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And the best member of the Sheen family IS…

September 2, 2013

MARTIN!

Darn tootin’.

Badlands alone was enough to win my vote and I still have yet to watch The West Wing. Sacrilege, I know. Doesn’t hurt that he’s a model citizen either. Seriously, what’s not to like about this guy? Gordon Bombay wouldn’t even exist without him! I rest my case.

Swell voting, folks. You done good.

RESULTS:
– Martin: 22 votes
– Emilio: 17 votes (think we’ve got some Mighty Ducks/Night at the Roxbury fans in the house)
– Charlie: 5 votes (poor, poor Charlie)
– “Barry”: 1 write-in vote (truly the unsung hero of the Sheen family)

Jack the Giant Slayer (2013)

August 23, 2013

VERDICT:
4/10 Misty Mountains

This is just getting ridiculous.

Jack the Giant Slayer is about a peasant boy from England who, on one fateful day, goes into town to sell the family horse. As fate would have it, nothing goes as planned. The horse gets stolen, he nearly gets killed for crossing paths with the princess, and all he has to show for it is a handful of “magic beans.” He goes back home with his head held low and soon finds out that his beans are no joke. In a mere matter of seconds, a huge-ass beanstalk shoots out of the ground and takes his whole damn home along with it. Not only that, but the damn princess is locked inside because she’d run away from home. Realizing that a beanstalk is no place for a princess, the peasant boy teams up with all the king’s men to rescue the girl and bring her back to safety. They reach the top, survey the land that’s floating in the clouds and soon come to realize that the legends are true. This land belongs to giants, and them giants hold a grudge.

Alright, that’s enough of that.

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and assume I wasn’t the only one throwing shade at this nonsense when they first saw the trailer. I understand the logic that comes with Hansel and Gretel becoming witch hunters, but this? This is a bit much. To its credit, it just now dawned on me that it isn’t in fact based on Jack and the Beanstalk like I originally thought. Amazingly enough, someone in the 18th Century actually wrote a folk tale called Jack the Giant Killer that, to the best of my knowledge, isn’t far off from what this is about. And while it sure would have been nice to know that from the start, that doesn’t make this sound any less stupid.

Am I the only one who was unaware of this? My childhood suddenly feels so…deprived. Anyway, the upside to all this is that Jack starts out strong.

I don’t know about you, but is there a better way to start off a movie than with a Warwick Davis cameo? Of course there’s not, don’t bother debating it. And how about that Nicholas Hoult? No matter how many times I say it, I still can’t believe that’s the kid from About a Boy. The novelty hasn’t faded and he’s turned into quite the leading man to boot. Speaking of broken records, I still and always will have all kinds of time for my man Ewan McGregor. Always great to see him play the occasional badass and, boy, is he rocking some awfully sharp duds. Don’t even get me started on the hair. Ain’t no giant gonna mess with that hair.

And let’s not forget about Stanley Tucci. Too bad his character’s such an under-developed, single-minded prick of a bad guy, but hey, it’s Stanley Tucci we’re talking about. The man can do no wrong.

Bonus points for Ian McShane. Someone give that man more work.

Now that I think about it, it doesn’t start off strong as much as it successfully casts some actors that I like. The only real eyebrow-raiser of the bunch being Bryan Singer in the director’s chair, a casting decision that is by and large the most confusing thing about this movie. Please refer back to the title to fully appreciate the gravity of that statement.

Remember when Bryan Singer was doing stuff like The Usual Suspects and the first two X-Men movies? Those were some good times, huh? Dude had his whole career ahead of him, but for reasons that may forever elude me, he takes the check and signs on for this. Poor guy must be hard up these days because this is so far beneath the man who gave us Superman Returns. That’s right, Superman Returns was good. There, I said it.

I really don’t know why he bothered with this. For a special director who’s wowed us all before. there’s really nothing special about it. Maybe he had kids or something and he’s pulling a George Lucas. Whatever the reason, his name is attached and there’s nothing we can do about it now. Single tear.

So, what can we assume he was at least trying to accomplish here? Well if Jack the Giant Slayer was out to achieve anything, face value implies that it was out to entertain. As nice as that would have been, it doesn’t really happen. Not to say that it’s torture by any means, it just isn’t what I was hoping for: that it would somehow rise above my low expectations. I wanted it to make me laugh on occasion, despite my assumption that it most likely wouldn’t. I wanted the cast to live up to their potential, to infuse this thing with some character that didn’t feel stock. Sadly, these things did not happen.

The whole time I was watching, I was waiting for that moment where disbelief would suspend and this war against giants suddenly wouldn’t seem so ridiculous. After all, I’ve seen my fair share of movies that ended up being surprisingly good despite their own premise. If they could do it, so Jack. Unfortunately for Aiden, this too does not happen.

What we have here is not much more than a by-the-books story that follows another unlikely hero in his quest to save another princess in distress. It’s Super Mario Bros. (the game, not the movie), only way less fun and with more 3D (even though that franchise is now full of 3D). The dialogue’s also stale, there’s a surprising amount of it to be had and there’s only so much the cast can do to save it. As for the laughs, well, that all depends. If your problem with, say, Seinfeld, boils down to a serious lack of boogers and farts, then git ‘er done, this one’s for you. For everyone else, there’s always TBS.

On the bright side, the kids’ll love it. Farting giants and PG-13? What’s not to love? And in case I’m coming off harsher than needed, it’s worth reiterating that this isn’t a bad movie. I saw it on a plane, it served its purpose. But if I hadn’t been taking notes to remember all this stuff, I doubt I would have had this much to say. Jack the Giant Slayer could have been better, but given its goddamn premise and title, it definitely could have been worse. It is what it is and it’s oh so forgettable.

PS: What was up with that dumbass, non-twist of an ending? Seriously, who thinks of this stuff?

Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)

August 21, 2013

VERDICT:
7/10 Masters of Illusion

An exception to the rule.

Oz the Great and Powerful is about a lowly magician with aspirations of greatness. He travels from city to city peddling his tricks to gullible locals until everything comes to a head in good ol’ Kansas. He gets booed off the stage, runs out of dough and his girl leaves his ass for another man in town. Not a good day. So with a pissed-off strongman looking to wring his neck, he hops in a balloon and gets caught in a tornado. Figures. But just when he thinks he’s a goner for good, he finds himself transported to a magical land. As soon as he arrives, he’s treated as a messiah: the fabled wizard who will rid this kingdom of its wicked ways. Though quick to accept the unearned praise, he soon comes to realize that he’s in over his head.

