Bones – “The Don’t in the Do” Review

After last week’s disappointing episode of Bones, I felt a little uneasy going into this week’s episode, “The Don’t in the Do.” Although this episode still showed no sign of Parker, it was definitely not disappointing.

The episode begins with blue-headed birds falling from the sky at a trash dump after eating the remains from a blue corpse. The Jeffersonian team quickly identifies the victim as a male hair stylist who also had sex with some of his clients and had a drug problem. The first suspects are obviously his clients that he slept with and his drug dealer. However, it turns out that the murderer was actually his shampoo boy who hoped to get his own chair at the salon they worked at by killing the victim.

Much of the episode focuses on how everyone is dealing with Brennan having a little bit of post pregnancy blues. She feels uncomfortable in all of her old clothes since her body has changed a bit. Booth is worried about her and Angela wants to help too since she can understand after having gone through the same thing. Angela takes her out to a spa for facials and a massage, which clearly helps her out. Sweets takes Booth to a lingerie shop so he can buy something for Brennan so she knows he still thinks she’s attractive. The episode ends on a very positive note with Booth and Brennan enjoying dinner together with plans to head upstairs and try on the lingerie.

There were a few moments in this episode that got a little weird. In the beginning half of the episode, Arastoo the intern is being overexcited about his job and making everyone confused until he finally says he is excited because he’s going to be published in a forensic anthropology journal. Only later does Brennan totally shut him down and tell him he is not going to be published after all, leaving Arastoo quite embarrassed and everyone feeling quite awkward. I felt even more awkward when Angela and Brennan went to the spa. As they were getting their massages, they both began to say things like, “Oh yeah, that’s it” and moan, and they dragged it on to the point that I was just waiting for one of them to have a full on orgasm. Luckily that awkwardness ended quickly with Brennan getting a phone call she couldn’t not answer (thank goodness). However there was a little more awkward when we learn that the killer kept the victims scalp and hair which he put on display (GROSS!).  Despite all of the awkwardness, this was a good episode. The interesting aspects of the crime as well as good character interaction allowed me to look past the awkwardness and enjoy the show!

8.5 out of 10

Review: The Cabin in the Woods [No Spoilers!]

Sometimes a genre of film becomes so overused that the only possible next step for it is to delve into the realm of parody. Horror has most definitely been a casualty of such circumstance, and to a greater extent so has its sub-genres. It happened to the slasher with Scream, whose extreme subversion and comical clichés wholly brought about the genre’s death almost immediately, and it also happened to the zombie genre with Shaun of the Dead, whose quirky and dark humor overshadowed subtle jabs at the film’s more serious counterparts. The Cabin in the Woods attempts such parody with these and many of the other sub-genres of horror, but ultimately pushes past any and all boundaries.

Under the creative directing and writing of Cloverfield’s Drew Goddard and Buffy’s Joss Whedon, The Cabin in the Woods really shines as a horror genre buster. The overt cliché of teens going away to an isolated cabin is the main focus here, as one could garner from the name, and pays homage to some of the greats – Friday the Thirteenth, Clive Barker’s Hellraiser, the not very well known Cube and of course, Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead. Yet, what makes this movie truly amazing is that it combines various other aspects of horror along with science fiction, which is used partly as a narrative mechanism to give logic to everything that happens to the teens.

Every interaction the teens engage in around the cabin activates a clichéd outcome, whether they are reading strange Latin from a diary, which raises the dead from their graves, or solving a puzzle sphere that summons a hellish creature (both of which are very Lovecraftian in essence). The film pokes fun at the very clichés that inspired it through their executions, while at the same time making obvious their stagnating presence in the horror genre. Of course, this is all supplemented by the controlling party’s knowledge of, and power over, what is going to happen to the teens. The comedic, office-buddy duo of Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford really get the laughs going through their explicit expression of what evil is going to pop up next – almost in the same vein as MST3K – while at the same time giving clues to the audience as to the overarching purpose of their actions. The teens themselves add to the comedy as well through their stereotyped and role-specific characterizations, which is partly caused by the people behind everything. All of their responsive actions are reflections of what the average stupid teen would think of doing in the films that CitW pays homage to, while at the same time offering up a sort of character-revealed, meta-reflexive insight that works against these clichés and turns them into moments of pure comedy.

