Posts tagged zombies
To call Marc Forster’s “World War Z” an adaptation, would be an injustice to the gripping zombie novel it’s supposed to be based on. The movie masquerades as a big-screen version of the popular Max Brooks book, but underneath that cheap disguise, it is a total stranger. Using the scummiest tactic possible, the filmmakers purchase a name that has credibility with zombiephiles in order to entice viewers. Then with everyone’s rapt attention, they betray the book’s reputation by creating a narrative driven in their own ineffective direction.
As a novel, “World War Z” is fascinating because it takes place several years after the zombie plague. Humanity has bounced back from the brink of extinction and a journalist is documenting extraordinary tales of how people conquered the outbreak. Each chapter represents a different story told from a single person’s perspective. What’s so engrossing about this particular narrative model is that it vividly depicts the scale of the horrifying experiences its subjects lived through. The novel also reveals the clever strategies that humans used to turn the tide in the war against the zombies.
Unfortunately, the rich perspective created by the book is totally lost with the movie. The writers Matthew Michael Carnahan, Drew Goddard, and Damon Lindelof rob you of it all by only focusing on a single person’s point of view. In a storytelling strategy clearly based on the need to turn this movie into a Brad Pitt vehicle, “World War Z” follows Gerry Lane (Pitt), a former UN investigator and family man who becomes a key figure in the fight against the zombie outbreak.
After all hell breaks lose and the world’s population is swiftly overtaken by the disease, Lane is summoned to assist with stemming the outbreak. Due to his keen observational skills and ability to think on his feet, the powers that be task him with finding the source of the infection and determining a way to stop it. Lane is forced to leave his family behind, while he hops precariously from Korea to Israel and then to England in a desperate race against time, hoping to quash the global epidemic.
Sounds nothing like the book right? It’s actually a lot more like Steven Soderbergh’s “Contagion” with its plot and its unsettling piano-laced music. And yes, it’s expected that some things might have to change with this story, given the nature of film as a medium. However there’s no need to butcher the author’s original intent when doing so, like this movie does. Pictures such as “L.A. Confidential” show that it’s possible to do justice to the source material, while still exercising creative license.
Aside from its deviations from the book, another annoying aspect of “World War Z” is its inability to decide whether it wants to be a horror film or a thriller. There are a few great jump scares and some frightening up close shots of zombies that look cool, especially in 3D. Plus there are horror-inspired scenes where noise at inconvenient times, attracts zombies. However, the movie largely relies on big action set pieces to maintain your interest, like its frantic foot chase in Israel and its unbelievable situation involving a hand grenade on an airplane. It probably would have better as straight horror, because a 3D zombie movie would have been epic.
There is one great aspect of “World War Z” that draws inspiration from the book: how the zombies are portrayed. Taking cues from nicknames like “rabies” that the novel gives the disease, the ghouls in the movie operate like rabid humans. They’re fast, their bites take effect within seconds, and they work collaboratively. The filmmakers make these zombies fascinating because they act like flocks of birds or schools of fish. They swarm in great numbers, climbing on top of one another, scrambling and leaping to reach their prey. To its credit, “World War Z” also does a good job showing how quickly society would collapse during an outbreak with intense rioting, looting, and mass hysteria.
Despite all the effort Pitt’s character goes through, “World War Z” has a disappointing anticlimactic ending, with a lot of buildup for very little reward. Frustratingly, it is neither a captivating zombie flick nor a taut thriller. The film is a big budget Brad Pitt vehicle that’s not terribly interesting or inventive, regardless of whether you’ve read “World War Z.” It’s sad the amount of time, money, and energy Brat Pitt sank into this movie, because it might be the most expensive misfire of his career.
My Grade: C…as in Come On! You Can Do Better Than That!
Ever since I devoured Dana Fredsti’s thrilling zombie novel Plague Town last April, I’ve been anxiously awaiting its sequel Plague Nation. Thankfully I was rewarded with it earlier this month, and got a chance to start it during my morning commute. I found myself on the edge of my seat, literally so absorbed, that I didn’t even realize I had gotten on the wrong train. Now that’s gripping zombie literature!
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This is 40
“This is 40,” is so depressing and irredeemably unfunny that I couldn’t even finish it, and I almost NEVER turn off movies. For a comedy, there are few laughs to be found, aside from some scant one-liners from Paul Rudd. If this is actually what 40 looks like, I’d like a gun and a single bullet to end it all. That way I could avoid experiencing the sad, miserable life that Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) have in this film. At least I wouldn’t have to suffer the same embarrassingly moronic spats or have a marriage suffocate from having spoiled children like theirs.
