World War…Z?

“World War Z” is not a horror movie.

It will not scare you, despite the multitude of zombies you see chomping down on humans. “Chomping down” is an exaggeration, actually, because these zombies don’t eat people. They just bite–and they seem to prefer biting…arms. Maybe these zombies are averse to offal, because I certainly didn’t see anyone going for brains or intestines. Come to think of it, you see very little biting, too, because the zombies just mostly fall  over each other as they chase their prey. Man, do the zombies run a lot in this movie.

That said, “World War Z” is an action blockbuster. And it’s a great one.

It starts with a few minutes of United Nations field agent Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) spending some quality time with his family before the apocalypse descends upon them. After that, the action doesn’t let up. It takes Lane all around the world as he looks for Patient Zero in an attempt to understand the phenomenon and hopefully find a cure.

I read the Max Brooks novel this movie was loosely based upon last year, and I’m pleased that the movie didn’t follow the book’s structure. See, the book is a mere collection of anecdotes that would have been hard to follow on the big screen, so the movie showed Lane as he encountered the characters with stories to tell. It’s a nice and necessary deviation from the book, although I did miss a few lovable book characters, such as the blind Tomonaga Ijiro who fought zombies with his gardening shovel and his protege Kondo Tatsumi who didn’t immediately realize the world was going up in flames because he was so glued to his computer.

I have no problem with films not following what’s written on every page of the book it was based on, but I think it’s a shame the movie only breezed through the fundamentals of anti-zombie combat that Brooks so deftly established. In his book, Brooks dissected zombie behavior so meticulously you almost feel like they’re real. Zombies are killed by shooting or hitting them in the head; they barely function during winter, so that’s the time when you can go out and collect food.

By contrast, there were so many CGI zombies in the movie that the only way to combat them is by shooting randomly from helicopters or setting them ablaze with bombs and massive flame throwers. And they move so fast you can hardly see their faces. The humans could’ve been killing any random monster.

So, is “World War Z” a good movie? I suppose so. It was a thrill to watch, and I’d probably watch it again. But is it a good zombie movie? I’m not sure. I’m not even sure if the war was against zombies at all.

Bits and Pieces

My life is almost completely devoid of culinary adventures.

I’ve long been aware of the fact that I’m not very adventurous when it comes to food, and it has never really bothered me–until now. Reading the first few pages of the insider’s edition of Anthony Bourdain’s “Kitchen Confidential,” which I bought after (belatedly) discovering what an interesting person Bourdain is, has truly put me to shame.

For one, he was food-tripping in France and tasting freshly-caught oysters when he was in fourth grade. What was I doing at that age? The only gastronomically risky move I can think of was trying out suspicious-looking cafeteria food. And that was because I had no choice.

Let me further illustrate just how picky I am with food.

I don’t eat anything raw. I don’t find sushi or sashimi appetizing. It’s a shame, really, because Japan is my dream destination, and–if my mother’s claim about my great (great, great?) grandparents is to be believed–I am part Japanese. Okay, maybe just, like, 1/16th Japanese, but still.

A couple of years ago, I went to Little Tokyo with some friends. It was supposed to be my first foray into Japanese food, but all I ordered was some sad chicken katsu. To stop a friend from pointing out how boring I am, I agreed to taste the salmon sashimi she had ordered. I grimaced at the raw fish for like half and hour before finally, quickly, shoving it into my mouth. The taste itself wasn’t bad, but the feel of the raw fish as it slithered down my throat almost got me barfing.

The only meat I consume on a regular basis is chicken, and I’m not even sure that counts as proper meat since chefs apparently think chicken is boring. If you count the ground beef in burgers, pizza and bolognese pasta, I guess you can say I eat beef regularly too, but that’s about it.

I am not very fond of pork. I can actually no longer count the number of incredulous looks and lectures people have given me after telling them I find lechong baboy disgusting. I find the idea of eating pig skin repulsive. I wish I can say my aversion to pork is due to health reasons, but it’s not. Maarte lang ako.

I don’t eat a lot of vegetables, much to the chagrin of my boyfriend who grew up in Baguio City and therefore subsisted on pork and veggies. I like non-green, starchy vegetables though. Especially potatoes. I swear, some of the best things in life are made from potatoes. Potato salad, baked potato, mashed potato, French fries, potato chips…

Anyway, I’m now halfway through “Kitchen Confidential” and the more I read, the more I become painfully aware of how much I’m missing.

