Tuesday, March 31, 2015

It Came From The Cineplex: It Follows

It Follows was written and directed by David Robert Mitchell. 

The film is a slow-burning throwback to 1980s horror films, reminiscent of John Carpenter's Halloween, with a dash of A Nightmare On Elm Street thrown in for good measure. Like many 80s horror films, it's a thinly disguised parable on the evils of promiscuity and STDs.

The central idea of a monster that relentlessly pursues you no matter where go taps into deep primal fears that we all have. In fact the director himself said he based the "It" entity on a recurring nightmare he had as a child.

It's also a very low budget affair, made for just $2 million dollars! Most movies spend more than that on their craft service these days! 

The entire film is a marvel of low budget movie making. There are no big name stars in the cast. It was filmed in the economically depressed remains of Detroit, which I have to imagine is pretty cheap these days. There are no special effects to speak of, and little or no prosthetic makeup. And because the titular "It" of the film assumes the appearance of any person, there was no need for an elaborate rubber monster suit or CGI.

Despite all that, it's an effective little chiller. Sometimes having no money is a good thing, as it forces the filmmakers to be more creative.


The Plot:
The film opens as a young woman, clad in a perfectly reasonable ensemble of underwear and high heels, flees something that apparently only she can see. The next morning she's found brutally murdered, her limbs twisted into impossible positions.

A few days later, Jay, a young woman with a confusingly masculine name, goes to a movie with her boyfriend Hugh. Inside the theater Hugh spots a woman in a yellow dress walking toward him and abruptly tells Jay they have to leave immediately. Jay doesn't see anyone.

On their next date, Jay has sex with Hugh in his car. When they're finished, he chloroforms her and she wakes up tied to a wheelchair under an overpass. Hugh calmly explains he's being followed by some unrelenting, murderous entity, and has now passed the curse onto Jay through sex, which absolutely isn't a metaphor for STDs. 

As a result of this, Jay will now be pursued by "It," which can only be seen by those with the curse. "It" can take the form of anyone it chooses, and will follow her at a brisk walking pace until it catches and kills her. At that point the curse will revert to Hugh. Just then Jay sees a naked woman walking toward her, which she assumes must be "It." Hugh hurriedly drives her home and dumps her in front of her house.

Jay contacts the police, but they can find no sign of Hugh, who apparently lied about his name and address. Jay returns to school and sees an old woman in a hospital gown walking toward her. She returns home, and her gang, consisting of her sister Kelly and friends Paul and Yara, agree to stay over and protect her. During the night "It" returns, in the form of yet another naked and bloodied woman. Jay flees to a nearby playground.

With the help of her friends and John Bender-esque neighbor Greg, they're able to track down Hugh, whose real name is Jeff. He tells them he got the curse from a one night stand, which again absolutely isn't a metaphor for unsafe sex. Greg takes Jay and the gang to his family's lake house to hide from "It." While there, Greg teaches Jay how to use a gun. As everyone relaxes at the lake house, "It" catches up to Jay and begins attacking her. Paul hits it with a chair, proving that even though it's invisible, it has a solid form. Jay manages to shoot "It," but it continues its pursuit. Jay flees in Greg's car and crashes into a tree ten seconds later.

Jay wakes in the hospital, surrounded by her friends. Greg gallantly offers to sleep with her so she'll pass the curse onto him, as he says he doesn't believe in it (surrrre that's why). Later after Jay is released from the hospital, she sees what appears to be Greg breaking into his own home. She realizes she's seeing "It," and tries to warn Greg, but is too late. "It" takes the form of his mother and kills him.

Paul, who's harbored a long-time crush on Jay, offers to sleep with her next in order to save her, but she refuses, not wanting to pass the deadly curse onto another friend. They then come up with a foolproof plan. They set a trap in a curiously well-maintained abandoned indoor pool, lining the edges with plugged in appliances, hoping to electrocute "It" in the water. Jay enters the pool, serving as bait.

"It" arrives, taking the form of Jay's (dead?) father. "It" refuses to enter the water though, instead throwing the plugged in appliances at her with deadly accuracy. Kelly throws a blanket over "It," giving it form long enough for Paul to shoot it in the head, knocking it into the pool. "It" then grabs Jay and attempts to pull her under. She manages to escape as Paul shoots it in the head again, seemingly killing it for good.

Days later Jay and Paul finally have sex. Paul then drives to a seedy part of town, where he sees two prostitutes on the corner, implying he passes the curse onto one of them. Nice guy, that Paul.

As the film ends, Jay and Paul walk down the street hand in hand, as someone behind them may or may not be following them. The End... Or IS IT?????

• The film takes place in a strange parallel universe with no clear-cut time frame. The characters drive older model cars, dress in a variety of styles and watch black and white shows on 19" picture tube TVs. Yet somehow Jay's friend Yara has a bizarre Kindle-type device shaped like a sea shell.

I'm assuming this timelessness was deliberate, in order to give the film a surreal, dreamlike quality. Either that or the director honestly has no idea what year this is.

• The rules of the It curse could have been spelled out a bit more clearly. As near as I can tell, if a cursed person has sex with you, the curse is then passed on to you. "It" then follows you at a moderate pace until it catches and kills you. The only way to throw "It" off your trail is to pass on the curse to someone else. However, if "It" kills that person, then you move back up to the front of the line and it'll be after you again. At least I think that's how it works.

