World War Z Movie Review

world-war-z-bb

I’m a zombie guy, always have been. Vampires are alright, werewolves eh… But zombies? Yes please! I know it’s so freakin cool to like zombies these days that it’s almost cool NOT to like them anymore… Popular culture just works that way. Popularity is like a zombie apocalypse. It’s manageable when there’s only a few of them, but as soon as you attract the attention of the horde, it’s all over. Ever since I saw George Romero‘s Dawn of the Dead years and years ago I knew that these shuffling, mindless, flesh-ripping monsters were really just a symbol of our modern society. In the good old days social commentary and satire went hand-in-hand with exploding heads and fists full of entrails.

Zombies have changed since 9/11. Now it’s all about social anxiety.

Dawn%20of%20the%20Dead1It used to be a voodoo curse or a weird green comet that reanimated dead flesh, sending it slowly in the direction of the all-nourishing brains. Now it’s all about the end of times. It’s a secret biological weapon or a mutated infection that sends our feverish husbands, wives, or kids into mysterious comas that end tragically with them gnawing on our ribcage. Now days it’s all about the system breaking down, the safety of our everyday lives being dowsed in gasoline and set on fire… And why not? We don’t need zombies to see this kind of human atrocity every day. Remember this is the same human nature that causes neighbors to stab each other over food or water during hurricanes and turns policemen into shoot-first-ask-questions-later militias…

28days31That’s the true fear we see reflected in the images of the Walking Dead, 28 Days Later, and now, World War Z. It’s not the inevitable zombie bite that scares the crap out of me, but the way that people react to it. How fear can twist the mind into something unrecognizable. It’s the stripping-away of our morals, our rights, our comfortable sense of home and safety. The de-evolution of mankind apparently happens in the blink of an eye.

We lose our shit quick. We are a world already torn apart by unspeakable violence, disease, political unrest, and worst of all… Apathy.

15362162_0This is the stage set in World War Z. A fast-paced, lean, and severely disturbing experiment in big-budget zombie movie making. No one who has read Max Brooks‘ novel seems to be pleased with the movie as far as I know… Luckily for me I haven’t read it yet. I’m still pissed at him for stealing my idea for the Zombie Survival Guide… But that was years ago. My point is this: apparently if you want to enjoy this movie you can’t be a WWZ novel fan-boy.

But I got into this movie, big time. It sucked me in from the opening credits, a montage of news footage and doomsday talk all set to a creepy, frenetic soundtrack by rock gods Muse. I also went to see it early on in the day, before my bullshit meter was filled up. zombies-world-war-zIt’s really the best time to see a scary movie. Most zombie movies are inherently campy, even the Walking Dead has a thick slab of cheese on top. It can’t be helped. It’s partly the gore, the make-up, the shufflin’ hordes I mentioned earlier.

World War Z side-steps the cliche by taking a few pages from Danny Boyle‘s low-budget masterpiece 28 Days Later… Which is in my opinion the scariest damn zombie flick ever made. With World War Z it’s almost as if Brad Pitt (and the studio) said, “Ok this is a great book, but let’s just use the name…” then they proceeded to make a Hollywood prequel to the Danny Boyle movie. Plagued by rewrites, bad press, and massive reshoots including an entirely new ending, this movie was destined to fail.

AFIQx

Fortunately the rewrites and the reshoots were a good call. Despite it’s flaws, World War Z is a solid piece of action film making. I was on the edge of my seat from the first few scenes til the credits came up at the end… And Holy Shit did I mention the zombies are scary? I mean mercilessly-vicious kind of scary? Like a flowing river of running, grabbing, chomping pack animals? These aren’t your Romero zombies baby, these suckers are more akin to wild animals infected with rabies and meth. They head-butt through glass to bite you, then on to the next person. They’re a spreading disease, not a legion of the undead.

world-war-z-trailer1Right away we’re introduced to Gerry Lane (Pitt), an ex-UN hot shot who wrote a controversial paper that got him an early retirement at home with the family. His comfortable little home life provides the emotional core to the movie, and co-star Mireille Enos provides a solid supporting role… Even if her part was cut down significantly. The star of AMC’s the Killing, Enos is underutilized here… (at least she isn’t Matthew Fox, who had his entire role trimmed down to two scenes and one line). The Lanes are going on a trip to Philadelphia, and that’s where they find themselves in the middle of a zombie outbreak.

