Well, the softer side of Merle Dixon theory we sort of maybe entertained over the last few weeks has officially been been debunked. Merle spent the majority of tonight's episode physically torturing Glenn like a violent, redneck Carrie Matheson, while the stoic torturee's poor girlfriend listened in terror from next door. What was his reasoning? Hell, I don't know. I get why he's still mad about being stranded on that rooftop and left to die two seasons ago, but tonight was another brutal reminder of how easily (and disturbingly) humanity can be switched off in the Walking Dead universe.
We saw this a few times: First, there was Mr. Coleman, the old geezer who passed away in Woodbury on Milton's experimental table. I don't know about you, but for a brief second I almost thought that Milton's research would lead to something — that there could be a sliver of hope in this show's horrific, depressing landscape. But no, Andrea was right. Despite Milton's firm belief that humanity could be maintained during the zombie transformation period, Coleman lunged like a man 60 years his junior as soon as he got a sniff of human flesh. Then Andrea stabbed him in the head, because, well, that's what you have to do if you want to survive that in that hellhole. Stab grandpa in the head. Is it worth it?
PHOTOS: TV's Most Moving DeathsFrom Maggie's perspective — if she didn't have that sexy, torture-defying boyfriend — I'd say no. Merle exerting his physical influence on Glenn was nerve-wracking, but ultimately something we've seen a million times before. But when the Governor used his own torture tricks on Maggie — making her strip, then silently threatening rape if she didn't give up the Grimes Gang's location — was horrifying. We already knew that the Gov had adopted some sort of God complex after the zombpocalypse, but this was the first time we saw him actually — apathetically — using his power to completely, soullessly dominate another human being. And God, she was strong. She was so strong.
When Maggie finally gave up, Glenn's death — not her own sexual safety — being her impetus, he "comforted" her in the same way he did Andrea, his "real girlfriend", seconds later. It was vomit-inducing, and a sad reminder of what can happen when a previously governed society is torn apart, then left to pick up the pieces using their own rules. Humanity can be sick. Those who previously lived their lives on the bottom rung — like the Gov, Milton, Merle, and arguably someone like Lost's John Locke, or all of those crazy French people in A Tale of Two Cities — can give in to impulses that were previously unimaginable, and thrive utilizing the absolute most depraved parts of themselves. The Walking Dead largely ignored this dilemma for two whole seasons (unless you count Shane, who comparatively wasn't that bad of a guy), and now we have a much better show because of it. Humans fighting zombies can get boring, but humans having to rebuild a society without rules will never stop being horrifically awesome.
PHOTOS: TV's 17 Most Disgusting Moments What's great is that we're thinking right now — thinking of the lines that have been crossed on this show, and how the f*** we personally would draw them if we were in the same position. We know that it was okay for Michonne to kill the crazy dude in the shack (because his screaming would have given up our heroes), and for Rick to kill the inmates, because they would have hurt his family. Andrea stabbing grandpa was also okay, because he would have killed Milton first. And Merle torturing Glenn for information was bad, even though you could maybe argue that he was also somehow protecting his clan. But the Governor's actions were despicable, because even in a world where you shoot your mom in the head sometimes, sexual violence is never okay.
There — those are my lines. But for other people, they wouldn't be the same. And that's the problem for the Grimes Gang, whenever they happen upon a newcomer — you can never be too cautious, because you don't know what moral code a newcomer subscribes to when they're not forced to abide by commonly accepted rules. They might still value human life and be a Hershel, or they could decapitate you and put your head in an aquarium like a Governor. Obviously this is not what Michonne did when she came across the Grimes Gang, but let's back up, because I'm sort of confused by her actions tonight.
So, while things were pretty terrible tonight over in Woodbury, they were (temporarily) looking up in prison. Carol was back, Axel and Oscar were being grandfathered in, and the baby formerly known as Sophia-Carol-Andrea-Amy-Jackie-Patricia-Lori was given a name — Judith, after Carl's old elementary school teacher. Like, of course Carl was hot for teacher. Also, Rick and Carl finally had "the talk" — no, not about sex with Carl's burgeoning gal pal Beth. The other talk. The one you give your kid after he's forced to shoot his mother in the head after a baby is ripped out of her belly with a knife. My folks waited a while for that one. Everyone was basically happier than they'd been in weeks, until Michonne entered the game to further screw things up.
