Saturday, 29 February 2020

Review: #TheWalkingDead S10x10 STALKER #TWD #TWDFamily

Previously:
Review: S10x09 SQUEEZE


Written by: Jim Barnes
Directed by: Bronwen Hughes (also directed Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul and Queen of the South)




Another excellent episode, in which Gabriel channelled Merle and Daryl/Carol at their worst, with his talk of chopping off fingers and pulling teeth, and no one killed the person you thought they were about to... 



When Laura entered the cell and held the big speary thing at Beta's neck, I couldn't help thinking, 'Yeah, but when Gabriel said keep them alive, he might not have meant this guy'.  The sight of his hand rising, Carrie-like, from Dante's grave, then his two-knives-in-hand silhouette were truly 'oh shit' moments—we've already seen that this is a chap who can recover from being thrown down a lift shaft.  Might have been useful for Laura to have remembered that, and applied spear to neck, sharpish.



When Beta sat and waited for the dead Alexandrians to turn and walk out into the community, I had one thought: how much must he stink, for them to walk right past him?  No wonder Alpha wanted a piece of nice, relatively clean Negan instead. I did love the idea of Judith killing him - a pity he was wearing the slain highwayman's breastplate.  I so hope TWD carries on for many seasons yet to come, because in a few years Judith is going to be awesome; Rick, Lori, Shane, Carl and Michonne would be so proud.  



So who does the 'Stalker' of the title refer to?  Daryl, Alpha, Beta—or Lydia, who's been stalking all of them?  Just when you were wondering when she would make her reappearance; I've never much cared for the character, but she's on my ๐Ÿ‘ list now, for saving Daryl's life.  No one could blame her for not being able to kill her mother.  That will be left for Carol to do, I am sure.


The scenes of Daryl hitting out blindly with bloodied eyes, with no crossbow, no gun, no Dog and no back-up, were so hard to watch, as later, when he was failing to the extent that he could hardly even speak to Alpha.  Surely his lowest moment, even worse than the cell at the Sanctuary—he's argued with Carol, Connie is missing presumed dead, and he's all alone and bleeding out.  But he saved Lydia, so she helped him.  As Morgan so wisely says, everything gets a return.


Meanwhile, back at Alexandria, it was good to see longer-standing characters like the lovely Scott and sensible Laura (sensible for seeing that Rick's way was the right way, unlike Alpha's) get more screen time.  Alas, it appears that Laura is dead (confirmed) - another waste of a potentially good character.  Shame.

 
Rosita and Gabriel are becoming something of a 'power couple': 'No torture, no games, no second chances.' 'You'll be the third one, by the way'.  At first I didn't 'get' them being together at all, but I wonder if his philosophical yet hard-as-nails and protective approach is what she needs, now that years have passed, Coco is here, and she has seen and lost so much (and can I just say that I adore her slightly Japanese-ninja-warrior style new look?).  I liked how the camera made you think that she would soften when Gamma told her story about her sister dying (her being a mum and all that), but then she delivered that punch! 



Like Daryl, Gabriel's leadership qualities have developed without the powerful presences of Rick and Michonne, but so differently; Daryl has grown calmer, wiser, and brings people together, whereas Gabriel could have rivalled Season 8 Rick's harsh, no-bullshit streak, in this episode.  Who remembers when he wouldn't kill?


 
Liking the development of Gamma/Mary, too—I'm hoping she's saved and becomes part of the gang, rather than getting killed, though I fear the latter.  Her viewpoint on how Alpha got inside her head, made anything 'before' seem irrelevant, and gained total control over her, summed up how these charismatic, manipulative people work.  'She didn't even have to ask, I just did it.'

Rosita shaking her hand in the wagon (especially as I thought Rosita was going to kill her) and Judith's conversation with her were great moments.  I wonder if Carol might take her under her wing.



Judith: 'You met the wrong person first.  If you'd met my mum and dad, you wouldn't be in that cell'.  I've often thought that about various characters who were with the Governor (e.g. Martinez) and Negan (e.g. Gavin).  Laura and DJ showed that the right people can bring out the light, not the dark.



Would Rick have sussed out the Whisperers' plan, like Gabriel didn't?  I doubt it; it was a clever one, and Beta letting the butchered, nameless Alexandrians turn to kill their own was reminiscent of Negan's strategy in S8:13 Do Not Send Us Astray; highly effective—but less so when Rosita is in charge of shutting it down!

