Goon Struck: Review for iZombie 405

Goon Struck:
Review for iZombie 405
by A. Zombie

Warning! There’s episode spoilers in this review

The brain shortage is what will eventually leave New Seattle too weak to protect its infected citizens from the world outside the wall demanding their demise. Fillmore-Graves can’t keep up with demand. On top of hungry mouths without any other option for nourishment, there’s countless brain tubes vanishing into the black market no matter how hard Chase pushes his people to plug the leak. It leaves them backed into a corner, and these guys are in full self-defense mode. The council strongly advises Chase to toss Mama Leone onto the guillotine without a trail. The weight of their failure to provide for the masses is foisted upon Mama Leone’s shoulders in the guise of blaming her for an overpopulation problem. To says she’s sentenced to death is an insult to the justice system. Fillmore-Graves uses the brain shortage to take out a political dissident as a message to anyone who’d disobey them. When it comes to the execution itself, I’ve never seen such a moving scene on this show. Credit to the actors for leaning into it hard and not flinching at the message. This is one of those rare scenes which leaves a lump in your throat. It sets a new tone for iZombie.

Murdering one woman won’t fix the fallout from hungry zombies continuing to live as humans do without nearly enough food to perform the same amount of employer-demanded labor. Judging from the zombie church’s congregation, most new zombies are now homeless and without support systems to aid them until things smooth out in Seattle. Those who are fortunate enough to retain their jobs and houses work themselves to the brink of exhaustion in order to keep the humans from attacking them. Malnutrition in a human saps strength, physically and mentally, making one’s moods unpredictable on top of being too tired to think about work, let along doing it. Compound that with a zombie’s biological needs and the rabid physical response to starvation, it’s not a pretty peek into the near-future. Peyton witnesses how the shortage effects the average citizen in a jarring sub story with a zombie bus driver whose family likewise have changed. The driver is reported by an angry mob for being dangerous behind the wheel at the beginning of the show. Peyton promises to get him more food, which he gives to his family instead. Later in the episode, Peyton finds one of the women from the complaint in custody at the police station and asks the officer with her what’s going on—malnutrition caused the driver to crash the bus. All the blood from wounded passengers sent him into a frenzy. The woman shot him, ending the rampage before it got out of hand. This incident is probably what pushes Chase to put Mama Leone to death harder than the constant nagging from his council.

Fillmore-Graves has much more than a brain shortage to worry about. Before her demise, Mama Leone drops some truth on Chase’s broad shoulders. His company has a PR problem. Right now, the world sees a new kind of people making demands for what some consider the most precious part of a person without giving anything in return. Pleas for brains isn’t what the world should think about when they consider New Seattle and their plight. They need to see the positive, how the undead can help mankind. Mama Leone helps sick humans because it makes her feel like she’s doing some good in the world. As far as just causes go, it’s a great one. Fillmore-Graves doesn’t feel there’s room for that kind of rhetoric in their city, however, and those who demand a scape goat get theirs in the end. Renegade may not be gone for good. Liv wants to take up the mantle after being there to witness Mama Leone’s final brave moments.

This week’s case gives Liv an in to Renegade’s operation thanks to hockey goon Geordie Shultz and his friend, New Seattle newbie Levon Patch. Geordie was one of Renegade’s people cut down during Blaine’s raid. Liv takes a trip back to bullheaded dude land, but this time it’s actually kind of fun to watch her playing up the sport in question. Maybe it’s the visual of a woman zipping across the ice to tackle someone without a second thought. I don’t know. The bigger news, not that Liv joining an underground railroad isn’t a Big Thing, is that Geordie’s brain gives Liv proof she needs to shift police focus Blaine’s way again. Blaine is quick to figure out exactly how much information they have, and that so far all of Clive and Liv’s proof lives in her head. The man is Teflon. Nothing sticks. Not even when he slips up and says something about the laundromat, which the others kept to themselves. Just as Clive and Liv jump to find hard evidence, Peyton delivers the bad news. They have to release Blaine on Fillmore-Graves’ orders. Their investigator, Enzo Lambert, manages to pin Blaine’s murders on the budding hate group, Dead Enders. Lambert exists to find ways to claim a zombie murder is a hate crime. Not one of his investigations are to be trusted.

Major and Don E take a quick road trip to pick up a special package for Chase Graves. Settling Fillmore-Graves’ PR problem is a Gordian knot. Every tug in one direction creates a whole new tension somewhere else. In this case, Chase’s desire to silence an outspoken American general turns into kidnapping and (technically) murder. When Don E falls asleep instead of watching Sloane, the special package, she overdoses on U in the bathroom. Major has seconds to make a decision. They can ask the smugglers to pack up a dead body for the bossman, or he can save her so General Mills, Sloane’s father, doesn’t follow through with his threats to nuke New Seattle. Chase doesn’t seem too thrilled to have a new mouth to feed, but he’s sure glad Major delivers Sloane in one piece. At the rate, she may be the only bargaining chip he has left to save the city.


Do Not Send Us Astray: Review for The Walking Dead 813

Do Not Send Us Astray:
Review for The Walking Dead 813
by R.C. Murphy

Watch out for those episode spoilers waiting to ambush you.

Well, this episode certainly has a different tone than anything we’ve seen this season. It’s almost like they remembered that the genre is more than a bunch of angry men hitting each other. Sure, there’s a long firefight in the middle, but bookending it are a good ol ghost story and a little love note to low budget zombie flicks.