PHOTOS: 13 Biggest Cop-Outs on TV I was happy to see Carl fight to save her — it looked like Rick was willing to give her up, which is honestly kind of understandable given his track record with strangers. And it proved that maybe Carl isn't always terrible. But then Rick did save her, and while he didn't exactly give her the Four Seasons, he offered her food and shelter and enough good will to make her talk more than she did, which was pretty much not at all. I know the producers of the show want a super dramatic reunion next week when Rick and Daryl happen upon Merle and Andrea, but why wouldn't Michonne tell them that they were there? Wouldn't knowing more about the threat that awaits them help the Gang's chance for survival when they storm the beach at Woodbury next week? I know Michonne isn't a fan of opening up to people, and isn't huge on trust, but I think she's smart enough to know (especially after 8 months of Andrea's stories) that the Grimes Gang aren't the worst folks to align with, and that it would help them to know that Andrea was still alive before they made their move. It's understandable that she'd be hesitant to trust Daryl after spending some quality time with Merle, but her total silence was somewhat baffling. Sorry.
But all in all, it was another fantastic, thought-provoking episode, and it set the stage for a killer midseason finale next week. Can Carl save the prison from the wrath of Woodbury? Will Daryl do the right thing when he reunites with Merle? Will Andrea finally realize that the Governor is a psychopath, or will some much needed sex be enough to pull her to the dark side? Also, doesn't she have a great backside? I must go to the gym. Follow Shaunna on Twitter @HWShaunna [PHOTO CREDIT: AMC] MORE: 'The Walking Dead' Recap: Hounded 'The Walking Dead' Recap: Say the Word 'The Walking Dead' Recap: Killer Within
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A decade-long gap between sequels could leave a franchise stale but in the case of Men in Black 3 it's the launch pad for an unexpectedly great blockbuster. The kooky antics of Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) don't stray far from their 1997 and 2002 adventures but without a bombardment of follow-ups to keep the series in mind the wonderfully weird sensibilities of Men in Black feel fresh Smith's natural charisma once again on full display. Barry Sonnenfeld returns for the threequel another space alien romp with a time travel twist — which turns out to be Pandora's Box for the director's deranged imagination.
As time passed in the real world so did it for the timeline in the world of Men in Black. Picking up ten years after MIB 2 J and K are continuing to protect the Earth from alien threats and enforce the law on those who live incognito. While dealing with their own personal issues — K is at his all-time crabbiest for seemingly no reason — the suited duo encounter an old enemy Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) a prickly assassin seeking revenge on K who blew his arm off back in the '60s. Their street fight is more of a warning; Boris' real plan is to head back in time to save his arm and kill off K. He's successful prompting J to take his own leap through the time-space continuum — and team up with a younger K (Josh Brolin) to put an end to Boris plans for world domination.
Men in Black 3 is the Will Smith show. Splitting his time between the brick personalities of Jones and Brolin's K Smith struts his stuff with all the fast-talking comedic style that made him a star in yesteryears. In present day he's still the laid back normal guy in a world of oddities — J raises an eyebrow as new head honcho O (Emma Thompson) delivers a eulogy in a screeching alien tongue but coming up with real world explanations for flying saucer crashes comes a little easier. But back in 1969 he's an even bigger fish out water. Surprisingly director Barry Sonnenfeld and writer Etan Cohen dabble in the inherent issues that would spring up if a black gentlemen decked out in a slick suit paraded around New York in the late '60s. A star of Smith's caliber may stray away from that type of racy humor but the hook of Men in Black 3 is the actor's readiness for anything. He turns J's jokey anachronisms into genuine laughs and doesn't mind letting the special effect artists stretch him into an unrecognizable Twizzler for the movie's epic time jump sequence.
