Sunday, March 29, 2015

Amok Spock

In honor of the late Leonard Nimoy, it's time for yet another Spock drawing. 

This time I thought it'd be fun to draw him like one of my French girls, er, draw a page from a fictional Little Golden Book starring Spock. And what better episode to use than Amok Timeaka The One Where Spock Goes Upstream To Spawn?

If I had the time, it might be fun to adapt the entire episode as a kid's book. Maybe I should Kickstarter that project. I'm sure CBS won't mind.

Amok Time gave us our first ever look at Spock's home planet Vulcan. It was also the first time we ever saw a female member of his race. Above is Spock's wife T'Pring, played by the lovely Arlene Martel. Note that T'Pring looks stunningly sultry and exotic, what with her elaborate, up-swept Vulcan hairstyle.

Now flash forward a couple of decades. This is Dr. Selar, a Vulcan female who made a guest appearance on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Oy gevalt! The actress' face is pretty, but why in the name of Shatner's Toupee did they give her Spock's Moe-haircut? Were they afraid the arched eyebrows and pointed ears weren't enough to clue us in that she was a Vulcan, so they had to turn her into a She-Spock as well?

Unfortunately after this episode aired, EVERY Vulcan who appeared in any of the modern Trek series all wore this exact same Spock mop-top. Pity.

Spock was drawn in Photoshop on the graphic tablet.

It's A Wonder

Last week DC Comics revealed their new costume design for long-running character Wonder Woman

Gone is the highly offensive and sexist "swimsuit" the character's been saddled with for decades, by the male-dominated comic industry. It's now been replaced with an empowering and practical semi-armored full bodysuit.

I'm not sure why Wonder Woman needs Wolverine-esque knives that pop out of her gauntlets, but whatever.

So Bob, I hear you all asking with baited breath, what do you think of the new Wonder Woman costume? Is it a hit or a miss?

Well... I don't much care for it. For one thing, I can still see a slight bit of skin, particularly in the areas of her hands and face. And the high priest collar, with the daring notch cut into the front, exposes far too much of her supple and provacative neck. And her hair!  Just look at those blatantly exposed tresses flowing freely in the wind! Worst of all, you can still faintly discern a slight indication of the female form through the material and armor. No, this new costume just won't do at all.

I hope DC won't mind, but I took the liberty of making a few tweaks to the new costume. Ah, that's much better. Now every square inch of her flesh, even her eyes, is chastely covered. No longer will Dianna be viewed as nothing more than a sexual fantasy by emotionally stunted man-children. This is the bold new empowered, politically correct Wonder Woman for our time!

An Open Letter To George Takei

Dear George Takei:

On March 26, Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed his controversial new "Religious Freedom" bill into law, in a private ceremony surrounded by an army of +5 wizards and clerics.

Like most rational adults, I am opposed to Governor Pence and this idiotic law, along with all its dire implications.

That said, celebrities and media figures who are calling for an immediate boycott of Indiana and Indiana-based businesses need to calm down and shut the hell up— specifically you, Mr. George Takei. The past few days you've been using your considerable influence and media presence to urge the rest of the country to avoid doing business with the Hoosier state at all costs.

Well gosh, George, it's very easy to be so noble about such issues when one is independently wealthy, like you. Unfortunately most of us Hoosiers aren't so lucky. We don't all have Star Trek careers we can milk for fifty years. We need our Indiana-based jobs, and can't afford to lose them because of some ill-advised boycott that isn't going to change a damned thing.

I'm betting the vast majority of Indiana businesses and workers disagree with the Religious Freedom bill and everything it stands for. So why punish innocent citizens who had nothing to do with it and are at the mercy of a government that doesn't speak for them?

Besides, such an embargo will have absolutely zero effect on the Governor. The entire state could be reduced to a barren, lifeless Hellscape and he won't be affected one whit. You can boycott every public and private business in the entire state, but tonight Mike Pence will still slumber peacefully on his solid gold bed, his head resting gently on a pillow woven from the finest unicorn manes.

Instead of a boycott that will only harm the residents of Indiana, why not initiate a sanction that targets the architect of this ridiculous law— Mike Pence himself? Wouldn't it be much more logical (!) to punish him instead of Hoosier workers? Why not initiate a recall of Pence, challenge him to a public debate or call out the CEOs and corporations that have contributed to his election campaign instead?

If even one Hoosier worker loses their job because of this boycott, it's on your head, George. Perhaps you should think about the consequences of your comments before you denounce an entire state for the actions of one misguided public official.

The same goes for Charles Barkley, GenCon, the NCAA, Salesfoce, Angieslist and anyone else who's calling for a boycott of Indiana.

Bob Canada
A dissatisfied former fan

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2, Episode 14: Love In The Time Of HYDRA

This week on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. we learn what's up with S.H.I.E.L.D. 2.0, General Talbot's played for laughs and we finally catch up with Evil Ward and Agent 33, who I was suspecting the writers forgot about.


The Plot:

When Dr. Garner recommends Skye be relieved of duty until she can handle her quake powers, Coulson and May agree. Coulson flies Skye to a secret S.H.I.E.L.D. safe house, where she can practice her powers without shaking their headquarters apart.

