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Review: “The Walking Dead” by Robert Kirkman

October 28th, 2010 Comments off

Books one through six have been released, with seven soon to come.

This Sunday, AMC will debut their brand new series The Walking Dead, based on the Robert Kirkman comic book series of the same name.  I don’t actually know if you’re supposed to call them graphic novels or comics.  It is more sophisticated that the cartoon books of my youth and it is easily closer to literature than one would associate with an Archie or X-Men book, so I’ll go with graphic novels.

I don’t quite recall what drove me to pick up TWD for the first time.  It may have been on a recommendation from G4TV’s Blair Butler or some interweb publicity, but I’m darn glad I did.  I’ve had a long-time fascination with the zombie genre of film-making that has extended beyond the George Romero staple to be highlighted by recent movies (be they comedies such as Shaun of the Dead or Zombieland, or action thrillers such as 28 Days Later) and even the under-exposed Max Brooks tome World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War.

The Walking Dead is a tale that starts off a bit like your typical zombie fare, but it evolving rather quickly into something more akin to literature.  That is not a knock on any of the movies in the genre (particularly 28 Days Later, which film’s beginning is quite aped by Kirkman in Book 1), nor is it a hack at World War Z, which very much so is a piece of unique literature, trading the oral history motif from the documentary to the sci fi.  The key, distinguishing element of TWD is that it doesn’t focus on the zombies.  The story is, instead, about the humans in their endeavor to survive.

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Trailer: The Walking Dead (2010)

August 24th, 2010 Comments off

In the world of “I Cannot Fracking Wait” debuts, AMC’s The Walking Dead, based on the graphic novel series by Robert Kirkman is pretty much atop my TV list… at least since the premiere of ABC’s V.  Well AMC just debuted a four and a half minute trailer for the series and announced it’s start date: 10 PM on Halloween night, this October.  Can… not… wait….

Review: Daybreakers (2010)

July 12th, 2010 Comments off

Daybreakers is really nothing close to The Matrix or 28 Days Later, even though it too rests on an interesting an unique idea.

Some movies just have not a whole lot going for them when I’m about to watch them.  Daybreakers is one such movie. I watched it earlier in the week while (i) suffering from a crummy stomach virus which both left me miserable and unable to really appreciate popcorn and (ii) reading “The Passage” by Justin Cronin, which is a book that, quite simply, puts most vampire stories to shame. But this isn’t a review of that brilliant book (which ranks as Amazon’s top book of the first half of 2010), that review will follow shortly when I finish it (it’s “War and Peace” long… well, not really, but darn close).

Anyway, Daybreakers is a movie I should have really liked.  It actually does meld a few different themes to create an interesting back story and milieu.  The basic premise is that a viral outbreak of vampirism (not the neutered “Twilight” kind, but the more Stokerish Blade variety) has led to a shift such that vampires have simply slid into and displaced humans in modern society.  Humans have become farmed for their blood and those that run free are hunted, but never killed.  The story somewhat expands on the idea from Blade of vampires as a back room clan with Catholic Church style resources, but no public face.  This has expanded to vampires fully running the show.  It’s actually a pretty interesting departure from the standard tale of viral apocalypse.  Pretty much every interesting fiction about viral apocalypse (be it “The Passage”, “World War Z“, I Am Legend, 28 Days Later, or even Zombieland) involves a mindless destruction of the world as we know it.  In Daybreakers, humans are really just displaced.

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Quick Hits: LOST S6, E16 — “What They Died For”

May 19th, 2010 Comments off

Oh, where to start. I like to jump into a semi-developed theory when kicking off one of these Quick Hits, so let’s take a look at Jack Sheppard as Rick Grimes. Who, you ask. Well, anyone with a purported awareness of Zombie fiction or AMC’s upcoming fall lineup can tell you.  Rick Grimes is the Cillian Murphy-like character from Robert Kirkman’s epic comic series The Walking Dead. Grimes wakes up in post-apocalyptic America… a changed world where Zombies have emerged and killed virtually all that Rick knows and finds. Somehow, he travels through the Southeast to discover his wife, son and a small band of survivors who have come together in efforts to merely live on.

As Jack's cut has expanded, the tear in space-time between the Island world and the sideways world has expanded.

A policeman by trade and an alpha male by nature, Rick is to Kirkman’s America as Jack is to the Producer’s Island. He is the natural leader to whom everyone turns and is driven by a passion to survive and try to save those around him. He also is one whose every success comes with a price and who is surrounded by inevitable failures. Much like Jack, his decisions are well intentioned and guided by decidedly benevolent intents, but often stray from moral standards. With Jack, one might point to his torture of Benjamin in Season 2. With Rick, one might point to the outright murder he commits in Book 3. In each case, it’s hard to argue with the reasoning behind each act, but the justification is decidedly dirty.

But what makes Jack very much so like Rick is his self awareness. Jack is torn asunder internally by both his past transgressions and his own self doubt. Both he and Rick feel directly responsible for the repercussions of their actions and eschew leadership roles… but do so only temporarily specifically because they are simply hiding from their true destinies and fated roles as leaders. The thing with both men is that they cannot be convinced of the need to forgive themselves their failures and the importance of their reassuming decision making roles. Instead, Rick tries to push leadership upon Terrence and Dale while Jack does the same for Sawyer and Hugo. Eventually, circumstances dictate their re-assumption of duties.