Goddard and Whedon obviously came into this project with the intention of raising a giant middle finger to the declining horror genre, while simultaneously revitalizing it through a unique mish-mash of its various aspects. They succeeded terrifically. The Cabin in the Woods is equal parts scary, funny, and weird with a strongly knit, yet overly fast-paced narrative that keeps your attention sharp for its whole ninety-five minutes of run time. If you’re a huge fan of horror, you’ll have no problem picking out the multitudinous references that are scattered, both obviously and subtly, throughout the film. It definitely takes a bit of knowledge regarding the horror genre to appreciate everything they attempt to convey, which may be off-putting for some, but The Cabin in the Woods is undeniably a visual treat for anyone that enjoys a well-made and detailed parody.

Trust me, go see it before any of it gets ruined for you. You’ll be happy you did.

Score: 9.5 out of 10

South Park – “Butterballs” Review

After watching the last two weeks’ South Park episodes, I’d come to the conclusion that the season was slowly beginning to fall into a downward spiral of mediocrity. So, when I learned that this week’s episode was going to cover the hot-button issue of bullying, I kept thinking to myself, “How are they going to address the topic while maintaining a strong sense of comedy and activism for the cause?” That’s when I remembered that South Park has one of the funniest, most pushed-around kids in all of television: Butters Leopold Stotch. And boy, did they take advantage of him!

The episode began with the boys having lunch at school while Cartman goes on a hilarious, albeit completely true, rant about music no longer being about love, but rather women’s ”vajayjays”. The conversation shifts to Butters though when he arrives at the table with a black eye and no lunch, the boys try to tell him that he has to tell someone about his bullying problem. Of course, Butters doesn’t want to be an Anonymous Andy, or as Cartman so greatly put it, a Cliché Conflict-Resolution Kevin, so the boys tell him that he should talk to someone he trusts, like his Grandma.

Unbeknownst to them though, the bully is actually Butters’ Grandma. The idea was definitely the greatest storyline of the episode, as this unlikely bully causes a great deal of physical and emotional pain for Butters. Not only does his Grandma berate him verbally with death threats, but she also beats the crap out of him and stabs him with forks. Butters can’t seem to find the help he’s looking for and gets extremely frustrated about the issue. He decides to take matters into his own hands. Changing into his evil, alternate persona of Professor Chaos, Butters musters up the courage to face his Grandma and tell her how it is. Although, much to his surprise and chagrin, his Grandmother is also dressed as a super villain, and “gummy bears” Butters into submission.

After experiencing torture, and bearing witness to various forms of bullying that are engaged by children and adults alike, Butters comes to a great realization about his Grandma. In what was probably one of the funniest moments of the entire season, Butters politely, and eloquently, tells his Grandma that he understands why she does what she does – because of loneliness. Butters also explains that he understands she is going to die soon. He makes it pointedly clear that he is going to live a long, happy, and healthy life, and will make sure to remind her of that fact while she’s on her deathbed. It was the ultimate guilt trip, spoken in the true blunt Butters fashion. I only wish I could say that the rest of the episode was just as fantastic.

The parallel storyline of Stan’s anti-bully music video had a few great moments but it felt much too obscure in reference and flat in presentation. I actually had to look up what video they were referencing, and found its source – a high-schooler made a music video in the same vein as Stan’s. I’m quite confused as to why Matt Stone and Trey Parker decided to use this video as it doesn’t really have any widespread recognition, only about 100,000 views and a single story shown on Fox News Texas. Even knowing of the reference now though, still doesn’t make the joke all that entertaining. Save for the few short moments of Cartman dressed up as a female singer, referencing his past lunch conversation, the reference was bland and wholly unfunny.

