as the two men pummel each other, trying to stay out of reach of the zombies.  Andrea is freaked out and horrified by the spectacle.  The Governor tells her to relax - everyone's just blowing off steam, plus the fight is rigged since the zombies have been de-toothed.  She still thinks it's sick.

Prison.  After he's sliced and diced the dead zombie's belly, Rick sits in a corner.  The baby's cries echo through his head ... and then turn into a telephone ringing.  He gets up and answers the phone on the wall.  Damn, I read the comics but I don't remember who's calling!

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

Monday, November 12, 2012

Mini movie review: Stake Land

It's curiously synchronous, I guess: I'm rereading the wonderful book, The Passage, about the apocalyptic destruction of the world as we know it due to a vampiric epidemic and then I also just watched Stake Land, a little 2010 indie horror movie about the apocalyptic destruction of the world as we know it due to a vampiric epidemic.  Only 96 minutes long, Stake Land is kind of like crossing The Road with The Walking Dead, only replacing the zombies with the nasty-ass vampires from 30 Days of Night.  These bloodsuckers do not sparkle.  They are fast and vicious and make a really big mess, and the entire world has fallen apart under their onslaught.  Society has fallen apart and the surviving humans are splintered into straggly groups of survivors.  Some are trying to rebuild in small communities, including the mythical "New Eden," way up north where the vampires are fewer; some have banded together into wicked scary religious cults.  Some folks, like our heroes, teenaged orphan Martin (played by Connor Paolo, previously seen as rich teen Eric van der Woodsen on Gossip Girl!) and the vampire-hunting man who saved his life, Mister, are just keeping mobile, trying to survive.

There's not much plot to follow: Mister saves Martin after his family is slaughtered and they slowly move through the ravaged U.S., picking up and losing companions along the way, trying to avoid the fanatical Brotherhood, heading towards New Eden.  The violence is bloody but not truly scary and the movie ends on a slightly hopeful note.  A decent entry into the genre.

Saturday, November 10, 2012


I've had trouble getting excited about the books I've read recently: one I liked more while I was reading it than after I finished it, and the other was just the reverse.

The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan - This adult (meaning: quite a lot of sex, but not like Anita Blake levels) urban fantasy about the last werewolf was pretty fun while it lasted, but afterwards I had trouble formulating any thoughts about it.  Jake is over 200 years old although he doesn't look a day over 35 (or so).  He manages his condition through decades of practice, knowledge and accumulated wealth.  He's the last of his kind, due to werewolves being hunted to near extermination, but ennui has set in and he can hardly muster the energy to care.  Until he learns that a couple of factions are interested in keeping the species alive - for different nefarious reasons - and until he meets Tallula.  Sex, violence, violent sex, longing - all written intelligently.  But I'm not sure I can muster the energy to care about the sequel, Tallula Rising.  Maybe.

Wolf Hall by Hillary Mantel - Wolf Hall is not at all about werewolves but is instead an erudite historical novel about Thomas Cromwell and his efforts to assist Henry VIII in divorcing Catherine of Aragon and hooking up with Anne Boleyn.  Written with Cromwell as the antihero protagonist (and referred to only ever as "he," which is sometimes confusing), Cromwell schemes and bullies and manipulates, maneuvering himself and his extended household, to whom he is completely devoted, into a position of wealth and power.  Cromwell is smart and ruthless and is determined to get Henry what he wants.  What Henry wants is Anne, that clever, bewitching, determined girl; what Anne wants is power.  Wolf Hall is not an easy read, not a page-turner.  After I turned the last page, however, I was eager to read the next book in line (just out), even though I know how this story is going to end - with Anne, unable to provide Henry with the heir he so desperately needs, on the chopping block.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Walking Dead S3E4 "Killer Within" (11/4/12)

At the prison, someone is up to no good: dragging a fresh deer carcass into the yard and opening the gates wide.  Zombies flock to the tasty, bloody treats.  Lots of zombies.  This someone is wearing a prison jumpsuit so we're led to believe that it's either Axel or Oscar, but since we never see their face, I think it's likely someone else who's been hiding out.

Later that morning, Rick, Darryl, T-Dog and Carol enlist Glen and Maggie to help them clean up the yard, moving the vehicles into the courtyard and parking them so as to make a quick getaway if need be.  Oscar and Axel come out and Rick is up in their grills immediately, all "you can't come any closer" and "we had an agreement."  The convicts beg him to reconsider as they're thoroughly spooked by staying in that cellblock, even after they cleaned out all the bodies.  Rick won't budge: either you stay in that cellblock or you leave the prison.  His group steps aside to discuss the situation and T-Dog is the only one who wants to give the convicts a chance: "Those two might actually have less blood on their hands than we do."  No one else is having any of it, however, and they tell Oscar and Axel they can have a week's worth of food if they want to hit the road.

