Sunday, December 28, 2014

Mini book review: The Accidental Highwayman: Being the Tale of Kit Bristol, his Horse Midnight, a Mysterious Princess and Sundry Other Magical Persons Besides by Ben Tripp

The Accidental Highwayman: Being the Tale of Kit Bristol, his Horse Midnight, a Mysterious Princess, and Sundry Other Magical Persons Besides, by Ben Tripp, is as entertaining a YA fantasy as its title is long.  Kit Bristol, former orphan, is in the employ of one Master James Rattle, also known as - as in a secret identity - Whistling Jack, the notorious 18th century English highwayman.  When Whistling Jack is killed, Kit takes his outfit, his bulldog Demon and his horse Midnight, and finds himself on an adventure beyond his wildest imaginings.

A witch, to whom Kit has been tasked to deliver Demon, assigns to Kit the quest his master had been on: to rescue the faerie princess Morgana from an arranged marriage with the human King George III of England.  Not only must Kit revamp his world view to include the presence of magical beings, he must now contend with those beings: feyin, pixies, goblings, ogres, gryphons, enchanted mirrors and maps and the like.  In addition, the human Captain Sterne, is convinced that Kit is actually Whistling Jack, and is pursuing him singlemindedly, determined to hang him for the thief and rascal he is.

The best word I can think of to describe TAH:BtToKPhHMaMPaSOMPB is swashbuckling.  Kit surprises himself with his bravery and loyalty, charging into his exciting adventures wholeheartedly to support the Princess Morgana and his new faerie friends.  The story moves right along, the writing lighthearted and clever, annotated with footnotes.  This volume is the first in a planned trilogy of Kit and Morgana's adventures - I have no doubt that the subsequent books will be as much fun as this first one.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Year end

It's like a ghost town around here ...

I dunno, y'all.  I don't really have anything to share.  I've been watching SyFy's three night Ascension which, meh, is a poor, pale imitation of SyFy's BSG, despite Tricia Helfer's best efforts.  I'm getting into the original French The Returned (or, Les Revenants), which I really like - moody, atmospheric, creepy and subtitled - but it is not fast paced and I've fallen asleep twice (two out of the three episodes I've watched).  The Flash, Arrow and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. had strong mid-season finishes; I'm not dropping Gotham yet but things do seem a little heavy on the comic book side, especially when you factor The Walking Dead in too.  And while I'm looking forward to Cougar Town's return for one more season (although I hope they don't focus on Trav and Laurie's upcoming baby too much), I'm not sure if I'll bother trying to track down Yahoo's season of Community when it appears.  that ship may have sailed.

Bookswise, I'll be picking up a couple volumes from the library in the next day or so - The Accidental Highwayman: Being the Tale of Kit Bristol, His Horse Midnight, a Mysterious Princess, and Sundry Magical Persons Besides by Ben Tripp and Michael Faber's Under the Skin - and am looking forward to both of those.  In the meantime, I'm reading Mr. Mouse's copy of It's So Easy: and Other Lies by Duff McKagan, former Guns 'N Roses bassist.  Suffice it to say, Mr. McKagan has led a much more exciting life than I have.

And now the holidays are upon us.  Hopefully I'll be able to do some solid page turning and bring you some reviews.  Until then, may everything be merry, happy and healthy from the Mouse house to yours.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Mini book review: Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes

There is a monster loose in Detroit, a serial killer making twisted body art out of his victims; the first one found is little eleven year old Daveyton, cut in half with his torso fused to the hindquarters of a deer.  Detective Gabriella Versado running the case for the DPD homicide division, but none of them has ever seen anything like this.  Jonno Haim is a down-and-out journalist, recently arrived in Detroit, nursing a broken heart and trying desperately to reclaim his career by exploiting Detroit's ruin and rebuilding.  He finds his way into the underground Detroit art scene and, just by virtue of being in the right place at the time, starts following the serial killer story, ignoring traditional media and going straight to the internet for his audience.  Also enmeshed online: Layla Stirling-Versado, the detective's teen-aged daughter who, along with her best friend, has started up the hobby of trolling for and outing online predators.  And then there's TK, homeless and an advocate for the homeless, trying to make better lives for Detroit's destitute and displaced.

These four points of view race through Lauren Beukes's psycho-thriller Broken Monsters, at first circling around each other before finally becoming thoroughly intertwined.  For my part, I was thoroughly entertained, fascinated by the description of modern Detroit and caught up in the crime story.  Things fall apart slightly at the end of the novel, when the killer's psychosis bleeds into the other characters' reality; I don't mind supernatural elements in novels (see: almost everything I ever read) but up until then the supernatural stuff was only in the crazy person's head - having it manifest in the "real world" of the book was confusing.  That's a small quibble, however, because Broken Monsters is a fast-paced, entertaining and disturbing read, good enough that I'm going to look for Beukes's first novel, The Shining Girls, a time-travelling serial killer.

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Walking Dead S5E8 "Coda" 11/30/14

Mid-season finale time!  Will they rescue Carol and Beth?  Someone's bound to die - who's it going to be?

Atlanta.  After head-butting Sasha, Lamson runs and runs, trying to get away from the walkers stalking him because his hands are still ziptied behind his back.  He's also running away from Rick, who is chasing him.  Rick jumps in a handy police car and gains on Lamson, using the car's PA system to tell him to stop.  Lamson doesn't stop, just runs and runs - until Rick hits him with the car, sending him flying and landing face first on the asphalt.  Rick is sick of this shit.  Lamson begs for him to help, panting that he thinks his back is broken.  Rick's like, all you had to do was stop.  Lamson asks to be taken back to the hospital.  Rick: "You can't go back, Bob."  And then he shoots him in the head.  "Shut up."

Church vicinity.  Where does Father Gabriel go after escaping the church?  Over to the school where Gareth and his cannibals had been camped out.  He looks at the detritus left behind, keeping an eye on the increasingly agitated walkers trapped in the school.  Then he looks at the campfire and realizes that it's a human leg (Bob's leg) sitting there, charred and chewed.  There are maggots squirming on the leg.  He freaks out - understandably - and then the walkers break free and come after him.  He runs back to the church, limping on his hurt foot.  Walkers surge out of the woods and he runs to the church's front doors, pounding on them and screaming to be let back in.  Carl and Michonne confirm that it is him and then they break open the doors they'd nailed shut, pulling him inside.  The doors are ruined now, however, and the walkers pour in.  Michonne makes with the slicing and dicing as they all retreat into the rectory.  One by one, the three of them (plus Judith in a backpack) sneak out through the hole Gabriel made in the floorboards earlier.  While the bulk of the walkers are inside the church, Carl and Michonne put down the few stragglers still outside and then nail the church doors shut again, trapping the walkers inside.

Atlanta.  Rick rejoins the group and they discuss how the plan may have been changed in light of Lamson's recent demise.  The cops say that the story they'll tell Dawn is that Lamson was killed by the rotters so that she doesn't have any reason to distrust Rick and his group.  They'll still attempt the trade.

At the hospital, Dawn keeps trying to raise Lamson and Shepard (the chick cop) on the radio and is frustrated when they don't respond.  She and Beth talk and, as much as I [now] like Beth, I don't care about this at all.  Dawn is not an interesting character, even as she's supposed to be a threat.  The writers haven't given her much by way of decent dialogue or character development.  I guess this scene is supposed to show Beth getting a little closer to her.

Church.  The walkers begin to break out of the church.  Michonne, Carl and Gabriel are at a bit of a loss as what to do next.  Fortunately, they don't have to do anything: Abraham et als. drives up in the firetruck, smashing through the church's front steps and blocking the doors.  After hugs for Michonne, Glen tells her that Eugene lied.  She takes it in stride, telling Maggie that they learned that Beth is alive and that the others went to get her back.  Maggie gets all teary - WHICH IS HILARIOUS BECAUSE ALL SEASON SHE'S NEVER MENTIONED BETH AT ALL - and they saddle up to go to Atlanta to help.

Hospital.  More Beth and Dawn bonding by the open elevator shaft where Beth has gone for some alone time.  Blah blah blah they are interrupted by yet another of Dawn's asshole cops.  He has snuck up on them and heard Dawn call Beth a cop-killer.  He threatens to tell the others unless she steps down.  Dawn pulls her gun on him blah blah blah and then they tussle, beating this shit out of each other.  Dawn gives almost as good as she's getting, but he's a little bigger than she is.  Beth tries to help and while the other cop is distracted, Dawn hits him in the throat.  Choking, he staggers backwards towards the open elevator shaft.  Dawn screams Beth's name and Beth jumps up and shoves the cop into the elevator shaft.  Dawn, quietly: "Thank you."  Afterwards, Dawn finds Beth hanging out in Carol's room.  More blah blah blah.  And on the bed, behind Dawn, Carol stirs, waking up.

Outside the hospital.  Rick and crew has arranged for a meeting.  While the others cover him with rifles from the surrounding rooftops, Rick walks out onto the top floor of a parking garage.  Two of Dawn's cops drive up.  They draw their guns; Rick puts his down on the ground.  Rick proposes the trade.  One of the cops asks, "Where are your people?"  In answer, Darryl (or Sasha) sniper-shoots a walker that was coming up behind the cops.  Rick: "They're close."  Heh.  The cops are surprised but agreeable to Rick's proposal.

