Critters – “The Ballad of Billy Zane”

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 There were a few things I went into this movie unaware of. One, that it would genuinely scare me. Two, the possibility of gaining a new workout song for the rare gym trip. And best of all, I had no idea Critters would treat me to prime, 80’s Billy Zane. Say one thing about this movie, say it has Billy Zane sporting the “wrap your sweatshirt around the waist” look.

If you want to know my feelings on horror films be sure to read the first few paragraphs from my The Sacrament review (not so subtle plug!). Casper is my favorite “horror” film of all time. I’ve sent the people at TBS letters advocating Casper should be played twenty four hours straight on Halloween. One day, perhaps.

So the idea of tiny furry aliens invading a quiet farm town seemed harmless, and it probably is to anyone over the age of six, but I had to turn the light on half way through the movie. The “crites” steal a spaceship, forcing what I can only describe as a half human/half Jabba the Hutt creature, to hire bounty hunters. These two were the real deal. They had bodacious space guns, the ability to transform into a rock star, and would kill in my weekly bowling league.

As I understand it, this movie was a response to the popularity of Gremlins. The latter is definitely a better movie, but Critters I found to be much creepier. Just looking at the theatrical poster gives me the willies. The crites are balls of fur with a smile full of razors. It’s what I imagine the design would be if they were to ever make a Cheshire Cat horror flick. They attack like the spiders in Arachnophobia. Seemingly shot out of cannons, these little guys can end your existence in the blink of an eye. Zane took a flesh eating Furby to the stomach! It’s horrifying. At least Gremlins had the decency to give us Gizmo. There was a good mix of both comic relief and cuteness relief.

The acting was surprisingly good for what the movie was. When I watch actors in scary films all I’m really looking for is if they look frightened. That’s it. Especially with all the CGI we use today I understand it might be difficult to get worked up over a green screen. Just put in the effort. Don’t pull a Tara Reid like in Sharknado 2: The Second One. I mean come on Tara, it’s a sharknado for goodness sake.

You could do worse when staying in on a Saturday night. This coming fall I suggest giving Critters a try. You’ll scream, you’ll sigh. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry (E.T. fans will). The plot moves fast. They know we want the fur and they give them to us quick. Okay, not really. But the twenty minutes it takes for them arrive goes fast. There’s that 80’s vibe that stays with every movie from the decade. It’s like driving down to the shore, smelling that sea salt air. Not only is the ending satisfying, but it sets up for a sequel. Oh, just one sequel you ask? One sequel may be enough for that hack movie Gremlins. Critters consists of three sequels, four movies in all. Double its supposed better half! That counts for something, right?

Arrow – “Sara”

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The majority of this episode was spent searching for Sara’s killer. With some help from Diggle and Felicity, the gang narrows it down to Simon Lacroix, or more commonly known as, Komodo. One of the more bad ass comic villains, my expectations for the episode sharply rose.

Unfortunately there wasn’t much time allotted to the archer. Disappointing, but ultimately we’ll be seeing more of him in the future. He happened to not be responsible for Sara’s death, leading to a dead end for Ollie. It felt like this whole episode was a platform for the actors to show off their acting abilities. In my opinion, that didn’t turn out to be a good thing. I didn’t buy how upset Felicity was. She knew Sara for what, half a season? Diggles is my main man, but aside from dropping that, “Don’t die down here” line to Oliver, his acting can be hard to watch. Stephen Amell has come a long way from the first season, there’s no denying that. But it’s not like we’re watching the next Brando out there.

Poor acting rant aside, this episode had a fantastic ending. We had our first glance at Thea, who is training in some awesome house with Malcolm Merlyn. She now has Arya Stark hair, which to me raises her hotness to a level I didn’t think possible. It’ll definitely make the loss of Sara easier.

The flashbacks again left me wary. I’m not sure what the point was of Tommy showing up. There are over twenty episodes in a season, filler episodes are going to happen. It is a testament to how good the show is when a filler episode consists of an awesome “Catch and Shoot” arrow move by Ollie. Regardless, I am excited for the Thea centric episode next week.

The Flash – “Fastest Man Alive”

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It’s amazing, two episodes in and already The Flash knows what kind of show it wants to be. The show runners understand this character. That’s half the battle when you’re adapting a super hero to live action, or any medium really. I could tell right when Barry cuts off from his Arrow-like voice over, “…Let’s get to the good stuff”. And he’s absolutely right. We want to see Barry rescuing a bunch of people from a burning building or sweeping them out of the line of gunfire.

