Movie Review ~ World War Z

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The Facts:

Synopsis: United Nations employee Gerry Lane traverses the world in a race against time to stop the Zombie pandemic that is toppling armies and governments, and threatening to destroy humanity itself.

Stars: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, Daniella Kertesz, James Badge Dale, Matthew Fox, David Morse, Fana Mokoena, Moritz Bleibtreu, Ruth Negga

Director: Marc Foster

Rated: PG-13

Running Length: 116 minutes

Trailer Review: Here

TMMM Score: (8/10)

Review: So far 2013 has been a very good year for zombies.  With the continued success of The Walking Dead on television, the February release of the surprisingly great “zom-com” Warm Bodies, and now the pulse-quickening epic World War Z…it’s not a bad time to crave brains.  I have to admit that with each new trailer for World War Z I grew less interested…mostly because it seemed like a run-of-the mill summer blockbuster that would open big and disappear within a few weeks.  So you can imagine my surprise when ten minutes in I was white knuckling it in my seat, barely able to catch a breath.

Many felt that Max Brooks’s 2006 novel, written as an oral history, would have been better suited for a television series/mini-series and not as a multi-million dollar picture starting one of the biggest A-listers out there.  Those same people should enjoy a nice meal of their own words because the novel has been brought to life in slick fashion that never feels like its cheating on the source material.  The film opens big and for the next two hours rarely lets the audience come up for air as we are taken along for the globe-hopping, zombie killing ride.

Pitt (The Counselor) is a retired investigator for the United Nations living a seemingly peaceful life with his wife (Mireille Enos) and two daughters.  As they get ready to start their day we can hear in the background news reports of virus outbreaks in other cities but given that it’s not in their neck of the woods the family pays no attention.  Soon they are packed up and heading out for their day when traffic jams put them in the center of madness as the entire city population starts to become infected around them.

Calling on his old contacts, Pitt eventually gets his family to safety but is then tapped to lead the investigation to find the origin of the outbreak.  This takes him away from his loved ones and into a mystery that moves him from one end of the globe to another…this is one guy who has a full passport by the time the credits roll.  Part of the fun of the film is following Pitt from as he country hops because you never know who he’ll meet or who will survive.  There are plenty of surprises in the movie, not the least is that Pitt is still a proven star who can easily navigate a picture filled with international actors and accents.

Thought Pitt is the star of the show, director Marc Foster (bouncing back nicely from the dreary Bond entry Quantum of Solace) spreads the love globally employing many new faces to fill the roles of people Pitt encounters in his journey.  Enos is so brilliant on TV in The Killing and though she starts strong her character is unfortunately eventually relegated to shouting Pitt’s name in the phone as the time between their connections grows longer.  James Badge Dale is an actor that seems to pop up a lot lately (he’s also in The Lone Ranger) and he’s put to good, albeit brief use, as part of the puzzle Pitt must solve to save the human race.  Israeli actress Daniella Kertesz is a force to be reckoned with too as a solider that accompanies Pitt on a most harrowing airline ride.

Then there’s the zombies.  Not merely brain dead shufflers, these zombies take a page from Danny Boyle’s 2002 zombie classic 28 Days Later… and sprint after their prey.  Moving so fast amps up the adrenaline yet it doesn’t overwhelm the bottom line and the film takes care to explain behavior of the zombies/infected in a way that seems fresh and unexpected.  Even a sequence set in a sterile lab late in the film has little frenzied action at all and still manages to make the sweat bead up on your forehead.

These little character moments (from the living and the infected) do not go unnoticed and that’s what winds up setting World War Z apart from similar films.  It’s a brisk popcorn adventure that keeps trucking along with such expediency that you’ll probably be a little exhausted by the time the lights come up.  Yet even with its fast pace I left feeling that the movie had earned its quieter moments and called upon its actors in the right way to give solid performances.  One of the best films of the summer, it’s a movie that I feel will warrant repeated viewings alongside other zombie classics that came before it.

Down From the Shelf ~ Alex Cross

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The Facts:

Synopsis: A homicide detective is pushed to the brink of his moral and physical limits as he tangles with a ferociously skilled serial killer who specializes in torture and pain.