What was great about this storyline though – which also intertwined with Butters’ – were the bathroom-stall bully scenes. The episode alluded to the fact that bullying is a prevalent practice in more than just schools, while creating a hilarious hierarchy of people bullying those in lesser positions than them. This all comes to a climax when a movie producer enters the school bathroom and, to our surprise, is bullied by the only one with more power than him: Jesus. It was a great way to end the various stints of bathroom bullying, but I can’t help but feel more could have been drawn from these conversations, especially with Jesus – a man who preaches universal peace – being at the top of the bully food chain.

The end of the episode seemed to fall flat as well, despite the fact that it was an obvious poke at Invisible Children’s Jason Russell, and his mental breakdown from a few weeks ago. The whole thing just seemed superfluous, and really didn’t have any connection to the topic of the episode, save for the connecting factor that awareness videos were made.

Overall, I really did enjoy most of the episode and found Butters’ plight to be pure comedic gold, but most of the laughs seemed to draw more from random statements than from the theme of the episode. Bullying really is a difficult topic for South Park to handle though, considering most of their analyses of current events are critical and subversive. It seems that they had to tread carefully as not to trivialize the bullying epidemic, but then again, when has South Park ever tried not to offend people?

7 out of 10

Bones – “The Bump in the Road” Review

Tonight, April 9th, when I tuned in to get my Bones fix for the week, I panicked as I saw that there was something wrong with the FOX channel, and continued to panic until the episode finally started (eight minutes in).

Because there’s a Baby Bones in the picture, it was obvious that there would be some adjustments for Booth and Brennan to make. I expected to see a lot of development and change in this week’s episode of Bones, “The Bump in the Road,” but once the channel actually started working, it wasn’t quite what I imagined.

The crime portion of this episode was about a headless female victim found on the side of the road. The team quickly gathers that she was dragged by a semi-truck, IDs her as the wife of a chestnut farmer and learns that she was an extreme couponer. The obvious possible suspects are approached – the truck driver, the farming husband, and other extreme-couponers who she had conflicted with. I quickly came to the conclusion that she had been attacked by someone with a shopping cart, and this belief was enforced when the Jeffersonian team figured out that she was hit in the head with the corner of something aluminum. I continued to yell out “shopping cart” as the episode kept hinting at the murder weapon as a shopping cart, only to be disappointed when Brennan figured out that it was, in fact, a metal clipboard the manager of a grocery store carried around. I don’t know about you, but it would have been way cooler if it was a shopping cart.

Between bits and pieces about the case, we of course, get some character interaction and large-scale plot development. However, rather than the obvious choice of following baby Christine, much of tonight’s episode followed the development of a relationship between Finn Abernathy (the new hick intern with a dark past), and Michelle, Cam’s adopted daughter. Though Cam had been the one to stand up for Finn when the others questioned if it was safe to work with him, she now is concerned and does not want him seeing Michelle. Cam does come around though, and everyone ends up happy… except me. As of right now, I don’t particularly like Finn’s character, and with a new baby in the mix, he and Michelle were not what I wanted to see in this episode.

Also, is anyone else wondering, “Where is Parker?”  If you don’t know, Parker is Booth’s son from a previous relationship. He has been in several episodes of every season, up until this one. You’d think they would include him more often (with him having a new baby sister and a new house to live in and all) but us viewers are eight episodes in and he is nowhere to be found! It isn’t realistic and it’s becoming quite annoying for a show that is almost wholly grounded in reality. Parker hasn’t even been mentioned in conversation; it almost seems as if the writers want us to forget he ever existed, which I won’t do. I’ll continue to be frustrated until he finally interacts with his new half-sibling.

7.5 out of 10

Game of Thrones – “The Night Lands” Review [Warning: Spoilers]

“The Night Lands,” the second installment of season 2 of Game of Thrones, is a very strategic episode. There are no monumental events or ground-breaking twists, and even the insufferable Joffrey isn’t featured. There are, however, numerous moments that pave the way for high drama to come.

