Saturday, October 25, 2014

Movie Reviews: Supernatural Season Seven, Dead Snow 2

Supernatural Season Seven
created by Eric Kripke
If Season Six was a bit iffy and a virtual series reboot Season Seven found the story back on more familiar ground. The Winchester Brothers are still doing what they do best, saving people, hunting things, you know, the family business. But this season there are two new extra dimensional threats, further challenges to the relationship between Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles), and personal losses. While the show started with the Winchesters and their allies very firmly on the side of good, over time the series has subtly and not so subtly played with that perception. Both brothers have been to Hell and returned somewhat the worse for wear. Each of them did things or suffered things there that they don't want to talk about. Dean's arrogance can be matched by Sam's self-righteousness. Although the first reveal of angels, in the form of Castiel (Misha Collins) was awe inspiring and a reminder that pure good exists, later events showed us that although God might be omniscient, His angels certainly weren't. They were just as prone to bitterness, rivalries, jealousy and squabbling as humans were. The only difference was that angels played for higher stakes. By the end of Season Six the war between Castiel and his superior, the Archangel Raphael (played by Demore Barnes and Lynette Ware)  was concluded. Over Season Six Castiel realized that he lacked the raw power to defeat an Archangel. His army was badly losing the heavenly civil war. From desperation Castiel made a secret deal with the demon Crowley (Mark Sheppard). Souls are power. So Crowley would manipulate the Winchesters into helping him search for Purgatory (the dimension where the souls of deceased non-human monsters reside) while Castiel would keep the Winchesters misled about the fact that it was he, not Crowley who had rescued the now soulless Sam from Hell. 

Once they found Purgatory Crowley and Castiel would split its souls. With this additional power Castiel could go toe to toe with Raphael. This plan might have worked were it not for the fact that the Winchesters were too smart and too independent to be manipulated for long. They called upon Death to restore Sam's soul to him, damaged though it was. They figured out that Castiel was lying to them. Dean took this rather hard as Castiel was something akin to a big brother. Once they learned that Castiel was actually working with Crowley all bets were off. But as Castiel sadly pointed out, no matter how tough the Winchesters thought they were, they were still just human. And humans rank below angels on the power scale. Castiel removed the wall that Death had placed in Sam's mind to protect him from his memories. Sam stated to alternate between having hallucinations and being comatose. Castiel wanted the Winchesters to stop interfering in his affairs. Castiel opened Purgatory. He betrayed Crowley and took all the souls for himself. Crowley ran. Castiel then killed Raphael with a mere snap of his fingers. The Winchester Brothers and their paternal stand-in Bobby Singer (Jim Beaver) tried to kill Castiel but it was too late. By taking ALL the souls for himself Castiel had transcended angelic status. He was now God. He forced the Winchesters and Bobby to kneel to him. He took a trip across the world and Heaven, righting wrongs and settling scores. His idea of righting wrongs usually involved smiting sinners, often in great numbers, but that's what God does, right? That is what Castiel thinks He does. After all Castiel was there watching when Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed. He's pretty sure he can do this Ruler of the Universe thing. I mean what could go wrong?


Sam, Dean and Bobby were almost out of ideas. But Dean remembered that Death (Julian Richings) once told him that some day he will even kill God. Hoping that that's true, the trio summoned and bound Death. Death was more amused than irritated by this as he liked Dean but before he left he warned Dean not to ever try this again. He also revealed that Castiel is not God but merely a low level angel struggling to control all the souls inside of him, in particular things called Leviathan. Leviathan were God's first creations, before angels and humans. Like many beta models they were scrapped. They were too dangerous. Leviathan were confined to Purgatory, that is until Castiel foolishly took them out. Feeling the effects of the Leviathan Castiel comes to Dean and Sam for help in reopening the gate to Purgatory and releasing all the souls back into that dimension. They do this but it turns out that the Leviathan are able to hold on. They "kill" Castiel and release themselves in the water supply. This allows them to take and reshape bodies on our plane of existence. And thus Season Seven sees the most dangerous yet threat to humanity. Leviathan are virtually impervious to any of the Winchester's normal weaponry, material or spiritual. Bullets don't bother them. They can reform after total body disintegration. Holy water and exorcism makes them giggle. Even decapitation just temporarily slows them down. They're very intelligent with utter contempt for all other life forms. The Leviathan are basically humanoid white sharks. And they are always hungry. The best way to deal with a Leviathan is to run. But John Winchester didn't raise his boys to run from a fight.


