Let’s Do This…

AMC released the full-length trailer for The Walking Dead season 4 at Comic-Con and whatever you may think of the show as a whole, there’s no denying the awesomeness of their trailers.

Sounds like they may be channeling 28 Days Later with that radio broadcast, which might actually serve the show well.  I have long considered 28 Days Later to be the best zombie flick ever made.  (Some argue that it isn’t a true zombie flick because the zombies became zombies by infection rather than reanimation after death.  Whatever.  Splitting hairs as far as I’m concerned.)

Plus, it appears that Daryl gets loads of screen time and anyone who watches knows that more Daryl = happiness. :)

~N.

If You’re Warm, Then You Can’t Relate To Me

Warm Bodies movie posterAh, the zombie apocalypse.  It has become its own genre in American pop culture.  How many books and films have been written and produced about people trying to survive in a post-zombie-apocalyptic world?  Countless stories have been told, most of them dramatic, many action-packed, some with social statements woven in and others with comedy interspersed.  Which got me thinking that pretty much everything that could be done with the zombie genre has been done.  And then came along Warm Bodies.  And I realized that just because I couldn’t imagine anything new to bring to the genre, that certainly doesn’t mean that no one else could.

Warm Bodies isn’t all that original a story when compared to, say, any typical romantic comedy.  What sets it apart is that it combines the zombie genre with the romantic comedy genre – two seemingly incompatible kinds of stories – and it does it, somehow, well.  The film is narrated by a fellow whose name, he thinks, begins with the letter R.  Beyond that, he can’t remember.  Because, you see, at some point prior to the beginning of the story, R was bitten and infected and turned into a zombie.  Yes, the zombie apocalypse arrived, infecting millions, killing millions of others and changing the landscape of human society and relationships as we know it.  The initial wave of zombies created by whatever unnamed cause are completely and utterly lost to it, eventually becoming little more than skeletons incapable of any thought or drive beyond hunting and seeking food in the form of human flesh.  But some of the folks who are bitten later, such as our main protagonist R, manage to retain some small hint of cognition, some tiny remnant of their former human selves.  In search of food, R encounters Julie, an uninfected human and daughter of the leader of the community of remaining unscathed survivors.  For reasons he doesn’t understand, he saves Julie from other zombies rather than eating her himself and develops, well, a sort of crush on her.

And here’s the thing.  As a scientist who has studied infectious epidemics, it almost makes sense.  Because there is just the smallest hint of truth in the very basic foundation of it.  You see, the thing that makes a novel infectious agent (virus, bacteria, etc.) so potentially lethal to humans isn’t just related to that particular agent’s ability to cause disease – its newness makes it cause a worse disease.  The reason being that our imperfect bodies have much more trouble fighting off something they’ve never seen before.  Our immune systems are more easily overtaken by a microbe the first time it encounters it.  This has happened throughout history with the influenza virus, smallpox, measles, pertussis (which causes whooping cough) and countless others.  The second and third waves of people to encounter these organisms fare better.  Not that there are no casualties, but they tend to occur in smaller numbers than their predecessors.  Warm Bodies plays on this phenomenon to create a particular kind of zombie – the kind that isn’t entirely overtaken by whatever virus or pathogen led to its becoming a zombie.  The first wave of people to become infected with the zombie disease is ruined by it.  They lose every shred of their humanity, all memory, their capacity for emotion and any instinct other than hunger.  After some unspecified length of time, newly infected people, while still turning into flesh-eating zombies, form a bit of resistance.  They retain the minutest amount of cognitive thought and can even mutter monosyllabic words.  This resistance is encouraged by emotion (love, especially) and has the potential to “cure” the zombie of its being a zombie and return it to a human state of being.

Author Isaac Marion wrote the book on which screenwriter/director Jonathan Levine based the movie and though I haven’t read the novel, I have heard that the meat of the story is the same.  The flick is silly and light-hearted, not to be taken too seriously, and for the most part, it Nicholas Houltworks, at least in part due to the performances from its two lead actors, Nicholas Hoult as the zombie, R, and Teresa Palmer as the girl who inspires his heart to beat again, Julie.  Hoult and Palmer play their respective roles with surprising charm and their chemistry together really sells it, making it almost believable that the spark between them is powerful enough to triumph over the zombie plague.  John Malkovich adequately plays the part of Julie’s father and leader of the small army of remaining people trying to salvage what they can of the pre-zombie world, and Rob Corddry, who plays M, a kind of friend of R’s who is inspired by the bond that develops between R and Julie, is delightfully funny.  Dave Franco and Analeigh Tipton also offer charming side characters who get more than a few laughs.

