Each week the Lewton Bus gang will get together and write up a brief account of something we’re digging hard on this week. It can be a movie, TV, bountiful amounts of turkey, music, or anything, really!
Shannon Hubbell – Zoo
I’m late to the party as far as the recently canceled CBS show Zoo,1 but I think I’m in love. Why? Let’s make a list.
- It has the kind of doofy, high-concept premise that makes me smile. Animals around the globe start mutating in a variety of ways—getting smarter, stronger, developing new reproductive strategies, et cetera. To what end? Why to strike back at the human race, which has been screwing them over for thousands of years! Why else? It’s based on a novel by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge, but it feels like something Larry Cohen would have come up with during the 1980s.
- It’s predominantly shot in my home town of New Orleans, even though the team tasked with stopping the super-animal epidemic is continually globetrotting. It amuses me to no end to see an animal attack sequence set in Boston that is clearly shot in a public park a handful of blocks from an old apartment of mine, or a scene in Rio de Janeiro (Giant swarms of bats. The usual.) where you can see the Superdome in the background. This kind of thing obviously isn’t rare in TV and film, but I still get a kick out of it. I’m a simple man.
- I’ve had a bit of a crush on cast member Kristen Connolly and her seemingly perpetual smirk since Cabin in the Woods. What? I’m only human.
- The opening title music was composed by John Carpenter, my favorite director and composer. Awesome.
- Finally—and this is the kicker—this show is awe-inspiringly dumb, featuring some Olympics-worthy logical leaps, scientific mumbo-jumbo that falls apart with a single glance at Wikipedia, and just plain clumsy storytelling. At times it feels like this idiocy has to be conscious, but I don’t think it is. Something can’t be this enjoyably campy if it’s being ironic. At one point our heroes are tracking a sleuth of bears2 in the catacombs of Paris, and they discover that the bears have developed some kind of armor under their skin. “They’ve grown endoskeletons,” declares the resident veterinary pathologist. Dude. All bears already have endoskeletons. We have endoskeletons. Take that, you awful Sharknado movies!
Will this show remain entertaining to me? I have no idea. It strikes me as the kind of thing that will get old fairly quickly, but in the meantime I’m having a ball. We may be living in a “Golden Age of Television,” but how many of these prestige shows have episodes devoted to Antarctic bats, or psychic lions connected by a hive mind? None. That’s how many.
Also, there’s this one dude who shows up for a single scene and he inexplicably seems to be in Pee-wee Herman cosplay. HBO has some catching up to do.
Bee McGee – Mashed Potatoes
Hands down, this is my favorite thing to eat at Thanksgiving. And at any time of the year, really. But it feels more special at Thanksgiving because that’s when the homemade stuff comes out, and it’s basically why Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.
H.M. Flores – Assassin’s Creed: Origins
As a massive Assassin’s Creed fan, I’ve been looking forward to this one quite a bit, so I’m happy to report that it is indeed, quite the mind-blower. It’s absolutely gorgeous to look at and has countless details and activities specifically designed to reward your thirst for exploration. It’s also very cool to go back to the seamless contrast between the chaos in the cities and the silent, but ominous life in the wilderness experienced in Assassin’s Creed III and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag.
The franchise has always stood out thanks to its memorable characters and stories, and in this case, I’m having a good time with Bayek and Aya, who, despite having a tragic backstory, don’t forget to have a little fun and romance along the way. Not to mention the presence of Senu the eagle, a great addition that helps to humanize the protagonists and become familiar with your environment.
Andrew Clark – Grant Morrison’s JLA
In light of recent pretty bad but somewhat alright events, sometimes you have to go back to the best of the best, to cleanse your palate. Grant Morrison’s run of JLA for DC Comics from 1997-2000 (most often accompanied by superstar Penciler Howard Porter) is a high-water mark for modern comics. It essentially re-established the “Pantheon” of DC heroes in the Justice League after a long tenure of the team basically pulling Avengers-duty by having a lot of B, C, and D-level heroes being onboard. Not only did Morrison manage this with aplomb, he also deftly was able to do it during the time that Superman was electric blue. He is truly one of our great talents.
But what really amazes me about Morrison’s JLA scripts the most is how deft and economic they are. There’s no hemming and hawing by characters or overlong, decompressed storytelling at play here. No bone-dry story concepts or fights that take six issues. It’s pure action and momentum in comic book form. It even becomes a bit of a joke in the comic at one point when Wonder Woman says allowed “It feels like there’s never time to talk anymore, we’re so busy”.
Morrison’s understanding of storytelling extends to the characters, but rather than have them sit around all the time, talking about themselves, their character is explained through their actions and behaviors as a team and in battle. It’s exemplary stuff (there are all-time moments for every character). If you want good Justice League stories, look no further than this run.
That’s all for this week, folks! We hope our American friends all had a nice holiday, and for everyone else, we hope you had a good week, too. Stay safe out there, and remember to keep on diggin’.