Hospital.  Rick's group walks in, cops Shepard and Lecari still handcuffed, the other two cops accompanying them.  Beth and Carol change back into their own clothes and Beth sneakily stuffs a pair of scissors into the case on her right wrist.  The exchange/stand-off takes place in a hospital corridor.  Dawn and her remaining three cops stand in front of Carol (in a wheelchair), Beth and Dr. Whatsisname.  Everyone holsters their weapons.  It's tense but people seem reasonable.  There's a one-for-one exchange first: Carol for Lecari.  Then Beth for Shepard.  Rick's group gets ready to go when Dawn speaks up: "Now I just need Noah.  And then you can leave."  Rick's all, that wasn't part of the deal.  Dawn is insistent, even as Shepard asks her to back off.  Noah comes up and says he'll stay with Dawn, sacrificing his freedom so Beth and her friends can get away.  Beth runs up to him and hugs him.

As Noah walks down the hallway, Dawn murmurs smugly, "I knew you'd be back."  Beth can't stand that, can't stand listening to Dawn any longer.  Beth walks up to her, standing close: "I get it now." And then Beth rams those scissors into Dawn's shoulder.  In an immediate reaction, Dawn fires her gun RIGHT THROUGH BETH'S HEAD.  [Holy shit.  I did NOT see that coming.  I had to rewind it and watch it again right away.]  Dawn looks shocked.  Everything goes into slow motion, everyone's stunned and horrified reactions.  Darryl steps up and puts a bullet right through Dawn's forehead as her lips form the words, "No - I didn't mean to."  And then everyone is pointing all the guns at everyone else.  Shepard spreads her arms wide and shouts, "Hold your fire!  It's over!  It was just about her.  Stand down!"  Amazingly, everyone does, although Carol has to take a whimpering Darryl's gun from him.  Rick's group is shocked, stunned, ragged with grief.

Outside, the firetruck pulls up in front of the hospital.  They all (except Eugene, who seems to be alive, if not really with it) get out and approach the hospital, weapons out.  They're there to see Rick's group come out, to see Darryl carrying Beth's body, tears streaming down his face.  Maggie screams and falls to her knees, reaching out to clutch at her dead sister's limp hand.

It ends there, but there's a tag scene: Morgan has been tracking the group, carving symbols into the trees.  He finds the school and delivers a coup de grace to an immobile walker.  Then he finds the church and after a moment of prayer, he finds the map Abraham left for Rick, showing him the route to D.C.

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

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Mini movie review: Snow White and the Huntsman

WTF was the point of Snow White and the Huntsman?  I mean, that was AWFUL.  I continue to believe that Kristen Stewart cannot act her way out of a paper bag.  She basically didn't speak a line until the halfway point of the movie and then, even after that, barely spoke.  Which was fine, actually.  Plotwise, it seemed like huge chunks were removed from the movie:  take William (Sam Claflin), for example.  Why was the William character even there?  Not as the love interest (his kiss wasn't what woke Snow White up), nor the mentor, nor anything else.  He was completely unnecessary.  And the huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) was scarcely a developed character either - why put him in the title?  Charlize Theron did her best to chew up all the scenery she could as the evil Queen, which was at least entertaining, and she looked spectacular.  But - most egregious of all - who the hell thought the haircut on the Queen's brother was a good idea? No no no no no no no.

If you haven't seen Snow White and the Huntsman yet, don't bother.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Walking Dead S5E7 "Crossed" 11/23/14

This week my excuse for not getting this recap up until now is because Mr. Mouse's parents (the Mouse-in-laws) came to visit us for Thanksgiving.  It's apparently rude to watch zombie shows in front of non-zombie-loving company.  I get that.

Church.  As Rick's group prepares to go after Carol and Beth, they fortify the church against attacks because Carl, Michonne, Father Gabriel and Judith are staying behind.  Gabriel is struggling mightily as the others dismantle the organ, sharpening the pipe ends and planting them as a fence around the door.  "Are you going to take the cross too?"  After the raiding party leaves, Carl and Michonne nail the doors closed as Gabriel freaks out a little and tries scrubbing the bloodstains off the floor.  Dude is not stable and I don't trust him for a minute.

Raiding party.  The raiding party consists of Darryl, Rick, Noah, Tyrese and Sasha.  Sasha is still struggling with Bob's death.  When they get to Atlanta, they hole up in an old factory (?) and Rick lays out the plan: attacking the hospital and killing lots and lots of people.  It's a pretty bloody plan and Tyrese is not at all comfortable with it.  He suggests that they snatch up a couple of Dawn's cops and offer her a trade: her people for theirs.  Surprisingly, Darryl sides with Tyrese against Rick, saying this way, "Everybody goes home."  Rick is taken aback but finally agrees.  (Of course, this being The Walking Dead, we all know that they'll end up doing Rick's plan after Tyrese's plan fails - because nothing can ever go right for these poor people.)

Hospital.  Beth, on floor scrubbing duty, tries to be in Carol's room as much as possible without arousing suspicions, holding her hand and whispering that she is there.  Later, she hears Dawn and one of the cops deciding to take Carol off life support.  Beth gets super-upset about this when Dawn orders her to turn off the machines so as not to waste resources.  But after the cop leaves, Dawn strangely gives Beth the key to the drug locker and tells her to give Carol whatever she needs to try to save her.

Eugene's group.  Eugene is still unconscious; Abraham is still zoned out.  They're out of water but the giant walker herd hasn't noticed them yet so Glen, Rosita and Tara go off to get water from a stream back aways.  Maggie stays behind to keep an eye on Abraham and Eugene.  I kinda love Maggie when she and Glen are not all lovey-dovey.

Church.  Carl tries to teach the useless Gabriel how to defend himself.  Gabriel reluctantly takes the proffered machete but can't deal learning how to smash it into zombie skulls that aren't that soft.  "I need to go lie down," he says.  Some time later, Michonne checks on Gabriel, making sure he's okay.  After she leaves and he closes the door behind her, he turns back to the center of the room where he's using his new machete to pull up floor boards.  Oh, Gabriel, you idiot.

Hospital.  Beth asks Dr. _____ what to give Carol to save her.  He demurs, saying that Carol suffered internal injuries so it's just a guessing game.  Beth presses him and he tells her to try an epinephrine drips.  Carol won't wake up right away but it should help.

Glen, Rosita and Tara.  When they get to the creek, the water is super-muddy.  Rosita, however, knows how to make a water filter using gravel and a piece of her shirt.  Eugene taught her how to do it.  Then Rosita gets more lines than she's gotten the whole show, telling Glen and Tara how she met up with Abraham and Eugene.  Then, as they wait for the water to pass through the filter, a fish jumps and Glen's all, food!  They rig up some nets and catch some fish and Rosita even knows how to clean them.

Maggie, Eugene and Abraham.  After the others have gone off on their water quest, Maggie rigs up a sunshade over Eugene.  Eventually, she offers Abraham some water and tries to get him to talk to her.  It's seems like he hasn't given up entirely.  There's some noise from under Eugene's sunshade and Maggie runs back there with a grin to check on him.  Maybe Eugene's coming around but I'm pessimistic and think he's maybe dead and turned.

Raiding party.  Using Noah and some gunshots as bait, Rick's group lures two of Dawn's cops out and captures them.  In order to draw things out a while longer, another cop drives up and rescues them, only to drive a little ways away until wrecking the car on some walker bodies and then running off on foot.  They abandon the car in a truly gruesome spot: a parking lot that had been burned, fusing partial walkers to the asphalt.  The group splits up and the camera focuses on Darryl.  At this point, things get a little tense because no one has died in a while and if they kill Darryl off I SWEAR TO GOD I'LL QUIT THIS SHOW.  One of the cops lunges out and tackles Darryl, knocking him to the ground.  The cop is much bigger than Darryl and Darryl gets pinned between two of the fused walkers, the cop choking him while immobile but still lively walkers try to chew his face off.  Darryl flails around wildly for something to use as a weapon.  And then, it happens:  Darryl grabs onto a walker's head, pokes his fingers into its eye sockets for a good grip, rips the head off the walker's neck and bashes the cop in the head with the now-decapitated skull.  It is amazing and disgusting and incredibly original.  Bravo!  Then Rick is there, with his gun.  He is tempted to just shoot the cop but Darryl convinces him that three captives will be better than two.  Since when did Rick become the loose cannon and Darryl the voice of reason?  I love Darryl.

The raiding party takes the captive cops back to the factory.  The cops cooperate, telling Rick et als. how to deal with Dawn.  One of them, Lamson, is very calm and rational, seemingly honest.  (But I've been watching this show for 5+ seasons now and I don't trust any new characters.)  He tells them how to approach Dawn, how to reason with her.

Hospital.  Beth bribes another of the wards with a couple of fresh strawberries.  He starts coughing and retching and clutching at his throat and three cops rush over to him.  While he provides the distraction, Beth raids the drug cabinet, taking what she needs.  As she walks past, the coughing ward is suddenly fine.  Beth goes into Carol's room and hooks her up with the epinephrine drip.  She stands there, holding Carol's hand and whispering to her.