The episode commences with Arya and our first look at the caged Jaqen H’ghar. There is a great exchange between Arya and Gendry in which Gendry coaxes Arya’s true identity from her. Having only a brief spot in last week’s season premiere, it was great to see Arya on the screen again. There is a significant emphasis on The Night Watch in the episode as well – and not just Jon Snow either. Sam, the loveable loaf of the Watch, takes a liking to one of Craster’s wives (not to mention, daughters) and pleads with Jon to take her with them so Craster will not catch wind of the child she’s carrying. This would end up leading to the revelation of the episode: Craster has been giving his sons to the monsters from beyond the wall.

Tyrion Lannister once again steals the show with phenomenal exchanges with both Varys, who lead a slaughter of young boys in the prior episode, and Cersei. Taking full advantage of being the Hand of the King, Tyrion cleans house of Varys and teases the dirty secret of Cersei by stating that, according to Stannis Baratheon, Jaime has been “falling” on her repeatedly.

Speaking of Stannis, we are also given our first glimpse of Melisandre putting him in her back pocket. In an attempt to manipulate him, the Red Priestess seduces Stannis with the promise of a son – something his current wife cannot give him. Davos, Stannis’ loyal devotee, is also displayed as having reservations (and most certainly understandable ones) of Melisandre and the religion she promotes.

Theon Greyjoy, who we know as being a Stark by association (he was taken into House Stark following the failed uprising of his father, Balon Greyjoy, and raised as a close friend to Robb), is also featured in “The Night Lands.” Although Robb is not to be found in the episode, his work certainly is; Theon is travelling to his homeland of Pyke with the intention of persuading his father to aid Robb in his attacking of King’s Landing. The surprise here isn’t in Balon’s response, but rather that the young woman that Theon found himself groping, Yara, is not only his sister, but is proclaimed to be the true “Heir to the Iron Islands.”

No Joffrey, no Robb, no Bran, no problem for “The Night Lands.” The episode, while being merely a bridge for the high dramatics of which Game of Thrones is known for, is still highly entertaining. We are once again reduced to a mere two or three minutes of Daenerys’ story, but what we do see – Rakharo’s horse returning with his mutilated body – is quite the fantastic scene. The episode fails to live up to the intensity of the season’s premiere, but it’s just enough to keep the ball rolling with what has been a great start to the new season.

8 out of 10

Review: Goon [Warning: Spoilers]

There hasn’t been a good hockey movie in ages. In fact, the last one I can think of was The Mighty Ducks, and that was released about twenty years ago. So when I heard that Goon, the newest hockey comedy to come out of Canada, was making a very limited run in the U.S., I jumped at the chance to get into a screening of it.

The film, directed by Michael Dowse, stars Seann William Scott as Doug Glatt, a Jewish meathead with a heart of gold who feels as though he has no purpose in life. While his brother attends medical school to follow in the footsteps of their father, Doug is stuck working as a bouncer at the local bar – a job that suits his physical abilities quite nicely. Although, after attending a minor league hockey game with his perverted, sports-obsessed friend Pat (Jay Baruchel) and beating the crap out of one of the team’s players, Doug is offered a chance to play for the team.

Going from having zero knowledge about how to skate or play the game, to being the strongest defender around, Doug makes quite the name for himself and gets pushed up to the big leagues. It is here that he is tasked with rallying the team, and getting the former superstar, Xavier Laflamme (Marc-Andre Grondin), back to his former glory. All the while, Doug’s hockey idol Ross “The Boss” Rhea (Liev Schreiber), who is famous for his gritty fighting style and offensive force, gets ready to face off and beat the crap out of him in the finals before his retirement.

