Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Walking Dead S3E10 "Home" (2/17/13)

Remember how I said The Walking Dead doesn't have much compelling dialogue?  Well, it's not as if they let that stop them from talking and talking and talking.  This is a largely slow episode punctuated by two very good scenes.

Prison.  Crazy Rick spots Ghost Lori out in the field by the graves.  He chases after her, the apparition leading him further from safety, outside the fences.  Michonne, who has apparently taken to sleeping in a wrecked bus out in the field, watches him with some concern, re-locking the gates behind him.  She of course can't see Ghost Lori and thinks Rick is crazy.  Which he is.

Woodbury.  The Governor drops by to visit Andrea, telling her that her uplifting speech was just what the townsfolk needed to hear.  She asks about her friends at the prison and he promises that as long as they leave the town alone, he won't retaliate for the recent raid.  He asks her to take over running the town; he needs time to get over the loss of his zombie daughter.

Forest.  Darryl doesn't like being out the woods, complaining that there's nothing to eat.  He wants to return to the prison where there's food, clean water and shelter.  Merle scoffs, saying that he's pretty sure the Governor is organizing a raid to murderize all Darryl's friends.

Prison.  Glen rants about the prison's weak spots: where Tyrese and his friends got in, walkers and the Governor's people can get in too.  (Say, what happened to Tyrese and his friends?  Did they actually leave the prison or are they hunkered down somewhere else, trying to stay safe?)  Glen turns to Michonne, saying that the two of them could raid Woodbury and kill the Governor, tonight.  Herschel reminds him of how he, and Maggie, were nearly killed the last time they were in that town.  He counsels leaving the prison before the Governor comes to get them, heading out into the world again.  Glen's all, no, that is a really bad idea - this is the safest place we've found.  They decide to work on reinforcing the prison's weak spots, plugging up what holes they can.

Woodbury.  The Governor visits Milton to pick up a recharged walkie battery.  Blah blah blah "I depend on you, Milton ... will you keep tabs on [Andrea] for me?"  Later, Andrea discovers that the Governor, Martinez and a couple of others have left the town.  When she asks Milton about it, he stammers that they're just out on a supply run.  She doesn't believe him.

Prison.  Glen and Carl have discovered that the tunnels below are again swarming with walkers for some reason.  Glen decides to take a vehicle and scout the far side of the prison to see where they're getting in.  He goes to Maggie's bunk to see if she'll go with him but she's curled up, fetal-position, in no mood for any of it.  He tells her that she needs to talk about what happened in Woodbury.  She snaps, Or do you need to talk about it?  She bluntly tells him everything that happened with the Governor, staring intently into Glen's stricken face.  She thinks Glen blames her for taking off her shirt, thinks he is judging her for it.  He doesn't blame her, of course, but his own rage on her behalf and frustration at having been unable to keep her safe is overwhelming.  She slaps at him a couple of times, chasing him off.  Outside, up on one of the catwalks, Carol and Axel brace sheet metal and pallets for barricades.  They talk, Carol warming up to Axel as he shares what got him into prison in the first place, and then she shows him how to use that gun he's carrying.  I'm starting to like Carol - she's becoming one of the more human characters.

Forest.  The Dixon boys head towards a creek, bickering: Darryl thinks it's the Yellow Jacket Creek and Merle says no, laughing at him, saying he's lost his sense of direction.  Darryl's like, why does everything have to be so difficult with you?  They hear screams and shouts up ahead and find a Hispanic family trapped in their stationwagon on a bridge over the creek, biters all around them.  Darryl takes off running to help.  Merle, on the other hand, trudges behind reluctantly, complaining that he doesn't want to waste bullets on strangers.  There are two men, one pretty young, out on the bridge and a woman and squalling baby trapped in the car.  Darryl, BECAUSE HE'S EFFING AWESOME, calmly dispatches zombie after zombie, shooting them, stabbing them in the eyes, and mostly excellently crushing the skull of one in the stationwagon's hatchback door.  Messy!  Merle finally shows up to help and the Dixons clear out the rest of the walkers.  Then, because he's a rascist asshole, Merle starts pawing through the family's things, looking for food because he thinks they owe him for saving their asses.  Darryl, fed up, points his crossbow at his older brother's head, ordering him to get the hell out of that car.  The family drives off and Darryl collects his arrows from various zombie corpses, walking past a sign that reads "Yellow Jacket Creek."  So there, Merle, you old shit.