What makes Warm Bodies even easier to enjoy is the certain fact that it never takes itself too seriously.  There are sober, heartfelt moments that touch places of real emotion but the film doesn’t try too hard to make you cry.  Neither does it make any attempt at social commentary or satire, nor aspire to be an outright comedy.  Instead, it is a thoroughly enjoyable and harmonious blend of love story and light comedy that just happens to be set against the backdrop of the zombie plague.

Can’t wait to see what else they can do with this genre.

~Nikki

Made To Suffer

All right.  Here it is: I like The Walking Dead.  Really, I do.  But every episode is a bit of a struggle for me.  For every five awesome things about it, there is at least one bad thing.  Like, one seriously bad thing.  And lately, the best and worst things all have to do with Michonne.

First, the good things: the feeling of unity in this episode is stronger than it has ever been.  The group pulling together to rescue Glenn and Maggie and Rick’s sturdy leadership throughoDaryl and Merleut the entire intense, dangerous and desperate mission is outstanding.  They really aren’t just a group of random people bound together for a better chance at survival anymore.  They’ve become a family.  And they will risk it all the save a member.  This is the most solid they’ve been as one unified group and I’ve never loved them more.  Further testament to that was Daryl’s choice to stay and fight with them over seeking out his biological brother, Merle.  In all honesty, I kind of like Merle.  Not his actual character so much as the level of conflict he brings to the show.  He’s a damned good antagonist.  And since Shane died, the show needed another antagonist.  I don’t know how Daryl got caught nor do I have any idea how he’ll liberate himself, but it sure would be interesting if he and Merle both escaped and rejoined the group together.  (Note: Daryl had better escape.  While killing him off would be one ballsy move, my heart just couldn’t take it.)

Back at the prison, the addition of Tyrese and his crew adds some excitement to the mix and allows Carl yet another opportunity to behave like the disillusioned, adept, overly mature man-child he’s become.  All remnants of innocence and childhood are gone from Carl; he’s a seasoned, even burdened, veteran of the zombie apocalypse and he does what he has to with a cold kind of sadness that breaks my jaded heart every f**king time.

And finally, Michonne.  Danai Gurira is a complete and total badass and her fight with The Governor was almost too much to take.  Never before have we seen such a cut-throat, balls out, bloodthirsty battle between two people on The Walking Dead.  These two weren’t just defending themselves.  They weren’t trying to subdue or capture one another.  There was no mercy, no hesitation, no semblance of The Governora conscious in either of them.  This was two people trying their absolute hardest to kill each other.  Period.  The fact that she sat in his office and waited, oh so patiently, for him to return shows a cold, calculated determination within her.  Michonne is more than capable of taking care of herself and of killing anyone and everyone who gets in her way – The Governor included.  But not yet.

Which brings me to the things about this episode that did not work.  First of all, you know she had to have put together that this group of people is most likely the very same group to which Andrea used to belong.  Michonne knew that Merle and Andrea knew each other and then when she saw Merle kidnap Glenn and Maggie, she overheard Merle and Glenn reference their shared past.  A woman as sharp as Michonne would not have neglected to put that together.  Yet, at no point did she ask Rick or any of the others if they knew Andrea.  Are we supposed to believe that it simply never came up?  This is lazy writing, pure and simple.  Along the same lines, after Andrea stops Michonne from killing The Governor, not a word is spoken between them.  Seriously?  Why didn’t she say something?  Anything?  “He tried to kill me.”  “He kidnapped Glenn and Maggie and planned to kill them.”  “I found your friends.”  “He had his f**king zombie daughter locked up in a cubby hole.”  Nope.  Instead, they stare at each other for a few long, pregnant moments and then Michonne leaves, allowing another opportunity to close a rather large communication gap to pass idly by.  I just don’t buy it.  I know she isn’t a talker.  I know she’s dark and cryptic and I love her for it.  But this level of silence borders on absurd.  At least, without explanation, it does.  It’s simply bad writing.  And in a show where we’ve some of the best writing currently on television, there’s just no excuse for it.

Also bugging me these days is Andrea’s complete 180 from last season.  At the close of season 2, she was this whip-smart, strong, independent woman who’d taught herself how to use a gun and practiced until her shot could rival that of any of the men around her.  These days, she’s a lovesick girl who does as she’s told.  Did the severed zombie heads in fish tanks send up any red flags?  It seemed so for a minute, but then she stayed with him.  What about seeiThe Walking Deadng Daryl alive again and captured by her new boyfriend – did that feel wrong to her at all?  If so, she chose to stand by in terror, mouth agape but motionless.  Because that’s always better than taking action.  Who is this broad?  Where is the Andrea we got to know during the past two seasons?  My plea to the writers/producers of the show is to return Andrea to the willful soldier she used to be.

The Walking Dead returns Sunday, February 10, 2013.  You know where I’ll be.