Our villain of the day turned out to be Danton Black, aka Multiplex. He could create, you guessed it, multiple versions of himself. Barry ends up saving the day, as yet another one of his comic foes dies. Unlike Arrow, this show has no problem with killing off the villains for good. Then again it’s a bit premature for me to claim, this being only the second episode. Joe West gives Barry the support he needs, in defeating bad guys and in respect to his father’s innocence. A few thoughts on our fatherly figure this far…

  1. I can’t stress enough how clutch a hire Jesse L Martin has been. While he hasn’t been the biggest surprise (a certain Scrubs alum holds that title), he is definitely carrying his weight.
  2. That weight specifically being the flashbacks. I hope this isn’t a CW trend. They work well in Arrow, and while I’m worried about the move to Hong Kong, I think there are still stories to be told in that manner. On The Flash, it’s absolutely grating. Martin is keeping afloat every scene with that child actor. The dialogue probably isn’t great, but that kid isn’t helping. I have to imagine they’ll continue the rest of the season, for better or worse.
  3. Does anyone else feel like Detective West does a poor job at parenting his daughter? Okay, not a poor job, but definitely focus’ more on Barry. I mean, how does he not realize his daughter and his partner are sleeping together? I’m definitely over thinking this one…

The final fight between Flash and Multiplex was visually outstanding (for CW standards). It’s the second straight week I’ve been impressed with the special effects. Compared to the summer blockbuster The Expendables, this show knocks it out of the park. The army of Danton Blacks was really cool. Seeing Flash do his super fast punch was gnarly. Admittedly the Matrix style dodge of the bullet was cliche, but other than that impressive stuff. The previews for next episode have me even more excited with all the CG smoke.

Once again Harrison Wells steals the episode. These end scenes are gripping, mysterious, and great fodder for conspiracy theories. Tom Cavanagh has come a long way from Scrubs — or more appropriately, Ed — by becoming, possibly the best character on the show. I enjoy the explanation for why Barry wants to save people, his reactions with Iris, Cisco, and Caitlin, but I’m turning in every week to watch Harrison Wells. And that’s just the way it is.

The Walking Dead – “No Sanctuary”

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If nothing else, The Walking Dead knows how to do a premier episode. They tend go heavy on the zombie killing, light on everything else. “No Sanctuary” was no exception. After four seasons I can’t say I’m disappointed, this isn’t exactly the show I turn to for deep fictional meaning.

Carol rescues the gang with the help from some of her walker friends. More specifically Rick, Daryl, kicker from The Waterboy, and Glen were saved just in time. Did anyone actually think they were in harm? The whole lining them up sequence was a bit cheesy to me. Rick makes a promise to the lead cannibal that he has a machete waiting with his name on it. Probably the most bad ass moment of the show.

The plot didn’t real move all that much. The whole group escaped without a scratch, reunited with Tyreese and Lil Ass kicker. Daryl and Carol shared a nice moment, but I’ve never cared for their lingering romance. I don’t want anyone in Daryl’s life other than his crossbow. I have to assume that we haven’t seen the last of Terminus, Rick still has a promise to fulfill.

I’m not sure there’s another character on TV who didn’t deserve a punch in the face more than the kid who was going to snap Lil Ass kicker’s neck. For some reason I don’t think Tyreese killed him, though. Those punches were deadly, no doubt, but his status was strangely left in the air. That punk kid had the best line of the episode. “That’s kind of like saving an anchor when you’re stuck on a boat in the middle of an ocean”, in regards to saving babies. Well, he’s not wrong. Enjoyed their interactions more than the zombie attack personally.

My favorite moment came during the after credits scene, Morgan hovering behind Rick and friends the whole way. Any time we get more from that actor I’m all in. He’s been part of two of the best episodes this show has ever done, and it’s not even arguable. Now that The Strain is over it’s up to The Walking Dead to fulfill that horror element in my television life. So far, so good.

Arrow – “The Calm”

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It felt damn good to have Arrow back in my life. It felt even better having Sara Lance in my life. And I was euphoric to have Brandon Routh back in the world of super heroes.

We pick up the story sometime after Ollie’s defeat of Slade. Roy seems to be exponentially better of a sidekick, emphasized with the upgraded outfit. Diggle is where Terry Crews was in the beginning of Brooklyn Nine Nine, on an indefinite break from field work, this due to his new baby girl. Felicity and Oliver attempt an office romance, their first date bombing, yet Felicity claims she’s had worse. The newly minted Captain Lance is in full support of Arrow now, as is Starling City it seems. Times, they are a changin’.

