TV Review: The Walking Dead 8.9 “Honor” (dir by Greg Nicotero)


So, has everyone seen the latest episode of The Walking Dead?  If not, why are you reading this review?  I ask because, on another site that I write for, I’ve got two people bitching at me for revealing too many spoilers about the shows that I review and, as a result, I felt the need to post an apology to those people.  As far as apologies go, it was fairly passive-aggressive and I’d hate to have to be that insincere on this site.  So, in other words, if you haven’t watched the latest episode of The Walking Dead, don’t read this review.  Thanks!

(Okay, I think I’ve rambled on long enough that anyone who didn’t want spoilers should have left by now.)

On Sunday night, the eighth season of AMC’s The Walking Dead resumed and oh my God, I have got such mixed feelings about what I just watched.  Before I go any further, allow me to share something that I tweeted back in April of 2017:

In other words, I can’t say that I’m shocked that Carl’s dead.  In fact, to a certain extent, I kind of respect the show for following through as opposed to coming up with some last-minute contrivance to allow Carl to live.  At the same time, I do think that the death of Carl has robbed the show of some potentially intriguing future storylines.  In the comic, Carl is still alive and he’s even bonded a bit with Negan.  During Season 7, the show seemed to be laying the foundation for that storyline but apparently, Negan’s going to have to bond with some other kid now.  Maybe Henry.  Maybe Judith.

I guess the main thing that bothers me about Carl’s death is that I really do feel that it was mostly due to the fact that the show’s pace has slowed down to such an extent that Chandler Riggs was getting too old to play the role. The Walking Dead has been on the air for 8 seasons but how many years have actually passed in the show?  It’s hard to say but really, it doesn’t seem like Carl should be any older than 14 or maybe 15.  Meanwhile, Chandler Riggs is closing in on 19.  It’s hard not to feel that the show’s producers decided to kill Carl off rather than maybe just wrap up a few storylines and have season 9 open with a “Four years after the defeat of the Saviors” title card.

Myself, I’ve frequently gotten annoyed with Carl as a character, even though I’ve always appreciated Chandler Riggs’s performance.  That said, Carl was one of the few characters left on the show with room to grow.  Rick is never going to change.  If Negan does become the friendly gardener that we saw in Carl’s fantasy, it’s going to have more to do with expedience than anything else.  Carl, though, was still discovering who he was and what he believed.  The majority of the characters have spent the last three or four seasons in a rut.  By virtue of being young, Carl was one of the few characters who actually had a chance of breaking out of that rut.

I mean, to be absolutely honest, I always assumed that the show would end with Carl shooting Rick before he could reanimate.  If you go all the way back to season 1, that’s the ending that the show has appeared to be logically building up to.  Now, I guess Judith will have to do it.

As for the episode itself … again, my feelings were mixed.  This episode was determined to wring every last drop of emotion out of Carl’s passing.  When it worked, it was largely due to the performances of Riggs, Danai Gurira, and the always underrated Andrew Lincoln.  At the same time, there was a part of me that started to resent just how much the show dragged out Carl’s death.  I know that AMC likes to do “super-sized” episodes of The Walking Death but, in this case, I think this episode would have been more effective if it had just been an hour.  Yes, that single gunshot was heart-rendering but, up until I heard it, there was a part of me that feared the show was planning to drag Carl’s death out over the entire rest of the season.

While Carl was dying, Carol, Morgan, and a few other people went off to rescue Ezekiel.  Gavin, who was always one of the most obnoxious of the Saviors, is now dead and yay for that.  Morgan has apparently decided that he’s okay with killing people again.  Morgan also apparently now has Jason Voorhees-style super strength.

It wasn’t a bad episode, though it certainly didn’t carry the power that it would have carried if it had happened during the fourth or fifth season.  On the one hand, I’ve always appreciated the fact that anyone can die on The Walking Dead.  On the other hand, characters die so frequently (and then pop up on the Talking Dead to say goodbye) that it’s now easy to get cynical about the whole thing.

