Zombies

Lebowski Jesus

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The First Wave Short Film

Why Watch? First “The Infected,” now “The Cured.” Almost all zombie movies feel like a first act, which is probably why several have found success as franchises with multiple entries, but even then the story typically devolves into military madness and a society on the outs. This short from David Freyne imagines something very different: what if we defeated zombies with a vaccine, but those who return to the land of living still remember chewing into their neighbors’ cheeks? Launching from a compelling concept (that’s totally plausible) The First Wave is a contemplative story told through flashbacks and a nagging question from a doctor. But it’s not all floating, ethereal angst. The opening frames are a slap to the face, and creative framing (and a score that echoes a deep sense of loss) should keep your eyes wide open. It’s not a talky examination of an existential crisis. Instead, it offers enough of one former zombie’s story to allow the air in the conversation necessary for the original question to make its way back to the viewer. What happens when, through no fault of your own, you become a monster made of violence and regret? What if the thing you ran screaming from calmly moved in again next door?

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haitianzombies-truth1

Halloween is fast approaching, and as many cinephiles start watching as many horror films as they can in the month of October, you’ll start to see a trend. One of the most popular – and historically one of the most recent – monsters in horror movies are zombies. In fact, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a listing of October horror movies to watch without finding at least one or a dozen tales of the undead creeping (or rather, stumbling) in there. Zombie popularity is at an all-time high, with mainstream television series like The Walking Dead and summer tent pole releases like World War Z bringing in serious cash to Hollywood. However, like other classic monsters that have their roots in fact (like lycanthropy being applied to people with mental illness or vampirism being attributed to an exhumed corpse whose gums had receded and fingernails had appeared to grow), one might question how much truth there is to this whole zombie thing. It was a flight of fancy, until a gruesome real-life attack happened in May 2012, which may have been caused by recreational drugs. So that got us thinking. Could there be something to this zombie thing? Are zombies real?

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zombietruth-1

If you’ve spent any time watching movies, reading news stories about bath salts, enjoying AMC original programming, or farting around on Facebook, you’ve encountered the question about whether a zombie apocalypse could actually happen. Zombie stories range from the absurd (in films like Chopper Chicks in Zombietown) to the allegedly realistic (most recently in World War Z), but they all hinge on the question of what you would do in a worldwide outbreak of brain-eaters. Now that zombies have become possibly the most revered monster in horror and popular cinema (with Twilight vampires not counting because they aren’t real monsters), some people have wondered how fictional the day rising up is, but since we like to think outside the coffin, we started wondering: If a zombie apocalypse did happen, how long would it actually last?

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schwarzenegger

What is Casting Couch? It’s the casting news column that’s catching up on some developments that occurred over the weekend while preparing for tonight’s huge Stanley Cup Finals game. Find out what’s up with Adrien Brody and Felicity Jones before the puck drops. You’ve already seen him save the world from terrorists, aliens, and killer machines, and now it’s looking like you’re going to finally get the chance to see Arnold Schwarzenegger save the world from the oncoming creep of the zombie menace. Or, at least, he’s going to do his best to get his daughter through a zombie apocalypse, as that’s the plot of the latest project he’s taken on. According to Variety, the movie is called Maggie, it comes from a Black List script by strangely-named screenwriter John Scott 3, and it will see Schwarzenegger playing a father who is helping his daughter, “come to terms with her infection as she slowly becomes a zombie,” in what sounds like the most family-oriented role the action star has taken since he was in Junior.

