Canadian Filmmaking: Algonquin the Movie

•January 25, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Algonquin

First off let me start by apologizing profusely for the lack of updates the past months. Sometimes real life just takes over and prevents you from doing the things you love. But we’re back today with an interview about a truly great Canadian film!

 Remember to check Three if By Space for your Falling Skies news!

 Earlier this week I had the opportunity to speak with Canadian filmmaker Jonathan Hayes, director of upcoming film Algonquin. Algonquin, which I had the privilege (thanks to the great folks at Agency 71) of seeing a copy of online, is a truly touching story of family brokenness, and ultimately understanding. Without further ado, onto the interview!

 Blog: Can you tell us a little about Algonquin?

 JH: Algonquin is the story of Jake, an unhappy teacher whose estranged father appears at the family home with a proposal that his grown son join him in writing a book that is going to put the father, who is a once successful travel writer, back on the literary map. Jake agrees to this proposition reluctantly, he sees this as an opportunity to understand this man that he never really knew.

 Blog: Tell us a little about how Algonquin came to be.

 JH: I’ve been interested for some time in developing a story based upon a father-son relationship, that was the starting ground. I wanted to play with genre and genre expectations a bit, I knew that going in. A friend of mine, who is an author, was telling me some stories about how he broke into publishing; and his first book was in fact a travel guide to Algonquin park. He was telling me these stories around the same time I was looking for a setting on which to the hang the story. I think it was a combination, it’s never one thing, of the confluence between the park, the idea of a writer; and a father-son relationship where the dynamic of the relationship is very much the son living in the father’s shadow, he is almost overwhelmed by this larger than life guy. Those were the beginnings of the script.

 Blog: For our US readers can you tell us about Algonquin Park?

 JH: I’m glad you asked. Algonquin Park is located a couple of hours north of the city of Toronto. Though we don’t celebrate our national icons quite the way [Americans] do, it is very much equivalent in majesty and splendor to the great national parks of America like Yosemite. It is a massive wilderness [7,653 square kilometres (2,955 sq mi) -Gregory]. Algonquin has sort of a mythic quality that works on the Canadian population. Americans will probably be unfamiliar with this group of painters who used Algonquin as inspiration at the turn of the last century; they were called the Group of Seven and they took considerable inspiration from the park, some of the most renowned Canadian paintings have their setting in Algonquin.

 Blog: Tell us a little about how production went.

 JH: Each production is different. In this one the risk we had was the number of outdoor or exterior days required in the script. We were really rolling the dice on weather. We shot it in the fall, in September-early October. What’s really interesting about Algonquin [Park] at that time of in year in what I might call the “Near North” of Canada is that the colours on the trees just explode, it’s quite incredible to see; but the truth is that fall up in the north happens very, very quickly. You have about a week where the colours are at their peak and super vibrant and then it’s all over and your fighting the loss of leaves. So we were ever mindful of the continuity of the shoot as we were shooting out of order and we were trying to maintain a semblance of continuity. We got incredibly lucky with the weather that we were there for the peak of the colours. When you can tap into the natural beauty of a setting such as that it only helps tell your story.

 Production was quick. I know everyone one says “The crew was terrific,” it’s almost a production cliché, but they really were. We brought around 25 people up from Toronto to Algonquin Park. We worked with a local film college in North Bay Ontario. Local film students came out and help supplement the numbers. It was a really great tradeoff, they got hands on experience and we got much needed bodies to help move the production along, so that was really terrific. I think they enjoyed seeing how it’s all put together and interacting with Canadian talent, people that are widely recognized in Canadian film and TV and theatre.

 Blog: Were you funded through Telefilm?

 JH: Yes, a combination of Telefilm and private investors.

 Blog: What was Agency 71’s involvement?

 JH: David Miller is our terrific executive producer. We partnered with them on the film, and they have done just an excellent job in steering the film to audiences and just offer good guidance along the way. They’re a terrific partner. We are glad to have their enthusiasm and expertise as our Canadian distributor with the film set to be released this April.

 Blog: What is your own background as a filmmaker?

 JH: I come at film through story. I’ve got a [literature] degree from McGill, which is a school in Montreal. I’ve always been interested in story Most writers love movies, it’s a given, and I’m no exception, so that’s the way I got into it. I cracked my way into the business by doing a short film based upon one of my literary heroes, Donald Barthelme, who wrote for the New Yorker in the 60s and 70s. He specialized in what some people call flash fiction: short, short stories. I adapted one of his great ones called “The School.” That film premiered at a world wide short film festival ten years ago now, it won the audience choice award. Later that year we screened in competition at Sundance and programmers there named it one of the ten must see films of the festival. It had a real dream run for us. That was how I got my start in the industry.

 Blog: Any closing thoughts?

 JH: I would want to tell you that the film was put together with a combination of really true up and coming talent behind the camera, and industry veterans specifically Nicholas Campbell and Sheila McCarthy. Mark Rendall carries the film, he gives a really soulful and wonderful performance in the role of Jake. Nicholas Campbell does the most important thing as an actor and that is making you believe that the words on the page have just occurred to him and he is reacting to what he has heard from the other characters. There’s a dynamic energy is every one of his scenes.

 I would encourage American audiences who are curious about Canadian films to explore other films. I feel like we are at the beginning of something really exciting in Canadian film, it’s a pleasure to be part of something that has a renewed energy.

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There you have it folks! Like I said I really enjoyed this film and I look forward to all of you getting the chance to love it as well. Algonquin can be followed on Facebook and Twitter.

Season Finale: Left Wanting More?

•August 5, 2013 • 4 Comments

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Our resident reviewer Beth rides in again to give us her less than enthusiastic take on the season 3 finale. 

If I had to sum up the season 3 finale in one word, it would be an indifferent “Meh”.

