Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Review: Falling Skies "Mutiny"

Non Spoiler Review:
As preparations continue for the assault against the structure in Boston, Tom is faced with a difficult choice after Weaver begins to make rash military decisions. Scott and Ben research the alien frequencies while Pope builds his bombs. But revelations come to light that threaten the command structure, as well as the future of Tom's family.

Mutiny set up a lot of planning for the final episode, and was necessary to resolve lingering issues between Weaver and Tom, and it certainly all comes to a head after a season of build up. It does appear a bit jarring coming so soon after Tom and Weaver seemed to be buddy-buddy in Boston, that their trust level suddenly plunges. But with two episodes left, there's little choice, I guess.

Otherwise, everyone fits nicely into their roles now, so a lot of the behaviour flows naturally to the story. Mutiny does slip into a few overused tropes—the soldier who always follows orders, for example—but it's a fitting character piece leading into the finale, assuming the conclusion has enough action and lives up to the build up of expectations this week.

Spoilers Now!
As the civilians enjoy a movie in the gymnasium, Anne breaks the news to Tom about the harnessed Scitters. He's then summoned by Weaver to be briefed on the upcoming plan. There's also a Lt. Danner present, who is career military, follows orders and doesn't like having to explain anything.

Tom's concerned that Weaver might not be up to the task given his near suicide in Boston, but that only creates more tension between them. Anne wants to know what's up and Tom explains what happened. Lourdes overhears.

Dai returns to base wounded, bringing a message he relays to Weaver. Porter's plan has four militias targeting each of the structure's legs. But given they've now lost contact with Porter and the other groups, Tom asks if the mission is still a go. He gets a curt response from Danner.

Weaver consults with him privately and advises him not to second guess his decisions. Though they've lost contact with Porter, he's satisfied the mission is a go. Tom expects to be kept in the loop, but Weaver gets defensive and doesn't trust he has his back. Tom assures him he does. Weaver assigns Tom to sentry duty rather than the Boston mission, which aggravates him further.

Lourdes then reveals that Weaver was coming to her asking for sleeping pills and amphetamines, which could lead to paranoia and mood swings. Tom fills in Hal, and sends him and Maggie on the sentry mission instead so he can deal with Weaver.

Tom goes to see Weaver again, who is angry he didn't go on the sentry mission. Tom confronts him about the meds, so Weaver accuses him of insubordination and gets Danner and Jimmy to lock him up in the boiler room. Jimmy isn't sure what's going on and has obvious doubts. Danner isn't a fan of Tom's book learnin', so has no problem keeping him prisoner. Weaver remains close to Jimmy and asks if he can count on him.

Ben goes to see Scott and ends up helping out with the radio frequency tests. By accident he stumbles on a frequency that causes him pain, a fact he keeps to himself. He waits until Scott leaves before playing with the radio to see if he can find the frequency. Creepy Ricky comes in and finds out they're going to try to jam the Scitters' method of communication, which means they won't be able to find them. Ben doesn't want him talking like that, but Ricky doesn't want to be human. He tells Ben he's just scared because he can feel the change coming. 

Meanwhile, Pope is making lots of bullets and explosives. He shares some witty banter with Matt. Weaver drops by to say there's been a change in plan, and rather than one big bomb, he'll need four. Pope can handle that, though that means a very short fuse for each.

Hal and Maggie return to base after running into a lot of Scitter and Mech activity. Finding out his father is prisoner, Hal consults with Anne, and with Jimmy's help, manage a prison break, tying up Danner. They head down to see Dai in the clinic to find out what Porter's orders really were. Still weak, Dai relays that Porter might be dead and the other militias were under fire. The mission should be aborted, which is what he told Weaver. Weaver is going ahead with it regardless. Tom then goes to Pope and wants him to take the bombs apart. Pope's up for anything that will kill Scitters and isn't agreeable. That is until Tom pulls a gun on him. He plans on convincing Weaver to abort the mission.

Weaver finds Danner tied up and heads to the clinic to confront Anne about Tom's whereabouts. Tom, Hal and Maggie are already there, disarm him and ask him to listen to reason. They demand to know the real operational plan. Weaver disagrees that the mission should stand down, as they won't have another chance to strike at them hard. Tom isn't against fighting, but wants it done the right way. That's when Pope shows up and pulls a gun on all of them, ready to free Weaver and kill some Scitters. Tom trumps him and says he already took the fuses for the explosives, so the bombs are out of commission.

Tom tells Weaver the civilians need to know the truth and that the attack needs to be more than a command decision that will end in suicide. There are too few of them left. Jimmy and Anne urge Weaver to do the right thing, as they want to follow him if he'll let them. Weaver at last reconsiders and says he'll do it Tom's way.

In the gym, Weaver and Tom address the assembly, calling for volunteers and laying out the truth of the situation. The Boston assault was to be a first strike, but Porter lost contact with the other regiments and Porter himself might be lost. Porter's last order was to abort unless they could confirm the existence of the other units. They don't know. But he asks for 50 volunteers for the mission. He gets them easily.

Tom is left in charge of evacuating the civilians. Weaver lets him know he quit taking the pills since he got back from Boston. Tom wishes he was going along, especially since Hal has also volunteered, but he has his father's blessing.

Scott finds a pensive Ben, who finally comes clean about what's going on with the frequencies, and together they try out his theory. But Tom has to conceal his unease when he finds out that his son is able to access the alien communications.

Matt gives Pope the business for breaking his father's trust and pulling a gun on them. Maggie then takes a moment to confront him and asks him what his plan is. He reminds her if it wasn't for him she'd just be another Mech victim. And he has no dreams that they're ever going to win this war. She warns him about double-crossing them again.

Weaver and his men hit the road, while Tom and Anne make preparations to move the camp.

The Verdict:
This episode did feel a bit slow, mostly due to the anticipation of the attack. But it serviced a lot of necessary character threads before the finale. The level of running back and forth through the school and everyone pulling guns on everyone else was starting to get a bit much.

As mentioned, Weaver's behaviour appeared to turn on a dime since last week. And while the main characters behaved according to form—Anne, Lourdes, Hal—someone like Danner was just thrown in out of nowhere as a cliche. Was there any doubt that Tom would end up thrown into the brig by the end of the season? It sort of worked.

Pope continues to be a wild card, which I'm content with. It wouldn't make sense for him to suddenly come around and make nice with everyone, though it's going to be tough giving him any kind of responsibility again. I was happy to see Maggie get a scene with him again, considering the history between them.

Ben's growing on me now that he seems genuinely not a traitor. His tactical value comes at the expense of his humanity, and Tom must watch, and exploit that, when necessary. Ricky remains creepy and we're patiently waiting for him to make his move. Will he survive? I'm not invested enough in his character to watch him try to be rehabilitated, so killing him off is no great loss.

Is Porter really dead? If so, it's unfortunate that he died off screen given he was a good character. Even if Weaver's got a volunteer force, the attack seems like a fool's errand given the complete lack of tactical information on the alien situation, as well as the other militias. Humanity does need a victory, but I'm not that confident they'll bring down the structure. Here's hoping the battle lives up to the level of expectation. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Review: True Blood "Let's Get Out Of Here"

Non Spoiler Review:
Picking up on last week's frenetic pace, Run lives up to its name and packs in a ton of stuff right to the very end. Unfortunately we get one of those classic cop out cliffhangers, as the writers seemed to forget what happened at the end of last episode.

Sookie's plight gets resolved very quickly, and the plot continues on to Antonia's next plan (and securing the loyalty of her coven). Bill and Nan start to grate on one another, Hoyt packs up Jessica's stuff, and possessed Lafayette causes a whole lot of trouble. Alcide's path crosses with the Merlottes in an unexpected way.

