Friday, February 28, 2014

"Where Are They Now?" Eating Crazy Cheese, Of Course


“Inmates” and “Claimed”
The last two episodes were essentially “Where are they now?” catch-ups so we the viewers could find out what happened to everyone in the aftermath of the Governor’s (RIP—NOT!) assault on the prison. So, I will gloss over “Inmates,” in part because I’m eager to get on to the next episode, and also because it’s just so insubstantial. I felt like, “where’s the beef?”
We hear Beth reading old entries from her diary. Remember when the prison site held so much promise? It was safe, after all, with built-in fortifications, and functional rooms for people to hunker down in. Beth is traveling with Daryl. She holds out hope that the others are still alive, while Negative Nancy Daryl isn’t as optimistic. This is basically the entire episode: individuals traipsing through the forests of rural Georgia, sharpening their weapons, and warming themselves at crackling campfires, all the while wondering out loud who made it and who did not.
Now, I am happy to report that baby J is alive, as well as Tyreese and the strange two little girls, Mika and Lizzie, who Carol “adopted” when their dad died. Tyreese, in fact, is carrying Judith like any dad would, on his front, wearing a hastily constructed Baby Bjorn. I half expected him to be toting a Starbucks grande latte in the hand that wasn’t slinging the sub-machine gun. Problem is, babies whine and cry, and Baby J is no exception to this rule. The girls are anxious that her cries will attract walkers.
And yes, there is something wrong with Lizzie. She tries a little too hard to silence baby J. Keep the nasal passages clear, Lizzie, just cover the mouth! But no. I imagine that Lizzie is the kind of kid who enjoys frying ants with a magnifying glass or crushing baby birds with her bare hands. We have witnessed before (see: Carol; Shane) that psychopathic tendencies can serve one well in the post-apocalyptic world. Carol saves the day! Recall that she killed Tyreese’s girlfriend Karen, however, which doesn’t make for good small talk. Only Rick knows about this, so I suppose if he keeps his secrets, all will be well. I can see Rick justifying Carol's re-inclusion thusly: "She may be a murderous psychopath, but she's OUR murderous psychopath. The small group of Mika, Lizzie, Baby J, and Tyreese make their way—ever so slowly—along the railroad tracks. Do you know how much a baby drags you down, plus two little girls?
Maggie is alive with Sasha and Bob Stookey. She wants to go back to get Glenn and find the school bus that left the compound. The bus has been attacked by walkers; looks like it broke down. Everyone on it has perished.
At least he's among friends.

Glenn is alive, but surrounded by walkers at the overrun prison. He finds a shell-shocked Tara. After escaping, they meet some newcomers, who appear to be paramilitary wannabes. Tara and a seemingly unconscious Glenn join forces with them.
As “Claimed” opens, we note that the head ex-military guy, a burly ginger, smiles when he kills walkers, which is quite refreshing. It’s nice to see an individual who takes pleasure in a job well done.
Carl and Michonne are caught up in yet another domestic scene of bliss, sitting around the dinner table laughing and joking. Until he accidentally references Baby J, that is, whom he still believes is dead. Then it’s back to business for Rick and Michonne. Rick wants to stay camped out in the house for a while to regroup. Carl and Michonne go off in search of more supplies, leaving a debilitated Rick to fend for himself. Michonne wants him to take it easy.
"I have a hankering for some CRAZY CHEESE!"