In fact, it may be too early to say whether The Walking Dead handled Carl’s death the right way.  It depends on how this all plays out.  Will the show use Carl’s death as an excuse to go off in an unexpected direction or will we promptly get back to Negan chuckling and Rick giving speeches?  I’m actually looking forward to next week, just because I’m interested in seeing which Rick we’re going to get.  Are we going to get the crazy Rick who appeared after Lori died or are we going to get the catatonic Rick who showed up after Negan executed Abraham and Glenn?  Or maybe it’ll be the return of the Stoic Rick who shot zombie Sophia because he knew he had no other choice.  Which Rick will it be?

We’ll find out next week … hopefully.

 

Lisa’s Week In Review — 2/19/18 — 2/25/18


As I sit here writing this, it has finally stopped raining!  Every other day this week, it rained.  By the end of Thursday night, my backyard literally looked like a swamp.  Usually, when the weather gets weird in Texas, it leads to me getting a lot written but that didn’t happen this week.  I was distracted by the combination of the Olympics and Celebrity Big Brother.  Fortunately, both of those are now over.

Anyway, here’s my week in review:

Movies That I Watched

  1. Atlantic City (1981)
  2. The Boost (1988)
  3. The Bounty (1984)
  4. The Breakfast Club (1985)
  5. Christina’s House (2000)
  6. Dead Man Walking (1995)
  7. Fatal Games (1984)
  8. Harry and Son (1984)
  9. The Heiress (1949)
  10. First Daughter (2004)
  11. Goon: The Last of the Enforcers (2016)
  12. Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984)
  13. On Golden Pond (1981)
  14. Personal Best (1982)
  15. The Principal (1987)
  16. Raising the Bar (2016)
  17. The Substitute (1996)
  18. Traffic Stop (2018)
  19. Warren Jeffs: Prophet of Evil (2018)
  20. Walk Like A Man (1987)
  21. What Waits Below (1984)
  22. Youngblood (1986)

TV Shows That I Watched

  1. 2018 Winter Olympics
  2. 60 Days In
  3. The Alienist
  4. The Amazing Race 30
  5. American Vandal
  6. The Bachelor 22
  7. Celebrity Big Brother
  8. Channel Zero
  9. The Chi
  10. Crashing
  11. Divorce
  12. The End of the F***ing World
  13. Ghost Whisperer
  14. Here and Now
  15. Homeland
  16. Intervention
  17. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
  18. King of the Hill
  19. Live PD
  20. The Magicians
  21. The Trade
  22. Undercover High
  23. Waco

Books That I Read

  1. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service by Ian Fleming (1963)
  2. The Spy Who Loved Me by Ian Fleming (1962)

Music To Which I Listened

  1. Above & Beyond
  2. Afrojack
  3. Alexis Taylor
  4. Bob Dylan
  5. Bright Eyes
  6. Camila Cabello
  7. The Chemical Brothers
  8. Coldplay
  9. Creep Show
  10. Decade
  11. Ex Cops
  12. Fergie
  13. Icona Pop
  14. Jakalope
  15. Justin Moore
  16. Kate Melua
  17. Lil Ro
  18. Moses Uvere
  19. Muse
  20. NOIA
  21. Saint Motel
  22. The Ting Tings
  23. White Denim

Links From Last Week

  1. Over on SyFy Designs, I shared some thoughts on President’s Day!
  2. Over at the Ferguson Theater, Derrick Ferguson shares some thoughts on the DCEU vs. MCU!
  3. Over at Cracked Rearviewer, Gary got his reblog button back!
  4. Over at Images by Erin, Erin shares a picture of stormy weather!
  5. MM Leonard writes about vacationing in Qatar!
  6. The best moments of the Winter Olympics! 

Links From The Site

  1. Erin shares the Fantastic Covers of Famous Fantastic Mysteries!
  2. Gary reviewed Notorious, Key Largo, and The Gunfighter and payed tribute to the late Nanette Fabray.
  3. Ryan reviewed Is This Guy For Real? The Unbelievable Andy Kaufman“Nausea,” “Collection,” “Master Song,” And “Resident Lover, and Punk’s Not Dead and also shared his weekly reading round-up!
  4. Case reviewed Annihilation!
  5. Jeff took a look at the original Death Wish!
  6. Among other things, I reviewed Atlantic City and Fatal Games!

For me, anyway, next week is going to be all about reviewing films that have been nominated for Best Picture throughout the years!

Have a great week!

