Birthright


 

Disclaimer: this review will be filled with spoilers galore, proceed at your own peril!

 

Overview:
On the surface, Birthright is a very familiar story: a champion from Earth destined to vanquish a great evil and free the mystical land.  The tale is far being so straightforward and black & white.  Michael “Mikey” Rhodes was an average little boy when he was taken to Terrenos by the freedom fighters and returned to Earth a victorious yet battle hardened man with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Time flows faster in Terrenos than it  does in Earth: a year on Earth is approximately 20-30 years on Terrenos. His disappearance also shattered his family: leaving Aaron Rhodes, his father, accused of his murder and an alcoholic to cope with the ordeal; his mother left his father & believing that Aaron had done the unthinkable; and Brennan Rhodes, his older brother, was left to deal with the loss of his baby brother, the fracture of his parents’ marriage, and bullying at school.
His miraculous return only plunged his family into deeper chaos.  Mikey was revealed to be an agent of Lore (the monstrous despot he was “destined” to defeat) and infected with the Nevermind, an extension of Lore that “guides” him.  His purpose on Earth was to murder the five mages who created a barrier that prevents Lore from entering Earth.  He enlisted the aid of Brennan & Aaron on his mission.  His mother still in shock over her sweet little boy returning as a hulking bearded barbarian opted to not join.  Mickey is able to murder to mages, Ward and Kylen, but not without revealing his true colors first to Brennan and then the rest of his family.  Aaron’s father, Sameal, turns out to be one of the mages and he is forced to slay Enoch, his fellow mage & friend, to protect his grandson.  The only female mage, Mastema, is the opportunistic daughter of Lore (who bears a strong resemblance to Mickey in his youth).  She informed Rya, (Mickey’s lover/mother of his child/fellow freedom fighter) and his mother that Mickey isn’t the chosen one, they made it up to give the freedom fighters hope and Lore was the true chosen one of Terrenos.
What I love: 
How gray the world is! The mages, more or less, gave up on Terrenos and left the freedom fighters to fend for themselves. Despite preventing Lore from entering Earth, they left their people to suffer while they enjoy relatively better lives.  Kylen murders an entire SWAT team to frame Mikey. Mastema contemplates betraying the mages and return to Lore to save her own skin.  Mikey willing let Lore infect him for his chance to return to his family: he understands what he must do but he’s conflicted.  The sadness & regret is so tangible when his old and new family reject him when his deeds are revealed.  Lore believes that he’s doing what he must to accomplish his vision of a peaceful Terrenos.  Kallista is a foreshadow of Mikey’s eventual choice: like him, she was a freedom fighter who became a host of the Nevermind & agent of Lore.  It seems like she relishes in the heinous acts.  Brennan’s attempt to exercise the Nevermind is also a foreshadow of Sameal’s attempt.  Mikey is far more crafty and calculating than his “brutish barbarian” appearance.
What I don’t dig:
Waiting 30+ days for new issues!
Where can you get it?
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TV Review: The Walking Dead 8.4 “Some Guy” (dir by Dan Liu)


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(YOU GET THE IDEA?)

My heart is broken.

It’s funny.  If Ezekiel had been the one to die, I don’t think it would have upset me as much.  If Carol had died, I would have been sad but tears would not have sprung to my eyes.  Rick?  Hey, Rick should have died a long time ago.  I wouldn’t have gotten upset.  I would have said, “That’s life.  No one’s safe.”

Instead, Shiva died and now my heart is broken.

What’s funny is that TSL co-founder and editor-in-chief Arleigh Sandoc warned me that Shiva was probably not going to survive.  Based on what he had seen in the comic, he told me exactly what was going to happen to her.  So, I can’t say that I was totally surprised.  Even if Arleigh hadn’t warned me, I remember the walkers eating that horse during the first season.  I know that animals aren’t safe in the world of The Walking Dead.

Still, it broke my heart.

Maybe it’s because I’m a cat person.  Maybe it’s because Shiva died protecting her master, which is not exactly typical cat behavior.  Ezekiel was at his weakest when Shiva sacrificed her life for him.  And now that Shiva’s gone, Ezekiel is going to have to learn how to be a leader without her help.  Before she died, he was shouting that he wasn’t a king.  He shouted that he was just some guy who found a cat.  The cat’s gone.  Can Ezekiel prove that he deserves to be known as “your majesty?”

