Sunday, October 31, 2010

Walking Dead #1


Let me just begin by saying that I really hate zombies. As a girl with a way over-active imagination and a brain prone to god-awful, cold-sweat-producing nightmares, I've not allowed myself to watch horror movies for about six years.

That being said, I took it on good authority from numerous friends that Walking Dead was going to be GOOD. Even my own husband tried out the comic book and said, "It's good, I wanna try it." So, ok. I did try it. And, honestly, it was really good.

The whole "Zombies Getting To The Heart Of What It Means To Be Human" thing has been around a long, long time... like... as long as zombies.  It's not anything remarkable or new and neither is the lone decent man, roaming the land in search of other survivors. Having to shoot someone you love in the head because their brain is all melty zombie mush isn't new. Wondering whether you should just end it all, right there in the basement/car/rooftop because the world isn't worth living in isn't anything that hasn't been one before.

So, what sets Walking Dead apart from Every Other Zombie Everything? Well, I'm not really sure. It's beautifully shot and even though it's disgusting and gory and sad, it's shot more like a regular police procedural.  The washed out post apocalyptic grey/sepia scale effect that digitally colors every single post apocalypse movie isn't present here (except in the promo image above for some reason.)  The colors are all alive and well and the regular old noises of nature (summer cicadas, rustling wind, bees, flys) are still fully present. Life goes on.  Just... maybe not human life.

More than anything else, this show really looks like a Western. I mean, come on, our hero even dons his Sheriff's hat and rides into Hot-Zombie-Lanta on a freaking HORSE. (btw- I was totally ready to abandon ship if the horse turned out to be a zombie too... thankfully this wasn't the case) Walking Dead also feels like a Western, especially with the Sherrif's Deputy aspect going on.

So here's the report card:
Good characters.
Good action.
Great suspense.
Beautifully shot and directed.
Watch next episode?   Yes. Though, this is contingent upon my ability to sleep tonight.


Community Season Two: Epidemiology

It's Halloween and I'm celebrating by re-watching the totally weird-ass Halloween episode of Community. Zombies abound. Halloween Costumes reach new heights of hilarious. And, in the midst of it all, we get great insights into character friendships.

Britta: (To Jeff) Man, I wonder how much effort you put into being unintentionally handsome.


Troy:I'm a sexy dracula.
Abed: You mean vampire.
Troy: I don't need to know WHICH dracula I am to be a dracula. Nerd.

All the end-of-days commotion starts when Terrible Dean chooses to cater Greendale's Halloween party with MREs from the Army Surplus Store. He unintentionally purchases radioactive waste and feeds it to the group which causes a ton of gross, zombie-like side effects. The group quickly separates and Jeff, Abed & Troy find themselves in the basement, being constantly spooked by a screaming, horror movie cat.

Jeff: What is up with that cat?
Troy:Is someone throwing it?

Jeff's vanity finally gets him taken down by a zombie horde and soon Troy and Abed are left to fend for themselves as the Greendale Zombies hungrily chase down their sweet, costumed flesh. Abed helps Troy escape just before he's overtaken.

Troy: I love you.
Abed: I know.
(SQUEEEEEEEEE! Loved this part!)

Eventually, Troy decided to face down the zombies with the "POWER OF IMAGINATION!" which he soon discovers to be a terrible plan. In the end, all is well and no one remembers their zombie-fied night.  A kooky Abba soundtrack plays throughout, adding to the cartoony-ness of this episode.  The hyper-reality of it all is very reminiscent of "Modern Warfare" and "Contemporary American Poultry." There are a ton of pop culture gems in this one including a Ripley/Alien Queen showdown and there's a great Change/Shirley happening which may or may not be forgotten in future episodes.  I'm anxious to see how that plays out.

 To top everything off, George Takei's voice...

makes a special appearance, providing narrative bookends to the episode. He also had a special surprise for all the Kevins out there, when he gave a free (totally kick ass) voicemail recording saying, "Kevin can't come to the phone right now because he's on a spaceship with me, George Takei."

Yeah, Community, I'll take that. Good job.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Community Season One

This weekend, S. and I watched a TON of Community SSN One.  If you haven't been following this show... it's pretty amazing.  Oh, and from the opinion of two people who attended community college, it's right on.

I think this is our fourth viewing of this season.  S is working on a Community project for class so it's imperative that he do his research and since our apartment is tiny AND I also love this show, and I mean REALLY love this show,  I've got no problems watching it over and over and over and...

