Rock in the Road: Review for The Walking Dead 709

Rock in the Road:
Review for The Walking Dead 709
by R.C. Murphy

Gregory might be a pain in the backside, but he’s spot-on when he says his people are in no shape to take on the Saviors. First, why hasn’t the coward been deposed? Second, how in the world are we honestly supposed to believe these Hilltop farmers will just up and put complete faith in the war plan? It’s not even a real plan. Rick wants vengeance. That’s his plan. The whys and hows are nowhere to be seen. But the second the group—who barely survived a handful of dead in their walls—hears that Rick’s gathering troops, they’re ready to run in front of a bullet for him? It’s not logical. That’s not how people think. Rational people who say, “Yes, I believe in your cause enough to die for it,” still need facts. How will Rick supply weapons for his army? Do they have enough food and medical supplies for the civilians, let alone an army in siege? Transport for everyone? Do the writers have any clue how war happens? I dabbled in staging historical battles for public entertainment and could probably come up with a better game plan for defeating Negan than anyone in the writer’s room at this point. Except, I’d have to backtrack to the beginning of season six to maybe, possibly establish a plot worth watching.

I do not understand how anyone thought forty-nine minutes of diplomatic discussions and two minutes of undead action was a keen way to start Rick’s war.

About that action bit, though. It’s complete rubbish. Let’s think about this like a General would. I need info on the Other Guy, so I send a scout to take a peek, record valuable information, and return within a certain timespan. Why would that scout then risk moving enough stuff around in the enemy’s backyard to draw attention to their covert mission? That’s not how espionage works. Rick should have never been that close to Negan, first of all. The scouting mission had the potential to disclose perimeter defenses, driving routes to cut off or intercept, and possibly given the war council a clue about how many Saviors Negan actually controls. Rick blew it for, what? A couple rockets for a launcher they don’t have any more and old, weather-exposed TNT? He commanded a car full of Alexandria’s strongest fighters and they’re nearly eaten like apocalypse pedestrians for Rick’s non-plan. Not only did he nearly get them all killed, but Negan now knows someone has been near their compound, and they have some of the explosives. Only an idiot would assume one pack of TNT does the same damage as over half a dozen, plus the rockets. Negan is not an idiot—unless the writers show their hand and write him that way to justify a ridiculous, pointless scene.

The point of using espionage in war is to undermine a superior power with their own information. If the bad guy knows what information you have, they can change it.

So, here’s the run-down: Hilltop says no way, but a band of brave fighters blindly sign up to fight anyway. The Kingdom, despite Rick lecturing Ezekiel like he wasn’t a dozen rungs ahead on the leadership skills ladder, respectfully steps back from the war council. Gabriel stole all their food and gear, then drove off at 3 AM. But Rick’s got dynamite, so they’re totally going to win the war. It’s a mess, run by a guy who’s blinded by ego and hate. Wait. That sounds familiar.

Oh and it looks like we’re going to meet yet another survivor group, because Rick blindly wandered into their trap.

I do have to stop before wrapping this up to point out the one shiny, kind of awesome thing the writers added during Rick’s trip to The Kingdom. Too many times, we’ve seen Rick plow on without considering those left at home to hold the fort. Ezekiel doesn’t lead from the front lines like Rick; he’s home caring for the people who gave everything to keep his people safe and happy. He spends time with the fighters who’ve suffered great physical and mental trauma. There’s not a moment when he’s amongst his people that the evidence and truth about war doesn’t scream for attention. The injured aren’t sequestered in a hospital or clinic, though. Once they heal, they’re absorbed back into society and given a way to help others—in this particular scene, two amputees appear to teach archery with not one instant wasted on making them appear weaker or more inept than Rick’s crew. To see the sensitivity with which they handled this touchy social issue is, frankly, surprising. The writers chickened out over the chance to treat lesbians on equal footing as straight couples or the token gay couple, opting for death over character development requiring a smidge of emotional growth on their part. Not to mention, the gay couple is constantly separated, leaving tender moments between them too few to fully believe they’re a couple. We also have the ever-present singular black man issue, as well—who can honestly say it’s not problematic when the writers treat characters from one particular race as a Highlander-type scenario. It’s pretty much guaranteed that the show will literally collapse and form a black hole if there’s another Asian brought on as a lead character. And we’ll just pretend I had a five-thousand word rant over Rick blithely passing his parenting duties to complete strangers while constantly putting himself and their home in danger. While the writers get a gold star for treating the disabled as real people, they’ve got a long way to go on so many other issues.

The second half of the season is not delivering as promised. The mid-season premiere is so underwhelming, die-hard fans could read a paragraph synopsis and not feel cheated out of fifty minutes. Honestly, guys, just jump to the moment Rick and Michonne hop in the cars on the freeway. That’s all the showrunners paid attention to, so why not follow their lead? Next week better have more plot. Stringing along the fans by putting minimal effort into the story while buying new houses with the profits is a crappy way to keep a fanbase.


Into The Unknown, Vol. 3

Into The Unknown, Vol. 3
by R.C. Murphy

Their numbers are tragically far, far fewer than those the main group has buried over seven seasons. Guess it just got easier to write deaths opposed to penning compelling reasons why anyone would distance themselves from Rick’s flawed leadership. Whereas we mourned the loss of numerous great characters in the Life After Death articles, in this sister-series I’ll take a stab at predicting what happened to our absent survivors, and we’ll catch up with the actors who brought them to life.

