Monday, August 5, 2013

Review: World War Z (Movie)

SOME SPOILERS!!!

So, on Friday evening we watched World War Z in 3D - Pretoria no longer has an IMAX theatre, so it was normal digital 3D for us. I've been listening to the audiobook, an unabridged reading of the -dare I say it- legendary book, so it was always going to be interesting for me to compare the movie and the book. That being said, there's no 'one was better than the other' - these are two very different beasts, and rightly so. Both enjoyable and riveting, though for entirely different reasons.

I can't remember how long I've been a fan of zombies, but what drew me to zombies in the beginning were, I think, two parts of what makes them so terrifying -

1) the speed with which a zombie-plague spreads, and
2) how it levels the playing field, making of everyone who becomes a zombie the same.

In world where everyone needs to be an individual to survive life and to enjoy it, the threat of the 'zombie' is such that it reminds us that for all our hard work, for all our striving and sacrificing, something like this can come along and wipe the slate clean. I think it speaks to everyone's desire to be able to let go, to give up, a temptation that everyone's had, I'm sure.

What came across for me in the big screen adaptation of World War Z was how easy it could be, if the world just decided 'Fuck this, fuck it all, I'm joining the herd!'.

The movie starts with a bang, opening with a scene very reminiscent of Zack Snyder's 'Dawn of the Dead' - parents sleeping, and their bedroom-door slowly opens - you're expecting a snarl and a rush at the sleeping figures, and they do rush! But then it's just two girls waking up their parents and you let out a relieved sigh because you're just not ready for the mayhem and chaos, not just yet. Minutes later everything kicks in - chaos and confusion in a traffic jam, explosions in the distance, people running and screaming, and then the attacks, coming so hard and fast that the brain can't seem to understand what is happening. A true 'fight or run' compilation of moments that push Brad Pitt's character and his family into a frantic search for safety. As movie openings go, World War Z doesn't pull any punches.

Why it also worked well for me was that it boldly showed how Pitt's character would ultimately do the unthinkable at the movie's climax - find a way to fight back, and find a 'cure'. It's a very quick glimpse we get, but for the curious and eagle-eyed, it's one of those moments that get's the questions started: 'Why were all the zombies bypassing the old man?"

From then on we're shown just how quickly the infection has spread, with projections far exceeding what we've seen before - projections which I believed because of the great vista-shots showing hundreds of thousands of people running through city streets, pursued and hounded, cornered, and ultimately infected. The only drawback to the obligatory zombie-close-ups was how glaringly apparent the CGI was, but it's only a problem if you're looking for faults in the movie.

Pitt's character does the odd dumb thing -like driving in the direction of the movie's first before-we-see-the-zombies explosion just because an avenue has been opened by a garbage truck, and giving a scientist a gun on a fog-shrouded runway- but gladly he doesn't come across as the quintessential action hero. He gets hurt, gets tired, has emotional highs and lows, and manages to bring a dual focus to his role that other characters in movies sometimes cannot balance, which here is family and 'duty'. I use 'duty' because it's not actually his duty - it's something he decides to do because he recognizes that he's the only person who can do it.

Pitt's character is pushed and pummelled, going through situations that most people would shit themselves in - and sure, this is based on Speculative Fiction, nothing remotely similar to a zombie outbreak has ever happened, but Pitt's character is like a detective, following the clues into the dark forest.

The action in the movie is intense - the zombies are lethally fast, not driven like the zombies we are used to; they don't pause to devour intestines and brains and the like. They bite and move on, driven by the imperative to spread the infection as fast as possible, which leads to most people having to react instinctively instead of being able to plan a suitable defence against them. This ups the movie's tension considerably, but it has to be said that the best thing the movie could have done was let Pitt's character die, or be killed. We expect him to survive, and he does - in and of itself that's fine (this is Brad Pitt we're talking about), but the movie would have had a bigger impact if the 'hero' was killed.

But the big shots -especially the scenes that take place in Jerusalem- are breath-taking and hard-hitting. There was obviously plenty of thought put into how the zombies moved and reacted - they were given a clear and relentless lethality, with plenty of intelligence behind their actions. I don't like dumb, slow-moving zombies, mainly because someone has to be even dumber and slower to get caught by one, ;-) so these zombies were great.

