Sunday, November 29, 2009

Well, I just slept through a couple of interesting movies--I hate that. It's because I wake up too early in the morning and go to bed too late. I tend to live on about five hours sleep a night. Anyway, the first was Wes Anderson's new movie, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and from what I saw of it, it was pretty good. It's unusually offbeat and dark for a children's movie (though not for a Roald Dahl story, which this is based on) and full of the same obsessive detail that characterizes all of Wes Anderson's movies. From seeing the trailer, I was worried the stop-motion animation would get in the way of the characters (many of whom are Anderson veterans like Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, and Willem Dafoe), but I got caught up in it right away...until I passed out. I must say I like this trend of having quirky filmmakers like Wes Anderson and Spike Jonze (who just did Where the Wild Things Are) make stuff for kids that actually encourages them to think deeply, rather than just scream and run around. I like quiet, depressed kids.

The second movie was a Korean Western called The Good, the Bad, and the Weird, which sounds incredibly terrible, I know, but is actually a wonderful (and really well-made) Sergio Leone homage. Set in remote pre-WWII Manchuria, which was occupied at the time by the Japanese, the story is something about a stolen treasure map, with various Chinese, Japanese, and Korean gunslingers going mano-a-mano for the chance to get rich. This sounds exotic, but the setting and tone are pure spaghetti Western--or kimchi Western, as my friend Steve Ahlquist called it. He also said this is the highest-budgeted movie to come out of South Korea, and it shows--it's a real epic. I wish I'd been awake to see the whole thing, but my friends and I had just finished a huge Thanksgiving feast at Steve's house, and the food knocked me out. But between this film and the recent Korean monster movie The Host, I think Korean filmmakers have proven they can do anything Hollywood can do...and maybe even do it better.


Monday, November 23, 2009

Hey, saw a very interesting movie over the weekend: Antichrist, directed by Danish director Lars von Trier (Breaking the Waves). It stars Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg as a couple whose young son is killed in an accident due to their slight negligence, and how the husband--a professional therapist--tries to help his wife cope with her extreme grief by taking her to a remote cabin in the woods. Bad idea. I don't want to give too much away, but basically the situation leads to a total psychotic breakdown, with both characters having weird, horrifying visions and eventually doing the most awful things to themselves and each other.

My wife did not enjoy this movie at all, and it is pretty disturbing stuff, but I was engrossed throughout (as well as grossed-out). I felt that I had experienced a very personal expression by filmmakers who were definitely not guided by market research or mainstream prudery. I always admire that, because I am so tired of watered-down filmmaking by committee. This movie has the courage of its evil convictions, and it doesn't flinch from showing anything and everything. It's also beautifully shot. But if you see it, don't blame me if it makes you want to barf. You brought it on yourself.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I was on the website Goodreads recently, writing a list of books that influenced me to write Xombies, and I somehow forgot to include Voltaire's Candide, from which Lulu Pangloss derives her name. Oh well, I can't keep it all straight--it's been almost ten years since I wrote the book.

Monday, November 16, 2009

How is it that so many people making money off of zombies are just freely using George Romero's zombies (i.e., flesh-eating, rotting, shoot-'em-in-the-head type zombies, which didn't exist before Romero invented them) without having to pay him a royalty or something? And even if they don't, isn't it a little obnoxious? As a fan of Romero's movies, I never dreamed of ripping off his specific ideas, and I know I'm not the only one to invent my own variety of undead (which is what GR did himself). But many of these guys are just shameless about screwing George, and act like making money off his seminal idea is some kind of tribute, or protected as parody or something. It ain't right.
Just saw two new movies over the weekend: 2012 and A Christmas Carol. 2012 was exactly what I expected--the end of the world as a giant special-effects extravaganza--so I was neither thrilled nor disappointed. I got my money's worth.

