Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Jonesing for Walking Dead?

If you've got withdrawal symptoms for The Walking Dead, maybe this short film will help:

It was a finalist in Tropfest Australia 2013, "the world's largest short film festival." Great job!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Calvin & Hobbes... the movie

Would you watch a dark, gritty reboot of Calvin & Hobbes?

Hell yes!

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Walking Dead - Welcome to the Tombs

So, Season 3 is in the books.

After all this build-up I really wanted a satisfying end (particularly Zombie Milton eating The Governor), but instead got an ending similar to Star Wars as The Gov goes spinning off in his TIE fighter to who knows where, with his last two surviving goons (Martinez and Bowman) along for the ride. (Why the hell would they get into the truck after all that, or not shoot him at the first opportunity?)

The whole fight was kind of a let-down, actually. They'd been stringing us along all season with skirmishes and negotiating ploys, but I kept thinking -- it'll all pay off with that last episode. The battle started out well -- I liked the tension of searching the prison while not being sure if Rick's crew was there or not (I was thinking they'd run off to Woodbury for a showdown with Tyreese, which didn't happen until later), and then... ambush!

Usually when someone takes his helmet off after an ambush and says something like, "We won! They're retreating!", he gets shot in the head. But this time, they really were retreating. The show had laid the groundwork -- while Rick and company were roughing it in the woods, learning how to fight like a team, the Woodburians were watching gladiator fights and picking off walkers from behind their huge walls. When the actual shit started going down, it made sense that they panicked and fled. But still, it was over way too quickly for me -- after all this build-up I needed more action. It didn't even look like any of them got killed! I can't blame the Governor for being annoyed and shooting the cowards after that despicable showing.

Also... I know I'm not alone in thinking Carl did the right thing in shooting the "boy" in the woods. Look, we all know this trick from movies -- when someone says "drop your gun!" and you step closer as if you're going to hand it over instead of dropping it, it's a trick.

Way to go, Carl! Besides, did we really want Season 4 to have another Randall?

So we lose Andrea, who, let's face it, was probably irredeemable after this season. She doesn't even get the benefit of a redemptive death, though she does get a chance to explain why she was being so annoying, naive, and two-faced. "I just wanted everyone to live" -- yeah, good luck with that, on a show called The Walking Dead.

Adios, Andrea. I still love you in the comics.

And the ending... all the people from Woodbury who couldn't go on the raid, basically little kids and old people, are taken in by Team Prison. I guess this is supposed to show how Rick -- who has turned down every wanderer he's come across this season -- is becoming a nice guy again. OK. But instead of taking in the Woodbury huddled masses, why not simply take over Woodbury? I guess you could argue the prison is more defensible, although the gates keep getting knocked down, and there's a whole wall down where Tyreese came in. Woodbury has those nice big walls. On the other hand, it took a fairly large number of people to patrol those walls, and most of those people are dead now. Ah well.

Overall, I thought it was a good season -- the first half was very good, but it got bogged down in the second half except for Clear. The second half felt like they were padding -- we have to get to 16 episodes, what else can we do? -- and that led to a lot of frustrating dead ends. I don't have a problem with dead ends, but I do have a problem when we KNOW they are dead ends. We knew the negotiations weren't going to go anywhere. We knew Andrea wasn't going to kill the governor. We knew Rick wasn't going to fall in love all over again with Ghost Lori.

I know it's a problem if you have a 16-episode run and only 12 episodes worth of stories to tell. It's such a heavily serialized show that you feel every week you have to advance the ball. If I was on Scott Gimple's writing team (have your people call my people), I'd suggest avoiding so many dead ends by working in more stand-alone episodes like "Clear". Wouldn't it have been cool to have an episode that was maybe 10 or 15 minutes of life in the prison, and the rest about the hitchhiker, or the Spanish-speaking family, or whoever? And then an episode or two later they pop up again, and you think they'll become part of the story... but no, they're just passing through. Or maybe have some people who don't even pop up again. There's endless potential. Explore the world of Walking Dead, instead of just this one group in the prison.

