iZombie Season Finale: Oops

publicity still from iZombie
iZombie aired its season finale on June 9 and although titled Blaine’s World, it could just as easily been called Oops. It is not just Liv who makes mistakes, there are a number of characters who misjudge the situation and this miscalculation gets em in the rear, like Blaine when Liv injects him in the nether regions with Ravi’s cure toward the end of the episode. Ultimately, the heroine herself is the victim of her own impulses by the time the credits roll and the audience can only shake their head and wonder at the irony of it all.

Since Liv discovered in the previous episode that the cure seemed to be working in the last lab rat, she has been fighting off the urge to take the remaining two doses. While the show’s main plot deals with Major in danger and Cameron stupidly selling the thumb drive back to Vaughn Du Clark, the other plot threads are Liv’s desire to take the remaining dose of Ravi’s cure, Peyton’s vanishing act, Du Clark’s next move in his marketing of Max Rage and Evan Moore’s working at Meat Cute.

The police follow Cameron’s false trail, where he pretends to fear for his life while selling back the thumb drive only to discover that he really is in danger of dying and the cops learn what Du Clark was so desperate to hide. When the police grab Cameron, they find out that he murdered Nate and Teresa and that he did make a copy of the thumb drive, despite what he told the red head in the green dress.

Liv goes down to tell Ravi what she and Clive learned from the thumb drive and he is not there. She watches the cured zombie-rat drinking water and Ravi calls. He is concerned about Major and Liv learns that Peyton has still not shown up. She sends a text to Major, telling him that the brains he gave her are monkey brains.

DeBeers’ flunky intercepts the text and he realizes where his astronaut brains are. Liv has one of the two doses in her hand preparing to inject herself when Blaine calls her to demand his brains back. She takes the astronaut brains to DeBeers in exchange for Lilywhite, the villain gives her a hooded man that is supposed to be Major and it is not.

In the meantime, her fiancee has escaped from the freezer, collected his newly purchased guns and grenade, and turned Meat Cute into a blood-soaked scene of retribution. Blaine returns and plants a knife in Major’s stomach, leaving him to die slowly in front of the recently vacated freezer and goes to stop the music. As he turns around Liv shoots him in the side.

After a brief interaction, where he tells Major that Liv is a zombie, she injects DeBeers with the cure hoping that he dies. She then scratches the dying Major turning him into a zombie. The show moves into irony mode when her brother Evan comes to work at the shop just as Lt. Suzuki blows the place up to plant and alter evidence at the crime scene.

Liv gives Major the last of the cure and gets a call from her mother from the hospital. She learns that Evan needs a blood transfusion or he will die and she is the only match for his rare O negative blood type. Since she did not take the cure Liv cannot provide the needed blood. As her mother’s voice fades in telling her to follow the doctor, the camera zooms in for a close up as Liv says no.

iZombie delivers a season finale that takes the audiences’s breath away. The whole episode is full of those moments where bad or impulsive decisions come back to haunt the individual who makes them. Liv has the biggest “oops” moment when she learns that wasting the cure on DeBeers was a big mistake, perhaps almost as much as her giving the cure to Major, and that this will cost her brother his live.

The big question here is…Will she scratch Evan? Even more importantly should she?

11 June 2015

Michael Knox-Smith

Stitchers: Episode Two (Recap/Review)

ABC LogoAs Stitchers moves further into the first season with episode two, things are starting to come together. Although there is still a feeling that the series is rushing, by the end of this segment, Kirsten agrees very quickly to become a more permanent part of the program after being “lied” to.

The the full article at Viral Global News…

Let Us Fix Your Problem: Latest Internet Scam

Apple logoWaking this morning to a splendid 3G signal in the desert from my iPhone’s Hotspot, I finished up my previous night’s review and uploaded it. As I went to publicize the piece I got an “alert” from applemac.us saying that a porn site “pornjizz” was attempting to hack my system. It warned that stopping my browser or restarting my computer would cause valuable information to become more accessible and to stop what I was doing immediately and ring the support number – 1-844-608-4612.

Alarm bells ringing in my mind, I did indeed cease and desist my publicity efforts and rang the number. The first clue that told me something was wrong here was the lack of Apple-ness by the chap who answered the phone. Indian, as in from India or Pakistan, he was polite enough but answered as technical department and not with his name.

