The Culture Cast with Zack and Nick

Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!

Survivor: Cagayan – Season 28, Episode 9 – Bag of Tricks

Tony is unpredictable. Tony is not to be trusted. Tony is playing a scorched earth game. But Tony, unlike Russell Hantz in previous seasons, has not played a hateful game of Survivor, at least not until tonight. His move tonight greatly resembles a classic Hantz blunder, and I feel it could cost Tony not only the trust of his remaining alliance members, but also ultimately the game itself. As the episode opens, we are treated to Tony thanking Spencer for the “compliment” of voting for him at the previous week’s Tribal Council. Though Tony wants people to think that he’s flattered by being a threat in the game, he is actually quite paranoid that he will be voted out. This sets the stage for the rest of the episode, and it’s not particularly comfortable to watch unfold.

Tony and Woo discuss a possible blindside on tonight's episode of Survivor.

Tony and Woo discuss a possible blindside on tonight’s episode of Survivor.

After Tony’s post-TC tirade, he plans to set in motion a secret L.J. ouster. He sees L.J. as a huge threat, rightfully so, in the game. Tony feels like making L.J. the main target will take some heat off of his own back. Again, he’s right about this, but Tony also doesn’t factor in that L.J. is in his own alliance, L.J. is 100% trustworthy, and L.J. has absolutely no reason to backstab Tony at this point in the game. Tony is playing too hard, and he reasons that planting the idea of a Woo blindside in L.J.’s head counts as L.J. backstabbing the alliance. Thus, Tony will now be able to vote L.J. out of the game without feeling guilty about it. It’s a messed up logic, but Tony’s a messed up player. I can’t tell whether he’s a genius or just utterly insane.

At the Reward Challenge, teams are divided into groups of three. The groups will face off against each other in another puzzle/maze hybrid. The winning team will receive a day of luxury including a shower, massage, and chicken wrap meal. The winning team ends up being Tony, Jeremiah, and Spencer. Tony uses the time with the two men in order to plant the seed of an L.J. blindside in their heads, hoping that allying with them now will reap rewards for his game in the future. Spencer, meanwhile, points out in a confessional that Tony is not to be trusted. Spencer, Jeremiah, and Tasha don’t really have anything to lose, however.

Speaking of Tasha, back at the beach she attempts to pull L.J. aside and talk strategy with him. He doesn’t want to, however, noting that a side conversation with Tasha will only continue to fuel Tony’s paranoia. Tony spends a considerable amount of time shoring up his secret vote plan against L.J. by lying to Woo and trying to get Trish on his side. Trish is no dummy, however, and feels that splitting up the alliance of six would be a bad idea for them at this point. Tony seems to relent a bit but still can’t get the idea of an L.J. blindside out of his head.

The Reward Challenge is a classic game of Survivor memory, where host Jeff Probst picks a series of colors, and the tribe members must individually recall the colors in order. The battle comes down to a showdown between Tasha and L.J., with Tasha pulling off the victory. This all but seals L.J.’s fate, even if he doesn’t realize it yet. At Tribal Council, he reiterates to Jeff the importance of the alliance of six, and even though the women stick to their word, Tony and Woo flip and vote L.J. out of the game, much to soon as well. I will miss his handsome horse trainer-ness. In the process, Tony becomes a huge villain in the game, and it appears as if this needless blindside might be the difference between him winning or losing the game.

-Z-

Garfield: The Movie

Today is my friend Mandy’s birthday. To honor that, I am going to look at the film version of one of her favorite cartoon strips: Garfield: The Movie. Starring Breckin Meyer, Jennifer Love Hewitt, and Bill Murry (as the voice of Garfield), this film gets a lot of flak. Heck, it even has a 15% on Rotten Tomatoes. That isn’t a good sign.

But, here’s the thing: I don’t think the movie is that bad. It isn’t great by any means, but I don’t think it entirely deserves the reputation is has built for itself.garfield

In Garfield: The Movie, we find the titular lasagna-eating fat cat trying to deal with Odie, the new dog that Garfield’s owner brought home. Garfield continuously is trying to make life hard for the dog, but then goes a step too far when his actions indirectly cause Odie to be stolen by a nefarious television host who hopes to use Odie’s show-stealing talents for his own gain. Feeling guilty, Garfield now has to track down Odie.

