Thursday, December 22, 2016

Midseason break

We're in the midseason break after all the "fall finales" - when did that become a thing, by the way? - and all of a sudden I have all this time on my hands since I'm not watching all the television.  We (both Mr. Mouse and I) have enjoyed Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, Search Party and People of Earth and as mentioned here previously, I found Sweet/Vicious to scratch an itch I didn't realize I had.  Westworld was decent as well; the latest run of Black Mirror was excellent; and while I didn't love Luke Cage as much as I did Jessica Jones, I would still rank it higher than Daredevil's second season.

I've also been able to watch a couple of movies, neither of which have moved me to do full reviews here but each which at least merit a mention.

Guillermo del Toro's mismarketed and under-watched Crimson Peak was gorgeous, with amazing set design, costuming and atmosphere.  It definitely suffered from a lack of plot, I thought, and was clearly more of a Gothic romance than a ghost story as the movie's marketing team would have had us think.

I did enjoy Edge of Tomorrow with Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt.  I am not a Tom Cruise fan but he was pretty good here, a darkly funny Groundhog Day-esque sci-fi thriller in which the day the European ground forces are annihilated by the invading alien menace gets reset each time Cruise's character dies.  As the A.V. Club said, there was something satisfying about watching the guy get shot in the head over and over and over again.  And I put Emily Blunt's "full metal bitch" character up with Ellen Ripley and Sarah Connor as kick-ass science fiction movie heroines; she doesn't get the depth the other two do (plus they have multiple movies/a television series to build on) but she's pretty great.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Walking Dead S7E8 "Hearts Still Beating" 12/11/16

Here's me complaining again about these extended episodes ... why? why? why? why? Is it just to sell more advertising?  Because this episode, while it had two great bits, one good one and ended on a hopeful note, was clearly stretched thin to fill out the running time.  I'm going to try to be succinct here, especially since there's not a whole lot of compelling dialogue.

Hilltop.  Sad Maggie visits Glen's grave before climbing to a lookout post on the Hilltop wall. Whatsisname Gregory comes out and gives her shit about how all the Hilltopians seem to treating her like a hero after that night with the bonfires and the cars and the zombies.  He says don't let it go to your head; she's like, don't let it bother you - seems like it bothers you.  He's about to bite into a tasty-looking apple when another Hilltopian chimes in, "Dude, you know she's pregnant."  Gregory tosses the apple to Maggie who bites in with a little smirk.  [That's the good bit.  She's totally going to end up running that place.

Alexandria.  Negan showers, changes and makes spaghetti dinner.  He's very skinny without his leather jacket and he's hardly scary anymore.  He just talks a lot and taunts people mostly.  He makes Carl set the table.  Outside, Spenser hands over his crossbow and some of the cache he found to the Saviors, sucking up to them a bit.  Because he's a weasel.

Sanctuary.  Daryl escapes his box, finds someone's room (Dwight's, I think) and changes his clothes, snarfing down a jar of peanut butter as he goes.  He sneaks into the motorcycle holding pen and, when he is surprised by a Savior, beats the guy to death with a stick.  Daryl takes the guy's gun just as Jesus pokes his head around the corner.  The two of them take a motorcycle (or two, it's not clear) and sneak away.  I guess nobody really pays attention to much at the Sanctuary when Negan is out on a run.  It's pretty brutal what Daryl does to that Savior but he's had a rough time lately - it's understandable.

Pond.  Rick and Aaron find a bullet-holed dinghy and paddle through the gauntlet of floating walkers towards the houseboat.  The dinghy takes on water quickly; they get attacked by walkers and Aaron gets pulled under.  But he gets away, swimming unscathed to the houseboat while Rick manages to get the dinghy there.  They find a fair amount of food, a taunting note ("Hooray: you win but you still really lose") and a bunch of guns, but no ammo.  They cut the houseboat's mooring and drift to shore, then load up their truck and head back to Alexandria.

Kingdom.  Carol catches Morgan leaving some fresh vegetables on her porch.  He didn't intend to disturb her but she asks him in, just for a bit, muttering that people are having a tough time leaving her alone.  When he turns to go, Richard (?) is on the porch: he wants them to help him convince Ezekiel to rise up and fight against the Saviors.  He says, "Carol, I imagine that violence and fighting is something you haven't been a part of."  The looks on Carol's and Morgan's faces are fucking hilarious.  [That's one of the great bits.]  But they tell him no, they won't have any part of it: Morgan because he doesn't want to kill people and Carol ... because the writers are making her not want to kill people right now.  We all know that she's going to come around and kick all kinds of ass, but in the meantime we just get sulking.  Richard pouts and leaves.

Out on the road.  Michonne tries to get some information from the Savior driving the car: why were you out there alone, how long you been with Negan, etc.?  But the woman won't talk.  She drives to an overlook: down below are many, many people.  She says to Michonne that it's Negan down there, they are ALL Negan down there.  Then she turns off the car, tells Michonne to ditch it where she likes and that there's a silencer in the glovebox.  Next is a long shot: we hear a muffled pop, then Michonne slides over into the driver's seat and drives out of there.  I guess we'll never know why that Savior was out there alone - it had to be at least a little interesting, seeing how the Saviors never go anywhere not in packs.

Hilltop.  Enid reads people well and she picks up on the fact that Sasha is planning to kill Negan but is keeping it from Maggie.  Enid's like, what if you had help?  It isn't just you.  And while we in the audience know Enid is referring to Carl, Sasha doesn't and she's all, it sure feels like it's just me.  [And Michonne, and Rosita ...]

Alexandria.  Speaking of Rosita, Father Gabriel finds her in the chapel.  She feels alone after Abraham's death and she's willing to risk her life to take Negan's.  He tells her she's not alone, that the group needs her and that they will fight back - just maybe not today.  He asks her not to throw her life away.  She seems unconvinced.  In another part of town, Spenser cleans up and takes a half bottle of scotch over to Rick's house where Negan is holding court.  He weasels his way up onto the porch and they drink, and then later Spenser says the guy across the street has a pool table in his garage and they drag it out and start playing pool in the middle of the street.  A crowd starts to gather, Saviors and Alexandrians, watching.

Rick and Aaron arrive at Alexandria and the Saviors unload their haul.  Unfortunately, Aaron left that taunting note in one of the crates and the Saviors decide that he's being disrespectful.  Then they proceed to kick the shit out of him, although they don't kill him.  Back at the pool table, Spenser thinks he's getting on well with Negan and makes a play for Negan to get rid of Rick, who "has a history of not working well with others," and setting Spenser up as leader of Alexandria.  Such a weasel.  Negan may be crazy but he's not actually stupid - he knows Spenser is a weasel too.  So he takes out a giant knife and unzips Spenser's belly.  The guts LITERALLY spill out onto the ground.  Ick.  Ain't nobody going to miss that guy.

This obviously raises the tension in the general area.  The Saviors start waving their guns around; the Alexandrians - including Carl, Olivia, Rosita, Tara, Father Gabriel and Eugene - are shocked.  As Negan yammers on and on, Rosita can't take it anymore, hauls out her forbidden gun with its handmade bullet and fires it at Negan's head.  And even though everyone on this fucking show can take out a zombie with a pistol headshot from fifty yards away, she MISSES from a distance of ten feet, hitting Lucille (the barbed-wire-wrapped baseball bat that Negan is all weird about) instead.  This of course makes him really crazy.  Rosita gets tackled, a knife held to her face.  Negan picks up the shell and wants to know who made the bullet. Rosita says she did.  He doesn't believe her and tells one of his Saviors to kill somebody.  Poor Olivia gets a bullet between the eyes just as Rick and Aaron stagger up.  Tara speaks up that she made the bullet.  Negan doesn't believe her either and is all about to kill someone else and then Eugene, terrified out of his mind, shrieks that it was him, he made it.  Negan believes him, so he bids Alexandria farewell, taking Rick and Aaron's scavenge haul with him (noting that it isn't enough) and also taking Eugene.  Guess we all know what Eugene's job is going to be at the Sanctuary.

When Michonne gets back, she finds Rick (who has been trying to process the fact that both his son and Rosita separately tried to kill their oppressor) and tells him that even though there are way more Saviors than they thought, they have to figure out a way to fight Negan.  Rick's all, yeah, you're right, we can't keep on like this.

Hilltop.  Sad Maggie visits Glen's grave before climbing to a lookout post on the Hilltop wall.  Then she smiles and yells to Sasha and Enid because someone has come to visit: Rick, Carl, Michonne, Rosita and Tara.  Everyone hugs and then Daryl and Jesus come out from around a corner.  And this is the other great part: the looks on Daryl's and Rick's faces as they walk to each other and embrace, Daryl burying his face in Rick's shoulder.  [God, I love Daryl.  Remember how sketchy he was at the beginning?]  And then this group all stands around and sappily smiles at each other before walking en masse towards the Hiltop mansion.  This is the group who will rise up against Negan.  They won't all survive, of course, but this is who'll do it (plus Morgan and Carol).