There were some good moments and the actors all lived up to the high standards we expect, but rather than an explosive episode that leaves me drooling for next season, “Brazil” was more like a music video. It struck me as a bunch of loosely-related scenes that could be set to some forgettable 80’s pop song. Nothing was fleshed out or explained and it really didn’t have enough excitement to justify being a finale.

Let’s start with the suicide attack that Weaver and crew launched. It could have been exciting. It should have been, but it was ditched like a bad prom date and instead of any action we got a deus ex machina in the form of the Volm. Weaver just strolls into camp with a “Yeah, we were kinda screwed and about to die and then we got rescued. Sooo, who’s got a spare drum I can beat while everyone dances around a fire and passes booze around?”

The Volm are not entirely trustworthy and had a shady plan for humanity. Who knew? Well, anyone who watched the show and has a healthy sense of skepticism. Thank God Professor Mason was ready with one of his patented passionate speeches about humanity and its resilience and love of freedom! Cochise’s old man was rocked to his core, but can he honestly never have encountered a race that would rather die than be captive? I can’t help but think he would have been better off offering the group relocation to somewhere nicer, like Hawaii or Colorado. Who wouldn’t go for a nice timeshare in the mountains? Anywhere but Brazil. Anyway, Cochise Sr. wandered off to think about the whole concentration camp thing, leaving Tom to sit there and look handsome and brooding which seemed to be his role in this episode. Oh well. There are worse things to be.

Meanwhile back at camp, Weaver has a heart attack. Turns out, he’s been having chest pain for a couple of months. There was absolutely no reason for that scene except to set up something extremely predictable for next season. More on that later. In other camp news, Lourdes is tied up and doing her best Linda Blair impression. She’s growling, snorting, rolling her eyes, and generally looking like she needs an old priest and a young priest. Seems totally safe to keep letting people touch her, right? So that’s what Hal does. It’s not like eye bugs can be transmitted from one person to another. He leans right on in there, brushes her hair away from her face, and talks about the good old days (“Remember when you had a crush on me and I used to ignore you and make fun of you with Karen? Good times, good times!”) while Maggie stands outside stroking her rifle and looking like she could go for a good old-fashioned Lourdes hunt. When she mentions that they may have to send Lourdes to that big medical school in the sky Hal responds by asking why. Really, Hal? Well, no reason, except for the fact that she’s a murderer infected with highly-contagious bugs that could destroy the whole camp.

The Volm quickly return Tom before he can inflict another speech on them, and it turns out that Cochise Sr. has decided to let the humans go. Free-range humans. Hannibal Lecter would approve. The group happily hits the road, Dr. Kadar gets to say something endearingly nerdy, but before anyone gets a chance to start the first of many rounds of “100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” Karen shows up. I have never been so happy to see Karen. I knew she would relieve the tedium and she sure did. At last we got an exciting scene. I was ready to buy her a nice Hickory Farms gift basket, but Tom went and shot her first. Let’s stop and dwell on that. Tom wouldn’t kill the inbred hillbilly family that tried to murder his sons just a few short weeks ago, but he gutshoots Karen without even listening to see if she has something important to say about the Volm? He seems to leap between bleeding heart and warrior as the writers need him to and that’s just bad writing.

Hal, once again earning the Dumb Jock nickname Ben gave him, kneels over Karen’s dying body, getting close enough for another eye worm or for her to break his neck, but my girl Mags come to the rescue. Two bullets later Hal is left staring up at Maggie (the woman he supposedly loves, remember?) with wounded eyes like she’d just shot his beloved golden retriever instead of the psycho broad who’d tortured his father, infected him, and tried to re-harness his little brother.

In the worst news of the entire series, Dr. Chewtoy and the creepazoid are alive. The creepazoid has left the pupal stage and is full-on insect now. She hugs Tom who looks at her like a cockroach crawling up his leg. He clearly does not remember the “newborn-to-kindergarten-in-two-weeks” stage that all kids go through.

There’s one more scene to go before putting this season to bed. Tom asks Dr. Kadar if the brat will continue to age rapidly and the good doctor does not know. Apparently, he was sick the day they taught that class in nuclear physics school. Maggie and Hall quarrel over who gets to pack stuff into a truck. This ends with Maggie basically telling Hal to go pack his stuff elsewhere and we leave them with a soulful glance that warns us that more soap opera is afoot for next season.

Lourdes is stuffed into a dog crate in the back of a truck when the creepy brat strolls up, removes all the eye worms, and smiles up at Tom, who is looking like he wished he’d remembered condoms on that fateful night she was conceived. So do I, Tom. So do I. I’m pretty sure Weaver will have a massive heart attack next season and the brat will save him with some magical healing powers juuuust as he’s about to exit this world. Or possibly Maggie’s cancer returns as I’ve been predicting since the first season and the creepazoid smiles sweetly down at her, touches her, and she’s healed. Either way, boring and predictable as the whole baby plotline has been since the beginning.

I’m not sure where they’re going with this show, but if this episode did nothing else at least it gets the 2nd Mass moving again. I don’t think Karen is dead. I see the creepazoid dying of old age (please) unless the Volm heal her at the last minute. Hal and Maggie will be well and truly broken up by the beginning of the next season and we’ll be treated to yet another season of that subplot. Possibly in the interim Hal will fool with Lourdes and we’ll get a high school love triangle. Gaaaaack.

To end with a positive note, it looks like Mary Sue Denny is in a rocky tomb somewhere under Charleston and good riddance.

All in all, this episode was fully anti-climactic. At the very least, an important character from the 2nd Mass should have died somewhere along the line. No one but Crazy Lee died this season and she was very much background.

 

I don’t know what next season is going to bring, but it looks like yet another season of DVRing episodes and reading the synopses before deciding whether or not to watch.

 

Lourdes the Mole

•August 4, 2013 • 3 Comments

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Hey folks! Hopefully you are getting as excited and wistful about the season finale tonight as the rest of us!