Meanwhile, Mockingbird and Mack introduce Hunter to the "real" S.H.I.E.L.D., headed by Agent Robert Gonzales (played by Edward James Olmos). Gonzales says S.H.I.E.L.D. 2.0 is founded on the ideal of transparency, and intends to avoid Nick Fury's cloak and dagger approach. Gonzales is worried about Coulson's stability, especially in light of his recent alien-related breakdown, and intends to replace him and his agents, no doubt setting up a S.H.I.E.L.D. Civil War as the season finale.

Hunter escapes the S.H.I.E.L.D. 2.0 conference room and discovers he's on what looks like a Helicarrier in the ocean. He steals a sub and heads for the mainland in order to warn Coulson. Mockingbird follows, intending to stop him.

Lastly, Evil Ward and Agent 33 are setting up house in a hotel room. Agent 33's face-swapping nano-mask is still fused to her face, giving her the appearance of May. After getting it repaired, she adopts Skye's face and attempts to seduce Evil Ward. He tells her that's not what he's looking for, and encourages her to display her own face. When she says she doesn't know who she is, he suggests they find HYDRA agent Bakshi, as he's the one who brainwashed 33 in the first place.

Bakshi's being held by General Talbot, so Evil Ward and Agent 33 infiltrate his headquarters and abduct him. Bakshi tells 33 her name is really Kara, which jogs her memory enough that she's able to assume her true face. Evil Ward and Kara then begin brainwashing Bakshi for their own nefarious purposes.

• I'm betting the opening scene with Evil Ward and Agent 33 in the diner was supposed to be an homage to the beginning of Pulp Fiction. You know, the scene with Pumpkin and Honey Bunny having breakfast and discussing the fact that they're criminals? That one. In this episode Evil Ward even kept going on about "pumpkin pancakes!"

If that wasn't an homage, then it was a hell of a big coincidence!

• Evil Ward and Agent 33 track down the scientist who invented the nano-mask to the diner and abduct him. After they force him to fix the mask, Evil Ward kills him! Well that's that, I guess! Let's hope the mask never needs fixing again.

By the way, the tech tells 33 that her mask can store up to three faces at a time. I guess Agent May's is one of those? She's able to recall it at will.

• Kudos to Ming-Na Wen for her portrayal of the confused and abused Agent 33. She did an incredible job of selling the fact that she was a different person.

• Creepy scene of the episode (and possibly of the season!): When Agent 33 was wearing Skye's face, but May's voice was coming out of her mouth. And all while she was trying to seduce Evil Ward. Yikes!

• So is Agent 33 the Marvel Cinematic Universe's version of Madame Masque? Probably not, since we find out 33's name is Kara, and Masque's real name is Whitney, but it would be cool if she was.

• When Hunter meets Agent Gonzales, he infodumps the reasons behind the existence of S.H.I.E.L.D. 2.0. Basically he believes that Fury's "secret spy organization" approach was wrong, so the new S.H.I.E.L.D. is founded on the principle of complete transparency (!).

Now there's a novel idea! A transparent spy agency! Kind of defeats the whole purpose, doesn't it? I have to say I thought this was a pretty lame attempt at an explanation. Besides, if they're so transparent, how come no one knows about them? Why are they sneaking around? Isn't that what they accused the orignal S.H.I.E.L.D. of doing? None of this makes any sense.

• Gonzales says the other reason for founding S.H.I.E.L.D. 2.0 is because they believe Coulson's been acting erratically, especially after the whole "alien blood transfusion" thing. OK, I'll give them that one.

• I kept expecting Gonzales to end every sentence with "So say we all!"

• I didn't think much of S.H.I.E.L.D. 2.0's security. Hunter was able to escape the conference room ridiculously easily, as only a couple of guards put up even a token resistance. He even stole a sub and headed for the mainland with little or no trouble. Maybe they're letting him escape for some reason?

• So S.H.I.E.L.D. 2.0 is plotting a takeover of Original S.H.I.E.L.D., and Mockingbird and Mack are with them. Darn. I really liked these two characters. I hope there's some way they can remain on the show after all this plays out. Maybe they're triple agents?

• Agent 33 sneaks into General Talbot's headquarters disguised as his wife, and abducts Bakshi. While I did appreciate the much-needed bit of comic relief by Talbot here, I think it's a mistake to play him for laughs. He should be a formidable enemy, not a laughingstock.

• At the safe house, Coulson gives Skye a new set of gloves whipped up by Simmons. He says they'll help her control her powers, with "minimal" side effects. Skye must be really preoccupied, because she doesn't even ask what those side effects might be. In the Marvel Universe, you never know. Growing wings, perhaps? A tail?

• Favorite line of the episode: When Hunter meets the heads of S.H.I.E.L.D. 2.0, he says to Mockingbird, “Perhaps we could have discussed this alone, without Hufflepuff looking on?”

Happy Tenth Anniversary, Revived Doctor Who!

Happy Anniversary to the new Doctor Who series, which premiered ten years ago today on March 26, 2005! Wow! Ten years already? Where's the time gone (heh)?

Here we are four Doctors, ten plus companions and two sonic screwdrivers later, and the show's still going strong.

The original series ran for twenty six years, from 1963 to 1989. The BBC pulled the plug on the show in '89 due to low ratings and "franchise fatigue." Although the show officially ceased production, the network insisted it wasn't cancelled but was instead "on hiatus." Not sure I see how that's any different!

Numerous attempts were made to bring back the series over the years, without success. At one point Steven Speilberg's Amblin' Entertainment even attempted to revive the show. Finally in 1996, the BBC teamed with the Fox Network in America to produce a Doctor Who TV movie.