So can someone explain to me what the deal is with all these fairy tale reboots? Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters? Jack the Giant Slayer? How could such things exist in this world? I’m assuming it has to do with all the money Tim Burton made off Alice in Wonderland three years ago, but since that was a flaming-hot pile of ass, I have a hard time believing the obvious. Might just be easier to blame the Twihards and move on, which in all likelihood probably isn’t too far off. And while humanity never asked for a Wizard of Oz prequel, I suppose it’s no wonder that we got one anyway.

With that said, there wasn’t much about this movie that initially piqued my interest. Never seen Wicked, nor have I ever felt like amending that situation. The last time I saw The Wizard of Oz was during an ill-advised fourth grade assembly which nearly caused a riot because it wasn’t Jurassic Park. Nothing against the cast, nothing against The Wizard of Oz, I just didn’t understand why we needed this movie? And had it been anyone else but Sam Raimi behind the wheel, I wouldn’t lose sleep over that question going unanswered.

I don’t know what the general consensus on Raimi is these days, but I’ve always had a soft spot for the guy. When all is said done, he’s the man who gave us The Evil Dead and his is a style you could pick out of lineup. The weird thing is that I often forget that about the guy, so each new reminder proves more refreshing than the last. With that kind of logic, he’d be a mighty good fit to helm any old movie. But to make something decent out of something like this, well that’s a tall order for anyone to fill.

From the outset, the most baffling thing about Oz the Great and Powerful rested with its main character. I know he was a big deal and all, but there was only so much to be gleaned about The Wizard from the last time we met him back in ’39. We only met him for all of ten minutes and he didn’t quite live up to his reputation. Then again, the loose ends were there for the taking. How did this guy end up in Oz and why’s he hiding behind that damn curtain? While we’re on the subject, what was with the Wicked Witch of the West straight-up melting ’cause of water? For such an utterly devastating weakness, it sure was random. Not that these questions ever detracted from The Wizard of Oz, it’s just strange in hindsight that we embraced them without question. With that in mind, it’s pretty darn impressive how the writers make the most of their situation by tackling these questions head-on.

Take our man Oz for example. Within the first ten minutes of meeting him, we know everything we need to know. True to form, he’s a snake oil salesman whose brass tongue and empty promises betray his kind soul and good heart. He’s not a bad guy, he’s just a big fish in a little pond and an amusing one at that. Rather than go the Alice route and reinvent him as, I don’t know, Gandalf or something, the writers play to his established flaws and virtues. Once those ten minute are over, he rolls on over to Oz. He saddles up with some misfit toys, all of which bear a striking resemblance to the company he kept back in Kansas. From there, he hits the Yellow Brick Road, tells the believers what they want to hear and spends the rest of his journey trying to live up to the potential they see in him. If all this is sounding a lot like Dorothy, you’re certainly not imagining things.

The devil’s advocate in me wants to say that an approach like this is lazy. You can change the names and change the faces, but at the end of the day, you’re still giving us an unnecessary remake with a story we’ve already heard. And while we’re on the subject, that’s not the only issue. The laughs can be hit-or-miss, there’s one last witch-off that didn’t need to happen and it sure goes heavy on those 3D effects. But that’s not even the worst part, that honor goes to why the Witch of the West turns wicked. For such an iconic villain, you’d think she’d have a proper motive, right? Oh well…

To the advocate’s credit, he makes some good points. Nevertheless, I’m sticking to my guns on this one, the reason being that it wasn’t until now that I started piecing all these structural similarities together. Even though they exist in the same world, even though the characters are in many ways alike, Oz the Great and Powerful felt inspired in the moment and remains that way a month after seeing it.

Admittedly, a lot of that has to do with my fuzzy memory of The Wizard of Oz and my love for the way Sam Raimi makes movies. It’s not an easy thing to verbalize, but there’s this flow and this flair in the way he tells a story that makes it seem like he and everyone else is simply having a ball (except for A Simple Plan, that was a total buzzkill). As a result, Oz is as playful as it is serious, it doesn’t feel derivative and it was hard to resist all the fun this fine cast was having. The Land of Oz was more appealing than I ever remembered it being and it wasn’t until the final Act that the attraction only grew.

Again, some might interpret this as yet another case of laziness, but as it just so happens, Oz the Great and Powerful isn’t actually an inspired spin on/half-baked prequel to a childhood classic we all grew up with. Turns out, it’s Army of Darkness-meets-The Wizard of Oz, she-bitches and all.

From the worlds of fantasy that they magically arrive in to the saviors of legend that they’re quickly hailed as, Oz is Ash every step of the way. Can’t say I was expecting it, can’t imagine how anyone would, but once Oz and Co. start gearing up to storm the Emerald City, the connection was undeniable. More importantly, it was groovy as hell. I can’t help but smile at the idea of Raimi being approached about this movie and him seeing the opportunity to swap Flying Deadites for Flying Monkeys. Like I said, there’s just something about Raimi and it’s epiphanies like these that remind me why I’m a fan.

I realize I’ve been making a lot of comparisons in this review, and I’m not sure how much that’s helping my argument. The main problem I’ve been having with movies like these is that too many exist for the sake of existing, that they don’t add anything worthwhile to the equation. Seriously, folks, we had two Snow White movies last summer. Two. That’s just uncalled for and Oz the Great and Powerful could have easily fallen into that fold. Not only that, but it begs to be compared with Alice thanks to a score by Danny Elfman and a world that looks a whole lot like Wonderland. But I’m glad the similarities are only skin-deep, I’m glad that it appealed to me as much as it did. I’m still not sure if that justifies its existence, but that’s starting to become a moot point anyway.

At any rate, the most surprising thing of all is that it’s now hard to imagine The Wizard of Oz without Oz the Great and PowerfulThe Wizard of Oz no longer feels like a standalone film, but rather the third part of a trilogy that has yet to play out. I don’t know if it’ll happen (it probably will), but I’d actually like to see how that second part brings things full circle. There’s still ground to cover, loose ends to be tied and a large gap of time before Dorothy rolls up. There’s more fun to be had and I want in.

I can’t quite believe the tune that I’m whistling, but I guess I’ve got Burton and Raimi to thank for that.

The Way Way Back (2013)

August 16, 2013

VERDICT:
7/10 Long, Hot Summers

Eerily familiar, and I mean that in a good way.

