WORLD WAR Z (2013)

June 24, 2013

wwz1 Greetings again from the darkness. Max Brooks’ hugely successful novel was put through the proverbial wringer on it’s road to the big screen. Numerous script re-writes, many scenes re-shot, a re-worked third act, an all new ending, and a 6 month delay in release date. The final product is something that fans of TV’s “The Walking Dead” will probably appreciate and many others will find it entertaining enough.

Brad Pitt gives an earnest effort as a former United Nations investigator who now enjoys his new role as house-husband. In fact, director Marc Foster (Quantum of Solace, Monster’s Ball) zaps us with the first zombie action just after Pitt serves up pancakes to his two daughters and wife Karin (Mireille Enos, “The Killing”). It turns out Pitt is more than just an expert at flapjacks. His expertise is needed in this global zombie crisis brought on by a wwz2virus …or bacteria, that started in India … or Israel … or Asia. See, those details don’t really matter because the infection has spread to every corner of the globe.

I actually enjoyed Pitt more in the “quiet” moments than in the big CGI action sequences. He is quite believable as a doting husband and father, less so as the world’s savior. Still, the issues with this movie are not on Mr. Pitt. Four writers (in addition to the novelist) rarely deliver a coherent script’ however, since it’s an apocalyptic zombie thriller, they almost get away with it! If you haven’t visited the zombie genre in a few decades, be prepared … these aren’t wwz3the sluggish zombies made famous by George Romero. Instead, these are blazingly fast and able to leap tall buildings, flying helicopters … and the great wall of Jerusalem. Yes, Jerusalem. In one of the more unusual movie features, this one plays like “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?”. Pitt globe trots more than James Bond or Jason Bourne.

For many, the zombie sequences and global apocalyptic theme will provide sufficient cinematic entertainment. For the rest of us, it’s fine, but will forgotten as quickly as I am Legend. (06/24/13 UPDATE: the very talented and influential writer Richard Matheson passed away yesterday.  Among his work was the novel I AM LEGEND, which was the basis for the Will Smith movie that I referenced in my ending wisecrack.  I don’t blame Mr. Matheson’s fine work for that lackluster film.  His death is a great loss.)

**NOTE: Israeli newcomer Daniella Kurtesz (age 23) has an interesting screen presence and I look forward to seeing more of her work

**NOTE: Matthew Fox has a blink and you’ll miss him scene as part of the rooftop helicopter rescue team. The original third act had him playing a bigger role.

SEE THIS MOVIE IF: you are a fan of the Zombie craze OR you never miss a chance to see a long-haired Brad Pitt

SKIP THIS MOVIE IF: you are bothered more by muddled story-telling than the global threat of a rapidly spreading zombie virus.

watch the trailer:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Md6Dvxdr0AQ


MACHINE GUN PREACHER

October 7, 2011

 Greetings again from the darkness. Movies based on true stories and real people tend to receive the benefit of the doubt from me, even when they exaggerate those truths and characters. At the beginning of the movie, Sam Childers is an ex-con, druggie, gun-loving drug dealer, thug, lousy dad, worse husband, and overall man of failed character. When he finds God, he loses the drugs but the only other thing that really changes is his postal address.  All of that is based on the real life Childers.

 Sam Childers sees himself as a modern day crusader working to make a better life for the war orphans in Sudan. It’s impossible to argue that he hasn’t had an impact on lives. The real question is, at what cost and by what methods? Over the closing credits, we even get a clip of the real Sam asking us “does it matter how?”.

You will find no debate here for whether or not this man has made a difference or whether his methods should be judged. This space is merely for analyzing the movie which is telling a story. Gerard Butler does an admirable job making Sam a somewhat sympathetic character. Re-read my first paragraph if you think that’s easy! Michelle Monaghan plays Lynn, his incredibly supportive wife who actually helped Sam find God, rather than continue his criminal, drug-addled ways with friend Donnie (Michael Shannon).

 While I found the story of the Sudanese children to be heart-breaking, the choppy and fragmented manner in which it’s presented was quite annoying. The story began in 1998 but we never really knew what year it was or how much time had passed between Sam’s trips home. Many of the gun battle scenes came across very staged and set-up for a cool shot of Butler brandishing a weapon and bandanna.  The photo at left is Gerald Butler discussing a scene with Sam Childers.

The production value of the film is surprising considering it’s directed by Marc Foster, who has many fine films to his credit (Monster’s Ball, Finding Neverland).  While watching, I had the feeling that there must have been some omitted scenes, and others were edited to the point of being nearly incoherent. 

So while I found the story to be quite interesting, I found the delivery to be less than adequate. This despite fine performances from Butler, Monaghan, Shannon, Kathy Baker and Madeline Carroll. There are numerous magazine articles about Sam Childers and I believe you will find those more accurate and informative.

SEE THIS MOVIE IF: you are up for an interesting story about a fascinating real life man, and you can overlook the shoddy presentation OR you just want to see Gerald Butler looking cool with a machine gun!

SKIP THIS MOVIE IF: you would rather read an article about the real life Sam Childers than watch chopped up version of his story.

watch the trailer: