Careful. There’s spoilers in the following review.
Happiness is fleeting in the apocalypse. That’s the message written all over this episode. Oh, everything starts out puppies and kittens, but by the time the credits roll, everyone’s newfound happiness has been shattered one way or another. Maybe you should go re-watch episode 501 to balance things out a little.
As always, Roberta is the first to face heartbreak in what should have been the perfect place for her to settle. At least until her mind finally catches up with all the miles her body has traveled in the name of saving humanity, that is. The decision is more or less made for her by Cooper, unfortunately. His loneliness is a weakness neither of them can overcome. So when Murphy’s impeccable tracking skills lead him straight to the farm, that very same fear of isolation puts Murphy in danger. If there’s one thing you don’t do when faced with the exhausted leader of a survivor group, it’s break their trust. Warren’s loyalty will always fall with those who fought by her side, no matter how perfect a lover may be. For probably not the last time, Roberta saves a bound/gagged Murphy and off they go to reunite Operation Bitemark in the northern communities.
With the Newmerica vote hanging in the air, Doc, 10k, and Sarge are shuffled into what seems to be the most populated and organized settlement, Altura, so they can partake in the actual rebirth of democracy. It’s not as simple as “Pass Go, Collect $200.” In order to make sure every citizen receives the aid and support they need, everyone must go through a health screening to determine who’s alive and who’s a Talker. 10k’s unique state of being is nearly discovered, but the examiner finds a pulse after some intensive searching. The others in the party who died before arriving aren’t handling the process as well. On top of the struggle to fit in, there’s also whispers that the bizkits are running low. Is this paradise too good to be true already?
The team might want to give them another chance to come through on all these grandiose promises. Turns out George was one of the first people Warren saved when the apocalypse kicked off, and George is using the strength she saw in her savior to fashion a safe haven for everyone. Normally we’re not treated to flashbacks on this show, and honestly they tend to detract from the plot, but this particular flashback speaks volumes about Warren’s power to lead before she ever dreamed of leading her own group. Not to mention it gives us a source for the phrase, “Puppiez and kittenz,” which has become a mantra for Roberta when they’re in need of bravery. Beyond the Easter eggs hidden in George’s history, the easy friendship between Warren and the would-be world leader reminds us that Warren hasn’t had a real one-on-one conversation with another woman in quite some time. Their conversations are some of the better parts of the episode.
Not everyone thinks George is a brilliant leader. The dissidents range from angry, lonely humans who lash out from fear, to the Talkers who embrace the idea that their undead condition somehow makes them better. Of the latter, Pandora seems to be the head of the snake. Unfortunately, the character herself is a two-dimensional sexpot who causes mischief. I can toss out a handful of rice and hit an identical character from literally every TV show currently airing. It’s somewhat annoying to watch the show make great strides to represent women better, only to then lean back on a character prototype that really needs to find its way to the trash heap of history. We get it. Pandora is a bad guy. Now can you write her like an actual person instead of walking sexual organs?
This is an episode of reunions. Remember Red? Red vanished mysteriously quite some time ago, leaving 10k distraught and self-destructive. Her reintroduction is a study in how men muck up their own lives by failing to confront their emotions. 10k spends the entire episode driving himself up a wall because he’s too afraid to show how much he misses Red after hearing rumors she may be involved with someone else. A former traveling companion who wasn’t quite as missed, at least not by Murphy, is Dr. Sun Mei. Just like Red, Sun vanished without a trace way back when they originally planned to venture to Newmerica. She’s used her time away from the group well, becoming a scientist for Altura and running a whole new study on the Talkers. In a stunning turn, Citizen Z shows up shooting live footage of the upcoming vote for his viewers. The gang are all present and accounted for at last, with one notable exception. In a lesser way, we’re also reintroduced to Zona via Roman Estes, the CEO of Altura, who says he left Zona after disagreeing with their plans, a.k.a. the whole Black Rainbow business.
Estes’ new haven may not run as smooth as he hopes. At the episode’s end when George is set to read the results of the long-awaited vote for a new constitution, the podium blows up. Lt. Dante acts like Pandora is to blame, slinking off to check on the woman’s activities after she leaves the meeting hall just before George’s speech. We have no clue who all survives the blast, but I’ll be quite vexed if we’re forced to say goodbye to George already. The death rate on this show should teach me to never pick a favorite character from the newbies, but here I am, already hoping my new favorite isn’t a notch on Z Nation‘s executioner’s ax.
