From November 2015

Scream Queens – Season 1, Episode 10: “Thanksgiving”

FOX’s Scream Queens
Season 1, Episode 10: “Thanksgiving”
Directed by Michael Lehmann
Written by Brad Falchuk

* For a review of the previous episode, “Ghost Stories” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Black Friday” – click here
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Another week at Kappa House, and the murder certainly isn’t stopping!
With Boone (Nick Jonas) dead by the hand of his yet to be revealed twin sister, the other Red Devil, how will things go now?
Chad Radwell (Glen Powell) says his “wanger is way stressed out” because of everything going on. Though, Chanel #1 (Emma Roberts) reveals the situation with Hester (Lea Michele) – not only is she not pregnant, she’s pretty dead. But tragedy for Chanel when she shows up down at the meat locker and – surprise, surprise – the body is not there. Smarty Chad asks whether or not Chanel checked if Hester was actually dead, to which she obviously replies no. These two are made for each other – a murderer, and a guy with a seriously creepy fetish for corpses.

Chanel #1: “Duh. I put it in the meat locker. That’s where we’ve been putting all the dead bodies.”
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Gigi (Nasim Pedrad) sits with the remaining Red Devil, who of course is silent. They’re having “room service Thanksgiving” together, the Red Devil eagerly cutting out paper hearts and who knows what. This whole scene was a RIOT! Pedrad is a crack-up, coupled with the other killer whose silence is almost even funnier, the way she gets excited, wringing hands over the approaching dinner. Still, there’s also an unsettling, unpredictable quality about their relationship. Now that Boone is dead, will the twin sister under that mask find it just as easy to get rid of Gigi? Hmm.
Even funnier, and one of my favourites of this series, is Billie Lourd as Chanel #3. I mean, her at times deadpan delivery, the uninterested eyes, so many awesome facial expressions; she’s a good hand at comedy. In my mind, anyways. But the best of it is the family, alongside her character. They’re the Swenson family, similar to Swanson yet not quite. Makes it downright hilarious when she goes home, they’re all sitting at separate La-Z-Boy chairs, each with a tv tray in front of them with a microwaved frozen dinner on it and six separate screens on the wall, individual football games playing on every one; maybe even a couple are just the same game. I couldn’t get enough of it, especially once Chanel #3 flips and calls them on their bullshit. Brad Falchuk wrote a great script for this episode and it had me laughing out loud at this point.
Back at Kappa, Dean Munsch (Jamie Lee Curtis) tells #3 all about the turkey they supposedly pardoned: “It’s more like a stay of execution“. These two together are as close to a classic pairing as you can get. Overall, I love this section of the episode because we’re getting, among the comedy and the horror bits, a look at different families, different versions of Thanksgiving. Poor Grace (Skyler Samuels) is at odds with her father Wes (Oliver Hudson), but they manage to work things out slightly.
Then there’s the Radwell Family Thanksgiving at the ranch where Chanel #1 is introduced, sassily, to the family – including patriarch Tad Radwell (Alan Thicke), mama Bunny Radwell (Julia Duffy), plus brothers Brad (Chad Michael Murray), Thad (Patrick Schwarzenegger), and Brad’s wife Muffy (Rachele Brooke Smith). Falchuk hauls out all the stops in this part of the episode. Each of the Radwells gets up and introduces themselves, ridiculously. A ton of wildly funny moments happen in such a short time, from Chanel #1 threatening to strangle Mrs. Radwell, to a still alive Hester showing up, and Chad Michael Murray doing a perfectly brief cameo (I laughed pretty hard at his introduction/talk). Although, Hester still claims to be pregnant: is it more nonsense from her, or too true?


Bunny (to Hester): “That’s not a baby bump, that’s a poo belly.”


At the cobbled together Thanksgiving in Kappa House, Dean Munsch proposes a game of sorts – they’re going to go around and say who they believe the remaining Red Devil Killer to be. First up, Munsch believes it’s Chanel #3. Lots of deliberation, concerning #3’s claim of having Charles Manson for a father mostly. But #3 fires back at Munsch, saying it’s she who is the killer.
Tad Radwell confronts Chanel #1 in the bathroom. He wants to pay her off to leave, to never see Chad again. Then downstairs, Chad is getting more ridiculous by the minute – they’ve got a nasty dessert looking similar to the recent Jell-O + mayo concoction in the news, as well as the fact he starts telling Chanel maybe she ought to leave and Hester should stay. Messed up right?


This episode is one of the funniest out of the first season so far. It’s killing me, a contest between Kappa House or the Radwell Ranch for who is being more hilarious. Furthermore, there’s lots of suspicion getting thrown around. Zayday (Keke Palmer) and Grace each have their share to throw at the dean. Things get sticky for Munsch, as #3 reveals seeing her eating a bologna sandwich, something which couldn’t be, right? All due to the bologna stuff when her ex-husband was killed. But even wilder, daddy Wes accuses his OWN DAUGHTER of being the Red Devil Killer. Crazy! He says he can explain away all doubts in regards to everyone else, aside from his own little girl. “Thanksgiving” on Scream Queens reminds me of a Murder on the Orient Express sort of situation; excellent stuff. Pete (Diego Boneta) shows up at the sorority, while Wes is grilling his daughter about certain dates, events, et cetera. Is there actual credibility to any of this? Red herrings? Well, Pete throws his hat in the ring and accuses Wes right along with all the other mix of suspicion boiling over.
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Dean Munsch: “God, I hate you people.”

The Radwell shitshow continues with Pictionary, which quickly devolves into savagery. Someone replaced the card HORSE with NECKBRACE WHORE. A terribly vicious round of Pictionary goes down with insult after insult being hurled at Hester. This actually prompts Chanel #1 to give a sort-of-apology to Hester, but also pushes her to give a verbal smackdown to the Radwells. The insults begin to spill out of Chanel, going between every last one of the Radwell clan including a breakup with Chad; a forever split this time apparently. Then the two slighted sorority ladies leave in a huff: together.
Wes is in the hotseat at Kappa. Junior investigative reporter Pete starts giving him the business, laying out a supposed motive and plan which Wes has been working off the whole time. The eager beaver investigator seems to have drummed up old pictures from a party, so long ago, speaking to a possible way Wes may have known enough about the sorority house in order to sneak in/out, and so on. Craziest bit yet? Wes was caught on camera in the meat locker, spray painting over its lens; he claims it’s due to the paleo diet, he couldn’t afford all the meat and stole it from them. That’s what he says. But more comes rolling out of Pete, who has a “friend at the Maury Show“: Wes is Boone’s father! WHAT!? Grace’s half-brother and half-sister are out there killing, neither her nor her father had any idea of the link. It feels like Wes truly didn’t know. I’m still not sure, though. He freaks me out at times.
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Wes: “And it was the 90s, so nobody wore condoms.”
Dean Munsch: “Pffbelieve me
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The finale brings Chad back to Chanel #1, with everyone sitting around the table for Thanksgiving at Kappa House. Only when the lid comes off the platter on the table, Chanel reveals the dead head of Gigi.
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I knew she was about to get it earlier, the Red Devil wasn’t having any of her bullshit anymore. Now, will there be more and more terror? More bodies to drop? Only a couple episode left.
Stay tuned for the next one, aptly titled “Black Friday”.

Fargo – Season 2, Episode 7: “Did You Do This? No, You Did It!”

FX’s Fargo
Season 2, Episode 7: “Did You Do This? No, You Did It!”
Directed by Keith Gordon (Mother NightWaking the Dead)
Written by Noah Hawley/Ben Nedivi/Matt Wolpert