~Nikki

Zombie Fever

If I had to guess at the exact moment I warmed to the whole zombie apocalypse craze sweeping pop culture, I’d say it was immediately after (or maybe during) I’d watched the film 28 Days Later.  Cillian Murphy and Naomie Harris brought depth and dimension to a genre that had previously stuck with one-note characters and Danny Boyle (as usual) unraveled a story that was – at once – about that which elevates humans from the animal kingdom as well as the more savage instincts of man.  Now, the genre has gone pretty much everywhere it has to go.  I’m not saying I’m sick of it, I’m merely observing that there isn’t much more room for growth for the zombie genre.

That is, I did feel that way until I saw the trailer for Warm Bodies.  Check this out:

A romantic comedy about humans turning into zombies then becoming human again (brought on by love, no less)?  Yeah, didn’t see that one coming.  But it looks good.

Allow me also to share with you a trailer for a more serious zombie flick starring Brad Pitt that’s based on a successful novel by Max Brooks.  Word on the street is, World War Z appears to veer quite a bit from the novel of the same name, which isn’t a singular narrative but more like a collection of short stories about separate individuals around the globe, all dealing with the zombie apocalypse.  A global approach has never before been attempted and maybe it isn’t here, either, if the film is simply a loose adaptation.  It does look interesting, though, and the imagery involving swarms of what I assume are zombies climbing walls like insects made a shiver run over my skin.

What’s your favorite zombie movie?

~Nikki

Dark Have Been My Dreams Of Late

Zone One is, if you can fathom it, a literary zombie novel.  I know, I know…zombie novels aren’t literary, they’re genre.  But not this one.  This is a zombie novel (and, therefore, a genre novel) written by a literary novelist in a literary style.  And, for my money, it’s a lovely union of the two.  (Full disclosure: I’m a lover of literary fiction.)

Zone One spans 3 days in the life of Mark Spitz, a man filling his time as a “sweeper,” essentially a member of a military-style team of 3 volunteers out to find, kill and dispose of skels (short for skeletons, a.k.a., zombies) or stragglers – people who’ve been bitten and infected but become catatonic, not really a threat.  Though nowhere near as bleak as The Road, this novel is somewhat reminiscent of it.  Colson Whitehead, Zone One‘s author, utilizes such beautiful language – the imagery and honesty painting a vivid and stark picture of a world we’ve all seen before: America ravaged by flesh-eating zombies.  Yet nothing about it feels recycled.

They say the devil lives in the details, and maybe it does, but I say so does genius.  The presence of stragglers and their description is one such detail that adds rich depth to this fictional world.  Kudos to Whitehead for thinking up such a unique element to propel his readers into this grim reality.  Because the truth is, if any infectious agent were to cause an apocalypse of any kind (not necessarily one involving zombies) there would undoubtedly be some who reacted to it differently.  Some who were exposed but still survived, as there were with Smallpox, the Black Plague and AIDS.  And there would be some whose symptoms wouldn’t quite match the symptoms of the majority.  As is the case with the stragglers.  They are infected and slowly dying, but they don’t wander aimlessly in search of human or animal flesh to devour.  Instead, something inside trips up and they spend the rest of their ruined lives repetitively reliving some fragment of their former lives.  A former psychiatrist, for example, sits in the chair in her office, endlessly waiting for her ever-late patient to arrive.  Another woman stands in the dressing room of a deserted bridal shop, cradling a wedding gown, slowly decaying over the dress until she either falls to the ground for lack of physical strength or someone like Mark Spitz happens upon her and ends her mindless existence.  These stragglers make up maybe 10% of the infected and their existence causes Mark Spitz to wonder which of the many mundane routines of his former life would consume him if he were to become a straggler.  Where would he go, what part of his former life would surface through his plague-ridden brain and summon him back?  Details like this set this book so far apart from any other “zombie” novel.  From other novels period.

Another beautifully-executed detail of this fearful world is Post-Apocalypse Stress Disorder, or PASD, and every single survivor suffers from it.  “PASD had as many faces as there were uninfected.”  What Whitehead does so eloquently is showcase the truth of this statement with the varying behaviors of all characters in his novel, including the main character.  They all have baggage.  They all have issues.  They are, each and every one of them, damaged.  And they all express the effects of their damaged psyches a little differently.  Which is exactly how it goes following any major trauma in people’s lives.  Similar though we all are, stress manifests itself in varying degrees and in a variety of ways for each of us.  Mark Spitz tends toward extended internal reveries during which he recalls pieces of the world that no longer exists.  He has trouble speaking with people; basic language often evades him.  Gary, another member of Mark Spitz’s unit, refers to himself in the collective plural we, as he was born one in a set of triplets, his two brothers both long gone.  Kaitlyn, the third member of their unit, seeks order and organization anywhere she can find it, trying to create the illusion of control in a world almost completely devoid of it.

