Back in Black.

Orphan Black returned for its sophomore season Saturday on BBC America. The sci-fi suspense series, starring Tatiana Maslany, had a bang-up first go-round. Maslany’s ability to play a set of clones who are all highly individual and unique characters caught the attention of audiences and earned her a Golden Globe nomination.

If you missed any of that first season excitement, beware. There are spoilers ahead. This season started with Sarah running through the wet streets, searching for Kira and Mrs. S., who’ve gone missing. She ducks out of the rain and into a mostly empty diner, when two very creepy cowboy types saunter in and start to harass her. Before we can figure out exactly who they are or what they want or why they’re so fucking creepy, the diner owner shoots one, then gets shot himself, and in the ensuing chaos Sarah is able to bolt. The one remaining cowboy follows her to the bathroom, and though there’s no window, she KICKS THROUGH A WALL to escape. Because she’s Sarah, and she’s a fucking bad-ass.

She finds Felix at one of the many omni-sexual raves he’s always attending, where he’s rolling pretty high. Finding out that Kira and Mrs. S. have been abducted helps to bring him back down. They need help, and Sarah can’t reach her clone sisters by phone, so she wraps Fe in a jacket to cover up his assless chaps (I just adore Felix…I mean, honestly) and sends him to Allison to get a gun. Because our favorite clone soccer mom is now the go-to girl for firearms.

At Allison’s we learn a few things…

1. Allison is involved in community theater. I can’t tell you how happy that makes me.

2. Allison’s evil husband Donnie sleeps in a t-shirt and tighty whiteys. (Except they’re black, not white.) It may be the scariest thing about him.

3. Allison has a connect for her drugs and guns named Ramon, and he works at Econo-Mart. I love Ramon.

4. Allison sends unregistered handguns via flower arrangement, and includes a card lovingly handcrafted in her scrapbooking room. This is because she’s Allison, and she is amazing.

5. Ramon’s sexuality is still up in the air…he seemed to be flirting with Allison when she visited the Econo-Mart parking lot, but when he dropped off said flower arrangement with Sarah and Felix, he threw some heat Felix’s way as well. Let me reiterate…a stockboy with guns, drugs and a voracious sexual appetite? I love Ramon.

6. Allison is always prepared for an attack with a rape whistle, pepper spray and powerful outrage. We saw all three on display tonight.

Cosima is still working with Delphine, and wants to examine her own blood to try to find a cure for her lung disease. She also does not appear to be a big fan of Sarah’s gun-toting party-crashing plan to find her daughter by busting into DYAD headquarters to confront Rachel.

Rachel, meanwhile, is still rocking a fierce bob and an even fiercer attitude. She seems to have a pretty firm grip on the cultural etiquette for working with businesmen from Taiwan. There was a lot of bowing and exchanging of gifts. What Taiwan has to do with DYAD’s work with genetics remains to be seen, but clearly there’s a connection, because she’s flying there soon, and taking hot Paul with her. (Hot Paul did his best to help Sarah tonight, but since he’s under Rachel’s thumb, his hands are mostly tied.) Rachel turns the tables on Sarah pretty rapidly when she tells her they don’t have Kira. Kira may be gone, but DYAD didn’t take her. She only said they did to try to bring Sarah in. However, even Madame Icewater looked legit scared when Sarah DID shoot at her. She’s good at playing it cool, but somebody as unpredictable as Sarah can still make her sweat a little.

Speaking of unpredictable, the final bomb drop of the night? Helena! How that crazy bitch is not dead is anybody’s guess…but she’s not. She staggers into a hospital looking like a hot bloody mess, and passes out as the doctors and nurses crowd over her. And guess who just happens to be at that hospital, looking on like a creeper? Cowboy man!

Exactly, Allison. And it turns out that his people are most likely the ones who stole Kira, and that it has something to do with religion. So, religion, science, guns, community theater, assless chaps and Ramon…this premiere had it all!

Let It Go(T)

This is pretty fantastic. If you’re not caught up, beware…this delightful mash-up features spoilers. The singer is not quite Idina Menzel, but she’s still pretty good. 

Happy Trails: Gone Girl Edition

I loved Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. I loved it so much I promptly went out and bought her two previous novels, Dark Places and Sharp Objects. Gone Girl was so popular that it was no surprise to find out that it had been optioned for a major motion picture. Dark Places has now also been acquired to be adapted into a film.

