Friday, October 28, 2016

AFOS Blog Rewind: The Guest

The following is a repost of my October 29, 2015 discussion of The Guest. After I published this post, Dan Stevens, the film's star, was cast as the title character on Fargo showrunner Noah Hawley's much-hyped Legion, an X-Men spinoff that will premiere next year on FX, while Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett, the duo behind The Guest, made a much-maligned Blair Witch Project sequel that was simply titled Blair Witch. The Guest is now streamable on Netflix.

"Mumblegore" filmmaker Adam Wingard has said the concept for his offbeat 2014 action thriller The Guest arose from watching a double feature of The Terminator and John Carpenter's original Halloween. So what would happen if you got your Terminator in my Halloween and you got your Halloween on my Terminator?

Marrying those two classic thrillers (and borrowing Carpenter's favorite typeface for the opening and closing titles, although Wingard would later regret choosing Albertus due to its sudden ubiquity) then led to the You're Next director and his regular collaborator, screenwriter Simon Barrett, taking additional inspiration from the 1987 cult classic The Stepfather for their story of a small-town waitress (Maika Monroe) who notices something's not quite right about her parents' houseguest, a well-mannered stranger (Dan Stevens) claiming to have served in Afghanistan with her dead soldier brother Caleb. Wingard and Barrett also took some inspiration from the various "seemingly nice stranger insinuates himself or herself into a benign household and gradually turns out to be a psycho" thrillers that followed in The Stepfather's wake, like 1992's The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, which turned into the box-office behemoth some Stepfather fans wish the 1987 film had gotten to be.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

AFOS Blog Rewind: The Simpsons, "Halloween of Horror"

(Photo source: FY Springfield)

This week, The Simpsons aired its 600th episode, "Treehouse of Horror XXVII." The following is a repost of my October 30, 2015 discussion of the first Simpsons Halloween episode that wasn't a "Treehouse of Horror" anthology. This 2015 episode is streamable on FXX's Simpsons World app.

The 27th season of The Simpsons marks the first time the show has produced two Halloween episodes in the same season. In addition to the annual "Treehouse of Horror" anthology--where every short story takes place outside the show's continuity, so a character like Bart or Groundskeeper Willy can be killed off in horrible fashion and then be brought back in the next story or later on in the same half-hour--the show has treated us to its first canonical Halloween episode ever, "Halloween of Horror."

Late-period Simpsons can often be so tiresome and stale or so desperate to be trending again (Homer separates from Marge and goes out with guest star Lena Dunham?: I think I'll pass) that I've sometimes gone for months without watching it, so I wasn't prepared for "Halloween of Horror," which is credited solely to staff writer Carolyn Omine, to fire on so many cylinders. It's a better Halloween episode than this week's "Treehouse of Horror XXVI," which isn't an atrocious edition of "Treehouse," but when its most enjoyable segment is the bizarre and grisly couch gag guest-directed by John Kricfalusi (my favorite detail in Kricfalusi's couch gag is Bart's Huckleberry Hound mask appearing in red instead of blue, because the licensed Huckleberry Hound costume Kricfalusi owned as a kid came in an incorrect red instead of blue), that's how disposable a "Treehouse" episode it is. I would have swapped the "Homerzilla" spoof of both the 1954 Godzilla and the 2014 Godzilla (it's kind of weird how the writers didn't have Harry Shearer deliver any jokes about his involvement in the 1998 Godzilla, a movie Shearer probably Lacuna'd from his memories) for the Psycho parody that the "Halloween of Horror" gag writers joke about being featured "next week."

When even the writing staff is starting to express on the show some boredom with the "Treehouse of Horror" format and showrunner Al Jean is admitting that "we've used up 78 horror stories and you can't do them anymore," maybe The Simpsons should just retire "Treehouse of Horror" and do canonical Halloween episodes like "Halloween of Horror" from now on. The "Treehouse" segments haven't been consistently funny in eons. Or maybe the show should start getting guest couch gag directors like Kricfalusi and Bill Plympton to do more than just guest-direct couch gags by having them guest-direct entire episodes as well (or guest-write them like Judd Apatow once did last season). That could provide late-period Simpsons with the creative shot in the arm it often badly needs.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Archer's season 8 plans could be the greatest fuck-you to continuity since Sledge Hammer!'s nutty resolution to its nuclear-blast cliffhanger

When we last saw Sterling Archer, he was, like William Holden in Sunset Boulevard, face down in a pool and dead from multiple gunshot wounds. But that shocker of a season finale twist ending back in June was made less shocking by both FX's renewal of Archer for three more seasons and Archer creator Adam Reed's confirmation that the 10th season will be the final one for the longest-lasting of all his animated shows. So we're not through yet with the adventures of the world's most immature spy/P.I., and Reed has now come up with a crazy way (but it's typical for this show, which once had a poisoned Archer hallucinating that he was Warren Beatty in Heaven Can Wait) to continue on with those adventures despite killing off the title character.