The story isn’t the most original, and there are lots of clichés. Surprisingly, it doesn’t bother me all that much. When I sat down to watch this a few years back (it was on TV and I was too lazy to change the channel), I was expecting the absolute worst. Maybe because my expectations were so low that I couldn’t possibly be disappointed. The movie, at worst, is inoffensive. Kids would be entertained. Is that really so bad? There are much worse movies out there for kids.

There are some strange bits in the movie. Garfield is a CGI creation, which makes sense. Yet, all the other animals are real. Even the ones who talk. Why? Wouldn’t it have made more sense for all the pets to be in the same animated style as Garfield? Maybe the budget couldn’t afford it.

And the film also suffers from the “hey, let’s be edgy with pop-culture references!” syndrome that a lot of these adaptations have. Did we really need a Black-Eyed-Peas song to pop up? Or Garfield to sing and dance to “I Got You”? Probably not.

Garfield: The Movie isn’t revolutionary, but it isn’t terrible. It is light entertainment that can be easily digested and disposed of. I suppose a lot of the disappointment that came with this film has to do with people wanting it to be better. I can get behind that argument. Garfield is up there with Charlie Brown and Snoopy by being one of the most beloved comic strip characters out there. If you are going to do a movie, you better get it right and it better be good. There were a lot of misfires this film made, but at the end of the day, Garfield: The Movie can be enjoyed for what it is.

~N

Trivia: Bill Murray supplies the voice of Garfield. Garfield was originally voiced by Lorenzo Music in a series of TV specials in the 80s and 90s. Lorenzo Music also voiced Peter Venkman in The Real Ghostbusters cartoon – a character Bill Murray, of course, originated in 1984’s Ghostbusters.

Trek Tuesday: Roots: The Gift

Everyone knows about Roots. It is probably the biggest television event of the 1970s. It starred a young LeVar Burton (TNG’s Geordi LaForge) among other celebrated actors. But did you know that there was a sequel titled Roots: The Next Generations in 1979? It chronicled the latter half of Alex Haley’s novel (the original mini-series covered the first). The Next Generation wasn’t as popular as the first, but was still a ratings winner.

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But, of course television producers couldn’t leave well enough alone and in 1988 (During Star Trek: The Next Generation second season), a spin-off TV movie of sorts titled Roots: The Gift aired. It starred Burton again with other original Roots cast member Louis Gossett Jr. The Gift takes place during the events of the original mini-series.

You might be asking, “Nick, where is this all going? And what does it have to do with Star Trek?” Good question. Here’s the answer. Roots: The Gift had an enormous Star Trek connection. Yes, it had LeVar Burton, but it also starred Avery Brooks (DS9’s Captain Sisko), Kate Mulgrew (Voyager’s Captain Janeway), and Tim Russ (Voyager’s Tuvok). In the case of Brooks, Mulgrew, and Russ, this was years before they landed their respective Star Trek roles. The likely didn’t even think being on Star Trek was a possibility since in 1988. Star Trek: The Next Generation was still an unknown commodity.

Oddly enough, Loius Gossett Jr. never appeared on Star Trek in any capacity which strikes me as strange as an actor like him would be big enough for name recognition, but not too big where he would be priced out of Trek’s budget. Maybe the producers tried, and he turned them down. Who knows? He eventually appeared on Stargate SG-1, but that’s another story.

With The Gift, we see Kunta Kinte (Burton) and Fiddler (Gossett Jr.) come across a Moyer (Brooks) who is a free man from the north working with the Underground Railroad. Moyer is soon captured by a bounty hunter (Mulgrew) and thrown into slavery. After some reservations, Kunta and Fiddler help Moyer and other runaway slaves (who Moyer was aiding) escape. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough room on the boat to freedom, so Kunta and Fiddler are forced to remain on their plantation, but happy with what they have done. This all takes place on Christmas.

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While the original Roots is a television classic, The Gift is a bit strange. It tries to be a Christmas special, but it doesn’t really work on that level. The holiday element is forced and, to be honest, almost has a negative aspect to it (especially when Kunta and others are forced to play animals during a Christmas pageant). Plus, coming from Africa, why would Kunta really care at all about Christmas?