Woodbury.  Michonne checks out the National Guard trucks that the Governor brought back; the smears of blood and bullet holes do nothing to lessen her suspicions.  The Governor walks up and tries to win her over, saying they could use a soldier like her.  Michonne just glares daggers at him.  She goes back to the room she shares with Andrea to pack her things, telling Andrea that she thinks they should head for the coast, maybe find a defensible island.  Andrea really doesn't want to leave the safety and comfort of Woodbury.

Prison.  While the rest are outside working in the yard, Lori, Carl and Beth get Herschel up and walking around on crutches.  He's doing remarkably well for an old guy who just got his leg cut off.  They go outside and wave at the workers.  Rick, Darryl and Glen squeeze through the cut in the exterior fence to collect firewood so they can finish burning the walker bodies.  Everyone is smiling, it's bucolic and calm ... and then all frigging hell breaks loose.

Zombies flood in behind Herschel et als. inside the courtyard, dozens and dozens of them.  Carl notices them first and starts shooting; Maggie, T-Dog and Carol, who were working inside the first fence, get there quickly and start dropping zombies; Herschel and Beth manage to safely lock themselves into a fenced-off area; Rick, Darryl and Glen sprint to help, but they're so far away and have to get through two locked fences to be of any help.  Maggie grabs Lori and Carl and they run into a cellblock, but the walkers are there too and they have to run into the tunnels.  T-Dog and Carol notice the open gate.  He manages to close it but gets bitten in the neck.  He and Carol make an escape into the prison tunnels as zombies cluster around the door.

Woodbury.  Andrea gives Merle a map, telling him how to find Herschel's farm, thinking that he can maybe track Darryl from there.  Merle is definitely a changed man: he's still coarse and kind of scary, but he's much, much gentler than he was.  He hits on her a little: "How come we never hooked up?"  Andrea, smiling: "You called me a whore and a rug-muncher."  Merle grins: "Got a way with words, don't I?"  More seriously, she asks him if he thinks the Governor is a good man.  He tells her that the Governor had no reason to help him but he did, and yes, that's a good man.

Prison.  Rick, Darryl and Glen have just finished off the remaining zombies in the courtyard when the alarms start blaring, attracting exterior zombies to the fence.  They try to shoot out the loudspeakers to no avail.  Oscar offers that the generators must be starting up and Rick grabs him, saying they've got to shut those generators down.  In the tunnels, T-Dog is in bad shape, bleeding freely.  A sad Carol promises that he'll never turn into one of "those things."  In another hallway, Maggie, Lori and Carl run from a small herd of zombies, but Lori's labor has started and she can't move far.  They take refuge in a utility room and the herd shuffles past.

Woodbury. The Governor is hitting golf balls of the town's wall, whacking zombies on the head.  Merle finds him there and they talk and talk and talk: Merle wants to go see if he can find his brother but the Governor doesn't want him to go.  Finally, the Governor agrees that if Merle can come up with some solid information about Darryl's whereabouts, he'll go check it out with Merle

Prison.  Lori's baby is definitely on its way.  Maggie helps her out of her pants; poor Carl is pretty calm under the circumstances. Lori tries to push and starts screaming.  There's a gush of blood and Maggie shouts that something's wrong.  Out in another corridor, T-Dog and Carol are cornered so he throws himself at a group of zombies, sacrificing himself so she can get away.  Carol turns back to look at her friend and we're treated to an impressively gory shot of a zombie ripping T-Dog's throat out.  Yeesh.

Woodbury.  Andrea stops by to say goodbye to the Governor.  They talk and talk and talk, and have a drink together, and share the people that they've lost [Note to y'all who've read the comics:  he mentions that his wife died in a car accident before the zombie apocalypse, leaving him and his daughter.]  Andrea is becoming more and more charmed by this guy - he even tells her his real name.  When she goes back to her room, she tells Michonne that she wants to stay in town for another couple of days.  Michonne is PISSED.

Prison.  Rick, Darryl and Oscar make it to the generator room, where that someone who caused all this mayhem is waiting for them:  it's Andrew, and it seems he survived Rick's locking him into a courtyard full of zombies.  While Darryl tries to keep the door to the generator room closed against a gang of zombies, Andrew attacks Rick and it's an ugly, vicious fight.  Finally, Oscar grabs up Rick's gun and shoots Andrew dead.  He gives Rick his gun back and they shut down the generators, silencing the braying alarms.  I think Oscar has earned his keep, Rick.

