Posts Tagged With: Review

A Walking Dead Quitter Tries the Mid-Season Finale

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A Walking Dead Quitter Tries the Mid-Season Finale, “Hearts Still Beating.”

Spoilers up to episode 7.8 of “The Walking Dead.”

Today, a former-Walking Dead fan gives the Mid-Season finale a shot and asks the question . . . is it a good time to get back into the show?

Why You Quit, Quitter?

In my last article about AMC’s hit mega-hit “The Walking Dead,” I swore off The Walking Dead Totes 4EVER. The show had gone from “must see, gather around the TV” to “this show can eat roughly 100 dicks” all with the execution of one incredibly dumb and bad cliffhanger, which a panel of multi-discipline scientists concluded to be “the worst.”

I haven’t seen a single episode of season 7, but I have been reading spoilers and summaries to keep an eye on the show. Why? Probably for the same reason you haunt your ex’s facebook page. Anyway, I read a summary of Sunday’s big “mid-season finale,” and it sounded, dare I say, not-terrible. I thought to my self, “Self, I know you’ve sworn the show off, but what if you could get back into it? What if you could feel the way you felt before? What if the show is lonely and misses you and is sitting by herself in those little boy-shorts you like so much?”

So I called her late at night and asked her if she was busy. This is the ex-girlfriend metaphor, it’s still going. And like calling up your ex-girlfriend, or executing an extended metaphor, it was a bad idea.

Why Now?

The next question is thus – why didn’t I check this season out until now? What kept me away? Spite, for one. But also, the episode summaries I was reading online were doing nothing for me.

Episode 1 – takes 30 minutes to find out who died, it’s exactly who you thought would die, and the rest of the episode is Rick crying like a hungry baby. Conclusion – Nah, bruh. Nah.

Episode 2 – Carol meets a new community, there’s a tiger. Conclusion – Ehhh, so they don’t touch on the emotional aftermath of the first episode? They’re still stretching that shit out? Tiger? Pass.

Episode 3 – 45 minutes of Daryl being tortured. Conclusion – Wow, they’re really dragging this bad boy out. I’m all good, I’ve seen Daryl’s “angry sad” face, I can just imagine that for 45 minutes.

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Episode 4 – Negan shows up to Alexandria and acts like a wang to everyone for 60 minutes. Conclusion – That sounds like literally the most boring story of all time.

Episode 5 – Hilltop episode. Trevor from GTA acts like Trevor from GTA, and the most suspensful part is “Which closet is Maggie hiding in?!” Conclusion – Literally fuck no.

Episode 6 – A Heath and Tara episode. Conclusion – Hahahaha

Episode 7 – Carl, the only character who has balls, cries multiple times because Negan is mean to him. Conclusion – Fart noise.

So Why Was the Mid-Season Finale Bad?

Because, if you couldn’t tell from that list above, this season has been nothing but filler and padding. I’m not sure if filler and padding are really different things but I’m listing them both. For filler and padding purposes. So, what happens in the Mid-Season finale?

The Escort Mission of Daryl Dixon

Daryl escapes from his prison cell at Savior Central. When I read the summary, I was like, “Hey, I could watch that!” What actually happens in the show is that someone else gives Daryl a key, he opens his cell, and walks out of the Savior compound with absolutely no resistance. He runs into exactly one person, the one who happens to have Rick’s revolver, and kills him without a fight. He then escapes because Jesus is there with a motorcycle, thus robbing Daryl of any actual agency the entire episode. You could not write a more boring escape from the villain’s hideout if you had set out to write the most boring escape from a villain’s hideout.

The entire point of the Saviors is “omg ho shit look how many there are,” which is even made a plot point IN THIS VERY EPISODE, and yet the Sanctuary is a ghost-town when it’s time for Daryl to stroll out? Sometimes the Saviors are ultra-competent whistling forest ninjas who know everything you’re doing, and other times they’re all the mookiest dudes in all of mookdom. So, what happened?

what-happened

What happened is the writers needed to fill the first half of the season, so they locked up the most volatile character who would actually be pushing the group to do something. Once it came time for filler-season to end, the writers quietly unlocked his cell and let him out. The note that came with his key might as well have said, “Dear Daryl, Have a great time! All the Best – AMC.”

