The world’s fascination with the living dead just won’t die. The latest take on the zombie apocalypse stars Brad Pitt as a retired United Nations problem solver who is on the frontline of stopping a zombie plague in World War Z, based on a novel by Max Brooks and directed by Marc Forster (Monster’s Ball).
The film has an odd cadence to it, blending elements of the fast-moving zombies of 28 Days Later with a search for the cure that reminds one of Contagion. It is a strange mix of clashing movie styles and yet, for the most part, it works.
Happily living in Philadelphia and taking on the role of house husband with his wife (Mireille Enos) and two daughters, Gerry Lane’s domestic tranquility is shattered in the center of a traffic jam that turns into a run-for-your-life showdown with some zippy zombies whose bite turns you into a killing machine in 12 seconds. The zombies have a hive mentality, moving like frenzied insects.
Lane and his family make it out of Philly, but run into more zombie problems in Newark as they wait to be rescued by the UN forces dispatched to bring the Lane family to a mobile military base on an aircraft carrier. Gerry doesn’t want to leave his family but it is made clear that if he doesn’t join the global search for a cure, his family will be kicked off the ship.
The search takes Gerry and a brilliant scientist (played by Elyes Gabel) to South Korea in search of patient zero. Things don’t work out as planned, but more clues are gathered and the search continues in Jerusalem where they had enough prior knowledge of the zombie invasion to build a 25 foot wall, which is still not quite big enough.
Using his knack for observation, Gerry is forming a plan to fight back and hopes to continue the search in Wales at a World Health Organization lab. However, the plane has a zombie stowaway and the chaos that ensues in seconds makes for the best pure action scene in the movie, even if one quibbles that Gerry and his Israeli soldier companion are conveniently the only two that survive the crash, and are within walking distance of their destination.
At the lab the movie morphs into another cinematic style (a more classic zombie movie) as the undead left in a lab are dormant when not stimulated by fresh targets. It is here that Gerry hatches his plan to fight back but it involves a suspenseful trip into the zombie-filled lab.
World War Z has holes in the plot and an abrupt ending, and the odd mix of styles — art house-meets action flick — doesn’t always work, but when it does it is surprisingly effective. The film definitely gets kudos for action scenes that aren’t generic and that are directly tied to human emotions, a rarity on movie screens these days.
The film is filled with beautiful images of a world in ruin and a plot that reminds one of 'Wall-E' with Cruise left behind on earth as a cosmic janitor.
I’ve been a crafty film critic over the decades, which means I have learned to avoid movies that look horrible in the coming attractions. Of course some movies featuring major stars and high profiles simply can’t be avoided.
"If you still want to see this movie, I have obviously not done my job."
As the summer movie season winds down, the focus switches to the fall and the beginning of the cinematic frenzy known as the Oscar race. The traditional start of the search for Oscar worthy filmmaking begins at the Toronto International Film Festival, which I will be attending for the 25th time.
Brad Pitt: "As a kid I loved 'The Bad News Bears. I loved 'North Dallas Forty' with Nick Nolte. That was the first R-rated movie I saw so it has a special place. Sports films work on some level at overcoming adversity."
When Brad Pitt and George Clooney are in Hollywood North to promote movies, the media blitz hits the frenzy button and rarely dies down. And so it was on the opening weekend of the Toronto International Film Festival with Pitt in town to promote the baseball movie Moneyball, and Clooney ...
When Brad Pitt and George Clooney are in Toronto to promote movies, the media blitz hits the frenzy button and rarely dies down. I managed to get into a packed press conference featuring Pitt, his Moneyball costars Chris Pratt, Jonah Hill and Phillip Seymour Hoffman and director Bennett Miller (who directed Hoffman in his Oscar-winning Capote performance.
WITH A BRONZED AND buff Brad Pitt leading the charge as the Greek warrior Achilles, the new movie Troy is a blood-soaked gladiator pseudo-epic. Loosely based on Homer's Iliad, all I kept thinking about was how hilarious the Mad magazine spoof of this movie will be. Although director Wolfgang Petersen and writer David Benioff appear to be playing it straight, there is an undercurrent of self-parody bubbling underneath the surface of Troy. Gladiator movies have traditionally fallen into two categories: lighter family entertainment or true epics with the emotional weight of Greek tragedy. This movie creates a third category: the gladiator epic as a male stripper fantasy with Brad Pitt removing his armor as much as possible. Joining him in the warrior hunk category is Eric Bana as Hector of Troy, hoping to make people forget he was The Hulk last summer, and Orlando Bloom as Paris of Troy. His character is sensible enough to prefer surviving the war rather than death with honor. Any chance for epic status for Troy is impaired irreparably by Brad Pitt's performance. He fails to provide any emotional substance. He looks and sounds like a guy dressed (undressed?) and ready for a toga party. Pitt's...
The Lone Ranger is not really a western in the hands of director Gore Verbinski. It plays out more like one of his Pirates of the Caribbean movies set on dry land with a moving train substituting for a pirate ship.
When it comes to horror movies, my preference is for movies about things that go bump in the night versus gore fests, so The Conjuring is right in my creepy wheelhouse. When you’ve interviewed a person who has been through this, as I did back in 1979 when I talked to George Lutz, who spent 28 days with his family in The Amityville Horror house — the basis for that film — your natural skepticism is tempered by hearing the account first hand.