After being kidnapped, taken from where she stayed with Daryl, Beth winds up in an Atlanta hospital.
AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead
Season 1, Episode 3: “The Dog”
Directed by Adam Davidson (Hell on Wheels, The Following, Low Winter Sun)
Written by Jack LoGiudice (Sons of Anarchy, The Walking Dead)
* For a review of the next episode, “Not Fade Away” – click here
* For a review of the previous episode “So Close, Yet So Far” – click here
At the beginning of the latest episode, “The Dog”, we see the big family still divided across the city.
While Travis Manawa (Cliff Curtis), his son Chris (Lorenzo James Henrie), his ex-wife Liza Ortiz (Elizabeth Rodriguez), and the Salazars – Ofelia (Mercedes Mason), Daniel (Rubén Blades), and Griselda (Patricia Reyes Spíndola) – are all holed up in the little barber shop owned by Daniel, a riot is going down fiercely in the streets. After a few minutes they’re forced out of the shop and into the street, as a fire next door begins to make the wall literally bubble.
Not just riots are happening; the apocalypse is nigh!
Chris witnesses a person zombified, biting into the neck of another person; in fact, they’re police officers, most likely SWAT Team members. The whole city of Los Angeles, at least that area anyways, looks to be in total panic mode, full-on mayhem.
Meanwhile, back at home, safe and sound, Madison Clark (Kim Dickens) is taking care of her junkie son Nick (Frank Dillane). The two of them, plus Madison’s daughter Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey), play a board game.
Great juxtaposition of the two family units, each in their own space – one fighting to survive in the streets, the other in a nice, quaint little living room playing a board game. I also feel like there’s a larger statement in this segment. For instance, the Clarks are all white, and then there’s Travis, his ex-wife, and the Salazars who are all of different ethnicities. While the white people are all cozy in their houses, it’s everyone else left in the streets – at the mercy of police and zombies. I don’t know, perhaps I’m making a mountain out of a molehill, or a pile of lint, but I honestly think there’s a bit of George A. Romero political zombietary dropped in amongst it all. That’s the great part about art in any form: we’re all able to draw out what we want from the themes and events within it. I’m probably way off base from the writing, it’s still fun to theorize.
An amazing sequence is in this first 10-12 minutes. When Travis leads his group out of the downtown area riots in the truck. The way it’s filmed is heavy, man. The score, the shots themselves, they all amount to a feeling of great unease. Travis and his son Chris look out the window of their truck, as the Salazars and Liza sit in the pan: chaos is erupting, the hospital is overrun with police and at least ONE zombie – no doubt lots more – and an excellent slow motion shot sees an officer running with an automatic rifle in hand. There’s just a real sense of gravitas to everything happening. Even Travis knows it’s more than simply riots; we, the audience, know far more. So in both ways this scene cuts deep, in an immediate sense because we’re watching society begin to breakdown as the zombie outbreak begins so quickly.
Furthermore, once they get out of the populated area up on this hill, Travis and Chris watch through the truck’s windows and we can see in the reflection of the glass city lights are beginning to shut down, one section at a time, Los Angeles descending into a soon to be perpetual darkness.
Once Travis and his group arrive back to find Madison and the kids, there’s trouble.
A zombified neighbour wanders into the Clark house, killing and eating the family dog. Out looking for a shotgun at another neighbour’s house, Madison isn’t able to warn Travis before he heads inside. ZOMBIE ATTACK! Finally we’re seeing another zombie on human sequence. This time it’s more intense than Madison’s encounter with her co-worker.
Daniel Salazar intervenes on Travis’ behalf by shotgunning the zombie neighbour in the face. SUCH GNARLY EFFECTS! The first shotgun blast is savage. Then Daniel takes another pop shot and the head goes BAM; nevermore. Really wild makeup effects which I loved.
There’s some family drama happening with everyone now housed temporarily under the Clark roof. First it starts with Chris trying to help Alicia, but getting a hard elbow in the nose. This puts Chris and his father in a room together for a few moments, as they talk a little about the infection; mostly, Travis tries to reassure his son that everything will be all right. Moreover, Travis has obviously got things a bit rough with two wives in one place, which – regardless of the circumstances it being the end of the world outside and all – cannot be easy, it’s obviously a wound still partly open for some of them.
The Salazars are also at odds. Daniel doesn’t want to be in someone else’s debt at a time such as it is in Los Angeles. But clearly it’s also not a time to be alone, cast away from society or people of any kind. Everybody needs somebody (some time). The Salazar women feel a little differently, however, I get the impression Daniel is only looking out for his loved ones; he strikes me as a very family centric man and he’s not about to make anything worse than it is for his own family by siding with the wrong people. I’m sure as time goes by, he and Travis might find a bit of common ground, a mutual understanding on which they might stand together. Eventually.