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killing them softly 06

If there’s anything to remember about this week, it’s sadly that we lost one of the great actors of our era — a man who really deserved as much recognition during his career as he’s received since the announcement of his death. We’re going to really miss James Gandolfini. Now that I’ve dried my eyes, let me note some other big stories this week. Movie star Robert Downey, Jr., was officially confirmed to be returning for more Avengers movies just as we were looking at the latest on the death of the movie star following the failure of the Will Smith tentpole After Earth. Speaking of things that can’t stay down, zombies were a big topic thanks to the release of World War Z and apparently Superman thought human beings were as invincible as him in the world of Man of Steel. We also posted a lot of original content that didn’t make it to the Recap, like a pieces on one of the worst films of all time (From Justin to Kelly) and on one of the best (Rashomon), plus our ongoing coverage of the Los Angeles Film Festival. Maybe you should just read FSR every day and catch everything we publish so you don’t have to settle on these best of catch-up posts. Or you can enjoy both — the week as it happens and then the week in review. Start your weekend right after the jump.

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KenBurnsWorldWarZ

World War Z is not a very faithful adaptation. By placing it during the war, director Marc Forster and star Brad Pitt have fundamentally altered Max Brooks‘ after-the-fact oral history. Which is understandable. They wanted a big-budget, globe-spanning adventure, and that’s hard to squeeze out of a guy traveling the world calmly speaking with survivors. The movie is out this weekend (Rob’s review), and we couldn’t help but wonder what it would have looked like if it were a little more faithful to the book. So we turned to our old pal Sleepy Skunk to make a video that imagines what Ken Burns‘ version of World War Z would have been like. For all of you aching for a zombie documentary, here’s a small piece of alternate history.

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3

What’s the perfect zombie-killing weapon? We settle the question with writer/director Joel Morgan, who may or may not be opening a crowbar store in the near future. And if one Apocalypse isn’t enough, we’ve got another in the form of comments made by Steven Spielberg about the inevitable “meltdown” of the Hollywood studio system. Geoff and I get our hands dirty with that one before appreciating and responding to this screenwriting post by Scott Myers at Go Into the Story. Grab your crowbar and prepare yourself. For more from us on a daily basis, follow Joel Morgan (@joelmorgan23), the show (@brokenprojector), Geoff (@drgmlatulippe) and Scott (@scottmbeggs) on the Twitter. And, as always, we welcome your feedback. Download Episode #21 Directly Or subscribe Through iTunes

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Zombies

After years of chatter, delays, and just plain trouble, the big screen version of Max Brooks’ game-changing zombie oral history, in the guise of director Marc Forster’s extremely changed and chopped up World War Z, finally hits theaters this Friday. While the production’s apparently awful journey to a theater near you (complete with enough script changes to make anyone consider letting a zombie eat their brains, just so you no longer have to attempt to keep track of who wrote what and when and maybe even how and one of Hollywood’s biggest reshoots ever) is finally over, it still remains to be seen if the world is ready for a big blockbuster (read: wildly expensive) zombie movie starring Brad Pitt. While the final product is certainly entertaining (and generally in a positive way), Forster’s film is still just a zombie movie, which is why the coolest thing about the film (really) is the fact that it busts out “the z-word” within its first hour, scoffs at it a bit, and then just runs with it. In World War Z, the world is screwed, Pitt plays a guy trying to stop an outbreak that’s based on a guy who reported on said outbreak ten years later (sorry, source material), but at least zombies are “zombies.” It’s about time.

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It’d be beating a dead horse to gripe about Hollywood’s reliance on sequels, prequels, and adaptations, but not all is right in the world with the recent release of the trailer for the World War Z adaption from star and producer Brad Pitt. I don’t have a problem with Hollywood bringing books and other previously existing media to the screen – hell, I like it most of the time. It’s cool to see a cinematic translation of something you know and enjoy. Therein lies the rub with the World War Z trailer. It doesn’t appear to be a translation of something people know and enjoy. I say “people” and not myself since I actually found World War Z to be a fairly big disappointment, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t hoping for an excellent zombie movie, based however it may be on the failed execution of a great premise. It’s not always wise to judge a movie by its trailer, but from our first look it seems Hollywood has screwed the pooch in the most Hollywood way imaginable.

