Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Mini comics review: Saga

I just got the Saga: Volume One trade paperback out of the library.  Written by Brian K. Vaughan (Y: The Last Man, Lost) and illustrated by Fiona Staples, this comic is a science fiction/fantasy hybrid and it's fantastic.  This volume follows star-crossed lovers Alana and Markos, two soldiers on opposite sides of a far-reaching inter-galactic war, as they try to escape with their newborn daughter.  Everyone, it seems, is chasing them: the television-headed robot overlords of Alana's home planet, the magic-wielding warriors from Markos's moon, bounty-hunter/assassins of all shapes and sizes.  They encounter help in unexpected places but it isn't easy in this often brutal 'verse.

Saga is definitely an adults-only comic.  There is swearing and violence and breast-feeding (if you're sensitive about that sort of thing) and alien sex of all kinds.  But it's really a wonderful book that drew me in immediately, and I think I'll probably read it again before it has to go back to the library.  Pick it up - it's pretty cool.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Mini book review: The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King

All my reviews lately are minis, aren't they?  I guess I haven't been reading or watching anything that I've found really compelling: stuff I've liked (or not liked) but nothing inspiring an outpouring of the written word.  This week I read Stephen King's latest, The Wind Through the Keyhole: A Dark Tower Novel.  Although the Dark Tower series is officially finished, I guess King still has some of that universe's stories rattling around in his head, stories that didn't fit into the already very lengthy books.  TWTtK is one such animal, revisiting Roland Deschain, Jake, Eddie, Susannah and Oy again.

I usually complain when a book doesn't have enough plot.  This one does, as it is a story within a story within a story.  The first story - and the shortest one - has Roland and his ka-tet, pausing to get out of a terrible storm shortly after their escape from Lud.  While they take shelter, Roland tells them a story about an adventure he had as a boy, sent into the hinterlands by his father to track down a shapeshifter.  This flashback / reminiscence is the second story, much longer and more detailed than the outermost one.  The third story is a sort of fairy tale that the boy Roland tells to a frightened younger boy as they try to get through a difficult night: the adventures of Tim Stoutheart.

TWTtK is really a novel for Dark Tower fans.  You don't have to have read the series first but it will be much less frustrating if you have, what with the language and customs of that 'verse.  It's fairly short, for a King book, and moves along quickly.  It's clear King loves this world he's created; his loyal readers will enjoy returning to it.  Me, I was also glad to spend a little time with Oy again - he's my favorite fantastical fictional critter!

Thursday, April 18, 2013


With The Walking Dead done 'til next season, we have entered a bit of a wasteland here at FMS, where I don't have anything to recap (although I recently learned that my library has True Blood so I'm on that waiting list), plus the DVR is nearly empty these days.  I do have Kinky Boots and No Country for Old Men waiting to be watched; I'm not allowed to watch NCfOM without Mr. Mouse, however, so it may be a while before we get around to that.  So, yeah, wasteland.  I can share with you the following, at least:

Scar Night by Alan Campbell - The first novel from Grand Theft Auto developer/programmer Campbell, Scar Night is mediocre fantasy at best.  Set in the city of Deepgate, a medieval-ish city suspended on great chains over an abyss, the story follows Dill, the city's last protector angel, and his trainer, the assassin Rachel,  as they combat the evil, bloodsucking dark angel Carnival and the city's Poisoner, a man rotting from the inside out who is up to no good.  Like Game of Thrones and Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series, Campbell follows numerous characters' storylines but because the book is just not that long, nothing goes anywhere and I wasn't able to connect with anybody.  Pluswhich, it ends abruptly and is obviously intended to be the first in a series.  I won't be picking up the next installments.

Defiance - I've watched Syfy's latest big original scripted series and ... while I didn't hate it, I didn't immediately love it like I did Battlestar Galactica.  I'll give it a few more episodes - it's got a decent cast and is sort of Firefly-light in its western motifs.

Orphan Black - Now, this one I like.  It's on BBC America and it's about this tough girl, Sara, who sees a woman who looks just like her - like, exactly like her - step in front of a commuter train.  The opportunistic Sara snatches up the dead woman's purse and steps into her life, trying on her apartment, job and estranged husband for size.  But before she can clean out dead Beth's bank accounts and move on, Sara learns that there are more women who look exactly like her and, against her will, she gets drawn into the mystery.  Now, I have just given a HORRIBLE synopsis of this show.  But I'm trying to keep it spoiler-free because it's quite good.  The lead actress is fantastic and does a great job at playing multiples; the rest of the cast is not quite as strong - except for Sara's gay foster brother who steals scenes shamelessly - but I think they'll warm up to the challenge.  Orphan Black - definitely give it a try (but start at the beginning).