Lori is not doing well at all and she tells Maggie that she has to open her up and save the baby.  Maggie's all no-no-no, I have no training, there's no anesthetic, you won't survive it.  But Lori is wild, adamant, begging and ordering Maggie to do it.  Carl cries and cries and Lori hugs him fiercely, telling him how much she loves him.  "You always gotta do what's right ... if it feels wrong, if it feels easy, don't do it."  She is crying, Carl is crying, Maggie is crying.  Then Lori steels herself and tells Maggie to do it.  Horribly, Maggie slices into her abdomen along the old scar from her first C-section.  Lori screams and then, thankfully, passes out.  Maggie has to ask poor Carl to hold part of his mother's belly open so she can reach in to get the baby.  She pulls the baby out and after a moment, the infant girl starts crying.  They wrap the newborn in Carl's jacket and Maggie says, "We have to go."  Carl: "We can't just leave her here.  She'll turn."  Maggie tries to get him to come away and he says no, she's my mom, and pulls out his gun.  Maggie turns away and after a few moments (and luckily off-screen) there's a gunshot.  Carl kept his mother from turning.  Poor, traumatized, dead-eyed Carl - that'll scar a kid for life.

Out in the corridors, Rick, Darryl and Oscar rejoin Glen and Axel.  They find T-Dog's remains and kill the zombies still feeding on him.  They also find the scarf Carol was wearing and assume the worst.  They make their way back to the courtyard where Herschel and Beth are waiting.  As they try to formulate a plan to find any other survivors, they hear a baby's cries.  They turn around and there's Maggie, holding the baby and sobbing, and Carl, in shock, holding his gun (not a euphemism) and trying to keep his shit together.  Rick, however, completely falls apart, collapsing and blubbering and squeaking out Lori's name.  Way to be strong for your son there, Rick.

Obviously the writers want to head into a Rick-goes-off-the-deep-end storyline, which is why Lori got killed off.  But I'm not sure why we needed to kill T-Dog too - poor fellow finally got to say some lines and pfftt, he's dead.

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

Sunday, November 4, 2012

October ends with a whimper, not a scream

I really do apologize for the incredible lameness of this year's Third Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series:  not only did I only manage to see five scary movies in October, they mostly weren't any good.  I will try to do better next year, I promise.  As a small consolation, I have managed to eke out two more "scary" movies in these first couple of days of November:

Scream 4 - Parts of Scream 4 I really liked a lot.  I liked the framing conceit, done fairly well throughout the series's run, of having this fourth installment be a reboot rather than just another sequel.  I liked the opening, with a movie within a movie within a movie, and the cameos by Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) and Julie Taylor (Amee Teegarden).  I liked seeing the old gang back together, Sidney/Neve Campbell, Dewey/David Arquette and Gail/Courteney Cox.  And I loved the best line of the movie, Sidney's triumphant "You forgot the first rule of remakes: don't fuck with the original."  But as an actual scary movie, Scream 4 just isn't scary.  Yes, there is plenty Ghostface fodder, slashings galore, but there's no suspense at all.  The first Scream was clever and had a fair share of jump-scares but I think the franchise is just too familiar now.

The Frighteners - This 1996 offering from writer/director/producer Peter Jackson stars Michael J. Fox as psychic Ray Bannister, who normally uses his otherworldly gifts to con people.  Bannister changes his ways when he learns that an evil presence is mass-murdering the townsfolk.  The special effects are quite good for 1996 (but nothing compared to now), the story is entertaining and MJF is cute as a button.  But don't go into The Frighteners expecting another Dead Alive: there's spooky violence and a couple of jumps, and one guy gets his head blown off, but there is by no means the level of gore and ichor that Dead Alive has.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Walking Dead S3E3 "Walk with Me" (10/28/12)

A helicopter goes down not far from where Andrea, Michonne and Michonne's pack zombies are walking.  They see the smoke from the wreckage and decide to investigate.  Andrea is pretty sick by now so Michonne chains the zombies to a tree and leaves Andrea there with them, handing her friend a gun just in case.  She checks out the 'copter wreckage, sword in hand.  There are a couple of dead soldiers scattered all over the ground but before she can really search for survivors, she hears approaching vehicles.  Michonne goes back to Andrea's hiding spot and they crouch in the underbrush, watching.

Several trucks drive up and a bunch of men get out.  The leader, a tall man wearing a vest, warns his men not to waste ammunition if they can help it, so the men put down a number of approaching zombies hand to hand.  They pull the still-breathing pilot out of the helicopter and load him into one of their trucks.  The leader pauses, looking down at one of the soldier corpses on the ground.  It's reanimating already but Andrea and Michonne can't see this from their hiding spot, so they are horrified when they see the man stab what they think is an innocent corpse in the head.  Michonne's zombies start to get agitated at all the commotion in the field in front of them and she coolly strikes off their heads before their location is discovered.  The men get ready to leave the 'copter wreck and the hiding women think they are off the hook.  But they're not - because standing right behind them, gun in the left hand, bayonet as the right hand, is good ol' Merle, alive and full of piss and vinegar.  Andrea stares at him, not believing what she's seeing, and then faints dead away.

When she regains consciousness, she's in a clinic, being treated by a doctor.  Michonne stands off to the side, silent, hostile and on the defensive.  Merle comes in to chat with the women and it's clear that he's changed some: he's still a redneck asshole but his edges are not quite so rough.  Andrea warms up enough to tell him what happened to their group - who all died (he remembers her sister's name and she is touched by this) and how Darryl has changed.  "He's always been the sweet one, my baby brother," muses Merle.