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Walking Dead: This Sorrowful Life

A couple weeks ago I wrote about how I was optimistic about next season because the writer of "Clear" -- the best episode since the pilot -- was going to be taking over as the showrunner. Alas, Scott Gimple also wrote this episode, which was yet another example of the uneven writing that has plagued this series since the beginning.

The problem is we all knew that Rick was not going to turn Michonne over to the Governor. It's been a long time since Rick was paralyzed with indecision over what would be the just thing to do with Randall, the young prisoner they had on the Farm. Remember those days? Rick refused to leave Randall stuck on the spiked fence. Then he refused to abandon him in the overrun factory yard. Then he refused to execute him. And yet all this time he also refused to consider allowing him to join the group.

I get that Rick is a much harder man now. He wouldn't stop for the hitchhiker (twice) -- only pausing long enough to pick up his backpack after he gets eaten. He's also the guy who won't allow Tyreese and his crew to stay in the prison.

So he's not going to help strangers. I get that. But is he now the type of person who is going to hand over a member of the group, albeit a relatively new one, who he knows is going to be tortured, maimed, and killed?

Hey, if they were seriously going to take this show in that direction -- if they were going to make Rick a cold and cruel pragmatist with no thought about sacrificing others to protect himself -- then fine, let's go that way.

But no, of course not. It's just another excuse to navel gaze for 20 minutes as Rick ponders what to do. If this was written better, or maybe acted better, maybe it would be compelling drama, watching Rick agonize with his decision. Instead, it's just dull as we watch Rick inevitably come to the decision we knew he'd make all along.

But oh! There's a twist. Because while Rick is hemming and hawing, someone else comes along and makes the decision for him. Wait, that's not a twist? That's right -- they've done it before, with Shane. Shane was the one in Season 2 who ultimately decides what to do with Randall. (He's also the one who decides to take out the walkers in Hershel's barn.) They've also done it in Season 3, with The Governor taking aggressive actions against the Prison while Rick mopes.

Rick is the Hamlet of Walking Dead, thinking, plotting, agonizing, while others run around actually doing stuff.

I'll give him the line of the night: "I'm not your governor." But it was amusing how he delivers a big speech about how it's no longer a Ricktatorship and they will have to decide together what to do... then he walks away without listening to what they had to say!

I also don't quite get Merle's logic -- OK, not that he has any -- in carrying out Rick's wishes by delivering Michonne, when Merle is the one who has been saying all along that it won't make any difference to The Gov, who intends on wiping them all out no matter what they do.

But once we finally get away from the prison, it's not a bad episode. Michonne was cool, maybe a little too cool, going along with Merle and really not making any effort at all to escape. Nice line though, about how she's not going to leave until she has her sword back. I loved Merle pretending to give the zombie a drink of whisky and then cackling. And bringing all those walkers into the compound and then ambushing the Governor's ambush was pretty cool.

It was very symbolic that Glenn rips off two fingers to get a wedding ring from a zombie, and then later, The Gov bites off two of Merle's fingers. It was symbolic of... uh... fingers, I guess? I dunno.

Daryl killing Walker Merle was the second time someone has had to put down a sibling... Andrea killed her zombiefid sister Amy way back in Season 1. I'm guessing they had Walker Merle moving slowly not because he recognized Daryl, but because they just wanted to linger on the scene. I don't think there was supposed to be any "recognition" of Daryl or anything like that.

So pour out a shot of Wild Turkey for ol' Merle and let's bring on the season finale next week!

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Walking Dead: Prey

I didn't hate this episode as much as some people did, but it did have some glaring flaws.

I especially like the one-eyed governor spotting Andrea in a field as he whizzes by. He's got good peripheral vision out of that patch. I think he should probably keep his one eye on the road while he's driving, don't you?

The flashback between Michonne and Andrea had the potential to be interesting, but it was just the same ol' same ol'... people asking Michonne direct questions and her just glaring instead of answering.