* For a review of the previous episode, “Rhinoceros” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Loplop” – click here
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Well, shit is really goin’ down in Minnesota, no?
After the exciting “Rhinoceros”, this episode begins with some people being gunned down in an office building from a window cleaner’s basket. We quickly cut to Mike Milligan (Bokeem Woodbine) looking especially grim. Jethro Tull plays “Locomotive Breath” over a montage including the remaining Kitchen Brother garroting a man, as well as (some of) the Gerhardts laying Otto’s body to rest. Floyd (Jean Smart) has people in from Buffalo helping with all the chaos. Bear (Angus Sampson) gives her a little bad news, and young Simone (Rachel Keller) nudges her way into family business a little. More than anything, Floyd backhands her granddaughter and, I’m sure, this will drive her even further into the arms of Milligan.
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Simone: “This family deserves the ground
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Lou Solverson (Patrick Wilson) and his new sort-of-partner Ben Schmidt (Keir O’Donnell) show up to take Mama Floyd in for some questions. Before they leave, though, there’s a brief back and forth between Lou and Bear. Just enough to show Bear/the Gerhardts have no time for the law, as well as the fact Lou has balls of steel and won’t back down from their force either. Love the dynamic between the big mafia-style Minnesota family and Solverson’s relentless will to serve the law.
Fucking Terry Kinney! He shows up as Chief Gibson, not impressed with having Floyd Gerhardt in his interrogation room. At the same time, he is not a bad guy, nor does he seem like a dummy. So Gibson and Hank Larsson (Ted Danson) hop in for a chat with ole Floyd, while the other two do their duties. There’s good conversation between Floyd and Hank specifically. Again, I’m not huge on Danson other than Cheers – here, he absolutely holds his own and does fine stuff with the character of Hank; he’s a great addition to the second season cast.
More great music with The First Edition’s “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)” playing with Simone heading into a seedy hotel. Upstairs, Milligan is being talked to rather disrespectfully; due to the opening shooting we witnessed. Turns out Mike has an ultimatum – either take care of things, or the man on the phone says: “I’m sending the Undertaker“. Simone’s pissed her father Dodd (Jeffrey Donovan) wasn’ killed, and rather grandpa got shot up. Milligan doesn’t care; he’d rather quote historical figures from Martin Luther King back to one of the King Louis. Then into the room bursts Lou Solverson alongside Ben Schmidt, guns drawn, knocking Gale Kitchen (Brad Mann) to the floor. Looks like trouble for Mike and his plans, right? Well, on the elevator down Schmidt has a bit of a… close encounter, with Simone. So trouble for Ben right away.
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Simone: “I mean, sometimes a girl just wants to bust a nut, y’know.”
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Downstairs, Bear picks up his niece in an intense scene. Upstairs, Lou reiterates to Milligan: “We’re not meant to need more than we can handle.” They talk about greed, “all or nothin’“. Very interesting little moment, especially with the abilities of Patrick Wilson as an actor versus Bokeem Woodbine who is equally amazing in this season. There’s something fun about the typical cop versus criminal turned into a more interesting, elegant, and at times comical situation. Instead of chase chase, bang bang, et cetera. For all Solverson’s efforts, Milligan believes the Gerhardts are the past, and “we are the future“.
Snap from the hotel to Betsy Solverson (Cristin Milioti) who arrives home to suspicious boots in her porch. Immediately, and very smart, she goes for a shotgun in the closet and goes up to the kitchen. There stand Karl Weathers (Nick Offerman) and Sonny Greer (Dan Beirne) cooking breakfast. Apparently her “lesser half” asked them to make sure she was doing all right and to look after her and Molly. Awesome little scene I thought fit in well among everything else happening during this episode.
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Bear takes Simone on a ride in the truck. It’s tense, as Bear talks in a low, grumbling voice and appearing cold to his niece. She is rightfully nervous, having just before walked out of the hotel where Milligan was staying. Then Bear pulls over out in the woods, asking Simone to come – “You’re scaring me,” she tells him. He’s scaring me, too. Slowly he walks his niece out further into the trees, accusing her of “sleeping with the enemy” and talks about how women had their heads shaved for “bedding Germans“. The cinematography here is equally as eerie, it unsettled me to watch overhead as Bear basically – I assume – takes Simone on a death march. Plus, a few creepy handheld-like shots quivering together in a big, beautiful edited jumble. I really loved this whole bit, no matter how brutal it was beneath it all. Just an incredibly great sequence from visuals to performances. Added to all that, a serene and gorgeous rendition of “Danny Boy” is sung over top of a montage including Bear smashing the cast off his arm after leaving the woods alone, quick cuts of still alive Rye and Simone, and a shot of Dodd. An entirely unexpected 5 minutes, which work so perfectly. Another example of the quality work being put into this series, from the camerawork to the writing to all the choice music being used for such memorable scenes.
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Simone: “We’re family
Bear: “None of us are family anymore
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Back at the station, Floyd is trying to take everything on herself. Gibson and Larsson just want information from her, so they try and make a deal to not see any further bodies pile up. She gives them the low down on the Kansas City drug operation, the drugs hidden in tires, and so on. Is this going to come back and bite Floyd? Should she, in her ‘line of work’, be making deals with police? Of course, morality says yes. Although the criminal code doesn’t smile favourably on such nastiness. Excellent editing once more in this scene, as Floyd in the interrogation room is cut in split-screen shots with Milligan at his hotel.
And then Mike receives a phone call: “The Undertaker’s coming. You’re done.”
Betsy and Karl have a good, morbid talk together. She wants him to look out for Lou after she’s gone, already anticipating her own death; like any of us would, I’m sure. Then she goes over to feed her father’s cat, which leads to her finding a room full of all sorts of drawings, markings, strange things that LOOK like Hank is interested in aliens. Am I right? I saw something “…Of the Gods” on his desk, maybe – could be any number of texts. Either way, it appears he might be a little out there?!
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Throughout an interesting and low-key, though briefly vicious episode, the best comes when The Undertaker arrives at the hotel. He comes to see Milligan in his room accompanied by two Asian men, who look bad ass, as well. Then Mike comes charging out to say hello, popping a tiny gun from his sleeve and shooting The Undertaker right in his face. The two Asians are done in fairly quick afterwards.
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On the phone then calls Ed Blumquist (Jesse Plemons). He says “this is your lucky day: I’ve got Dodd Gerhardt in the trunk of my car, you want him?” WHOA! I anticipated something along these lines, yet not at all ni this way. So now we know where Dodd is. As does Hanzee apparently.
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Very excited for the next episode, “Loplop”. I’m anticipating a wild one, but we may get another calm before the storm like this one. Who knows. Stay tuned, fellow fans!

The Walking Dead – Season 6, Episode 7: “Heads Up”

AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 6, Episode 7: “Heads Up”
Directed by David Boyd
Written by Channing Powell

* For a review of the previous episode, “Always Accountable” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Start to Finish” – click here
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Finally we’ve made it to “Heads Up”, where hopefully things unresolved start to come together, such as where is Glenn (Steven Yeun)? And what about Enid (Katelyn Nacon)?
Starting off, we hear “Thank you“, and this episode commences as Glenn slides under the dumpster he fell off. Meanwhile, Nicholas (Michael Traynor) is eaten alive by zombies. I always knew this was the case, now I don’t have to keep saying YOU’LL SEE.
Funny enough, though, as this tough beginning plays out there’s an almost beautiful piece of music overlaying everything. Watching Glenn struggle underneath the dumpster, seeing the dead eyes of Nicholas staring back at him, undead arms clawing to get at his flesh, it’s very intense. But once the smoke clears, so to speak, we get to rejoice a little. Sure, you can worry about Glenn more and more. For now I’m happy to enjoy this brief moment in time where Glenn survives. Moreover, Enid shows up to toss a bottle of water down to the poor dude. She doesn’t seem so interested in him, nor does she come across as particularly pumped to go back to Alexandria. Judging by the food on the floor, opened cans and empty wrappers, she’s been camped out there more than once. I feel even worse for Glenn because he doesn’t know what’s going on back in their little suburb, he isn’t even totally concerned with himself at a time when he almost just died. Goes to show how determined of a man Glenn is, how caring and loving he is no matter what personal trials he’s having to endure.

Enid: “What happened is what always happens: people died.”
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In Alexandria, Rick (Andrew Lincoln) is walking the walls, making sure everything’s secure. Morgan (Lennie James) does his martial art stuff, looking uneasy when Rick says they need to talk later. Then there’s Maggie (Lauren Cohan): she’s never giving up the faith. Nor should she, as we know already. Another damn good man, Rick tries to talk with her, to make her feel a little better in the meantime. They even talk about little Judith, and how she looks like Lori. Nice touching moment there between these two.
Out in the wasteland, Glenn finds the note to Betsy lost in the struggle. Such a heartbreaking thing to watch him come across, as it resonates deeply with his and Maggie’s relationship.
Rick is still teaching Ron (Austin Abrams) how to handle himself, how to draw a weapon, load it, et cetera. Carl (Chandler Riggs) gives Ron the business while watching on, sort of adding in little quips at the end of each lesson Rick gives. But while it may seem snotty, Carl knows how to handle himself. He’s proven that, time and time again; no matter if you want to hate him as a character. There’s something about Ron, though. Something I don’t like. I feel as if he might try and do something to Carl or Rick, in attempting to misguidedly avenge his father. Or maybe I’m completely off base. There is a weirdness, a shaky sense to the way Ron talks and acts with the Grimes family.
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Morgan and Rick finally sit for a chat together. They talk about the Wolves, and how Morgan wouldn’t kill any of them. In fact, Carol (Melissa McBride) and Michonne (Danai Gurira) are at the table, too. They all want to know what’s happening. Morgan feels on edge, yet there’s a humanity left inside him. After the Morgan-centric episode “Here’s Not Here“, we know there is a part of him which refuses to die, even after all the terror, the blood, the horror. Morgan keeps believing “all life is precious” and that “people can change“. However, I don’t know if I believe him. No matter how easily the man can break it down, the world is not like it once was. Carol, Michonne and Rick all understand that in their own ways. We’ll see what happens re: Morgan’s long-term status in Alexandria. In the immortal words of Joe Strummer (slightly re-arranged): should he stay, or should he go?
Deanna (Tovah Feldshuh) is optimistic there’ll be an Alexandria, after everything. She brings her new plans to Rick, who doesn’t quite share her enthusiasm. Though, I think he’s happy to see Deanna snapped out of her rut. In the mean time, Rosita (Christian Serratos) is teaching the town residents how to properly handle a machete, even Eugene (Josh McDermitt); he’s having a tough time himself. At least for the moment, even if it’s the briefest, tiniest respite from a constant world of struggle, nobody is dying, nobody is attacking, and things are at a standstill. Nevertheless, people will always have problems. Even if it is the zombie apocalypse.
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While Glenn tries to get Enid to go back to Alexandria, she ends up pulling a gun on him. He insists she ought to go, but she’s not having it. Quickly, he disarms her: “You point a gun at me and I’m the asshole?” They end up as a reluctant team, heading out on the road together. Back towards their walled suburban oasis. Seeing the two of them on the road together, it’s actually kind of comical now and then. They’re like an odd couple situation. Although, I can understand why Enid is so withdrawn and standoff-ish; the way she arrived at Alexandria, what happened to her before, as a young person that must be devastating. If there were ever anyone to be stuck with, though, it’s Glenn Rhee. He has a way of talking to people, no matter who they are. Part of why I dig his character so much after all these seasons.
Rick’s busy beefing up sections of the wall, and out of nowhere Tobin (Jason Douglas) starts to help. Will they finally accept Rick, just as they would one of their own? It feels like a community starting to come together, finally. Too bad it took a lot of blood and guts to get there. But regardless of all that, I like seeing Rick meshing with Tobin in this scene. He talks about how scary Rick was when they first saw him, the beard and the look in his eyes, and then relays the message clearly: “But don’t give up on us.”
Troubling development: dickhead Ron sneaked into the armory room, got himself some bullets. I knew this kid was going to be trouble.
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Watching Glenn and Enid come up on Alexandria was a great scene. There’s a big huge shot of all the walkers shambling around just outside the walls of Alexandria. It’s a gut punch of a shot, compounded with how hopeless Enid feels. Again, though, Glenn to the rescue. He convinces her to forge on ahead.
But inside the walls, Spencer (Austin Nichols) is acting like a crazy person. He’s got a backpack, a gun. Then there’s the fact he’s out shimmying across a grappling line over the wall. What is he thinking? Now Rick and a few hands inside are trying to save him, putting others in danger. The minute you start feeling Alexandria has learned its lessons, one of the dummies starts proving that theory wrong. Turns out Spencer wanted to get out and find a car, to draw the walkers away. What an idiot.
Morgan’s lurking around the local doctor. He needs to “dress a wound“, but as he reveals to her: “It’s not my wound.” Carol catches Dr. Denise (Merritt Wever) walking a ways behind Morgan, both on their way over to his place. We know where they’re going. But will this begin to cause fallout among Rick and Morgan/Morgan and everybody else? Carol’s primed to figure it all out.
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All of a sudden, out beyond the walls, a cluster of green balloons goes up into the air. Maggie is sure it must be Glenn. Then, before Ron can sneak up on Carl with a gun, before Maggie and Rick can be happy about the possibility of Glenn’s survival, the rickety tower-like structure just outside the wall come crashing down against it, right where Rick/Tobin were reinforcing things. Oh, fuck.
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Very, very excited to see the next episode, “Start to Finish“. Stay tuned with me, Walking Deadheads!