Also, for a series that tried (within 1970s broadcast standards’ reason) tried to be authenic when it came to the time period, why is Kate Mulgrew (33 at the time) in charge of a group of bounty hunters? Given the time period, there is no way that her age and gender would allow her to be in such a position (even if she did come from a well-off family).

The best part of this special is really the Star Trek connections before most of these people were on Star Trek. This really isn’t the strongest of all Christmas specials, and it is a bit of a black eye to the Roots saga. The performances are strong, particularly Brooks (which doesn’t surprise me at all).  But it just tries too hard.  It is the nerd-cred-in-hindsight that really makes this movie memorable.

~N

Fun Fact: Tim Russ was almost cast as Geordi. LeVar Burton, obviously, won the role. Russ then did a guest appearance on TNG before starting his run as Tuvok on Star Trek: Voyager (which also included a guest stint on DS9).

Speed Reading! – The Flash #29

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“Digging Up the Past, Part 3”

And now we come to conclusion of this three-issue arc and writer Brian Buccellato’s run on The Flash. I liked it. Nothing was inherently wrong with it, but the issue did leave me a bit wanting. While it did a fine job addressing the themes connected with Barry’s mother’s murder (stemming from the very early issues of the New 52 Flash), there was a lot story points explained through exposition in order to resolve everything by the end of the issue’s twenty pages.

This is really where this issue suffered. Part of me wonders if Buccellato’s story was a bit too complex to complete within three issues. A fourth would likely have allowed him to flesh out the resolution to the Broome Hill Killer murders and the secrets of Captain Frye. As it is, everything is just jammed packed with a lot of telling and not showing.

I really hate talking bad about it, because there is a lot of good here. I loved the supernatural aspect to this story. As I commented on during my review of issue 28, it is refreshing to see a different kind of Flash story than what I have been used to. I wish this could have been explored a little bit more as some stuff happens a bit too quickly to really absorb during a first-read through.

The other big narrative this issue delves into is Frye’s secret and how it connects with Barry. I am so happy that Frye is not Barry’s father. This has been hinted at going back to the first annual. Not that I mind a twist or anything like that, but having Frye turn out to be Barry’s dad would have been so clichéd, and Buccellato is a better writer than that. Thumbs up for not going down that route.

But, of course, with him now officially leaving The Flash, all the toys are put back into the box and the murder of Barry’s mother is still a mystery. Perhaps an even more mystery as it seems that Frye and Barry’s father know what happened. Apparently this is such a big deal, they need to keep it from Barry.

What is this secret? Who knows? Will the next creative team pick up on it? Who knows? Whatever the deal is, I really hope it isn’t dragged out for too long with endless teases that go nowhere. I know storytelling in comics are, generally, on-going and never-ending, but dangling a carrot for too long will just wind up angering a reader.

So, good-bye Brian Buccellato. I’ve really enjoyed you (and Francis Manapul’s) work on The Flash. It has really solidified my love for the character. If I am lucky enough, I will get a chance to meet him at C2E2 in a few weeks where I can embarrass myself by awkwardly telling him how I like his work. (ETA: turns out he cancelled his appearance. Bummer.). The new creative team has some big shoes to fill, but I’m looking forward to what they have to offer!

Next: Picking Up the Pieces

Game of Thrones – Season 4, Episode 2 – The Lion and the Rose

**Massive Spoilers – Be Warned**

Let it be said that no royal wedding in Westeros ever went smoothly. That should be the lesson we have learned from four seasons worth of Game of Thrones episode. Tonight’s wedding was, of course, no different from the embarrassing antics of the Tyrion/Sansa wedding or the horrifying madness of the Red Wedding last season. The impending marriage of Joffrey Baratheon to Margaery Tyrell had been building up since the end of season two, and it does not disappoint. It almost makes up for the continuing boring adventures of Bran Stark and his creepy friends up north (almost).

Joffrey finally marries Margaery in last night's episode of Game of Thrones.

Joffrey finally marries Margaery in last night’s episode of Game of Thrones.

Though the wedding was of main import in last night’s episode, we were also granted a scene explaining just what was going on with Theon Greyjoy last season. Held captive by a mysterious young man, we eventually learn that Theon was to be used a bargaining chip in a ransom and that his captor was none other than Ramsay Snow, bastard son of Roose Bolton. Yes, this was given away somewhat in the season finale at the end of the third season, but the exposition helps fill in some of the gaps, some of the stuff we weren’t really privy to.