• As mentioned earlier, the "It" curse is a pretty blatant metaphor for AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. It's an interesting, if unpleasant, direction to go, and probably more compelling than the usual psycho killer angle.

• After Hugh/Jeff has sex with Jay for the first time, he knocks her out with chloroform and ties her to a wheelchair, then proceeds to tell her the rules of the curse.

Was all that really necessary? Couldn't he have just told her about the curse while they were sitting in the car together? It all seemed a bit too theatrical, and I'm betting the only reason they had Hugh/Jeff knock her out was to make it seem like he was the killer for a few minutes.

• At least Hugh/Jeff was considerate enough to warn Jay that he'd passed the curse to her, which is more than she did for her various victims.

• Sometimes "It" takes the form of an innocuous stranger, but other times it appears as various bloodied and mutilated corpses. I'm assuming these latter forms represent its previous victims?

• Nice attention to detail— when Jay and her gang find Hugh/Jeff's flophouse, they break in looking for clues. In his bedroom they see a moldy mattress, a stack of porn magazines... and dozens of wadded up Kleenexes littering the floor. Ew. True to life, but ew.

• Jay and her gang eventually track down Hugh/Jeff at his mom's house (!) and confront him. They then all sit in his back yard drinking sodas, calmly and civilly discussing why he chose to pass a deadly curse on to Jay.

They certainly take this much better than I would have. Even if you ignore the whole curse thing, Hugh/Jeff still chloroformed Jay and dumped her half-naked body in the street in front of her house when he was finished with her. Not to mention the fact that the police are looking for him. Luckily for Hugh/Jeff, neither Jay or anyone in her gang ever think to inform them of his whereabouts.

• I appreciate the film's "slow burn" tone, but I think it may have been a little too slow. At times it comes very close to crossing the line between "thoughtful and deliberate" and "sleep-inducing."

• The soundtrack was very reminiscent of the one in John Carpenter's Halloween, which I'm sure was deliberate.

• I don't need to have every little plot point spelled out for me like I was a mouth-breathing cretin, but there were a few puzzling scenes I thought were a little too vague. Whether these scenes are the result of poor editing or sloppy writing, I can't decide.

For example— at one point Jay drives to the beach to escape "It." She sees a boat full of young guys out in the lake. She stares at them for a few minutes, then walks into the water, peeling off her clothes. We then immediately cut to her driving home, her matted wet hair stuck to her face.

So... I guess we're supposed to infer that she swam out to the boat and had sex with at least one of the guys, to hand off the curse? Or did she chicken out halfway and swim back to shore? Apparently it's none of our concern.

If she did deliberately seduce any of the innocent boat men, essentially condemning them to death, then she's no better than Hugh/Jeff, and comes off as much less sympathetic. 

There's another similarly vague scene at the end of the film. After Jay finally has sex with Paul, we see him slowly drive past a couple of prostitutes. The implication here is he's callously planning to pass the curse onto one of them. Because they're whores, I guess we're not supposed to care that he condemned them to death. Once again we don't know if he actually went through with it or not.

• As the film opens, Jay is floating serenely in her backyard pool. Later when she comes back from her did-she-or-didn't-she boat party, the pool has been severely damaged. We never see it happen, and no one ever says anything about it. I think this was supposed to be yet another metaphor. Jay considers the pool to be a safe haven. Womb-like, even. I'm betting the damaged pool is supposed to visually represent her loss of safety and innocence.

• Jay and her gang's endgame doesn't seem very well thought out. They hope to lure "It" to an abandoned municipal pool using Jay as bait. Once "It" enters the water, they'll toss in a variety of plugged-in electrical appliances in an effort to electrocute the entity.

Whoops! That won't work anymore. Yes, there was a time when you could kill your spouse by throwing a plugged-in toaster into their bathtub, but those days are gone. We now have GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interupter) outlets to protect against just such a thing. When these circuits detect a power surge, they trip the breaker and shut off the juice to the outlet. A swimming pool would most definitely have GFCI outlets around it.

Now that I think about it, this could be a case of the story's vague time period/parallel universe coming into play. Maybe in this world GFCI outlets haven't been invented.

Even if they don't have safety outlets, there's some question as to whether an appliance could electrify the large amount of water in a pool.

• About that pool... it seems awfully well maintained and clean for a supposedly abandoned facility.

• Eventually "It" tracks down Jay at the pool, but refuses to enter the water. Paul has trouble shooting it, since it's invisible to him. Kelly throws a towel over "Its" head, giving Paul something to aim for.

So... if you could throw a towel over "It," that means it had solid form. That also means that we should have been able to see it once it fell into the pool. "It" should have appeared as a man-shaped empty bubble in the pool water, even to non-cursed viewers.

• After "It" is killed, Jay finally has sex with Paul. I get that he's hopelessly in love with Jay, but if I was him, after I saw her so blithely and willingly sleep with three or four other guys in the past few days (even if it was to remove a curse), I think I'd be over her.

It Follows is a surreal and unsettling low budget horror thriller that will stick with you long after the credits roll. They might want to tone down the blatant sexual metaphors though. I give it a B.

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.

You're burning down the entire house to kill a spider, George. 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?
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