She’s got it going on

Something for everyone: a sci-fi thinking person’s zombie movie:

The Girl With All the Gifts

Meet Melanie
Melanie contemplating

(opens 2/24/17)

Plot: a fungus disease has turned most of humanity into zombies. In the hopes of finding a cure, a bunch of children who are infected are used as lab rats in a government lab led by a scientist played by Glenn Close. The children are infected with the disease, but act like normal non-flesh eating humans, although they are kept under lock and key. When there are too many  “hungries” (zombies) close to breaking into the lab, an adolescent named Melanie leads a search for a safe place to settle. Do not overlook this film. There is a theme lurking somewhere within–Although Melanie hungers for human flesh, she is adorable and forms a precious bond with her teacher in this dystopian story.

The movie was directed by Colm McCarthy, a Brit who also directs episodes of Sherlock and Peaky Blinders, another popular British TV Show. The screenplay was written by Mike Carey, who also wrote the novel (same title).

Melanie learning

review by Heather Wixson

Spoilers skimmable? Yes, if you’re careful.

Bottom Line: 4/5 stars. Wixson pronounces it  “One of Best Zombie Film Years.”

Zombie flick with a twist: the zombies here are not “mindless, flesh-eating monsters with no sense of humanity left to them.” Except for their eating habits and nasty personalities, the zombies may be as human as you and me–that at least applies to the kids. Wixson says this film is a “new and clever way to explore this oft-visited horror sub-genre.”

review by Leigh Singer

Be still my heart. Towards the beginning of the review, this reviewer whispers sweet nothings into my eyes:

“To reveal more would be unfair.”

I’m gonna get you sucka: after that, it’s a disaster. Two sentences later, Singer tells us what is in the first scene. And that is only the beginning.  This is one spoiler-laden review.

Melanie sitting
Melanie sitting

Hypocrisy: as  much as I would like to discount this review, it makes the movie sound interesting because Singer says that this isn’t just a zombie movie; it’s a “smart, exciting film in general.”

More: “But what’s instantly clear is how The Girl With All the Gifts respects genre conventions yet still springs plenty of surprises.”

Eyes wide open: according to Singer, it is light on the gore.

Spoilers NOT skimmable.



Critics are Heroes Too

Check out these dream critics, who profess not to give away spoilers:

Interstellar video review by John Hammond

Plot: Worldwide food crises that wipes out most of humanity. Only hope for human survival is to find another planet to live on. Guess who goes on a mission to find that planet? Mathew McConaughey will boldly go where  no man has gone before, sans Captain Kirk, through both a wormhole and a black hole. (Don’t really know what that means.)

Who's your daddy?
Who’s your daddy?

Spoilers: Not really! YAY! Hammond stresses that he doesn’t want to spoil the movie. There are a couple of harmlessly tiny clips.

Bottom line: Go see it! Everything about this movie rocks. acting, plot, cinematography. And plenty of meaning: “It’s a small human drama set against” the big expanse of space. It is about connecting to each other as human beings, time and other themes.

No worries: You don’t have to know the science to understand what’s going on. (Phew!)

John Hammond Rules: He can still analyze the movie without spoilers.

Of interest: Directed by Christopher Nolan, who co-wrote this with his brother Jonathan.

John Wick

Forbes Magazine: Review by Scott Mendelson

Plot: It’s all about revenge. Why? Well, first JW’s wife dies. Then his wife leaves a posthumous gift (imagine the executor of that estate), a puppy, who is later killed. Needless to say, JW is a retired killer who was living a humble life (that part I assume) and has to–nay has a moral obligation to– avenge the puppy’s death.

Spoilers: None. Although spoilers are necessary to tell how great the action is, Mendelson explains, “[t]here are no spoilers here.”

Bottom Line: Great Action flick, giving most people what they want: “to see Keanu Reeves shooting bad guys and looking good while doing it. And you will absolutely get your money’s worth.”

No really, who's your daddy?
No really, who’s your daddy?

Oh yeah, baby.

More positives–“terrific action, engaging characters, and an interesting world….John Wick is the full package and one of the best action films of the year.”

One thing: Mendelson can’t stop talking about the movie’s “world.” He calls it  “an example of successful world-building that benefits the story rather than distracting from it.” In fact, Mendelson states, it lends itself to the characters’ fates.


I believe what he is saying is that there are no superfluous scenes, such as those about past triumphs that show cool but irrelevant inventions, a là James Bond. And that the world is not another character, a là Manhattan in Woody Allen movies. Although, sometimes I think it’s a cool part of action movies, a là James Bond.

Scott Mendelson Rules: Thank you for trusting your readers to grasp the obvious. Most critics have been pointing out that this is not a deep movie full of symbolism and underlying themes. Mendelson does not.

Speaking of interesting: He explains that movies today emulate the action within video games because it is “fluid” with stops and starts, and not over-stylized, which is a good thing–or at least that’s what I think he is saying.