The extended cat-and-mouse scene in the old building -- what I presume was a factory that made improvised weapons for serial killers in slasher movies -- went on far too long, but had a nice payoff of Andrea unleashing the zombie staircase horde on the Governor. (What do you think those people were doing before they turned -- fire drill? Smoke break in the stairwell?) When she walked out, leaving the Governor to swing his Vorpal Shovel at the zombies, why didn't she just take his car? If he didn't leave the keys, at least slash the tires. Sheesh.

And what about Milton? He says he knew Phillip before he became the Governor. Does that he mean he knew him pre-Apocalypse, or just pre-Woodbury? Maybe they're brothers? He obviously wants Andrea to stop him, but then doesn't let her shoot him. And it goes both ways -- the Governor obviously thinks Milton burned up the walkers. but doesn't do anything about it. Hmm.

I'll go ahead and predict that Milton becomes zombie'fied and then eats the Governor. So many people "deserve" the chance to kill him -- Rick, Michonne, Glenn, Maggie, Merle, and of course Andrea -- that I think they'll go another way and give it to Milton. And it's almost inevitable that the bad guy who sees the light gets to die a redemptive death. Anyway, that's my prediction.

Line of the night goes to Rick:


As he's looking across the field with his binoculars and thinks he sees something, but... is that Andrea? The ghost of Lori? A zombie? Ah, fuck it. Note to Team Prison: The guy who is seeing hallucinations probably isn't a good choice for a look-out.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Thoughts on Brennan Boesch

I know this move is getting mocked in some circles -- O how the mighty have fallen! The Yankees are picking up other team's rejects. The Yankees are scraping the bottom of the barrel.

Whatever. Signing Boesch is a good gamble -- low risk, medium reward.

Boesch is still relatively young (he turns 28 on April 12) and at $1.5 million, relatively cheap. More importantly, he's finally the left-handed power bat the Yankees have needed as a stop-gap until Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira come off the D.L. in May. (Supposedly... I know Granderson will be back, but I think Teixeira's time table might be optimistic.) With so many right-handed outfielders in camp -- Juan Rivera, Matt Diaz, Melky Mesa, Ronnier Mustelier, Thomas Neal, Ben Francisco -- they desperately needed a lefty. With so many singles hitters in the lineup -- Ichiro Suzuki, Brett Gardner, Derek Jeter, and whoever is playing catcher -- they needed a power bat.

Boesch has had a strange career. He came up in April 2010, and after a 6-for-23 start, he flat-out raked -- .345/.378/.595 in May, .337/.400/.625 OPS in June. Then he completely fell apart -- .564 OPS in July, .531 OPS in August, .489 OPS in September. The obvious story is that pitchers adjusted to him, and he didn't adjust back. Or maybe it was his ridiculous .390 BAbip in May and June, which faded to .253 in July, .231 in August and .224 in September.

In 2011, he had one incredible month (.380/.437/.620 in June), again thanks to an unsustainable .422 BAbip. He had a good April (.319/.390/.451, .359 BAbip) and a mediocre July (.267/.305/.478, .279 BAbip), but was awful in May (.551 OPS) and August (.621 OPS), then missed all of September with a thumb injury.

Last year was a complete disaster, hitting .240/.286/.372. He had just one good month, July (.295/.329/.538, .328 BAbip), but the rest of the year he was putrid -- take out July and his numbers fall all the way to .230/.278/.339. His troubles were mostly due to his completely losing the strike zone, seeing his walk rate drop from a league-average 8% in '10 and '11 to an unacceptable 5% in 2012; he also saw his BB:K ratio fall from a mediocre .41 in '10-'11 to an awful .25 (26 BB, 104 K) last year. But Ks come with being a power hitter. The real problem is Boesch, when he struggles, hits a ton of ground outs. Last year, half of Boesch's balls in play were on the ground, with just 16 percent line drives and 34 percent in the air. That's unacceptable for a power hitter, and hopefully something Kevin Long can straighten out.

So, Boesch is the proverbial girl with the curl. When he was good, he was very good, but when he was bad he was horrid. The good Boesch -- the guy from those two months in '10, three months in '11, and one month in '12 -- is a Hall of Famer (.326/.378/.555 in 555 AB). The bad Boesch -- the rest of his career -- should be working at Sears (.213/.272/.317 in 807 AB).