This was a tough one to judge, as the episode redeemed itself with some crazy character pairings that kept things interesting until the end. The witty barbs were flying between Nan and Bill behaving like a married couple in some terrific scenes. The momentum is building up to a suitable True Blood hot mess. Completely over the top. But all that good was tarnished by the really bad writing of the first scene with Sookie. True Blood is famous for glazing over cliffhangers, but this was one of the worst examples by far. On the other hand, no Star Trek fairyland.

Spoilers Now!
Alcide rushes home with Sookie, but Bill (!), suddenly silverless, arrives at super speed, steals her and gets her home in a flash, trying to get her to feed from him. Alcide catches up, pissed, but Sookie finally opens her eyes after managing to feed (when this happened, I don't know, as I must have momentarily looked away from the screen). She finds Bill and Alcide, but  asks for Eric in typical Sookie selfishness. Bill has his men out looking for him. Alcide is furious she nearly died because of vampires—again. He says he's done and leaves. Sookie thanks Bill for the blood, he smiles awkwardly and leaves her alone, as well. 

Remember last week's tense vampire/witch battle? That seems to have resolved itself off screen as everyone is back at the emporium, including Marnie, who has brought Eric back with them. She commands him to clean himself up, but Tara is pissed she didn't take Bill's offer of peace. She ignores her, and orders them all to cast a protective spell. By the way, it's not Marnie anymore, but ANTONIA! Holly and Tara seem to smarten up, and are not about to blindly follow her, but Marnie isn't home anymore, and Antonia is firmly in control. Just try to leave, she dares.

There's a new plan, thanks to a handy flyer about the Festival of Tolerance between vampires and humans the next night, and she plans on bringing Eric there to show the world their true face. 

Luna suggests Sam leaves so he doesn't get into trouble with Marcus, but Sam gets an idea to take the two of them camping to get away from the werewolf drama. Luna agrees. They all bond over the campfire and Sam even changes into a rabbit for Emma to pet (ick).

Alcide comes home and climbs into bed as Debbie plays asleep. She doesn't appear happy (as her glowing yellow eyes suggest).

Jessica is morose and vents to Nan about her love life at Bill's mansion. Nan confesses that after listening to her all night, she no longer regrets choosing not to be a maker. Bill shows up and Nan compliments him for his interview on the news. The three of them all go to ground together (bound in silver), and he springs it on her that Eric is missing again. Apparently Bill changed his mind about executing Eric all by himself, despite Nan giving him the go ahead. She's not impressed.

Nan isn't willing to cancel the festival because there are other factions involved and thinks he's stupid for letting it come to this. They get into a pissy argument and he tells her she can't see beyond tomorrow's headline. She'll bolster security, but the Festival of Tolerance must go forward and he better be in a festive mood. Given they're all bound in silver, Jessica is forced to listen to their spat.

Hoyt wakes up after a bender, and packs up Jessica's things. Then Lafayette shows up with the baby, telling him to get out of his house and waving a gun on him (apparently Hoyt's house was Mavis'). Meanwhile, Arlene and Terry are frantic at their missing kid and Jason tries to get the story straight. He gets the call from Hoyt explaining Lafayette's appearance. Terry seems to be stressing out more and more at the news, and Andy takes some V in secret.

Sookie has a dream of Eric showing up at her house in the day. Then Bill is there, and tells her he never stopped loving her. Sookie tells them both to shut up. She thinks she's in love with both of them, and proposes the two of them be hers rather than the other way around. She wants to share them both. Then she wakes up.

Tommy writes a good-bye note to Sam when Marcus comes into Merlotte's looking for his brother. He leaves his card and tells him Sam needs to meet him that night. 

Lafayette remains in Hoyt's house as Andy and Jason arrive. Andy isn't taking any resistance from Lafayette and busts inside. That doesn't go well, and Lafayette nearly shoots him, prompting Jason and Andy to run out.

Jesus goes in to talk to him, tells Mavis he's a brujah, and she needs to make peace with whatever killed her. Mavis suddenly realizes she's in the body of a man. They attempt a ritual and Jesus has a vision of Mavis and how her baby had already been buried when she learned he was dead. She wants to know where he is. She remembers the tree outside, so he and Lafayette head out of the house and give back the baby to Arlene. 

Debbie's out on the street scoring some V, then heads to Sookie's. Sookie reluctantly invites her in. Debbie says Alcide came home smelling of her blood. She wants to make things better between them. Sookie reads her mind and sees that Debbie is being genuine, so believes her. Sookie also tells her Alcide really loves her, but does take Debbie's invitation to help.

Alcide and Marcus are hanging out at the motorcycle shop. Alcide wants in on the pack because it's important to Debbie. So Marcus asks him to help him out with a shifter problem he has with his exwife. He asks Alcide to stick around for his meeting with him, promising there won't be trouble, but just wants some backup to make him more inclined to listen. 

As night falls, Andy apologizes to Jason but it doesn't mean anything anymore. Jason's focused on helping Jesus dig by the tree with Hoyt, and they find two skeletons...both the baby and Mavis'. Jesus gives over the dead baby, asking for Lafayette back. Mavis leaves the body in a golden light—witnessed by everyone there, including Arlene, Terry and Hoyt. She thanks them all and disappears with her baby.

Debbie shows up at the emporium to see Antonia. She says she represents the werewolves come to pledge their allegiance. Meanwhile, Sookie sneaks in the back way and finds the coven sleeping, with Eric locked in a room. Eric is cogent enough to tell her she should go, as he's supposed to kill the king. That's when Tara shows up with a gun.

Antonia knows werewolves don't like to make themselves known, so why now? Debbie cracks and tells her she brought Sookie to her. Antonia finds them, and tells Tara not to shoot. Sookie can be of use to them. Tara tells Sookie (via her thoughts) to charge her, and that Bill is at the hotel. Sookie overpowers Tara and runs out. Debbie is waiting in the car and Sookie runs up (unaware of her betrayal). They drive off to the festival. Antonia summons Eric to go with them and commands the rest to stay there. She arcane locks the emporium (Tara gets burned trying to open the door). 

Jason helps Hoyt put his house back in order. Jason reluctantly agrees to deliver the box of belongings back to Jessica at Bill's place. She invites him in, but he doesn't think that's a good idea. But that doesn't last, because two seconds later they're having True Blood sex in the back of his truck. 

Tommy shows up at Marcus' (as Sam), and is greeted by Alcide. There are several other werewolves there as backup. Marcus tells him to stay away from his wife. Tommy says he's never touched his wife, though his brother has. That prompts a beat down from everyone but Alcide, who orders Marcus to call them off. That's when Tommy shifts back and Marcus recognizes him from Merlotte's. Furious with Marcus for breaking his word, Alcide carries Tommy out.

At the hotel, Bill's sheriffs are standing guard as the Festival of Tolerance begins, but aside from the speakers there are no vampires in the audience as per Nan's wishes not to provoke any trouble. Eric shows up outside the hotel, prompting the sheriffs to take off in pursuit. He surrenders, just as Antonia arrives to cast her mind control spell and takes them under her command, as well. 

Sookie runs in as Bill gives his speech. She yells from the audience as vampires appear around the room, disembowel the human guards for everyone to see, and prompt a panic. Jumping into the crowd, they begin killing audience members, while Eric leaps from the gallery to attack the king, and Sookie screams for Bill to run.

The Verdict:
The resolution of last week's cliffhanger was virtually ignored—not only does Bill somehow get free off camera, but we're led to believe everyone must have just decided to go home, as we see Antonia and her crew back at the emporium with Eric. What did they do with their dead? Did security just back off? Did Sookie feed from Bill or not? That bad writing could have set the tone for the whole episode, but luckily things got back on track.

Debbie's questionable loyalties really had me guessing, and now she's got Sookie thinking she's on her side. With Alcide screwing up his role in the pack, there's just enough time left in the season to finally throw the werewolf storyline into high gear. It's going to be pretty obvious to him (or should be) that Debbie's fallen off the wagon.

