Warm Bodies: a Paranormal Romantic Zombie Comedy Narrative Film

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Relationships can be so difficult…especially when you’re a zombie.

In an attempt to please the wife of my youth, I went to see Warm Bodies, a paranormal romantic zombie comedy narrative film based on Isaac Marion’s 2011 novel.  With a name like Warm Bodies, I was afraid that it would be filled with sexually explicit scenes requiring me to leave before the movie was complete.  However, after seeing that every other movie showing was rated R,   I reluctantly agreed.

Here’s a brief synopsis of the movie:

R is an oddly introspective zombie who spends his days wandering around the Toronto Airport.  His best friend is M, although he’s never called him by name.  R and M only communicate with grunts and moans and occasional words.  R, like all of his fellow zombies, feeds on human flesh.  He especially enjoys eating brains, because it allows him to experience the memories of the one that he is eating.

Julie lives in a walled off area of Toronto with the rest of the city’s human population.  She and her friends are sent out by her father in order to recover medical supplies from an abandoned hospital.  Suddenly, R and a group of zombies attack Julie’s team.  R sees Julie and instantly falls in love with her but is then shot by Perry, Julie’s boyfriend.  In return, R kills Perry and eats his brain, which gives him Perry’s memories, increasing R’s love for Julie.  R then rescues Julie and brings her to his home, an abandoned airplane.  The two become friends and R slowly begins to come back to life.  The effect is contagious and soon other zombies begin to show signs of humanity.  R and Julie’s relationship becomes more romantic as he becomes more human and the two find themselves caught between the paranoid human forces and the bonie zombies, virtually skeletal demons, who are out to destroy the zombie human restoration brought about by R and Julie’s relationship.  With M’s help, R and Julie must find a way for the “regular” zombies and the humans to first join forces against the bonies and to then create a new zombie/human friendly society.

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How often has a zombie been the hero in a love story? R’s quirky sense of humor throughout the odd circumstances is part of what gives this movie its charm.  His inner dialogue shows throughout that he really is human at heart. Even as a romantic comedy, Warm Bodies does contain violent scenes, mostly involving zombies’ dining habits, so viewers should be prepared.  There is also the one unmentionable profane word that seems to be in most PG-13 movies nowadays. Fortunately, there’s enough humor to take the bad taste out of your mouth.

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Warm Bodies actually could have a parallel in Christian circles.  The humans living inside the walled city could represent Christians separating themselves from the world thereby prohibiting the zombies, or lost people, from the only connection that’s going to allow them to really live.  I suppose the bonies could represent Satan, doing whatever is possible in order to keep this eternal restoration from taking place.  If you look at it from that point of view, Warm Bodies could be a great conversation starter when sharing Christ with a friend. Then again, it could just be your typical paranormal romantic zombie comedy narrative film.  Anyway, I liked it.

Other reviews by John J. Frady

Les Miserables – https://johnjfrady.com/2013/01/07/187/

The Skinny on the Hunger Games – https://johnjfrady.com/2012/10/04/the-skinny-on-the-hunger-games/

 

Review of Les Miserables Movie

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I recently had the opportunity to watch the recent movie adaptation of the musical version of Victor Hugo’s classic novel Les Miserables.  I thoroughly enjoyed this rendition of what has been called the longest running musical in history, even though there were a few disappointments.

But first, here’s a short synopsis:

Les Miserables tells a story of broken dreams, unfulfilled love, lifelong resentment, ongoing sacrifice, unrivaled patriotism, and finally redemption set with the interesting backdrop of 19th-century France.  In the story, Jean Valjean, former convict (arrested for stealing a loaf of bread) and parole violator, is hunted for decades by the unrelenting Inspector Javert.  During the time of his parole violation, Valjean takes on a new identity and becomes a successful businessman and politician.  Later, Valjean agrees to care for the terminated factory worker turned prostitute Fantine’s young daughter, Cosette.  Meanwhile, another man has been mistakenly identified as Valjean.  The real Jean Valjean appears in court and reveals the truth about his identity, giving up both his life and position in society.  Even after his confession, Valjean escapes from custody and retrieves Cosette from the evil Thenardiers.  Eight years are spent in hiding for Valjean and Cosette.  Then, Valjean is nearly recaptured because of being spotted by the Thenardiers and Cosette falls in love with the young Marius, who is loved desperately by Eponine, the daughter of the Thenardiers.  The story deepens as all of the characters interact in passionate and even violent ways.

