World War Z: A Decent Movie, Not a Great Adaptation

Title says it all. So many people have instantly brushed this movie under the rug. They say “IT’S NOT LIKE THE BOOK, so i refuse to see it.” It’s a legitimate concern, and unfortunately the movie suffers for it. You see, it’s not a bad movie, and from what i hear, it could have been a lot worse. I admit i don’t know details, but with 5 different production companies (each with their own title slide) it could not have been smooth sailing.
I gotta apologize for the tardiness of the review, so i’ll be honest. It was a first date with my new and totally awesome GF, spending time with her and working have made me lazy again. REVIEW YOU FOOL! REVIEW!

Recall my new rating system 5 stars, one for each of: Story/characters, Sound/music, Visual/Camera/editing, Acting, Enjoyability/rewatchability

Story: NO STARS. The story was extremely lacking. It was simple, Zombies take over the world and one dude has to save it. It’s funny, this movie felt more like a video game than any I’ve seen. Brad Pitt goes to an exotic location, learns some plot, and then escapes in an action sequence to the next exotic location. Rinse and repeat several times. I found that actually kinda humorous. the scenes played out like levels, including what kinda of variety was made (military base, city, hospital, alone in the woods). The characters were awful. They were totally uninteresting and had no defining characteristics, I didn’t even know the protagonists name til about 30 minutes into the movie. Pacing was also interesting too, no wasted time, the zombie attack starts about 5 minutes into the movie (once again adding to the lack of character and plot).

Sound: 1 Star ★. The score was solid, fit nicely, tho not entirely memorable. This movie did a great job fully utilizing surround sound. Early on there was a woman screaming, it came so totally from one speaker, i thought the girl behind me was actually screaming (there was noone behind me). It also used silence quite well. There is great atmospheric power in silence (especially when sound attracts zombies). I remember needing to sneeze but holding it as long as possible, because i thought breaking the silence that abruptly might make people around me jump in their seats.

Visual: 1/2 Star. The CG effects were…ok, the camera was…ok. IDK, nothing really sticks out, good or bad. It was nice to see the zombies not moving like a tide as they;re depicted in the trailers. with some lead in shots, they’re seen not moving as ants, but as a mass so desperate to get you that they relentlessly move thru and over anything, including each other. they used shaky cam of course, but to better effect than Man of Steel. the problem lies in the editing, very fast cuts. that worked in favor of a couple of great jump moments, but the rest seemed unnecessary. It’s as Brad Jones put it (i can cite other reviews), It’s as if the movie was edited for cable TV. It’s PG-13 so they tone down the violence by very obviously cutting around it. I’ll get into the movie’s rating in a bit.

Acting: 1/2 Star. Brad Pitt was solid as the lead, but he’s just a charismatic guy. He didn’t bring too much, but that really lies with the script, not much meat to bring anything to. Other performances were ok, the Israeli soldier that accompanies Pitt in the last act was pretty good.

Enjoyability: 1 Star ★. Me and my date quite enjoyed it. good atmosphere, good tone. A solid zombie movie. don’t know if i’d rush to see it again, but it’s wasn’t that bad.
The movie suffers hard tho because of the tie-in to a very different book. THIS IS NOT THE MOVIE’S FAULT. and yet people give me crap for liking it despite the major differences. All this says is the movie execs were fools. Market it just as a zombie movie, maybe even cite world war Z as inspiration, but once you try to make a movie out of a book, you’re in much more dangerous water. Adaptation is insanely tricky. too close your flaws get glaring, too far and the readers hate you. You have to strike a balance somewhere. I’m still not sure exactly what makes an adaptation successful, I’ve written papers about it. Shoulda had a different name, probably would have been received better that way.