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Bad Haiku about: Stripper Movies (V)

Everything in my DVR queue is so dire lately - The Walking Dead, The Following, Hannibal, The Americans, Bates Motel - that I needed something a little less death-y.  Now, Magic Mike does have its serious moments with drug use, drug dealing and some squalid behavior, but most the movie is just killing time until it can have another male stripper routine.  None of the guys can dance except Channing Tatum, but DAMN he's really, really good.  Dancing, not acting, I mean.  The other fellas are pretty enough to look at (and getting to see Joe Manganiello has got me jonesing for True Blood again) but they have no storyline or character development.  This is Tatum's show - and Matthew McConaughey's too, to a lesser extent.

And so, without further ado, here's the bad haiku about Magic Mike:

not much plot but mick
jagger wishes he had moves
like channing tatum

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Walking Dead S3E16 "Welcome to the Tombs" 3/31/13

And now, the season 3 finale of The Walking Dead.  SPOILER:  It's not the bloodbath I thought it was going to be.

Woodbury.  The opening shot is the POV of someone being pummeled by the Governor.  The pummelee is Milton and he's being punished for having burned the captive walkers into crispy critters.  To his credit, Milton is holding up better than I thought he would, managing to ask - between punches - if the Governor ended up killing Andrea.  Why no, says the Governor, let me show her to you.  He takes Milton to his torture room where the blonde in question is still handcuffed to that dentist's chair.  She pleads a little bit, saying that there's no need for more people to die.  The Governor is of another mind (or more likely out of his, entirely): he's going after the prison people and he's whipped the Woodbury townspeople into a frenzy to help him.  He's lied to them, of course, saying that Rick's group ambushed them at the meeting, and leaving poor Merle right out of it.

He then gives Milton a little shove, telling him to collect all those horrible torture tools from the table behind Andrea.  Milton does so, dropping several in the process and leaving a pair of pliers hidden on the floor behind the chair.  He brings the tools to the Governor, who pulls out a big knife.  "You're going to kill her now, you're going to show me that you learned something.  Milton, there's no way you're leaving this room without doing it ... just do it."  Poor Milton takes the knife and moves a few steps towards Andrea, then turns suddenly and lunges at the Governor.  The larger man was expecting this, however, and sinks that knife into Milton's belly.  "I told you you were gonna do it.  You're gonna die, and you're gonna turn, and you're gonna rip the flesh from her bones.  In this life now, you kill or you die.  Or you die and you kill."  The Governor leaves the torture room, locking Andrea and Milton in together.

Prison.  Everyone is busy, packing up all their things.  As they load the vehicles, Carl brushes by his dad abruptly.  Glen, stating the obvious:  "I've never seen him this mad, even with Lori - he's just shut down."  Rick: "He's just a kid.  It's easy to forget."  Okay, but what is Carl so mad about?  Rick's near betrayal of Michonne or something else?  Rick does a last sweep of their cellblock, which is where Michonne finds him.  She says that she understands that he had to consider handing her over to the Governor.  Rick: "Well, I'm sorry - it was close."  She then thanks him for letting her into the prison that day she showed up with the baby formula.  Rick says it was Carl who finally made the call, deciding she was one of the group.

Woodbury.  The Governor rants and rampages, loading his people into three trucks (his pickup and two of the National Guard vehicles).  Tyrese and Sasha summon their courage and tell him that they're out: they'll fight biters but not other people.  They say they'll stay in town and protect the children, and when the Governor returns, they'll leave if that's what he wants.  The Governor grabs up an assault rifle and shoves it at Tyrese.  "Thank you," he says, which does not seem to be what Tyrese was expecting.  The Governor gets into his truck and the convoy rolls out.

