Hey, It's That House Again!

Remember that house I was obsessed with from the movie Blood and Bone, and that one episode of Criminal Minds: Suspect Behaviour? No? Really? I wrote a whole post about it. Just follow this link!

Well, I guess it's kind of a deep cut...

Anyhoo! It showed up again, this time on an episode of Parks and Recreation, as a haunted house that Andy andApril buy from Werner Hertzog!

Yeah, I can see that.

Also, now we know that there's a parking area/dumpster storage area just to its left!


Criminal Minds 806: The Apprenticeship

It's Miami this week, a city of latin beats and fancy cars! At least according to the opening montage designed to convince viewers that the backlot locations they'll be using for the rest of the hour are actually located in Florida!

Anyhoo, we immediately take a trip away from recognizably Miami locations to an utterly generic 'bad part of town' where this guy gets off a bus, looking to kill a prostitute!

Obviously that's supposed to be a bit of a surprise, but come on, Criminal Minds, you've got a dorky-looking guy in a t-shirt and backpack riding a bus. heading to a bad part of town to look for a prostitute to help him lose his virginity. Never once in the nearly 200 episodes I've seen have you put this much effort into characterizing a pre-credits victim.

So Opie hires the prostitute, who pauses to ask him how old he is, because in the script he's supposed to look super-young despite claiming to be 18, but the actor doesn't look underage, so I guess we're supposed to give them a pass on that one, since it's not like Pavel Chekovs just grow on trees. When he reveals that he doesn't have a car she leads him to a vacant lot nearby, where he knocks her out and then suffocates her with a plastic bag.

Already this guy's plan has a bunch of holes in it. Yes, prostitutes are easy targets, but your plan was to go to a part of town where you'll stick out like a sore thumb - no, scratch that - you'll stick out like a dorky white guy with a backpack, which is way more visible and memorable than a sore thumb. Also you took a bus to get there, and don't most buses have security cameras these days? Maybe not in Miami, but it's a legitimate threat. The whole point of killing prostitutes is that they're easy to get to a second location with relative anonymity - but Opie has done it in such a way there a canvassing of the location will no doubt reveal a dozen witnesses who can offer a description. Unless he pulls down a zipper from the back of his neck and reveals himself to be a black rastafarian in an incredible disguise, this is one of the least stealthy murders the show has ever featured.

And sometimes villains just walk into banks and start shooting people.

Now time for some fun character-building as Derek tries to teach Reid to play softball. He does it using a pitching machine for some reason I can't fathom. I understand that if Derek wanted to do some batting practice, it would be better for Reid to feed balls into a machine than to try pitching them - he whines about never being good at sports in the scene, after all - but once it's Reid's turn to practice batting, wouldn't it be far more helpful for Derek to just throw the balls himself? That way he could guarantee soft lobs right into the strike zone, which is exactly what a first-time batter would need. It's just strange.

Then Reid, who turned up to learn softball wearing a tie and cardigan, because apparently hanging out with normal people 60 hours a week for a decade hasn't changed him in the least, is rescued from having to do any more physical activity by a phone call - they've got a case!

Which puzzles me almost as much - is this the weekend? If not, why aren't they in the office, doing the massive amount of paperwork that their job consists of? If so, what is it about this particular case that's worth dragging them in on one of their few days off? No matter how gruesome or repetitive this prostitute's murder was, aren't prostitute killings generally something that can wait until Monday?

Then it's over to home base, where we have no clue about whether it's the weekend or not, so thanks for that, guys. The team goes over the case - brutal beating death, suffocation, sexual assault, pretty much everything we saw in the opening sequence. The team wants to know what could possible create all of the rage that drove the killer to be so brutal. Hopefully some scenes of his home life will tip us off!

Then we discover that this was Opie's first murder, which raises the question of why the team is being called in at all. Does the team get called in every time a prostitute is murdered in America? Don't get me wrong, I'm not against that idea - taking the murders of prostitutes more seriously is absolutely a priority they should be pursuing, and not just because that would stop a lot of serial killers before their counts got into the double digits, but because it would create a cultural impression that the lives of sex workers are valuable, which has only upsides. I just feel that if this was something the team was prioritizing then they'd be a lot busier than they seem to be.