Anyway, today alone we watched episodes 2-25... that's right. Everything but the pilot.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

Ep 1.03: Introduction to Film: 
Mr. Nadir: Where do I find Mr. Britta? 
Britta: I'm Mr. Britta. That's right. I'm a woman, with rights, and you can see my whole face.

Ep 1.06: Football, Feminism and You: 
Troy: Hip, hop, body don't stop. Riverside got the broom, don't need a mop. Put your team in the box, put a ribbon on top, we're not John Kerry 'cause we don't flip-flop. 
Annie: Troy, why are you doing our politically conservative high school's shamefully outdated fight rap?
. . . 
Troy Barnes: Bing, bong, sing along. Your team's Al Gore 'cause your views are wrong.
 also, elsewhere in Greendale...
Jeff notices Dean Pelton's wall of Ethnically Neutral features and skin tones:
Jeff: “Is that Seal?”
Dean:“That is our human color wheel. It goes from Seal to Seal’s teeth...What do you think?” 
Jeff: "I think not being racist is the new racist."

Ep 1. 07: Introduction to Statistics (The Kick-ASS Halloween Episode)
Jeff: In the last two months you've doubled the national average for the amount lived per life time.
Pierce: Well I do have a young African American friend.
Jeff: But more importantly you're dressed like a gladiator in a desk fort you built during a bad trip.

Ep 1.12: Comparative Religion
Annie: Shirley, you are a guilt machine
Pierce: And Annie knows a thing or two about guilt, am I right Jew?
Annie: Say the whole word.
Pierce: Jewey?
Troy: You would never catch a Jehovah's Witness saying "jewey."
Pierce: Tell that to the the birthday cake you never got.

Ep 1.16: Communication Studies:
Dean Pelton: [over P.A.] It's Valentine's week, when the Greendale Human Being is the Cupid Being, delivering your gift to that special someone. But, remember, Cupid's face is magic marker on nylon, so love is not only blind but also dizzy and a little belligerent.

Ep 1.20: The Science of Illusion:
Jeff (to Britta): Great frame job, Britta-dict Arnold!
Troy: Oh! Colonial Burn!

Ep 1.21: Contemporary American Poultry: (The FANTASTIC high-concept mafia movie episode)
Troy: If God were edible - not that I'm Catholic - but if it was cool to eat God, he'd be a chicken finger.
Jeff: Why do you have a monkey?
Troy: It's an animal that looks like a dude. Why don't I have 10 of them? 
and in the cold open... 
Troy: I think I'm failing psychopharmacology.
Britta: Why are you taking that?
Troy: I thought it was a class about crazy farm animals. 

Abed: For as long as I can remember, I'd always wanted to be in a mafia movie... and that was it... that was the moment that we stopped being a family and started being a family, in italics.

Abed: I just need to be able to connect to people like you can... then I can make everyone happy.

Ep 1.22: Modern Warfare (This is the episode (known around here simple as "Paintball") that sold Community to me as my favorite current sitcom)
This episode is primarily action-oriented so it's hard to pull single lines that really blow me away, because most of the strength here comes from the quirky high-conceptness of it all.
Troy: Jeff WINGER! You son of a bitch! I thought you were dead, man! (said like every black soldier in every John Carpenter movie EVAH!)
 and later...
Britta: Oh my god, you've been hit!
Jeff: What? Oh no! Wait... (laughing) it's just blood. I thought it was paint but it's just blood.
and even later...
Jeff: Please don't tell me you had sex with me to win at paintball.
Britta: No, I had sex with you and now I'm going to win at paintball. Don't be gross.

Some of my favorite things about this season:
  • The characters and situations evolve naturally and sometimes, at break-neck speed. Britta and Jeff, Jeff and Annie, Britta and Vaughn etc. All the love triangles that would normally take at least two or three seasons to resolve are blown through in the first season.  The writers don't hold out on the audience, they go ahead and do all the things that we want to see/know will eventually happen. 
  • This show has a ton of heart.  This is something, I have a feeling I'll talk about a lot in this blog.  The show is quirky and the characters are often snarky but this show has a lot of weight behind it and every episode ends with a character's realization or cathartic moment, the "we learned something today" music swells and we all understand how the a,b, and c plots all come together to help the character reach a new level of self understanding, group happiness etc. 
  • Community isn't afraid of anything. They go from high-concept to little, interpersonal stories like it's nothing.  They're super meta but totally sincere. The characters are all extremely human while maintaining the kind of fun meta-ness that helps them fill traditional roles. 
Love the show.  Love watching it over and over. Love Abed. Going to sleep now.