I read off the message on the screen and he immediately informed me that they could take care of my problem with little fuss and I did not need to do a thing. Okay, I responded slowly, what happens next, the technician then read me off a url which I needed to type into my search engine, it was: www dot fast support dot com.

The second alarm went off because there was an obvious lack of Apple anywhere in the address provided. The third and final alarm, which by this time sounded like a fire alarm on steroids, was the next thing out of the technician’s mouth.

“We will take control of your computer and fix the problem in minutes.”

*Freeze Frame.*

I thanked the chap for his help and told him that my phone signal was fading and needed to ring him back. He offered to ring me back within the next 10 minutes. I thanked him and when he rang back, explained that I could not use my laptop and my phone at the same time and would ring them later.

Ringing the real Apple support number which is a 1-800 number…always…I got the familiar Apple answer where I was informed how long my wait would be, asked certain questions, sent to the right department and when the technician came on the line she gave me her name. The lovely lady informed me that yes this was a scam where they could charge you for the amount of time they took to “fix” your problem.

I pointed out that they also wanted to take control of my laptop which would have given them access to all my information. She congratulated me on recognizing that it was a scam and for calling them to double check.

Speaking earlier to the fake technician at no time did he ask for my serial number or what Apple product I had. He also zoomed in on the “let us take control of your computer” bit. With nothing but an on-screen alert, which claimed to be from Apple, and a 1-844 number he expected me to let him access my computer.

Not happening mate.

Looking at the site later the thing looks genuine enough but it is not, just as the real Apple folks.

So be advised there is a new scam in town. I assumed it was a Chrome issue but Stephanie at Apple assured me that the message was showing up on Safari as well. So consider yourself warned, if you see a message from applemac.us with the following number attached 1-844-607-4612 disregard the information and do not bother to call the number. Completely ignore the fast support dot com instructions, if you do ring, and do not let anyone you do not know or trust take control of your computer or laptop.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, the above urls have been spelled out since I could not get WordPress to stop putting a link to the fraudulent site in my article.

10 June 2015

Michael Knox-Smith

R.I.P.D. (2013) Howard the Duck Dressed as Jonah Hex?

Film poster for RIPDThere are many reasons that R.I.P.D. (Rest in Peace Department), the Dark Horse limited edition comic-based film died a dismal death on screen and Jeff Bridges announced that the “suits” screwed the whole thing up after the movie got panned universally and was even compared at one point to Howard the Duck. Critic Roger Moore also blasted the film and called it the worst comic book adaptation since Jonah Hex.


A trifle unfair of Moore as at least R.I.P.D. did not have Megan Fox in it. Although the film is a stinker overall despite having a good cast to work with. Starring Jeff Bridges, Ryan Reynolds, Mary Louise Parker, Kevin Bacon and Stephanie Szostak the film should have entertained with so much talent shoved into one film.

Directed by Richard Schwentke (RED, Insurgent) the film confuses more than it entertains and spends far too much time on the James Hong, Marisa Miller gag which appears to be a lift from Dead Like Me where the returned deceased look different from when they were alive. Having said that, the joke could have been used to much better effect with a little more emphasis on the interaction of the two “avatars.”

The comic book, published by Dark Horse Comics; who published, amongst other cult favorites, Hellboy and Sin City, ran for four issues. Not unusual for the comic publisher who seems to specialize in “one-offs” and limited editions of comics. In the comic, the joke includes the fact that Nick Cruz and Roy’s big boss is indeed “God” and that there is a heaven and a hell. While the film skirts around this issue by referring to “judgement” and they mention hell, Nick’s old partner Bobby Hayes (Bacon) mentions that he refuses to go there, the big boss thing aka, God, is shuffled off to the side.

*To be fair, however, I have never read the comics and apart from the odd synopsis of the short-lived series, can only guess at the “God angle,” although it does seem that this was part and parcel of the wry tongue-in-cheek delivery of the comic.*

The plot of the film, which apparently does follow the comic’s main premise, has Nick Cruz being killed, although in the Dark Horse publication he does not know who killed him and in the film Nick knows his crooked partner did him in.