The Rating Problem: This movie should not be PG-13. Sure Zombie movies tend to be violent and this movie cut around that a lot, but that’s not my problem. PG-13 carries no weight any more. Parents are taking 6 year-olds (maybe even younger) to movies like this. 6 is WAY too young for a zombie movie, it’s really intense and scary. i know, it’s not the ratings, it’s the parents, but you gotta admit that there’s something wrong with it.

ANYWAYS. I enjoyed it, if you were interested, yeah go see it, on the fence, i’d give it a try. BUT I’d sooner tell you to go see Much Ado About Nothing (review coming soon). IN SHORT: not bad. ★★★

Man of Steel indeed

Wow…I was quite surprised by this movie, especially after all the trailers and reviews i’ve seen. I do wish advertisers wouldn’t show THE ENTIRE MOVIE in trailers, there were some surprises, but so few. Pretty much the entire first act of the movie can be seen in trailers, c’mon people. ANYWAYS: in short 6.5/10 Not Bad. Watch it for the Kyptonians, they were AWESOME. the humans…not so much.

I’m breaking away from my typical review mode and just grouping thoughts. GENERAL: it’s funny, i couldn’t help but draw several parallels between this movie and transformers. The opening is very similar, coup to take control and “save” the homeworld. Also the big bad is very similar. Zod is no longer the power-hungry despot “KNEEL BEFORE ZOD” type. Now he is Megatron, seriously. An amoral military leader that will stop and nothing and sacrifice anything to rebuild his race. And it really works in this movie, it really does.

Where it went right:

  • Visual effects: OH LORD it was pretty (Zach Snyder movies have always done that well, but sadly at the expense of the rest of the movie most of the time). They really built a full Krypton and it was cool. So what if it borrows heavily from H.R. Geiger designs, Avatar and other things. So what that they’ve got Jor-El riding a dragon? I still think it was pretty cool. Explosions, alien ships, the fight CG (get to that later) all good things.
  • Action: (now is later) This movie had some of the best superhero action I’ve seen in ages. It’s right up there with The Avengers, ESPECIALLY in taking full advantage of the powers at their disposal. Lots of laser vision, cool bursts of speed, throwing trains, wanton destruction (half of Metropolis is essentially leveled in the finale :D ) it was stunning good action.
  • The Kryptonians and their tech: This is where the movie REALLY hit its high notes. Their armor looks totally sick (the supersuit is ok, I’m talking the armor on top of that) same goes for their architecture, A lot of it is based on…i don’t know, some kind of particle based A.I. It looks really cool. The people of Krypton we see are mostly simple, but it works, they’re just cold and hard.
  • Kal-El and Zod: Henry Cavill is solid as Superman, does a fine job. Michael Shannon as Zod was just epic, he really stole the movie.

Where it went wrong:

  • Camera: Whenever there weren’t a lot of effects dominating the shot, the camera resorted to the standard and really annoying shakycam. It really makes it hard to focus and is REALLY pointless when it’s just people talking.
  • Pacing: There’s a bit in the middle where superman turns himself in, next scene he’s in a cell talking to Lois, then he’s immediately back in the desert being handed over to Zod’s men. The movie is full of moments like this that just don’t flow, but they lessen as the movie goes on. It’s funny I never realized how much I value a good intro for a superhero. Superman is introduced to the world BY ZOD (we’ve seen him a bit before) first time anyone sees him is when he turns himself in. Zod had a great re-entry into the middle of the film with the You Are Not Alone speech, really had solid tone.
  • the human characters: they totally lacked any relatability, they had no stories and I found myself not caring about them. At least the Kryptonians had badass action to accent their simple characters. They all feel like they’re there just to be there, so we have recurring faces. worst offender is:
  • LOIS LANE: (please note that Amy Adams’ performance was just fine) Her character makes NO sense, she’s WAAY too important. She’s there thru the entire story, she knows Clark’s identity before he’s even Superman. her romance is very arbitrary and totally without chemistry. Plus her presence is just weird, Military arrest her, yet they drag her out when superman turns himself in. When Superman is taken by Zod, they demand to take Lois too…WHY? they don’t know her, they never do anything to her, all it does is get her on the ship to be helpful. They also try to make her into an action woman for a bit, Iron man 3 did that much better. I just don’t get it :/ ah well
  • (EDIT) Emotion weight: So I’ve looked thru other reviews, and they really made a good point. The movie TOTALLY lacks emotional weight, it never conveys the feeling that millions are being obliterated in the destruction of metropolis (which is beyond extensive). Avengers (it’s my go-to super hero comparison)  certainly made it clear how much was at stake and that the destruction at least had some consequences, at least we saw civilians during the fights. Once a fight starts in Man of Steel, the fighters are pretty much alone. So many elements are just…there.