Prison.  The gates are open when the Woodbury crew arrives.  They've got large caliber weapons, also from the National Guard guys, and they blow up a guard tower and shred all the roaming walkers in the field.  There is no return fire.  They advance into the courtyard.  No one shoots at them.  They move into the prison itself, searching the abandoned cellblock.  All that's left there is a Bible, opened to a meaningful passage about the resurrection of righteous men and the damnation of evil ones. But there's nothing else - it looks like Rick's group has scarpered.  The Woodburians are starting to get nervous: this is not what they were told they'd find.  They hear some noise coming from the tunnels below and decide to investigate.

Woodbury.  Milton is clinging to life and tells Andrea about the pliers he dropped for her.  And here's where these Andrea and Milton scenes (and there are a lot of them, but I'm just not going to bother with them for the most part) are the most annoying part of this episode:  Andrea takes WAY too fucking long to free herself.  She's all, we're going to get out of here!  Milton:  "When you get free, you're going to get something sharp and stab me in the head - that's what you're going to do."  And then for several subsequent scenes, she keeps dicking around, pausing in her efforts to free herself (which involve taking off her boots and socks, managing to lift the pliers with her toes, working at the handcuffs with the pliers) to engage the barely-breathing Milton in conversation along the lines of, and I'm paraphrasing here, "But I tried to keep people from killing each other, and I could have killed the Governor when he was sleeping but I didn't, blah blah blah," instead of keeping her mouth shut and focusing on getting free of those damn handcuffs.  Andrea is an idiot.

Prison tombs.  There is nothing for the Woodburians to find down in the tunnels ... until they run into some flash and smoke bombs that Rick's group set up.  The alarms start blaring, drawing biters, and the Woodburians panic - because they're mostly just the townspeople, unused anymore to fighting walkers. They bolt, running for the vehicles in the courtyard.  Out there, Glen and Maggie, in full riot gear, are up in the catwalks, shooting at the fleeing people.  For some reason, although they are now crack shots who can head-shot a walker with a pistol, they don't hit hardly anybody now.

Out in the woods, Carl, Herschel, Beth and the baby are hiding.  Carl mutters that he should be up there in the firefight.  Perhaps this is what he was pissy about earlier.  They watch the Woodbury vehicles drive off, the Governor apoplectic at the retreat.  Then a Woodbury teenager, separated from his group in the confusion, stumbles upon them.  They point their guns at him and he puts his hands up.  As he's handing over his rifle, Carl's eyes narrow and he just shoots the kid.  Herschel's all, holy shit, that ain't right.

In the aftermath, Rick's people regroup on their cellblock, moving back in.  Carl is all, Dad, if you're going to Woodbury, I'm going too - I already took out one of their soldiers.  When Carl moves off, Herschel takes Rick aside and says that Carl actually gunned that kid down for no reason.

Out on the road, the Governor pulls his truck in front of the fleeing Humvees and makes them stop.  The townsfolk all get out, protesting:  They're crazy back there, it could have been a slaughter, they can have the prison, we just want to go home.  The Governor's remaining eye practically bugs out of his head and he lifts up a semiautomatic and KILLS ALL HIS PEOPLE.  Just mows them down as they scream and run away.  Martinez and one other guy watch in horror as their boss walks around, putting headshots into several people.  When he runs out of ammo, he walks back to his truck - which is quite fortunate for the one living woman hiding in terror under one of the dead bodies.  The Governor gets into the truck, stares at Martinez and Whatsisname until they get in too, and then they drive off.

Woodbury.  Andrea is still trying to get free.  When she's not looking, Milton's fingers twitch.

Prison.  Rick, Darryl and Michonne are the only ones heading out to Woodbury; Glen and Maggie want to stay behind in case they get attacked again.  Also, they don't want to go to Woodbury (for good reason).  Rick talks to Carl, who is sulking because he can't go and who refuses to acknowledge that shooting that kid was wrong.  Carl:  "I didn't kill that walker who killed Dale, and look what happened.  You didn't kill Andrea and he killed Mom [both Rick and I get WTF looks at that because if I remember correctly, it was the C-section that killed Lori - way to invent your own reality there, Carl].  You were in a room with the Governor and you let him go, and then he killed Merle.  I just did what I needed to do.  Now go.  So he doesn't kill any more of us."  Other than that fiction about his mom, the kid's got a point.  But make no mistake: Carl is a budding psychopath, so that should be fun next season.

Rick, Darryl and Michonne pull over at the site of the Governor's massacre, offing the new zombies who are feeding on the head-shots.  They find Karen, that sole survivor, and she tells them what happened.