Church.  Gabriel has pulled up enough floorboards to wriggle down through the crawlspace under the church.  When he stands up outside, he has managed to step right on a long nail which pierces his foot.  He pulls out the nail and hobbles off into the woods.  He has not taken the machete with him.  He's not too far into the woods when a lone walker attacks him.  He manages to throw her/it to the ground where it gets impaled through the chest on a stump.  He picks up a rock to crush its skull but when he sees the small, gold crucifix around its neck, he can't do it.  He limps off, still not having killed his first zombie.

Raiding party.  Rick thanks Lamson for his insider information with respect to negotiating with Dawn.  Rick, Darryl, Tyrese and Noah head out for the hospital, leaving Sasha to guard the prisoners.  Lamson sighs heavily and tells a sympathetic Sasha (because his first name is "Bob" and she's still all hung up on her Bob dying) that he saw a former friend/current zombie fused to the asphalt out there.  He's all sad about it because the guy saved his life once.  Sasha says they can't go outside but she's a good shot and they can put it out of its misery.  They go to another part of the factory; Lamson's hands are still ziptied behind his back but his legs aren't tied.  Sasha looks out the window, searching for that walker.  Lamson suddenly rushes at her, bashing her head against the glass and knocking her out.  Then he makes a run for it.

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

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Walking Dead S5E6 "Consumed" 11/16/14

At long last ... it's the Carol and Darryl show!  Not a lot happens plot-wise but it's awfully nice to spend time with my two favorite characters.  Also, the show is none too subtle with its smoke symbolism because Carol comes right out and explains it all for us.  I've helped by using CAPITALS.

Flashback.  Carol drives off after Rick casts her out for killing and burning those two sick people in the prison.  She cries a little, scared to be on her own, then rallies and holes up in a law office in some small town.  She's not that far away, however, and sees the black SMOKE when the Governor attacks and burns the prison.  She drives back and sees the destruction, eyes wide and jaw dropped.  All her friends (or former friends) are scattered.

Now.  Darryl and Carol chase the car with the white cross, Darryl telling Carol what happened with him and Beth.  They follow all the way to the outskirts of Atlanta.  When their car runs out of gas, Carol says she knows a place nearby where they can hunker down for the night.  They go into a big office-type building.  Carol finds some keys and leads Darryl further and further in, through a series of doors until they come into a small room with a bunkbed.  It's a shelter for abused women and children and she and Sophia stayed there once when she was still married to her horrible husband.  At one point in the night, they hear a couple of walkers banging on one of the doors.  It's a former woman and small child; they can't get in.  Carol makes a move to go put them down and Darryl stops her, saying, "You don't hafta.  You don't."  In the morning, Carol wakes up to find that Darryl has killed the mother and child walkers and is respectfully burning their bodies.  She thanks him as the black SMOKE rises to the sky.

Flashback.  Carol and Tyrese bury the two little girls as white SMOKE (from Darryl and Beth's burning the shack) billows into the sky.

Now.  Darryl and Carol continue into Atlanta on foot, looking for signs of vehicles with those white crosses.  They get into a tall building, hoping for a better view.  At one point, there's a contingent of walkers camped out in a hallway.  No, really: the zombies are trapped in sleeping bags and tents.  "Some days I don't know what the hell to think," mutters Darryl as they take out the sleeping bag zombies.  They leave the ones in the tents because they don't seem to be getting out anytime soon.  Unbeknownst to our heroes, however, someone is watching them.

They make their way to an office on a higher floor.  As they look out the window, searching for the white crosses, Carol mentions that Darryl still hasn't asked her what happened with Tyrese and the girls.  Darryl: "Well, I know what happened.  They ain't here."  Carol: "It was worse than that."  Then they see a van with two of the crosses in its back windows, half-hanging off an overpass.  They decide to take what supplies they can find and head over there to see where it leads them.   On their way back out of the building, Noah - Beth's escapee friend - gets the drop on them and takes their gun and crossbow.  "Sorry about this," he says, opening the zombie tents, "But you look tough."  Noah bolts and Darryl quickly deals with the emerging tent zombies.  Carol brings up her pistol, shoots a walker and then aims at Noah's back.  Darryl knocks her hand down.  She glares at him.

As they find their way out, Carol complains that [Noah] stole their weapons and she should have been allowed to shoot him.  Darryl retorts that he's just a kid.  She goes on, getting a little wound up, saying that without weapons they could die, and she doesn't want Darryl to die, she doesn't want any of their friends to die but she can't stop it and that's why she left the church because she just needed to be somewhere else ... Darryl cuts into her rising hysteria, sharply saying that they aren't somewhere else.  They're here, trying to do their best.

They walk out onto the overpass to that van.  There's nothing in it except a gurney stenciled with "GMH" - Grady Memorial Hospital.  Darryl suggests that that may be where Beth's kidnappers are holed up, but before they can discuss a plan, the van is surrounded by walkers.  There are too many to fight off so they climb into the van and strap themselves into the front seats.  Holding each other's hands, they brace themselves ... and the walkers knock the van off the overpass.  It's a pretty cool stunt (defying the laws of physics a bit so that it lands wheels down), especially when several walkers follow the van down, crashing onto the roof and windshield.  Darryl and Carol have survived the fall but they're pretty battered and Carol can't really use her right arm.  Clinging to each other for support, they leave the wreckage and head off towards Grady Memorial.

They make their way into another office building near the hospital and keep watch.  They talk a little, Carol saying that in her old life, when she was married to ol' asshole Ed, she just waited for something to change instead of making the change for herself.  When the zombie apocalypse happened, that person GOT BURNED AWAY.  At the prison, she felt she became the person she should have been.  And then she GOT BURNED AWAY (like when she burned the sick people and couldn't save the little girls).  Darryl:  "Hey.  We ain't ashes."  They are interrupted by banging and shouting and shooting.  Upon investigation, they find Noah battling some walkers.  Carol almost gets taken out because of her hurt arm but Darryl takes care of her.  He also nearly takes care of Noah, dropping a heavy bookcase on him and intending to leave him defenseless against the walkers.  Carol pleads with Darryl and finally he relents and spares Noah.

Flashback.  Carol, after blowing up the propane tank that would ultimately free Rick et als. from the cannibal Terminus people, strips off her zombie guts-covered poncho and wipes her face, crying, as black SMOKE from the explosion billows behind her.

It's a good thing they kept Noah alive too because it quickly comes out that they all have Beth in common.  Noah tells them about the hospital set-up and says that they'll have to be careful because they will have heard the shooting.  A cop car cruises by and Noah panics, "We gotta go.  We gotta go!"  He says that they can get into the hospital through the basement of the building next door.  Darryl lags behind, helping the badly limping Noah along, while Carol runs on ahead.  She dashes out into the street and is immediately hit by the cruising cop car, rolling up and over the hood.  Darryl lunges for her but Noah pulls him back.  They watch as the cops take out a gurney and load the unconscious Carol into their car.  Noah says that the cops will take Carol to the hospital where they can help her; if Darryl goes out there now, it'll be a big fire fight which won't help Carol at all.  Darryl watches helplessly as the cops and Carol drive off.  Noah: "We can get her back.  We can get Beth back."  Darryl: "What'll it take?"  Noah: "A lot.  They got guns.  People."  Darryl:  "Yeah?  So do we."

Last scene:  Darryl and Noah find a truck and drive out of Atlanta, back to the church [where Noah will be the person hiding in the bushes when Darryl and Michonne meet back up].  Now they've got two of their people to rescue.

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

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Walking Dead S5E5 "Self Help" 11/9/14

Again, sorry for the posting delay.  I'm still battling this week-long head cold and it's put me off schedule a bit.  However, I don't know that anyone has been particularly clamoring for a recap of this episode.  It's fine and all, but was anyone, even those who haven't read the comics, in the least bit surprised by Eugene's big reveal?  No, no, they weren't.  Also, OMG CAN WE PLEASE GET BACK TO BETH AND CAROL AND DARRYL?

Now: Abraham drives the church bus down the road, everyone calm and fairly content and pleased to have a plan and a goal.  Rosita and Abraham are kind of couple-y, which is cute; everyone else talks a bit amongst themselves.  Glen asks Eugene about the plan for killing off the walkers ("That's classified") and about his mullet ("I like it").  Everything is copacetic ... until something explodes and the bus flips.  And a small herd of walkers surrounds it.  So much for an idyllic drive in the country.

Flashback:  In a grocery store, Abraham beats several men to death using a can of food as brass knuckles.  His hands are nearly shredded and he staggers further into the store, calling, "Ellen!"

Now: After the crash, everyone is shaken up and a little battered but basically okay.  They check to make sure Eugene is okay - because he's the most important thing - and then they form up to get out of the bus.  Abraham and Glen first, to start on the approaching walkers, then Maggie and Rosita, then Tara and Eugene.  Tara gives Eugene a knife so he can defend himself and also gives him a little pep talk because he's clearly terrified.  (Seriously, how does this guy last this long without being able to fight back at all? Abraham's such an enabler.)  As it turns out, a walker nearly gets Tara but Eugene knocks it over and stabs it in the head - his first kill.  As everyone catches their breath, the bus catches on fire and Abraham is all, this changes nothing - we're moving forward.  Eugene suggests that they're only fifteen miles from the church but Abraham shouts, WE DO NOT GO BACK!  Glen calms him down (Abraham: "I took a pretty hard shot to the sack in that crash - I am stressed and depressed ... but if you say we're rollin' on, I'm good.") and they keep walking.