To be fair, the show does try to justify the team being called in by offering this nonsensical clue, which I'll just put here in video form because there's so much stupid to unpack.

Okay, let's break that down. So Opie killed six puppies in the past month, and his DNA was found at 'all' of the crime scenes. How? What was he doing to those puppies that left so much of his DNA lying around that they found a trace of it at every crime scene? Far more importantly, are you trying to tell me that the Miami police department was so worried about puppy murders that they spent the tens of thousands of dollars it takes to send out a CSI team, comb the scene for evidence, isolate and collect possible DNA samples, and then test all of them? Six times? For puppies?

Christ, show, you could have just said you found the same fingerprints at all six crime scenes. After all, here's a picture of Opie using his bare, sweat-and-oil covered fingers to grip the bag he's about to suffocate that prostitute with.

His fingerprints are definitely all over it. Why not just say the bag strangulation was the same at all crime scenes, and so were his fingerprints? Wouldn't that have made far more sense?

You know who I really feel sorry for in that scene, though? JJ. At some point one of the producers realized that she hadn't had a line in the scene yet, and so they had her say something completely meaningless. You might not get an ID? Well, no, but if the sample is in CODIS you probably will, since that's what it's for, and even if you don't, you would have found another crime your killer is responsible for, which is an incredibly valuable clue. But thanks for the nonsense, seriously.

Dear producers of Criminal Minds - if you find yourself just throwing nonsense into characters' mouths because you realize that you're underserving one of your 7 characters who all have interchangeable skillsets and opinions (okay, six of them are interchangeable, Reid does geographical profiling), perhaps it's time to consider pruning that tree back a bit? Do you really need six whole people to think and say the exact same things?

Remember when JJ went on maternity leave, and they did a whole episode about how difficult her job was, because she had to figure out whose prayers got answered so that the team would show up, definitely solving their case, versus whose prayers would come to nothing, damning their town to suffer under the heel of a nefarious killer forevermore? That episode made a decent case for why JJ mattered, and what her role was in the show. Now that she's just one of the profilers, I don't know what she's for anymore. When they briefly fired her, Garcia took over presenting the cases, but I don't think she's supposed to be the one picking them, so now it's not even clear how the cases are getting chosen.

I understand that the producers liked JJ, and wanted to give her her job back, but they absolutely need to figure out what she's there for, because right now she's just taking up space.

Okay, that was a lot of digression - back to the story!

Opie is in his house, wearing a blue vest that suggests he works at Wal-Mart, when his phone beeps - it's a message from someone who was watching him kill that prostitute! And they videoed the crime! That's right, when the show depicted part of the scene from a handheld camera, peeking around a piece of debris at their encounter, it wasn't just a stylistic flight of fancy, it was someone's POV! But whose?

Probably someone Opie knows, I'd guess, based on the fact that he has Opie's cell phone number to send that creepy message and video. Even if he followed Opie home and found out where he lived, Opie lives with his mother, so it's not a simple thing to track that back to Opie's cell phone information, especially since it's only been like twelve hours since the crime was committed!

Yes, I know what you're thinking - this couldn't possibly be just twelve hours later, what with the Miami police having gotten DNA samples and compared them to their open crime database to confirm that Opie was the dogslayer, but it's true. Garcia said that the victim was killed 'last night', and when Opie's mother drops by his room unannounced, it's to invite him to breakfast.

Hopefully this will be cleared up later. Because right now it makes no sense at all. But hey, a voyeur is stalking Opie! Things just got interesting! By which I mean we're about to watch an adaptation of hugely entertaining but also terrible film Mr. Brooks!



The Weirdest Prop I've Seen In A While

I recently watched The Pact 2, and while I normally write articles like this to criticize half-assed props, this time I wanted to call out a strangely, almost unnaturally accurate prop. The main character is working on a graphic novel based on the psychic visions she's having of recent murders. Not that she knows that's what she's doing - the point it, she's got a comic book.

At the end of the movie, she pops some samples of that comic book into an envelope and mails it off to real comic book publisher Fantagraphics.

