The Walking Dead Week – in case you missed it

So, the first episode of season 8 of The Walking Dead has landed and it was a stonker.

Yes, you may say that it’s impossible to keep the pace up without finishing the whole story this season. That’s not the point. Let us have our moment. Our moment of suspended disbelief that we aren’t going to have two episodes dedicated to a character that, right now, we’ve never seen before.

In case you missed the build up, here are a handful of articles from the last week covering all things The Walking Dead:

Surprising appearances of The Walking Dead stars

Weird and Wonderful Merchandise – Part 2

Video Game Review – The Walking Dead: Michonne (Telltale Games, 2016)

All the trailers

The Walking Dead: The Board Game (Z-Man Games)

The Walking Dead: The Game – Season One (Telltale Games, 2012)

The Walking Dead: Road To Survival (Scopely, 2015)

Top Moments of The Walking Dead TV Show

The Music of The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead: Weird and Wonderful Merchandise

Fear The Walking Dead: Series 1, Episode 1 (Scott Dow, 2015)

The Walking Dead Week – All the Season 8 trailers

San Diego Comic Con Trailer

When The Walking Dead Season 8 trailer landed a couple of months ago,  we were promised a lot without really finding out too much that we didn’t either now or expect.

The series returns in full next week on October 22nd and the hope is for an increase in pace over the previous series.

The over-arching feeling with this trailer is that Season 8 will be full of pace, a clear reaction to the backlash from Season 7. The Negan into ‘All Out War’ story arc is probably the most interesting in the comic book series and in hindsight it felt a bit like they didn’t want a huge blow-out of fun by racing towards the war part too fast. What we ended up with is a season that felt entertaining but failed to keep the pace. With interest dropping throughout the first half of the season, they ended up with viewing figures around that of Season 3, indicative of the waning interest in something Fox considers to be a flagship show.

Season 8 looks like the series will get a much-needed shot of adrenaline. The hope is that there will be a big push to the end of All Out War will probably happen throughout the series.

The big reveal was the final shot of a much older Rick hobbling around with a walking stick and a big old beard. This is absolutely no surprise to the enthusiastic comic readers, who know that at the end of the All Out War story arc we get a jump forward of several years to a community very different to the one we know. This clearly has to happen, but it remains to be seen in what order. One theory is that they could set the entire series there, with the remainder of the All Out War storyline told through flashbacks. This would negate the extremely slow pacing of the several issues where everyone is happy and content in a newly-stable world, but it would probably ruin the fun of the conclusion of All Out War.

The big question for Fox is whether or not they think the series will last that long.

New York Comic Con Sneak Peek

A couple of weeks ago at New York Comic Con there was a huge panel and that included a sneak peek at a scene with Carl Grimes. It’s one of those annoying sneak peeks that reveals almost nothing whilst still being a sturdy reminder of all the small things fans love about the series.

We see Carl searching an abandoned gas station for supplies, before realising he isn’t alone. An anonymous man is heard rambling about nothing, seemingly talking to himself. Weaving between cars, he works out where the voice is coming from and as the scene finishes we see him resolving to make a move, raising his gun and shouting “Hands up!”.

And scene.

It doesn’t really match up with a particular point on the timeline and could sit anywhere in the series. Essentially, they’re screwing with us.

New York Comic Con Panel

This is a pretty long video, totalling over 50 minutes. They cover a lot of ground so it’s impossible to summarise everything, but a few things were mentioned that are of interest. Here’s the best bits:

  • There will be a cross-over between The Walking Dead main series and sister series Fear The Walking Dead. Show creator Robert Kirkman said: “There is one character that is going to go from one show, that I will not name, to another show, that I will not name. This is a huge event in the world of The Walking Dead.” This will have fans of the main series scrambling to catch up on Fear, which has managed to lose 7m viewers in its. He seemed to hint that this would take the form of a backstory for a main character in the main show playing out in Fear The Walking Dead, though he was suitably vague.
  • Andrew Lincoln said on Rick Grimes in Season 7: “(He) gets his strut back.” Which is what we want to hear.
  • Jeffrey Dean Morgan said about Negan: “He brings a little special spice… This year we get to explore some slices of what Negan’s past is. Robert created this guy that makes it hard to not like him… He has a certain flair and panache that is needed… And he’s f*cking smart!” It’ll be interesting to see what parts of his history we get to explore this season.
  • Carol is ready to fight. And bake.
  • Enid actress Katelyn Nacon was a featured member of the panel. This could be a great thing or a terrible thing for the character. Enid seems out of place alongside Rick, Carol, Jesus, Negan and Daryll. She’s either going to get promoted to a more prominent role, or she could be about to bite the dust and is getting a bit of glory before she disappears from our screens.