Back at the entrance to the tunnel, I enjoyed the curious juxtaposition of the fearsome, other-worldly Whisperers sitting on comfy seats in the RV...


... and, later, the scenes in and around the derelict petrol (gas) station.  The poignant detail of the locations is an aspect I've always loved about TWD.  Eleven years on, nature has taken over, but there was still a sign announcing the price, still items on the (mostly wrecked) shelving inside.




Alpha's last scenes were terrific, and as chilling as hell.



Other thoughts:
  • Somehow, since S10x2 We Are The End Of The World, when we saw how Beta was before he met Alpha, and the marvellous 'Negan learns how to be a Whisperer' scenes in S10x06 Bonds (CLICK HERE if you want to see again), I can't help seeing the Jolly Green Giant as a bit pathetic—previously a loner, a social outcast, with only his size and strength as his power.  Had he not met Alpha, he probably would have stayed in that room with his zombie smiley-face-t-shirt friend.  I can imagine that before the world changed he was probably an internet troll, sitting in one room with junk food, a hundred different social media IDs and a World of Warcraft persona.


  • Rosita telling Gamma that the father of her baby was killed two days ago: doesn't seem like only two days, does it?  In Season 6, the first 9 (yes, 9) episodes take place over a period of just 3 days in TWD time.  Yet there are months and months when nothing much happens to them and we don't see them living their normal, post-apocalyptic lives, like in the time between Seasons 2 and 3, 3 and 4, 8 and 9, and 9 and 10.   

I'm guessing we're moving on to Hilltop for next week, then ... and I am still crossing fingers that this Rosita-Eugene thing isn't going to happen, and maybe he will get to seek out Stephanie on the radio....



And Michonne, Michonne, where are you?




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Saturday, 22 February 2020

Review: #TheWalkingDead S10x09 SQUEEZE #TWD #TWDFamily

Previously:
Review: S10x08 The World Before
Review: S10x07 Open Your Eyes


Written by: David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick
Directed by: Michael E Satrazemis




'We fight for our future, we don't fight for revenge'  
 
A truly excellent episode that stunned, surprised and challenged sympathies, and was gripping from beginning to end, with edge-of-seat tension and perfect dialogue.  Seriously excellent start to 10B!


Such a shocking, shocking end, in which Carol's utter despair was painful to watch, when she begged Daryl and he shrugged her off, and when even Saint Aaron walked past her without a word.  

Whereas I thought Magna was totally petty for calling her out earlier on, I understood the feelings of the others when the mining shaft caved in—especially after Daryl had said, earlier, that he would have been tempted into reckless moves in her position, too, but would have listened if she tried to stop him.  That she would get people she cared about hurt.  Oh, Carol, didn't you hear what he was telling you?

'I want to be there for you.  I do.  I begged you to talk to me'


On the other hand, and it's a big other hand, Daryl would do well to remember that no one blamed him when his actions got Glenn's head caved in.  And didn't Rosita cause Olivia's death?  They've all done stuff that's got people killed (not least of all Rick), but also acted with great bravery and saved many, and none more than Carol.  

Not only that, but when Connie and Magna were at the exit point after the first explosion, and could have got out in time, Magna shouted out that there were 'more skins' behind them, and off she sauntered, hips swaying, into the darkness. Connie was right behind Carol, but went back to follow Magna.  Maybe Jerry saw that, and will stand up for Carol?  I'm pretty sure they're not dead, anyway.  I believe the Carol-Daryl-Connie storyline has a way to go yet.  

 
Did you expect Jerry to be the one we lost?  I did; I fall for those TWD red herrings every time.  Particularly when we saw how scared he was at the prospect of jumping across over those stepping stones... and inching through that horrifying tunnel.  Poor Jerry, he had every reason to be terrified, but he bravely used that massive frame of his for good, at the end, by holding up that beam so they could all get out.  Respect, sir.



Angel Theory as Kelly was fabulous in this episode, and I thought it was the first time that she really seemed like part of 'the gang'; previously, I've felt that some of the Magna group interactions felt a bit forced, as if they were shoe-horning them into the established cast.  Not this time.  The sisterhood thing between her and Connie is so touching, as was the scene when Connie helped Carol through her panic attack; I see her as one of the TWD 'angels', like Aaron and Glenn.