Contributing Author Justin stops by to give us his take on Lourdes’ outing as the mole last week,

ContriMole? It’s a Beauty Mark!

Hey folks! I realized I’ve been mostly mum on my impressions of season 3, and I’ve decided to break my silence. Suffice it to say, I thought season 2 was as good as it gets, and now, thinking back on it, I realize how wrong I was. Each season seems to be a marked improvement over the last and if that trend continues then I can’t wait for what season 4 has in store for us! But enough on that, my fanboy rants aren’t what I came here for. You want an actual story, and so I shall give you one! I noticed a shameful lack of (SPOILER ALERT) Lourdes-is-the-mole reactions and decided that I, the seeming sole Lourdes lover in the universe, should be the one to rectify that.

So let me start by saying, yes, Lourdes is the mole. I realize that I attempted to debunk that theory in my last post about the various mole suspects, but apparently the writers are (a) smarter than I or (b) ignoring a glaring plot hole. I like (b) better because it makes me seem more intelligent. And also not crazy. But anyway, if you read the article, I pointed out that Lourdes was in the delivery room with Anne when Manchester was shot. At least we can assume so, as Anne went into labor shortly before Manchester’s death. Maybe Lourdes excused herself to get a drink of water? “I know your freaky, half-alien spawn-of-the-devil is about to come out, Anne, but could you hold on one second? I’m really thirsty. FOR BLOOD.” Or maybe she cloned herself? “IT’S ALIVE! Now, my evil Lourdes doppelganger, go forth and bring death upon Arthur Manchester and together, you and I shall rule Charleston together!” On the other hand, I could be wrong. Maybe Anne was having a bit of trouble pushing Lexi out (though I’m sure the child could have clawed her way out given the chance) and Lourdes decided to “wait and see” as is so often the case with women going into labor (I have lots of cousins, ok?). At that point, she would have had plenty of opportunity to gun Manchester down while Tom and the Mason boys sat in the delivery room.

The other theory is that Lourdes wasn’t the one who killed Manchester…Marina was. At least she would probably be the most likely one if it wasn’t our resident mole. In her quest for power, she decided to eliminate Tom’s candidates for vice president, knowing he’d be forced to select her instead. From there, it’s only a hop, skip, and a jump (and some arsenic) to the big seat. She may not be a mole, just a power hungry you-know-what. It’s pure coincidence that Lourdes was going around wreaking havoc.

But that’s enough conspiracy-theories for this post. I’d like to delve into why Evil Lourdes is a good thing now. Well let’s start with how well Seychelle Gabriel played off the Evil Lourdes part. After we, the viewers, discover Lourdes is the unwilling alien vessel carrying out acts of violence in Charleston, everything the once-innocent medic did was tinged with a sinister tone. Her smiles, her ‘kindness,’ and her attempts to help people all had a nuanced darkness about them that Ms. Gabriel did a fantastic job portraying. It was just dark enough that we would know she was alien-altered, but still on point enough to believable fool the other characters. That self-satisfied smirk on her face after the conference with Marina and Weaver regarding President Hathaway’s death? Superb.

Now I openly admit I was in love with Lourdes from the beginning. I always felt that her character had a lot of unexplored potential. While the religious aspect irked a lot of people, let’s face it—some people have faith in this world and that faith does get them through trying circumstances. So while it may have annoyed a large part of the viewing populace that she was religious, it isn’t beyond the realm of believability. When the world’s been shot to hell, some people cling to whatever it takes to keep their sanity (and/or hope) alive. That said, I always wondered how long it would take for her to break this religious shell of hers, and we got a glimpse of that during Jamil’s death and half of the following episode. Then, she was inexplicably back to her old self, without the change in perspective most of us were expecting from her.

It seems that now, the writers have forced a change of perspective for Lourdes. She’s alien controlled now. She’s killed people. She’s wreaked havoc and harmed some of her closest friends and allies. And I love this new direction of hers. It’s the darker, edgier Lourdes. The kind that would charm you with her pleasantries and then knife you in the back. The kind that would slip into your bedroom at night for her own amusement and then slit your throat when she’s finished. The dangerous Lourdes. Some might say the new-and-improved Lourdes. And it’s finally given her something to do beyond the ‘let-me-help-stitch-this-up-and-then-I’ll-pray-for-you’ routine of her past. Even the religious aspects of her past have adopted a new, darker role. That scene with her in the chapel, kneeling in prayer as the bugs swarm her gave me chills.

Lastly, Evil Lourdes is good because Seychelle Gabriel gets more screen time. And I do love Seychelle Gabriel. Yes, I’m gushing now. But I do. It’s true. I think she’s a great actress, especially since she’s been handed some really bad material in the past (ala M. Knight Shyamalan’s “The Last Airbender”) and yet you can tell she gives the role as much depth as she can with the script she’s given. Now she’s going to get the spotlight a bit, which highlights her true acting chops. And, as I said before, Lourdes gets to be involved with the plot now! In the past, her sub-arcs were dusted off whenever a little drama was needed. Now, she gets to drive part of the show’s main plot like Anne driving the med bus in season 2.

So what happens to Lourdes now? Well, the season finale is right around the corner. I really hope they don’t kill her off dramatically in this last episode for the summer. That would be tremendously disappointing because she’s just started to become a three-dimensional character! My hope is that she’ll make it out of season 3 intact. There’s always the possibility that evil Cochise and the treacherous Volm (face facts, it’s gonna happen) will execute her (I know Greg hopes that Denny will get the role of dramatic death by firing squad) in order to prevent the Espheni from learning their true intentions for Earth. But I hope the 2nd Mass either finds a way to debug her or they take her with them, tied down and screaming about how Tom is doomed to die. They could debug her on the ‘human reservation’ that the Volm appear to be sending all people to (at least according to the episode description). This would open up a new sub-arc for season 4 in which she seeks redemption for her past wrongs. It won’t be easy—let’s face it, if the people are willing to hate Hal for something he didn’t do, they will most certainly not treat poor Dr. Delgado kindly—but it would add even more depth to her character as she struggles to regain her place in the 2nd Mass and among her fellow non-alien-infected humans. That’s what I’m hoping to see in season 4 for the character. It would be interesting, and it wouldn’t detract too much time from the main storyline—just a few scenes here and there showing her struggling to reconcile what she’s done and make good on her moment of darkness. Maybe a few tearful ‘what-have-I-done’ moments where she talks to someone (any character would do) and maybe even a few suicidal notions to make her guilt completely believable.

