Month: December 2012

December 18, 2012

Happy Holidays: Jackie Brown

Jackie Brown – Comeback

Pam Grier was a big star in the 1970s.  I mean she was Foxy Brown (the original Foxy Brown, not this one, even though this one did have something to do with the following film) and Coffy.  She was the epitome of “the baddest bitch” (and not this shit either).  Pardon my language, after dealing with Tarantino flicks for the past two weeks I finally feel like I’m getting into character.  The novice Tarantino head will consider either “Pulp Fiction” or “Inglorious Basterds” his masterpiece (for the record I have no issues whatsoever with either film, they are both fantastic in their own rights) but “Jackie Brown” from 1997 is by far Tarantino’s most accomplished effort and showed a master at work, in complete control of his cast and story while developing an alternate universe that paralleled, or maybe even intersected at times, his “Pulp”and “Reservoir Dog,” universe.

A comeback can come in many shapes and sizes.  For “Brown” this was a comeback of sorts for both Grier and Robert Forster (who was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance) and also Tarantino himself.  Between the time “Pulp Fiction” premiered in 1994 and the release of “Brown,” QT had hit some rough times.  Have you ever seen “Destiny Turns on the Radio“? And while “Four Rooms” was decent enough it was still a bomb.  Come 1997, he had a lot to prove, and by God, he proves it.

Like any great genre film, the plot is simple, yet complex.  We have an airline stewardess, played by Grier, who works for a small-time pimp and drug-runner named Ordell Robbie, played by Samuel L. Jackson (and for my money the best performance of his career).  Two ATF agents bust the stewardess and she heads to prison.  Enter the middle-age bail bondsman, who falls head over heels for our stewardess who has a plan to put an end to Robbie’s career.  We have twists, double and triple-crosses, and enough quirky characters and quotable lines to shake a stick, or an AK-47, at.  “Brown” is an exercise in blaxplotation for the mod-set.

What makes “Brown” special is the fact that normally when books are taken and transformed from the written word to the silver screen, it’s never done as good and you always hear the same comment, “the book was better.”  Well, when the author of said book that you are adapting says that this is his favorite adaptation of his work, you got something good.  “Brown” is based on Elmore Leonard’s novel “Rum Punch” from 1992.  You might remember another Leonard novel that was adapted shortly before “Brown,” which was “Get Shorty” from 1995, starring John Travolta, who was Vincent Vega in “Pulp Fiction.”  It’s the circle of life baby.

Overall, if you want the perfect Tarantino flick to check out during the holidays, or anytime for that matter, it has to be “Jackie Brown.”  While it might be the most unappreciated of his film repertoire, it’s an exercise in writing, acting, and direction at the genre’s best.

Fun Fact:  Have you ever payed close attention in “Pulp Fiction” to the music faintly played (between 2:30-2:35) in the hallway where Jules and Vincent are discussing foot massages?  That song is “Strawberry Letter 23” which you can also hear in this scene in “Jackie Brown.”

December 16, 2012

Happy Holidays: Love Actually

WARM

Full disclosure.  I’m not the biggest fan of the holiday season.  I pretty much peter out after Thanksgiving and pray for New Years to start.  Pretty sure me and the Grinch are cousins.  Full disclosure.  I’m not the biggest fan of romantic films.  They are generally very color by numbers predictable or tragic for tragedy’s sake.  So, imagine my surprise when a film came along that combined both of my dislikes and still managed to knock my socks off.  Love Actually is that film.  For years I’ve held it up as my favorite, most watchable chic flick and my second favorite Christmas movie.  I’ll get to the first later.  No matter how many times I watch it, I’m left with a WARM feeling that actually gets me in the holiday spirit…if only for a little while.

Love Actually comes to us from writer and, then, first time director Richard Curtis of Bridget Jones’s Diary and Four Weddings and a Funeral fame.  The film is a collection of interwoven stories that explores the different aspects of love during the Christmas Season.  The stories range from slapstick comedy to heartfelt drama.  Some are hit and some are miss.  As a whole, however, they all compliment each other perfectly.