Back out in the woods, Merle taunts and hassles his little brother.  Things get heated, Darryl finally snapping that Merle abandoned him long before he left him on that rooftop.  They shove each other, Darryl's shirt ripping to show old scars on his back from childhood beatings.  Merle stops, saying he didn't know.  Darryl's like, of course you knew, he did it to you too before you left.  Merle says that he had to leave or he would have killed him - father, stepfather, whomever - otherwise but Darryl's all, whatever, you asshole, I'm going back where I belong.  Merle protests that he can't go to the prison with him, "I nearly killed that black bitch" and beat the shit out of "the Chinese kid."  Darryl:  "He's Korean!"  Merle insists that he can't go and Darryl shakes his head, "I may be the one who's walkin' away but you're the one who's leavin' ... again."  This scene, along with the bridge zombies, was great.

May I take just a moment to opine again about how much I love Darryl?  He's a great character who has grown and changed over the course of the show, but not so much that he's unrecognizable.  He's believable and Norman Reedus does a wonderful job with him - he's a way better actor than Andrew Lincoln, who plays Rick.  Darryl needs to be the leader of the group.  And although the Merle character is despicable, Michael Rooker is outstanding.

Prison.  Herschel catches up with Glen in the prison yard and blah blah blah despite what Herschel says to him, Glen can't get past his fury at having been unable to protect Maggie in Woodbury.  He points out that with Darryl gone and "Rick in Crazytown," he next in line to be in charge.  "What are you proving?" asks Herschel but Glen hops in the pickup truck and drives out of the prison.  Inside, Beth gets her sister to help feed the baby.  It's therapeutic for Maggie, giving her something to think about other than Woodbury.  Good job, Beth.  Meanwhile, Rick is wandering around in the scrub outside the prison fences.  Herschel hobbles down there and whisper-shouts Rick's name until the sheriff wanders over to him.  Blah blah blah WTF are you doing out here, are you coming back inside, we need you.  Rick says, hilariously: "I've got [long pause] stuff out here."  Herschel is kind to him and infinitely patient, drawing him out until Rick confesses that he's been seeing and hearing Lori.  He knows that it's not really her but thinks it must mean something.  I know this is all supposed to make us sympathetic to Rick but mostly I'm just bored.

Michonne watches all this from the field, Carol and Axel from the prison yard.  Axel gets some more lines, talking about how he felt better in prison where there were rules and things made sense, and Carol engages with him, asking questions about his past ... and then, because Axel was in danger of becoming sympathetic and gaining some character development, he is shot in the head, splattering Carol with gore.  It's the Governor, you see, with a sniper rifle, out on his "supply run."

Now it's a balls-out firefight, the Governor, Martinez and another guy shooting at the prison from beyond the fences, another Woodburian somehow up in a guardtower.  Carol cowers behind poor Axel's body; Rick dives into a drainage ditch; Herschel drops flat into the field's tall grass.  The shooting goes on and on, and for folks who have no trouble dropping zombies with single head shots, not to mention that impressive single sniper shot that got Axel, no one can hit another human being now for all the bullets that are whizzing around.  Maggie runs out with more guns for herself, Carl and Beth.  An engine roars: it's a panel truck that barrels up the prison access road and crashes through the two layers of fencing.  The driver, wearing full riot gear, opens the truck's back doors, releasing dozens of zombies into the prison's field.  Maggie gets lucky and kills the guy shooting from the guard tower.  The Governor smugly surveys the damage he's done and drives off with his remaining thugs.

With the guns gone, Michonne can finally get in on the action, slicing and dicing the milling zombies and helping get Herschel in the pickup truck when Glen finally drives back up.  Outside the fences, Rick is trapped by walkers, struggling hand to hand with them ... until the Dixon brothers arrive, putting the zombies down and rescuing Rick.  The immediate threat over - other than the zombies lurching around the prison field - the surviving humans (which is all of them, except poor Axel) stand and stare at the wreckage of their once-safe home.