Gone Girl is directed by David Fincher, and stars Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck. Fincher seems like a strong choice, given his experience with very dark material. The trailer is unsettling to say the least, partially because of the music choice—a cover of “She” by Richard Butler from the Psychedelic Furs. The focus is entirely on the missing Amy Dunne (Pike) and the increasing focus of the investigation on her husband, Nick (Affleck), whose squirrely behavior draw unfavorable attention. There are glimpses of a few other charactes, but for fans of the book, you’ll see that the trailer makes a real effort only to tease, and not give away any major plot twists.

That’s a good thing. The high point of reading that book was the end of a certain chapter, which I shall not spoil, but which made me sit up and go, “Whaaaaaa?!” And then every chapter following built on that insanity. So if the movie can preserve that sense of shock for viewers, it’ll be a big plus.

I also read that the ending has been changed. I don’t know if that’s true, but if it is, I can’t say I’d be disappointed. Normally, if I love book and it’s being adapted into a film, I like it to stay as faithful to the original narrative as possible. Gone Girl is a notable exception. The ending was the only part of the book I didn’t like…in fact, I kind of hated it. So, in my mind, I can think of several other ways to end the story that would be infinitely more satisfying. We’ll see which route Flynn, who also wrote the screenplay, opts to go for in the movie.

Flynn likes to explore the slimy corners of the human psyche, so be prepared…Gone Girl, if done well, should be a fun and shocking ride.

Purple Reign.

Game of Thrones spoiler alert, everybody!

Joffrey Baratheon, the sun has set on your time in King’s Landing. Thanks to a convenient bit of poisoning on your wedding day, you choked to death on your own blood and vomit mere seconds after achieving maximum dickishness. In fact, it’s almost like the world could not contain it. There was no where else for you to go after your performance at the wedding feast. Like Icharus, you flew too close to the sun, you little dickhead.

And you got BURNED.

The wedding feast would have been a great sequence even without the slam bang ending, what with the series of increasingly uncomfortable encounters… Cersei and Tywin, meet Oberyn and Ellaria…AWKWARD. Brienne of Tarth, meet Cersei…AWKWARD. Tyrion and Sansa, meet the lil’ kings…AWKWARD. Joffrey, meet everyone…AWKWARD.

Having read the books, I knew Joffrey’s end was fast approaching, but I loved seeing everybody’s response to it on the internet. The boy king’s demise was long anticipated by pretty much everyone who watches this show. Nobody loved Joffrey. They either loved to hate him, or they just plain hated him.

And let’s give credit where credit is due…Jack Gleeson did an amazing job. It can’t always be easy to play a character so well that is so widely reviled, but Joffrey was a great villain, and a connecting thread for all the fans. Everybody has their own favorite characters, but EVERYBODY thinks Joffrey is an asshole. Complaining about him was practically a national pastime.

In that sense, he will be missed. But nature abhors a vacuum, and it’s not just a king that needs to be replaced. (Are you ready, Tommen?) The show will need more despicable characters to fill that void. They’ve clearly got a great front runner waiting in the wings with Ramsey Snow. That guy is Joffrey Lannister without the polish.

Most of the other “bad” characters on the show are shades of gray. They do terrible things, but in service of very specific goals. Ramsey is like Joffrey…pure chaos. He’s evil for the sake of evil. He’s a sadist who is almost unchecked. Almost. It’s the reason Joffrey outstripped him as a villain. As a king, Joffrey was truly unchecked. But Lord Bolton, Ramsey’s father, is able to exert some control over his bastard son. But Bolton himself has no real ethics. He’s a pure pragmatist, and as long as his son doesn’t endanger HIS plans, he won’t interfere.

Ironically, the fact that Joffrey acted out with no regard to others, and the fact that he held a seat of power that enabled him to do that is precisely what brought him down. It put a target on his back. I’m sure there are a lot of theories rolling around about who killed him. The fact of the matter is that there were many, many people who probably would have liked to see him dead.

And now he is. Where will the show go from here? Well, regicide is a big fucking deal, so I’m guessing we’re going to get some freight train momentum from this, and that events will start unfolding thick and fast in the wake of the Purple Wedding. Hold on tight.

Two Candies for Andy.

Andy Dwyer is the funniest kid on television. I mean, technically speaking, he is a grown-ass adult. But on Parks and Recreation he is the child of the group, both intellectually and emotionally speaking. His love is pure and his mind is simple.

