Monday, November 29, 2010

The Blogging Dead

Episode 5: "Wildfire"

This weeks episode had a much different vibe than any of the previous episodes.  It felt very slow moving and there was a lot of conflict going on among the survivors.  After the attack in the previous episode, everyone is desperatly looking for a leader and what to do next.  We also start to see Shane and Ricks friendship quickly turn into a rivalry.

In the last episode, the camp was attacked by a large group of zombies, taking out a lot of the members.  One of those being Amy, Andrea's sister.  A lot of this carried over into the first half of the episode.  Andrea was holding her sister and cleaning her body while the rest of the camp was burning the dead, and burying their losses.  Even though I felt this dragged on for a little too long, it felt very believable how she was coping with the loss of her sister, even pulling a gun on Rick when he tries to talk to her.  This lead to a nice bonding moment between Andra and Dale when Dale came over and told the story of his wife passing and what Amy and Andrea had given him.

One of the best scenes in the episode was watching Amy's slow but intense "awakening".  Normally we see victims of zombie attacks turn instantly when being bit.  Where as this was a slower change, lacking energy but slowly gaining strength to feed.  

During the cleaning, one of the members of the camp discovers Jim has been bitten as well.  This turns into a very dramatic point in the episode.  We see what it is like having a long transformation after being bit by a zombie, heavy fever, hallucinations and slowly losing touch with the world.  The big argument through all this was how to handle Jim's situation, kill him,  help him, or leave him behind.  When Jim decides to be left behind, it wasn't a very capturing moment for me.  I think this is mostly because we did not see the character develop like some of the others.  Other than the scare he brought to the camp, we did not see him interact or have a close relationship to anyone other than Dale.

The most exciting and tense moment of the episode for me was seeing the rising tensions between Rick and Shane.  They both have different opinions of what would be best for camp, and this slowly starts to diminish their friendship.  The most memorable scene was Shane aiming his shotgun at Rick when they investigate a noise.  This showed how much resentment Shane still has when Rick came back and reunited with his family.

I would also like to know, what is going on with Daryl Dixon?  In the last two episodes he was all about  saving his brother and being very vocal about getting his brother back.  This week he didn't even mention Merle. It felt like Merle did not even exist even though he was one of the focal points for returning to Atlanta.

Now for the ending.  after coming back from a commercial, I thought for a moment that AMC messed up and was showing a scene from a different TV series or movie.  Opening up with a scientist talking into a camera really got me lost.  This is the first time in the series where they dramatically changed part of the story and left me wondering what was going on.  We see the lone scientist working on what appears to be a cure or finding out the cause of the disease outbreak.  After an accident in the lab, we see him give up on hope and deliver a very calm and comical line "I think I'll blow my brains out tomorrow...". 

All this happened at the end of the episode so I cannot really say if this will work for the series or not.  What I can say is I do feel a little disappointed that they moved into this very different direction.  The way the CDC felt was very similar to the vibe of the Umbrella corporation from Resident Evil.  What The Walking Dead had going for it was staying away from a series like Resident Evil.

Please leave your comments below and tell me what you thought of this episode.  I want to hear from comic readers and people who have just seen the TV series.  Let me know what you think!!

PS:   I am not dissing the Resident Evil Franchise.  I am simply saying that I don't want to have a story that is similar to that series.

Violent Score: 7 

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Blogging Dead

Episode 3: "Tell It To The Frogs"

I really loved how this episode played out from start to finish.  We had the opening scene with Merle Dixon losing his mind after being handcuffed and left behind by the main group.  We got to see a more human side of him and to me it felt more believable than the hard ass Merle Dixon we were introduced to in episode 2.

Back at camp we see a calm moment with Lori cutting Carl's hair and Shane taking the father role; promising to teach Carl how to catch frogs.   Everything changes though when Glenn drives up to the camp in a red sports car announcing the rest of the group is alive thanks to the help of a mysterious man.  Of course the mysterious man is none other than Rick Grimes.  This was the most anticipated part of the episode, when we finally get to see Rick reunite with his family.  I thought it was a very powerful moment; through all the chaos of trying to survive there is this brief moment of happiness, but there was the looming secret of Shane and Lori's relationship.

We are introduced to a few new characters in the camp, Daryl Dixon, Carol, Sophia and Carol's husband Ed.  Daryl is the brother of Merle who was left on the roof in Atlanta.  I really liked Daryl's character because he is a more toned down version of Merle, but he also shows his worth to the camp being the hunter.  Not to mention he has the best weapon, a crossbow!  Carol is the first character that looks much different than her comic counterpart.  We also meet her husband Ed, who is a wife-beating redneck only looking out for himself. 

A lot of this episode was seeing how life was at the camp.  Everyone's role to keep the camp safe and doing the everyday chores without the help of modern day appliances.  I really liked seeing Dale in this environment, he was the go to guy for tools and typical outdoors man  but also trying to keep peace in the camp. 

