Thursday, December 13, 2012

Review: Warm Bodies (5 Things You Can Expect)

Last night I attended a special advance preview screening of Warm Bodies, the movie (based on a book) that people are calling "Twilight with zombies" possibly because none of these people have seen or read either. The only similarity between Warm Bodies and Twilight is that the girl is 100% human and the guy is not.

This is your warning for possible spoilers. It's a book, and it's a book that's been out a while, but whatever, if you don't want to spoiled, you might not want to read this. I'm just saying.

Warm Bodies, based on the novel by Isaac Marion, takes place in post-apocalyptic America, where unknown circumstances have caused part of the population to turn into zombies. As is the case with most zombie lore, if you're bitten by a zombie, you turn into a zombie, but unlike most of the fare, these zombies apparently still retain a bit of their humanity, as evidenced by the main character (and narrator), R (Nicholas Hoult). His name is R because all that he remembers about his pre-zombie existence is that his name started with "r". He is able to think, and occasionally speak, but most of the other zombies that join him in his daily airport wanderings are not.

(It's important to note that there are two different kinds of zombies. There are the "corpses", like R, the ones who still look like people. And then there are the Bonies, who are corpses who have just given up and become these skeletal predators who eat anything with a heartbeat.)

One day while out hunting with his best friend, M (Rob Corddry), and others, they run into a group of humans from "behind the wall", who are on a supply run in the unguarded city. R has a moment with Julie (Teresa Palmer), our heroine, in that he is momentarily stunned at the sight of her, before he attacks and kills Perry (Dave Franco), Julie's boyfriend, and eats his brain -- and therefore his memories. Perry's memories seem to make him extra protective of Julie, and instead of killing her, he covers her with his blood, masking her scent from the others, and brings her back to the airport.

The rest of the movie revolves around Julie and R's burgeoning relationship and the change it's causing in R -- and eventually the others. But whereas R wants to keep Julie at the airport with him, she wants to return behind the wall to her father (John Malkovich), the leader of what is possibly the only human settlement left on the planet.

So here are 5 things that you can expect from Warm Bodies:

1. Zombie violence.

You think this is pretty self-explanatory, but as I was reading the warning on my ticket, I kept going, "Zombie violence? How is that different from regular violence?" Well, the difference is, they're zombies. So there's biting, and brain eating, and though none of it is too graphic, the very squeamish might want to look away during some scenes, especially when you learn about Bonies near the beginning and witness someone becoming one.

2. Humor.

It's narrated by a zombie, after all, who has a very realistic outlook on his current circumstances. The humor lies mostly in R's voiceovers, which make him sound like a completely normal person until you look at the screen and you realize he's, you know, eating someone's brain. One particular moment that really got the audience laughing was when he's trying to pass as human, and he tells himself to "say something human", and he says, "How are you?" and then goes, Nailed it.

Points must also go to Julie's best friend, Nora (Analeigh Tipton), who plays a small role in the beginning that gets larger at the end, because she's just awesome.

3. Romance.

It's billed as a "zombie romance", hence all the Twilight comparisons, because the main plot point is that R is slowly becoming more and more human through his interactions with Julie. It's got one of those "love conquers all" themes that some people might find ridiculous but in this sense kind of works, because R and his friends still look human, as opposed to the Bonies, who are beyond all help.

4. Kickass soundtrack.

R is a hoarder, and one of the things he collects is vintage vinyl records, because he's a purist and the sound quality is better, as he explains to Julie when she asks why doesn't just get an iPod. He sits on his abandoned plane full of random crap that he brings back after hunting trips and listens to his albums like the sad sack hipster zombie that he is.

5. Kickass characters.

And by "kickass", I mean they kick ass. Julie's affect on R starts spreading to the rest of the Corpses, and this causes a huge chain reaction that culminates in a gigantic battle at the end. R is a pretty awesome fighter, which apparently is par for the course when you become a zombie, but Julie is no slouch either. She shoots moving targets while on the run in a scene that made me excited just because she wasn't the typical damsel in distress. Every time R saves Julie from the zombies, it's because she's quite literally surrounded, but she's still attempting to fight them off with whatever she can find, like weed whackers.