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

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Walking Dead S7E7 "Sing Me a Song" 12/4/16

Oh dear holy humping hell - why the FUCK are they doing all these extended episodes?  Negan talks and talks and talks and talks and fucking talks and a few other things happen around the edges but there is NO WAY that it merited 90 minutes.  I've bitched before that Andrew Lincoln/Rick isn't a strong enough actor to carry a whole episode.  Well, Chandler Riggs/Carl is soooooooooo not good enough an actor to lift so heavy a load.  At least Jeffrey Dean Morgan/Negan is around to talk and talk and talk and talk ....

Michonne goes out on her own.  She whistles to attract walkers, calmly slices their heads open with her sword and then drags them off.  From the bloody smears on the road, it's apparent that she's done this before.  Rosita drags Eugene off to that workshop he and Abraham found however long ago: she is going to force Eugene to make a bullet for her.  Spencer and Father Gabriel try to get them to come with on a scavenging run but Rosita is focused and tells Spencer to leave her the hell alone.  Spencer is too busy whining about how much Rick sucks to worry about her too much.

As the truck nears the Saviors' Sanctuary, Jesus tells Carl how to jump out of the truck and roll into the driver's blindspot so as not to be seen.  Carl's like, cool, you go first.  Jesus jumps out, rolls away and hides; Carl gives him a little wave and then fades back into the truck, picking out a choice semi-automatic rifle as he hides.  When the truck stops for unloading, Carl fires at will, killing two guys and shouting that he's only here for Negan.  Negan strolls up and Carl is quickly tackled, Daryl warily watching from behind a chainlink fence.

Negan decides that he will try to turn Carl to the dark side because it'll be fun.  He walks him through the complex, an old factory of some sort, showing off as people kneel before him, being benevolent as he promises fresh vegetables for everyone for continuing to follow the rules.  He shows Carl his harem - eight or so attractive women that Negan calls his "wives,' all wearing little black dresses, sitting in a fairly well-appointed room.  Dwight and Daryl stop by, having prepared a crudite tray (I shit you not).  Negan sends the two of them off to fire up the furnace and fetch a mop, then has Carl carry the crudite tray off to his private rooms.

Spencer and Gabriel drive and Spencer can't stop talking about how much Rick sucks.  So Gabriel tells him he's a shithead and that he's walking back to town.  Spencer: ???  Then Spencer hears something, runs out into the woods and finds a zombie - a former survivalist/hunter, still wielding a compound bow and stuck in a tree in a deer stand.  Spencer tugs the zombie out of the tree, collects the weapons and discovers a list in the dead man's pocket of all the supply caches hidden in the woods.  Score!

Negan talks and talks at Carl.  He makes the boy take the bandage off his wounded eye socket, makes Carl "sing [him] a song" while Negan dances around, swinging Lucille like a maniac, switching from menacing to cajoling to jovial on a dime.  Carl still has a little backbone in him but all he can do is tread water here, wondering WTF is coming next.  What's next: Negan brings Carl down to the furnace room.  Everyone is there, including a bound man ("Mark") who broke the rules and is due for punishment.  In this case, it's like how Dwight got punished: by having Negan press a red-hot iron into the side of Mark's face while he screams and then passes out.  Carl and Daryl trade quick looks, like holyshitomigoddidyoujustseethatpsychoshit.  Negan has made his point. I suspect the people living at the Sanctuary will toe the line, at least for a while.

At that workshop. Eugene doesn't want to enable Rosita in her seemingly suicidal quest to kill Negan.  She yells at him and says some mean but true things and repeats, over and over, "Make me a bullet."  Eugene makes her a bullet.

Negan talks and talks at Carl some more, then decides to take him back to Alexandria.  Just before they leave, Daryl is all, "If you do anything to [Carl] ..." and Negan's all, "Dwight, Daryl needs a time-out.  Put him back in his box for a while."  But while he is in his box, someone slips a piece of paper under the door.  There are some keys (?) taped to it and it reads, GO NOW.

Michonne has dragged enough walker corpses into a pile in the middle of the road that one of Negan's people (a red-headed woman) can't drive past.  Michonne ambushes her, taking her gun and her knife and forces her back into the car.  "Take me to Negan," says Michonne.

Back at Alexandria, Negan makes Carl take him to his and Rick's house.  Olivia is there, babysitting Judith.  Negan bullies her, makes her cry and then suggests that they go bone a while, just to pass the time.  Shocked, she slaps him in the face.  Negan just laughs, then leans in and tells her, "I am about 50% more into you now." He tells her to go make him and Carl some lemonade.  After she scurries off, he makes Carl take him on a tour of the house.  Carl tries to avoid his little sister's bedroom but Negan isn't to be put off.  He seems quite taken with the toddler, picking her up and cuddling her.  He and Carl sit on the porch, drinking lemonade, Judith in Negan's lap.  Negan is finding this suburban life all quite pleasant, actually, and he muses that maybe he should just kill Rick and Carl and move in.  Carl just glares daggers at him.

What, you ask, has Rick been doing all this time?  He and Aaron are out on a scavenging run.  They find a place with a big sign basically telling people to go away or they'll be shot ... and at the bottom, if they've read this far, then [the guy whose place it is] is dead and they can "have at it, assholes."  Rick and Aaron climb the fence and walk in, thinking they might find guns and ammo.  What they find is a pond with a houseboat moored in the center and dozens of walkers floating and moored around it.  Pretty clever, actually - still protecting the supplies, even after death.  Guess they'll go after it next episode.

I mean, I get all this.  Negan is an asshole, a sadist, an utter lunatic, but he verges on charming as well.  He's certainly the closest thing this show has to someone who is interesting - which is awful because he's a bad person.  But he's more interesting than Rick, certainly, so even though he is a crazy, scary, sadistic motherfucker, so he's almost becoming the main character.  I just find his schtick exhausting.

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

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Walking Dead S7E6 "Swear" 11/27/16

God help us, yet another episode when nothing happens - not even hardly any zombies, which get less and less scary with every season and which have nearly been "reduced to an environmental hazard at this point." (A.V. Club)

A couple of girls walk up the beach, taking out whatever walkers they find washed up on the shore.  They also find Tara (remember her? Last seen after Rick and the Alexandrians took out the Saviors' outpost, after which she and Heath headed out on a two-week scavenging mission.  So it has ONLY been two weeks in the show's time. Bleh.)washed up on the shore.  The younger one, Rachel, is about to kill her - kill all strangers as a matter of course - but the older one, Cindy, keeps her from it, saving her life.  Cindy drags Tara above the high tide line.  This is the current timeline.

Flashback:  Tara and Heath are nearing the end of their two-week scavenger hunt.  They argue a bit about the meaning of life these days - Tara's all, we belong with other people, in communities, together.  Out on a bridge, they get attacked by a swarm of walkers and separated.  Tara ends up getting knocked off the bridge and washed down river, which is how she ended up on the beach.

Now: Tara comes to after Cindy leaves her a spear, some water and a dried fish.  When Cindy heads back to her settlement, Oceanside, Tara follows her and if Oceanside has any defenses, they aren't any good because Tara walks right in.  She skulks around in the underbrush for a while, noticing that (a) there's only women in this encampment and (b) they have a substantial stockpile of guns and ammo.  And then she gets noticed and captured.

I'm guessing that the writers are using Tara as a little bit of comic relief because her lies are appallingly bad when her captors interrogate her about where she's from.  They aren't that rough on her, however, because she gets invited to dinner with the head of Oceanside and several others, including Cindy.  They invite her to stay with them because they don't want her going off and telling anyone else about their community.

They used to be in another place but Negan and the Saviors attacked them, killing all the males over the age of ten.  They ran and found this place, by the ocean with lots of food, and have been killing strangers ever since to protect themselves.  Tara's all, but I have a girlfriend [Ed.: oops] and I have to go back.  So they agree that one of them will go with her, ostensibly to check out Alexandria and see if it might be an ally.

In the morning, Tara, "Beatrice" and "Cathy" leave Oceanside, heading back to that bridge so Tara can maybe find Heath again.  En route, however, Tara figures out that the other two have been told to kill her once they're far enough from the community.  She makes a run for it and almost gets away before Beatrice catches her.