After quite a bit of talking, the tall man in the vest comes in.  Merle calls him "the Governor."  He is soft-spoken but firm, with a gentle half-smile concealing an iron will, as he explains that the two women are guests, not prisoners ("Then give us back our weapons," snarls Michonne.), and they are welcome to leave in the morning if they wish, with their weapons, food, even a vehicle if they want one.  He also brings them up to speed on the whole everyone-turns-into-a-biter-when-they-die thing, which they didn't know.  "Welcome to Woodbury," says the Governor, walking them through the quiet, torch-lit streets of his little fortified town, heavily armed men patrolling the encircling wall.  He shows them to their room - with a bed, clean clothes, food and hot running water - and tells them he'll see them in the morning.

In the morning, Andrea and Michonne learn that there are over seventy people living safely in Woodbury.  People have jobs; they grow their own food; children go to school.  Everyone obeys the strict curfews and the Governor's rules because they're safe - not a single casualty since winter.  Michonne, as usual, looks suspicious, Andrea is more incredulous than anything.

Back at the clinic, the Governor is talking with the wounded pilot, who has woken up.  He tells the Governor that there are ten more National Guardmen waiting out on the road for him (the 'copter was supposed to be scouting for survivors or somesuch and should have reported back).  The Governor promises to go out and fetch the other Guardsmen back to town.  After that, he goes to a lab where Merle and a geeky scientist-type are waiting for him.  Merle tells him what he knows about Andrea and the Governor encourages him to talk with her again, to see what else he can find out about her former group.  The lab guy has been examining  the remains of Michonne's pet walkers and has learned this: (1) zombies do starve if not fed, but it takes longer than with humans, plus they get docile when they haven't eaten, (2) Michonne has been using the mutilated and harmless walkers as camouflage, since zombies aren't much interested in each other.  The Governor and the lab guy (Milton?) are quite impressed with her resourcefulness.

A little later, the Governor has Andrea, Michonne and the lab guy over for breakfast (scrambled eggs).  Andrea is warming up to him, talking with him, trying to figure him out, impressed with his vision of rebuilding civilization.  All Michonne can do, however, is stare at her samurai sword, sitting there on a shelf in the Governor's kitchen.  Afterwards, Andrea tries to get her companion to relax a little but Michonne is entirely resistant and anxious to get the hell out of Woodbury.  She doesn't trust anyone here.

The Governor drives out to where the remaining National Guardsmen are holed up.  He waves a white flag, saying that he rescued their pilot and is here to bring them in.  And then he, and all his men who are hiding in the surrounding forest, shoot the shit out of all the poor Guardsmen, killing them all and none too humanely.  In a particularly icky moment, the Governor crushes the skull of one of the fallen Guardsmen before he can reanimate - and he's a little too vehement about it for my taste.  They collect all the weapons and check out the Guardsmen's vehicles.  "Let's see what Uncle Sam brought us," the Governor says happily.

When the convoy gets back to Woodbury, the Governor makes a little speech to the assembled townsfolk, saying that when they got out to the convoy, the Guardsmen were already dead.  But now they have new weapons, food and medicine, and other things the town needs.  "We didn't know them but we'll honor their sacrifice by not taking what we have here for granted ... Be thankful for what you have, and watch out for each other."  Michonne listens to this speech suspiciously.  Andrea is taken in by it, however, and chats up the Governor afterwards, asking him what his real name is.  He tells her that he never tells.  "Never say never!" she chirps.  The Governor, not smiling: "Never."

That night, after dinner, after the town has closed up for curfew, the Governor takes his glass of bourbon and goes into a padlocked room.  He sits quietly, thinking about the day ... and staring at a wall of aquariums that bubble and glow, filling the room with an eerie light. Each tank holds several rotting human heads - including Michonne's two pets and the poor, now-deceased helicopter pilot.  Dude, the Governor is just not right.  (And for those of us who've read at least half the comics, we know it's just gonna get worse.)

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

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Third Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series - Movie #5: Rubber

Believe me when I tell you that Rubber is one of the weirdest movies I've seen, probably ever.  It is so strange that the main premise - a psychokinetic car tire who rolls into town and blows up people's heads - is not the weirdest part about it.

The main storyline: somewhere out in the California desert, a junk tire comes to life, pulling itself out of the sand. As it rolls towards civilization, it displays a certain amount of belligerence, crushing crushable things in its path like plastic water bottles and scorpions.  When it comes up against something it can't crush (a glass bottle), it becomes enraged and manifests a psychokinetic power, breaking the bottle with its will.  It escalates from there (tin can, bunny-rabbit, crow, redneck truck driver's head), exploding everyone who tries to thwart its desires.