The patients and police inside Grady Memorial Hospital were never that endearing. They held onto a backwards work-for-safety program which enslaved countless people whose only downfall was the ill fortune to get sick or injured. While not every officer involved in the scheme was cold-hearted, they weren’t winning any humanitarian awards. This was a warning shot, a preview of what would come during the Negan era on a far larger scale. But did the hospital’s residents find as much success once their standing power structure crumbled seconds before Rick and company left them to own Atlanta? Sure, Amanda stepped up to present herself as a voice of reason. That doesn’t mean anyone let her take charge. They’d tasted power. Giving it up wouldn’t be easy. Luckily for Amanda, the officers who posed the deepest threat magically caught a case of dead. The flipside is, they lost half their fighting force and the patients don’t seem nearly as eager to strap on a bullet-proof vest and fight the undead as their deceased overlords. Holding the hospital would be hard, especially after all the human foot traffic drew walkers closer and closer. Given their resources, the best bet would be to stabilize the still-ill patients and begin moving to a smaller, more manageable safe haven. They had vehicles at the ready—one such car ran over Carol. All they had to do was find a building which hadn’t been blown to hell by the US government. Barring a surprise mutiny, Amanda would have been able to move her people to a safer building, while continuing to provide the only medical services within a hundred miles or more.

Teri Wyble proved to be the stand-out star hidden amongst the tough-as-nails Atlanta police officers throughout the Beth-kidnapping saga. We had a sense of who Rick was dealing with through their interactions with Beth, Noah, and the other patients, but Teri’s bone-chilling performance during the scene where they discuss how to use Amanda and Licari to get Carol and Beth is what sold the real threat behind Dawn’s regime. Since waving goodbye to the run-down hospital, Teri joined Powers for its second season as Nicole Glantz—a persistent investigative journalist for PTB News. She has also appeared on Zoo, and the military mini-series Six on the History Channel. In 2015 Teri joined Arnold Schwarzenegger and Emilia Clarke in Terminator Genisys. The following year she was in the Tom Cruise action flick Jack Reacher: Never Go Back. Her next project is Shock and Awe, also starring Milla Jovovich, Jessica Biel, and Woody Harrelson.

Sonequa Martin-Green as Sasha, Tyler James Williams as Noah, Chad Coleman as Tyreese, Christopher Matthew Cook as Officer Licari and Teri Wyble as Officer Shepherd – The Walking Dead _ Season 5, Episode 8 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

As probably the only practicing doctor in a hundred miles, Steven Edwards had the weight of the world on his shoulders. Bringing such an overwhelmed but cool headed character to life fell to the talents of Erik Jensen. Once his time TWD time ended, Jensen appeared on Major Crimes, The Blacklist, TURN: Washington’s Spies, Chicago P.D., and High Maintenance. Mr. Robot fans will recognize Jensen from his recurring role as conspiracy theorist and talk show host Frank Cody. Early 2017, Jensen appeared in Police State with Sean Young and fellow TWD alum Seth Gilliam. When not in front of the camera, Jensen spends his time on the stage.

Not all the tough-guy officers living inside Grady Memorial died in the name of Dawn’s endless thirst for power. Licari survived purely because he knew when to back down in order to see tomorrow. Christopher Matthew Cook filmed Roundball, Mr. Right, Ctrl Alt Delete, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, along with a guest appearance on Zoo since shedding his Atlanta police uniform. In 2016, Cook joined Nicholas Cage and Willem Defoe in the crime drama Dog Eat Dog.

Franco lived in the fringe, just doing what Dawn ordered while not pulling attention to himself. Honestly, that’s all most people want and will do anything to protect their quest to blend in where they’re safe from most threats. Post-TWD, Rico Ball—the man who brought Franco to life—appeared as Deion Brown in the romantic drama Love N Success. Ball has also appeared in 3-Headed Shark Attack and The Boss. Last year, he was in the first season of Zoe Ever After.


Zombie Reviews . . . JeruZalem

Zombie Reviews . . . JeruZalem
By A. Zombie

Rated: R (Adult Language, Violence, Drug Use, Nudity)

Starring: Yael Grobglas, Yon Tumarkin, Danielle Jadelyn, and Tom Graziani

Camera gimmicks aside, this is perhaps one of the most unique zombie origin stories I’ve seen in years. It’s not just a random, evolved disease. There’s no shadow government running tests on humanity. Asteroids have nothing to do with spreading a weird virus. For JeruZalem they went back to the religious origins behind mankind’s obsession with the dead rising. Every Rosh Hashanah mankind is judged. This time around, the living fail the test and the dead rise in Jerusalem to punish them.

Tourists Sarah and Rachel are side-tracked from their vacation in Tel Aviv by a handsome anthropologist, Kevin, who suggests they go with him to Jerusalem instead to celebrate the New Year. The trio pack into a hostel run by the charming Omar and his family. Desperate to party, the ladies take Kevin and Omar out to check out the nightlife. We get a taste of the everyday conflicts between the numerous cultures jammed into the city during their escapades. They spend some time flirting with two soldiers, Omar isn’t as welcoming. For the most part, the party scenes are just that, save the splashes of stark reminders that the people living in Jerusalem do so in constant tension with one-another. It’s not until the final day of the celebration when things get weird. Violent news reports dominate the airwaves, which Omar brushed off until it was too late to take action, and too widespread to continue softening the horror for the hostel’s guests. Because they’re so slow to see the undead threat, they’re trapped in the city when it’s put under quarantine. The only way out is through a massive tunnel system; one older gentleman knows the path.

By then, they’ve had a few face-to-face encounters with the undead. These zombies are a hybrid, bringing in more demon than zombie aesthetic to the creature design. They’re rotted humans, but the final evolution includes functional wings, black eyes, and claws. Because this was shot to look like Glass footage, everything in the dark is super grainy, no matter what resolution screen you watch it on. What could’ve been a super neat zombie design is muddied in the shadows. Fight scenes where the undead are close enough to see detail are choppy. Almost all of the latter fights include several minutes where the point-of-view is seriously compromised, there’s no light, or the camera is sideways on the floor. The zombie/demons aren’t the only creature. We get one head-scratching shot of something the locals call a Nephilim. It’s massive, towering over the buildings as it strolls by. Then we kinda forget there’s a huge thing walking through the Old City and continue on.

