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TV Review: Comic Book Men S4E12 Secret Stashley

comic book menIn this episode of Comic Book Men, Kevin’s assistant Ashley brings her feminine wiles to the Stash and learns about comic book retail, also a pair of pro wrestlers wants to sell their comic.

The episode is a fantastic one once it gets going. Initially two wrestlers, one rather well-known, show up to sell their comic. It’s very staged and a not subtle advertisement for the comic series. It’s not a bad thing, but it’d be nice to show more about how stocking and purchasing happens, and how messed up it is in the comic book world. This isn’t at all realistic, though entertaining in its own way.

What’s really great is when Ashley shows up and is run through what its like to work at the shop. She brings a much different approach to the store, and gives the guys a hell of a run in how they do things. She’s a welcome addition to the series, someone I hope we see more of. How she buys and sells is something interesting, and the guys reactions are entertaining. It’s not super often we get women on this show, and this one is packed with them. A positive step, and maybe we’re seeing the show pick up on what the rest of the industry is starting to understand, women are a good portion of the fandom, and it’s time to include them.

The episode is the best of the year, and also brings something desperately needed, a feminine touch.

Overall rating: 8

TV Review: The Walking Dead S5E12 Remember

walking-dead-5 photoAfter Rick and his group arrive at Alexandria, they must adapt to a strange new lifestyle while Rick remains mistrustful.

The Walking Dead has the group nervous and very cautious, figuring out their new surroundings. For all they’ve gone through, it’s understandable why they’re so defensive.

We learn a lot about the community, and why it’s held up so well. The excuse given makes a lot of sense and how the survivors are brought in is methodical.

What’s fantastic is the fact that we as viewers are in the same position as Rick and his folks. After all we’ve witnessed and experienced, it’s hard to also not be worried and expect the worst.

But, the episode is all about their adjustment. Can Rick and the crew live a quieter life? It’s clear those living behind the walls have had it pretty safe for a while, even joking around when heading over the wall. This is in contrast to Rick and his folks who have lived a much harder life. And that difference in experiences leads to some interesting personality clashes.

But, it’s that ending that’s very interesting with the role Rick is given and the speech he gives. Can they blend in with these folks? Does the woman in charge have a bigger plan? It’s been five seasons of scares, death, horrible people, but the mundane might be the most disturbing thing of all.

Overall rating: 9

TV Review: Comic Book Men S4E11 My Favorite Munster

comic book menIn this episode of Comic Book Men, Butch Patrick, TV’s Eddie Munster, drops by the Stash. Also, a Star Wars action figure so rare it was never officially released lands on the counter.

The episode is an ok one. There’s some interesting items being sold. There’s some funny moments. But, overall, the episode is just ok, not a lot happens.

There’s some interesting items being sold, I’ll start with that. The Star Wars figure being sold is one that I’ve heard about, but can’t say I’ve ever seen one I think. It’s some fun history discussing the toy and some of the things going on at the time. The other toy brought in to be sold is much newer, and I was a bit surprised at the amount that was mentioned for it, but the logic thrown out there is really interesting.

The really cool moment of the episode is Butch Patrick showing up, who gives some cool history of The Munsters, and his costume. It was something I didn’t know, and to see him go over some history of the show was pretty cool.

Overall the episode is an ok one. Seriously not much happens, but there’s some interesting history thrown out there, and for geeks, that might be enough. Better than quite a few episodes this season, but it’s just ok in my book.

Overall rating: 7

TV Review: The Walking Dead S5E11 The Distance

walking-dead-5 photoAfter withstanding a spectacular storm, Rick and the others meet what appears to be a friendly person, but find themselves mistrustful.

The Walking Dead is in an interesting spot. The season so far has been one of death, lots of death. Maybe it’s about time that some good happens?

The episode is a tense one, really tense, with large parts of it occurring in darkness. A new individual, Aaron, has come forward promising a safe place to live. After everything they’ve been through, can Rick and his folks trust him, and believe what he promises?

For four and a half seasons, the series has been about surviving. At some point the series needs to turn into living as well. Can you build a community after all that’s happened? We have the initial group, Rick and his group are a family, but can it expand from that? That’s where the show is it.

For four and a half seasons it’s been a war for survival, but Rick especially, is presented with a chance to stop fighting, and in a way, come home. Alexandria presents a fundamental shift of not just the series, but the individuals.

The episode is all about the above and more, mixed in with some fantastic scares. We’re at that moment, where a fundamental shift of the series is coming, Get ready for the next phase of The Walking Dead. Hope, it’s as fantastic as it can be.

Overall rating: 9

Review: Better Call Saul

BETTER-CALL-SAUL_612x380_2As we cross the threshold into the prequel that is AMC’s new spin-off from Breaking Bad, we see Saul (Bob Odenkirk) post-BB in his job at Cinnabon in Omaha, the very future he prophesied for himself before the end-times of Walter White’s celebrated and notorious career in the manufacturing and sale of the great Baby Blue meth. As legal retainer of this unwieldy and dangerous kingdom Saul had to put his fancy legal footwork to the test time and again in situations that would drive Perry Mason himself to the bottle. If Saul’s legal contortions for the benefit of his clients ever served him as well it’s because if there’s one thing Saul’s younger self, Jimmy McGill learned a few years earlier, it’s that if he didn’t look after himself, no one else would.

