Movie Review: World War Z

Sara had planned to take me to see the much anticipated World War Z for our anniversary, but our plans were ruined by a little unexpected mishap, so I’m just now getting around to seeing it.

Sara and I don’t get to see a lot of movies in the theater. In fact, the last time we saw a movie was actually January 2012. And actually, when we watch movies at home we have to move the couch close enough to be able to see the screen on our tiny tv. So keep in mind that the enormous, high-definition screen and hyper-realistic sound system kind of seem like magic to me, and that probably colors my experience just a little bit.

First off, I loved the book and I was really looking forward to the movie. It turns out that, aside from the title, there is literally no other connection between the book and the movie. Not a one. No characters, plot, scenarios, nothing. That’s kind of a shame, because I think the book would have made a really cool movie. The book is much more documentary-style vignettes as the zombie apocalypse sweeps across the world, which would have been a really unique look and feel.

That being said, I LOVED this movie! So good. The beginning (always the best part of any zombie movie) very skillfully built the tension and kept it high. Despite having watched many, many zombie movies, my heart was pounding and I was totally sucked in. The middle was great. It swept across the world and showed reactions in so many different ways, being very epic in a way most zombie movies never attempt to be. And finally, the ending was plausible and very satisfying in a way that I didn’t necessarily expect. Like I said, I loved it.

And the whole way home I was eyeing up both people and dark alleys suspiciously.

I knew going in that the movie was nothing like the book, and I’m sure that helped me enjoy it. Instead of sitting there comparing them, I tried to pretend this was an entirely different zombie movie altogether, and it worked. And honestly, it’s probably better that they didn’t try to include more from the book, because if you have just a few things it only highlights the discrepancies. Why they decided to use the name “World War Z” instead of just making it unrelated I guess we’ll never know, but I can enjoy them both for their own merits.

My all time favorite zombie movie is the Dawn of the Dead remake from 2004. World War Z ranked right up there with it. I don’t think there was enough that was really “new” to unseat Dawn of the Dead, but honestly, that’s probably more a product of the timing. If I had seen this movie first and Dawn of the Dead 8 years later, I probably would have liked this more. “Fast zombies” were still new when Dawn of the Dead came out (remember, 28 Days Later had only come out 2 years before), and the whole concept just seemed so fresh and awesome. However, World War Z is a modern movie with top notch production and the special effects, acting, and just general craft of the movie are very well done, meaning that cinematically speaking it’s probably the superior movie, just not as groundbreaking.

However, I do have to give them a little bit of credit here. World War Z is not gory. A non-gory zombie movie! Zombie movies are specifically designed to gross you out with as much disgusting blood and guts as possible, but they managed to maintain the tension and terror without it, implying it and doing most of it off-screen. Superbly done! I wouldn’t have thought it possible if I hadn’t just seen it. In fact, they do it so well, that I didn’t even notice it wasn’t gory until halfway through the movie.

So, World War Z, highly recommended, both the book and the movie (since they are two entirely different things).

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The Artist

Since the kids were born, Sara and I see movies in the theater very infrequently. As I said the last time we saw a movie, when you’re only seeing about one movie a year, it’s got to be a good one. You’ve got to make it count. That’s why when we got the opportunity last weekend to see a movie, we quickly turned to the Academy Award Nominations to separate the wheat from the chaff so to speak.

Hugo leads the pack with 11 nominations, however, it wasn’t playing at the theater closest to us. Close behind was The Artist, with 10 nominations, so we took the Academy at their word and checked it out.

I wish we wouldn’t have.

It’s not that The Artist is a terrible film. It’s an okay film at best. I won’t say I wasn’t entertained by the movie, but I will say my entertainment level was below probably half of the movies I’ve seen this year. And for a movie with 10 Academy Award nominations, that’s not really up to snuff, is it?

Sara and I tried to explain to ourselves later how this film garnered so many nominations, and the best guess we have is that Hollywood absolutely loves movies about Hollywood. I was positively shocked when I looked up some of the reviews and read how absolutely glowing they were. Again, it’s not a bad movie, but reading the reviews they made it sound like it was the greatest movie ever made. I have to say, I feel like there is some kind of emperor’s-new-clothes thing going on with this movie. Everybody has been told how good it is and how much they have to like it, that they think they *do* like it, because they don’t want to disagree and say it really wasn’t that good.