The super-readable address is rare enough to see in movies that I got curious and looked it up - and yes, that was Fantagraphics' current address at the time this article was published. I don't know why they went so all-in with accuracy in this scene - maybe Fantagraphics is publishing some kind of a movie tie-in, I didn't care enough to look it up. Still, it's nice to see this level of attention to detail.


Even in Great Movies, Weird Mistakes Were Made

So there's a scene in wonderful film Double Indemnity which doesn't make a lick of sense. Barbara Stanwyck is coming to meet Fred MacMurray to discuss the latest phase of their nefarious scheme, only to hear through the door that Fred MacMurray already has company - Edward G. Robinson, better known to some as the original Chief Wiggum! They're discussing the insurance settlement that Barbara has cheated the company out of!

So she's put in something of an awkward position. Edward could be leaving at any moment, so she really should run - but then again, it's vitally important that she hear what's going on inside the room! Finally she waits too long, and the door opens-

But she's able to hide behind it? Yes, unlike every other apartment building in the history of America, the door to the private apartment opens out into the communal hallway. In an amazing coincidence, this gives her an opportunity to hide while Fred is seeing Edward off.

So why this bizarre bit of staging? Couldn't they have just built the hallway with alcoves for her to duck into, and Fred to stand in front of? Probably just a function of limited time and budget, like most other errors of this type. Wilder wrote it into the script, then when he saw it in action, he was smart enough to realize how false it looked, but understood that it would cost more to fix than it was worth, since most people would never even notice what was off about the scene.

Well, I noticed, Billy Wilder. Me, a guy watching the movie 72 years after you made it and then spent decades being universally praised for its quality.


One Last Time - Screw You, MythBusters

So I've made no secret of my disdain for Mythbusters' refusal to confirm anything, ever. They operate claiming a passion for science, yet they create experiments designed to 'test' 'myths' without offering any concrete criteria for what success would look like, and then refusing to name it as such even when they prove it beyond any reasonable doubt.

This is mostly to their pro-busting agenda - the show isn't called 'myth-confirmers', after all. The whole idea is to pull back a veil of misinformation and reveal truth - there's nothing inherently wrong with that. At times, however, it becomes clear that the show is prioritizing an arrival at this end to the point that they're ignoring evidence placed right in their faces.

Now that Mythbusters is in its last season, we've almost run out of chances for them to finally, at long last, confirm something again, which is what makes it such a disappointment to see them botch an opportunity to do so in this latest episode.

The myth in question revolved around an intriguing idea - can you take a tomatoe, shrink-wrap it in a bag, drop it in some water, then set of a blasting cap next to it, liquifying the interior without breaking the skin? An internet video suggested that this was possible with the following images-

The explosion and tomatoe in question.

The innards of that tomatoe being sucked through a straw.

So the Mythbusters have a clear set of parameters to attempt to replicate - the size of the tank, the explosive used, and the distance the tomatoe should be from the blasting cap. Perfect replicable scientific experiment. So, what were the results?


Production Secrets Explained: Criminal Minds!

Here's a screenshot from episode 804 of Criminal Minds, in which Reed is holding a book-

Now obviously that book makes no sense - with paper that size 'The Sign of Four' would be something along the lines of sixty pages long, rather than the 300 pages that edition seems to feature. So how does a mistake like this happen? To understand that, we have to go through the production steps!


New Avod!

That's right, in addition to all of the other fresh content on Vardulon.com, I've decided to include a link to this week's TheAvod, lest you somehow miss it!

So here's that link!


Another Arrested Development Mystery!

Among Arrested Development's many virtues, their deeply layered callbacks and obscure jokes may be my favorite. The Colonel Mustard/Gene Parmesean thing, the fact that Tobias is a black albino, the fact that George Michael's entire storyline for Season 4 is an extended dig at Michael Cera's questionable career choices, the never-explained-in-show hilarity of the name 'George Maharis'. It's all amazing. Only my latest trip through the show, however, I noticed something I'd never seen before-

That is the boat where Fantastic 4: The Musical is being performed during the festivities on Cinqo de Quatro. Note the 'Rock Monster' costumed person portraying 'The Thing'. Here's the mystery - who is in that suit? Originally it was supposed to be Tobias, but then he decided to take over the roll of Sue Storm - and because he wound up on the exploding boat with Marky Bark, there is no Sue Storm onstage. There is, however, a Ben Grimm - but how is that possible? Tobias hands the costume over to Buster-

But Buster never puts it on. He knocks out Herbert Love, then races away in fear and stumbles onto Lucille 2's body. The show is even careful to pan down as Buster runs off, showing the costume-

Sitting on the ground, next to Gene Parmesean's Donkey Punch stand. This shot wasn't left in the show accidentally - the framing of the costume is 100% deliberate. Which brings me back to the question - who is that on the barge, dressed as The Thing?