Daniel and Travis still have a way to go. The old guy is only trying to keep everyone safe, but Travis has a problem with Daniel showing Chris how to use a shotgun. Mainly, I think ol’ Mr. Salazar is a realist. He knows something is wrong, he’s seen some things in his life, and the guy just wants to be prepared; he wants, needs, everyone else to do the same. It’s telling when he sees Travis and Madison at the fence – Travis talks Madison out of killing her zombie neighbour-friend Susan Tran (Cici Lau), Daniel only says to himself “Weak” as they walk away. So it’s obvious he has got the realism hat on while others are having a harder time adjusting.
Even further than that, the Salazars opt not to go with the Clark-Manawa-Ortiz brigade, as Daniel tells his daughter “good people are the first to die“.
The most intense sequence of “The Dog”, though, has got to be when Patrick Tran (Jim Lau) comes home to his wife Susan. Just as he’s about to grab her in a hug, as she shuffles zombi-ly towards her husband, some National Guardsmen blow a little hole right through dead Susan’s head. I thought for sure there’d be a big zombie chase sequence or simply a blood and gore fest maybe, with a couple deaths. Instead, “The Dog” sets up the next episode with the National Guard moving in on the whole neighbourhood and, at least for the time being, the Clarks, Salazars, and the Manawa-Ortiz clan are safe. Or are they? Who knows exactly what will happen.
As Travis says “It’s gonna get better now” and the episode fades out with a slightly optimistic yet haunting score overtop, it’s hard to tell exactly how things will go immediately. Of course, we know how they’ll start to go on down the line.
But just before the cut to black happens, Daniel says to his wife, while watching the National Guard move through a house next door: “It’s already too late”
Very foreboding finish!
Can’t wait for the next episode, “Not Fade Away”. People keep saying the shows is boring, but it isn’t to me. Others expected full-on mayhem and madness. It’s not that type of series! Not yet anyways. The world of Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, Charlie Adlard, and yes Dave Erickson, has sprung to life in a new, unexpected way in this series which leads us into where original show The Walking Dead has already taken us. So for those who don’t enjoy, here’s a tip: stop watching. The series will do just fine without you.
For the rest, stay tuned! I’ll be back again next week with another review. Hope to see more and more craziness, now with the National Guard in the mix and the government bearing down on Los Angeles I know there’s going to be something intense and exciting happening in “Not Fade Away”. That episode, by the way, is directed by Kari Skogland whose television work includes Vikings, a 6th season episode of The Walking Dead, the fifth episode of Kurt Sutter’s new series The Bastard Executioner, The Killing, The Borgias, Boardwalk Empire; Skogland’s film credits include the excellent Fifty Dead Men Walking and an adaptation of Margaret Laurence’s The Stone Angel, among others. Looking forward to her at the helm of this next episode, should be fun.
HBO’s True Detective
Season 2, Episode 2: “Night Finds You”
Directed by Justin Lin (Better Luck Tomorrow)
Written by Nic Pizzolatto
I thought the opening of “Night Finds You” was a really great little piece. Not because of what Frank and Jordan Semyon [Vince Vaughn & Kelly Reilly] are talking about particularly, but because of the image above. First, Frank sees the water stains in the roof, and he wonders where they came from as it hadn’t rained that much recently. Then, as the second scene crossfades with the one before the images mix and the water stains become the eyes of Ben Caspere, City Manager, who was found dead at the finale of the first episode.
Now what I enjoy is how the water stains come to represent a couple things. The obvious one is how Frank sees them, and yet they’re big blotches, brown and almost rotten, so they must’ve been there awhile. Only now is Frank noticing them. The stains represent the things which are right in front of us, the things growing and festering right under our noses but in a blind spot, somewhere it’s almost too obvious so it gets passed over. This can mean a lot of things. Then the stains also come to mean something else.
The other idea of the water stains and what they represent is how everything eventually bleeds through, like the water through to the inside of the house. For instance, the cops of True Detective, their “other lives” outside the badge blur into the badge, and then the job itself bleeds out into the other parts of their lives as well. Velcoro, obviously, has every part of his life both touched by the law and tainted by the law’s inability to always and effectively dole out justice. Woodrugh represents how the lives people live before the badge come to affect the way they do their jobs because they still have to go on and live a life outside the badge; he also symbolizes the people who cannot come to terms with who they are because they believe they must be a certain type of person to do a certain job, to lead a certain life, et cetera. I think the idea of those stains is what reflects throughout the course of the episode, and likely what might be the rest of the season. Frank has a great quote in the early part of the episode at the beginning when he mentions how everything seems like paper mache, and this is because the paper is wet, things bleed through; everything is mixed, there are no dichotomous distinctions only grey areas, like life is one giant cesspool.