Great format of Forbes’ reviews: Three sections, all subtitled: 1. “Thumbnail,” one or two sentence low-down; 2. “The Box Office,” a prediction of how much money the movie will take in, prefaced by an in-depth ho-hum, enough-already analysis. Thankfully, you can skip this and go directly to 3. “The Review.”

Irony: I look a lot more deeply for meaning in a review of a movie that lacks meaning.

Irony?: but some of the review is vague.

BREAKING NEWS: Spoilers Benefit Stories

Spoiler Alert: The wolf could not blow down the house of the third little pig.

When my niece was about 4, I gave her an awesome birthday present. I don’t recall what it was, but I know it was awesome. Why? Because I remember that she kept putting it back in the box, holding the wrapping paper around it, and reopening it so that she could re-live the glorious moment when she first opened the present.

Most likely due to the no-spoiler policy of Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilliam, the media has been abuzz with the heightened controversy surrounding spoilers.

And so a 2011 study regarding spoilers’ effect on the power of stories has resurfaced. You may have missed it the first time around, when every news source in the universe (ie America) covered it. It was conducted at the University of California San Diego by Professor Nicholas Christenfeld and then PhD candidate Jonathan Leavitt. They concluded that spoilers enhance the reader’s enjoyment of a story.

The quotes below (in italics) are from the researchers themselves, mostly Christenfeld, as presented in the 2011 Association of Psychological Science ‘s  press release and picked up by the media.

The Purpose of the Research

The study was about how people process stories. The conclusion of the research is that readers enjoy stories more when they read the endings first because they can relax and appreciate the finer parts of the story.  This is how the researchers put it:


Don’t worry, Bambi makes friends, grows up and gets married.
The matador doesn't fight Ferdinand. He sends the bull back to small the flowers.
It will be ok! The matador doesn’t fight Ferdinand. Now you are free to appreciate the pictures.


Once you know how it turns out, it’s cognitively easier – you’re more comfortable processing the information – and can focus on a deeper understanding of the story.



How they figured it out

Here’s how the study went down: The researchers gave their subjects three types of short stories to read: ones that are mysteries, ones with ironic twists and ones that are “literary” (whatever that means).  Then they placed a spoiler paragraph as a preface, within the beginning of the text and nowhere in the text (left the story as is).

There were 30 subjects, all college students. Yes, college students, that bleary-eyed sub-species that comprises those who are sleep deprived, over-worked, and, in many cases, hung over. And yes, only 30 of them. The press release states that the stories the students read were classics by the likes of John Updike, Roald Dahl, Anton Chekhov, Agatha Christie and Raymond Carver.


Except for Roald Dahl, not compelling reading to your average college student. Not contemporary, so they might not relate to them. I mean, is it really unusual for college kids to be “cognitively comfortable” with knowing the end of a story that they have no interest in reading?

I challenge these guys to use contemporary fiction that these students can relate to. Tell them the ending and then duck when they take a slug at you.

Here’s a compelling conclusion by Christenfeld:

Plots are just excuses for great writing. What the plot is is (almost) irrelevant. The pleasure is in the writing.


 Since the sentence does not end with an explanation point, I am taking it at face value. And so I pose these questions to the researchers:

Have you ever read a book? seen a movie? listened to other people talk about their day?

I know they have walked into an art museum because they likened their findings to the appreciation of fine art:

“Monet’s paintings aren’t really about water lilies,” he [Christenfeld] said.

Now THAT’S funny!

It’s impressionism, for God’s sake!

Apparently the researchers have become a little too full of themselves. Get a load of this:

Well now that writers now know how to write their stories—with the ending first—don’t look to Christenfeld and Leavitt for more guidance….The researchers are careful to note that they do not have a new recipe for writers to follow.

EEEEEEEEEEK!  (Consider this a metaphor for pulling my hair out.)

Is that meant to be funny?

It’s no big deal. Someone will develop a program that allows us to systematically move the last two pages in a book or the last scene in a movie to the very beginning.

What’s Next for Christenfeld and Leavitt?

To learn of their plans for future research, read the next post.

And here it comes, ladies and gents—another brilliant conclusion. Again, it’s pithy and light, but there is no exclamation point anywhere near this quote–so I think it may not be a joke, but I’m honestly not sure. This is what the researchers say:

Perhaps birthday presents are better when wrapped in cellophane, and engagement rings are better when not concealed in chocolate mousse.

Let me tell you something. SAVE POISON (and poop for those of you who have read/seen The Help), everything is better in chocolate!

By the way, does anyone know someone who proposed by hiding a diamond ring in food? Have these guys seen too many movies?

Back to the anecdote I relayed in the previous post about my niece trying to re-live that moment of joy when she kept re-opening my present. Listen to this statement in the press release:

The overall findings are consistent with the experience most of us have had: A favorite tale can be re-read multiple times with undiminished pleasure. A beloved movie can be watched again and again.


For God’s sake, people, don’t disrespect the movies we watch over and over; they were my children’s babysitters.

But watching and rewatching movies prove that people dig spoilers?

I think not.