The Way Way Back is about shy, awkward teen who begrudgingly spends the summer on the shore with his mom, her boyfriend and his mom’s boyfriend’s teenage daughter. Since his mom’s too preoccupied with her boyfriend, the boyfriend’s a total asshole and the boyfriend’s daughter treats the kid like a leper, the summer gets off to a pretty shitty start. Rather than endure the company he came with, he spends his days doing nothing at the local water park. Not swimming, no sliding, just nothing whatsoever. After a while, this kid’s depressing behavior catches the attention of a park employee. Rather than give him the boot, he takes the kid under his wing and gives him a job to stay busy. Before long, the kid builds some confidence and even cozies up to the girl next door. Given the circumstances, things are turning up. On the other hand, mom’s boyfriend’s still a dillweed and the summer’s just begun.

Serenity now.

So for the first 15 years of my life, I was an only child. Towards the middle, my folks had split up; towards the end, they were getting remarried. Translation: a good chunk of those 15 years was spent in the backseat with my Discman being dragged to various gatherings where I didn’t know anyone. What can I say, I had an angsty reputation to uphold and I’m truly making it sound more tragic than it was. Hell, I got to broaden my musical horizons and got some tip-top step-parents in the process. Looking back, my memories are fond ones, but back in the day, I was totally Duncan at my age.

For all the coming-of-agers that are out there, I can’t remember the last time that revolved around a kid like this. He’s terrified of girls, carries himself like a mortician’s assistant and is constantly taking shit without ever giving it back. If I had known Duncan when I was in high school, I’m thinking we would have gotten along famously. This kid a kindred spirit, the kind of kid who fakes sick to play video games. Oh yes, he’s an awfully easy kid to identify with, not just because of how he acts, but because of how he doesn’t.

If there’s one big difference between Duncan and I, it’s that the people in my life at 14-years-old were folks I actively looked up to. On a scale of 1 to 10, they didn’t take the initiative to deem me a 3 or tell me to hit the bricks because they needed to knock boots. Hell of a childhood now that I think about it, but unfortunately for Duncan, these are exactly the people he’s dealing with. Which leads me to Steve Carell.

If there’s one redeeming quality about Duncan’s mom’s boyfriend it’s that he’s played by the most likable guy on the planet. Not only is it nice to see him branch out for the first time since Little Miss Sunshine, but if it were anyone else in the role as Trent, one wouldn’t hesitate to write the guy off. For god’s sake, the man’s name is Trent. Red flags up the yin-yang, yo. And right off the bat, he’s borderline deplorable, the kind of guy that would make a kid like Duncan get real into Nine Inch Nails. But since he’s Steve Carell, I kept on giving him the benefit of the doubt. After all, it seems like he’s at least trying to have a relationship with the kid, not like he’s hiding him with his belt or anything. Maybe all this “constructive criticism” of his is just his idea of tough love?

It’s a clever facade indeed, one that I imagine wouldn’t be possible without Carell’s involvement, and it’s really too bad that it doesn’t hold up. The thing about the characters in this movie is that most of them have a shtick. The next-door neighbor always has a drink in hand and might as well be a former Rockette from the way she parades around and talks your ear off. Duncan’s mentor at the water park is like a long-winded version of Bill Murray from Meatballs. Duncan’s mom is so damn weak it’ll break your little heart. Kills ya’ to see someone settle for the love they think they deserve. But since the neighbor’s played by Allison Janney and the mentor’s played by Sam Rockwell, it’s easy enough to overlook. As for Toni Collette as the mom, she ain’t too shabby either.

Nonetheless, there are times when it gets to be a bit much. If every movie had Sam Rockwell in it, I wouldn’t leave the damn theater, but the dude is forced to showboat a few times too many. And while Trent’s admittedly a dick, there eventually comes a point where he jumps the shark with his outrageously dickish behavior. In one fell swoop, he goes from the kind of jerk that you actively avoid to a wandering stranger who’d tell your kids that Santa’s a goddamn fake. On Christmas. Then he’d slap them for crying. Then he’d slap you. What a guy.

In contrast to how genuine Duncan comes off, it’s these kinds of developments that make The Way Way Back seem more like a movie and less like life at times. And for a while there, poor Duncan was in the same boat.

As you likely guessed immediately, Duncan begins to grow as the summer goes on. He starts talking to girls, he learns how to breakdance, he even speaks his mind when things have to be said. It’s a beautiful thing, really…except for all those times he keeps biting his damn tongue. As the kid continued to blossom, I was hoping he’d grown to a point where he’d gone full Lester Burnham on us and wouldn’t think twice to tell Trent to eff off. But Trent just keeps on cutting the kid down and Duncan just keeps bottling it up. Again, Duncan does grow, Duncan’s a different kid, but I still had this urge to just shake him by the shoulders.

It was frustrating, man. I wanted him to be Gordie Lachance; not the Lachance who lets Ace steal his hat, but the kid who saves Chambers by whipping out a gun. But then I started thinking of what I was like as a teenager and what I would have done in Duncan’s shoes.

As much as I’d like to say that mine was a hard-knock life, that I always packed heat and never took crap from anyone, the truth is that I was always biting my tongue. Of course I wanted to see him go off, of course it sucks to see him stay silent, but as much of a bummer as it is to admit, I would have done the exact same thing. When I was 14 and going through the motions, it was easier to be adaptable than vocally inflexible. Making waves only made matters worse, or so I had convinced myself. Took me a while to grow out of that mindset, but damn, what a rude reminder that I ever bought into it in the first place.

With that said, I can’t imagine I’m the only one out there who can relate to Duncan and his summer at the shore. By and large, his rites of passage aren’t all that new as far as coming-of-agers go, but we’ve all been there before and it certainly wasn’t easy. It’s weird to me that Duncan feels like such a breath of fresh air considering movies like these are a dime a dozen, yet he totally is and the resemblance is striking. And since we’re on the subject, big ups to Liam James for bringing him to life. Not only looks the part but he plays the part well.

But aside from all the heartfelt stuff, The Way Way Back is quite the crowd-pleaser that’s also a whole lot funnier than I was expecting it to be. An easy recommendation straight across the board, a gosh darn guarantee if you’ve lived the life of Duncan. Hopefully time will be kind to this one. We could use more Duncans in this industry.

Elysium (2013)

August 14, 2013

VERDICT:
3/10 Working Class Heroes

Amazing how much better District 9 suddenly seems.