It made perfect sense that one of Andy’s story arcs this season involved him finding his niche as a children’s entertainer. It is the perfect job for him. Minimal hours and commitment with maximum payoff (birthday parties are BIG business), a chance to use his MouseRat honed music skills for an adoring audience, songs about boogers and karate, and free cupcakes. What else could Andy ask for?

That’s why I especially enjoyed last night’s episode, where it is Andy who is paired with Leslie as she gradually realizes that she does NOT have the flu (SPOILER ALERT) but is in fact pregnant. The reviewer on the AV Club pointed out what a nice compliment Andy is to Leslie. His youthful exuberance needs guidance, and it allows her to be a less extreme, more real version of her character, which is always nice to see.

There’s a delightful moment where Andy turns to Leslie and gives her a surprisingly sensitive speech, encouraging her that she’ll be able to handle her growing family. As she marvels at that, she asks him how he knew she was pregnant. Andy, of course, is shocked. He thought Leslie and Ben were getting a dog. (Not everybody gets a Champion, alas.)

Andy is the perfect person to show Leslie that she can, and will, be a great mother. His excitement at the prospect of being able to get two candies at the drug store made me laugh out loud. (As well as his choice of the giant gummy bear as just “one” of his two candies.)

And now, a brief tribute to Andy Dwyer in gifs…

His sense of history.

His sense of fashion.

His wisdom.

His moves with the opposite sex.

His endless enthusiasm and boundless joy.

His existential ennui.

And his ability to handle complicated tasks. Sort of. Okay, not really.

As for the haters…

Ponies and Chickens: A Tribute to Arya and the Hound.

Game of Thrones, season four, premiered Sunday night on HBO, and by far the best part of the episode was Arya and the Hound visiting an inn where Joffrey’s soldiers are getting up to all kinds of mischief.

And this was an episode that involved a face-off between Tywin and Jaime (a face-off between Tywin and just about anyone always makes for superior television), the introduction of Oberyn Martell and his paramour, Ellaria Sand, the introduction of Brienne of Tarth to the Queen of Thrones, and Jon Snow facing his Black Brothers after his mission beyond the wall. Oh, and the Thenns showed up for a barbecue…mmm, human arm.

So a lot happened.

But the best was still Arya and the Hound. The Hound initially does not mean to disturb the soldiers at the inn. There are five men, and he’s not thrilled about the odds. But then Arya spots Polliver, one of her former tormentors, one of the people on her “list.” In addition to cruelly killing Lommy (“What’s a Lommy?” asks the Hound), he is the current owner of Needle, her precious sword. So before the Hound can lead them away, she’s barreling in, and before he knows it they’re both seated inside, giving some serious side eye to the other party.

Polliver then recognizes them. Well, he recognizes the Hound. Arya, not so much. And boy, can Polliver talk. He talks and talks about what it is to be a King’s soldier these days…how they have the run of the countryside and can do what they like, how nobody dares to challenge them, and how much the Hound could enjoy himself if he joined them.

The Hound, bless his soul, tells Polliver to “shut his c*nt mouth” and orders him to bring them some chickens. Polliver offers a trade…some chickens for Arya, whom he still doesn’t recognize. The soldiers just mean to have a little fun with her. The Hound, however, isn’t going to pay for the chickens. But somebody will.

The train goes off the tracks quickly, but it’s pretty fucking epic. A table is flipped, Polliver and the other soldiers are on their feet, and the Hound goes into action. For about the first two thirds of this fight, Arya is quite still, watching her traveling companion and former adversary. (He’s not a friend, but at this moment he is, at least, an ally.) The Hound is holding his own for a while, but five on one are difficult odds, even for him, and these men, while they can’t match him in size or strength, are still trained soldiers and fighters.

When it looks like the Hound might be overcome, Arya suddenly snaps into action. She takes one man out of commission, and then, in a moment of beautiful poetic justice, she’s face to face with Polliver. She fells him and retrieves her precious Needle. While he’s down, he’s still alive, so she uses his own words as a taunt, and as the recognition crosses his face she leans in and drives Needle’s point through his throat, killing him as he killed Lommy Greenhands. His eyes widen and bubble of blood bursts on his lips, and that’s another one off the list.

