Movie: World War Z

"World War Z"

The story revolves around United Nations employee Gerry Lane (Pitt), who traverses the world in a race against time to stop a pandemic that is toppling armies and governments and threatening to decimate humanity itself.” — (C) Paramount

It really helps to lower expectations when watching movies you’ve been looking forward to. Then again, it helps even more when the adaptation spins off a story that you’re not familiar with. It doesn’t invite comparisons.

That said, when I heard about World War Z being turned into a book, I was skeptical. I loved the format of the novel. I loved how it was vignettes set upon a post-apocalyptic future where people are hopeful, but more wary. Turned into a movie, I was expecting something akin to a documentary.

And then Brad Pitt and a big budget came into the picture.

Obviously, a documentary wouldn’t fare well in theaters as much as a blockbuster-formula movie would. So from the post-World War Z setting, the action was transplanted into the time when the plague was just beginning, but already spreading at an incredible speed.

It’s not perfect, but it succeeds at one thing: it’s compelling.

In the movie, we follow Brad Pitt’s character as he goes from country to country in search for an answer, any answer, to what people can do about the zombie plague. I found it odd that they chose to change the location of patient zero, but it wasn’t a jarring change. Just odd. The country they chose to move patient zero to still fit the profile of the original locale. Overpopulated.

The only thing I have against the new locale is its land coverage. I mean, the original locale was huge. It makes sense that the plague started slow and escalated. The new locale they chose for patient zero is known for being… cramped. The plague would have spread faster. No country would’ve been able to have prepared itself.

Well, except North Korea. And they kept that part from the book.

I’m not a fan of how they solved the zombie problem too. But that doesn’t take away from my overall enjoyment of the film, so I guess it’s not a major qualm for me. What’s important is that, even after getting annoyed at the number of ads that preceded the movie, I enjoyed it. And I didn’t feel like I wasted the money I spent on the movie ticket.

So well done, World War Z.

Now, I’m going to read the book again because I still like it better. Ha ha.

Before I completely go though, I have to raise this concern: why are SM Cinemas showing ads before they start airing the film you go in for? We’ve already paid for the film with our ticket, why do we have to pay for it again by watching the ads?

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Book: The Kill Order

"The Kill Order"

Before WICKED was formed, before the Glade was built, before Thomas entered the Maze, sun flares hit the earth and destroyed the world mankind took for granted.

Mark and Trina were there when it happened, and they survived. But surviving the sun flares was easy compared to what came next.

Now a disease of rage and lunacy races across the eastern United States, and there’s something suspicious about its origin. Worse yet, it’s mutating, and all evidence suggests that it will bring humanity to its knees.

Mark and Trina are convinced there’s a way to save those left living from descending into madness. And they’re determined to find it–if they can stay alive. Because in this new, devastated world, every life has a price. ANd to some, you’re worth more dead than alive.

I thought there would be more to The Kill Order than what we get, but for what it’s worth, it’s a good book–just don’t expect too much.

The Maze Runner is one of the best novels I’ve read recently, but I thought the sequel and the finale didn’t live up to the promise of the trilogy’s premise. Especially since the source of all the discord and drama barely gets touched upon. So I was happy that there was The Kill Order to fill in the blanks.

Unfortunately–or fortunately, depending on how you look at it–James Dashner focuses on human interaction instead of conspiracies. And so our supposed answer, The Kill Order, to the questions left behind by The Maze Runner trilogy falls short of actually answering questions. What we’re left with, after the trials and misadventures we take in this prequel, are suppositions of what might have happened in between the end of this book, and the beginning of The Maze Runner.

Now, I’ve always harped about how character development is more important than original twists and turns. And if we’re judging The Kill Order by character development alone, it hits full marks. But take the book out of the its environment, take The Maze Runner trilogy out of the equation, and you get a story about a boy who would do anything to save the girl he loves. It’s nothing special. And set in the background of a Post-Flare world, you would have no idea what was going on unless you’ve already read the trilogy that spawned this prequel.

While character development is important, I think it’s also important for a prequel to be able to stand apart from its series–especially if it’s populated by unknown characters, and happens before the events of the series that warranted it.