I haven't read the book, so I can't make any comparisons (although I can tell from the Wikipedia summary of the book's plot that there are differences, so be aware of that), but I can tell you, as someone with no previous knowledge and as such no expectations, that this movie was funny and touching, and there were points in the movie where the audience actually cheered. I really enjoyed this movie, and will probably go again when it officially gets released in February.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Downton Abbey Goes Downtown


This photo of Downton Abbey cast members Rob James-Collier (Thomas), Hugh Bonneville (Lord Grantham), Sophie McShera (Daisy), Joanne Froggatt (Anna), and Brendan Coyle (Bates) was taken at the 59th St -- Columbus Circle subway station in good old New York City. AKA the subway station I use every day on my way to and from work, the subway station from which I am approximately 10 blocks away at this very moment.

The cast, along with Elizabeth McGovern (Lady Grantham) and Jim Carter (Mr. Carson), are in town to promote season 3 of the beloved ITV drama, which premieres on PBS January 6, 2013 (x). PBS is hosting a sneak preview, featuring a special panel and discussion, in preparation for the debut. The event is tomorrow, December 12, at 7:30pm, at a location I know not where (unfortunately), but fear not, fellow Anglophiles! It is also being livestreamed here at PBS's YouTube channel. (FYI: The livestream of the panel start at 8pm, following the sneak peek.)

The cast are also appearing on tomorrow's episode of The View (x).

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Pressing Engagement: At New York Comic Con

Yes, New York Comic Con was almost two months ago. No, I do not have a good or even semi-decent excuse as to why it's taken me this long to write about it, unless being a lazy procrastinator counts.

This year I was able to register as press, which was excellent for a number of reasons, but primarily because members of the press get in free, and even though passes to NYCC are less than $100, I have been financially strapped since getting back from San Diego in July. Being press also means that you're able to interview the guests without seeming like a total creeper, although this isn't something that's just handed to you -- you actually have to work and get yourself on those lists. (Don't laugh, as someone who has never been press for anything, I didn't realize you had to do that yourself. After all, DC called me, I was kind of expecting that to be how things worked. Though to be honest, the only people I wanted to interview were the two people for whom I actually was able to get in the press room, Tyler Posey and Jeff Davis from Teen Wolf.)

Having gone to NYCC the previous two years as a regular ticket-holder -- not one of the fancy VIP passes that cost several hundred dollars and are well out of my price range, especially considering in 2010 and 2011 I was unemployed -- to be honest, being press wasn't all that different of an experience. Other than, you know, the getting in free and getting to interview Tyler Posey and Jeff Davis.

NYCC is primarily a fan-oriented convention, as I'm sure most conventions are. Press pass holders are not guaranteed anything except entry. We get a special entrance, which means I didn't have to wait in the massive line every morning (except I still did, because the Javits Center is under construction and there's not much room for queuing up outside). The convention center opened at 10am, so 10am is when I showed up, and more often than not, I was able to walk right in with minimal fuss. I did, however, on Saturday (by far the busiest day of the convention), have to listen to numerous exhibitors piss and moan about having to wait in line with the rest of us, continually going, "I'm an exhibitor, let me through!" only to hear the person they were trying to line jump in front of going, "I'm an exhibitor, too, douchebag, wait in line like everyone else." Ah, New York.

As being press does not guarantee anything, I too had to wait in line for entry into the panel rooms, getting there early if I wanted a good seat. For the 12:15 Teen Wolf panel on Saturday, I lined up as soon as I was able to get inside the Javits. And I still ended up in the fourth row. (But that's okay because 1) I still had a pretty decent, relatively unobstructed view of both the screen and the guests, and 2) I got to interview them later anyway.) I still count myself lucky I was able to get into Friday's Robot Chicken panel, an NYCC staple that is consistently extremely popular, even if the questions asked by fans are always exactly the same.

Those in the press don't even receive preferential seating. If I got to a panel room late -- as in the case of FOX's new show The Following, which is the show Kevin Bacon was promoting when I met him at SDCC -- I have to scramble for a seat wherever I can get it. Most of the regular ticket holders were pleased when I mentioned this, although I don't see the harm in saving at least one row of seats for members of the press. They don't have to be front row center, but somewhere close enough that you can see what's going on. Studios send their current and upcoming projects to conventions not only to interact with fans, but also to spread the word, and the easiest way to spread the word is through the press, and the easiest way the press can spread the word is to be able to get into the panel in the first place.

