Playing Catch-Up With Four Biopics From 2017: All Eyez On Me, Maudie, A Quiet Passion, and Victoria and Abdul

Continuing with my efforts to get caught up on the major films that I saw in 2017, here are my reviews of four biopics!  Two of them are very good.  One of them is so-so.  And the other one … well, let’s just get to it…

All Eyez on Me (dir by Benny Boon)

All Eyez On Me is a movie that I think a lot of people had high hopes for.  It was a biopic about Tupac Shakur, who died over 20 years ago but remains one of the most influential artists of all time.  Starring Demetrius Shipp, Jr. (who, if nothing else, bore a strong physical resemblance to Tupac), All Eyez on Me followed Shakur from his youth as the son of activist Afeni Shakur (Danai Gurira), through his early stardom, his political awakening, his time in prison, his eventual association with Suge Knight (Dominic L. Santana), and his still unsolved murder in Las Vegas.  Along the way all of the expected people pop up.  Kat Graham plays Jada Pinkett and tells Tupac that he’s wasting his talent.  Someone who looks nothing like Dr. Dre is introduced as being Dr. Dre.  Another actor wanders through a scene and says his name is Snoop Dogg.  The film last 2 hours and 20 minutes, with some scenes feeling oddly rushed while other drag on interminably.

The main reason why All Eyez On Me fails is that, unlike Straight Outta Compton, All Eyez on Me never figures out how translate Tupac’s legacy into cinematic form.  For instance, when I watched Straight Outta Compton, I probably knew less about NWA than I knew about Tupac Shakur when I watched All Eyez On Me.  But then there was that scene where NWA performed “Fuck That Police” while surrounded by the police and, at that moment, I understood why NWA deserved their own movie.  There’s no comparable scene in All Eyez On Me, which gets so bogged down in going through the usual biopic motions that it never really comes to grips with why Tupac is such an iconic figure.  Combine that with some less than stellar performances and some amazingly awkward dialogue and the end result is a film that is massively disappointing.

Maudie (dir by Aisling Walsh)

Maudie tells the story of Maud Lewis, a Canadian woman who found fame as a painter despite suffering from crippling arthritis.  Working and living in a one-room house with her husband, a fisherman named Everett (Ethan Hawke), Maud Lewis’s paintings of flowers and birds eventually became so popular that one was even purchased by then-Vice President Richard Nixon.

Maudie is a very special movie, largely because of the incredibly moving performance of Sally Hawkins in the role of Maud.  As played by Hawkins, Maud may occasionally be meek but she never surrenders her dream to create something beautiful out the often harsh circumstances of her life.  Hawkins not only captures Maud’s physical struggles but she also captures (and makes compelling) the inner strength of this remarkable artist.  Ethan Hawke also gives a remarkable performance as the gruff Everett.  When you Everett first appears, you hate him.  But, as the film progresses, Hawke starts to show hints of a sensitive soul that’d hiding underneath all of his gruffnes.  In the end, Everett is as saved by Maud’s art as is Maud.

Directed by Aisling Walsh, this is a low-key but all together remarkable and touching film.  If Sally Hawkins wasn’t already certain to get an Oscar nomination for Shape of the Water, she would definitely deserve one for Maudie.

A Quiet Passion (dir by Terrence Davies)

You would be totally justified in assuming that this film, a biopic of poet Emily Dickinson, would have absolutely nothing in common with The Last Jedi.  However, believe it or not, they actually do have something very much in common.  They are both films that, on Rotten Tomatoes, scored high with critics and not so high with audiences.  When last I checked, it had a 93% critical score and a 51% audience score.

Well, you know what?  Who cares?  The idea that you can judge a film’s worth based on an arbitrary number is pure evil, anyway.

Personally, I’m not surprised to hear that audiences struggled with A Quiet Passion.  It’s a very challenging film, one that is more concerned with mood than with traditional narrative.  The film is much like Dickinson herself: dark, uncompromising, sharply funny, and, on the surface, unconcerned with what people might think.  Much as how Dickinson retreated into her Amherst home, the film retreats into Dickinson’s head.  It’s not always the most pleasant place to hide out but, at the same time, it’s so alive with creativity and filled with such a sharp wit that it’s tempting never to leave.