Nice to see Tara remember her friendship and think smart to get a leg up on Antonia. Equally cool was Antonia's magical warding of the emporium. Aside from her one crazy loyal hippie, the rest seem to have come to their senses.

I'm not clear what purpose Mavis' storyline is going to serve, aside from saying "Hey, here's what Lafayette's powers can do." But at least it seems resolved and out of the way, though that might not necessarily explain Mikey's evilness. It didn't offer anything unique at all, except the usual ghost needs closure story we've all seen too many times.

Special mention goes to Hoyt's box labelling For you, monster, and the subsequent text scribbled out when Jason delivers it to Jessica. Nan and Bill's bickering was hilarious, especially with a distraught Jessica being forced to listen to them while they were all chained in the crypt. Nan's subsequent Jackie Kennedy pink dress and Bill's Southern accent virtually dripping from his festival speech all made for an excessively funny hour.

Now that Nan has to deal with yet another vampire on human massacre it's going to be interesting to see where the public relations angle goes from here. Will they out the witches, as well? Antonia's not going to be able to keep a handle on things too much longer with her coven held prisoner. But now that Lafayette is getting experience with magic, he might be the key to her defeat.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Review: True Blood "Spellbound"

Non Spoiler Review:
The vampire community suffers fallout from Antonia's first strike, leading Bill to set some plans in motion. Sookie and Eric continue their love fest through most of the episode. Lafayette gets some insight into the ghostly visitor hovering around the baby, and Tommy puts his schemes into action.

Spellbound was a great episode, ending on some exciting action bits and jeopardy for several characters. Most interesting, Sookie begins thinking of others aside from herself and Eric! It only took three quarters of the season.

Spoilers Now!
Jason manages to tackle Jessica back inside the house and out of the sun, but she abruptly prepares to kill him. Luckily Antonia ends her spell and Jessica emerges from her fugue, recognizing Jason. They share a passionate kiss as she realizes he saved her life. Below, Bill is distraught, until Jason carries her downstairs and he sees she's alive. She realizes she killed the guard too, but he assures her it wasn't her fault (and it's all part of the job being a human working for the vampire king).

Jason returns her to the cell and binds her with silver again, as the break in the spell could be a ruse to lower their guard. They won't be safe until nightfall. Bill then asks for Jason's discretion on the guard's death, and Jason admits he shot the other man in the shoulder outside. Finally Bill's security arrive en masse, and Jason surrenders to them.

Marcus summons his pack to explain the current vampire/witch dispute. Alcide asks Debbie if she told him what was going on, but she denies it. Marcus thinks it's foolish for the witches to even think they could defeat the vampires, so he's keeping his pack out of it all (Alcide smells a vampire collaborator). 

As night falls, Sookie frees Eric, but he needs to feed so she offers up herself to help him heal. He suggests she silver him should he get out of control. They ultimately share each other's blood, which  gives Sookie her first real taste of V.

Jessica returns home to Hoyt, who's paranoid that he's losing her. She wants to move out. Her human life isn't enough for her anymore. Hoyt's disconsolate and declares he'll die without her. When he persists she tells him to just die and smashes his head in the counter. Covered in blood she goes to meet Jason in his truck and has sex...which is all a dream, of course, and she wakes up in the cell with a human donor sent from Bill to replenish her. 

Bill is dealing with the fallout from the day's events, including Maxine's neighbour who died. Jason and Andy investigate the vampire remains, but Andy is more interested in the leftover blood of the body. Jason tells him to get a grip. Andy thinks he's only good when he's on V, and can't seem to command respect from anyone, least of all Maxine.

Maxine is giving an interview to the local news as Bill arrives. He glamors the newscaster to let him give his statement and comments on the lingering animosity from Russell's legacy which has led to some vampires committing suicide.

A furious Antonia watches the news and sees only one vampire died despite their efforts. That's when Tara realizes the spell wasn't just protecting them, but was drawing out vampires. Antonia wants them snuffed out once and for all, and Tara agrees. 

Bill phones the emporium and Tara answers. He's surprised to hear her voice. He wants to talk to Antonia and apologizes for what was done to her four hundred years before. He believes there can be peace. He wants to meet with her to avoid useless death for both of their peoples. She agrees to meet him at the cemetery at midnight.

Tommy breaks into Maxine's house and steals clothes. Maxine then shows up at Merlotte's to meet with the natural gas guy. Unfortunately her dead vampire neighbour left an unpaid mortgage so the gas company can pick up her property pretty cheaply, so Tommy has to settle for a much smaller amount. Tommy later shifts back in the woods and passes out.

Jessica returns home for real this time and breaks the news to Hoyt. She believes they moved too fast and should spend some time apart. He doesn't take it well at all, and gets nasty telling her he deserves someone normal who can have kids and who isn't a virgin all her life. Bitter, he kicks her out, taking back his invitation. 

Marcus and Alcide seem to have come to terms and the pack leader opens the door for Alcide to move up in the ranks. Debbie is happy to have a second chance and wants Alcide to stay away from Sookie and out of the vampire business. He promises.

While cooking, Lafayette sees the ghost again singing to the baby in the kitchen. Later, Lafayette has a revealing dream about the spirit (who happens to be carrying the doll). Her baby died, apparently at the hands of its white married father. He wouldn't have a funeral, or acknowledge its existence, and refused to let her see the infant one last time. Layayette wakes up to see the ghost, and gets possessed—again. He then shows up at the Bellefleur house where Andy is sleeping (and Terry and Arlene are staying). He takes Andy's gun...and the baby.

After an evening of V sex, Eric wants to leave town to escape the war, but Sookie says they have an obligation to stand by Bill and fight the witches, As Bill makes preparations, they show up to help him fight. She suggests her abilities can be of value, and Bill reluctantly agrees.

Sam goes to see Luna to let her know Tommy is out of his life. He admits Tommy killed his parents, though they may have deserved it. He can forgive him for that, but not for what he did to Luna. She invites him in for dinner. However, Marcus looks in on Luna (his ex) and sees them all having dinner. Luna tells him not to start anything, and goes to tuck in her daughter. Marcus leaves with a few thinly veiled threats to Sam. 

Jessica comes to see Jason and tells him she broke up with Hoyt. He doesn't want her there and takes back his invitation, so she's thrown out of his house, as well. He refuses to betray his friendship with Hoyt.

Bill shows up at the cemetery and meets Antonia. She knows he's not alone, so he admits that he's brought help, summoning out Nan, Jessica, Pam, Sookie and Eric from the woods. Antonia does the same, and has been concealing her coven, including Tara—much to Sookie's surprise.

Bill vows not to harm them again. In return he asks they remove the spells from Eric and Pam. Antonia asks if she has his word, but Sookie reads her mind and hears her casting, alerting Bill, so he summons more vampires (including his sheriffs) and human security, and they train their guns on her. Antonia laughs and summons fog, but Eric super-speeds and rips the heart out of one of the coven. Mayhem ensues, with an all out vampire/witch fight.

Alcide shows up at Sookie's, and hears gunfire in the woods, so rushes to the cemetery, but another wolf (Debbie) follows.

Tara kills a vampire, but Pam takes her gun. Bill forbids Pam from killing Tara, ever, or will personally execute her. He helps Tara up and leaves, leaving her to ponder why he saved her.

Sookie is attacked by one of the coven, and is able to summon her fairy light, but she's shot by a stray bullet. Bill and Eric both try to get to her, but Bill is silvered. Eric confronts Antonia who casts on him again, stopping him in his tracks and putting him under her spell.

Sookie lies down and begins to drift away as Alcide arrives and picks her up. Debbie shifts back to human form and watches them leave.

The Verdict:
After a couple of very nice character episodes, Spellbound picks up the action side of things. With a few episodes remaining, this first salvo in the vampire/witch war has drawn some blood, so it's any guess where it could go next. It was great to see everyone working together—Jessica, Bill, Eric, Pam and Sookie, and actually contributing (yay, mind reading powers). Even Jason can be counted among Bill's posse now.