Vinterberg’s The Hunt: Stains of Lies & Group Psychosis

Jagten (English title: The Hunt). Directed by Thomas Vinterberg. Screenplay by Tobias Lindholm & Vinterberg.
Starring Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Annika Wedderkopp, Lasse Fogelstrøm, Susse Wold, Anne Louise Hassing, Lars Ranthe, Alexandra Rapaport, Sebastian Bull Sarning, and Steen Ordell Guldbrand. Danmarks Radio (DR)/Det Danske Filminstitut/Eurimages/Film i Väst/MEDIA Programme of the European Union/Nordisk Film-&-TV Fond/Svenska Filminstitutet (SFI)/Sveriges Television (SVT)/Zentropa Entertainments/Zentropa International Sweden. Rated R. 115 minutes.
Drama

★★★★★
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Both director-writer Thomas Vinterberg and actor Mads Mikkelsen are artists I truly admire. I came to Vinterberg while in film school, taking in his heavy 1998 Dogme ’95 feature Festen. Admittedly, it took me a couple views to really settle into it. Mainly because of the devastating subject matter. But once you get into the film and appreciate all its nuances, from its filming to the performances, the whole thing is an impressive experience. Mikkelsen I discovered not long after once watching Nicolas Winding Refn’s fantastic, gritty Pusher (and its equally kick ass sequel). After seeing these first bits of work, I watched more of their films the further into cinephilia I fell.
The Hunt brings two wonderfully talented artists together, with Vinterberg directing and writing alongside Tobias Lindholm, and Mads Mikkelsen starring, as well as Thomas Bo Larsen who appeared in the aforementioned Festen. Tackling a deeply sensitive subject, especially nowadays with too many of these cases cropping up in all corners of the globe, The Hunt is the story of modern day witch hunting, communal relationships, friendship, trust and everything else in between. Pedophilia is a terrible thing, and we’ve seen plenty films based around it – the people involved, the effects of its trauma. However, not many movies opt to take a look at another side of the coin. While too many cases involving a man molesting a child have come to light in modern times, there are also a few cases where men have been innocent, falsely accused of horrendous crimes they’ve never committed, nor ever intended to commit even in their worst state of mind. With this excellent script set in a small, close-knit town, Lindholm and Vinterberg show us one of those tiny fractions in a microcosm. Anchored by an amazing, devastating and all too human performance from Mikkelsen, The Hunt has stuck with me ever since I first saw it a couple years ago.
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Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen) is a Kindergarten teacher in Denmark. He is a friendly, considerate man. Lucas has a son, as well as bitter ex-wife who doesn’t particularly accommodate him. His friend Theo (Thomas Bo Larsen) fights almost constantly with his own wife Agnes (Anne Louise Hassing). So Lucas often walks their daughter Klara (Annika Wedderkopp) to school, looks out for her and generally makes sure she is all right. However, Klara sees a pornographic magazine due to her piggish brother Torsten (Sebastian Bull Sarning) and his friend. Then later she kisses Lucas on the lips at school. When Lucas explains this is inappropriate and also gives back a little gift she made him, Klara is hurt. This prompts her to make allegations of abuse, though indirectly, against Lucas.
The town soon bands together calling Lucas a pedophile and predator towards children. His new girlfriend Nadja (Alexandra Rapaport) leaves after they have a fight, and he realizes even she doesn’t believe in his innocence. He and Theo are obviously at odds. But Lucas will not lie still and let them brand him as a child molester – something, or someone, must eventually break.
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There’s a great change of perspective which happens in terms of how the camera captures Lucas, from before the accusation to after. Early in the film we see him rolling around with the children, very structured and steady shots of their playtime. Then, immediately after the accusation is brought to Lucas, we’re almost right inside his head. He’s standing outside and looks completely in his own world. As soon as a child bumps into him, touching his leg, there’s no longer a happy smile – we’re in a tight handheld shot, staring right at Lucas in the face, and you can feel how psychologically he’s been slammed by the accusation. This technique works so well to really unsettle us as the audience, along with Lucas who is absolutely reeling. This is only one instance of the great cinematography from frequent Vinterberg collaborator Charlotte Bruus Christensen (SubmarinoFar From the Madding Crowd).
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Even though we’re never given totally subjective moments, accessing the characters and their inner mind, we do get a very strong sense Lucas (Mikkelsen) is innocent. Particularly, after Klara (Wedderkopp) kisses him on the lips, you can really see how uncomfortable Lucas is about the situation. He specifically tells her “kissing on the lips is only for mom and dad“, it is not something appropriate, and even further he refuses the heart she made for him, as it’s not something a child should be giving their teacher (this day and age you can never be too careful). What’s so intriguing, and emotionally draining, is watching Mikkelsen play an innocent man, a man who by all rights would never ever harm a child especially not in such a way, and seeing his friends, the entire community rally against him. It’s actually hard to watch at times, even with nothing graphic being shown onscreen. Just to see Lucas be pushed around by his friends, to watch the looks on their faces change when they see him and how people treat him like vermin, it’s hard.
Part of all this beyond the screenplay is Mikkelsen. He’s got one of those faces which just pulls you in with such incredibly visible emotion. But you can see the pain in Lucas, right across Mikkelsen’s face and in his eyes, the way he moves and holds himself. There are so many scenes in this film alone where you’ll understand it, how Mikkelsen is one of the best actors today. The scenes with his son are wonderful, as well as the only friend who’ll stand by his side in such a time Bruun (Lars Ranthe). These two characters really help add a sympathetic side to Lucas, if you didn’t already find yourself sympathizing with the poor guy. All around, Mikkelsen does a perfect job at displaying the broken humanity in a man who is let down from all angles of his community and society in general.
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This is a 5 star film. Whether or not you see the very end as literal or metaphorical, Thomas Vinterberg himself has clearly stated there is no rape at all. The whole thing is fabrication, so those people on the internet trying to determine “Who molested Klara?”, you’re barking up a non-existent tree. This film is first and foremost, and all, about the sad existence of false accusations towards adults who’ve never hurt a child. Plenty out there have tragically hurt children, but a small number end up with false accusations, undue hatred, and being completely ostracized by the people around them when they never did a thing. The Hunt has the guts to face the gale of such a situation, to present us with an unfathomable situation, as well as it demands answers. However, with the ending we’re left to wonder: even if the falsely accused are vindicated, will everyone go back to believing in their innocence, or is the hunt always on from then? Unfortunately, I sometimes find myself believing the latter. In the case of Mikkelsen’s Lucas I’m inclined to see that as a hard, brutal truth.

Scream Queens – Season 1, Episode 9: “Ghost Stories”

FOX’s Scream Queens
Season 1, Episode 9: “Ghost Stories”
Directed by Michael Uppendahl
Written by Ryan Murphy

* For a review of the previous episode, “Mommie Dearest” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Thanksgiving” – click here
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After the revelations of “Mommie Dearest”, we’re over at Kappa House once more.
Boone (Nick Jonas) is in disguise, still. People continually think he’s Joaquin Phoenix and he passes off his public appearance as part of a “performance art piece“. Silly Boone, he spills a ton of drink over his fake beard, and Chanel #3 (Billie Lourd) happens to see him sans-beard. But she believes it’s a ghost, coming back to kill her for saying he “couldn’t gay pledge“. Boone scares her, she takes off. Done and done.
Chanel #1 (Emma Roberts) rants on about everything from “Lewis and Clark’s gay camping extravaganza” to Pocahontas and the pilgrims. Then there’s Chad Radwell (Glen Powell) who gets down on one knee, not to propose but to give Chanel a silver turkey wishbone necklace, inviting her to his family’s ranch estate. None of the other girls are hugely thrilled about any of it, but Hester (Lea Michele) puts on the fake face, while Chanel #3 doesn’t feign much and #5 (Abigail Breslin) cowers to the side.

Chad: “You’re so hot you give my bone a bone

Grace (Skyler Samuels) is devastated about her father Wes (Oliver Hudson) and his lies. Zayday (Keke Palmer) invites Grace to her grandmother’s place for Thanksgiving, being the good friend. So at least there’s some solace for poor Grace.
The Chanels are still dealing with Mama Denise (Niecy Nash). Before too much more of that, #3 tells them about “dead gay Boone” and his haunting. They’re all sceptical at first, though, Denise stokes their fears even further like a dummy. She sits them down for some “really scary ghost stories“. There’s an awesome little Japanese horror scene about the supposed Kappa, a ghost hiding in the toilet which snatches “onto your vagina“. After the first story, she tells another one about the Red Cloak; another ghost inhabiting women’s washrooms. She is a fucking riot, Niecy Nash. Even better since becoming Mama Denise. I love how they did this sequence with homage to J-Horror, filming things similar to the Japanese ghost style.
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Chad Radwell is also confronted by Boone. The dumb man also thinks Boone is a ghost – “Dude, you’re so warm. I thought ghosts were cold, like vapour.” They have a ridiculous dude-bro conversation about who got hot, who didn’t, who’s been killed, et cetera. Boone lays an even more ridiculous story on his old friend, about having to have sex with a human woman in order to stay on earth. So he borrows a shirt from Chad, claiming it’s to woo Zayday. Uh oh, is there trouble coming for Ms. Williams?
In a washroom stall, one of the ghost stories Denise told to the girls almost comes to life. Except one of the Red Devils shows up, not the Red Cloak, as she told it. Fighting off the would-be-killer, Denise tries to run. She gathers the girls, but not to take off: she needs more ghost stories, y’know, to calm her down.
Hester breaks one out for them by the fireplace, taking everyone back to the 1950s; a story about a long ago sorority girl. It’s all about the Meathook Killer. The old urban legend of a killer in the backseat. Luckily, this takes Denise’s blood pressure down, relieves her gas, so they’re back in action. Or not really. #5 decides to leave campus, the rest of them wait to see if she makes it out – in case the killer is still around. One thing I loved about this scene is how Ryan Murphy plays with the horror tropes: Denise is attacked, then as soon as she makes it back to the group, no more danger.
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In Zayday’s room, she and Earl Grey (Lucien Laviscount) are fooling around a bit. He goes back to his room to get all the perfect things: champagne, chocolate covered strawberries, a silk robe and lotions. While gone, Boone climbs up in the window. He tries to play a game on Zayday, but she’s too smart. Grace shows up, too. They accidentally knock him out a window. Yet SURPRISE, SURPRISE: gone. Just like Michael fucking Myers.
Downstairs, Grace and Zayday reveal the truth about Boone. Nobody believes them initially. Then, outside #5 struggles to haul her luggage away, as well as Earl Grey returns with his lovemaking kit. Only Earl is stabbed by Boone in his Red Devil attire. Cold, cold stuff.
On her way home, #5 finds herself in an urban legend type situation. A radio announcement talks about Boone being on the loose. All of a sudden, a truck behind her is blaring its horn, shining the lights. Déjà vu? She pulls into a gas station, a trucker does, too. Just like the story Hester told. But Boone is nowhere to be found. Quickly, though, the Red Devil appears and kills the trucker, sending Chanel #5 back to the university campus.
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Chad and Hester have another confrontation. It’s been awhile since they’ve last had a talk. More than that, she has a bedazzled neck brace on again. He gives her a bunch of hilarious reasons why he’s bringing Chanel for Thanksgiving instead of her – including her breath makes it feel like he’s making out with the Hamburglar, she has a poo belly, and the last time they “porked” she possibly let out a dirty fart. I mean, I was cracking up at this point. He’s the biggest douche on the face of the planet, and it is so god damned funny.
With #5 back, the girls are all locked down in Kappa House. #1 won’t even give her props for having a real life scary story to tell because it’s a copy of the story Hester told. Another hard laugh from the gut there. Hester shows up and tells everyone she banged Chad – and claims she’s pregnant, as well. Whaaat? Seriously? Or is this a ploy? Wouldn’t take much to con Chad into believing it, I’m sure. Things get nastier for Chad after Chanel #1 makes a threat to him, leaving him to wonder if she might be one of the Red Devil Killers.