(Want to see what I watched and read last week?  Click here!)

Bronson’s Revenge: Death Wish (1974, directed by Michael Winner)


To quote “Dirty” Harry Callahan, “I’m all broken up about his rights.”

In 1972, a novel by Brian Garfield was published.  The novel was about a meek New York City accountant named Paul Benjamin.  After Paul’s wife is murdered and his daughter is raped, Paul suffers a nervous breakdown.  A self-described bleeding heart liberal, Paul starts to stalk the streets at night while carrying a gun.  He is hunting muggers.  At first, he just kills the muggers who approach him but soon, he starts to deliberately set traps.  Sinking into insanity, Paul becomes just as dangerous as the men he is hunting.  Garfield later said that the book was inspired by two real-life incidents, one in which his wife’s purse was stolen and another in which his car was vandalized.  Garfield said that his initial response was one of primitive anger.  He wondered what would happen if a man had these rageful thoughts and could not escape them.

The title of that novel was Death Wish.  Though it was never a best seller, it received respectful reviews and Garfield subsequently sold the film rights.  At first, Sidney Lumet was attached to direct and, keeping with Garfield’s portrayal of Paul Benjamin, Jack Lemmon was cast as the unlikely vigilante.

Lumet, ultimately, left the project so that he could concentrate on another film about crime in New York City, Serpico.  When Lumet left, Jack Lemmon also dropped out of the film.  Lumet was replaced by Michael Winner, a director who may not have been as thoughtful as Lumet but who had a solid box office record and a reputation for making tough and gritty action films.

Winner immediately realized that audiences would not be interested in seeing an anti-vigilante film.  Instead of casting an actor with an intellectual image, like Jack Lemmon, Winner instead offered the lead role (now named Paul Kersey and no longer an accountant but an architect) to Charles Bronson.  When Winner told Bronson that the script was about a man who shot muggers, Bronson replied, “I’d like to do that.”

“The script?” Winner asked.

“No, shoot muggers.”

At the time that he was cast, Charles Bronson was 52 years old.  He was the biggest star in the world, except for in America where he was still viewed as being a B-talent at best.  Bronson was known for playing tough, violent men who were not afraid to use violence to accomplish their goals.  (Ironically, in real life, Bronson was as much of an ardent liberal as Paul Kersey was meant to be at the beginning of the movie.)  Among those complaining that Charles Bronson was all wrong for Paul Kersey was Brian Garfield.  However, Bronson accepted the role and the huge box office success of Death Wish finally made him a star in America.

To an extent, Brian Garfield was right.  Charles Bronson was a better actor than he is often given credit for but, in the early scenes of Death Wish, he does seem miscast.  When Paul is first seen frolicking with his wife (Hope Lange) in Hawaii, Bronson seems stiff and awkward.  In New York City, when Paul tells his right-wing colleague (William Redfield) that “my heart does bleed for the less fortunate,” it doesn’t sound natural.  But once Paul finds out that his wife has been murdered and his daughter, Carol (Kathleen Tolan), has been raped, Paul gets mad and Bronson finally seems comfortable in the role.

In both the book and the original screenplay, both the murder and the rape happened off-screen.  Never a subtle director, Winner instead opted to show them in a brutal and ugly scene designed to get the audience as eager to shoot muggers as Bronson was.  Today, the power of the scene is diluted by the presence of Jeff Goldblum, making his screen debut as a very unlikely street thug.  Everyone has to start somewhere and Goldblum got his start kicking Hope Lange while wearing a hat that made him look like he belonged in an Archie comic.

With his wife dead and his daughter traumatized, Paul discovers that no one can help him get justice.  The police have no leads.  His son-in-law (Steven Keats) is a weak and emotional mess.  (As an actor, some of Bronson’s best moments are when Paul makes no effort to hide how much he loathes his son-in-law.)  When a mugger approaches Paul shortly after his wife’s funeral, Paul shocks himself by punching the mugger in the face.

When Paul is sent down to Arizona on business, he meets Ames Jainchill (Stuart Margolin), a land developer who calls New York a “toilet” and who takes Paul to see a wild west show.  Later at a gun club, Paul explains that he was a conscientious objects during the Korean War but he knows how to shoot.  His father was a hunter and Paul grew up around guns.  When Paul returns to New York, Ames gives him a present, a revolver.  Paul is soon using that revolver to bring old west justice to the streets of New York City.