The extra weirdness: there is a framing story around the tire's story, sort of.  A group of volunteers are brought out to the desert and given binoculars so they can watch the tire, like a movie.  The cop investigating the tire's rampage is in on the joke, that the tire's story is a movie, until it isn't any more and he has to investigate the tire for real.  Then the guy running the focus group starves the people watching the tire, and then kills them with a poison-laced turkey carcass.

It just gets more absurd from there, breaking the fourth wall with abandon and usually providing the characters with little or no motivation for the things they do.  And yet, most bizarrely of all, I enjoyed the movie enough to see it through to its run-of-the-mill conclusion - which is much more mainstream than the craziness that precedes it.  I think it would have worked better as a short film (only 85 minutes as it is) because the conceit gets a little tiresome, but if you're in the mood for something completely weird, Rubber has your number.  Plus the exploding heads are pretty good.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Third Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series - Movie #4: Bubba Ho-tep

All right, that's it - I am officially terrible at picking this year's scary movies.  Next year, for the FAFMSSOMS, someone else should pick the movies.  I'll take requests.  Cripes, I clearly can't do it for myself.

On paper, though, Bubba Ho-tep should have worked:  a 90 minute long campfest whereby Elvis and JFK, who are not dead but who are, in fact, ensconced in an East Texas old folks' home, battle against an ancient Egyptian mummy who is feeding on the old folks ... and Bruce Campbell - mothereffing Bruce Campbell!!! - plays Elvis.  How could it lose?  It should have been campy and just a touch funny and all kinds of funny.  (Did I mention Bruce Campbell in the lead?)  Wrong.  It's awfully slow, hardly scary at all and just not that funny.  Ossie Davis plays JFK and it's largely due to him that the flick is at all entertaining: he says that after he got shot in Dallas, the gov'mint took him back to the lab, removed a chunk of his brain and replaced it with a bag of sand, and then dyed his skin black so no one would know it was him.  When Elvis presses him about how Marilyn was in the sack, Jack says that information is top secret, "But between you and me, ... wowwwww!" - and he stretches that "wow" into about six syllables with the most gleeful expression.  But other than that, not so much with the glee (I may have dozed off for a couple moments).

Unless you're a Bruce Campbell completist, you can skip this one.  After this and the Dead Meat debacle, it is with much ambivalence that I'm eyeing the DVD of Rubber that awaits us next.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Walking Dead S3E2 "Sick" (10/21/12)

Remember how last week it was pretty much all action and no talking?  Yeah, it's not quite so much like that this time, although it's not as draggy as most of last season.  And to whom do you think the episode title is referring?  I think it's Rick: he looks BAD, physically ill, half-starved, but almost emotionally and psychically sick: trying to get a grip on this world he was flung unconscious into, forced into a position of leadership he never really wanted, trying to keep everyone alive and, by doing so, segueing from a man of law to a ruthless killer of both the living and the dead ... it'd take a toll on any of us.

While the others try desperately to stem the bleeding from Herschel's stump, Darryl has the prisoners come out from the kitchen, carefully covering them with his crossbow.  There are five of them and although we don't get all their names in this episode, I looked them up online because otherwise it's a pain in the ass: there's Tomas, the belligerent leader who has a pistol; Andrew, a squirrelly young guy who sticks close to Tomas; Big Tiny, who's, you know, a really big guy; Axel, the older, quieter guy who's in for prescription drug abuse; and Oscar, who is "really bad at B&E."  The prisoners look at Rick's crew and note, "You don't look like much of a rescue team."  Rick's crew load Herschel up on a dolly and run back through the corridors towards Cellblock C.  The prisoners trade puzzled looks and then follow after them.  Rick's crew gets back to their cellblock and locks the gate behind them, Darryl remaining out front with his bow to intercept the prisoners.  They bundle Herschel into his bunk and work to stop the bleeding.  Rick tells Glen that if Herschel dies, Glen's going to have to take care of it when he comes back as a zombie.  Glen pauses, then says he can do it.

When the prisoners catch up, Darryl sneers that today they've been pardoned by the great state of Georgia - you're all free.  The prisoners have no idea what's happened in the world outside - they've been barricaded in the cafeteria for going on ten months - and Rick, Darryl and T-Dogg bring them up to speed:  no power, no police, no government, no hospitals, no phones, hardly any people.  "For real?" asks Axel.  The prisoners are stunned, disbelieving, so Rick et al. bring them out into the prison yard where they goggle at all the dead bodies and eye the living dead clustered at the fences suspiciously.  Big Tiny asks if it's a disease and Rick tells them yes, sort of, and they're - "we're" - all infected.

Tomas and Andrew decide to get territorial and want Rick and his crew out of the prison but Rick makes it clear that he and his people aren't going anywhere.  He cuts a deal with the prisoners: half of the remaining food in the cafeteria for assistance in clearing out another cellblock where the prisoners can live.  The prisoners agree, saying that there isn't much food left.  When Rick et al. see all the food still in the pantry, it's clear that "not much food" means very different things to these two groups of people.  Darryl snarls that the prisoners certainly haven't been starving themselves over the last ten months.