Love Actually set the ensamble films bar too high for puke inducing copycats like He’s Just Not That Into You, Valentine’s Day and New Years Eve to come close to reaching.  Ggack!  Just reading the titles of those films almost made me throw up a little.  You might think Love Actually out does those films because the quality of actors in it are amazing.  Liam Neeson, Alan Rickman, Colin Firth, Hugh Grant, Keira Knightly, Martin Freeman, Bill Nighy, Emma Thompson, Laura Linney, Rowan Atkinson and many more.  However, I think its because Curtis just knows how to use his talent in the proper way.  Each actor is the right fit for their roles.  They aren’t haphazardly thrown in to parts that we’re forced to accept because they’re Zach Efron or Taylor Swift.  If each side story were a full length film, the actor in place would still be properly cast.  The film, as a result, thrives because of these performances.  Especially those by Neeson, Rickman and Thompson.

Neeson’s story about a suddenly widowed husband and his stepson is the most dramatic driving force in the film.  It is an almost frightening coincidence that this scenario would actually happen to Neeson later in life.  The story is extremely well done and has a rare great child actor performance in Thomas Sangster.  Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson’s tale about a waning marriage and infidelity always evokes a different feeling in me every time I watch it.  You should really hate Rickman for straying from his wife.   However, Curtis presents the circumstances in such understandable way that you’ll find yourself sympathizing.  Though, the tale that is sure to put a smile on your face has to be the one about Bill Nighy’s aging rock star Billy Mack.  Of all the stories that I wished had a full length film or sequel, it would be Mack’s.  Nighy’s obvious nods to Mick Jagger and his brazen attitude toward those around him are easily the comedy high points of the film.

Love Actually is a great film to see if you want to feel good about Christmas but avoid the overly cliched shlock we’re usually bombarded with.  I’ve made a habit of watching it every year.  I, then, immediately plop on Die Hard right after in order to keep my man card.  What?  Its my favorite Christmas film.  Don’t judge me.  Watch it…watch your heart grow three sizes that day…plop on Die Hard after just to be safe…then tell me I’m wrong.

December 15, 2012

Crappy Holidays: The Shooting in Newtown, Connecticut

*This is purely a commentary on the tragedy in Newtown, CT.  In no way do I condemn the 1st and 2nd Amendment, or any amendment of the Constitution.  Now is the time to reflect and be with friends and family, especially during this holiday season.*

This is Matthew Stewart from Simplistic Reviews.  On behalf of Simplistic Reviews and my two friends and co-reviewers, DJ Valentine and Justin Polizzi, I would like to send my heartfelt sympathy and compassion to all the fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, grandparents, and friends affected by the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.  This is another tragic reminder that we continue to live in a dangerous and jaded society where it’s not only easy to obtain a gun (either through theft or legal means) and that mental illness and its treatment are sadly undervalued in this country.

Yes, people have drive and desire, and will do anything to get their point across, no matter how sick and deplorable it might be. However, you can’t tell me with a straight face that Adam Lanza, the individual that carried out an atrocity that killed nearly 30 people, including 20 children between the ages of 5-10 years old, wasn’t in need of some help. Yes, I do not know the facts of the crime at this point, and none of us will ever know what was going through his mind before, during, and after his crime was committed, but when will Washington, both Democrats and Republicans, see that we obviously have a problem in this country with the ability to obtain guns so easily and with our healthcare system for the mentally ill.

*Link to Review for Elephant*

I recently had my grandfather pass away nearly two weeks ago and I attended his funeral last Saturday.  It was a sad day for my family.  It always hurts to lose a love one, but imagine losing your child, at school, during the holiday season.  Imagine you get a call from an emergency official that you need to hurry down to the school you just dropped your son or daughter off.  You gave them a kiss and a hug before they jumped out of the car and handed them their lunch.  “I love you, I’ll see you at 2 o’clock.”  No, that parent will never see their child alive again.  No more walks to the park to play on the big yellow slide or fly a kite.  You won’t get to see their face when they open their gifts on Christmas or Hanukkah, or ride their bike for the first time.  You won’t see them walk down the aisle at their high school and college graduation, or their wedding.  Families have been broken, forever.