See? Pizzolatto’s philosophical pessimism and ruminations on life are still all there, you just have to dig a little deeper than Rust Cohle’s eloquently lobbed softballs from the first season.
BAM! This season is definitely moving at least a little away, initially anyways, from the violence against females which heavily characterized the first season. Not to say it was an epidemic of scenes including women being beaten or anything – I know the difference – but last season certainly had enough of it packed in there with the storyline and plots surrounding to last a lifetime. Such is life, things can be grim! Regardless, I think that whether or not Pizzolatto is intentionally moving away towards something else or if it’s natural doesn’t matter. The story is great so far, and I think people are worried there are too many characters. I’m not. There’s enough plot to keep us going – with Ben Caspere dead, above with his genitals removed, there are wheels in motion, and Episode Two “Night Finds You” shows us the consequences of what happens to people who get in the way of the big, heavy, moneymaking wheels.
IF YOU’VE NOT SEEN THIS EPISODE – WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM? WHY ARE YOU READING THIS? TURN BACK NOW OR FOREVER BE SPOILED.
Really, I shouldn’t bother warning anybody dumb enough to come looking at reviews of an episode they’ve not yet seen. Alas I follow suit to be polite.
Anyways, Ray Velcoro [Colin Farrell] is the man who meets the heaviest of consequences in this second episode. Life for Ray is deteriorating fast as it is because his ex-wife wants to take his son away, after getting wind of the savage beating some unknown man, clearly Ray, laid on a bully’s father [for those who don’t remember Ray beat the dad and told the kid if he ever bullied/hurt anyone ever again Ray was going to come back and buttfuck his father with the mother’s headless corpse on the front lawn in Episode One]. He makes the mistake of telling his buddy/master Frank [Vince Vaughn] there isn’t much reason for him to keep going along with everything that’s going on, et cetera. However, I don’t think the fate Ray meets at the end of the episode is something Frank had anything do with, and here’s why…
In Episode One, there’s a shot of Ben Caspere’s corpse riding in back of a car, and upfront alongside the driver sits a big crow/raven type of mask.
Now, Frank seems to not know anything about what’s happened to Caspere, so when the crow/raven mask shows up again in the episode’s finale it’s hard to believe Frank has anything to do with what’s being done. Then again, we can never count on truly knowing what’s going on in True Detective, and certainly not when we’re only two episodes into the whole mess.
Image above and all, Ray Velcoro is not out for the count just yet.
Not even with this last shot either. Everyone can stop discussing. All you need to do is check it out – Farrell is listed as appearing in all the episodes of this season, so that’s enough right off the bat. Then, there’s the fact that he’s being shot at mid-to-low range here. I would imagine Farrell is wearing a vest. He survives, no doubt. Plus, there are images released, pieces in the trailers/teasers that show him in other scenes not yet aired. At the very least he’s in flashbacks. People need to calm down. Yet, this is what Pizzolatto knows, HBO too, and they play the game quite well.
This event will mostly just serve as paranoia and motivation for Velcoro. He’s probably going to immediately assume that Frank Semyon has done him in, but then again, Ray also realizes the men he works for in the Vinci P.D are not the most honest and uncrooked men there are in existence. So, the rabbit hole begins for ole Ray.
Other than Ray, this episode showed us that Detective Bezzerides knows who she is working with. At one point she flat out asks Velcoro himself to tell her exactly how “compromised” he has become. The distrust in the picture above when she is with the other detectives and officer on the case is evident.
Furthermore, we get a little more evidence as I referenced in my last post [re: Officer Paul Woodrugh] that Paul is definitely having issues with his sexuality. Not only do we see him apparently checking out a corner where what looks like gay prostitutes are getting rides/dropped off with a bit of desire in his eyes, mixed with hatred, mostly for himself, but then he further tells another detective that a “fag” was checking him out and that he almost knocked the guy out – to which the other male detective responds “and why would you do that?” – so it’s more than clear Paul is having a lot of rough times dealing with the sexuality inside him that wants to be free. This should be interesting to see play out. I also want more of his Black Mountain Security past to come out because there’s no doubt neat places to explore in that part of his psyche, mixed with all the homosexual angst he feels so far.