Back in Cellblock C, Herschel's bleeding has slowed.  Maggie is despondent and Glen tries to keep her spirits up.  Note: Everyone's hands are still bloody to the elbows - ick - you'd think they'd find some way to wash up a little.  When Rick et al. come back with the food, Lori asks Rick what he thinks about sharing the prisoner with the incarcerees.  He tells her that they'll try to live side by side but if he has to, he'll kill them.  He looks uncomfortable when he says that and she reassures him that he's a good man and should do whatever it takes, with a clear conscience, to keep the group safe.  Also, Maggie sits by Herschel's side and cries a lot.  Also, Carl takes it upon himself while everyone is distracted with Herschel to sneak out and find the infirmary, bringing back all the supplies he could find - and only having to kill two walkers to do it.  When his mother freaks out about him taking that kind of risk, he snaps at her to get off his back.

Next is a zombie killing lesson.  Tomas thinks that all he needs is his gun but Darryl explains that they have to go hand-to-hand because gunshots attract the walkers, plus it's brain shots only.  The prisoners sneer: You don't gotta tell us how to kill a man.  T-Dogg rolls his eyes: "These things ain't men."  They get in formation and move out into the corridors.  At the first group of zombies they see, the prisoners rush out, hollering.  They beat and stab the zombies like they were living, to no effect.  Rick, Darryl and T-Dogg just watch for a while, snickering, before moving in and putting the zombies down efficiently.  The prisoners do better with the next batch, methodically taking the walkers out, until Big Tiny gets nervous and breaks formation.  He gets bitten on the shoulder.  Everyone stands around and debates for a while: the prisoners think Big Tiny can be saved like Herschel was saved; Rick et al. point out that they can't really hack off Big Tiny's shoulder like they did Herschel's leg.  Big Tiny is all, I feel fine, and then Tomas cuts through all the bullshit by bashing the big guy's head in.  Repeatedly, with much gusto.  Rick and Darryl look sick at the display of enthusiasm.

Back on Cellblock C, Carol tells Glen she needs help with something.  He doesn't want to leave, in case Herschel needs to be put down, but she is insistent.  She is worried that if Herschel doesn't make it, she'll have to be the one who helps Lori deliver her baby (Herschel has taught Carol some triage; Lori had Carl by C-section and it could happen again).  Carol wants to practice on a walker before she has to cut into a living woman.  She and Glen go out to the yard, separate a female walker from a small group and dispatch it, then bring it inside the fences.  Glen goes back inside and Carol, with some trepidation, pulls up the walker's skirt and starts dissecting.  From the woods beyond the fences, however, someone unseen is watching her.

Rick, Tomas and their respective crews have moved into a laundry room, heading towards another cellblock.  They hear a bunch of walkers moaning on the other side of the closed door.  Tomas yanks the door open and the zombies pour into the laundry, outnumbering the guys.  Even worse, Tomas slashes at Rick with his crowbar ("Sorry, man") and then throws a zombie at him in the melee.  After the zombies are all put down. Rick and Tomas have a stare-down, Tomas sneering that "shit happens" ... until Rick buries his machete in Tomas's head.  Yeesh.  Andrew freaks out and runs for it, Rick chasing after him; Darryl and T-Dogg point their weapons at Axel and Oscar and force them onto their knees.  A panicked Andrew races through the hallways until he finds himself in an outside courtyard full of zombies.  Rick comes up behind him, quickly assesses the situation and closes the door in the prisoner's face, telling him that he better run.  As a grim-faced Rick walks back to the laundry, he can hear Andrew's dying shrieks behind him.

Back in Cellblock C, Herschel stops breathing.  His daughters freak out but Lori steps in and starts mouth-to-mouth and chest compressions, heedless of the fact that if Herschel dies and comes back, her face is right up against his.  Suddenly Herschel gasps and lurches.  Lori staggers back, terrified, and Carl draws his gun.  It's okay: Herschel is breathing again.

Axel and Oscar's lives are spared and Rick leaves them in a safe cellblock that's full of dead - but not living dead - bodies.  Looking around at the bodies, Axel is shaken, saying he knew these guys, they were good men.  Oscar tells Rick that this is sick, leaving them here in this place.  Darryl: "You think this is sick?  You don't want to know what's outside."  He pauses, then adds that he's sorry about their friends.  As T-Dogg leaves, he recommends that they drag the bodies outside and burn them before they try to settle in.  Our guys close the cellblock door behind them when they leave.  Oscar and Axel just look at each other.

When Rick, Darryl and T-Dogg return to Cellblock C, everyone stands around and watches Herschel, who finally, once everyone (except Carol) is assembled, opens his eyes.  His daughters are in tears as he reaches out his hand and grabs hold of Rick's, wordlessly thanking him for saving his life.  Rick is speechless, tears in his eyes, thankful that something has gone right just this once.

