29 October 2013

October 29th

The Walking Dead 3.15: "This Sorrowful Life" (2013) directed by Greg Nicotero
As I thought, this episode sticks with the prison as they prepare for war.  Rick initially wants to send Michonne to the Gov in order to prevent the war and gets Daryl and Merle to help.  He changes his mind.  Merle still thinks it's a good idea and grabs Michonne on his own.  After some sweet-talking by Michonne, Merle also changes his mind and changes his trip into a suicide run at the Gov's gathering on the farm.  I liked the trick Merle used: turning up the stereo in a car to attract a herd of zombies, then jumping out and letting the car roll towards the enemy.  I had a similar idea for Daryl.  He should have some trick arrows -- like Green Arrow! -- with one being an arrow with an iPod, a speaker and super glue on it.

Zombified Merle is stabbed by his own brother at the end of the episode.  I was happy and sad to see this character go.  I liked that he added a dash of "angry old cuss" into the group, to balance out the relatively happy little family the others in the prison have going.  On the other hand, they really defanged Merle's character in this season.  In season one, he was a racist asshole who was constantly stirring things up.  It was fun to watch the characters get angrier and angrier at the guy as the season went on until they were so pissed that they abandoned him.  Season three Merle was toned way, way down and just didn't feel like the same guy.

The Walking Dead 3.16: "Welcome to the Tombs" (2013) directed by Ernest R. Dickerson
Why in the hell would everyone move to the grimy prison instead of taking over the well-stocked, pleasant-looking Woodbury?  That's my only thought after a mediocre ending to a mediocre season of a mediocre show.  There are these constant dumb decisions the writers have the characters making in this show that make it impossible to love.

What I liked: Carl offing the Woodbury teen trying to surrender.  He's growing up in a messed up world and he's going to be a messed up kid.  This is the type of worry all parents are going to have in this universe.  Andrea dying.  Finally, this awful character is gone.  I was a little bummed that a giant chunk of the final minutes of the show were occupied by the sad piano melody-backed farewell to her, but, she was a major character, I suppose.

I'm disappointed that they're still in the prison instead of moving on like they have been doing at the end of every other season.  From what I'm hearing about season four from friends watching it, it doesn't sound like it's getting any better.  Ah well.  I still come back to it next October.

The Wicker Man: The Final Cut (1973) directed by Robin Hardy
In celebration of the blu-ray release of this fine film, I had myself a wickerthon.  First off, it's a pure joy to finally be able to watch this movie with film-like quality.  The extended version found in the Anchor Bay wooden box set was always my preferred cut, but was always painful to watch due to the extended scenes being lifted from a crappy tape copy.   No longer.  The final cut is, as far as I can tell, the same as the extended cut with just a little of the Howie-on-the-mainland stuff cut from the beginning.  I do miss one lost bit, where Howie's colleagues make fun of his sexless engagement (which reinforces the idea that this man is a virgin).  But, "Gentle Johnny" and the mating snails are here, so I am overall happy.

It's hard to describe why I like this movie so much.  It's a feeling.  Howie's investigation of Rowan's disappearance also serves as a perfect vehicle for the audience to see every facet of life on the island.  As the film reveals more and more of the otherworldly Summerisle, it's impossible not to fall in love with the place.  Everyone is happy.  Everyone is in tune with the cycle of nature.  The community is tight-knit.  No one is repressed or depressed.  Were it not for the whole human sacrifice thing, it would be an ideal place to live.

That's the rub, though, isn't it?  Maybe one thing the film is saying is that there are always trade-offs in the human pursuit of happiness.  The old beliefs practiced on Summerisle make it a paradise... except when the crops fail and the extremely violent parts of the old beliefs surface.  Christianity replaced the idea of continual sacrifice with the thought that one, final sacrifice of a demigod would suffice for all time.  That animals and people no longer needed to be slaughtered to appease invisible forces is a huge step forward for society.  This advancement is not without a cost, as we can see in Howie.  He suffers from an unhealthy repression of some of the fun parts of being human and a dourly rigid mode of thinking.  I'm honestly not sure which is better.

Watched: blu-ray from StudioCanal.

The Wicker Man (2006) directed by Neil LaBute
Like everyone with an Internet connection, I've laughed at the clip of Nicolas Cage in his bee helmet:

But, I'd never bothered to watch the entire movie.  Of all the movies in the world to remake, The Wicker Man is, honestly, the last I would've liked to have seen been attempted.  The original is lightening in a bottle.  It's the definition of lightening in a bottle.  No one will ever make a film like it again.  This remake was doomed from the start.

Still, I went into things with an open mind.  I was hoping that the rest of the film -- outside of Cage's standard over-the-top performance -- might have something to say.  I knew that this movie replaced the pagans with some sort of matriarchal society, so there was a wide open door for good some good social commentary.  Some aspects of a woman-dominated society may seem ideal, but in the end they can be just as violent as men.  That might be something to explore, right?