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

Well, that week sort of got away from me

Excuses, excuses: I really intended to have the recap for The Walking Dead up before now ... I don't know what happened.  Time just really got away from me, plus this last episode is more talking than walking and since TWD's dialogue is just not that compelling, it's not like I've been super-motivated to make time for it.  Seriously: other than the Darryl parts and the last five minutes, it's all blah-blah-blah.  But we'll get to that, I do promise.

In the meantime I've been revisiting all my Bloom County comics collections which I love dearly (but am frankly having a difficult time recalling all those 1980s political references) and I read The Story of Edward Sawtelle which I'll briefly review here at some point.  In a nutshell: it's a very good book but has a majorly bummer ending.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Mini movie review: Kick-Ass

I'm going to give Kick-Ass a solid C+.  Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) is a high school geek and superhero comics fan who wonders why real people don't dress up like superheroes and right wrongs.  Despite his friends pointing out that real people don't generally have superpowers or bajillions of dollars to spend on hi-tech crime fighting gadgets, Dave buys himself a green and gold wetsuit, picks up a baton and starts rescuing gang members from beatings.  The news notices him; the girl he's crushing on notices him (although she thinks he's gay); the vigilante father-and-daughter team of Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage, overacting like there's no tomorrow) and Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz, markedly cuter in her Hit Girl costume) notice him; the local mafia boss thinks he's responsible for killing his drug dealers and stealing his money and drugs.  Dave joins up with Big Daddy and Hit Girl but gets seriously cold feet when he realizes how bloodthirsty they are.  When they're put in a tight spot, however, Dave has to really be a superhero.

This movie is very violent and anyone not comfortable with watching an 11-year old girl stab and shoot bad guys to death while dropping an impressive number of F-bombs should not watch it.  I was okay with it, although the first instance was a little shocking, and liked the action/fight sequences quite a lot.  Dave doesn't really go through much growth: he wants to do good, but is overwhelmed by the pain and brutality of what he's involved in, but he's really more interested in hooking up with this girl.  Moretz is grating unless she's murdering thugs and Cage, well, I don't really know what to say there.  I don't know how the movie version of Kick-Ass corresponds to the original comics but I think I'd like to find out - I'm thinking the comics are better.  The movie is fine but doesn't put as much of a spin on the superhero genre as I was hoping.

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Walking Dead S3E9 "The Suicide King" (2/10/13)

The best part about TWD is that, unlike Deadwood or Justified or Firefly, there is hardly ever any compelling or exciting dialogue so it's easy to recap.

We pick right up where we left off, with the Governor pitting Merle and Darryl against each other to fight to the death in the Thunderdome.  While the bloodthirsty Woodburians howl from the bleachers, Merle starts whaling on his little brother.  Darryl is all, WTF? and Merle tells him to just play along and he'll get them out of here.  The Governor's flunkies bring in some leashed walkers to add to the excitement and Darryl and Merle are forced to punch them, which is probably a little closer contact than either prefers.  Just then Rick and Maggie (the only two able-bodied ones left, as Glen and Michonne are just too beat to shit to help now) open fire on the crowd, tossing in smoke bombs and taking out several Woodburians.  As the crowd runs screaming into the night, the Dixon brothers are able to escape, Darryl snatching up his beloved crossbow en route.

Merle leads the way and he, Rick, Darryl and Maggie exit the town through a gap in the protective fence, which a couple of enterprising zombies are happy to explore.  The humans run back to the car where Glen and Michonne are waiting for them.  Glen and Michonne are not at all happy to see Merle with their people, and they start waving their weapons around and shouting about how Merle is the one who beat the shit out of Glen and who tried to kill Michonne in the woods and who is the nasty Governor's right hand man, etc., etc.  Merle doesn't help much, grinning crazily and pushing everyone's buttons with his patented racist, sexist, redneck ranting.  Finally, Rick clubs him over the head to shut him up so the rest of them can figure out what to do with him.