*A major complaint that I had with the film was the whole “shot in the face” schtick that is mentioned several times in the movie and the scene where Reynolds as Cruz is pumped full of lead, not one of the bullets hits him in the face. Was this considered too graphic or horrid for the film’s PG-13 rating or just on oversight?*

Watching the film one cannot help but have a sort of Deja Vu feeling. It is not too dissimilar to Last Action Hero; the Arnold Schwarzenegger hodgepodge where the comedy made no real sense, such as the inclusion of a cartoon cat as cop, and the producers used a “kitchen sink” approach to the comedic mix. R.I.P.D. feels much the same. The biggest difference between the two films is reception, Roger Ebert actually admitted to liking parts of the Schwarzenegger film.

It should be pointed out that Bridges got a chance to pay respect to his late father Lloyd Bridges with a visual lifted straight from Airplane!. Father Lloyd played a character named McCroskey in the 1980 film who had “picked the wrong time” to stop a number of things, including sniffing glue. At one point in the hysterically funny film, Bridges Senior has a close up of his wildly smiling face and his hair is standing straight up. The camera repositions and the audience can see that McCroskey is upside down. Jeff Bridges replicates that shot as his Sheriff Roy hangs upside down under a building overhang holding a rope attached to a “dead-o.” Complete with wild smile and long hair dangling Bridges does the shot, although without the camera repositioning.

R.I.P.D. iS just not as entertaining as it could have been. The lack of direction, the kitchen sink attitude towards its comedy and the missing coherency hurts the film overall. Bridges and Reynolds fail to mesh as the former seems to be channeling his Rooster Cogburn and the latter plays it all too serious. The two styles never quite fit together.

Watching the film, I kept wanting to see more of Miller and Hong in action and wondered how Mary Louise Parker could still look so young and attractive. This is a 2 out of 5 star film with little to recommend it except for the presence of the beautiful Parker and Szostak who each brighten up the film with their performances. The chaps in the movie are never really given a chance to shine.

Sorry fellas.

While the film is not really Howard the Duck dressed as Jonah Hex, it is a curious blend of both these misbegotten films where direction and focus were both lost by those making the film and the actors never stood a chance. Wait for this one to show up on telly.

10 June 2015

Michael Knox-Smith

Experience Counts for Little With a Writing Sample: The Inquisitr

Screenshot of The Inquisitr recruitment page
It is interesting to note that The Inquisitr, which appears at first glance to be a content mill which requires 100 plus articles per month from its “staff,” require applicants to provide three examples of work published and then ask for a written sample. When submitting your three urls of past work they then state that to save time you may want to write a sample article based on topics provided by them.

After submitting prior work they then inform you that the sample must be written anyway. Fair enough. It is, after all, their company and if they prefer to not mention up front that the sample article is a requirement, so be it.

At no time are any guidelines offered for this sample. After punching out a fluff piece on Heidi Swedberg, a former Seinfeld cast member, I waited over the weekend with no response from my contact at The Inquistr. No email stating that they had received the sample and no feedback. After following up my submission with two emails, the first was a one-word query, “Feedback?” The second asked if they had even gotten the sample.

After getting a response saying that they had and it was being evaluated, the very next day I learn that they do not like the sample and it has not “passed the quality” evaluation required. Could I please write another one.

Uh…That would be a no.

Since 2011 I have written 2478 blog posts for my personal site, I wrote just under 2000 articles for the Guardian Liberty Voice, where I worked as Deputy Managing Editor for Entertainment, 40 articles for Viral Global News, since December 2014, around 7 for Rogue Cinema, I left to work at GLV, and around 3 or 4 for another company called WhatCulture! the last two sites paid nothing to their writers. These stories include interviews, film reviews, television recaps and reviews as well as other types of articles.

I did mention that I’d worked at the Guardian Liberty Voice for 18 months, my position and even provided a link to the site, where I wrote my little heart out, for pay. Their response was that they still required the sample. Again, fair enough. Except for the lack of guidelines, apart from it had to be around 400 words, I had no real issue with the requirement.

Such a short bit of work was a “walk in the park” and took little time to put together. Ensuring that nothing was plagiarized (to the best of my knowledge) and that it contained the “trending” information relevant to Ms. Swedberg was not a problem. This was to be, after all, a sample article, not to be published but used, I thought, to show what I could do. A little something that they would use to provide proper feedback on what they were looking for.

This was not the case. Their response? Write another one which may show your skills a bit better. There was no explanation of what I did “wrong” or what they were expecting. Entertainment pieces are not “real” journalism per se, I should know I’ve been writing these pieces for the last two years, so the bit I submitted should have been fine, on the off chance it was not, I expected a reason more forthcoming than “sorry, it’s not good enough.”