At a New York Comic Con panel last week, Reed announced that when Archer resumes on FX in 2017, it will reboot itself again like it did in both 2014--when the main characters switched from espionage work to drug dealing (while Cheryl/Carol became a country singer) during the season-long arc known as "Archer Vice"--and March of this year. The seventh and most recent season took place in Hollywood and had Archer, Lana and Ray working as private eyes for Cyril, their now-defunct intelligence agency's former accountant. The eighth season will take place in an alternate timeline in 1947.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

AFOS Blog Rewind: Young Justice, "Bloodlines"

The third season of the CW's The Flash begins tonight, so the following is a repost of my June 5, 2012 discussion of the Young Justice episode "Bloodlines," a story that united four generations of DC Comics speedsters, including Barry Allen and Wally West, two characters who are central to the CW show. "Bloodlines" can be streamed on Netflix.

I remember writer Peter David best for his work on DC's Star Trek comics (a Len Wein-scripted 1987 issue that reunited the Enterprise-A crew with con man Harry Mudd from the '60s show was the first comic I ever bought at an actual comic shop). But superhero comics readers admire David most for his writing on The Incredible Hulk, X-Factor (the X-Men spinoff, not the wack singing contest show), Supergirl and the original Young Justice comic. David gets to revisit the Young Justice characters in "Bloodlines," the third episode he's written for the animated version. The best part of David's run on DC's Star Trek was the humor, and David's sense of humor is a highlight of "Bloodlines," an entertaining fish-out-of-water story about the unexpected arrival of Impulse (Jason Marsden), a speedster from the future who talks as if he has ADHD and who also happens to be Bart Allen, the grandson of Barry Allen (George Eads), the current incarnation of The Flash.

"Tell us something we don't know yet. When do I become leader of the team? When do I join the Justice League? When do I get my own reality series?," inquires Beast Boy (Logan Grove) when he wants proof from Impulse that he's from the future. And I always get a kick out of how this TV-PG-rated cartoon sometimes toys with Cartoon Network's Standards & Practices department, like it does here when Impulse responds to Nightwing's old cop-show trick of getting his interviewee to verify his identity via a glass of water. "Oh, ah, you're trying to get a DNA sample. You need my spit," says Impulse. "Ha! That's such a Dick Grayson thing to do." The way Impulse puts emphasis on the name "Dick" makes his sentence sound as if it's going to be "That's such a dick move."

In "Bloodlines" (which also finds time to resolve the Roy Harper clone's search for the original Roy during its B-story), an adversary wreaks so much havoc on The Flash's home turf of Central City that it requires the attention of four generations of speedsters. Retired-from-superheroing Stanford student Wally West interrupts his regularly scheduled Asian fetish to suit up again as Kid Flash and keep an eye on Impulse as a favor to Nightwing. Another retired speedster, former Flash Jay Garrick (Geoff Pierson), runs the risk of his wife Joan's wrath because he snuck out of the quiet 70th wedding anniversary celebration Barry and his wife Iris (Young Justice writer Nicole Dubuc) threw for them and dusted off his old Mercury-style tin hat to assist the three younger Flashes on the decimated and scorched streets of Central City.

The destruction-causing stranger in a containment suit known as Neutron (James Arnold Taylor) turns out not to be a new supervillain but a brainwashed human pawn in an alien conspiracy who's having trouble controlling his powers. The aliens who unleashed Neutron on Central City are the same aliens who have been experimenting on teen runaways to access their metagenes, the genes that determine which humans are metahumans (the DC universe's equivalent of Marvel's mutants). Neutron's hidden overseers, who abandon their failed experiment with Neutron and flee their hideout before the team of speedsters can find them, speak in Krolotean but are taller than the Krolotean invaders who previously appeared on Young Justice this season and were blown up by The Light in "Alienated." Is this a superior breed of Kroloteans that's in league with both The Light and this season's shadowy new nemesis The Partner?

Impulse knows more than he's been letting on. His time machine's arrival at Mount Justice at about the same time as Neutron's energy-wave attack on Central City is hardly coincidental. In the grim post-apocalyptic scenes that open and close "Bloodlines," an older, prison-garbed Neutron sees Bart off as he readies his time machine for its destination: 40 years before Mount Justice--and the world--were reduced to rubble. Bart's mission is/was to save Neutron's younger self from prison and prevent the world's destruction. We see that Bart's "hyperactive tourist from the future" persona is just an act--a costume like the ones donned by "half the meat at Comic-Con" (they're so quirky because they're actually from the future too, according to one of the funniest lines David gives to Impulse). We also see that Impulse's accomplishments in the past aren't enough to fix the timestream because aside from older Neutron's slight change in appearance, the post-apocalyptic world remains unchanged.

I don't like that Young Justice is adding time travel as another spinning plate to the Ed Sullivan Show spinning plates act that this season has been basically shaping up to be because I'm so jaded from the aimless time-travel storytelling messes I was subjected to during Heroes. That live-action show soured the enjoyment I used to have for time-travel stories. But when time travel is placed into the hands of more capable writers like David and the Young Justice staffers, I doubt I'll find my not-so-TV-PG-rated self to be saying about the writing, "That's such a dick move."