The movie starred Paul McGann as the Eight Doctor, and was meant to serve as a pilot for a new series. Reviews were mixed, as most fans criticized the script, but praised McGann's performance. Unfortunately the show was just too odd and too British for the American public, and low ratings scrapped any plans for a series.

Finally in 2003, the BBC worked out all the bugs and legal problems, and announced a new Doctor Who series to be headed by executive producer Russell T Davies. This time the production was based in Cardiff, Wales, instead of England.

Christopher Eccleston was cast as the Ninth Doctor, with Billie Piper starring as his companion Rose.

Eccleston's Doctor was much more serious than previous incarnations, as he struggled with survivor's guilt and the fact that he was the last of his kind. Piper's Rose Tyler shop girl-turned-adventurere helped bring this new Doctor out of his shell, and was a much-needed ray of hope for the morose Time Lord.

There were other differences this time around as well. In the original series, each story consisted of several multi-part episodes, each lasting half an hour. The new series would feature thirteen standalone episodes per season (with the occasional two parter), each lasting forty five minutes.

The budget was considerably larger for the new series too. Although the original show's papier-mâché aliens and cardboard sets had a certain charm, it was nice to see Doctor Who finally get the production value it deserved. At long last the interior of the TARDIS actually looked suitably bigger on the inside. It's about time! In the classic series, I thought the control room didn't look all that much bigger than the outside of the TARDIS!

The music was suitably updated too. Gone was the traditional synthesizer soundtrack, replaced by a sweeping, epic score performed by a symphony orchestra.

There was some concern in fandom as to the nature of the new series. Would it be a direct continuation of the old school Doctor Who, or would it be a reboot? There were pros and cons to both approaches. A reboot would likely alienate rabid fans of the old series, while a continuation, bogged down by decades of continuity, would probably confuse new viewers.

Russell T Davies solved the problem brilliantly. While the show was a continuation of the old series, much had happened to the Doctor since we last saw him. The Ninth Doctor was now the last of the Time Lords, as some mysterious incident had wiped out his people.

By leveling the playing field like this, fans were as much in the dark as new viewers, which was an awesome solution to the problem.

Ever since the show began in 1963, the Doctor's always travelled with a companion, usually a human, and most always female. The companion served mostly as an expository device, so he could explain things to them and thus to the audience. 

With the introduction of Rose Tyler, the importance of the companion was ramped up considerably, as she was very nearly the Doctor's equal. The new series also began the idea of the Doctor actually being attracted to his companion, rather than seeing them as just a friend. I'm not a fan of this development, as it skews a bit toward the creepy side. The Doctor's two thousand years old, give or take. He shouldn't be lusting after a twenty year old!

The inaugural episode Rose marked 
the first time we'd ever met a companions family, as we were introduced to Rose Tyler's boyfriend Mickey Smith and mother Jackie. It was an interesting take, and helped flesh out and humanize the Doctor's companion.

The Ninth Doctor's outfit got an update for the new millennium as well. Gone were the bizarre, garish jackets festooned with question marks (ugh). This new Doctor wore a simple leather jacket, t-shirt and black pants, allowing him to blend in (on Earth at least) rather than stick out like a sore thumb.

The Doctor's sonic screwdriver was also revised in the new series. In the past the sonic had been used fairly sparingly, but it now became an integral part of his arsenal, gaining new powers and abilities in each episode. Some fans complained that the sonic was now too powerful, functioning more like a magic wand than a tool. Producer Russell T Davies justified the use of the sonic, saying that since the new series' episodes were much shorter, the story had to move along at a fast pace. The Doctor could no longer afford to spend fifteen minutes trying to open a door, he had to open it instantly.

The new series proved popular under Eccleston's watch, but sadly he left after just one season. The show really exploded once 
Tenth Doctor David Tennant came on board. The show went from a British hit to a full-fledged worldwide phenomenon. Each episode now premieres on the same day all over the world.

We're now on our Twelfth Doctor, and the series show no signs of slowing down. I can think of few TV shows that have been around for as long as Doctor Who, and even fewer that've had twelve actors play the main character!

Here's to another ten (and more!) years!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Do Unto Others

This week controversial torture porn director Eli Roth, best known for Cabin Fever and the Hostel series, announced that he's tapped an unlikely source to write the screenplay to his next film—  Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson.

The movie, titled Home Invasion, tells the harrowing story of a family of four who are brutally slain by murderous invaders.

In a recent interview, Robertson outlined his gruesome story. "Two guys break into an atheist's home," said Robertson. "He has a little atheist wife and two little atheist daughters. Two guys break into his home and tie him up in a chair and gag him. And then they take his two daughters in front of him and rape both of them and then shoot 'em and they take his wife and then decapitate her head off in front of him. And they can look at him and say, 'Isn't it great that I don’t have to worry about being judged? Isn't it great that there's nothing wrong with this? There's no right or wrong, now is it dude?"

Robertson gleefully continued describing his horrific tale, saying, "Then you take a sharp knife and take his manhood and hold it in front of him and say, 'Wouldn't it be something if this was something wrong with this? But you’re the one who says there is no God, there’s no right, there’s no wrong, so we’re just having fun. We're sick in the head, have a nice day."