There’s little to get to know about the characters. They wear it all on their sleeves. Sarah is emotionally scarred from her brother’s death. Rachel is tired of her buzzkill bestie and wants to party. Kevin has a niggling idea about the undead rising, but by the time he thinks past getting in Sarah’s pants, he can’t save anyone. Omar has the most depth of them all, completely stealing the show from the ladies at every turn. This is the kind of film where it’s easy to forget to spend time developing the characters because the writers are so focused on how they’d die. And die they do. We see first-hand how a living soul turns into one of the undead. Which is really ridiculous because it means the main characters knowingly tote an infected person along for the great cave escape. Spoilers: Like any good zombie movie, there’s not much hope for mankind. The ending isn’t that shocking, but does leave fans with a nice sense of dread with the closing shot of a zombie/demon swarm over Jerusalem.

JeruZalem has its faults, it really does. However, I cannot tell you how refreshing it is to watch a zombie-centric film which isn’t set in America, the UK, or Germany. The change in location and culture dictated a change in the story-telling process. Doing something different is a terrifying challenge, one genre filmmakers relish and fans lap up like warm milk—watching the same set of characters doing the same things and running from the same monsters over and over is a drag. This film is not the next NotLD, but I’m giving JeruZalem three-point-five mangled mandibles out of five. I’d add it to a marathon night of found-footage films.


Into the Unknown, Vol. 2

Into the Unknown, Vol. 2
by R.C. Murphy

Their numbers are tragically far, far fewer than those the main group has buried over seven seasons. Guess it just got easier to write deaths opposed to penning compelling reasons why anyone would distance themselves from Rick’s flawed leadership. Whereas we mourned the loss of numerous great characters in the Life After Death articles, in this sister-series I’ll take a stab at predicting what happened to our absent survivors, and we’ll catch up with the actors who brought them to life.

The ultimate fate of the Vatos has been up for debate since information leaked during TWD’s second season production linking at least one of the actors to the season premiere. Before the second season hit AMC, the scene in question—featuring Vatos leader Guillermo as a walker in the overrun nursing home—was cut. It’s not cannon if it’s never aired in the episode, right? That’s what we at the ZSC like to think, and it’s not just because we have a soft spot for these guys.

So what did happen after Rick and company armed the Vatos and left Atlanta for good? As always, I have theories. It was only a matter of time before the patients at the home gave in to the perils of old age and stress from constant walker threat. Sad to say, but the only way the Vatos survive is because their patients succumb to the inevitable. Guillermo and Felipe wouldn’t stay put after that. Not in an unsecure building smack dab in the middle of walker territory. We don’t know much about undead numbers in the areas around Atlanta, save the quarry, to really nail a new base of operations for the guys. With a crew in tow, going vast distances without a ride wouldn’t work. Hell, even driving fifty miles in the apocalypse is a huge risk. In the end, I fully believe the strongest Vatos would have made it out of Atlanta. Maybe they headed toward the ocean. Maybe they found a stronghold near their home city and fortified it. Those guys had too much heart and too many smarts to linger in the dead’s city once their obligations to their patients ended, or even before if things took a turn for the worst. G and his guys aren’t the type to sit and wait to die. For TWD writers to consider otherwise proves they don’t even understand their own characters’ motivations.

Guillermo provided one of the most surprising moments for Rick, simply because the guy’s leadership style didn’t involve slaughtering everyone and taking what they wanted. Matter of fact, G wasn’t even in a power position at the old folk’s home, just stayed because it was the right thing to do. That strong moral backbone is why Neil Brown Jr. was the perfect man to play the role. Keeping up with the guy’s career is a whole ‘nother matter. Post-TWD, Neil hit Hollywood hard and fast, appearing in projects like Battle: Los Angeles, Weeds, Rivers 9, Insecure, and NCIS. Then he got The Call, he’d landed the role as DJ Yella in the N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton, which also stars O’Shea Jackson Jr, Jason Mitchell, Corey Hawkins, and Aldis Hodge. In 2016, Neil joined an eclectic cast, and an even weirder writer/producer, for BBC America’s Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. Neil, and his furry costar Bentley, steal every scene they’re in. Dirk Gently will return for a second season. Catch Neil alongside Johnny Depp and Forest Whitaker in the upcoming film LAbryinth. He’s also in Sand Castle with Henry Cavill and Glen Powell, which will stream on Netflix in the near future.

It takes a special sort of soul to give up any hope of salvation in order to tend to those in need. Felipe could’ve split, leaving Abuela and the others to the undead. He didn’t. Not only did he stay, he still provided the nursing care the residents needed. Noel Gugliemi proved to be ideal for such a kind-hearted, but tough character. His smile is infectious, spreading to each fan he meets during numerous convention appearances. On the small screen, Noel has been a regular on Fresh Off the Boat, with appearances on The Mentalist, Chosen, and Bones. For the blockbuster Furious 7, Noel reprised his role as Hector, joining franchise regulars Vin Diesel and Paul Walker for another action-packed film. Since TWD he’s also appeared in The Dark Knight Rises, For the Love of Money, The Purge: Anarchy, and Vigilante Diaries. Catch him in the upcoming films Pope opposite TWD co-star Neil Brown Jr, and Charlie Charlie which also stars Tom Sizemore and Eric Roberts.

Vatos member Jorge never backed down from a fight. He provided the security G and Felipe needed to keep the patients safe. James Gonzaba went on to film several short films after TWD. He’s appeared on CSI: Miami, and fans can find him in the films The Return of Johnny V. and Gino’s Wife.

Ah, Abuela. No one was going to get anything past her, let alone the very men keeping her safe from day to day. Gina Morelli provided the perfect amount of sass for the role, giving me endless joy while watching a wall of strong men part like the Red Sea for her entrance. After the show, she went on to film several projects, including an appearance on the TV movie Fabulous High.