Hilltop is more than prepared for the Saviors when they finally roll in after dark. Maggie’s focus isn’t on the gift Georgie gave them. She admits after that her plan is to lure the Saviors into Hilltop so Negan dies where Glenn rests eternally. Which, you know, I get to a point. What puts her on a different level is Maggie, unlike Rick, looks at that same graveyard after the fight and knows she caused those losses. Dianne positions herself at Maggie’s side quite often, first providing encouragement, then as a source for us to check into Maggie’s emotions at the episode’s end. “What is it,” Dianne asks at the graveyard. “The cost,” Maggie replies. The price for this war is getting too high for her conscious. This last move, pushed by desperate fear on her and Rick’s behalf, has taken everything from their people. Alexandria and the Kingdom are lost. Hilltop’s remaining gardens can’t produce enough food and their stores went to the Saviors as payment. The populations of the communities combined have been wiped out, with countless more passing in this episode alone. Will this be the straw to break the alliance’s back? She may be new to the job, but Maggie doesn’t seem like the type to put her people through that kind of horror again.

The fight itself perfectly illustrates why Simon is a crap leader who’ll send his people straight to their deaths. Not only has he failed to send a scout ahead to check for traps on the road, which they then drive over, but Simon follows right along with the plan set to trap them by chasing Daryl through the gate into the first ambush. He does it again when Maggie signals for the lights to be doused and smoke bombs set off. Sure, he divides up his forces, but the bulk of the Saviors are front and center for the second surprise attack from the main house’s windows. If they followed Negan’s plan, attacking with bows from outside to wound as many as possible and picking off what they could with other gore-coated weapons, the Saviors would’ve lost half a dozen men maximum. Simon can’t even claim a win here at all. It’s not his part of the Savior’s fight which yields a higher body count. Negan’s bio warfare tactic claims far more Hilltop citizens while everyone’s sleeping. He may be the bad guy, but you gotta admire his problem-solving abilities, which are so great, he doesn’t have to be within ten miles for a plan to go right.

There’s a whole lotta weird going on in Morgan’s head. I . . . I kind of like it. The flashbacks and such were getting tired, but this new approach to Morgan’s mental illness is top notch horror fuel. Ghost Gavin won’t stop badgering the guy. He’s always there, beside Morgan, ragging on him about something which is never given a name, really. I assume this is Morgan’s mind telling him he should’ve been the one to kill Gavin in the most spectacularly screwed up way imaginable. How long until others notice Morgan’s talking to the air? How can he convince his subconscious that there’s no way to re-kill a guy? This is a great twist to this character. And of course it’s coming about the time he’s jumping shows so I’ll either be forced to watch FtWD or wave goodbye to all this character development. Not today, Satan. I’ll just enjoy the time I’ve got left with Morgan and his bloody Jiminy Cricket.

The other side of Morgan’s story is where his influence has led Henry after his brother’s death. This kid’s determined to bloody his hands via vengeance. First he goes after Ezekiel and Carol for refusing to arm him to fight in the main battle. Later, the kid steals the prison cell key, takes a military grade rifle, and casually threatens a group of men like a good little terrorist in the making. This is why we must teach men that “eye for an eye” thinking will only lead to bloodshed. Justice is not a mirror to reflect the offender’s pain back onto them. That’s not how humanity as a whole decided to handle the people who are too dangerous to remain amongst us. Not only will Henry grow into the very type of man he’s trying to kill, but he’s unleashed those men back into the world when Maggie had them safely sequestered where they couldn’t cause harm. Someone get this kid in-hand, already. He’s not Carl. This isn’t even a good attempt to set up a child character with the same mentality. It’s just tossing angry male patterns into the wind, hoping it works because otherwise they’ve lost their young white man representation on a show dominated by the dumb decisions made by middle-aged white men. How will the white guys find themselves in this show without someone young and angry at everything? Yes, that’s sarcasm. It’s also to illustrate that we don’t need every stereotype on-screen in every show. The writers are blatantly writing Henry to be the new Carl in ways which will never work. All these years listening to how fans treated that character, yet none of it reflects in Henry’s story line.

Jason Douglas as Tobin, Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier – The Walking Dead _ Season 8, Episode 13 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

That final action sequence with Tobin and the others injured in the fight turning walker is aces. Some of the tensest zombie action we’ve had on the show in a while. Honestly, I’m shocked Tobin is the one to go in this episode. He’s been that one person I look for in the crowd to see whether or not Alexandria is present in certain scenes. For as little as they used him, Tobin being a constant for the Alexandrian people was reassuring. As long as he makes it, this won’t be another prison or Woodbury situation. And then he doesn’t make it. Worse yet, he turns on the people he protected. I didn’t think losing this one guy would hit so hard, but the more I think about how much I assumed he’d survive, the more my brain wants to reject reality. Carol’s reaction to Tobin’s demise is probably what pushes it over the edge. She’s genuinely gutted to see him turn. Melissa McBride yet again acts her backside off to really drag those emotions from the fans.

Will Maggie allow her people to continue this fight after she’s seen the cost? Rick will not give up until Negan’s dead, and Maggie wants that as well, but this isn’t justice anymore. Hilltop realizes that now. Can they back out of the war when they’ve become home base for an army?


Brainless in Seattle Part II: Review for iZombie 404

Brainless in Seattle Part II:
Review for iZombie 404
by A. Zombie

Watch out, you may swoon over the episode spoilers below.

Brother Love’s influence spreads through the downtrodden zombie citizens in Seattle. One man uses his rough encounter with Fillmore-Graves goon Russ Roche as fuel for Angus’ new persona to toss on the smoldering fire within the community. To them, he’s the only to reach out a kind hand since their sudden departure from living society. He feeds them. Picks up their spirits when they’ve resigned themselves to being “dead” to the people they love. Not to mention, he has this uncanny ability to pick a target for his rage and project that onto the masses with a few magnanimous acts to sew the seeds of Us vs Them. Major steps right into this perfect storm on the search for Tucker, the man Gladwell scratched while being recorded. After his friends abandon Tucker, he steals the phone with the video and finds solace in the anger Brother Love preaches. That’s where Major catches up with him. The congregation shout at the Fillmore-Graves employees. Angus uses the moment to praise the Chaos Killer, and issue a stern warning that if Major ever shows his face at church in Fillmore-Graves clothes again, that’ll be his last day having a face. And people think this dude’s a role model. Okay, Sure, Jan.