Woodbury.  Andrea is STILL frigging around with those pliers (also, I'm taking the handcuffs in a handcuffs vs. pliers match-up, btw) when Milton resurrects.  She manages to get one hand free and he stands up, then frees her other hand as he lunges towards her.  The camera switches to a shot outside the closed door so we can't see what's going on.  We hear Andrea screaming, Dead Milton snarling and then a thud as a body falls to the floor.

Rick, Darryl, Michonne and Karen get back to Woodbury after dark.  They have to hide behind a derelict car as Tyrese takes some shots at them, but he's a terrible shot so no one gets hurt.  Karen shouts out that the Governor killed everyone (apparently he didn't drive back to town after massacring the populace) and that Rick's people saved her.  Rick shouts that they're coming out and stands up; Darryl and Michonne glare at him and then roll their eyes at each other because he's so dumb.  Tyrese lets them in and confirms that the Governor isn't here.  Rick says that they think that Andrea may still be in the town.  Darryl leads the group down to the torture room, recalling that the Governor had kept Glen and Maggie down there.  Tyrese: "The Governor held people down here?"  Darryl:  "And more."  They see the torture room door, blood seeping out from under it, and bust it open.

Milton is for reals dead.  Andrea is still alive, but Milton managed to chew on her shoulder a bit before she offed him.  And then there's a l o n g  drawn-out scene where Michonne gets all weepy, Rick gets sad-face, Darryl is stoic and Andrea says, again, that she just didn't want anyone to die.  And how'd that work out for you?  She asks for a gun, saying that she wants to do it herself while she still can.  Rick hands her his service weapon, then he and Darryl go back out into the hall where Tyrese is waiting.  Michonne says she's not going anywhere and will stay with her friend until the end.  They close the door and stare at the walls until the single gunshot rings out.

Prison.  In the morning, Rick et als. return to the prison, along with Tyrese, Sasha and all the remaining Woodburians, i.e. children, invalids and old folks.  I guess that dank prison is more easily defensible than the town but still, that's a comedown from those nice houses.  Carl is all, "What is this?" when he sees the new people.  His dad grunts, "You're going to join us."  Carol and Herschel manage small smiles at the new folks - but I'm sure they're wondering how the hell they're going to feed all those useless mouths).  Rick glances up at the catwalk and out at Lori's grave, but the apparition of his dead wife is nowhere to be found.  I guess his time in Crazytown is now over - just in time for his son to move in.

So I was way wrong on my "who's gonna die" predictions, only getting Andrea and Milton right.  It wasn't quite what I - and the rest of the internet - was expecting, plus they've left the Governor alive to kill another day.  I sort of think they should have wrapped that storyline up and started anew in S4.  I'm going to have to read more of the comics to see how things will diverge now.

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

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Mini movie review: Paranorman

So, yeah, I'll get that season finale Walking Dead recap up tomorrow but in the meantime, here's this:

Paranorman is a stop-motion animated film from the production company who did Coraline.  Peopled with grotesques (in truth, the humans are almost more twisted than the otherworldly characters), it's a middling-clever movie, a visual treat that ends up a bit on the preachy side.  

Young Norman Babcock can see dead people.  The ghosts don't bother him - he likes watching zombie movies with his dead grandma and the hordes of spirits he encounters on his walk to school are unfailingly polite - it's the fact that the living people treat him like a freak that's the trouble.  Things get worse when his uncle, another spirit-seeing freak whom Norman is forbidden from seeing, hands off the family tradition to him: Norman must now keep the town's resident witch spirit placated, otherwise the dead will rise and run rampant through the town.  Of course, Norman messes it up, the vintage 18th century zombies claw their way out of their graves, and it's up to Norman, his new BFF Neil, a couple of older siblings and a hulking bully to bring things back to normal.  

The animation is great and the voices are well cast (Kodi Smit-McPhee, Christopher Mintze-Platz, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, Leslie Mann, John Goodman ....).  But the tone of the movie shifts wildly from horror to comedy (Coraline did a much better job of maintaining the dread with pops of humor) and the lessons to be learned are hammered home none too subtly: be true to yourself; bullying is bad; accept others/don't be a crazed mob.  Even tho' this seems to be my kind of movie, I will admit to having dozed off for a little bit right at the end so it's possible I missed some particularly wonderful moment, but I didn't love Paranorman enough to go back later and revisit what I missed.