Elysium takes place in the year 2154. Earth is one big, overpopulated shit hole where everyone’s always sick and poverty’s the norm. Up in space is a man-made paradise where the privileged live life without a care in the world. I just ain’t fair, folks, but that’s the way it is. Our story follows that of an ex-con-turned-working man who has to make his way up to paradise before he kicks the bucket in just five short days. Why? Well that’s because A) he’s jacked up on radiation, and B) paradise is chock full of these space-age tanning booths that can instantly cure you of any disease. Unfortunately for our hero, getting up to paradise is no easy feat. So with the help of a local kingpin, a plan is concocted, one that involves our guy getting that handy-dandy exoskeleton grafted onto him. As they put their plan into action, the jerks up in paradise start pulling out all the stops to take our guy down. But this is no ordinary slumdog they’re dealing with. This is Matt Damon: Savior of Humanity.

Homey needs to put that on his business card.

Before we get into this, I’ve got a confession to make (or rather grievance to air): I wasn’t crazy about District 9. Saw it four years ago with every intent of loving it, walked out of that theater feeling downright depressed. If I remember correctly, I walked right into Ponyo just to cheer myself up. Not saying it’s a bad movie or that you’re crazy for feeling otherwise, I know I’m in the very small minority with this one. And I’ll admit, the special effects were something and it had a great premise to boot, one that was frighteningly easy to trace back to the world we live in. But at the end of the day, there were two things that stuck with me most about District 9: the gratuitous violence that completely overwhelmed the final Act and Wikus van de Mewre, a man I never really cared for.

I have yet to meet another soul who shares my opinion on this matter, and that’s okay, these things happen. At any rate, that didn’t deter me from getting jazzed about Elysium. Hell, the hype train was firing on all cylinders with this one. Who wasn’t jazzed for Elysium?

You’ve got some serious name-dropping with Neill Blomkamp in the house –  the “visionary director” that he is (love it when trailers say that) – plus there’s the exoskeleton (which is as boss as it looks) and Jodie Foster activating “Kruger”: the bearded mercenary who, for some awesome reason, still uses a sword in the year 2154. It was badass, I was on board. It was enough to make me ignore my suspicions that it sure did sound like Diet District 9, or better yet, District 9-meets-Wall-E. But since there’s only so much you can you can tell from a trailer, I trusted in the director’s vision.

Turns out, you actually can tell a lot from a trailer.

One thing that wasn’t exactly emphasized in the build-up for this movie was the central role that those insta-heal tanning booths on Elysium play. I’m sure the rolling hills and wine spritzers are certainly a nice bonus for these lowly Earth-dwellers, but strangely enough, that’s not why they’re risking life and limb to get on a shuttle. Believe it or not, folks, but these street rats are a lot like us. They just want universal healthcare.

Yup, that’s the bigger picture we’re dealing with here and that’s all well and good. Like I said, one of the things District 9 did well was elevate itself beyond its trigger-happy, sci-fi exterior by telling a story that was grounded in real-world issues. As the Tea Party will surely tell you, universal health care is one of those issues. The problem here is that, for all of Elysium‘s noble intentions, it just ends up getting smothered by that trigger-happy, sci-fi exterior. And at least District 9 had a story worth telling.

There’s nothing subtle about it, any of it at all. You’ve got a colony of Haves that hate a planet of Have-Nots for no discernible reason. You’ve got a run-of-the-mill hero with a predictable character arc who might as well have been named Future Jesus. You’ve got an obvious bad guy who keeps reminding you he’s the bad guy by being revolting at all times and dropping an F-bomb in every. single. scene (not an exaggeration, it’s absolutely ridiculous). The characters, their motivations, their ambitions and their dialogue are just so unbelievably blunt, stock and shaking-my-damn-head-worthy that it’s hard not to feel confused by the whole thing.

Seriously, what happened here? If you were to hand me this script and tell me it was by Neill Blomkamp, I’d half expect Ashton Kutcher to roll up with a camera crew. No effing way is this by the same guy who told a story about apartheid in South Africa through the plight of illegal aliens in the most literal possible sense. Unless I’m mistaken, that script was by a guy who knew who how to pen a constantly-evolving protagonist, who knew how to send a message without it slapping us in the face with it, who – even amidst all the blood and guts – appreciates the value of subtlety. Whoever wrote Elysium is not that guy.

I’m really at a loss with this one. Not only does it actively highlight everything that bothered me about District 9, but it also does away with everything I appreciated about District 9. As much as the needlessly high body count overshadowed that movie for me, there was still enough substance to make a lasting impression. Elysium, on the other hand, is all about the body count and any message it was trying to send about human rights is quickly lost in a flurry of flipped birds and severed limbs. It’s honestly like going from First Blood to Rambo, only Rambo was actually fun, even if it was an idiot.

The insult to injury here is that the cast isn’t helping matters whatsoever. For all that Copley won me over in The A-Team, I can’t remember the last time someone chewed the scenery and aimed for the jugular like he does in this. Much respect to the luscious beard, but dude leaves absolutely nothing to the imagination. Granted, that is a recurring theme with this picture, but if there’s one character that personifies everything that’s so abrasive and shallow about this movie as a whole, it’s Kruger.

I also believe that we will forever be wondering what was up with Jodie Foster as Elysium government minister Jessica Delacourt? This is how I imagine a French girl would behave and speak had she been raised by her two dads, Christopher Walken and William Shatner. The accent is bizarre, the delivery is forced and the high-strung performance bears no explanation. Truly strange stuff that’s only made worse by her character’s paper-thin motives.

With all that said, thank god for our Savior of Humanity. He doesn’t do anything all that out of the ordinary and some of the praise is earned by sheer default, but Matt Damon does his thing and does it well as Max Da Costa. Still, for a character named Max Da Costa who grows up speaking Spanish, is in love with an Hispanic girl and only has Hispanic friends, it seems pretty Hollywood to cast Damon in the role. Just sayin’.

More than anything, it’s just weird that Elysium isn’t better than it is. While District 9 established Blomkamp as a film maker to watch out for, it wasn’t the kind of movie I imagined would define his career from that point forward. It was good, it was new, but it was more of a jump-off point than a magnum opus. It was just the beginning for Blomkamp, the best was yet to come. So to see him churn out a movie like this that’s just a flying leap backwards in every way possible, my best guess is the pressure got to him. This feels like the movie that should have preceded District 9, not the other way around.

It really is weird, it really is disappointing and it wouldn’t be the case if we didn’t all know he was better than this. I wish I could say it was fun, that I’ve finally come to enjoy the many ways you can blow someone up, but anyone can make a person blow up and it was never much of a draw to begin with. The draw with Blomkamp was always in the details, the elements that made it more than just eye candy and ammo. But with the details spelled out for us in these big, dumb letters, the best I can do is chalk up a mulligan.

And the best movie tattoos belong TO…

August 11, 2013

LENNY!