The Scratching Post crew drops a load of truth bombs in this episode thanks to the brain Blaine and Done E eat in order to find Renegade. The guys use honesty as the best policy, allowing the brain to cough up visions while they operate their businesses almost as usual. There’s a plethora of hilarious throw-away lines from these two. Blaine eventually gets enough information from his illicit snack to find the laundromat where Renegade operates. The calm sanctuary I enjoyed last time is a horror show this episode after Blaine’s guys shoot their way in to grab Mama Leone. Chase Graves doesn’t look too thrilled to be face to face with his supposed nemesis, but it seems like he’ll go through with Blaine’s deal. Wonder how Graves will justify his actions to Mama Leone’s face.

Catching Bruce the coyote takes a lot of patience, a dash of subterfuge, and a large dose of overacting. After several days running a stakeout at the building Bruce uses to torch his victims, Clive and Liv need a new method. Mama Leona, before she’s taken to Fillmore-Graves, tells Liv to try an online ad. Ravi offers himself as the bait, really overworking an upper crust British accent during the video call to set up a meeting with Bruce. The acting doesn’t get better when Ravi waits for Bruce with SWAT, plus Liv and Clive, on standby. Despite the flightiness from the romcom brain, Liv’s passionate about putting Bruce in his place when he claims they have no evidence. I think Mama Leone’s chat about wanting to feel needed after becoming a zombie put some pep back in Liv’s crime-fighting step—that conversation also reminds us how awful Blaine actually is when he’s not oozing charm.

Throughout the various stakeouts and meetings to prepare for catching Bruce, Liv is relentless about talking around Clive’s relationship problem. So much so, Clive snaps at her when she flat out says he should break up with Dale without giving a reason why. It takes the entire episode for Liv to open up about what she saw at The Scratching Post. Turns out Clive and Dale are trying an open relationship, but he’s not keen on hearing the details. Sorry, my man. If you haven’t already heard these details, you’re not in an open relationship, you’re just grasping for a connection that isn’t there. Communication is key, but Clive’s always been a locked door emotionally. It’ll bite him in the ass.

The Great Tim Saga comes to an end. Thankfully. When the gang head to The Scratching Post for the human/zombie mixer night, and Liv’s maybe-date, they must first face off with The Not-yo Man Major Savage. Gladwell and her new partner dose their commanding officer with blue wrestler brain as a joke. It leads to a heartfelt, but laughable scene with Major and Liv having a post-breakup talk about how much they just want to see the other person happy, no matter what. Kudos to the actors for getting through that scene at all. Every time Major opens his mouth, one can’t help but laugh hysterically. With that talk, and several others from Peyton about fate, ringing in her brain, Liv manages to just converse with Tim for the first time since they met. That’s when she finds out he’s a whackadoo Brother Love follower. Good riddance to bad rubbish; she tosses him like a pair of torn pantyhose. The episode wraps with the same sort of fun energy that charmed me during the last episode. We have most of the central cast in one place, hanging out, being silly, dancing, and no one’s worrying about anything. I forgot these characters could laugh so much without their faces cracking. Here’s hoping we get to see more of this, but I’m pretty sure the fun days are gone, what with Team Overlords getting ahold of Renegade and all.


Unfinished Business: Review for Ash vs Evil Dead 304

Unfinished Business:
Review for Ash vs Evil Dead 304
by A. Zombie

Whoa, pal. Watch out for episode spoilers below.

Now may not be the right time for Ash to go on some weird bonding trip with Brock, but it’s happening. The duo vanish from Ash’s house in the midst of bagging parts from the reanimated body pretending to be Brock, but wasn’t Brock because Brock’s ghost has no idea Brandy exists until Ash vent-rambles to his father. Are you confused yet? Welcome to the Evil Dead fandom, we subsist solely on confusion and fake blood.

Ghost Brock and Ash hop back to 2012 via the elder’s memories. Back when Ash’s interests include laying low and not much else, Brock has a visitor insisting he must speak to the savior. The adamant Knight of Sumeria has the missing Necronomicon pages which he must give to Ash. Brock’s having none of it, telling the guy to get going and that Ash wants nothing to do with the demon stuff, it’s already ruined his life quite enough. In typical Williams fashion, Brock opts to nut-shot the Knight instead of escorting him from the hardware store. Which is how Brock winds up with a dead man in his cellar. This guy just boards up the door, locks the building, and never turns back. This family doesn’t know how to deal with anything. Lock up a dead Knight, who isn’t actually dead by the way. Leave Cheryl’s room untouched like some weird shrine. Ash can’t even deal with Evil the right way, constantly butting heads with anyone who shows him which path to take. If coping skills were oxygen, they would’ve asphyxiated long ago.

On the bright side, since the Knight is still in the basement, that means Ash just has to break into his own cellar and pickpocket a corpse. And fight an evil wall painting with what appears to be a mystical television of sorts showing Brandy’s friend in distress. Or as we call it, just another day at Ashy Slashy’s Hardware Store and Emporium.

On the flipside, the mayhem in the basement sends the Necronomicon into fits. Ruby arrives home in time to receive a warning from a servant to The Dark Ones. That thing in the basement? It’s a portal, and The Dark Ones are about to use it to make their way to this realm. The only Knight Ruby knows about is Dalton. He’s still reenacting Vlad the Impaler’s greatest hits, so Ruby jaunts over to the cabin for a little chat. Dalton’s not the one who triggers the portal, of course. In a bid to still appear powerful, the fool brags about finding the dagger. We don’t have to worry about that problem again, before Ruby’s spell to push back Evil broke, Dalton blows off his head.