One thing’s clear. If Lourdes makes it out of season 3 (and I really, REALLY hope she does) and if the season 4 writers have any semblance of sense (and I really, REALLY hope they do) then her arc for season 4 and the rest of this series (or her time on it) will be interesting, fraught with ups-and-downs, and hopefully win her new fans who may have hated her old, religious ways. That’s why Lourdes being the mole was a good thing. We’ll see if this comes true on Sunday. Until next time, this was a random collection of disorganized thoughts and ramblings by yours truly, Justin Mathai, resident Lourdes devotee. Take it away, Greg!

Justin is a Contributing Author here at THE Falling Skies Blog, often defends the weaker characters, and I am glad he wrote about Lourdes as she is a big part of our search traffic lately.

More of Justin’s stuff can be found at: http://justinmathai.wordpress.com/ and he can be followed on twitter at @JustoMathai

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I Felt the Earth Move Under My Feet, Journey to Xilbalba Review.

•July 29, 2013 • 2 Comments

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Once again Beth rides to the review rescue (alliteration is fun!) with a review of last night’s topsy turvy episode. I thought for the most part this was a decent episode. Several times the mood was ruined by sappy moments. There were some awesome Matt and Ben moments that were interspersed with sappy dialogue from Hal and Maggie.

 Onto Beth’s thoughts:

Goodbye, Charlesboring, and my, my, wasn’t it a glorious explosion!

Another solid, entertaining episode that made me glad I’ve been able to watch the last half of the season. I won’t bore you by detailing how much better the series is without She Who Shall Not Be Named (HEY! Who yelled “Too late!”?); you can pretty much copy and paste from my other reviews for that. I’ll start by saying that “Journey to Xilbalba” worked so well for the same reason that the others I’ve liked do: because it balanced action with honest character drama.

We saw some very significant shifts in relationships this week. Tom and Pope got closer to picking out china patterns. Okay, so technically Pope simply didn’t shoot Tom, but that seems to be his way of cementing a friendship. “So, I had the opportunity to put one in your brain today and didn’t. Wanna grab a beer sometime?” Even Tom seemed amazed that Pope didn’t do away with him. Pope’s explanation—that he was hoping Tom had some kind of connection to Karen—made sense on the surface, but did Pope really reason that in the split-second he could have gotten rid of Tom for good? Pope being the complex and not entirely trustworthy critter that he is, we don’t know what he’s really thinking, but it seemed to me that the change in their relationship that started when they were on their own a few weeks ago is slowly evolving. I believe Pope would still kill Tom if he had to, but they’ve come a long way since Pope ranted and raved about wanting to kill Tom when he came back at the beginning of last season.

How cool was Matt? On a scale of one to ten I give him a solid fifty. My favorite scenes in the series have always been between Ben and Matt and I’d like to write an entire article about just this short scene. Not only did Matt save Hal and Maggie, but he proved that he’s far smarter and more emotionally mature than any of the adults. He’s faced and accepted that this is a losing battle and they’re all going to die. Realistically, we know that the Mason sons are safe for the long term if not permanently, but from Matt’s perspective his talk with Ben made all the sense in the world. For his part, Ben never tried to talk down to his little brother with BS platitudes and reassurances like he would have in the first two seasons. He’s come to accept Matt as an equal deserving of the truth.

Evil Lourdes. Yes, please. After three seasons of doing absolutely nothing to forward the story she’s finally become interesting. Evil looks good on her, like she finally strutted into the party wearing a little black dress after three seasons of sweatpants. Evil is the new black. For the first time, I actually want to know where she’s going. She’s infected, she killed the president, blew up a whole city, and is clearly Karen’s mouthpiece, so what do they do with her now? It doesn’t seem likely that any of the de-buggers survived the explosions, the group is back on the road, so do they keep her tied up and just hope she doesn’t escape and do them more dirt? Doesn’t seem smart and frankly these people cannot afford any more screw-ups. The smart thing to do is kill her, but I doubt that anyone has the stones for that. If they do debug her and she survives the finale, I just hope we finally see Lourdes change as a character like she started to do after Jamil died. I can’t imagine her continuing to practice medicine; after all, who would want Dr. Cootie McEyeworm operating on them?

Okay, I admit it: I was wrong about Marina being evil. At least, I think I was wrong. It seems like Lourdes should have been more of a surprise and the writers tipped their hands early. I think we may be in for another surprise in the finale. Keep me guessing, writers!

For the first time, I actually bought the relationship between Maggie and Hal as something more than fanfic service. Although I’ve always liked both characters individually, I’ve always cringed when they appeared together because it was nothing more than “Oh, I am sooooo dark and complicated” (no you’re not, Mags, get over yourself) and “Dayyyum you’re hot and I want you” (as well you should, Hal, now get over yourself). I was actually hoping Maggie would die this season so that Hal could grow, but it looks like that’s not necessary. The scenes with them together this time were devoid of the fanfiction and totally made up of two mature adults dealing with a serious situation in a reasonable manner. Contrast that with last season where they were actually making out during every alien attack and you see real growth. I especially loved that Maggie called Hal out on leaving her behind. That never sat well with me because Maggie has always been a more capable soldier than Hal and able to take care of herself from a much earlier age. For his part, Hal realized that he has no business making decisions for her no matter what his good intentions.

