First Season Review: The Walking Dead on AMC

As much as I spouted my excitement for the prospect of the Walking Dead in a previous post… I remember the butterflies in my stomach even up to ten minutes before the pilot aired on Halloween. How odd is that? I guess because I had already become so accustomed to the long standing comic/graphic novel/compilation by Robert Kirkman, I was worried that it would be lost in translation. The story had always been about truths in human nature and how people react differently to the same issues. I was worried it would be more about the zombies.

I’ll just hold my hands up in defeat and admit that I was ridiculous to doubt Frank Darabont. I had seen the four minute teaser that aired at ComiCon this year and I should have just let it infect me. But there was still this nagging tug in the back of my head.

What if they miscast one of my favorite characters? They cast eleven year old Chandler Riggs to play Carl Grimes who at the start of the comic was around seven years old obsessed with all things cowboy. (Guess what? They didn’t. I absolutely ADORE Chandler in this role. I am very happy with the decision to make him older.)

*UPDATE* Chandler’s pop sent me a note via formspring. Chandler was 10 when they started shooting and turned 11 in June.

The pilot calmed many of my fears. The delicacy of the shots, the lack of music for the majority of it… Brilliance. Nothing sets you on edge during anything filmed like silence does. You listen and listen for a clue of what’s to come and before long you find that you have scooted up to the front of your seat and are perilously close to falling off. The spanning cinematic quality shots elevate the show to an entirely different echelon than most television programs.

It is obvious that the crew involved in the visual aspect of the show were all well versed in the comic panels. The long distance shot of Rick riding down the deserted highway and the moment that he fell off of his horse in Atlanta, it was dead on.

Frank probably went through a lot of shit from the fans of Kirkman’s world when the announcement of two new characters spread like wildfire.

It’s probably common knowledge that I have a schoolgirl crush on Norman Reedus. When I read the brief synopsis of Daryl Dixon, I knew he’d do the role proud. Reedus can play a violent jerkface even though he’s a big ol’ teddy bear (Shut it Norm. You are. Let’s hug.) I was excited that he was added to the cast, but since the character hadn’t been introduced he was getting a trial by fire. The new characters are typically the ones in the dirty wifebeater with a red target drawn on the back of their heads.

I’m also curious of the changes in the original characters. In this version of the Walking Dead Universe, I wonder what is going to happen to the Shane, Rick, Lori triangle. It’s full of lies! Pointy pointy triangle lies! It was less of a nuisance in the comic because… You know what? Read it. I’m trying so hard not to ruin the surprise. I also want to know who they want to cast for Michonne.

I would be remiss to mention how friggin amazing the SFX makeup has been through the entire process. The contest to win a stagger-on role would have been one of the coolest things I could experience, alas I was unable to enter ANY of them. If I tried immediately after the show, the bandwidth was already eaten. If I tried when I got up, it was no longer open. That makes me sad. I would have loved to be involved with the show in some way.

Breakout Performances – I actually have three.

Norman Reedus – Daryl – I friggin love the addition of Dixon. It’s creepy how endearing Norman has made that ignorant, racist redneck. All of the characters have trials and tribulations to go through; I think that his character growth will be fascinating. Probably because I have NO idea what the writers will do with it. Dream job: Writing a scene for an episode having to do with a little bit of awareness being dropped on Dixon. (and hugging Robert Kirkman. Not really a job, more of a perk)

Steven Yeun – Glenn – Truthfully, I didn’t really like him in the comics for a very long time. He was very whiny and I was almost sure at the flip of every page he would be ganked by some skull nommer. Very emo. It took an event that has yet to happen in the show to turn me to Team Glenn. Yeun tackles the dialogue with a sardonic wit that is so deliciously bitter it’s like he’s my morning coffee. It is refreshing to see him a different way. I’m glad that Yeun was able to turn me around.

Lori Holden – Andrea – At first, I didn’t think I was going to like her. She was very cookie cutter. She felt like just a background player. I could NOT have been more wrong. During the “Vatos” episode, she had me straight out bawling. Ugly bawling. Red face, bogies, hiccupping and I felt raw and broken when I finally calmed down. That rarely ever happens to me. Sure I’ll sniffle or wipe a tear away. You know why my reaction was so strong? She didn’t hold back. She didn’t “cry prettier”. Andrea was a mess, and she sure as hell had good reason for it. I have to give Lori tremendous props for putting herself out there like she did.

So now, it’s December… The six episode first season has come to a conclusion. I really hope that they don’t actually wait until October to start the second season. As it is, I’ll be waiting impatiently for the DVD set. OH! And the “decontaminate dance” better be on the special features… along with a zombie. Or an anime style plush Daryl doll complete with sash of squirrels. Or an army of undead squirrels. You know. Whatever’s cost-effective.

S1E4 - VatosAnyone that frequents my site knows that this year I have taken to just posting the doodles that I normally would use for write ups. Some seem to enjoy em. If you want to check out the “Reviewdles”, they are here. Once I upload the ones for Episodes 5 & 6 I will post em.

Review: Meskada (2010)

April 24, 2010

I had the opportunity to view a showing of Meskada at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 24, 2010

The movie begins with a home invasion going terribly wrong. The resulting murder of a child rocks the town of Hilliard. Nick Stahl plays Noah Cordin, a detective assigned to investigate. Cordin and Meskada county detective Leslie Spencer (played by Rachel Nichols) discover a vague clue that leads Noah back to his hometown of Caswell.
He reconnects with his upbringing and the friends he had left behind. In the time that Noah has been gone, his hometown has fallen to poor financial times. Many of the townsfolk travel outside of the city to find whatever work they can. However, a manufacturer is planning to build a plant within Caswell, bringing much needed employment into the downtrodden town.
With the assistance of a Caswell officer and a local bar owner, Noah begins his investigation. His gut tells him that one of the men he had questioned was responsible, but without adequate evidence he returns to Hilliard. The mother of the murdered child (Allison Connor played by Laura Benanti) is a member of the Meskada County Board of Commissioners and after the mention of the culprit possibly living in Caswell, complications arise with the manufacturing plant being built.
Many inhabitants of Caswell begin their own investigation as to who the murderer is. They intend to turn the culprit into the authorities to get the plant planning back on track.
It was surprising how real it all felt. The story wasn’t set in an actual town/county and that worked to writer/director Josh Sternfeld‘s advantage. The unforgiveable murder of a child affects everyone in the community and it’s surrounding areas. There was even a moment in Det. Noah Cordin’s kitchen with his son Zack (played by Max Antisell) that shows that even the authorities were shaken to the core by this gruesome act of violence. The performance by Laura Benanti was staggering.
Sternfeld’s characters were so real and easy to relate to because they were beautifully flawed. Allison Connor wasn’t above using her position of power to get what she wanted. Nat Collins (played by Grace Gummer) was either completely devoted to her town and those in it, or incredibly naive. Dennis Burrows (played by Norman Reedus) was devious and underhanded, but his one redeeming quality was his love for his son. Shane Loakin (played by Jonathan Tucker) was so emotionally torn. He was tortured by his involvement in the destruction of a family. Tucker’s performance was quite possibly the most powerful in the movie.
Even Detective Noah Cordin was chalk full of flaws. His personal relationships suffered because of his desire to solve the case. His faith in humanity was questioned and his reactions were strong. His propensity for violence showed that even those working for the community have it in them to commit acts similar to those they mete out justice for.
We had arrived just as the movie started, so we were sitting in the front of the theater. I am sure there are things that I had missed, but I will not hesitate to see this movie again were it to come to my town.

Writer/Director Josh Sternfeld steps out for a brief Q&A after the film.