There were so many great bits—Eric's bloodthirsty organ tearing, Bill's rescue of Tara, and everyone's "I've got allies" reveal—the last fifteen minutes were riveting. That made up for a rather boring Eric/Sookie sequence. In hindsight, it's odd that Sookie never indulged in Bill's blood (or if she had, I've forgotten). As well, I'm wondering if Nan was noting Sookie's involvement at all, and will now question if Bill was telling her the truth about Sookie being nothing special.

Jessica really got the business this week, but I can't see Jason being able to control his urges for too much longer if she's hanging around. As much as it sucked for Hoyt, their storyline was really fizzling. Though that dream sequence (damn you, Alan Ball), was good for a momentary adrenaline rush.

Tommy's portrayal of Maxine provided some comic relief, but this story still seems to be spinning its wheels. Unless Maxine's natural gas rights are just a red herring and Tommy's working towards a major shape shift that will affect the main storylines. Perhaps we'll get a major character's death that will really be Tommy.

I'm not sure what to think of Sookie's latest brush with death (coming on the heels of last season's blood draining). But Alcide's rescue was expected, and Debbie's likely fall off the wagon. Hopefully next week does not turn into another visit to Star Trek fairy land.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Review: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Non Spoiler Review:
Following Tim Burton's less than successful reimagining of Planet of the Apes,  I had my doubts when news came out for Rise of the Planet of the Apes, charting the ascent of the simians in a prequel. But it turned out to be the best surprise of the summer (or the year, for that matter).

Like the original Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, Rise deals with how ape intelligence emerged and toppled humans as dominant species. James Franco is brilliant scientist Will Rodman, working on a virus to repair damage caused by Alzheimer's for Gen-sys, a pharmaceutical company. They've been testing the drug on apes, who begin to display a side benefit—on their healthy brains, it increases intelligence ALOT. Will's father suffers from dementia, prompting him to take some unorthodox risks with the drug. When the ape subjects are exterminated, it's discovered one primate was pregnant, and Will takes him home to raise. The movie charts the infant Caesar's growth and development in a human home, and the inevitable coming of age when he realizes he's not like everyone else.

Rise is directed by Rupert Wyatt, and presents a successful reimagining of the origin story, that requires very little suspension of disbelief (compared to the original Conquest). The genetic enhancement element was enough of a modern day spin to create a believable mythology, and also picked up on threads seen in films such as Splice and I Am Legend. My only quibble is that some of the unenhanced apes maybe exhibited a little too much intelligence to start.

The human characters received little development, but I don't necessarily find that to be a flaw in the story, given this is all about the apes. Franco's Will is the most well-rounded of the bunch, though that isn't saying too much. But he does convey a devotion for Caesar's best interests. Jon Lithgow has a small but pivotal role as Franco's suffering father, Charles. But Franco's girlfriend, and his pharmaceutical boss come off as just a convenient sidekick and two-dimensional bad guy, respectively. The other villains of the piece are none other than Stryker (X2) and Draco Malfoy himself, who play things without even a touch of empathy, and finally Will's airline pilot neighbour is so over the top, it's a bit ridiculous. A little more humanity among the human adversaries would have helped to make the issue less black and white.

But this was Caesar's story, and any future movies in a post-human world can provide an alternatively fleshed out human character as the focus among the ape majority. Caesar and his other CGI creations certainly steal the show. The actions of the humans are just not as compelling as watching the first glimmer of intelligence manifest among the simians. Andy Serkis conveys a great deal of emotion through the motion-capture, making for some eerie moments accomplished with simple eye movements and subtle expressions. There are several other primate CGI characters that have their own personalities, and no doubt these are set up for future sequels. 

There are plenty of call outs to the original Ape films that provide some smirks to those in the know. But Rise not only pays homage to the past, it builds its own successful storyline, and answers important questions about how a small band of intelligent apes could possibly rise to prominence over the humans.

A new Apes franchise opens up exciting possibilities for sequels that aren't just money-grabbers, but a modern template for a new Planet of the Apes continuity, starting from the beginning rather than working in reverse like the originals. I would love to see the next film start several years ahead with a new generation of apes dealing with the human situation established at the end of the movie, accessing technology, developing their new culture and society. Hopefully the creators treat the franchise with some care (like Harry Potter) and not run it off the rails (like Terminator).

So this was an unexpected gem of a summer movie, and a good contender for one of the best science fiction entries for 2011. It provided an ominous but satisfying conclusion with the anticipation of further instalments. I highly recommend it for fans of the original, as well as newbies who want a smart and well-constructed popcorn flick.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Review: The Walking Dead 88

Non Spoiler Review:
Issue 88 deals with the ramifications following Carl's emergence from his coma, as well as further domestic difficulties brewing around the community. Rick decides to organize a scouting party to get to know their neighbourhood and see if they can find any supplies of use, given food stores are running low.

This was the first issue in awhile that felt mediocre. That could mean this calm stretch following No Way Out has probably overstayed its welcome. A lot of the potential troubles seemed to be more of what we've already seen over the years. But on the positive side, Carl's situation managed to avoid some cliche pitfalls.

Spoilers Now!
Carl isn't a total amnesiac. He has a notion of a lot that has happened, though Rick has to tell him his mother is dead, which doesn't illicit that much of a reaction from his son. It's questionable whether Carl remembers the details of the twins' death, as well, but he gets some rest, leaving Rick to mull over his son's condition.

Spencer comes to talk to Andrea, wanting to see where they are at, but Andrea says in no uncertain terms that their brief flirtation is over. He can't understand why she's not giving him a chance to redeem himself, but she tells him to get lost.

Rather than wait, he decides he wants to go on a scouting mission to gather food as soon as possible, and leaves Glen to look after things (as per Maggie's request). His goal is to get to know the neighbourhood, and he and a large group rummage through the nearby blocks, most of which have been picked clean already. However, he comes across an office and goes inside, and is later found crying there by Andrea.

Back at the wall, troublemaker Nicholas is up to more shenanigans, gathering a small group to attempt to convince them of the necessity of ceasing control from Rick and his people before they become too entrenched.

The Verdict:
It was a pleasant surprise that Carl didn't emerge with full blown amnesia, and his condition seems realistic enough given his head trauma (though probably too optimistic given the size of the wound). At least we're not going to get bogged down in Rick debating whether to tell his son about his mother's death, as it was handled and gotten out of the way right off the bat.

Spurned Spencer seems to be set up as a plot point to aid in Nicholas' upcoming rebellion. But Nicholas' discord just doesn't ring as true for me. Had his character been around for longer than a couple of issues (or if he has been, I can't recall where he's appeared) it wouldn't come off as such an abrupt storyline introduction.

So a rather ho-hum month, but now that Rick and company are outside the gates I'm sure they'll find something interesting to liven things up again. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

Review: True Blood "The Cold Grey Light of Dawn"

Non Spoiler Review:
Another character-focused episode brings us more heartfelt Bill/Jessica moments, as the vampires of Louisiana brace for an imminent attack by the resurrected Antonia. Sam finds out about Tommy's skinwalking, while Lafayette and Jesus deal with the revelations from their Mexico trip. 

The characters are beginning to take sides in the witch/vampire conflict, and it was interesting to see adversaries begin to work together, while others made curious choices for allies. Bill takes command, but makes some questionable decisions. It does seem odd he's the driving force to head off Antonia when he wasn't even alive during her first attack (compared to many of his contemporary vampires).

The storyline is in full throttle now with Marnie leading the way. But even Tommy and Arlene's baby are stepping up their game and have started to pique my curiosity with the new ghost. It's Sookie and Eric who remain the least interesting thing going on at the moment, vastly overshadowed by Bill's coolness factor and the charming bits with Jessica. It's a refreshing shift.

