World War Z

World War Z comes into theaters with a spew of toxic buzz. Reshoots, rewrites, an overblown 200 million dollar budget and a director that almost singlehandedly ruined the James Bond franchise (Thank GOD for Skyfall and Sam Mendes). Talk about toxic buzz. Well, despite all those negatives the good news is that World War Z is not as bad as we thought it would be. Director Marc Foster, fresh off the heels of his Quantam Of Solace failure, doesn't necessarily triumph in the director's seat but he infuses his zombie film with enough jolts that you leave the theater without a feeling of having just been ripped off (Welcome to Summer 2013). Just take for example the incredible plane scene, I will say no more except that it is truly one of the most jaw dropping things I've seen in quite a while. Gripping is the right word. The same can't be said for many parts of the movie. The PG-13 rating limits Foster into fully going head on with his film. The Walking Dead this ain't. Brad Pitt, also the film's producer, is solid as Gerry Lane a former U.N specialist, now family man, faced with the daunting task to save the world from an impending Zombie apocalypse. The U.N calls him up for help, they want Gerry to find the source of the outbreak and possibly get a cure. Gerry wants none of that but the U.N bribes him with safe shelter for his family, but only if he does the job. Of course, like any hollywood macho man would do, he takes the daunting task.

The film is schizo in its ups and downs. It threatens to go off the rails but only does in spades, especially at its wimpy end. Before that, we get enough jolts to almost justify the film's preposterously high budget. Pitt is an actor you can count on, from 12 Monkeys to Snatch, he can commands the screen like not many other actors can. The mystery behind the virus is what drives the film. How did it start? Gerry gets a tip that Israel is the only country in the world to have sustained the outbreak. Gerry goes there to investigate exactly why, the scenes in Jerusalem are terrifyingly real. Just how safe is the holy city? Pitt finds out the hard way. World War Z gets the job done but it could have been so much more. an R rating would have made it twice as exciting. Just watch Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later, a film this one is clearly inspired by, for a way to twist the zombie genre up from its arse. World War Z is a spectacle and aims to be that all the way through its 116 minutes. In hollywood it is no small feat to beat advanced toxic buzz. Titanic, The Bourne Identity, Gangs of New York and Avatar come to mind. World War Z is nowhere near the quality of those films, it lacks an intensity that it only hints at. Nevertheless some of its scenes will stick with you for a good, long while after the lights come up.

Summer rumblings


Monsters University (G)

Expect to read disappointed write-ups for "Monsters University" when it comes out this coming Friday, a sequel that didn't need to happen yet still did. Listen, it's not a bad film and definitely has its charms but as of late Pixar has been leaning towards more profitable ventures instead of more adventurous, intelligent fare such as WALL-E and UP. It's not rocket science, just go where the money is. 13 years ago "Monsters inc." grossed more than 250 million at the domestic box office. There's your answer, make a sequel. It's not about the creative process anymore as much as it is a numbers game, business as usual. This sequel is actually a prequel of sorts. A how-did-they-become sort of thing. It again follows Sulley and Mike, except this time they're in scare school. Sulley is better at scaring than Mike and they basically argue and bicker the entire film. Any Pixar die-hard will leave the theater with a feeling of dissatisfaction. The film has its moments such as when the "scare games" happen but it all just feels too facile, too generic for Pixar. I laughed a few times and I did care for these characters, If it was any other animation company I wouldn't be complaining as much and would just give it a solid 3 star rating .. but we deserve to expect so much more from this legendary film company.

The Internship (PG-13)

There aren't many laughs in The Internship, a film that reunites the dynamo duo of the Wedding Crashers. Of course I'm talking about Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn. They play two schlubs that don't know what to do with their lives and decide to pursue a career at Google. Of course, before getting that coveted job they need to do well with their internship and win over the big wigs. Easier said than done. Everyone interning is over qualified, our two loveable schlubs are not. You're probably asking how the hell did they get in in the first place? Don't ask. In fact, don't ask about the entire movie. It's a complete disaster. A crushing disappointment. A film that is a 90 minute promoting tool for Google. How can a movie that features two of the funniest guys in Hollywood be so .. unfunny? Don't ask. That's basically what The Internship comes down to. There's a reason why it became a box office bomb in just a few week. Don't ask why.

5 things that suck about Zack Snyder's "Man Of Steel"

As you could tell I didn't like this new version of Superman all that much. There are positives, I can think of Kevin Costner's solid performance as Kal-El's father and Henry Cavill who is in fact quite good in the role as the man of steel. However, here are the reasons why it all went wrong and this Superman movie just sucked.

1) Zack Snyder. Sorry movie geeks, the director of 300 and The Watchmen just hasn't made a good movie so far in his young career. Then why even hire him to take on what is arguably the most popular superhero of all superheroes? I can't understand it. Christopher Nolan was set to direct at one point, so were other big name directors but Snyder got the job and what he does in The Man Of Steel is destructive. In the film's first half you have hope as shades of humanity and feeling show with less action and character development. It is in the film's second half that Snyder piles on the action and destructs one building after another. There is nothing subtle about his direction, Michael Bay could have done the same job. The last hour is like Transformers 4, the movie we never saw.

2) The Screenplay. Written by David Goyer -who was credited with re-building the Batman franchise with the Dark Knight series. The script is a confusing mess. It makes a mockery out of what Superman was all about in the first place and turns the story into a sort of alien invasion picture. Blasphemy. Goyer seemed to think that the story he came up could be followed and actually make sense. Nonsense. He brings a real Dark Knight-esque feel to the film's first half, much credit must be given to Christopher Nolan who produced the whole film, but by the film's second half Goyer has far outreached his ambitions. He goes too far with the film's villain and loses the humanity that made superman such a loveable superhero in the first place.