If not, maybe Jerry can step up and lead The Kingdom.  Tonight, I was really impressed with Jerry and the actor who plays him, Cooper Andrews.  They both did a great job.  I know some people would say that Ezekiel should give the keys of the kingdom to Carol but I wouldn’t suggest that.  Carol’s a badass but I still get the feeling that she’s just a day or two from snapping and killing everyone she sees.

As for the rest of tonight’s episode … who cares?  Shiva’s dead…

Okay, okay, I know.  I’m a semi-professional blogger!  I need to get through this post and mourn later.  Okay, just a few observations:

Does everyone just have an unlimited supply of bullets all of the sudden?  One of the few things that I liked about the previous season is that the show did try to realistically deal with the fact that there aren’t many supplies in the post-apocalyptic world.  But this season, everyone just seems to be shooting guns for the Hell of it.  I’m not an expert on firearms but I do know that bullets aren’t like knives or arrows. They can only be used once.

So, I guess Rick is suddenly an action hero!  I’m not complaining.  A Rick who can suddenly jump into a speeding jeep is still preferable to a mopey, indecisive Rick who can’t bring himself to fight back.

Let’s give it up for Khary Payton, who did a great job tonight!  Ezekiel is a character who I’ve sometimes found to be annoying but Payton did a great job.  I think one reason why it was so unsettling to see Ezekiel acting so desperate was because The Kingdom has always provided the grim world of The Walking Dead with a little bit of fantasy.  It’s always served as an escape from all the terrible things going on in the rest of the world.  It’s very existence is a tribute to the power and importance of imagination.  Seeing the fantasy shattered was not easy and that’s something Payton wonderfully captured in his performance.

This season’s flashback structure actually paid off tonight.  I’m occasionally skeptical of shows that do the whole nonlinear timeline thing because I often feel that it’s just a gimmick, as opposed to really necessary storytelling device.  But tonight, seeing the contrast between the confident Ezekiel and the nearly defeated Ezekiel was undeniably powerful.

Speaking of nearly defeated Ezekiel, what about that Savior asshole who was holding him prisoner?  Oh my God, that guy had to be the most annoying bad guy ever!  I was so happy when Jerry split him in two.

Tonight’s episode was not bad.  It was exciting.  The pace didn’t drag.  And it made me cry.

Shiva, R.I.P.

Stranger Things S2 Ep5 “Dig Dug”; Alt Title: Bad Ideas


ST2

Cold Open:  The Evil Vines cover up the entrance Hop dug and he is trapped.  He leaves a trail of cigarette butts for himself or someone.  Then, the evil caves puff out some knock gas and Hop is on his back.

Nancy and Creeper get a room together and it’s more boring than awkward.

Hop wakes up and makes a quasi-gas mask and goes spelunking- Bad Idea #1.

There’s a subplot where Louis gets advice from his dad about girls and he tries to explain to Max last years events.  It’s kinda boring.  For the completists, Louis contrives a meeting with Max to explain all last year’s jazz.

There is a moment where Mullet Guy kinda comes on to Steve in the shower (At least, that’s how it came across to me).  Who knows, maybe Steve and Mullet guy will find love?  Honestly, it would be the first unpredictable twist of the season.  I hope those crazy guys make it work!  Steve, I get that you’re really into Nancy, but she’s in a motel room with Creeper.  You could do worse than Mullet Guy.  He works out and is a work in progress with great hair!

Dylan lures the teenage Demimoorgorgan into the storm cellar with baloney and it’s actually kinda scary.

Nancy and Creeper arrive at The Crank’s home.  There are cameras outside and he opens the door in a t-shirt, robe, and I’m certain dirty underwear.  They go into his lair to talk- Bad Idea #2.  They enter for some reason and he even has a steel door creeper room.  REALLY?!  REALLY?!  They play the tape Nancy made of Reiser totally incriminating the lab and they come up with a mediocre plan to discredit the lab and create a scandal not mentioning the monsters.  That should work. 

Bob stops by Joyce’s home and she creates excuses to keep him from coming in, but decides – Why not let him see my crazy house? He’s gonna find out we’re all nuts anyway and he’s into puzzles.  He takes a couple of minutes to absorb in all the crazy- You did these drawings?  Why…. exactly? BEST LINES OF THE SERIES!!!!