Roose Bolton and his bannermen return to the Dreadfort from the Twins, having attended (and helped plan) the Red Wedding. Roose has been made Warden of the North, but Lord Balon Greyjoy still controls much of it. It was Ramsay’s job to use Theon to appease Balon and get the Greyjoys out of the north, but this did not go as planned. Ramsey instead humiliates and tortures Theon for an extended period of time, so much so that Theon is now known as “Reek” and serves as a slave to the Bolton family. Roose is less than pleased, but sends his bannermen, headed by Locke (the man who took Jaime Lannister’s hand last season), to Castle Black to find out the location of Bran and Rickon Stark, who were previously thought dead. See, that filled us all in, didn’t it?

Meanwhile, Bran is beyond the wall figuring out what he needs to do next. He’s been spending too much time as a “warg” controlling Summer, his direwolf. His two companions (I’ve forgotten their names and don’t care to look them up) warn him not to spend so much time like this, as it is likely he will begin to lose his humanity. At this moment they spot a strange tree much like the one found at Winterfell. Hodor carries Bran to the tree and has a vision of dragons flying over King’s Landing. A motivated Bran knows now where to head next, and the companions head off on their new adventure. Hopefully this story starts getting more interesting soon, because so far it’s been crap after crap.

The meat and potatoes in this episode obviously goes to the royal wedding in King’s Landing, where King Joffrey is to marry Margaery Tyrell. The events begin with a ceremony of wedding presents. Tyrion presents the young king with a book of the history of four important kings of Westeros. Joffrey uses another of his presents, a Valerian-steel sword, to chop the book in two, insulting his uncle and making a spectacle of himself. The symbolism here is a bit too obvious to even write down. Later, Tyrion orders Shae, his prostitute girlfriend, to leave King’s Landing, entrusting Bronn with the duty of carrying out the order. Though Bronn claims he followed through, there’s reason to believe he did not. Bronn also shares a scene with Jaime Lannister, teaching him to fight with his left hand.

The actual wedding itself is next, and it is an expensive and splendid affair. There’s food, wine, fire-breathers, musicians, and all the good stuff that comes with a royal wedding. We get some great banter between Oberyn Martell and Cersei Lannister, and even Loras gets in a good dig at Jaime (noting that Jaime will never be able to marry his sister, spoken in retort to a threat from Jaime). Tywin remarks about the expense of the wedding, and is reminded that the throne owes millions to the Iron Bank of the free cities, just to remind the audience that something might happen with that this season.

Throughout the entire ordeal, Joffrey is just a nightmare for anyone around him. He pays attendees to throw oranges at his fool. He throws a handful of gold at the musicians to get them to stop playing. He is irritable, impulsive, and irrational throughout the entire affair. He saves the best of his insults and childish behavior for belittling his uncle Tyrion, however. At one point he spills win over Tyrion’s head, and then makes his uncle be his cupbearer, intentionally kicking his golden goblet under the table, where Tyrion must fetch it in an embarrassing manner.

It is shocking still what happens next, however. After feasting on pigeon pie (a wedding tradition in King’s Landing I suppose), Joffrey takes a drink of wine, and then dies a horrible death, apparently poisoned. The suspect, Tyrion Lannister, is taken into custody by order of Queen Cersei, and the episode ends. An ignoble end for Joffrey that I did not see coming so early into the second season. I would have expected Joffrey’s death to be a bit more dramatic, to the point that I expected him to be stabbed a thousand times and then beheaded. To be honest, poisoning was probably a bit too good for Joffrey. But he’s dead now, and Tyrion is the main suspect. I imagine we’ll find out more next week.

-Z-

Star Wars: Legacy (Vol. 9) – Monster

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Like the previous collection, Monster contains two stories, with one being a larger tale and the other a single-issue. We first meet up with Admiral Stazi attempting to formalize an alliance with the Jedi. Of course they are attacked by the Imperials (well, the bad ones) and Stazi deals with an attempted assassination attack. While there isn’t much that goes on in the grand scheme of things, I liked it mostly because it makes me to continue to like Stazi more and more. He’s complex. Star Wars: Legacy has done a great job is holding up Stazi to be a trustworthy good guy who anyone would want to serve under. This tale starts to peel away the paint. There is a darker side to Stazi, but it is coupled well with his honor. He decides to execute his would-be assassin, but it seems clear that he would rather not (the assassin was forced into doing it). Instead, Stazi claims he needs to for appearances. He’s kind of right in this instance. Given his position and the current status of the government under him, he has to retain order and his position. Lots of shades of grey going on.