So would I recommend The Kill Order? Sure. If you’re already a fan of The Maze Runner trilogy–or, at the very least, have already read the series. If you haven’t, you might want to skip this one until after you have done so.

Of course, as I always say, all these are just my thoughts. Feel free to browse the ‘net to find what other people have to say about the book:
I’d So Rather Be Reading
Blog Critics
My Books. My Life.

Book: Zombinoy #4

"Zombinoy #4"

Zombie apocalyptic, big-time, end-of-the-world scenario of biblical proportions. Pinoy style.

And so we begin the second “season” of Zombinoy, where the first issue alone has more happening than the whole of the first season combined. Well, that’s not completely true, but it sure does feel like it.

I think the problem with the first three issues was that the people behind Zombinoy wanted to create the world first, to introduce the characters and the zombie plague at the same time. I don’t know why, but I think it may be because they wanted readers to connect to the characters first. Having read Issue #4, I don’t think they had to.

Issue #4 has us facing the problem of zombies in our land, with the Americans very gung-ho about helping us because of nefarious reasons. Prior to this, we had a lot of government drama that tiptoed around this issue. I think #4 had the better execution, as you’re seeing things in action while discovering that things are not what they seem.

The characters feel more real too, even though “screen time” is more spread out. At first, I attributed it to the fact that I’ve read the first three issues. I already know these characters. But that’s not exactly true. Zombinoy, while a brilliant idea, wasn’t completely remarkable nor was it unforgettable. The characters in this issue really lived and breathe, that despite not knowing who they were before, you already have a sense of who they are as a person.

The writing’s brilliant, actually. It shows just how much writer Geonard Yleana had grown from the time he wrote the first three issues to now.

I’m still not a fan of the art though. This is more personal preference though, as I’m not exactly an artist. It’s just that–the glossiness of the drawings and the shadings doesn’t fit with the world they’re trying to build. The Philippines is going to hell, and it’s presented in the cleanest way possible.

It’s a little jarring.

But it’s not something you can’t get over. Especially with a story as strong as the one presented here in the fourth issue. And if Yleana continues to grow, I can’t wait to see what he (and the rest of the Zombinoy team) has in store for us next issue.

Book: Fear

"Fear"

Despite the hunger, despite the lies, even despite the plague, the kids of Perdido Beach are determined to survive. Creeping into the tenuous new world they’ve built, though, is perhaps the worst incarnation yet of the enemy known as the Darkness: fear.

Within the FAYZ, life breaks down while the Darkness takes over, literally–turning the dome-world of the FAYZ entirely black. A will to survive and a desire to take care of those they love endures in this ravage band, even in the bleakest moments. But in darkness, the worst fears of all emerge, and the cruelest of intentions are carried out. After so many months, is all about to be lost in the FAYZ?

To be quite honest, the only reason I’m even finishing this series is because I’ve already invested in it. That said, I do think Fear is better than the last three books. Which would make Gone (the first book) and Fear, the only decent ones in the series.

Not that any of my previous problems with the series actually goes away. I’m still annoyed that we keep getting introduced to new characters who ups and dies anyway. I get that there’s a need for death, because it’s dystopian on speed. But it doesn’t really have much of an emotional impact if the characters that get killed off are characters you’ve only just met.

The ensemble cast still doesn’t gel. And by that, I mean we’re still following way too many stories–even though it’s the second the last book and things need to get tidied up soon.

And the characters still flip flop from between being a good guy and a bad guy. Which is really frustrating. You can’t even trust your heroes to do what you expect them to do. Every book, they do something so out of character that it’s actually starting to become a trait now.

What worked for the book though was the new elements: the countdown made sense again, as by the end of the book, a major thing does happen to the world our characters inhabit. and then, there’s the outside world where we finally see what happened to all the other people who were ejected by the FAYZ.

It really helps the book that the end game is upon it. There’s really no need to stretch storyline anymore.

Little Pete is still being an annoying jackass, more so now that he’s an omniscient presence. And I still don’t get, three days in, what his deal is with the avatars and his meddling with people’s DNA. It doesn’t move the story along, aside from add to the fear factor, and after the couple of victims die, you don’t even fear for any of the main characters’ life as they’re obviously safe from whatever the author would think of next.