pg_07_009_pcs__0730The scene is perfect. Quick cuts and some shaky-cam provide a sense of forboding as the family is stuck in a traffic jam that seems to stretch on forever. Soon the station-wagon is clipped by a passing motorcycle cop, and Gerry gets out to retrieve his side mirror. The buildings seem to loom over them in the downtown traffic. It’s claustrophobic, confusing, and brilliantly shot. When an explosion further up the street a few miles raises the panic meter, another motorcycle cop drives up and ushers Gerry back into his car. He shrugs his shoulders and does just that, before one of those physically-impossible speeding vehicle effects sends the cop sailing through the air as a garbage truck goes crashing through the lane next to them, plowing through parked cars like a hot knife through zombie. Soon Gerry, sensing he needs to get the hell out of there, falls in behind the truck, like Moses and the Red Sea of Philly traffic. Before they can get clear the car is t-boned by another escaping vehicle and the family is sent reeling. As Gerry pulls his wife and kids out of the Volvo he hears a noise… Behind the screams… Some kind of terrifying animal snarl. More quick-edits of people running and panicked faces are spliced with frightening images of zombie faces. It’s a good effect. You see them in the crowd, like Gerry, and then the music comes up… And the snarls are getting closer.

Remember Philly!

World-War-Z-ZombiesIn this movie there are Zombies leaping from tall buildings, crashing down with bone-crushing force, only to jump up and pounce on the nearest victim… All to spread the infection. It takes anywhere from 10 seconds to 10 minutes for people to “turn” and the lingering “how the hell does something that works that fast get through an airplane ride to disburse across the globe?” question will bug you through the whole thing. Suspend your disbelief. It’s worth it. This is one of the most suspenseful action/horror movies that has been pumped out of the Hollywood machine… And while it doesn’t do justice to the political satire and social commentary of the novel, it works none the less.

World-War-Z-HelicopterIn the end, World War Z is the “scariest” zombie flick I’ve seen in years. The CGI is perfect, the story is just enough to get us from one terrific disaster scene to the next, and even though it ballooned over budget and out of control, I’m glad it made some serious money. This one deserves a sequel!

Advertisements

Cutting the Cable Cord: Week 2

poltergeistWell here we are, 8 days after turning all of our cable boxes in and telling Comcast to take their $130 cable bundles and shove em… And I’ll be Mayan’d… The world didn’t friggin end! Yet.

The true cord-cutters test will come this Sunday evening when we have friends over to watch the Walking Dead and we’re able to pull it off without a hitch. On the other hand, I am starting to believe that I was only afraid of losing cable because cable wanted me to be afraid of losing it. With the set up we have going now, and thanks to some late-night homework on my part, I believe I’m more than prepared for any of my family’s audio/video entertainment needs.

house-of-cards-posterThe name of the game in cord-cutting is cover your bases. You know there is a show you like and you know when it’s on and what channel, there are ways to get those shows as early as 15 minutes after they air. There’s the standards, like Netflix, which has become the cord-cutters banner for streaming media. Seriously, they have about two-thirds of any TV show, movie, or cartoon you could ever want to watch… for $8 a month. Sold. The most exciting thing about Netflix is their original programming. We watched House of Cards a few weeks ago, and it was exceptionally compulsive television. Produced and directed by David Fincher, one of the most talented filmmakers on the planet, Netflix made the bold move of releasing the entire season at once. They plan on doing the same thing for their next original show, the resurrected Arrested Development. However, besides original programming, they don’t add newer content ever… So Netflix is really good for a video library of all the old stuff you love and maybe want to watch or catch up on… But new episodes of Breaking Bad won’t be on until a year after they air.

imagesThen there is Amazon Instant Video. I’m not 100%, but I think these guys get most their new episodes the next day, in full HD (except for HBO, and I’ll talk about that later). Although I have not tried it yet, this is a great option. I hear Hulu Plus is good, but no AMC, no money from me. I can get it elsewhere. Then there is iTunes… But with Apple, I love their technology, but I hate dealing with them in any way, shape, or form. I’m sure I’m missing a few others, but only because I want to get to the meat and potatoes of my point here.

xbmc1My point is XBMC, which I find amusing because it comes from the Xbox which I’ve never owned, and often bashed for its lameness. If I wanted a Wii or an Xbox I’d buy one, but I’m a serious gamer. XBMC is a FREE multi-media player that runs on your computer and organizes all of your movies, shows, music, games, all in one place… and then you plug in your TV as your monitor and GO! I took an “old” Dell Optiplex 960, while not the best machine, still has a few cores to work with, and I simply ran an HDMI cord from the back of the PC to our plasma screen in the living room. Then I tucked it out of the way, turned it on, and let it know where my audio and video files were. Then it sprang to life.