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Night of the Living Dead

October continues, and we’re moving to our next batch of favorite on-screen monsters. This week we’re talking about zombies and all the glorious ways George Romero changed that sub-genre forever. Originally an urban legend in Voodoo culture, the term “zombie” was forever married to an image of mobs of the undead searching for flesh to sink their rotting teeth into. It’s a friendly image, no doubt. We’ve already turned our eardrums over what Romero had to say on the commentary track for Dawn of the Dead, the sequel to this groundbreaking classic, but now we’re going back to the source. This time around, Romero has brought along two members of the cast and his co-writer, John Russo, so the conversation should be a bit livelier than creatures they all had a hand in creating on screen. So here we go, all 26 things we learned from the commentary track for Night of the Living Dead.

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The Best Short Films

Why Watch? This is one of the reasons I love Short of the Week. Without them, I never would have found this ridiculous diamond collar in the ruff. As ashamed as I am of that last sentence, it’s with great pride that I feature this short. It plays off the well-worn zombie trope by transferring the humanity of the story to a canine set. With flashy, suggestive editing that makes the best use of a smaller budget, the moments of gore really stand out even if it’s the unseen attacks that hit the hardest. It also manages to go into dark territory, because even if zombies don’t want to bite into the dogs, the human survivors are still trying to stay fed. The story is a only slightly more than a few great bits woven together, and the minimal amount of shaky cam is still too much, but overall this is a creative and daring short with a lot of love for the genre. What will it cost you? Only 16 minutes. Skip work. Watch more short films.

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Editor’s note: With FSR favorite ParaNorman opening today, we thought it was only appropriate to re-post our very special set visit from the film, originally posted on May 21, 2012. I recently visited a nondescript building outside Portland, Oregon that would feel right at home in any corporate office park in America. Nothing about the bland, uninteresting exterior even hinted at what to expect beyond the front doors. There’s no sign outside to tell you where you are. No iconic sculptures alluding to what they do inside. Nothing at all that even hints at the harmonious blend of magic and technology within. But make no mistake, what LAIKA Studios is hiding inside those four generic-looking walls is nothing short of a revolution in film production…a revolution 115 years in the making. LAIKA is the studio behind 2009’s critical and commercial hit, Coraline, a film that utilized creepy but beautiful stop-motion puppetry to tell Neil Gaiman’s dark childhood fable. Their follow-up feature is an original work called ParaNorman. It’s an Amblin-like tale of a small New England town, a very special boy who can see and talk with the dead, and a zombie uprising that threatens to destroy them all. And yes, it’s a comedy. Keep reading for a peek behind the scenes of LAIKA Studios’ upcoming production, ParaNorman, and their secret, high-tech weapon…Rapid Prototype 3D printers.

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It is possible for family films, like any other film genre (or, for that matter, any other entertainment medium), to play to the cheap seats. It’s just that in the case of family films, those seats are brightly colored, made of molded plastic, and help little Jimmy see over the lady in front of him at the theater. When a filmmaker resigns himself to aiming the core of their movie low enough that only the tiniest of funny bones will be struck, story and character development take an unfortunate back seat. This issue has been raised and examined in many reviews on this particular site, and often due to the fact that the family film under review is guilty of sacrificing craft for a demographic-pandering layup. ParaNorman also calls to mind this issue, but quite fortunately, that’s only because it stands as a sterling example of a film that exists free of that compromise. ParaNorman is the tale of a boy named, unsurprisingly, Norman, who has been blessed/cursed with the ability to converse with the dead. This ability, as one would expect, leads to his being ostracized by his peers, mocked by his sister, and even resented by his father. Norman’s typically benevolent visions of the other side become increasingly sinister and foretelling of a horrible fate facing his community. Are the sins of Blithe Hollow’s past threatening to destroy its future? Is Norman the only person equipped to halt the impending Armageddon? Will saving his town finally get the […]

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All the cool kids who are too cool for Comic-Con and all about trying to be cool by saying how not cool Comic-Con has become try to be cool by going to the cool comic area and buying cool things. Cool, right? But seriously, I always like to put the “comic” in Comic-Con and take a walk around the all the different comic vendors, big and small, and find cool stuff to buy. This year is no different and I found a few things that piqued my interest and raped my wallet. Have a peek into my barely literate world!