Flashback:  Abraham is searching for "Ellen," calling her name.  He finds her, cowering behind a register, two little kids hiding behind her.

Now:  The group takes refuge for the night in a bookstore, pushing bookcases up against windows, building a little cookfire, stitching up each other's wounds.  Abraham goes to do a sweep and some time later Glen finds him.  There's a lot of talk, some about what happened back at the church: seems like everyone who is left is strong now - and you either help them so they help you or you kill them before they kill you.  Glen suggests that Abraham turn in since he's got a watch later on.  Abraham: "Yeah.  I really need some ass first."  Glen, after Abraham leaves: "Didn't need to know that but ... cool."

Eugene watches Rosita and Abraham have sex, peeking at them from behind the self-help books.  They know he's watching but don't really care.  Tara, however, finds it creepy and distracts him by thanking him for saving her life back there at the bus crash.  She's legitimately reaching out to him and then he confesses to causing the crash: he put crushed glass in the fuel line but didn't mean for it to go so FUBAR.  Tara's like, WTF did you do that for?  Eugene says that if he doesn't save the world, he has no value in it and he's just freaking out.  Tara says that he's their friend, and that he's stuck with them, and it's going to be okay ... but he really shouldn't tell anyone else about causing the crash.

Flashback:  Abraham says, "I stopped them.  You don't have to be scared now."  But Ellen and his kids (his son has red hair like his dad) are terrified, looking at him all bloodstained.

Now:  In the morning, Rosita suggests that they take the day to regroup, resupply and recover.  Abraham's like no, absolutely not.  And then when Maggie and Glen show up and suggest that they take a day to sweep for supplies, Rosita immediately toes her man's line: We'll sweep as we go and we'll leave today.  Also, Abraham has found them a vehicle: a firetruck with a full water tank.  It takes some doing to get it going - the air intake is clogged with human and/or walker remains.  As they frig around with the truck, trying to get it going, a bunch of walkers come out of the firehouse at them.  There's a lot of them, too many, and for a moment it looks like there are too many.  But then Eugene gets up on the roof of the truck and unleashes the hose on them.  It is an EXCELLENT new way to kill zombies: the force of the water ripping their rotting bodies and heads to pieces.

Flashback: In the morning, when Abraham awakes, Ellen and the kids are gone.  She's left him a note: don't try to find us.  Screaming their names, Abraham runs out of the store.

Now:  It's not clear how far they have gotten, but the firetruck breaks down.  They're without water too because Eugene emptied the reservoir when he put down those zombies.  While they wait, Maggie chats with him a little bit, saying how she admires him for not giving up.  "You started this thing."  Abraham can't get the truck going so they continue on foot, until they crest a small hill and see a massive herd of walkers ahead in the distance, roaming through what looks like a former feedlot.  Everyone is all, let's get out of here, let's find another way around.  Everyone except Abraham who is determined to go straight through.  He is unreasonable and unyielding and things get tense.  Abraham and Glen start to get into fisticuffs and everyone starts shouting until Eugene shouts too: "I lied! I'm not a scientist!  I don't know how to stop it."  Everyone stops fighting immediately and stares at him, shocked.  (Really?  You're surprised? You people are dumb.)

Eugene explains that he's very smart and a good liar and when the zombie apocalypse shit hit the fan, and he realized that he was a coward, he came up with his story because then people would protect him.  Rosita: "People died tryin' to get you here."  Eugene says he knows, and names them all, and says that the closer they got to their goal, the more he lost his nerve.  But now, he realizes he's screwed either way.  Everyone's face is desolate.  Except Abraham who has completely lost his shit: he stands up and slug Eugene in the face once, twice, three times.  Eugene falls to the ground, unconscious and landing on his face; his head makes a sick thud when it hits the tarmac.  Maggie, Rosita, Glen and Tara rush to him and roll him over.  He is knocked out at best and it may be much worse.  Abraham falls to his knees.

Flashback:  Abraham finds his wife and kids, torn to pieces by walkers.  He falls to his knees and pulls out his pistol, sticking it in his mouth.  Just then, on the road behind him, a man calls out for help.  It is Eugene, being chased - slowly - by a few zombies.  Abraham gets up and puts the zombies down efficiently, then walks off down the road.  Eugene follows him, thanking him profusely: "Wait, stop!  You can't leave!"  Abraham: "Why?"  Eugene, thinking quickly: "I have a very important mission."  Abraham turns and you can see the dawning hope in his face - he's just been given a reason to keep living.

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

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Penny Dreadful is plenty delightful

I recently watched the first three episodes of the first season of Showtime's Penny Dreadful ... and ooh, wasn't that fun!  It's a slightly over the top Victorian monster movie mash-up, with no little resemblance to The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.  In the first three episodes we got to see (and this is not an exhaustive list, mind you) AND SLIGHT SPOILERS AHEAD: vampires, Dr. Frankenstein, Frankenstein's Monster #1, Frankenstein's Monster #2, Dorian Gray, a Wild West sharpshooter (who may or may not be a werewolf), a hard-up Irish lass with consumption, the Egyptian Book of the Dead, a seance, a request for a bride for Frankenstein's monster, the Grand Guignol theater, rumors of the return of Jack the Ripper (not likely), a possible Renfield sighting (by the name of Felton, for some reason), visions, possessions and tarot card readings.

Starring Timothy Dalton (former James Bond), Eva Green (former Bond girl), Josh Hartnett and Billie Piper (Doctor Who?), there is clearly something for everybody in Penny Dreadful - if everybody wants classic monsters, Victorian outfits, blood and guts and some sex and cussing.  The pacing was slow-ish in the first episode, right on in the second and slow in the third - for some reason focusing on Victor Frankenstein and his issues to the exclusion of nearly all else.  Dalton's Sir Malcolm Murray is the least developed character thus far, with Eva Green's Vanessa Ives just ahead of him - although she at least got some scenery to chew in the second episode between the flirtation with Dorian Gray (more of him please!) and the seance scene.

Despite the show needing to figure itself out a little bit, I ate it up greedily and can't wait to see the rest - plus HOORAY it has been renewed for a second season.   It is shot fairly lushly for television, all dark and moody and damp-looking, and is off to a promising start - hopefully things will just keep getting better as we go along (as in, just let Eva Green rampage all over the place!).  Penny DreadfulPenny Delectable is more like it.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Walking Dead S5E4 "Slabtown" 11/2/14

Apologies for the delay.  I've been a bit under the weather which has put me off schedule.  

Beth - it's Beth everybody! - wakes up in a hospital room with an IV in her arm.  She yanks the IV out of her arm and runs to the closed door, pounding on it and screaming to be let out.  A doctor (Steven Edwards) and a police officer (Dawn) come in and calm her down, explaining that she's at Grady Memorial in Atlanta.  Dawn explains that her officers picked Beth up out in the world (alone, not Darryl) and rescued her; Dr. Steve attended to her broken wrist and minor head wound.  And since she's been taken care of, she owes them.  Yikes.

Later, Beth is given scrubs to wear and shown around the hospital. Dr, Steve explains, as he turns a patient's life support off (run on car batteries) that if patients don't show any sign of improvement, they cut their losses to conserve resources - Dawn's call.  Beth helps him take the body to an elevator shaft and dump it down there: they have to hurry before the body gets cold because there are walkers down in the basement and they'll eat the bodies if they're warm enough.  As far as living humans, there are only enough living in the hospital to keep the status quo going.  It doesn't seem like very many: a few police, a few people in scrubs working off their debt, just the one doctor.  When Beth goes to the cafeteria for food, she meets a skeezy police officer Gorman who leers at her.  Skeeved out, she leaves without taking anything - because the more she takes, the more she owes.  She does bring Dr. Steve his meal and he is nice to her, talking about music and art and the guinea pig he's dining upon.  He shares his breakfast with her, saying that Dawn doesn't have to know.

The officers bring in another one and for some reason Dawn insists that they save him, even though he fell off a building, even though Dr. Steve is convinced the guy won't make it.  When Dr. Steve bucks her, Dawn lashes out, slapping Beth viciously and snarling, "Try to grasp the stakes here."  Afterwards, Dr. Steve restitches the cut on Beth's face and tells her to change her shirt: the one she's wearing has blood on it and Dawn likes things to be neat.  Some time later, the officers bring in another one - Joan, a former inmate of the hospital who ran away.  Joan has been bitten on the arm, however, and Dawn insists that they cut off her arm so she doesn't turn.  There's no anesthesia so Beth and Dawn hold Joan down while Dr. Steve saws through her arm.  It's pretty grim.

After that, Beth takes the bloody scrubs to the laundry and meets Noah, who works off his indenture there.  He tells Beth that he's been there for a year trying to work off his debt - it doesn't look like Dawn has any intention of letting him go.  So he's planning on escaping as soon as he can.  Beth's eyes light up.  That night, Dawn brings Beth dinner as a peace treaty, trying to talk with her.  Beth is like, I never asked for your help.  Dawn: "But you needed it."  Dawn is convinced that someone is out there and will come rescue them; until then, everyone has to contribute.  Beth begrudgingly eats a little.  