It is essential viewing for all Walking Dead fans and it covers a lot of ground. It’s like the best episodes of The Talking Dead you’ve ever seen. Apart from maybe the one after Glenn died.

The Walking Dead Week returns to Cinema, Etc.

The Walking Dead returns to our screens on Monday 23rd October(or a day earlier if you’re in the US!). It will fill a void that Fear The Walking Dead has been attempting to plug since the Season 7 finale back in April.

Over the next week there will be a handful of articles covering different aspects of the show to hopefully whet your appetite ahead of what promises to be the most entertaining series we’ve seen yet.

First up is a summary of everything we’ve seen from the trailers and other preview material. I really hope you like The Walking Dead…

Maggie (Henry Hobson, 2015)

Post-apocalpyptic zombie horror film Maggie was screened as the opening film of the UK Festival of Zombie Horror Culture at Phoenix Cinema in Leicester in November 2015. The film stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as Wade, a man whose daughter Maggie, played by Abigail Breslin (best known for her performance in Little Miss Sunshine), has been infected by a zombie virus. Having been bit, she has fled home to protect the rest of her family. The film opens with Wade finding his daughter, who has been missing for two weeks, and taking her home to his wife. It then follows her slow transformation towards “the turn”, and the affect that has on her and her mother and father.

Drop Undead

Drop Undead

One thing we’ve come to expect when watching an Arnie film is an over-the-top performance with lots of one-liners and a handful of big set pieces. These are not present here. Instead, we get Arnie in an extremely restrained mood, and the result is perhaps the most convincing performance of his career. As one of the first films announced after his return to film from his political career, this was a perfect choice and is a great advert for more roles in a similar vain as he moves into the next phase of his career.

Breslin also shines in a complicated role where a girl is facing certain death. Having attempted to go through this on her own, she is desperately in need of her father. This complexity isn’t easy to pull off but she does it well, showing an increasing amount of fear as she gets further infected.

Where the film falls down is its slow pacing. It draws us in at first, but a slow pace clearly designed to explore the emotional side of the key characters paves the way for a few too many “switch off” moments. Admittedly, there is no room for a big stand-off and that kind of thing would have been out of place, but montages of time passing are easy to put together and allow the viewer to disingage for a couple of minutes.

Overall, well worth watching for the chance to see Arnie’s acting credentials and as an interesting angle on the genre.

Maggie is available on Blu-ray and DVD now.

UK Festival of Zombie Culture (Phoenix Cinema, Leicester, 14/11/2015)

I’m off to the UK Festival of Zombie Culture, an annual event held at Phoenix CInema and Cafebar in Leicester.

There are six films on offer today:

Maggie
Nightmare City
Darkest Day
Me and My Mates vs the Zombie Apocalypse
Cooties
A Mystery Sixth Film

There’s also a ton of special guests, book signings, talks and The Arcade of the Dead to check out. It’s going to be a great day. I’ll report back later with how it went.

Steve Jobs (Danny Boyle, 2015)

The 2015 BFI London Film Festival came to a close this evening with the European Premiere of Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs. With all the stars out on the red carpet, it had all the hallmarks of a blockbuster finale on the scale of any of the Apple product launches we’ve become so accustomed to.

The biopic plays out in three distinct acts, all during iconic Jobs-headed product launches: the 1984 launch of the first Macintosh home computer; the 1988 launch of the NeXT Computer for NeXT Inc. (the company Jobs set up after being forced out of Apple); and ending with the 1998 launch of the first iMac computer.