The other story features Cade and his cohorts being tricked into a Sith trap. Nothing was inherently wrong with the tale, but I am not sure what the intentions were behind it. Darth Maladi is testing out a new bio-weapon and kidnaps Blue to test it on her. Furthering the Dark Lady’s plan is to have Cade test his abilities on this weapon. If Cade frees Blue, the weapon is unsuccessful. If he can’t, the weapon works. Very sociopathic, but makes sense from the villains point of view.

There are some neat things done with this such as Cade using the Sith tricks he previously learned against Maladi, but the story overall wasn’t that engaging. I suspect the point of Monster was so that Blue and Cade finally get together, but that just seems forced. Everything up to this point with their relationship seemed a bit one-sided. I never bought into that either had feelings for one another. True, Blue did hint at that heavily, but what did she actually see in him? What attracted her to him? Nothing Cade has really done would suggest a reason. It was a case of telling and not showing.

Cade, from how he was written, has pretty openly shown that he views Blue as nothing more than a friend with benefits. Maybe there was more beneath the surface, but it never quite shown through. Because of all of this, the romance angle didn’t work for me.

The more interesting stuff in Monster are really the side-stories. The Jedi and Imperial Knights are meeting (solidifying their alliance – I’m noticing a theme), but their meeting is ambushed. It is exciting mostly because this can be a devastating blow and Calixte seems to somehow be in league with Fel (perhaps she was the hidden figure Fel was talking to a few collections back). Calixte continues to be an interesting character. I really hope I am not left hanging on how all her different sides/allegiances connect with one another.

It seems like we are nearing the end of Star Wars: Legacy and this clearly was the first step by formalizing alliances and Cade and Blue getting together. Hopefully more plot strands will continue to weave together and start to wrap for a grand finale.

Stray Thoughts:

Looks like Veed is already getting drunk with power. He’s even looking down on Calixte who has done most of his thinking for him.

Since Calixte is in Fel’s pocket, who on Fel’s team is helping Veed?

Rae is recovering from her injuries way faster than I thought she would. That’s too bad the consequences didn’t last much longer as I feel it cheapens the tragedy.

Survivor: Cagayan – Season 28, Episode 8 – Mad Treasure Hunt

The Immunity Idol hasn’t been this overpowered since Yul Kwon won the game way back in Survivor: Cook Islands (something like 15 seasons ago – I’m not going to check on the math on that, by the way). Under the old rules, the idol would be played after the votes are read, meaning anyone who had it could use it upon a blindside. It was overpowered and mucked with the strategy so much that the show’s producers changed the rules to better accommodate idol play. After the overpowered Cook Islands idol, the rules changed so that the idol must now be played before Tribal Council votes are read. Every season since Cook Islands (including the pre-merge half of Cagayan) has been played with these modified idol rules.

Morgan provided very little in terms of Survivor gameplay.

Morgan provided very little in terms of Survivor gameplay.

The new, post-merge Cagayan idol, however, reverts back to the Cook Islands rules. The new idol is almost all-powerful, and only superb vote-splitting and absolute trust in your alliance will eliminate the all-powerful idol from the game. It is nuts, and I hate it. I fear it will break the game, and I’ve greatly enjoyed Cagayan thus far. Though tonight’s episode is something of a stinker, Cagayan has provided some fantastic characters (Tony, Woo), interesting strategic movies (Kass and Tasha keeping Spencer, Kass flipping her vote), and even a woman (Trish) whose very presence caused a player to quit (Lindsey). But this new idol threatens to wreck the game completely. Luckily, the over-powered idol merely looms over the season. It hasn’t appeared just yet.