HOWEVER, I’m not going to bother with the gun because I don’t think this is what turning 40 would really be like. Not only are Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann’s characters way more immature than the average person, but their upper-middle class financial problems are idiotic and self-inflicted. You don’t need an iEverything or a $30,000 neon sign in your office. You also shouldn’t be giving your father $80,000 to finance his ill-conceived second family. After a certain point I just didn’t care enough to see how the movie ended since all of these people suck so damn much.
My Grade: F (Because I had to turn it off)
This kid who can see dead people is way cooler than the one in that M. Night Shyamalan movie. His gift is amusing without being scary, but it does cause him to be stereotypically misunderstood. His family doesn’t get him and neither do the kids at school so the poor guy gets picked on a lot. You better believe everyone will count on him though when a horde of zombies and spirits takes over their sleepy town.
As I watched “ParaNoman” I could tell the filmmakers just had a really good time making this silly film. There are great nods to low-budget horror movies and amusing jokes about zombies, witches, and ghosts littered throughout. The claymation style animation is crazy impressive given the tremendous detail poured into the characters and their tiny props. It’s well-blended with CG to produce an immersive adventure. Another strong point to the film is its tremendous voice work by talented actors with colorful personalities like Anna Kendrick, Leslie Mann, Jeff Garlin, John Goodman, and Casey Affleck. If I have one complaint it’s that the story and dialogue are too heavy-handed with their messages about accepting others. I’m all for tolerance in real life and I think it’s a great message to teach kids who will see the movie, it just doesn’t need to be so spelled out.
My Grade: B
Even as a Wes Anderson fan, I had a difficult time getting emotionally invested in “Moonrise Kingdom.” Anderson magnificently crafts the fictional New England island community where this tale takes place and painstakingly recreates the mood the 1960s. His aesthetic is unrivaled and his camerawork is superb. He uses smooth sweeping motions and takes his camera to unusual, yet entertaining places inside houses and on the roofs of cars.
Anderson’s breathtaking art direction and cinematography, are wasted however on a mediocre story and bad acting. This tale about two oddball kids who are star-crossed lovers failed to hook me. Neither the characters nor the conflict have enough substance. Plus, you know something is wrong when the finest performance comes from an action star like Bruce Willis and not from Bill Murray or Frances McDormand. Edward Norton isn’t turning in his finest work, though at least he’s amusing. “Moonrise Kingdom” kept me at a frustrating distance like a beautiful diorama that I could look at, but wasn’t allowed to touch.
My Grade: C
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
“The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” landed in my top 10 films for 2012 immediately after I watched it because it’s a well-made, uplifting story. For a movie about old people it moves unexpectedly fast in the beginning, and continues to remain well-paced throughout. There’s sharp dialogue, heartfelt performances, and poignant statements about the challenges and opportunities of old age.
I dug the music and the editing quite a bit, however my favorite part about this flick was the amazing ensemble cast of British actors. Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson, and Judi Dench all act their hearts out, giving nuanced performances in this picture. The only thing that comes off a bit forced is the nontraditional Indian romance between the hotel’s young owner (Dev Patel) and his girlfriend who works in a call center. His mother tries to meddle in his affairs and as you might suspect he needs the team of older, wiser British folks to come to his rescue.
As Patel’s character says though,”Everything will be all right in the end, and if it’s not all right, it’s not the end.”
My Grade: A
Hello I Must Be Going
Initially I was very fond of the sentiment for “Hello I Must Be Going.” I liked the premise of Amy (Melanie Lynskey), a middle-aged woman whose life is in disarray, meeting a younger person who gets her to come out of her shell. The theme of a young lover teaching an older woman things about herself and helping her get everything back on track was appealing because usually it would be the other way around. Once I started watching the film I realized that the plot is pretty meandering and has other elements to it that distract from that main idea.
All of the terrible nagging and passive aggressive behavior from Amy’s status obsessed mother (Blythe Danner), and arrogant judgement by her brother just made me realize how much status-obsessed family members suck. Their mean behavior really started to wear on me as did the incredibly stilted dialogue spoken by all of the characters. Lynskey anchors the movie, with a heartbreaking performance that perfectly embodies the crushing despair of a divorcee with nothing left. However I found myself frustrated at the end by her inability to fully learn from her mistakes and to move forward with her life in a more positive manner.