All we can tell is that it's a white guy without glasses, wearing silver running shoes. Beyond that there are no visual clues in the show that I can spot. Is this a solvable mystery, or just another item beautifully layered in for them to pick up in season seven?


Crminal Minds 805: The Good Earth

Somewhere in the woods of Oregon, a woman is running from something or someone. Luckily, and in quite a departure for this show, she's actually dressed for it!

Then, in a completely expected twist, it turns out that the reason she was looking back, super-concerned as she ran was that she's personal training a guy, and she was worried about how far behind he'd fallen. So sweet of her. Her client drives off in a station wagon (they still have those? Neat!), but immediately runs off the road into a farmer's field.

Are there lots of forest running/hiking trails right next to farmland in Oregon? This seems weird to me, but then again, I only know the state from being confused and thinking that's where Twin Peaks was set.

Moments after stumbling out of his car, the client is accosted by a guy who loped his way over from a pickup truck with a camper shell - the second choice for serial killers right after windowless vans! For the full list of popular serial killer vehicles, check the end of this review!

So how did the killer arrange for him to have a fainting episode inside his car? Did the trainer or someone else drug his water? Was the exhaust rewired into the vents so he started blacking out as soon as he turned over the engine? Could it have been my personal favorite, quick-acting absorbed-through-the-skin toxin smeared all over the steering wheel?

Hopefully we'll find out soon!

Back at Quantico, JJ, Garcia and Joe are talking about how JJ's son is scared of Halloween because he thinks monsters are real. This is resonant because, as his mother well knows, there are monsters literally everywhere all the time. In the world of Criminal Minds, you are never more than 50 meters away from a serial killer.

Time to break down the case! Dudes are disappearing from a small Oregon town. In six weeks, four of them have driven off, never to be seen again! Here's a map listing each of the victims and the last place they were seen - although, weirdly, not what order they disappeared in, which it seems would be pretty useful information to put on there.

Here's a fun fact - we already know something the team doesn't! Terry, the latest victim, wasn't last seen at a supermarket, but rather out at the forest track by that farm where his personal trainer was leading him through a workout! What does it mean that this information isn't in their files?

Then things get a little weird, as the team starts talking like they're pretty sure all four guys are still alive, just because they haven't found any bodies. Which is a super-weird thing to do, considering you've had an absence of bodies plenty of times, but still didn't assume victims were still out there. Sure, you often suspect that a victim will still be alive hours and even days after the abduction, but it's quite a leap to immediately start trying to figure out how one killer is controlling four adult men. When Garrett Dillahunt and his evil brother Mongo were grabbing drug addicts from the mean streets of Detroit and spiriting them away to the arid desert wasteland of Windsor, Ontario, the lack of bodies didn't force the team to assume that they were keeping fifty victims alive.

This is one of my favorite types of bad writing - when it seems like the characters have read ahead in the script and know what kind of a story they're in before they have anywhere near enough information to make those kinds of judgments.

Of course, it turns out that they're right, and the four guys are being kept chained-up in a barn by some weird farmer lady. I mean, I don't know it's a woman, I'm just making a guess based on A:

The figure Terry looked up at seeming to have long hair, and 2:

Those looking a lot like tapered lady's legs in tight jeans going into the work boots the killer is wearing. There's a C as well, but the fact that the killer is wearing super-bulky gloves doesn't make for a visual worth screen-capping, and doesn't suggest much.

Then again, this could be me reading way too much into a blurry image and a reflection, as I am wont to do.

So all we know for sure is that the killer is holding a bunch of dudes hostage in a barn - but why, and for what reason?

Let's find out together, after the opening credits!