This isn’t the time to discuss politics, we need to have respect for the families and friends who have lost their innocence and loved ones.  Reporters also need to have respect for the children and families and lay off the old adage “If it bleeds, it leads.”

Will we have another tragedy of this magnitude in the future?  Unfortunately, we will.  Its sad to say that, but if you’re prepared to accept the truth, the action will be just a little easier to swallow.  I’m not a father or a brother to a much younger sibling (my sister is 24 right now) and in no way can I comprehend the gravity of this horrific event, but as a society we can’t let this stop us from living our lives.  We can’t shut ourselves off to the world or stick our head in the sand.  Our kids will continue to go to school, we’ll continue to go to the movies, we’ll continue to live.  Hug your kids, love your family, but also tell them what happened.  Make them aware of the world that they live in is a dangerous and at times, unforgiving place.  Be honest with them, and treat them like kids, but with a little more respect.  Kids are smarter than we give them credit for, even the ones that run into plate glass windows and blow spit bubbles.  Be the parent that will tell them the truth and prepare them for the world they are going to inherit one day.  The tragedy is that the parents of 20 children will not be able to tell their children the same.

If you would like to help the families and the community of Newtown, CT, please click here to find out how to assist. 

December 13, 2012

Happy Holidays: Pulp Fiction

Pulp Fiction – Coolest

Okay, you’re the new kid on the block, you just wowed people in Sundance and Cannes with “Reservoir Dogs,” you completed a script for “True Romance” and worked on a script with Oliver Stone for “Natural Born Killers.”  What do you do next if you’re Quentin Tarantino?  Well, you help resurrect John Travolta’s career, create a film that will change cinema forever, and turn Samuel L. Jackson into a Hollywood leading man (of sorts).  You simply create “Pulp Fiction,” for my money, the coolest film ever made.

To create the coolest film ever, you have to start with a cast, and “Fiction” gives a Woody Allen movie a run for its money cast-wise.  From Eric Stoltz, to Christopher Walken, and everyone in-between, you could say that everyone in this film gives the performances of their lives.  No one is mailing it in, and while some of the dialogue might come off a bit hokey and a little too noir-ish, the actors are giving it with conviction and believability.

To keep the cool factor going, you have to know you’re genre, and in Tarantino’s case, he uses every genre he’s ever loved and it shows.  You have blaxploitation, exploitation, french new wave, action, rape-revenge, buddy movie, the list can go on and on.  While you can call “Pulp” a drama film, I’d almost like to call it a homage to the essence of film.  It’s the best of what the genre can be in a tight 2 hour and 50 minute package.

As a side note, as much as people look into the film for it’s religious undertones, (Marcellus Wallace is the Devil, and Vincent and Jules are sent to get his soul back) get off of that already.  At the roots, “Pulp” is a grindhouse film at its best, and looking for deeper meaning in a grindhouse film is like looking for a virgin in the Catholic Church.  Get off your high horse cinephiles, for all we know it’s Wallace’s dirty laundry in the briefcase and it’s yellow because he pissed all over it.  Boom!  Mystery solved.

As for the plot of “Pulp” it goes a little like this.  Two hitman, Vincent and Jules, are sent by their boss, Marcellus Wallace, to procure a package from four men in an apartment.  Needless to say things get bloody, and both Vince and Jules need to lay low and dispose of a headless corpse in a trunk.  The plot moves to a series of vignettes that involve Vince, a boxer named Butch, played by Bruce Willis (I would also call this film a comeback of sorts for Willis as well) and a date with Vince and Wallace’s wife, Mia.  Needless to say, things don’t go so well with that either.  Moving along Butch pulls a fast one on Wallace when he doesn’t throw a boxing match in which Wallace loses a great deal of cash.  While Butch plots his escape from Los Angeles he gets sidetracked in the search for his missing gold watch.  Not to sound like a broken record but things turn sour for Vince, Butch, and Wallace himself.  Just like Tarantino’s previous outing, “Reservoir Dogs” the story is told in a non-linear fashion that keeps you guessing and even when characters meet their end you still end up seeing them again.