Which Boesch is he? His minor league track record says we shouldn't bet on Cooperstown. Detroit's 3rd round pick out of UC-Berkeley in 2006, Boesch hit .291/.344/.435 as a 21-year-old in low A, but the next year slumped to .267/.297/.378 in A-ball. In '08 he moved up half a level to the Florida State League, and struggled again, hitting .249/.310/.379. The Tigers promoted him to Double-A in '09 anyway, and he showed a little life, hitting .275/.318/.510. They moved him up to Triple-A the next year and he went nuts, hitting .379/.455/.621 in 15 games, punching his ticket to the show, and he stayed on fire for the next two months. Outside of those hot three weeks in Triple-A, there's no sign he's a diamond in the rough.

But still... when Boesch is hot, he's really hot. We only need him for two months. Why not roll the dice? If he can be the good Boesch for those eight weeks, we've got an unbelievable bargain. If he's the bad Boesch for those eight weeks, well, we'll all be overjoyed to see Granderson again.

One more thing. Boesch's career numbers at Yankee Stadium, while in just 32 plate appearances, are encouraging: .367/.375/.533. Sure, it's a small sample size, but it's something. I just wish his career numbers against the Red Sox weren't so embarrassing (.181/.198/.301).

By the way... one of Boesch's pluses is that he is left-handed, so he can face righties while Rivera, Diaz, Francisco or whichever right-handed outfielder makes the team can hammer lefties. But wait a minute -- Boesch's career numbers vs righties (.250/.305/.412) are actually worse than his career numbers vs lefties (.286/.348/.420). Is he a reverse platoon player?

It looks like a fluke to me. Boesch's numbers vs lefties came in just 336 ABs, and are inflated by his ridiculous .337/.403/.548 in 104 ABs against them in 2010. Boesch put up a .421 BAbip against lefties that year. The next year, his numbers against lefties fell to .302/.356/.396 in 106 AB -- again, with an unsustainable .365 BAbip. Last year, they fell again to .230/.292/.333 in 126 AB, still with a lucky .314 BAbip. Overall, Boesch's career BAbip against lefties is an unrealistic .364, while it's a normal .278 against righties. In short, his numbers against lefties are a mirage. Play him against righties and hope for the best.

Finally... what will be his John Sterling home run call? I predict "It's a bash from Boesch!"

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Walking Dead: Arrow on the Doorpost

After last week's great episode, The Walking Dead returned to another blah-blah-blah fest. Lots of people talking but not actually doing anything.

I don't get The Governor's whole negotiating strategy -- or why Rick bothered to sit down to negotiate with him at all. People on this show seem to have a lot of short-term memory problems. Like when The Governor brings up that "we could have killed you all" when they attacked the prison a few weeks ago. Rick could have pointed out that a) the half-assed attack resulted in one dead on either side, and was at best a draw; and b) when Rick and Co. launched their attack on Woodbury, it resulted in several Woodburians getting killed (and alas, poor Oscar), including The Governor's own zombie daughter. Not to mention his eye.

You'd think Rick would bring this up, but no, he just likes to glare. I would have loved it if instead he had just pulled a Malcolm Reynolds and shot The Governor as soon as he hung up his gun.
Andrea continues to be the most annoying person on the show, but everyone else isn't helping. You'd think when she explicitly asks what The Governor did to Maggie, Hershel might tell her. But no, let's just let it lie. Because otherwise it would make it too painfully obvious that Andrea is backing the wrong team, and we have to leave her "conflicted" for another few episodes... even if we all know no sane person would be conflicted in her position.

Line of the week goes to Glenn, who can't get it on with Maggie while the walkers are watching. So romantic! Also, props for having people on guard duty fuck around, literally, and nothing bad comes of it... so far. Probably the first time in television history that a distracted guard didn't result in an immediate attack.

Dumb line of the night goes to Milton, who says he wants to see Hershel's stump because it's important to know how high above the bite the leg was amputated. Um... how are you supposed to figure out where the bite was by looking at his stump? Do you think he carries around the amputated leg in his pocket? I thought Milton was the smart one.