Though it may not be a great movie, I still enjoyed it (seems I’m a minority there). go see it for its action. If you go for story and character depth, you’re probably gonna leave with a bad taste in your mouth. D.C. is still fighting a losing battle, trying to keep up with Marvel after they’ve already hit it out of the park. If The Avengers, showed us anything, it’s that a superhero movie can be well written, funny, have great action, great story, and just be well made ALL IN ONE MOVIE.  All you other guys need to catch up now that we know its possible.

That’s all i got, See you next week for WORLD WAR Z  or Joss Whedon’s MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, maybe both, we’ll see :D .

Why all the Hate?

First off: gotta say I’m SICK of all the spam i’m getting here. SO MUCH SPAM, it’s rather annoying :P

ANYWAYS, I’m referring to Phantom of the Opera from 2004. Reviews hate it and often cite it as an example of a bad movie musical…I don’t get why. I think it’s not that bad. No it’s not perfect, but not HORRIBLE. I’m very open to legitimate criticisms of why it sucks, never really heard one. I don’t want to hear why you don’t like it, you’re entitled to not like stuff.

Story: They took it verbatim from Webber’s musical, which seems to to be the source of much hate upon the film. I don’t think that’s really fair if you ask me. It’s like damning all screen adaptations of Hamlet because you didn’t like reading in high school. I mean C’MON who doesn’t know this story?…oh you don’t? sorry, I’ll explain for your sake. Phantom in short is the story a madman who lives in a French opera house falling in love with the voice of the new star: Christine. He opts to steal her away from her recently returned love, Raul. Christine is torn between love for Raul, and the passion and darkness of the Phantom. Chaos ensues. It’s nothing special the story. I just love the music.

Acting: or should i say SINGING: (we’ll combine sound into this one) This is the only Andrew Lloyd Webber musical I really enjoy, the rest are…eh for me. I don’t see why people hate the music of it, some people do. Emmy Rossum is kinda wispy, but that works for her malleable character, she’s a far cry better than Sarah Brightman (who I maintain doesn’t sing so much as shriek). Now, I would have preferred their original casting for her: Anne Hathaway, who has demonstrated this year that she is both a fantastic actress and amazing singer, but alas she got roped into a Princess Diaries sequel, ah well. Patrick Wilson plays Raul…I can see why people don’t like him. He’s pretty lame in all I’ve seen him in, but he’s not BAD. Minne Driver, she plays the part beautifully, it’s just that her part is that of a shrill, GOD AWFUL soprano, but that’s the writer’s fault, not hers. And finally Gerard Butler as the Phantom. Ok I don’t care what everyone else thinks about him. Gerard Butler is a very sexy man, and he has a great voice, and he’s a decent actor too. He’s a bit too pretty, even with scarring makeup, he was still the prettier guy in the end (ask any woman who likes the movie, they all say the same thing).

Visual: It’s very pretty and colorful. The sets and costumes are all appropriate for the flamboyant and decadent style of the musical. The rest of it…is really forgettable. The camerawork doesn’t do much, there aren’t any big effects. it’s really all about the music.

