TV Review: The Walking Dead 8.5 “The Big Scary U” (dir by Michael Strazemis)


Could it be that I just watched a Negan-centric episode of The Walking Dead that wasn’t terrible?

It’s true!  I’ll admit that I rolled my eyes a bit when I saw that tonight’s episode was going to be about Negan and the Saviors.  Last season, though there were a few exceptions (particularly the episode where Eugene was first taken to the Sanctuary), the Savior episodes were my least favorite.  But tonight’s episode was actually pretty good.

That doesn’t mean that it was great, of course.  To be honest, I’m not totally sure that you could ever have a truly great Savior episode.  Whenever I watch the Saviors, I always find myself thinking about The Others on Lost.  One reason why the Others were such a fascinating group was because they weren’t just one-dimensional villains.  Whenever one of the Others would say something like, “We’re the good guys,” you could actually see their point.  There’s never been that type of ambiguity when it comes to the Saviors.  Negan is an asshole.  He has chosen to surround himself with other assholes.  They were all probably assholes before the zombie apocalypse and they’ll continue to be assholes until Sanctuary is eventually overrun by walkers.

With all that in mind though, this was still a pretty good episode.  If nothing else, this episode made it a little bit clearer why people started following Negan in the first place.  Even when Negan was trapped in the trailer with Father Gabriel, he did not allow himself to show any fear.  Instead, he was actually able to persuade Gabriel to make a run with him for the Sanctuary.  Even his confession to Gabriel about his first wife mostly served to reveal that Negan is a master manipulator.  He shared just enough to keep Gabriel intrigued.  After spending almost all of previous season bellowing, Jeffrey Dean Morgan dialed things back just enough to make Negan interesting again.  For that matter, tonight’s episode finally gave Seth Gilliam to show what he’s capable of when he’s actually given a decent line or two.

In the trailer, Negan told Gabriel that the Saviors would undoubtedly end up killing each other if they thought he was dead.  That may have sounded arrogant at the time but it quickly turned out that Negan was correct.  I think that’s also going to be the Saviors’s downfall.  By literally setting himself up as the strongest man in the Sanctuary, Negan has also ensured that the Saviors are lost without his presence and direction.  While all of his lieutenants may go out of their way to imitate Negan’s style, none of them have his leadership skills.  It doesn’t matter how much Simon and Regina insist otherwise.  They may say “I am Negan,” but everyone know that they’re not.  That said, Negan’s sudden appearance after everyone had assumed he was dead will probably leave him in an even more powerful position.  All messiahs return from the dead and Negan even returned with a man of God!

As for the rest of the episode, I didn’t really get the whole point of Rick/Darryl fight.  (It did, of course, remind us of the difference between Rick and Negan.  Rick forgave Darryl, something Negan would view as being a sign of weakness.)  Josh McDermitt is obviously having a blast as Eugene.  Eugene may be a traitor but McDermitt’s performance still makes me smile every week.  And then there was weaselly Gregory, of course.  I think we’re all ready to see a bunch of walkers pounce on Gregory.

As I watched tonight’s episode, I found myself making a few more predictions about the rest of season 8:

  1. There’s no way that Gabriel is still going to be alive at the end of this season.  He is so being set up for martyrdom.
  2. If they get Dr. Carter back to Hilltop, does that mean that Maggie will finally have her baby?
  3. Judging from the flashback/flashforward structure of this season (and the fact that they’re going to have to explain why Carl no longer looks like he’s 13 years old), I’m going to guess that there will be a considerable time jump between season 8 and season 9.  Either that or Zombie Carl’s going to show at some point soon…

As always, we’ll see what happens!

A Movie A Day #314: Body and Soul (1981, directed by George Bowers)


When his little sister falls ill with sickle-cell anemia, Leon Johnson (Leon Isaac Kennedy) has to make a decision.  He can either finish his education, graduate from medical school, and treat her as a doctor or he can drop out of school, reinvent himself as “Leon the Lover,” and make a fortune as a professional boxer!  At first, Leon’s career goes perfectly.  He is winning fights.  He is making money.  He has a foxy new girlfriend (played Leon Isaac Kennedy’s then-wife, Jayne Kennedy.)  But then the fame starts to go to Leon’s head.  He forgets where he came from.  He’s no longer fighting just to help his sister.  Now, he’s fighting for his own personal glory.  When Leon finally gets a title shot, a crooked boxing promoter known as Big Man (former JFK in-law Peter Lawford, looking coked up) orders Leon to take a dive.  Will Leon intentionally lose the biggest fight of his life or will he stay in the ring and battle Ricardo (Al Denava), a boxer so evil that he literally throws children to the ground?  More importantly, will he make his trainer (Muhammad Ali, playing himself!) proud?

Leon Isaac Kennedy, Muhammad Ali, and Peter Lawford all in the same movie!?  No surprise here, it’s a Cannon film.  Leon Isaac Kennedy was best known for playing a jailhouse boxer in the Penitentiary films and he was a good actor with charisma to burn so it probably made perfect sense to not only cast him in a remake of John Garfield’s Body and Soul but to let him write the script too.  The end result is a film that is too heavy-handed to be taken seriously but it is still an entertaining movie.  Body and Soul leaves not a single sports cliché unused but Kennedy was a convincing fighter and the boxing scenes are well-directed.  Muhammad Ali did a better job playing himself here then he did in The Greatest.  All in all, Body and Soul is a good movie for fight fans.

Body and Soul was not a box office success and Kennedy ended his film career a few years after it was released.  He is now the head of Leon Kennedy Ministries, Inc of Burbank, California.

 

Music Video of The Day: Highway to Hell by AC/DC (1979, dir by ????)


Yesterday, as soon as I saw the twitter reaction to the passing of Malcolm Young, I knew that there was no way today’s music video of the day wouldn’t come from AC/DC.

As I looked through all of the AC/DC videos that were available on YouTube, the main thing that I noticed was that there was not an ounce of pretension to either the band’s music or their videos.  The majority of the videos that I saw were simply made up of footage of the band performing on stage.  There was no attempt to pretend that they were anything other than a hard-working band that played fast and loud.  How could anyone not respect that?

Highway to Hell was probably an obvious video to pick, as it seems to be the song that everyone knows.  Well, that’s okay.  Sometimes, the obvious choice is the right choice.  Since the video is pretty straight forward, here’s a little background on the song, courtesy of Songfacts:

The title is often attributed as a phrase AC/DC guitarist Angus Young used to describe touring in America. There is a much more literal explanation, however. “Highway to Hell” was the nickname for the Canning Highway in Australia. It runs from where lead singer Bon Scott lived in Fremantle and ends at a pub/bar called The Raffles, which was a big rock ‘n roll drinking hole in the ’70s. As Canning Highway gets close to the pub, it dips down into a steep decline: “No stop signs… speed limits… nobody gonna slow me down.”

So many people where killed by driving fast over that intersection at the top of the hill on the way for a good night out, that it was called the highway to hell, so when Bon was saying “I’m on the highway to hell” it meant that he was doing the nightly or weekly pilgrimage down Canning Highway to The Raffles bar to rock and drink with his mates: “Ain’t nothing I would rather do. Going down, party time, my friends are gonna be there too.”

Enjoy!