Kelly’s in more danger now, and the punches just keep coming. It doesn’t take long to figure out where Pablo went after running down Dalton. With Brandy tagging along to keep her safe, Kelly’s truck is rammed by deadite Pablo on a motorcycle. He’s intent on dragging Brandy through the windshield. By some miracle, the ladies fight him off long enough to get back to Ash’s. Kelly takes a bite to the leg, but it doesn’t stop her from wanting to capture and cure Pablo. I’m not so sure her feelings will be the same after the bite on her leg transforms into Pablo’s mouth.

The good thing to come out of Ash’s trip down memory lane with his father is Brock knows every woman in Elk Grove. When Ash needs to find Ruby’s new place, it takes Brock all of a second to think up the location for the real Ms. Prevett’s house. The woman Ash seeks isn’t home. He does find unfortunate hitchhiker Natalie upstairs handcuffed to a sink. She’s singing to a baby way, way older than what we saw in the last episode, but just as terrifying. Being who he is, Ash assumes he can just chainsaw his way through the handcuffs, not fully comprehending why Natalie keeps gesturing for him to be quiet. When he finally gets the gist, his robo-hand shorts out, leaving he and Natalie attached to the sink, facing off with a shrieking hellspawn. Ain’t fatherhood grand?

The downside to the short episodes is when the action gets going, I get greedy and want more right away. This episode leaves every plot thread except Brock’s flapping in the wind. Waiting a week to find out what happens is cruel, but this show’s magic would be lost if they had extended episodes. Admitting the truth doesn’t mean I have to like it, though.


The Key: Review for The Walking Dead 812

The Key:
Review for The Walking Dead 812
By R.C. Murphy

Warning, this review contains episode spoilers.

If I knew anyone as destructively stubborn as Rick during the apocalypse, I would’ve chained him to a house long ago for everyone’s good. It’s utterly ridiculous for this unhinged character to claim to lead anyone, let alone for his people to still treat him as the person who has their future in mind. Of all the community leaders, Rick’s focus is the narrowest, not moving beyond neutralizing a threat he provoked. Instead of moving on when the threat presented itself, he fought. Instead of treating Negan as an equal and negotiating, he took it as a personal affront that anyone would step in to interfere with how his people live. And now, with his son’s dying wish for peace ringing in his ears, Rick’s only focus is killing Negan. Like that’ll solve every problem he brought with him to Alexandria. Negan isn’t the most destructive force in this universe, Rick’s fear has a far higher body count. He took a community on the cutting edge, months from reclaiming modern technology on a mass scale, and turned it into smoldering ruins.

That’s the purpose of “The Key” as an episode, to fully illustrate how far this slice of humanity has fallen under Rick’s umbrella. While the men butt heads to see who’ll come out as the Supreme Leader, a group of women participate in a negotiation which will be the sole reason any of these people live to see another generation through adolescence. Not only are the women leaps and bounds ahead of the men as far as future preparations go, but they master the art of compromise with minimal shouting and only one daft, fear-driven, outburst. The initial meeting with Georgie, plus her associates Hilda and Midge, isn’t the best first impression because Maggie reacts to the offer to barter like Rick reacts to anyone presenting themselves as possessing a better plan for the future—everyone’s armed, on edge, waiting for the other shoe to drop without actually hearing the words coming from the other party. When Michonne puts the brakes on back at Hilltop, remembering what Carl asked of them, that’s when reason wins the day. The future must have a position at the council table, otherwise what are they fighting to protect? Are the people they’ve lost along the way not worth building something more than a temporary encampment from which one fights day in and day out? If they continue down this path, the future leads toward Mad Max territory, and that’s just not what some of these people want. So they’ll fight their own way. It’s about time. Maggie ends the episode radiating hope. That’s what Rick dropped down the road, along with a heap of the integrity which made him a compelling leader at the beginning. Without any hope, his people trudge to the next catastrophe, mentally saying their goodbyes because Rick’s plan has claimed too many lives to count at this point—starting at the quarry and up to now where we’ve got just three characters left from season one. With Georgie’s help, Maggie may just be able to salvage the three communities this mad warmongering tore apart. It’s nice to see hope return to this show. Refreshing, even.

Hilltop better use their time wisely; a hearty dose of hope won’t stop the incoming Saviors. Negan’s forces do, however, have to deal with a slight delay, first.

Wound like a top shot off a drill, Rick can’t stay at Hilltop after he arrives and inserts himself into the perimeter patrol in a nearby town. He’s the first to spot the Saviors on the move, yet holds off alerting the others to chase Negan. Of course he does! I’ve got to give it to them, though, it’s a fun sequence altogether. And a bit ridiculous. Rick’s just gonna Rick no matter what at this point and all that’s left is enjoying the weird trouble he gets himself into every episode. The car chase sets up the unhinged action once the guys get to the basement scene rather nicely. I’m not sure I’d believe Rick would fight a guy in the middle of a flaming walker horde without him first chasing the guy down like he’s back in his sheriff’s uniform. His mindset is right there in his eyes in the close-ups during the chase. If Negan saw Rick’s face then, he wouldn’t have goaded him once they got inside the building. Dude’s dropped all his marbles and everyone else trips over them, yet again.

Despite the sheer amount of WTF on Rick’s part, the flaming zombie gag is solid. Negan’s reactions say everything. He knew the guy wasn’t all there, now he sees firsthand how dangerous Rick is when he feels he has nothing to lose. Oh, he has things to lose. As I said before though, he’s so narrowminded, he’s not really thinking about Michonne, Judith, or the civilians caught in future crossfire. How does this show decide to illustrate such character depth? By lighting Lucille and some walkers on fire, then having Rick and Negan fight around them. Only this show could make its fan base believe the main character would be so willfully self-destructive yet somehow both men survive.