Bob realizes: 1) the vines are a map of the town. 2) the vines are hydrophobic.  E-Will trips out and sees Hop is in trouble.  Yep, Hop is enveloped by the vines and it appears to be the end of our intrepid Sheriff.

El gets to her Aunt, meets her catatonic mom, and realizes just how much her mom has gone crazy.  There is no there there, or so it seems.  Her mom indicates that she is ready to communicate with some flickering lights.  El goes into the imbetween and her mother show’s El: her birth, her abduction, another psychic playmate, a botched rescue, her mother’s ECT treatment by Evil Modine, and tonight’s winning lotto numbers- guess the fake!!!!

Bob creates a map to scale to find Hop with coordinates divined from E-Will’s drawings.  Pretty cool, Hop was last season’s breakout- this year is All About Bob!!!

Evil Reiser learns that the Hawkins soil is ALIVE!!!!!!  That’s pretty much it for him this episode.

Bob figures out Hop’s rough location and is amazed they bring him along to help.  Awwwww.   E-Will, Mike, Joyce, and Bob are looking for Hop and E-Will goes into his head and says to make a right.  Joyce and Bob arrive at the cave entrance for Hop and Bob doesn’t seem phased that he’s going into another dimension.  Good for you, Bob! Thanks for taking this in stride.  They rescue Hop.  The vines are about to overtake our trio, but the government arrives with flamethrowers and start burning the vines, sending E-Will into a painful seizure.

Steve and Dylan are paired up to deal with the teenage Demimoorgorgan, but it’s escaped!!!! WHA?!!! It has broken out into the evil caves and is now loose in our world.  Dylan, this is 100% your fault! You are the biggest bad idea of them all! – Bad Idea #3.

This episode wasn’t too bad.  People acted kinda stupidly as is usual this season, but at least Bob acted as a counter-weight to all the dumbassery.  Cheers!!!

 

A Movie A Day #307: River of Death (1989, directed by Steve Carver)


In the Amazon, natives are dying of a mysterious disease.  Could it have anything to do with a German war criminal named Wolfgang (played by Robert Vaughn) who is living in a cave that is decorated with a Nazi flag?  A scientist (Victor Melleney) and his daughter, Anna (Sarah Maur Thorp), are determined to find out.  They hire a tough explorer, John Hamilton (Michael Dudikoff), to lead them up the river but John does not do a very good job because the scientist ends up dead and Anna ends up kidnapped.

Everyone tells John to forget about Anna.  Colonel Diaz (Herbert Lom) says that she is dead.  John’s best friend, an arms dealer named Eddie (L.Q. Jones), says that she’s dead.  John refuses to accept that and he organizes an expedition to help track them down.  A strange man (Donald Pleasence) and his assistant (Cynthia Erland) approach John and offer to help.  What John does not know is that the man is actually Heinrich Spaatz, yet another Nazi war criminal.

River of Death is a ridiculous movie but it is entertaining in a way that only a late 80s Michael Dudikoff movie can be.  Though River of Death was a Cannon film, it was produced by the legendary Harry Alan Towers, which is probably why the production standards are higher than the average Menahem Golan quickie.  Dudikoff does a passable imitation of Indiana Jones (and he even gets to do some Apocalypse Now-style narrating) but the real reason to watch the film is to watch veteran actors like Robert Vaughn, Donald Pleasence, Herbert Lom, and L.Q. Jones ham it up.  Vaughn doesn’t even attempt to sound German while Pleasence gives a performance that is strange even by his own considerable standards.

One final note: River of Death was the second-to-last film directed by Steve Carver, who also did Capone, and Big Bad Mama, along with helping to make Chuck Norris a star by directing Lone Wolf McQuade and An Eye For An Eye.

Stranger Things S2 Ep 4 “Will the Wise”; ALT Title: Everything that is WRONG with season 2


ST2

Cold Open: Joyce is trying to find Will who is busy getting possessed by black smoke “Supernatural” style.  The Smoke Monster fully enters Will and he becomes…. YES—

E-Will. —You’re Welcome, America.

Analysis: The smoke monster is everything that is wrong with Season 2.  Season 1: the big bad was a predator- corporeal, eating, breathing, and reproducing.  This season: it’s a smoke monster- ethereal and spooky, essentially an evil spirit.  Evil spirits are fictional and it destroys the idea of the Upside Down.  The Upside Down is a PARALLEL universe: what is here is there, but different because it evolved without the sun.  There aren’t spirits here running about, so there shouldn’t be spirits there running about.  That’s why season 2 fails! The creators undermined their own mythology for the sake of creative expedience and it drains the scares right out of us.

