On books, Joy & zombies 

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Zombies, zombies everywhere and not a one can think...

Actually, they're not zombies. It's just people walking/sitting/talking and living on their smartphones but if you flux capacitor-ed someone here from 1985 you couldn't blame them for thinking society had been overrun by some alien-techno-zombie virus that mind melds people to shiny little command boxes and sucks their humanity out through their bleeding retinal holes.

I'm no saint either, but there is something depressing about catching yourself roaming through the village swiping through other people's pictures of mountains while there could very well be real-world epic sunset mountain alpenglow views right in front of (and 45 degrees up from) your face.

So let's all ditch the phones and read a book this month. And since we're talking about zombies anyhow, my recommendation is The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey, an established comic and graphic novel writer from England. Without giving too much away, this one is a zombie story about a young girl who's been infected but hasn't turned as society crumbles around her in search of a cure. Carey brings new detail and fresh perspective to the genre and the story is infused with scientific realism, hard survivalism and engaging humanity. Read it before the movie, now filming under the title She Who Brings Gifts, comes out later this year.

Sticking with zombies and literature, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies opens this Friday at the good old Village 8. Based on the popular 2009 mash-up novel that exploited public domain copyright laws to essentially bite most of Jane Austen's famous novel, this one is better than Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, but not by much. Expect the standard Victorian Age issues of manners, social status and the problems with being essentially considered currency to lure in potential husbands, but with a shitload of zombies thrown in.

Which sounds like the right way to fix a period piece but Pride and Prejudice and Zombies never quite pans out. The 14A rating doesn't help, there are jump scares where you want suspense but true zombie fans will be missing any real carnage. It's hard not to love the idea of Shaolin-trained sisters carving out some equality whilst severing zombie heads but in reality the battle scenes are less exciting than the ballroom courtship ones. Hopefully this spells the end of the historical mash-up adaptation genre, unless someone wants to make Is that you God? It's us, the Grady Twins from The Shining...

Also opening this week and having nothing to do with books or zombies, Joy stars Jennifer Lawrence in a based-on-a-kinda-true fairy tale about the value of hard work, determination and believing in yourself. A magic wand (or in this case a mop) doesn't hurt either.

Joy Mangano was a real person, a regular hard-working mother of three who presumably didn't have an easy go of it, even after she invented the self-wringing miracle mop in the early 1990s and was unable to bring the obviously good idea to market. Enter the Home Shopping Network, some natural charisma and an early example of brand authenticity and you have the gist of this rags-to-riches story from director David O. Russell (The Fighter, Three Kings, Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle). The movie never really gets into the meat of how Joy basically reworked an entire business model to suit her entrepreneurial personality though, that might have been interesting but sadly it's delivered in titles at the very end of two hours of "the struggle."

With the talent involved, (Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper join Lawrence, and O. Russell is riding a hot streak) this one got a lot of attention but it's really not much more than a showcase for Jennifer Lawrence's talent and ability to win through sheer charisma and honesty. You could film her taking an 87-minute dump and probably still nab three Oscar Nominations (and one award). Lawrence is a force of nature and through the magic of acting and just being herself (playing someone else) she saves an otherwise pretty stupid movie.

Back on topic, the Download of the Week is They Live, a 1988 John Carpenter flick where the elite ruling class are actually a bunch of aliens disguised as humans who use subliminal messaging in the mass media to manipulate humanity into a docile society of consumeristic breeder slaves. The aliens also have these handheld communications devices and the only way... ah right, as if that could ever happen. Who comes up with this stuff?

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