3) The Villain. As played by the always reliable Michael Shannon, General Zod is a wimpy villain. There is nothing frightening about him. There is nothing that makes you believe that he cannot be beaten by Superman. His intentions are outrageous, his reasoning ludicrous. A far cry from the General Zod we saw in Richard Donner's landmark Superman 2 thirty years ago. Shannon chews the scenery knowing that is the only way to make such a poorly written villain come alive. He fails, just like Snyder and Goyer do. Time to go back on the drawing board for the sequel. Maybe bring Doomsday out or Lex Luther.

4) It's too loud and too hyper. Never have I seen -or actually- heard such an assault on the senses. The movie is quite simply the loudest thing I've ever witnessed in a movie theatre. It does not help that Snyder assaults us not only by the ears but the eyes as well. His non stop cutting of frames goes beyond the limit allowed and he hammers us down by film's end with relentlessly unnecessary action that goes on for way too long. By the time the whole thing came to its conclusion I was glad to get the hell out of the theater.

5) Expectations were too high. And so comes another disappointing Superman movie. One who's trailer promised artful subtleness but instead gave us a superman as directed by Michael Bay. Yikes. We need to be faulted too for this. We all hyped it up and jumped into the hype machine in the first place. Did we not realize that Snyder was just not a suitable director for this? Or did we just want to believe that he had it in him to make something good out of it? I think we were lying to ourselves. Who would have thought that Man Of Steel was going to be worse than Bryan Singer's misbegotten Superman Returns from 7 years ago? I sure didn't. Neither did you probably.

Summer Movie Update; "Now You See Me"

Louis Leterrier's Now You See Me is a film that comes with expectations. First of all its cast -Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Melanie Laurent, Woody Harrelson, Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine- is filled with talent. Secondly its concept - a magic troupe robbing a bank without actually being there- has so much potential going for it that its trailer might actually fool you into thinking it could be a good movie. Thirdly, I'm a sucker for movies about magic, just look at my ten best list of 2006, you'll find two of them The Illusionist and The Prestige. Those films knew how to fool their audiences and stayed one step ahead of them the entire way through. Now You See Me commits the biggest sin a movie about magic should avoid at all cost, it ends up never staying one step ahead of its audience. We know what's coming every step of the way. We follow it all the way through waiting for the big HAHA moment which never comes. Much of the blame must lie in Louis Leterrier, a filmmaker who's track record includes The Transporter and -yikes- Clash Of The Titans. He films the movie in typical hollywood fashion; all style no substance. There is no magic in Letterier's film and once the final twist shows up we were never fooled, we in fact just never cared in the first place.

"The Great Gatsby" fails to adapt a great book

Where exactly did Baz Luhrmann's "The Great Gatsby" (★) go wrong? Where to begin? This had all the makings of a great movie with its talented cast -Leo, Carey, Tobey !- and a visionary filmmaker at the helm. Where did it all go wrong? Where to begin? Oscar was supposed to be calling come nomination time but now, based on poor reviews, it will likely fail to get any noms safe for a few costume and design attributes. Well, I'll start off by saying that visually "The Great Gatsby" is a treat, Luhrmann has always had a talent for creating visually arresting images just look at his "Moulin Rouge" for a great example. The problem is that the source material didn't need the visual overkill. The novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald had a delicacy to it that Luhrmann completely forgets. Hell, the failed 1974 adaptation -starring Robert Redford- looks more competent compared to Luhrmann's botched, ambitious film. It's a real shame. Luhrmann takes risks that just don't work. He uses a hip hop inspired soundtrack by Jay Z that feels out of place, he miscasts Carey Mulligan as Gatsby's dream girl Daisy, he -uninspiringly- makes it a 3D film and -most importantly- he loses the heart and soul of Fitzgerald's great American novel.

It isn't easy adapting a literary masterpiece into a feature length film. Brian De Palma's "The Bonfire Of The Vanities" and Jonathan Demme's "Beloved" come to mind. Luhrmann's "Gatsby" belongs in the long list -and I mean long- of botched attempts. It isn't surprising that a great American novel translates terribly into celluloid. Sometimes you just need to leave it alone, sometimes a film just can't capture the raw, emotional power that words can bring. The first half of "Gatsby" works terribly, it presents us to an artificial, overtly glamorized and sentimental world that is far from what Fitzgerald first intended. Of course Luhrmann is trying to put his stamp on the story but some things are best left untouched. The setup is brutal but in the film's second half Luhrmann goes more for emotion, character development and his film starts to loosen up a little and feel more real, more intimate. Too little, too late. I wish I could have seen what Dicaprio's Jay Gatsby saw in Daisy, but I didn't. Carey Mulligan is terribly miscast and looks out of place.

I won't be be going any further into the negatives of literary adaptations, instead I've decided to make a list of the films that actually made good on the promise of their source material. These 10 films proved to be more than just a great book, they became a great movie. Some of these were even better than the book. Yes, it does happen. Albeit, only once in a while. Here are some examples -

One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest
The Godfather
Apocalypse Now
A Clockwork Orange
The Silence Of the Lambs
The Lord Of The Rings
Schindler's List
No Country For Old Men
The Shawshank Redemption
2001: A Space Odyssey