Station Eleven (book review)

The Movie Snob has been slacking off at the movies–so here’s a book review:

Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel (2014).  This “National Bestseller,” as the front cover proclaims, is well deserving of its fame.  There’s a global pandemic of deadly flu that kills over 99% of humanity, destroying civilization as we know it.  Nevertheless, twenty years later, the survivors persevere.  Some of them have formed a wandering troupe known as the Traveling Symphony, and they journey from settlement to settlement, performing Shakespeare and classical music.  The novel flips back and forth from the time of the pandemic and its immediate aftermath to events years later, but it’s not too hard to follow.  It’s exceptionally well written, and the characters come to vivid life.  In short, I thought this was a great read.  Even if you’re not a fan of science fiction or dystopian fiction, I think you ought to give it a try.

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The Last Man on Earth (TV review)

A TV review from The Movie Snob — a guy who watches very little TV.

The Last Man on Earth: Season One  (B).  The premise of this sit-com intrigued me:  Take a standard last-man-on-earth scenario, but play it for laughs.  Will Forte (Nebraska) stars as Phil Miller, a very ordinary guy from Tucson who just happens to be the only survivor of a virus that seemingly wiped out everybody else on the planet.  Including all the animals.  The first season is only 13 episodes, but they are so packed with twists and surprises that I really can’t say anything else about the show without committing spoilers, so I’ll just say that I thought it was creative and occasionally pretty funny.  The extras on the DVD set are nothing to write home about—some deleted scenes that aren’t particularly funny, a couple of episode commentaries that don’t add much to the experience, a couple of other short items about the creation and making of the show.  Just watch the show itself and see if it’s your cup of tea.

Z for Zachariah

A new review from The Movie Snob.

Z for Zachariah  (C+).  Many years ago, a college buddy and I were desperate for a movie rental, and we settled on an obscure sci-fi movie out of New Zealand called The Quiet Earth.  It turned out to be a terrible movie about some sort of global catastrophe that caused the disappearance of almost every single human being.  But—in New Zealand at least—two men and one woman were left alive, and eventually they all found each other and had to deal with their odd situation.  The movie was, as previously mentioned, terrible.

Now along comes Z for Zachariah, a movie with a very similar premise but starring some bona fide movie stars—Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street), Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave), and Chris Pine (Into the Woods).  When the movie begins, a young woman named Ann (Robbie) is living alone on a farm in a remote valley that has somehow been spared a nuclear catastrophe that seems to have ended all other human life.  But one day she encounters another survivor, John (Ejiofor), and at first they have to work at getting comfortable around each other.  And then their careful equilibrium is destroyed by one more arrival, a handsome scamp named Caleb (Pine).  That’s all I can say about the plot without committing any spoilers.  (As another reviewer has said, Pine’s picture is on the movie poster, so describing his character isn’t a spoiler.)  Anyway, I thought the movie was okay—certainly better than The Quiet Earth—but still nothing to get too excited about.

Snowpiercer

The Movie Snob checks out a new sci-fi flick.

Snowpiercer (B). Here’s a weird take on the whole dystopia/end-of-the-world thing. Mankind tries to correct global warming and accidentally freezes the entire planet solid. Seventeen years later, the remnant of humanity is surviving on—are you ready for this?—a souped-up train that never stops and circumnavigates the globe once a year. To make matters worse, the survivors are organized like the passengers on the Titanic: a few super-favored people live in luxury in the forward cars, while the huddled masses live in squalor in the tail end of the train. Led by Chris “Captain America” Evans, the proletariat rises up and tries to take its revolution all the way to the front of the train and to the mysterious engineer “Wilford,” who supposedly built the train and still tends its engine. It’s very violent and goofy as all get-out, but it’s never boring. Also starring Octavia Spencer (The Help) and John Hurt (Only Lovers Left Alive) as proletarians and Tilda Swinton (The Grand Budapest Hotel) as a weird functionary from the front of the train.

The Last Man on Earth

DVD review from The Movie Snob.

The Last Man on Earth  (D+).  When I bought this DVD for a dollar, I did not realize I was buying the first film adaptation of the 1954 novel I Am Legend, which was later turned into the rather more famous films The Omega Man starring Charlton Heston and I Am Legend starring Will Smith.  In this 1964 black-and-white film, Vincent Price (House of Wax) stars as the titular character–the only survivor of an apocalyptic plague that turned everyone else into creatures that he calls vampires but that act more like zombies.  Indeed, according to IMDB.com, this movie was an inspiration for George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, the godfather of all subsequent zombie movies.  Unfortunately, this film is not very good.  The acting is poor, and the long flashback to show how Price’s character got where he is now just isn’t very compelling.  There’s only one fairly creepy scene, and it is short.  Otherwise, pretty forgettable stuff.  At least it’s short (86 minutes).

The Walking Dead – Season One

A TV review from The Movie Snob – only a few years late.

The Walking Dead – Season One.  (B).  As usual, I’m a late-comer to this TV series, and I have made my way through only the first season at this point.  As my grade indicates, I thought it was good, but not really great.  The set-up is pretty cool.  A Georgia sheriff named Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln, Love Actually) gets shot in the line of duty and falls into a coma.  Some time later, he wakes up in a deserted hospital to a world that has fallen to a zombie apocalypse.  It’s a pretty effective way to draw the viewer into Rick’s predicament, watching him try to understand and navigate the nightmare world he now inhabits.  Once he gets his feet under him, he sets out to try to find his wife and son.  The zombie special effects are quite well done, and it is an amazingly gory show, even by cable TV standards (I would think; I don’t have cable myself).  I’d give it a higher grade, but occasionally the show did seem a little hokey, a little “TV-ish.”  Explosively tense situations seemed to crop up all the time, only to be defused a little too quickly and easily.  Characters occasionally make choices that are not particularly believable.  And the whole season is only six episodes long—what’s up with that?  The extras on the DVDs are okay, but nothing to write home about.  Still and all, season one was pretty good, if you’re a fan of hungry zombies.

World War Z – a concurring opinion

From the desk of The Movie Snob.

World War Z  (B).  Zombie-apocalypse movies come and go, but not many can boast the star power of Brad Pitt (Burn After Reading).  For that matter, not many zombie movies also serve double-duty as big wet kisses to the U.N., but this one does.  Pitt plays a retired U.N troubleshooter who gets called back into active duty when a standard zombie plague threatens the survival of mankind.  He jets all over the world, searching for some way to defeat or at least defend against the ravenous undead.  Needless to say, he has lots of narrow escapes from creepy zombies along the way.  I thought it was an enjoyable movie, although it was almost spoiled by one scene in which the human defenders act so ridiculously stupidly that I would’ve thrown my popcorn at the screen if I had had any popcorn.  (For The Borg Queen’s review of this movie, click here.)