I think anyone would have enjoyed an episode of Daryl escaping super-jail (with actual consequences and conflict) over a Tara episode about how sand is scary.

The Mouth Flaps

Is bad. As a dialogue enthusiast, it’s a legitimate struggle. There is not one line of dialogue spoken by any character that resembles words that would come out of a real, human face. The entire cast speaks in homilies and speeches, and it’s exhausting. The writers go for “vague and poetic-sounding” instead of “actual words” everytime. Mad Men, a far superior show, occasionally had the characters dip into this kind of “interpret for yourself” dialogue, but A) it wasn’t every goddamn line and B) the characters were all over-educated creative types or people putting on airs. For the most part, every character in Walking Dead is a blue-collar normie from the South.

The dialogue is so deep-fried in attempted-allegory that there’s an entire scene between Michonne and a female Savior that is indecipherable. I have no idea what the Savior was saying, and Michonne’s responses were vague enough to have been written by a computer that speaks solely in Mad Libs. Then they both look at something really far away that the audience can’t really see, and the Savior says “there’s a silencer in the glove compartment.” Then they drive away and we don’t see the Savior again.

So the Savior was suicidal? And Michonne capped her in the face at her vague request? If someone asked me to kill them, I’d need a little more than “there’s a silencer in the glove compartment” to convince me that was REALLY their intention. And the scene suffers from it – they were going for quiet desperation and achieved loud eye-rolling. When the character doesn’t seem real (the female Savior who’s apparently suicidal but I can’t tell because she speaks like she has to pay by the word), the sad things that happen to them don’t seem real, so they don’t connect with the audience.

Example: Marvel movies. Marvel movies are great and also ridiculous. Thor is a Norse God who hangs out with a weather scientist. Why does Thor work? Because the people around him talk like normal people. They react to crazy things like a normal person would. They have normal-people wants and desires, and it sells the ridiculous aspects of the movie. Zombies, by contrast, are also ridiculous. In the early seasons of the Walking Dead, the characters actually talked to each other. They told funny stories. They sang around the campfire, they went on quests for booze. So when they were suddenly fighting a one-eyed pirate with a tank, you could buy it, because the world AROUND the one-eyed pirate seemed real.

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Now we’ve got a guy praying to his evil baseball bat in the middle of what is supposed to be a dramatic scene, and because nothing “real” has happened, and all of the characters are jokes, the whole thing collapses in on itself.

The Jeffrey Dean Morgan Of It All

Let me freeze-frame and do a big jumping ’80s high-five here – I love Jeffrey Dean Morgan. He’s incredible in Watchmen, he’s great in Supernatural. The dude can act. He’s a known quality. So when I rip into him right now, know that I’m not really blaming him – either he made a bad choice and has to stick with it, the higher-ups are pushing this comic-book Negan thing, or the writers are simply giving him nothing to work with. But, let’s get real: Negan is bad.

Not “baseball bat your friends’ craniums into strawberry yogurt” bad. More like, “I’m embarassed to be seen watching this show” bad. Negan, as presented on the show, is ridiculous. He’s too skinny to be intimidating, he’s too subdued to be audaciously funny, he’s too juvenile to be likable, it’s a mess. A villain needs to be scary, fun, or relatable, and Negan hits none of those notes. He’s just kind of a dumb corny asshole who can play one trick, which he plays badly.

They’re pulling his lines wholesale from the comics, “I guess the guts were inside you the whole time!” without realizing that some things that play in print don’t work in live-action. For instance: The Governor, in the comics, is a cartoon character. He’s an R-Rated Cobra Commander, basically, a completely off-kilter psycho with no redeemable qualities or even an ounce of realistic motivation. This is fine in a comic book, because your brain tends to see written dialogue and spruce it up or gloss over it.

That Governor, if transported 1-for-1 in to the show, would have ruined it. Instead, we got a nuanced portrayal of pride and rage tearing a man’s mind apart. And in so adapting, they made the Governor work for their show, which has always played at being a realistic drama in spite of the zombies.