Let’s start where the episode begins, however. Morgan and Spencer are pissed at Kass, and reasonably so. Last week, Kass flipped on her alliance, voting with Tony’s crew and helping to eliminate Sarah from the game. Spencer calls her out, and Morgan refuses to get out of the shelter and go get water, opting instead to argue with Kass. To her credit, Kass seems to shake off their criticisms, and then Spencer even later apologizes to Kass for his choice in words. I don’t particularly care for Kass’ gameplay, and I think her flip was dumb and unnecessary, but I also get uncomfortable when players treat each other the way people were treating Kass.

At the Reward Challenge, the tribes are divided into two teams and must face off in an obstacle course/maze/puzzle race that is so typically Survivor. Though L.J.’s team falls behind to the one-two combination of Tony and Woo, they pull off an upset win when L.J. and Spencer are easily able to complete the puzzle. Their reward is a trip to a makeshift Outback Steakhouse, a corporate sponsor that hasn’t appeared on the show since Heroes vs. Villains. At the reward, Spencer happens to find a clue to a Hidden Immunity Idol (but not *that* hidden immunity idol) in his napkin. He is able to keep it hidden, but back at the beach, all hell is about to break loose…

After a quick rainfall, Spencer treks off into the jungle to find the idol. Woo immediately suspects he is up to something, and uses his “steal ninja skills” to track Spencer, and then spy on him. When Spencer realizes he is caught, he backs off. But, he leaves his pants behind (he had taken them off to be in his bathing suit and get in the water). Woo notices this, and finds the clue accidentally among Spencer’s belongings. Woo then shares the clue with everyone, and they all dash off to find the idol. After all this trouble, Spencer is the one who ends up finding it anyway, avoiding letting Kass see him with it as well. This was a whole lot of chaos for a predictable result. It’s fun to watch, but also a bit anti-climactic.

The Immunity Challenge is a balance/endurance test, much like last week. The tribe must stand on an elevated platform and keep a block of wood balanced on top of their head so it won’t fall away. After an hour and a half of battling, L.J. drops out, losing his block. Tasha and Spencer remain, and Probst notes their prowess in this particular challenge. Though it appears Spencer runs out of juice, it is actually Tasha who falters, and Spencer wins the Immunity Challenge. This means he gets both the idol and individual immunity in the same episode, a huge boon to anyone who plays Survivor fantasy!

At Tribal Council, it appears as if Kass may flip once again. This is going to be Monica Culpepper all over again, I guess. Spencer points out that Kass can rejoin her alliance and still gain potential jury votes, but it never really feels in doubt that Morgan is the one who will go home. Tony receives four votes, but Morgan’s five send her packing, where she will become the second member of the jury. Morgan had great potential to be a new Parvati or maybe even a Brenda (who is like a second-tier Parvati), but her laziness and generally negative disposition towards anyone and everyone (as well as her spoiled, entitled attitude) made her one of my least favorite Survivors in quite some time. I can’t say I’ll miss her.

-Z-

Game of Thrones – Season 4, Episode One – Two Swords

Note: Spoilers – Be warned.

I never expected Jaime Lannister to be redeemed and I never expected the Hound (Sandor Clegane) to become one of my favorite characters, but that’s just what season three of HBO’s Game of Thrones television adaptation did. Season three made reprehensible characters into outright heroes, with Jaime rescuing Brienne of Tarth from the bear pit at Harrenhal and the Hound doing his best to reunite Arya with her family (ok, so maybe it was for money… I guess the Hound is more of an anti-hero, but still…). The most striking parts of last night’s season four premiere involved both Jaime, who has finally returned to King’s Landing after what seems like years of capture, as well as Sandor, who is still paired with Arya, planning to get her to the Eyrie to ransom her to her aunt.

Jaime Lannister is a redeemed man on HBO's Game of Thrones.

Jaime Lannister is a redeemed man on HBO’s Game of Thrones.

In between, there was all sorts of other interesting stuff of course. We are introduced to Oberyn Martell, the second son and prince of Dorne, a nation that has only been thus far notable for its wine production. Oberyn comes to King’s Landing in his brother’s stead to attend the wedding of King Joffrey and Lady Margaery. Oberyn comes into immediate conflict with two Lannister soldiers, stabbing one in the wrist before Tyrion comes to clear things up. We then learn that Oberyn plans to avenge the death of his sister and nieces and nephews, who were murdered by Lannisters during Robert’s Rebellion some years back.