navi-x-08XB uses online databases and scans your library, then throws it all together in a nice user-friendly format that’s completely customizable. You don’t like the way the cross-media bar looks or works? Change it. There are websites full of skins for it, and all of them have individual settings you can adjust to make it how you want it. Then the features! It allows you to use “add-ons” that let you access all manner of live tv, streaming video, all from sites like Hulu, Amazon, Comedy Central, any place that has their shows online for free, you can watch through XB. Instead of going to ABC.com to watch Once Upon a Time, it serves it for you. There are also add-ons that link to material that is slightly less than legally streamed, but it’s not against the law per se to watch, depending on your morality stance and your patience with non-HD content. xbmc-ios-remoteI tried one for academic purposes only and watched the latest episode of The Americans 15 minutes after it aired on cable. Whoever is streaming these shows is on the ball.

Then there’s the remote. Guess what? It’s an app. It’s a really cool app. It not only has the remote as a touch-screen on your phone but it allows you to browse your library on your phone as well. Want to watch a movie? Pull up your XBMC remote, look through your library, then hit “play.” It’s that easy. Oh, and did I mention Air Play? WITHOUT APPLE TV. Yes that means all you suckers who paid hundreds for your fancy little boxes got just that… Fancy little boxes. I can be looking at the IMDB app on my phone, see a trailer I want to watch, and throw it up to the TV from anywhere in my house. If I’m watching or listening to something on my phone I want to put on the plasma screen I tap one button. I love it.

There’s also a nice little app called Splashtop 2 for the iPhone and iPad that will stream any (wirelessly) connected computer to either device. I’ve had this awesome app for a year now, it lets me play Eve Online while I’m not sitting at my computer. It lets me control the Dell from the couch… Or the shower for that matter. So if XB dies I just open Splashtop, start it up again, and go! I’m still working out the kinks, but so far it’s worked fairly seamlessly. photo 3We tried it again last night for academic purposes, we chose a cool add-on program called “Navi-X” that hosts a ton of streaming content. There are a few dedicated genre playlists that people have created, and of course we found ourselves looking through the Sci-Fi movies. There was practically every popular contemporary science fiction movie in that list. My wife had never seen Solaris with George Clooney and Natascha McElhone (Karen from Californication), so we gave it a shot. The best part? All of them are 720p, high-def streams!

Well technology wouldn’t be technology without a few hiccups, and of course 10 minutes into the movie it stopped and we couldn’t get it started again. So with a little ingenuity I was able to find a copy within minutes and we were back up and running… And that seems to be the way it is without cable. Cable is a product, served up for a specific reason and has been updated, perfected, and worked on for decades. It’s designed to bring you TV and movies seamlessly, and it does. The issue is that mega-corporations that truly don’t care about anything other than the bottom line supply that product. Game-of-Thrones-Season-3-Posters-jaime1All of this new technology is only a few years old, there are still a million bugs to work out, so it’s expected that not everything is going to work 100% of the time… But it better come Walking Dead time I tell you!

Game of Thrones starts next weekend, and I’m curious as to how soon I’ll be able to get HD episodes from Amazon… Since HBO wants everyone to use their HBO Go app now, and you can only use that if you have a current cable package with an HBO subscription. Why doesn’t HBO simply make their Go app a stand alone product? Some of us can’t afford to fork over hundreds a month just to get one show! I’d gladly pay HBO a flat fee a month to be able to watch their brilliant programming… But they are so in deep with their cable company partners they can’t even rock the boat without fear of losing what? Their bottom line. I think they could more than cover their losses by making HBO Go a subscription-based service, and bring it to the millions out there who have to pirate Game of Thrones because there is no other way to watch it.

photo 1Long story long, between the PS3 and the XBMC, I think we’re covered. I can get any show just a few hours after it airs, live TV broadcasts, March Madness, and tons of other stuff. So far, cutting the cable has worked okay, however it has only soured me even more for the cable companies. It’s not a jealousy thing either, it’s a have-and-have-nots thing. If we could occupy Time Warner I think it would be a great idea… But what are the options? Pirate movies? Oooo, that’ll show em. Protest? That only gives them more ammunition. I suppose grass-roots legislation, but I’m fairly sure they’ve got their backs covered on that one.