To be honest, the film is moderately erratic in its editing style and narrative progression, but it’s really the ride of Doug’s upward climb to stardom, and the struggles that he faces along the way, that makes this movie so great – so much so that you forget about the film’s shortcomings. Seann William Scott has always played a great “bro,” so his casting as Doug couldn’t have been more perfect. The comedy of his character really comes from his absolute stupidity, but it’s also very easy to connect with Doug and feel sympathy for him; he’s well rounded and humanistic for being so dumb. It is this good-hearted nature of Doug’s personality that brings about change for his team and the pompous Laflamme, and it’s also what ultimately gets him the girl of his dreams. Although, the real comedic star of the film is Jay Baruchel as Pat, who plays a character that is extremely unlike anything he’s ever portrayed. Instead of the being the shy super nerd that we’ve come to know and love from films such as Knocked Up and Fanboys, Baruchel plays a dirty-minded, hockey-show running prick who loves to brag that Doug is his best friend. Almost everything that Pat says is pure, laugh-out-loud comedy, and his sexually suggestive hand gestures only adds to this.

If you’re a sports fan, a lover of comedy, or just looking for a good time, I really can’t recommend Goon enough. The film is truly unique and fresh, and brings a powerful spark to the genre that, hopefully, will be revived to its former glory. I am deeply saddened that Goon did not have a wider release, as it was only shown at the NuArt in Los Angeles, but once it comes out to home video, you’d better grab a copy and put on your favorite jersey!

8.7 out of 10

South Park – “Jewpacabra” Review

As soon as I heard that Passover was during the same week as Easter, I just knew that South Park was going to tackle both holidays in their most recent episode. It’s obviously a great opportunity for a show that loves to make pointedly clear the creators’ notions of religion as ridiculous and contradictory, but everything about “Jewpacabra” just felt flat and unfocused.

The episode begins with Kyle waking up and discovering that his mom is sitting with Cartman and telling him the story of Passover. Of course, Cartman is up to no good as one can easily glean from his previous bouts of extreme antisemitism, and he uses this newly found information to go on a hunt for the elusive Jewpacabra. After spreading his lies around the town of South Park about this strange creature, Cartman brings the issue up to the local supermarket and urges them to give him funding so that he can capture the beast and save the annual Easter egg hunt from danger. With the backing that he receives, Cartman, along with Butters, attempts to capture footage of the Jewpacabra – an obvious rip on those idiotic Bigfoot hunter shows on Animal Planet. After catching what he believes to be footage of the beast, Cartman brings the tape to the “experts” at the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization where it is “proven” to be real. Cartman’s plan thus backfires on him, and the men from the supermarket chain him down at the park and use him an offering to the Jewbacabra.

The BFRO then appears and, thinking Cartman is some kind of bunny creature, shoot him with a tranquilizer gun. Cartman then has a drug-induced hallucination in which he is the first-born son of the Egyptian Pharaoh, and experiences the wrath of God’s plagues. Out of sympathy though, Kyle goes to the park, frees Cartman, and then brings him back to his bed. The next day, Cartman proclaims that he was saved by a Passover miracle and that he has converted to Judaism, but is branded a heathen by the rest of the town. He then apologizes to Kyle and understands how it feels to have one’s religion mocked. Kyle, most likely tired of Cartman’s continuous bullshit, reciprocates Cartman’s Passover greetings, and the episode ends with a Star of David branded on a shining sun.

Overall, this episode had a great deal of potential, but it didn’t really seem to go anywhere. The ideas were there, but nothing coalesced into a larger, more focused theme. Although, there were a few enjoyable moments such as Cartman becoming the victim of his own ruse and getting put in a bunny suit smeared with blood. And even though it was quite random and off-topic, Cartman’s trip to the water park offered a few chuckles. Unfortunately, nothing else was really exceptionally funny. The Jewpacabra storyline sort of fell by the wayside and never came to a climactic moment, instead transitioning to a vindictive hallucination that strangely converts Cartman to Judaism. Yet, the strangest part of the episode was the end when Kyle  and Cartman only exchange Passover greetings – the scene felt weirdly misplaced and slightly random. Unless they address Cartman’s religious conversion later in the season, it seems as if many aspects of the episode were rushed and poorly conceived. Despite these missteps, Jewpacabra is still a decent episode to watch. I expect though, that the next time South Park takes advantage of a rare opportunity to poke fun at conflicting holidays falling within the same week, they will flesh it out into something truly great.

5.5 out of 10