Need a hand, Miguel? I’m not sure Anthony Guajardo will ever live down the moment when Reedus flung Merle’s hand onto his lap. It’s pretty much burned into fans’ memories. Anthony was the first Vato on screen, giving us plenty of attitude and laughter. Since leaving the show, he’s worked on several short film projects like The Symphony of Silence, Arose the Coward, and Emily. Anthony joined Daeg Faerch and TWD co-star Noel Gugliemi in the 2016 teen drama Ditch Party. Recently, Anthony wrapped production on The Pizza Joint and The Margarita Man, so keep an eye out for the release dates.


Zombie Reviews . . . The Rezort

Zombie Reviews . . . The Rezort
By A. Zombie

Rated: TV-MA (Violence, Gore, and Adult Language)

Starring: Dougray Scott, Jessica De Gouw, and Elen Rhys

Here’s something a tad different, yet the movie somehow follows all the checkpoints of a solidly uninventive plot. I grabbed The Rezort to review primarily because it boasted a complete lack of pointless make-out scenes and nudity. Horror movies don’t need sex to make them interesting. Human emotions go far deeper than that. While there’s nothing horribly surprising about how this film’s plot unfolds, there’s a world of nuance in not only how the characters handle a resurgence of the undead outbreak, but it demonstrates how humanity will always manage to shoot itself in the foot when they attempt to drag war-time normality into post-war life.

Melanie survived the zombie war, but it left her an orphan. The emotional damage from years spent scrambling to survive leaves her with PTSD and an inability to move on thanks to nightmares. Someone at her support group suggests immersion therapy, giving her information about The Rezort—an island off the Australian cost filled with undead, where the rich go to pretend they’re brave and safely shoot zombies. She and her boyfriend Lewis, who fought in the zombie war with no obvious mental repercussions, decide to give immersion therapy a try. They’re tossed in with a group of others and off they go into the park, with naught but a few hidden fences keeping them out of real danger.

You see where the plot goes from there. The fences fail after a zombie activist group sneaks a virus into the resort’s computer system and it’s a race to escape before the island is torched by the government in the Brimstone protocol. The characters are, for the most part, prototypes: The Survivor Girl, Her Boyfriend With A Dark Secret, The Warrior Old Guy, The Mindless Morons, The Employee With A Heart, The Clueless Activist, and The Heartless CEO. We never form attachments to them. Hell, most of their names fly over the audience’s head up until their death scene. As each main character bites the dust, it confirms the unoriginal writing process for this script. The only character with soul is Mel, and she is the survivor girl, so we expect her to be an actual character. To show how little effort goes into the characters, it’s not even that satisfying when Vivian, the CEO, is attacked by the zombies she created and imprisoned. Here’s a character who took refugees and turned them into a profit, but without character depth it’s just a fact tossed out to sound interesting right before a death gag featuring numerous zombies tearing a body apart.

Vivian’s actions do lend to some intriguing discussion about what happens when the rich put everything they have during wartime into one venture, and then must move on once they’re found on the winning side of the war. In this case, the Rezort isn’t formed until right after the war. It comes across as a novel way to contain remaining undead while making a buck from a free resource. But what happens when there’s too many keen to relive the “glory days,” where it was marshal law and everyone walked around armed to the teeth? How does one keep up with that kind of demand when the zombie outbreak is under control? Make more zombies, of course. Just use what you have. No one will miss the refugees—a startling statement, but look at Syria. At the cost of the most fragile, the wealthy can have a weekend vacation in paradise. It’s disgusting, and exactly the same mentality countries like the USA currently adopt.

The message in The Rezort is the real take-away here. It’s not the characters having fun or even Mel mistakenly trying to cure her PTSD by participating in forced slavery. It’s the complete lack of care for the human lives affected by the war which is the story. It’s a corporation looking at people who only want to know when they’ll have a home or a full stomach again and determining their lives count for nothing except a paycheck down the line, which should petrify anyone with any concern for their fellow humans. It also just so happens that this film is shot beautifully—except for the opening shaky-cam footage—and has some rather impressive FX makeup for the zombies. Overall, I’m giving The Rezort four oozing eyeballs out of five. It’s not Shakespeare, but it’ll start a conversation about the state of our world.


Into the Unknown Vol. 1

Into the Unknown Vol. 1
by R.C. Murphy

Their numbers are tragically far, far fewer than those the main group has buried over seven seasons. Guess it just got easier to write deaths opposed to penning compelling reasons why anyone would distance themselves from Rick’s flawed leadership. Whereas we mourned the loss of numerous great characters in the Life After Death articles, in this sister-series I’ll take a stab at predicting what happened to our absent survivors, and we’ll catch up with the actors who brought them to life.

Morales and his wife Miranda may be the wisest characters in TWD history. The morning after walkers ambushed the quarry camp, they grabbed their kids—Louis and Eliza—and left before they joined the others in the graves poor, delirious Jim dug. Anyone in the camp with half a brain should’ve left behind the Grimes love-triangle mess, which had in a way compromised the safety of the camp. Grasping at the flimsy straws the CDC trip offered wouldn’t help in the long run, either, and Morales understood this. If his family were destined to die, he wanted to be near kin. I don’t blame him. I’d rather die with family than alone or surrounded by strangers. With meager supplies, Morales and family would have to use the freeway on their way to Birmingham, Alabama in order to scavenge enough to get by on their own for an undetermined time. That near two-hundred mile trip is a breeze nowadays. With the dead out and freeways clogged with abandoned vehicles, it’d probably take an entire day to reach their destination. Did they find their family? I like to think an uncle or cousin escaped unscathed, establishing a safe community for the area, and Morales takes over as their leader. Morales presented himself to Rick not as The Leader of the quarry group, but a person willing to make hard calls to spare everyone else the burden, so it’s only natural he care for his own community.