Unlike other summer blockbusters Men in Black 3 is light on the action Sonnenfeld utilizing his effects budget and dazzling creature work (by the legendary Rick Baker) to push the comedy forward. J's fight with an oversized extraterrestrial fish won't keep you on the edge of your seat but his slapstick escape and the marine animal's eventual demise are genuinely amusing. Sonnenfeld carries over the twisted sensibilities he displayed in small screen work like Pushing Daisies favoring bizarre banter and elaborating on the kookiness of the alien underworld than battle scenes. MIB3's chase scene is passable but the movie in its prime when Smith is sparring with Brolin and newcomer Michael Stuhlbarg who steals the show as a being capable of seeing the future. His twitchy character keeps Smith and the audience on their toes.
Men in Black 3 digs up nostalgia I wasn't aware I had. Smith's the golden boy of summer and even with modern ingenuity keeping it fresh — Sonnenfeld uses the mandatory 3D to full and fun effect — there's an element to the film that feels plucked from another era. The movie is economical and slight with plenty of lapses in logic that will provoke head scratching on the walk out of the theater but it's also perfectly executed. After ten years of cinematic neutralizing the folks behind Men in Black haven't forgotten what made the first movie work so well. After al these years Smith continues to make the goofy plot wild spectacle and crazed alien antics look good.
Though ostensibly successful 2009’s The Final Destination represented to many a horror franchise on its last hackneyed legs. Rote uninspired and humorless it scored a (modest) hit only by virtue of the novelty -- and added ticket price -- of its 3D transfer. Two years later Final Destination 5 arrives with a slightly tweaked formula a beefed-up storyline actors you might actually recognize and genuine honest-to-goodness 3D. It’s still schlock mind you -- but artful schlock and a marked improvement over the preceding entry.
The story begins in familiar fashion with a cursory introduction to the characters followed by a grisly premonition that sees them perish wholesale. An assortment of cubicle-dwellers at a paper factory are being bused to a corporate retreat when one of them Sam (Nicholas D’Agosto perpetually bug-eyed) dreams of a massive bridge collapse in which he and his co-workers are impaled beheaded bisected crushed by cars singed by tar -- however many ways a suspension bridge can kill a person the film’s opening set-piece explores it gruesome detail. Sam awakens duly horrified and demands the bus be evacuated. Seconds later the employees watch in horror from the sidelines as Sam’s vision comes to fruition.
You know what happens next. One-by-one death stalks the survivors who meet their fate in a series of elaborately-staged incidents. Some are relatively straightforward; others involve fiendish head-fakes and red herrings. The range of victims is older and more colorful than in previous Final Destination films in which death preyed exclusively on attractive nubile teenagers but the end result is invariably the same. (Not to give anything away but those considering acupuncture or laser eye surgery would be wise to avoid the film entirely.) As death’s scheme becomes achingly evident Sam his lachrymose girlfriend Molly (Emma Bell) and his increasingly unhinged buddy Peter (Miles Fisher) become increasingly desperate. Enter the ever-ominous Tony Todd returning to the franchise after (wisely) taking the previous film off offering a potential way out. But is it genuine or just another of death’s cruel tricks?
Director Steven Quale a James Cameron protege hired principally for his 3D expertise takes full advantage of the added dimension delivering some of the most vivid and immersive 3D sequences in recent memory. Unlike The Final Destination which seemed little more than a amalgam of crude one-liners Final Destination 5 feels like a real movie one with a discernible plot an element of suspense and a handful characters who are more than just punchlines. Most of the actors are surprisingly competent save for Fisher a credible doppelganger for Tom Cruise (he parodied him 2008’s Superhero Movie) who imbues every line with couch-jumping intensity.
Final Destination 5 ends with a twist that while genuinely unexpected feels like a Hail Mary for a franchise that can’t forestall its inexorable descent into stale irrelevance despite the best of efforts from Quale. Its trademark formula has simply lost its potency -- a problem no amount of cosmetic upgrades however welcome can fix. That the film is bracketed by two pointless and time-consuming montages -- the first an animated sequence that hurtles various hazardous objects at the audience the second a greatest hits compilation of memorable kills from previous Final Destination films -- is a telltale sign that the saga’s creativity is on life support. Perhaps it’s time to pull the plug.