Jobs worth

Jobs worth

Whilst it may risk being a big advert for Apple, the poor picture painted of the figurehead of the company throughout ensures that is never the case. The Steve Jobs we get to know over the course of the three acts, which play out in real time in the lead up to each of the presentations Jobs is giving, is narcissistic and self-centred, only relenting from the power trip when he finally achieves the success he has been driving for. It shows softer sides of his personality and attempts to justify his unique traits but the focus on his tempestuous relationship with his ex-girlfriend Chrisann Brennan and their child Lisa ensures his best side is never seen.

It is actually a difficult watch throughout. It is basically two hours of arguments, eventually becoming tiring. It does successfully portray the frantic and intense atmosphere of a huge-scale product launch in a very real manner. It fails, however, to convince that this is a good platform for great cinema.

Michael Fassbender plays the Steve Jobs we see here to perfection, capturing the nuances required of someone who is heartless to the extent of being cruel. Kate Winslet’s turn as Joanna Hoffman is steadier than her accent, and Seth Roger puts in an adequate performance as Steve Wozniak. The standout performance is quite minor but nontheless critical: Michael Stuhbarg is exceptional as the bullied inventor Andy Hertzfield.

The biggest success is the genius move to film the picture on era-appropriate equipment. The three scenes were each filmed using totally different techniques: 1984 was captured on beautiful 16mm film, 1988 on 35mm film and 1998 on digital film. The evolution of technology is reflected in the format change and portrays each era in a manner that would have been impossible with digital post-production.

Whilst it isn’t a let down, it will be difficult to find a sustainable market for this film. It’s not a straight biopic, it isn’t hugely in favour of Apple, nor is it against it. It’s a struggle to watch and is unlikely to have people raving about its successes as they leave the cinema. 

It could be Danny Boyle’s Newton moment.

Steve Jobs is released in cinemas in the UK in November.

Further Viewing

If you enjoyed the film so much you’re interested in some further viewing, then check out the below videos. In the film you see the 40 minutes building up to the release of three products, but never get to see the keynotes themselves.

1984 – Original Macintosh home computer

The original keynote:

The Superbowl “1984” advert:

1988 – NeXT

The 1988 keynote speech isn’t available on YouTube, but this ABC news segment is a close fit:

1998 – iMac

The full video in all its glory:

Film review – Begin Again (John Carney, 2013)

If Inside Llewyn Davis is the poisonous view of the hardest and most demoralising sides of the music industry, with all its rejection, squalor and misery, then Begin Again is the antidote. They are from different sides of the tracks and share nothing but a basic premise and the same city (New York) in common.

Begin Again tells the intertwining stories of two people whose lives have been ruined by the music industry. Dan Mulligan (Mark Ruffalo) has been sacked from his own record company by co-founder Saul (Mos Def) and has taken to the bottle to avoid finding focus in his life, much to the detriment of his relationship with daughter Violet (Hailee Steinfeld). He has a chance meeting in a bar with Gretta James (Keira Knightley), who has plenty of talent but no stage presence or confidence. He decides she has enough potential to turn into something more than just a singer at an open mic night, though her reluctance is powered by the recent breakdown of her relationship with Dave Kohl (Adam Levine), now seemingly destined for stardom.

Everything falls into place perfectly easily. Hurray.

Everything falls into place perfectly easily. Hurray.

Begin Again falls down where films like Inside Llewyn Davis or Carney’s last film Once succeeded for the simple reason that the songs and performances simply aren’t as good. Keira Knightley has found herself in an awkward situation. Her fame ultimately puts her as an a-lister actress and celebrity, with the ability to elevate an average film to blockbuster status due to her past successes. As a viewer, subconsciously there is an expectation that her ability as a musical performer should match that. Sadly, the studio has had this well in mind and ensured, through post-production, that her voice and entire backing track is polished to perfection, removing the intimacy seen in Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová’s raw but powerful performances in Once. It’s an inevitable source of frustration as it is evident she has some talent, though what that is feels hard to decipher.

Ruffalo’s performance lacks conviction and the feeling that he has been really scorned by the music industry never fully materialises. Adam Levine plays his part coolly, almost as an exaggeration of his real-life personality (or what it is perceived to be). Steinfeld provides another assured performance in her supporting role, even though she doesn’t look like she’s ever picked up a guitar before. James Corden makes the most of his limited screen time.

