TV Review: The Walking Dead 7.11 “Hostiles and Calamities” (dir by Kari Skogland)


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Hi everyone!

I apologize for being late with this review.  Not only did I spend Sunday night watching the Oscars but I’ve also been sick for the past few days.  As a result, I’m running about two days behind when it comes to reviewing stuff.

As for last Sunday’s episode of The Walking Dead

To be honest, before I watched Hostiles and Calamities, I was really concerned.  I knew three things.  I knew that the episode featured a lot of Negan, which was the main problem with the first half of the seventh season.  I knew that the episode would involve the Saviors, who may be properly hissable villains but whose bully-based society had never seemed particularly interesting.  And I knew that the episode centered around Eugene, a character that I have never been particularly fond of.  When we last saw Eugene, he was being taken away from Alexandria by Negan.  And, to be honest, I was perfectly okay with the idea of never seeing Eugene again.

So, imagine my surprise when Hostiles and Calamities actually turned out to be a good episode!

Note that I didn’t say it was a great episode.  It wasn’t.  Negan and Lucille may be intimidating but they’re still not exactly as compelling as the show seems to think they are.  That said, we did get to see a slightly different side to Negan as he half-seduced/half-bullied Eugene over to the dark side.  For once, Negan actually did seem like a character who was worthy of Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s considerable talent.  But still, as a general rule, Negan is a lot like Jacob from Lost.  He’s best used sparingly.

As usual, Josh McDermitt did a good job as Eugene but, since the character is already fairly annoying, it wasn’t a huge shock to hear him declaring, “I am Negan.”  As smart as he may be, Eugene has always been one of the weakest members of Rick’s little group.  For that reason, it made total sense that Eugene would be the one that Negan would decide to “recruit.”  There’s no way that Negan would have been able to brainwash Daryl.  Daryl is too strong for that.  Daryl is willing to die before betraying Rick.  But Eugene’s a self-described coward.  As we all know, most bullies (and that is the perfect description for the Saviors) start off as cowards.

Seeing as how it was centered around the least likable of Rick’s group, I really shouldn’t have liked Hostiles and Calamities but the episode worked for me.  For the first time, the Savior society actually seemed … well, I wouldn’t go quite as far as to call it compelling.  But still, it was interesting to see a new side to life in the Sanctuary.  Our previous exposure to Savior society came through seeing Daryl in a cell and various Negan lieutenants harassing communities.  In this episode, we got to see how things actually worked on a practical level.  Even more importantly, we saw that Negan may be a jerk but he still manages to maintain order in an otherwise chaotic world.  The scary thing about the collapse of society is that it’s usually the Negans who survive and thrive.

It also helped that this episode actually had some moments of humor.  How couldn’t you smile at the sight of trembling Eugene, wandering around the compound with his jar of pickles?   Personally, I sympathized with Negan’s “wives,” having to pretend to be impressed with Eugene’s video game just out of the hope that Eugene would help them poison Negan.  When Eugene announced that he would never poison Negan, it wasn’t only as close as Eugene will ever get to being in control of his situation.  It was also a declaration that Eugene was now a Savior for life.

(I assume that means that Eugene will eventually be devoured by zombies.  That seems to be the punishment for turning your back on Rick.)

As for Dwight and the consequence of his search for Sherry, I felt bad for Dr. Carson.  Carson seemed like a pretty nice guy but, since Dwight needed someone to blame for Daryl and Sherry’s disappearance, Dr. Carson ended up going head first into the fire.  That whole scene made me cringe.  That worked out well for Eugene, who is now the only “doctor” at the compound.  You do have to wonder what will happen if Negan ever finds out that Eugene is a pathological liar.

In the end, Hostiles and Calamities was a pretty good episode of The Walking Dead.  After a potentially calamitous first half, the second half of season 7 is developing nicely.

A Movie A Day #59: Moon Zero Two (1969, directed by Roy Ward Baker)


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Earlier today, I was reading a now-deleted tweet from Congressional candidate Brianna Wu, in which she speculated that private companies would militarize the moon and use it as a place to launch rocks at the Earth.  According to Wu, “Rocks dropped from there (the moon) have power of 100s of nuclear bombs.”

This, of course, immediately brought to mind Moon Zero Two, a “space western” that Hammer Films produced in the wake of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The year is 2021 and the moon is being colonized by private companies.  The Americans and the Russians have made peace and now jointly run the Moon Hilton.  Bill Kemp (James Olson) was one of the first men in the moon but, having grown disillusioned with working for heartless corporations, Kemp is now an independent operator, salvaging meteorites with his Russian partner, Korminski (Ori Levy).  With his flight license about to be revoked by his enemies in the Corporation, Kemp has been grounded by his own girlfriend, Sheriff Elizabeth Murphy (Adrienne Corri).

