Review: The Walking Dead S5E04 “Slabtown”


“You owe us.” — Officer Dawn Lerner


Season 5 of The Walking Dead has been on such a hot streak to begin the new season that it was bound to have a bit of a drop off sooner rather than later. Even the best shows needs to slow things down after sprinting right out of the gate. Tonight saw the show finally answer the question: Who took Beth?

“Slabtown” answers this question by dedicating an entire episode to it, but also focusing the entire episode on Beth herself. This is a character who has outlived it’s comic book counterpart and who had become a punching bag for fans and detractors alike. Beth Greene has been called worthless and whose only skill seems to be taking care of Lil’ Asskicker and singing for the group. Her character was one example of why the show’s detractors have called the writing on The Walking Dead one of it’s biggest flaws. Yet, the writers since Scott M. Gimple took over as showrunner seem to have found something salvageable about the youngest Greene.

Beth Greene’s character reclamation began all the way back in Season 4 where she began to show signs of understanding the rules which now govern the new world they all live in. When her new boyfriend was killed off in the last season’s premiere episode her reaction was to shrug it off and just remember the good times she had with him. This new found attitude would continue throughout season 4 yet Beth never sacrificed her hold on her humanity even as she finally adjusted to the new world she found herself in. It helped that she found a sort of big brother-like protector in Daryl who received emotional support from Beth as payment for teaching her how to better survive.

Now with tonight’s episode the initial reaction by most would be to groan and wonder if and when Daryl and Carol will come in with guns blazing to rescue her from what looks like a very bad situation. People wouldn’t be too harsh for thinking such a thing, but Gimple and his writers know that this was an opportunity to continue building up this new Beth Greene. Just as season 4 saw the emergence of Queen Badass Carol Peletier this season could further see Beth raise up her game and show everyone that she’s not useless and could more than take care of herself even when separated from everyone else.

It didn’t take long for Beth to realize that Officer Dawn and Doctor Edwards were more than just helpful faces. Dawn never even gives Beth a chance to think that her new situation was better than the one she left. Grady Memorial looked safe enough, but the “greater good” way that Dawn ran things was nothing more than a thin veneer over something that the Governor and last season’s Joe would approve of. In a move that harkens back to how drunks and poor people were shanghaied into indentured servitude on ships a couple hundred years ago, Dawn has built herself up a dictatorship all in the name of preserving civilization. She wanted to keep things as organized and law-abiding until rescue comes from the government and things go back to normal.

Beth saw right through this charade while Officer Dawn and Doctor Edwards fail to notice that the young, pretty thing in front of them has survived on the outside and grown to become a hardened fighter in her own right. She’s learned from the best (Rick, Daryl, Maggie and, to a certain extent, even from Carl himself) and throughout the episode we could see the wheels in her head turning, turning for a way to get herself out and back out in the world where she knew she had a better chance of surviving.

While the episode still slowed things down a tad too much in the beginning to set-up the final minutes, they weren’t as painful as similar slowdowns as in the past. We got to learn who at the same time as Beth did that her new protectors were bad news (some even quite open with the rapey angle) and that others also wanted out. While it would’ve been great to see the show make more use out of guest-star Keisha Castle-Hughes (will be great to see her on the upcoming season of Game of Thrones) there’s a chance that we might see more of Tyler James Williams’ as Noah who made good on finding a way out.

Is Noah the unseen figure Daryl called out in the end of last week’s episode?

I guess we will have to find out a couple weeks from now as the show now turns to focusing on the Abraham group as they head towards our nation’s capital. Now that we’ve gotten to see Beth prove herself as worthy as the rest (to some degree) of the Rick Grimes Gang, it’s now time to see if the writers have a way to make Abraham, Eugene and Rosita more than just one-dimensional characters to this point and time of the show.


  • “Slabtown” was written by Matthew Negrete & Channing Powell and directed by Michael E. Satrazemis.
  • Nice to see Tyler James Williams of Everybody Hates Chris on the TV once again.
  • Keisha Castle-Hughes of Whale Rider cameo’s as a ward of Grady Memorial who ends up ending the further rapey adventures of Officer Rapey McRaperton aka Officer Gorman.
  • Either Rick’s people just have had a lot of practice shooting zombie heads while on the move or Beth has been hiding just how good a shot she really is. She missed just one out of at least 15 shots.
  • Tonight’s episode was pretty much a whole new cast outside of Beth and until the very end with the appearance of Carol for a few seconds.
  • For a city that was supposedly bombed out by the government in the height of the zombie outbreak, Atlanta sure looks quite intact as it did in the season premiere. I guess the production designers on this show have never seen footage of German cities truly bombed out during WWII. This is how Atlanta should look.
  • Talking Dead guests tonight are John Barrowman (Arrow, Torchwood), Ana Gasteyer (SNL, Suburgatory) and Beth Greene herself, Emily Kinney.

Season 5

What Lisa and the Late Night Movie Crew Watched Last Night #107: Prisoners of the Lost Universe (dir by Terry Marcel)

Last night, I gathered with about 17 friends over at SyFyDesigns and we watched an obscure little fantasy film from 1983, Prisoners of the Lost Universe.


Why Were We Watching It?

We were watching it because we are the late night movie crew and that’s what we do.  We watch movies and we watch them late at night and, since we are all intelligent and snarky people, we have a natural tendency to pick movies with titles like Prisoners of the Lost Universe.

(Add to that, since Prisoners of the Lost Universe is in the public domain, it has been included about a dozen different Mill Creek Box sets and it’s also on YouTube.  So, it was an easy film for everyone to watch.)

What Was It About?

News reporter Carrie (Kay Lenz) is interviewing Dr. Hartmann (Kenneth Hendel) when a sudden earthquake hits California.  Dr. Hartmann stumbles into an interdemensional transporter and disappears!  Then Dan (Richard Hatch) stops by Hartmann’s house and he stumbles into the transporter and disappears as well!  And then, after that, Carrie stumbles into the transporter and she vanishes!  Why is everyone in this movie so clumsy?

Anyway, Carrie is transported to the Lost Universe, which looks a lot like South Dakota.  (Actually, the movie was made in South Africa so apparently, South Africa also looks a lot like South Dakota.)  Carrie wanders around for a little while and spends a while talking to herself about how much she hates being in the Lost Universe.  Part of Carrie’s problem was that she was wearing high heels.  If you’re going to visit South Dakota, South Africa, or the Lost Universe, be sure to wear sensible shoes.

Eventually, Carrie is reunited with Dan and they meet a lot of other citizens of the Lost Universe.  They meet a green man.  They meet a gigantic cave man.  They meet a bearded thief.  They also meet a tribe of angry people who all have glowing red eyes.  When they’re climbing up a mountain, Dan offers a helping hand.  “Take your hand off my butt!” Carrie snaps back.  They’re not exactly Hepburn and Tracy.

Finally, Carrie is kidnapped by an evil warlord who happens to be played by John Saxon.  The warlord has a dueling pistol with him that he uses to enforce his will on everyone else in the Lost Universe.  He explains that it was built for him by a sorceror from another universe.  Any guess who that is going to turn out to be?

Anyway, it’s up to Dan to rescue Carrie and hopefully end the tyranny of John Saxon.

What Worked?

Prisoners of the Lost Universe is one of those otherwise forgettable films that suddenly becomes the most entertaining thing in the world if you’re watching it with the right people.  Last night, I watched it with the right people and our natural wit and snarkiness elevated the entire film.

Beyond the snarkiness, John Saxon made for a good and fun villain.  And I liked the Green Man.  He had an above-it-all attitude that was very entertaining.

What Did Not Work?

To be honest, it’s really a very bad movie.  If I hadn’t been watching this movie with 17 other snarky and talkative people, I imagine I would have been bored out of my mind.  If Prisoners of the Lost Universe had been produced by Crown International Pictures, it probably would have been a lot more fun.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

I have a feeling that if I accidentally got transported to the Lost Universe, I’d probably be wearing high heels as well.  And I’d probably complain a lot.  Who wouldn’t?

Lessons Learned

Why go to the Lost Universe when you can just go to South Dakota?

Film Review: Nightcrawler (dir by Dan Gilroy)



The new film Nightcrawler tells the story of a strange man named Lou Bloom (played, in the performance of his career, by Jake Gyllenhaal).  From the minute that we first see Lou, we can tell that there is something off about him.  He is a bit too quick to smile and his friendly manner is sharply contrasted with his sunken features.  He watches the world with shifty eyes that are surrounded by dark circles that make it appear as if he hasn’t slept for weeks.  (And it is interesting to note that, at no point during the film, do we actually see him sleep.  He’s always awake.)  When he speaks, it’s in an optimistic and ingratiating tone that can barely disguise the fact that everything he is saying is a cliché.  He speaks in the language of self-help books and inspirational speakers.  What’s interesting is that as empty as Lou’s constant patter may be, he always sounds as if he believes every single word of it.

Despite the fact that Lou is on screen during every minute of Nightcrawler, we learn very little about his background.  We don’t learn where he was born.  We don’t know how he eventually came to be the person that he is at the start of the film.  He has no family.  He has no friends.  He lives in a small apartment that is distinguished only by how anonymous it ultimately is.  The only thing we really know for sure about Lou is that he watches a lot of television.  In one of the few moments in the film where Lou actually lets down his guard, he tries to have a conversation with a reporter on a screen despite the fact that the reporter can not hear a word that he is saying.

Lou is first introduced stealing and selling scrap metal.  When he’s confronted by a security guard, Lou smiles and says a few friendly words before suddenly attacking the guard and throwing him to the ground.  Disturbingly, we never find out what exactly Lou did with that security guard but, when we next see Lou, he’s wearing the guard’s watch.

However, Lou has bigger plans than just being a common thief.  When he comes across a car accident, he sees a freelance video journalist (also known as a nightcrawler) filming the police.  When Lou finds out how much money he can make by simply filming human misery and then selling the footage to a local news station, Lou trades a stolen bicycle for a radio scanner and cheap camcorder.

After several nights of struggling to get some good footage and discovering that the police don’t like nightcrawlers, Lou manages to get some footage of a dying shooting victim.  He sells the footage to a local news station and meets Nina (an excellent Rene Russo), the station’s news director.  Nina is impressed with the footage and encourages Lou to find more.  She explains to him that she needs crime and disaster footage.  She needs footage that will both scare and intrigue her white middle-class audience — violence in the suburbs, families being threatened, and — most importantly — white people being victimized by minorities.  As she tells Lou,  “The perfect story is a screaming woman with her throat cut, running down a street in a good neighborhood.”

Soon, Lou is finding a lot of success as a nightcrawler, to the extent that he even gets an intern named Rick (Riz Ahmed) to serve as his assistant.  Rick is an interesting character and Riz Ahmed gives an excellent performance, one that is overshadowed by the more flamboyant performances of Gyllenhaal and Russo but which is just as important.  In many ways, RIck serves as the film’s conscience.  Alone among the film’s characters, Rick has a sense of morality but, unfortunately, he’s not observant enough to realize that he’s the only one.

Lou is a complete and total sociopath but Gyllenhaal gives such a compelling performance that you often forget until Lou gives you no choice but to remember.  As the film progresses, it becomes obvious that both Lou and Nina depend on bad news for their very existence and, in Lou’s case, he’s not above creating the news that he covers.

Marking the directorial debut of veteran screenwriter Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler is a hyperkinetic portrait of society at its absolute worst.  As some reviewers have pointed out, Nightcrawler is often a bit heavy-handed when it comes to portraying the vacuousness of television news but then again, have you watched your local station recently?  Have you looked at any of the clickbait articles that are floating around the internet?  If Nightcrawler portrays television news as being shallow and hypocritical — well, why shouldn’t it?  The usual suspects will claim that Nightcrawler‘s portrayal of televised media is flawed but we all know the truth, don’t we?  Even if the film’s satire is heavy-handed, it still captures a larger and undeniable truth.

Not only is Nightcrawler a thought-provoking look at our paranoid society but it also features Jake Gyllenhaal’s best performance.  Gyllenhaal reportedly lost 20 pounds for the role and his commitment to the role pays off as he turns Lou into a truly fascinating monster,  making him the most compelling sociopath this side of Christian Bale’s Patrick Bateman.

Admittedly, the film does have a few flaws.  A scene in which Lou is seen cutting a van’s brake line almost inspired me to shout out, “Direct to video!” because it seriously felt as if it belonged in a lesser film.  (Every direct-to-video thriller features a scene of someone tampering with brakes.)  But, overall, Nightcralwer is one of the best films of the year so far.


Review: Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra – Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light on Everything

I don’t normally step beyond the threshold of metal these days, but I was no stranger to post-rock in the late 90s and 2000s. It and indie were the defining musical genres of the last decade, and I gobbled them up for a time. I lost touch with ex-Godspeed You! Black Emperor legends A Silver Mt. Zion shortly after Horses in the Sky (2005), though “God Bless Our Dead Marines” was my favorite song by them until now.

I guess that wasn’t a very subtle hint of what’s to come. I picked up Efrim Menuck and company’s newest album because of its name. (Not the band name, presently on its fifth incarnation as “Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra”.) Their seventh LP, released this January, is titled Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light on Everything. That was just too delicious to pass up.

Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra – Fuck Off Get Free, from Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light on Everything

I stumbled into one of the most novel and delightful sounds I had heard since, well, the days of post-rock and indie. It is in effect a merger of the two, utilizing classic GY!BE post-rock instrumentation and techniques in songs with distinctly indie structures and vibes. The opening title track sold me instantly with its warbling, almost unidentifiable instrumentation fused to a rock beat. These are sounds you would expect in some 20-minute build-up from silence, and they sound totally unique in their new environment. I suppose A Silver Mt. Zion had been heading this way for a while, but this is the first time I’ve listened to them that they’ve fully embraced the merger.

It’s not just the sounds themselves that make this song so convincing. The lyrics are paramount, infusing a crafty title with a great deal of depth and rendering the sounds relevant to the message. It shouts a pseudo-cryptic political/social statement with a keen eye we haven’t seen since the 60s and a punk rebel’s spirit, rocked back at the haters with a power to counter Ted Nugent’s whole discography. It begs the establishment and their drones to hate it. Need some harsh, gravely vocals to waggle your cock to? Sorry, voices don’t get more sissy than Efrim’s. They slam “wide white men” where a country star cries “freedom”, and the rejection of coherent grammar and sentence structure from a group totally fluent in English is an affront to the many that view their proper American English with some odd sense of pride. And it has a cuss word in the title! *gasp*

It’s a totally harmless song with a positive message, but I know a lot of people who would feel really insulted by it, and you probably know some too. I could easily see my mother showcasing this song in one of her Sunday School lessons about the corruption of youth, totally oblivious to the fact that it’s pushing her buttons on purpose. It’s what this song is all about: not letting the outdated, self-serving values of the ruling class tone down a message of peace and equality. Fuck off. Get free. We pour light on everything we see.

And how about that drop down into a stoner metal chug at 6:40? Last thing I saw coming, and I love it.

Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra – What We Loved Was Not Enough, from Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light on Everything

The album never really drops the slack the whole way through. It’s edgy, it’s angry, it’s indie in spirit, it’s eclectic as hell, and the message is great. There is really no down time at all–not something you might expect from the descendents of post-rock’s favorite son. “Take Away These Early Grave Blues” is especially intense and makes compelling use of a melody that I have to think came from some old country western film. I’m not going to go into detail on any of it; it’s hard to even begin to describe what’s going on with their odd choices of instrumentation. Suffice to say the first 34 minutes of the album pass very quickly, holding my attention all the while. It all leads to a grand finale with “What We Loved Was Not Enough”. This song is mind-blowing. With the sort of lengthy, escalating waltz common to many indie album closing tracks, the build-up is glorious and the lyrics cut deep.

This song uses a lot of excessively dramatic, over-the-top lines that remind me of The Decemberists, only A Silver Mt. Zion’s purpose is not all tongue-in-cheek fun and games. It has an apocalyptic flare, positioning the band at some breaking point where modern society crumbles in self-destruction: We can try to teach people to be open and understanding–to abandon their bigotry and love one another–but this vision will never come to pass. “What we loved was not enough. The day has come when we no longer feel. All our cities gonna burn. All our bridges gonna snap. All our pennies gonna rot. Lightning roll across our tracks. All our children gonna die. And the west will rise again.”

The band has tried their best. They pour light on everything they see. But in the end, it is up to the masses to let go of their pride and embrace a future of peace and love. Efrim knows they won’t, and he calls upon them mockingly: “So goodnight vain children. Tonight is yours. The lights are yours, if you’d just ask for more than poverty and war.”

This is an album for those of us who want to make a difference but know we can’t do shit to dent a machine that has mastered every art of cultivating people’s fears and hatreds. It’s an album to make you feel good about yourself, and to let you know you aren’t alone. I like that. “Kiss it quick and rise again.”

Fuck Off Get Free‘s only shortcoming is that they plugged a seemingly pointless four minute post-finale track after “What We Loved Was Not Enough”. I can easily forgive that.

27 Days of Old School: #2 “Word Up!” (by Cameo)



Anyone who grew up during the 80’s knows this song. The moment they first heard the song it burrowed it’s way deep inside. Then the music video arrived and we saw the awesomeness of Cameo’s Larry Blackmon. His unique vocal stylings matched only by his personal look. The over-the-top hi-top fade hairstyle right up to the bright red codpiece became as much a part of the group’s identity as their funkadelic sound.

1986’s “Word Up!” became the group’s biggest hit and whether one was a fan of R&B and funk didn’t matter. This was a cool jam for all listeners and some heavy rotation of the video on MTV (yes, Virginia, MTV actually showed music videos back in the day) made sure everyone knew what’s the word.

Cameo definitely helped define what was good about the 80’s.