It’s disappointing that overall this film fails to deliver on so many levels. The one thing it will be remembered for is the track “Lost Stars”, which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Song in 2015. It is the one song here that stands up to those around which Once was built. However, one song does not a musical make; it is very unlikely this will follow its predecessor onto the West End and thus it is destined to be forgotten.

Begin Again is available for purchase now, or can be streamed on Netflix.

The Walking Dead: Weird and Wonderful Merchandise

As with any hugely popular TV series, there’s always a big attempt to get its fans to part with their hard earned money by any means necessary. The Walking Dead is no exception. Check out these weird and wonderful items that could be yours if you have more money than sense.

Bland Officially Licensed Socks

Why wouldn’t you want to put some cool images from The Walking Dead on your feet? Imagine the heads of zombies exploding as a bullet impacted on their undead skulls. What about the mixture of fear and anger Michonne has when seeking revenge on The Governor? Or, maybe you’d prefer a picture of Andrew Lincoln portraying Rick Grimes pensively looking out into the distance whilst crouching in the middle of nowhere? No? Oh… Pick them up here.

Shit socks? Yes please.

Shit socks? Yes please.

The Walking Dead Comic-Con Exclusive Zombie Burst Guitar

Yours for just £329 plus shipping, this guitar will make you the envy of all your friends who will sit back and think “I wish I was so rich that I could blow so much money on a terrible-looking guitar and think it was a good idea.”

“This would look great alongside my CSI: Miami saxophone”

Michonne Sword Letter Opener

If you’re asking yourself “Why?”, I say to you “Why not?”. Then I laugh and say “No seriously, why?”

Available for just $89.99.

His success had gone to his head.

His success had gone to his head.

Rick Grimes Resin Deluxe Boxed Statue

Clearly the $350 asking price on the official website didn’t put many people off. It has to be said, this looks spectacular. It’s a lot of money to spend on something like this, but of all of the comic book range of toys and collectibles, this is up there with the best.

A collectible as bad-ass as the man it portrays.

A collectible as bad-ass as the man it portrays.

The Walking Dead Plain Logo T-Shirt

Another stylish piece of merchandise is this, a nice, plain and simple logo t-shirt that really works in the charcoal grey colour. There are plenty of other options with catchphrases and other gimmicks, but if you want something more subtle then this is what you need. It will set you back $19.99.

Simple and stylish clothing for fans of the comic.

Simple and stylish clothing for fans of the comic.

Stern Pinball Machine

Not much to say here, but if you’re sitting in the middle of a Venn Diagram that consists of the categories “Loves The Walking Dead”, “Loves Pinball”, “Has too much money” and “Had no sense” then this is the product for you.

Yours for just $7495. I would if I could.

SUCH A SUPPLE WRIIIIIST!

SUCH A SUPPLE WRIIIIIST!

The Walking Dead Battle Scene Wallet

This may be more within your price range. A mere $20 will get you this stylish wallet inspired by the All Out War story arc of the comic book series. It will be cool to get hold of it now and then when the story kicks in early next year in the television show you can say “It was much better in the comics” as you whip out your cool wallet and pay for a mug of smug.

Both cool and practical.

Both cool and practical.

Check back tomorrow for a review of the first episode of Fear The Walking Dead, the new series that premieres on the BT-exclusive AMC channel.

The Music of the Walking Dead

One of the standout elements of The Walking Dead throughout the every series has been the music. Whether it is incidental orchestral music or one of the eclectic choices of alternative rock, there is ample scope to discover new music by keeping your ears out whilst watching.

Jamie N Commons – “Take Me Home”

Perhaps the most memorable track is the Jamie N Commons song “Lead Me Home”. It played over the end of episode 12 of season 3 – “Clear” – as Michone and Rick drive back to the prison after a failed attempt at taking Morgan back there with them. This is quality blues music and the raspy vocals perfectly fit the scene.

Nine Inch Nails – “Somewhat Damaged”

The perfect song for an angry family mourning the death of a beloved relative whilst deciding whether or not to seek revenge for the death, Nine Inch Nails track “Somewhat Damaged” was a genius choice. It featured at the start of the penultimate episode of season 5 – “Try” – and completely altered the mood of the episode. If you aren’t having a great day, why not try to listen to this on full blast?

