Wednesday, July 31, 2013

World War Z

World War Z – 116M – PG-13

This movie has the following things in common with the book of the same name; zombies annnd The title annnnnnnd that’s it. There are almost no other carryovers that make this a good representation of the book. Once you get past the huge differences and just grade this on its own zombie merits, at best it only gets a yellow light from me.

I was a fan of zombies from the first time I watched the 1968 version of Night of the Living Dead. Maybe I am harder on this type of movie and hold it to a higher standard because I love the genre. The movie was fine from your run of the mill modern zombie that is crazy fast and completely unstoppable. But I am finding myself missing the psychological horror of the original movies.

Brad Pitt is Gerry Lane, a UN troubleshooter that has a way of getting things done in some very politically tight spots. He has a reputation of being relentless and letting nothing get in his way. He has just retired and is spending more time at home with his wife, Karin (Mireille Enos), and his two daughters, Constance and Rachel (Sterling Jerins, Abigail Hargrove). He is on a day out with the fam when the world explodes with an unstoppable wave of zombies.

There are very few relief points in the action. You get a never-ending ride of ups and downs while you are forced fed clues that are used in the end to come up with a solution of how to combat the zombies. I am guessing they are heavy handed because Brad Pitt needs to be able to see them.

I’m sorry about that last line, it was offsides, Brad Pitt is a very talented actor and a great person. That cheap shot was petty and uncalled for. I retract it. I was aiming more at the filmmakers. He was collateral damage in that jibe. I get cranky when I have to write about a movie that did not have enough good or bad in it to make me feel one way or the other.

I did like many of the small things they did to enhance the tension and imminent danger in this version of the zombie mythos. But adding cool small nuances to the overall tired big blockbuster story machine is not enough to keep me interested.

A missing element to the movie was how humanity changed and evolved overall in response to the crisis. We never get to see this in the film because instead of being a story about all of us, it’s just one man’s story. The book was told from several points of view. Maybe they should have thought of doing a Contagion approach in telling this story.

The CGI zeds were good at times and at times they were a bit grainy. Perhaps the director (Marc Forster) was going for that look, they wanted to give that effect to be like the shaky camera shots and bring you into the story, but it was distracting. I am a fan of his other films but this one I think is going to the bottom of my favorites from him.

I have issue with the ultra fast and super human zombie. Simon Pegg wrote an article about this very subject he said:

       “the fast zombie is bereft of poetic subtlety. As monsters from the id, zombies win out over vampires and werewolves when it comes to the title of Most Potent Metaphorical Monster. Where their pointy-toothed cousins are all about sex and bestial savagery, the zombie trumps all by personifying our deepest fear: death. Zombies are our destiny writ large. Slow and steady in their approach, weak, clumsy, often absurd, the zombie relentlessly closes in, unstoppable, intractable.“

The rest of the article is here. This is said much more elegant than I could but it is exactly how I feel.

Warning Spoilers !!!!! Only the Uninfected beyond this point. !!!!!!!!!!!

Ok. Right off the bat I thought the world’s smartest and best hope for humanity shooting his face off as soon as he gets face to face with danger (pun intended) was priceless. My exact words were “Wellllllllll, poop. We’re Stewed” I am cleaning this up for some of our younger readers but you get the idea.

From there few minutes of conversation on the plane we are supposed to believe that Brad Pitt’s character can piece together a plan about a vaccine that can make us invisible to them? Again this is hard for me to get behind.

The solution they came up with of making us not a compatible host seems a bit sketchy when they were pretty clearly killing everything that moved in the opening scenes I know I am watching a zombie movie so my suspension of disbelief should be pretty high, but it was hard to take in with such a farfetched premise.

Also the level of contagion seemed disproportionate. There is a news report of someplace incanting martial law but the news report makes the outbreak seem miles away. When the action kicks off it’s just in your face waves of sprinting zombies.

I loved the little touches of zombie prep, wrapping the arm in magazines and duct tape. Stand on the edge of the building as a safety measure if he turned. Walking back through the zombies and taking a soda when he created the distraction was a nice touch.