JDM has also picked up some weird character ticks and is playing them full tilt without a break. The “Leanin’ Negan” meme is no joke – Negan performs what I’m calling the “Negan Maneuver” roughly twenty-five times in the Mid-Season Finale. The Negan Maneuver goes like this:

Negan says something shitty / cornball.
He grins.
He leans back and pops his knees.
Optional: Swings Lucille vaguely at the end.

negan-lean

The Negan Maneuver represents roughly 75% of Negan’s body language. He also delivers every line in exactly the same smarmy, grinning tone, but it’s too relaxed to have any impact. For a pro like JDM, it’s inexcusable. Negan can work one of two ways in live-action: A) make him more serious and sinister or B) make him the Joker. Just a loud, insane, unhinged maniac dropping stupid jokes and butchering people – but, then you can’t make him leader of a thousand hardasses and a wannabe emperor.

Grim, sinister Negan could manage something like the Savior organization, but cackling-insane Negan couldn’t. The writers are trying to have their cake and beat it too, and it tears any sense of reality right out of the show. No one would actually follow a baseball-wielding murderer who steals your wives and makes fun of you all the time. A Savior who got tired of Negan sticking it to his wife would gently place a grenade in Negan’s bed while he was sleeping and call it a day.

It’s not good. I hope it’s danger-sirens and frantic meetings at the AMC headquarters right now. To put it plainly – every scene with Negan subtracts roughly 50 points from an episode.

The Timely Re-Penising of Rick Grimes

By the end of the episode, Rick has located his testicles (and his Colt Python) and is ready to fight Negan. For . . . reasons. Killing Abe and Glenn didn’t seem to motivate him, but the deaths of Spencer (the guy who hates Rick) and the character whose name is I THINK Olivia finally pushed him over the edge. You could say, “Well, Rick thought if he behaved that Negan wouldn’t kill anyone anymore,” but that only makes Rick look like the dumbest motherfucker on the planet. You mean the grinning psycho who bashes brains in and takes photos of their bashed brains and threatens to make you cut your son’s arm off isn’t a TRUSTWORTHY GUY?! Ho-lee-shit, stop the fucking internet presses everybody.

Then why, why oh why, is Rick suddenly becoming effective again? Because the plot calls for it. After 8 excruciating episodes of Rick being a total poo-swah, they have to start progressing the story. Even they know that 8 episodes of filler is a little fucking much for most audiences. So instead of an organic in-story reason for his dramatic turnaround, it’s just “shrug, okay, let’s be my ACTUAL character again.”

Considering they’re planning on stretching this arc out into two seasons (Jeffrey Dean Morgan even said as much), don’t get too excited about the back-half of season 7. Though things are FINALLY starting to move, bet your ass these next seven episodes are going to be more of the same (except with slightly fewer shots of Rick weeping).

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How Can they Fix It?

If I were to be arrogant enough to suggest a solution (and I were), it would be this: back off the comics a little. The past season or so has featured the TV show hewing closer to the comics than ever before, with whole scenes lifted line-for-line. If the Walking Dead subreddit is anything to go by, the comic fans are loving it. If the perilous drop in ratings (and the comment section of every review on the internet) is to be examined, then it’s clear the casual fan is getting bored.

The problem with cleaving to the comics is this: the show hasn’t really been doing that up until now, so the scenes and characters aren’t matching up. Watch the pilot episode and ANY episode from season 7 back-to-back and tell me they’re even the same show anymore. Where began a thoughtful character-study in the apocalypse there lives now a goddamn cartoon. Okay, so the comics had a CGI tiger in them – that’s not this show. It doesn’t fit. It’s weird and silly. So Rick caved to Negan in the comics – who cares?

Rick in the comics and Rick in the show are completely different people. It makes sense for Rick in the comics to play it more carefully – he’s missing a hand. His people are less competent than show-Rick’s people. He doesn’t even have a Daryl. Comic-Rick fought like four “hunters” and it was a harrowing experience. Show-Rick and his team slaughtered AN ENTIRE TOWN of well-organized cannibals at Terminus. They’re not the same people, they haven’t gone through the same shit.