The episode ends with Lori standing on a catwalk outside.  Rick goes to find her and she tries to reach out to him - blah blah blah - tries to see if he's willing to put their relationship back together.  After a long pause, where it looks like he's moving towards forgiving her, Rick puts his hand on her shoulder and tells her that "we're grateful for what you did."  Not "I'm grateful."  He scurries off, such a damaged man, and Lori watches him go, rubbing her shoulder and absolutely devastated.  Well, she's supposed to be devastated but the actress can't quite pull it off.  Enough so that we get the picture though.

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

Monday, October 22, 2012

Dead Meat = DOA

Dead Meat would have been a perfect horror movie - 80 minutes long, set in Ireland, all about a zombie plague set off by a really bad mad cow disease infection - except that I hated it so much that I turned it off after fifteen minutes.  Maybe I missed out on something because quite a few viewer reviews have given it high marks, maybe I just wasn't in the mood for what little I saw.  The acting was bad.  It was poorly edited (I'm pretty sure we didn't need to see the whole of Whatshername's walk from the car to the creepy cottage).  Production values were way low and not in a good way, like the first Paranormal Activity or the first Blair Witch Project or even American Zombie.  The zombies started chomping on characters almost right away before I could even tell if I was going to like them or not, although I was pretty sure I wasn't.  I don't mind if the action starts right away but give me some reason to care.  I didn't care and so I turned it off.

Instead I watched Coraline, the wonderful, creepy, scary stop-motion animated movie version of Neil Gaiman's wonderful, creepy, scary book.  I just loved the book and I really liked the movie, which is voiced by a fantastic cast:  Dakota Fanning (Coraline), Teri Hatcher (Coraline's mother/Other Mother), Jennifer Saunders (Miss Spink), Dawn French (Miss Forcible), Ian McShane (Mr. Bobinsky), John Hodgman (Coraline's father/Other Father), Keith David (the Cat).   The movie is pretty scary and not for little kids (I don't quite recall but apparently the book is even scarier - I don't remember the thing in the basement that was so horrible but it doesn't make an appearance in the movie); it's got an extra-twisted Alice in Wonderland by way of Pan's Labyrinth feel to it.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Enter the asylum

This is the lamest FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series we've had yet, and I am very sorry about that.  I totally blame because NOW, due to some unspecified "delay," they are not sending me my movies at all. I'm more than a little annoyed and am considering making the switch to Netflix ... except that I really don't want to have to re-enter 700+ DVDs into a new queue.  I did receive Dead Meat finally and I'll be watching that tomorrow; even at just 80 minutes long, it's still too late for it tonight.

One brighter horror spot on the week: American Horror Story Asylum started up.  Did you see it?  I think it's a much stronger start than S1 last year, despite no Connie Britton.  In the first episode alone we got aliens, crazy people, people being persecuted for being lesbians and/or in an interracial marriage (what with being the 1960s and all), not-crazy people involuntarily committed, mad scientists, mad nuns, strange flesh-eating woods-dwelling creatures and blowjobs whilst one's arm is getting ripped off.  That's a great start!  Honestly, even with all the craziness, it's still more coherent than the series's first episode.  I have hopes for this show this season - not high ones, but still hopes.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Walking Dead S3E1 "Seed" (10/14/12)

Interesting aside:  Frank Darabont's The Mist was playing on Syfy Sunday night and I realized that the actors who play Andrea, Carol and Dale on TWD were all in The Mist.  Nice to see Darabont taking care of his people.  And now, let the zombie carnage begin!

Rick and his small band of survivors, all that's left after the debacle at Herchel's farm, have been on the move for the last eight months, moving house to house, town to town, scavenging what they can and learning to kill walkers pretty efficiently.  They've got silencers for the pistols and go hand-to-hand when they can, trying to keep quiet and conserve ammunition.  Even Carl and Carol have become decent shots.  They're also on the verge of starvation all the time - despite this, Rick won't let them eat cans of dog food when they find it.  (What's wrong with that?  It was good enough for Mad Max.) - and Lori is just weeks away from giving birth.  Which will be a relief because then we won't have to watch her lug around that obviously fake pregnancy belly.

Everyone is wrung out, physically and mentally, and they can't keep up this panicked, nomadic existence for much longer.  They've been keeping track of the zombie herds on a map: apparently the groups of walkers are getting larger, flocking together and getting exponentially more dangerous.  They need someplace secure to hunker down and stay put for a while.  Fortuitously, while out hunting for game, Rick and Darryl find the prison, dozens of walkers lurching around the fenced-in yard.  If they can clean the place out, Rick thinks, it'll be perfect.

The prison is surrounded by two chainlink fences, with about fifteen feet between the two.  They cut the first fence, then stitch it back up with wire.  Now everyone is safe in that no-zombie zone between the outside world and inside the prison.  Darryl, Carol, Herschel and Carl go up into the guard towers to shoot walkers. Glen, Maggie, Beth and Lori try to distract the zombies, and poke them in the brains with sharp objects whenever they can, while Rick runs across the yard to an open gate that is letting zombies wander into the grassy yard from the prison's courtyard.  He closes the gate, making finite the number of zombies in the yard, and then climbs up another guard tower.  The sun shines brightly in the gorgeous blue sky and it's a perfect day for shooting zombies.  The shooters methodically pick the walkers off, one by one, until they're all dead.

The group is elated, thrilled with having so much open, safe space.  Around the campfire, they make plans to secure a safe water supply and maybe look into planting a garden.  Rick paces the fence, around and around, looking for weak spots.  Finding none, he rejoins the group and tells them that they'll need to make one more big push: they need to get into the prison because inside there should be food in the cafeteria, medicine in the infirmary, and more weapons.  Everyone looks sad at the prospect but no one complains or refuses.  Lori takes Rick aside and asks him to give everyone a break for a couple of days but he isn't interested in anything she has to say.  It seems that in the eight months since we last saw this show, Lori has gotten over her husband killing her lover and Rick doesn't want to have anything to do with his wife.  "I haven't left you yet, have I?" he snarls at her.

After the commercial break, we're in another town with the katana-wielding hooded figure: she's a slight, strong, dreadlocked woman - name of Michonne, since I've read the first 49 comics - and she's a total bad ass with her calm demeanor, her sword and her two armless, jawless pack-zombies on leashes.  She's also still with Andrea (whom she rescued in the season finale), who seems pretty sick.  Michonne tells Andrea that they can stay put for a couple of days but she's lying because the walkers are accumulating.  Andrea tells Michonne to go on without her but the other woman refuses.  Andrea then says she'll be dead if they stay here for a couple days.  So they head out into the woods, leashed zombies stumbling along behind.

Back at the prison, Rick, Glen, Maggie, Darryl and T-Dog make their way into the prison courtyard, protecting themselves in a loose phalanx so no walkers can come up behind them.  They put zombies down hand-to-hand only and, I must admit, they're all pretty friggin' good at it.  But there are a LOT of zombies and when they meet up with some dead guards still wearing their riot gear, the humans are momentarily stymied.  It's Maggie who figures out that you can grab the zombie guards' helmets, yanks their heads back and stick your machete into their brains from under their chins.  "See that?!?!" she exclaims almost joyfully.  There is some very excellent zombie carnage and the grossest bit is when Rick pulls a gas mask off a zombie and the skin of its face comes off with the mask.  It is squishy and completely disgusting and Rick looks like he might vomit.

They make their way into the mostly deserted Cellblock C with no problems, only a couple of zombies locked in their cells to clean out.  They find a couple of sets of keys on the non-animated corpses of dead guards.  Relieved to have a secure location, they bring the rest of the gang inside.  Everyone picks out a cell to sleep in, except Darryl who doesn't want to be caged and instead puts a mattress down up on the guards' catwalk, and Rick, who just slumps to the floor against a wall.  Another thing of slight note: Carl has a bit of a crush on Beth.

In the morning, Lori tells Herschel that she hasn't felt the baby move for ages and she fears it's dead, maybe zombified and ready to tear its way out of her.  Herschel calms her down but she makes him promise to kill her if she dies in childbirth or the baby if it's born dead too.  Blah blah blah - I really don't care about Lori's feelings.

Rick, T-Dog, Glen, Darryl, Maggie and Herschel load up with flashlights and weapons, supplemented with the guards' gear, and head out to look for the cafeteria.  The deeper they go into the prison, the darker and scarier it gets, lit only by their flashlight beams.  Glen has a can of spray paint and he marks each intersection so they'll know how to get back to Cellblock C.  At first all is quiet but then all hell breaks loose in those dark, narrow corridors, and zombies are everywhere.  They run, ignoring Glen's signs in their panic, just trying to get away.  Glen and Maggie get separated for a while and when Herschel goes back to look for them, he carelessly steps over a zombie, assuming it's dead.  It isn't and it takes a big bite out of his Achilles tendon (eewww!).  Maggie and Herschel are screaming, everyone comes running and Rick shoots the zombie before it can chow down further.  They grab up Herschel and run from the hordes of approaching zombies, finally barricading themselves in the cafeteria.

While Darryl and T-Dog hold the cafeteria doors closed, Rick frantically screams that there's only one way to keep Herschel alive.  He grabs an ax and starts chopping away at poor Herschel's leg.  It's brutal.  Mercifully, Herschel passes out almost immediately.  When the leg is finally off - and it takes a long time for Rick to get it off - they scramble to keep the old man from bleeding out.  Darryl is shaken, on his hands and knees.  He looks up towards the kitchen and sees a bunch of faces staring at them through the window.  He picks up his crossbow and flashlight and walks towards them.  But the watching group aren't zombies: they're human, prisoners who have managed to survive here.  "Holy shit," says one of them.

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