Joyce tries to wake Will, but he can’t remember what happened because E-Will is being all E-Will.

Hop sees El and is justifiably pissed, but imprisoning a teenager is just not a workable solution.  Hop tries to ground El and it goes…about as well as can be expected with a teenager with terrible super powers.  She hits Hop with a book, throws furniture around, and blows the windows out.  They’re also a lot alike; they both react without thinking.

Hop, you’re not the best Dad.  You take crazy risks without the slightest concern whether or not you will come home to your ward.  Grow up!

Nancy easily lies to the now placeholder Cara Buono that she’s staying at Stacy’s…. and it works. UGHHH.  It’s actually a plot to catch the lab guys red handed and give the data to the Crank from episode 1.  She and Creeper are faux-waiting for Barb’s mom and then get “captured” by the government guys.  It’s legit 1980s creepy and one of the few good scenes of the episode.

Joyce is trying to nurse E-Will back to health.  His temperature is below normal and she tries to give him a bath.  Joyce you should really read- Chicken Soup for the Demonic Soul.

We get a very hamfisted clue as to how to defeat the smoke monster: E-Will is scared of the bath water.  Side note: there is a cool juxtaposition with Mr. Clarke describing fear responses in organisms.

Hop is with Joyce and Will and trying to get him to describe his E-Willness and he can’t unless he uses …..crayons?  Will, I get it- you’re the artsy one of this D&D tribe, but as Daniel Tiger tries to instruct my girls- Use your words…. Use your words.  There we go. Will uses drawing to craft what is revealed to be a network of vines.  Joyce uses the drawings as her latest Crazy Home Journal interior decorating and puts them up everywhere.

We return to El cleaning up the house and finding The Trapdoor of Contrivance.  We see a box labeled Vietnam.  So, Hop is a Vet, not a surprise.  El discovers the evil lab box and finds stuff on her mom.  El uses her mojo to go to the imbetween and make contact with her.  El’s quest begins to find her mom.

Hop reveals that he might be the worst Dad/Cop ever and realizes E-Will’s drawings are vines and he takes E-Will’s statement that they are killing to be literal and rushes off without consulting anyone about his plans or whereabouts or any backup whatsoever civilian or otherwise.  Hop, how did you get through Vietnam or even your teen years?! 

Dylan looks for his “pet”.  His poor mom is a fright looking for their cat.  Dylan finds Dart eating Mr. Snuggles or whatever he’s called.

Hop digs down into the pumpkin patch and enters a tunnel of Upside Down and for hamfistedness the camera rotates making him upside down on the screen.

NOTE: smoke from Supernatural and this show below….

 

Music Video of the Day: Smashed Blocked by John’s Children (1967, dir by ????)


Hi, everyone!  Lisa here with today’s music video of the day!  It’s an old one, one that comes to us all the way from 1967!  I present to you: Smashed Blocked by John’s Children!

John’s Children were an English band who were together for about two years, from 1966 to 1968.  By most accounts, they didn’t make much of an immediate impact, despite Smashed Blocked finding some popularity in the States.  (However, they would later receive some retroactive recognition as one of the major influences on early punk rock.)  Perhaps unfairly, they were better known for their antics on and off the stage than for their music.  For instance, they opened for The Who until they were got kicked off the tour for being too wild.  They frequently posed naked for the press.  They named their first album Orgasm, which was a sure way to generate controversy in the 60s.  Marc Bolan, who would later find fame as the frontman for T. Rex, was briefly a member of the group, though he wasn’t involved with the recording of Smashed Blocked.

Anyway, this video for Smashed Blocked was apparently filmed in 1967, in the basement of the Establishment, a popular London nightclub.  That’s ainger Andy Ellison, drummer Chris Townson, and bass guitarist John Hewlett in the video.  According to some comments that Ellison posted on YouTube, the song’s title comes from “mod” slang — Smashed meaning to be drunk and Blocked meaning to be high on amphetamines.  That’s certainly the feeling that I get from this song, which really does seem to scream out “1967!” in every way that it can.

Interestingly enough, there’s a second video for Smashed Blocked on YouTube.  This one was not an official release.  Instead, it’s made up of footage that was left on the cutting room floor after the first video was put together.  Here it is:

Enjoy!