Major points for curb appeal, but if those aren’t just the worst reminders to wake up to every morning. Swell voting though, folks. Makes for one hell of a Halloween costume.

RESULTS:
– Lenny, Memento: 13 votes
– Nikolai, Eastern Promises: 10 votes
– Harry Powell, Night of the Hunter: 5 votes
– Darth Maul: 5 votes
– Lisbeth, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: 5 votes
– Jake & Elwood Blues: 4 votes (personal favorite)
– Snake Plissken: 3 votes
– Max Cady, Cape Fear: 3 votes
– Jesse & Chester, Dude, Where’s My Car?: 3 votes
– H.I., Raising Arizona: 2 votes (actual real-life candidate, if only it didn’t look so much like Woody Woodpecker…)
– The Boondock Saints: 2 votes
– The Tooth Fairy, Red Dragon: 1 vote
– The Dark Mark, Harry Potter: 2 votes (can’t believe I forgot that one)
– George Clooney, From Dusk Till Dawn: 1 write-in vote

So, anyone out there the proud owner of a badass movie tattoo?

Pacific Rim (2013)

August 9, 2013

VERDICT:
7/10 Monster Hunters

It’s live-action anime and it’s actually pretty awesome.

Pacific Rim takes place in the near future, a future where giant monsters have started attacking our cities after an inter-dimensional rift opened up in the Pacific. After quickly realizing that our jets and tanks are no match for these mighty beasts, our world leaders put aside their differences and start pooling their resources. Before long, the Jaegers are born: those big-ass man-powered punching machines that, for a while, do a bang-up job of puttin’ a whuppin’ these Kaiju. Our story follows one particular Jaeger pilot who abandoned his post after barely surviving a fight with one of these jerks. But as the Kaiju grow stronger, our guy suits up to put an end to this nonsense once and for all.

When you’re generally regarded as one of the busier, more ambitious people in Hollywood, one would expect that you’d choose your projects wisely. From trying his hand in the world of video games to producing, oh, just about every foreign horror movie of the past five years, Guillermo del Toro puts a lot on his plate. With so many passion projects to commit to, I honestly don’t know how the dude gets anything done. Bathroom breaks must be low on the to-do list. With that said, I couldn’t have been the only one surprised by these trailers.

Gone were the story-driven glory days of Pan’s Labyrinth, ahead of us lay what appeared to be his highly suspect, best forgotten “Michael Bay period.” Giant robots fighting giant monsters, dialogue written by gym rats in wife beaters, more than enough eye candy to make contacts out of Pixy Stix. “You’re better than this, Gui” I thought to myself while Idris Elba went all Liam Neeson on my ass. It wasn’t until the trailer’d been jammed so far down my throat it was starting to give me kidney stones that I began to drink the Kool-Aid. But even then, the mantra bore repeating.

Trust in Guillermo, Aiden. Trust in Guillermo. If it works with Bill Belichick, why shouldn’t it work here?

The double-edge sword of sorts is that Pacific Rim is exactly what it’s being sold as: Independence Day, as told through the eyes of a teenage boy. I’d like to say that I’ve grown up since the middle school, I’d like to say that a pitch like that no longer appeals a maturity level such as my own (because what’s more mature than Cut The Crap Movie Reviews). But alas, once a teenage nerd, always a teenage nerd.

With each new nod that Guillermo throws to the worlds of video games and anime, I couldn’t help but feel like he and I have more common interests than I’ve ever cared to admit. Suddenly, there I was, right back on my mom’s couch burning hours with my old friend Xenogears. There I was, watching Neon Genesis Evangelion on VHS before making the trip back to Blockbuster. Even the getups that the Jaeger pilots wear look like deep-sea versions of the ARS suit from Vanquish. Needless to say, it was quite the geekout that culminated upon hearing GLaDOS’s voice in the cockpit. That was when I realized that nothing’s really changed.

Despite my hesitations, Pacific Rim is a movie after my own heart. It’s still a far cry from something like The Devil’s Backbone – something I’m far quicker to associate with del Toro – but as a creature feature from an otaku who thinks Shadow of the Colossus is art, believe you me, I was on the level.

So I guess therein lies the subjective appeal to this ditty. As for the objective side of things, you don’t need nerd cred to appreciate del Toro.

Sure, it’s got that Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em childlike sense of wonder, it’s even got monsters from the Golden Army’s reserves (although I wish there’d been some more variety in their designs). But that’s not the reason I was quietly cheering “KICK HIS EFFIN’ ASS!” with each brawl that went down. See, boys and girls, the one thing Guillermo is a goddamn wizard at – and really doesn’t get enough credit for – is the ludicrous degree by which he keeps raising the stakes and the insurmountable odds he makes his heroes overcome. Man, I still watch Hellboy and wonder how he’s gonna beat those damn Nazis?

It’s weird though, because even though you can’t raise the stakes much higher than, you know, global destruction, that crippling, “last chance” sense of desperation isn’t quite here like it is in Hellboy. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a crap situation, but even with all the threats that the Jaegers have to deal with, I was always pretty confident that they’d rise to the occasion. I mean, Hellboy’s arsenal boiled down to a big-ass six-shooter and flame-retardant flesh. That’s not much given what he was going up against, it was actually borderline depressing how dire his situation was. But the Jaegers? Those things were made to fuck shit up, and fuck shit up they do. They got this, yo.

However, there is a major design flaw in these killing machines, or rather there was a major lapse in combat training down the line (fair warning: minor spoilers in the rest of this paragraph). From a screenwriting perspective, I completely understand why you’d stick to fisticuffs for half the movie before opting to break out the swords. Makes for better, longer brawls where each fighter has to earn that W and that nick-of-time sword reveal certainly was nice. Then again, given the stakes and given our resources, I couldn’t have been the only one who spent the first half of this movie wondering where the swords were at? Pretty sure that’d be a priority in the design process, pretty sure that’s a required course over at Jaeger University. Thinking this whole Kaiju problem would have been a lot more manageable if there’d been more stabbing in the mix, but I will admit that it wouldn’t have been as much fun.

And it really is fun, it really is Independence Day-meets-Godzilla 2000 and it’s simply amazing how closely this plot mirrors that of ID4. If the whole thing ended with Randy Quaid on a Ski-Doo, I wouldn’t have been surprised. There’s part of me that doesn’t want to admit how enjoyable this all is simply because of this obvious connection, but I just can’t deny what a crowd-pleaser it is. It’s the kind of movie we talk about when we talk about summer blockbusters, it’s the kind of movie that keeps giving you reasons to get a high-thirty going. It is cheer-worthy stuff from beginning to end. And for the all time it spends in the ring, there’s just enough substance to save it from being mindless. Can’t say I shed any tears over this lot, but props to Guillermo for going the extra mile. It doesn’t go unnoticed.