Chad: “That’s just how us Radwells roll: we make our beds and we lie in them
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Chanel #1 is rallying the Chanels back together, to try and make it a three against one deal. She wants Hester out of the way. They’re, seemingly, going to plan on killing her. A weak apology draws both #3 and #5 back into the fold. Though, there’s no change in her bitchy disposition.
In other matters at Kappa House, Grace and Zayday are trying to tell the idiot police about what’s going on re: Boone. Detective Chisholm (Jim Klock) brings in a paranormal expert, even though Boone is clearly not a ghost but merely faked his own death. The girls are fed up with all the nonsense, while Dean Munsch (Jamie Lee Curtis) doesn’t do much other than bumble. At the same time, I think the dean is starting to reach her tipping point, no matter how saucy and narcissistic she is under it all.
After that whole situation, Munsch tells Grace and Zayday about the two babies that night twenty years ago at Kappa. Seems the body gave off a death rattle and popped out another kid – possibly it was Boone. Jesus, that’s grim!
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Boone meets with the other Red Devil. They’re waiting for Gigi Caldwell (Nasim Pedrad), talking about knives; at least Boone is talking. When Gigi shows up, she’s no longer the goofy, aloof type she is with the sorority girls. She’s more like a Bond villain, honestly. Traipsing around an amazing looking upper scale living room, sipping on whiskey. When Boone gets up in Gigi’s face, talking about all the things he’s done for her and their murderous venture. When the other Red Devil approaches, Boone is stabbed viciously instead of Gigi, which I was expecting. Twists and twists. Can’t wait to find out who’s behind the other mask.
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Gigi (to Red Devil): “Well, your commitment to revenge is clearly greater than your brother’s was.”

The finale of the episode reveals Esther is not actually pregnant, through the Chanels feeding her things bad for embryos. But out of nowhere, Chanel #1 runs to her on the stairs to say sorry. Really? Nah. As I expected, #1 gives Hester and her bedazzled neck brace a rough push down the spiral staircase. A solid snap comes right at the end. Chanel #6 has been vanquished, and #1 believes it “had to happen“. Now she says Hester’s death is a cautionary tale, against those who try and rise up to take the top queen’s man. Another ghost story for Kappa House. Brutal!
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Stay tuned for another episode next week, “Thanksgiving”. Here’s to hoping there’ll be more exciting revelations and accusations and murder!

Scream Queens – Season 1, Episode 8: “Mommie Dearest”

FOX’s Scream Queens
Season 1, Episode 8: “Mommie Dearest”
Directed by Michael Uppendahl
Written by Ian Brennan

* For a review of the previous episode, “Beware of Young Girls” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Ghost Stories” – click here
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After a couple weeks hiatus, I’m catching up on Scream Queens.
Grace (Skyler Samuels) is now meeting with Dean Munsch (Jamie Lee Curtis). Munsch promised to tell Grace about the baby in the bathtub at Kappa House a couple decades ago. Though, the dean is convinced Feather is the Red Devil Killer. But Grace is smart, she isn’t letting any of this go because there’s obviously more to Munsch and her secrets than the older woman is revealing.
Afterwards, we get an amazing homage from Curtis to her mother Janet Leigh, via a Psycho-styled shower scene. I always love the homage Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk do with American Horror Story. Here, they get to do more, plus there’s Curtis herself with a personal link. Even further, The Red Devils show up. Munsch manages to down the first one, tricking him(or her) with the shower. Then comes a showdown with her and the other killer.
But OH SHIT! Up shows another Red Devil, even a person dressed like Antonin Scalia. She proceeds to reel off a story of a former lover, in a way only Curtis can. Before kicking Red Devil and Scalia ass, spouting off some things I’m sure many would love to say to Scalia. It’s almost a surreal scene in some ways.
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Chanel #1 (Emma Roberts) believes Zayday (Keke Palmer) is the killer, and the “walking jawline” Grace is helping. Esther believes “those who pill together kill together”, while Chanel #5 (Abigail Breslin) comes up with a ridiculous rearrangement of Zayday’s name as proof of a lust for murder. I can’t get enough of #1’s incredibly vicious talk. Reminds me absolutely of that silly sorority sister who wrote the vicious note people passed around online awhile back; Michael Shannon did a reading of it for Funny or Die. Either way, she’s hilarious and pulls the role off well.
Denise Hemphill (Niecy Nash) has a funny little exchange with my favourite Chanel, #3 (Billie Lourd). These two are awesome together, even if only for a minute or two in this early scene. They’re each quirky on their own ways. Furthermore, Denise takes her up on a sketchy offer to prove Zayday is the killer.

Denise: “Well what’chu mean by ridiculous? ‘Cause I can get pretty ridiculous.”

Dean Munsch talks a “hypothetical” circle around Grace, obviously only protecting herself above anyone on campus. She thinks “this school can survive a few serial killings”. She does not, however, believe they can go on without her. Typical narcissist. All she gives up is a name – Sophia Doyle. At the same time, Munsch brings out the point Grace is a bit narcissistic herself; she wants to solve the murders, sure, but above all else she’s so concerned there is a mystery in her past linking her to all this murder.
Jennifer (Breezy Eslin) is pissed over a mishap at a candle sale. She is beyond hilarious. Although, she tells Denise Hemphill about a story Zayday told her once concerning a want for revenge. But turns out, Zayday’s only in the bathroom. She heard it all. Even more hilarious!
Maybe worse for Zayday overall, one of the Red Devils shows up while Jennifer is recording a video for her candle blog. Bye, bye, candle girl. Stabbed to death, done.
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Chad Radwell (Glenn Powell) is trying to do the Night of a Thousand Compliments in a flashback, it’s a “work in progress” Chanel #1 says. I laughed so hard. Immediately following this crack-up, the girls and Denise find Jennifer, dead, posed on the table downstairs with candle wax all over her, lit wicks and all. Awesome and nasty little death pose.
Pete Martinez (Diego Boneta) is still trying to help Grace out. They’re still trying to figure out what the supposed Hag was doing, where she may have ended up. Back to the asylum they go asking the painting lady, from when Munsch was locked away, about the Hag of Shady Lane – she produces a couple pictures, suggesting Gigi Caldwell (Nasim Pedrad) as the one and only. Also, one of them suggests two babies, not just one.
Cut to Dean Munsch suspends all operations at the campus at a press conference. Then there’s a large ceremony celebrating Jennifer, a ton of candles lit underneath the big tree, everyone waving a candle in their hands.
But the Red Devils have won. The place is shut down, and none other than Chanel #1 is probably the most worried: about Zayday, about her popularity, and about Chad Radwell not wanting to bone her anymore.

Chanel #1: “First of all, I’m an American: I don’t have to understand anything.”
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Grace confronts Gigi back at the Kappa kitchen. Cool as a cucumber, Gigi shrugs most of it off acting as if nothing at all is amiss. Moreover, she completely dismisses Grace, who’s really concerned about her father Wes (Oliver Hudson). Then Gigi reveals they’re supposedly engaged now, ring on her finger and the whole nine yards. Of course, we know the difference. We know Gigi is involved somehow, meeting with one of the Red Devils before.
Chanel #1 has a couple Scotland Yard Inspectors on the case trying to figure out what Zayday is up to. They find nothing, naturally. However, they’ve got some interesting information concerning Grace.
Then there’s Wes, who somehow fell into an engagement due to “mind-blowing sex”. He isn’t even really onboard with it all, mostly just a bit of a dumb man being led around by his dick. Worst of all, after Grace leaves he gives the mirror a terrifying look, which speaks volumes.
At Kappa House, Chanel #1 throws down information the Scots found out about Grace’s mother, right to Grace herself. Apparently the “Waterfalls is my jam” girl was Grace’s mom. Wes and Bethany met at Kappa the night of that big party all those years ago. Later on, Bethany went wild, drunk, and died in a car crash. Above the pain Grace feels, at least she’s not that baby in the bathtub.
There’s a big coup at Kappa, though. Mama Denise has declared her rule, even going so far as to say she’ll steal Chad out from under Chanel #1 (as you remember: they’ve banged). So I thought that was truly funny.
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Finally the truth about Grace’s mom comes out from Wes himself. I still can’t tell what his deal is because there’s a dark streak in him. Regardless of whether or not he is an actual dangerous person, Red Devil, whatever, I still see the darkness in Wes. Plus, he was at the party that night. Could he have had a hand in something? Or is it merely a thin connection to the Kappa House tragedy?
There’s also the dynamic between Wes and Gigi. She is clearly involved with the Red Devils, so I doubt Wes is, too. What I’m interested in now is how Gigi is going to affect both Wes (Weston as she takes to calling him) and Grace. She’s trying to talk Wes into doing something drastic, possibly committing his daughter to an asylum. I hope this is not the case. Yet Gigi will go as far as she has to in order to cover her own secrets.
Chanel #1 actually empathizes with Grace, taking her out for a coffee date. She talks about her own horrible mother, how she’s a viciously atrocious woman. Great little flashback to a tiny Chanel, whose fashion was always impeccable. To see Chanel sort of apologize is impressive. She’s still got oblivion in her eyes, but I feel perhaps there’s a common bond forming, a light one, between the two. If only for Chanel to keep her enemy close.
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Then Boone (Nick Jonas) reappears at a gym, pounding the weights with an EVERYDAY I’M MUSTLING shirt. He says, “I can’t live like this all I do is workout and kill people.” We’re getting more about what happened earlier: Gigi was the one who had the Scalia mask on earlier. Now, it seems the other Red Devils are about to take her out. Will they succeed? Or what will Gigi do now that she’s being threatened further?
Stay tuned with me for the next episode, “Ghost Stories”, also directed by Michael Uppendahl. See you soon!