I also really liked the fact that they were called 'ZOMBIES' - I'm really tired of movies that are populated with zombies were they aren't called zombies. I mean, seriously - it's a house-hold name, and when it happens humanity decides to call them something else? Not likely.

The lab-coated zombie at the end was hilarious, but served to completely creep me out - a balancing feat I didn't expect, and when the movie ended (incredibly shitty credits-music, by the way) every one of us who had watched the movie were talking about it. It's a really cool zombie-movie - interesting premise, a great detective-kind-of-figuring-out-how-to-beat-them movie, with excellent action, some truly frightening moments, and enough humour throughout to keep audiences from gritting their teeth for too long.

Go enjoy it! :-)


Thursday, August 1, 2013

Blog-Love and a Glimpse of BETRAYAL'S SHADOW

So, yesterday was one of the most epic and memorable days of my life. :-) Check out this post and this post to see why! ;-)

Today, I thought I'd give all of you a glimpse into what you can expect from my debut novel (coming in 2014 in both print- and EPUB editions); this glimpse comes from a post I did a couple of months ago when I was tagged by Joan De La Haye for 'The Next Big Thing'. It's a mini-interview of sorts that goes into some of the novel's plot- and character-details. :-)

Things might, of course, change a bit prior to the book's publication, but this should give you an idea of what you can expect. ;-)

***
What is the working title of your book?

The title I chose is BETRAYAL'S SHADOW - I was struggling to come up with a title for the novel after I finished writing the first draft, so I tried to focus on what the novel was about, and since most of the characters in Betrayal's Shadow betray something (an ideal or oath, for example) or someone, I thought Betrayal had to be included in the title. The 'Shadow' came from the effects these betrayals have, the consequences of the character's betrayals, how each betrayal touches all the characters. 

Where did the idea come from for the book?

It began with vague ideas, at first - a general leading his troops into a final, suicidal battle against an enemy that had ravaged the land he lived in; brothers journeying to their uncle's fortress in the hopes of stopping a rebellion against their father, the King; a non-human child kidnapped from his village and chosen to be the vessel for a spirit. I ended up writing chapters exploring each of these ideas, which led to the birth of the main characters - Brice, Asher, Del'Ahrid, Khyber. Seiria (my main female character) appeared later. I then sat and wrote plot descriptions, played with different ideas, and kept right on 'playing' until I took part in the Random House Struik / Get Smarter Writing Course, and a year and two months later I finished writing the first draft. So, I guess this book was born from a couple of ideas that seemed to resonate with each other - none of the ideas made it into the first draft, though! ;-)

What genre does your book fall under?

Definitely Epic Fantasy - although *definitely* not yet as epic as the Jordans, Eriksons and Martins of the world... ;-)

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Wow, I haven't even come close to thinking about this yet! O.o Well, let's see:

Del'Ahrid is an older man, dignified, a life-long politician who actually doesn't like being the man in the spotlight, just trying to do the best for his Emperor and the citizens of the Empire - for some reason I'm seeing the excellent actor who portrayed Maester Luwin, Donald Sumpter.

Emperor Jarlath looks like a man in his mid-thirties, well-built, with a slight arrogance to his smile but eyes that are haunted by past pain, suffered and caused; I think that the best fit for him would be Michael Fassbender.

Seiria is basically a whore, though she's plagued with nightmares and her love for Jarlath; she has massive inner strength, though she doesn't see it, and despite her beauty she's able to slip into commoner-garb and walk the markets of the Empire's capital without being recognized. I watched 'The Ward' this past weekend and I think that Amber Heard would be excellent as Seiria.

Khyber isn't human, though he is anthropomorphically shaped - he's thin, lanky, large-eyed, very expressive (both facially and with his voice and hands); so he'd be 'acted' the way Golum was, CGI'd up the wazoo, but I'm thinking presence and voice here, so I guess it would have to be Andrew Garfield.

Alun Dronald is a bit of a whiner, though he's competent and is itching for a command-role in the Blade Knight squad is which he serves (under Brice Serholm); he was a bit of a hell-raiser when he was younger, so he's picked up his share of scars, though he's still handsome enough to be quite the womaniser. My pick is Paul Rudd.