The cast itself also does a good job of knowing what they’re dealing with and knowing just how seriously to take themselves. Idris Elba’s good as his macho self; big fan of any movie that paints Rinko Kikuchi as a badass; and while I’m usually not big on Charlie Day, he’s alright here. Dude needs to switch to decaf though.

So with all these good vibes I’ve been sending out, teenage Aiden would probably be sad that I didn’t bump this sucker up to an 8. Since I’m not one to rain on my own parade, I will say that I have good reason for my Verdict. The reason Pacific Rim is stuck with a 7 is that, at the end of the day, it’s still a summer blockbuster, even if it is by Guillermo del Toro. Maybe if it’d been by someone else it would have gotten that extra point, but since we’re all pretty aware of what Guillermo can do, I can’t help but feel like this is all a bit beneath him. From the art direction to the set pieces, this looks like del Toro as much as it feels like del Toro, which is exactly why it works like it does. I’ll even give him points for fleshing out these characters, which is more than most directors would have done. I guess I just wish there’d been more to take away than the adrenaline rush, something that’ll make me remember it more once fall arrives.

Still, if it’s a rush that you’re after, what a rush it is. It pays to trust in Guillermo.

Before Midnight (2013)

July 26, 2013

VERDICT:
10/10 True Connections

Well if that just isn’t the best trilogy I’ve ever seen.

Before Midnight picks up nine years after we last caught up with Jesse and Celine. Celine’s thinking of taking a new job at an environmental agency and Jesse’s a bonafide man of letters with a new novel on the way. Oh, and they’re also now parents to two adorable twin girls. That’s right, folks. Turns out things went pretty well for these two after Jesse missed his flight in Paris; so well, in, fact that he ended his failing marriage to start his new family in Europe. To his credit, he still spends summers with his son from the failed marriage and they have a pretty great relationship considering. Still, his regrets are deep over not being there for him during these formative teenage years. So, as Jesse and Celine spend some much-needed vacation time, the strength of their relationship is put to the test as their wants and needs come to a head.

I don’t know why it took me so long to get acquainted, but it wasn’t until last month that I finally decided to meet these two. Fashionably late as usual, but, as you can see, they made quite the impression. On that note, I’m thinking a foreword is probably in order for those just getting the invite. First off,  you owe it to yourself to make an introduction. By all means, consider this your mutual connection, because for all of you out there who are strangers to these two, it’s hard to say what kind of purpose this review will serve. Not that Before Midnight isn’t phenomenal in its own right and couldn’t be enjoyed as a stand-alone entry, but anyone will tell you that it’s hard imagine Midnight without Sunrise and Sunset.

As for why that is, well, the thing about these three movies is the way they complement one another. It was a simple formula to begin with – simple as could be, really – and it really hasn’t changed in the slightest. It’s one boy and one girl talking about life, love and what have you for two hours, only this time they’re a little older. Might not sound like movie magic to the uninitiated, it might even sound downright boring for all you swingin’ singles out there. I’ll even agree, because with someone else steering the ship and a different cast in the spotlight, this formula wouldn’t work as well as it does. With the Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy running things ? Well, there’s the catch.

Once again, Jesse and Celine are the most non-fictional fictional characters you’ll ever meet, characters you half-expect to break through the fourth wall and ask for your thoughts on Tolstoy as they top off your glass of wine. It’s all part of Linklater’s rambling, colloquial writing style that’s been honed down to a science and the natural, effortless rapport between Hawke and Delpy that makes you wonder if there’s even a script at all. Oh yes, it’s still harder than ever to determine where the credit is due, but it’s one hell of a problem to have, one that’s always made these movies so special for18 years.

It’s also that simple, instant and unforgettable connection between Jesse and Celine that makes them so easy to connect with in turn. By the time they got off that train in 1995; from that moment he saw her in that Paris bookshop; when he walks out of the airport to find her leaning against the car – every encounter’s more magnetic than the last. Never have I been so eager to sit there like a fly on the wall listening to two people talk about life, love and what have you. With each time I left them, I found myself counting down the days until our next encounter, wondering incessantly about what they’re up to now. It’s not all that different from meeting Arthur Agee and William Gates for the first time, mainly because A) they’re likable as all hell, and B) they’re easy to relate to on an inherently human level.

Whereas Sunrise was about meeting your first love, Sunset was about rekindling old flames. As for Midnight, this one’s trying to keep the flame alive. You don’t need to have hands-on training to know these experiences are inevitable in life, and, with stories like these, relatability comes standard.

Now, I’ve only been married for a little over a year now, don’t have any kids and have a ways to go ’til 40. Nevertheless, I was still surprised by how much Midnight hit home. Don’t get me wrong, married life is tops and the thrill’s alive and kickin’, but there’s a point in this movie where things get pretty emotional and, good god, does it paint the picture. Believe it or not, boys and girls, but even the best of couples out there get in the occasional lovers’ quarrel, and if you’re wondering how it goes down then you can look no further. Still, as true-to-life as it is, it’s staggering to watch it play out.

Hell, this is Jesse and Celine we’re talking about, the two people who have been redeeming our faith in love for almost two-freaking-decades! Not only that, but a good 15 minutes before they lay it all out there, they’re sitting on a pier watching the sun go down like the adorable bastards that they are. It was at this point that I realized how long I’d been smiling, wondering to myself why there aren’t enough stories like this in the world, stories where two people can just be happy together without throwing down the gauntlet. I guess that’s why I was so taken aback some 15 minutes later when the gloves come off, but, once again, it manages to work.

I should probably point out that their fight could have been a whole lot worse than it ends up being, and it’s actually hard to stop smiling throughout, if only because of how ridiculously accurate it is. It’s also been a long time since we’ve caught up with these two and the last time we saw them and they were just beginning to show their true colors to one another. After all, there’s only so much you can learn about a person in two days’ time, so after nine years of living together, it makes sense that they’d be far more brutally open with one another. For a series that’s prided itself on this facade of reality it’s created, it’s only fitting to show the lows with the highs.

Ugh, I could go on. It’s just one of those movies.