In the role of Emily, Cynthia Nixon gave one of the best performance of the year, bringing Emily to uncompromising life.  Neither the film not Nixon ever make the mistake of sentimentalizing Dickinson.  Her pain is just as real as her genius.  Ultimately, though, both Nixon’s performance and A Quiet Passion stands as a tribute to Emily’s own quiet passion.

Much like Emily Dickinson’s poetry, A Quiet Passion will be appreciated with time.

Victoria & Abdul (dir by Stephen Frears)

If there’s ever been a film that deserves to be known as “generic Oscar bait,” it’s Victoria & Abdul.

Don’t get me wrong.  It’s not a bad movie or anything like that.  Instead, it’s a very respectable film about Queen Victoria (Judi Dench) and her servant, Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal), an Indian Muslim.  While the rest of the royal court is scandalized by Victoria’s close relationship with the foreigner, Karim teaches the Queen about the Koran and encourages her to enjoy life.  The royal court is played by the usual collection of distinguished actors who always appear in movies like this: Simon Callow, Tom Pigott-Smith, and Michael Gambon.  Victoria’s heir is played by Eddie Izzard, which should tell you all you need to know about how the future Edward VII is portrayed.

As I said, it’s not a bad movie as much as it’s just not a very interesting one.  You know that Abdul and Victoria are going to become close.  You know that the Royal Court is going to be a bunch of snobs.  You know that Victoria is going to get a chance to express anti-colonial sentiments that she must surely never actually possessed.  Indeed, whenever the film tries to make any sort of larger statement, all of the characters suddenly start talking as if they’re from 2017 as opposed to the late 1800s.

This is the second time that Judi Dench has played Victoria.  Previously, she played the Queen in a film called Mrs. Brown, which was about Victoria’s friendship with a Scottish servant.  Apparently, Victoria got along well with servants.



Lisa Marie Is Surprised by Final Destination 5 (dir by Steven Quale)

So, earlier today, I saw Final Destination 5 and guess what isn’t half as bad as you might think?

Now, I’m going to assume that if you’re reading this review, then you probably already know what this film is about.  Seriously, once a film has reached its fifth installment, you have absolutely no excuse for not knowing what’s going on.  Still, just in case you need to be reminded, here’s how this series works. All of the Final Destination films follow the same basic storyline: a group of attractive but generally anonymous people are gathered together for some everyday event like Nascar or a flight to France.  Suddenly, there’s some huge disaster that generally involves a lot of things exploding and people dying.  However, it turns out that the disaster we just saw was instead the main character’s vision of what’s going to happen.  That character freaks out which leads to him and a handful of other people avoiding the disaster.  However, by not dying, they’ve managed to tick off Death and soon, our survivors are dying in a variety of ludicrously convoluted ways, the key being that they’re dying in the order that they died in the original vision.  (Fortunately, Tony Todd shows up in each film and explains how it all works.)  Anyway, in each film, we learn of a different way to cheat death and each film ends with both the final survivors and the audience learning that actually you can’t cheat death.  In many ways, the Final Destination series is the perfect reflection of the 21st Century.  The same crap keeps happening and, in the end, we’re all doomed regardless.

Final Destination 5 sticks to established formula.  This time, the big disaster is a bridge collapse and the twist is that a survivor can fill death’s quota by killing someone else.  That’s kind of a neat idea and the film actually has a little bit of clever fun with that at the end.  Still, I wish the film had taken the whole idea to its logical, grindhouse extreme and just had all the survivors running around desperately looking for innocent people to murder.

There’s a lot of very legitimate criticisms that one can make about Final Destination 5.  Though the supporting cast is well-chosen (especially Miles Fisher — who could be Tom Cruise’s twin brother, seriously, David Koechner and Courtney B. Vance), the main character is played by Nicholas D’Agosto, who gives a performance that is so free of charisma that you have a hard time believing that he was ever alive to begin with.  Emma Bell plays D’Agosto’s girlfriend and it is seriously amazing to see how little chemistry the two of them have together.  (Then again, this also helps to make the film’s final twist entertaining as opposed to traumatic…)  As much as I love to see Tony Todd doing his Tony Todd thing, it’s hard not get impatient with the fact that these characters need to be told that they’re in a Final Destination film.