Emily Kinney – “Hold On”

Wait, is The Walking Dead actually a musical? For this brief moment, it sort of was. Emily Kinney is a singer in her own right and this brief scene allowed her to showcase her talent. Admittedly, it does feel a little wedged in, a platform to promote her album, but when it sounds this good do we care? It’s a beautiful rendition of an excellent Tom Waits song, which fades out to let the main man perform the end of the song over the end credits.

How to Buy

There are a few official The Walking Dead CDs out there, the best of which is titled The Walking Dead Original Soundtrack Vol. 1. Before you rush off to buy it, however, it’s worth noting there are only eight songs on it. You may consider the second release The Walking Dead Original Soundtrack Vol. 2, but that is even worse with just five songs on it. Or you could try the Global Stage Orchestra doing covers of The Walking Dead songs, though they don’t seem overly accurate. My recommendation is that you seek out the individual artists’ respective releases and see if you like other tracks by them before buying.

Top Moments of The Walking Dead TV Show

Before you start reading, this is obviously going to be full of spoilers. So if you aren’t right up to date with the end of Season 5 then you’re probably better off just going elsewhere. You’ve been warned.

The Walking Dead TV series has been on our screens for five years now and there have been some great moments. The show has generally been exceptional throughout bar a couple of dull moments – including the entire second season – but the length of the show has allowed the writers to really explore the zombie horror genre in a way never before attempted.

This article highlights a handful of the high points so far.

Rick Finds Out (S03E04 – “Killer Within”)

The main goal for Rick throughout the entire series is to protect his family. This is the moment Rick finds out Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies), his wife, has died in childbirth. The group had finally got to the point where they had some level of stability and it was obvious that his hope was that they could remain in the prison and he could start to raise his child in some kind of normality.

Andrew Lincoln’s acting in this scene is absolutely top drawer. The finishing touch comes at the end as he finally breaks down and falls to the floor, amongst the other zombies, representing that his reason for living has died. It was a poignant moment that reminded the viewers they weren’t just watching a zombie action series.

Zombie Merle (S03E15 – “This Sorrowful Life”)

Because it made Daryl cry, which sort of made us cry.

The Death of Hershel (S04E08 – “Too Far Gone”)

The shocking death of a beloved character in any series is always hard to take, but the nature of Hershel’s death was up there with the worst. He had been on a journey from the first time we met him and was the father figure to many of the central characters, not just his actual daughters. The upside of it was that the hatred for The Governor grew even more, making Michonne’s revenge even sweeter.

Rick’s One-Liner (S04E16 – “A”)

Rick (Andrew Lincoln) has been the focal point of the entire the series, as he has grown from small-town policeman to the authoritative sheriff-figure he has become. Along the way, he’s also provided us with some great one-liners. None were finer than the final line of Season 4 when the survivors had found themselves tricked into a corner at Terminus. As the cliffhanger approached and viewers wondered how they were going to wind it up, Rick chirped up with the line “They’re going to feel pretty stupid when they find out… they’re fucking with the wrong people.”

The only shame was that some airings of it changed the profanity to “screwing”, which doesn’t bode well for Negan. Also, this same episode featured an attempted rape of a 12-year-old boy and Rick chewing a man’s throat out. That was fine for TV, by the way.

Season Five Opener (S05E01 – “No Sanctuary”)

We thought the group would be fine after a determined rallying cry from our main man, but twenty minutes into the following season opener we were again watching from behind the cushions as four main character (Rich, Daryl, Glenn and Bob, the latter of which suddenly seemed a bit of a red coat) stared death in the face. That would be death by beheading, by the way. As the executioner made his way along the line, some brilliant acting from our four heroes galvanised the scene to breaking point, only for Carol (Melissa McBride) to save the day. What a way to welcome us back to the world for another 16 episodes.

A cheap way to get into The Walking Dead at your own pace is the Season 1-4 boxset, available on Blu-Ray for a reasonable price now. Of course, this is already out-of-date and will become even more out-of-date as more episodes are released. Another alternative is to get Amazon Prime Video, which is home to the series.