The movie that surprised me was Robert Zemeckis's new 3-D, CGI remake of A Christmas Carol. That kind of blew my mind. My favorite version of Carol has always been the very dark cartoon adaptation made by animator Chuck Jones, because I always thought it captured the ghost-story aspect the best--it's genuinely scary and grim. When I heard that Zemeckis was doing a CGI version, all I could think of was how it would be gutted, made snarky and family-safe. Not because I didn't trust Zemeckis (I've loved a lot of his stuff), but because I didn't trust Hollywood. I could just imagine how they would pressure him to add cute sidekicks and fart jokes. And there are a couple of scenes in the movie where Scrooge has to do silly pratfalls. But this is still a beautiful movie experience, one that made the story new for me all over again. That's a big thing to say, I know, and I only say it because I was not particularly looking forward to seeing this film, but it won me over instantly. It's dark, it's scary, it's weird, and best of all it's faithful to Dickens. In fact, I can imagine a lot of people being shocked by this movie's unapologetic moralizing. I highly recommend it.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Here's a very insightful review of Xombies: Apocalypse Blues that I imported from the book blog Thanks, Kimber An!

I really wanted to have this one up for you by Halloween, even though I don't actually celebrate it and even though this isn't really about zombies. It's Xombies. So, what the heck, here it is now. I really am trying to get back on a regular schedule and caught up and all that.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg advised me to read books like I'm writing to learn all I can, so I went looking and found this book. Like mine, it has a seventeen year old heroine with a pre-existing medical condition and a really nasty virus that turns otherwise nice people into freakin' lunatics. That's where the similarities end though. XOMBIES is not Young Adult and mine is. It's written for a much broader readership and there's plenty of masculinity to go around, 'cause, it's written by a guy for one thing. However, I think my younger friends, male and female, will enjoy it.

Lulu thought she had a nutty mother, and she did by everyday standards. Her mom relentlessly stalked an old man for years, trying to nail him for child support, even though he probably wasn't her father. Even though she was seventeen and could've taken off and probably done well for herself, they moved around so often she never really developed attachments or resources. Her nutty mama was all she had in the world. While most girls her age probably would've gotten the heck out, it's important to understand that what a child lives is her definition of normal. Without other resources or attachments, finding a new life elsewhere is almost incomprehensible. Lulu was kept in this stage of childhood development a lot longer because of the constant moving. I think, as a former professional childcare provider, it's important for the reader to understand that Lulu's emotional development is stunted.

I think it's also important to know a lot of children grow up in dysfunctional families and are, therefore, stunted in their emotional development in one way or another. A lot of people don't take that into consideration when dealing with young people, whether in real life or fiction, and they can be very cruel without realizing it.

Lulu gets a jump-start on growing up fast one day.

Lulu and her mom have been living in a beach house because the people who own it aren't around and because the old man her mom is stalking, Fred Cowper, lives nearby. So, they're out there without a t.v. or anything, always keeping a low profile so Mom doesn't have to pay rent. The day finally comes when the food's low and Lulu's trust fund check comes in. Mom goes to town and Lulu can only hope she spends it on food instead of on some hair-brained scheme.

Instead, Mom comes back terrorized. The world outside they're little bubble seems deserted and martial law has been declared. A plague more terrifying than Ebola or the Black Death is running rampant. Menstruating women turn into terrifying monsters and attack men.

At this point, my husband asked, "And how is that different from real life?" I just about smacked him upside the head!.
Anyway, the orders are to stay indoors. Lulu and Mom do that for a while, but the food is running out and they're going crazy. So, they decide to check things out. Bad idea. They find a house full of dead men's body parts and all of sudden these creepy blue monsters start chasing them. Lulu loses track of Mom and next thing she knows Mom's one of them and she's screaming for her to remember who she is.

It's kinda like the Borg on Star Trek. The Xombies assimilate regular humans into becoming xombies too. That's how they procreate.

Then, Lulu finds Cowper, he realizes she's immune, and they make a break for it in his old car. Picture it charging down the highway with blue xombies chasing it, climbing all over it like army ants, and so on. Very exciting chase, that one.

