The Walking Dead 3.11 “I ain’t a Judas” Discussion

We get the best scene of the episode right out of the gate. Hershel tells Rick to suck it up and lead in front of the whole group. And then Carl follows that up privately by telling Rick he needs to step down as leader. Nicely done. (I’m with Carl.)

After that we get our first real filler episode. Things shift around and get in place for the coming confrontation, but little actually changes. Somehow Merle is accepted into the group. They touch on the friction, but it’s a stretch. At least Glenn wants

The Walking Dead 3.10 “Home” Discussion

Oh noes! Poor Axel. I wonder if the secondary actors know that when they finally get an episode with 2 good scenes after weeks of slightly above extra work they know the writing is on the wall? As a viewer I should have known, but it still caught me by surprise. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

We start with Rick following around his vision of Lori that jacked up everything with Tyreese at the end of last weeks episode. Not the most compelling viewing. We get a glimpse of Michonne so she hasn’t been booted from the prison, but no hint that Tyreese and co. are still around. (Michonne’s improved condition makes me think we’ve jumped ahead a few days.)

After confirming Rick is still full-loco, we drop into Woodbury for a bit. The Gov is still sweet-talking Andrea while bringing the evil behind her back. I just can’t see how he thinks this will eventually backfire. Hubris? I guess that’s the idea. But it just seems dumb. We learn that Milton is the worst liar ever, and Andrea suspicion see-saw swings back to the high position.

The Dixon brothers do a bit of wandering in the woods and as predicted last week, Daryl is quickly tiring of Merle’s ‘tude. Daryl is a changed person. It’s dramatized a bit bluntly over the course of this episode, but it’s earned and fun to watch. These two are just good even when their material doesn’t always live up to their charisma. They also get the bulk of the gruesome effects budget with the nicely staged zombie scene on the bridge. (How did this family survive this long?)

Back at the prison, Glenn and Maggie not talking about what happened graduates to half talking about it. I’m still not sure from the conversation what each of them is feeling about it. These half-chats occur a lot in The Walking Dead, and they never fail to frustrate. You make a guess at maybe what it’s about, and hope for a new scene with zombies.

Soon enough we get to the meat and potatoes of the episode–the Governor’s prison assault and it’s a doozy of a sequence, starting with Axel’s farewell mentioned before, Rick being trapped outsize the gates, Hershel stuck far from cover, and the rest of the group pinned down by gunfire. And then the Gov’s coup de gras arrives in fine form with a delivery truck that crashes through the prison gates and drops off a load of zombies. (Dang, who drew the short straw and had to drive the truck, and where exactly did he run to?) This who thing was a pile of fun with everyone in danger and getting a share of defending the homefront. I expected Tyreese to play the role of cavalry, but we got the Dixons instead. I’m a bit bothered by Tyreese vanishing without a word for the whole episode, but having Daryl and Merle back with the group so quickly isn’t undesirable. I think it’s going to be a reeeeal stretch to bend the other characters enough to let Merle back into the group after the garbage treatment Michonne and Tyreese have recieved when coming in with white flags waving and zero baggage. We’ll see how it goes I guess.

So it probably reads like a lot of complaining, but I enjoyed the episode quite a bit. Season three is good pulpy fun. It would be nice if the could step up to having great characters making rational (from their point of view) choices too but they’re delivering more than enough each week to keep me watching.

The Walking Dead 3.09 “The Suicide King” Discussion

Yay, Walking Dead is back and season 3 continues to be the best yet. Good enough to inspire talking about it. Sure, some stuff is glossed over (never, ever, ask the next obvious question) in normal TV fashion but it’s fun, tense, and unpredictable.

So, Rick is freaking out. Sure, he seems fine in the when lives are on the line, but it gets quiet and he just can’t hang. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The stretched a lot in the last episode so they could get Merle and Daryl squared off in a fight “to the death” and it wasn’t really worth it beyond being a nice cliffhanger moment. The rescue shows up before anyone can make a significant decision–they all just react. The good guys get away, dragging Merle along. The bad guys lose a few red shirts and Andrea remains in Woodbury without getting the crucial “stay or go” decision point again.

Then we get to the good stuff. Rick says suck it now to Merle, and suck it shortly to Michonne (why?) Daryl chooses family over friends. I think it’ll be short lived decision, but who knows? They’ve kept Andrea away all season when I thought she’d come running back at the first opportunity. Michonne is finally outed by Merle as Andrea’s buddy, and Andrea is outed as being the Governor’s buddy. And Andrea learns her friends are the “terrorists” and some have even been held captive in Woodbury. So all the cards are on the table and now people have to make the real decisions–where do they belong?

And so help me I finally like these remaining characters enough that I want the status quo group back together.

But then Andrea rallies the townfolk like she has no intention of running far away from the now obviously nutjob Governor (back to the other nutjob leader Rick, but she doesn’t know he’s lost it like we do.)

And then there’s our new crew of zombie fodder, Tyreese and company. We’ve been informed a bit too quickly who will be eaten when the white dudes want to plot a coup over Carol and Carl, who, I bet would have handled them easily if we got that showdown. Tyreese and Sasha are cool though. They’re doing a better job of introducing sympathetic characters. Hershel’s group took a lot longer to grow on me.