Spoilers Now!
Katie comes down to the cell to hear Marnie's screams as Luis appears to be attacking her. But she's in control—compelling Luis to glamor her to reveal the security layout of the house and allow her escape. Marnie has him kill Katie for her treason, then leaves, with orders to relay a message to his king that Antonia has returned.

Pam's attack on Tara is interrupted by a crowd taking pictures. Pam whispers to her that she'll hunt her down eventually, then departs in a flash. Traumatized, Tara tells her girlfriend that anyone she ever loved ended up dead, and so she wants to let her go and sends her away. She drives off, leaving Tara devastated.

Jesus' grandpa comes back into the room. Jesus is furious he risked his life, but the old man tells him he would never sacrifice him as he's the last of them left. He advises Lafayette that he has the magic. Tio Luca was Jesus' uncle, a healer. Lafayette, like Marnie, has the ability to channel the dead.

Alcide and Debbie are initiated into the pack in the woods in a rather mundane ceremony, but Alicide's mind is on Sookie and her safety, that does not go unnoticed on Debbie. She tells him they can spare a few minutes to go look for her. Unfortunately, they spy Sookie and Eric together, and Debbie notices Alcide doesn't look very happy. Later she confesses she thinks Alcide is in love with Sookie. He admits he worries for her, but that's it (...rrright).

Luis comes to see Bill, admitting he made a terrible mistake and that Antonia is back, then shoots Bill! But he gets his gun and fires back, then pins Luis down with a stake. Luis whispers resurrection and impales himself. Bill summons Jessica to explain the Antonia situation, and that her plan now may be to bring all the vampires into the sun. So he makes a bold decision and instructs his sheriffs to order all the vampires out of the state, and those that remain will bind themselves with silver to remain in their coffins. 

Jason continues to have fantasies about Jessica, but gets a visit from Hoyt, who is checking in on him given he was raped and all. He admits he feels Jessica is slipping away from him. 

Bill shows up at Sookie's after they get back from the woods, and she thanks him for letting Eric go. He's there to explain the Antonia situation, but he's offering Eric the choice whether to stay or leave. Eric will stay with Sookie, of course, so he leaves him with silver chains, and goes home to do the same with himself and Jessica. 

Tara walks home by herself (at night, by the woods!) and hears something from the trees. Marnie emerges, and informs her that she's now Antonia residing in Marnie. They're alike, she says, suffering at the hands of vampires. She allows Tara to have a vision of what happened in Spain, and promises she can avenge their torment and everyone else who has suffered, but needs Tara's help. Tara asks what she has to do.

Bill has his mansion secured while Jessica is painfully silvered (though the wounds will ultimately heal). Pam is getting injections to at least maintain her appearance despite the rotting inside her, and is also silvered in her coffin. Eric gets Sookie to wrap him in his chains. 

At the hospital Sam's informed Tommy had food poisoning. Sam calls Luna and gets an earful. So he comes to see her and he realizes she thinks he slept with her. He says Tommy was the only one in his trailer, then remembers her story about skinwalking and Luna getting sick afterwards. Both realize it was Tommy. Sam confronts Tommy about impersonating him, asking if he planned on killing him next. He nearly strangles him but opts to let Tommy leave as long as he stays away this time (which I'm sure he will).

Jessica and Bill lie together in their crypt, waiting for the dawn. Bill apologizes for causing her so much suffering, but she says she's lived more with him than she ever would have as a human. He tells her to think of Hoyt, but she admits she doesn't know if she can go back to him. She doesn't love him the same way given she doesn't have a human heart anymore. 

Andy shows up at Merlotte's with roses for Holly for their date. He's acting a bit strange given he hasn't had any V. They barely have a few minutes of conversation before he excuses himself and leaves her, saying it was a mistake. 

Lafayette is back cooking, and when he smiles at Arlene's baby he notices him looking past him. He turns and sees the same black woman from last week. She appears startled he can see her, then gestures for him to keep quiet and sings to the baby, before Lafayette frightens her away. 

Tara later speaks to Holly about returning to the group to fight back against the vampires. Holly has a lot on her mind with the fire, but agrees to come back. They all have to bring in at least one more to make the circle bigger. At the coven, Antonia greets them and explains who she really is. She only wants the assistance of the willing, so a couple of them leave after hearing the plan. The remaining ones vow to join her and perform a new, more powerful spell.

Eric wants Sookie to remove the silver, but she won't. He doesn't want his memory back if she can overlook all he's done. Jason (in uniform finally) shows up at Sookie's just when the effect of the spell appears to pass through Bon Temps. Eric begins yelling to be freed from the basement. She tells Jason to go on, and he realizes that Jessica, as well, may be in danger. Across town the vampires try to break out of their crypts. Maxine sees her neighbour go out in the sun and burst into flames. 

Jessica manages to break her chains and gets out of their cell. Bill commands her to unchain him, but her compulsion is too strong to see the sun, and she goes upstairs while Jason rushes to the mansion. Jason gets tackled by the guards as Jessica throws open the doors to meet the sun.

The Verdict:
A tense episode, with Antonia's imminent attack looming over everything. It did play on a few coincidences, with Bill's (correct) assumption that the witch would immediately try to bring the vampires into the sun the next day, but then depended on her conscripting a bigger coven within a few hours. But aside from those elements, the threat provided another opportunity for a great Jessica/Bill scene. Everything worked—Luis' suicide attack, the silver binding scenes, Antonia's casual escape—to convey how desperate the vampire situation is and their shock at humans being able to mount such a formidable threat.

It was refreshing to see Sookie, Bill and Eric making peace for the time being and dealing with the greater issue rather than petty bickering. King Bill has the fate of all his subjects on his mind, and doesn't easily let himself get bogged down in Sookie's drama anymore.

How Sookie will deal with Tara's firm commitment to the witch's side remains to be seen, but I hope it doesn't end up with the two chatting over ice cream again. The werewolves still have to make their decision (including Alcide), and I'm sure his choice will go against the pack and cause him some trouble.

I have no idea where Andy's storyline is going, if not to simply screw up something at a critical juncture for the other characters. I half expected Holly to bring him into the coven before he abruptly ditched her.

If Lafayette is now a necromancer like Marnie, where does that leave Jesus, and his grandfather's plans for him? Can their relationship survive one magic user (or two?). With the introduction of the ghost girl, I will admit Arlene's crazy storyline has at least become somewhat interesting.

I was surprised that Sam and Luna figured everything out so quickly, but happy it avoided all the drama that could have been involved watching Tommy play Sam for another couple of episodes. But here we are yet again with Sam and Tommy having a falling out and Sam just telling him to get out of town?

My poor Pam seems to be made to suffer this year. She's become quite a wild card acting on her own despite Bill's commands, so I hope she doesn't get too much to handle that it forces his hand to deal with her. A lot of the current problems are stemming from her impulsive actions provoking Marnie and Tara.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Review: Falling Skies "What Hides Beneath"

Non Spoiler Review:
Events begin to accelerate towards the season finale as Weaver and Tom go on a recon mission back to Boston to observe the alien super structures. While there they encounter several surprises, including a revelation about the invaders. Anne, meanwhile, has a hunch about the Scitters and ends up doing an operation on the corpse which reveals another shocker with loads of ramifications.

Weaver figured prominently again and continues to evolve in likable ways, which was no small feat given how he started. Pope also contributed a lot, and all the myriad side stories with Ben/Rick, Hal/Karen, Matt/Scott, and Anne/Lourdes all get some screentime. 

I'm excited to see how it all ends up, especially the implications with the Scitters and what's been discovered. And it looks like things are going to end on an explosive note (and I'm hoping they blow their effects budget for the finale).