A Study In Pink

Sherlock: A Study In Pink

I'm a pretty big Doctor Who fan, so when I saw that the writer of my favorite Who-pisodes (Girl in the Fireplace, Blink) and now the show runner of the amazingly brilliant new seasons of Dr. Who, Steven Moffat, was rebooting Sherlock Holmes for Masterpieces Mystery on BBC/PBS... well I did A LOT of jumping up and down.

The reboot consists of three, two-hour episodes and the first one aired in America last Sunday night. Moffat worked with his past collaborator, Mark Gatiss and their collective brilliance shows through in the strength of character and sense of adventure that is ever present throughout the first case taken on by Holmes and Watson as a team.

Benedict Cumberbatch plays a "highly functioning sociopath" version of Holmes and his Asperger-ish-ness works wonderfully in this updated telling of A Study in Scarlet.  Martin Freeman's Watson is spot on.  He's not the bumbling doctor of past incarnations of this classic, he's quiet and controlled, all the while missing the thrill and danger that he got from his time as a military surgeon.

The exchanges between the two are really excellent:
John: "This is how you get your kicks, isn't it? You risk your life to prove you're clever."
Sherlock: "Why would I do that?"
John: "Because you're an idiot."
Sherlock: "No, no, don't be that way. Practically everyone is."

The mystery is great and the release of the name Moriarty at the end fills this viewer with some pretty serious expectations.  Brother Mycroft (played by Gatiss) makes a rather smarmy appearance and Lestrade proves to be enjoyable while being simultaneously grateful for and annoyed by Holmes.  Ultimately this first episode is about the initial build of friendship between Holmes and Watson.

They share an uncommon bond based in their addiction to danger, the fascination with the unknown, and the the love of adventure. Moffatt is taking Conan Doyle's work back to its roots, back to stories of two weirdos going on crazy adventures. I can't wait for the next two and I already wish they'd never end.

Friday, October 29, 2010


The Good Guys: "The Whistleblower"

This Spring, as the TV season was winding down, The Good Guys made a sneak appearance and really took Scott and I by surprise. We joined up because we love some good Buddy Cop Action Comedy but we stayed because this show, created by Matt Nix, is endlessly inventive and has a boat load of heart.

It was Good Guys that actually turned us on to the FANTASTIC Burn Notice which has risen to our top five current shows.

Colin "Baby" Hanks (son of Tom Hanks, btw- he totally inherited his dad's run AND running face, LOVE IT!) and Bradley Whitford (of the sadly short-lived Studio 60) reluctantly team up to solve crime and bust ass but, over the Summer Season (and now into the extended Fall Season) they've developed a solid friendship that runs as a recurrent theme in the show.

This week, we get a second appearance of CSI Samantha, the adorable new lab assistant who immediately starts crushing on Jack (Colin Hanks) while he and Dan (Whitford) chase down a gorgeous but unlucky, toe-headed assassin with sexy lips.  Meanwhile, Lt. Ruiz is being stalked by a peeping tom and Dan vows to be her body guard in spite of tons of spunky Ruiz-Style protest.

As is traditional in this show, a ton of perfectly likable coincidences, some well conceived time shifts, and a healthy smattering of match cuts line up so that the assassin, the guy who paid her, the guy to caused the whole mess, and the peeping tom all get what's coming to them courtesy of Dan and Jack. "Whistleblower"catches the dual meaning in that it's the catalyst of the A-plot (the dangerous high-stakes, white collar assassin story) as well as serving as a literal "blowing of a whistle" when the "Perv Whistles" that Dan's been doling out through the whole episode finally come into play--he blows his own whistle to distract the sexy-lipped assassin and kick start the final showdown.

It's not the best episode of the season but it was still really funny, really well done, with excellent additions to the character arcs of the season.  Liz breaks up with her lame whistle blowing ex, Jack and CSI Samantha hit it off, Dan and Ruiz create a few sparks, and Julius drops by to inject some great Supa-Snitch humor into the B-plot.  The episode ends with a great pan out on a familial cook out.  Everyone's laughing and drinking beer and looking as though their awesome show isn't in danger of Fox bringing down the ax.

Anytime I love a show that's on Fox, I feel a constant anxiety about its likely lifespan and The Good Guys is no exception.  It's funny, smart, different, and quirky and... it's on Friday at 9pm. The Death Slot.

I really hope this show sticks around. It's high time for the return of the Buddy Cop and I really want to follow Dan and Jack on their zany adventures for a long, long time.