Cinepub


Review: World War Z by Jamie

The best Zombie fiction is, at heart, about humanity. The zombies themselves are a containment system, a way to keep people trapped together and come into conflict with each other. Of course if a storyteller is really good, the zombies can represent much more than a barrier. They are a force that look ostensibly human but they cannot be fought in ways that you would fight people. They cannot be reasoned with and they know no fear. They will keep coming, wave after wave. Some of them may even have once been people you know. People you loved. The psychological horror of having to smash in a loved ones head before they start munching on your intestines is quite intense. Zombies are death, zombies are disease. Zombies are the hopelessness that humanity feels at the hands of both these things, the unstoppable force that will claim us all.

No person got this balance between the humanity of the zombie narrative and the psychological horror of fighting what is essentially death itself better than Max Brooks in his 2006 novel ‘World War Z’. By writing the book as a series of interviews performed around twenty years after the initial outbreak and ten years after the end of World War Z, Brooks was able to explore the politics of a global zombie apocalypse as well as the smaller, more human stories. From Israel’s closed borders to starving survivors turning on each other in the frozen North, he managed to give us glimpses of what would occur on each level of human society. He also gave us an insight into the impact of fighting a horde of zombies and how ineffective modern military tactics would be against them such as in the disastrous battle of Yonkers.

It was a book that lifted zombie fiction as a whole so, of course, they decided to turn it into a movie which, after many problems during it’s development was finally released yesterday. Holy fuck, is it awful. I must say that congratulations are in order. It takes some massive balls to strip both humanity and zombies from World War Z and these filmmakers clearly have them. Huge swinging brass balls.

Ok, first to the zombies. These aren’t zombies. The creatures in this film are velociraptors in zombie form. They run, the scream, they jump. They also don’t eat people so I guess maybe they are vegetarian velociraptors. They still bite though. They bite and run off and the people who are bitten turn instantly. Instantly. So you have a creature that can run without getting tired, leap like a grasshopper and only thinks about biting other people so that they can turn them into creatures like themselves, essentially giving them an unlimited and insanely fast reproduction rate. Do you know whtat that is called? It’s not a zombie or an epidemic, that is an extinction. Pure and simple. After the initial outbreak in all major US cities, we see the family stop to raid a supermarket which has been stormed by a good hundred or so others. No. Just no. There is literally no way that, given the type of enemy humanity is facing, any unarmed person should be able to step outside, let alone large groups of noisy, panicky people. It’s just so fucking stupid.

This insanely fast breed of whatever the hell these are also manages to eliminate one of the more interesting aspects of the book. Without the traditional slow-moving zombies, we don’t get a build up to World War Z. We don’t get to see the political ramifications as countries either take the threat seriously, ignore it or try to calm their population with placebos. Israel still walls itself off but the explanation as to why and how they did it so quickly is pretty fucking stupid. The only other time that we get a glimpse of any kind of political strategy that any country has for dealing with the outbreak is being told that North Korea organised a program where it pulled the teeth of it’s entire population because no bite means no infection. Other than that, there is no political strategy, no military strategy. Nothing going on globally except for Brad Pitt trying to find a cure, going all around the world to do it and finding everyone largely receptive to his visits. You’d think that people would be more suspicious of anyone travelling anywhere given the state of the world but seeing as people turn instantly I guess there’d be no need to worry that someone might have been bitten and snuck on to a plane. Thank fuck they completely closed off that possible avenue of dramatic tension. We wouldn’t want things to become interesting in any way, would we?

So that’s the zombies, what about the humanity? Well Brad Pitt really cares about his family. It’s a good thing that after the first half hour they are literally never in any danger again. Then Brad Pitt is off travelling around the world, meeting folks. Some of them get killed but we never get to know them well enough for anyone to care. There is a female character he befriends, Segen an Israeli soldier but she is as characterless as the CGI hordes chasing them. We don’t ever get a moment where someone has to feel conflicted about killing a zombie who, moments ago, was a loving member of their family. We never even really get to see anyone conflicted by the fact that the monsters hunting them were ever humans at all. Like I said, there is no military strategy here. There’s no moment where they realise that the creatures can’t be fought like you would fight people. There is just soldiers firing into waves of velocizombies as they hurtle towards them. There is nothing deep here. There’s barely even anything shallow.

In essence, World War Z is a Roland Emmerich disaster movie. It’s ‘2012’ except that the tidal waves are made out of people instead of water. It’s a CGI-fest with dull action scenes plastered between dull scenes of exposition. It is dull. Still I can understand why they decided to make this so different from the book. I mean, framing the film around something like interviews in order to tell a story about undead creatures through flashbacks would be impossible and certainly nothing in Brad Pitt’s past would suggest otherwise…

Still, this was completely the wrong way to go about adapting this book. Not that they did adapt the book, they just bought the rights to the title and slapped it on this. The only way that World War Z could ever really be brought to life is with something akin to a miniseries and hopefully one day we’ll see it. Until then, avoid this piece of shit like the plague. Zero pints out of five. Laterz.