Which brings me to a point of consternation.

Does Michael Grant love his characters too much? Because there are times when a writer really should learn to let go. And really, if he’s going for emotional deaths, nothings crushes a heart more than a beloved character dying.

Just ask Joss Whedon.

Having said all that, let’s go ’round the ‘net to find out what other people have said about this book:
The Book Smugglers
Realm of Fiction
Cuddlebuggery

Book: The Death Cure

"The Death Cure"

Thomas knows that WICKED can’t be trusted. They stole his memories and locked him inside the Maze. They forced him tot he brink of death by dropping him in the wilds of the Scorch. And htey took the Gladers, his only friends, from him.

Now WICKED says that the time for lies is over. That they’ve collected all the date they can from the Trials and will rely on the Gladers, with full memories restored, to help them with their ultimate mission: to complete the blueprint for the cure for the Flare. But they must undergo one final test.

What WICKED doesn’t know, however, is that Thomas has already remembered far more than they think. And it’s enough to prove that he can’t believe a word of what WICKED says.

The time for lies is over. And the truth is more dangerous than Thomas could ever have imagined.

And so the Maze Runner trilogy ends. I love endings. Especially when they’re as engaging as The Death Cure. Of course, as you might be used to by now, I still have concerns–but overall, I thought this book was absolutely brilliant.

Let’s begin with what I didn’t like though:

For two books, we’ve been very much in the dark about what’s going on. With this being the last book in the trilogy, and with the wrap-up imminent, I was hoping that author James Dashner would trust us readers with more of the truth. But he doesn’t.

Thing is, unlike The Scorch Trials, The Death Cure doesn’t dwell on Thomas’s hunches and hurt ego. And that’s good. This time, when we do get glimpses of the truth, they’re treated as information-sharing–and Thomas pretty much shares everything he learns with his friends from the get go.

What I really don’t understand though is Thomas’s aversion to the return of his memories.

Before I complete go into this, I must warn you that there will be spoilers.

All right, back. Straight off, Thomas refuses the offer of having his memories returned. At first, I really did think that WICKED has something wicked planned for the Gladers once they allow for their memories to be returned. And I was all right with Thomas’s decision.

The thing is, even before the action really begins, the people who did choose to take their memories back did get their memories back–with no side effect. Thomas’s refusal only served to cut him (and a few others) off from the bigger group.

On the one hand, it maybe the smarter decision as a writer to break a smaller group off for us readers to follow. But I must say, it was very frustrating as a reader to still be kept out of the loop–in the final book of a trilogy that was steeped in conspiracies!

I don’t know if I would have enjoyed the book more had the author been more up front with answers. Maybe it wouldn’t have been as good. But that’s neither here nor there now, isn’t it?

The book is far from perfect: there were questions left unanswered, things that came left off field. There’s even one side story that is completely forgotten until the memo at the end mentions it again. The ending is a little too perfect. But the bottom line is this: The Death Cure delivered a good story.

I just hope The Kill Order, the prequel to the Maze Runner trilogy, delivers good answers.

Now, let’s see what other people have written about The Death Cure:
Dead Trees and Silver Screens
Mundie Moms
Nose in a Book
YouTube Review: megs3493

Book: Plague

"Plague"

A highly contagious, fatal illness is spreading at an alarming rate, while sinister, preadtory insects terrorize Perdido Beach. Sam, Astrid, Diana, and Caine are plagued by a growing doubt that they’ll escape–or even survive–life in the FAYZ. With so much turmoil surrounding them, what desperate choices will they make when it comes to saving themselves and those they love?

I hated it for the most part. And then things picked up near the end–and now, well, the excerpt for the fifth book has me looking forward to reading Fear. But that doesn’t change the way I feel about the Gone series–and this book in particular.

I feel like the premise and the promise of the series went to waste. Of course, not being the writer, I could be off-mark and this might be what author Michael Grant had in mind from the moment he started writing the first book. I must say though, this is not where I thought the book would go.

My chagrin remains with the Darkness. Now on the fourth book, this villain just feels so out of touch with the whole community aspect of the series. It does play a bigger role this time round though, and it does manage to push the action a little fast–but I still can’t feel any threat. Especially since we have Little Pete, a character who isn’t just invincible–he can make anything appear and disappear at will. He’s that powerful.