A New Beginning: Review for The Walking Dead 901 by R.C. Murphy
You know the drill. There’s a ton of spoilers in this review, so proceed accordingly.
Despite the show being back on the air during its normal time frame, it feels like we were away from Rick and the gang for way too long. Or maybe it’s just that 2018 feels like 10 years packed in a single year’s box, held together with cheap packing tape. The Walking Dead gives fans a good way to vanish from the real world for a little while, as it always has. But did the production team manage to grab the waning attention of fans burnt out by the exhausting All Out War story line?
I’m honestly not sure this premiere is strong enough on its own to do that, and it’s a little worrying considering what all we know for sure is coming down the pipeline as far as actor departures from the show.
The bulk of this episode deals with an idea the producers introduced at SDCC this summer: Reclaiming old technology in order to ensure a future for their communities. In the opening montage, it’s clear that Sanctuary’s corn crop failed. The factory’s dirt is sour. All they can do with the produce is turn it into biofuel, and the yield isn’t nearly enough to keep everyone driving out to source supplies to fully replenish Negan’s former home sweet home nearly 2 years after the war ended. To speed up the process of healing the ground, they need a better, faster way to plow. There’s also a few other things they need, so everyone’s off to Washington D.C. to raid the Smithsonian. Makes perfect sense. How many scouting teams would’ve had the time or energy to take things like covered wagons before now? Aside from some minor walker damage, everything in the museum is intact.
The plan to get it all out, not so much.
This episode, like so many before it, is plagued with basic logic errors so great, one cannot help but yell at the television. There’s a vast difference in writing a tense scene in which a beloved character has a close call, and writing a series of foolish calls that are obviously wrong while still (still!) presenting the person giving the orders as the best possible leader for these people. This problem continues into the next set of problems while getting their loot home. How on earth did they create this relay network, yet when it comes to actually planning and executing what should be a moderately easy mission, they do things like fail to make sure all the bridges are secure? The latter oversight cost Ken his life. Always know your exits. It’s a basic lesson all women, police, and military learn.
Perhaps it’s because of all the bad calls that the power struggle is more pronounced this season. The first problem comes from everyone’s need to put an outside in charge of Sanctuary to keep the dissidents in line. Daryl wants out. Being in the building triggers his PTSD, but he stops just shy of admitting as much to Rick. Carol, however, hears and understands why Daryl needs to get away from there. Not sure she’s going to have much better luck, not with guys like Justin lurking on the fringes with his passive aggressive quips, and the constant reminders that someone in the community actively wants Negan back. The second problem comes to light curtesy of the unchecked, crumbling bridge. Turns out Hilltop has it good. Really good. They’re flush with people, produce, and ideas. And for this entire time, they’ve been loaning out supplies right and left to keep everyone afloat. Yet everyone defers to Rick. He gets the praise. Maggie, in a moment I wish to frame and mount on a wall, point-blank tells Rick that the power dynamic will change because she knows her worth, and that of the people under her care. Rick, to his credit, acknowledges it and doesn’t seem all that torn up to have a little pushback. The third problem is proof that Maggie needs the spine of steel we saw in her conversation with Rick because someone’s out for her head. I’ll give you one guess who it is. Gregory was never going to let the election results stand, and Maggie should have known he’d take a funeral as a chance to plot against her. In another show of power, Maggie hangs Gregory in the middle of town using one of the most painful methods ever. It’d take a brave fool to go toe to toe with her anytime soon.
A quick note to wrap up . . . . Can we have a spin-off romantic comedy with Carol and Ezekiel? Seriously, all I want is to see these two happily joking with each other until the end of time. No cameos. No walkers. Just a blissful couple in an empty world being adorable. It’s been a rough year. We deserve this one nice thing.
Welcome to the Newpocalypse: Review for Z Nation 501 by A. Zombie
Don’t rush ahead without looking for spoilers, first. They’re sneaky like that.