But Cindy has been tailing them and knocks Beatrice over the head, saving Tara's life again.  They go back to the bridge and Cindy says she'll help pick off the milling walkers so Tara can get across.  But first, she makes Tara swear (SWEAR) that she will keep Oceanside a secret.  Tara swears and then battles her way across the bridge, Cindy shooting as many zombies as she can before Beatrice and Cathy show up to take her back to Oceanside.

Once across the bridge, Heath is nowhere to be found but their RV is gone, leaving only ruts in the mud behind.  She shrugs hopefully and then starts walking back to Alexandria.  When she gets there and Eugene opens the gate for her, she has a big grin on her face - but he is only sad because he's the one who ends up telling her about Denise (off-screen).

Later, Rosita finds Tara sitting sadly in the clinic, mourning her murdered girlfriend.  Rosita's all, we have to fight back - all we need are lots of weapons and ammunition.  For a moment, Tara is quiet and we are all meant to think that she's going to give Oceanside up.  But she doesn't, honoring her promise to Cindy and instead telling Rosita that she didn't see anything like that out there.

I dunno.  It was okay, I guess.  It was nice to spend time with Tara, who we really hadn't gotten to know.  But this episode advanced the plot not at all.  Sigh.

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

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Walking Dead S7E5 "Go-Getters" 11/20/16

I almost just can't anymore with this show.  I'm starting to dread watching it and of the first five episodes, the one with Ezekiel and Carol was the only one I enjoyed, followed by the Daryl-centric one that I didn't enjoy but didn't find tedious and/or horrible.  This one, "Go-Getters," is tedious.  There is interminable talking.  So much talking.  Just going let you know that up front.

We're spending most of this week up at Hilltop, where Maggie and Sasha have come for Maggie's medical care.  (She's fine, by the way, just needs to stay off her feet for a while.)  They have also brought Glen and Abraham's bodies with them to Hilltop (why? why didn't the main group take them back to Alexandria?  Could Maggie and Sasha just not bear to say goodbye?) and buried them within the walls.  This proves to be a problem for Gregory, Hilltop's cowardly, sneering, weaselly leader.  He's all, we burn our dead, not bury them!  Plus, you have to leave because if Negan finds out that we're harboring you, it's bad news for everyone.  Jesus promises Maggie and Sasha that they can stay.

For a brief interlude back at Alexandria, Rick and Aaron head out on a scavenging run because the pressure is on to provide for Negan.  Both Michonne and Carl are at best ambivalent about the new state of things.  Michonne stalks out into the woods, telling Carl she needs to work through some shit.  Carl practices throwing darts and his aim is SHIT now because he only has one eye.  Heh.  Also, Enid decides she's going to walk to Hilltop to see how Maggie is doing.  Carl tries to talk her out of it but over the wall she goes.

Back at Hilltop, everyone is awoken in the middle of the night by a ruckus: apparently Hilltop doesn't post nighttime sentries because the Saviors have (1) opened the town's gates, (2) lit a bunch of bonfires and (3) brought in a car blasting music which (4) attracts all sorts of walkers.  Seriously, Hilltop?  No one is keeping watch?  Maggie and Sasha have been locked into their trailer for some reason (?) but climb out through a vent at the top.  The rest of the Hilltopians are COMPLETELY USELESS, even after Maggie shouts at them to get the gates closed.  So while Sasha and Jesus singlehandedly (doublehandedly) take down every single zombie - and there's a lot, so it's pretty badass - Maggie finds herself a tractor and runs over the music-blasting car until it is crunched into pieces and thus no longer blasting music.  They get the gates closed and everybody goes back to bed.

Carl takes a car and finds Enid (wrecking the car in the process, which seems wasteful) and accompanies her to Hilltop.  Along the way, they find rollerskates and skate together for a while, holdings hands.  It's cute, I guess, and shows that underneath it all they're still kids but it seems like an incredibly bad idea.  I mean, can you imagine fighting walkers on rollerskates?

In the morning, Simon, a Negan-surrogate, shows up at Hilltop with a small army.  Simon badgers Gregory for a while before sending the Saviors out to collect half of Hilltop's stuff.  Gregory, who is definitely a coward with a sense of self preservation, tries to curry favor with Simon by turning Maggie and Sasha over to him.  But Jesus has stashed them away in a different closet than Gregory thought, and all Gregory ends up doing is handing over his entire stash of scotch.

Outside the walls, Enid tells Carl that she knows he's out to kill Negan.  She thinks he shouldn't do it, not because that crazy asshole doesn't deserve it but because she's worried about how it might change him.  And they even smooch.  But he's not backing down so she sneaks into Hilltop and finds Maggie and Sasha and they all have grilled cheese and tomato soup together.

After the Saviors head out to load their trucks with their collected booty, Gregory and Jesus have words of sorts, Gregory insisting that Maggie and Sasha must go.  Jesus puts his foot down and Gregory's all, you know, if you want to be in charge you can, but you have to stick around and stop wandering outside the walls.  Jesus is all, no, I don't want to be in charge but these two are staying.  Gregory gives up and walks away.  Maggie and Sasha are all, that dude should not be in charge.  Jesus is like, I'm pretty sure I know who should be (with a knowing look at Maggie).  When Maggie heads off to rest, Sasha asks Jesus if he can find out where exactly Negan lives.  Seems like she's got the same idea as Carl.

So when the Savior trucks roll out, Jesus hops into the back of the one designated for Negan.  He helps himself to some of that scotch before starting to pour it out the back of the truck.  He is only slightly surprised when Carl pokes his head out from behind some boxes: "Hey."

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

Thursday, November 17, 2016

My favorite new show: Sweet/Vicious

Picture this:  a tiny blonde sorority girl and a tiny non-blonde tech whiz girl joins forces to fight monsters on campus.  First thing you thought of was Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Buffy and Willow, right?  Well add this to the pantheon:  MTV's new scripted series, Sweet/Vicious, about Jules (sorority girl) and Ophelia (drug dealer/hacker) who team up vigilante-superhero-style to take down the frat boy rapists at their college.  This time the monsters are people but that doesn't not stop our heroines from kicking all kinds of ass.  It's like if Veronica Mars teamed up with Buffy, minus the superpowers. 

To my great surprise (I mean, it's on MTV for hell's sake), I really like this show.  The first episode just aired on Tuesday but the first three episodes are available on demand.  It's funny and heartbreaking and very clear in its message opposing sexual assault against women.  And in the trying times that are now, it seems especially important.  I do not condone violence perpetrated against people but there is something imminently satisfying about watching young, entitled rapists getting the shit kicked out of them.

Image result for mtv sweet vicious

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Walking Dead S7E4 "Service" 11/13/16

Are you frigging kidding me?  It was utterly unnecessary to have an 85 minute episode for the itty-bitty amount of story that was covered.  Yes, it was a break from unmitigated misery but nothing happened and no-one's character got advanced much at all.  Too much of the Negan and Rick show: Negan is annoying and Andrew Lincoln is just not a good enough actor for such slow-paced focus.  This fucking show.  Seriously, though, when do we get to go back to the Kingdom, King Ezekiel and Shiva?

We are back in Alexandria, with the survivors of the Negan encounter trying to get their shit together after watching their friends get their heads beat in, and the other Alexandrians who weren't there not really understanding the severity of their situation.  Rick is like a sleepwalker.  Michonne, who has hidden a high-powered rifle up the chimney, sneaks out early to go stalking through the fields.  Rosita and Spenser get ready to go out on a scavenging tour in anticipation of Negan's visit later in the week.

Except Negan has decided not to wait for the week he promised them.  Instead, he has arrived at the gates with multiple trucks and lots of heavily armed Saviors and poor Daryl.  Rick opens the gate and Negan saunters in, saying that they aren't there for food - they've decided to come and take half of whatever else Alexandria may have.  And by "half" he means pretty much any damn thing he wants.  He prances around and intimidates Rick, making him carry Lucille as the Saviors move through the town, pulling out furniture and artwork and weapons and mattresses and medicine.  Dwight leers and paws at Rosita and sends her and Spenser out of town - sans guns - telling her to fetch back Daryl's motorcycle.  Rick tries to ask Daryl how he's doing and Negan is all NUH-UH you don't look at Daryl and you don't talk to Daryl or someone gets their head beat in.  Rick quivers into a jellyfish.  Plus, Negan asks Daryl if he wants to stay in Alexandria; Daryl is smart enough not to say anything and Rick's all, wow, they really did a number on him.

Out in that field, ostensibly out of earshot of Alexandria, Michonne wastes a huge number of bullets trying to take down one approaching zombie.  She is a terrible shot and ends up slicing its head in two.  Then, when she makes her way into the woods, she notes that one of her errant shots managed to take down a good-sized deer.  She looks sad about it but at least she can bring back some more food.