Later, she mops in Joan's room and speaks with her a little: apparently Joan was at Gorman's mercy and Dawn did nothing to make him stop.  Beth's voice quavers when she asks what Gorman did to Joan but the other girl just mutters that it doesn't matter.  It does matter, however, because the next day Gorman corners Beth.  Dr. Steve comes in just in time to make him back off.  Gorman growls that Beth should have been his, plus he'll get Joan back because Dawn won't stop him, but he leaves Beth alone for now.  When he's gone, Beth snaps at Dr. Steve, "Why do you stay here?" so he takes her down to the ground floor and shows her all the walkers surrounding the hospital.  This is why he stays - because he's too scared to go.  "As bad as it gets," he says, "it's still better than [out] there."  When Beth says she should get back to work, Dr. Steve asks her to look in on the latest arrival and give him his scheduled dose of Clozepine.  Okay, says Beth, sure.

She mixes the drug and gives it to the guy - who immediately goes into convulsions and dies, to Beth's horror.  Dawn comes in and puts a scalpel into the dead guy's head, and then demands to know what happened.  Noah steps in and covers for Beth, saying he must have knocked the life support offline while mopping.  Dawn takes Noah off to her office for a beating and an unhappy Beth protests to Dr. Steve that wasn't what happened.  Dr. Steve is like, well, you gave him his Clonazepan, right?  Beth is all, you said Clozepine.  Dr. Steve, no, I didn't.  Beth, in her head, yes you did.

She's had enough and tells Noah that she's coming with him.  He tells her that he can keep an eye on Dawn but Beth will have to go into her office to find the key to the elevator banks because the fastest way out will be down the elevator shaft and through the basement.  Beth searches the office and finds not only the key but the latest patient's ID: Dawn was anxious to keep him alive because he was another doctor.  She also finds Joan, dead on the floor, having ripped the stitches out of her amputated arm and bled out.  Unfortunately, Gorman comes in and sees Beth.  He backs her up against the desk and starts groping her.  Beth allows it because she's seen dead Joan's finger twitch.  Then she smashes a glass candy dish against his head.  Gorman falls to the floor where zombie Joan immediately goes for his throat.  Beth grabs Gorman's gun out of his belt, clutches the key she came for and bolts.

Beth and Noah make their way to the elevator shaft.  Noah has made a rope out of tied-together sheets and Beth climbs down first.  As Noah follows, a walker lurches out at him from a door on a lower floor.  He panics and falls, landing on the pile of dead, broken bodies at the bottom of the elevator shaft.  He's okay and the two of them make their way out through the basement.  There are lots of walkers and Beth has to use the gun - she's still a very good shot, even with her hand in a cast.  They get outside and run for the fence, still battling their way through the zombies.  Noah climbs through the fence and runs; Beth gets tackled by one of Dawn's officers and dragged back inside the hospital.  Beth has a smile on her face, though, glad that Noah made it out.

Dawn takes Beth back to her office to confront her.  Beth snarls that Gorman attacked her, just like he attacked Joan, just like Dawn allows.  Beth:  "No one's coming, Dawn.  No one's comin'! We're all gonna die and you let this happen for nothin'!"  Furious, Dawn hauls off and belts her.  After Dr. Steve stitches her back up again, Beth asks him how he knew that patient was a doctor.  She's all, "That's why you had me give him the wrong meds, right? Because with another doctor, Dawn wouldn't keep you around and protect you."  

When Beth leaves Dr. Steve's office, she takes a pair of scissors.  But when she walks down the corridor, seemingly intent on using them, she sees some officers rolling another gurney down the hall.  On that gurney: Carol.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Mini movie review: Snowpiercer

Earth's scientists spray a compound into the atmosphere to combat the global warming crisis.  It works all too well, sending Earth into an ice age and killing almost everyone and everything on the planet.  The only survivors live on a super-train constructed by an eccentric billionaire before the ice age: it circles the planet, never stopping, powered by a nearly mythological Engine.  Wealthy first class passengers live in the front of the train, surrounded by luxury and warmth; the dregs of this closed, self-sustaining society are packed into the train's tail, living in filth and squalor, drinking water recycled from first class's waste.  If the train ever stops, if anyone tries to escape to the world outside, they'll freeze to death.  They've been living like this for seventeen years.

From time to time, as you might imagine, the folks in the tail of the train revolt against their treatment.  All revolutions thus far have failed.  But this time, Curtis (Chris Evans, very un-Captain America-y) is determined to make it to the front, supported by his young buddy Edgar (Jamie Bell), the tail section's de facto leader Gilliam (John Hurt) and Tanya (Octavia Spencer) whose young son has been taken away from her for possibly nefarious purposes.  Grimly, violently, the uprising moves up through the train cars, but every car taken - prison car, food processing, water reclamation - only affects the cars behind and doesn't hurt the greater luxury towards the front.

I'm doing a terrible job of describing this movie but really, Snowpiercer, directed by Bong Joon-ho (who also did The Host, which I loved) is a great, post-apocalyptic science fiction flick.  The train is wonderfully imagined, nightmarish and clever like something Terry Gilliam might have come up with (and has inspired me to watch Brazil, Time Bandits, etc. again soon).  Tilda Swinton, who keeps order amongst the lower classes, steals every scene she's in.  The ending of the movie is probably not what many viewers would have wanted - dire but hopeful and open-ended - but I think it seems to fit.  I don't think Snowpiercer got much of a theater audience but I hope it finds some legs in at-home viewing.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Fifth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series #6: May

Wow.  It's Halloween and I've only managed to watch six scary (or, "scary," taking Warm Bodies into consideration) movies for the entire month.  That's a pretty lame FMSSOMS showing.  On the plus side, #6 (May, 2002) is a pretty good little indie horror flick.

Poor May is such a weirdo.  Shunned by her classmates as a child because she was shy and had an eye patch to correct her lazy eye, little May's only friend was a creeptastic homemade doll that her mother made - and who lives in a glass case because she's too precious to be touched.  (May's mother's motto: "If you don't have any friends, make one!")  Grown-up May (Angela Bettis) is still weird.  She's got her own apartment - filled with dolls she's made and her own homemade clothes - and a good job - as a veterinary assistant where her facility with needle and thread and a high tolerance for blood and guts comes in handy.  But she's still shy and hopelessly awkward, and talks to creepy doll Suzy because she's so lonely.  When Polly, the hot party girl receptionist at work (Anna Faris), starts making friendly overtures to her, May uses the interaction to build enough confidence to approach Adam the carwash boy (Jeremy Sisto) she's crushing on.  It all works out at first and she is thrilled to have these new friends.  But she's just so weird and creepy, and she doesn't have any social skills at all.  She finally freaks Adam out just too much and he dumps her; turning to Polly, she doesn't understand when Polly blows her off for a booty call.  Abandoned and alone again, May remembers her mother's motto and that's when the blood starts flowing.

For probably two-thirds of this 90 minute movie, May is more of a darkly funny psychothriller: you know that something is wrong with May but you hope that she'll be able to pull herself together.  It seems like she might be able to get herself to be normal enough, if not completely normal.  I was rooting for her at first, this sad, lonely weird girl.  But May is too weird to really identify with and once the killing starts, I stopped rooting for her.  Unlike Carrie White, with whom the audience sympathizes even as she takes her vengeance, May is just too creepy and damaged to be relatable. Still, the performances are good and the effects are, well, effective even if the "blood" is a little thin.  May is an unexpected dark little treat of a movie, a fine way to wrap up the month.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Walking Dead S5E3 "Four Walls and a Roof" 10/26/14

Holy crap - that was by far one of the best episodes TWD has done in a really, really long time.  "We didn't want to waste the bullets."  

We pick right back up where we left off, with Gareth and company noshing on leg du Bob in front of a campfire outside of an elementary school.  Inside the school: dozens of walkers, pressed up against the windows, clamoring to get out.  Gareth is very talky, charming and psychotic - he's a good villain because you like to hate him.  The Terminusians usually prefer to eat women but Bob is, surprisingly, very tasty.  After a while, Bob starts weeping.  Then the weeping turns to sobbing, which turns to laughing maniacally.  The Terminusians gather around, saying that he's cracked.  Still cackling, Bob pulls his shirt away from his shoulder, revealing a suppurating walker bite (that he got at the food bank).  "I've been bitten, you stupid pricks! I'm tainted meat!"  The cannibals spit out their mouthfuls, some of them vomit, panicking that they're now infected.  "TAINTED MEAT!" shrieks Bob.  Awesome.

Sasha, Tyrese and Rick wander in the woods around the church, looking for Bob, Darryl and Carol.  They go back inside and confront Father Gabriel, sure that he's hiding something that has hurt their missing people.  After some badgering, he breaks down, coward that he is, and confesses his guilty conscience: he locked himself inside his church and refused to open the doors to his parishioners when the zombies swarmed.  He listened to his flock get ripped to shreds and eaten and then, afterwards, he buried all the remains.  Rick et als., especially Carl, who wants to believe that people are good, look at him with disgust.

Then they hear something outside: the Terminusians have left Bob out on the lawn.  They run out, drag Bob inside, and cap a few walkers just for the hell of it.  Back inside, Bob brings them up to speed, including telling them that Gareth said he saw Darryl and Carol drive off.  He also shows them all his bitten shoulder and everyone sort of collapses in on themselves.  Death is such a constant on this show but it's still devastating when it's slow and peaceful, as peaceful as the aftermath of a bite during a zombie apocalypse.  Gabriel says there's a couch in his office and they move poor Bob in there.