But let’s be honest — those criticisms may be valid but who cares?  This is a Final Destination film and if you’re not willing to consider it on the basis of what it is, then don’t waste your time watching it and bitching about how it’s not The Help.  Judged solely on that basis, Final Destination 5 is actually a return to form for the series.  The deaths are all nicely done and memorably grotesque and there’s a real nasty twist at the end of the film that basically serves as a reward for all the horror fans who have stuck with the series since the beginning.  I wish I could tell you what that twist was but seriously, it’s way too neat for me to spoil it.  I’ll just say that I squealed in delight when I saw it. 

Finally, this is a 3-D film that was actually made in real 3-D.  The 3-D was not tacked on as an afterthought and, as a result, this is rare film that actually uses the 3-D to make the movie better as opposed to just trendier.  This is a film where guts spill freely, eyeballs literally pop out of the screen, and it’s all just the perfect definition of good, stupid fun.

(That said, I do have to admit that this film was apparently made specifically to freak me out because, oh my God, it’s like they exploited every single fear that I have.  As Arleigh can tell you, I am terrified of two things — heights and drowning.  Which means that if you really want to see me scared, just get me thinking about the prospect of plunging several hundred feet into a large body of water.  Seriously, just typing that freaks me out.  So, of course, what does this film open with?  A freaking bridge collapsing.  And don’t even get me started on the laser eye surgery…agck!  I’ll just stay blind as a bat, thank you very much.)

Review: The Walking Dead (EP05) – “Wildfire”

[Some Spoilers Within]

We’ve now come to the penultimate episode of The Walking Dead‘s first season. If there’s been one thing about this tv adaptation — of the Robert Kirkman comic book series which it’s based on — has proven it’s that the show is willing to go off the reservation when it comes to following the source material. The show has made some interesting storytelling and character choices right from the start. Scenes which occur later in the comic book have been moved up and combined with others. New characters, both recurring and disposable ones, have been introduced to the original numbers from the book.

Some of these changes have been welcomed by old fans of the book, but there’s a vocal minority who don’t see why there’s a need for such changes and additions. To new fans whose experience with this franchise has been just through the show the changes don’t mean a thing. They’re coming into this fresh and with open eyes. For long-time fans this need to watch this show with open eyes instead of clutching at the strict canonical material that are the books it would be a hard time going. I’m one of those who have been reading the books since the beginning and for the most part I’ve accepted these changes. Even the major departure introduced to end this episode I find quite interesting and with guarded optimism that it will lead to a surprising season finale and set-up season two properly.

We begin the show the very morning after the zombie attack on the camp which ended the previous episode. The survivors are cleaning up the bodies of both the “walkers” put down and those people they lost. The scenes showing how both Carol deals with her abusive husband’s corpse and how Andrea deals with her younger sister Amy were quite powerful in their own way. In one scene, we see an abused and beaten down wife taking out her anger and relief on the source of her problems with a pickaxe. In another, we see an older sister remembering past regrets of never being there for her much younger sister despite promises to do so. The scene with Andrea goes against much of what most zombie survival aficionados would do, but it brings to light just how much the Andrea loved her sister and even if it means seeing her come to a semblance of life just one more time to say her goodbyes she would do it. Knowing what she would need to do in the end just made her tearful final goodbye that more powerful.

The third farewell doesn’t happen until 3/4’s of the way into the episode (though we do see Morales and his family go their own way. Going to miss him going for the fences with that baseball bat) and involves Jim. An injury incurred from the fight during the night leaves him and the group with a problem that gets resolved in one of the more poignant scenes in this series, so far. As Morgan Jones from the pilot episode instructed Rick the “walkers” and their bites are a death sentence. The two competing leaders of the group in Rick and Shane want to solve their Jim problem using different methods. Rick wants to take the group to the one place he thinks could still help Jim and that’s the CDC near Atlanta. While Shane, with enthusiastic support from Daryl, wants to put Jim down before he becomes a dangerous liability.