Out in the woods, Rosita and Spenser find Daryl's motorcyle, right where it was left when Denise got killed.  As Spenser gets it into the van, he bitches at Rosita about how Rick has fucked everything up and gotten all sorts of people killed and maybe they should have made a deal with Negan before everything got so dire.  Spenser is an asshole but he does have a point.  Rosita detours into the woods, finds a small herd of walkers and methodically takes them out with her hunting knife.  She picks over the newly-still corpses, finding a handgun on one of them.  No bullets, but still it's a gun.

Back in Alexandria Negan is SO ANNOYING that he's barely scary.  He talks and talks and talks and browbeats Rick, who glowers and tries not to glower and mopes.  There's a bit of a tense moment when Carl WHO NEEDS A FUCKING HAIRCUT OMG objects to the Saviors taking all of Alexandria's medicines.  But no one dies.  And then there's another tense moment when Negan cleans out Alexandria's armory and two guns that are listed on Olivia's inventory are missing.  Negan says that she's bad at her job and unless those two guns are found, he'll kill her.  So all the Alexandrians search all the houses and Rick finds the two guns in Spenser's house, hidden in an airduct with food and booze.  Rick brings the guns to Negan and no one dies.

Rosita and Spenser come back and hand over Daryl's motorcyle to Dwight.  Michonne comes back and Rick immediately gives Negan her rifle - which had not been on Olivia's inventory so Negan wasn't even looking for it.  Negan takes the deer too.  The Saviors roll out, Negan warning Rick that the Alexandrians better have something interesting for him when he comes back next week for their payment.

After they're gone, Spenser has the temerity to talk some smack to Rick about Glen and Abraham (asshole move since he wasn't even there).  Rick, proving that he's not entirely a jellyfish, growls that if Spenser says anything like that to him again, he'll break Spenser's jaw and knock out all his teeth.  Prediction: Spenser's mouth will get him in trouble and he dies before the season ends.  Rosita goes to see Eugene and, handing him an empty casing, asks him to make her a bullet.  Michonne is obviously upset with the life that is now in front of them and upset with Rick for refusing to stand up to Negan.  Rick begs her to try to accept things as they are.  He can't take anyone else dying on his watch.  Her eyes soften and she promises to try.  But later, a frustrated Michonne goes back out to her field to see if there are any zombies she can skewer.  There aren't, but she sees smoke: the Saviors have dumped all the mattresses they took from the Alexandrians on the road and set fire to them, just to be complete assholes.

That's the general gist.  There was a scene with all the Alexandrians in the church and Rick making a speech about how they can't fight the Saviors; and Father Gabriel cleverly digs a fake grave and puts a Maggie headstone on it (she's been taken to Hilltop, remember, for medical help), so that Negan thinks she's dead and doesn't go looking for her.  But if I've missed anything, I'm sorry - I just couldn't bear to watch the whole thing again other than in fast-forward.

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

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Walking Dead S7E3 "The Cell" 11/6/16

And here we are, back again for more misery a la The Walking Dead.  Actually, this episode isn't as unrelentingly horrific as the first one - I mean, christ, it's just zombies.  It's not like it's actually scary these days.

This recap will go pretty quickly.  Here's what happens in a nutshell: Negan keeps Daryl in a cell with Dwight as his keeper.  They try to break him but during the process we actually get to learn Dwight's motivation and feel some sympathy for him.  That's it.  And we have to spend a whole episode getting there.

To start, a musical montage:  to the jaunty tune of "A Town Called Malice," Dwight goes about his days, taking what he wants from less fortunate Saviors.  They all make sure to kneel down when Negan comes through though.  There's a fence where various walkers are fastened, by chains or impalement, or what have you.  It looks either like a psychological deterrent for Negan's people or possibly a line of defense.  Could be both.  After watching those captive walkers for a while, Dwight feeds a naked and filthy captive Daryl a dog food sandwich.

We also get to spend some time with Daryl, in his dank, dark cell with a terrible, cheerful song being pumped in night and day so he just can't sleep.  That fucking song ("On Easy Street") almost drives me crazy and I only have to put up with it for less than one episode.  Darryl doesn't look so good.  He's exhausted and starving and shaking and won't look his captors in the eye.  He gets a doctor's check-up and en route there a girl - Dwight's wife from that episode when she and Dwight stole Daryl's motorcycle and crossbow - tries to talk to Daryl, offer some words of warning.  He barely looks like he comprehends anything, although on the way back to his cell, he perks up a little watching the fence of walkers with other prisoners tending to them.  Dwight grabs him, shoving his face into the fence:  "That's you, asshole, unless you're smart.  Your choice.  You can be like them, or me, or them."

Later, when Dwight volunteers to go track down a Savior runaway, Daryl takes advantage of the substitute keeper who (1) forgets to restart "On Easy Street" and (2) doesn't quite latch the cell door.  Daryl tries the door and sneaks out.  Dwight's wife sees him and cautions him against it, saying that she tried to run once and when she was brought back, it was much, much worse.  Daryl is determined, however, and makes it outside to where a bunch of motorcycles are parked.  He frantically runs from bike to bike, trying to start one of them.  But it's a set-up:  Negan and a bunch of thugs come into the courtyard behind him.  Negan offers Daryl a chance to join him, to be one of his guys, to live better than the rest, not to be tied to earning like the others.  All he has to do is give the right answer when Negan asks what his name is.  And the right answer is "Negan."  Daryl isn't ready to say anything, however, so Negan's thugs beat him up a bit before tossing him back in his cell.

Meanwhile, Dwight stupidly gets caught out under an overpass when zombies fall off the edge and on top of him.  His motorcycle gets dented and he is forced to fight for his life.  Obviously he's distracted because someone with his experience shouldn't have been caught like that - there were splattered and broken zombies all over the road, for chrissakes.  He finally catches up to the guy who has run away.  The guy begs Dwight to let him go, asks Dwight to come with him, saying that life under Negan is no life at all - after everything Negan did to Dwight's wife?  Dwight says shut up, she's not my wife.  Other guy: Not anymore.  The other guy is desperate, saying it's okay if Dwight kills him but he just can't go back.  Dwight, looking pretty desperate himself:  "You will [go back], it's the only way."  The other guy pleads with him, then turns around, his back to Dwight, and Dwight raises his gun and sorrowfully shoots him.

When Dwight gets back, he stops by to see Daryl,  reminding him that he's the one who got [Glenn] killed and that he, Darryl, should himself be dead except that Negan's taken a shine to him.  He leaves Daryl with a Polaroid of Glenn's smushed head for a keepsake.  This, plus a new song ("Crying Over You") makes Daryl cry.  Sometime later, Negan calls Dwight and Daryl to his room.  There's a lot of talking in which we learned that after Dwight and Sherry (his wife) stole Daryl's cycle and bow, they were recaptured by Negan.  Negan put a hot iron to Dwight's face and appropriated his "superhot" wife, but now - according to Negan - they're cool and Dwight is one of Negan's lieutenants.  So yadda yadda yadda (Negan really likes to hear himself talk), Negan wants to know if Daryl is ready to join up.  "What's your name?" snarls Negan.  Daryl: "Daryl."  Dwight's all, jesusfuckingchristwhatareyoudoing? But Negan's all, it's cool, he made his choice - ain't my problem if it's a dumbass choice.

Dwight throws Daryl back into his cell, shouting, "You're going to end up in this room or on that fence!"  He seems genuinely upset that Daryl won't save himself.  Daryl, who up until this point has said about three words all episode, looks up at him: "I get why you did it, why you took it.  You were thinkin' about someone else.  That's why I can't."  Dwight slams the cell door and goes out to stare at the fence of walkers.  There's a new one chained there: the guy Dwight had been sent to fetch back, clearly killed by a shot through the back.  Dwight was right.  That guy did come back.

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

Friday, November 4, 2016

The Delayed Dead

The next recap of The Walking Dead will be a little late next week - Wednesday at the earliest.  But I figure that's okay as we've got enough of a horror show with the days coming up to, as well as the actual, election.  Courage, mes amis!  We'll be back with the less-scary zombie apocalypse soon enough.

Monday, October 31, 2016

The Walking Dead S7E2 "The Well" 10/30/16

Thank goodness for this episode: I don't think I could have stood another one full of unrelenting nihilistic misery.  All hail King Ezekiel!

A semi-conscious Carol is being carried on a horse-drawn cart, led by the football pad-wearing fellows who rescued her and Morgan from the end of last season.  Morgan is with her, marking out their passage on trees and mailbox posts.  It isn't all smooth sailing: they are attacked by a herd of walkers, tipping the cart over.  A limping, weak Carol wanders away from the carnage.  In her delirium, she sees real people in the faces of all the zombies coming at her.  As she collapses, more people on horseback show up, helping to put down the rest of the walkers.  They gather her and Morgan up and take them home.