Meanwhile, back at chez Whisperers... what will Beta think when he finds out about Negan's 'crass reward' for alerting Alpha to Gamma's possible betrayal? ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚  She may have described him as a crass man, but it was clear she fancied him from first meeting - underneath that outfit she's been wearing since she first appeared, she's still a woman(ish), and I suspect that the 'reward' thing was but an excuse to get her rocks off with him.  I must say, though, that my first thought on seeing their naked embrace was that I hope she'd taken a dip in the stream first...



I liked his crash course in dealing with the ego pitfalls that can come with being a powerful, charismatic leader, suggesting that she 'zigs where he zagged' - nicely put!  So is Gamma Alpha's Dwighty-Boy?  Although, yeah, he's got all that narcissistic and psycho stuff going on, he's also super-intelligent and perceptive and I love every perfectly delivered quip: 'Am I going to get my skin suit and learn the secret Whisperers handshake?'.  JDM, you were as brilliant as ever :)

 ๐Ÿ˜‹
And so to Daryl.  What I noticed most about him in this episode was how, without Rick or the presence of Michonne, he automatically assumes the role of leadership, though in a different and possibly more effective way—practically, quietly, never making it about him, making sure that the whole group work together.  He's become the person he never would have been if the world hadn't ended - and, maybe, if Rick was still around.


He gets people.  He always did.  Loved this:

'I never told you I was claustrophic'
'If I only knew what you told me, I wouldn't know shit'



I thought, he remembers TS19, too! 
'Are we underground?' 'Are you claustrophic?' 
'A little' 'Try not to think about it'.

I was watching S5x06 Consumed yesterday, in which Daryl and Carol went to Atlanta to search for Beth, and thought how much better they know themselves now, with all they have learned and come to terms with over the years and how much more easily they communicate—but then Carol blows it all up with that dropped stick of dynamite.  We have to remember, though, that she has had loss after loss piling up on her, for years; as she said back in S5, she finds the person she always should have been, and then it gets burned away.  Over and over.  She is demented with grief; if only she would open up to Daryl. 


Squeeze is an episode that will leave Carol and Connie/Magna fans reeling, but all is not necessarily lost; Daryl and/or Kelly may still find a way to rescue them.  Let us hope so.  

And is Gamma really doing a Dwight, now that she knows Alpha lied to them about Lydia?  Cross fingers...




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Tuesday, 4 February 2020

Lately I've Been Watching


More mini TV and film reviews, with trailers.  If you would like to see more, please click here: Lately I've Been Watching


Film: 1917

5* and a little bit more ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Much talked about and award-winning, and yes, I was engrossed throughout: two Lance Corporals sent on a dangerous mission through enemy territory, because phone lines are down.  The whole pointlessness and brutality of war seen through one man's eyes, if you like.  Many A list actors have 5 minute spots - Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch, Richard Madden - while the attention is held by the young Dean-Charles Chapman, of whom I had not heard before.  

I expected it to be one of the best films I'd ever seen, after all the hype; I wouldn't go that far, but it's extremely good, and artistically a joy to behold.





Limited Series: Catch 22 (Hulu)

5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Dramatisation of Joseph Heller's famous book about a US Air squadron in WWII. Amusing, sad, entertaining, so well-acted, and highly entertaining.  Christopher Abbot is brilliant as Yossarian.  Also features Hugh Laurie and George Clooney.  Loved it!



Film: Midway

5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

WWII extravaganza about the Battle of Midway and the events leading up to it.  The cinematics are stunning, amazing, and brings home how super-humanly brave those fighter pilots were, more than anything I've ever seen before - whether or not they came home really was largely the luck of the draw.

The script seems to have been written with constant referral to The Complete Book of War Film Clichรฉs, but the special effects make it great to watch, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Lots of well-knowns like Woody Harrelson, Dennis Quaid, Aaron Eckhart, and Alexander Ludwig (Bjorn in Vikings!). 




Film (true story): Don't worry, he won't get far on foot (Amazon)

5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Stars the totally awesome Joaquin Phoenix as quadriplegic cartoonist John Callahan.  Callahan was a drunken waster who lost use of his limbs in a car accident with his friend Dexter (Jack Black).  Lots of funny stuff about Alcoholics Anonymous.  It's funny, sad and fairly 'feel good'; at times I found it a bit corny, but Phoenix is so brilliant I could deal with that.  It's great.