Click here to see the official trailer:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EkHHHUk8RCw

One brave experiment done in this interpretation of Victor Hugo’s epic tale is that every take was filmed with live singing.  This may be criticized by some, but it actually helps the film seem more real to the viewer.  Eddie Redmayne, who plays Marius, explains:

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“Normally if you were making an old-school movie musical, as a group of actors, we’d go into a studio and we’d record an album and then two months later we’d arrive on set.  They would play the playback and we would mime alongside it.  The problem with that is that you have to make all of your acting choices three months before you’ve even met the actor that you’re working with.  By recording it live, Tom (the director) is allowing us the spontaneity of normal film acting.” 

To see the full clip with interviews with Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman, Eddie Redmayne, and others, click here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K-uw5TehnZA

When the recording was done, the actors used an earpiece which allowed them to hear accompaniment from a live pianist.  This meant that they weren’t confined to the tempo of a studio track, allowing them even more freedom.  Then, later, the piano music was replaced by an orchestral accompaniment following the actor’s voice for the tempo.  To me, the success of this was best seen by Samantha Barks, who portrayed Eponine, singing On My Own and with Anne Hathaway, who protrayed Fantine, singing I Dreamed A Dream.  The (good) acting made all of the difference.

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One of my favorite scenes in the production was the comic relief piece Master of the House made complete by the performances of Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baren Cohen as the Thenardiers.  Even though I’m not a big fan of Sacha Baren Cohen because of his portrayal of Borat demeaning the entire country of Kazakhstan (where I spent a year of my life), I must admit that I was able to forget his true identity during this presentation and I truly enjoyed his performance, especially alongside the talented Helena Bonham Carter.

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The entire movie production of Les Miserables, in my opinion, was very well done.  I enjoyed the improvement of the acting that is not often seen in many musicals as well as the musical interpretations of the songs presented.  Even though Russell Crowe’s vocal performance was somewhat lacking, I was very impressed by the performances of Anne Hathaway, Hugh Jackman, Eddie Redmayne, Samantha Barks, and to a lesser extent, Amanda Seyfried.  There were a few odd moments during the musical, such as the constant foreshadowing of Javert’s suicide and the unfounded cause of Jean Valjean’s death.  All in all, I wish I would have cared more about the characters, however, I cared enough about them to enjoy this production immensely.

My favorite thing about Bill Clinton

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I first met Bill Clinton when I was a freshman at Foreman High School in Arkansas.  Mr. Traywick, our Civics teacher, took the entire class to the Arkansas State Capitol Building where we observed legislative government in action and had the opportunity to meet with Governor Bill Clinton.  Even at that age, I remember how pleasant and personal that he was.  He took time to greet each of us and even complimented one of my friends on his shirt.  At the time, none of us knew that he would one day be the 42nd President of the United States.

I also had no idea that he had gone to college at Georgetown in Washington DC.  I recently read a great account of his time there.

According to President Clinton’s autobiography, My Life, there was one time while he was in college when he was desperate for money because of his stepfather’s illness.  At just the right time, he was offered his choice of a part-time job for $3500 or a full-time job for $5000.  Always a quick thinker, this charmer from Arkansas smiled and asked, “Can I have two part-time jobs?”

I never voted for Bill Clinton, neither for Governor nor President.  However, I can’t help but admire the man who is so extremely personable.

 

One of the Worst elections in History

It was one of the most controversial elections in American history.  Negative campaigning had reached an all time high.  The Incumbent, having grown increasingly unpopular in his previous four years as President, had been labeled as a fool, a hypocrite, a criminal, and a tyrant.  His opponent, who had tried to work in the President’s administration, was accused of being a weakling, an atheist, a libertine, and a coward.