Carol remains unconscious for a couple of days.  When she wakes up, Morgan is by her side in a town called the Kingdom.  It is ridiculously clean and well provided for, with windchimes and raised bed gardens and a choir and horseback riding lessons.  It makes Alexandria look like a shantytown.  Carol is immediately skeptical, assuming these people cannot fight and do not know of the dangers outside their walls.  Now that she is better, Morgan takes her to meet the leader of the Kingdom.  He hilariously dances around telling her anything about this guy.

And it's a good thing too because she certainly wouldn't have believed him:  King Ezekiel, a courtly, dreadlocked, Shakespeare-in-the-Park-sounding dude.  With a giant tiger.  Carol stares, open-mouthed.  Morgan, embarrassed: "Yeah, I forgot to say that Ezekiel has a tiger."  Best character introduction ever.

Carol canNOT believe this guy, with his pseudo-British accent and his giant fucking tiger, Shiva.  She pulls herself together, though, and puts on her very best smiling, grateful, overwhelmed act.  "I don't know what the hell's going on in the most wonderful way!" she exclaims, grinning like a madwoman.  Ezekiel tells her that she and Morgan are more than welcome to stay in the Kingdom in exchange for their contributions.  He is very welcoming, offering free apples and pomegranates, all of which she turns down with a smile, saying she still needs rest.  Outside, Carol, to Morgan:  "You're shitting me, right?  This place is a damn circus! I can't be here."  She tells him that she'll leave, just as soon as she can and as soon as he's not looking.  He insists that he can't let her go to her death and she says to him that it really isn't up to him.

Later, Ezekiel, Richard (seemingly Ezekiel's right hand man), Morgan and some other Kingdomites go into town and round up some feral pigs, shutting them in a garage bay with a chained up walker.  Morgan asks what the walker is for and Richard replies that he wants their bellies "full of rot."  This is clear later: after killing and butchering the pigs, Ezekiel, Richard, Morgan et als. hand the pigs over to some of Negan's Saviors as their weekly tribute.  (Richard is being passive-aggressive by feeding the zombie-fed pigs to the Saviors.)  There is a little tension between a Savior and Richard but luckily it doesn't amount to full-on violence between the two small groups.  Morgan asks Ezekiel why the king wanted him along - was it because he fought the Saviors before?  No, says Ezekiel, it's because he knew Morgan wouldn't fight them this time.

Life goes on in the Kingdom.  Morgan contributes by teaching young Ben (the son of a now-deceased friend of Ezekiel) how to fight with the bowstaff.  Carol continues her deception, cheerily chatting Kingdomites up while scavenging clothing and knives.  There's a lot more talking going on, of course, but I just can't be bothered with it.  King Ezekiel's charm only goes so far, even with me.

One evening, Morgan takes Carol some dinner and he finds her room empty.  He is not surprised.  She can't quite leave without taking some fruits from the Kingdom orchard, however, and it is here that Ezekiel finds her.  He encourages her to talk to him before she leaves them so suddenly.  She starts her sweet little thing act up and he calls her on it: never bullshit a bullshitter.  He tells her that he fell for her innocent act at first.  She drops it, saying that he's a joke, the Kingdom is a joke - it's outside that's real, he's selling these people a fairytale.  His pseudo-British accent fades away as he says that people want someone to believe in and people with something to believe in are less dangerous.  People saw a guy with a tiger and built him up into their leader: "I faked it 'til I made it."  He was just a community theater-loving zookeeper who bonded with an injured Shiva before the zombies came.  After the zombie apocalypse, after he had lost everything, he went back to the zoo and she was still there, and she's never left his side since then.  To his credit, Carol listens to him and believes him, understanding his story.  He asks her to keep his secret - his people need to believe in him - and says that if she does, maybe he can help her to leave without leaving.

So what they do is this:  with Morgan along to see that she makes it, Carol goes outside the Kingdom walls and sets herself up in a tidy little gated house not far away.  She doesn't want to be inside with people, doesn't want the responsibility for anyone but herself, doesn't want connections with anyone.  But in this house, she can be alone without being too far from help should she really need it.  Morgan asks if this is what she really wants.  It is.  He understands.  She says that it's good they made it because a few more minutes and she might start to regret all the times she tried to shoot and stab him.  He smiles and tells her that she's his favorite person that he's ever knocked out - definitely top two or three.  It's nice that they've made peace with each other, especially since they're two of the best characters on this frigging show.

Some time later, after Carol has killed and buried the zombie that had been trapped in the house, and cleaned the place up, and lit a fire, there's a knock on the front door.  She is wary and then she hears a deep feline snarl.  It's Ezekiel and Shiva.  He's got a pomegranate and says with a charming grin, "You've really got to try one of these!"  Carol doesn't want to but she can't help smiling a little back at him.

Ezekiel (and Shiva) are totally my new favorites.  I'm pretty sure that dooms them to terrible deaths by the end of this season but for now, they are a much-needed injection of hope, humor and humanity in this dirgeful show.

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

Seventh Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series #17: The Relic

Here we are, on Halloween, with scary movie #17 for this year's Scarelicious October Movie Series.  And what better way to close out the month with a good ol' creature feature? Well, two out of three ain't bad.  1997's The Relic is an older movie, for sure, and it's a monster movie.  But good?  I wouldn't call it that.

Just before the grand opening of a fancy new exhibit on superstition, the Chicago Museum of Natural History receives a shipment of crates from their resident anthropologist, on assignment in deepest, darkest Brazil.  The crates contain the pieces of a relic - the demon-god of a lost South American tribe - and a bunch of leaves.  Also arriving at the museum, concurrent with this shipment, is a horrific monster, a giant bug/lizard/something else, that needs to eat human brains.  It is up to Dr. Margo Green (Penelope Ann Miller), the museum's evolutionary biologist (a/k/a Scully), and Lieutenant Vincent D'Augusta (Tom Sizemore), a superstitious Chicago cop (a/k/a Mulder), to take down the beastly critter.  But not before it wreaks havoc at the museum's fundraising gala, unfortunately.

As other reviewers have noted, The Relic is basically an X-Files episode writ large, albeit with creature effects by Oscar- and Emmy-winning effects legend, Stan Winston.  It's a dumb, dark (in lighting, not tone) movie, and although the creature is fond of decapitating its victims, it is not at all scary.  Penelope Ann Miller's heroine starts off skeptical, then gets shrieky, and then sciences the shit out of the monster, which turns out pretty badass.  But still, even though I did like the monster,  The Relic is a mediocre movie at best.
Image result for the relic

There you have it.  Seventeen! By far the most scary movies watched since this feature debuted - truly Netflix is of great help in making more movies available more quickly. There was the good (The Babadook, I Am the Pretty Thing that Lives in the House, Unfriended, We Are What We Are), the bad (Bad Milo!, All Cheerleaders Die) and the downright awful (Final Girl).  It's been a great month and I've already started collecting titles for next year's Eighth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Seventh Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series #16: I Am the Pretty Thing that Lives in the House

I'm not really sure how to talk about I Am the Pretty Thing that Lives in the House, a lovely little ghost story just released on Netflix the day before yesterday.  There's not much plot but there is a whole lot of detail and atmosphere and I suspect that if I'd rewatched it immediately after finishing it the first time, I would have picked up on a lot more.

Lily is a hospice nurse who has come to the old house at the end of Teacup Road to care for Iris Blum, the failing author of lurid books, the kinds sold in airports.  It isn't clear from the costuming when this story is set but there are rotary phones, VCRs and big boxy cars, so perhaps the 1980s.  The house itself is beautiful: old and plain, New England style, with wide floorboards and no adornments.  Lily tells us directly, in voiceover, at the start of the movie, that she will die before this year's service to her patient is up.  It doesn't take long for the subtle hauntings to start: mold, reflections, a carpet that won't lie flat.  Iris calls Lily "Polly," the main character in her best-selling novel, The Lady in the Walls, and that book is written as though Polly told the author the story of her death.  The ghostly apparitions we glimpse are of a pretty young woman in period apparel, walking quietly through the house; we see a flashback of that young woman being attacked by a grim-looking man.  We also see flashbacks of Iris as a young woman, writing Polly's story.  By the end, it isn't clear who is a ghost at what time.  But a line from the beginning of the movie - "A house with a death in it can never again be bought or sold by the living.  It can only be borrowed from the ghosts who have stayed behind." - holds true.