With many believing death looms over Detective Ray Velcoro, I safely tell you – Ray lives. Don’t worry. Either way, this was an excellent second episode, and I think definitely built with strength on the first. Things are beginning to unfold now, and the further we go, the better this ride will get. The events of the second episode are really going to propel the third somewhere else. There are many places to go from here – what will Ray do if/when he survives this attack by the masked birdman? what will Frank do when he finds out about Ray/if Ray comes after him for the attack? is Paul going to continue wrestling with his sexuality, or will it give way to some kind of acting out in lieu of gratification? can we expect Ani to start unravelling some of the dark secrets behind Ben Caspere’s murder and maybe even the men she’s working with? So, so many avenues to go down. Let’s wait and see what happens, I know I’m beyond pumped to watch more True Detective. I’ll see you all next week.
Refn's debut, PUSHER, is a brutal, bleak piece of cinema.
Tusk. 2014. Directed & Written by Kevin Smith.
Starring Michael Parks, Justin Long, Genesis Rodriguez, Haley Joel Osment, and Johnny Depp. Sony Pictures Releasing Canada.
Rated 14A. 102 minutes.
First of all, a lot of people seem to misunderstand Tusk as a film overall. It’s meant, above all else, as a comedy and a drama. Yes, there is horror, and it is a horror film, but the comedy and drama trump everything. Just a little over halfway through the movie, things get divisive because a lot of people think it gets ridiculous, or silly, or whatever.
Me – well, I think differently.
Second, I just love the premise of this movie. Kevin Smith is not particularly one of my favourites, though, I really love Clerks (the first one – I don’t dig the second so much), Mallrats, Dogma, and Red State a lot. His move into a bit of horror while still holding onto the comedy roots he works so well with really is spectacular. Red State was a lot of fun, and I’ve re-watched it a bunch of times since the first; for me, it holds up time after time.
The story of Tusk follows Wallace Bryton (Long), a rising podcast star, who interviews weird and wild people everywhere; he travels to different locations, interviews different characters, and then retells his experiences for Teddy Craft (Osment) who never travels. There emerges a side story involving Wallace’s girlfriend Ally; the two share a bit of a rocky relationship, as we see both Wallace’s infidelity, as well as Ally’s eventual, secret at first, indiscretions, too. Wallace goes up to Canada to interview the Kill Bill Kid – a young man who chopped off his own leg with a sword accidentally – but once he arrives in Winnipeg, he discovers the kid has taken his own life, and the story is quite literally now dead.
Unfairly pissed, Wallace heads to a bar before moving on home. In the bathroom he discovers a wanted ad: an old man, once an adventurer at sea, has a room for rent, and stories to tell. Out in the woods of Manitoba, Wallace finds Howard Howe in a beautiful, sprawling estate type home. Howe seems just a little eccentric at first telling stories of being at sea, meeting Ernest Hemingway (even claiming one of old Ernie’s most famous quotes about drinking was first quoted to him personally), however, soon enough it’s really damn clear the old man doesn’t just want company. He misses an old friend, and Howe is determined to bring him back by any means necessary.
Once Wallace goes missing, Ally and Teddy wake up to a frantic voicemail he left them both; he claims Howe has kidnapped him, and wants to turn him into a walrus. Worried, they seek out the police, who are of course sceptical (I spell it that way ’cause I’m Canadian, eh). They then meet a man named Guy Lapointe (played hilariously by Johnny Depp). He has been hunting a serial killer across Canada, and it turns out this is most likely Howe. They join together hoping to track down and save Wallace.
A lot of people have trouble with the way Tusk shifts gears between horror to drama to comedy, and back, and forth. I don’t necessarily see the problem. If either of these genres were being inappropriately served up, then I would understand, but to my mind it’s all carried out pretty well. The horror works. Some may say the “transformation” is silly. I understand. I mean, the comedy of Long’s “transformation” is not lost on Smith – he knows it looks a bit funny. Aside from the initial laugh it might get, the “transformation” (I say that because I don’t want to outright describe anything and give it away) is pretty fucking disturbing. Especially when you couple Long’s appearance with the shrieking and moaning he does after being transformed. After awhile it really gets grating on the nerves. Not in an annoying sense. It grates on them hard and makes me uncomfortable. Watching Parks’ character rant at Long, transformed into a hideous thing, feeding him, making him eat; it’s awful. But awful in the best sort of way.