Glen and Maggie are adamant that Merle not join them at the prison; a couple of times Glen almost lets slip how the Governor nearly raped Maggie, but she glares at him - it's not for public knowledge, apparently.  Darryl is all, the guy's my brother and if you won't have him, you won't have me.  Rick's like, we want you with us but he can't come - he'll have everyone at each other's throats.  Darryl pauses and then says, okay, he and I will be fine on our own.  Faced with the loss of a valuable fighter, Rick pleads that there's got to be another way but Darryl says don't ask me to leave him again - I did that once already.  He packs up all his crossbow bolts as Merle woozily regains his feet and the brothers walk off into the woods together.  What would be really awesome would be if Darryl got some character development and a bunch of screen time out there in the world, really became a leader and then returned to the prison as even more of a badass.  Any chance that might happen?  We can dream.  As Rick and his remaining people climb back into their car, Rick snarls at Michonne that as soon as Herschel has patched her up, she's leaving the prison.  She doesn't protest.

On the way home, they have to stop to push a derelict car out of the road.  As a zombie attacks them, Glen knocks it down and then overkills it, stomping its head to mush, releasing all his frustration, impotence and rage over the Governor's treatment of Maggie into the thing.  He yells at Rick for not having killed the Governor back there and Rick's all, I was just trying to get Darryl back.  Glen: Yeah, so where is he now?  Maggie's like, look, let's just get back to the prison.  There's a very nice touch with random zombies milling about in the distance, out of focus, wandering in and out of the trees.

Prison.  Tyrese and Sasha try to play nice with Herschel, hoping to be allowed to stay.  Herschel is friendly enough but firm: Don't get comfortable as it's not up to me.  Later, as Tyrese's group prepares to bury their friend in the yard, Alan and Ben share their plan to subdue Herschel et als. and take over the prison so they don't get thrown out.  Tyrese and Sasha are like, WTF, that's not the kind of people we are.

Woodbury.  Things are deteriorating quickly as the Governor sulks in his house.  People rush the gates, trying to leave.  It gets worse when those zombies make their way in through the gap in the fence and start chewing on townsfolk.  Everyone runs and screams uselessly until Andrea and Martinez drop the walkers with headshots.  After that, Andrea tries to convince the Governor to come out and reassure his people but he refuses, saying that they've had it too easy and he's done holding their hands - "We're at war now."  She asks WTF was Darryl doing in town and he replies, probably trying to rescue your friends Glen and Maggie.  Instead of getting all outraged and loyal to the people who kept her alive (and, yes, abandoned her at Herschel's farm), she just gets a frowny face.  Hopefully now that the Governor is "at war," he'll be more of the horrific sadist from the comics - he was never so charming in the books.  Finally, Andrea steps up and gives a couple of speeches out in the street, calming and reassuring the townsfolk.  The Woodburians are a bunch of losers, if you ask me: complacent, easily led, unable to protect themselves.

Prison.  Rick's group returns and Rick has to tell Carol that Darryl's not coming back.  She's pretty upset about it.  Rick tells Herschel what little he learned about the Governor and Herschel in turn tells him about the new arrivals.  Inside, Rick walks right by Tyrese's group without looking at them, going immediately to see his little daughter.  As the baby cries, however, the noise echoes through his head:  looks like Rick is definitely going crazy.

Beth talks to Carol a little about Darryl, saying she doesn't understand why he left since "Merle sounds like a jerk."  Carol understands, drawing from her experience with her own abusive husband: people like Merle get into your head, make you feel like you deserve the abuse?  Beth: Even Darryl?  Carol nods.  Meanwhile, Herschel ministers to Glen, noticing the tension between him and Maggie.  Glen won't tell what happened at Woodbury, though, so Herschel just thanks him for taking care of her, telling the younger man that he thinks of him as his own son.  When Herschel checks on Maggie, she's a little closed off, dealing with recent events and not ready to talk.  He doesn't press her, just gives her a hug.

Later, the discussion turns to Tyrese and his group.  Rick is initially opposed to letting them stay, refusing (like an asshole) to shake Tyrese's proffered hand, saying that they've been betrayed before.  Carol points out that without Darryl, they're down a fighter and could use the extra hands. Tyrese pleads his case.  Herschel takes Rick aside and says that while he's backed Rick up until now, he really needs to let these people stay.  Rick looks like he's about to change his mind ... and then he sees a ghostly figure in a white dress standing on the balcony, staring down at him.  Her face is shadowed but it looks like it could be Lori.  Rick freaks out, shouting, "Why are you here?  What do you want from me? I can't help you, you don't belong here - get out!"  Everyone assumes he's shouting at Tyrese so Herschel hustles the newcomers out of there.  The rest of the group stares at the madman, aghast.