While many call “Pulp” the best film in Tarantino’s repertoire; it’s a tough call for me.  It’s groundbreaking in the development of indie cinema throughout the 1990s, and proved that good writing can be both dramatic, smart, cheesy, and funny as hell, but I’ll cover my favorite film of his in a future review.  Tarantino turned the mundane conversations of what they call Whoppers in Paris into high art and created a cultural zeitgeist.  He turned the inhuman into people that we can relate to, and while there is a good amount of violence in “Pulp” it never feels gory or overdone in a way that seems unneeded to move the story along.

You know how when you were a kid and you would tell someone “Hey, if you looked up the definition of stupid you’d find a picture of you next to it.”  Well, if you looked up coolest you would find a picture of Samuel L Jackson holding a 9mm with Tarantino standing behind him like a proud parent.

Fun Fact:  Recognize who played the waiter Buddy at Jack Rabbit Slims?  Well, that was Steve Buscemi, who played Mr. Pink in “Reservoir Dogs.”

December 12, 2012

Happy Holidays: Word Association 2nd Edition

In this excerpt from the inaugural episode of the Simplistic Reviews Podcast, Justin Polizzi volunteers to play Word Association.  Find out how he does.

December 10, 2012

Happy Holidays: Reservoir Dogs

Reservoir Dogs – Cool

Disclaimer:  Reviews this month will either be listed as Crappy or Happy Holidays.  This in no way is saying that certain movies are bad or good, but rather will make you feel good or happy, or depressed or crappy, but on occasion crappy will mean just that, a big pile of crap.  Glad we cleared that up, now enjoy the reviews.

20 years ago I was eight years old, and Quentin Tarantino had made his first film and it was playing at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah.  Being eight I was more interested in Nintendo, Saturday Morning Cartoons, and watching “The Goonies” for the 100th time.  Tarantino in no way had been engrained into my brain….yet.  Come 1994, “Pulp Fiction” is released.  I’m still a little too young to fully grasp that two movies had been made within two years of each other that would change the way I thought, wrote, and viewed film.  But more on that later, let me tell you why “Reservoir Dogs” is the coolest movie to grace cinema in the last 20 years.

This past Tuesday I went to my local multiplex to see “Dogs” as it was intended, on the big screen (thank you Fathom events for giving audiences the chance to see classic movies again in a theater setting).  It was quite an experience to think this is how people were watching this same movie 20 years ago at Sundance or even Cannes.  It was incredible to be honest.  The crowd looked a little young, like scenester hipster kids who just heard about QT after “Inglorious Basterds.”  But I digress.

“Dogs” is the tale of six strangers handpicked by crime boss Joe Cabot, played by Lawrence Tierney, to hold up a jewelry store and steal a large stash of diamonds.  Without fail, the heist turns sour with several of the men getting killed and the survivors questioning what happened, and thinking that one of the crooks might actually be a police informant.  Simple right?  Well, it actually is a relatively common plot device used in crime films, but Tarantino weaves a narrative that is anything but.

The main thing that sets Tarantino’s movies apart from other common fare is the narrative construction that moves forward and backwards through time with ease.  Sure, flashbacks are used where we meet Mr. White, played by Harvey Keitel, Mr. Blonde, played with maniacal perfection by Michael “why don’t I get more work in Hollywood” Madsen, and Tim Roth as Mr. Orange, but the non-linear storyline was something relatively new in Hollywood 20 years ago, and while many try to duplicate it, rarely can anyone replicate it like Tarantino.