What I liked was seeing the many faces of Shane during this episode.  A lot of what was going on really revolved around him.  With Rick now back in the picture, Shane's shows that he has been the leader of the group and is not afraid to flex power to keep everyone in the group safe.  We also saw him shattered and angry after being confronted by Lori.  He was also compassionate and caring when it came to his friend Rick, after Rick wanted to return to Atlanta for Merle and a bag of guns he left behind in the city.

Overall I really enjoyed this episode.  We got to see a lot more of the camp characters and what they contribute to their survival.  I also liked the two different perspectives of surviving between Shane and Rick.  Shane was more of a protector of the group, setting rules the camp needs to abide by and not approving of anyone leaving the camp.  Where as Rick is the more practical leader that understands the worth of getting the guns and couldn't leave another human being to his death even if it was "a douche bag like Merle Dixon". 

Violent Score: 8

Episode 4: "Vatos"

This was a strong episode for The Walking Dead.  We were shown some very powerful characters that were not who they appeared to be.  There were some twists and turns and had an awesome finale!  This episode was also written by the author and creator of the comic, Robert Kirkman.  This made for an interesting dynamic, using his story with the characters he created along with the ones introduced in the TV series.

There was a lot going on in this episode.  We start out with the two sisters, Amy and Andrea sitting in a canoe fishing for food to bring back to the camp.  We are shown how different the two sisters are as they swap their two opposite experiences fishing with their late father.  In the comic the two sisters were twins but this scene shows that the 12 year difference between the sisters worked with the story.

After seeing Shane's dramatically different sides in the last episode, we see him return to his calm and leadership role he had in the beginning.  This really came out when he confronted Jim (the car mechanic) as he was digging graves just above the camp site.  Even though the conflict turned physical, you could see that Shane really cared for Jim's well-being.  This also gave us the opportunity to get inside Jim's head, hearing how he lost his wife and kids right in font of his face and how he was coping with his loss. 

Back in Atlanta, Rick and the rest of the group follow the trail of Merle Dixon and how he escaped from a near impossible situation.  When they try to recover the guns, they are blind sided by a Latino gang bunked inside Atlanta.  This is a very intense scene when Glenn is taken hostage and they must find a way to get him back.

I was very skeptical when it came to this gang that captured Glenn.  I thought they were just going to introduce more hard ass unrealistic characters like in previous episodes.  To everyone's surprise these "Vatos" were really protecting a nursing home for the elderly and also making the best of a bad situation.  I thought this added a nice element to the series.  In the comic they never ran into any other survivors in the city, so it was nice to see that there were people other than them.

I enjoyed the personality of Daryl that developed through this episode.  He still kept his redneck attitude but you also saw that he genuinely cared about the groups survival and his concern when Glenn was taken from the group. This got me interested to see what they will do with this character further into the series.

Now for the ending!! At camp we see everyone sitting around the camp fire, cooking the fish Amy and Andrea fished out of the quarry and really enjoying themselves over a hot meal.  Everyone enjoys jokes and shares stories but there is that lingering feeling that something bad is going to happen.  Being so involved with each-other everyone leaves their guard down as a huge zombie attack hits the camp!

A lot of the background members of the camp start dropping like flies, including the wife-beater Ed (good riddance) and Amy (we hardly knew ye).  It was a very compelling and upsetting moment seeing Andrea's raw emotion holding her dying sister while zombies are getting slaughtered left and right.  In the meantime Rick and the rest of the group from Atlanta show up and finish cleaning up the zombie attack.

This episode had a lot going for it.  Even though there was an excessive use of the word "vato" I still enjoyed the confrontation between Rick and the Latino gang.  It was a little silly during the stand off, to see a little old lady break up what was suppose to be a blood bath, but I liked that the Latino's didn't turn out to be a real gang.  There were some comical moments too, when Glenn was making this elaborate plan to get the guns back, Daryl asks what Glenn was before the world came to an end, Glenn simply responds "I delivered Pizzas, why?" It was small moments like that, that took you away from the bad situation they were in.

Violent Score: 9

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

To The Hallows We Will Run

While the Deathly Hallows, Part 1, is a Harry Potter movie it is by far the darkest and most serious out of all the movies so far. I will attempt to keep this spoiler free and short. First and foremost this movie does not even try to pretend its a standalone movie, it flat out just ends. It also ends in a way that makes it feel like you just finished watching a episode of The Walking Dead or something and anxiously are awaiting the next.

I must comment on the action in the movie, it is done quite well and pretty enjoyable. They state that in the second movie, part 2, it is nonstop action but the first part definitely has a lot of action itself. Daniel Radcliffe , Emma Watson and Rupert Grint all do a great job in this movie and bring out the characters better than before. Also I appreciate how much they all portray adult characters and not so much teenager characteristics , like in the previous movie.

The sense of hopelessness, for the good guys, is incredibly evident at all moments in this movie. It constantly feels as if for every step forward they are then pushed two or three steps back. For the first time in a Harry Potter movie there is no Hogwarts, only several mentions of it. Overall though this movie has a lot of good action, great acting, good computer graphics and an interesting story. I have read all the Harry Potter books except for the last two so I cannot compare, but from what I've heard the movie is very similar to the book just condensed. I greatly enjoyed this movie, especially after the atrocious first half of The Half Blood Prince. My only complaint is I wish professor Snape was in it more than 5 minutes. Bring on the next.
Violent Score: 9

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Walking Dead...... So Far......

