Friday, October 24, 2014

It's Not The Years, It's The Mileage

I was poking around on the Information Super Highway today and noticed this. Above is a recent shot of Rick and Daryl from Season 5 of The Walking Dead.


And here's a shot of the two of them from Season 1.

Jesus Jetskiing Christ, look at them! They look like kids with their little baby faces. This image is only five years old– so why do they look twenty years younger here?

I guess living in a zombie apocalypse tends to prematurely age a fellow. Probably not a lot of time to apply sunscreen or moisturizer when you're being chased by shambling corpses, psychotic administrators and hungry cannibals.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

It Came From The Cineplex: Dracula Untold

Dracula Untold was written by Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless and directed by Gary Shore.

I wasn't really expecting much from this film, but I liked it a lot more than I thought I would. By this point you've gotta have a lot of chutzpah to call your movie Dracula Untold, as pretty much everything there is to say about the character has already been said a thousand times before. The filmmakers managed to infuse a bit of new life into this version though by turning Dracula into a superhero instead of a monster. Yep, despite all the horror trappings, this is most definitely a superhero origin story. 

All the familiar super-heroic beats are there. You've got a hero who's facing a personal tragedy, he's gains super powers, he tests out his newfound powers, he goes through a period of self-doubt and then ultimately rallies and faces off against his arch enemy and saves the day. In this particular case, Dracula is pretty much Spider-Man.

The Plot:
Prince Vlad is the wise and benevolent ruler of Transylvania, whose kingdom is being threatened by the Sultan of Turkey. The Sultan demands Vlad hand over a thousand young boys, including his own son, as tribute. When Vlad naturally refuses this polite request, the Sultan gets a bit miffed and sends out a conquering army.

Vlad seeks the help of a Master Vampire who lives in a nearby cave. The Vampire agrees to help him for some reason, offering Vlad a cup of his blood (in an awesome skull goblet yet). Once Vlad drinks the blood he'll temporarily gain all kinds of cool vampire powers, with which he can defeat the Sultan's army. As always though, there's a catch– Vlad will have to avoid drinking human blood for the next three days or he'll be cursed and become a vampire forever. You can probably guess where this is going.

With his newfound powers, Vlad easily defeats the Sultan's attacking force, which causes him to send out an even bigger army. Vlad's son is captured by the Turks and his wife is mortally wounded. With the three day time limit almost up and minutes from losing his powers, Vlad's dying wife begs him to drink her blood and kill her, so he'll have the power to rescue their son. Which he does. He kills the Sultan, rescues his son and becomes a vampire forever.

In a hastily tacked-on final scene, we see Vlad in the present day. He spots a young woman who looks remarkably like his long-dead wife, believes she's the reincarnation of her, turns on that old Dracula charm and the two presumably head toward his high-rise penthouse apartment. The Master Vampire, who's also still alive, follows them and says, "Let the games begin," which either means he's going to join in or Universal hopes this will start up a lucrative Monster Cinematic Universe.

Thoughts:
• In the opening infodump, er, I mean exposition, we're told that Prince Vlad was taken from his home at a young age and raised by the Sultan of Turkey. Vlad quickly rose in the Sultan's ranks and developed a penchant for impaling his dead foes on wooden stakes as a form of psychological warfare. It was here that he gained the nickname "Vlad The Impaler."

He eventually escaped the Sultan and is now the prince of Transylvania. He's a wise ruler, a loving husband and a devoted father.

Annnnd apparently we're supposed to forget all about that whole pesky "impaling" thing.


I'm sure that in the real world there are many retired soldiers who've moved on and are now caring family men. But Vlad didn't simply kill for his country– he killed and then gruesomely desecrated his victims' corpses in order to make a statement. And he even says he feels no remorse for what he did. And now he's reading bedtime stories to his son? Yikes! Talk about a 180º turnaround!

I understand they wanted to include the whole "Vlad The Impaler" legend here, but it just doesn't work with an heroic character. In this case I think it would have been for the best if they'd have dropped it.

• The Sultan of Turkey sends an emissary to Vlad's throne room, demanding he hand over a thousand young boys, who will be raised as soldiers.

Just how populous is Vlad's kingdom anyway? We never really get a good look at his kingdom, but I get the impression it's not all that big. We mostly just see the castle and a few primitive huts around the gates. So where are they supposed to find a thousand boys?

• Of all the classic movie monsters, vampires seem to have the most rules. They can't go out in daylight, they can't be seen in a mirror, they can't enter a house unless invited, they're repelled by crosses and garlic, they can turn into bats, wolves and fog, and on and on.

Few vampire movies use all of these rules though. They pick and choose, using some and ignoring others. This can become confusing, especially when a movie doesn't spell out just which rules it's using.

That goes double for Dracula Untold. We see him demonstrate some of his powers, but we're never quite sure which ones he may or may not have, or how far they go. 

Case in point– his aversion to sunlight. Early on we see the sunlight painfully burn his skin, yet later he's able to walk outside unaffected on an overcast day. So I guess it's only direct, unfiltered sunlight that harms him? Would he be OK then if he carried a large parasol? What about if he wore a sombrero?


To add to the confusion, he keeps discovering new powers as he goes.

• One of Prince Vlad's cool new vampire powers is the ability to rapidly turn into a large swarm of bats and flit from place to place before reforming into a human. He's able to decimate an entire Turkish army with this power.

During the battle the Turkish soldiers swing their swords wildly at the attacking cloud of bats. I wonder what would happen if one of the bats in Vlad's bodily swarm was hit and killed? Would he be missing a finger or a spleen when he transformed back?

• In case you have doubts that this is a superhero movie disguised as a vampire film, here's your proof. Not only can Vlad turn into a swarm of bats, but he can control actual real bats as well. He manipulates these bats much like the Green Lantern uses his power ring, causing them to form a giant fist with their bodies that slams down on the Turkish soldiers. 