The last scene with these two is fantastic. The Hound is riding lead, clearly having enjoyed his chicken dinner. Arya, who had been complaining about not having her own horse, now rides on one of the soldier’s animals, Needle by her side, and a look of satisfaction (almost a smile) on her face. The camera pans around, and we see the landscape they are riding into.

It’s a world in ruins.

This is your Captain speaking…

Got a chance to see Captain America: The Winter Soldier today. I really enjoyed the first movie, and I was curious to see where they went with Steve’s story in the second film. So, beware, there are spoilers ahead.

I don’t read comic books, so ordinarily I wouldn’t have know the identity of the titular Winter Soldier—a mysterious and menacing figure who follows Steve and the gang through the movie, sowing chaos. But I think I either read it somewhere or someone told me. I don’t feel like it ruined anything that I already knew. There were some people in the theater I was in who were VERY shocked though. When the Winter Soldier’s mask comes off and it’s revealed to be Bucky Barnes, Steve’s former bestie, a bunch of people down the row from me gasped, and a woman said, very loudly, “Holy shit! It’s his friend!” I enjoy those kinds of reactions.

The Winter Soldier was a scary presence. He doesn’t speak through much of the movie, and the first time Cap encounters him, he flings his shield at the Soldier to stop him, and the Soldier turns and handily CATCHES the shield and flings it back. It’s a startling moment, both for Cap and the audience, and there’s a reason they’ve been using that shot in the trailers. You immediately know this guy, whoever he is, is a badass, and he’s not fucking around.

The storyline centers around SHIELD and traitors within the organization. It’s a bit complicated to get into, but it’s driven by Captain America’s somewhat conflicted feelings about the agency that now employs him. Unlike Black Widow, his colleague and friend, he won’t unquestioningly do what Nick Fury asks of him, and resents not being told the whole truth about the missions of SHIELD and their ultimate goals. The Cap is still our good ol’ wholesome American boy—he values freedom more than security, and the “pre-emptive strike” philosophy that SHIELD is embracing puts him at dangerous odds with the organization when that philosophy is taken to a new extreme.

The performances in the movie are pretty solid all around. Samuel L. Jackson never fails to swagger as Fury, who, even in some VERY difficult situations, manages to keep his cool. Robert Redford is a new addition to the Marvel world, as a political figure and member of the mysterious “World Security Council” that decides where SHIELD’s priorities should be. Scarlett Johanssen is very capable as Black Widow, and manages to infuse her with even more personality than she was allowed to have in her previous forays with Iron Man and in the Avengers. She bounces well off of Chris Evans, and the two have a playful vibe that could exist with any friendly coworkers. I confess to not being the biggest ScarJo fan, and I ordinarily never would say this, because I know it’s not the way of the comics, but there really is no love interest in this movie (not after Peggy), and Natalie and Steve have a fun chemistry that I thought could have gone in that direction. I’m sure comics purists are glad it didn’t…but I’m a sucker for a romantic subplot, so a part of me wondered what that would have looked like.

Chris Evans is a very likeable guy, and manages to sell Steve Rogers’ almost infallible goodness, honesty and reliability. The Cap is honorable to a fault, and that COULD make a character boring, but Evans give him a wry sense of humor that makes him feel real. One of the brightest new additions to the story is his new sidekick (of sorts), the Falcon, played by Anthony Mackie. The Falcon, like the Cap, is a war vet, acclimating to life stateside. The two bond over their morning runs around the capital, and their shared experience with combat. The Falcon, a para-rescuer, uses a pair of fantastic wings to aid the Cap in his mission. Mackie is warm and funny and very high energy in the action sequences. He adds another layer of humanity to our hero.

The action is intense, as per normal in the Marvel universe. The fight scenes are masterfully choreographed, but there are still instances, in the midst of all the explosions, where you ponder the collateral damage and loss of life that never seems fully accounted for in these movies.

One last thing…make sure you stay until the end. As always, there are a few extra tidbits after the credits. The first one especially showcases a couple of characters that I believe will appear in the NEXT Avengers movie, Age of Ultron. They are the Maximoff twins, played by Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson…otherwise known as Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. And they look INTENSE.

Television Transition Time…

Sorry I haven’t posted for a few days, guys. Had a lot of stuff going on these past few weekends. I wanted to write a post about some of the changes in the TV schedule as we enter the spring.