And then we finally get to the big scene forshadowing where Rick zones out when seeing his baby. Is he looking at it thinking it’s Shane’s? I’m not sure what they’re trying to say with this scene beyond Rick ain’t looking at his baby like he should be. And then we quickly move on to Rick and Tyreese meeting and just when it looks like Hershal has talking him into grudgingly bringing them into the fold–Rick goes total loopypants talking to the ghost of Lori and waving his gun around. This is the leader Tyreese has been waiting to make peace with? Run away, Tyreese, run far away. They’ll likely gloss over this breakdown way too simplistically next week. But they’ll throw enough new twists our way that it won’t matter. Just like this week’s Merle/Daryl “deathmatch” that didn’t happen not mattering.

Good episode.

Underseen Gem: In Bruges

So a couple weeks ago I posted about The Brothers Bloom on the eve of seeing Rian Johnson’s new film Looper. It’s deja vu time, because this weekend I’m jonesing to see Seven Psychopaths because of Martin McDonagh’s fantastic and criminally underseen In Bruges. According to imdb.com, it only reached a couple hundred theatres at its peak, and earned less than 8 million at the box office back in 2008. Travesty, says I.

In Bruges is a darkly comedic story about a pair of hitmen (Colin Ferrell, Brendan Gleeson) sent to lay low in the touristy Bruges, Belgium by their boss (Ralph Fines) while he sorts out the disaster that was their last job in London. Ferrell gives the best performance I’ve ever seen out of him a guilt-ridden gangster bored to tears by the idyllic town. Gleeson is strong too, as his conflicted partner trying to make the best of the situation. And Fines is fun in a scenery-chewing role as their boss with anger management issues frustrated by these hitmen who can’t even lay low properly.

The film is full of memorable scenes, colorful supporting characters, and seesawing unpredictably between dark material and funny moments. You’ll find yourself really caring about what happens to these two hitmen in over their heads. It’s one of my favorites of 2008.

New Story in Return of the Dead Men (and Women) Walking

Whee… always fun to see something new in print. “Bring Me the Head of Pepe Cortez!” is now available as the lead story in the Return of the Dead Men (and Women) Walking anthology from Bards and Sages Publishing. They tease the story with:

An old gunslinger and a horse thief hunt down a rather peculiar prize that does more than haunt them in Bring Me The Head Of Pepe Cortez!

Sounds good to me.

It’s available in paper and ebook at Amazon as well as other retailers.

So, welcome to the big board just outside Casa de Tanner, Bards and Sages. Updating it isn’t easy, but I’ve managed to not fall off the ladder once again…

Underseen Gem: The Brothers Bloom

So Looper comes out this weekend and I can’t wait to get to the theater. And it ain’t that I’m big on time travel stories. The truth is I don’t like most of them–too many “if they can do that, why couldn’t they just have done this…” holes in the plot and internal consistency stuff tends to bug me, tends to mar otherwise fine movies for me. So no fondness for time travel.

What I’m excited about is a new movie regardless of subject matter from Rian Johnson, the guy who made The Brothers Bloom. I love this movie. I look over at IMDB and it just makes me sad that it only made 4 million at the box office. Nobody saw it in the theater. Unfortunately, me included. I caught it on DVD and am kicking myself for it. It’s a mistake I won’t repeat. So the movie… Mark Ruffalo and Andrian Brody are the titled brothers and con-men. Brody wants out–tired of living a life where he’s never himself, always a character in their current scheme. But Ruffalo convinces him to go along for one last con, taking a fortune from a lonely heiress played by Rachel Weisz. Of course, the con does not go as planned. The brother’s history comes back to haunt them as their former mentor and nemesis Diamond Dog shows up. You start wondering who is conning who in the best possible way.

Ruffalo and Brody are fine in their roles, but Weisz is absolutely charming. It’s her enthusiasm that pulls everything along. Rinko Kikuchi as the brothers silent associate Bang Bang also manages to steal a scene here and there without a word. The movie is quirky at times but never gets forced about being quirky for quirk’s sake (though you may disagree when the costuming makes you ponder briefly if it’s a period piece). Even the darkest moments manage to stay breezy. It’s a fun time at the movies and you might just find yourself getting conned along with most of the cast.

And since I started with Looper, I may as well bookend this with a quick nod to Johnson’s earlier film, Brick. I don’t like it as much as The Brother’s Bloom, but it’s still an interesting debut film even with its tiny budget. The premise is bizarre: a noir thriller with dialog right out of The Maltese Falcon and its ilk, but set in a contemporary high school with a teen protagonist. The contrast in tone is probably closest to Romeo + Juliet and at times it’s similarly jarring. But even here you can see the promise in the sharp writing.

Unlife of the Party Reviewed

Short Fiction Spotlight put up a nice review of Unlife of the Party yesterday.I’ve been reading the site for a while and Jason Varrone has a concise, pleasant review style (not to mention an exemplary first name) that leaves you with a clear sense of why he did or didn’t like a story. Even when the reviews get critical, they never get mean-spirited. If you like short stories like I do, I think you’ll enjoy the site.