And at this point, I’ve completely lost my empathy for any of the lead characters. The only one I’m left rooting for, from the original book, are Lana and Edilio. Major characters in their own way, but not really the focus of the story.

That brings me to another complain: while Gone had a great handle on the ensemble cast of characteres, author Michael Grant seemed to have lost that grasp in the succeeding books. It’s weakest with Lies, but Plague is barely any better.

It’s a bad thing when I’m cheering on the villain to kill characters, just so the story could have a better focus.

On the plus side, Plague finally does move the plot along with regards to the barrier that surrounds the FAYZ. And that’s the only good thing I can say about this book.

Of course, I might just be a cynical and jaded old geezer. Other people have other opinions. Let’s check those out:
Overflowing Heart Reviews
Icey Books
Living in Fiction

Book: The Maze Runner

"The Maze Runner"

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name. He has no recollection of his parents, his home, or how he got where he is. His memory is empty.

But he’s not alone. When the lift’s doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade, a large expanse encolsed by stone walls.

Just like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they got to the Glade. All they know is that every morning, for as long as anyone can remember, the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them have opened. Every night, for just as long, they’ve closed tight. Every thirty days a new boy is delivered in the lift. And no one wants to be stuck in the Maze after dark.

The Gladers were expecting Thomas’s arrival. But the nexdt day, a girl is sent up–the first girl ever to arrive in the Glade. And more suprising yet is the message she delivers. The Gladers have always been convinced that if they can solve the maze that surrounds the Glade, they might find their way home … where that may be. But it’s looking more and more as if the Maze is unsolvable.

And something about the girl’s arrival is starting to make Thomas feel different. Something is telling him that he just might have some answers–if he can only find a way to retrieve the dark secrets locked within his own mind.

Oh, wow. This book is really something. Really.

The funny thing is, I’ve been meaning to start reading this book since forever. Okay, maybe not forever–but ever since I saw the cover and the title, I’ve been intrigued. It wasn’t until now though, with me having so much free time suddenly, that I finally found myself buying the book and reading it.

I loved it. Loved it, loved it. So much so that I already bought the second book and the prequel, and have the third book reserved for when the bookstore I haunt finally get a new shipment of the paperback version.

What is the book about? Read the synopsis, there’s not much more explaining needed. The synopsis actually tells around ninety percent of the story. So why do I like it still? Why, because of how it’s written of course.

The Maze Runner is a simple story on survival. But it’s no Lord of the Flies. It’s not Michael Grant’s Gone. When we enter the world James Dashner creates, there is already a pre-existing civilization. The confusion brought on by the unfamiliar terrain and jargon actually adds to what made the book work for me: there’s tension, there’s fear.

But what really made The Maze Runner an awesome reading experience for me was the main character: Thomas.

Thomas is pretty much a blank slate–except when he’s not. All his actions seem pre-programmed, which highlights the fear and antagonism felt by the token villain. Suddenly, the protagonist you’re rooting for is turned on his head. What if, all along, he was the villain?

It’s a great play on what is becoming a trope in dystopian young adult literature: the hero is plucked from a normal life, put in an unfamiliar world, and his experiences and the trials he goes through makes him (or her) a hero. That’s not what The Maze Runner is–

In this book, we start out the same way: plucked from normal life and put in an unfamiliar world, and then he gets accused as being the person responsible for creating this cruel world in the first place. Except, we readers don’t know if it’s true, because our anchor (Thomas) has no clear memories.

And then, suddenly, things become familiar for Thomas. And he himself begins to think that he might have had a hand in creating the maze. And then we readers no longer know what’s going on–and it’s exhilarating.

Suffice to say, I don’t really care that ninety percent of the book is already spoiled in the synopsis. I don’t even mind the fact that the remaining ten percent is a set up to the next book.

I loved The Maze Runner, and I’m looking forward to loving The Scorch Trials too.

Though, I am curious too as to what other people have said about the book. So why don’t we check out some of the ones available online?
A Thousand Wrongs
Clouds and Cuticle Oil
YouTube Review: ReadTomes