The charisma Juan Gabriel Pareja displayed in his first scenes on the show is all-natural and requires no acting, something fans have come to learn over the years as he makes appearances alongside TWD alumni at conventions throughout the United States. Pareja has been busy on the small screen, securing a recurring role on Amazon’s Goliath, which also stars Billy Bob Thornton, Maria Bello, and William Hurt. He also co-starred on shows like Castle, The Mentalist, and Hawaii 5-0,. Pareja did some voice acting post-TWD, lending his talents to the video games Battlefield 4 and Dead Rising 3. Catch Pareja in action in Crackle’s Mad Families, alongside Charlie Sheen and Leah Remini.

Viviana Chavez didn’t have an overabundance of screen time while the Morales family camped with the others. Miranda was soft-spoken and supportive of her husband. Often, her time was spent with the camp’s children. On the flipside, Viviana is quite outspoken, and quite busy. Recently, she’s joined forces with several other film creators to create Bed Head Media. She also operates a photography business, Vivify Photography. On the screen, Chavez has been on a slew of fan-favorite shows like Homeland, Reckless, Sleepy Hollow, and Quantico. She’s also landed roles in Nightcrawler, Furious 7, and The Accountant.

As half of the total children in the quarry camp, Noah and Maddie Lomax provided a way to establish some fond memories for Carl before his path took a dark turn after his mother’s death. The Lomax siblings, portraying Morales’ high-energy kids Louis and Eliza, were the reason behind some of the rare light-hearted moments on the show. They’re also the only non-Grimes children on TWD to survive for more than two seasons so far. Maddie has taken time away from acting post-TWD. Noah went on to star in several films, including Safe Haven, 99 Homes and Brave New Jersey to name a few. He also has guest-starring spots on The Middle and Bones.


Everybody Dies in the End: Review for Z Nation 314

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Everybody Dies in the End:
Review for Z Nation 314
by A. Zombie

zn-314-grandpazThe episode rolls onto the screen, following The Man and the hounds on his tail, Addy and Doc. The worst babysitters ever get some help from Grandpa, the zombie Lucy sent off on an unknown mission in the last episode. He’s kinda sweet. Too bad the nice guys always bite the big one in the end on this show. Grandpa does a pretty good job of leading Addy and Doc to the Zona base hidden in Mt. Casey. Only one problem: Their backup was last headed toward Puget Sound. They have no clue if and when help will arrive, so Addy makes an executive decision—she’ll climb the mountain without any gear or training; Doc babysits Grandpa. She seriously spends most of the episode uselessly scaling a mountain when the rest just walk in the front door not long after.

Dr. Sun and Roberta cobble together a communication rig and contact Kaya to get an update on The Man’s location. Thank goodness someone is at Northern Lights manning the computers. Citizen Z and Kaya’s uncle have been missing for twelve hours, and there’s not much hope left for their survival. Updated on the change in pick-up locations, the rescue team shifts gear and heads off. They end up stopping again long before reaching the mountain.

zn-314-kill10ktosavehimAll the drugs in 10k’s system were bound to gunk up his system. The serums constantly battle the infection hidden in Murphy’s bite. In a blink, 10k goes from fully functional to each breath coming out a death rattle. By the time Roberta’s team pushes ahead to Mt. Casey, he’s pretty much toast. Only a Hail Mary can pull him from the drug-induced full-body shutdown. Do they really have time to try an experimental procedure on 10k? Not really. Roberta clearly states that Lucy is the priority, but somehow they all wind up playing doctor instead. How do you save a problem like 10k? Same way Dr. Merch accidentally saved Murphy—kill him. Dr. Sun drops the death bomb on Murphy’s reality with no preamble. When the zombies attacked during the original vaccine procedure, Murphy’s heart stopped. He’s been dead for four years and somehow looks better than some people after a week at the spa. Suddenly his brand of living doesn’t seem so bad, so long as one isn’t squeamish about eating brains.

Yet again we almost lose 10k. The doctor’s plan works, thankfully, snatching him from Death’s greedy paws once more. What will the long-term effects be? No clue. We’re not even sure 10k is technically the same kind of undead as Murphy. There’s no clue what balance of vaccines are in his system. If Dr. Sun doesn’t take the opportunity to study him, as well as Murphy and Lucy, she’s insane.

Curing the world will have to wait a little longer.

Roberta, Doc, and Murphy race from 10k’s newly-revived side to intercept The Man and Lucy before their transport arrives on the mountaintop. Being somewhat sane again, and the rational shot-caller since Murphy’s too emotionally compromised to effectively lead the rescue, Roberta attempts to talk The Man down from his plan. Why break up a family which never had a chance to bond? Why torment a child? It takes no time at all for civil debate to end and the bullets to fly. Murphy uses Roberta to distract The Man, shooting him so Lucy can race to his side.

zn-314-theshotIt’s not the reunion anyone anticipated. Yes, Lucy readily embraces her father. Then she hits him. Several times. There’s also quite a bit of yelling about abandonment and her mother. Yada, yada, yada. There’s no time for personal problems with The Man still fully functional. Murphy and Roberta take him on, but he slips their grasp yet again. The Man hits Murphy and Roberta with the same bullet, in that order. If they survive, Roberta’s life will be incredibly different. As will their personal dynamic. There’s always been an almost loving respect from the pair, which strengthened greatly around the time they passed the Grand Canyon. How much will it deepen when they’re mentally connected? Then again, Roberta may buck against the change like 10k has, which resulted in his death and magical resurrection. Murphy or Roberta may die from the gunshot. We don’t know! The episode ends with the Zona aircraft—actually a United States Airforce vehicle from Zone A—firing a weird weapon at everyone on the mountaintop.