I wish I could say that it has thoroughly changed my perspective about food, but that would be lying. It did, however, make me want to expand my food choices. I’ll probably eat–and cook–more beef and pork from now on. I’m going to try that French resto that a friend keeps talking about, and I swear I won’t order chicken.

Perhaps I’ll even give sushi or sashimi another shot. Maybe just one piece. Or two.

Warm Bodies

“Oh no, they’re going to Twilight-ize zombies,” was the horrified thought that immediately came to mind when I first heard of Warm Bodies, an upcoming film about a zombie who falls in love with a human being.

Based on the trailer, the movie does appear to make zombies likable. And they can think, to some extent.

The idea of likable thinking zombies is something I find hard to accept, since I swear by serious zombie movies like 28 Weeks Later that make me want to stock up on crowbars and crossbows. But I’m giving this movie a shot (hell, I’m actually looking forward to it) because it seems rather smart and well-made. Plus it’s hard not to like Nicholas Hoult, who plays the zombie lead R.

I just hope this movie, described as a “romantic zombie comedy,” will be the first and last of its kind. I never ever want to see zombies with rotting flesh that sparkle when exposed to sunlight.

Mixtape

Just thought I’d post videos of some of my favorite songs and  recent Youtube finds. Most of the songs aren’t new, because I’m really a 45-year-old stuck in a 25-year-old’s body.

1) Temple of the Dog’s “Hunger Strike.” Chris Cornell + Pearl Jam members before they were Pearl Jam. This song gets me every time.

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Pearl Jam Twenty

I’m not fond of bucket lists, but tonight I resolved to do one thing before I die: to watch Pearl Jam play live. Since there’s a remote chance of them ever playing in the Philippines, that means I’m willing to dish out money to fly to another country just to watch them.

This resolve was built after watching Cameron Crowe’s “Pearl Jam Twenty,” a beautifully-made documentary that chronicles historic moments in the band’s existence. Watching it reminded me of everything I loved, and still love, about Pearl Jam: Eddie Vedder’s powerful voice; their passion for playing; their courage to take a stand on issues that mean something to them, no matter how controversial.

 

In the two-hour film, Crowe traced the band’s beginnings in the 90s Seattle music scene. He went beyond interviewing the band members. Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell, for one, had a lot to say about the relationship between the bands then, like how they supported and played with each other even though they were all trying to hit it big.

What I found especially interesting were the footage of the band members as young, aspiring rock stars. You see Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament fooling around backstage back when they were still with Mother Love Bone, their band before they formed Pearl Jam. You see a shy Eddie Vedder–imagine that, a shy Eddie–turn his back on the audience and cover his face with his hair during one of the band’s first performances.

They were so young then, and my, how they’ve grown. As I watched  the now middle-aged band members talk about some of the most memorable incidents they had to deal with–such as the death of Mother Love Bone’s Andy Wood, their war with Ticketmaster, and the 2000 Roskilde Festival where nine fans died–I couldn’t help but marvel at how mature and solid and self-aware they are now. This is a band that knows itself inside and out. This is a band that has gone through hell and back. And the amazing thing is, they all survived.

All of the precious nuggets from Pearl Jam’s collective and individual history were told in a finely-woven storyline with some of the band’s best songs in between. That includes the wretchedly beautiful “Black,” which never fails to move me no matter how many times I’ve listened to it.

I gotta hand it to Crowe—-who, by the way, wrote and directed “Almost Famous” which is my favorite movie of all time—-because he certainly knows how to tell a good story. In every frame, in every song, in every word he used, you can see that this film was made with absolute passion by a genuine fan.

Now I’m lucky to have a boyfriend who understands just how much I love Pearl Jam. Look at what I got for Christmas: the movie’s accompanying book!

I’ve only gone through the first few pages because I’m taking my time with it. This just might be the most in-depth take on my favorite band that I’ll ever get to read, and I want to savor every bit of information and insight shared within.

Heroes

My dad has given me many gifts, but my all-time favorite is a copy of Edith Hamilton’s “Mythology,” which I got for my 10th birthday. I’d spend nights poring over the book: wondering what Cupid and Psyche look like, getting teary-eyed over the death of brave Patroclus in the Trojan war, thinking about which Greek goddess I’d most like to be (Athena).

This should explain, then, why I’m so hooked on Rick Riordan’s novels about Greek, Roman, and Egyptian demigods. The books were basically written for teenagers, but I devour them like I would red velvet cupcakes. Percy Jackson is my hero the way Harry Potter is to…well, Harry Potter lovers.

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