Abraham speaks up: the "get Eugene to Washington, D.C." contingent is bugging the hell out of here before things go to shit any further.  Rick's like, you can't take that bus.  Abraham: the hell I can't.  After some back and forth macho posturing between Rick and Abraham, a compromise is reached: Abraham will stay for twelve more hours to try to fight against Gareth's group, but then he and his leave, and Tara, Glen and Maggie go with them.  (It seems a little sudden that Glen and Maggie would agree to go except that Glen has more history with Abraham than the rest of Rick's people, and he's begun to be troubled by Rick's growing brutality.  That's why Glen agrees to go.)

Bob and Sasha scene.  Very sweet and sad.  When Bob dies, he's going to take most of the hope and optimism and humor out of this group.

Out in the main part of the church, the gang makes a plan.  "Plan's got stones, I'll give you that," says Abraham.  "It's a big play," notes Rosita, getting a tiny line at last.  Rick, Sasha, Abraham, Glen, Maggie and Michonne head off into the nighttime woods, leaving Carl, Eugene, Rosita, Tyrese, Bob, Gabriel and baby Judith huddled in the church office.  And then, terribly, just as Rick's group fades from sight, Gareth and his crew sneak out of the woods themselves from where they have been hiding and watching and break into the church.  Oh shit.

Gabriel gets to talk and talk again, taunting the hiders as the other five pull their guns and advance through the church.  It's actually quite tense because, quite frankly, any of the hiders could conceivably get killed off (although probably not Carl or Judith).  Just then, Judith gives out a wail before Carl can shush her.  The gunmen move over to the office door, ready to bust it down.  And then BANG BANG the heads of two of them splatter all over the wall.

It was a trick!  Figuring that Gareth was watching, Rick and his group left and then circled around behind, silently coming back into the church.  Rick tells them to drop their guns and kneel and when Gareth doesn't immediately respond, Rick shoots off all his fingers.  Gareth tries to convince Rick that they'll leave and never come back, never bother Rick's group again.  But Rick is done with mercy.  He pulls out that red-handled machete and hacks the kneeling Gareth to pieces; behind him, Abraham, Michonne and Sasha take care of the other three.  It is brutal and horrible, the Terminusians screaming, Glen, Maggie, Tara and Tyrese looking on in shock and horror.  When it is done, Michonne lifts her sword off one of the bodies, her face unreadable.  Gabriel staggers out of the office, looking at the gore splashed around his church.  He whimpers, "But this is the Lord's house," but Maggie interrupts him with a curt, "No.  It's just four walls and a roof."

The next morning, Bob is still hanging in there.  Everyone says goodbye to him.  He asks Rick to sit with him for a minute.  Rick does, Judith on his lap.  Bob says that before the prison, he didn't know if there were any good people left but Rick took him in.  "Nightmares end - they shouldn't end who you are.  And that is just this dead man's opinion."  Later, Sasha sits with Bob.  He wakes from a restless sleep, smiles at her and then breathes his last.  She bows her head, crying quietly, then pulls out her knife to make sure he doesn't rise back up.  But Tyrese comes in, takes the knife from his sister and, after she leaves the room, gently, sadly, slides the blade into Bob's temple.  He's broken his vow not to kill again but he couldn't let Sasha do it herself.

Abraham, Eugene, Rosita, Tara, Glen and Maggie drive off in the bus, Abraham leaving Rick with a map of their planned route and eliciting a promise that they'll come to D.C. after they get Darryl and Carol back.  After they've gone, Rick helps Tyrese dig some graves to bury the Terminusians out in the woods (Bob being already interred in the church's cemetery).  He says to Tyrese that he never asked him how it was for him, getting to Terminus.  Tyrese: "It killed me."  Rick, after thinking about it a bit: "No, it didn't."

That night, Michonne is up keeping watch on the church's front steps, her sword sitting across her knees.  Gabriel can't sleep and he joins her, saying that he still hears his congregation.  Michonne: "Yeah, that won't stop - but it won't be all the time."  They hear some rustling in the underbrush.  Gabriel scurries back inside but Michonne draws her sword from its scabbard and walks towards the woods.  After a tense moment, Darryl steps out.  Michonne grins at him, then: "Where's Carol?"  Darryl just looks at her for a second or two and then looks back into the dark woods behind him and says, "Come on out."

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

Friday, October 24, 2014

Fifth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series #5: The Conjuring

Okay, so The Conjuring is one of the scarier flicks I've seen, at least for the first two-thirds: for approximately half of the first two-thirds, I had to watch from behind my fingers, slouched down on the couch, trying not to startle the dog every time I jumped.  Which was a lot.

Based on a "true" story, The Conjuring is set in Rhode Island in the early 1970s.  The Perron family - Roger (Ron Livingston), Carolyn (Lily Taylor), their five (!!) daughters and their dog Sadie - move into a great, old farmhouse. Right from the get-go, things are weird: Sadie refuses to enter the house; and the parents find a boarded-over staircase to a forgotten basement, full of various junk.   The poor dog is killed the first night, one of the daughters starts sleepwalking, Carolyn develops mysterious bruises and all the clocks stop at 3:07 a.m. every night.  Roger is a truck driver, requiring him to leave his family alone a lot, and the nighttime disturbances intensify: pictures falling off walls, doors opening for no reason, sleeping daughters getting their feet touched by unseen assailants.

Finally, scared and worried, Carolyn tracks down Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), real life paranormal investigators whose claim to fame is Amityville.  Ed and Lorraine investigate and determine that not only is the Perrons' new home haunted, it is probably inhabited by a demon - a former witch who sacrificed her own baby to the devil.  The investigation continues and the disturbances escalate further, dragging the Warrens into the fray on a personal level.  The culmination is an exorcism, performed by Ed because the Catholic church won't authorize an official exorcism for a non-Catholic family, and there is mostly a happy ending.

The first two-thirds of The Conjuring is fantastic: suspenseful, creepy, scary and tense.  The camera follows the Perrons into their home as they move in, so the audience gets to explore the house as the new residents do.  Then, the camera focuses on what is not there - dark shadows, spaces under the beds - which is particularly effective when one of the daughters is shrieking and screaming that something is RIGHT THERE BEHIND THE DOOR and we are watching right there behind the door, and there is nothing there.  There is a rhythm to the jump scares - tension building, false scare, actual scare - but that doesn't make them any less effective, and one of the best sequences is when Carolyn searches the dark house by herself, opening doors and going into the basement alone. Dear god I was squirming.  But for the last bit of the movie, when the Warrens really get involved and the scary bits get explained, things fall flat.  The demons come out into the light and the tension drains away - and the exorcism itself is perfunctory and unimpressive.

So, here it is in a nutshell: The Conjuring is fantastically scary for the most part and then, when you can't stand it anymore, it steps back and lets you down easy.  Still, it's a solid example of a haunted house flick and worth your time for the most part.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Walking Dead S5E2 "Strangers" 10/19/14

This episode is extremely talky.  Fortunately most of it doesn't matter, until the reveal at the end.

Our gang walks away from the burning Terminus, in slow motion.  Tara 'fesses to Rick that she was at the prison with the Governor.  Carol and Tyrese decide they don't need to tell the others about what happened to the girls.  Bob and Sasha are completely adorable, playing cute word games and smooching (this, of course, means something terrible is going to happen to at least one of them).  That night, camping out in the open, Carol and Rick talk some - it's not important until the end of their conversation when he says, "I sent you away to this and now we're joining you.  Will you have us?"  Carol is surprised and nods yes.  He thanks her.  Later, Carol and Daryl sit up, keeping watch.  She tells him that she doesn't want to talk about it, she can't.  Daryl's like, all right.  Then he thinks he hears something out in the underbrush; when nothing lurches at them, trying to chew their legs off, he shrugs, guessing it was nothing.  But there is someone there, watching, waiting.

In the morning, they are on the march again when they hear screaming.  Rick doesn't want to get involved but Carl does.  They find a minister treed on a boulder, surrounded by zombies.  Rick, Daryl, Carol, Carl and Michonne make short work of the walkers.  The minister comes down, promptly upchucks all over his shoes, and then answers Rick's three questions: he hasn't killed any walkers, he hasn't killed any people and he hasn't done anything.  His name is Gabriel and Rick doesn't believe him.  He does, however, have a church nearby, a place where they can shelter.  He takes them there and our gang checks it out, finding nothing amiss but no food either.  Seems safe enough for now.  Gabriel tells them that there's a nearby town: he's cleaned it out except for one place that's been overrun - about a dozen walkers.

Our gang decides to head out on a scavenging run, except for Tyrese and Carl who will stay behind to protect Judith.  Before they go, Rick tells Carl to be aware, that he's never safe and can't let his guard down.  Carl listens and agrees, but does say to his dad that he doesn't believe that everyone can be evil.