I was a bit disappointed by the fact that the sound of people singing were enough to bring the zombies to scale the wall but the other noise of helicopters and trucks and security gates and other conversations and yelling orders did nothing to inspire them to attack.

Ok enough about this blah zombie movie I am going to attack digital zombies as I go play State of Decay. I can show you how a real survivor is supposed to act.

What is your favorite zombie and why? Shamblers or rage machines?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Man of Steel

Man of Steel - 143min - PG13

I am doing this on my iPad as I am on holiday in London so bear with me if this looks odd. Memo to me: pack laptop for out of town trips. My first impression with this movie is how well they did an origin story without having us go through a long rehash of how Superman became Superman. The fresh start was needed after the last love letter of a movie - Superman Returns - that tried to recapture the magic of what the original move had while trying to update the character for a modern audience. This move gets a green light from me but it does have a few missed opportunities that I think they could have capitalized on.

This version of the story has Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) going from one job to another helping people as an anonymous drifter. He is trying to figure out who he is in our world. We see his childhood in flashback and most of the history we already know. This gives the director (Zack Snyder) the ability to only show us the pivotal moments in Clak's life without us having to trudge through all of his childhood. The way he mixed the timelines gives us what we need to continue to the good bits of the story.

Kevin Costner plays Jonathan Kent perfectly. He brings an honest concern for his adoptive son that I don't think was captured in previous versions. His fear of how the world will react to finding out his son is from a different planet is genuine and you can see how his lessons of character and responsibility shaped Clark's life. Ma Kent (Diane Lane) was wonderful and helped bring the emotional connection to the screen. She was not a frail motherly woman. She was a more modern country strong woman and seemed younger or maybe I am getting older and she just seems younger. She brought a life to the character that was more than set dressing of the mother figure.

Lois Lane (Amy Adams) seems more on the ball than previous actresses that have had the role. Her strength was seen in this movie as she was actually fighting opposed to just being a damsel in distress. That was a refreshing twist. Her journalistic curiosity brought her to a story and the scope of it brought the danger. She has captured the embedded journalist spirit that understands the danger but still pushes to get to the story. I never liked the "I am going to break the law to get a good story and oops I get caught" aspect of her character in previous versions.

The choice to cast Laurence Fishburn as Perry White was excellent. I remember people on the Internet up in arms as to why are we crossing race here in the comic book he is white. It made absolutely no difference and having a strong actor play a supporting cast member brought new depth to this character. His performance made me want to see more from his character. This team again elevating Perry from set dressing to interesting character.

The pacing was excellent, the action was extreme and the carnage was on a massive scale. The aftermath of gods playing in a sandbox reminded me of pictures of Hiroshima after the blast. It will take years for Metropolis to rebuild. I must be getting old because I was horrified by the extreme loss of life. The death toll after the fight has to be in the millions. But they only showed glimpses of death, this is still only a small consolation when you see bodies being tossed in the air and brought down with a huge wave of gravity crushing everything in its path.

I think this is a great kick off to a Justice League movie. I know that project is up in the air but I think that if they keep Christopher Nolan and his team doing the same quality storytelling it would be a great world to set that film in. It's darker and more visceral than the polished settings in the past. But they need to just do a Justice League movie and then go back to individual films later. But what do I know? I am just a fan boy blogger.

Spoiler warning !!!! Only sons and daughters of Krypton beyond this point!!!!

I think the first missed opportunity was not using Clark's mind or his experience on the farm shine through in the fight with General Zod (Michael Shannon) we see Clark reading a book when he was picked on by the jocks, so he is smart or at least it was implied that he was. Let’s see how brains win over brawn even if he has superpowers it should be the way he uses it to overcome that mattered.

The second place was not using Zod's death to shape Superman more, something in the scenes that explained that because he had to kill Zod with his bare hands he was no longer going to use lethal force. A conversation with his mom or with Lois. Something. Anything to give more meaning to his taking a life.

My wife pointed out that this, like most other movies gets the basic reality of the planet wrong. It’s not daylight on both sides of the world at once. You can't have a daylight shot of Metropolis and of its polar opposite on the other side of the globe.

What superhero should this team take on next?