As muggers start to show up dead, the NYPD is outraged that a vigilante is stalking the street.  Detective Frank Ochoa (Vincent Gardenia) is assigned to bring the vigilante in.  But the citizens of New York love the vigilante.  Witnesses refuse to give an accurate description of Paul.  When Paul is wounded, a young patrolman (Christopher Guest, making almost as unlikely a film debut as Jeff Goldblum) conspires to keep Paul’s revolver from being turned over as evidence.

The critics hated Death Wish, with many of them calling it an “immoral” film.  Brian Garfield was so disgusted by how Winner changed his story that he wrote a follow-up novel in which Paul is confronted by an even more dangerous vigilante who claims to have been inspired by him.  Audiences, however, loved it.  Death Wish was one of the top films at the box office and it spawned a whole host of other vigilante films.

Death Wish is a crude movie, without any hint of subtlety and nuance.  It is also brutally effective, as anyone who has ever felt as if they were the victim of a crime can attest.  In a complicated and often unfair world, Kersey’s approach may not be realistic or ideal but it is emotionally cathartic.  Watching Death Wish, it is easy to see why critics hated it and why audiences loved it.

It is also to see why the movie made Bronson a star.  Miscast in the role or not, Bronson exudes a quiet authority and determination that suggests that if anyone could single-handedly clean-up New York City, it’s him.  An underrated actor, Bronson’s best moment comes after he punches his first mugger and he triumphantly reenters his apartment.  After he commits his first killing, Bronson gets another good scene where he is so keyed up that he collapses to the floor and then staggers into the bathroom and throws up.  Garfield may have complained that the Death Wish made his madman into a hero but Bronson’s best moments are the ones the suggest Paul has gone mad.  The real difference between the book and the movie is that the movie portrays madness as a necessary survival skill.

This Friday, a new version of Death Wish will be playing in theaters.  Directed by Eli Roth, this version starts Bruce Willis as Dr. Paul Kersey.  Will the new Death Wish be as effective as the original?  Judging from the trailer, I doubt it.  Bruce Willis or Charles Bronson?  I’ll pick Bronson every time.

Tomorrow, Bronson returns in Death Wish II!

Playing Catch Up: First Daughter, Ice Girls, Raising The Bar, Walk Like A Man


So, this year I am making a sincere effort to review every film that I see.  I know I say that every year but this time, I really mean it.  Unfortunately, over the past two weeks, real life has interfered with my movie reviewing, if not my move watching.

So, in an effort to catch up, here are four quick reviews of some of the movies that I watched over the past two weeks!

  • First Daughter
  • Released: 2004
  • Directed by Forest Whitaker
  • Starring Katie Holmes, Marc Blucas, Amerie, Michael Keaton, Margaret Colin, Lela Rochon

Michael Keaton as the President of the United States!?  Now, that’s a great idea.  Michael Keaton plays President Mackenzie.  First Daughter was made long before Birdman so Michael Keaton doesn’t really have a huge part but, whenever he does appear, he is totally believable as a world leader.  You buy the idea that this guy could win an election and that he’d probably be a good (if not necessarily a great) President.  Someone really needs to make another movie where Michael Keaton plays the President.  Maybe President Birdman.  Just don’t give it to Inarritu to direct because he’ll make it too political…

Anyway, the majority of the film is about Katie Holmes as the President’s daughter, Samantha.  Samantha has been accepted to a college in California.  She’s excited because it means that she’ll finally be able to have a life outside of the White House.  The President is concerned because he loves his daughter and he knows that, if she makes any mistakes in California, his political opponents will try to use her against him.  Samantha goes off to college and tries to have a good (but rather chaste) time.  Making that somewhat difficult is her secret service entourage.  Fortunately, Samantha meets a guy (Marc Blucas) who loves her for who she is and not because her father is the President.

It’s all pretty silly and shallow but I have to admit that I get nostalgic whenever I see this movie.  Much like From Justin To Kelly, it’s definitely a film from a more innocent and less angry time.  To date, it’s also the last film to be directed by actor Forest Whitaker.