Normally in films with murderous criminals we don’t feel remorse or anything in common with them, but its funny that as soon as these criminals open their mouths and start talking about the meaning of a Madonna song, why tipping in a restaurant is a biased idea, or whether Pam Grier played the role of Christie Love, you forget that these guys are bad guys because they talk just like you and I.  This is another trademark of Tarantino; he makes you feel empathy for characters that can be supremely evil and sadistic, and by sharing a common bond, such as love for Blaxplotation movies, or music from the 1970s, you feel a kinship, which is incredible even while someone is having their ear cut off with a straight razor.

While “Dogs” might not be Tarantino’s magnum opus (I’ll reserve that for another review upcoming), it still stands as a touchstone for independent film in the early 1990s, and encouraged young filmmakers to go out and try their hands at movie-making.  Without “Dogs” you probably wouldn’t have movies like “The Usual Suspects,”  “The Way of the Gun,” or “Lucky Number Slevin.”  While all of those films are cool, they will never have the far-reaching influence of “Reservoir Dogs.”

Fun Fact:  A reference to a female thief named “Alabama” is made by Joe Cabot to Mr. White.  You might remember another female criminal named Alabama Whitman from the Tarantino-penned “True Romance” from 1993. 

December 10, 2012

Crappy Holidays: The Man With The Iron Fists

CONVOLUTED 

I am usually in favor of the person at the helm of a particular genre film loving the material they are making.  You put Joss Whedon, a man who has comic book blood running through his veins, in charge of The Avengers, you get a film that is highly enjoyable to the uninitiated while still respecting and indulging the built in fan base.  You put Marc Webb, who is known mostly for music videos and 500 Days Of Summer, in charge of Spider-Man, you get a Twilight-esque, tweentastic, crapfest that commits every single atrocity a superhero film critic uses to devalue the genre.  So, I was very interested when I heard RZA, a man who has loved martial arts films his entire life, was actually doing one.  Unfortunately, The Man With The Iron Fists turns out to be a film with good intentions but poor execution.

For those who don’t know, RZA is a founding member of the 90s rap group The Wu Tang Clan.  Watching any of their videos or listening to any of their song lyrics should illustrate how much he is into martial arts films.  Fellow martial arts film fan Quentin Tarantino even sought RZA’s help to pick out the proper songs for his film Kill Bill Volume 1.  A friendship grew and led to many collaborations.  The culmination would be RZA’s seven year dream project The Man With The Iron Fists.  RZA wrote the script under the watchful eye of Tarantino and fellow friend Eli Roth, and took on directing duties himself.  With all that history and love, with all those helping hands, it is a shame that the film itself turns out to be such a CONVOLUTED mess.  There are so many storylines happening at once with so many vaguely explained characters, you’ll be hard pressed to follow along.  This weakens any stakes the film tries to set up and creates nothing but confusion for the audience.  I’m a pretty attentive guy when it comes to movies, but even I found myself muttering “Is that guy a good guy or a bad guy?” more often than not.  Robert Rodriguez’s films Planet Terror and Machete stumbled into the same problem.  However, those films have a tongue and cheek approach throughout that distracts you from their overly confusing plots.  The Man With The Iron Fist is not light enough to excuse the clutter.

So, why bombard the audience?  I believe RZA does this in a futile effort to world-build.  To create a universe that he can transport us to and manipulate it’s rules.  However, he is not nearly as experienced enough of a filmmaker to do that.  To really pull this film off he’d have to have the scope creating skills of a Chris Nolan or an Ang Lee with the character creation understanding of a Quentin Tarantino or a Guy Ritchie.  He does not.  He would have been better off making this script simple.  A revenge flick or an epic quest.  Not a Shaw Brothers version of Snatch.

The performances are a mishmash as well.  You have RZA as the lead playing everything completely straight, while Russell ‘Why The Hell Am I Here?’ Crowe clowns around like its an SNL sketch.  Now, I can’t completely blame RZA for Crowe’s performance.  I’m not sure how much direction a hip hop mogul can seriously give an Oscar winner before being laughed off his own set.  It might have been a better idea to just have unknowns in these parts to give RZA more control over the performances.  That or have producer Eli Roth direct the film outright.  His lack of understanding in how to direct his talent shows. 