The bits of drama worked into the storyline served things well. Once you get to the end and look back at the drama Smith infused into the screenplay, they really add to one another. The ending (I won’t give it away) sort of makes you look at how both Ally and Teddy feel about Wallace, deep down, regardless of everything which came before. Some might see the ending as foolish, or whatever – I don’t see it that way. There’s a real sentimental angle at work that serves the dramatic storyline well. It isn’t just an attempt for a goofy/happy ending to a horror-comedy. It’s how Smith closes out the emotional angle he’d been playing at with the Wallace/Ally/Teddy story. I thought it was probably the best way for Tusk to end. In a way, it’s sentimental, yet still a bit horrifying.
The comedy really works. I’m Canadian, and I thought a lot of the Canada jokes were hilarious. The ‘aboot’ thing is a bit overworked in film/television generally, but other than that it’s really funny. I thought the ‘double double’ joke was pretty funny because I’ve heard lots of people actually say things like that. Some might misinterpret the joke as Smith not understanding what a ‘double double’ actually is, but it’s the opposite – he knows, and he’s making fun of Tim Hortons lovers. At least that’s how I see it.
Also, near the opening Long’s character goes through the airport, and one of the Canadian guys working there is just so ridiculously funny it makes me tear up – plus, his beard is gnarly as all hell.
The performances in Tusk are what really make things chug along wonderfully. Of course people will talk about Parks because he did a great job, as he did in the previous outing with Smith on Red State. And he was fascinating. Really creepy, especially in the early dinner table scenes opposite Long. Some very ominous stuff.
Even Just Long, who I’m admittedly not huge on really, does a good job with the material. He is a perfect fit for Wallace, and was pretty funny at times, especially in his banter with Parks, as well as with the two young girls at the Canadian convenience store (played by the daughter duo of Depp and Smith’s girls). There are a few really creepy points where Long does a fantastic job after his “transformation”; his vocalizations are really god damn scary at times, to me, and I watch a lot of horror. He could have simply wailed, but you could really feel some of Wallace’s fear by the way Long screamed and pleaded for help.
Mainly, though, I really want to talk about Mr. Depp. A lot of people like to say he isn’t actually a great actor, he only takes a role depending on the hat he gets to wear, he sold out, blah, blah, blah. I think that is a load of bullshit. Depp is not only an extremely talented actor, he absolutely blows the screen to bits in Tusk. First off, his portrayal of a French Canadian Quebec accent (for those who don’t know, yes, there are other French people in Canada aside from the people of Quebec..) is so awesome. Even just his speech patterns, let alone the accent, are perfect. Loved it. A lot of times we see Depp in roles where he’s got a sexy sort of edge to him; even his dirty, fiendish Jack Sparrow was meant to have a kind of sex appeal to him. Here, Lapointe is just a really awesome dirtbag. He’s lovable, but good lord is he strange and sort of gross.
One of my favourite parts of the whole movie is when Lapointe mashes down a slider, nearly flat against a table, reminiscing on the only downfall of the great people of Quebec, and then eats it up (special note: wait until after the credits before you leave the theatre or turn off the film – there is a fun little post-credit scene with Lapointe recalling his love of the slider). Plus, there are plenty of other little bits where Depp absolutely sucks the marrow out of every bit of the Lapointe character. Anyone who says he “ruined the movie” or some such nonsense is a hater. Depp is hilarious here. For a second, I almost didn’t recognize him. Once he speaks, of course you’ll know. Before that, though, the prosthetics and the facial hair and the accent almost conceal him. I loved every second of his performance.
I really have to give Tusk a 4 out of 5 stars. It isn’t a perfect film. There are points where things sort of drag a little. I don’t know if the switch between genres had anything to do with pacing – I really liked the genre mashup here – but it’s possible that maybe a little less of a stark contrast between the genres in Tusk might appease more fans. Regardless, this film really hits the right notes. As I said, Smith finds a way to loop all those dramatic elements back together into something tangible while still hanging onto all the comedy and horror of Tusk. Not to mention Smith shot the film gorgeously. His eye for shot composition has only gotten better with time, film after film.
People will say it’s too funny to be all out horror. I say bullshit. People say the “transformation” is too silly to take seriously – I say, you’re watching a movie about a man wanting to turn another man into a fucking walrus, stop acting like it’s an Ingmar Bergman film. Sit back, enjoy Tusk for what it is – a horror comedy with dramatic elements and a few really awesome, creepy, and fun performances to boot. I really can’t wait for this to finally get out on Blu ray because I will most certainly be picking it up. Smith continues to impress me with his horror efforts on this second outing after his initial dip into the genre with Red State. I like the way he approaches horror. Looking forward to some more.