The only "press" thing I did at the convention was, as previously mentioned, interview Tyler Posey and Jeff Davis from Teen Wolf, which was by far one of the coolest things I have ever done. I contacted the MTV press people a couple of days before the convention and expressed interest in being included on the list into the press room, assuming that little old me with my Flip and myself would be seated at one of the round tables. Imagine my surprise when they instead stuck me on the press line! I got approximately three minutes with each, three minutes all to myself, three minutes that I had to fill up with questions when I had absolutely nothing prepared, assuming that I'd be at a round table and get maybe one question in. I think I did rather well, considering that it was my first time, although I felt like a gigantic idiot and fretted about the interviews the rest of the day, until I was able to post them. (My interview with Tyler was even turned into a .gifset on Tumblr. I feel like that's a sign of acceptance.) I have new respect for people who do this on a regular basis, although they're probably used to it in a way that I am not.

It is my wish that I will one day be able to do this on a regular basis and not be a total goober about it. Will I be able to attend as press next year? Here's hoping!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The 10 Christmas Specials I Must Watch Every Year

Everyone (who celebrates Christmas) has their own traditions. One of mine is the required annual viewing of some key holiday movies and specials. I present to you, in no particular order, the 10 Christmas Specials I Must Watch Every Year.

1. A Muppet Family Christmas


If you were a child in the 80s, you might remember this NBC special that was made of awesome, which featured Fozzie bringing the cast of The Muppet Show to visit his mom for the holidays, not realizing that she has rented her house to Fraggle Rock's Doc and Sprocket so she can go to California. Later on, the gang from Sesame Street comes a-wassailing, even though Fozzie's mom's house in the country is probably not within walking distance of Manhattan. The 7-minute carol medley at the end of the show is superb. If you were a 5-year-old in the 80s, like I was when this aired in 1987, this is the most fantastic hour of television in the history of time. 

And speaking of the Muppets...

2. A Muppet Christmas Carol


The Muppets come together to tell Charles Dickens' classic A Christmas Carol, with the Great Gonzo as Dickens and Rizzo as someone just there for the (sometimes fake) food. Before Michael Caine was Alfred, he was Ebenezer Scrooge, haunted by Marley and Marley (aka Statler and Waldorf) and harassing poor Kermit Bob Cratchit. At least three of the songs in this musical are on my Christmas playlist, with "One More Sleep 'Til Christmas" endlessly repeating on Christmas Eve. I saw this bad boy in theaters.

And while we're still talking about Muppets...

3. Christmas Eve on Sesame Street


Even though Oscar hates Christmas (he's got a song about it and everything!) the entire Sesame Street gang comes together to look for Big Bird when he attempts to uncover the mystery of how big fat Santa fits into all those skinny chimneys, especially in chimney-less Manhattan. Bert and Ernie's side-plot, with each of them trading their most treasured possessions in order to get the other a Christmas present begs the question how can they afford that super nice apartment if they can't even afford a soap dish and a cigar box? But my all-time favorite storyline is poor, addicted Cookie Monster trying to write a letter to Santa and being overcome by hunger pains before he can finish.

4. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer


Even though virtually everyone in this show is a huge jerk, and I never quite figured out what the big fricking deal about Rudolph's nose was, I will always have a soft spot for this 1964 claymation classic -- mostly because Billie Mae Richards, the voice of Rudolph, was also the voice for Tenderheart the Care Bear. I also really identified with the misfit toys and may or may not have spent a significant portion of my childhood waiting for King Moonracer to show up on my doorstep. And for the record, I would absolutely love a spotted elephant.

5. The Care Bears Nutcracker Suite


I've always been a little Care Bear-obsessed. One of my many Christmas decorations is a Care Bear Christmas Train. I get one car every year and currently have seven. Anyway, even though most of my favorites aren't even in this special, I will never not be ecstatic that a Care Bear Christmas special even exists, let alone one that contains the supreme awesomeness that is the Nutcracker Suite.

6. A Charlie Brown Christmas


Um, is there someone who doesn't watch this holiday staple every year? Seriously.

7. Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas


Likewise, is there anyone who doesn't watch the Grinch steal Christmas from those noisy Whos down in Whoville every year? And I mean the 1965 cartoon version, not the Jim Carrey fright-fest that literally gave me nightmares about green people wearing lederhosen breaking into my house.