Elsewhere in King’s Landing, Jaime is reunited with his family, but all is not well. His father commands him to give up the King’s Guard and head back to Casterly Rock, where he will rule in his father’s stead. Jaime disagrees, intending to stay on as part of the King’s Guard. This disappoints Tywin, of course. Joffrey is also unamused with his uncle, mocking him for getting captured and losing a hand. Even Cersei, his sister-lover, has also seemingly moved on from Jaime. A brief conversation with Brienne over the fate of Sansa shows us just how hurt Jaime really is. Speaking of Sansa, she is still heartbroken over the deaths of her mother and brother, and refuses to eat while having a lunch break with Tyrion and Shae.

At the Wall, Jon Snow finally faces the leaders of the Night’s Watch for his “abandonment” of the oath he swore. His fate (execution) is staved off by Master Aemmon, who defends him and then dismisses Snow to join his mates in training. With the impending invasion of Wildlings, the Night’s Watch can’t afford to lose Jon Snow. Meanwhile, Daenerys Targaryen, having sacked Yunkai, is quickly learning she will never have full control of her dragons. She also learns that she must adapt to the cultures of the lands she takes to truly learn about the people she continually liberates (she learns all of this from the recast Dario Nahaaris, who is much better than the actor from last season).

The episode closes out with Arya and the Hound heading toward the Eyrie to meet with Arya’s aunt for a ransoming. The two first stop at an inn, where five Lannister men are harassing the innkeeper and his daughter. Arya notices one of the five is responsible for the death of her friend way back in season two. The Hound, unamused with their antics and constant chattering, lays waste to them, and Arya is able to get her sword, Needle, back – slaying the chatty, sadistic Lannister soldier in the process. There was a lot of exposition throughout “Two Swords,” but it was necessary to catch us back up to speed, help processing Westeros in the aftermath of the Red Wedding, and set the season up for future events. I can’t wait to check out the next episode, as per usual.

-Z-

I Saw Sabotage

Skip Woods and David Ayer are the two men behind the latest Schwarzenegger film, the action/heist Sabotage. These two have been involved with some of the dumbest movies in the history of Hollywood, so it’s no surprise that this movie is also terrible. Don’t go see Sabotage. Really, don’t. It’s not a good film – it is a bad film… a really, really bad film, even. It is not even “so bad it’s good.” It’s just bad. Bad writing, bad direction, bad pacing, bad story, bad plot, bad acting, bad everything – Sabotage sucks. I can’t even say it’s disappointing, because I wasn’t even particularly looking forward to this film. Just avoid it at all costs. Instead of Sabotage, I would rather recommend several great direct-to-DVD/VOD movies (like the awesome Ninja 2: Shadow of a Tear). If you’re still here, you can read on I guess. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Sabotage_(2014_film_poster)

Sabotage is the story of John “Breacher” Wharthon (a bored Arnold Schwarzenegger) and his team of elite undercover DEA agents, each of which has a dumber nickname than the last. “Monster” (an unrecognizable Sam Worthington), “Sugar” (a slumming Terrence Howard), and “Grinder” (True Blood’s Joe Manganiello) are just a few of the badly nicknamed agents who work alongside of Breacher. After a complex operation (that results in the death of a fellow agent) nets them a score of hundreds of millions in drug money, Breacher orders his team to hide ten million of it for themselves. When the group later returns to collect the cash, it is mysteriously gone. Now under investigation by Internal Affairs, Breacher must clear the names of his men and recover the stolen cash. Complicating matters are the mysterious murders of his friends and associates. No one is safe and everyone is paranoid.

This movie wants to be really, really cool. It wants to be Training Day meets Reservoir Dogs meets Taken meets Heat. Dialogue mainly consists of people talking about drugs, using the F-word, making lewd references to having sex with women, and various other “tough guy” clichés. Literally every DEA agent in this movie is also some variation of the “loose cannon” cop cliché as well. Manganiello and Worthington both continually try to outdo each other for craziest on-screen portrayal of a cop ever. There is no way that any of these people (not even Mireille Enos’ Lizzy, a character the writers didn’t even bother to give a nickname) would ever inspire trust in the citizens they are sworn to protect. They are constantly beating up bystanders, pulling guns on each other, using drugs, and basically doing anything they can do to appear more like ex-cons than police officers. Schwarzenegger is the father figure in the group and acts as a surrogate father to Worthington’s Monster character, but neither of them is likable enough to care about their relationship.