As Saul, post-Breaking Bad, sits in a lonely apartment on a snowy evening he yields to the urge to watch one of his vintage “Better Call Saul” commercials. We hear the familiar voice exhorting would-be clients to contact him and this is our portal into the world of Jimmy McGill, circa 2004. If Saul exists in a noir world, Jimmy stands on the precipice of that world, and by the end of the second episode sees it yawning wide before him.

better call saul featuredNoir characters are mostly outsiders, or at best, liminal characters, living on the edges. Jimmy is a lawyer, but not of the rarified world of the high-priced firm that keeps his brother, Chuck (Michael McKean), who suffers from a mysterious illness (could be mostly mental?) on the payroll to save money. When he tries to intervene on Chuck’s behalf, these smooth talkers patronize and belittle Jimmy and they don’t get his Network references either. His great quotes channeling Mr. Jenson from the film are wasted on them. When Saul goes to Chuck to explain why what they’re doing is only in their best interest, Chuck won’t take Jimmy’s word for it. He even relays Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill’s message that Jimmy shouldn’t use his own name for his own law practice out of professional courtesy to them. Huh? Oh, they’ll even pay to change the name on Jimmy’s matchbooks.

Marginalized completely by the big firm and even Chuck, who sometimes looks askance at Jimmy as if he’ll never really be able to live down some past tricks (Slippin’ Jimmy?) that forever leave the faint whiff of “sleazy” in the consciousness, Jimmy gets weary of trying to be a stand-up guy who just needs to a catch a break. He decides to carve out a different niche for himself, reconnecting with two skateboard scammers he met by “accident” early in the first episode. When he thinks he’s run over one of them he’s already having a very rough day and the crash elicits from him a brief sob, a what-the-hell-now moment before he pulls himself together to face the scammers, call them on their game and then even co-opt their game, with himself as ring-leader.

Things go spectacularly wrong when circumstances spiral out of Jimmy’s control and even in the grip of fear and under threat of bodily harm, Jimmy keeps his wits, trying to talk his way out of it as long as he has breath. He even intervenes on behalf of the skateboard scammer brothers, where his relentless defense lawyer patter prompts one of Tuco’s guys to say, “You gotta mouth on you.” Jimmy takes the compliment and never stops defending his fallen accomplices to Tuco (Raymond Cruz) and company. Jimmy can’t get them off completely however, as they lie bound in the desert of the wild, wild west and Jimmy has to endure the resulting mayhem. He does pay their hospital bills, even though the deepest trouble they got into wasn’t due entirely to Jimmy but to their own greed and desire to cut Jimmy out of the deal. Even after the fact, Jimmy finds himself sickened, literally, by the violence he witnessed in the desert (this wasn’t the kind of break he wanted), but he’s sickened also by trying to play by the rules and getting lied to, disrespected and further behind, no matter how hard he works. It’s still very early in the series, but one can see that the experience with the skateboarders which intensifies with Tuco and the boys will eventually pave the way for Jimmy’s/ Saul’s association with Mike (Jonathan Banks, who simmers as the court house parking lot attendant here) and Gus, Walt and Jesse.

Jimmy McGill exhibits a naturally sunny disposition, a glad-handing way about him in his public persona that those at the big law firm seem to find juvenile and off-putting, and it’s sometimes met with silence and a stony stare by the more criminal element, but he’s just trying to be a nice-enough guy in a noir universe. The hard times he’s been through, the skepticism and attitude he faces, even from those he cares about, and the fight for self-preservation in a brutal world rife with violence, insanity and even sheer indifference are what will forge Jimmy McGill into Saul Goodman of Breaking Bad: still an upbeat guy with a ready handshake and an encouraging word—and not above floating the idea of someone getting “sent to Belize” if they get to be too problematic. But that’s still in the future.
In Better Call Saul, Jimmy McGill is still learning to navigate the tightrope between what he can stomach and what he can live with, how far is too far, and when it’s too late to pull back. Jimmy is a complex character all the more compelling because he hasn’t yet become Saul.

This promises to be a great series, so whether you’re a fan of Breaking Bad or not, give it a chance. You never know; the day might come when you’ll have to give Jimmy (or Saul) a call!

Rating: 10

TV Review: The Walking Dead S5E10 Them

walking-dead-5 photoGrieving from Beth’s and Tyreese’s death in different ways, the group faces the harsh road to Washington D.C. Meanwhile, a storm approaches.

The Walking Dead has brought us suffering and death the last two episodes. This one is interesting, as it’s a much quieter, and in many ways more disturbing episode.

The desperation of the remaining group isn’t just due to the death of a few of their friends, but a lack of food and water is finally catching up to them. An odd moment happens though, with a supply of water suddenly showing up on the road, which leads the group to being a bit suspicious. But, a storm opens up, bringing them some water, but also the need to seek shelter.