I Am the Pretty Thing that Lives in the House will not appeal to people looking for a haunted house movie with action or a lot of twisty plot or even jump scares, screaming and rattling chains.  It will, however, appeal to people who prefer atmosphere and creeping dread and pretty shots and ambiguity with their ghosts.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Seventh Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series #15: The Signal

A much easier watch for me - much less suspenseful and squirm-inducing!  I give you: The Signal (2007), a funky little movie in three parts (or "Transmissions"), each written and directed by a different writer/director, like V/H/S or the Tarantino/Rodriquez Grindhouse, although the parts are all closely intertwined.

In Transmission I, Maya has overslept.  She snuck out to see her lover, lying to her husband that she was going out for dinner and drinks with "the girls," and after their tryst, she fell asleep for a while.  She is woken up when Ben shuts off the t.v., which is glitching and swirling with weird images and static.  He asks her to leave her husband, saying that they could leave town (the town is named "Terminus" which (1) why even bother naming the town? and (2) anyone who watches the Walking Dead knows that towns called Terminus are never good), just go to "Terminal 13 and get on a train."  Maya loves Ben but can't quite leave her husband yet.  However, when she gets home, she realizes that the weird signal from the t.v. has turned everyone who was watching into paranoid, violent killing machines, including her already insanely jealous husband Lewis.  Maya gets the fuck out of there.  In Transmission II, we are attending what should have been a New Year's Eve party where Anna, the hostess, at first has a hard time wrapping her head around the fact that the world has just gone crazy.  It gets crazier when Maya crashes her car out front in an attempt to get away from a t.v.-crazy, and then even more insane when Lewis shows up, searching for his wife.  Finally, in Transmission III, we follow Ben as he tries to find Maya.  Lewis is the through-line through all three Transmissions, tracking and attacking Ben from Anna's party to Terminal 13.

Nothing in The Signal is particularly new or groundbreaking.  You can easily pick out the references and influences, from Japanese horror movies and Stephen King's Cell (in which technology does bad things to people), to the 28 Days/Weeks Later movies (with the rage-crazies; see also The Crazies, since no one is actually a zombie).  But it is well acted and moves along, each Transmission both picking up from and overlapping with the others.  Transmission I is more straight-forward horror, Transmission II is funnier and Transmission III finishes on a pretty grim note.  The Signal as a whole is plain ol' violence and gore; there's not much suspense and hardly any jump scares, so I liked it just fine.

Image result for the signal 2007

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Seventh Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series #14: The Pact

I know right where I found The Pact: the A.V. Club's recent article on the scariest opening scenes in horror movie history.  Indeed, I was squirming in my chair throughout the movie, watching through my fingers and even taking my glasses off at some point so I could only vaguely, blurrily see what was going on across the room on the t.v.

Annie (Caity Lotz, the CW's own Sarah Lance) and Nicole have recently lost their mother.  Older sister Nicole is at the house, preparing for the funeral, going through her mother's things.  She calls her sister but Annie doesn't want to come home - she has very unpleasant memories of growing up in that house.  Frustrated, Nicole facetimes her daughter.  The wifi signal is spotty (stealing from the neighbor) and when the little girl can finally see her mother, she asks:  "Mommy, who is that behind you?"  There is, of course, no one there but that night, Nicole disappears.  The reluctant Annie shows up for the funeral, at which point her sister has been missing for days.  When Annie, her little niece and the cousin who is babysitting for Nicole spend the night in Annie's mother's house, Liz disappears too and an unseen force attacks Annie.  She grabs the little girl and goes straight to the police, who all think she's nuts except for one detective (a surprisingly grizzled Casper van Dien).  Annie begins to investigate WTF is going on in that house, even enlisting the help of a young psychic who conveniently went to her high school.  There is something hidden in the walls of that house and Annie, screwing up her courage, is going to uncover it, for better or worse.

This is why I was VERY uncomfortable watching The Pact:  too many characters, walking alone through the house with the camera following them from behind, tension building and building ... it was effectively unsettling for me since I am a jumpy person.  Monster movies I can do.  Haunted houses with unseen things that go bump - ugh.  Excerpts from my notes:  "YIKES"   "- something in the closet -"   "CAN'T WATCH"   "Get the fuck out"   "OMG THIS MOVIE"   "HATE THIS MOVIE"

I do have a question about the title:  What exactly was the pact and who made it?  Otherwise, well played little scary movie, well played.

Image result for the pact

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Seventh Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series #13: Ava's Possessions

After Ava get exorcised (in the opening moments of Ava's Possessions), she has to put her life back together: during the twenty-eight days she was possessed, the demonic spirit insider her really wreaked havoc: sleeping with friends' boyfriends, attacking people, causing all kinds of property damage.  Her family immediately starts nagging her about her shitty apartment and needing to take care of herself.  Her boyfriend dumps her.  She gets fired from her job.  Her friends don't want to see her.  Her lawyer, hired to deal with the multiple counts (see above) on which she's been indicted, gives her the available options:  (1) jail; (2) psych ward; or (3) Spirit Possession Anonymous, a program like AA that helps the de-possessed deal with their recent issues.

Her sponsor is firm about the depth of her involvement in the SPA program.  There's a huge manual to read; there are group sessions, role-playing and required making-of-amends; drinking and practicing of black magic are forbidden. As Ava starts making the rounds to find out what exactly she did while under the influence of her demon as that she can make up for it, it becomes clear that her family is hiding something from her.  What's not clear:  whether that something is something she did or something they did.

Despite the demons, Ava's Possessions isn't much of a horror movie.  There is a little blood, a little demon make-up but nothing actually scary.  It's pretty funny in parts too, particularly Ava's wry responses to learning what her demon had been up to during the posession period.  A couple of marginally interesting notes:  Carol Kane has a cameo as a hedge-witch; and Sean Lennon did the music for the movie.

 Image result for ava's possessions

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Walking Dead S7E1 "The Day Will Come When You Won't Be" 10/23/16

When we left off: Maggie was sick and so everyone even vaguely important decided they should get in the RV and take her to the Hilltop doctor.  But Negan captures them and at the end of the last episode, they - Glenn, Rosita, Daryl, Michonne, Maggie, Abraham, Rick, Carl, Sasha, Aaron and Eugene - were all on their knees in front of him.  We got a POV of Negan bashing someone in the head with his barbed wire-wrapped baseball bat ("Lucille") and then cut to black.

When we pick back up:  Glenn, Rosita, Daryl, Michonne, Maggie, Abraham, Rick, Carl, Sasha, Aaron and Eugene are on their knees in front of Negan.  To save both you and me a LOT of time, I'm just going to tell you that MOST of this episode is Negan talking and talking and talking and talking.  Jeffrey Dean Morgan is obviously having a REALLY good time but it just goes on and on and one, Negan being jocularly terrifying and playing mind games with Rick, psychologically beating him down and down.  You see, Rick makes the mistake of telling Negan that some day, not today, not tomorrow, but someday, he is going to kill Negan.

And Negan is not having any of it.  He is going to break Rick and he's going to do it in front of everyone, so everyone knows that there's just no point in going up against him.  Thus the talking and talking and talking, some of which takes place away from the rest of the group, as Negan drags Rick off into the RV and drives him out to the middle of nowhere in a bunch of zombies.  And talks and talks and threatens and chuckles and talks and talks and throws an axe out the door and tells Rick to fetch it back for him.  And Rick fights the zombies and is having flashbacks to all his friends.

And he's having a flashback to the night before and then finally TWENTY MINUTES INTO THE DAMN EPISODE we finally see who Negan bludgeons to death with Lucille.  It's Abraham.  And it is gruesome and gory.  And if anyone in the audience knew anything about Abraham, really cared about him, and hadn't been jerked around by this stupid show playing games with us, we would be sad.  But it's just gruesome.

After Negan grinds Abraham's brains into paste, Daryl jumps up and throws himself at the man, getting one punch in before Negan's men subdue him.  "Oh my!  That is a no-no! The whole thing - not one bit of that shit flies here!"  The men drag Daryl back into place and Negan resumes, grinning and strutting and talking, reminding them all that he said the first one's free and then "I will shut that shit down ... I'm a man of my word and I need you to know me.  So, back to it!"

And at this I actually gasped out loud, which I haven't done with this show since I don't know when: Negan unexpectedly pounds Lucille into Glenn's head without warning.  If you thought Abraham's bludgeoning was horrific, this is even worse.  It is awful, violent and gory unlike anything this show has ever done.  I suppose we all knew Glenn's days were numbered - in the comics, Negan indeed beats Glenn to death in front of pregnant Maggie - but this is shocking.  But again, after the Glenn's death fakeout last season, and the fact that Glenn had very little character development other than being the group's moral center, I just don't care all that much.  It just surprised me.