My Grade: C
When Titan Books offered to send me a copy of Lenore: Swirlies, my initial reaction was genuine surprise. I was shocked to finally encounter something zombie-related that I never heard of before. As a rabid enthusiast of all things undead I’m usually well-versed in genre films and literature, yet somehow Roman Dirge’s Lenore series had escaped me. So I decided to take the plunge and read Swirlies, and I’m thankful that I did, because it’s hilarious.
For the uninitiated, Lenore is an undead comic book character created by artist Roman Dirge and named after the titular woman from Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven.” Lenore doesn’t hunger for human flesh though. She lives in a town called Nevermore (also borrowed from Poe), where she tries to combat youthful boredom with her adorable pal Ragamuffin and her masked friend Pooty.
The title for Swirlies, Dirge’s fourth Lenore installment, comes from Dirge’s penchant for naming his volumes after childhood afflictions. Other Lenore books include Noogies, Wedgies, and Cooties. The author playfully admits though, that he may be running out of words in that category to use for book titles.
In the introduction to Swirlies, Dirge refers to his Lenore adventures as a “carnival of madness,” which a rather apt description for his zany storylines. With quirky humor slightly reminiscent of Tim Burton’s films, Dirge’s heroine and her pals face bizarre problems like a time-traveling cyborg mortician, a creepy stalker, and alimony payments. Although her experience might be outlandish, Lenore is entertaining as a character because she has the naivety and mischievous nature of a child mixed with the teenage sarcastic cynicism of Lydia from Beetlejuice.
Lenore’s tales are interspersed with other short comics starring Dirge himself, which are called “Things Involving Me.” He uses these shorts as opportunities to connect with the reader by recounting amusing anecdotes from his life. One particularly funny moment involves an instance where he was mistaken for a vampire. These autobiographical strips are good for a chuckle, but they also provide a much needed change of pace.
Dirge’s dark sense of humor works most of the time, even when he’s making heavy-handed pop culture references to films like Aliens and The Crow. However it does get a bit too morbid for me at points and it’s certainly not for everyone. Regardless of what you think of his jokes though, the artwork in Dirge’s book is breathtaking. Landscapes and characters are beautifully drawn and inked. You can tell a lot of love and labor went into them, especially the covers for each Lenore section. The art’s quality is reinforced by an old-fashioned hardcover binding and shade of green.
Stylistically the appearance of Dirge’s characters reminded me of the show Invader Zim, which made sense once I found out that Dirge wrote for the show and published on the same comic label as its creator Jhonen Vasquez. My hunch is that fans of the program would get a kick out of this series if they don’t know about it already.
If you like bizarre dark comedy, talking reanimated corpses, and comics that don’t take themselves too seriously, then you’ll probably enjoy Lenore: Swirlies. It’s a quick read that got me to laugh out loud several times and has me interested and reading Dirge’s previous volumes.
Lenore: Swirlies is available now in stores and online at www.titanbooks.com.
With the immense popularity of AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” it’s obvious that zombies have invaded popular culture, and they’re here to stay. Before they entered the mainstream though, a devoted group of us was already devouring every book and movie we could get our hands on featuring the undead antagonists. In our loyal following was author Dana Fredsti, who parlayed her expertise on all things zombie into the gripping horror novel Plague Town.
Just like other great zombie books and movies, Fredsti’s story concentrates on the vital thing that people crave: human connection. When the zombie apocalypse comes, and resources are scarce, mankind is not only at war with the undead for survival but also with itself. This dire situation can bring out the best and the worst in human beings, which often leads us, as readers to question our own morals.
She’s already known for her romantic fiction, but author Dana Fredsti is poised to make a splash in a totally new genre: horror. With her novel Plague Town, Fredsti introduces zombie lovers to Ashley Parker, a college student whose sleepy town is taken over by the undead. Ashley discovers that she’s a wildcard, meaning she is immune to the virus which has caused the entire mess. Teaming up with a ragtag group of soldiers and other wildcards, Ashley must destroy the infestation before it spreads to the surrounding areas.
The book, which is the first in a trilogy, has been described by Fredsti and others as Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets zombies, which I think is an accurate description. Even if Buffy isn’t your thing though, there’s enough action, gore, romance, humor, and nerd culture references to satisfy you.
Recently I had the pleasure of speaking with Dana about Plague Town, her connection to the cult classic Army of Darkness, and her thoughts on this season of The Walking Dead. Below are some of the highlights of our conversation.
Evan Crean: Let me just say for starters, I loved Plague Town.
Dana Fredsti: Yay!
EC: I was reading on your website that Plague Town is based on a previous book that you wrote for the publisher Ravenous Romance. I was wondering, what are some of the key differences between the two aside from maybe a little less saucy material? Read more…