The only thing the movie had going for it was a gimmick: it’s a silent film. Now, full disclosure, I did not know this going in, and it’s something you should be prepared for. I knew the subject of the movie was silent films, but I didn’t know that it was actually a silent film. So I could certainly see the argument that it was unique and different, and perhaps if we saw tons and tons of movies we would appreciate it on that front. But the problem was not that it was a silent film, but that it wasn’t a very good film.

The Artist is up for Best Picture this year. Can someone honestly tell me they enjoyed it as much as say The Departed or A Beautiful Mind? Put it in the same class as Schindler’s List or Forrest Gump? Is it as iconic as Rain Man or Silence of the Lambs? Will it be remembered like The Godfather?

The answer is no.

It has an interesting gimmick. Maybe it’s worth seeing, maybe it’s not. But if you’re only going to see one movie a year, it shouldn’t be this one. It can’t be this one. You can not tell me it was the best movie of the entire year.

Maybe I am a curmudgeon who just doesn’t like things. Maybe seeing only one movie a year sets my expectations too high, and I didn’t judge this movie fairly. But let me also say this: the movie put Sara to sleep. 10 potential Academy Awards, and it put Sara to sleep. Even my mom, who said she really enjoyed the movie, said she almost fell asleep.

Is that the mark of the best movie of the entire year, that it lulls you to sleep??

Paranormal Activity

Okay, I know I’m way late on this one. But I just got around to watching the movie Paranormal Activity, and I have to say, I was very impressed.

Paranormal Activity follows in the Blair Witch style (or even the Cloverfield style, for that matter), in which most of the filming is made to look intentionally amateur, so as to seem like home movies.

This style really works for me. Even though I know that it’s not real, I still get sucked in. The camera work isn’t great. There is only one set; the house where these people live. The special effects aren’t any better than what I could do my self. However, despite all of this, the movie comes off as scary. In this case, the low budget actually works for the movie, instead of against it.

I thought this movie was crazy scary. I watch a lot of horror movies (well, not so many lately) and I rarely find them creepy. This movie scared me more than any movie I’ve seen in years.

The thing is, it just seems so realistic. Like it could really happen to anybody. Not seeing any sort of special effects monster is actually better, more creepy. The tension is intense.

Not to say there aren’t any problems with the movie. Sure, you could sit there and pick it apart, if you want to. The acting isn’t great. The decisions of the characters are sometimes very unbelievable. I mean, after you have 10 hours of video evidence of the most crazy haunting stuff the world has ever seen, I don’t buy that you’d just keep sleeping in that same bedroom every night. I don’t believe you’d be able to fall asleep at all. And I don’t believe you would keep that footage to yourself.

When you watch a movie like this, you need to set the mood. Watch it at home, in the dark, the way it was intended. Not in broad daylight, with 20 other people, who are all laughing and making fun.

I’m not joking when I said it was scary. I’m still scared to be downstairs alone in the dark, 3 days later. The night after we watched the movie, Sara woke me up at 2 a.m. and made me come to the bathroom with her, so she wouldn’t have to go alone! And when Evie woke up the other night and said she had a bad dream and something was sitting on her bookshelf, my skin tried to crawl right off my back.

On the other hand, I think we would be significantly harder to haunt than the family in the movie. First off, eerie rumbles in the night are probably just a passing train. Footsteps are from the neighbors upstairs. Quite frankly, anything up to and including 2 a.m. dance parties is going to look a little lame in comparison. And if something is scratching at our door, it is likely to get a spray bottle in the face, before I stumble sleepily back to bed.

So, anyway, in summary, go watch this movie, it will scare the daylights out of you. And if you already saw it, and you weren’t impressed, then I’m sorry that a really cool piece of cinema was ruined for you, by outside circumstances.

Biker Zombies from Detroit

A few years ago, Sara received the greatest gift ever from my family dice game.  The game is one of those games you play around Christmas where everybody is fighting over a wrapped present and then you open it up and it ends up being a blank VHS tape or something.  But on that particular year, Sara won a copy of Biker Zombies from Detroit.  I have been dying to watch this for years, but somehow I never really got a chance.  So finally, when my brother was here, I finally got around to it.