Roth is reportedly extremely pleased with Robertson's script, and eager to begin the project, which should be completed by... just a second. What's that? Really? Are you kidding me? 

Ahem. Sorry about that, folks. It would seem I'm in error. Apparently Robertson's comments were not part of a horror script he's writing for Eli Roth. His ghastly and luridly detailed scenario was actually part of an annual Christian prayer breakfast held last week in Florida.

Jesus Christ!

The Flash Season 1, Episode 16: Rogue Time

As I predicted last week, Rogue Time pressed the big red reset button, undoing pretty much all the events that happened on The Flash last week. 

I was expecting a mini version of Groundhog Day, as Barry was forced to relive the same events of the previous day. Instead we got a completely new timeline— one that's absolutely worse for Barry, but way better for everyone else. For example, Barry loses two women in the same day, but Mardon's now behind bars, Joe's safe and sound, Captain Singh is healthy, Dr. Wells' secret is safe and Cisco is still alive. It was an interesting— and unexpected— way to go.

Last week I worried that the show was revealing too much too soon, especially when it came to the Dr. Wells / Reverse Flash storyline. I guess I needed have concerned myself. Just like that, Wells' revelation is gone, and the characters are none the wiser as to his true identity (although we still know it of course).

Let's just hope they put a lid on the time travel and don't use it too awfully much, lest it become a cheap crutch for the writers.


The Plot:
We pick up right where we left off last week, as Barry finds he's time traveled a day into the past. He begins finishing everyone's sentences, prompting Dr. Wells to realize what happened. He warns Barry not to alter the future, as the universe will try to balance any changes he makes.

Barry enters the police station and sees a non-abducted Joe and an unparalyzed Captain Signh and says screw it, ignoring Wells' advice. He captures Mark Mardon at super speed before he can hurt anyone, making us wonder why he doesn't do something similar every week. The universe doesn't take this well, and replaces Mardon with Captain Cold and Heat Wave.

Dr. Wells worries that Barry will mess up the time stream, preventing him from getting back to the future. He checks his futuristic newspaper to make sure the time hasn't been altered.

Cold then kidnaps Cisco and forces him to make replacement weapons for himself and Heat Wave. When he refuses, Cold trots out Cisco's estranged brother Dante, threatening to kill him unless he complies. Cisco reluctantly recreates the guns. Cold's sister Lisa says she wants in on the action as well, so Cisco whips up a gun for her that shoots gold (more on that in a bit). She then dubs herself the Golden Glider for some reason.

Meanwhile, Barry breaks up with Linda Park, now that he knows Iris is going to profess her love for him in just a few hours. He excitedly invites her to lunch, but is disappointed when she rejects his advances. Eddie even ends up punching him in the nose for going after Iris. Barry then realizes Dr. Wells was right— his attempts to change the future have ruined his life.

Captain Cold tells Cisco that he'll let him and Dante go if he tells him the Flash's secret identity (which most everyone already knows at this point). Cisco balks, so Cold begins torturing Dante, freezing his concert piano-playing fingers. Cisco finally breaks and spills his guts. 

Cold releases Cisco (and I guess Dante went to the hospital?) and returns to STAR Labs, where he tearfully informs Barry of what he's done. Barry says, "Eh," and they hug it out.

As Cold, Heat Wave and Golden Glider attempt to rob an armored car. Barry grabs Cold and zooms him into the middle of nowhere to have a talk. Barry threatens to lock up Cold in Super Jail. Cold says if he does, an automatic signal will broadcast Barry's identity to the world. It's a real standoff.

Eventually they come to an agreement— Barry promises to leave Cool Cold & The Gang free to steal (!) as long as they don't hurt any innocents, and Snart promises to keep Barry's identity secret. 

Lastly, Iris' boss Mason Bridge tries to give her the damning evidence he has on Dr. Wells, but before he can, the RF appears and kills him. Barry sees a news report that Bridge is missing, and becomes suspicious of Wells.

• So Barry runs so fast he goes back in time to the previous day. I'm still trying to figure out why there aren't two of him now. It's a loop, right? He leaped from Tuesday back into Monday. So why didn't Tuesday Barry run into Monday Barry? Did he somehow jump into his old body?

• As soon as Barry realizes he's gone back in time a day, he zooms over to Mark Mardon's hideout, grabs him and tosses him into Dr. Wells' secret Super Jail, all in the blink of an eye.

Realistically (heh) this is how EVERY episode of The Flash should play out. You've got a superhero who can literally outrun lightning (as seen last week). How could any villain have a defense for that?

And once again, Wells is apparently imprisoning someone in his private prison, without due process.

• Captain Cold captures Cisco so he can build replacement guns for him and Heat Wave. Cisco refuses, so they bring out his estranged brother Dante and threaten to kill him if he doesn't comply.

It would have been funny if, when Cisco saw his jerk of a brother being held hostage, he said, "Meh. Whatever."

• Despite the fact that there doesn't seem to be any lab equipment in Cold's hideout, Cisco somehow builds replacement cold and heat guns. When Cold's sister Lisa sees the weapons, she says she wants one too. Cisco's such a genius that in just an hour or two, and again with no apparent equipment, he builds a gun that spontaneously generates gold. 

Obviously the gold gun isn't spraying out real gold, but a gold-like resin or something. Because if it is real gold, then Captain Cold and his little crew will have absolutely no reason to steal ever again. All they have to do is shoot a few rocks or an old vase and they'll be set for life.