Know who’s not on the mountaintop anymore? The Man, because Addy pushes him to get him away from Lucy and the aircraft. Addy herself goes over the edge, too. Then 5k sprints over and jumps after them, wings outstretched like he can actually fly. I don’t even know what’s going on now. If the kid saves Addy, whatever. I’ll buy it. There’s no use over analyzing anything they do on here.

We’ve got the two lead characters bleeding to death. The team’s sniper just died and came back to unlife as a fully functional Blend, or something. They’ve gained a hormonal teenaged girl who can control zombies—except the Zona guards inhabiting the mountain our heroes are trapped atop, who keep turning in droves as their version of the cure fails. Their main fighter fell off a mountain. They did have two new mouths to feed, but now it’s just Red because 5k took a flying leap. Oh, and let’s not forget the impending doom hovering above the crew.

It’s going to be a very, very long wait until season four. I’ve got no clue how they’ll wiggle out of this corner. Though, it’s not as tight as the corner they wrote themselves into when Murphy nuked the entire USA, so it’s doable. Maybe. Hopefully.


Zombie Reviews . . . Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Zombie Reviews . . . Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

By A. Zombie

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies delivers a timeless tale, rife with fighting, set in a post-apocalyptic, yet historical era. You can’t deny that it is oddly satisfying to watch a group of accomplished young women mow down a ballroom of zombies with naught but long daggers—which were concealed under their gowns—and some serious martial arts skills. Are there issues meshing the worlds? Of course. In the end, the film is visually satisfying enough to overlook most of it. As a boon, fans of the Pride and Prejudice story still find enough of the source to reconnect with their favorite characters in a whole new way. Or, as is one case, finally come to somewhat like what is possibly the most annoying character in literature.

Sam Riley and Douglas Booth in Screen Gems’ PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES.

The Pride and Prejudice story has enough twists and turns to make it a compelling tale. Adding in the undead posed a particular problem: How to keep the romance in the forefront without compromising a solid story about love’s place in the social structure by changing the setting to the apocalypse. In order to achieve this the quickest way possible, the film doesn’t open with the Bennet ladies and their marriage-worried parents—I will note that post-apocalypse Father Bennet has no interest in wedding off his daughters, only training them to survive. Instead, it begins with Darcy on the hunt for a zombie hiding in the midst of the upper crust. As far as first impressions goes, it’s a pretty sharp introduction. The first zombie isn’t a rotter, held back from the full transformation because he didn’t consume human flesh. Nevertheless, he’s infected and must be dispatched. It’s the first-person point-of-view kill which ruins the scene’s impact. Darcy is cunning and ruthless, then there’s this cheesy head-rolling moment with the camera. When it recovers from the point-of-view shift, the camera pans upstairs to a second, far more detailed zombie before the scene changes. The scene is crammed in before the traditional start to the PaP story, and the outcome of Darcy’s escapade, plus his failure to kill the second zombie, is dragged in again as a way to bring zombies to Bingley’s first party. At least it isn’t a single-purpose moment.

For the most part, the story itself is predictable if one is aware of the source material. There’s very few surprises, like Lady Catherine’s part as a one-eyed, sword-wielding leader in the human forces fighting the dead for control of London and the surrounding countryside. Even Wickham’s true nature, beyond being a cad and a narcissist, isn’t really shocking if one follows the natural progression of how the original book unfolds. I would’ve liked to see more effort to adapt the full story into something different. Lady Catherine remaining on the side of the angels bugs me in particular, seeing as she’s pretty awful to Elizabeth no matter what incarnation of PaP is being told. It would’ve been more shocking for her to side with Wickham over a common undead state than to willingly take in the Bennets, whom she sees as barely above her lady’s maid in social status.

Lily James and Bella Heathcote in Screen Gems’ PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES.

This is one horror film where it’s hard to do what we’re accustomed to: hoping all the lead characters bite the big one. Primarily, PaPaZ is a romance with relatable, quirky characters. The zombie war is there in the background to give Elizabeth and Darcy something to bond over, to put them on equal footing at last. That’s the big difference in this retelling of the classic. Elizabeth isn’t some seemingly-damaged suitcase her parents try to sell Darcy—and any other man without a bride— with no concern for her feelings. Yes, Mrs. Bennet’s marriage obsession plays a huge role in breaking apart the primary couple, as it always does, but it’s not as depressing as usual when looking at what Elizabeth has accomplished without a husband. Her prospects with zombies raiding England are better than they were in the actual historical era, all because their new society saw an education with the key sources far beyond the country’s borders as the only way to survive the menace—looking out to find a way to fix the problems within is something few societies embrace. Her progress in women’s self-empowerment doesn’t stop the entire Parson Collins plot from happening, though. He still arrives, annoys, and marries a Bennet daughter. Only this time around, Collins is somewhat tolerable because Matt Smith made him a bumbling fool, not a man coldly calculating how to sleep his way ahead in Lady Catherine’s good graces. Collins provides another opportunity to sew zombie conflict into the Bennet’s lives, but the potential went unchecked. The writer had a focus; Wickham’s established part as villain would be upheld. But why is he the villain? Why not any of the numerous people in Elizabeth’s life who degraded her for her gender or her place in society? Answer? He took a woman (property in the era) without permission. It’s a trope so old, I really hoped it would remain in the classic story and they’d do something different for the Wickham/Lydia plot.