The traditional television season is basically a thing of the past. How many shows start in September, run uninterrupted until the holidays, return in January, and run until May? Very few. There are always hiatuses (hiatusi?) built in now—for weeks, and sometimes months. Shows like Sleepy Hollow have decided it makes more sense to shorten their season to cable-length, going for 12 or 13 episodes instead of 26. And of course cable hasn’t abided by the standard television season almost since the beginning of its foray into original programming. It’s just one part of an industry that is evolving on several fronts.

Even though it was only March, certain shows have already wrapped up: The Walking Dead, Brooklyn 99. Other shows returned in March and April after an extended break, like Once Upon a Time and The Mindy Project.

But the shows I’m most excited about are coming back to HBO. True Detective wrapped up this past month…as did Girls. And now it’s time for Game of Thrones and Veep. Like the True Detective/Girls combo, Game of Thrones and Veep are both Sunday night originals that are on opposite ends of the style spectrum. The only thing they have in common is that they are both excellent. (Well, that and the swearing. They both have a LOT of swearing.)

Game of Thrones will be returning for its fourth season, and this will be me on Sunday night as 9:00 gets closer.

This should be another gonzo season, with even more insanity. I truly cannot wait. 

As for Veep, this is me offering up a prayer of thanks  when I realized Veep would be back soon..

.

Because that show is funny as shit. It may be the funniest show currently on television…possibly tied with Bob’s Burgers and sometimes Archer. And that should tell you something. Both of those shows are animated, so from a storytelling standpoint, they don’t have the limitations that live action does. Yet for purely blistering insult comedy dialogue that makes you snort Diet Coke out of your nose, it’s difficult to top Veep.

So as the weather changes (FINALLY), so does our television schedule. I’ll miss some of the shows we left behind, but with GoT and Veep back on the air, along with a few other returning gems (Orphan Black, Mad Men, anyone?) I should be set to go as summertime approaches.

Mars Attacks!

I finally got a chance to see the Veronica Mars movie last weekend at a theater. I was pleasantly surprised at the crowd. It was a Sunday afternoon, and the theater was nearly full. I hope that the movie is doing well. After the anticipation generated by the Kickstarter campaign and the continued updates from Rob Thomas, it would have been disappointing if the movie didn’t perform to expectations.

It was interesting…I saw this movie with two other VM fans, and one friend who had NOT seen the show before. He actually enjoyed it more than I thought he would. He especially enjoyed the comedic stylings of Dick Casablancas, and I have to say, Dick got some of the best lines of the movie. Oh, Dick…you never disappoint us!

Truly, this was a film funded by fans, and as such, Thomas has packed it with fan service. There are a million great moments that call back to some of the best parts of the show. All that being said, it’s still a very well constructed movie. I’ve heard some complaints that the central mystery was a bit weak, but as one reviewer pointed out, in the series, Thomas had a whole season to build an arc and lead Veronica through a trail of twists and turns and red herrings. Lily Kane’s murder and the bus crash are both incredibly complex stories with layers of clues that could never be told in an hour and a half.

What hasn’t changed at all from show to movie is the characters. The snappy dialogue, the interplay between Veronica and her dad, Veronica and her friends, Veronica and her enemies…it was so great to see all these actors returning and picking up where they left off so many years ago. One of my favorite scenes was the Neptune High reunion, which Veronica navigates like a minefield. Familiar face after familiar face pops up, and true to form, queen bee Madison Sinclair tries to smack down Veronica just for showing up, attempting to embarrass her in front of the entire reunion crowd. The stunt she pulls (which I shall not spoil here) leads to the most hilarious knock down drag out brawl between rich and poor Neptune alums alike. The reunion ends in chaos, and Veronica gets a very satisfying confrontation with the evil incarnate Madison.

Speaking of satisfying, I’ve saved the best for last. Logan and Veronica still have the sizzling chemistry that made their pairing in the series one which fans today still recognize as epic LoVe. Logan is older, cooler and calmer, but he hasn’t lost his protective instincts when it comes to the people he cares about. And Veronica is someone he still cares very much about. When the two first meet in the movie, they are supposed to have not seen each other in years, and you can practically see the romantic tension rebuilding between them. My friend who had not seen VM before was swooning over them by the end of the movie. There’s just something about those characters together that sucks all the oxygen out of the room.

Me watching Logan and Veronica reunite…

For VM fans, the movie is essential. For non VM fans, it’s still highly recommended.