This “writing in the dark” process of applying for what appears to be a content mill site may work fine for them, and for other writers, but I am not playing this game. For one thing, it tells me that this is some sort of power play thing where they can tell then me I cannot write, ergo justifying a lower wage for my product. Either that or they surprised me and read my other blog post where I voiced my suspicions that they were either a sweat shop or content mill publication. I sincerely doubt the latter as they seem to have a system in place that does not recognize other work.

It seems that the requirement to submit three url’s of published work is nothing more than a chance to prove you have been published. The real part of the application is the sample article which does not include any guidelines.

Perhaps I am being picky here. They may be assuming that the basic journo rules that have been in effect for ever and ever, amen, are enough in the way of guidance. Fair enough, if that is the case, but when writing fluff, aka gossip, aka entertainment, the rules bend…a lot.

I already write for a site, which may or may not ever pay me anything. I do not contribute on a daily basis for a number of reasons which includes divvying up my time between memoirs, their site and my own personal blog all while trying to get my site monetized. On top of these time consuming things, I have no Internet, apart from my slow iPhone hotspot so I must ride to either the library or Burger King for Wi-Fi on my bike. Depending on which way the wind is blowing, the trip takes a minimum of 45 minutes one way.

Living on a pittance, and believe me it is a pittance, and trying to come up with money for Internet and still be able to eat is a challenge and one that I will not attempt until I can get a few more paying jobs under my belt.

I will end this long winded rant with one thought.

I worked for almost two years on a site that recruited new writers constantly. Hundreds applied on a regular basis and out of the stream of applicants who thought they could write, very few actually could string a sentence together and many of them knew English only as a second, or third, language. So thanks, but no thanks chaps at The Inquisitr. I’ll not play your game. Many will, I have no doubt, but I refuse to believe that my work failed a “quality” check and will not submit again (as I stated in my short email back).

Your loss.

9 June 2015

Michael Knox-Smith

Life in the Real Desert: Sleeping in a Cloudy Oven

Cloudy sky in Quartzsite, AZThe real desert is cloudy today. It has a solid covering of dark hues which cries occasionally and lets a few dry tears plummet to earth. Striking tin roofs with a clunky, non-melodic rhythm that is short lived yet oddly comforting. The covering floated in yesterday, slowly filling the vast Arizona sky with something that resembled peaceful candy floss (cotton candy) with varying tints of color. The temperature was a cool 106 degrees Fahrenheit despite the lack of direct sun and sleeping in this stuporous heat felt like being in a cloudy oven.

I tweeted, at half 10 last night, that the temperature was a staggering 91 degrees. I watched RIPD, with Jeff Bridges, Ryan Reynolds, Mary Louise Parker (whom I have a huge schoolboy crush on, sorry Mary) and Kevin Bacon while baking on high for the duration. The heat from my laptop was a little worrying on top of all that external heat. I checked and the mercury inside the house was standing at 99 degrees and I switched the thing off afterward.

Until then, I sat with all windows open and a pedestal fan scant inches from my face and the laptop. I sat oozing sweat and battled the elements in order to be fair to the comedy action film. (After all that “suffering” I found I did enjoy the film after all.)

Around midnight I gave up waiting for the heat to drop much further, the gauge outside on the porch read 82, and I crawled, sans PJs into bed. I lay on top of the sheets with fluid leaking in a steady stream from the back of my neck. By the time morning came, a cool 78 degrees for around two minutes, I was semi-rested from sleeping in a giant Arizona-sized oven and my top pillow was drenched.

I have been told that July and August resemble hell on earth and I must agree with that description after living in Vegas last year and seeing that Quartzsite is hotter than the casino town on a regular basis. Still what does not kill you, or dehydrate you, makes you stronger they say and after last night’s turbulent sleep I am not too tired this morning.

Unfortunately I will not be heading to town today as thunderstorms have been forecast and I do not want to cross the desert on a metal bike inviting lightning to strike me and my Schwinn. Of course there is the paranoia that my MacBookPro gets soaking wet thereby stopping my sporadic memoir writing and the chances of being paid by another content mill for journo pieces. I do have a waterproof bit of stuff that I wrap the thing in, but between the wind, rain and lightning, sitting today out seems wise.