Brice and Asher are brothers, though Asher is younger by around three years; Brice is stronger, a bit taller and broad-shouldered, whereas Asher is slimmer and quicker; Brice is the warrior, the leader, he's charismatic without really trying to be (or is even aware of it), and Asher is curious and very intelligent. My pick for Brice is Guy Pearce and my pick for Asher is Taylor Kitch.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Betrayal depends on perspective, and perspective dulls any victory.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

The novel, the first I've written and my debut (obviously, hehehe!), will be published in 2014 (sometime during South Africa's Autumn) by the awesome new independent publisher, Fox and Raven Publications. F & R have got huge things planned for the SFF / Genre scene here in SA, and abroad, and they've already published Martin John Stokes' PASSING VISIONS and Nyki Blatchley's THE TRIARCHY'S EMISSARY. I'm extremely proud and excited to have these guys as my publishers! :-)

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

As we say here in South Africa, 'eish'! I'd like to think that Betrayal's Shadow is a novel that fans of Martin, Erikson, Kearney and even Peter V Brett might enjoy (like I said previously, this isn't *epic* like Martin- or Erikson-epic, but I've tried to incorporate elements of what makes their work so damned good, such as compelling characters and a gripping, evolving plot) but I'll leave that up to my publishers to decide. :-) Thinking about that kind of stuff would just get in the way of the writing! :-)

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Well, I guess this answer has two parts: 1) Every book I've ever read has, in some way, left a seed of inspiration; it's only lately that I've begun to try and switch my focus from being a writer to being a story teller, and that's what draws me to writing - telling stories. 2) While I was taking part in the Random House Struik Creative Writing Course I began to see a whole other side to the publishing industry, a side much more focused on the writer - editing, proof reading, etc. And when I saw that I wasn't alone in the struggle (to write and get published and tell stories that people would want to read), I seriously thought for the first time that this is what I want to do. :-)

What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?

Hoo boy, another difficult question to answer. I tried really hard not to make Betrayal's Shadow a formulaic or by-the-numbers of predictable novel; I want to tell a story that will not only entertain but surprise readers, including myself; I don't want anyone to think 'Eddings' or 'Weeks' or 'Rothfuss' or 'Erikson' - I don't want Betrayal's Shadow to be quite like anything you've read before. How to go about doing that is the problem, or should I say, the challenge. ;-) I guess the short answer is that I try to take the story in directions you wouldn't think of, I try to put my characters into situations that might make you flinch or gasp or whatever, and I'm also trying to break some 'rules'. Whether I succeed at any of this is something for my readers to (one day) decide. :-)

***

Not too much info, I hope? ;-)

And finally, I have to thank Sarah Chorn for being an absolutely incredible and wonderful human being. :-) Sarah is the talented and awesome reviewer behind 'Bookworm Blues', a blog known to hundreds, if not thousands, of SFF readers. And if you haven't heard of Sarah and her reviews (which are always honest and extremely well written) then get over their now and check her site out. Sarah absolutely rocks! :-)

Until next time,
Be EPIC!

BETRAYAL'S SHADOW to be published by FOX AND RAVEN PUBLISHING in 2014

That's right, folks! Next year my novel hit's the shelves!! :-) Here's the official announcement, just made over at my publisher's website. :-)


I don't have words, even though I'm a writer and *should* have words. This moment is just too massive, too *too*, know what I mean? :-)

But thanks must go to certain amazing people, without whom this would never have happened:

Leana, my girlfriend, my best friend, whom I will one day marry and have kids with, who supports and strengthens and loves me without limit or reserve, I LOVE YOU!

My parents, Maree and Riaan de Villiers, who got me started with Richie Rich, Casper, Wendy and Archie; who kept me curious by reading in front of me and never forcing me to read; for allowing me and and my weird brain to be as creative as I wanted and needed to be. I LOVE YOU GUYS!

Celeste Sutherland Botes, the best English teacher a guy could have - THANK YOU!

Marius du Plessis - my publisher, for everything prior to this moment, this moment, and all that will come; thank you, sir. With all that's in me, THANK YOU!

There are so many others who needs thanks and hugs and high-fives - you all know who you are, and you have my undying gratitude for allowing me to be who I am. All of you, every single person, all of you ROCK. :-)

Be EPIC!