More on this and my quick hits, after the jump. Read more…

Review: Dead Snow (2009)

April 20th, 2010 Comments off

The movie is in German with English subtitles.

Not every movie is made to be great.  In fact, I’d say it’s not hard to argue that most zombie genre movies are not meant for greatness.  Dead Snow, or Død Snø if you want to be German about it, is just that type of movie.

It’s weird to see this kind of flick come to America from the foreign ranks.  Although you do see camp show up occasionally — think the awesome Shaolin Soccer or last year’s Bollywood kung fu comedy Chandni Chowk to China — it’s rare to really see a campy horror in subtitles.

The plot here is surprisingly easy to follow and having to watch the subtitles wasn’t actually that tough, even for a horror movie.  Basically, you have seven medical student friends who arrive in a remote, Norwegian (or at least I think it’s Norway) locale, where they expect to meet one’s girlfriend, who owns a cabin in the mountains.  They hike nearly an hour from the road to reach the rustic cabin.

When the girlfriend doesn’t arrive, they start to worry; tension is added by the visit of a local camper who warns of evil in the mountains which is descended from a Nazi crew that raped the land and eventually froze in the mountain cold.  When the boyfriend heads off to find his girl, the zombie fun kicks off in full.

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Photo: Bookstores stimulate brraaaiiiins

January 5th, 2010 Comments off

Seen at Borders on Park Avenue last night, the #9 Non-Fiction book is The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead.  The #8 Fiction work is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance – Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem!

I’ve read TZSG as the add-on to World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, which is a book I greatly enjoyed.  I can’t really say the same for TZSG.  I’ve not read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and admit that I don’t see myself doing so.  But I wholeheartedly recommend World War Z.

Do the walking dead read? At Borders they apparently do.

The Reality and Realism of Zombie Apocalypse

December 4th, 2009 2 comments
No word on whether the living dead will have the franchise in 2012.

No word on whether the living dead will have the franchise in 2012.

OK, I must admit that I have a completely immature interest in the genre of zombie entertainment.  I love the movies, the video games and even the literature.

Sure, I enjoyed Night of the Living Dead as a kid, but it wasn’t until the modern additions to the genre that I really started to get into it. Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later, in particular, opened my eyes to how intriguing the zombie (and zombie apocalypse) genre could be.  It wasn’t just the fast zombies, it’s the more evolved understanding of zombies.  Since then we’ve seen even more forays that challenged the genre, such as the recent low-budget UK film shot from the perspective of a zombie.

Well, despite the need to have some suspension of disbelief, there’s been some effort to actually look at the science of zombie apocalypses of late.

This post will examine some of the ways the zombie genre has turned more serious with looks at how new examinations review Historical Perspectives, Human Experience, Scientific Analysis and Finding Parallels to Actual Conditions.

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InfoGraphic: How everything goes to hell during a zombie apocalypse

December 2nd, 2009 1 comment

The folks over at The Oatmeal are always doing some really fun and interesting stuff.   Particularly  in the comics / info graphics environs.

Although there are some great classics like The Motherf**king Pterodactly and 8 Ways to Prepare Your Pets for War are great, their rundown of How Everything Goes to Hell During a Zombie Apocalypse is really some outstanding stuff.

Give a look-see after the jump. Read more…

Review: Zombieland (2009)

November 23rd, 2009 2 comments

The producers of Zombieland were very pleased with the reception the film got in theaters. The problem they had was the amazingly strong reception the movie got on Bit Torrent. I’m going to ignore that second fact by noting that I plan on purchasing the DVD when it’s available on Amazon, so we’ll ignore exactly how I came across a copy for my return flight from Houston on Sunday.

This movie is fun. It’s no high art, but it has many of the elements that have made teen or buddy comedies a success and installed them in a quick and clever zombie genre adaptation.

The film succeeds mostly on the back of its excellent cast, the male half of which is amazingly typecast. Woody Harrelson plays zombie-killing bad-ass Tallahassee. He is pretty much drawn as a mix of his Mickey Knox from Natural Born Killers and Roy Munson from Kingpin. And it plays amazingly well. In a reflective scene, when asked by Columbus if he’s one of those guys who listens to a story and automatically has to one up it with one of his own, he says, “No, but I know a guy just like that.”

As Columbus, the sidekick, Jesse Eisenberg plays his patented neurotic, but oddly identifiable teen (think Michael Cera with less awkward quirks and more psychologist bills). He rocks this role out far more effectively than he did playing the exact same character in Adventureland. He’s a witty, believable if ironic survivor who serves also as the narrator of the movie.

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Trailers: Zombie Games

November 13th, 2009 Comments off

Next week, Left 4 Dead 2 gets released by Valve. L4D was freaking awesome. This looks incredibly better. But there is a new player. On the Wii system we have Resident Evil the Darkside Chronicles. Their new, interactive trailer is not embeddable, but is very worth the click. Believe me.

So that might have to get on the Amazon buying queue. Anyway, here is the intro trailer that was leaked for L4D2.

Click through for the official Teaser Trailer for L4D2 and one for Resident Evil Darkside Gameplay. Read more…