I'm surprised he didn't have the swarm of bats form a pair of scissors or a hypodermic needle and chase the Turks.

• Although Vlad's vampiric abilities were indeed cool, I feel like they may have made him a bit too powerful. He single-handedly wipes out an entire army without suffering so much as a scratch. 


When a character can never be harmed then it's hard for the audience to care when he's placed in a dangerous situation. This is why Superman needs kryptonite.• Luckily for Vlad, once he becomes a vampire the Turks conveniently only attack at night. They finally get the message and attack during the day near the end of the film, but by then Vlad has learned to blot out the sun with his powers.

• The Master Vampire says he'll be released from his imprisonment if Vlad succumbs to his blood thirst. He says if and when he's freed from the cave, he'll be able to exact vengeance on the one who imprisoned him.

Later we see that the Master Vampire has indeed been released from his cave. I was expecting to see the Master Vampire get his revenge on someone, most likely the Sultan of Turkey. But apparently 
the target of his revenge was none of our concern.

I was also a bit surprised to see that he'd survived to the present day. I got the impression from his speech that once he was freed from the cave and had his revenge he'd be released from his curse and die for good. 

I have a feeling that's what was supposed to happen, but it got ret-conned at the last second so they could have him pop up in the end scene.

• Rumor has it that Universal reshot the end of the film to feature Dracula living in the present day. Supposedly they did so because they want in on some of that sweet Marvel Cinematic Universe money, and want to start up a Monster Universe. This film is the first step in that plan. I wouldn't hold my breath though– so far Dracula Untold hasn't exactly been setting the box office on fire.


So I guess that means their other proposed monster movies would take place in the present? That doesn't seem right. Frankenstein movies should be set firmly in the past.

I wonder if The Wolfman reboot from 2010 (the one that Benecio Del Toro sleepwalked through) will be considered part of this proposed universe? Or will they reboot that one yet again?

By the way, the idea of a shared Monster Universe is nothing new. Universal did it way back in the 1943 with Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man, along with the various Abbott & Costello monster movies.

Dracula Untold is a reasonably acceptable retelling of the vampire legend that focuses more on action than horror. I give it a B-.

Hooked On A Feeling Update

A while back Marvel released the awesome Guardians Of The Galaxy soundtrack on CD.

This week they announced they're releasing the soundtrack in its original format– on cassette tape. The way it was meant to be heard, just like in the film.

As an added bonus, the tape cover will even look like it did in the movie, as if it was written by Star-Lord's mother! 

Can an Awesome Mix Vol. 2 be far behind?

Although this news makes me happy and I'm a fan of all things retro, it just occurred to me that I won't be able to play it, as unfortunately I no longer own a tape player.

Cue the "Sad Bruce Banner Hitchhiking At The End Of Every Incredible Hulk Episode" music.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2, Episode 5: A Hen In The Wolf House

Lots going on in this week's episode. Probably the biggest was the introduction of Bobbi Chase, aka Mockingbird, to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We also get to spend some time with Skye's father, who's not exactly parent of the year, and Skye finds out she may be an alien. 

We learn that the Obelisk is also known as the Diviner, Raina has a nice dinner with Coulson and we finally find out the identity of Hunter's ex. Oh, and Fitz and the real Simmons are reunited, but it doesn't feel so good. All in all a pretty action-packed installment!

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
HYDRA is trying to weaponize the Obelisk with a plan that doesn't seem very well thought out. Raina tells Skye's father that Whitehall wants the Obelisk from him, and he says he'll give it up if she delivers Skye to him. 

Raina asks Coulson for help, and threatens to blow Simmons' cover at HYDRA if he doesn't. Coulson says "meh," and Raina follows through, exposing Simmons. Fortunately for her, Black Widow, er, Wonder Woman, er, I mean Mockingbird shows up to save her. 

Skye learns her father's whereabouts and goes to confront him, but he's already fled the coop. Skye looks at Coulson's alien chicken scratches and somehow makes the incredible intuitive leap that they're a map.

Thoughts:
• Skye's father (whoever he really is) is doing a little back alley surgery on a couple of thugs when Raina barges in. They have a heated conversation and he threatens her, coming very close to snapping her supple neck with one hand. The whole time the two thugs just sit there watching, not the least bit concerned by the goings on.

I guess it all works out in the end though as later in the episode we see Skye's father apparently lost control and killed the two thugs. Maybe they balked at his bill?

• Fitz stands in the Bus' cargo bay, watching the rest of the crew as they bustle about. Fake Simmons is there too, wistfully staring at Mack and admiring his formidable physique. Um... wait a minute. Fake Simmons is a manifestation of Fitz's psyche, created by his brain to help him deal with her absence. So that means it was really Fitz thinking that Mack is hot. Not that there's anything wrong with that!

• Over at HYDRA, Simmons is still working as an undercover science tech. She's apparently been spending her lunch hours sending covert messages to S.H.I.E.L.D. One would think she might want to, oh I don't know, type her secret messages rather than dictate them aloud to her device, in earshot of anyone nearby, but what do I know.

Back inside, Agent Bobbi Morse, who we've never seen before, enters the lab and declares there's a mole in the organization. 


I'm guessing that the revelation that Morse turns out to be Mockingbird, the superhero slash S.H.I.E.L.D. agent from the comics, was supposed to be a shocking twist, but anyone who's ever read the comics would have seen it coming from several miles away. 

If they wanted her identity and allegiance to be a secret, then why use her real name? Why not give her an alias and then have her reveal she's Bobbi Morse?

Bobbi's played here by Adrianne Palicki, who starred in a rejected Wonder Woman pilot a few years ago. Looks like she finally got to play a superhero after all!

I was a little miffed when I first saw photos of Palicki as Mockingbird, as she didn't have the character's trademark blonde locks. I didn't mind a bit after I saw her in action though, kicking ass with her battle staves. Battle staves! On TV! How awesome is that? Later on she mentions she dyed her hair for the mission, so maybe there's still hope she'll be a blonde.