  • Ice Girls
  • Released in 2016
  • Directed by Damian Lee
  • Starring Michaela du Toit, Lara Daans, Arcadia Kendal, Sheila McCarthy, Taylor Hunsley, Shane Harte, Elvis Stojko

Struggling financially, Kelly (Lara Daans) is forced to move back to her hometown and move in with her sister (Sheila McCarthy).  Until she got married and gave up that part of her life, Kelly was once an up-and-coming figure skater.  Fortunately, her daughter, Mattie (Michaela du Toit), has inherited her mother’s talent.  However, a serious injury shook Mattie’s confidence.  Now, she says she doesn’t want to skate anymore.  Still, she’s willing to accept a job from Mercury (Elvis Stojko) at the local rink and it’s not too long before, under Mercury’s guidance, Mattie is skating once again.  Mattie also befriends another skater, Heather (Taylor Hunsley).  Heather happens to be the daughter of Rose (Natasha Henstridge), who was once in love with Kelly’s father…

It sounds like the set-up of a melodramatic Lifetime movie but actually, Ice Girls is a sweet-natured film about two ice skaters, one who has a mother who is too protective and the other who has a mother who is too driven.  In the end, both of them end up skating for themselves and not their mothers and that’s a good message for the film’s target audience of young skate fans.  The majority of the cast is made up of actual ice skaters, so the skating footage is pretty impressive.  It’s a predictable movie but I enjoyed it when I watched it on Netflix.

  • Raising the Bar
  • Released in 2016
  • Directed by Clay Glen
  • Starring Kelli Berglund, Lili Karamalikis, Tess Fowler, Emily Morris, Peta Shannon

I also watched this one on Netflix, a day after I watched Ice Girls.  (I was in an Olympics sort of mood, even though neither film took place at the Olympics.)  Raising the Bar feels a lot like Ice Girls, except that the ice skaters were now gymnasts and instead of relocating to Toronto, the family in Raising the Bar relocates all the way to Australia.  Once in Australia, Kelly (Kelly Johnson) finds the courage to re-enter gymnastics and ends up competing against her former teammates.

Kelly Johnson gives a good performance in the lead role.  Though it may be predictable, Raising the Bar is an effective and sweet-natured family film.  Perhaps the most interesting thing about watching the film was that I quickly found myself rooting against the American team.  Australia all the way!

  • Walk Like A Man
  • Released 1987
  • Directed by Melvin Frank
  • Starring Howie Mandel, Amy Steel, Cloris Leachman, Christopher Lloyd, Colleen Camp, Stephen Elliott, George DiCenzo, John McLiam, Earl Boen

Oh, what sweet Hell is this?

Okay, I’m going to try to explain what happens in this movie.  You’re not going to believe me.  You’re going to think that I’m just making all of this up.  But I swear to a God … this is an actual movie.

When he was a baby, Boba Shand (Howie Mandel) got separated from his family.  His mother and his father assumed that he was gone forever but what they didn’t know was that Bobo was found and raised by a pack of wild dogs.  For twenty years, Bobo lives as a dog.  Then he’s discovered by Penny (Amy Steel), an animal researcher who tries to teach Bobo how to be a human.  However, as time passes, Penny comes to realize that maybe she’s making a mistake trying to change Bobo.  Bobo is innocent and child-like and obsessed with chasing fire engines.  When he has too much to drink, he runs around on all fours.  And … PENNY’S IN LOVE WITH HIM!

Seriously, she’s in love with a man who thinks he’s a dog.

However, Bobo stands to inherit a fortune and his evil brother (Christopher Lloyd) is planning on having him committed.  Penny has to prove that Bobo is human enough to manage his own affairs while also respecting his desire to continue living like a dog.

I’m serious.  This is a real movie.

Anyway, making things even worse is the performance as Howie Mandel.  Mandel has always been a rather needy performer and the role of a man who thinks he’s a dog only serves to bring out his worst instincts.  Remember when Ben Stiller played Simple Jack in Tropical Thunder?  Well, Mandel’s performance is kinda like that only worse.  At one point, Bobo walks up to a mannequin in a mall and says, “I have to go pee pee.  Come with me,” and I nearly threw a shoe at the TV.  Oh my God, it was so bad.