There’s a new Vertigo in town who has been giving me some strong Scarecrow from Batman Begins vibes. The drug now leaves the user in a hallucinogenic state, one that leads to an awesome Arrow vs Ollie fight.

This guy is definitely a tough foe, but perhaps the bigger threat is Ray Palmer. What’s not to like about Palmer, other than the fact he’s a massive obstacle to Ollie reclaiming his family company. Personally I love Routh’s portrayal, and you can’t argue with the renaming to Star City. I’m not familiar with how prevalent The Atom is in Green Arrow’s life in the comics, but I’m hopeful we see him for multiple seasons. What the hell else is Brandon Routh doing?

Our flashbacks take place in Hong Kong now, and while it was promising, I’m still a bit skeptical. It seems like he will be responsible for some sort of harm coming to his captors family, though.

The biggest shock for me, and most others I’m sure, was the barrage of arrows Sara took to the chest at episodes end. Being Sara’s most devoted and creepiest fan, this one hurt. Caity Lotz doesn’t seem to have much on her plate other than the rare appearance on Mad Men, so I hope this wasn’t the end. As for the culprit? My guess is League of Shadows. Merlyn is hopefully too busy molding Speedy to be a sexy killer.

Great, great start to Season 3, and very nice job at integrating the Flash phone call scene in. The CW meshes these two shows seamlessly.

The Flash – “City of Heroes”

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That episode flew right before our eyes. “City of Heroes” is the first episode of The Flash, the CW’s second superhero themed drama. From what I saw tonight, I can say with confidence I’ll be tuning in for the rest of the season. Arrow slowly molded into the show it is now, the pilot leaving much to be desired. Here though, the show runners knocked it out of the park. It has a different vibe from the bow wielding counterpart’s, being a bit more lighthearted. Grant Gustin absolutely nails Barry Allen. I wouldn’t be opposed for him to join the DC film universe, this episode was all it took!

The background information on Barry was taken care of nicely, short and sweet. The characters on the show do kind of resemble some of the ones over on Oliver’s side of town. You have the cop dad of a possible love interest. Barry has his helpers in a secluded lab that help with all the science. Although I will concede that the residents of Central City aren’t as good looking as Starling City. I was especially impressed with the special effects in this episode. I mean, how about the tornado, huh? The slow motion is done well. My only gripe with how they showed his powers is when it’s a close up on his face and he’s running. Other than that I thought they did a great job of handling everything, considering the budget they must have had.

I’m not well versed in Flash comics, but I do know certain characters like Eddie Thawne and Iris West. I like it better that way so I’ll be more surprised, but the whole mystery with who killed his mother just turns into a waiting game for me. True, I still may end up surprised, but there are few who can go that fast. The Stephen Amell cameo was glorious. Some corny dialogue exchanged, as to be expected from this channel, but I love how they both respected each others abilities. I’m hopeful DC can create a whole TV universe where these characters can interact and pop up in each others shows.

One of the shows strengths is clearly the casting. Jesse L. Martin plays Joe West. Martin is clearly no stranger to playing cops, as is known from his time spent on Law and Order. He’s able to ground the show and pull at some emotional strings. A believable father figure to Barry, and I’m glad they made the choice to have him aware of Barry’s powers. A more surprising casting success, was Tom Cavanagh as Dr. Harrison Wells. Known more for his comedy, I was blown away by the presence in the pilot. I’m used to seeing him torment J.D. from my monthly Scrubs binges. Just a great performance, and one of many to come as it seems he will have a big impact on the show going forward.

Congratulations to the CW for another hit. Gotham could take a few (million) notes. I have no doubt this will eventually get the ratings Arrow does, sooner rather than later as The Flash is a bigger character, and I believe has the possibility of being a higher quality product. Excited to see what the rest of the season has in store. Equally ramped up to see how this DCTU unfolds over the years.

The Strain – “Last Rites” and “The Master”

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Well folks, that’s all she wrote for season one of The Strain. I’m not completely sure what the viewership numbers are like. Are many people watching? For those that are, do they like it? Does the show have its own subreddit? How passionate is aforementioned subreddit? What I know is this. The show has moments that are very good, and equal amount of moments that are very, very, VERY bad. It’s quite the balancing act, but one where I think the good prevails. After all, I’m still watching week after week.