• Mockingbird, er, Agent Morse is determined to find the mole and orders her grunts to start searching everyone's desks for evidence. Simmons soils herself as she realizes her S.H.I.E.L.D. flex screen communicator is in her drawer. 

First of all, she's in hostile territory here, posing as a member of an evil, bent-on-world-domination secret organization, and she leaves her S.H.I.E.L.D. tech in her goddamned drawer? Was she trying to get caught?

Secondly, one of the HYDRA grunts then finds the screen in Simmons' workmate's desk. Holy crap– did Simmons just throw her coworker under the bus? That's pretty hardcore! Hope they don't take him to the Agonizer Booth!

• Speaking of Simmons' HYDRA coworkers– they don't seem like a particularly evil bunch. They look pretty much like scientists you'd find in the R&D lab of any big corporation. They're working for an anti-S.H.I.E.L.D. organization– shouldn't they at least all be wearing evil goatees?

• So what exactly is Whitehall's plan? He wants the Obelisk so he can weaponize it, and mentions that with it could kill millions, even billions. Yeah, and then what? Does he want the whole planet to himself? Or is he planning on wiping out all of humanity and repopulating it with HYDRA agents?


• We finally have a name for Daniel Whitehall's Lackey. And the name is... Bakshi. I'm pretty sure this is the first time they've ever mentioned his name on the show. It's the first time I've heard it at least.

• After Simmons' identity is compromised she takes off running through the endless HYDRA corridors. She's intercepted by Agent Morse, who reveals she's also an undercover S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, and is there to help her escape.

Simmons and Bobbi then leap off the top of the HYDRA building (which I'm surprised didn't have an enormous neon logo on it) and land on the invisible S.H.I.E.L.D. Quinjet that's hovering below.

Lucky for the two of them they didn't land on either of the two prominently exposed turbine engines.

• Coulson decides to tell Skye everything, and says she may or may not be a alien. Uh-oh...

As you'll no doubt remember, I couldn't stand Skye last year because all the other characters on the show bent over backwards to bask in her amazing glow. She became the Most Important Person In The Universe, without ever doing anything to warrant such a title.

This season they've been playing down that aspect quite a bit, much her benefit. I like Skye 2.0 much better than Original Skye. 

But dredging up this alien crap again makes me think they're going to finish out the Super Skye storyline even if it kills them (and us).

• Skye's father is spying on her as she discovers his handiwork: the two dead thugs he killed when he "lost control." He sits in his car screaming, "She thinks I'm a monster! I'M NOT A MONSTER!" as he smashes his iPad in a most monstery way possible. But he's not a monster!

So what's the deal with Skye's dad? He keeps talking about not losing control and becoming a monster. Is he some kind of Hulk? Doubtful, but honestly I can't think of any other Marvel character he could be. 


There's a fan theory that he may be Mr. Hyde, who was a Daredevil villain (and not the literary Hyde). I'm not familiar enough with the character to dispute the theory.

• Where the hell is Agent Koenig? We haven't seen him for a month now.

• Mockingbird enters the S.H.I.E.L.D. base and is welcomed by one and all, except for Lance Hunter. Turns out the two used to be married.

HAW! I totally called it! A couple of weeks ago I said that the psycho ex-wife that Lance Hunter's always going on about would turn out to be Bobbi Morse, aka Mockingbird, and I was right. Granted I knew she was joining the show, so it wasn't a huge leap to connect the dots, but still.


• After the show aired Marvel released this photo of Mockingbird in her official crime fighting gear. It looks like she's going to have blonde hair after all! Awesome!

And look at that– an ass-kicking super heroine who's not wearing ridiculous and impractical high heels! Amazing!

I'm wondering if they're adding Mockingbird to the cast as a low-budget alternative to Black Widow? They're both spies, they both have pretty much the same "powers" (consisting mainly of cool ass kicking moves) and they both work for S.H.I.E.L.D. The TV series probably can't afford to hire ScarJo full time, so I'm betting they settled for Mockingbird.

I love that they're adding Mockingbird to the show, but... is she staying for good? She basically fulfills the same function as Agent May. I guess you can never have too many ass kicking women in black jumpsuits.

The Flash Season 1, Episode 3: Things You Can't Outrun

This week the Flash takes a bit of a backseat in his own series as we focus on the supporting cast, namely Cisco, Caitlin and her previously mentioned but never seen until now dead fiancé, Ronnie Raymond. Iris, Eddie, Joe and Henry (Barry's dad) all have their moments as well.

This episode does a great job of fleshing out Cisco and Caitlin, who so far have done little more than stare at various monitors and look worried. As I've said before, Cisco could easily have been the world's most annoying character, what with his overenthusiastic manner and X-treme attitude. Kudos to actor Carlos Valdes for toning him down and actually making Cisco likable.

Jesse L. Martin is also very good once again as Detective Joe West. He brings an air of vulnerability to a role that could have degenerated into the typical "You're A Loose Cannon, McCloud!" police chief cliche.

Rick Cosnett was also great as Eddie Thawne, Joe's partner and Iris' secret boyfriend. He's making Eddie extra likable here so it'll be all the more shocking when he inevitably transforms into the Reverse Flash (if that's indeed where they're heading).

SPOILERS!


The Plot:
Barry investigates a mysterious mob hit, and deduces the killer was a metahuman called The Mist who can turn his entire body into poison gas. Because this is a comic book world, his boss Detective West says, "Why that sounds perfectly reasonable." Meanwhile, Dr. Wells and the STAR Labs gang decide to turn their basement into the world's first super villain prison.