The zombies in the film range in appearance. For the most part, they’re seen at a distance in groups. Few zombies get the close-up treatment, even fewer actually show grotesque wounds like traditional undead depictions. When the camera does get up close and personal with a zombie, I cringe. The design overall is great. Having undead waltzing around in these grand gowns and waistcoats strikes an oddly-pleasing discord. The illusion blows to pieces when one realizes there’s little practical gore on the actors. Featured dead have digital wounds; presumably to enhance the ick, plus make wounds deeper and move naturally during dialog. However, even the church girls on-screen for all of a minute appear to have digital rot on their cheeks instead of practical makeup. That’s where the design decisions stop making sense and become a headache for genre fans. The film cost enough without making the makeup digital. In a way, it feels we were cheated from a proper zombie battle scene because of the zombie design relying on digital gore. Yes, there’s a rather tense bit toward the end when they finally confront Wickham and the undead at St. Lazarus, but the camera is pulled back. Distance from the main threat in the film leaves the undead with the menace of a mosquito, not a lion hunting the countryside. It robs a little justice from Lydia’s rescue, as well, when there’s no real danger from zombies who are too far away to see clearly.

Overall, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies delivers what it promised: A classic story with zombies wandering in to seriously ruin everyone’s day more than Darcy’s absent sense of humor. Is it a perfect retelling of Austen’s novel? Hell no. Is it a decent zombie flick? Yeah, I’ll give it that. PaPaZ gets four majorly dislocated jaws out of five. Grab the film to enjoy beautiful things covered in blood n guts, stay for the witty snits between Darcy and Elizabeth.


Life After Death: Vol. 12

Life After Death: Vol. 12
by R.C. Murphy

Unfortunately, the reality during an apocalyptic scenario is that most people will not make it far with their families intact—these folks tend to fall to the wayside on the show quite often. Some of them shuffled off the mortal plain with next to no one left to mourn their passing, even amongst their neighbors. One we wished had made it to the current time line completely stole the show for a too-brief time. Then there’s the one with so much potential, killed off before the writers would have to tackle any hard questions about women’s sexuality when it isn’t in a heterosexual relationship.

We’re taking a look back at season six’s dearly departed, and catching up with the actors who brought them to life.

EEmbryWhen you need to kill off someone, but make it seem impactful, you write the perfect jerk. Carter was season’s six’s sacrificial lamb—slaughtered by the group’s incompetence to make a point that Alexandria does indeed need Rick’s people to teach them the way, and that any who speak up against him will meet the wrath of God. Seriously, that’s how a lot of the deaths for season six felt, like the writers were over-reaching and showing their hand when they plucked problematic characters from Rick’s takeover path with little fallout for the hero. A shame, really. Ethan Embry, the man behind Carter’s short yet impactful time on TWD, could’ve brought a lot to the table acting-wise. He was perfect as a “friendly” antagonist, countering Rick’s attempt to steamroll into town and set up a military camp in what had been a peaceful settlement.

Post-TWD life has been pretty busy for Embry. He starred in The Devil’s Candy opposite Shiri Appleby and Pruitt Taylor Vince, along with Fashionista starring Amanda Fuller and Eric Balfour. Embry stars in Cheap Thrills, which is currently available to stream on Netflix. On January 13th, Amazon will release Sneaky Pete. The series was created by Bryan Cranston and David Shore (House), with stars Ethan Embry, Giovanni Ribisi, and Marin Ireland. Embry also plays Coyote Bergstein on Netflix’s hit comedy Grace and Frankie. The series stars Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. It has so much fan appeal, Netflix secured a third season before the second season aired. The third season will be released on the streaming service May 2017.

MTraynorNicholas never really endeared himself to anyone, let alone TWD fans, during his half-dozen appearances on the show. He, like Carter, were guys determined to keep things as they were before the prison refugees joined their community. After Glenn bruised his ego, he made it his life’s mission to eradicate the newcomers. In the end, Nicholas’ childish reaction to criticism killed numerous people, including himself. His final act, suicide, did have the unexpected bonus of saving Glenn. Guess Nicholas’ life wasn’t a complete waste.

Michael Traynor didn’t pull the long straw when it came to characters fans would clamor over for years to come. That being said, Traynor is such an awesome guy, they love him anyway. He can often be found living it up at various horror conventions throughout the United States, appearing alongside other TWD stars to meet their fans. Traynor went on to guest star on Freeform’s The Fosters for several episodes. Playing the father to a teenager possessed by an alien creature, Traynor appears in the upcoming sci-fi thriller Ascension alongside Christie Burke and Ana Mulvoy-Ten. He also stars in another thriller, this time with a horror twist, in Needlestick. In October 2016, Traynor appeared in the Youtube Red original thriller The Thinning. His next project is the ’80s drama Juke Box Hero, out later this month.

It’s no secret I loathe flashback episodes on TWD, but when they introduced Morgan’s personal savior, Eastman, it was worth the flashback trauma. He’s calm, collected, a pro with a staff, has a goat, and is obsessed with making the perfect cheese. Basically, this is the guy you want around when the crap hits the fan. Eastman’s story is far from cut and dry. Matter of fact, I constantly lament FTWD not existing as Eastman’s story instead of the lackluster plot they opted to follow. We didn’t get nearly enough time with a seriously complex character, nor did we get to fully enjoy the tension in his background which made him such an intriguing person.

JCLynchWe also didn’t get enough time to bask in John Carroll Lynch’s brilliance. This guy has been on the genre fan’s favorite list for years, only adding to his status in our hearts with his TWD appearance. After, he returned to American Horror Story for AHS: Hotel, joining the weirdest dinner party ever as John Wayne Gacy. Lynch appeared as James Rivington on TURN: Washington’s Spies. Joining Jennifer Beals and Olivia Thiriby, the trio starred in the thriller White Orchid. Lynch also appeared alongside Matt Bomer and Maura Tierney in Anything. In December 2016, Jackie released with Natalie Portman in the title role and Lynch playing Lyndon B. Johnson. Later this month, the biopic The Founder releases, starring Lynch as Mac McDonald, along with Michael Keaton and Nick Offerman. SyFy’s creeptastic Channel Zero returns in 2017 for a second season, with Lynch coming onboard as John Sleator.