Series: Our Friends in the North

5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I saw this some years ago and have just watched it again - it's the award winning BBC series (made in 1996) about the fortunes of four young people growing up in 1960s Newcastle - Nicky (Christopher Eccleston), Tosker (Mark Strong), Mary (Gina McKee) and Geordie (Daniel Craig), and moves forward, each episode set in a different year, up to 1995.  It deals with just about every social issue you want to name - poverty, bad housing, the miners' strike, alcoholism, the permissive society, marital infidelity, divorce.  It's great and I loved it all over again, though this time round I felt it had dated more than I thought it would, and I found Gina McKee so wooden (only one facial expression throughout) that I couldn't see why both Nicky and Tosker didn't find someone a bit less po-faced.

Daniel Craig's Geordie has the saddest story; it's heartbreaking, and he plays it perfectly.




Film: Mrs Lowry & Son

5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Timothy Spall stars as L S Lowry, the 1930s Lancashire painter who captured the working class life around him, and Vanessa Redgrave as the manipulative mother around whom his life centred, albeit in a not uncomplicated fashion.  Delightful, sad, touching and funny, often in the same few minutes.



Film: Ford vs Ferrari

4.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Matt Damon and Christian Bale star in the early 1960s true story of Ken Miles and Carroll Shelby, who offer their services to Ford so that they might win the Le Mans 24 hour race against Ferrari, for the first time in history - but they must also battle against the huge might of the Ford corporation.  Very good, exciting, touching in places, and Damon and Bale are as good as you would expect - yes, I liked it a lot, though Bale and his wife's English accents varied between middle-class educated, South Yorkshire, West Midlands and Liverpudlian, and the odd bit of Australian throughout.

For TWD addicts - Jon Bernthal co-stars as a Ford marketing guy! 




Series: Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

4.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I'm over a decade late to the party with this one - in a spin-off from the Terminator films, Lena Headey (Cersei in Game of Thrones) stars as the mother of the son who will lead the army against the machines that will take over the world.  Recently watched this along with all the Terminator films, a couple of which I hadn't seen before.  I love the premise: that warriors from not very far into the future have to come back to stop disaster happening, that one decision made can affect the future, but as events keep being altered, there are more than one or two realities.  

Shame they stopped it after S2 - I hear it's on many lists of 'Shows that never should have been cancelled'.




Documentary film: Joy Division

4.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐

About the band of the same name.  Very well done, with members of the band interviewed.  Made me understand more about the troubled soul of Ian Curtis.

The link below is actually the whole thing, on Youtube.



Series: Cobra (Season 1)  Sky One and Now TV

4* ⭐⭐⭐⭐

A solar storm causes nationwide power outtages in the UK, and Prime Minister Robert Carlyle has to deal with the subsequent civil unrest in the North East and all sorts of troubles on the domestic front, too, mostly caused by his excruciatingly irritating daughter.  I was excited about the concept, though the fall-out from the storm turned out to be not as disastrous as I'd hoped.  It's good, I enjoyed it, and it looks like there might be another season.



 
Film: Terminator: Dark Fate

4* ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The latest Terminator film.  If you like them, you'll like this.  Arnie is back, and hilarious.  This one is kick-ass heroine-orientated, it being of its time. 




Film: The Good Liar

4* ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Betty (Helen Mirren) and Roy (Ian McKellen) meet on a dating website for those in their twilight years - but Roy has a hidden agenda.  It's an interesting plot with twist after twist, and Mirren and McKellan (particularly the latter) are as highly watchable as one would expect; I found it a little too contrived/unlikely in places, though.  I know this sounds a bit rich coming from someone who has just been watching all the Terminator films, but belief-suspension is entirely personal!



Film: Long Shot

3.5* ⭐⭐⭐

Romantic comedy.  Geeky journalist Seth Rogen reunites with his childhood sweetheart Charlize Theron, who is now the US Secretary of State.  Escapist fun, worth watching, though not memorable.




Film: The Wave

3.5* ⭐⭐⭐

Chap with tedious and demanding wife succumbs to a night out on the town with his party animal friend, and his life is never the same again after he takes a type of hallucinogenic drug previously unknown to man.  Amusing, passes a fairly pleasant two hours, but nothing to write home about.




Series: We Are The Wave 

3* ⭐⭐⭐

Feisty German teens form a group to fight against social injustice, mostly in a rather cringe-inducing fashion.  Fairly entertaining and well-dubbed into English, but the characters were a little too nauseating for me.  I think YAs will love it, though.  If that doesn't sound too patronising.