Is it too much to hope for that Mary Sue Denny was buried upside down in the rubble and we’ll never see her again? It can happen. Remember that one chick who was pregnant in the first season? Neither do I. See?

So next week is the season finale. According to official episode synopsis the Mason family is reunited with those who were lost. While we can hope it’s Elvis and Bigfoot, I’m sure they’re talking about Dr. Chewtoy and the spawn. While this seems like horrible, poke-my-eyes-out-with-a-fork news and the worst possible thing for the series, I still have a glimmer of hope. This official synopsis has been available for weeks. Why would they release that extreme spoiler, knowing the majority of us would read it and the surprise would be ruined? Unless…are they going to give me an early Christmas gift and really get rid of the albatross around the neck of the show? Probably not, but these last few episodes have been so wonderful without Dr. Chewtoy that I guess I’m just hoping to be able to watch next season. Besides, I’m afraid my eyes might commit suicide if I had to endure the “I thought you were dead! <sob sob> Never leave me again!” that I’m sure is coming.

The blurb in this week’s “Entertainment Weekly” tells us that the Volm reveal their true intentions of putting humanity in relocation camps in Brazil. The Volm apparently failed to Google “humans and forced relocation” before invading and don’t realize that the concept of “relocation camps” make us arch our backs and hiss. The group will hit the road by the end of the episode, leaving politics and

Do we finally get a horrible, painful death for Karen next episode? I’m torn on this. While it would be really satisfying to watch a hand-to-hand fight to the death with Ben, she’s also a great villain and part of me wants her to stick around. She’s a constant, creepy reminder that even the good guys can be used for the aliens’ purposes at any time.

I really enjoyed the last Anne-free episode. Let’s see how it goes next week.

One Pill Makes You Larger…Strange Brew Review

•July 22, 2013 • 3 Comments

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I’ll probably have my own thoughts on last night’s twisty episode coming up this week. But for now we have our new resident reviewer extraordinaire Contributing Author Beth here to talk about her take on STRANGE BREW! I will say that while it was a good episode, I wasn’t as in love with it as Beth was. Though we got two great Ben moments which I enjoyed the novelty of the dream life wore off kind of quickly for me.

Onto Beth’s take!

“Strange Brew” was written by Robert Rodat and John Wirth and directed by David Solomon. I do not know any of these men, but I have a very clear picture in my mind of what they must look like: 8 feet tall with chiseled features, rippling muscles, and incredibly broad shoulders. These men ride to work on giant white steeds, armor gleaming in the sunlight, swords unsheathed, galloping in to do battle for us fans.

Yes, the episode was THAT good.

I loved “Strange Brew” so much that I wanted to run right to my computer the minute it was over and write this, but I decided to give it some time to percolate instead. Not a great idea, because I was up for hours thinking about it, and I’ve come to the conclusion that this was the best episode of Falling Skies in all three seasons. This—THIS, people– is the Falling Skies that got me addicted: the perfect mixture of action, suspense, special effects, emotion, and slick writing that pulled me in and stayed with me after the last scene.

I’ve been hoping for a flashback to pre-invasion Mason life since the first episode, and this was just as good. The relationship between Tom and Rebecca was so natural and beautiful, obviously based on trust and comfort. Notice how Rebecca wasn’t jealous or worried in the least about this Anne woman (whoever she is)? That’s a longtime, stable relationship and my heart breaks for Tom’s loss even more now. That, friends, is real love. Contrast that with the cheap, shallow, convenience-based soap opera between Tom and Anne and there’s no comparison. After seeing what Tom and Rebecca had together there is no way I’ll ever buy Tom and Anne as a legitimate couple. It also makes me wonder whether Tom ever will, either, but more on that later.

The really fascinating and clever part of “Strange Brew” is how Tom’s mind used familiar people in his life. To some extent Karen was manipulating things, but Tom’s mind was far stronger than she anticipated and I think we got a hugely valuable glimpse into Tom’s real, deep-down feelings for some of the other characters. It’s not surprising that Weaver was the monkey wrench in Karen’s scheme–he and Tom have long been each other’s voices of reason and sounding boards—but the unexpected use of Pope as Tom’s anchor was fresh and insightful. Professor Pope did what Pope does best: poke at Tom’s sore points until he faces reality. It tells us that even though Tom and Pope are polar opposites who would rather kick each other in the jimmy than not, Tom still recognizes Pope’s intelligence and fundamental loyalty.

I also think that deep down Ben is the son that Tom identifies most with and Hal least. Of course, if asked, any parent of multiple children will deny that they have a favorite, but it’s natural to gravitate toward the child most like you. Ben was the academic, the geek, the sensitive one like Tom. Hal was the jock, the popular kid, and the one who clearly bullied Ben a little. As a kid bullied by his father himself, Tom would naturally protect Ben most. We saw a bit of that in the second season where Hal berated Tom for always following after Ben, bailing him out and cleaning up after him. Tom maybe saw himself in Ben and instinctively protected him more. Ben was the one who, in Tom’s mind, took the initiative to come to his father’s office to find out what was wrong.

Because I can’t let an article pass without sneering at Anne, let’s do that now. If we saw Tom’s trust of Pope, Weaver, Ben, and Rebecca, I believe we also saw his buried discomfort with Anne. His subconscious not only failed to recognize her (when it did recognize all of the other 2nd Mass people he met after the invasion) but supplied another man (hi, Dai!!!) as her husband. Throughout the episode Tom’s mind cast Anne as a threatening figure, unseen and stalking Tom with calls, notes, and the champagne while Rebecca was his sanity and support. Going from Rebecca to Anne is something like going from a juicy filet mignon to a soy burger: one is genuine while the other is just a poor, ersatz substitute. I’d like to see Tom come to that realization and the fallout from that, but I doubt if we will this season, if at all. One note about Moon Bloodgood: Great balls of fire, but she was great as EvilAnne! I may loathe the character, but the actress herself has chops.