Z NATION — “Welcome to the Newpocalypse” Episode 501 — Pictured: Keith Allen as Murphy — (Photo by: Oliver Irwin/The Global Asylum/SYFY)
What’s probably the most noticeable thing about season five thus far is how drastically different the tone is right out the gate. They haven’t taken us all the way back to a season one vibe, that just wouldn’t work with a scattered, three-part story. However, going into this season it feels more . . . natural. Perhaps once they dropped the technology-driven story line, it allowed the plot to follow where the characters want to go on when acting on their own accord. And for quite some time the group had a few solid goals: reach Newmerica, and to run away somewhere less complicated. Operation Bitemark didn’t reach both goals as a unit, but everyone goes where they need/want to and it does wonders at making our old friends more recognizable. The entire Murphy and Bob walk at the end is peak Murphy. He’s never been so at ease with himself. We need more of this.
Doc leads the Newmerica-bound group with his heart, not so much his head. Which is how the show managed to make me crack part of my jaw off . . . then the scene plays out and Doc’s ruse is revealed. Round of applause to you guys for giving a dead person a heart attack. His makeup choices aside, Doc is doing an admirable job of getting not only his people to the new promised land, but also anyone they stumble across along the way. The ragtag group is mostly composed of folks who suffer side effects from the black rain. Yes, yet again our heroes are the source of some horrific ailment unleashed upon the dwindling human population. And as usual, there’s a twist. We’ll get to that in a moment.
Have you ever purchased an item online thinking it was assembled, only to receive an itty bitty box for what’s supposed to be a six-foot bookcase? That’s pretty much what Newmerica turns out to be. All that radio chatter made it sound like there is an actual established civilization up north, one just shy of building its first fast food place, at that. Someone up there must have worked in advertising before the Z hit the fan because they really sold the place well. What’s really waiting way up north for the gang? A dozen or so settlements caught in a political battle over a constitution in order to properly call the territory Newmerica. Guess it’s better than finding out Skeezy and Sketchy are running a new con. But can these people help when they can’t even agree on basic laws of the land yet?
If one overlooks the obvious appeal of the Z biscuits George hands out, this would-be leader still has the charisma it takes to unite people in a common cause. She’s empathetic. Calm. Approaches every scenario with a level head, even though the other party involved probably just wants to eat her brain. And unlike other leader-types the team has encountered, George freely offers information, aid, and shelter to all. Even the still-talking dead in the group.
Remember those side-effects? A major one is the fact that once the afflicted perish, they don’t stop doing what they were doing in the first place; they just continue existing, but with a craving for brains. Much like Murphy, actually. Where they differ is the black rain victims will turn full Z if their hunger is not addressed. Someone out there has the time and created possibly brain-laced crackers for this new variety of undead, Talkers. It’d be grand if the group found the Z wizard and made friends. You know, so they’ll never be without food for their dead pals. Nothing ruins a friendship faster than being snapped at.
But what about Warren and that huge cliffhanger from season four? Like a cat, Warren lives to fight another day, despite this being her closest call yet. Well . . . if we overlook the nuclear incident. And the gut shot. Okay, the apocalypse hasn’t been kind to Roberta. Things are looking up for her during this episode, though. After miraculously walking away from the crash with major, but not fatal wounds, Warren finds a farm with a lone occupant, Cooper. Wouldn’t you know it? This is the exact kind of place she looked for during those moments when the mission became too much for her. It’s quiet. There’s work to be done, and it rarely involves dealing with the dead. To cap it off, Cooper turns out to be a balm for the holes in her heart. A happy, smiling Roberta is someone we haven’t seen in years. Even if she’s only happy for this one moment, I’m glad the show let her just live for an episode. Even heroes need a day off.
Her time away from the group dwindles, though she doesn’t know it. There’s a hard decision coming for Roberta. Can she step away from the promise of a future in this new land with the people she’s come to love as family at her side? George won over the others in a couple minutes, maybe her magic will coax Roberta to the north, as well. Whichever way Warren goes, I think the main goal will be to finally settle and build a place to call home.
It is super rare for critics to agree on anything. It is absolutely unheard of for every critic I’ve seen thus far to gush over a foreign-made zombie/comedy flick with a ton of found-footage style camerawork tacked onto the beginning.
What is this miracle film bringing the masses together despite the chaos in the world?