Negan’s survival spells trouble for a certain lieutenant with the gift of gab. Simon wastes no time campaigning for himself once the Saviors roll out of Sanctuary toward Hilltop. When Rick takes Negan out of the caravan, Simon is slow to respond, hides several smirks. The entire time, Simon jaws at Dwight, working him toward his side, a side where the Saviors just move on. Move on is slang for kill them all and find new people to harass, by the way. Dwight’s slow to the new lingo, having been with the Alexandrians for a little while. It’s not until they meet with the Saviors post helping Simon cover Negan’s tracks after he disappears from the car wreck that he realizes, this guy does not have the same agenda as I. Well, you think? Simon’s days are numbered, but that number is indefinite since Negan’s sitting in the front seat of Jadis’ car with a gun to his head.


Brainless in Seattle Part I: Review for iZombie 403

Brainless in Seattle Part I:
Review for iZombie 403
By A. Zombie

Before you zip on by, please know there’s episode spoilers in this review.

The human smuggling subplot takes the spotlight in this episode, highlighting a too-real fear about trusting a stranger with your complete safety while in the pursuit of something highly illegal. In this case, romance trumps common sense, bringing Annie Wallace to New Seattle on Love’s light wings . . . okay, so they roll into town in a nondescript vehicle. This episode encourages one to wax poetic, believe it or not. There’s a lot of ridiculous commentary on lust versus love, but the non-romance portions of this romcom are probably some of my favorite scenes from the last two seasons.

You’re soulless if you don’t enjoy a good makeover montage once in a while, I’m just saying.

Back to our victim. Annie unfortunately never meets up with her online sweetheart. Once she is in the city, Bruce the coyote shows his hand, murdering the girl to sell her brain on the black market. She’s a scrapper, puts up a bit of a fight, leading the killer to leave part of her brain behind—just enough for Liv to make milk chocolate brain-bons. This woman went through life falling in love with every other person, always assuming they approached her with good intentions. That’s rarely true, as shown by how easily Annie fell into Bruce’s trap instead of finding someone like Renegade, who so far appears to be the genuine article, someone who just wants to help. Annie’s brain makes its way to Romero’s, where Don E purchases it to feed their high-end clients, along with a mime’s brain to mix things up a little.

The undead are reaching the desperation point with the low brain supply. Fillmore-Graves suspects there’s only four months of brains on-hand for the expanding New Seattle population. Legal sources ae slim. Illegal sources can’t bring them in fast enough without garnering interest from the government. As it is, Clive suspects there’s a serial killer connected to Annie’s death, bringing them that much closer to pinpointing the cause as a black-market brain trade. Cracking down on border crossings isn’t dissuading the desperate from entering the city for what they see as their only chance to thrive—for example Annie witnesses an execution when they pull up to the gate. Desperate for a hand-up against the coyotes, Chase Graves appeals to Blaine’s business sense for aid. If Blaine delivers Renegade, he gets to run his businesses without interference. It’s too good a deal to pass up. By the episode’s end, Blaine locates, and devours, one of Renegade’s clients. Yet again proving he’s one of the most determined people in this universe. Finding the woman herself won’t be as simple. Liv can’t even locate her again after revisiting the laundromat and has to wait for Mama Leone to find her instead to ask about the other coyotes in town.

By far the worst part of the episode is Liv’s constant, “Oh, this is the guy for me. He’s amazing!” On the flip side, this easy-going, happy Liv pumps life back into this character. She’s hanging with Peyton again. They harass Ravi into a makeover montage, which brings such a smile to one’s face, their nose might just crack off. Not saying it happened to me, but I heard a friend suffered such a sad fate. Ahem. Anyway, I’m thankful we get another crack at this version of Liv. She’s the Liv we’ve been missing and didn’t realize it. Although she never actually finds it, Liv drunk on love is by far the best Liv. That truth makes it even harder to accept the production’s decisions to kill everyone Liv’s fallen for since the beginning. Give us what we want, people. Content Liv without the angst for a little while longer, please. And more montages.

On the romance flipside, Bozzio might be stepping out on Clive. While playing tonsil hockey with a random guy she fell in love with, Liv spots Dale in a similar situation moments before she takes the guy off the dance floor at The Scratching Post. Of course romantic-brained Liv thinks the only way out of the situation is to tell Clive the truth. So far she’s declined to come right out with it. Instead Liv winds up harassing the new uni, Michelle Hunter, insinuating that she should hook up with Clive. Yes, it’s a moment worthy of a thousand facepalms.

The romcom brain antics go into the next episode, thank goodness. It seems unlikely they’ll wrap the entire brain trade story now, but I suspect we’re heading back toward the good ol days where Team Zombie went head-to-head with Blaine’s empire. Mix in his new, powerful allies and this fight is far more one-sided than last time when Major almost single handedly wiped out the brain smuggling business by blowing up a butcher’s shop. Speaking of Major, will he stick by the company when he learns they sent the city’s mob boss in to do their dirty work?


Dead or Alive or: Review for The Walking Dead 811

Dead or Alive or:
Review for The Walking Dead 811
By R.C. Murphy

Don’t just rush ahead! Watch out for episode spoilers.

In the wake of Negan’s fiery revenge in Alexandria, the village’s people are on the run. Saviors hold blockades on all the roads. The only reason Daryl gets the Alexandria survivors to the halfway point is because none of these oh-so intelligent souls think to look under the freeway they’re guarding. In order to ensure his people make it to Hilltop unscathed, Daryl’s willing to listen to Dwight when the reformed bad guy suggests they pass through the swamp, declared too dangerous to pass by Negan and therefore unguarded during the lockdown. So long as everyone keeps up and cooperates, they’ll get there in one piece. Oh and if we ignore Tara’s existence since she’s still on this whole “Kill Dwight even though he’s useful” kick. She’s so focused on him, Tara is willing to turn away from a walker-filled swamp where her friends are clearing a path in order to yet again threaten Dwight, and yet again fail to follow through. The posturing is boring and isn’t helping with Dwight’s story at all. If anything, it’s making him repeat the same tired redemption story, which isn’t nearly as interesting as his actions. These writers will always talk a plot to death long before they let the characters do what they need to do. Show, don’t tell. I’m not sure how such a basic thing escapes this writing team, but here we are.