This brings me to “dead” Dr. Chewtoy and the spawn. I don’t have any hope that they’re really dead; I mean, why would Karen keep the corpses? Hmm…maybe she has a collection. Maybe she also has Walt Disney and Lenin stashed away somewhere and brings them out for Overlord dinner parties or something. More likely, they’re in some kind of suspended animation and will be back to annoy us next season. If you did kill them, Karen, I love you. I take back everything I’ve ever said about you, your perfectly dyed hair during the apocalypse, and the fact that you haven’t changed your clothes in almost three years. But that’s too much to hope for; I think they’re being saved for Karen to use as a bargaining chip later to make Tom choose between them and the rest of the 2nd Mass. Still, dead bad characters was a very cool image that made me tent my porky little fingers and mutter, “Excellent” like Monty Burns.

Meanwhile in Charleston, stuff blowed up reeeal good. I’m loving the fact that Weaver and Pope are joined in their distrust for Marina to the point where they’re cutting her out of anything important and going rogue. The Weaver of the first season would never have done that. Tom has had an influence on him big time. I still question whether Lourdes is the only mole and what exactly Marina is up to. On one hand, she seems too obvious to be a plant. On the other, hiding in plain sight is a good tactic. I’m waiting for her to rip off her jacket to reveal a “Team Overlord” tee shirt.

The final scene with Tom wandering through their house was an emotional atom bomb. When he lay down on the bed and cried he seemed to be giving up and waiting to die when his mind once again went back to the one person who could get him moving again. Rebecca and Tom finally had the chance to say their goodbyes and it was beautiful, tasteful, and well-acted. I’m not ashamed to admit that I cried with Tom.

Wow. What a crowning jewel of an episode. Bitchy Beth the Infernal Snarkmeister can’t find a single thing to pick apart. I’m honestly still blown away by the smart writing and emotional impact. Here’s hoping this episode gets a ton of positive reviews on a ton of sites so that the powers that be will give us more THIS.

 BethTX is  a Contributing Author here on the Falling Skies Blog, just as sarcastic as me (not an easy accomplishment), and likes nerd Ben ALMOST as much I did.

 

Hold the (Pickett) Line

•July 16, 2013 • 11 Comments
Go on. Tell me that isn't a dead poodle on Matt Mason's head.

Go on. Tell me that isn’t a dead poodle on Matt Mason’s head.

Contributing Author Beth returns again to give us her multifaceted take on Sunday’s episode.

First a few thoughts of my own:

I have to say from a few flaws I actually really enjoyed this episode myself. Ben no longer felt like a season 3 background character. Like last week there was an absence of the she-devil Denny, though she is ominously mentioned in a scene that made me fear the next words out of Ben’s mouth would be “But I really like her dad, she could be my Maggie.” Matt kicked ass and took no names. Anthony got some scenes which is always awesome. Turns out Lourdes is the mole, something she is far more qualified for than running any kind of clinic, maybe her character will be less dreadful going forward, hey she may even be killed!

I enjoyed Pope riling up the peace loving workers and peasants of Charleston, then again I am always a sucker for a good proletarian revolution. Looks like the New United States decided to keep the worst of our laws, government seizure and eminent domain, alive and well. Seriously, the charter for the NUS (which is a terrible looking acronym btw) didn’t include anything about not losing property without due process of law? We need houses so screw you and the economy Pope?

OK enough from me. On to Beth:

The first thing I did when I walked into the office Monday morning was give my Falling Skies buddy a rude finger gesture. He thought Hal was the mole. Ha ha and neener neener! Unfortunately, there were some Monday morning fires to put out and I never got around to doing the I Told You So dance, but oh well.

I tend to come off as majorly multiple personality disorder when it comes to my Falling Skies articles, going from drool-on-myself adoration to foaming at the mouth over the few but extremely blatant flaws I think the show has. I know this, and I’m conscious of it even as I’m writing. This review is no different, so I hope you’ll at least grant me the virtue of consistency. And awayyyy we go…

This was an entertaining enough episode with the usual excellent performances, but it felt like filler. If Falling Skies is a meatloaf, “The Pickett Line” was the bread crumbs you mix in just to make the meatloaf look bigger. This is okay now and again when you have a full season to work with, but at 10 episodes per year there is no room for bread crumbs. Although I liked the episode, it just seemed to me to say, “Okay, so we revealed Lourdes as The Mole…now what? 45 minutes of Pope singing show tunes seems like a bad idea, so how about a pointless subplot of the Masons vs. some backwoods clan? Kind of like Deliverance meets Alien?” Honestly, I could hear banjoes every time this family was onscreen.

This episode brought up the pet peeve that inevitably jabs at me when I watch a post-apocalyptic show: bleeding heart morals in a time when they will cost you your life. Tom should never have allowed the Picketts to live. First they robbed his family and left them to die, so obviously the Picketts had no problem with the concept of “me and mine first”, then one of them tried to kill Hal, then the father broke his word and was set to kill Tom and his sons (again) until Ben fought back with Harness Fu. The whole thing was beyond ridiculous, and Matt was the only one who reacted appropriately. Not only did they barely escape, but Tom left his boys and abandoned the search for Dr. Chewtoy and the spawn to rescue people who had tried to kill him just minutes before. I’m not sure what the intent of this subplot was, but it didn’t work for me. The end result was Tom about to be recaptured by Karen’s minions, which may actually be the purpose of the whole thing, but there are better and more realistic ways than turning Tom into a bleeding heart. After all, this was the man who without hesitation shot the guy in “Sanctuary” who threatened Hal and beat Pope to a bloody pulp for insulting Ben. How did he get from doing anything to protect his sons to throwing them over for a group of murderous strangers?