Given that the human race will never run out of stories about life, love and what it is to be human, the point of this whole spiel is that, of all the ones I’ve heard, none have managed to capture them the way the Before trilogy always has. I know the whole “talking heads” thing isn’t everyone’s idea of a good time and it’s hard to say if this would convert them in the way Glengarry Glen Ross probably would. I’ll admit, there were even moments where I – the guy who gave this his first 10 of the year – caught myself drifting off during Jesse and Celine’s self-proclaimed “bullshit” sessions. And while Before Midnight is more of the same in many regards, compliments like that are hard to come by in this industry. It’s the funniest entry yet, it’s the most revealing entry as well and, like the first two entries before it, Before Midnight serves as a constant reminder of what little you need to tell a great, real story.

In just the short time that I’ve known them, having the opportunity to watch Jesse and Celine meet, reconnect and grow old together has been rewarding in ways that almost make me feel grateful. It’s the things they talk about, the way they talk about them and the way I’ve seen my own experiences reflected time and time again in theirs. Their love for one another is as timeless and universal a thing as you’ll ever find and, unless we see Before Noon in nine years, I don’t imagine the magic between them ever being replicated.

Who knew lightning could be bottled this long?

The Bling Ring (2013)

July 18, 2013

VERDICT:
3/10 Veruca Salts

I weep for the future.

The Bling Ring is based on the true story of a lonely boy with a flair for fashion who moves to a new school in one of the glitzier nooks of LA. He befriends a popular girl who also shares his taste for the finer things in life, like whatever the hell Miu Miu is. At first, everything’s fine and dandy as they daydream about what it’d be like to have threads like LiLo. Then, in a brazen effort to make that dream come true, she starts stealing wallets out of strangers’ cars. Shit gets very real, very quick, but since wussing out would be social suicide, the new kid ignores his better judgement and starts maxing out those credit cards. As their wardrobes begin to grow, so does their confidence. So much so that these two twerps and their a-hole friends start breaking into the homes of their Hollywood idols. They steal, they party, they live it on up, but alas, all good things must come to an end.

So here’s the story: Fandango screwed me. There I was a couple weeks back at my local multiplex, giddy as could be to see Before Midnight. Why? Because Fandango said it would be there, and if you can’t trust Fandango, who can you trust, people? So I went up to the counter with cash in hand and handed it to the lady with a smile on my face. Jesse and Celine were just moments away…

“One for Before Midnight, please!”

“Actually, Before Midnight left last Thursday. We have three new movies though!”

It took a couple seconds for the words to actually register as this bastard of a pit started forming in my stomach. There must be some mistake, I thought. The moose outside should have told me…

“But…Fandango…”

“Don’t use Fandango.” She gives her head a sympathetic shake, clearly this has happened before.

So there I was with a $20 in my hand, two hours to burn and a life lesson to unravel. My options were two: The Bling Ring or The Heat. The rest, dear readers, is unfortunately history.

It was the first time Fandango had ever let me down and I still don’t know why it happened in the first place. Whatever the horrible, horrible reason was, I ended up going with a movie that I had no desire or intention to see in the first place. So I guess I’m to blame for that one.

It’s nothing against Sofia Coppola because how could I ever harbor anything against the gal who gave us Lost in Translation. Nothing against Emma Watson either, she’s been aces from the get-go. My initial aversion to this movie is the same aversion I eventually bore towards last year’s Compliance in that I couldn’t comprehend it’s reason for existing. And as much as I’ve tried to answer that question, I still haven’t managed to convince myself otherwise. So without further ado, let’s just lay it all out there.

On the one hand, there’s the idea that by bringing this story to the big screen, Coppola is putting a mirror up to the world we live in. The kids in this movie are spoiled brats devoid of morals with ignorant parents who enable them completely. Not one of them grows throughout their experiences and the plot is driven entirely by them stealing shit ad nauseum. They are the worst, they do not develop and it wouldn’t be so bad if it they weren’t based on real people. Then again, given the real celebrities and real behavior that they’ve all come to idolize, is it really their fault for being brought up in the fame-hungry society we’ve created for them?

As far as justifications go, that’s the best one I’ve come up with. But alas, the train of thought rolls on…

The rub with all of this is that none of it is coming as news. Jesus Christ, all you need to do is turn on Bravo, E! or MTV to see that these kids, these parents and these sorry excuses for role models are, unfortunately, real as can be. Maybe Coppola was hoping this would come across as Kids-meets-The Hills, something that would shock the wits out of parents far and wide. But if that was her intended aim, she probably wasn’t prepared for Spring Breakers.

Or maybe in light all their real-life counterparts’ attempts to save face in the public eye, Coppola’s holding them accountable for being the awful human beings as they are. Or maybe I don’t know. Maybe there’s something I’m missing.

The upside to all this is that Coppola’s inspiration for making this movie, whatever it may be, leaves a lot to interpretation. Writing and developing characters is not a skill that’s lost on her and she easily could have told this story any number of ways. This could have been a great dark comedy if she wanted it to be, nor is it a stretch to imagine some twisted version where we’d actually sympathize with these kids. Heck, this could have been Catch Me If You Can for the Millennial Generation.

As intriguing or enjoyable as those interpretations may sound, the interpretation we’re presented with is anything but. The way I saw it, The Bling Ring is an exercise in moral stagnation that was both a struggle to wade through and more so to warrant. Perhaps if we lived in a world where kids like these weren’t already worshiped and glorified with overnight fame and Super Sweet Sixteens, we might have a different Verdict on our hands. But with things the way they are, fuck these kids and the Bentleys they rode in on.

I know that glorifying these kids wasn’t Coppola’s intent, it’s just that I can’t help but feel like any press is good press for this bunch. Even though this is a story about how crime doesn’t pay, about how “right” and “wrong” have been warped by Harvey Levin, I still feel like there are too many people out there who are gonna watch this and feel differently. The lesson for them will be that crime totally pays if you cover your tracks, and even if it doesn’t, they’ll put you in a movie. It’s a win-win all around.

If I had my druthers, Coppola would have gone about her merry way onto some other wonderful project instead of giving these kids that 16th minute. They don’t deserve it and we don’t need the reminder.

But again, this is just one man’s interpretation.

In other news, The Bling Ring has a fantastic opening credits sequence and it’s really good-looking to boot. Can only say so much about the cast considering what they had to work with, but hey, Gavin Rossdale has a bit role, which is neat for all you Bush fans, I guess. I’m having a hard time pegging this as a “bad” movie because even if it wasn’t for me, there’s definitely something there. If anything, it’s a misguided movie, one that I’d have a hard time recommending for fear that someone from Team Breezy would up and treat these kids like martyrs. But hey, to each his own.

Killin’ me here, Fandango.