In a scene reminiscent of a similar one from Romero’s original Dawn of the Dead, Jim makes the final and ultimate decision about his life. The goodbyes made by everyone to Jim after he’s made his decision to be left behind was very heartbreaking. Jim might have been a secondary support character but the last couple episodes have fleshed out his character enough that we care what happens to this man who has lost everything and thinks his predicament will reunite him with those he has lost.

The growing schism between best friends Rick and Shane gets a few more nails added to it as we see Shane gradually losing his command of the group. The group looks to be gravitating towards Rick as their leader now and even the wildcard in Daryl seem to look to Rick for the answers. The scene between the two as they patrol the woods near the camp definitely widens the gulf between the two even if Rick looks to be unaware of what’s really going on with Shane. The sudden appearance of ever stalwart and ever watchful Dale sure thinks something is amiss.

It’s the final ten minutes of the show where we finally know why the episode was titled “WildFire”. In another departure, one that would be called huge by fans of the comic books, we see the lone surviving researcher within the CDC sending video reports on what’s being called “Wildfire” and how research on the so-called “disease” has remained useless with no answer in sight.

The whole entire sequence reminds me of the early parts of Stephen King’s own apocalyptic epic novel, The Stand, as scientists desperately try to stem the tide of the approaching apocalypse to no avail. It’s little subtle references to other apocalyptic stories and tales like this which keeps some of the changes and departures from the source material bearable and, at times, even welcome.

It’s this major departure that will send some long-time fans of the comic book apoplectic. The vocal minority will definitely get even louder as to why Darabont and the writers are messing with the timeline and the stories in the original comic book. As one of those fans I should be screaming just as loudly, but the zombie and apocalyptic genre fan in me actually like how this show has gone off the beaten path of the original source material.

If they had stayed word-for-word and panel-for-panel true to the comic book then there’s no surprises to be experience. Knowing how everything unfolds right from the start could get boring even if it is about something read and re-read with love. There’s still no guarantee that the final pay-off of this particular major detour from the comic book will end in a good way, but the possibility of not knowing how this story-arc will end this first season is both exciting and tense-inducing. It could succeed in the best way, but also fail in an epic one. Either way the path now is not set in stone and everything moving forward will be undiscovered country.


* Quote of the night: “I think tomorrow I’m gonna blow my brains out, I haven’t decided. But tonight, I’m getting drunk!” – nameless CDC researcher.

* For once Glenn doesn’t have a witty quip or remark which just highlights the somber mood of this episode.

* There’s still no news on the whereabouts of one Merle Dixon though he gets name-dropped a couple times.

* A sneaking suspicion that Merle will not appear again this season, but may in the next or later ones.

* Bear McCreary’s score and choices of music for the episode the best in the series, so far to date. Especially, the use of John Murphy’s  Adagio in D Minor from the sci-fi drama Sunshine which was recently used in Kick-Ass.

Review: The Walking Dead (EP04) – “Vatos”

[Some Spoilers Within]

We’re now into the first episode of the second half of this initial season. The Walking Dead has been a definitive hit for cable network AMC who has been hyping up the show every week for months. The pilot episode has been hailed as one of the best premiere shows and it helped that showrunner Frank Darabont wrote and directed it. Then we had the follow-up episode which have been hit-or-miss for some people with the second one being a miss for some who began to question whether Robert Kirkman’s comic book series will have the legs to last several seasons and beyond. The third episode allayed some of those fears, but still some people were still doubting whether the show can truly balance the intense drama and character interaction with the zombie mayhem and gore.

Now we’re on the fourth episode and when people heard that creator Robert Kirkman would be writing the episode more doubts started to creep in. I say this because as critically-acclaimed and popular the comic book series is there’s a vocal segment of the fans who think the book succeeds despite Kirkman’s writing which tend to be heavy on the exposition. They see him not knowing the concept of “less is more”. As a long-time fan I can see what these fans mean, but I also think he’s quite good in creating the scenarios his characters must navigate through.

