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
Summary/Review:

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
2017

Movie Review: Zombies (2018)


TitleZombies
Release Date: 16 February 2018
Director:  Paul Hoen
Production Company: Princessa Productions, LTD
Summary/Review:

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)
Summary/Review:

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)
Summary/Review:

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)
Summary/Review:

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)
Summary/Review:

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)
Summary/Review:

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

Book Reviews: The Walking Dead (Volume 22): A New Beginning by Robert Kirkman


AuthorRobert Kirkman
TitleThe Walking Dead (Volume 22): A New Beginning
Illustrator: Charlie Adlard
Publication Info: Image Comics (2014)
Summary/Review:

Can the creators of The Walking Dead tell a story that does not revolve around survivors merely fighting zombies or fighting wars with other survivors?  The answer is yes!  This volume moves ahead a bit into a future where Rick and the leaders of surrounding communities are succeeding in developing sustainable communities amid the zombie horror.  Problems encountered now are the challenges of doing things that were normal in the old world.  For example, Carl is growing old enough to want to move out on his own to the Hilltop community.  Meanwhile, newly admitted survivors find the community too good to be true, an ironic turnabout.  Finally, the creepiest new antagonists are introduced.  This is a much set of stories and gives me hope for the continuing story of The Walking Dead.

Rating: ***1/2

Book Reviews: The Walking Dead (Volume 21): All Out War Part Two by Robert Kirkman


AuthorRobert Kirkman
TitleThe Walking Dead (Volume 21): All Out War Part Two
Illustrator: Charlie Adlard
Publication Info: Image Comics (2014)
Summary/Review:
I’ve put off continuing to read The Walking Dead series because it seems to have run out of ideas.  There’s only so many times you can read about the survivors of the zombie apocalypse fighting one another to the death.  And the current villain Negan has really run his course.

So thankfully this volume has some good things to offer as Negan is finally defeated.  This volume is also very slender, so at least the “all out war” isn’t drawn out.  Actually, Rick’s big speech about how they’ve learned to live with the constant threat of the dead around them and now it’s time to stop fighting and work toward rebuilding society seems to be a commentary on the comics series itself.  It seems to me that a story about the survivors facing the challenge of rebuilding without relying on the easy plot of the violent antagonist (whether it be from outside or within the group) is an interesting story to tell.  Now let’s see if Kirkman and co. can do it.

Rating: *1/2