And if the gun really is shooting actual gold, why didn't Cisco think of this before? He could be ruler of the entire solar system by now, sitting on a hundred foot tall solid gold throne.

They could have easily cleared up this issue with a simple line of dialog.

• After receiving her gold gun, Lisa Snart gives herself the perfectly logical name of Golden Glider.

In the comics, Golden Glider was a figure skater, who used a pair of hi-tech skates that created their own ice. These allowed her to skate over any surface, even in mid-air. She also used a lot of jewel-themed weapons, like rings and jewels, which I assume is why they gave her the gold gun here.

• Barry tries to deliberately break the time barrier in STAR Labs, but fails. Dr. Wells comes up with some lame explanation as to why he can't.

I'm glad they included this scene, because Barry's time travel ability needs to have limits, and be used very sparingly. Otherwise anytime he makes a mistake he can just run really fast and undo it.

• When Linda Park confronts Barry about their relationship, she says his heart should "ache for her." Unless there've been a lot of scenes we've not been privy to, they've gone on about four dates. Give the guy some space, Linda!

• During the final minutes of last week's episode, Iris confessed she still had feelings for Barry. Now that he's gone back in time, he's all excited, expecting her to reveal her feelings all over again. Unfortunately his hopes are dashed, as she apparently has no feelings for him this time now.

Dr. Wells tells Barry that Iris' feelings for him are actually there in her subconscious, but they need a shock or trauma to bubble to the surface.

In other words, Iris needs a goddamned tidal wave to destroy her city before she realizes she loves Barry. I've made no secret of the fact that I'm not a fan of Iris, and this cockamamie revelation does nothing to change that.

• When Barry can find no sign of the missing Cisco, Dr. Wells says, "Brave heart, Barry." Was that another Doctor Who shout out? The Fifth Doctor often said "Brave heart, Tegan" to his companion back in the day. I'm assuming they threw this in because of all the time travel in the episode?

• Did you get a load of Iris' outfit at the newspaper? Apparently black leather hip boots are now acceptable office attire.

• Last week Dr. Wells confronted Cisco in front of the Reverse Flash Containment Unit, right before he killed him. 

In this new timeline they share the same moment, but it plays out much differently. This time Wells is supportive and encouraging to Cisco, rather than monologuing right before he kills him with his vibro hand.

It was a nice little bookend to the scene last week. Still, it was a bit chilling when Dr. Wells told Cisco he considers him a son, and we realize he's capable of the same feeling in both timelines.

• The Flash / Captain Cold standoff, in which the two reach an understanding, was very well done. Although it does seem a bit odd that Barry basically just gave Cold permission to commit crimes, as long as he doesn't hurt anyone. I guess Cold had him over a barrel with the secret identity thing.

I'm betting they set up this "mutual respect" thing for two reasons. First of all, in the comic the Flash's Rogue Gallery had their own twisted code of honor. They were thieves yes, but they did their best to never kill cops or innocents. And I believe Captain Cold once even through a Rogue out for doing drugs (!). The Rogues also had a grudging respect for the Flash.

Secondly, The CW is planning a superhero team series soon. This team will supposedly consist of Black Canary, the Atom, Firestorm and... Captain Cold. I'm betting they're softening up Cold a bit so it'll be more realistic when he becomes a team player.

Blushing Bride

At long, long, long last! Storm Collectibles presents their new 1/6 Scale Dennis Rodman Wedding Dress Edition Collectible Figure!

Who can forget when celebrity and NBA superstar Dennis Rodman announced his bisexuality and famously married himself to promote his 1996 autobiography Bad As I Wanna Be? Now you can relive this magical moment in time all year long, as you gaze in wonder at this beautiful and exquisitely detailed collectible figure.

Featuring an eerily realistic likeness of Rodman, simulated nasal jewelry, hand-painted excessive tattooing, stylish blonde wig and a custom-tailored wedding ensemble, this special edition figure will delight the sports fan and reality show gawker alike!

Why did it take nineteen long years for this figure to finally become a reality?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Walking Dead Season 5, Episode 15: Try

This week Daryl and Aaron give the fan-fic writers more material, Carol bakes a casserole, Carl finds love in the time of zombies, and we see the return of Crazy Rick as we set up next week's big ninety minute massacre, er, season finale.


The Plot:
Deanna (and her family) mourns her douchebag son Aiden. Apparently they decide to honor his memory by listening to the awful mix tape (OK, disc) he made before he died. Carol bakes the Monroes a sympathy casserole and sets it on their porch as she rings their doorbell and runs. Deanna leaves it sitting and burns the sympathy note.

Nicholas, the other Alexandrian douchebag, recounts last week's disastrous supply run for Deanna's camera. As you would expect, he paints himself as the hero, saying Glenn panicked and ran, causing the deaths. To her credit, Deanna seems to realize he's lying.

Michonne and Rosita notice that Sasha's disappeared from her post in the bell tower, and go outside the walls to find her. They discover her new hobby is apparently hunting down every walker on Earth and shooting it in the head. 

Also outside the walls, Carl follows his new crush Enid, who likes to taunt walkers with kitchen timers. They share an awkward (and extremely dangerous) moment in a hollow tree. 

Again outside the walls, Daryl and Aaron find a disturbing tableau: someone's dismembering walkers and carving Ws on their heads again. They also find a freshly-dead woman who was tied to a tree and left as walker food. Obviously this was the work of the Wolves, but If Daryl realizes he's seen this kind of thing at least twice before, he doesn't mention it.