Despite Tara, Dwight’s story and his tentative friendship with Daryl steals these scenes. We see Daryl fight the urge to rely on anyone, but Dwight’s resolve to help is a balm for the renegade’s soul. This is probably the most useful version of Daryl to date. Why, though? Why now? Is it because he’s able to act on his own plans with Rick in mourning? We don’t see a lot of initiative from Daryl on large scope problems, he’s the type to sit back and wait for someone to point him at something he can kill. When they reach the swamp, he’s already shedding his reliance on Rick’s leadership. His call to cut through the swamp on Dwight’s suggestion, the willingness to put his body on the line to secure a path through the walkers, and his refusal to flip his lid when told how close the Saviors are is a surefire sign that this character is finally maturing past the plateau he reached after Merle’s brutal demise. This Daryl may even surprise us and attempt to recover Dwight, since the guy proves himself big time by leading the Saviors away at the swamp, losing his hard-won freedom from the organization.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan; group – The Walking Dead _ Season 8, Episode 11 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

The rescue will get interesting, if it happens. Negan’s strategies adapt to whatever pressure comes from outside forces. If the Saviors were a single creature, I’d say octopus. They’re wily beasts and there’s numerous studies devoted to their cognitive ability to take advantage of any situation. Step one in the wargame adaptations puts Eugene at the middle of a new outpost, charged with supplying the Saviors with bullets at inhuman speeds. There’s also a degree of comfort to bribe Eugene, keep him productive. In true fashion, this character uses his miniscule power to lord over a woman in such a manner I fully believe his mother’s ghost smacked him upside the head. The second step introduces bio warfare to this universe on a large scale. Negan encourages his people to use walker blood/innards to contaminate their weapons. Why waste so much effort killing when a single infected scratch will sign everyone’s death certificate—unless it’s a case like Hershel where amputation stopped the disease from passing into his blood system, but how many will get that lucky in the midst of war? They barely have medical care as it is, there’s no way Siddiq and the others with minimal training will keep up with the incoming infection rate thanks to this new fighting strategy. Hilltop will go from a safe haven to a walker corral.

Speaking of, the upcoming siege isn’t the most pressing threat to the remaining community. Hilltop’s food supply never recovered from paying off the Saviors. Feeding the citizens alone will deplete their pantry in less than a fortnight, and they’ve promised humane imprisonment to the Saviors, so they’ve got maybe a week of food max. Scouts are out searching, but they’ve picked the county clean. Jesus won’t walk in with half a grocery store this time. The stress from trying to figure out how to balance being a prison and a home leaves Maggie at her wit’s end. But not so much that she doesn’t see the odd behavior from Morgan and Henry, who’ve appointed themselves as the guards outside the Saviors’ cell. After speaking to Gabriel and some others, Maggie does some deep thinking about how to groups treat each other. In the end, Maggie plans to allow the Saviors a little more freedom in the form of armed escorts to take them from the cell to work details. They get to move around more and she gets the gardens ready for the next planting season. You know someone, likely Jared, is going to screw up this system by next week.

We’ve finally caught up with Dr. Carson and Gabriel after they slipped free from Sanctuary with a little inside help. The infection burning through Gabriel’s veins is attacking his vision. Worse yet, the stolen car is dead and they’ve got no clue where they are in relation to Hilltop because the navigator can’t even read a map an inch from his nose. Following God’s plan, as detailed by a man whose brain bakes itself with each step they take, leads the duo to an abandoned home. Somehow while looking suicide in the face—the homeowner failed to make contact with other survivors and ended it long before the men arrive—Gabriel still thinks his God wants all of this to happen. It’s hard to deny that when so many things go right for them thanks to Gabriel’s vague feelings about their destiny. The much-needed antibiotics, an impossible shot to save Dr. Carson from a walker, the hidden treasure of car keys and a map are all lovely red herrings leading us to think maybe, just maybe Gabriel is blessed by an otherworldly power. He’s not. He’s just lucky and manages to use it all up before they drive away from the house. That fortunate gunshot drew the Saviors. Gabriel’s brash belief leads Dr. Carson to fall into the same fallacy, only what he assumes is a sign from above is just another way to get dead faster by assuming everything will go right. No matter how many times he’s fallen from his faith, Gabriel always bounces back. I’m not so sure that’ll happen this time. He’s well and truly broken, covered in blood from a man who he thought would be the savior everyone needs during this trying time.

But do they need a savior? Or does this group simply need to cut their losses and move on before this war takes everyone’s life? If I were in Hilltop when the Alexandrian refugees arrived, that would be the only sign necessary to kick my butt in gear to leave by morning. This war is no longer who’ll win or who’ll lose, but who will see reason and leave the others to kill themselves while they find a new safe haven to call home.


Zombie Reviews: Rise of the Zombie (2013)

Zombie Reviews . . . Rise of the Zombie (2013)
By A. Zombie

Rated: NR (Contains violence, gore)

Starring: Luke Kenny, Kirti Kulhari, Prem Thapa, Pinky Negi, Ashwin Mushran, and Benjamin Gilani

Language: Hindi and English

Let’s see what happens when someone takes a micro-budget film and does the genre justice, just for once. Please. My brain couldn’t take another poorly executed script. Luckily when deciding to take a chance on Rise of the Zombie, it didn’t end in utter disappointment. That’s not saying this is an insanely great film, but for what they accomplished, it’s not awful. It may even be—dare I say it? Re-watchable.

Here’s the abbreviated storyline:

Relationships are difficult to maintain when Mother Nature calls to your soul, even more so when that love leads one to become a wildlife photographer. Neil Parker’s love life isn’t anywhere near as stunning as his work in the field. Matter of fact, it’s become extinct. Vinny Rao is tired of spending days, sometimes a week or two, wondering where Neil disappeared to this time. In typical Neil fashion, he makes an appearance at his buddy’s bachelor party right after the breakup and before his hangover’s played out, he is on his way to his favorite place out in the middle of nowhere. Does he tell anyone? There’s Thapa and a few others from the nearby village who bring him supplies when he doesn’t want to bike in, but no one from home has a clue.