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

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Mini movie review: Let Me In

I know - The Walking Dead has started back up again and I need to get going on the recap.  I'll get it up this week, I promise - I'm just out of the recap habit and need to get my motor running again.  I have watched the episode, however, and can report these two important things: it's an okay but not great episode; and Darryl isn't dead.  Really, that last is the most important of all.

I watched Let Me In this weekend, the faithful American remake of the wonderful Swedish Let the Right One In.  I watched the original in 2009 and at the end of my review said, "I really, really, really hope the Americans don't try to remake it."  Well, obviously they did, and they did a fairly good job with it; but while it's a better, more subtle R-rated horror movie than most of the American dreck out there, it still doesn't hold a candle to the original.  The remake's little boy, as played by Kodi Smit-McPhee, is more creepy than fragile and distracted me by looking like a mini Shelley Duval circa The Shining.  Chloe Grace Moretz is miscast as the girl vampire, not quite nailing either the waifishness or the malignancy the role requires.  Let Me In also reverts to vampirizing Moretz's face to make her scarier; I don't recall them doing that in the Swedish film, instead scoring scare points with tension, menace and acting.

Like the original, the remake does manage some restraint, keeping most of the gore off-screen, including the great swimming pool scene.  But Let the Right One In is the clear winner and if you're only going to watch one of them - and really, you only need to watch one - suck it up, deal with the subtitles and watch the Swedish original.

Friday, February 8, 2013


We watch too much television.  There’s no question about that:  Justified (both of us), Modern Family (both), American Horror Story (FM), Go On (both), Cougar Town (both), New Girl (both), Parks & Rec (both), The Office (Mr. Mouse), Jeopardy (both), Louie (both), Wilfred (both), Breaking Bad (both), Restaurant Impossible (both),  Top Gear (Mr. Mouse), Arrow (FM), Lost Girl (FM), Fashion Police (FM), The Biggest Loser (both), The Soup (FM), The Americans (FM), The Following (FM), The Walking Dead (FM), Hawaii 5-0 (both - although I mostly just yell at the TV about how bad the writing is), KSL Outdoors (both), miscellaneous sporting events like skiing, Tour de France, etc., but not the NBA/NFL/MLB (both).

But here’s the thing.  It’s not like watching television is ALL we do.  We both work.  We both work out after work 4-5 times a week.  We eat out at most once a week so we always make dinner – not fast food – at home.  We walk the dog.  We make beer and wine.  I grow a few summertime vegetables in the backyard.  We always have at least one book each going at all times; I read daily.  99% of our weekends include time spent skiing, hiking, mountain-biking, road-biking, fishing or camping.  Could we accomplish more if we didn’t watch so much TV?  Of course: the house would be cleaner, the laundry wouldn’t stack up so much, the weeds wouldn’t dare poke their heads out of the flower beds ... but I feel like our lives are pretty full, active and connected as they are.  So, yes, in the evenings, after the busy day’s activities have wound down, Mr. Mouse, the dog and I cuddle up and watch television together.  And I’m okay with that.

Monday, February 4, 2013

The sound of silence

Oops.  Sort of got away from me here.  I don't so much have commentary on what I've read/seen lately but we did just get Toy Story 3 (a Mr. Mouse request) and Let Me In in the mail today so those will be forthcoming.  In the meantime, I've read Funny in Farsi: a Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America and Laughing Without an Accent, both by Firoozeh Dumas: quick reads of funny and smart essays.  I've been watching The Following (meh - except for Kevin Bacon emoting up a storm with what little he's been given) and The Americans (good but not entrancing: I take issue with (1) how utterly convenient it is that an FBI agent is living right next door to the deep-cover KGB agents and (2) that damn Phil Collins song in the pilot; I love the horrific wigs and early 80s apparel, cars and "technology.")  Justified, as usual, kicks ass all over the place and The Walking Dead starts up again soon so at least we'll have that together.