World War Z? More like World War GO FUCK YOURSELF!



Review: True Grit by Jamie

I’ve been on a real Western kick lately and I think ‘Red Dead Redemption’ is entirely to blame. Yes, I’m still playing it, although to be fair I didn’t have my Xbox for about three months after Undead Nightmare was released. And so I went through and watched a few westerns like ‘3:10 to Yuma’ and kind of Westerny things like ‘There Will Be Blood’. To be fair, I loved those two films the first time I watched them but I’d never really liked Westerns as a kid. My thing was dinosaurs. Show me a cowboy who can beat up an Ankylosaurus and I’ll call you a liar. Still, they’ve weaselled a small way into my heart of recent times (and my head because I can’t get the fucking theme to ‘The Good, The Bad and the Ugly’ out of it).

So I was really looking forward to ‘True Grit’. Was I disappointed? No sir, I was not. As such, this may be my shortest review in some time. I literally don’t wanna spoil anything in this film. I’ll say it’s very similar to the 1969 version that was based on the same book though there are some pretty big differences which I won’t get into, again, for fear of spoilers.

The story revolves around Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld), a headstrong fourteen year old girl who is determined to track down her father’s killer, Tim Chaney (Josh Brolin), and see him hanged. She seeks the help of a US Marshall who she hears has true grit, Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) and the party has an on-again, off-again third member in the form of Texas Ranger LaBouef (Matt Damon and here it’s pronounced LaBeef). They travel far and wide, dealing with nefarious outlaws from Lucky Ned Pepper’s (Barry Pepper) gang as well as growing closer together and learning a lot about each other… kinda.

That’s all I’m gonna give you synopsis wise. Seriously, go see the damn film. OK, so everyone is brilliant in this film. Jeff Bridges plays the gruff, drunken yet world-wise Cogburn perfectly. He grumbles and mutters his way through rambling stories about his past just enough that you get to learn about the character and how he came to be where he is but still manages to retain an air of legendary status… at least until a certain point in the film where you kind of get the sense of the kind of man he really is… or is he?

Hailee Steinfeld is truly incredible as Mattie. She portrays the character as someone who’s incredibly wise beyond her years, determined and willing to be just a little bit underhanded in order to get what she wants. In fact, you almost get the impression that she’s exactly what Cogburn himself would have been like at her age, before drink dulled his senses somewhat. Normally a young character who is so good at getting what she wants and goes about it in such an intelligent way would pull me out of the film a little. I’d find them a little bit unbelievable but Steinfeld managed to have me believing that such a character could exist from the beginning. I’m genuinely shocked that Natalie Portman beat her at the Baftas because, as I think I addressed in my Black Swan review, Portman’s good but the character was sometimes just a little too pathetic to the point where it stretched all reason. Steinfeld is literally just perfect. It’s also criminal that she’s been nominated as a Supporting Actress at the Oscars. As Mark Kermode said if she’s the supporting actress then that must make Matt Damon the lead actress.

Speaking of Matt Damon he’s also incredibly good as LaBeouf. He infuses the character with a kind of douchiness (and occasionally a kind of paedophilic creepiness) yet never pushes it to the point that you don’t like the character. Kind of like what Robert Downey Jr did in Iron Man (and if you wanna see what happens when it gets pushed to the point where you don’t like the character, watch Iron Man 2). He’s incredibly big headed and thinks that he deserves some kind of special respect because he’s a Texas Ranger much to the amusement of Mattie and especially Cogburn. There’s a turning point for this character as well where he kinda redeems himself though and it’s done very well.

As for the other aspects of the film, well, it looks great as we should probably all expect from the Coen Brothers by now. From big, sweeping Western vistas to close ups of characters standing silently and waiting in the snow for someone following them to catch up, it’s all shot perfectly. It looks bleak but somehow beautiful. And it all serves to tell a pretty damn interesting story of vengeance in the old west.

If I did have one problem with the film, it’s that occasionally Jeff Bridges mumbling was so severe that it could be kind of hard to understand at times. It’s just a little thing really and doesn’t take anything away from the awesome that is this film. Five pints out of five. Right, that’s all the Oscar season films I’ll probably see for now. Time to get back to reviews that aren’t gushing and terrible. Time to hopefully watch some films that I can really rip into… Oh Shyamalan, where are you when I need you most? Laterz.




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