While on a hike, Neil is bitten by an aggressive bug. The wound festers, no matter how much he cleans it. Neil hallucinates, falls into a fugue state, and suffers intense nightmares. A few times he goes into town, inspired to reach out to Vinny, but she ghosts calls made from unknown numbers. The infection on Neil’s arm spreads. His lucid moments are fewer and fewer. A shift in his appetite leaves him scrounging for bugs. Unaware of any changes, the villagers invite him to party with them. He leaves with a woman at his side . . . then wakes with her bloody hand, only the bloody hand, in his tent. Neil’s appetite grows unchecked. Anytime someone comes to help him, he attacks. The nutrition gives him blessed few aware hours to try and reach Vinny, pushed by visions of their relationship.

Two weeks pass before Vinny realizes there’s actually something wrong this time. With the help of Anish, Neil’s soon-to-be-wed friend, and Dr. Dave Parker, his father, they eventually track down a phone Neil uses often in the village. Unfortunately, luck’s not on their side after that.

For the budget, this film is beautifully shot—with a few exceptions toward the end where the quality intentionally degrades to heighten the weight of Neil’s transformation. The overly-shaky attacks aren’t how I’d handle that transition, but it still works for this story. The opening sequence is mesmerizing, making the audience forget for quite some time that they’re watching a horror movie. They play a lot with the overall tone of the film. It’s very much a romance at the get-go with the gorgeous POV shots as Neil works, then shifting into the break-up scene after, followed by the raucous bachelor party. Even Neil’s decision to bolt to the middle of nowhere fits a romance outline. Everything changes after the bug bite. Gone are the crisp landscape shots. The world is unfocused. Neil’s attention shifts down, down, down as his appetites change, taking the camera with it. It’s rare to see this much attention in a genre film this size.

The use of quiet time in the script is probably what saved the film from being tedious. Neil is alone a lot. When he is around people, the discussion is all mundane because there is no mass outbreak. Neil’s the sole threat to the villagers and up until the end, he has no clue just how dangerous he is to those around him. The heavy lifting on the speaking end is left to Vinny and the others in Mumbai. They’re always pushing the urgency to find Neil, though we know he’s too gone to care. Where everything, unfortunately, falls apart is the final act. The resolution isn’t satisfying because there’s no resolution. Vinny makes it to the village and it more or less ends there. Five more minutes of story to wrap it up wouldn’t have hurt.

Special effects and makeup are the weakest link in this movie. Neil’s wounds are simplistic and don’t stand up to close-ups. There’s a moment where he angrily rakes the flesh off his arm, except the makeup is obviously nothing more than greasepaint over liquid latex so it’s not graphic, as intended, but more like we’re watching the actor clean up at the end of the shooting day.

Where the makeup falls short, the actors pick up the slack. Kenny does a bang-up job bringing a unique physical presence to Neil’s transformation. When he plays through the lucid moments, it’s gut-wrenching. Honestly, this single performance makes the film worth at least one watch. He’s bringing a lot to the table in a film most people won’t give the time of day, which is a disservice to oneself as a genre fan, honestly. Cringe through the makeup and watch Kenny deliver a zombie acting class. Seriously.

There’s a lot which could’ve made Rise of the Zombie a higher quality genre offering. However, for the budget, they managed to deliver a better movie than domestic releases with the same kind of money. I’m giving this film three disemboweled torsos out of five.


Blue Bloody: Review for iZombie 402

Blue Bloody:
Review for iZombie 402
by A. Zombie

Head’s up, there’s episode spoilers in this review

Keeping with the trend that Liv only eats the worst people in Seattle, this week she’s stuck with the brain from Sandy Brinks, a rude, old white woman whose hobbies include casual racism, sexually assaulting her staff, verbally abusing anyone with a heartbeat, and pickling her liver. She’s the kind of rich person who lets a golf ball fly downrange without notice. Ironically, it’s a golf ball through the eye which puts Mrs. Brinks’ mean spirit down for good.

Brace yourselves. This Liv is extra awful.

How bad can it get? Well, the moment she ingests Sandy’s brain, Liv begins treating Clive like The Help, going so far as to refuse to sit beside him in the front seat and constantly questioning his intelligence. This isn’t the only racist behavior recalibrated for zombies in the episode. When Major is on patrol with the rookie Fillmore-Graves recruits, they run into a group of human supremacists harassing a restaurant owner who just happens to not be white, as well as a zombie supporter. When it looks like they’ll disperse, which of the guards do they manhandle in retaliation for being talked down to by Major? Gladwell. I’d be all for this writing team attempting to dismantle established racism with biting humor and social commentary, but as always, they’re too ham-handed.

Brinks’ brain leads Liv to alienate everyone in her social circle. There’s not one person she doesn’t talk down to, including Brinks’ driver during an emotional interrogation. The woman sexually manipulated him, much to his shame. Despite that information, Liv blurts out that he took money to continue the relationship, therefore making him a WHORE. Yes, she says it in capital letters, like a scarlet A she intends to brand on the man’s forehead with the ferocity of her accusation. Which shouldn’t have come as a surprise given how the show’s handled sex workers in the past, but this isn’t a willing adult doing his job as intended. His continued arrangement with Brinks took advantage of his position on her staff—textbook harassment. In the Court of Liv’s awfulness, that seems to translate to real consent, not prolonged coercion. Someone needs to take a long look at the way they view the world and how it keeps shoving problematic language in Liv’s mouth.