Michonne finds “Crazy Cheese,” aka Easy Cheese in a can. She squirts some into her mouth with abandon. Really, Michonne? I know you were trying to make Carl laugh, but has all consideration of good nutrition gone out the window post-apocalypse? Michonne shares with Carl that she had a son, a toddler, pre-apocalypse. But first they need to clear the house.
Meanwhile, Rick wakes up from his well-deserved nap to hear voices—human voices. Are they recorded, or live? They are very much alive, with guns. Rick hides under the bed. One armed man lounges on the bed. Michonne and Carl are still in the house they are scavenging and clearing. Her son’s name was Andre Anthony; very nice name! Michonne is really coming into her own; first she is joking around with cheese and then this revelation. Michonne then makes a grisly discovery; the entire family of the house is dead and lying in beds in one of the rooms. They must have committed mass suicide; two small children are lying on one bed dead, as well as three adults positioned around the room. Michonne tries to shield Carl from the horror. Carl is coming to terms with baby J’s presumed death, mentioning that maybe Baby J and his mom are together in heaven.
The armed men with Rick still hiding under the bed are fighting over who gets the big bed—idiots! Apparently it’s a battle of life and death, or at least until one of them passes out. One good rule of thumb is that if you were a douchebag before the zombie bug struck, you will probably be an even bigger douchebag post-apocalypse.
Glenn awakens from his slumber to find himself in back of a truck—the military vehicle, to be exact, with Tara by his side. Sgt. Abraham Ford, Dr. Eugene Porter, and Rosita Espinoza are on a mission. Ford claims that Porter and he are on their way to Washington, DC and that Porter knows “exactly what caused this mess.” Ford exhorts Glenn to get back in the truck and “do something with your life.” Glenn is pretty mad and hits Ford. He’s a lightweight, though, compared to the beefy Ford, who then tackles him. While they are messing about and acting all macho, walkers rapidly inundate the area. The group quickly bonds together once more to kill all the zombies, but somehow the gas tank was shot up as well.
Rick is STILL under the bed. Now the man is snoring, and Rick looks to beat a hasty retreat out of the room. He slithers from underneath the bed. I would venture to say that these are not nice men. Rick tries to escape through a window. Rick surprises a man on the toilet and grapples with him in the bathroom, strangling him, till death or at least until he passes out. Rick is finally ready to leave out the window, with a gun for good measure, plus a swanky jacket. Oh no, Carl and Michonne are coming back to the house! Rick has to think fast. Luckily walkers descend upon the house and the idiot eating canned beans on the front porch near where Rick is hiding has to hoof it to help his buddies. Carl, Michonne, and Rick are on the railroad tracks. Perhaps they will run into Tyreese & co.? Going to be awk-ward meeting Carol again after he banished her and got her watch.
Back to the Ginger’s group. Glenn decides to forge off on his own, with Tara. The rest of the group decides to follow them until they come across a working vehicle. And so ends another nail-biting, yet fairly predictable episode. I have a feeling, however, that, as P.G. Wodehouse once penned, “shizz is about to get real.”

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Derek (2013)




Lately, Netflix has garnered well-deserved attention for their outstanding two series, House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black, but did you know that they also offer a lesser-known gem called Derek? Derek Noakes is 49 years old, but possesses the mental age of a much younger man, a boy, even. He works as a caregiver in a small English nursing home. His boss and friend, manager Hannah, loves him as all the residents do. Derek cares tenderly for all creatures smaller than him: baby birds, tadpoles, and dogs are among his favorites. He is close to the humans on his watch as well. His adage to live by: “That’s the easiest thing, just be nice.”  

Ricky Gervais is an avowed atheist, but in the character of Derek he has created the best example I’ve seen so far of God working through one of His so-called simpler creatures. Of course, Gervais would beg to differ with me; he might retort that Derek is just being Derek. Derek himself explains that he does not believe in God because there are religious people he’s met “what are nice,” and religious people he’s met “what are not nice.” Several of the characters in Derek echo his beliefs when they affirm that the point of life is to live it with kindness for the sake of those weaker among us who need caring for. The show never cashes in a cheap laugh to mock the elderly. Nor does one ever feel sorry for Derek, who is as complete a human as he can be. When Derek is reunited with his long lost father, expect to shed many a tear.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Carl Eats Pudding and Becomes a Man