OVERALL: The movie’s major flaw is it played it too safe. It made as literal a translation as humanly possible. That doesn’t always work out well, some things need to be adjusted. It really wasn’t special and didn’t do anything new, DOESN’T MEAN IT’S BAD. I really enjoy it, but i prefer the music alone. The musical does drag a bit in the middle, but that’s not the movie’s fault, i think the movie’s middle is more bearable than the stage adaptations I’ve seen. People don’t like the musical? that’s fine, i totally get it, just a shame that the movie gets smashed for it. Without the source material…It wouldn’t be great, but it wouldn’t be garbage either, at least i don’t think it would e.

POST SCRIPT: I thought of a reason why Les Mis (the new movie) bugs me. They did the “live singing” to capture the emotion of the actors. My issue with that is that it insinuates that you can’t convey the same level of emotion through singing alone. THAT IS TOTAL NONSENSE. There is immense power in music, it doesn’t need to be marred for the sake of “stronger emotion”. If you did it right, the emotion will be in the music. Plus shooting live means long and really boring shots, that is something i can’t abide.

come to think of it, Phantom of the Opera really was emotionally dead, I didn’t really feel much emotion from most of them beyond their fixed tones (i see Butler as the exception). I still like Phantom, even if it’s not great. ah well. CYA LATER

 

Weekend’s Frivoloties

So, the internet in my flat is dead, kinda annoying, so I had to wait til i could get back in the office. Suppose that’s a good thing since it allowed me time to THINK about the movie before reviewing it (a lesson i learned from my review of The Hunger Games). so this weekend, i finally saw DJANGO UNCHAINED.

It plays out a lot like any other Tarantino film, over the top violence, out of place, but oddly appropriate, music, the works. And like other Tarantino films, it’s DAMN GOOD! My review sections may be a bit shorter, didn’t MEMORIZE it

Acting: I’m still not sold on Jaime Foxx, he was fine, but really nothing special if you ask me, that could just be the character. As always I was very happy with DiCaprio, I maintain he’s one of the better actors working these days, his character was quite good and quite unlikeable. Christophe Waltz once again kinda stole the show. He’s just a lot of fun. SAMUEL L JACKSON…*sigh*. he’s been getting mixed reviews for this movie. He plays the exact same character he does in most movies, it’s funny as hell, and his actions made him (to me) the most despicable character in the whole movie. The problem is i don’t know if he really FIT in the movie, he felt out of place to me. ah well.

Visual: This movie is REALLY violent, just as we expected, once again the violence is obviously fake but SO abundant. It’s comical. Not in the traditional sense though, i was laughing a lot through the movie because i was saying to myself “I can’t believe they did that, can’t believe they took it that far”. Laughter is the natural reaction to the absurd, and by god was it absurd. There were also a lot of VERY obvious camera moves, such as DRAMATIC zooms and focus pulls, but it worked beautifully with the absurd feeling

Audio:Like i said the music choice was very odd. Lots of songs we all know thrown in, but they match in tone. the best word i think for the score is BOMBASTIC. it is very dramatic when there is original music. SFX. appropriate i guess, nothing sticks out good or bad.

OVERALL: One moment i want to talk about is act III. You know there’s gonna be a shootout, there’s gotta be. BUT the entire act, the characters are moments away from opening fire, I was nervous/ancy to see who broke first and what causes it (gotta say the way they did it I did not see coming until about 30 seconds before it hit). It was a TON of fun, go see it, as long as you can stomach a lot of violence and racial slurs.

OTHER THINGS I WATCHED THIS WEEKEND (mini reviews):

THE MIST: first time i had seen this one. One of the few Steven King stories turned movie that i found at all scary. It did a great job with atmosphere, especially in the back 9. I know how it ended ahead of time (SPOILERS). gotta say it made me a little sick, it was so tense and feeling, and it just leaves you with that feeling. I enjoyed it, but doubt i will a second time, wasn’t great, but making me feel ill is an accomplishment

THE FOUNTAIN: I love this movie, but totally see why people wouldn’t, it took me a while to come around for it myself. Hugh Jackman does a very good job in this movie, least I think so…but this movie is really spiritual and all about its themes: From dark into light/love eternal/immortality found in the finality of death. It’s very pretty, and like all Darren Aronofsky films, it is very visual and has an amazing score.

right then, i’m off to write a script about a giraffe.