No one on Brinks’ staff is without reason to kill her, for glaringly obvious reasons. The suspect winds up being a mother whose sick child is denied permission to pass New Seattle’s wall in order to undergo a life-saving surgery. In probably the best twist, Liv’s awful behavior wears off in time to help this family. Is that enough, though? Saving one child can’t possibly cover up all the awful things this character has said and done in the name of distracting herself from her new reality by diving in head-first. Everything Liv’s done for four seasons bred from a deep desire to not hate herself for changing into something else—the classic “teen girl hits puberty and loathes her new body” story, but with a grown woman and zombies. We have a deeply selfish character, constantly drawn to similar brains, and it’s only now that we see her reaching out to do something more than the bare minimum with her new self. I get self-loathing taking over, but this is fiction and foisting every bad behavior onto one character and expecting the audience to pity her after four years of refusing to mature is short-sighted. That’s not saying she’s irredeemable, it’s just going to take a lot of work.

The secondary story line with Angus is about as pleasing as a root canal without medication. Religious fanatics in genre pieces are so old hat, the idea has returned to the dirt and waits to begin the lifecycle anew as something completely different, maybe a butterfly or hummingbird. Angus has these zombies all riled up, feeding them brains from an unknown source. They even hold a parade, hosted with church resources. What’s most uncomfortable about this whole thing is my ability to no longer overlook the news stories released in December and January concerning the actor. Why? First, the producers kept a line in which Angus greets a girl by saying, “Well aren’t you the most beautiful girl in the world,” and she’s maybe six, obviously afraid. Later, there’s a moment in which Angus switches from speaking normally to male parishioners during communion to his tone going breathy, slightly deeper for the woman. Both instances were . . . off. Uncomfortable to watch, and not just because the guy’s too good at playing crazy. We’ve been promised this season is the last for Angus. That moment cannot come soon enough. Let’s get the creepy old man stereotype off a show which uses more than enough appalling personalities to manipulate the plot.

The story line with Mama Leone has the most promise for this season. So many things have gone wrong in Seattle since Liv turned Z, it feels like there were no good people left, or those who claimed to be good were too easily influenced by the promise of power, like Major. Yet when we get to the laundromat with Ravi, Liv, and the sick boy, the show’s tone changes drastically. Liv is remorseful in ways she rarely expresses unless confronted. There’s no one lurking for a gotcha. It’s just a group of people doing the best they can to help those who have no voice in their new world. Please let this be the swing in Liv’s life we’ve waited for. I’m all for Liv joining the resistance, fighting the zombie establishment. The base is laid, what with Liv and Major on the outs again over their differing opinions on how to handle to handle integration between humans and zombies, not to mention Major’s seeming lack of concern about humans suffering under the new regime. Peyton will be a good ally should Liv go down this road, with her insight into what the Mayor has planned, as well as glimpses of policy from Fillmore-Graves.

Okay. I’m on board. Time to start a revolution.


Zombie Reviews: The Z Effect (2017) By A. Zombie

Zombie Reviews . . . The Z Effect (2017)
By A. Zombie

Rated: NR (Contains adult language, violence)

Starring: Michael Navas, Scott Schlueter, Steffie Grote, Douglas Wilcox II, Charles Gordy Swalm, and Cali De La Rosa

Language: English

Sometimes, just sometimes, a bunch of people need to band together to shoot a zombie movie. No rhyme. No reason. Just the unrelenting want to add to the genre in a small way. Which is why it feels like there’s more and more micro budget films flooding the streaming market. Camera technology put this burden in our eager, capable hands. Mankind will ride this idea into the ground and back again. Got no money? Doesn’t matter. Apparently zombie films practically make themselves these days. The Z Effect takes the mico budget idea and does its best to stretch the limits of what they can do on-screen.

Without warning, the dead return to attack the living. Missing not one beat, Mike and Scott band together to stay alive in the face of so many horrors. It’d be easier to go on if Scott knew whether his girlfriend Natalie survived the initial undead wave. Nevertheless, there’s nothing they can do about being separated. Scott can either move on, or get bit by one of the numerous adolescent zombies who keep tripping him up morally as they search for supplies and a viable car. Along the way, Mike and Scott encounter a few zombies whose backstory we learn in vignettes. There’s also two other survivor groups nearby, but one doesn’t play well with others. Especially when those others happen to shoot two of their members because they’re loudly harassing a zombie woman. Everything changes when Terrance, from the good group, tries to boost Mike and Scott’s car. They talk things out and decide to pool resources, which includes a guaranteed roof over their heads and more living people to talk to. Lo and behold, Natalie’s living with the good group, along with half a dozen others. There’s not much time to bask in their reunion. When the Crazies find Mike and Scott a few days later, they hatch a plan to get revenge for their fallen bros.

The greatest enemy in this film is the editing. It’s choppy. It’s confusing. In order to artificially complicate the plot, the editor decided to tell the end of each vignette first, then go back to fill in some of the gaps. This leads to things like wondering if they’ve misused an insert clip of a hand holding a gun in some scenes, or trying to figure out if Scott’s having flashbacks compared to vivid nightmares. Thanks to this “edgy” editing style, it’s hard to figure out which zombie is which, and even harder to recognize those zombies when they come back to face the heroes. The whole point of presenting the film this way was to be able to tell those zombies’ stories around the hero’s plot in self-contained bursts, but they lose focus once the human drama outweighs the dead drama and the hyper-stylized editing system winds up killing the tension leading into the final fight.

Technically, the film shows its budget big time. The digital effects are as basic as one can get. Zombie makeup consists of artfully splattered fake blood, with little more attention brought to the clothes—which were probably made in bulk by just slashing random holes in thrift garments and dousing them in blood. Also pretty sure the sound was caught on one boom mic or the camera’s mic because for in-car scenes, you can only really hear whoever is closest to camera. Thank goodness for subtitles and the shining few actors animated enough to sell their lines despite shoddy sound recording.

Like many of the films I nabbed recently, this one delivers as best as it’s able to with what was available. If effort could win prizes, they’d have a shot. That’s not really how this goes, though. In the grand scheme, The Z Effect, even with the catchy song at the end, only gets one dismembered hand out of five.