I love the Mason family and seeing them together without She Who Shall Not Be Named dragging around them like the ugly cousin at prom, but I have to say that Charleston was the enjoyable plot this week. Dear God, did I just type that??? Please don’t kick me out of the club, but yes, I liked the goings-on in the settlement. Not only did Lourdes finally do something interesting, but Weaver is starting to get suspicious of Marina. I’ve registered my firm prediction that she will be the downfall of Charleston (please make it explode in a huge fireball of doom, pleeeease?), and I can see Weaver thinking along those lines, as well. Of course, he’s starting to think she might be The Mole, but I think it may end up being either a liaison with Karen or just sheer arrogance and incompetence that leads her to betray the city. We’ll have to wait another couple of weeks to see.

The really great scene this week was Weaver swallowing his pride and approaching Pope as an ally. These two will never be friends, but they do seem to have a grudging respect for each other and Weaver knows that when it comes to killing aliens he has a solid partisan in Pope. I’m eager to see them throw a monkey wrench into Peralta’s plans in the next few episodes.

Brief Pope/Maggie scene because…because…I guess they wanted to remind us that Maggie is still there?

Overall, “The Pickett Line” was a decent episode, more for the Charleston plot than the Mason plot. I’m assuming that this was a filler episode that was meant to set up the next three episodes and maybe it will make more sense when viewed in context.

One lingering question that maybe some of you can help me out with: I’m still confused as to why Maggie was left behind in Charleston. Hal’s explanation to Ben made no sense. She’s one of the best fighters and you’d think she wouldn’t allow a separation from Hal after what had just happened with the Eye Booger. It doesn’t make any sense practically, but from a writing and plot POV do think she’s going to figure into what happens to Charleston? I can’t imagine they’d leave her there if they didn’t have plans for her. Will Maggie help foil Peralta or is she meant to die in the destruction of Charleston?

Not long to go until the finale. I’m a little less than enthusiastic about the return of Dr. What’s-Her-Face and the child of the corn, but I still have some small hope that they’ll be dead by the end. What I am looking forward to is finding out what the weapon does, what Cochise’s motives really are, and getting the 2nd Mass back on the road. 

 BethTX is  a Contributing Author here on the Falling Skies Blog, just as sarcastic as me (not an easy accomplishment), and did not mention Ben enough in this article.

Be Silent And Come Out: The Magic’s Back?

•July 8, 2013 • 2 Comments

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Hey folks! Beth returns to us yet again, a seemingly redeemed Falling Skies fan, to give us her take on the latest episode of our beloved show!

Before I get into the review, let me say that I realize that my last article was sadly lacking in Ben props. Greg published it anyway, knowing I’m a rabid Ben fan and would eventually get back to my roots.  This article will have Ben not just because he was instrumental in the outcome but also because two Benless articles in a row will probably get me IP banned from this site.

Wow. Let me start by saying that I consider “Be Silent And Come Out” to be the best-acted episode to date. Everyone’s performance blew me away to the point that I’m still trying to process it and I think that’s because everyone was finally given something of substance to do. Sure, there have been moments in a lot of episodes for an actor to shine, but this episode gave them all a chance and all of them rose to the occasion.

 I know I’m in danger of belaboring a point here, but this episode worked so well because it was devoid of the things that have wrecked Falling Skies in the past: soap opera romance and Anne, who has so far in 3 seasons been good for nothing but furthering soap opera romance. Falling Skies has some of the most talented and underrated actors in the business, but there’s very little even a great actor can do with a substandard, cliché script and unfortunately that’s what they’ve been getting since mid-season 2.  

“Be Silent And Come Out” was the perfect mixture of action and character dynamics that added up to a well-balanced episode because it really got us back to the first season where Tom was focused on his sons first and leadership/Dr. Chewtoy last. Seasons 2 and 3 led Tom so far astray from what his character was– a solid, loving father to Hal, Ben, and Matt and the cornerstone of the Mason family– that half the time I wondered if he even remembered he had sons. The boys wandered unsupervised from dangerous situation to even more dangerous situation like orphans while Tom played general with Weaver and footsie with a woman he barely knew. This episode is a complete return to the reluctant hero and protective father of season one and I love it.

The episode was Mason family-centric , which is as it should be since they’re the stars, but it also gave each supporting character his starring moment to spice up the drama, which is the purpose of the supporting character. I know a lot of us have been critical in the past of the lack of use for the non-Masons and assumed they were just there as furniture and cannon fodder. “Be Silent And Come Out” broke that trend and really gave us a reason to like the background folk.

Will Patton earns my coveted Scare the Cat Award for Weaver’s priceless scene in the bar. I thought the quiet, understated way he handled it was far more menacing than any amount of screaming could have been. As soon as he walked in and saw that Pope and his Berserkers were betting on the Masons’ lives I knew the nitrogenous wastes were going to strike the fan.  When he went all Clint Eastwood, grabbed Pope by the neck and threatened to hang his head as a trophy I let out a weird, surprised laugh that scared the cat off my lap. After three years he really should know not to sit there during Falling Skies.

Marina, Marina, Marina.  I don’t like you, Marina. I don’t trust you, Marina. But I do admire you in a way. There’s something reaaaally rotten and single-minded about her that I can’t quite put my finger on, but it would not at all surprise me if she’s the ruin of Charleston and the death of at least one character by the finale. I may not like the character, but I do like Gloria Reuben and the way she’s playing her because I don’t think we’re supposed to like and trust the woman who’s been going behind Tom’s back.