Stars: Tyler Perry, Matthew Fox, Ed Burns, Cicely Tyson, Rachel Nichols

Director: Rob Cohen

Rated: PG-13

Running Length: 101 minutes

TMMM Score: (1/10)

Review:   When I heard that there were plans to reboot the Alex Cross films as a star vehicle for Perry, I shook my head ‘no’.  After I saw the preview for the film, I shook my head ‘no’.  Sitting down and readying myself to write this review, I can only shake my head with a mixture of incredulity and anger that a series with so much potential has yet again been squandered.  You see, while the first two stabs at bringing James Patterson’s famous detective to life were noble attempts that had their moments, this film is a piece of garbage not worthy of being mentioned in the same breath.

Kiss the Girls (1997) and Along Came a Spider (2001) both featured Morgan Freeman as a wise detective up against various devious killers.  Freeman may have been a tad too old for the character but he added a grace and gusto that was needed as the transition from page to screen was made.  In reality, the novels have such a wealth of stories that a television series really should have been explored; it’s a format that would have served Alex Cross and his fans well.

When Freeman was done after two entries the character seemed kaput, until some genius thought that Perry would be the right guy to take another whack at it.  Wrong choice.  Perry has made a fortune off of his Madea films and other productions that are marketed one way but in truth are preachy messes that test the will to live of many audiences and critics.  As bad of a director as Perry certainly is, his acting is worse.  He’s so laughably out of his league here that one wonders if he thought he was in a comedy.  His unmotivated line readings and phony attempts at sounding concerned are just the tip of the iceberg of the problems Perry presents taking on this leading role.

To be fair, Perry isn’t the only offender in the acting category.  Pretty much everyone else in the movie sleepwalks through their roles – from Burns as Perry’s partner to lean and mean Fox as the killer that is seeking vengeance on Perry and his team for getting in the way of his work.  The only thing really scary about Fox is how much weight he lost for the role – his commitment is admirable but wasted in a film that offers no support for him.  Only Tyson, valued pro that she is, seems invested in what she’s doing and saying…but at times even she looks pained to say some of the incredibly adrift dialogue from Marc Moss and Kerry Williamson.

There’s so much wrong with the film, not the least of which is basic logic, timelines, and continuity.  Nothing makes much sense so if you must watch this try to appreciate it for Cohen’s direction which at least keeps things moving in an efficient way.  Cohen knows his way around an actor with limited range (he directed Vin Diesel in xXx and The Fast and The Furious) so the conclusion must be that Perry is beyond saving.

You know a film is bad when the best thing about it is the song played over the closing credits…and certainly “All Our Secrets Are the Same” penned by Jackie DeShannon, Randy Edelman, and Cohen is far and away the only redeeming point of the film.  I place the blame solely on Perry at the end of the day…his atrociously inept acting drags the film down at every turn…though Alex Cross lives on in novels it’s Perry that has put him in a cinematic grave.

The Silver Bullet ~ World War Z

Synopsis: A U.N. employee is racing against time and fate, as he travels the world trying to stop the outbreak of a deadly Zombie pandemic.

Release Date:  June 21, 2013

Thoughts: Though not arriving until June of 2013, World War Z’s first trailer presents a fairly detailed description of the zombie apocalypse epic we’ll be lining up for next summer.  Helmed by Marc Forster (who might be done nursing his wounds from Quantum of Solace) and starring top tier A-Lister Brad Pitt, I found myself enjoying the trailer but getting the churning feeling like we’ve seen this all before in Independence Day and I Am Legend.  Why not just replace Pitt with Will Smith and call it a day?  I’m a bit zombie-d and end of the world-ed out so forgive me if I say I’ll for sure see this but I won’t be counting down the days.

The Silver Bullet ~ “Alex Cross” Trailer

Synopsis: After Washington DC detective Alex Cross is told that a family member has been murdered, he vows to track down the killer. He soon discovers that she was not his first victim and that things are not what they seem.

Release Date:  October 19, 2012

Thoughts: Based on one of the 18 (and counting!) novels in a popular series by James Patterson, Alex Cross sees Tyler Perry stepping into the role created by Morgan Freeman in Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider.  Nothing against Perry, who is a fine actor when he wants to be, but taking over for Freeman is no small task.  As a fan of the Alex Cross novels (though I admittedly haven’t read one since #10) I always considered this a series better suited for television than the big screen.  It doesn’t help that the films continue to be made out of order which means the Cross character will forever be scattered amongst movies.  The trailer doesn’t do a lot for me, looking to be more of a by-the-numbers police mystery.  Also, is Matthew Fox sick or something?  Rather than looking super ripped in his villain role he looks malnourished which maybe just adds to his creep factor.  In any event, I’m a proven sucker for a thriller so all gripes aside there’s no doubt I’ll be catching this one in October.