Last Rites focused mainly on “Young Setrakian”. It’s revealed that Eichorst conned his young nemesis by trapping him underground, leaving Mrs. Setrakian unprotected. Eventually Setrakian escapes, but it’s too late. His wife has been turned, eager to reunite with her loved one, leaving him no choice but to sever the head from the body. Hopefully this wasn’t the last of the flashbacks. Any involvement between Eichorst and Setrakian (of all ages) is gold. Plus, I want to find out why there is such vehemence towards The Master. Clearly he’s the reason behind all of this, but on a personal level it seems Abraham should want to end Eichorst just as bad, if not worse. Gus takes his rival Creem hostage, leading to an ambush by strigoi. Just when all seems lost, guess who saves the day? That’s right. Hooded vampire assassins! They make their glorious comeback this episode and give Gus a taste of his own medicine via kidnapping.

Our finale squeezed a bunch of things into the shows final hour. Some important, others not so much. Eldritch Palmer is healed, albeit not for eternity. If he wants to live forever he still has to pay his dues (much to his chagrin). Apparently that starts with killing a woman in the CDC, and promoting, by force, Everett Barnes to “guy who can make sure NYC still will not be quarantined”. Oh, and Palmer’s bodyguard finally called it quits on his boss. Looking forward to him joining with the good guys.

Cool hooded vampires explain to Gus what is happening. Basically there’s a vampire turf war, and Gus has proved to be….resourceful. He’s good at killing strigoi and can move during the day. That’s all you need on the resume to bang with these dudes. Hooded Gus is probably my most anticipated moment for Season Two. Meanwhile the gang go The Raid on The Master. I’ll give them credit, they came pretty damn close. But as it turns out, not even the sun can kill that goofy looking bastard. Setrakian is deflated, Nora is chain smoking, and Eph can’t end his boring ex-wife. I was entertained throughout, which is fairly true for the show itself. Amidst all the bumps in the road I kept driving. So after one season let’s break down some pros and cons.

PROS

  • When focusing on Eichorst, Setrakian, and Fet the show is on another level. As I’ve said in almost every other review, Eichorst vs Setrakian is thrilling television. From the visit in jail to the subway encounter, it’s all been gravy. Then we have the legend that is Vasily Fet. He plays the “Daryl” role for this show, and while it is obvious that’s the shows intent, he doesn’t come off as a cheap knockoff. I’m still not positive on the origin of his accent but I’m assuming Eastern European.
  • The set pieces are fantastic. Both of the attacks on The Master, the previously mentioned subway chase of Eichorst, and of course, every time Hooded Vampire Killers pop up. They are the ultimate clean up crew. Not to mention all the strigoi attacks. From the coroner getting gang-fanged, Gus’s fat friend wreaking havoc in the police van, or that opening with the dumb ass taxi driver. Every attack generates some moderate pumping of the heart. Even if the stingers always somehow miss our main characters.
  • I’m going to go give props to the overall story. Where The Walking Dead feels like it makes up a new direction for the show each season (probably due to the rotating show runners), The Strain clearly has an endgame. The plotting this season did leave for much improvement, but each major event feels like it’s leading to something bigger.
  • Sean Astin

CONS

  • For the most part the special effects were what we come to expect from Guillermo, but every time we see The Master it’s just…awful. I can’t stress this enough. He’s goofy as hell. Alan Sepinwall made a good point. In this show less really is more, akin to Jaws. His face is ridiculous. His nails need to be cut. He needs a new look. Maybe adding Eph’s hairpiece will help…
  • …speaking of which. Yeah I’m still not over his hair. It’s killing me. Can we sign a petition for it to be removed for Season Two? Honestly, I don’t think people will care if Eph is just suddenly bald at the beginning of next season. A quick, “Hey, summer in New York is hell”, and boom we’re in.
  • I know I just praised the set pieces, but the actual fighting of strigoi is pretty offensive. When you watch Daryl one shot zombies it looks bad ass. So when I see Setrakian swipe and strike heads like a seventy year old man would, it comes across poorly. The only one who looks like he is realistically killing them is Gus, which I suppose makes sense since he was chosen as part of the Hooded squad.
  • The family storyline sucks. Enough with Eph, his kid, and ex wife. They should of gotten out of town. Too much time is spent on those characters when we want to see more of the previous three I mentioned. I’m fine with Eph, but why can’t it be about his struggle with what’s happening to mankind. All he ever knew has been rocked, scientifically and religiously. This is a man that’s never killed before, why not spend more time on that? I loved the contrast between him and Fet, and who would be better off leading. I’m okay with Nora being the love interest for now. Don’t spend too much time on it, kill her off sooner rather than later. The British chick is a stronger female character, anyways.

So that’s it. A solid first season for FX’s vampire drama. It’s been bumpy but there’s no reason those bumps can’t be smoothed out for the Season 2 premier. If there were many fans of the show hopefully they all check out the books. Reading!