Spoilers Now!
Porter returns to update Tom and Weaver on the situation on the ground. A major offensive is being planned against the structures over Boston (as well as others), as the aliens appear to be pulling back to them for the moment. Tom seems to think this is in preparation for a greater offensive, but there's no way of knowing. He wants the 2nd Mass to send a team in on reconnaissance in preparation for the assault, which will involve blowing up the four legs of the super-structure to bring it down.

Porter is brought to see a recovering Pope, who learned a lot from an ex marine when it comes to makin' s'plosions. Porter wants him under observation at all times, but okays it. Weaver happens to notice Rick's drawings that Anne has encouraged through her art therapy. He drew a row of townhouses that look familiar, but won't answer Weaver when he asks where he saw it. Rick gives the picture to him. Weaver, unable to sleep, continues to obsess over the image.

Pope is sent to collaborate with Scott on explosives and manages to insult everyone on the way. Scott's been busy trying to deconstruct pieces of a blown up Mech, but they find its gun section can still fire rounds. Pope realizes the Mech bullets have just been refurbished from existing bullets the aliens have scavenged on earth—refitted with the tougher Mech metal.

Hal comes across Ben exercising again (for two hours), which is a stark contrast to his days as a math nerd. Ben brushes it all off. He later has a check up with Anne, who seems to notice that he has no feeling on his back around the areas of the implants (which aren't disappearing on him as they were on some of the more recently harnessed kids). Ben tries to make friends with Rick and get him to talk about his dad. Rick doesn't believe the Scitters have abandoned them, but Ben says he hates the Scitters and doesn't want to think that they'll come back.

Weaver accompanies the scouting mission into Boston, despite Tom's concerns he hasn't had enough sleep. But Weaver says he had a construction business, so knows a thing or two about where to set the charges on the alien structures. Weaver realizes the superstructures are constructed of earth materials—all the scrap metal the harnessed kids were collecting, so there is nothing otherworldly about them at all.

Suddenly they spy some Scitters and then two tall, bipedal creatures approaching them—a different kind of alien none of them have seen before. Tom is worried if they are coming out now they might be feeling they've won.

They then run into Sonja, an older woman who has been surviving in the city by herself. She invites them in, as she's been watching the aliens and offers some observations. Weaver sends Tom and Hal in and remains outside to keep watch. She seems to have a lot of supplies on hand at her house, but explains the aliens took her away in the early days to the internment camps, but just for a brief time. She was let go because they didn't care about someone like her. She was told this through the harnessed kids. Then Weaver abruptly drives off and sabotages Hal and Tom's bikes so they can't follow. Sonja wants to make sure they're coming back.

Anne is very pensive about Ben's implants, so enlists Lourdes' aid in doing an autopsy on the dead Scitter. They cut it open and deep inside they find another harness. The Scitters might not have always been the way they appear now.

Weaver has gone to his old home which matches the row of townhouses from the picture. Tom and Hal show up and find Weaver in his back yard, but notice a lot of old blood on the floor. Weaver and his wife had split the year before the attack. He gives Tom the picture of his house and wants to know what it means, wondering if Rick and the Scitters can read their minds. He then confesses when his daughter was captured, his exwife and her husband were killed, but he managed to find his harnessed daughter. He attempted to remove it—unsuccessfully. He wants to stay and tells them to go on without him.

A Mech shows up so Hal takes cover. Weaver insists on staying but then finds a pair of glasses that makes him think twice. They manage to blow up the Mech and assume Sonja gave them up to the Scitters. They return to her apartment and she gets a visitor outside her door—a harnessed Karen (!) delivering food. Looking through the peephole, Hal nearly freaks. Sonja says she's been coming there the last few days. Then one of the new bipedal aliens shows up at the door, but Sonja just gets them to leave the food outside and that the others have long gone. Both it and Karen leave her alone. 

Sonja confesses they promised they wouldn't hurt them, and told her she'd have company again like she used to. They always promise to bring them back, which is why they let her go in the first place—to turn in anyone who might be passing through. Tom says she can come along if she wants, but she wants to stay, wrapped up in her delusion that the Scitters will bring people to stay with her. He gives her some false intel about another town being clear in case she tells the aliens.

Anne is pondering all the drawings of the harnessed kids. Lourdes doesn't know if she can keep it all quiet, but Anne says it would create a panic, though she will tell Tom. Rick and Ben could still be lost. 

Tom agrees to keep Weaver's secrets between them, but wants to know why he changed his mind about coming back. Weaver explains he found his wife's only pair of glasses in the house, and they weren't there after the attack, so there's a chance she could still be alive, and maybe even his oldest daughter. He has some hope again.

As Tom and Weaver return to base, Pope summons everyone to a demonstration (Matt's been hanging out with Pope during his research into the Mech, much to Tom's chagrin). Pope fires a regular round against Mech armor, to no avail, then replaces a standard bullet with a Mech metal slug in a .45 and blows a hole in it. Rick watches and quietly slips out, but Ben sees him go. Pope advises Weaver he can make more with metal making tools by melting down the armor. Everyone gets a big boost to morale.

The Verdict:
The introduction of the bipedal alien race was half-expected, but effectively eerie shaking up the characters' perceptions about the invasion. I'm not as sure about the implication of the harnessed Scitters—that Rick and Ben will turn into Scitters (if that's what the discovered harness suggests), or if it simply means the Scitters are an additional slave race beefed up by their overlords. 

Okay, so Pope is slowly becoming an acceptable character, and it's probably a good thing that he remains so acerbic and outside the main group for awhile. It does seem a bit of a stretch that he's the only one who thought using the alien armor to coat their bullets might come in handy?

Weaver's had some sappy scenes lately, but he has certainly evolved from his one note military commander role from the first episode. Falling Skies has pretty much made every annoying character at least bearable, including Sarah and Lourdes.

Finally we had Karen's return, made especially creepy now that she's in the company of the real alien powers. Once again, I'm proud of my boy Hal for not freaking out and putting the entire mission at risk when he saw it was her. 

We really haven't gotten a lot of detail on these internment camps (that Sonja experienced) and what went on there, aside from the mass executions. If they don't want the humans around one would think they could be more thorough if they wished. That emphasizes one of my main gripes—more talk about what happened in the last six months. Not the alien agenda, which is sure to unfold over the series, but just actual flashbacks to what characters experienced during the initial days. Now that we see that the super structures are just plain old earth materials, it seems extremely unlikely even these aliens could construct such massive architecture over multiple cities in just six months.

The revelations open up a lot of potential for where the series could go. Might there be an attempt to work with the Scitters against their common threat? How safe are all three Mason children? Can they actually bring down the super structures? I'm hoping for some spectacle for the two hour finale to carry on the momentum of what's been a pretty good close to the season.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Review: True Blood "I Wish I Was the Moon"

Non Spoiler Review:
I Wish I Was the Moon brings a lot of character focus in lieu of action, but it makes for a really satisfying hour, and continues this season's spell (pun!) of successful episodes. Sookie rediscovers that she has a brother as Jason comes to terms with the possibility of turning into a werepanther. The moon figures prominently in the background as Tommy also makes a self-discovery, Tara and her girlfriend have a heart to heart, Bill has to make some decisions about Eric, and in Mexico, Jesus and Lafayette deal with the evil grandpa brujah. 

There were a few pleasant surprises here in how some characters behaved and actually made good choices, or at least evolved in some way. And I have to say I was really happy (for once) about Jason's storyline direction.

Has it been six episodes already? At the halfway point it seems there's still a lot that can happen with the witches, and even a lot more simmering on the backburner—Alcide and Debbie? Andy? Portia's Compton ties? Even evil baby storyline took an interesting turn this week.

Spoilers Now!
Bill arrives at Sookie's to interrupt the tryst before it gets too far, arresting Eric. Eric goes willingly (though manages to toss Bill across the room first), confessing he has heard of all the bad things he's done in his previous life. Sookie follows them back to Bill's mansion, where Eric is taken away and silvered. They have words, and he tells her to stay out of this, and has her banned from his house. Sookie leaves in a huff, refusing to recognize Bill's auth-or-i-tay.

