Scary Movie Marathon: Zombieland(2009)

Release Date: October 2, 2009
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Production Company: Columbia Pictures | Relativity Media | Pariah

Zombieland came out during the Great Zombie Boom of the late Oughts so it’s able to zip right into a comical take of a zombie apocalypse without much prelude.  Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) is a socially-awkward college student who has managed to survive the outbreak by following a set of rules that are key to the movies plot.  He meets tough guy Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) and they team up despite the fact that they annoy each other.  Ironically, they both survived the outbreak due to their inability to make connections with other people.  Soon after they are joined by sister con artists Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) and follow rumors of a theme park near Los Angeles that is uninfected.

I don’t know if the world needed another zombie story, much less a funny one, but the one we got is pretty enjoyable.  Plus, Bill Murray is great in a small role!

Rating: ***

Book Review: Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Author: Justina Ireland
Title: Dread Nation
Narrator: Bahni Turpin
Publication Info: HarperAudio (2018)

This novel is set in an alternate universe where the dead rose from the Battle of Gettysburg and the Civil War ended because of the zombie apocalypse. Twenty years later, the surviving society has adapted by training Black and indigenous people to become “attendants” who protect the white elites from attacks by the “shamblers.” Among these are this books narrator, Jane McKeene, a student at Miss Preston’s School of Combat in Baltimore as the novel begins.

Jane is a highly-skilled but outspoken student often ending up in trouble. A series of events lead her to being exiled to a new model town on the prairies of Kansas with her colleagues Catherine and Jackson. The town of Summerland has its deep secrets, though, and is under the rule of the virulently racist sheriff.  The book works as metaphor for the slavery and Jim Crow periods, and how the ruling caste seeks to perpetuate social divisions even under existential threats to humanity.  But the book also works as a straight up adventure and horror story, with no shortage of humor, especially in Jane’s wry narration.

Recommended books:

Scary Movie Review: Night of the Living Dead (1968)

For Halloween week, I’m watching and reviewing highly-regarded horror films that I’ve never seen before.

Title: Night of the Living Dead
Release Date: October 1, 1968
Director: George Romero
Production Company: Night of the Living Dead

Watching this move for the first time means trying to forget all you know about it from the cultural soup that marinates us.  George Romero pretty much invents the rules for a zombie apocalypse story as well as kicking off the trend of graphically gory horror films of the 1970s and 1980s.  It’s also remarkable for having an African American actor Duane Jones in the lead role of Ben at a time when Black men were not appearing in movies as competent leaders.

Actually this movie has two lead characters with Judith O’Dea as Barbra being the point of view character for the first act of the movie.  Unfortunately, Barbra fades from significance in the narrative.  As disappointing as it that the female lead is stereotypically portrayed as helpless, O’Dea does put in compellingly authentic depiction of someone in a shock.  The other characters aren’t particularly well-acted or significant.  Karl Hardman plays Harry Cooper, the primary human antagonist who consistently challenges Duane (which also plays out as a racial divide regardless of whether it was scripted as one), but he’s a rather one-note character.

With a low budget, Night of the Living Dead shows some technical flaws (why are the live tv broadcasts from Washington in the daytime when it’s late at night in Pennsylvania?).  But Romero makes the best of these limitations with tight editing and dramatic lighting to heighten the suspense.  And even though I knew it was coming, that ending is a real kick in the gut.

Rating: ***1/2

2018 Year in Review: Favorite Songs – Part 1

It’s that time of the year for my list of favorite songs.  I’m doing things a little differently this year.  First, I have 25 songs to recognize this year (plus one honorable mention).  Second, I’m ranking them.  Third, I’ll be publishing the list over three posts today. I’ve limited the list to one song per artist, lest I just list the entirety of Dirty Computer.

Let’s get started!

Honorable Mention: “BAMM” :: Milo Manheim, Meg Donnelly, Kylee Russell (from Zombies)

25. “Hollywood (feat. Snoop Dogg & Jamie Principle)” :: Gorillaz

24. “Baby Luv” :: Nilüfer Yanya

23. “Tear Me to Pieces” :: Meg Myers

22. “Loneliest Girl” :: Princess Chelsea

21. “May Your Kindness Remain” :: Courtney Marie Andrews 

20. “Semicircle Song” :: The Go! Team 

19. “Future Me Hates Me” :: The Beths

18. “Under the Wheels” :: Calexico 

17. “In Your Beat” :: Django Django

16. “Before the Waters Get too High” :: Parquet Courts

Stay tuned for part two!