Glenn confronts Nicholas about his douchbaggery, and tells him he's off supply run detail for a while. Nicholas sneaks out (why are these walls even there if people can come and go through them so easily?) and retrieves the gun Rick hid in the woods a few weeks ago.

Meanwhile, Rick tells Deanna he has proof that Pete is abusing his wife Jessie and son Sam. Deanna says something like, "Tell me something I don't know!" and admits she lets Pete's behavior slide because he's Alexandria's only doctor. Rick suggests splitting them up, and if that doesn't work, killing him. Again, the killing thing seems a bit overkill to me. Deanna refuses to kill Pete, saying she'll opt for banishment if it comes to that. Which of course in this world would be the same thing as killing him, so tomato, tomahto.

Rick then visits Jessie and tells her he wants to separate her from Pete. Just then Pete enters, and there's a big brawl between him and Rick that spills out into the street. Rick finally pulls a gun, which he's not supposed to have, and threatens to kill Pete right there in the street. He starts ranting about how soft the Alexandrians are and how they're all going to die if they don't listen to him. Just then Michonne clocks him in the head with a rock, which probably saves his life.

• An observation: Twice in this episode, Sasha shoots a walker in the head and its blood splashes on the camera lens. They've been doing that trick a lot this season.

 Speaking of Sasha-- Holy crap! Is she an amazing shot, or what? She put down at least fifteen or twenty walkers all by herself, like Legoas shooting arrows into orcs. Someone needs to make a Walking Dead videogame in which you play as Sasha depopulating the countryside of zombies, stat!

• Nicholas lies his way through his "debriefing," painting himself and the late Aiden as the heroes and Glenn as the villain.

Surely Deanna realizes he's full of crap? She invited Team Rick into Alexandria because they've survived in the wild for so long, and they're so good at what they do. There's no way they, on their own, would have lost so many people on a simple old supply run.

• Uh-oh. Rosita had more lines in this episode than in all her previous ones put together. She was talking about her feelings too. You know what that means on this show...

Best Line Of The Episode: When Rick accuses Pete of abusing Jessie, she begins making excuses for him, listing a litany of hardships he's endured. Rick interrupts her with a cold and savage, "I don't care!"

Runner Up: During Carl and Enid's awkward post apocalyptic first date, they're forced to hide from a herd of walkers. Enid tells Carl, "It's their world. We're just living in it."

By the way kids, what a great idea it was to hide inside a hollowed out tree. If even one of those walkers had turned its head even slightly in your direction, you'd have been trapped.

• Daryl and Aaron go scouting and find more dismembered W-branded walkers. It's a pretty good bet we'll be meeting our Wolf friends at the end of next week's episode.

I will bet you real money there is already Daryl/Aaron slashfic out there on the interwebs right now.

They also find a woman who was tied to a tree and left for dead among the walkers. Which coincidentally is exactly what Carol threatened to do to Sam a couple weeks ago. Not that she had anything to do with this of course, I just thought it was worth pointing out.

• Right before entering Alexandria for the first time, Rick hid a gun near an old shack in the woods. Later he came back to retrieve it and found it had been stolen. My money was on Enid as the gun thief, since she's prone to sneaking around in the woods unattended. But now we know it was Nicholas, who took it and hid it somewhere else.

Why he hid it again instead of just sticking it in his belt, I have no idea. I suppose so he'd have a gun of his own, one he didn't have to sign out of the armory?

• Rick finds Jessie hiding out in her garage, secretly smoking. I wonder if all the cigarettes in this world have gone stale yet? Believe it or not, cigarettes actually have an expiration date. Of course they don't spoil like food, but after a year or so they can become bitter tasting and much "stronger" than normal.

I'm not a smoker, but I know this from personal experience. My grandpa smoked, and for some reason he stockpiled his cigs in a dresser in his bedroom. He didn't rotate his stock though, so some of his cigarettes had been in there for many, many years. If you think a fresh cigarette smells bad, wait until you get a whiff of one that's ten years old.

• When Rick suggests to Deanna that they force Pete to separate from Jessie, she says, "But what if he doesn't want to?"

Gosh, Deanna, that's a good point! So many criminals in our society have escaped prosecution because they simply told the judge, "I don't want to go!" when they were sentenced to prison. The law's powerless whenever someone invokes that clause.

• Just like in the comic, everyone in Alexandria knows Pete is an abusive husband, but they let it slide because he's their only doctor.

• Pete's supposedly treating Tara after she suffered a massive head injury last week. That means if Rick kills or exiles Pete, he's could be condemning Tara to death. Has he really thought this through?

• When Rick offers to help Jessie get away from Pete, she asks if he'd do the same for anyone else. He says no. What the hell, Rick? You're supposed to be a sheriff! Serve the public trust and all that. So you only help people you're attracted to?

• After Rick confronts Pete, the two of them begin brawling like animals. Pete seemed to be in surprisingly good shape for a doughy alcoholic who's been living such a cushy life the past few years. He actually got the upper hand a couple of times during their fight. One would think Rick wouldn't have had any trouble mopping the floor with him.

• Looks like ol' Crazy Rick's back. You remember him-- he was the one who used to get "phone calls" from people who died on his watch, and had conversations with the ghost of his dead wife.