This brings me to Colin Cunningham and Pope, who seemed ready to move in and hang curtains with Tom last episode but was cheerfully waiting for his chance to pop a cap in his son this episode. This is what I love about the character: he’s consistent only in being inconsistent and that’s fun to watch when it’s well-written and well-acted. Pope is the anti-Tom and great at presenting the alternate viewpoint in the most vehement and offensive way possible. Dammit, I hate it when characters make me rethink my cherished beliefs about other characters and Pope sure did that this week. Of course, Hal being a Mason, I was completely sympathetic. The poor guy was under the influence of an alien device and not responsible for his actions, right? Well, Pope was pretty vocal about not seeing it that way. His parting shot of “Next time I’m arrested I’ll use the alien bug defense”  hit the mark; I mean, Hal supposedly killed a man, consorted with the enemy, and kidnapped and tortured his own father while under the influence but is allowed to ride off into the sunset with no consequences? Hal could have come forward about his suspicions and odd feelings, but he chose not to. Pope made me think about how we wouldn’t excuse someone’s crimes because he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, so why now? Ugh, Pope…

I have never liked Lourdes, partly because of her early Holy Joe routine and partly because she’s just been altogether flat and uninteresting. She was basically Mini-Anne, existing only as an appendage to Hal or someone to bounce a plot point off of. Based on this episode, that bullpuckey is gone and she’s grown into someone who’s useful and independent. Good news for the fans and Seychelle Gabriel who I always felt did her best with what she was given. Although I haven’t seen enough of Lourdes to totally reverse my opinion, she was so decisive and competent with Hal’s treatment that I’m cautiously optimistic. The only thing is that I don’t see both her and Anne making it long term. That seems to be too much of a medical safety net in a series where we’re supposed to feel that the lives of the 2nd Mass are always on the line. If I have to choose, I’m flying my Lourdes flag, kthnx.

The lack of the soap opera has benefitted Maggie the most. She was always a ballsy and likeable character, but it never made sense that someone so tough and practical would throw herself into a giggling teenage affair, especially only weeks after escaping a vicious rape gang. I always felt like she was more of an appendage to Hal, which was not fair to a gifted actress like Sarah Carter, but this episode really gave her some layers. On one hand, Maggie was her usual badass self, but she also clearly felt guilty for letting the Hal situation get as far as it did when she should have reported it. You can’t keep a good Maggie down for long, and she decided to take responsibility and solve the problem.

On to the Mason family. I can’t say enough about everyone’s performance, but Drew Roy stole the show this week. The transition between EvilHal and OurHal was painful to watch, but in a good way. I clearly saw the internal struggle as OurHal fought to overcome the mind control and I felt every single moment of it in my gut. This wasn’t an easy thing to portray; do it too over the top and it’s laughable. Do it too understated and it fails to have an impact. Drew Roy found a happy (unhappy?) medium and I actually had tears in my eyes when OurHal came through.

I’m a Noah Wyle fan and I’ve never seen him fail to pull off whatever he was going for, so it was no surprise that he hit his mark in all scenes, but two really stood out. First was where he talked to Hal about his mother, yes as a tactic to get through to OurHal, but also expressing real regret for not being there as much as he should have been. It seemed like something that had been eating away at Tom for a while and he just found a time to let it out. The second was when he was watching Hal struggle for his life during the debugging. I could almost hear him think, “Dear God, I killed my son.” The scenes between Tom and Hal are the kind that stick with me after the TV goes off. This is pure season one Mason family dynamic and I’m glad to have it back.

I’ve loved Matt since the first episode, and one thing the writers have done well over the seasons is show his realistic transition from token cute little kid to a real soldier. Maxim Knight has rolled with the transition like a pro and has changed his physicality and the way he delivers lines to reflect Matt’s experience as a kid growing up in a totally different world than he came into. Case in point, Matt took charge and really saved Hal’s ass when he led Maggie and Ben into the building. No way was he going to let Tector kill his brother. Tom was the final holdout, but he’s acknowledged Matt’s maturity or he would have left him behind in Charleston.

Okay, well that does it for another article. Thanks for reading and see you next time.

The End.

Just kidding. Put down the pitchfork, Greg. Of course I can’t let an episode review go by without mentioning the heroic contribution of my favorite hybrid. According to the synopses earlier, Ben had the choice of removing the harness that he hates; unfortunately, it would mean the end of his superhuman abilities and the tradeoff was not worth it to him. Good news for Hal, as it turns out. Unharnessed Ben would never have been able to overpower him and keep him from giving himself a lead love note to the brain. Bad news for me, because he was able to find out where Dr. Chewtoy and Creepybrat are, so I’ll call it a wash. Anyway…it seems to me that with Hal riding the Eye Booger Express and Tom playing politics Ben has stepped it up as head of the Mason family. He’s taken his little brother under his wing and is calling his own shots. He’s come a long way toward making peace with who is he and reconciling the bad parts of being harnessed to the good. Connor Jessup has always been very skillful with Ben and his metamorphosis from awkward teenager in season one to angry outcast in season two to someone coming to terms and getting comfortable in his own skin in season 3.

I’ll end with a few plot points I loved:

  • Goodbye President Mason, welcome back Tom! If one good thing came of the Hal situation it was that Tom realized that he could not be a father and a president at the same time. He’d missed way too much of the most important things in his life.
  • The separation of the Mason family from Charleston. I’m looking forward to the last three episodes concentrating on them reconnecting as a family and dealing with the changes they’ve all been through. I think Tom may get some surprises.
  • President Marina. What is she up to? What will Charleston be like when the Masons finally return, if there’s anything left to return to? What’s her interest in the weapon? I hope Weaver keeps a sharp eye on her.
  • I’m stubborn in my opinion that Hal is NOT the mole. Too obvious and the whole thing was dismissed too quickly. Everyone just assumed and moved on, which I think is going to cost them I the season finale.

“Be Silent And Come Out” was a hell yeah episode for me. Action, character development, and the Masons being there for each other. This is what got me excited about Falling Skies in the first place.

  BethTX is  a Contributing Author here on the Falling Skies Blog, just as sarcastic as me (not an easy accomplishment), and mentioned Ben just enough times to get this published!

 
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