Favorite Songs by Year

1973 1974 1975 1976
1977 1978 1979 1980
1981 1982 1983 1984
1985 1986 1987 1988
1989 1990 1991 1992
1993 1994 1995 1996
1997 1998 1999 2000
2001 2002 2003 2004
2005 2006 2007 2008
2009 2010 2011 2012
2013 2014 2015 2016

Movie Review: Zombies (2018)

Release Date: 16 February 2018
Director:  Paul Hoen
Production Company: Princessa Productions, LTD

The Disney Channel heavily promoted this high school romantic comedy musical about zombies and cheerleaders, and it sounded so awe-sinine we felt compelled to watch it. The story begins 50 years after a zombie apocalypse when technology in a wristband helps prevent zombies from craving brains and basically live as ordinary people, albeit with green hair and pancake makeup. Despite this, there is still severs discrimination against zombies who are forced to live in a run down part of town behind a wall, wear government issued clothing, and have curfews.

Zed (Milo Manheim) is an idealistic zombie excited to be among the first group of zombies allowed to attend Seabrook High School where he hopes to play football. Addison (Meg Donnelly) is the daughter of the mayor and chief of police raised from childhood to compete for a spot on Seabrook High School’s illustrious cheer squad.  Zed and Addison meet, fall in love, and help bring the human and zombie communities together through big dance numbers.

The story is of course Romeo & Juliet by way of West Side Story (Addison and Zed sing a song called “Someday” which is an homage to “Somewhere” in West Side Story).  There are also influences from Teen Wolf (Zed uses his zombie strength to excel at football and gain popularity), and Addison’s story draws from Pleasantville and other movies about teenagers dealing with small town conformity. There are also true life influences such as the Jim Crow period in the United States, South African apartheid, and the present divide of Palestine and Israel.  However, you can’t go to far with those metaphors since the oppressed minorities in this movie were once brain-eating zombies.

Zombies is not a great movie, but it’s young actors are charming, some of the songs are good, the dance numbers are impressive, and it’s depiction of segregation and prejudice may be a good introduction for young audiences.

Rating: **1/2

Book Review: The Walking Dead Vol. 27: The Whisperer War by Robert Kirkman

Author: Robert Kirkman
Title:The Walking Dead Vol. 27: The Whisperer War
Publication Info: Image Comics (2017)

In the repeated plot that occurs about every 4-5 volumes of The Walking Dead, the survivors go to war.  Things go wrong, people die, there is infighting, blah, blah, blah.  Meanwhile, Negan is playing a long game, or is truly reformed?  It’s a possibly interesting plot.

Rating: **

Book Review: The Walking Dead Vol. 26: Call To Arms by Robert Kirkman

AuthorRobert Kirkman
TitleThe Walking Dead Vol. 26: Call To Arms
Publication Info: Image Comics (2016)

I’ve never been much too impressed with the character of Negan, so color me surprised that in this story of Negan escaping and joining The Whisperers, I find him funny, interesting, and even a voice of conscience!  It’s the little surprises like this that keep me reading when this series often seems to just retread that same things again and again.  Plus there’s quite a cliffhanger at the end, but Negan isn’t necessarily a reliable narrator so who knows where it will lead to next.

Rating: ***

Book Review: The Walking Dead Vol. 25: No Turning Back by Robert Kirkman

AuthorRobert Kirkman
TitleThe Walking Dead Vol. 25: No Turning Back
Publication Info: Image Comics (2016)

It seems not that long ago Rick Grimes decided that the way forward was to stop fighting and to work together to create a new society among the dead.  Well, since the creators of The Walking Dead seem only about to work with one or two ideas (while tantalizingly dancing around something more brilliant) we’re back to all out war as the central narrative of the ongoing zombie story.  Rick gets advice from Negan of all people and takes on an authoritarian leadership role to channel the Alexandrians rage at against the Whisperers.  Plus ça change…

Rating: **

Book Review: The Walking Dead Vol. 23: Life and Death by Robert Kirkman

AuthorRobert Kirkman
Title: The Walking Dead Vol. 24: Life and Death
Publication Info: Image Comics (2015)

This volume continues the ongoing story of survivors at various communities working to make something close to a normal life while working through the emotional devastation of the zombie apocalypse. They also have to deal with threats such as the Whisperers, an insurgency at Hilltop, and an imprisoned Negan’s mind games.  Then there’s a shocking conclusion!  It’s a good, nuanced story, and one of the better installments in the series.
Rating: **1/2

Book Review: The Walking Dead Vol. 23: Whispers Into Screams by Robert Kirkman

AuthorRobert Kirkman
Title: The Walking Dead Vol. 23: Whispers Into Screams
Publication Info: Image Comics (2015)

The last volume of The Walking Dead introduced the Whisperers, a group of people who wear skins of the dead so they can walk and live among the undead.  In this volume, a girl from the Whisperers is captured and during her captivity, Carl befriends her.  Meanwhile, Maggie is facing opposition as leader of the Hilltop community.  It’s a nice change of pace to take the focus off of Rick for once. I feel that these issues are kind of dragging their heels for now, but there’s a lot of potential that could be building for the Whisperers’ story.  They could become the next group our heroes have to fight a war against (god, I hope not), or there could be a more nuanced story of how these different types of survivors interact.
Rating: **1/2