Back to the Cannibalism of the Wild West with Bone Tomahawk

Bone Tomahawk. 2015. Directed & Written by S. Craig Zahler.
Starring Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Richard Jenkins, Sean Young, Lil Simmons, Zahn McClarnon, Matthew Fox, David Arquette, Kathryn Morris, and Sid Haig.
Caliber Media Company.
Rated R. 132 minutes.
Horror/Western

★★★★★bone-tomahawk This is a movie I’ve waited a long time to see. Ever since I even heard the name, it intrigued me. In fact, I believe writer-director S. Craig Zahler actually wrote the screenplay about 8 years ago or something crazy like that. So for those of us who follow projects from their early stages in development, this is one of those titles people like myself have eagerly awaited. Then, once Kurt Russell, Richard Jenkins, Patrick Wilson (and more) signed on, a year or more ago, the project had me beyond excited.
Westerns can be amazing, if treated properly. There are lots of them out there. Recently I discussed this very same thing while reviewing the Mads Mikkelsen-Jeffrey Dean Morgan Western The Salvation, a film I personally enjoyed. But so many sad, half-hearted Westerns come out, like horror. Part of why I loved Bone Tomahawk is in part because of the blend between horror and Western, two genres of which I’m a huge fan. I fell in love with horror through literature first, then film. Westerns I came to through my grandfather, whose membership to Columbia House and love for John Wayne/Gary Cooper shaped part of my early film viewing life. With a packed cast – including the god damn man Kurt Russell, the chameleon Richard Jenkins, and Patrick Wilson who has talent out the ass – Bone Tomahawk makes the most out of both its Western and horror elements, while not having to fall into every last trope from either genre.
It’s safe to say, this is another modern Western I’ll definitely be adding to my personal collection.
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It’s hard to deny the nasty brutality of a movie like Bone Tomahawk. Particularly when the opening scene has David Arquette’s character cutting a man’s throat; not even efficiently, he slits once, slits another time. After all that, Buddy (Sid Haig) has to finish the man off, crushing his skull. The first two minutes set the tone perfectly. These two men are just killing and robbing, savagely murdering men for nothing more than some books, trinkets, who knows what else – nothing too great. Zahler conjures up a grim atmosphere immediately. Even in the sun baked landscapes Benji Bakshi (who also did the cinematography for the interesting indie Some Kind of Hate recently out) captures there is such an undeniable grimness, it lurks everywhere and casts over every little thing. Then there are the interiors, the Western sets captured in all their gorgeous grittiness.
The string score accompanying so many beautifully realized shots and sequences is fitting. One scene really catches me – as the group of four first depart, there’s a great shot of them all riding and the strings have such a heartbreaking feel. Seriously: this shot belongs in the hall of fame. I can’t shake it. Almost like it foreshadowed every bit of darkness and horror to follow later on, a foreboding moment in time. All the music is courtesy of multi-talented Zahler and Jeff Herriott, whose only feature film surprisingly is this one. Needless to say, they’ve done well. The music adds an extra layer to specific moments, which intensifies things perfectly when required; exactly what a proper score ought do.
Even further, I loved the set design itself, the look of everything. All the main characters were well costumed. I loved Matthew Fox and his get-up, especially one scene when he straightens himself out, putting on his cap then leaving the saloon; amazing. But just little things like the lamps in the bedrooms, the pictures on the walls, so many fine touches such as these made scenes eye-catching. Then the lighting, all around, is perfect. It’s easy for a Western to throw you off nowadays if modernity creeps in too much. Honestly, though, this movie does so well creating the late-1800s atmosphere – the low light of the lamps inside and out around the town, dust/sand battered windows, old bottles of medication and all the pictures, various items on the desks and bedside tables. Such good attention to detail.

Sheriff Hunt: “Ask me about horses again n’ I’ll slap you red
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I love the plot and story of Bone Tomahawk. It’s at times funny, not even darkly but just worthy of a chuckle. The characters are original without being forcibly quirky, also without falling too deep into Western cliche. Furthermore, there’s the aspect of the troglodytes; the fact Mrs. O’Dwyer (Lili Simmons) is the doctor and not as it usually is in the genre a man; Zahn McClarnon plays a Native man whose status among the town isn’t of the lower sort (he wears an awesome suit); and so much more. The dialogue doesn’t come off as someone trying hard to create a Western. Lots of Westerns do fail because their entire style is forced, it doesn’t feel or sound natural when the dialogue is spoken. Yet Zahler writes this well, he’s someone I’ve enjoyed before: Asylum Blackout, to my mind, was a lot of fun and a nice dose of solid horror. Apparently he does well writing about the turn of the century in America, the slow tail end of the Wild West, so it’s easy to see where his talent lies watching this film.
Big favourite of mine here, character-wise, is absolutely John Brooder, played so finely by Matthew Fox; his charm is undeniable, even at times when you’re unsure whether or not he’s being too brutal. The scene with his horse, you’ll know the one – among all the other viciousness of the movie, this actually gets to me emotionally. To see Brooder, uncaring about anyone else other than those around him to which he’s loyal, so upset over the horse is that from which Western heroes are made. And Brooder isn’t the only good character, he’s simply my personal pick. They’re all awesome. Kurt Russell and Patrick Wilson in their own respects are also serving the film well here. Wilson’s character is so sympathetic, to watch him try and make it over the rough terrain out to find his wife, all too often hobbling far behind his companions, it’s actually devastating at times. Russell is, as usual, a hard yet smart tough guy, and his facial hair is fucking out of this world. He plays the Wild West sheriff role with plenty of smirky goodness, as well as with the aforementioned tough exterior.
I’ve got to at least make small mention of Richard Jenkins. He gives an interesting performance as the dim-witted but staunchly loyal sidekick to Russell’s Sheriff Hunt. Even the voice Jenkins puts on, it’s much different from many of his other previous roles. Quality acting all around for this movie.
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Sheriff Hunt: “What time is it?
Chicory: “It’s about nine. But it feels like next week.”
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On top of everything else I love so much here, the horror is supremely vicious. In the best sort of sense. Right off the bat with that scene including Haig and Arquette, there’s so much visceral horror happening. For a while, this stuff almost leaves your mind. There are a few ugly bits on the way to the last 40 minutes, such as Arthur O’Dwyer and his leg, the few shootings and a bit of stabbing. But it’s only once the four men on their journey come across the troglodytes and their cannibalism when things get awfully bloody, gory, and downright savage in its bestial nature. Great stuff, in terms of intense horror. Plus, it’s not a CGI-laden piece of work. Zahler doesn’t opt for a bunch of fake looking blood. Instead there’s a wealth of nice practical work here. Also consider that the movie’s budget is estimated under $2-million, so that’s actually truly impressive, like crazily impressive. When so many horrors, and lots of other genre films, fall into the trappings of computer generated boredom, there’s something to be said for a well crafted film crossing Westerns with horror that sticks to practicality.
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Sheriff Hunt: “We’ll make sure all this has value

5 star film. To the bone.
It’s not often these days with newer films, other than maybe a couple handfuls every year, I find myself glued to the screen. But finally having the chance to watch Bone Tomahawk, my attention was captivated from the opening sequence right to the final frames. There is everything here – the tried and true Western feel, a gritty sense of the Wild West, cannibalism, the at times scariness of horror movies, Richard Jenkins and Matthew Fox in finest form among a cast including other solid performances from Patrick Wilson and Kurt Russell. The adrenaline begins to flow full-on around when the last 43 minutes start descending upon you. Everything prior sets up all the atmosphere and tone necessary for the story to thrive. Everything that follows will keep you reeling, long after the credits roll. See this, or miss out on an innovative Western. Another I can easily say is one of the best in the genre I’ve seen over the past decade or more since the last big, great Westerns like Unforgiven and Tombstone.

American Horror Story – Hotel, Episode 7: “Flicker”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 5, Episode 7: “Flicker”
Directed by Michael Goi
Written by Crystal Liu

* For a review of the previous episode, “Room 33” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Ten Commandments Killer” – click here
screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-3-13-25-pmChecking in at the Hotel Cortez for another week, are we? Join me, as we walk the halls.
You can already feel new revelations about the come to light. Construction has broke ground at the hotel under Will Drake (Cheyenne Jackson) and his management. Eventually, the crew comes upon a part of the hotel covered with steel, running along a whole section. Drake tells them to get the job done, knock it down. Once a couple of the construction guys make their way down a hallway uncovered after tearing the wall down, they discover creepy people(things) lurking in the darkness. Not long after, they have their throats chewed out.
One thing others are whining about is the blood and gore. Those elements do not a horror make. However, Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk have explored a lot of avenues with the 4 seasons preceding this one. They’ve stated this season is meant to have more intense brutality and gore. They said that. So, sorry you don’t like blood, but there ARE horror fans who LOVE that. I am one who can appreciate many sub-genres in horror, including the splatter stuff if it’s done well. The splattery nastiness here is done properly between the writers, the directors, and the Murphy-Falchuk banner. Dig it, hugely.