Daryl and Carol fetch more water.  They find a car abandoned on the side of the road: the battery is dead but Carol finds a charger/generator in the trunk, so she figures they can use this car as a back-up.  Glen, Maggie and Tara check out a gun store where Glen finds three silencers that had been hidden in a mini-fridge (Glen: "Rule #1 of scavenging: there's nothing left in this world that isn't hidden.") - they call that a win.  Rick, Michonne, Bob, Sasha and Gabriel go to the town's food bank.  The basement, where all kinds of canned foodstuffs are stored, is full of water from holes in the building's roof; it's also full of walkers, squishy, waterlogged, extra-disgusting walkers.  All five of them go down and here's the big zombie action scene of the episode: splashing around in that gooey, stinking water, crushing heads with whatever is handy.  Gabriel panics and Bob is almost nailed by a submerged zombie but they all make it out, none the worse for wear, and with lots and lots of food for their trouble.

As they take the food back to the church, there's more talking.  The only thing important is that Rick asks Michonne if she misses her katana sword.  She says no, and she doesn't miss the life she had before - she misses Andrea and Herschel but she doesn't miss that sword.  When they get back to the church, Carl shows Rick what he's found: knife marks scratching up the shutters on the outside of the church and the words "YOU'LL BURN FOR THIS" carved into the siding.  Carl: "This doesn't mean Gabriel is a bad person.  But it does mean something."  When did Carl get so smart?

That night, they feast and even crack open a bottle or two of the church's communion wine.  It is here that Abraham makes his pitch: for Rick to agree to bring his group with them to Washington D.C., so Eugene can work on the cure.  They believe that there's still infrastructure in place, food, medicine, a place to be safe until they can clean out the dead.  Most of our gang looks like they want to go but they hold their tongues until Rick nods, agreeing to go to D.C.  People applaud, liking having a plan.

Not everyone is feeling happy, however.  Rick sits with Gabriel, who is moping by himself.  He tells the minister that he knows he's hiding something - that's his business - but if what he's hiding hurts Rick's people in any way, he [Rick] will kill him [Gabriel].  In the meantime, Carol steals away and Daryl finds her getting that car started.  She doesn't feel like she can stay with the group but her running away is interrupted when another car roars past them.  It has a cross painted on its back window and Daryl shouts that that is the car that took Beth.  They knock out the taillights and jump into their car, giving chase.  You know, I bet no one else knows where they are.  That's not good.

Back at the church, Bob has also gone outside, alone, away from everyone else.  He leans against a tree and begins to sob, apparently not as happy and optimistic as he seemed earlier.  His pity party is interrupted, however, when an unknown assailant clubs him over the head.  When he comes to, things have gone from bad to worse:  he has been captured by Gareth and some other Terminus-ers.  Gareth gets his turn to talk, blaming Bob and his group for ruining their home and casting them out into the world where they now have to hunt.  What are they hunting?  Our gang.  Why are they hunting them?  It's not personal - they would have done it to anyone, it's just cosmic justice that it's our gang that the hunters have found first - it's because they're hungry.  The camera pulls back: Bob's leg has been cut off at the knee and Gareth takes a big bite out of the hunk of Bob-meat he's holding in his hand.  Everyone around the fire, on which the rest of Bob's leg is roasting, is munching on Bob meat.  Bob starts to wail and panic, as one would do in that situation.  Gareth:  "If it makes you feel any better, you taste much better than we thought you would."  Nom nom nom.

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

Friday, October 17, 2014

Fifth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series #4: The Ring

I watched The Ring, last night, the U.S. remake, not the original Japanese Ringu.  I was a bit conflicted about it because I do try to see originals first, like REC or Let the Right One In, but I'd heard good things about this 2002 Naomi Watts vehicle and was just not in the mood for subtitles.  I was in the mood to be scared a bit, however, and The Ring fit the bill.  Although twelve years after its release I am already well aware that many of its iconic moments are now well-worn tropes (i.e. evil girl with dripping wet black hair), it still did its thing.

Everyone by now knows the story: there's a videotape and if you see it, you die seven days later.  The fun thing is that this movie is as much a mystery-thriller as it is horror; the onscreen body count is low and the bulk of the movie follows reporter/mom Rachel (Watts) as she tries to figure out WTF.  Director Gore Verbinski sets a very creepy, atmospheric stage with a dark, almost monochromatic color palate, rain-washed and moody, very evocative of the J-horror from which this remake sprung.  The opening scene - with a very good Amber Tamblyn - effectively ratchets up the tension.  Many of the shots are beautifully framed, especially the ones out at the horse farm - not what you expect from your average horror flick.  And speaking of horses: anyone who does not find the horse on the ferry scene disturbing is a bad person.

While I thought it was maybe a little bit long at 1 hr. 55 min., I enjoyed The Ring quite a lot.  I don't suppose it holds up that well on repeated viewings and it does seem dated now, what with the flip phones and videotape, but I found it a fun Thursday night viewing.  Now if someone could just tell me why that creepy little kid called his mom by her first name ...

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Walking Dead S5E1 "No Sanctuary" 10/12/14

And we begin with a shout, not with a whisper.  Also: CAROL.

Then.  People, not our people, cower in train cars as shrieks and screams echo from outside.

Now.  Our people, in their train car, work on putting together whatever weapons they can scrounge, from belt buckles, zippers, chips of wood.  They are focused, ready to attack when the Terminusians come for them.  Unfortunately, the Terminusians don't come in the front: they open a door in the top of the car and drop in a smoke bomb.  Rick, Darryl, Glen and Bob are dragged out, bound and gagged, and brought into what pretty much looks like - and is - a slaughterhouse.  They and four other captives are made to kneel against a stainless steel trough while one dude sharpens a knife and another dude practices his swing with a baseball bat.  It is very tense.  And then they whack the guy on the end in the head, and when he slumps over the trough, they cut his throat, the blood gushing out in torrents.  It is SO GRIM.  They do the other three captives and then Glen is next in line.

Again, it's very tense and it looks almost like it might be Glen's turn to buy the farm.  But Gareth interrupts just in time, coming in with some administrative stuff to do.  Bob begs for their lives; Gareth is uninterested.  What he is interested in, however, is the bag Rick buried out in the woods before coming into Terminus.  Gareth threatens to gouge Bob's eye out so Rick tells him all the weapons that are in the bag, including a red handled machete with which he intends to kill Gareth.  Gareth's all, ooh, scary.  He heads out, leaving the two butchers to finish their job.  Bat Guy winds up behind Glen again (but this time, all the tension is gone) and just as he starts his swing, the building is shaken by an explosion.

Out in the world, Carol, Tyrese and Baby Judith walk along the tracks towards Terminus.  Carol tells Tyrese that she'll get the two of them there but she's not going to stay.  When a walker menaces them, Tyrese takes the baby, saying he can't kill anyone/thing, not yet.  Carol rolls her eyes, all exasperatedly "Men!" before stabbing the walker in the head with her knife.  She then catches sight of a large herd of walkers heading their way.  The humans hide and luckily the herd is distracted by the sound of gunfire in the distance, probably coming from Terminus.  When the walkers are past, they continue on.  They come across a Terminusian setting up fireworks out by a little shack in the woods,  They overhear him talking about a "chick with a sword" and a "kid in a hat" and quickly subdue him, tying him up.  They don't gag him, though, and that's too bad because he's an asshole.

Leaving Tyrese and the baby behind with the asshole, Carol heads out, gooing herself up with walker guts and walking along behind the herd undetected.  (Back at the shack, the asshole first tries to talk with Tyrese and then to rile him up.  Tyrese is determined to turn the other cheek and be the bigger dog - he doesn't want to kill anyone today.  The asshole is like, dude, that means you'll be the one who dies - you and the baby.)  Meanwhile, Carol has made her way to the Terminus fence in time to see Rick, Darryl, Bob and Glen dragged out of the train car and into the buildings.  She watches as the herd of walkers starts to menace the Terminusians, then spots a propane tank.  With the magic science/physics of television, she shoots a couple of holes into the propane tank, causing a leak, then shoots a fireworks rocket right at the tank.  There's the explosion that kept Glen from getting his head bashed in.  Hooray for Carol!  She watches carefully as burning walkers stagger through the hole in the Terminus fence, then follows them.  Walkers pour into Terminus.  The Terminusians fight back but there is a lot of carnage: a shot of a burning zombie chewing off a guy's nose; at least two women being eaten alive.  It is horrific and extremely violent.

Inside the slaughterhouse, Bat Guy and Knife Guy dither around about what that explosion could have been, distracted enough for Rick to pull a stake of wood out of his boot, cut his bonds (that's a sharp piece of wood!) and then stab Bat Guy and Knife Guy in the throats.  He cuts Darryl, Glen and Bob free.  As they wander through the buildings, they find a room full of butchered human body parts.  They cannot even articulate their horror and just pick up as many weapons as they can find.  Rick's all, if you come across any of these people, do not hesitate to kill them.  The guys are like, WORD.  Glen insists that they have to let the captives out of the train cars; Rick agrees although he'd really rather just be killing people and zombies.