With this fourth episode titled “Vatos” we get Robert Kirkman writing not as a comic book writer but as someone who knows its a new medium and must write accordingly. In what I consider the best episode since the Darabont written and directed pilot, Robert Kirkman has shown just why millions of fans have flocked to read the comic book and why millions more have fallen in love with it’s tv adaptation.

The episode begins with a beautifully shot prologue of Amy and Andrea sitting in a boat fishing in the quarry lake and reminiscing about their father. It’s a nice tender moment which takes on a sad note as they finally voice every survivor’s fear. Are their parents alive? Maybe where they lived wasn’t hit hard. It’s survivor’s guilt to the nth degree as we and these characters know that the odds of any of the camp’s loved ones in far off places being alive are miniscule to none.

We also see a disturbing portent of what may yet come to pass as Jim, the mechanic from the past episode, seem to be losing his edge. It falls to Dale to notice Jim’s erratic behavior and then down to Shane to take care of things before Jim finally goes over the deep end and hurts not just himself but everyone else. I liked how Jim’s little revelation about what happened to his family arrived quite naturally and the effect it had on Lori and the others. Lori, Carol and Andrea may still have a semblance of a family, but Jim is the prime example of someone who has lost everything and may not have anything left to live for.

Now, we ended the third episode with Rick and his little band of Merle rescuers finding their quarry missing and not just from the roof but the hand he was cuffed with. We see the aftermath of Merle’s improbable, but quite the badass, escape from the roof. While we don’t see Michael Rooker as Merle in this episode his presence looms over everything and everyone. It’s during Rick and the groups attempt to find not just where Merle went but also the bag of guns Rick dropped in the pilot episode that we finally meet the episode’s title characters.

At first, it seemed like another attempt by Kirkman and the writers to drop stereotypical characters into an already crowded plate. Latino gangbangers becoming an immediate threat to Rick and his group. They even had a smooth-talking and intelligent leader that some may see as the show’s attempt on the typical drug lord. The confrontation between the two groups don’t come off so smoothly the first, second and third time, but it takes the intervention of the kindly grandma-type to ease the tensions. Tensions which reveals that people shouldn’t judge a book by it’s covers.

I definitely think this is like Kirkman’s shot across the bow of his detractors who think he cannot write beyond wordy exposition. The dialogue in this episode was some of the strongest and I’d say just slightly above of the pilot’s. There were more characters involved with two paralleling storylines to manage. Kirkman has shown with this episode that he actually knows the concept of “less is more” and that his true calling may not be writing comic books but writing teleplays for tv. I wouldn’t mind if all the episodes of The Walking Dead were written by just Darabont and Kirkman. I truly believe that this episode won’t be last time we see a Kirkman-written episode and that’s a good thing to look forward to.

In the end, “Vatos” more than lives up to the high standard the pilot episode set. It was an episode which was able to combine not just the dramatic interaction between character and groups (and not just conflicts, but the quieter moments) but also the very zombie mayhem and carnage fans of the genre expect the show to have. The episode which begins so calm and serene ends on a horrifying and sad way. This episode has finally illustrated what the comic book was all about. A story and journey of survivors living day by day trying to retain a semblance of their old lives only to have the ever-present threat of the zombie apocalypse shatter such misguided attempts.


* KNB EFX founder Greg Nicotera makes an appearance as a zombie in the second-half of the episode.

* Merle Dixon never appearing on-screen but still ends up being the badass of the episode.

* Guillermo’s (leader of the Vatos) hounds from hell.

* “Admit it, we only came back to Atlanta for the hat” (Glenn seeming to be the one person in every episode with the witty quip and remark to lighten things a bit)

* Breakin’ Bad veteran-director Johan Renck’s masterful handling of the episode’s climactic scene in the camp.

* The show loses a regular character and one of the cardboard ones.