 


Alex Lowe (Chloë Sevigny) has brought her husband John (Wes Bentley) to the hospital. He’s almost in a trance-like state, walking in catatonia. He virtually mumbles everything coming out of his mouth. But rightfully so, he is definitely failing mentally. At the same time, most of his mental stress is being produced through his wife, through the hotel, through all the things he knows are real but just can’t prove. Not yet. He seems to have a plan, being checked in on purpose, though. I hope so hard he is NOT the Ten Commandments Killer after all. I don’t think he is, he seems to have an ace up his sleeve.
Back at the hotel, Iris (Kathy Bates) accompanies The Countess (Lady Gaga) over to where the construction crew are down two men. They don’t even know who did it, so that’s something I find interesting: Countess doesn’t even have the lid on everything happening under her roof. I’m sure James March (Evan Peters) knows all about the various comings and goings. But The Countess readily admits she’s not sure of what could’ve done the deed, and Iris notes how “Ive never seen you scared before.” Very intriguing little scene.

An impressive flashback to The Countess and her former life, 1925 in Hollywood. She is an extra on the set of a Ruldoph Valentino (Finn Wittrock) picture, admiring how beautiful the man is. They end up back at Valentino’s luxurious home. “Flickers are the future,” she says to him. He doesn’t buy her talk of immortality on the silver screen, commenting that in a century nobody will remember any of the movies they were in. We already know this not to be true, 90 years on; highly and almost categorically untrue, overall. Regardless, we’re treated to an excellent few classical film-like moments where the young Countess is whirled around dancing by Rudolph. Then, out of nowhere, Natacha Rambova (Alexandra Daddario) – his wife – shows up and makes the entire thing unpleasant, terribly awkward. This sex-laden season continues with a Rambova-Rudolph-Countess threesome.
Young Countess heads over to a celebration held by none other than Mr. James March. Here, in a brief scene, we get to see Evan Peters really do some excellent acting. I love him, and I’ve loved his performance in each season. Although, at the beginning of Hotel I was not sold on his March; I thought it was too hammy, or something. But more and more I’ve been drawn in. With this scene, and the one following with him/Gaga, I’m beyond pleased. There’s some element of these moments which I can’t escape, so damn infectious.
More than that, March and young Countess come together: man and wife. She doesn’t truly love him, still burning for Rudolph (who in this timeline has faked his death). Nevertheless, we see the beginning of the March-Countess murder double team, plus there is an excellent black-and-white old school sequence featuring Wittrock as Valentino; it reminds me of an actual silent movie from the early 20th century, fitted with an homage to F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu. Not just an homage, it’s actually Murnau who is a vampire seeking to preserve Valentino. There’s lots of good stuff, including a blood orgy of vampires in the Carpathians.
But Valentino and Rambova have plans to whisk The Countess away with them. Will March let anything like that happen? I think not.
screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-3-15-21-pmOver at the West Los Angeles Health Center, John Lowe is stumbling around, dazed and looking like any other patient. Only soon he knocks out a guard, making his way into a locked wing of the hospital looking for a patient named HAHN. Opening the door, he finds a young blonde girl dressed like all the other kids The Countess took. Her name is Wren (Jessica Belkin), she doesn’t “want to feed anymore.” More than all that, she has information about the Ten Commandments Killer apparently. Wren was present during one of the crimes, but says: “Nobody forced me to do anything.” She doesn’t seem to want to run from any of it, admitting to what happened and claiming it was nobody else’s fault except her own. There are scary parallels happening now, between Wren/The 10 Commandments Killer and John/his daughter. The visuals are awesome, with close-ups on John’s face, as well as Wren. Then she takes us back to a 1986 flashback where her father leaves her in a hot car outside the Hotel Cortez; when she met The Countess. Finally, Wren agrees to take Lowe to where the killer lives if they can escape.
Big surprise! The two creepy things that killed those construction guys are actually zombified, starving corpses, vampire corpses starving for blood… they are Rudolph and Natacha. Trying to get enough blood to return them to a state of beauty, they argue with one another. Natacha hates him for needing The Countess, bringing them into their now horrific state.

What curious creatures
Like Colossus come to life

James March and The Countess have a nice dinner together, a monthly tradition it seems. He’s very dapper and lovely, she is also gorgeous and looking elegant. She wanted to see him because of the plan to marry Drake. He feigns a bit of sincerity. Clearly, he does not like the idea. The Countess, to James, is his property. The dinner isn’t exactly wonderful or happy. Mostly, they’re tense with one another.

 

 

screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-3-19-11-pmThen we see what could’ve been assumed – March had Natacha and Rudolph attacked, then brought to the Hotel Cortez. After which he proceeded to wall them up in that hallway, where they were left to perish for the rest of eternity. Or, at least until Drake decided to start renovating his latest acquisition. But even while I knew this was coming, I love the sequence. It’s haunting, harrowing even, to see these two lovers – assholes though they were – discovering themselves forever entombed behind a steel, a wall, then a ton of bricks. Best of all, March reveals all this to The Countess.
screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-3-20-11-pmThe finale of the episode is incredible. “Circles” by The Soft Moon plays as we first see Rudolph and Natacha stroll out of the hotel replenished with youthful vigour. Then, John Lowe gets Wren out of the hospital. But instead of any answers, Wren wants it all to end: she runs into the street and gets ran down by a transport truck. Cue the black screen.
Wow.
Excited for the next episode, “The Ten Commandments Killer“. What do you think? Will John be the culprit? Or is it an unknown, hidden character lurking just beyond the periphery of our vision? Stay tuned with me and find out, horror heads!

The Last Winter: Larry Fessenden’s Fossil Fuel Horrorshow

The Last Winter. 2006. Directed by Larry Fessenden. Screenplay by Fessenden & Robert Leaver.
Starring Ron Perlman, Connie Britton, James Le Gros, Jamie Harrold, Zach Gilford, Kevin Corrigan, Jamie Harrold, Pato Hoffmann, Joanne Shenandoah, Larry Fessenden, and Oscar Miller. Antidote Films/Glass Eye Pix/Zik Zak Kvikmyndir. Rated 18A. 101 minutes.
Horror/Thriller

★★★★
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It’s no secret I’m a huge Larry Fessenden fan. His collection of films recently hit Blu ray, so I luckily snatched up a copy from eBay at a solid price. The entire 4-disc collection includes his films No TellingHabitWendigo, and of course The Last Winter. Included are a ton of extra bits like music videos and short films Fessenden pulls out of virtual obscurity, as well as the man himself talking us into the pictures, plus the short pieces too. The commentary is great all around, everything about this collection is magic.
The Last Winter is a rare bird. While I’m not huge on certain special effects in this movie, I can’t fault it much more outside those elements. In a day and age where too many people deny climate change, not to mention its impact(s), Fessenden takes the horror genre and weaves a contemporary issue through its cliches and tropes in a unique way. The story, above all else, is what matters. Add to that some solid performances, excellent tension developed by Fessenden’s directorial style, and this is a supremely creepy effort among a ton of post-2000 horror movies which aren’t worth their weight.

American oil company KIC Corporation is drilling in the arctic, constructing an ice road into the Northern Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to find more locations in which they’ll explore for more deposits. At a station ran by corporate shill Ed Pollack (Ron Perlman), a team of environmentalists work side by side with people from KIC. James Hoffman (James Le Gros) and his assistant Elliot Jenkins (Jamie Harrold) are the most recent scientists evaluating the project. When Pollack bumps heads with Hoffman, the latter is taken away from the project permanently; no doubt due to Ed’s pull at KIC. At the same time, young crew member Maxwell McKinder (Zach Gilford) goes missing for a while. Upon his return, he seems distant, disturbed. One night, he wanders out into the wilderness, naked and mentally unstable. The rest of the crew find him dead, eyes only empty sockets. And then, they realize the environment may be starting to take back what they’ve drilled so relentlessly out of its bones.
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Hoffman: “Why do we despise the world that gave us life? Why wouldn’t the world survive us, like any organism survives a virus. The world that we grew up in is changed forever. There is no way home. Is there something beyond science that is happening out here? What if the very thing we were here to pull out of the ground were to rise willinglyconfront us. What would that look like? What if this is the last winter, before the collapse? And hope dies.”

The cinematography is spectacular. So many of the exterior shots in particular, they’re marvelous to look at – from the wide shots of the Arctic Circle, to the helicopter and sweeping crane shots of the camp. Every last sequence in the entire film looks gorgeous, even the dark, shadowy moments. Again, as I said earlier, there are a few shots involving special effects I don’t think come off so great. At the same time, the camerawork itself is all around fascinating. Fessenden has a great eye for unique looking shots, things which catch the eye: crane and helicopter shots, tight and wide angles, the whole spectrum alike. Here, he’s aided by cinematographer G. Magni Ágústsson.
Together with a distinctive look and feel, The Last Winter‘s atmosphere comes across so feverishly in part due to the inclusion of an eerie score by Jeff Grace (Cold in JulyThe House of the Devil, The Roost). Not only is there a quality score, the tone consistently set between that and the visuals, there’s incredible sound design courtesy of Abigail Savage (who many will know well from her turn as Gina Murphy on Orange is the New Black). Everything is creeping, in terms of sound: the wind in the background, the stamp of ghostly hooves across the frozen arctic plains, and later the crashing plane, all the fire which follows and so on. I’m always keeping my ear out for good sound design, as well as score. But there’s something about the background sounds and noise of a film which really elevates a film properly if accomplished well. The sound design can truly make a movie less interesting if the sounds incorporated are annoying or aggravating, instead of compelling and rich, as they certainly are in this film.
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While I could rave on about Ron Perlman, even James Le Gros or Connie Britton, most of what interests me about The Last Winter is the plot and the story. Fessenden creates an ecological horror film out of the fear of global warming/climate change. The character of Pollack (Perlman) represents those stubborn sort who think the tipping point has passed, even if they’re willing to admit the world climate is changing for the worse. His hardheaded nature is the type which got us to this point. But yet in this film, we literally see the evidence climbing up and out of the ground. The living embodiment of nature fighting back against us. I know a lot of viewers may find Fessenden’s themes here heavy handed and obvious. However, I find the presentation makes things so interesting, it’s hard to deny the thematic power at play. Fessenden uses many typical horror genre tropes to explore the sociopolitical issues inherent in the dynamic between those who quest for oil versus those who keep telling us to be wary of our reliance on fossil fuels without worrying (or caring) about the consequences.
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The Last Winter, despite some of its less than stellar computer generated imagery, is a 4 out of 5 star film. For me, it is. Others may be turned away from its environmental message, buried beneath its thrills and its horrific moments. Some might not like other aspects, who knows. But I cannot tear myself away from the grim tone, the compelling cinematography, sound design and writing. Even more than that, the writing helps bring out some timely messages about us, our world, and the future that could come to be eventually. I don’t think it’ll look exactly like this portrait of madness Fessenden illustrates. All the same, I’m inclined to feel we’ve absolutely treated this planet like shit. Some day we might pay for all our transgressions against this world we claim to love.