The main problem with Walk Like A Man is that it wants to have it both ways.  It wants to be a wild comedy about Howie Mandel chasing fire engines but it also makes us want to tear up when Penny explains why Bobo should be allowed to live as a dog.

All in all, it’s a really bad movie.  And yes, it does actually exist.

An Olympic Film Review: Blades of Glory (dir by Josh Gordon and Will Speck)


All good things must come to an end and the Winter Olympics have done just that.  Tonight, here in the States, NBC will wrap up their coverage of the Games and they’ll broadcast the Closing Ceremonies.  As NBC tends to do, they’ll pretend that they’re broadcasting live but the truth of the matter is that the Winter Games are over and now we’ll have to wait two years for the far-less exciting Summer Games.

I enjoyed the Winter Olympics this year.  I was one of those obsessive people who would watch all of the recaps at one in the morning.  Medal-wise, Norway dominated with a total of 39 medals.  The United States came in fourth with only 23 medals but that’s still 22 more medals than Latvia got!  (Just kidding, we love you, Latvia!)  Overall, though, it was a pretty good Olympics.

That said, there were a few things missing.

For instance, no one attempted to recreate JFK’s affair with Marilyn Monroe on ice.  I thought that was definitely a missed opportunity.

There weren’t any frantic chase scenes.  No mascots were injured over the course of the Olympics.  I guess we should be happy about that, all things considered.  Still, it’s hard not to feel that this break with Olympic tradition left something lacking in the games.

Finally, none of the skating routines featured the risk of decapitation.  Again, I guess this is a good thing.  I mean, we really don’t want to see anyone lose their head, especially not when the games are being broadcast across the world.  But again, it was hard not to feel that lack of the Iron Lotus was unfortunate.

In short, the Winter Olympics may have been good but they were nothing like the 2007 film, Blades of Glory. 

Blades of Glory tells the story of two very different ice skaters.  Jon Heder is Jimmy McElroy, who was adopted by a hyper-competitive, kinda creepy millionaire (William Fichtner) and practically raised to become a gold medalist.  Will Ferrell is Chazz Michael Michaels, who is a hard-drinking, hard-living, sex addict.  Jimmy is all about technical perfection.  He’s a non-threatening, almost child-like celebrity, the type who has earned himself his own obsessive stalker (Nick Swardson).  Chazz is, on the other hand, is a self-styled rock star, as well as being something of an idiot.  In 2002, when they both tie for the gold, they get into an argument that 1) leads to a mascot getting set on fire, 2) brings shame upon the “World Winter Games,” and 3) leads to them getting banned from men’s single competition.

But, as Jimmy’s stalker figures out, that doesn’t mean that they can’t compete in pair skating!  The former rivals may loathe each other but it’s either that or a future of skating in cheap ice shows and working in retail!  Under the guidance of their burned-out coach (Craig T. Nelson), Jimmy and Chazz learn to work together.  And what better way to win the gold than to do an extremely dangerous maneuver that could potentially lead to one of them losing his head?

However, not everyone is happy to see Chazz and Jimmy return to competition.  The reigning champions — Straz and Fairchild Van Waldenberg (Amy Poehler and Will Arnett, who were still married when they played creepy siblings in this film) — have no intention of allowing themselves to be upstaged.  And if that means using their younger sister (Jenna Fischer) to try to drive a wedge between Chazz and Jimmy, so be it…

So, obviously, Blades of Glory is not a serious look at the world of ice skating.  The plot is really just an excuse to highlight the absurdity of putting people who clearly don’t belong there on the ice.  This is another Will Ferrell comedy where the majority of the laughs come from the absolute dedication that Ferrell brings to playing an almost absurdly stupid human being.  Ferrell has the ability to deliver even the most nonsensical of dialogue with total sincerity and conviction.  In Blades of Glory, he’s well-matched by Jon Heder, who brings his own odd style to the role of Jimmy.  If Ferrell is all about aggressive stupidity, Jon Heder is all about impish stupidity and it becomes surprisingly compelling to see whose stupidity will ultimately win it.

While it never quite reaches the highs of Anchorman, Blades of Glory is still a funny movie.  It made me laugh and that’s always a good thing.