The basement is of course where Dr. Wells' particle accelerator was housed before it went kablooey. We also find out that Caitlin's fiancé Ronnie Raymond was killed there when the accelerator overloaded and he pulled a Spock by entering the chamber and diverting the explosion for the needs of the many. Ronnie died in a literal firestorm, which absolutely isn't a setup for an appearance by a certain flame-headed superhero.

Barry figures out that The Mist is targeting the people who sent him to prison, one of which just happens to be Detective West, his boss and Iris' father. Ruh-roh! The Mist attacks Joe, but Barry saves him in the knick of time. He then plays tag with The Mist until he's too tired to get gassy and punches him out.

The Mist gets to be the first resident of the new prison, Iris and Eddie tell Joe they're dating, which of course he already knew, and Joe tells Barry's father that he's sorry about that whole "wrongly sending you to prison for fourteen years for killing your wife thing." Oh, and Dr. Wells gets up out of his wheelchair again for some reason.

Thoughts:
• At the beginning of the episode, Barry and Iris exit a movie theater. The marquee reads Blue Devil II: Hell To Pay and The Rita Farr Story.


Blue Devil was a DC comics superhero who premiered in the 1980s. Not surprisingly, he looked like... a blue devil. There was a Blue Devil movie being advertised in Season 2 of Arrow, so apparently the film was successful enough to warrant a sequel. I wonder if Blue Devil is the DC TV Universe's answer to Hellboy?

This also means we probably won't be seeing Blue Devil pop up on the show if he's a fictional character in the Flash universe. Unless the movie is based on a real superhero?

By the way, look at the cover price of that comic. 75¢! Jesus, they're pushing the $4 mark these days. I have a full time job and I can't afford to buy comics. How do they expect a kid to buy them?

Rita Farr was an actress and stunt woman who was also known as Elasti-Girl of the Doom Patrol. I wonder if she'll try and sue Elastigirl of The Incredibles?

• We've heard Caitlin talk about her dead fiancé Ronnie before, but I think this is the first time we've heard his last name onscreen. Ronnie Raymond is of course better known in the comics as Firestorm The Nuclear Man.

In the comics, an accident fused high school student Ronnie Raymond and Professor Martin Stein into the being known as Firestorm. Ronnie controlled Firestorm, while Stein manifested himself as a voice inside his head.

Here though Ronnie's older and apparently much smarter, as he's some kind of high tech engineer. Interesting.

So is Professor Stein not going to be part of this version of Firestorm? If not, that's too bad, as the whole dual identity thing made him unique among superheroes. If they are going to use Stein, it would have been nice if he'd popped up somewhere in this episode, at least in the background.


By the way, Ronnie's played by Robbie Amell, who just happens to be the cousin of Stephen Amell, TV's Arrow. They look quite a bit alike too. Much handsome, very teeth!

• Ronnie tells Caitlin the two of them are like "fire and ice." Wakka wakka!

See, in the comics, Caitlin Snow becomes the super villain Killer Frost, one of Firestorm's arch enemies. I have no idea if that's where they're going here though.


• This weeks villain is The Mist, a metahuman with the power to keep your ferns moist. No, strike that, he can transform his body into poison gas. We're told that his real name is Kyle Nimbus. Nimbus is another word for "cloud." That's a little too cute.

The Mist was an enemy of Jay Garrick, the Golden Age Flash– the one who wore a winged Mercury helmet and punched Hitler in WWII. In recent years he became the arch enemy of Starman.

• When The Mist attacks Judge Howard in the mall, the Flash arrives on the scene shortly after. He checks the Judge's vital signs at super speed, as everyone around him appears frozen in place. 

Once again this means the Flash is standing still so fast that no one can see him. It's hard for me to wrap my mind around that.

Last week Barry mentioned in his voiceover that he was running 352 miles an hour. He's got to be going a LOT faster than that if he's still invisible even at rest.


Additionally, just how is he supposed to be checking the Judge's pulse when he's using his super speed? He's literally (!) moving so fast that everyone else appears to be motionless. That means from his point of view, the Judge's heart is probably beating once every five minutes or so. How could he possibly tell if she was still alive or not?
• Iris is gonna be really pissed when she inevitably finds out Barry's the Flash. So far she's pretty much the only person on the show who doesn't know. Even her dad's in on the secret.

• Intrepid amateur reporter Iris is following the Flash's exploits, and nicknames him "The Streak."

Hmm. Didn't Smallville already do that schtick, when they called Clark "The Blur?"

• Barry confronts The Mist, who jumps into his lungs and tries to poison him. Barry holds his breath and runs back to STAR Labs so Caitlin will have a sample of the gas to analyze. He ran at super speed while holding his breath? With a lung full of poison gas? He DOES have a super metabolism!

• Later on The Mist attacks Barry again. Barry keeps zipping away from him at super speed, but The Mist's gaseous form somehow keeps surrounding him. So... that must mean The Mist has super speed as well, right?

In the first episode Barry defeated the Weather Wizard, who'd surrounded himself with a tornado, by running around at super speed and canceling out his vortex. I wonder if he could have done something similar here? Like running around him so fast it would create a column of air to contain him.

• Barry ends up defeating The Mist by tiring him out until he can no longer transform into a gas.

Doesn't that seem backwards? It seems to me like it would be fairly easy to transform into gas; you'd just "let go" and let your body's molecules would disperse into a cloud. I would think keeping yourself together in solid form would be more of a strain. I guess I'm wrong.

• Detective Joe West is attacked by The Mist, but Barry saves him just in time. Later on in the hospital, Barry dozes as he keeps watch over the recovering Joe. 

When Joe comes to, he sees Barry asleep in a chair. Joe says, "It's been a long time since I've watched you sleep."

Yikes! OK, I get that Joe was Barry's surrogate father and raised him as a child, and from time to time probably looked in on him as he slept before turning in. But it's a bit creepy to say it to an adult Barry though.

• Barry's dad has awfully white teeth for a guy who's been in prison for fourteen years. Do they pass out whitening strips in the slammer?