Review: The Walking Dead (EP03) – “Tell It to the Frogs”

[Some Spoilers Within]

Ok, the second episode of The Walking Dead was seen by some as being too much like every past zombie films and stories that’s ever been told. It was too much about the typical zombie siege of a group of survivors inside a building with little to no way out of the predicament. Now add in the elements of infighting within the group not to mention a dangerous wild card of a character and some viewers were turned off by it. The fact that the episode was one of the goriest episodes of any show ever put on non-premium cable never got much press.

One character introduced in episode 2 which really polarized viewers was the one played by veteran genre actor Michael Rooker. The character was one Merle Dixon and he instantly appeared in the show as an uncouth, loud, abrasive redneck racist that for some the only thing missing was the song “Dixie” playing in the background. I must admit that the character of Merle Dixon was written and introduced rather awkwardly, but to say that the zombie apocalypse wouldn’t include such blatant racists individuals have way too an optimistic view of humanity.

It is how we start the third episode, titled “Tell It to the Frogs”, that has redeemed the character of Merle Dixon to some skeptics. I wouldn’t say redeemed as in they accepted the racist but that he might still have a part to play in this 6-episode first season of the show. In the second episode Merle was left behind by Rick and the group handcuffed on the roof of the very building which was now overrun by “walkers”. Fortunately for Merle, T-Dog (who had happened to drop the cuff keys down the drain in his attempt to free Merle) had chained and padlocked the door to the roof to keep Merle from becoming the next sun-burned meal for the walkers. Unfortunately for Merle the chain and padlock had some slack to it that the door could be opened with enough of a gap for a walker to stick its head through.

Merle opens the third episode talking to himself as he reminisces about punching some Army officer in the past. Right from the get-go we see Merle might have lost his mind somewhat. But as soon as his trip down racist memory lane ends he finally snaps back to reality and realizes he’s cuffed to the roof, no key to the cuffs and the zombies as working their damndest to push the chained roof door wide enough to get through. Before the scene moves to the intro credits me last see Merle trying to use his belt to pull the steel hacksaw to him while praying and condemning Jesus in equal amounts.

That was some fine acting from Michael Rooker and was one of the highlights of the episode. While it still doesn’t answer the question of how such a racist was even with the group in the building, it does confirm that Merle might not be all there mentally. The appearance of his brother Daryl halfway through the episode and showing the younger Dixon to be as racist but not as unhinged reminds me of the two characters from Of Mice and Men except these two are of the racist variety. George being the younger Dixon and the Lennie role taken on by Merle. It’ll be interesting how these two new characters to the series will unfold as the first season rushes towards its conclusion. The scene in the end with Daryl finding the aftermath of Merle’s attempts to escape his cuffs was another fine moment in an episode that was more about character interaction and drama than about violence and gore (thought there’s some of that in the episode).

While the episode begins and ends with the fate of Merle Dixon the bulk of the episode was the reunion of the Grimes family and how Rick’s miraculous arrival has changed the camp’s group dynamics with Shane Walsh (Jon Bernthal in a performance which turned his character of Shane from hated “black hat” of the show to one that was a complex character who may or may not still be a simple “black hat”) and his wife Lori.

The scene where Rick slowly makes himself seen by the camp was very touching and showed hints of the love triangle the show will be exploring between Rick, Lori and Shane. The fact that Shane’s the first to see Rick and his expression turns from curiosity about who this new survivor was to one of shocked disbelief that the man he had spoken of as being dead has come back to his life. A life he seemed to be remaking with Lori as his partner and him a surrogate father to Rick’s son Carl. The reaction by Lori to suddenly seeing her husband back in her life healthy and alive ran the spectrum of surprise, shock and guilt.

Even the complex reactions from Shane and Lori didn’t diminish the heartwarming reunion between father and son as Rick literally fell to his knees in tears to hug his son Carl. That scene definitely was a tearjerker for many and Lincoln’s performance was very believable. One could almost see the burden and tension drain away from Lincoln’s Rick. The goal he had set for himself since episode 1 was now complete and nothing else mattered at that moment.