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The Best Short Films

Why Watch? Good news. The zombie invasion is over, and mankind kicked brain-eating ass. The bad news? The damned infection is still out there, and a few…problems…arise. The zombie genre is all but played out for now, but the brilliance of this short is in turning the situation into a police drama. Instead of a terrorist with a bomb in a governmental building, it’s a zombie with an unknown strain of the virus in an apartment with a baby in the next room. It’s a study in what it means when failure is success, when losing lives is the right course of action, and the weight that bears. Plus, everything from the camera work to the design is all pro level. Excellent work in twisting a tired genre. What will it cost? Only 16 minutes. Skip Work. You’ve Got Time For More Short Films

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Despite the fact that none of these movies that pit two famous movie creatures against each other and none of these B-movie tributes that present material that’s self-aware in its schlockiness have managed to become runaway hits, Hollywood has deemed them to be a trend. And like any other trend, it’s not going to go away until it’s run so far into the ground that it’s almost time to dig it back up for a revival. The next big entry into the purposefully cheesy something vs. something genre is coming from Amazon.com’s Amazon Studios, and it’s going to be called Zombies vs. Gladiators. You see, zombie movies have been a thing for a long time, and gladiator movies have been a thing for a long time…so why not mash them together? It worked so well for Cowboys vs. Aliens after all. All snarkiness and genre exploitation burnout aside, Zombies vs. Aliens does have one thing going for it that none of its predecessors did: pedigree. Amazon Studios may have a set-up where pitches and screenplays are submitted and then voted on, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t hire big Hollywood names to make the projects they decide to green light; and that’s exactly what they’ve decided to do here. Despite the fact that he hasn’t done much writing lately, and he hasn’t directed a film since 1995’s Lord of Illusions, somehow Clive Barker has been convinced to both re-write the Zombies vs. Gladiators script and serve as its director.

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The Coroner

Doghouse, which was called Zombie Harlem in Japan (I can’t tell if that’s better or worse), is a British horror-comedy that’s been resting in my Netflix queue for the better part of two years. One of those films that sounds interesting, but has an air of uncertain quality about it. The official synopsis goes a little something like this: a group of men head to a remote village to help their friend get over a divorce, only to find it overrun with women who hunger for flesh. Sounds titillating right? And by titillating, I mean it should have a lot of boobs in it, right? And carnage? And death? Correct! That’s what it sounds like. But that’s not what it is.

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Boiling Point

AMC’s The Walking Dead and I have a strange relationship in that I watch it but don’t particularly care for it. I can’t really tell you why I tune in every week, but it has something to do with my great love for the comic books and a desire to see horror on television, mostly regardless of quality. The books by Robert Kirkman have always had a bit of melodrama about them, but the show has often taken that to obvious, soap opera levels. “The Walking Dead” comics feature a great cast of characters with complex motivations and relationships. Many of those characters made it to the television show – well, at least characters with the same names made it in. Things have changed so drastically from comic to screen that one has to ask – when does an adaptation stop being an adaptation?

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The Coroner

Ahh, zombies. In many ways, speaking of the entertainment world, the end has already arrived and we are overrun with zombies. Zombie comics, t-shirts, movies, toys, and television shows. I used to love zombie movies. Hell, I wrote a zombie screenplay in college. The zombie craze reignited in the early 2000s with 28 Days Later and the remake of Dawn of the Dead. From then on, we’ve been fairly well saturated with the undead. Can you get too much of a good thing? Yes, yes of course you can. Too much of anything will eventually kill you or drive you insane. What a stupid question. Ignoring that momentary lapse of stupidity, when inundated with zombie flicks to the point of not caring, is it possible to find anything worthwhile, anything new? Enter The Dead. (That sounds pornographic!)

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published: 12.23.2014
B+
published: 12.22.2014
C-
published: 12.19.2014
A-


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