• OK, this is the third week in a row that Dr. Wells has risen from his wheelchair and leered ominously at something. It was a great WTF moment the first time he did it, but after three weeks it's in danger of becoming repetitive. 

We get it, Dr. Wells is secretly evil and has some kind of agenda, manipulating events in order to create the Flash.

• Lastly, are there any products for sale in America that AREN'T some kind of phone or tablet? Jesus, I bet 80% of the commercials I saw tonight were for some kind of goddamned smart phone or other such wifi device.

What Are Jittery Soccer Moms Offended By This Week?

This week, Susan Schrivjer, a Florida mother with way too much time on her hands, entered her local Toys R Us store and was appalled to find out that they actually sell toys.

Schrivjer, who really needs to learn how to spell her last name, was shocked and stunned when she saw Breaking Bad action figures on the shelves. She predictably started a petition protesting the sale of such items in a children's toy store.

"Toys R Us is well known around the world for their vast selection of toys for children of all ages. However their decision to sell a Breaking Bad doll, complete with a detachable sack of cash and a bag of meth, alongside children's toys is a dangerous deviation from their family friendly values" said Schrivjer, who is renowned for knowing what's best for the rest of the country.

"Kids mimic their action figures, if you will," said the well known stick-in-the-mud. "Do you want your child in an orange jumpsuit?"

Jesus wept. This is why we can't have nice things. 

First of all, what a timely observation, Ms. Schrivjer! These figures have been hanging on the pegs at Toys R Us for at least two years now, and nobody said boo until now. I'd say that's a good indication they're not going to cause the downfall of our civilization.

Second, if your kid, or any other kid wants one of these figures, which I find unlikely, whatever happened to saying "no?" Saying no and letting the rest of the population get on with their lives, instead of trying to force your uptight values on the rest of us.

She's really gonna need her fainting couch when she finds out they sell Game Of Thrones and Walking Dead figures as well!

Look morons, here's the deal. Whether you like it or not, some comics are for adults, some video games are for adults, and some toys are for adults. Get that through your heads. That's the way it's been for many years.

These toys are clearly made for adult collectors. Adult as in grown up, not as in "bowm chica bowm bowm." They're in the adult collector aisle, which is a thing at Toys R Us, and they're plainly marked as being for adults. 


No kid is going to want these toys anyway. Kids want superheroes and Power Ranger figures. They have zero interest in an unarticulated figure of a grizzled guy in a hazmat suit. If they even see these figures at all, they're going to glance at them for a second and then move on.

How the hell would a kid even know what they are in the first place? If your kid is watching Breaking Bad, you've got bigger problems that what Toys R Us stocks on its shelves.


I don't get why this panicky busybody's opinion carries so much weight in the first place. So she doesn't like what Toys R Us sells. So don't shop there! Go to Target or Walmart and let the rest of us live our lives, free of her misguided beliefs. Why doesn't Toys R Us just tell her to go pound sand and be done with it?

If the Jittery Soccer Mom Brigade really wants something to fuel their outrage, what about the entire aisle of Burly Men In Speedos, er, I mean the Wrestler Figure aisle marketed toward little boys?

Or Mattel's line of slutty Bratz dolls. Surely those aren't sending out a positive message. Where's all the sturm and drang over those?

As if all this wasn't enough, Toys R Us announced today that they're caving and pulling the Breaking Bad figures from their stores nationwide. Sigh. 

Damn you, Toys R Us. God damn you and the lily-livered, cowardly giraffe you rode in on. One brittle, overprotective helicopter parent complains because she fears her precious snowflake is going to see a flippin' toy and immediately start cooking meth, and you fold like a cheap card table.

Shame on you, and everyone who supported this nut job and her asinine petition.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Walking Dead Season 5, Episode 2: Strangers

After last week's explosive (literally!) premiere, we get a "breather episode" as Rick & Co. catch their breath, regroup, meet a new neighbor and try to decide whether to keep foraging in Georgia or head for DC.

This week's episode was written by Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman, who steers it most definitely back into comic book territory. The end of this episode recreated one of the comic book's more infamous moments almost word for word.

I'm of two minds about this. One the one hand, it's cool to see the comic book come to life. On the other hand, there were no surprises since, as a longtime reader, I knew exactly what was going to happen to poor Bob there at the end. Hopefully the show won't follow the comic too closely so there'll still be room for a few surprises.

BIG SPOILERS AHEAD!

The Plot:
Rick and the other fourteen characters that are on the show now search for food and shelter after escaping Terminus. Everyone seems very intent on telling everyone else exactly how they're feeling. They meet a twitchy clergyman who's not the least bit suspicious and absolutely isn't hiding anything, thank you very much. Although they don't (and shouldn't) trust him, they take refuge in his oddly unscathed church. 

After a supply run, the group parties down on sacramental wine, which kind of seems like asking for trouble. They decide to go to Washington D.C., so alleged "genius" Eugene can whip up a cure for the zombie plague. Carol tries to sneak off, but Daryl catches her and asks, "What the hell?" Before she can answer, the car that abducted Beth (well, the car itself didn't abduct her, but you know what I mean) roars by, and the two take off in hot pursuit.

Bob Stookey takes a stroll outside and is captured by Gareth and the remnants of the Termites, who tell him they're having him for dinner, if you know what I mean.

Thoughts:
• Last week I said I was surprised that after spending half a season setting up the Terminus storyline, the writers resolved in just one episode.

I see where they're going now. The Terminus story's not over after all. It's now Round 2.

• When the prison was destroyed in the middle of last season, many of the characters still had unresolved conflicts when they were scattered to the four winds. Things like Rick banishing Carol, Daryl finding out about it, Tara being part of the group that killed Maggie's father, and so on.

Now that everyone's reunited again, I was expecting all these issues to come to finally come to a head and then... poof! Suddenly everyone kisses and makes up, and there's no more hard feelings between anyone. An odd way to go, but I suppose the writers know what they're doing.