Show-Rick, if he was acting in-character, would have never submitted to Negan. This is the guy who, at Terminus, was belly-up to a  cattle trough, a knife at his throat, a baseball bat to his head, and yet  still promised to kick their asses. And for all he knew THEY WERE GOING TO KILL AND EAT HIM AND HIS SON. But the idea of someone cutting off Carl’s arm is his breaking point? What the fuck? “You can kill and eat my kid and I’ll still be a badass, but threaten his arm and HERE COME THE WATERWORKS.”

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It doesn’t make sense. Rick didn’t cry and weep when Joe and the Claimers were literally about to rape Carl. He bit Joe’s fucking throat out, even though they were outnumbered and overwhelmed. Show-Rick is a certified badass psycho-dad. Show-Rick is not the kind of guy that breaks, he’s the kind of guy that snaps.

Having him suddenly “break” to Negan’s dumb theatrics when he’s faced WAY worse is nonsense. It’s “following the comics” when it no longer makes any sense to follow the comics. Show-Rick would have hatcheted Negan to death in the RV, grabbed his machine-gun, and sneaked out the back of the RV and jumped the Saviors from behind.

Hell, show-Rick would have just machine-gunned the first Savior roadblock and roared through it on his way to the Hilltop.

So, What’s the Plan?

I really, REALLY wanted to be seduced by the Walking Dead again, but after a half-hearted tug job and some mutual weeping, I left the apartment unsatisfied and slightly disappointed in myself for the relapse.

I won’t be continuing. If the season finale sounds inviting I MIGHT check it out, but considering we probably won’t see Negan’s inevitable downfall until the finale of NEXT season, I’m not expecting a lot from this show.

riker-chops

(Article originally appeared on “Agents of GUARD.”)

 

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The Wafflers Review of Star Trek: Beyond

STB1

So, I just caught up on the newest entry in the NuTrek saga, and boy was I surprised.

I REALLY took the piss out of this movie when that first, widely-maligned trailer debuted. It seemed like it had been concocted primarily to anger Star Trek fans: rock music, sweet dirt bike jumps, the Enterprise being destroyed IN THE TRAILER, and “from the Director of Fast and Furious.” For me, the only thing that’s fast and furious in Star Trek should be Worf at the helm of the Defiant.

See, it’s a fast ship and he’s angry, so that’s a joke. The joke I just said.

I (and the internet) heaped so much abuse upon the trailer’s back that the writer of the film (and co-star) Simon Pegg had to come out on social media and both A) apologize for the trailer and B) insist that it didn’t truly capture the Trekkian nature of the final film.

So, was Pegg right? Could the director of Fast and Furious make a good Star Trek film?

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Kinda

Okay, so I had a hard time writing this review/essay, primarily because it took so long to process my feelings about the flick. I’m still not 100% convinced of how I feel, but I figured this review might help me find my own thoughts. And maybe, just maybe, it’ll help you find yours.

The question is: was it good? Yes? I think yes.

Let me explain my reticence – Star Trek Beyond is EXACTLY what I thought it could never be: an old Star Trek movie. What’s an old Trek movie? As a lover of Star Trek, I gotta say this: those movies aren’t GREAT if you don’t like Star Trek already. In fact, I’d argue that as stand-alone movies they don’t really work. Not to say that they’re bad (most of them aren’t), but they are very much tied to the assumption that you know these characters, you care about the world, and you’d rather see them in action that worry too much about filmmaking. They are big-budget episodes of the show WHICH IS FINE because they’re for people who watch the show. Like me.

As contrast, let’s look at the last two movies. Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek: Into Darkness are BOTH movies that I really enjoy, both as a Star Trek fan and a general movie fan. However, I would say that they weren’t made for Star Trek fans. They were meant to be blockbusters, standing on their own without any knowledge of the Star Trek universe. My wife, who didn’t give two rat turds about Star Trek LOVED those two movies. She loved them so much it kindled a curiosity about Star Trek, one I was happy to sate with choice TNG episodes and old Star Trek flicks.