One Cut of the Dead is a 2017 Japanese zombedy from writer/director/editor Shinichiro Ueda. Somehow the film lurked under everyone’s noses until it started the film festival circuit. Since then, it’s everywhere. Folks who generally snub the genre can’t stop praising the fun they had during their screening. Honestly, it feels somewhat like a dream the last few months as more and more information drops about OCotD. This can’t be real. The masses do not just rave about a low budget zombie film on this level. There has to be a catch, right? Not one that I can find. Currently the film has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, IMDb users give it 8/10 stars, and the Google users rating is 91%. It’s not just critics hyping the piece anymore. Everyone’s onboard to ride the fun train to zombie slaughter town.
The key here is that the movie hooks viewers from the beginning. Opening with a single-take scene, it drops right into the middle of a harried director’s attempt to make a low budget zombie film. There’s problems everywhere, including a leading lady who can’t manage a single decent take of one particular scene. Bad acting quickly drops to their least important problem as real zombies invade the set and they’re forced to fight them off. Yes, this sounds impossible to produce as an uncut scene, yet there it is. If the footage from the trailer is any indication, the camerawork and editing during this opening sequence is some of the best from the genre in years.
Possible spoilers below!
What keeps viewers engaged is when Udea flips the plot on its head, taking the timeline back to show how the film crew got to that impressive zombie sequence. It’s a solid look at how filmmaking can be a comedy of errors at every turn, yet still provide a way for a person to reach above their station in the world to create something life-altering. Some critics call the non-zombie sections charming and heartwarming, again proving that this film is breaking all the rules of the genre.
Unfortunately, there’s no US distributor yet, so the only way to catch One Cut of the Dead is via a film festival. I highly doubt it’ll go long without landing on a streaming platform, though. We’ll totally be back with that news when it drops.
Wan to Produce Train to Busan Remake by R.C. Murphy
One would think the rumors of a sequel would be all we heard about the Korean zombie film Train to Busan for quite some time. It’s a great film, but US genre fans didn’t flock to it like overseas fans and that almost always kills a franchise’s momentum. The film grossed $85 million overseas, yet just $2 million in the US. Turns out the American market might not be as powerful as it once was, though, and this franchise is just beginning to sprint toward becoming the next big thing for horror fans to gush about.
On September 25th, Deadline dropped the news that James Wan (Saw, The Conjuring) has been shopping around the rights for an American version of Train to Busan. Gary Dauberman (It, The Nun) is Wan’s partner in crime this time around, riding high on the success of his last few scripts. French studio Gaumont, who announced they had obtained the English remake rights a couple years back, will partner with Wan’s Atomic Monster Productions for this project.
Currently several major studios are in a bidding war for the rights package. New Line seems to be the most aggressive suitor for the property, but Paramount, Lionsgate, and Screen Gems are still vying for the chance to bring the remake to life. Universal was in the room where it happens, but backed out early. Likely because New Line’s history with Dauberman gives them better leverage for negotiations.
There’s no director tapped for the production just yet, but with the talent already onboard, it makes sense for one of them to handle it. We’ll bring you that news when it’s available.
About the original Train to Busan:
Parenting is rough. Parenting during an unknown viral outbreak is impossible. Seok-woo just wants his daughter to have a good birthday, despite their strained relationship. To cheer her up, they head to Busan to visit her mother. Before they leave the station, a sick woman boards the train. Her death and rebirth as a flesh-eating ghoul is only the tip of the iceberg—the entire Korean peninsula is in the grips of the undead. Seok-woo does his best to keep Su-an alive as the train blindly hurdles down the track to an unknown future in Busan. It isn’t easy when the dead inside the train quickly outnumber the living and the few living left refuse to trust each other.
Walking Dead Stars to Visit PaleyFest NY by R. C. Murphy
With the TWD premiere fast approaching, the cast and production team is in full promotional mode. The icing on the cake before this year’s season 9 premiere on Sunday, October 7th on AMC has to be TWD’s place amongst the handful of shows chosen to feature in this year’s two week celebration of the television format at PaleyFest NY.
On October 6th at 3 PM, The Walking Dead will hit the festival stage with stars Norman Reedus, Melissa McBride, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and showrunner Angela Kang. Other guests may still be added to the lineup for the panel portion of the festivities. The panel will be moderated by EW‘s Dalton Ross. Fans in attendance will also be treated to an early premiere of the first episode from season 9.