• I was very surprised when no major characters were killed last week during the Terminus kerfuffle. By my count there are now fifteen characters in Rick's group. 15! There's no way in hell all fifteen of them are still going to be alive by the end of the season. Let the character slaughter begin!

• While traveling through the forest, Rick & Co. come upon the jittery Father Gabriel being menaced by walkers.

OK, I get that Gabriel has a terrible secret, but Jesus! Everything about him is suspicious. He lives in a curiously untouched church. He says he's never left it, but has a full supply of food. He even makes ill-advised jokes about leading them into a trap. He's way too nervous and jumpy here, almost comically so. I wouldn't trust him if he said "Hello."

By the way, Gabriel was a character in the comic. From what I've seen of him so far, it looks like his big secret is the same as it was there.

• Carol looks through Father Gabriel's office and sees he's apparently passing the time by copying the complete text of the Bible into a notebook. I guess you've got to occupy yourself somehow in a world without TV, movies and the internet!

• Have you ever noticed that whenever you see a priest in a movie or TV show, nine times out of ten they're Episcopal? I think writers do that so that because they're allowed to marry. An Episcopal priest can cheat & sin along with the rest of us, without bringing down the wrath of the Catholic Church.


Case in point– during the supply run, Gabriel freaks out when he sees a horrifying walker wearing a pair of distinctive horned-rim glasses. Later we see him staring at a photo of himself and the woman, pre-walker. Obviously this woman was either his wife, or a woman from his congregation that he was dallying with. Can't have that with a Catholic priest! Well, you could, but the Pope wouldn't like it.

• Carol and Daryl go scavenging and find an abandoned car near the church. The car's battery is dead, but Carol finds a portable charger in the trunk. Well, that was certainly convenient! How many people do you think drive around with those heavy-ass chargers rattling around in their trunk? 

And this is some hardcore nitpicking, but what the heck. Most people don't realize those chargers need to be regularly charged themselves. I used to have one and you had to remember to charge it up every six weeks or so, or it would go dead. And if you ever did let it die, it would never hold a charge again, becoming basically a big brick. Frankly they're way more trouble than they're worth. It seems extremely unlikely that this charger would still be in working condition.

• I didn't realize Michonne lost her sword at Terminus. She claims she doesn't miss it, but I for one certainly do. It seems weird to see her without it. She needs her sword back, stat! Get on that right away, would you writers?

• Maggie, Glenn and Tara search the local gun store, which they found by consulting... the Yellow Pages! Cool! Old school tech rules!

• Father Gabriel tells Rick there's a well-stocked food bank nearby, but it's overrun by walkers. Rick takes a team, including a reluctant Gabriel, to clean it out.


When they arrive they discover a group of really disgusting walkers sloshing around in a partially flooded and exposed basement. Rick then comes up with a brilliant plan– he orders everyone to jump into the murky, fetid water and hide behind shelving units so they can then stab the walkers at close quarters. 

I'm still trying to figure out why they didn't just  pick off the walkers safe and dry from above, like any normal person would have done.

OK, I do know why they jumped into the basement– to artificially ramp up the tension and get us to worry about the characters, along with creating some cool zombie kills.

• Back at the church, everyone celebrates by wasting a lot of food that they probably ought to be rationing. They all agree to follow Eugene to D.C., where he's assures them he can cure the zombie apocalypse.

Again, I don't understand why anyone would believe this schmuck. He speaks and acts like a cross between Rain Man and Carl from Sling Blade, and we're supposed to believe he's some kind of molecular biologist? He seems like tying his shoes is an all day project. 


I don't know if it's the actor's fault or the way he's written, but TV Eugene is a big misfire in my book.

• Daryl and Carol see the car that abducted Beth, to remind the audience that she exists. Emily Kinney's name is still in the opening credits, so I have to assume she's going to show up again at some point.


LAST CHANCE TO TURN AROUND BEFORE READING MAJOR SPOILERS!

• After smooching it up with Sasha, Bob goes outside for some air and starts sobbing uncontrollably. Hmm. Now I wonder why he'd be crying? As a reader of the comic I have a pretty good idea, but I won't spoil it here.


• Bob gets hit in the head and when he wakes up, he sees Gareth's smug, leering face before him. You know, Gareth. The former leader of Terminus. The former cannibal leader of Terminus. Along with a couple of his friends. Ruh-ruh!

So it looks like we're now dovetailing into the Hunters storyline from the comic, in which a group of cannibals hunts Rick's group and picks them off one by one. This is surprising, because I figured we'd already done the whole cannibal bit last week and were done with it. I guess not.


• I'm still not buying Gareth's explanation as to why his group turned into cannibals. He says they had to do it to survive, even though they wanted to. That's not true. Rick and his group have always managed to scrounge up something without resorting to eating one another. There's an entire country full of canned goods out there. And even if they couldn't find anything, Daryl once caught and ate an owl. So there are other options.

Methinks maybe Gareth and his posse really were forced to eat human flesh once during a particularly lean time, and then decided they just liked it.
• I knew Gareth wasn't dead! Even though he was shot last week, we never saw a body, so of course that means he survived.

I guess now we know who's been making the marks on the trees. The Termites!

• One of the Termite survivors was Martin, the guy who Tyreese supposedly killed after he threatened Baby Judith. I guess Tyreese couldn't bring himself kill him after all. Big mistake!

• After the cast narrowly escaped Terminus last week, Rick wanted to go back and eliminate any stragglers so they'd never eat anyone else again. The others all voted him down, with gusto.

Well, whaddya know? Looks like Rick was right after all. If they had gone after any Termite survivors back then, poor Bob would still have a leg to stand on. Maybe next time they'll listen to Rick.


• After Bob wakes up, Gareth monologues for a while and says they're going to eat him, but it's just business. It's nothing personal. Bob then looks down and sees most of his left leg is missing.