This season had its share of dramatic setpieces, including a point where a crippled Dean and concussed Sam are taken to a hospital infested with Leviathans. Sam continues to hallucinate that Lucifer is still with him. As always though, especially post-season five, the show's emotional center remains the fractured yet enduring relationship between the Winchester Brothers. They don't always like each other. They split up for a while due to what Sam sees as an unforgivable betrayal by Dean. They seem to have a knack for getting their friends killed and destroying each other's outside relationships, romantic or otherwise. But when the chips are down and their backs are against the wall they would each rather die than fail to help each other or anyone who they consider family. Dean, more so than Sam, has always had a very black and white approach to their job. Monsters are bad. They kill people. Hunters kill monsters to save people. It's just that simple.The end. But in an ironic echo of Castiel's mistakes, Dean will discover that sometimes things aren't so cut and dry. Some monsters are worse than others. And sometimes you may have to overlook a lesser evil in order to deal with a greater one. Season Seven introduced new allies for the Winchesters, including the goofy and entirely too touchy feely hunter Garth (DJ Qualls) and the IT expert/nerd/expert hacker/gamer Charlie Bradbury (Felicia Day). It also saw the reveal of the Leviathan leader, Dick Roman (James Patrick Stuart). 


Roman has nasty plans not just for the Winchesters but for all of humanity. As he is a corporate CEO there's a slight Omen feel to some Season 7 episodes. If you will forgive a small pun Roman chews up the scenery. The Leviathan swiftly organize. They know all of the Winchesters' aliases. They use the police and FBI to go after Sam and Dean. The Winchesters try to find a way to kill the Leviathans, stay alive and do their regular job. We learn more of the cost of the hunter lifestyle, especially as it applies to Dean. You deal with threats no one believes. You can't tell anyone about it or you'll be locked in an insane asylum. You never make any money. You often run afoul of the authorities. And if you ever do manage to find a woman you love you dare not put her in danger by hanging around. You may even have a few "love children" out there. As Dean would say, awesome. The season is not without its humor, even as things look their bleakest. Those of you who avoid fast food or any processed food may find amusement at a turn of events that finds the healthy eating and organic loving Sam proven right in his choices. Dean, who religiously consumes burgers, french fries and especially pie, has reason to reconsider his diet. And Sam, being Sam, can't help but take a few opportunities to say "I told you so".
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Dead Snow 2 : Red vs. Dead
directed by Tommy Wirkola
If you don't like horror movies at all then you really should skip this sequel. Although the first film (reviewed here) had a deliciously twisted sense of humor this film just increases the carnage and put its hero in more perverse positions. I didn't find this that amusing. The first film was a real horror film as the heroes and heroines were isolated, outnumbered and surrounded in the snow, cold and dark. This wasn't the case with this film. This film is more of a "monster" film. There's less horror and much more campy humor. YMMW on this. I was less than impressed. You can get this film in English or subtitled. I went with English.
The director retrofits the original's final events to create the sequel. At the end of the first film, the sole surviving member of a group of Norwegian medical students has made it to a car and is about to (absent the arm he cut off with a chainsaw to avoid zombie infection) escape some very vicious Nazi zombies, who are upset that the students have disturbed their gold.  Martin (Vegar Hoel) is about to drive off when a coin falls out of his coat pocket and he realizes he has not returned all the gold and is thus still fair game. The Nazi commander (Orjan Gamst) realizes this too and knocks politely on the car window before breaking it. Martin starts screaming and the scene fades to black. Well the sequel shows us that Martin didn't die then and there. He manages to get the car started and drives off. With one hand this is no easy task, let me tell you. However the Nazi commander doesn't let go and when Martin sideswipes a truck the Nazi commander loses his arm, which falls into Martin's car. 


Obviously Martin has an accident. I mean how many wounded zombie fighting one armed men do you know who are excellent nighttime drivers? When he wakes up in the hospital he's happy to be alive. But things go badly for him. The authorities have found all the dead bodies of his friends and classmates. He's considered to be a serial killer. No one wants to hear about how much he loved his girlfriend or that Nazi zombies were to blame. To make matters worse though, the doctors have found the Nazi commander's severed arm in Martin's car and, thinking it's Martin's , have attached it to his body. This was quite reminiscent of Evil Dead 2. The Nazi arm has a life and will of its own. Soon it's killed other people and Martin is free. However the Nazi commander has found Martin's arm and attached it. So they have a link. Completely inexplicably Martin is contacted by a so-called Zombie Squad, a group of American nerd siblings, who are convinced that zombies exist and are just delighted that Martin has proof. They promise to come help him.

In the meantime the Nazi commander is leading his troops to Martin's town. But Martin discovers that his new arm has additional powers besides just killing people. Again I think that your enjoyment of movies like this depends entirely on your expectations. I was expecting a little more so I enjoyed it less. It does have what must be film's weirdest and most ironic use of the classic Bonnie Tyler ballad Total Eclipse of the Heart. And I always liked her voice. So there's that at least. TRAILER
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