Amazing and Premium

Wow, I’m gonna be flying to NZ in ~48 hours. That’s an intimidating thought. Right, MOVIES! I’m gonna keep ‘em short, I’m tired and stressed over packing and such, but want to review them while they’re still fresh

This is a double review, both The Amazing Spider-man and Premium Rush. Anyone guess which I liked better?

Spider-Man: I wasn’t too thrilled with the idea of the reboot from the start. My stance pretty much never changed throughout it’s trailers and theater run. Garfield and Stone were surprising, They weren’t bad at all. The problem is that their characters are inexplicably bland. The elements of each of them are never really explored and we must take them as presented. On top of that they fall in love, but have NO reason to do so other than the movie says they are. I did enjoy the snarky and cocky spider-man, it felt appropriate for a kid who just got super powers. He then sheds that mentality just as quickly he drops his plot-driving vendetta. He’s seeking out Uncle Ben’s killer, but after a short argument with Captain Stacy, Spider-Man, without a second glance, gives up dreams of vengeance and is a good guy. He never learns a lesson, he just gets scolded. It seems far too abrupt for me. I didn’t get Lizard’s motivation either. He starts out with his own revenge story, but it is dropped and forgotten as quickly as Spider-man’s. Lizard then inexplicably decides the world must be Lizard too. Too many elements of the plot are just tossed around carelessly. Too much is done because the movie says so and it won’t really go into why. Kinda weird

Technically it was lousy. The First-Person shots that are randomly thrown in of Spider-man’s perspective (Ham it up for 3D I’m sure) were cheap and really distracting since there wasn’t flow into or out of those shots, there was no REAL reason to do those shots other than just to do it. The CG for Lizard was bad (not as bad as some people claim), I had more problems with his art design, he just looked terrible to me. Honestly he looks like a Goomba from the Super Mario Bros. Movie from the 90′s. I recall thinking how there was a significant lack of theme to the music, I kept my ear tuned for some dramatic piece for Spider-man, but it never really came.

It wasn’t horrible, but it is incredibly mediocre to me. Can’t win ‘em all.

NOW PREMIUM RUSH. This movie is fun. Not fantastic, but definitely simple. Simple can really work in a film’s favor, it doesn’t try to be anything more. It’s not deep, there are no real morals to speak of other than: “don’t be a gambling douchebag”.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Wilee, a bike messenger. He loves to ride his bike…with no brakes or coasting or extra gears, bit psycho to me (and to a lot of the characters in the movie too). Today Wilee gets a package that attracts the attention of Michael Shannon who today plays a cop with a gambling problem. And that’s it, that’s essentially the whole story. Wilee on his bike, doing crazy stuff and being chased by people.

How does this movie work then? because, like i said, it’s FUN. JGL and Shannon are both lively in their parts, they too seemed to be having fun. They poke fun at the whole scenario just as the audience would. At one point the bad guy (who is trying to run Wilee over at the time) says “I’m chasing a guy on a bike” and then chuckles incredulously. The movie knows how ridiculous a premise it is and just runs with it. The flashback sequences to show what got major players into this chase do break up the pace, but you gotta put it in somewhere and having it at the beginning would ruin early surprises.