There was absolutely no plot whatsoever, the acting was terrible, the sound quality was terrible, a lot of the shots were fresh out of art school, and last but not least, there weren’t actually any zombies.  Let me repeat that, Biker Zombies from Detroit didn’t contain any zombies, nor did it take place in Detroit.

So the movie starts with a 10 minute montage of shots of a motorcycle with a voice over from the head zombie or whatever he is.  This scene was unnecessarily long and annoying, but I understand they wanted to have a voice over. Unfortunately, this exact same montage was then repeated at the end of the movie for absolutely no reason whatsoever.  My best guess is that they needed to make it longer (even though it still ended 20 minutes shy of the listed run time).  I thought the soundtrack was actually okay, but it was mixed badly so it was hard to hear the dialog over the music.  I actually thought the dialog wasn’t too far off, although I was the only one who held that opinion.  But look, I watch a lot of crap movies and it really wasn’t that bad.  Unfortunately the writer tried way, way, WAY too hard to put foul language and vulgarity in there, forcing it in where it didn’t make any sense.  I feel like he fancied himself a Quentin Tarantino or a Kevin Smith, but it didn’t feel natural the way it does when they write it.  But if you could have removed that, I think it had promise.  I’m just saying with a little experience he may have a future in script writing. And to be fair, this wasn’t exactly Daniel Day Lewis delivering the lines here.  Instead it was 30 something “actors” who I’m guessing were the director’s friends, playing 14 and 15 year olds.  And why didn’t they reshoot the two different scenes where someone messed up their lines?  It’s not like they were paying the actors so much they couldn’t afford the time.

Okay, but those are the technical aspects, how about the storyline?

SPOILER ALERT (didn’t want to ruin it for you)

Well, there wasn’t one.  The zombies aren’t really zombies, just like regular people with ghoul-like faces or something. The entire movie takes place in some suburb which really could be anytown U.S.A.  Half of the movie revolves around the main zombie guy “recruiting” zombies for his zombie army or something, but that doesn’t even play into the movie. Meanwhile the new guy in town who we are supposed to believe is tough (even though he rides around on a dirt bike and can in no way be considered a biker) has some romance story or something.  He fights with the losers next door and then the zombie master decides to turn him into a zombie because he has a “special project” for him.  There is absolutely no logic to that at all.  The zombies are supposedly in Detroit, so why do they even know or care about this dude?  And what is the special mission, that he kills like these 2 or 3 people that he knows?  Why does the zombie master even care?  As long as we are asking rhetorical questions, why was there a random homeless guy with a sack that kept showing up after the zombies attacked but seemed to have nothing to do with the movie whatsoever?  Why did the Shell station attendant and the cops just start blasting away as soon as they saw the zombies?  I mean, they really just looked like people in makeup and I doubt that people would just start shooting before they were even threatened or anything.  I don’t know, maybe the zombies are scarier in person or something.

Now, I realize I have been harping on the bad points and not pointing out the good points.  This movie had two of the most fantastically bad scenes ever, and the best (worst) line of dialog I have ever heard.  The dialog is not suitable for printing on a nice PG blog like this one, so you will just have to watch for it when you see the movie.  The 2nd best scene took place after the main guy turns into a zombie.  He knocks a guy to the ground and then slowly backs his dirt bike onto the guy’s crotch and then revs the engine causing a jet of blood and gore to just fly all over the place.  The scene goes on and on with the guy screaming and the whole time, even while the zombie was slowly backing the bike up, the guy on the ground never makes even the slightest attempt to get away or even shift slightly so as not to be torn up by the tire.  The best scene though was one we had to rewind and watch about 5 times in a row.  The main-guy-who-is-now-a-zombie’s mom comes running out of the house and he pushes her in front of a car.  The car is already stopping and can’t be going more than 5 mph at the time.  Also, the guy doesn’t really push her enough to go in front of the car, so she has to sort of jog the last few feet to make sure she gets in front of the car.  Oh the indignity, having to jog to your own death.  Well, since they aren’t really zombies, maybe they have some kind of mind control power or something that can cause people to commit suicide.  Who knows?

So, in short, it was a fantastic movie.

It was really the sort of thing you would shoot with your friends.  Watch this one when you are in the mood and there are plenty of laughs.  It still doesn’t beat Vampires vs. Zombies as greatest bad movie of all time though.