World War Z (2013)

July 16, 2013

VERDICT:
6/10 Zournalists

Just another zombie movie. Le sigh.

World War Z is about a former investigator for the UN who quit his job a while back to spend some quality time with his wife and kids. Life is pretty good for this former UN investigator, he’s even got the pancake thing down to a science. Then, on one terribly unfortunate day, the zombie apocalypse goes down while he’s driving the fam through the streets of Philadelphia. Thanks to some aggressive driving and friends in high places, he and his family escape unharmed and get choppered to a UN aircraft carrier that’s sitting pretty in the Atlantic. From there, he gets pulled back into action to find out where this epidemic originated in the hopes of finding a cure. So they fly him off to South Korea and wish him the best while the world as we know it succumbs to the Zeds.

Get it? Zournalists? Eh, not my best work.

So being that it’s regarded as a bible of sorts for all of us who know exactly what we’ll be doing when the zombies finally arrive, I prepared myself by reading World War Z a few months ago. Wasn’t the kind of thing that would usually take precedence on my reading list, but I dug the hype, it certainly had its merits. Going in, I guess I was expecting something hokey, something along the lines of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Lo and behold, it wasn’t hokey in the slightest.

For those who haven’t read it, Max Brooks was not effing around when he wrote his follow-up to The Zombie Survival Guide. Not only it is insanely well-researched for a novel about something that hasn’t even happened, but it treats the zombie apocalypse with an utmost seriousness that it is well-deserved given, you know, it’s the apocalypse and all. In a sense, it’s like Contagion with zombies, and also like Contagion, it’s as much about the survivors as it is about the walkers.

So I was kind of surprised when I saw the trailer for this movie.

Suddenly, we’ve gone from a refreshingly realistic, character-driven story to one where zombies run track and are King of the Hill champs. This was not the World War Z I remembered. Someone had read the CliffsNotes.

As a result, it was hard for me to watch this without thinking of the approach that, in a perfect world, I would have taken. Now, if I was a fat cat Hollywood producer who’d just bought the rights to this movie, the last person I would have called was the guy who did Quantum of Solace. Never would have occurred to me, why would that possibly occur to me? Instead, I would call up my friends at PBS and tell them to get Ken Burns on the phone. With formalities out of the way, I’d tell him my plan and work my magic. When all was said and done, we’d have a game-changer on our hands, because that’s just how Aiden the fat cat rolls.

In a nutshell, the plan goes as such: have Ken Burns do for World War Z what he did for the Civil War and World War II. Being that the source material is a on oral history of the zombie war from the mouths of those who survived it, an approach like this would be money in the bag. Hire some no-name actors to recount the events from infection to salvation, splice in footage and stills of the events themselves and let Ken tell this story like it was meant to be told. And make no mistake, we’ll be sticking with the O.G. slow zombies. Had a hard enough time dealing with those jerks as it was.

It’s a no-brainer, folks, and I hate to believe I’m the only one who thought of this. Sure, it’s not gonna turn the same kind of profit as something starring Brad Pitt, but, man, what a lost opportunity. This could have been something special, something that really could have elevated the genre in ways that even The Walking Dead hasn’t. But alas, it’s a little too late for “could haves.”

Still, maybe I shouldn’t be so frustrated by it all, and there is part of me that wants to just lighten up and let bygones be bygones. But it’s hard. It’s hard when you’ve got a show like The Walking Dead that, in the span of a pilot, humanized and legitimized the zombie sub-genre in ways I never thought possible. It’s even harder when I hear that all of my co-worker’s friends watch it solely for the blood and gore, character development be damned. That shit is beyond me, that shit numbs the mind. So when the film makers here decided to slash and burn “the human factor” from Brook’s novel in order to make way for super zombies, it’s hard to ignore that sting of defeat, that realization that the gorehounds are winning.

If the book didn’t have so much going for it, that’d be one thing, but since it does, this feels like devolution in a sense. After all, why take a risk on something original when you can just remake 2012 with zombies? Serenity now, guys. Serenity now.

But as the Verdict clearly shows, it’s not all bad and it really could have been worse.

Taken for what it is, World War Z kept me watching. The two best things I can say about it is that it’s often intense and there are a handful of times when it actually starts to feel like the source material. Most of the time it’s rushing the plot along so we can get to the next zombie flood already, but on the rare occasions where Brad Pitt’s character starts gathering intel and connecting the dots, those glimpses of Contagion just shine on through. The downside is that each of these scenes are preceded and followed-up by one zombie attack after another, almost all of which you’ve already seen in the trailer and serve as constant reminders of what a dumbed-down product we’re dealing with.

If only there had been some characters I could connect with and invest in. If only everyone in this movie wasn’t such a fucking idiot, everything would have been so much better. That last point in particular, that one can’t be stressed enough. It is truly amazing how stupid these characters are from beginning to end, even the great Brad Pitt and his beautiful locks of gold. See, there are only two ways that the zombies in this movie can detect a non-zombified person: sight and sound. Therefore, there are two bang-up ways not to get zombified in the process: don’t let them see you and shut the eff up. Simple enough, right? Well you won’t believe what a hard time they have following rule No. 2. It is the leading cause of zombie invasions in this world and an outrageously preventable one at that.

Granted, I’m not the one with the zombies after me, but I don’t think common sense should be this hard to come by. Turn off your cell phone. Don’t leave your weapon for no good reason. Don’t bang into every goddamn thing in your path. If you’re about to step on glass in a quiet room, DON’T STEP ON THE GLASS. I don’t know what to tell you, guys. These people are hopeless. Hell, there’s even a dude who gets killed when he trips on nothing and (whoops!) shoots himself in the head. I kid you not, that’s how it happens. Not the kind of move you can pull of twice.

But like I said, it could have been worse. They did go ahead and spend oodles of money to reshoot the final Act, and given what the original ending was supposed to look like, I’m really freaking glad they did. I don’t know how the masses feel about it, but I thought those last 30 minutes were the best part of the whole picture. Toned things down, fleshed out what was far and away the most compelling aspect of the plot and, for once, went for substance over spectacle. The effort does not go unnoticed.

I know this probably reads as a pretty harsh review, but as it is, World War Z is an entertaining summer blockbuster. Then again, it’s also damn shame given what could have been. I don’t want to give the impression that I’m nuts about the book or anything because it’s more of a matter of not appreciating what it did well until I saw it done like this. Who knows, maybe there’s still a chance that Ken Burns will read this and it’ll light a fire under his ass, but until that day comes, I guess this’ll suffice. It is what it is, boys and girls. It is what it is.

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