The film also has a habit of killing people off in the goriest, least believable manner possible. Sabotage doesn’t know if it wants to be a gritty police procedural or a gory serial killer film. There’s a kernel of a good idea in Sabotage, but Ayer and Woods are so incompetent that even its better moments are still bad. For example, there’s a sub-plot about Breacher’s family being kidnapped and tortured by the cartels in Mexico (which cartel? Doesn’t matter). This could have been a moment where the audience truly began to connect with and understand Breacher’s horrible actions throughout the film, but it is completely bungled by the filmmakers. Instead of being heartfelt, his relationship with his son just comes off as both corny and cringeworthy. That Breacher spends his nights re-watching the video of his wife’s murder over and over again makes him seem more like a psychopath than a sympathetic victim of a horrible crime. There are very few redeemable qualities in any of these characters.

I’m not surprised that Sabotage has done extremely poorly in the box office, where it will probably close with just about ten million dollars against a budget of 35 million. It is an ugly film that is hard to watch in a lot of places. Sure, the gore is pretty bad but the film is harder to watch because of how incompetent its makers are to be totally accurate. The script is full of generic “tough guy” clichés and nonsensical story twists (I’m not even sure who committed the first two murders honestly). There isn’t a realistic, sympathetic character in the entire 109-minute running time of the film. Schwarzenegger’s post-gubernatorial career has been miss after miss with the exception of the Expendables franchise. I can’t imagine he’ll get many more chances after yet another major flop. But he certainly deserves better than Sabotage, one of the ugliest, least pleasant films I’ve ever seen.

-Z-

The Gorehound’s Top 9 Movies of 2013

Certainly not the best year for horror movies but all-around there were some pretty good ones. Why only 9? A combination of lack of time and a feeling of lackluster releases has left the Gorehound with few films under his belt in 2013. Much time has been spent on this list (since December 2012) and it’s the best that it’s going to get. Unfortunately the Gorehound did not view all the movies he intended to view during 2013. The few films that are still in the “watch” pile are: Her, Oldboy, Trance, The Protector 2, and Welcome to the Jungle. A little embarrassed to even say these movies haven’t been viewed but it’s really just a disclaimer.  These very likely would have scored in the (intended) top 13.  So here it is, the top 9 movies of 2013 in favorite order:

  1. Curse of Chucky. It rarely happens where the reboot compares to the original but the crew pulled it together. This really was reminiscent of the original series and surpasses Seed of Chucky (’04). Thus far, this has been the best movie of the year.Curse-of-Chucky1
  2. The Conjuring. While not a 5/5, everything hits the spot in this one. The characters, plot, visuals… beauty at it’s best. Legitimately scary.
  3. Kick-Ass 2. Action-packed, violent, comic goodness. Very good adaptation and entertaining to all cinemaphiles who aren’t afraid of a little violence. Hopefully Aaron Taylor-Johnson can pull through as Quicksilver in the new X-Men this summer.
  4. The World’s End. The Frost, Pegg, and Wright combo is strong. Hilarious while still maintaining a solid story… and that scene where Nick Frost walks through the door? Priceless. hero_WorldsEnd-2013-1
  5. Hatchet 3. Violent, action packed with perhaps the newest monster of the new century. Welcome Victor Crowley!hatchet-3
  6. Evil Dead. Doesn’t compare to the originals (I mean, how could they?) but still solid in it’s own sense.
  7. Texas Chainsaw 3D. No, the movie was not brilliant but looking back, it was pretty entertaining. Surpasses Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (’06) by a long shot. It’s a shame that every TCM film follows, approximately, the same story.
  8. Europa Report. Maybe the Gorehound missed all the sci-fi movies but this apparently stands alone. Still, it’s suspenseful, intriguing, and honest. These types of movies are refreshing.
  9. Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters. Very entertaining but missed a lot of necessary elements. The Gorehound loves all Grimm’s adaptations.

Biggest disappointment? Insidious 2. The first one is turning out to be one of the Gorehound’s favorite and most outstanding movie of all time. Thank’s for reading this years edition of Top Movies. Let’s look forward to some better ones this year.

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