They finally get to a safety zone and Cowper manages to convince the surviving men that she's no threat, that she's immune, and maybe even her immunity could lead to a cure. Lulu hopes it's not just a lot of BS. The survivors consist of military men, young and old, including boys Lulu's age. Unfortunately, being the only teenaged girl in a sea of teenaged boys is not the girlhood dream one might think. Almost all the men and boys too are terrified and hateful of her. They're just sure this is all her fault somehow, 'cause she's female, and she might suddenly turn on them. Hmm, isn't that the basis for misogyny in real life too?

Then, she gets tackled by gigantic chipmunk.

I swear, it's in the book!

See, a fight breaks out, she's out in the middle, and no one's eager to save her until this boy, Hector, tackles her to the ground and he's dressed in a chipmunk suit. Actually, he's 'Safety Squirrel' from school or something. Quiet, smart, keeps a level head in a desperate situation, just the kind of guy a girl might want to settled down and repopulate the world with, but I digress.

The survivors need to get to a submarine and escape the xombies by going out to sea. It's another wild chase and a big fight. Lots of blue creepies go in the water and then there's running and screaming and they put out to see, but there's xombies still on board. All the big guys are trying to figure out how to get rid of these xombies when it comes to Lulu. The teenaged boys tell her to shut-up, she'll just get in trouble, except Hector, of course, but she doesn't.

Ah, Lulu is growing up.

I'd like to tell you more, like what she figured out would get them and all, but I think it would spoil it for you. Suffice it to say, this novel has great Science Fiction, Old Hollywood Horror, and the Intimate Adventure of a girl growing into womanhood in the middle of it all too. There's daughter/crazy mother going on, daughter/maybe birthfather dude, and a boy who gives her the warm fuzzies in more ways than one. A really great read. It's off the shelves at my store now. If it's off yours, I say it's worth ordering. You don't have to pay shipping if you order it through most local bookstores.

To learn more about this book, the author, and the next book in the series, pop over to
Posted by Kimber An at 5:27 PM
Just saw the movie Pontypool--not bad, considering the whole movie essentially takes place in one room. It's a Canadian zombie movie about three people working in the studio of a small-town (the town's name is Pontypool) radio station, who gradually become aware that people outside are becoming cannibalistic maniacs. The reason for this is that certain ordinary words have somehow become "infected," meaning if you speak or hear them you turn into a crazy, word-obsessed freak. It's like the ultimate OCD. And because a radio host's job is to talk about everything that's happening, it becomes a very irony-laden situation.

The acting is uniformly good, especially the Don Imus-like radio host, and there are some creepy moments as he fields various callers describing what's going on, but by the end the interesting premise gets stretched a bit thin. This would have been perfect as one of those old-time radio plays rather than a film. Still, the whole thing is handled intelligently, and I enjoyed it.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Whoops, disregard that audio recording thing from the last post--it's still under construction.

Hey, I just saw the new, expanded trailer for James Cameron's Avatar--it's cool, but jeez, I wish they wouldn't give so much of the movie away. I hate this thing in our movie culture now where success is so heavily based on the first weekend's grosses, so they throw absolutely everything at you before the movie is even released. I like to be surprised. That was half the fun of going to movies when I was a kid: seeing some mysterious, vague images (think of the TV spots for Star Wars, or the original poster for Rocky--I didn't even know it was about boxing!), then getting my socks knocked off when I went to the movie.

I've been watching some episodes of The Incredible Hulk lately, a show I had no interest in when it originally ran on TV, and I've been pleasantly surprised at how not-terrible it is. It's at least as good as the two big-budget Hulk movies they just made. And speaking of movies, one thing that I've found amusing is how the TV show recycles special-effects from movies. For instance, I just watched an episode that used all the truck footage (including the climactic cliff-plunge) from Steven Spielberg's Duel. The studio owns the footage, so they can do whatever they want, but I wonder how Spielberg feels about that. And another Hulk episode uses all the exterior 747 shots from Airport 1975--I kept waiting for Charlton Heston and Karen Black to appear. Maybe if I keep watching, the Hulk will have episodes that take place in a capsized cruise ship or a burning high-rise, or he'll have to fight a great white shark. He's like Forrest Gump!