The technicals aren’t amazing, but still a bit impressive. I’m pretty sure Levitt was actually riding the bike (whenever his stuntman wasn’t) as in to say no CGI. So he’s bolting down NYC streets, but you can always see him, and everything else, really clearly. This movie would fall on its face with shaky cam. The shots are already pretty fast to match the pace of the story, if we couldn’t see what was there we’d miss the entire movie. My favorite moments are the times that Wilee comes to a crossroad and has to decide which ways to best navigate traffic so not to get obliterated. We watch as he sees a possible route, we are then treated to a surreal account of how horribly wrong that way would go so he moves onto the next one. It totally works for me, made me chuckle.

No it’s not perfect, but hey, just because I’m a film geek doesn’t mean I can’t like movies that aren’t artsy or cinematic gold. Sometimes I enjoy just watching a well executed chase. It’s a treat when I can do that without turning off my brain. Off the top of my head I can’t think of a movie that is just a long chase (you’re welcome to remind me of some). At least I was never bored nor confused (more that I can say for Spider-Man).

So much for short reviews. Ah well, wish me Luck in NZ! Next post will probably be pics from the airport and my THRILLING tale of sitting on a plane for 12 straight hours.

Woo, My first movie review

Just to re-establish, I’m not giving it a number rating, I’m critiquing it then sum up if i like it and if you will too, So without further delay

The Last Samurai

Seemed as good a place as any to start, My family found this movie while randomly sweeping blockbuster so many years ago, and we all loved it. It comes mostly from the fact that my entire family has a soft spot for samurai, Japan and the like.

Anyways

The story is simple enough.1876, Tom Cruise is a military hero of the civil war and Indian campaigns that followed. He finds himself in the employ of a Japanese business tycoon who wants him to raise an army for Japan to suppress a samurai uprising. In battle he is captured by the samurai and forced to spend winter in their village. He spends his winter become enveloped in the culture, learning the language and how to fight alongside the samurai. When the winter ends, he is forced to choose between his life as a soldier and his new found love for the peace he finds with the samurai. Battle, blood and lots of pretty landscapes follow and overall the effect it quite good.Now don’t come here looking for history, the rebellion of the samurai was real, but nothing else about the movie.The story isn’t fantastic, it’s very simple and has been done time and time again. People who haven’t seen this one i’m betting are comparing it to James Cameron’s Avatar in their heads. But this one is far better.

Visual: The Cinematography isn’t complex, but it keeps up with the action scenes really well. We’re not subjected to a Michael Bay style of action where we haven’t the slightest clue what’s going on, no when Tom Cruise is impaling people it is very clear. As said above the sets and landscapes are superb in my opinion, the sleepy town really feels peaceful.

Acting: it’s funny, after my family watched this movie we sat there for an hour debating what other actor we could see playing the lead, and honestly we couldn’t come up with one. Tom Cruise is absolutely golden in this role, his normally wooden demeanor actually plays into the character. I challenge any reader to come up with someone else and let me know your choice. The other star is Ken Watanabe (you probably know him from Inception), in his first American film. His part is that of the Samurai leader. His performance earned him an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor, that says enough in my opinion.

Sound: good lord. I could spend pages and pages ranting why Hans Zimmer is the best film composer ever to walk the Earth, but i won’t subject you to that. It’s a beautiful sweeping score that varies greatly and reflects the scenes and amplifies the mood. Not something that can be told, you’ll just have to see it. A special note goes out to the fact that people ACTUALLY SPEAK JAPANESE in the film, including Tom Cruise. Since subtitles are such a rarity i applaud those that use the native language. I can understand why people wouldn’t it takes more thought to follow it, but to me it makes it feel more authentic, more real.

Overall: A beautiful film, i love it. Now will you? it’s kinda slow, there are a number of very nice action scenes scattered, but between them can be dry for some. Best comparison is to Edward Zwick’s (the director of this one) Glory. very pretty, kinda deep, and garnished with bloody battles. If you love Samurai culture definitely see it. If you don’t mind movies with subtitles that are a bit slow, definitely see it. If you want action, you could do better, but in my opinion it’s far better than having James Cameron shove his pro-environment agenda and now famous graphics into your face for 3 hours.