We are two episodes into one of the most anticipated TV series of the year.  Since I heard the news from last years Comic Con, I couldn't wait for the series to start.  So, the question is, does the Walking Dead live up to the hype or is it just another B-rated zombie letdown? 

Episode 1: Days Gone By


The first episode was very exciting.  It introduced the characters, sets the stage and gives you the pace of the story.  Though slightly altered from the comic, I enjoyed the intro to the first episode.  We are taken part way into the story and shown what the world has turned into.  After acquiring his squad car, Rick quickly runs out of gas and is forced to go out in the world get a look of the destruction around him.  While wondering into a gas station he sees a little girl pick up a stuffed bear and start walking away from him.  He calls out to her only to see that half of her face is missing.  Rick pulls out his comically large revolver and puts a bullet in her forehead.

This really set the tone for me.  It told me that they were going to go all out and not hold back  like they promised.  It was a little disappointing that it was not dead on with the comic.  After seeing how they really did a great job on the characters of the story and keeping the core elements of the comic, it was easy to look over the small changes.

The main story opens with our cool headed hero Rick and his cop partner Shane talking in their squad car.  They get a call of a high speed chase coming through town and get a road block set up.  After they get the vehicle to stop they get into a shoot out and Rick takes a hit to the shoulder that leaves him unconscious for a week.  He wakes up in a deserted hospital in one of the creepiest and gory scenes I have seen on TV.  This leaves Rick to discover the new world he awoke to and set out on his primary mission, find his family.


Episode 2: Guts


After an almost perfect start, "Guts" went in a disappointing direction.  For those that are fans of the comic, this episode did not have much progression based from the comic.  This is not to say that the episode was not enjoyable, but it did have some let downs.

When we last left Rick, he was stuck inside of a tank surrounded by a horde of zombies.  This is where we are introduced to Glenn (played by Steven Yeun).  Glenn helps Rick plan his escape and get to safety.  Once Rick runs into Glenn it was a very exciting moment, being one of my favorite characters in the series. From that point on, even though I was entertained, it took a different direction than I was expecting.  We were introduced to a group of characters trying to survive in the overrun city of Atlanta.  This is where we meet the almost over-the-top Merle Dixon.  The white trash, racist tough guy of the group.  Even though I really like the actor Michael Rooker I felt that in the given situation a character like Merle Dixon wouldn't stand a chance being in a group with normal people. 

Beyond this, the episode started to redeem itself with a very gruesome and very entertaining scene straight out of the comic. Forced to find a way out of the city, Rick and Glenn cut up a zombie corpse and slather themselves in zombie guts and act like the dead. Overall I was very entertained and pleased with this episode. 


Frank Darabont did an outstanding job making a zombie takeover believable.  What I love about this series is the focus on character development and human interactions, the flesh eating zombies are just a bonus.  My only concern is the rest of the series will not live up to its potential. I highly recommend this series to everyone.  Make sure you check this out!!  Please check back next week with a review of the next episode.

Gotta collect them all

Costume Quest for Xbox Live greatly reminds me of Pokemon games. It's less about the story and more about the act of collecting costumes and stamps. Costume Quest is a Xbox Live and Playstation Network game that came out a week or so before Halloween, developed by Double Fine and published by THQ.

At first glance it is a game that brings out a bit of the nostalgia of Halloween, but thankfully it has a good deal of clever dialogue and depth. The clever dialogue is familiar if you have played Psychonauts, a popular PlayStation 2 game developed by Double Fine. Costumes in the game are basically classes for your characters, they each have a good deal of information in the menu about them. They each provide one ability and you can only have one costume equipped at a time. The depth comes in the form of leveling, good old turn based rpg style, and it also comes in the forms of stamps. Stamps in the game are basically abilities that any character can equip, one at a time. An example of one is a greatly increased critical or a stamp that drains a portion of the enemies life. Stamps are generally purchased from a vendor that travels throughout the locations of the game. The source of currency in the game is candy, glorious candy. Despite the fact that it is plentiful throughout the game I found that at the very end I had to do a little grinding in order to purchase the last couple stamps.

The combat in the game is handled through old school turn based rpg mechanics, similar to what you would see in any Final Fantasy before 7. While combat is simple, it is still kept fun because of the little touches and how short combat generally is. Overall the game is pretty enjoyable, but repetitive, and lasts a good 3-5 hours which depends on if you feel like collecting everything or racing through. Collecting costumes, seeing how they look and seeing what ability they have was a big driving point to keep playing.The story is pretty fun and mostly enjoyable but not to be taken seriously. As long as you are up for some simple role playing game fun that screams Halloween at every turn, you will enjoy Costume Quest. The big negative is the price, it runs at $15 on PSN (PlayStation Network) and the equivalent in Microsoft Points on Xbox Live. It should be noted that the game is pretty darn easy, I only lost twice and through arrogance. If you ever can find it half off it would be a great deal.
Thanks for reading.