First of all, this entire scene– from Gareth's speech to Bob seeing his ex-leg– is straight out of the comics. Although there it was Dale (remember him?) who was on the menu. Other than the personnel change, it was almost word for word the same.

Second, I'm wondering how Bob didn't notice his leg was missing until he looked down. It's unlikely that the Termites were carrying anesthetic around with them. Even if they did, I doubt they'd use it, as it would taint the taste of the meat, so to speak. I get that he was probably still groggy from being knocked in the head, but even so, I'd like to think I'd notice if my leg was missing as soon as I woke up. Maybe it was phantom pain and all that.

Again, based on the comic I have a pretty good idea what's going to happen next to Bob, but I won't spoil it just yet.

• So does Gareth know Bob? It certainly seems that way. He addresses him by name, and it seems unlikely he'd be on a first name basis with the future meals he kept in the Terminus box cars.

There's always been something a little off about Bob, and when they first found him he did say he'd been part of "several" other groups. Was he a Termite at one point, and decided he didn't like the taste of Spam? Tune in next week as Operation Character Reduction begins!

Why Do They Call Them Comics: Snuffy Smith

Get a load of this Snuffy Smith comic from last weekend. If we're to believe Loweezy's plaintive cry in panel three, her husband Snuffy has apparently stopped drinking (!). 

Wha...? When the hell did that happen? For 80 years now, Snuffy Smith has been portrayed as a lazy, uneducated, chicken stealing, card cheating, law dodging, moonshine brewing no good hillbilly drunkard. Now suddenly he's off the sauce?

I have to assume this ret-con is all part of the touchy-feely, Kumbaya singing, politically correct system that passes for our current society. I wouldn't be surprised if the Brittle Soccer Mom Brigade had something to do with it as well.

Because a character who's a "comical drunk" is no longer acceptable, especially on the nation's comics pages, dontcha know. People with such addictions are terrible role models! Won't someone please think of the children?

I can't wait to see what's next for Snuffy. I suppose in addition to his alcohol abuse outreach program, he'll also seek help for his gambling addiction. Then he'll no doubt stop stealing chickens and become Sheriff Tait's deputy. Or maybe he'll quit dozing against a log, leave Hootin' Holler, move to the big city and finally get a job. Perhaps as an investment banker, or marketing consultant?

I don't want to live on this planet anymore...

By the way, here's some fuel for your nightmares: see those two pendulous masses sagging well below Loweezy's waistline? Those aren't folds in her top. Those are her mammoth, drooping breasts. Shudder.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Doctor Who Season 8, Episode 9: Flatline


I honestly didn't have much hope for this episode when I saw the preview, as it looked like nothing more than a retread of Fear Her, largely regarded as one of the low points of the revived series. So I was pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be a fun little romp with a legitimately scary foe and some of the weirdest scenes in the show's fifty-plus year history.

ONE DIMENSIONAL SPOILERS AHEAD!

The Plot:
The Doctor takes Clara home to London but they wind up in Bristol instead, because his ability to control the TARDIS varies based on the script requirements. As soon as they land they discover that aliens are leaching energy from the TARDIS, causing the outer shell to shrink to 1/3 its normal size. 

Clara takes a look around Bristol and when she returns, she finds that the TARDIS has now shrunk to action figure size, trapping the Doctor inside. He gives her his sonic and tells her to investigate the energy drain before the TARDIS shrinks even further.

Clara and a local vandal, er, I mean graffiti "artist" named Rigsy discover that two dimensional creatures are causing the disappearances of local residents. The Doctor, through Clara, tries to communicate and reason with the creatures (dubbed "The Boneless") but is unsuccessful. Clara, Rigsy and several other characters whose names you needed bother learning are chased by the Boneless into a nearby subway.

Inside the subway the Boneless figure out a way to pop out of the walls and become 3D, shambling toward Clara and the others. Meanwhile, the TARDIS has gone into Siege Mode, sealing the Doctor off from our universe. Clara must then think like the Doctor in order to recharge the TARDIS, release the Doctor and defeat the Boneless.

She's eventually successful and the Doctor tells the Boneless to shoo, much the way you'd yell at a strange dog in your yard. Clara learns why the Doctor is so often such a prick, and discovers that lying to her boyfriend Danny Pink is as easy as breathing. And Missy, who we haven't seen for quite a while, was apparently watching the same episode we were on her iPad, and says she "chose Clara well," whatever the hell that means.

Thoughts:
• I thought this episode's cold open was very well done. After the victim is killed by the Boneless, we see a strange decorative stripe on the wall behind him. As the camera moves toward the wall, the parallax shift reveals the stripe to be the flattened victim's screaming, elongated face. Creepy!

• In Deep Breath, the first episode of the season, the Doctor asked Clara if he was a good man. She replied that she didn't know. A few weeks later in Kill The Moon, Clara finally had an answer for the Doctor. She was so fed up with his constant lying and manipulation– even though it was for humanity's own good– that she told him to shove off for good.

Then in Mummy On The Orient Express, the Doctor demonstrated to Clara that lying and manipulation was sometimes necessary. Now this week Clara was forced to become the Doctor and found herself lying in order to save the people she was trying to protect.

Putting Clara into a position where she basically IS the Doctor is an interesting way for her, as well as the audience, to examine his motivations and see what makes him tick. Whether the Doctor's doing this intentionally or not, it's helping her understand why he does the things he does.

• Last week I accused this season of recycling plot lines and elements of previous episodes. This one is no exception. The idea of two dimensional artwork attacking the Doctor was used a few seasons back in the aforementioned Fear Her. When the Doctor tells the 2D aliens to shove off because Earth is protected, his speech is virtually identical to the one he gave to the Atraxi in The Eleventh Hour. Even the ending, in which the Doctor seems displeased that the detestable Fenton has survived, recalls his similar reaction when the greedy Rickston Slade was one of the few survivors of the Starship Titanic in Voyage Of The Damned.