Now, why? Well, because J.J. Abrams wasn’t a big fan of Star Trek, and wanted to make movies that appealed to EVERYONE. Which, I can’t say I blame him – there are a lot of upsides to his approach. The characterization is really tight because they don’t assume you know the characters. The stories are self-contained and fast-paced. There’s a lot of action and spectacle, and it’s done in an entertaining way.

So, why is Star Trek Beyond different?

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It’s For Fans

Yeah, really. Justin Lin (who it turns out is a big Star Trek fan) directed a movie that feels like a Star Trek: The Original Series episode on tetrameth. Unlike the cranked-down polish of the Abrams movies, Lin instead went with the humor, character moments, techno problem-solving, and philosophical bombast of a true Star Trek episode.

It’s a relatively small story, and could easily be paired down into a 45 minute episode. Visit weird planet, get in adventure, fix a tech thing, credits.

Now, I’m not saying one approach is better than the other – I think Beyond might be a worse movie than the Abrams movies. However, it is paradoxically a better STAR TREK movie than the other two, which is a weird contradiction that hopefully you understand after that setup from earlier.

The movie is filled with character interaction – you could say the whole plot is just an excuse to pair off the cast and have them bounce off each other. The whole middle of the movie is just Spock/Bones, Kirk/Checkov, Uhura/Sulu, and Scotty/Jayla exchanging dialogue and overcoming natural obstacles, and it’s GREAT. Really.

Also, and this is the part that shocked me the most – remember that scene in the trailers where Kirk decides it’s time to abandon intergalacatic diplomacy and officer-decorum and start doing sweet jumps on his dirtbike? It’s actually pretty organic in the movie, and makes perfect sense in context. I know, it shocked me too. Why in God’s name would Kirk have a dirt bike? Explained. Why is he using it for transportation? Explained. Why did he just do a jump off a ramp? Honestly? Explained. By the time the sequence ended it didn’t bother me at all.

Destroying the Enterprise – which is not a spoiler because it’s in the fucking commercial – wrenched my guts. I’m not sure if I hated the scene because I love the Enterprise or I hated the scene because it was unnecessarily pornographic in its glee for destruction, but it made me sick to my stomach. In Star Trek: Search for Spock the Enterprise explodes, and it explodes/crash lands in Generations. But the way it’s done this third time is actively gross, and it really bothered me to see it go down that way. There is an incredible upside to the scene, though – it’s probably the hardest the Enterprise crew has ever worked to keep the ship alive.

No self-destruct, no immediate “abandon ship” when things start looking grim. The crew fight tooth and nail for every square foot of deck plating, and they don’t so much give up on the ship as the ship just doesn’t exist anymore by the time it’s over.

That's . . . that's not really relevant here.

That’s . . . that’s not really relevant right now.

The Villain

The real downside to the story is the plot, which is basically an after-thought. The villain (who faciliates the plot) is equally under-developed. Like Star Trek villains of old (looking at you, Christopher Lloyd), his job is to walk on stage, kick the crew in the balls, and then be safely dispatched before the credits role. His backstory makes no sense, his motivations are both unclear and kind of unbelievable, and the source of his incredible power (and the effect it should have had on the sector) is swept under the rug. Don’t worry about why he wants a McGuffin when his current tools are WAY more powerful than the McGuffin he’s trying to obtain.

The Dumb Climax (No Spoilers)

I’m going to avoid spoilers here, but I am going to say there’s a sequence near the climax which is somehow both the DUMBEST thing I’ve ever seen in a Star Trek movie and also one of the most AWESOME. I think I loved it, but man was it dumb. Still had a grin on my face the whole sequence, though.

So Which Is It

My wife, lover of nuTrek, thought “Star Trek Beyond” was worse than the previous two movies but still entertaining, which I agree with. Hardcore fans of Star Trek seem to think it’s WAY better than the other two movies, which I agree with.

So, I guess I’d say “go watch it.” You’ll find something to like (or love), and it’s definitely not the reeking dumpster fire we all thought it would be. It’s a fun-ass movie with great moments, and I highly recommend it.

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Article originally posted by B.C. Johnson on “Agents of GUARD.”

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