“After”
First, I feel compelled to apologize to my faithful readers. I missed last week’s premiere! With Showtime's Shameless, HBO's True Detective and my need to catch up on Lena Dunham’s latest semi-nude sighting, I forgot that The Walking Dead was returning in February. In my opinion, postponing the premiere until Valentine’s Day weekend would have been more appropriate, but the folks at AMC had other plans. So, I now find myself On-Demanding the premiere to bring you the very latest goings on following the decimation of the prison compound. What happened to all of our favorite characters? Who is dead and who made it through their own moxy and aplomb? Hopefully, the first two episodes will answer our long-held queries.
Rick and son Carl are still reeling from the recent assault on the prison, as well as baby Judith’s untimely death. They encounter a zombie at a former BBQ joint selling hot sauce, but that’s about all he’s peddling. A dispute quickly ensues between father and son regarding who gets to kill what, when and how. Fortunately they find some water and pickles; the pickles to eat first and then the water to quench one’s thirst when the salty pickles leave you so dang parched! I foresee much tension between the two in this episode, and not just about the pickles.
They find a pad to crash in. They’re not exactly working in tandem here, but can you blame them? Their family is no more; they don’t know where the heck their friends are; and all they have to eat are bread and butter pickles and Joe-Joe’s hot sauce. Carl even invokes Shane’s name, which is tantamount to a Harry Potter fan shouting “Voldemort!” in a crowded movie theater filled with tween fans of the popular, bespectacled warlock. I must say, though, this isn’t fun, watching a prepubescent Carl bicker with his dad. They may as well be on a scouting trip that Carl only reluctantly agreed to attend.
Via flashback, we catch a fleeting glimpse of Michonne pre-apocalypse. She has a son! A very cute one. I’m guessing that of the two men she’s talking to, one of them is her boyfriend and the child’s father, and the other is his friend. She’s having a nightmare. We are clued into this fact when Michonne carefully inserts her katana next to her steak knives. When she wakes up, we note that she has wisely “recruited” two de-jawed walkers to be her protectors, replacing the two the Governor killed off in season three. You may recall that her boyfriend and his best friend formerly filled this macabre role.
Carl pours some cereal for himself in what could be a Saturday morning commercial. Dad Rick is out cold. Uh oh, someone’s trying to break into their jerry-rigged front door. Aaaand, it’s a pair of hungry, ugly walkers. Why do all the female walkers wear long, peasant skirts and lace up boots that were in style gosh knows how many years ago? What, the apocalypse didn’t zombify any fashionable ladies? Carl finds himself in a smelly, sticky spot with two walkers on top of him and pukes his little guts out. Perhaps you are not such a bad ass after all, Carl?
However, Carl paints a very different picture to comatose Rick. I don’t need you to protect me anymore, he says, “You just wanted to plant vegetables.” Carl recites a rather pointed speech to his father, stating what we are all kinda sorta thinking about ineffective, nebbish Rick, who is still oblivious to Carl’s hectoring. We know, of course, that this is not true: Carl is a whiny bitch who couldn’t keep his cookies down when the going got tough, and almost got himself killed because of his own bravado.
We see Carl on his own, trying to use his body weight to force the locked door of another house open. Eventually, he succeeds. In the ultimate fulfillment of every hungry adolescent male, he finds an absurdly enormous can of chocolate pudding! Carl encounters an angry, older walker on the second floor and is not faring well, certainly not as well as he thought he would in his role as newly emancipated Carl. After grappling with him and narrowly avoiding becoming a mid-morning snack himself, Carl locks the zombie in the room. He leaves a scrawling in chalk on the locked door to document his accomplishment: WALKER INSIDE; GOT MY SHOE BUT HE DIDN’T GET ME. To commemorate and perhaps celebrate, Carl sits perched on the roof of the house, just beyond the grasp of the locked-up walker, spooning the chocolate pudding into his mouth right out of the huge can.
Michonne is still moving with the Mini Walker Migration of 2014. First she is just another peaceful, stumbling member of the pack, but then it suddenly seems to dawn on her just who her traveling companions are, and she goes nuts, methodically killing all of them. I am then subjected to the same Ragu commercial that they have shown during each and every commercial break. Sigh. Such is the nature of On Demand.
Anyway, back to the father and son saga. Carl thinks dad Rick has turned, but his throat is just scratchy, so just calm down, Carl. Things aren’t always as they seem.
Rick acknowledges that Carl is moving from boyhood to manhood. With Judith out of the picture, maybe Rick can relax a little and let his pessimism flag fly. Michonne stumbles upon Rick and Carl, tearfully. She knocks purposefully on the jerry-rigged door…

Monday, February 10, 2014

Is You Is Or Is You Ain't?

The newest member of my family is green and yellow. He, like the other smaller people in the household, so far refuses to eat fresh fruits and vegetables, preferring instead to nibble on seeds and sprigs of millet. And he craps on his toys and everything else that comes his way.

You guessed it! He's a bird. My husband Tim named him Mr. Keets, a variation on parakeet, but presently his gender is in question. You see, the only way to sex a bird--that I know of, anyway--is by the color of their cere, the nares above their beak. Males have blue ceres, whereas females have white to brownish ceres. Mr. Keets is a young man; the ceres of all young'uns are blue until they turn.

What are YOU lookin' at?
Today I noted that Mr. Keets may be a Miss Keets, given that his cere is looking a little less blue than before. The feminist inclinations of parakeets will probably lead to our referring to her as "Mizz" (Ms.) Keets, so there goes the neighborhood. One cute thing about our genderless friend is that it eats millet out of my hand already, which is a sign of great trust. One not so cute thing? I've had to dismantle his cage already to wash it in a 10% bleach solution on account of his far-flung poop. For some reason I pictured rabbit pellet-like deposits rather than the stuff you find on your car.

No matter what the gender, I admit that I am already in love with the bird, mainly because whatever I take care of, I end up loving. My dog, kids, husband, and eyebrows are living proof of this adage.