• This episode followed the comic book very closely, especially when Rick & Pete flew out the window, and when Michonne knocked out the nearly rabid Rick with a rock to the back of the head.

• OK, I'm calling it now-- next week we'll see some more cast culling, as Sasha's hobby gets the better of her. Daryl and Aaron will be captured by the Wolves, and Aaron will most likely be killed. Nicholas will die after threatening Glenn with his stolen gun. We'll then see that Rick's tied up or detained somehow while Deanna decides what to do with him. She'll decide on banishment and force him out of Alexandria. Shortly afterward the Wolves will attack, and he and Daryl will have to sneak back in to save everyone.

Tune in next week to see if my predictions come true.

Happy Tenth Anniversary To The Office!

Happy Anniversary to The Office, which premiered ten years ago today on March 24, 2005! Ten years! Can you believe it? Where the hell did that decade go?

I was there in front of my TV watching that very first episode ten years ago, and I have to say I wasn't impressed. Why? Welp, I was working at the local newspaper at the time, and had a very, very Michael Scott-like boss. One who, just like Michael, thought he was hilarious, wanted to be everyone's pal, and spent far more time and effort deciding where to eat lunch than he ever did on actual work. 

Since I was pretty much living the series on a daily basis, the last thing I wanted to do was see it again when I got home. So I ended up ignoring the show.

I don't remember why now, but I decided to give the series another try a year later. I watched the A Benihana Christmas episode, and suddenly I was hooked. I sought out the DVDs to get all caught up, and became a rabid viewer after that.

As far as I know The Office was the first series to use the now ubiquitous "fake documentary" style of shooting. Apparently not everyone realized that's what they were watching though. I was once discussing the show with a co-worker who said, "That guy who plays Jim is the worst actor ever! Every week he looks right at the camera and makes a face!" Oy gevalt!

I remained a loyal fan for the series' entire seven year run. You heard me. I said seven. There were only seven seasons of The Office. You may have encountered people who insist there were actually nine seasons, but that's just an ugly internet rumor. The series ended with Steve Carell's departure in the Goodbye, Michael  episode.

Monday, March 23, 2015

It Came From The Cineplex: The Lazarus Effect

The Lazarus Effect was written by Luke Dawson and Jeremy Slater, and directed by David Gelb.

Dawson wrote the screenplay to 2008's Shutter, while Slater wrote the upcoming horrible looking Fantastic 4 (or Fant 4 Stic, as the trailer suggests) reboot. Well, at least their work's consistent. Gelb previously directed a number of documentaries. Perhaps he should have stuck with that format.

Think Flatliners meets Event Horizon and you'll have a pretty good idea what this film is like. Scientists work on a project to bring the dead back to life, and after being forced to use it on one of their own, she comes back... changed.

The Lazarus Effect can't seem to settle on a tone or even a direction. The story meanders down multiple paths, most of which turn out to be dead ends, leaving us frustrated with abandoned concepts and unanswered questions.

The film raises issues about science vs. religion, death and the afterlife that are actually quite interesting, but then totally ignores them as devolves into a typical watered-down PG-13 horror film. If the writers and director had shown even slight interest in examining the topics they bring up, they might have actually had a decent movie on their hands.

The Lazarus Effect was actually filmed back in 2013, but wasn't released until February 2015. As regular readers of my blog know, this is never a good sign, and you should avoid such delayed movies at all costs.

Lastly, Donald Glover stars in the film as Niko. I sure hope he didn't leave Community just so he could make movies like this one.


The Plot:
Two university research scientists, Frank (played by Mark Duplass) and his fiancee Zoe (Olivia Wilde), are working on a serum to help coma victims. They're shocked when they discover the substance, codenamed Lazarus, can actually bring the recently dead back to life. Coma, resurrection, eh, it's all the same thing.

Plot point! Zoe has nightmares about an apartment fire she experienced as a child, in which she witnessed her neighbors as they burned alive. Remember that, as it becomes important later on.

Frank & Zoe, along with their assistants Clay (played by Evan Peters, of X-Men: Days Of Future Past fame), Niko (played by Donald Glover, whose presence in this film makes me wish I was watching Community instead) and videographer Eva, test the Lazarus serum on a euthanized dog named Rocky. The dog actually comes back to life, but there are unintended side effects. Its cataracts completely disappear, and its brain is furiously forming new and complex synapses.

When the university dean gets wind of their ethically dubious experiments, she shuts them down. Shortly afterward all their research is confiscated by a large, evil drug corporation. Frank and Zoe decide to sneak back into the lab and recreate the experiment to prove they came up with the Lazarus drug.

During the secret experiment, Zoe is electrocuted in the silliest way possible. A desperate Frank injects her with the Lazarus serum, and lo and behold she's resurrected. However all is not right with Zoe. She claims she visited Hell while she was dead, and begins developing telepathy and telekinesis, which one naturally does after coming back to life.

Zoe's condition gradually worsens as she becomes aggressive and murderous for no apparent reason. She begins picking off the cast one by one, even killing her fiance Frank. She saves Eva the Final Girl for last, somehow transporting her into a dream-like (I guess) version of her apartment fire nightmare. Told you that would be important later!

While there, Eva realizes that Zoe actually started the apartment fire when she was a child, which is presumably why she went to Hell. Eva manages to inject Zoe with a deadly chemical, but it turns out it was all in her mind, and Zoe kills her.