It was interesting, and not a little disturbing, to see that the cloud cover kept the heat in over night. Generally on a clear day, besides being able to see “forever” the heat dissipates once the sun goes down. By half 11 or so the temperature has lowered enough to allow something resembling sleep. Even on the hottest clear day, the mornings are pleasantly cool.

Sitting here now, in the Arizona room, I can see the wind pick up. The sound of rain hitting the roof is slowly increasing in volume, not of a decibel level but amount, and the sky is becoming a more uniform color, grey without so much black mixed in. Rather interestingly there has been a lot of rain since my arrival.

Meanwhile, life in the real desert goes on and tonight I’ll wager that sleeping in a cloudy oven will not be an issue since the weather has driven the mercury down for the day. Looking at the forecast, the average temperature will be around 106 over the next week or so which means spending a lot of time in Burger King and the public library. An unexpected bonus of living in this environment is that I’ve met some lovely folks at the local eatery and managed to lose most of the tummy pod that I’ve carried with me for years.

9 June 2015

Michael Knox-Smith

Wayward Pines: The Prisoner Updated?

Wayward Pines banner
Coming late to the Wayward Pines party, the first thought after watching the premiere episode is that this show is an updating of the superlative, and before its time, British series The Prisoner, “Who is number one?” Starring the intense and brilliant Irish actor, director and producer Patrick McGoohan. In some ways the only thing missing from Wayward Pines is the big plastic balloon-like ball which used to chase down and capture the odd “inmate” from the village who managed to get past its boundaries and almost escape.

*It should be pointed out that The Prisoner was remade in 2009 and released as a six episode mini-series. It was met with a mixed critical reception, much like the original 1960s series.*

This Fox series is not just The Prisoner revisited though. There are hints of Twin Peaks, American Horror Story and Cape Wrath, aka Meadowlands in the US throughout the show’s plot and if one looks hard enough, more off-beat and odd television show’s may be spotted like Eureka or even at a stretch The Stepford Wives film.

Of course, Matt Dillon as Ethan Burke is this show’s version of Number Six. In the 1960s show, the “agent” is someone who has opted to get out of the system. His “defection,” which is in fact a resignation, is not allowed; hence his incarceration in the quaint yet disturbing village. As far as we know Burke has not tried to leave his organization. He has had some sort of meltdown after failing to stop a bombing where over 600 innocent people died. His Secret Service Agent is mired in a world of guilt, regret and pathos.

A car accident leaves him injured and disoriented in the “town” (village) of Wayward Pines. As he stumbles about, after checking himself out of the deserted hospital, it becomes apparent that this place is not what it seems. By the end of the show, he has learned that the area is surrounded by a tall, seemingly never ending, electric fence with signs that warn death is imminent if the boundary is crossed.

As this first episode shows, Burke’s life is pretty screwed up from the word go. His guilt, from failing to stop the bomber and his affair with a partner who is thought to be missing has consumed him. Discovering that she is in Wayward Pines, along with the dead tortured Secret Service agent who is also missing, Burke learns that this town is a prison where people listen to what is happening and questioning things can be fatal.

“There are no crickets in Wayward Pines,” says the back of a bar bill that Juliette Lewis’ character, Beverly, hands Ethan in the Biergarten. Of course the same slip of paper has an address where he finds the other missing agent dead and decomposing. Later in the episode, Burke hears crickets and leans towards the foliage where the sound is emanating. He discovers a metal box and this is responsible for the cricket “sound effects.”

After leaving the hospital Burke tries to call home twice and leaves messages for his wife. Away from the town, the Secret Service tell Theresa Burke (Shannyn Sossamon) that her husband is missing and that there was no sign that he was even in the car at the scene of the accident. By the end of the show Mrs. Burke checks the answer machine and it holds no messages from her husband.

Thus far Wayward Pines is four episodes into its first season and looks very promising. Binge watching will allow the viewer to catch up on events and see just how strange things may turn out. The cast includes the superb Juliette Lewis and English actor Toby Jones (Captain America: The First Avenger, The Hunger Games) and Terence Howard (Iron Man, Empire) and of course Matt Dillon as Burke.

Show creator Chad Hodge has come up with an interesting show that appears to borrow from a few existing examples of the weird and wonderful. Producer M. Night Shyamalan directed this first episode and has obviously set the tone for the rest of the first season, which may still turn into an updating of The Prisoner. Time will tell whether this new show finds the audience it deserves.

7 June 2015

Michael Knox-Smith