When the apocalypse happens, anyone with a trace of medical training will be king. Or in this case, queen. Denise didn’t start out her time in Alexandria as the community’s doctor. Thanks to Pete’s little self-destructive outburst, she was thrown into the position and forced to adapt or get people killed. As far as competency goes, she doesn’t do too horribly. As far as fair treatment from the writers? Not the same story. Denise suffers from the writers thinking they could handle two sets of gay characters. Aaron and his husband were established before Rick’s people got to town, leaving the romantic bits between the men sparse, without the passion from new lovers and rife with awkward moments where the writers flounder finding reasons for them to touch without it being “too much” for a predominately straight target audience. Conversely, Denise and Tara form a bond over their awkwardness within the show’s action. It morphs into a relationship which could have been refreshing, but never gets any time to develop—like the writers thought its mere existence was enough to convince viewers they were being inclusive and sensitive to gay viewers. It leaves us forced to believe two women in love can’t find enough time to be in a relationship, or even touch each other, if there’s anything else going on in their lives. Denise is another victim of the writer’s half-handed attempt to do something different, but when it proved too tricky (damn being sensitive to an already media-tormented people) they put her in Daryl’s story line to kill her. Sigh.

MWeverNot to fear, Merritt Wever isn’t gone from the airwaves for long. She’s laid low since saying goodbye to Denise in such a violent way, but is set to make a splash in her next project. Mever will appear as Mary Agnes in Netflix’s upcoming six-episode series Godless. The show is set in the American West during the 1880s, where a couple of warring outlaws find themselves in La Belle, New Mexico—a town completely devoid of men.


Duel: Review for Z Nation 313

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Duel:
Review for Z Nation 313
by A. Zombie

Z NATION -- "Duel" Episode 314 -- Pictured: Caitlin Carmichael as Lucy -- (Photo by: Go2 Z/Syfy)

Z NATION — “Duel” Episode 313 — Pictured: Caitlin Carmichael as Lucy — (Photo by: Go2 Z/Syfy)

Addy tracks The Man and Lucy to a boatyard. The girl plays with new zombie friends, and has no clue where her captor went. Great. Convenient. Time to run. By the way, anytime in the episode you think Addy and Lucy will get away, they make it no more than half a mile before they’re caught again. It’s beyond frustrating. Not just as a fan, but as someone who really does not enjoy watching the hero get their backside handed to them at all turns, especially when there’s someone more than capable of helping standing ten feet away flapping their hands. I fail to grasp how The Murphy’s daughter, raised on tales with her father’s heroic feats to save humanity, would allow the woman she calls an aunt to be beaten within an inch of her life. It makes no sense that she’d stand up to The Man when they’re alone, but the minute Addy steps on stage, Lucy is an infant needing rescue.

That side thought took wings and flew. Unlike this episode.

zn-313-shoppingtripDuring one of their half-mile trips, the ladies stop to replace Lucy’s too-small clothes. Just what every horror fan wants, ten minutes trapped in a department store with a moody tween and her zombie pals. Lucy has no interest in clothes fit for survival. She has no grasp of danger because the undead, the main threat in the apocalypse, treat her like a princess. So why bother grabbing heavy clothes to protect her skin? Addy does manage to find suitable clothes for Lucy; a leather jacket for protection, as well.

While Lucy laments their so-boring task, she pries Addy for information about her parents, particularly her mother. They have similar conversations throughout the episode, with Addy dancing a jog around the truth for as long as possible. Who wants to be the person to tell a child their father is an egocentric jerk with a messiah complex? On top of that, no one needs to be the person to detail how a child’s mother died. But this is TV, and Lucy harps on her unstable identity because she was raised an orphan. The only way Addy sees to work toward peace of mind for the girl is to stop telling fairy tales. Gone is the king and his pie-baking queen. Lucy knows now that her mother killed a lot of zombies to keep her safe—zombies Lucy sees as innocent since no one knew they just wanted to be near the baby, not kill her.

Lucy’s interactions with the zombies take a bizarre twist in this episode. With her sudden maturity, she’s more in tune with how the undead think instead of just ordering them around like self-propelling dolls. For her, the undead are intelligent companions. Addy believes it’s the girl’s wild imagination at work, failing to understand Lucy isn’t drawing names and life stories from thin air. The girl’s powers are pretty heavy-hitting. Though, whoever decided a glass-shattering scream would be her main method to summon zombies needs to sit in a room listening to nothing but Nickleback turned up to eleven for twenty-four hours. Surely there was another power gimmick which wouldn’t result in a migraine for every viewer. Let’s hope with Lucy’s newest growth spurt taking her to a teenager that the screaming fits will fall to the wayside. She does seem far more like her parents—calm but dangerous when cornered—toward the episode’s end.

zn-313-watersidefightThere’s a couple decent fight scenes between Addy and The Man. As I said before, the episode is one long fight with breaks to teach Lucy how to human. For the most part, Addy hold her own, delivering quite a bit of hurt during their clashes. She even gets the chance to almost kill him, though a bulletproof vest saves his life. But when each fight inevitably ends the same way, with Addy knocked down/out and The Man dragging Lucy away, it’s no longer fun to hop from brawl to brawl. It becomes a chore to watch The Man go from fighting to torturing Addy. There’s a line between incapacitating a powerful character enough to believe they couldn’t mount a rescue at the last minute and beating a woman within an inch of death—dislocating her shoulder and drowning her because it looks cool to nearly kill a lead character. But it gets the point across: No matter what Addy does, she can’t save Lucy alone.

Well, I didn’t think the finale would revolve around Lucy’s abduction, but here we are. I’d anticipated the clash in Murphytown to be what swings us into the fourth season. It just makes sense to send off with a civil war. However, if Zona is finally stepping onstage as a real danger, shifting the plot from Operation Bitemark infighting to joining forces against a new big bad makes sense. But is Zona really enough of a threat if they’ve only got one mercenary at their disposal and Murphy’s built an army? The Man is good; not that good, though.