Back in the now, out of the flashback, Negan brings Rick back to the group and talks and talks and talks and decides he still sees a challenge in Rick's eyes so he brings Carl out in front of the group and puts the axe in Rick's hand and tells him that either Rick cuts Carl's arm off or Negan will kill Carl and the rest of our gang here, plus everyone else back at Alexandria.  Carl begs his dad to just do it and Rick breaks, wailing and blubbering and begging Negan to take his arm instead and then he's going to do it and Negan has mercy (of a sort) and doesn't make Rick do it.  He tells Rick et als. that he's going to leave them now and that he'll come by in a week to see the offerings they've collected for him.  And then he and his army just up and leave (one guy stops to take a photo of Glenn's smushed head first), taking Daryl with them because Negan has decided he likes Daryl's spirit.

The last few minutes are just Rick's group - the few that are left - crying and burying their dead.  Sasha says she'll take Maggie to Hilltop to see the doctor; the rest of them, dazed and broken and completely in shock, head back to Alexandria.

And this whole fucking episode is basically my two least favorite things about The Walking Dead: talking and talking and talking plus being Rick-centric.  Just ugh.  On the plus side, Jeffrey Dean Morgan is a wonderfully evil - if woefully verbose - villain.

Look, I get it.  I do.  The show has finally brought its violence and misery up to the level of the comics.  (Which, incidentally, I gave up on after the first omnibus because of the horrific violence and unrelenting misery.)  But this show is just no longer fun to watch and hasn't been for a long time.  I am hopeful that the introduction of new communities and new characters - what's up with that tiger? I am VERY hopeful about that tiger - will both broaden and deepen the story.  Otherwise it's just a dirgeful sadness-sufferfest punctuated by brutal violence.  And the shocking violence isn't even earned because none of the characters are allowed to develop and we the audience are only attached to them due to their respective longevity.  This show should do better.  I love zombies but I'm really starting to dislike The Walking Dead.

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

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Seventh Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series #12: Excision

I can't recall where I heard about Excision (2012) - some list of underappreciated little horror flicks, I imagine.  Starring Annalynne McCord (feral-looking and 180 degrees from her role in the CW's 90210 redo), this is a darkly comic teen movie for 95% of the time.  And then it just goes horrifically dark.

Pauline (McCord) is a pimple-studded, unwashed loner, shunned by her high school classmates and completely befuddling to her suburban parents.  She plots to lose her virginity to a popular boy, dissects roadkill, fights with her mother and begs to see a real psychiatrist (not just the free sessions with the family's pastor).  She pierces and cuts herself.  She has disturbing and vaguely glamorous sex dreams about corpses, gore and mutilation.  And her one goal is to become a surgeon so she can save her little sister, the one person she loves, from cystic fibrosis.  Her sister needs a lung transplant.  Can you see where this is headed?

This little movie has a surprisingly impressive cast too: Traci Lords and Roger Bart as Pauline's parents; Ariel Winter as her sister Grace; John Waters as the pastor; Marlee Matlin as a cotillion instructor; Ray Wise as the high school principal; and Malcolm McDowell as Pauline's math teacher.  I don't know where I found Excision but I'm pretty happy that I did.

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Friday, October 21, 2016

Seventh Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series #11: Carrie (1976)

Ah, a classic: Brian De Palma's 1976 retelling of Stephen King's Carrie!  This movie really needs no introduction or discussion but because I've suffered through so many dogs this October, I wanted to revisit it just briefly.  Because this one is a really good one.

First of all, Carrie is chock-full of now-recognizable names who were just fresh faced babies in 1976:  Sissy Spacek (Carrie White), Amy Irving (good girl Sue), William Katt (popular boy Tommy, and later The Greatest American Hero), John Travolta (bad boy Billy), PJ Soles (mean girl/tomboy Norma), Betty Buckley (Miss Collins, later the mom on Eight is Enough) and Piper Laurie (Carrie's mom, Margaret White).

Second, I'm not going to recap the story because we all know the story (and if you don't, you should fix that right away).  But here are my notes from watching it:

  • Piper Laurie as Carrie's mom is TERRIFYING
  • Was that English teacher in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest?  [he was]
  • William Katt has AMAZING hair
  • Everyone is soooo skinny
  • Travolta's accent is so bad
  • srsly William Katt's hair
  • When Tommy is nice to Carrie at the prom, it's really quite lovely
  • The prom starts out so pretty and sweet that when the HELL finally breaks loose, it's all the more shocking
Looking back on this iconic movie now, I find it hard to watch it with a critical eye because I love it so much.  All of it.  The seventies of it, Sissy Spacek really selling how terrorized she was by her mother, the tiny moments of people being nice to Carrie, the brutal bullying by the mean girls.  I do imagine, however, that back in 1976 it was fairly shocking - especially to those moviegoers who weren't familiar with the book - the horrible dousing with the bucket of blood and Carrie's subsequent transformation into a vengeance demon.  Up until that point, Carrie is really the victim and even afterwards, after everyone dies a bloody and/or flaming death, it's still hard to blame her.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Seventh Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series #10: Unfriended

In Unfriended, a group of teenagers get together for an online call session on the one-year anniversary of the post-cyberbullying-induced suicide of a friend of theirs.  Almost immediately, they notice that there's an unidentified stranger piggybacked onto their session, lurking silently at first.  They try to hang up on him and when they are unable to, simply ignore him.  Soon enough, they are getting increasingly threatening Facebook posts and messages from their dead friend and before long, the urban myth that responding to a dead friend's messages online will cause your death, well, that myth becomes a reality.

Unfriended is actually a clever variation of the found footage/documentary style horror movie that has been afflicting us for the last few years.  The movie is entirely in real time and from the point of view of the laptop of Blair, one of the girls involved, switching from screen to screen as she clicks between Facebook, Messenger, Chatroulette, Spotify, email, YouTube, etc.  You see these kids in their FaceTime (?) feeds and whenever the streaming causes the video to freeze up, it starts to get tense since the viewer (us, the audience, and them, the kids in the online session) can't see what's going on.

I had just a couple quibbles with this flick.  A lot of what is onscreen is text (FB posts, instant messages) and even with my television, it was sometimes difficult to read - I suspect it would be clearer either on a large format movie screen or up close on an iPad/laptop.  And once the deaths started happening, the cause wasn't clear - was it the unrestful spirit of their dead friend or something else?  Unfriended isn't particularly scary - there are a few quick shots of brutal violence/death - but what is the most frightening is that it shows how terrible cyberbullying is and how easily someone's online life can be hijacked.  Makes me glad that the internet didn't exist when I was in high school.

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Monday, October 17, 2016

Seventh Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series #9: We Are What We Are

Note: This We Are What We Are is the American remake/re-imagining, not the Mexican original.  I didn't even realize there had been a Mexican original until after I watched this one and read some reviews of it.  Apparently they're quite different, except for the basic theme.  SPOILERS AHEAD.

The Parkers are your basic reclusive, southern rural, extra-religious family who, despite their strange ways, are accepted in their community (if not exactly embraced).  The two teenage girls, Iris and Rose, both of whom are quite pretty in a fragile, pale blonde way, go to the public high school; I at first incorrectly assumed they were home-schooled due to their very old fashioned clothes.  When the matriarch of the family collapses while running errands in town, hitting her head and drowning in a rain-swollen ditch, it throws the whole family into turmoil as eldest daughter Iris is expected to take her mother's role in the family's rituals.  This includes the killing, butchering and making into dinner of local girls.  Iris is troubled by this but not enough to refuse her father's insistence; younger sister Rose rebels, wanting to run away; their little brother, scarcely more than a baby, thinks the girls chained in the basement are "monsters" since they weep and wail and scratch at the door of their cell.  Back in town, the sheriff and the local doctor begin to investigate all the missing girls and I'm not going to say any more because I did NOT expect the climactic scene to turn out as it did and want to save it for you.

This is another creepy, atmospheric but not really scary, horror movie.  It's smarter than your average B movie but could perhaps use just a little more oomph to perk up the languid pace.  It is raining throughout the movie, downpouring at times, and that adds a nice visual to things: damp and dim with smeary outlines, curtains of water hiding things.  The family patriarch is quite a disturbing figure but the non-family characters don't get much in the way of development.  If you like to be creeped out and disturbed without much gore, We Are What We Are is a good way to spend an hour and a half.
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Saturday, October 15, 2016

Seventh Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Serives #8: When Animals Dream

When Animals Dream, a Danish import (with English subtitles), is an atmospheric take on a female-centric monster movie.  It is quiet, beautiful and dreamy, all pale colors and cold temperatures.