Fargo – Season 2, Episode 6: “Rhinoceros”

FX’s Fargo
Season 2, Episode 6: “Rhinoceros”
Directed by Jeffrey Reiner
Written by Noah Hawley

* For a review of the previous episode, “The Gift of the Magi” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Did You Do This? No, You Did It!” – click here
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After the last episode, we come right back to Ed and Peggy Blumquist (Jesse Plemons/Kirsten Dunst). In the finale of “The Gift of the Magi”, cop lights and sirens were blaring, swinging around out front of their house. Now we start with Lou Solverson (Patrick Wilson) taking Ed out to the car in cuffs. Behind him, Sheriff Hank Larsson (Ted Danson) tries his best to calm Peggy down. We’re about to see ole Ed, the poor soul, dragged down the rabbit hole. Even the look on Plemons’ face spells it all, as Lou drives him to the station. Very grim, very sombre mood. The tone here starting off the top is solid.
At the station, worry wort Betsy (Cristin Milioti) came to check on her husband, despite her own sickly disposition. Then there’s Charlie Gerhardt (Allan Dobrescu) – he gets his one call from jail.
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But before we get any of that, Bear Gerhardt (Angus Sampson) sits with his ill father, Otto (Michael Hogan). They have a deep little one-sided chat, about the family. Right before Dodd (Jeffrey Donovan) shows up, looking – as always – confrontational.
Simone (Rachel Keller) calls Bear inside to talk to Charlie on the phone. Dodd doesn’t have any respect for his daughter, talking to her like trash. Then out comes Bear – he’s pissed, he finally figured out Charlie was drawn into the family shit by Uncle Dodd. They have a small fight, before Hanzee Dent (Zahn McClarnon) cocks the shotgun on Bear. Dodd gives him a choice of punishment: “Strap or the buckle.” Bad ass Bear chooses the buckle, but before that goes down Mama Floyd (Jean Smart) interrupts it all. She wants her grandson back, she doesn’t want any trouble with the brothers. I’m just waiting, though, to see if Floyd will eventually have to put down her son Dodd; it’s as if I can feel the thunder rumbling already, just waiting for the storm to hit.
With Floyd wanting blood from the butcher, as well as Charlie out of lockup, Simone calls Mike Milligan (Bokeem Woodbine). She lets him in on the Gerhardt plan as it stands, telling him they’re on their way to Luverne. Some might think Simone is petty, childish, vindictive. I don’t. I think she’s a person who has had too much abuse pushed in her face, been treated awfully by her family. Now she’s dropping vengeance on them, big time. Will it play out that way?
Milligan sends us intro a strange atmosphere with a partial reading of “Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carroll. Some split-screen action shows us him in the car, last Kitchen Brother (Brad Mann) in tow, juxtaposed with Hanzee, Bear and Dodd on their own respective journey towards Luverne.
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Hank Larsson is trying to keep Peggy on lockdown at home. She clearly does not understand the situation. Either that, or dear Peg is being purposefully oblivious. I think she’s beyond nervous. She rambles and runs on talking to Hank, about the modern woman and dreams and all their plans. But Hank continually tries to get through to her: these people were coming to KILL ED. They want him dead. We know that. Hank and Lou both know that. Hell, I’m sure even Ben Schmidt (Keir O’Donnell) up at Fargo P.D. knows what’s going on. Finally, Hank breaks it all down simply – he even knows now she sold the car to the mechanic over at the garage.
We cut from Peggy, on a knife’s edge, to the police station. Ed is sitting across from Lou, they’re getting down to the nitty gritty. Obviously, Ed was planning on taking off. Yet the timing fucked them; hard. Or better yet, Peggy fucked them; real hard. He even talks about Camus and The Myth of Sisyphus; the futility of pushing that damn rock up the fucking hill, every day, one after another. Yet somehow, among the absurdity of Camus’ philosophy, Ed turns it into – “I’ll take care of what’s mine“.
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Peggy: “You say it like these things happen in a vacuum. Like it’s a testcheck A or B. But it’s like, decisions you make in a dream, y’know? I’ll tell ya what, if it was me and we had to run, I wouldn’t look back.”
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Outside the Blumquist house, all of a sudden, Dodd Gerhardt and crew show up. Sheriff Larsson steps outside, telling Peggy to go hide someplace. Hank stands there talking with Dodd, trying to smooth things over. Although, he doesn’t let himself look like a guy who messes around, dropping an insult in with it all. The look in the eyes of Ted Danson are what great characterization is made of, he does such a perfect job showing it all in his face. But then Hanzee knocks him out, letting Dodd inside with the cattle prod. The crew has a look around in the basement, which doesn’t do much except produce a casualty of their own: Dodd kills one of his henchmen after hearing a noise and popping a shot off. Then Dodd makes the dumb mistake of dropping his cattle prod, not bothering to pick up. Peggy grabs hold and nearly prods the life out of Dodd. Dig it!
At the Gerhardt ranch, as Floyd tries to talk with her granddaughter Simone, Milligan and his own gang show up, blowing the windows out and firing until they hear a click. The fan is spinning again and the shit has stained everything. There’s going to be an absolute war now. With only four episode left after this, I can only imagine what is about to happen.
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However, the most insane thing yet begins when lawyer Karl Weathers (Nick Offerman) stumbles in to help his new client, Ed Blumquist. When he makes his way out of the police station, Bear and his crew stand firm with shotguns in hand. Arriving to take back his son Charlie.
The big stand off starts. Lou Solverson comes out to meet the armed hands. Meanwhile, Hanzee is sneaking around the side trying to get a shot at Ed inside the interrogation room. Bear tries to scare Lou down, but as we know: Lou’s kind of a bad motherfucker. He goes back in and gets things real tight – smashed lightbulbs under the windows, barricades around the doors, and so on. Plus, he recruits half-drunk Karl to try and talk sense into Bear/the armed henchmen. The music here is so excellent, the score has a military drum-style sound which goes so well with how things are setting up around this big showdown at the station.
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Larsson finally wakes up on the Blumquist porch and figures out what’s going on. But will he or any reinforcements arrive before things get nasty? Karl slinks back out to talk with Bear, as Lou attempts sneaking Ed out a window in the rear of the building. Such a tense few minutes. Hanzee is still heading around the perimeter, trying to get a shot. Although, Lou manages to get Ed out to the woods, keeping them safe. For the moment.
Continuously, Karl is talking Bear down with legal mumbo jumbo. He actually appeals to the loving father in Bear, the one who never wanted Charlie in the family business, and defuses the ticking Gerhardt time bomb.
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Once Larsson picks Lou up on the side of the road, Ed runs out into the dark horizon. They let him go because they know where he’s headed. Except right behind Lou, out of the forest, comes Hanzee once they’re gone. He then silently walks out towards where Ed was going.
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Nice little cut between the credits of Karl Weathers talking more smack. Can’t wait for the next episode, “Did You Do This? No, You Did It!“. Promises to be an incredible episode after what’s gone down in this chapter. Stay tuned for another one!

Fargo – Season 2, Episode 5: “The Gift of the Magi”

FX’s Fargo
Season 2, Episode 5: “The Gift of the Magi”
Directed by Jeffrey Reiner
Written by Ben Nedivi and Matt Wolpert

* For a review of the previous episode, “Fear and Trembling” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Rhinoceros” – click here
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The beginning of this episode begins with an excellent voice-over. I’ve awaited this moment. A bus flies by with REAGAN across it, all the while there’s Bruce Campbell giving a speech as the ole Gipper. Brief, but amazing.
Then, out in the middle of nowhere, Joe Bulo (Brad Garrett) and Mike Milligan (Bokeem Woodbine), alongside the Kitchen Brothers and a bunch of other men. Are they going out hunting? Looks like it. But hunting what? Bulo and a hunting guide of sorts head out to hunt, shoot skeet, whatever.
More of the excellent editing here. The splitscreen technique takes us between Reagan, back on, speaking to a crowd including Lou and Betsy Solverson (Patrick Wilson/Cristin Milioti), Constance (Elizabeth Marvel) and a ton of others – to Hanzee Dent (Zahn McClarnon) driving back to the Gerhardt Ranch. There, he gives Rye’s belt buckle back to the clan. Dodd (Jeffrey Donovan) and Bear (Angus Sampson) are not happy, neither is Mama Floyd (Jean Smart). Naturally.

Out in the woods, a massive shitstorm comes crashing down on Bulo. There are guns firing. People are shot, chaos descends. The Kitchen Brothers come out blazing, too. Then out of nowhere comes Hanzee – he annihilates the two shotgun wielding brothers with a huge knife. Incredibly wild. Especially afterwards, once Bulo comes shambling out of the woods to find Hanzee waiting for him by the cars. All the while we’re still hearing Campbell’s Reagan giving a speech. There are some parallels between Reagan and the sort of stuff happening in the small little Minnesota town. I expect the whole Reagan angle to make a nice overarching theme once the season is done.
Then we’re back to the troubles of Ed and Peggy Blumquist (Jesse Plemons/Kirsten Dunst). Poor Ed is having nightmares of Rye, the night of his death, all that. Even worse, Peggy is trying to convince her husband to take off. Lou really put the spook in her last episode. But Ed doesn’t want any part of that. He wanted such a normal, quaint life, and with Peggy’s mistakes – her massive blunders – it’s really all her that’s put them in such a terrifying position. I feel bad for Peggy, I mean, she’s sympathetic. Yet Ed is where my sympathies truly lie.

The Gerhardt youngsters are each their own type of fucked up. First there’s Charlie (Allan Dobrescu) who wants to pull the trigger, to avenge Rye, as he believes it has to be a Gerhardt to do the job on the butcher. To which Dodd agrees.
And then there’s Simone (Rachel Keller). She takes off from her father, out to see Milligan. Surprisingly, one Kitchen Brother remains; I thought he was also dead (“I see Thing 1, where’s Thing 2?” asks Simone). Things get damn tense. Milligan has a box with the head of Joe Bulo in it. He’s not completely convinced of Simone and her allegiance, whether it still lies with her family or with him, as her new lover: “If you want me to take you seriously, you have to be a serious person.” And he essentially gives her an ultimatum, to tell him everything before the Gerhardts even move on a plan, or else she can “die with the rest of ’em“.
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Lou Solverson’s new contact in Fargo P.D., Bed Schmidt (Keir O’Donnell), gives him a call over the radio. He’s got the mess in the woods to deal with, the Bulo situation and all those puzzle pieces. Looks as if those two are going to have their hands full. Another trip to the Gerhardt Ranch is on the schedule. Can’t wait.