This isn't even the first time the TARDIS has shrunk. It and its inhabitants were
reduced in size way back in 1964's Planet Of Giants. The TARDIS also shrank in 1974's Logopolis.

Despite these recycled elements, screenwriter Jamie Mathieson (who wrote the previous episode Mummy On The Orient Express) weaves them into something wholly original and best of all, bizarre. This is my favorite episode of the season so far.

• Just about every episode this season has focused on Clara, while the Doctor is elbowed into the background. Nowhere is that more evident than this week, in which Clara pretty much IS the Doctor.

There's a very vocal group of fans out there who desperately want to see the Doctor regenerate into a woman. I wonder... is it possible this whole "Doctor Clara" thing is a sneaky attempt to pave the way for such an occurrence? You've tot to admit, it's a great way to gauge audience reaction. If fans react negatively to these Clara-centric episodes, then the BBC will know that the time's not yet right for a Doctor with two X chromosomes.

• This is some hard core nitpicking, but I thought it was worth a mention: when the TARDIS first shrinks, the front door is about half its normal size but is still lined up with the bottom of the wall.

Later on when it shrinks again, the now even tinier door is in the middle of the wall. So why the change? Shouldn't the little door still be down on the bottom of the wall, like a cartoon mouse hole?

• When the Doctor and Clara first squeeze out of the tiny TARDIS, he thinks for a moment that it's normal and they've gotten bigger. HAW!

• I'm sure it's just a coincidence that Rigsy's name sounds an awful lot like Banksy, the world's most famous graffiti "artist." And yes, as you may have deduced, I have a low opinion at best of taggers.

• Despite the fact that Steven Moffat didn't write this episode, creatures that exist only in two dimensions seems right up his alley. I'd be very surprised to find out he didn't have at least a small part in their creation.

The Boneless, as they're called in the episode, made for an extremely creepy foe, especially once they made the jump to 3D. Something's got to be done about their name though...

• Hey, we've gone two episodes in a row now without the Doctor making a disparaging remark about Clara's appearance. Progress!

• After the TARDIS has shrunk to toy size, the Doctor tells Clara to pick it up.

The Doctor: Clara, I need you to pick up the TARDIS. Carefully! It should be possible. I've adjusted the relative gravity.

Clara: You mean you've made it lighter.

The Doctor: Clara, it's always lighter. If the TARDIS were to land with its true weight, it would fracture the surface of the Earth.

That's something I never thought of before, but it makes perfect sense! The TADRIS is infinitely large inside-- infinite weight / mass plus the Earth would indeed spell disaster.

• I wonder if the fun-size TARDIS was an off-the-shelf toys from Character Options? I've got a few in my collection that are close to that size.

• Favorite line of the episode:

Banksy, er, I mean Rigsy: It's bigger on the inside!

The Doctor: You know, I don't think that statement's every been truer.


• My favorite part of the episode was the mind-bending scene in which the Doctor uses his hand to right the tiny TARDIS and then move it off the subway tracks. 

I wonder though– he sticks his hand out the door and then turns his wrist to move the TARDIS upright. Could he then have simply raised his hand to lift it up into the air? As if the TARDIS was like a watch or a bracelet looped around his wrist? Would that have worked?

• After the Doctor moves the TARDIS off the tracks, it accidentally tips back over. To prevent it from being struck by the approaching train, the Doctor activates the TARDIS' Siege Mode, which essentially locks it off from the entire universe.

I believe this is the first ever use and mention of Siege Mode.

I wonder if it's just a coincidence that the Siege Mode TARDIS looks a lot like the Pandorica from The Pandorica Opens? Expect a toy version any minute now.

• The Boneless have a great way of preventing their victims from escaping– they turn the door knobs (and the doors as well?) from 3D into 2D!

• With the Doctor incapacitated, Clara comes up with a dangerous idea to save everyone. She has Banksy, er, I mean Rigsy use his amazing tagger skills to paint a fake door on the back of a large poster. They then hang the painting in the subway tunnel, hoping the Boneless will aim their energy rays at it as they try to turn this fake 2D door into 3D, which will hopefully recharge the TARDIS that's hidden behind the poster. 

The risky plan works, until about 2/3 of the way through when the top of the poster comes unstuck and droops down. Fortunately the Boneless don't seem to notice this discrepancy and continue blasting away at the fake door. I guess they hadn't yet adapted to living in 3D to notice?

• I kind of like the notion that the Boneless aren't poor misunderstood aliens, but just plain evil. 

There's way too much of this "sympathetic villain" crap going on in fiction right now. I don't want to see Sleeping Beauty told from Maleficent's point of view. Why can't a villain just be a colossal asshole once in a while?

• Once the TARDIS has been recharged, it reverts back to normal size. The Doctor emerges, takes his sonic from Clara, gives a short speech to the Boneless, and then either kills them or banishes them back to their own dimension– it's not quite clear which.

Did I miss something? Clara had the Doctor's sonic all through the episode. Couldn't she have just used it to kill the Boneless? Or did the sonic need a power boost from the TARDIS? Or maybe killing 2D aliens with a sonic requires a special flick of the wrist that only Time Lords can perform.

• At the end of the episode the Doctor uses the TARDIS to transport everyone from the subway tunnels back to the surface (as opposed to having them, you know, just walk). So once again he seriously disrupts the lives of several ordinary humans by exposing them to undeniable existence of alien technology. 

Granted the others had already seen the Boneless and were forced to accept the fact that extraterrestrials are real, but... did he have to show them the mind-melting interior of the TARDIS as well?

OK, so he's not Batman and doesn't have a secret identity, but he's being pretty casual about revealing his alien nature lately.

• I have absolutely no clue what's going on with Missy and her monitoring of Clara, so I'm not even going to speculate.
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