Possible financial salvation comes when Kemp is hired by J. J. Hubbard (Warren Mitchell) to help him illegally salvage a sapphire asteroid that is orbiting the far side of the moon.  At the same time, a young woman named Clementine (Catherine Schell, who later starred in another science fiction epic about the moon, Space: 1999) wants Kemp to help her search for her brother, who went missing while also working on the far side of the moon.

Moon Zero Two starts with some Schoolhouse Rock-style animation that shows how the U.S. and the Russians originally landed on the moon:

Though the animated opening seems more appropriate for an Ealing comedy, the rest of Moon Zero Two is a fairly straight western, with claim jumpers, shootouts, and a few moments of comedy coming from the story being set on the moon instead of Arizona.  For instance, there’s a barroom brawl that takes place in zero gravity.  Even while paying homage to old westerns, Moon Zero Two also tries to predict the future, which looks a lot like 1969.  This means psychedelic costumes and a Vegas style dance revue at the Moon Hilton, one that is reminiscent of the USO show in Apocalypse Now.  The mix of styles is enjoyably absurd and everyone seems to be having fun playing cowboy.

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James Olson is the token American in the cast but, for fans of British comedy, the most interesting thing about Moon Zero Two will be seeing Warren Mitchell, who played Alf Garnett in Til Death Do Us Part and inspired All In The Family‘s Archie Bunker, playing ruthless claim jumper, J. J. Hubbard.  Hubbard’s main henchman is played by Bernard Bresslaw, who some viewers may recognize from the Carry On films.  Also, Monty Python fans will want to keep an eye out for Carol Cleveland, who has a very small role as a stewardess.

Years after it was first released, Moon Zero Two was one of the first movies to be featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000.  This was one of the earliest episodes, from before even TV’s Frank joined the show.  I have not seen the MST 3K version but it is available both on YouTube and as a part of Shout Factory’s 25th Anniversary Box Set.

Here’s an artist’s rendering of Crow and Tom Servo having a Moon Zero Two-style shootout.

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Tomorrow’s movie a day will be another space western, Peter Hyams’s Outland.

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Film Review: War on Everyone (dir by John Michael McDonagh)


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War on Everyone opens with a question.

“If you hit a mime,” Detective Bob Bolano (Michael Pena) asks, “does he make a sound?”

“Now, you know,” Detective Terry Malone (Alexander Skarsgard) replies, as he drives his car over a mime.

For the record, the Mime was a cocaine dealer so the detectives did have a reason for chasing him.  Then again, the Mime was also on foot while the detectives were in a car.  And the Mime was attempting to surrender when the detectives ran him over.

That scene pretty much sets the tone for the rest of War on Everyone, the latest film from Irish filmmaker John Michael McDonagh.  McDonagh is best-known and rightfully acclaimed for his previous two films, The Guard and Calvary.  Those two films were both darkly comedic and often violent meditations on life, death, morality, guilt, and redemption.  While War on Everyone may not share either one of those films’ deeper concerns, it is definitely violent.  And the comedy is definitely dark.

Bob and Terry are two of the most corrupt cops in the history of cinematic police corruption.  Bob is a family man, who is full of useless trivia and usually seems to speaking a mile a minute.  Terry is single and not quite as talkative.  He views the world through permanently bloodshot eyes and always stands with an insolent slouch.  Terry is the type who, when he drives down a city street, intentionally bumps into every parked car.  When asked why he became a cop, Terry shrugs and replies that it was the only job available where he could shoot people without getting in trouble.  When Bob and Terry confront an informant, they both get so caught up in snorting the informant’s cocaine that they forget what they wanted to ask about.  Their lieutenant is constantly telling them to ease up on the corruption but, since he’s played by Paul Reiser, no one takes him seriously.

War on Everyone does have a plot but it’s debatable just how important it is.  Bob and Terry learn about an up-coming heist.  They decide to let the heist happen so that they can then bust the crooks and take the money for themselves.  However, because there’s nothing that Bob and Terry can’t screw up, they not only fail to stop the heist but end up spending the rest of the movie trying to track down the money.  Along the way, they bond with an orphan and Terry pursues a romance with a former stripper (Tessa Thompson, doing her best with an underwritten role).