The episode in many ways continues the previous one’s foreshadowing of things to come. Rick has a discussion that the survivors are actually the walking dead, and they’re no longer good people. The storm destroys the area, including the walkers they need to deal with.

The episode also allows for some grieving. Though it’s short, various members are shown in how they’re dealing with their loss, and their situation. It’s all very subtle moments, and there’s not massive breakdowns like you might expect. The entire episode is muted in an odd way.

But, the episode ends with the arrival of a new individual, Aaron. For fans of the comic, you know what might be coming, and that calm and storm is rather appropriate. This season looks to shape up to end in a rather amazing way. I can’t wait.

Overall rating: 9

TV Review: Comic Book Men S4E10 Mr. Adams

comic book menIn this episode of Comic Book Men, Comic legends, artist Neal Adams and writer Denny O’Neil, drop by the Stash. Also, the guys look at a pristine set of 50-year-old Batman night lights.

The episode kicks off with a person trying to sell a Robert Crumb comic which Walt immediately shrugs off. It’s interesting with as low-brow as some jokes are, they weren’t willing to buy the comic. In my shop, we had a solid “adult comics” following, and I wouldn’t think twice about purchasing the comic. So for them to not be willing to, is really interesting to me.

For me, the episode’s highlight is Neal Adams visiting the guys to pick up some comics for a project he’s working on, but what’s really cool is his talking about comic history. It’s really cool to hear his thoughts on some of the comics he’s drawn, especially when he admits a cover he hates, but folks love. It’s really cool insight I wish we got more of.

The episode wraps up with two folks trying to sell items, both have some nostalgia around them and they’re both interesting. The prices thrown out for them are pretty high, and they might be worth it, neither are items I know much about. It’s cool to see them though.

The episode is another good one, with the Neal Adams segment being the strongest of the season so far. I’d love to see more of that on the series going forward, but I’ll take what I can get.

Overall rating: 7.25

TV Review: Comic Book Men S4E9 Dragging Rights

comic book menIn this episode of Comic Book Men, Adam West visits and a drag race between the Batmobile and the Black Beauty ignites and a customer sells the 1st comic appearance of Rocket Raccoon.

The men of Comic Book Men are back in the second half of their fourth season. The episode is a good one, probably the best of the season so far. There’s some funny jokes, there’s good discussion of comic book history, and the end drag race is actually really funny.

The thing about a lot of the episodes is how much of it is set up, instead of the natural goings on at a comic shop. I used to work at one, and it was weird, but I didn’t get celebrities, or 90% the cool opportunities of these guys. But, tonight throws out a lot of that with the majority of it clearly staged, hell West admits Kevin Smith sent him down to sign some books.

There’s also a solid moment with one of the folks in trying to sell something, and Walt having to decide if the store will buy it or he will, having been there I can relate.

The show wraps up with the drag race, and it’s really funny, especially after the build up. The season has been mixed, but this is a highlight episode.

Overall rating: 7.25

TV Review: The Walking Dead S5E9 What Happened and What’s Going On

walking-dead-5 photoAfter all the recent trials that the group has faced, a slight detour might be the solution they’ve been looking for.

The Walking Dead is back after it’s winter hiatus to pick up from the shocking ending of its mid-season finale. Everyone is reeling from the shocking conclusion of last season. The episode starts off with a new credit intro, and folks on a mission to get Noah to his home.

Visually, while much remains the same, there’s much that’s different in the first episode of the second half of the season. The use of ghosts, and flashing scenes brings about a fascinating foreshadowing that’s only been done through small hints in the past.The show also isn’t letting the survivors, or the viewers, settle or process the loss of Beth during the last episode. While trying not to spoil things, a shocking moment occurs about a third of the way through the episode.The episode still sets up a lot of mystery. The foreshadowing is also left in clues, scorched earth, how zombies are laid out, it’s all very interesting that should leave long time viewers wondering what’s next, and comic fans excited with what might be coming.The episode, as the show generally is, is driven by the talented cast who show off their emotions, both good and bad, with a tour de force. The show is not about the scares, or the zombies, it’s about the very living people who inhabit the world.But what really caught me this episode is the fascinating visual decisions with setting shots of the world, the use of ghosts, the various filming tricks that show off the world that exists. It shows off life, and death, and the horrors of this new existence. That use of ghosts versus the real world is amazing, catching viewers in shocking moments throughout the episode, it’s a visual decision that’s noticeable, and welcome. This episode is all about the death of the last five seasons, and packed one emotional punch in doing so. If there’s one episode that shows off the under appreciated brilliance and the art of this show, this was it. All of which can’t be appreciated until its final moments. Welcome back The Walking Dead, just wish it was a bit happier of a reunion.

Overall rating: 10

Another Day, a new The Walking Dead: Season 5 Trailer

A new trailer for the second half of season 5 of The Walking Dead is up. Don’t forget to tune in to the return of The Walking Dead, Sun., Feb. 8th at 9/8c on AMC.

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