Zoe then injects the rest of the Lazarus serum into her head. She then injects Frank with her serum-infused blood, resurrecting him. We then see the rest of her victims laid out, implying she's creating an army of resurrectees for some reason.

But we never find out what happened to Rocky the dog. Maybe he'll be back in the sequel.

• If nothing else, the film clocks in at a brisk eighty three minutes, so it won't torture you for too awfully long.

• This film must set some kind of record for jump scares. Practically every scene features a character unexpectedly grabbing someone by the shoulder, or lunging in from behind, or even popping up wearing a pig mask (!). It's as if the director realized the story wasn't the least bit frightening, so he ramped up the quota of jump scares in a flailing effort to shock the audience somehow.

• You know, now that I think about it, people "die" on the operating table and are brought back to life all the time. So far I don't think any of them have developed psychic powers or brought pieces of Hell back with them.

• After Rocky the dog's brought back to life, he seems mopey and unresponsive. Zoe wonders if they did the right thing by bringing him back, asking "What if we ripped him out of doggy heaven? What if he didn't want to come back?"

Later Zoe claims she went to Hell after she died, and even though she was only gone a few minutes, it felt like years to her. She's also pissed that even though she's spent her adult life atoning for the mistake she made as a child (setting her apartment building on fire), she was still condemned to Hell.

These are actually all interesting concepts. I'd like to see an entire movie devoted to any one of them. Too bad the movie had absolutely zero interest in developing these ideas further, as it turns into a standard slasher film. There's even a Final Girl!

• The always great Ray Wise puts in half a day's work as Mr. Wallace, the head of the "evil" drug corporation that confiscates the heroes' research materials. He's in the movie for all of two minutes. If that. Pity they didn't utilize him more.

• During their second dog-resurrecting experiment, Zoe pulls the switch on the circuit box and is accidentally electrocuted, all because she forgot to take off her engagement ring. Jesus Christ! Is that a real thing? Can you really be electrocuted just by pulling a switch on a such a power box? Maybe they ought to think about some insulation.

• When Zoe's killed, Frank valiantly tries to revive her with standard methods, by injecting adrenalin into her heart. Gasp! For one brief shining moment, I actually thought we were finally going to see the proper, realistic use of a defibrillator in a movie. Alas, my hopes were dashed. When the adrenalin doesn't work, they use the defibrillator in the usual erroneous Hollywood way.

Once more with feeling: A defib unit is not like jumper cables for your heart! It actually stops the heart, not starts it! 

When the heart stops beating, it's called asystole, which as you can imagine is a bad thing. The doctor then injects adrenaline into the patient's heart to hopefully get it beating again. If it works though, the heart will be flip-flopping around inside the chest, which is almost as bad as not beating at all. This random beating is called fibrillation. The defib unit shocks the patient's heart and hopefully gets it beating normally again. In other words, it de-fibrillates the heart, hence the name of the machine.

• After Zoe's resurrected, we're told that her brain is "evolving." Same with Rocky's brain. Whoops! Evolution is the change in the hereditary traits of biological populations over time. By definition an individual cannot evolve. I think the word they're looking for here is "mutating."

• Amazingly, the film trots out the old, "Humans only use 10% of their brains" trope! The exact same one used in last year's LucyAs always, I feel it's my duty to point out that this is absolutely not true. There's never any part of our brains that is not functioning. It's The Myth That Will Not Die.

They do have Niko say something about the entire human brain is always active, but some parts only function at 10%, but that's not true either, and confuses the matter even further.

• Is there any reason why all the lab corridors had fluorescent lights at the bottom of the walls, right above the floor? I know why the director did this— to make the lab look spooky and otherworldly. But I can't for the life of me think of any real world reason for it. Seems like people would be constantly busting the lights with their feet or when they swept up.

• The film takes place almost entirely in the research lab. It's a fairly large space, but it's still a finite lab. Somehow whenever Zoe kills someone, everyone else in the cast manages to be somewhere else. Where exactly there are, I have no idea.

• As Eva somehow walks around in Zoe's psychically fabricated Hellscape, she finds herself back in her burning apartment. She sees a vision of Young Zoe holding a book of matches, and realizes she set the deadly fire herself. She comforts Young Zoe, telling her that the fire wasn't her fault. 

I'm assuming Eva told her this in order to distract her or something, because the fire most definitely was Young Zoe's fault!

• As the fire rages in Young Zoe's apartment, we see her neighbors desperately trying to reach under their door as they burn to death on the other side. Thing is, there's at least six inches of space between the bottom of the door and the floor. That's a lot of space! What good is a door that doesn't come all the way down to the floor?

This is probably just a characteristic of Zoe's nightmarish Hellscape, but I thought it was worth pointing out.

• Zoe can read her coworkers' minds, except when the script says she can't. When Frank attempts to kill her by injecting her with a deadly chemical, she "sees" the syringe he's hiding behind his back and kills him instead.

Later Eva tries the same trick, and Zoe doesn't see the attack coming. This ignorance on Zoe's part may have all been part of the elaborate Hellscape she created for Eva, but I'm not a hundred percent sure. I'd have to watch the movie again to find out, and that ain't happening.

The Lazarus Effect could have been a decent film if it had examined the concepts it raises. Instead it was more interested in becoming a standard slasher film, littered with jump scares. I give it a C+.
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