Eric's taken to Pam's cell where she's still rotting away and smelling like death. She wants to escape and get the witches who did this, and reminds Eric that he hates Bill's guts and was a viking who didn't take any guff from nobody. He remembers nothing of their life together, and he doesn't want it back.

Bill calls up Nan to advise her he has Eric and asks permission to execute him, given he's been infected. Score extra points, as he has the necromancer, too. Nan is impressed with his thoroughness so will get back to him.

Terry and Arlene are woken up by smoke, given the bedroom is on fire. They manage to get out, and the kids have already escaped with the baby. But the fire damages both their house and Holly's, as well as Sam's retirement plans. The baby looks behind him and sees a young black woman smiling back, who vanishes.

Sam suffers through Andy's V-induced accusations of being a slumlord, but Andy is distracted by flirting with Holly. Sam goes off to deal with the fire and asks Tommy to look after things while he handles business, but Tommy is suffering the after-effects of his parents' deaths...which means turning into a skinwalker and taking Sam's appearance (!). 

Sookie tries to get a hold of Jason to get some help, and goes to see Sam, asking if she can have the day off. Tommy fires her and gives her a lecture about her bad work ethic and always getting into trouble, and sends her on her way. He then heads out into the restaurant and runs into Maxine who wants him to let his no good brother know that he can stay away for abandoning her. And he was stupid and useless. 

Later, Luna shows up deciding it's time to throw herself at Sam, so the two have sex. She tells him it was exciting, like they'd just met. Immediately after he wants her to get the hell out, and kicks her out of the house before changing back to Tommy and collapsing.

Sookie finds Jason handcuffed to his bed at his house, so he explains the whole thing about the werepanthers, which even she finds hard to believe. But she vows to help him through it. The two of them stay up at night to wait out the change and discuss Sookie being special and what it's all entailed. When she goes into the house he takes the opportunity to run off into the woods, wanting to protect her from his pantherness should it suddenly come upon him.

Tara's girlfriend shows up asking for some s'plainin', so Tara gives her the lowdown on her miserable first three seasons. She eventually concludes she likes the new Tara better, so they go out to dinner, only to run into Jessica as their waitress, who abruptly takes off like lightning.

Jessica finds Jason in the woods, given she can detect when he's in trouble, so he explains the situation and the two talk all night and discuss what it's like to be special. When it's apparent that he's not going to change, Jason appears disappointed, but Jessica assures him he's special (as in she's got a major crush on him). He thanks her, and both agree that it's best they not tell Hoyt.

Alcide comes home to find Marcus visiting with Debbie, given she's gone ahead and joined the pack—her sobriety needs a support system. He's not impressed, but agrees to go along with it to support her. They go off into the woods for the full moon, only to run into Sookie. She asks him some questions about were-animals, and Alcide admits they're all more alike than not, and that both wolves and panthers can't be infected—they have to be born. So Jason won't become one. Happy with that, she runs off to find him.

Bill has been given permission to execute Eric, so he's brought to him outside the mansion. Bill has difficulty dealing with Eric's agreeableness and his desire that Sookie be happy. He raises the stake above his head to deliver the true death, but it appears Bill's heart has grown three sizes bigger.

In her cell, Marnie cuts herself to try to summon Antonia, and receives another vision of the burning where the witch summoned all the vampires from their sleep into the sun. Marnie awakes to being full-blown possessed by her. Luis watches her on the security cameras and goes down into the cell to see her (big mistake). Antonia knows him, given he got all rapey with her back in Spain before she was burned. He recognizes that she's in Marnie, but Antonia casts a spell that forces him to submit on his knees. 

In Mexico, Lafayette and Jesus have an awkward visit with his grandfather. He berates Jesus for having no pride coming to him for help, but does ask for a sacrifice, which means Jesus and Lafayette have to wait in the country for an animal to come to them. A rattlesnake slithers along, so Jesus takes it back to his grandfather. He says Marnie is using similar spells—blood magic—to open the spirit realm. 

He throws the snake at Jesus and it bites him. He tells Lafayette to protect him and leaves. Lafayette tries to save Jesus, and is suddenly possessed by the spirit of someone named Tio Luca, who manages to calm the poison. Lafayette then awakens free of the spirit, and Jesus appears okay.

Tara and her girlfriend leave Merlotte's only to be ambushed by a vengeful Pam. Sam comes home to find a sick Tommy on the floor. Sookie meets Eric in the woods, and he tells her Bill let him live. The two finally make love in the grass, which must certainly be full of bugs. Bill stands on his porch, very sad. 

The Verdict:
Sookie finally remembered she had a brother (!). It was refreshing to see them actually be a family again and look out for one another (Gran would be pleased). The full moon vigil to await his transformation allowed for several great scenes with her, as well as with Jessica, and culminated in the refreshing fact that he can't be made a werepanther. What more could I ask for? I'm even kind of torn whether I prefer Jessica with Jason now.

Antonia appears to be the big villain of the season at the moment, taking over Marnie to have her revenge on the vampires. Getting the bits of the history lesson in Spain was cool, as was her power over Luis. Now I'm wondering if she'll inflict a new spell to bring the vampires into the sun again, which could lead to a cast cull by the end of the season. On the other side, what's Jesus going to do? Will he gain the power he needs to fight Marnie/Antonia, and will it corrupt him? Could his grandfather eventually end up being the main villain if/when they dispatch Marnie? 

Sam Trammell did a bang up job with his Tommy imitation. While it's a cliche having the doppelganger banging the girlfriend and ruining the friendships, it did add some great humour to the episode. Alcide's storyline grows a little bit each week, but must surely be building to something for the latter half of the season. And even Arlene and Terry's drama actually broke out and managed to impact some other characters, with the curious ghostly appearance of the (thankfully non-RenĂ©) young woman. 

All in all, a bang up job, considering it was mostly character development. I'm really loving this season's dynamic.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Review: Falling Skies "Sanctuary Part 1 and 2"

Non Spoiler Review:
Falling Skies delivers a two part episode dealing threats closer to home for those who have survived the invasion. The 2nd Massachusetts gets a visit from a survivor from another militia, who advises of an imminent sweep by the Scitters to get rid of the resistance. With the suggestion that they should send the children ahead to a potential safe haven, Tom, Anne and the rest are forced to come to terms with separating their group. Meanwhile, Ben is back, and just totally awesome, which doesn't sit well with his older brother. Are the unharnessed kids secret spies?

Sanctuary managed to avoid all the annoying sappiness of past weeks in favor of some genuine emotion resulting from the storyline. Anne and Weaver (and yes, even Lourdes!) continue to evolve in leaps and bounds, and the sense of ominous desperation really permeated the entire two-parter. The audience can certainly feel that things are not right from the start, until the reveal at the end of the first half. It all works quite well and comes to a satisfying conclusion.

Spoilers Now!
Anne is seeing to a young boy, Eli, while his parents watch. Suddenly the father pulls a gun and demands she give them all the antibiotics so they'll have something to trade when they go off on their own. They believe it's too dangerous after what happened with the Scitter. Anne fights back, but gets hit, and the family takes off.

Weaver's in hot pursuit, though, and has them pinned down with gunfire. That's when Clayton, another soldier, arrives and disarms the father, takes the antibiotics back, then lets the family run off. Weaver is happy to have them gone.

Clayton was with the 7th Massachusetts and served with both Weaver and Mike in the past. He's one of scant survivors after the aliens took them out. A few fighters and civilians are held up in a farm for the time being. He reports that Porter thinks the Scitters are sweeping through to get slave labour for their construction projects. The 3rd Massachusetts is to rendezvous with them and then move on together, but it will be about 72 hours, a long time to wait.