The entourage of the opposing candidate accused the President of having a “hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.”  Hardly flattering.  As a rebuttal, the President’s representatives released statements that his opponent was a “mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a mulatto father.”  This infuriated the President’s opponent so much that he hired a hatchet man named to spread damaging information about the President.  This employee’s information about the Commander in Chief spread so quickly and was considered so insidious that the man later served jailed time for slander.

In the end, Thomas Jefferson defeated President John Adams in the election of 1800.  Thomas Jefferson served two terms as president.  He and John Adams eventually put their differences behind them, and wrote a series of friendly letters for the last decade of their lives. They both died on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.’

The Skinny on the Hunger Games

 

Even though I had never heard of the movie or the book, a few months ago, I took my wife to see the movie adaptation of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.  A few weeks later, while on a mission trip in Haiti, I overheard a missionary tell a friend that she was completely fascinated by the book.  Then, while at a Christian Writer’s Conference, The Hunger Games was praised by several of the guest lecturers as the ultimate example of contemporary quality fiction.  Finally, after a pastor friend of mine shared with me about his extreme interest in the book, I was intrigued enough to read it for myself.

A Brief Summary of The Hunger Games

16-year-old Katniss lives with her mother and little sister in district twelve of Panem, the remains of futuristic North America.  Years earlier, the twelve districts waged war on the wealthy Capitol and were soundly defeated.  As a reminder of the follies of rebellion, each district is required to send two tributes, one boy and one girl, to participate in the Hunger Games, an annual televised event.  Each year, the setting for this ultimate Survivor type show may change, but there is one constant:  It is an all out fight to the death between all twenty-four tributes.  When her sister Prim is selected by lottery, Katniss volunteers to go in her place.

 

The Violence Issue

Because of the violence within the book (and movie), one might think that Suzanne Collins is glorifying violence. In fact, the opposite is true. Throughout the story, she raises serious questions about our culture’s obsession with violence and death and what that obsession has done to the hearts and minds of our society.A popular movie (VHS Rental) when I was in high school was called Faces of Death. It was released in 1978 and guided viewers through explicit scenes depicting a variety of ways to die.  Even though it was banned in some areas, it was successful enough to produce at least three sequels.

1,000 Ways to Die

It’s not all that different from Spike TV’s 1000 Ways To Die, a contemporary spoof show which shows people making stupid decisions which causes their ultimate demise. Here’s an excerpt from an online review of the show:

Amidst a number of shows which try so hard to be cerebral and generally expose themselves as fraudulent, 1000 Ways to Die is an odd breath of sincerity; sincerely stupid and ridiculous, but refreshing. Each show is a collection of ‘shorts’ wherein someone dies, usually in an unusual way. The acting is atrocious. The special effects are mediocre. The narration is often funny. And each scene concludes with a ‘title’ for that death, which is usually a pun. In my opinion, it’s the funniest bit of the show, and you’ll probably find yourself trying to guess what the death will be ‘called’ before it appears on screen.

What have we become?  What sort of culture uses violence as a form of amusement? Although she uses violence to make her point against our obsession with violence (sort of like naked people boycotting pornography), Collins makes her point when all is said and done.

Click on the link below to watch a brief interview segment of Suzanne Collins discussing violence desensitization:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KYlNiKoGM7o

In the end, The Hunger Games should help us examine how we view violence and death. Is it simply entertainment to us? Have we lost touch with reality by watching Kenny die at the end of every episode of Southpark? I’m not sure. I suppose that one could argue the same about the Bible. It is filled with violence. But those of us who have a relationship with God know that God’s character is not one of violence.  Psalm 11:5 states that The Lord examines both the righteous and the wicked. He hates those who love violence. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want the Lord to hate me.

So, if you’re on the same journey as I in trying to make sense of our culture’s obsession with violence, pray for me and I’ll pray for you.  Oh yes, and may the odds be forever in your favor.