The plot is really just an excuse for McDonagh to parody the conventions of the American cop film.  Much like Seven Psychopaths (which was directed by John Michael McDonagh’s older brother, Martin), War on Everyone is a film about tangents.  The point is to see how many weird directions the story can go in.  This is the type of film where, at one point, Terry and Bob fly to Iceland just because.

(Don’t get me wrong.  They have a reason for being in Iceland but still, you mostly come away with the feeling that McDonagh thought to himself, “What other New Mexico-set heist film features a trip to Iceland?”)

Particularly when compared to something like Calvary, War on Everyone doesn’t add up to much and yet that really is a part of the film’s charm.  At a time when so many films are trying way too hard to be something more than what they actually are, War on Everyone is content to be a thoroughly over-the-top action comedy.  It’s a bit like The Nice Guys, just with an even darker worldview.

What’s remarkable is how many critics have insisted in trying to find a deeper meaning where there clearly is none.  I hardly ever do this but I have to point out that the A.V. Club review — headlined, undoubtedly by an intern hoping to impress the bosses with the power of snark, Sorry War On Everyone, but it’s not the best time for a comedy about giddily corrupt cops — is remarkable in just how thoroughly it misses the point of the film.  If anything, it reads as if the reviewer couldn’t think of anything to say so he decided to engage in some preemptive political virtue signaling.

The review cited above makes the mistake of assuming that War on Everyone is supposed to be taking place in the real world.  Everything — from the over-the-top violence to the mix of crude humor with philosophical asides to the mix of 70s music with modern technology — indicates that War on Everyone is meant to take place in a reality other than our own.  It’s a dream-like world that was created by other cop movies and, ultimately, those other movies are the only thing that War on Everyone is attempting to critique.  In much the style of early Tarantino, War On Everyone is a movie about movies.

(Unlike Tarantino’s last few films, War on Everyone only lasts 98 minutes, which would seem to indicate that McDonagh is superior to Tarantino in one important regard: he knows how and when to edit himself.)

War on Everyone is not for … well, everyone.  It’s certainly not a masterpiece in the style of either The Guard or Calvary.  It’s lesser McDonagh but, when taken on its own terms, it’s an enjoyable ramble of a movie that’s distinguished by the perfect casting of Skarsgard, Pena, and Reiser.

Just don’t take it too seriously.

 

Music Video of the Day: Movies by Alien Ant Farm (2001, dir. Marc Klasfeld)


We’ve reached the end of February, and the last version of Movies by Alien Ant Farm. This is the one most people know. Unfortunately, I sat down late to write this, so let’s keep it simple.

The music video starts off with lead-singer Dryden Mitchell apparently confused by a hotdog jumping around onscreen next to a bun when his just sits in his hand.

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It must be because that’s not supposed to happen without John Travolta around to sing about Olivia Newton-John.

Grease (1978, dir. Randal Kleiser)

Grease (1978, dir. Randal Kleiser)

He decides to jump into the screen in order to work in a reference to Last Action Hero (1993). The rest of the band decides to follow suit, and are instantly replaced by every alt-rock band from the time-period.

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Once inside, they notice that the movie magic is now dead.

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Now they remind us of how big a fan they are of Michael Jackson–in case we didn’t get that from them covering Smooth Criminal–by referencing Captain EO (1986).

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However, their reference to Captain EO also features the Italian evil-eye thing that ignorant people think has something to do with Satan, and it pisses of the local Sammi Curr.

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Trick Or Treat (1986, dir. Charles Martin Smith)

Trick Or Treat (1986, dir. Charles Martin Smith)

It doesn’t matter that he now dresses more like Axl Rose. Sammi thinks that he is the only rocker that has the right to reach into or out of a screen. He did it in Trick Or Treat to kill Ozzy Osbourne.

Trick Or Treat (1986, dir. Charles Martin Smith)

Trick Or Treat (1986, dir. Charles Martin Smith)

Luckily the band turns into the Ghostbusters in order to deal with Sammi Curr. I’m sure it was also a way of taking a shot at critics of their brand of hard rock/heavy metal.

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The band performs as themselves for awhile, and brings more stuff out of the screen to remind us of the early-80s 3D craze before turning into Oompa Loompas.

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Veruca Salt is the audience. She is promptly turned into a giant blue M&M.

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Now the band goes into Karate Kid mode, but Mitchell is down!

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That’s no problem though because Pat Morita shows up to heal him through the power of movie magic.

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This causes them to flash to an Asian guy in the audience before moving on.

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The video decides it’s time to go into the 90s with Edward Scissorhands (1990) .