The one positive I can give The Man With The Iron Fists is that its nice to look at.  The cinematography is descent and the action scenes are very fun.  How much of it was RZA and how much of it was stunt choreographer Corey Yuen and Eli Roth is debatable.  The CGI feels slightly out of place at times, but not any more than the hip hop soundtrack. 

The Man With The Iron Fists is the text book example of someone biting off more than they can chew.  RZA is a gigantic fan of the martial arts film genre and you can see his love for it buried underneath the chaos.  However, a more tempered and measured approach to the story and direction could have possibly helped make a better film.  If you want to see this done right, watch Kill Bill Volume 1 or 2.  If you want to see it done not so right…drink some honey nectar…watch The Man With The Iron Fists…then tell me I’m wrong. 

December 9, 2012

The Simplistic Reviews Podcast: November 2012

Welcome all to the inaugural Simplistic Reviews Podcast.  This is something that we had been planning for a while, and we finally got it done.  This edition we talk James Bond, namely, his newest adventure “Skyfall,” and remember some of his greatest villains and which James Bond theme song speaks to us.  Not in that creepy way that your uncle used to when he was drunk during Thanksgiving.

We also talk TV, where DJ explains why “Arrow” is his newest guilty pleasure, Justin talks about balls dropping, and why Jewish people aren’t allowed to watch “Mad Men,” while Matt asks “Why is AMC so stupid!”

We also wonder “What is it about Ghost Dad that gets our motors revving?” And “What was Morgan Freeman really doing during his voice over sessions on “March of the Penguins?”

All this and more on The Simplistic Reviews Podcast for November 2012.

Click on the link below to download the podcast and enjoy folks!
FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY.

 Click HERE to listen to podcast
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December 6, 2012

Happy Holidays: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

SLEEPER

Robert Downey Jr. is one of the most iconic actors working in film today.  He has solidified himself in the role of Tony Stark the same way Christopher Reeves did with Clark Kent.  But that wasn’t the expectation at first.  Jon Favreau had to fight with Marvel to get Downey Jr. in the role that put their studio on the map.  Whether it was because of drug problems, legal problems, or relevancy problems, Downey Jr. was a hard sell.  However, Favreau fought for him anyway.  Why?  I like to think Favreau stumbled upon the 2005 SLEEPER Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.  A film that was the catalyst for Downey Jr.’s reemergence, but also excellent on it’s own merits. 
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a novel adaption from veteran writer and freshman director Shane Black.  Don’t know who that is?  Well, perhaps you weren’t alive during the late eighties or early nineties and never saw any of the Lethal Weapons, The Long Kiss Goodnight, Last Action Hero, or The Last Boy Scout.  Perhaps you only heard of him when he was named as the writer/director of Iron Man 3 and were puzzled by the choice.  For the former, I recommend you do some netflixing.  For the latter, the notoriously known script Nazi Robert Downey Jr. approved him for Iron Man 3 because of their work together on Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.  Black just gets Downey Jr.’s voice and vice versa.  The Tony Stark we know and love might have been born through this collaboration. 

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a crime comedy of mistakes and unusual circumstances.  Very similar to, but not as blissfully odd as The Big Lebowski.  A funny coincidence, seeing as the stars of both starred together in the 1st Iron Man film.  Instead of a genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist, Downey Jr. plays a petty thief with an affinity for magic who is mistakenly recruited to solve a mystery.  Trust me, the journey you take to get there is so worth the trip.  You will find yourself laughing one moment and riveted the next.