8. A Garfield Christmas


Who doesn't want a gift that keeps on giving? My sisters and I watch this every year (although now that our parents no longer have a functioning VCR I don't know how we'll manage). I always tear up when Grandma tells Garfield about how Christmas Eve is the night she misses her late husband the most, a sentiment that has gotten even more poignant since my own grandfather, whose birthday was December 23, passed away seven years ago.

9. Will Vinton's Claymation Christmas Celebration


I don't know how many people remember this 1987 TV special featuring the California Raisins and the coolest camels that ever existed, but this is a holiday tradition in my house. With dinosaur hosts that could definitely have used the internet to prove to everyone that the correct lyrics are, in fact, wassailing before the elves showed up, this claymation special features six (seven if you count "Here We Come A-Wassailing", and I suppose if you count "We Wish You a Merry Christmas", eight) spectacularly animated famous Christmas songs. My personal favorite has always been the coolest camels in existence busting out in "We Three Kings", but the "Joy to the World" segment is staggering when you realize that's clay.

10. Mickey's Christmas Carol


Yes, yes, it's another version of Dickens' classic, this time with Scrooge McDuck (apt) and Mickey Mouse as the beleaguered Bob Cratchit. This 1983 special doesn't just have the title story, though. It also features shorts such as Donald in the gift-wrapping department, Chip and Dale in the playground of Mickey's Christmas tree, and Goofy teaching everyone how to ski -- a favorite in my family, because my dad yells like Goofy. A lot. 

So there you have it, my top 10 Christmas specials.

Merry Christmas, if you celebrate it. Happy Holidays, if you don't.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Why Winter Movie Premieres Suck

Movie premieres in winter suck for the following reasons:

1. It's cold.
2. It's dark.

It's cold, so the stars tend not to linger outside, which means they don't go down the row to sign autographs because they don't want to freeze their keisters off. After all, do you ever see celebrities holding coats on the red carpet? No, you do not. That's because they don't wear them on the red carpet, because it gets in the way of whatever fabulousness they happen to be wearing. (They could wear coats, though. I would gladly volunteer for the job of coat-holder if it meant I could follow someone like Richard Armitage around on a regular basis.)

It's cold, so even if the stars are awesome and do brave the frigid temperatures to visit their fans, they don't stay very long because they are, as previously mentioned, freezing their keisters off. They may sign a few autographs and pose for some pictures, but they obviously can't get to everyone. (Not that they can do this even in the summer, but when it's 30 degrees Fahrenheit, and you can't feel your fingers, I don't expect that they can sign that legibly.)

It's cold, so you are freezing your keister off.

It's dark, so you have to strain to see who just got out of that car, if you can even see them from your vantage point and there isn't a massive bus blocking your line of sight because it never occurs to anyone to block off the street with the theater. And no one realizes that that guy was Chevy Chase until someone across the street screams in recognition, because what is Chevy Chase doing at the premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey anyway?

It's dark, so your pictures come out crappy. Especially when you only discover that the battery in your camera is dead when you pull it out to take a picture, and you have to settle for the camera on your phone. Oops.

On Thursday, I went to the New York City premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. And when I say "I went", I mean that I huddled behind a barricade for two hours hoping for a glimpse of the stars of the movie. I was did not actually attend the premiere, because I did not have $500 to buy a ticket. I actually thought this was self-explanatory, but I have had a few people ask me how the movie was, and I have to say that, no, actually I didn't see the movie, trust me if I had seen the movie, you would know that I had seen the movie.

Two of the most awesome people on the history of the planet are Andy Serkis and Ian McKellen. Andy Serkis did his best to sign everything. He stayed outside for maybe 20 minutes, going up and down the barricade signing things. Ian McKellen only went partway, but when he saw there were more people, he came back and did some more signing. And they were both lovely.

Elijah Wood, Aidan Turner, Jed Brophy, James Nesbitt, and Dean O'Gorman signed for a little bit but couldn't stay long. Peter Jackson and Lee Pace went right inside. Martin Freeman must have Apparated inside, because no one saw him arrive, but there are pictures of him and his wife, so clearly he was there.

The coolest thing was that they gave out Gandalf hats to the people who were waiting at the barricade, even though I almost lost mine when the autograph dealers rushed the barricade and shoved their arms in everyone's faces. I don't know if any of you have seen my video for how not to be obnoxious when trying to get autographs, but suffice it to say that pushing is not cool.