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Edward spots a guy sporting an afro in the audience and decides to update him for the times by giving him the Coolio.

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It also spells out AAF just in case we forgot what band we were watching. At this point, the audience decides it’s time for them all to jump into the screen.

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That is except for the usher…

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who disappears in the far shot…

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but reappears when the camera cuts back to the front of the theater.

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The music video was directed by Marc Klasfeld who you might know from any number of places, including:

Friday Night (T.G.I.F.) by Katy Perry

Friday Night (T.G.I.F.) by Katy Perry

He’s directed over 100 of them. He also shot around 20 of them.

Emilie Sennebogen produced the video. I can only find two music video credits for Sennebogen.

Scott Free was the stylist on the video. He appears to have done around 10 music videos.

Jeff Judd worked on make-up. I can only find two music video credits for him.

Ben Oswald was the production manager. He’s worked as a producer, production manager, and as an associate producer on music videos.

Enjoy!

OUTLAW GANG ATTEMPTS OSCAR ROBBERY!!


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Extry! Extry! Here, hot off the presses, is a photo of the desperate outlaws trying to escape…

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Seriously, never in all my Oscar-watching days have I seen them give the Best Picture award to the wrong picture!! Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway looked befuddled, when a Price Waterhouse official came and straightened out the snafu. Seems Warren was handed the “wrong” envelope when he announced LA LA LAND as the winner instead of MOONLIGHT! The Academy has vowed to look into the whole sordid affair, and will call in Inspector Clouseau to investigate!

Congrats to both films. More Oscar musings:

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*LA LA LAND may have not won Best Picture, but did bring home six statuettes, including Best Actress Emma Stone, and Best Director Damien Chazelle. I really need to see this film!

*It was a good night for our local New England artists. Besides Providence, R.I.’s Chazelle, local boy Casey Affleck (from…

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A Movie A Day #58: Seven Hours to Judgment (1988, directed by Beau Bridges)


7hrs_to_judgement-frntWhen I saw that Erin has picked Judge Not My Sins for her artwork of the day, I was reminded of Seven Hours to Judgment, a movie that used to occasionally show up on HBO.

David Reardon (Ron Liebman) owns an electronics store and is professionally known as “Crazy Dave.”  When three gang members, led by Chino (Reggie Johnson), are arrested for pushing Dave’s wife off of a subway platform, it looks like the legal system might let them go.  Because Dave’s wife is in a coma, she cannot testify that they pushed her.  However, Dave has tracked down a witness who saw what Chino did.  But the witness is not immediately available to testify.  Dave begs Judge John Eden (Beau Bridges) for an extension but the judge is one of those bleeding heart, by-the-book types.  Even though he believes Chino to be guilty, Judge Eden dismisses the case.  At the same time, Dave’s wife dies and Crazy Dave starts to live up to his nickname.

With the help of one of his employees, the hulking and child-like Ira (Tiny Ron), Dave kidnaps both Judge Eden and his wife (Julianne Phillips).  Dave tells Judge Eden that he has seven hours to track down the witness and get the evidence that would have convicted Chino.  If Eden doesn’t find the evidence, his wife will be blown up.  Judge Eden is dumped in the worst part of town, without any money, identification, or credit cards.  Dave tells him, “You helped create these streets!”

The rest of the movie is Eden running through the mean streets of wherever the movie is supposed to be taking place.  (It was filmed in Seattle but the city is never specifically named.)  Everyone who meets Eden tries to beat him up, which is one way to put a judge who is soft on crime in his place.  The only person who doesn’t beat up Eden is a homeless woman who licks his face.  Soon, Eden even has Chino after him.  The normally laid back and affable Beau Bridges isn’t usually thought of as being an action star and this movie shows why.  Judge Eden is such a wuss of a hero that it seems appropriate that he eventually has to hitch a ride in the back of a garbage truck.

Along with the miscasting of Beau Bridges, the other major problem with Seven Hours to Judgment is that it requires us to believe that Dave, even if he is “crazy,” could come up with such an intricate and elaborate plan and set it all up within just a few hours of his wife dying and Chino being released.  “Smug liberal get mugged by reality” was a successful theme for many low-budget action films in the 1980s but Seven Hours to Judgment is ultimately just as dumb and implausible as it sounds.

Seven Hours to Judgment was a reunion for Leibman and Bridges, who previously co-starred in an excellent and overlooked road movie called Your Three Minutes Are Up.  For some reason, Beau Bridges also directed Seven Hours to Judgment.