Carol wandering through the buildings, looking for her friends and killing zombies and Terminusians indiscriminately, finds a stash of personal belongings.  She quickly snatches up Darryl's crossbow as well as a couple of guns.  (She doesn't take Michonne's sword?  Poor form.)  In another room, one creepily adorned with candles, Mary (Gareth's mom apparently, played by Denise Crosby a/k/a Tasha Yar) finds her.  The two women fight until Carol gets the upper hand.  Mary has a little speech, saying how they didn't used to be like this, how they really were a sanctuary until they took in some bad folks who took over the place, raping the women repeatedly and beating and killing.  She says they learned that you're either the butcher or you're the cattle - and they weren't going to be the cattle anymore.  (But cannibalism?  I can see being distrustful and killing threatening strangers, but eating them?  WTF can't you get enough deer?)  When Mary won't answer her questions, Carol shoots her in the leg and then leaves her for the walkers who come in when she opens the door.

Out at the shack, the asshole manages to get his hands around Judith's neck, forcing Tyrese to drop his weapons.  The asshole says he'll snap the baby's neck unless Tyrese goes outside - where three or four walkers are lurking - so with tears in his eyes but a roar in his voice, Tyrese goes out.  The asshole listens to the sounds of struggles for a while, but then there's silence.  And then Tyrese bursts through the door, having put down all the zombies, and beats the living crap out of the asshole, shouting "I won't! I won't!" all the while.  I guess that means he isn't going to kill this guy, which may come back to bite him later.  (But later he tells Carol he killed him ... although we never see the body.)

Back at Terminus, the gang still in the train car (Carl, Maggie, Michonne, Eugene, Sasha, Tara, Rosita, Abraham, etc.) are again readying their weapons, trying to figure out what's going on outside.  Sasha wants to know what the cure is that Eugene knows about.  While I have my doubts that Eugene knows any such thing - I think he's just saying he knows a cure so people will protect him - he says he used to work for a lab that engineered biological weapons and he believes that with some tweaks to the formula, he can change these weapons so they kill the dead instead of the living.  Everyone seems to buy it and then Rick yanks the train car door open so they can all come out and fight zombies and Terminusians.  They do, fighting and killing, and all make it over the fence.  Rick takes them to where he buried his bag o' weapons, saying that they have to go back and kill all the Terminusians.  Glen, Maggie, Rosita et als. are all, um, NO we just got out of there, but Rick is in a killing mood.

Until they look up and see Carol standing there quietly, watching them.  Darryl throws himself at her, hugging her, not wanting to let her go.  It's really quite sweet.  Rick limps up, a small smile on his face: "Did you do that?"  She nods and he hugs her too, whispering, "Thank you."  Everyone crowds around but she just says, "You have to come with me."  She takes them to the shack where Tyrese and baby Judith are waiting.  Rick and Carl and Sasha are, respectively, overwhelmed and overjoyed.  After the reunion, everyone heads out, walking down the railroad tracks away from Terminus.  They have no supplies and barely any weapons, but they are all together again.  As he passes one of those Terminus signs, Rick picks up a handful of mud, obscuring most of the wording and revising it to say NO SANCTUARY.

Well, that was something.  A strong start, shocking and sometimes scary and ugly, with the completion of Carol's transformation from meek mouse to full-on badass.  There was also a tag scene that I think my DVR cut off: a black man, in a mask and a hood and a long coat, following the tracks some ways behind our heroes.  Rumor has it that he's Morgan, the guy who rescued Rick way back in S1 and then got all crazy the last time we saw him.  

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

Monday, October 13, 2014

When in doubt, post a list

It's all the houseguests' fault: we had houseguests, and we had to do things with houseguests, and all that being social and a good host really cut into the scary viewing.  This is what's upcoming: the recap for the season premiere of The Walking Dead (oh dear god I can't believe it's back on already and I have to recap it again and can we please focus on Darryl and Michonne and Carol and ignore Rick?) and also the latest scary movie, The Ring.  But not yet.

Since I don't have much for you in the meantime, and since I've been re-reading Stephen King's Dreamcatcher just for the hell of it, and since it's a scary time of year and since Mr. King is the undisputed high emperor of scary written things, here's a list of all his novels with the ones I haven't read in red.  I'm a big Stephen King fan.  There will not be much red.

'Salem's Lot
Bag of Bones
Black House
The Colorado Kid
Cycle of the Werewolf
The Dark Half
The Dark Tower: Song of Susannah
The Dark Tower
The Dark Tower: The Drawing of the Three
The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger
The Dark Tower: The Waste Lands
The Dark Tower: The Wind Through the Keyhole
The Dark Tower: Wizard and Glass
The Dark Tower: Wolves of the Calla
The Dead Zone
Doctor Sleep
Dolores Claiborne
Duma Key
The Eyes of the Dragon
From A Buick 8
Gerald's Game
The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon
The Green Mile: The Complete Serial Novel
Lisey's Story
Mr. Mercedes
Needful Things
Pet Sematary
The Plant: Zenith Rising
Rose Madder
The Shining
The Stand: The Complete & Uncut Edition
The Talisman
The Tommyknockers
Under the Dome

Then there's also his short story collections, which I think I like even better than his novels: Different Seasons; Everything's Eventual; Four Past Midnight; Full Dark, No Stars; Hearts in Atlantis; Just After Sunset; Night Shift; Nightmares & Dreamscapes; Skeleton Crew; and Stephen King Goes to the Movies.

Wow.  I sure do love me some Stephen King.  (Except Full Dark, No Stars.  Didn't like that one quite so much.)

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Fifth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series #3: Warm Bodies

Zombie Romeo and Juliet is really all you need to know about the third movie in this year's installment of the FAFMSSOMS, Warm Bodies - there's even a balcony scene!  R (played by Nicholas Hoult) is a fairly sentient zombie who wanders around an airport wondering about the meaning of it all, grunting at his best zombie friend Marcus and trying to avoid the "bonies" - really advanced zombies that are little more than teeth and skeletons.  R may shamble and drool and eat brains but his voiceover is clever and sarcastic.  There's clearly more going on here than with your average zombie.

One day, a group of attractive young humans is sent out from their walled city to collect medicine.  This happens to coincide with a hunting excursion R, Marcus and some other zombies are making.   R's group attacks the attractive young humans; R eats Perry (Dave Franco) and absorbs his memories, immediately falling in love with Perry's girlfriend Julie.  R saves Julie from the rest of the zombies, secreting her back in his secret hideout, and over the next couple of days she segues from frightened captive to friend.  Their burgeoning relationship sparks something in R and he begins to change physiologically; more importantly, it sparks a change in the other non-bonie zombies.

Let's get one thing straight: despite the zombies and the occasional brain-eating, this movie is not remotely scary.  Nicholas Hoult is far too pretty - even with blood and brains drooling out of his mouth - to be a convincing zombie, but his expressions and mannerisms are pretty good.  The more frightening part of the whole flick: John Malkovic ... who is just playing a human, Julie's father.

Apparently this little movie was based on a book - maybe I'll check it out.  In the meantime, Warm Bodies is a decent little zom-rom, but certainly not any sort of a horror movie.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Fifth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series #2: The Cabin in the Woods

Okay, so this one is sort of a cheat because it's like the fourth time I've watched The Cabin in the Woods.  It's the only horror movie I own.  But it is just so good and has everything you could possibly want.  A creepy cabin in the woods.  Pretty college kids, including an athlete, a scholar, a nerd, a sexpot and a "virgin."  Drinking.  Drugs.  Sex.  Girls in bikinis.  Conspiracy theories.  Latin incantations.  A zombie redneck torture family.  Beheadings and stabbings.  Running screaming through the woods.  Every monster ever.  Sigourney Weaver.  I mean, why wouldn't I watch that again and again?

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Fifth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series #1: Candyman

By all accounts ( and by all accounts I mean Final Girl and her devotees), 1992's Candyman is an under-appreciated classic.  The music is elegant and creepy; the gorgeous Virginia Madsen carries the flick and does a great job of it; and Tony Todd is an ominous, looming presence.  Plus bees!

Helen (Madsen) is a graduate student at the University of Illinois, writing her thesis on urban legends and modern folklore.  She learns about the legend of Candyman, the son of a freed slave who dared to love a white girl.  Her outraged relatives cut Candyman's hand off for the audacity, then arranged for stung him to death by bees, then burned his corpse in a bonfire.  Now, at one of the projects, gory murders are being pinned on Candyman - the legend coming to life, according to the locals.  Helen goes to the projects to investigate, befriends a young single mom, then gets herself beaten by some gang members.  Oh, and she inadvertently summoned Candyman - by staring into a mirror and repeating his name five times, because she didn't believe anything would happen - who starts to rampage and frames Helen for the crimes.  In Tony Todd's glorious, booming voice, Candyman tells Helen that her investigation had weakened his congregation's belief in him, so he had to come forth and kill to re-establish his power over the project's inhabitants.

I am Rumor.  It is a blessed condition ... to live in other people's dreams but not to have to be.

Candyman is a little dated but holds up well.  It is genuinely scary; I watched a bunch of the movie through my fingers as the tension built around Helen's poor choices.  While the actual violence takes place off-screen, we get to see plenty of blood in the aftermath.  I should give a special shout-out to the scene where Tony Todd and Virginia Madsen let bees climb all over their faces, including in their mouths.  Those sure looked like real bees - yikes!

I had no expectations whatsoever going into Candyman and I was pleasantly surprised by how good it was and how much I liked it.  Not too many people have seen this movie when compared to the classic horror movies like Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, etc., but if you're in the mood for something on the vintage side, Candyman is well worth your time.