Noreen: “Camus says knowin’ we’re all gonna die makes life a joke
Ed: “So what, you just give up?
Noreen: “You could just kill yerself. Get it over with.”
Ed: “C’mon ya gotta try
Noreen: “No
Ed: “You go to school, you get a job, start a family.”
Noreen: “You die

One of Fargo‘s incredible strengths comes through how the tension plays out, the suspense and the technique of drawing it out. Great sequence here where Charlie heads into the butcher shop in order to kill the butcher. There’s a very tense lead up, then a funny little exchange between Charlie and Noreen concerning the Camus book she’s reading, which really breaks the tension. Yet still, this tension switches back once Ed shows up through the door from out back – we get a split-second view, from Charlie’s P.O.V, as Ed looks mean and full of blood. Then it snaps to the natural, friendly Ed. So, as we all predicated, Charlie only walks away with some cuts of beef. No dead Ed.
At the Blomquist home, it appears Peggy has plain ideas about what she wants to do. She’s packing suitcases, though, it looks as if they’re only her own. Cut to: Peggy leaving a bus, suitcases in hand. She’s headed to the garage for the car. Awkwardly, she gets it back and fumbles through a conversation with the mechanic. This is the problem with Peggy: she is fundamentally a person without sense. She never does anything with a plan. But to my huge surprise, silly Peg goes to the garage instead of running. She takes a cold $700 from the mechanic for the car, seemingly intent on putting that towards buying the butcher shop. Is this a good thing? Will this help bring her and Ed closer back together, at least on the same page again? Hopefully so.

Bear: “How’d it go this mornin’?
Hanzee: “Killed a few, lost a few.”
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There’s a ton of further tension in the Gerhardt family. We see a brief encounter between Bear and Hanzee. Then a worse one between Dodd and Bear – the latter is proud to serve with his mother as the head of their racket, the former has no time for “taking orders from a woman“. We’re going to see some serious fallout between the brothers, I think. First, there’s the fact of this confrontation. Then there’s also Dodd sending Charlie out to do a terrible thing; even though he didn’t do it, a good uncle would never involve a nephew like that.
Great meeting between State Trooper Solverson and Ronald Reagan in a washroom. Over a piss, Reagan relates a (partial) tale of some war picture he’d been in. Afterwards, Lou babbles on about the “sickness of this world” possibly being inside his wife, giving her cancer, as if he brought some of it back from serving in a nasty war. I feel for him. No doubt he has his demons. Although, Reagan isn’t anyone to try and assuage any fears. His only response once Lou asks an important question is to squeeze Lou’s shoulders, smile, then head off. Amazing, Campbell is such a perfect vision of Reagan that it baffles me. I couldn’t see how it was going to work when I first heard the casting news ages ago. Now, I kick myself to have thought anything other than: fucking awesome.

Lots of family relationships, good ones, in this show. Between the different Gerhardt dynamics – Dodd/Bear, Dodd/Charlie, Dodd/Simone, & Dodd/Floyd (a pattern emerges) – and the Solversons, I’m loving every minute of the scenes involving any of their characters.
Particularly, I love Hank Larsson (Ted Danson) and his daughter Betsy Solverson. They’re great together. I’m not usually even a fan of Danson’s, but there is a finesse and subtlety with which he plays the role I can’t deny. Especially in this episode, as he tries consoling his terminally ill daughter; there’s a point you could almost cry, he’s so tender and gentle and silly. Great few moments here.
Then we fall back to Charlie. He wants to go back to school, trying to call his father on the phone. But the man who Dodd sent with the boy wants to settle things. Thanks to Noreen, Charlie misses Ed. Then a massive fight breaks out between the Gerhardt henchman and Ed, a fire ignites after Charlie pumps a shot in the wrong direction.
Yet Ed proves to be almost superhero-like. He whacks the guy with a meat cleaver, plants a butcher’s knife in the henchman’s head, then gets Noreen + Charlie out to safety (even though the young Gerhardt took a bullet – maybe just a stray grazing or something). Then, instead of sticking around, Ed takes off. No doubt to make sure Peggy is okay. Or is he now convinced leaving town is best?

Dodd: “Bein’ grown’s got a price
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Ed flies back in the door trying to tell Peggy they need to pack and leave. Worst timing ever, right? They’re destined to never be on the same page. She’s already sold the car, changed her mind. Now, everything has changed in the blink of an eye. The shop burned up, anyways. MAN, OH, MAN! I feel so terrible for the Blumquists. There’s a nasty irony to everything happening in their lives. Tragedy lurks around each and every corner they come to.
The shit really hits the fan spinning when Ed and Peggy hear sirens, the reds and blues flashing around outside their door. Harsh and darkly comedic moment, as they both stare out towards the front door, seeing it all. We return to Billy Thorpe’s “Children of the Sun”, which played in an earlier episode – it plays as the credits roll. Quality finish to a solid episode.

Excited to see/review “Rhinoceros”. Stay tuned for the next episode’s rundown!

The Walking Dead – Season 6, Episode 6: “Always Accountable”

AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 6, Episode 6: “Always Accountable”
Directed by Jeffrey F. January
Written by Heather Bellson

* For a review of the previous episode, “Now” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Heads Up” – click here
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Another episode keeping the group divided, “Always Accountable” begins with walkie talkie chatter between Daryl (Norman Reedus), Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) and Abraham (Michael Cudlitz). They cruise down the road, even a little chummy in their disposition over the radio.
Then out of nowhere, some other group attacks them. Daryl ducks under fire over the road. Abraham and Sasha take fire in the care.
But still, these tough sons and sister of bitches are downright bad ass. After Daryl hits the pavement, some zombies descend upon him. He makes it out while Sasha and Abraham gun down men in the car chasing after them. Separated slightly from his two friends, Daryl ends up collapsing on a forest road, surprisingly enough next to a corpse wearing a motorcycle helmet; all the while, Daryl wears nothing except the clothes on his back.
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Problem is, now Daryl’s off on his own in the woods somewhere. He’s a little beat up after taking a skid on the bike back with the trigger happy maniacs and the zombies. Something I don’t mention often enough is Norman Reedus, in terms of his acting skill. Even just himself, on his own, the pain he feels comes across as so real. I’ve loved him since I first saw him in Mimic, such a small yet impressionable role – loved him more once Boondock Saints came out. But as Daryl, he plays a rare role – with greatness – in which he’s both a hard, backwoods type of man, and at the same time there is a true, and often, glitter of kindness in his heart. There’s a reason the role was made for Reedus, literally; Darabont loved his audition for Merle, and so created the character specifically for him.
The worst comes when Daryl finds two women following him. Then a guy knocks him out. He gets taken captive by the three, at gunpoint. In the face of possible death, Daryl doesn’t flinch. How many times before AND after the zombie apocalypse happened has Daryl had a gun pointed in his face? Too many to count.
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When Daryl does make it away, running off into the woods, he takes an army duffle bag. Once far enough he has to fend off a zombie, then realizes the bag contains insulin. One of the women of the trio who took him captive seemed to have fainted right before Darly ran. Will this affect his good conscience? Or has the new wasteland finally turned him away from having that conscience when danger is too near?
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On down the road, Sasha and Abraham scrawl DIXON on a door in case Daryl is trailing behind. They head inside an office building. First, Abraham finds a military man’s uniform decorated with medals, a family photo. You can see a part of his former self, in the good sense, flicker behind his eyes. Afterwards he and Sasha have a bit of a confrontation. Both of them talk about being in control. Each has had a good deal of mental strain over the past while, though, they’re sort of returning to themselves. Surprisingly, it’s Sasha – who at once wanted to basically die – who has her head on the straightest. In some sense, she does get through to Abraham. Although he still puts up such a hard, rigid front.
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Sasha: “Without walkers and bullets and shit hittin’ the fan, you’re always accountable.”
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Going back to give the trio their bag, Daryl finds himself in a bad situation. Into the forest rolls a huge truck, out come a group of armed men looking for the three people. In a moment of even further conscience, possibly to his own detriment, the backwater cowboy Dixon helps the people who had once  treated him harshly. Off they run, hiding for a while. Until Daryl draws one of the men into getting bit by a zombie. The truck and men withdraw, not wanting to pursue any further because “he only wants ass that’s willing, y’know?” – pretty ominous. Is this what I think it is? Are we beginning to see slight introductions to a well-known character coming to the show later this season? Or is it merely another little villain for our heroes to overcome? We’ll see. I can’t remember half of the comics I’ve read up to this point, so some of what’s coming in terms of the adaptation I’m not even sure of anymore.
Abraham is still having his own trouble. He finds a box of cigars, as well as a soldier hanging from a rooftop and some knocked down fence. The soldier’s got an RPG strapped on his back. After a drawn out, tense scene, he ends up watching the zombified man rip apart and fall… but the RPG still hangs off the fence, anyways. Heading back inside with a newfound optimism, Abraham “makes some plays” in order to possibly get to know Sasha “a whole lot better“. Funny, sort of cute little scene between these two.
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Back with the trio and Daryl, things turn to terror. The young diabetic girl (ends up being bitten, once they return to a camp where they’d obviously once been. After they head into the forest, things seem to turn fine. Daryl begins the recruitment process, asking the THREE QUESTIONS they used to ask new people on the road.
But not too long passes before the two others turn on Daryl. They take not just his bike, also his crossbow. Alone in the woods, he’s again in a vulnerable position. Worse than when the episode began, in fact. Even so he comes to find a truck in the forest, a fuel company truck.
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For a moment when he pulls up to where Abraham and Sasha are staying, you think they’re in danger. We don’t even see Daryl, or the truck at first. Only the smiles on their faces.
As the episode closes, over the radio we here someone say: “Help. Help.” It sounds like Rick, possibly. Next week, I anticipate everyone will find their way back to Alexandria and once again they’ll all band together in order to move forward.
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Stay tuned with me for the next episode, “Heads Up”. Will we soon find out about Glenn? I’m loving the anticipation.