There isn’t much of a plot but that’s no complaint.  The characters are fully developed and the elegant prose moves the story along gracefully.  It’s mostly a 3-day glimpse into an America that’s been transformed by a zombie-creating plague, filled with flashbacks that answer many questions and raise others, its lack of plot more than compensated for by its characterization and its beautifully crafted theme: the devastating but no longer deniable truth that all life, including human life, is random, without design or meaning, and however we might get there, there is but one end for us all.  This story is not for the delusionally optimistic.  Yet, there was no cynicism in its telling, either.  When I reached the end, I felt there was no other place this story could have gone.  I hadn’t predicted it, yet I thought, of course, this is the end.  And I immediately flipped back 15 pages and read it again.

~Nikki

What I Choose Is My Choice

You all know I’m a book nerd, or as I prefer to call myself, a lover of literature.  Reading, in my opinion, is not just one of the many forms of entertainment in this world, but a vital, essential part of the human experience.  And not just the mandatory reading required for day-to-day living (i.e., textbooks, operating manuals, traffic signs, etc.), but reading novels, memoirs, short stories, poems, song lyrics, novellas, graphic novels – storytelling in all its lovely forms.

I’m currently a quarter of the way through Zone One, a post-apocalyptic novel about a member of a sweeping unit in Manhattan out to rid the island of “skels” – zombies, basically, that will turn or kill whomever they encounter.  Though I love a good zombie movie, I admit I’ve never before read a book in which zombies were a part of reality but this one peaked my interest because it’s been described as a literary zombie novel.  And I tend to read more works of literary fiction than any other genre.  I do read the occasional memoir, thriller and Young Adult novel, but literary fiction is what I always return to.  I know there are plenty of folks out there who criticize literary fiction novelists for taking themselves and their stories too seriously, for being too artsy, too wordy, too damn heavy.  Some even say they’re the snobs of the world of literature.  On the other hand, fans of literary fiction complain that mystery books, courtroom dramas, romance novels and crime thrillers are too predictable, too formulaic in their telling.  While I think each side has its valid points, I think it boils down to nothing other than personal taste.

I prefer literary fiction because I am a lover of language.  I don’t want simply to read a story; I want to be dazzled by the creative use of words, by pretty adjectives and stunning sentence structure.  Symbolism, alliteration, metaphor, imagery – they all have their place in literature, as far as I’m concerned, and the writers who utilize them most effectively are the ones I prefer to read.

Today, for my own curiosity only, I’d like you to participate in a poll:

(Note: If you choose Other, please elaborate in the comment section.)

 

~Nikki

Everyone I Know, Goes Away In The End

OOHH, I am soooooooo happy The Walking Dead has returned!  Two episodes in, I think this season is living up to last – advancing the storyline and taking the characters to new places, which is what I had hoped for.  This is coming from a person who knows nothing about the comic (graphic novel?) on which this is based, other than the fact that it exists.

I am interested to find out more about this family/group who lives in the farmhouse, how they’ve managed to stay safe, and apparently have supplies, like orange juice.  It made me feel hopeful, that there are some places on the planet where you can be clean and have antibiotics if you need them.  I loved the scene where the vet was explaining why surgery is so difficult in a house; how you need the respirator to be put out but if you’re not put out and are writhing around, the operation is impossible.  We take so much for granted, don’t we?!

I think the cast is doing an awesome job.  Some random message boards I frequent like to hate on the show (most of these angry watchers are devotees of the comic), saying it has strayed too far from the source or the writing is cheesy.  I don’t know if my standards are shot, but I don’t find the show cheesy really at all.  It’s not perfect, but it sure as hell brings the thrills/scares every week (this show scares the shit out of me regularly, whereas the new American Horror Story  – advertised as “terrifying” – really kind of doesn’t).  The scene in episode 1 where everybody is laying underneath the cars as the zombie herd passes by had me on the edge of my seat, holding my breath right along with ‘em.  The end of episode 2, with Otis and Shane trapped in that entryway as the zombies are right up in their face, was insanity.

I love Norman Reedus and Sheriff Rick.  I’m really interested to see if Carl lives or dies.  I want to know if they’ll find Sophia.  I want to know if Andrea will gather up the balls to just kill herself already.  And I want the group to  find other survivors, and see if somewhere, somebody is coming up with a cure.  As Hershel says, “Mankind’s been fightin’ plagues since the beginning.”

I think this show roxxx and season 1 is on Netflix instant watch, and is only 6 episodes, (roughly 4.5 hrs of your life) so if you aren’t watching it, quit being stupid!  Or zombies will come eat your face off!! ;)

~Annie