Marie is a solitary late teenager, out of school but still living at home in a tiny Danish fishing village.  She helps her father take care of her invalid mother - heavily sedated and stuck in a wheelchair - and starts a new job at a fish-packing plant.  She goes to the local doctor when she finds strange new patches of hair on her body.  Later, she catches her father shaving her mother's furry back and starts making the connections.  Her mother is kept heavily drugged to repress her aggression and transmutation.  It's genetic.  And the townspeople know this: they insist on Marie's mother's sedation and at her new job, Marie's coworkers harass her terribly.  After a night on the town, when Marie ends up having sex with one of the few friendly guys at work, her father and the doctor corner her in her room, trying to forcibly sedate her, to push the transmutation back into remission.  But Marie has had enough.  Her nature is to wolf out and she's not going to deny it any longer.

I've read some reviews comparing When Animals Dream to the original Let the Right One In (Scandinavian vampire movie with a sympathetic female lead) and the Ginger Snaps movies (Canadian werewolf movies with sympathetic female leads), and it definitely has some similarities.  When Animals Dream is much quieter than those movies however, barely springing into any action or violence, showing utmost restraint with the gnashing and rending and bleeding.  I liked it because it felt like a smarter movie than much of what I've seen recently, and it definitely falls into the Under the Skin category of atmospheric, barely-horrific horror movies.
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Thursday, October 13, 2016

Seventh Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series #7: Bloodsucking Bastards

Shaun of the Dead plus Office Space plus BtVS = Bloodsucking Bastards.  You could do much, much worse - and I have.

Evan Sanders (Fran Kranz, Dollhouse, Cabin in the Woods) is having a rough time of it.  He is the acting sales manager at a telesales company, with an apathetic sales team comprised of bros and weirdos.  His girlfriend just dumped him and she works in the same office so he sees her all the time.  Just when he thinks he's going to be promoted to sales manager, his boss hires someone from outside: Max (Pedro Pascal, the Viper from Game of Thrones), Evan's douchey nemesis from college.  And just to rub salt in the wounds: Max is a vampire and he's on a recruitment tear.

Bloodsucking Bastards is a lightweight horror comedy.  It's pretty funny and has buckets of blood but is never actually scary.  It's clearly lower budget than Shaun of the Dead or Slither, and yet has its own charms.  The characters are actually well-developed and the way they act makes sense for who they are and the universe they inhabit.  I'm not sure it's ever found much of an audience but I'm glad I found it: its cheerfully bloody tone has encouraged me to press on with scary (or, "scary") movies for the second half of October.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Seventh Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series #6: Bad Milo!

I am really scraping the bottom of the barrel here.  I have got to find something that is both scary and good, or at least not awful.  Bad Milo had some promise:  a Duplass Brothers production, this horror comedy has a great cast, including Ken Marino (who looks really good here), Gillian Jacobs, Patrick Warburton, Mary Kay Place, Stephen Root and Peter Stormare.

Duncan (Marino) is a very nice guy who is under a lot of stress.  His boss (Warburton) is making him do the round of layoffs and also has just stolen everybody's money.  His wife Sara (Jacobs) wants to have a baby.  His mom (Place) has a sexed-up boytoy second husband who wants Duncan to call him "dad."  A fertility doctor, hired by his mom, is convinced Duncan has ED.  And his dad (Root) abandoned him and his mom when Duncan was just little and is living off the grid somewhere, smoking a lot of dope.  All of this stress and anxiety has manifested itself as ... a giant, sentient, detachable butt polyp with shark teeth and a penchant for popping out of Duncan's butt to eviscerate his enemies.

Now, normally I love monster movies, especially ones with practical effect monsters.  But I just cannot get behind [pun intended] a rectal polyp monster.  This is a middling sort of movie, not committing to being really funny or really gory or really making fun of anything.  The cast is strong and game, given the potty humor they're given, but Bad Milo! is just unnecessary.  It's not terrible enough to be offensive but it's pretty pointless.

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Sunday, October 9, 2016

Seventh Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series #5: Pod

My notes, before the movie starts:  Well, at the worst it's only 1 hour and 18 minutes.

In Pod, there are three siblings: Martin, Ed and Lila.  Martin is a vet, struggling with PTSD and living "in the middle of nowhere" which is actually the coast of Maine.  Ed is a doctor and Lila is a millennial with a bit of a drinking problem.  This is all the characterization you will get for these three.  After receiving a disturbing voicemail from Martin, Ed and Lila drive up to make sure their brother is okay.  He isn't: he has covered the interior of the tidy little coastal cottage with foil, is paranoid, ranting and raving, has pulled out some of his own teeth and shaved his head, and claims to have been experimented on when he was in the army.  Oh, and he says he's got a "pod" locked in the basement, which creature killed his dog and scratched him up something fierce, infecting him.  Obviously his brother and sister think he's nuts.  But later, after [REDACTED FOR SPOILERS], Ed investigates the cellar - which is a pretty typical Maine cellar, all ledge-y and full of water seepage - and, gosh, he shouldn't have done that.

My notes, during the movie:  How many shots in a rifle like that?

As mentioned above, the characters are thin and underdeveloped. I did squirm a little when the tension rose a little: I was expecting jump scares that didn't come, so that made me nervous.  There's not much blood/gore and it really isn't scary.  The plot is nothing if not unoriginal, but at least what happened made sense in the movie's universe and was interesting.

My notes, at the end:  Well, it's not GOOD but it's better than Final Girl.

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Friday, October 7, 2016

Seventh Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series #4: Final GIrl

Ugh.  To follow the marvelous Babadook with this piece of crap?  I'm talking about Final Girl, not to be confused with the recently watched and moderately entertaining The Final Girls or Stacie Ponder's excellent and much lamented blog Final Girl.  This 2015 steamer starring Abigail Breslin (still trying desperately to break away from her breakout Little Miss Sunshine role) and Wes Bentley is not worth anyone's time.  I almost didn't bother including it here - since there's nothing horror-y about it, despite its Netflix tags - but figured if I suffered through it, I might as well make you suffer through it too.

William (Wes Bentley) recruits recently-orphaned five year old Veronica into the Program, wherein the long goal is to avenge his murdered wife and child.  Twelve years later, Veronica (Abigail Breslin) has been "trained" to be an assassin and is pointed at four privileged teen-aged douchebags who enjoy hunting and killing girls.  Her "training" has included standing with bare feet on cold rocks and punching awkwardly; Veronica is no Sarah Connor.  (And these teenaged douchebags are clearly not William's ultimate targets, since they would have been five years old when his family was killed, so this "movie" is presumably the first installment in a series as Veronica hones her skills, I guess.)  Veronica goes out into the woods with the douchebags and with very little difficulty, no tension and no blood to speak of, kills them all.  Then she and William have diner pancakes where she sucks her whipped cream-covered finger suggestively.

This is not a horror movie.  It is not the least bit scary and there is no suspense or jump scares or gore.  It is scarcely violent.  The whole thing is stagy and stylized, with bright spotlights out in the middle of a rainy forest for no reason.  My notes include: "OMG SO BAD" and "We're at the climactic fistfight and I would be beside myself with annoyance except I just don't fucking care."  I don't know why Breslin and Bentley did this movie and I don't know who, if anyone, watched it.  Trust me, you can do better.

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Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Seventh Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series #3: The Babadook

There now, that's more like it.

Widowed mom Amelia (the incomparable Essie Davis) is not coping well.  Still depressed by her husband's death as he drove her to the hospital for the birth of their son, she is stressed and exhausted, sleep-deprived, struggling to connect with her child.  Samuel (Noah Wiseman, also very good) is a weird little kid and from the moment you meet him, you feel for his mother.  He is disobedient, shrieky and off-putting.  Already under strain, their relationship deteriorates after the appearance of a horrible children's pop-up book, Mister Babadook; Sam becomes violent and menacing, building homemade weapons and repeatedly telling his mother that "[he] doesn't want her to die."  Unable to sleep and with no support from her family, Amelia becomes more and more unhinged until suddenly the audience realizes they have shifted their sympathies to Sam: his mom has become terrifying.  All the while the Babadook lurks and looms.

The titular monster isn't all that original or scary in and of itself - we've all seen skittering, looming and lurking before.  And I lost my focus for a time towards the end of the movie when the threats became more overt.  But for most of this wonderful little Australian movie, the tension ratchets up, bit by bit, until I was continuously squirming nervously in my chair.  Whether you believe that Mister Babadook is a real malevolent entity or instead a product of Amelia's instability and Sam's overactive imagination (and I believe a case can be made for that), The Babadook is a taut, scary look at loss, resentment and parenthood.

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