Yeah, no.  There's nothing here.  It seems as though the filmmakers had heard that the original film was considered a horror movie (though I always have trouble with that classification) are ran with that.  They immediately lost any goodwill I may have had about 10 minutes into the film when an over-loud phone rings and scares Cage.  That cliche?  In The Wicker Man?  Go to Hell.

Other horror cliches abound: Cage keeps catching glimpses of Rowan out of the corner of his eye and pursues her.  Cage repeatedly has dreams that the film tries to pretend are reality.  When he awakens, he wakes up in another nightmare and has to wake up a second time.  The women on the island exchange obvious knowing glances whenever they mislead Cage.  Cage finds the slaughtered body of the airplane pilot (Why?? Won't he be missed?  Don't they need supplies flown in?).  Cage's cellphone never works.  It goes on.

All throughout this mess, the film bizarrely lifts entire paragraphs of dialogue from the original movie.  I really don't understand why.  Other than the vague structure -- man looks for lost girl on a private island, gets sacrificed by islanders -- nothing is the same in the movie.  I'm guessing it's pure creative bankruptcy.  Why craft your own dialogue when you can crudely plop some in from the original movie?  You can see clear evidence of this during the final scene.  When Cage is shown the wicker man for the first time, he screams at the top of his his lungs: "Oh my God!".  The same thing happens in the original.  The difference: the original wicker man had what was clearly a stack of bonfire logs around its legs and there were islanders with lit torches ready.  Howie immediately saw that they meant to burn him to death and that was utterly terrifying.  All the Cage sees in the remake is a giant wooden man.  No fire.  No logs.  He should be confused and not terrified.  The only reason he freaks out: that dialogue was mindlessly grabbed from the original script.

One aspect of the film fascinated me.  I had the idea that, as bad as it is, this was truly a proper American version of the film.  The British film is reserved and beautiful and didn't wait for the audience to keep up with it as Howie's investigation revealed more about Rowan and the island.  The American version is loud and ugly and dumb.  Cage spends most of the movie shouting, punching people, and asking for things be re-explained over and over.  It's just the type of movie and hero my country thinks it wants.  Way to be a stereotype, Wicker Man remake.

Watched: DVD from WB.

The Wicker Tree (2011) directed by Robin Hardy
I was hoping this spiritual sequel to the original film might take the bad taste of the remake out of my mouth.  It did, but just a little.  In this film, a couple of Texan evangelical Christians -- one of whom is a singer -- travel to Scotland to spread the word of Jesus and perform.  Naturally, they end up in a village populated by pagans who require them as a sacrifice.

The movie just doesn't feel right.  I think it was a good choice to use American evangelicals as the sacrificial subjects.  They are very much like Howie in the original film and they really do exist in great numbers over here (hard as it may be for Europeans to believe).  Making them cowboy-Texans -- complete with a cowboy hat that has a bullet hole in it (?!) -- was pushing things too far, though.  They felt more like a stereotype of what Robin Hardy thinks of Americans rather than real characters.

The Scottish village the Americans visit is no Summerisle.  We never get a feel for the place as we do in the original.  It's simply row housing with a handful of wacky characters living in them.   We never really get to see their life or what they're like as a community.  All we ever see is them either having sex or having secret conversations about their plans for the Americans.

The movie doesn't look right.  You can tell it was shot with digital cameras.  The film has a very flat look and the colors are, for the most part, very muted.  Some tinkering with color correction could've gone a long way to improve the look of the movie.  I will say I was very impressed with some of the scenes they captured that used natural light.  I've never seen naturally lit scenes filmed with digital cameras look quite so nice before.  In particular, the scene in which Lolly is bathing in a pond is very pretty.  We see shafts of sunshine breaking through the clouds to illuminate patches of her naked body.  Lovely.

The plot is a rehash of the original.  I didn't expect anything else.  Even if there were only one of these movies, "pagans sacrificing Christians" is Wicker Man's thing.  In this film, rather than failed crops, the pagans require blood to fix their community's infertility problem.  The true cause of this issue is pretty lame: the Lord Summerisle equivalent Sir Lachlan runs a nuclear power plant nearby.  This would've been a great idea in the 1980s, but nuclear waste fear is sort of passe by now.

There are a lot of bizarre things in the film that don't fit with the Wicker Man universe.  At one point, a man is stabbed in the testicles by a broken glass and it's played for laughs.  The male American ends up being cannibalized by the villagers (??).  The female American easily pushes Sir Lachlan into the titular tree and burns him to death.

In the end, it just doesn't feel right.

Watched: DVD from Anchor Bay.


  1. So if I've seen the famous internet clip show, there's no reason to see the "Wicker Man" remake in its entirety? I mean, I figured that already but it's nice to have confirmation.

  2. Yep, you're good. Though there is a good comp on youtube of all of Cage's freakouts from the film that's pretty cool. Definitely all you'll ever need from the movie.