The show did have some moments which showed Darabont and the writers still feeling their way around Kirkman’s source material. One of it being the introduction of an abusive husband for one of the book’s regular faces in Carol. In the book the husband was only  mentioned as not having survived the trip to Atlanta but no mention of him ever being abusive. Like the introduction of Merle in the previous episode, the appearance of Ed as the caveman husband was done too haphazardly. Almost like someone out of stereotype casting call, Ed bullied his way around the women in the camp until Shane had to step in and put on an epic beating that added some depth to the character of Shane but also made one wonder if the addition of Ed was just as a way to give Shane an outlet for the anger and frustration he was feeling from the return of Rick and the subsequent frosty attitude by Lori towards him.

In the end, “Tell It to the Frogs” was a much stronger return for the show after a second episode that some thought was being too stereotypical of a zombie story. I enjoyed the second episode but understand why some reacted to negatively to it after such a powerful initial pilot episode. The crew of Darabont, Kirkman and the other writers definitely have a balance to do between dramatic storytelling and zombie mayhem as the show continues through this first season and into the next. While some of the characters, both new and old, do seem too one-dimensional and more like plot devices for the main characters the show is only in its third episode and to judge the whole thing on such a small sampling is not fair to the show and the people behind it. I think the show has hit a nice balance of drama and mayhem. Time will tell if the show will live or die by balancing the two or finally landing on one side or the other.

PS: Oh yeah, anyone who happens to be fans of Bambi and her mom will have a hard time watching this episode.

The Walking Dead – Behind the Scenes Sizzle Reel (AMC)

It’s now just a little over a month to go before one of the most anticipated new shows on TV hits the airwaves. AMC’s tv series adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s critically-acclaimed and fan favorite comic book series The Walking Dead will premiere on Halloween night 2010 at 10pm. The show will also premiere within days in over 40-plus countries which would be an unprecedented feat for a first time tv series.

Frank Darabont and his band of writers seem to have taken Kirkman’s story and made the necessary changes to make it work on tv. One aspect of Kirkman’s storytelling was how some people thought it to be too expositionary. This left each page with too much talking while at the same time not fleshing out each character to be distinct from each other. While I can see that I don’t buy into that particular flaw in the story too much. This is a story of the end of the world and stress definitely plays a key role in how everyone reacts to their new environment.

From the AMC “sizzle” reel the network has released just in the last few days it looks like the show’s writers have taken Kirkman’s story, ideas and dialogue and made them flow much more naturally. Final judgement on whether this actually happens will have to wait until the show premieres, but Darabont has always been a writers first and filmmaker second so I definitely have much faith that he and his team will come out with a great product that takes the best from the comic book and trims the fat and gristle off by the wayside.

There’s also one thing the “sizzle” reel above shows which should answer the trepidations that some of the comic book’s fans have had since hearing th news of the adaptation. This was whether AMC will keep the gore and violence from the comic books or will it be toned down. From the looks of some of the scenes shown in the reel above the gore and violence is on-hand and from the look of things this may be the most gory thing on tv that’s not premium cable. I see blood, gore, viscera and all the nice gooey things that happens when a body’s insides are exposed to the environment. YUM!

Halloween 2010 needs to come now, but until then revisiting the comic books the series is adapting is a good way to pass the time.

Source: io9

The Walking Dead – Official Series Trailer (AMC)

Well, it’s now official. AMC has finally released the very same trailer that people not fortunate enough to have attended San Diego Comic-Con last month. This trailer is under 5 minutes long and it’s the same one those who attended the Comic-Con panel for the show saw. Only shaky and grainy bootleg copies of the trailer has been seen outside of that panel. While some bootleg versions were quite good in quality they’re still not a substitute for the official release of the same trailer by AMC for everyone to watch.

This official trailer release was also AMC’s way of finally announcing the premiere date of the 90-minute pilot episode (directed by showrunner and producer Frank Darabont). The pilot will premiere worldwide on Halloween Night, October 31, 2010. While some thought the pilot will premiere early on AMC’s “Fearfest” campaign for October I think it’s appropriate that the series premieres on Halloween Night. I can definitely see many fans of the comic book series planning their Halloween parties to include group watch of the pilot episode the very same night.