As of this moment, the main theater for this TWD event is sold out. Don’t despair if you’re still planning to attend. PaleyFest does offer a significantly cheaper ticket to watch panels in an overflow theater with a video feed of the event.
This year’s PaleyFest NY lineup includes: Outlander, Drunk History, David Tennant, Documentary Now!, Sunday Morning, Murphy Brown, Shark Tank, The Good Fight, The Conners, and Top Chef. There is also a four-hour workshop on October 13th for festival attendees who wish to learn more and want to eventually work in television.
Named for William S. Paley, founder of CBS and The Paley Center for Media, PaleyFest is a must-see pop cultural event produced by the Paley Center that brings fans together with the stars and creators of their favorite shows for panel discussions with audience Q&A. PaleyFest takes place both in LA & NY. The next PaleyFest LA takes place spring 2019.
PaleyFest NY 2018 runs from October 5th through the 18th.
Ash vs Evil Dead Gets a Complete Series Blu-ray Set by R.C. Murphy
Seems like our Ghost Beater friends aren’t willing to drop into cancelled TV oblivion just yet. On the heels of the huge news that there’s a unspecified type of game in the works featuring the characters from Ash vs Evil Dead, Starz/Anchor Bay announced that they’ve created a Blu-ray set for the complete series. Guess we know what some of you will be doing for Halloween this year. Make sure to take a few stretch breaks and stay properly hydrated during your marathon, okay?
The set is scheduled to drop this October 16th. If you’re impatient, it is available for preorder from several retailers including Amazon and Best Buy. For just under $50, you can bring Ash, Kelly, Pablo, and Ruby home to make sure their blood-spattered legacy lives on.
Each season in the Blu-ray set comes with its own features including audio commentaries, trailers, and quite a few behind-the-scenes featurettes. Here’s a full list:
Season 1 Special Features:
“Inside the World of Ash” Featurette
“How to Kill a Deadite” Featurette
“Best of Ash” Featurette
Season 2 Special Features:
“Season 2 First Look” Featurette
“Inside the World of Ash vs Evil Dead” Featurette
“Up Your Ash” Featurette
“Women Who Kick Ash” Featurette
“Puppets Are Cute” Featurette
“Dawn of the Spawn” Featurette
“Bringing Henrietta Back” Featurette
“The Delta” Featurette
“How to Kill a Deadite” Featurette
“Fatality Mash-Up” Featurette
Season 3 Special Features:
“Season Overview” Featurette
“Inside the World of Ash vs Evil Dead” Featurette
About Ash vs Evil Dead:
30 years after a horrific accident leading to the supernatural deaths of his friends, girlfriend, and sister, Ash Williams hasn’t learned much from his stint saving the world from deadites. Thinking he’s hung up his boom stick for good, Ash one day finds himself scrambling to escape not only his monotonous life as a retail clerk, but also the evil that’s come back to finish what it started all those years before. This time around, Ash can’t do it alone. Coworkers Pablo and Kelly bond with Ash during the bloodiest, worst moments in their lives and vow to help. The trio venture forth, Necronomicon in hand, determined to stop the deadites and the great evil leading them.
Thanks to the stinger at the end of TWD’s season eight, fans knew going into season nine that there would be quite a bit of drama around how, exactly, this newfound peace will be lead and nurtured to last into future generations. In order to make it work, they brought Maggie to the forefront to take over as leader for Hillside. It’s the perfect arrangement, putting the farmer’s daughter in charge of the farming community, and Maggie has the backbone to see that her people not only pull their own weight, but are showed the respect they deserve. “But we’ll see that Maggie is just, you know, she’s not gonna just fall in line with everything Rick’s doing because she has to take care of her own people now. She’s got her own agendas and she’s gonna follow them,” showrunner Angela Kang explained during The Walking Dead Season Nine Preview Special.
Too bad Rick disregarded that respect when he alone made the decision to keep Negan imprisoned in Alexandria.
As seen in a recent teaser, Negan doesn’t plan to sit quietly in a corner to rot under Rick’s watchful eyes. His monologue is manifestation of the fear eating at Maggie since the second Rick gave Negan the role as prisoner of war. The guy will never lay down and stop plotting to save himself. Matter of fact, Rick, Maggie, and their folks built the exact thing Negan strived for—a cooperating network of communities with a constantly flowing supply chain. The main difference is, there’s no preferential treatment in this new society. No room to grow into a management position and lord over everyone. For Negan, that’s a flaw he’ll gladly fix once he finds a way out of Rick’s little prison.