Clayton says Porter has suggested they move all the young people on ahead to ensure their safety, but that doesn't go over well with the parents at all. Weaver assures Tom he's not dragging kids away yet, but if an attack is imminent they will have to consider it. So he puts Tom in charge of arranging it with the civilians. Meanwhile, the camp is barricaded in case of an attack.

Maggie notices Anne is feeling edgy, and suggests she learn to protect herself, so gives her a gun to practice with. She applauds her for fighting back, and Anne gets some lessons on how to shoot.

Ben is feeling great. In fact, he's fitter than ever consider he was a big math nerd before the invasion, and adjusting much better than Rick. Matt wants to know what it was like being harnessed, and Ben says it felt like everything he could ever want was given before he asked for it. He felt like they were family, not monsters. Hal doesn't like the sound of that and consults with Anne. Ben's acting like a different kid. She later asks Tom how he seems, but he's really just happy to have all his sons back.

Jimmy asks Weaver to be put back into rotation (after his screw up). Weaver agrees to have him go on watch with Parker that night.

The civilians are getting up in arms at the suggestion to send the kids away. Tom has to smooth things over yet again. Added to that, Ben's having some problems fitting in given many of the civilians don't want a razorback in their midst, feeling the Scitters are attacking because of them. Hal steps in to defend his brother.

Jimmy and Parker are on watch when a Mech shows up and blows the hell out of the bus they're in. Parker's killed, but Jimmy manages to make a break for it into the school, only to run into a Scitter. He's rescued at the last minute by Weaver. There are no other patrol ships spotted, so Weaver and Tom agree that it's time to follow Clayton's plan.

Ben has a chat with his father to convince him that sending them away is the most logical move, citing the exodus of British children during WWII as an example. Tom is leery of his motives, and needs to hear that Ben is happy to be back. Ben assures him he is.

So Tom tells the civilians he's sending his own kids ahead with Clayton and they should reunite with them in a day or two. Clayton will take the kids on foot in a small force, under the Scitter's radar. Mike will accompany them, along with two other men. Hal still isn't sure he can trust his brother, so asks Tom if he can go, too. He confesses that the morning their mother went missing, he and Ben got into a big fight.

Jimmy thanks Weaver for giving him another chance and they share a father/son moment, and Clayton heads off with the group, leaving Tom the map to the safe haven. They arrive at the peaceful farm, which seems like a paradise to what they've been used to.

Meanwhile, Clayton goes to a room and visits Eli (!) who wants to see his parents. So he takes him into the woods where a young girl is waiting. She says she'll take him on to his mom and dad, but Eli gets nervous. She leads him off anyway, but he pulls away, only to be stunned by a Scitter weapon. The alien comes out, and the harnessed girl addresses Clayton about their deal, asking how many he got. Enough, he says, and he's ordered to bring more children in a few days. The Scitter carries off Eli.

Clayton returns to the barn, where he thanks his captive for the helpful intel about the school and all the kids there. It was a good idea to keep him alive. It's Pope!

Weaver is getting their own camp ready to move, but Sarah is about ready to deliver. Maggie assures him they'll make sure she keeps up. Tom wants to go find Clayton given the escorts haven't come back and the Scitters haven't attacked yet. Weaver reluctantly lets him go, but wants him back.

At the sanctuary, everyone has settled in to the relaxed atmosphere and the kids are enjoying a game of soccer. Hal is being hit on by one of the girls, but her dad tells her not to like him too much. Jimmy isn't impressed with Ben being super-athlete and doesn't trust him.

Clayton takes their fighter escorts to the main road (to shoot them, as we later learn!). He and his cohort, flirty girl's dad, go to see Pope again, who thinks they're crazy to deal with the Scitters. Clayton tells him it's just about surviving. Pope had broken into their supply shed, which had led to his capture (and stabbed the guy's brother). When Clayton leaves, Pope manages to overpower the guy and gets away, but finds the two escorts Clayton shot.

Clayton plans to make the next kid exchange the following day. They all sit down to dinner, which is made awkward by Rick refusing to eat and insults Ben for eating their food. Ben walks off. Mike berates his son.

Lourdes helps flirty girl with the dishes, but finds a bag with Eli's name tag on it. She tells Mike and Hal. Mike tries not to make a big deal out of it, but Hal notices there are a lot of people guarding the barn and house, but not the sky or the road. Mike used to fight with Clayton, so he's not convinced.

He goes to the barn himself and has a look around, finding a whole bunch of clothes and belongings, including Eli's jacket. Clayton pulls his gun on him, explaining that when the 7th Mass went down, the Skitters tore them to pieces. A young girl with them fell behind and was harnessed, and the Scitters stayed away for a week. She showed up with a message, saying all they wanted were the kids. The Scitters have quotas too, so they made an arrangement to supply kids in return for immunity for his men and their families. The 3rd Mass' rendezvous and Porter's orders were all a lie to get them. He asks Mike to think it over.

Mike goes back and tells Hal everything and gets everyone together to make a break for it. They get pinned down outside the farm and Mike sends Rick away and sacrifices himself to give them a head start.

Tom returns to tell Weaver Clayton's map isn't right. They found no sign of the sanctuary. Weaver is reluctant to think about disobeying orders, but Tom tells him it smells like a set up and goes off in search.

Hal, Lourdes and the kids arrive in a town and set up in a house. They need to warn Tom, but Ben suggests he's the only one fit enough who can make the trek in enough time to get help. Hal pauses, but lets his brother go.

Sarah has a breached pregnancy, which alarms Anne given she's not a surgeon. But guess what? Weaver had his own, so knows all about home delivering breached babies. The two of them manage to deliver a healthy kid.

Ben is able to avoid Clayton's party and runs into his father on the road. He tells him when Hal and the kids are holed up, and then goes on back to camp to warn Weaver.

By the time Tom gets to the house, Clayton's men have arrived and have Hal and the kids pinned down inside. Pope fires on them from the woods, but Clayton's men manage to shoot him in the leg. That's when Tom shows up, asks why Pope is there, and then tells him to stand down while he goes to talk to Clayton. He tells them Pope is dead and orders the kids to come out to avoid bloodshed.

Everyone surrenders, so Tom and the kids are led back to the farm—where Weaver has already arrived, thanks to Ben saving the day. They secure Clayton and his men after shooting a couple. But Clayton is too much of a double-crosser, pulls another gun, and gets shot by Tom.

As for the collaborating civilians, Weaver takes their weapons but won't have them in the 2nd Mass. He sends them away and threatens to kill them if he finds they've been dealing with the Scitters. Jimmy makes nice with Ben now that he's the hero. Weaver thinks they have a few days given Clayton told the Scitters he'd secured their kids.

At Mike's funeral, Ricky seems aloof to the whole thing and doesn't understand how people can kill one another. It's in their nature—they being humans. Ben should understand that.

The Verdict:
The mystery surrounding the harnesses continues to hang in the background. Compare Rick's morose and near despair at being separated from the others to Ben's sudden maturity—Is he secretly trying to get them all back to the Scitters? It's really hard to tell, but it created some good tension wondering if Ben would run off and abandon them. Luckily he managed to save the day, but I'm sure that's not the end of the story.

The new reality of the collapse of civilization really made its appearance this week with the infighting among the survivors, the collaborators and the sense that everyone could easily betray one another in the right set of circumstances. Clayton came off as pretty slimy from the start, though. And it was poetic justice to know that Eli's dad came to a bad end after roughing up Anne.

Lourdes scored some major points by finding Eli's backpack and not talking about her religion at all. Even Pope's return brought a little bit of redemption for his character. Weaver and Jimmy's interesting relationship also felt quite genuine, with further insight into Weaver's family background. Both Tom and Weaver have evolved their leadership styles, realizing that there's a time and place for strict adherence to orders, and sometimes it has to be made up as they go along.

It looks like leaving Acton is a no-brainer for next episode. It's still a bit confusing why the Scitters just don't launch aerial assaults against the resistance, considering they're hanging around in the open all day. 
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