Still two months away and this trailer definitely doesn’t make the wait any easier.

Source: The Walking Dead (AMC)

The Walking Dead – 5 New Pics from AMC

The parade of new promo materials from AMC in regards to their upcoming zombie apocalypse tv series, The Walking Dead, continues with the release of 5 new production photos from the pilot episode (directed by series producer and showrunner, Frank Darabont).

From what I could gather from these five new production photos these shots were taken probably close to the end of the pilot as Rick makes his way into Atlanta in search of Lori and Carl, his wife and son. There’s no denying that I’m very hyped for this show to air. The comic book has been an obsession of mine for over 5 years now and going onto its 6th year.

If we’re to believe what Darabont, Kirkman and Hurd have mentioned before, during and after San Diego Comic-Con then AMC have been very hands-off about how to handle the violence and gore in The Walking Dead as a tv adaptation. While these photos doesn’t show much gore outside of the numerous zombie make-up effects there’s the 4th pic that shows what could be the series’ very first gore money-shot. The angle is all wrong in the shot, but if they sot it from a higher angle as well then here’s to hoping they show some of it. It definitely will show some sort of gutmunching.

One thing which was mentioned during the Q&A at the panel for The Walking Dead at Comic-Con was a possibility of the first season being shown as B&W just like Darabon’t B&W version of his own apocalptic-horror, The Mist. The series won’t be shown in B&W when it premieres, but Darabont is hoping that when the first season dvd comes out that a B&W version may just be included. Here’s to hoping that he does do what he’s hoping for.

Below are the same 5 pics from above but treated as if taken from a B&W airing.

Source: AMC – The Walking Dead Gallery

The Walking Dead Comic-Con Bootlegged Trailer

It may be weeks before AMC puts up a much more high-quality version of this trailer, but until then this is the only one non-Comic-Con goers can watch. The trailer definitely shows enough of what Darabont and his writers are going for to assuage any fear I have that they’re straying too far away from Kirkman’s laid out plans and that they may be staying too loyal to the original source.

I really like how the trailer shows enough scenes from the comic book’s first couple issues that fans have memorized. This series (6 episodes in total) will definitely be the show to watch this coming tv season. That scene with the zombies swarming in, around and over the tank sent chills up my spine.

I also love how loud and well the panel attendees received the trailer. Now time for the series to impress the non-fans. If the series does that then The Walking Dead will join Mad Men and Breaking Bad in creating a trifecta of the best shows on basic cable and probably tv in general.

Drew Struzan Does Walking Dead plus Cast Photos

Drew Struzan.

That name alone will bring big smiles and goofy grins to film geeks and comic book fanboys the world over. Struzan has been one of the go-to artists when a studio wants a beautifully painted poster for their film. He’s done poster artwork for some of the most iconic films of the last 50 years. He’s done all the poster work for the Indiana Jones and Star Wars franchise. Of late he’s done some great work on film posters for the Harry Potter and Hellboy franchises.

In 2007 he created some wonderful poster art for a scene early in Frank Darabont’s film adaptation of the Stephen King novella, The Mist. Struzan also created a poster for that film. He and Darabont have been close friends so it wasn’t much of a surprise that Struzan would end up creating a film-style poster for Darabont’s tv adaptation of the fan-favorite and critical darling comic book series, Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead. The poster below is being premiered and given out by AMC at SDCC (San Diego Comic-Con) 2010 as part of their promotion for the series to premiere this October on AMC. To see the image below in its HQ glory then head on over to AICN which got the exclusive to show it before SDCC.

In addition to the Struzan poster AMC has also released individual photos of each cast member as their characters in the show plus two pictures of zombies who will populate the series. The actors really do a good job of becoming like their characters in these photos. The zombie pictures really show just why Greg Nicotero and his KNB Effects are the preeminent people when it comes to creating zombie make-up effects. These zombies look great and definitely reinforces the point that AMC will not waterdown the comic book for tv. Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes for some reason really resembles Viggo Mortensen in his character photo.