It won’t be an easy fight if Negan does get out. Probably. Maybe. In a clip from one trailer, there’s a call for help from the Saviors, with a reply echoing the group’s standard response when asked who they were. So obviously someone out there is still feeling loyal. But are they enough to upset the applecart this far down the road thanks to the time jump? Hilltop looks pretty secure in the few glances we’ve gotten from the various trailers/teasers. If Alexandria got the same sort of treatment, it might be enough to hold Negan in and his still loyal followers out. But none of that matters if Negan works his magic from the inside, playing with people’s heads. Not to mention, Negan has the added bonus of looking for gaps in everyone’s armor while they deal with the Whisperers.
A little quick casting news, since we’re here discussing Hilltop anyway. The production team announced the addition of two new characters straight from the comics (with a few changes to fit the story). Joining the bustling community for season nine is Brett Butler as Tammy Rose, and John Finn has been cast as Earl, Hilltop’s blacksmith.
Well, Syfy did it again. They withheld information about the starting date for Z Nation until a month before the premiere. Which is a tad annoying, given how supportive the fanbase has been since day one. You’d think they would be eager to share the good news with us, like in the past when the schedule was usually sorted around July. However, over the last few years, there’s been less and less press for the show from any official sources which aren’t the producers’ Twitter pages or behind-the-scenes selfies from the cast. Matter of fact, so few outlets have snagged this news, the only way to verify beyond social media that Z Nation does indeed return on October 5th was to find the little note on the show’s website banner.
The same frustration about the late announcement for the premiere date stretches over to the fact that there’s still no full trailer online, despite there being one floating around in the ether that was shown at SDCC in July. The best we have since then is a teaser attached to the announcement for the season five premiere. It is only available on Twitter from an official source, so that’s the link you get. At least it’s something to get us ready for next month, right?
In the teaser we’re given a glimpse at the latest generation of zombie, Talkers. There’s also a good look at a couple new characters. For most of the teaser, Katy O’Brian, as George St. Clair, gives Operation Bitemark the lowdown on the Talkers. In other clips, a man in a black hat and Warren face off with a zombie, and Murphy and 10k have their first encounter with a Talker. Bet Murphy’s surprised he’s not the only supernatural creature capable of holding a conversation anymore.
We’ll be back with news about Roberta and the gang soon. A. Zombie will bring you reviews for Z Nation after season five begins on October 5th at 9 PM.
On the back of what some critics call a misstep with his latest Cloverfield film, J.J. Abrams took a leap in a vastly different direction for his newest project, Overlord. Joining Abrams at the helm is director Julius Avery (Son of a Gun). The rated-R horror film is not connected to the Cloverfield franchise, according to Abrams in an interview from April. He went on to add that this new film is “bat shit crazy.” Which, honestly, I’ve got to agree after watching the trailer.
Overlord takes place during the brutally violent Battle of Normandy. American paratroopers drop behind enemy lines and make their move on a Nazi-occupied village. As they infiltrate the military operation, the paratroopers realize there’s something far more dangerous than Nazis waiting for them. “A thousand-year army needs thousand-year soldiers,” they’re told. Does their training cover fighting zombies?
One of the most striking things about the trailer, aside from that insane air battle, is the violence of the zombie transformation and movements. We’re seeing yet another variation of this creature, and it’s quite startling. The danger in the way they’re using computer graphics to enhance the actor’s performance and makeup is going too far, making the creature almost cartoony. It’s a fine line to walk. Many films who’ve gone this route have been dragged about the heavy-handed CG. No one is fooled by digital blood. Ever. Going off of what we’ve seen in the trailer and still photos, this team may have actually found a way to pull it off, though.
The only way to know for sure is to watch the film when it’s released. Overlord will have its world premiere at Fantastic Fest, which runs September 20-27th in Austin, Texas. Julius Avery will be in attendance, along with the film’s stars Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell, Pilou Asbaek, John Magaro, and Mathilde Ollivier. Overlord will then hit theaters nationwide on November 9th.