Like The Big Lebowski, it isn’t really the plot that makes Kiss Kiss Bang Bang good.  It’s the performances.   Robert Downey Jr. is of course great.  He’s charming, witty, snarky, and surprisingly moving in some moments.  It is hard to have a film with narration, especially not done by Morgan Freeman, that avoids being pretentious and out of place.  Downey Jr.’s narration succeeds with that and turns out as one of the most funny and original ones you’ll ever hear.  His costars, no matter how small their roles, are solid.  None more so than Val Kilmer.  This is my favorite Val Kilmer role.  Yes, even more than Iceman.  Gay Perry is an amazing character that could have easily been botched.  However, Kilmer nails every single line he has.  His chemistry with Downey Jr. is magnetic.  I personally would kill to have a sequel with these two.  The greatness of Kilmer’s exchanges with Downey Jr. rivals Jude Law’s and even Gwyneth Paltrow’s
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a SLEEPER comedy that many moviegoers may have missed.  Those that finally do see it, more often than not, come away asking themselves, “Why haven’t I seen this film before?”  Watch it…ask yourself that question…then tell me I’m wrong.  

December 4, 2012

Simplistic TV Happy Holidays: The Walking Dead Mid-season Finale

The Walking Dead, Season Three Mid-season Finale – Preparation

*Caution, spoilers ahead*

Whoa, well, that was one way to end a mid-season finale.  Through eight episodes of Season Three of “The Walking Dead” you can tell that AMC has taken the gloves off, and their wallets out, and told Robert Kirkman and his crew, “Look, “Breaking Bad” is ending, “Mad Men” only takes places in an office building, here is the cash that you need, and deserve.”  Basically, two-and-a-half seasons of preparation is coming together and come February 2013 I believe all Walking Dead fans will be very happy with AMC as they are finally figuring out a show that seemed to be aimless a year ago.

If you’re a comic book reader, which I’m not, I’m sure there are many things that you might like or dislike about this season, but as simply a TV watcher, I’m thoroughly enjoying myself and like the way the journey is shaping out.  The secrets of the prison are slowly being unraveled, and speaking of unraveled, the sanity of Rick seems to be heading in that direction after the death of his wife Lori, and birth of his daughter who I’ll just join Daryl in calling, “Asskicker.”

We finally meet The Governor, played by David Morrissey, and he lives up the hype as one of the greatest villians in comic book history.  He runs the town of Woodbury with not so much an iron fist, but a smile and brass knuckles behind his back.  He’s charming enough for you to trust him, but one misgiving and he’ll be feeding you to the”biters” or collecting your head to save in his zombified fish tank trophy room.  I did find myself feeling sorry for him when his daughter was killed by Michonne, which tells you how effective Morrissey is at playing the sociopathic Governor, but then you remember that he was one move away from raping Maggie while Glenn listened in the other room.

Merle Dixon also makes his grand appearance after his mysterious disappearance in Season One.  He’s almost in more piece and is now rocking a spiffy hand knife that would make Captain Hook blush.  What’s interesting about Merle is that while he is a blood thirsty, racist, psychotic redneck he still cares for his wayward brother, Daryl, and never gives up hope of finding him.  Given the way Episode 8 ended, will Daryl and Merle’s bond become stronger or will it break as the two brothers are forced to make a decision that will change one of their camp’s lives forever.  Even better is that fact that neither exist in the comic books so even die-hard fans don’t really know what will become of the Dixon brothers going forward.

What got me excited is the introduction of another gang of survivors lead by Tyreese, played by Chad Coleman, who you might remember as Cutty from “The Wire.” I remember hearing the casting choice and I thought it was spot on just reading about the character from the comic book, but not really knowing what will become of him in the future and if his and Rick’s camp can co-exist, given the looming menace of The Governor.

Overall, the first half of the season has been solid.  With a budget, good writing, and strong performances from all characters, even Carl, who I’m starting to warm up to now, the next eight episodes should be something to behold.  I hope you’ve been preparing  for the zombie Apocalypse, because it should be a hell of a ride.

Fun Fact:  This isn’t Chad Coleman’s first rodeo with the undead.  He provided the voice over talent for the character “Coach” in Left for Dead 2. 

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