Monday, March 31, 2014

The Walking Dead - My Take on the Season Finale (Hell, Let's Call it My Take on the Whole Damn Series)

Yes, I've been too damn busy to keep the blog up and running, and yes, The Walking Dead was a big part of my blog, and the fact that I fell out of love with the show probably played into my silence here as well.  Fortunately, I'm back in action, and like many of you I watched last night's big season finale.  So, let's talk about the show.

First off, this season was better than last season.  In my humble opinion, last season was a miserable waste of some truly epic material, so that's not exactly lofty praise.  In truth, the finale was a perfect way to punctuate Season 4.  Why?  Because like the season it closed out, there were moments when it was absolutely perfect, and there were also lots of moments where it was clumsy as hell. 

Yes, AMC nearly redeemed itself for bungling the prison storyline last year by closing that portion of the show out in style in the mid-season finale.  Once our cast of characters was split up, I was actually looking forward to seeing how the show handled their efforts to survive and find one another.  And there were times when that really paid off, particularly when the focus was on Rick and Carl.  And there were times when it was nothing short of awful.  That episode with Daryl and Elizabeth where he couldn't hold his liquor was terrible, maybe the worst episode of this show we've seen, and it was better than a lot of the Glenn and Maggie stuff that followed.  There were moments taken straight from the comics (well, for the most part--generally anything that is plucked straight from the source material has to be watered-down sufficiently before it can be aired on television) and (as always) there were moments that had fans of the comic scratching their heads.  Sometimes I think they do silly little tweaks just to piss people off.

In the end, this season was solid television, though the show will probably never reach the heights it soared to in the first two seasons again.  It was a hell of a lot better than last season, and it ends at a point that could result in a very satisfying fifth season.  Of course, the first time I saw the prison, I thought the show was about to pull out all the stops and become an instant classic, and they pissed all over that opportunity.  Regardless, Andrew Lincoln is superb, and it has been a long time since Rick got his Rick on, but the conclusion of last night's season finale has me hopeful that the show will allow him to return to form as the show continues. 

I try to divorce myself from the comics when I watch the program, and I can't do that, and it certainly has an impact on my ability to enjoy the show.  Calling the television series inferior to the comic series is kind of like saying the new Conan the Barbarian movie wasn't quite as good as the old one.  It's not even close, and it never will be, unless maybe AMC sells the rights to HBO at some point, but that ain't happening, folks.  Additionally, I try to distance myself from those first two seasons when the show was white-hot.  They obviously had a bigger budget to work with in those days, and the show hasn't been able to elevate any of the characters they have introduced since in the same way they were able to elevate Shane. 

So, in the end, we've had two amazing seasons, one truly disappointing season, and one mixed bag where there were incredible moments partnered with a lot of drivel.  I realize the show needs the Glenn and Maggie soap opera, but they handle it so poorly, and the further they stray from suspense and terror, the worse the end result typically winds up being.  AMC is adept at generating tension and providing their audience with a rich atmosphere.  The cast for this show is amazing, and the effects team is great at what they do.  Unfortunately, the action is frequently mishandled and the soap opera elements are poorly executed and often feel totally out of place.  The potential is still there, and unlike the conclusion of Season 4, when I truly felt like I was watching this show get flushed down the toilet, I'm actually somewhat excited for Season 5. 

It will never be the comics, and it will never be what it was once, but The Walking Dead is the best thing going on television so far as the horror genre is concerned.  I'm ready for more and the wait for Season 5 will be a long one.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

NASCAR is in town!

Yes, that's right, NASCAR has come to Martinsville, Virginia!

Translation: it's raining.

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Agony of Defeat

The Olympics upped my interest in hockey, so I've been trying to improve my relationship with the sport and the NHL.  I'm a gamer, so I thought snagging a copy of NHL 14 would be a step in the right direction.

Well, it is, and it isn't.  Truthfully, I love the game.  The presentation is incredible, the action comes fast and furious, and the score is great.  It's a nice product, to be sure.  However, either I really suck or this game is really freaking hard.  I've been playing Madden for decades (true story) and I'm a dominant force in that realm.  This is an entirely different story.  I'm too old for the kiddie pool, so I jumped right into All-Star gameplay.  And I'm apparently not an All-Star when it comes to NHL 14.  Not even close.

I bet I played seven or eight games before I scored my first goal.  I've probably played somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 or 60 games, and I may have won five of them.  Honestly, I'm still having a blast with the game, and I'm in every game I play, but I'm not winning many of them and I have to wonder: is it just me?  Some of the rules still don't make sense for me--I thought the game would be a learning tool in this regard, but offsides and icing penalties seem to come in so many different situations that I can't figure out just what the common denominator is.  That's part of it.  And apparently I can't shoot for shit.  I say that because while I'm steadily losing to the CPU, I'm taking way more shots.

I don't have a favorite team, not yet anyway, so I'm trying lots of different clubs out and playing lots of different opponents.  I seem to enjoy playing with Washington more than anyone else, but I've used most of the teams available and the difference has certainly been negligible so far as my record is concerned. 

Most contests are two or three goal affairs, but in the rare event that I manage to score more, the computer doubles up on me.  And I seem to have an uncanny knack for giving up a winner in the closing seconds.  Overtime has not been kind to me, and neither have shootouts.  My boy P-Rod wants me to dial down the difficulty, but it's too late for that.  I'm all in, and I'm going to sort this out.

Until then, I'm having a good time getting my ass kicked, and that doesn't happen often. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Jaws 2

Watched Jaws 2 with the fam Saturday night.  That's how we Waylands roll.  I know Kristen wasn't all that enthused initially, but even she wound up enjoying the picture.  I have always liked it a lot.  I mean, it's not Jaws, but that shouldn't be a surprise.  However, it's common knowledge that Jaws inspired a slew of imitations over the years, and I still feel that Jaws 2 is the best killer shark movie that isn't Jaws.

Roy and several others return and Amity feels right.  The effects are nifty, there are some exciting sequences, and I like the bit the kids and their boats.  In a way, this picture kind of hits me like a marriage between Jaws and a vintage Friday the 13th, say one of the early 80s editions.  It does feel like the shark is stalking Brody and the people of Amity, and there are several scenes in Jaws 2 that would fit perfectly in a slasher flick. 

I've always liked the ending, and though it is woefully inferior to Jaws, my favorite movie of all time, I am rather fond of the forgotten stepchild that is Jaws 2.  If you're looking for a good time with teeth, you could surely do worse.