I’m Sick of these Zombies in World War Z

World War Z

World War Z is every bit as bad as I feared it would be.  Though I never read Max Brooks’ book upon which it’s based, when I heard about the premise – a globe-hopping multiple POV take on a zombie apocalypse and the war the survivors waged against the undead – I thought, much like Hollywood, hey, that could be a cool idea!  Let’s apply a Contagion-like approach to a zombie narrative.  Sadly, when uberstar Brad Pitt signed on for the film adaptation, a decision was made to eradicate the novel’s central conceit and make it about one man’s quest to find the source of the plague that turned people into ravenous snap-jawed yokels.  The resulting film, which credits at least four screenwriters, is allegedly directed by Marc Forster (honestly, it could’ve been directed by anyone…or a committee) and went through numerous re-shoots, is a total bore.

Spare for some decent genre thrills in the Philly-centric set-up, the film is a cliché-ridden sack of tripe.  There’s not one second where you doubt Brad Pitt’s blank-faced hippy-haired hero is going to save the day or that his family (headed by Mireille Enos, who desperately tries to give her predicament some emotion while provided with zero personality by the writers) is ever in any real danger. Continue reading

The Stone Digital Literary Magazine Wants to Read Your Best Travel Stories

Well, they blew up the chicken man in Philly last night.  Now, they blew up his house, too.  Down on the boardwalk they're getting for a fight, gonna see what them racket boys can do.

Well, they blew up the chicken man in Philly last night. Now, they blew up his house, too. Down on the boardwalk they’re getting for a fight, gonna see what them racket boys can do.

For the Issue #4 of The Stone Digital Literary Magazine, we’re asking writers to submit their best short fiction where travel is prominently featured in the story.  Maybe you’ve written a tale inspired by a poignant homecoming or a vacation from hell.  Or maybe you’ve written a story about traveling to the stars.  We invite writers to let their imaginations run wild on this one – in other words, we’re open to sci-fi for the first time ever.  The only stipulation is, as always, no children’s stories or erotica.  We want strong character-driven stories where a place or a destination can also be thought of as a character – vivid, unforgettable stuff.

Are you up to the challenge?  Then what in blue blazes are you waiting for?  Follow the below guidelines and submit your travel-centric story to The Stone today! Continue reading

Tea Party Wish Fulfillment, Messianic Fetishism and the American Way in Man of Steel

Muh ha ha...I am a god.

Muw ha ha…I am a god.

To be the smartest man in the room.  It’s a nice place to be.  Christopher Nolan has reached a point in his career where he is the smartest man in the room.  Warner Brothers begged him to reboot the Superman film mythos, but Nolan wisely decreed that he was the last person who should do that.  He knew after his successful reboot of Batman that lightening doesn’t strike twice.  Yet Hollywood lives off the delusion that lightning can strike twice.  So, Nolan, not wanting to bite the hand that fed him, agreed to produce and bring along many of his cohorts (notably screenwriter David S. Goyer and epic score maestro Hans Zimmer) to help breathe life into a stale franchise.  He gets paid no matter what, and if this things bombs, hey, he wasn’t the director (meanwhile he’s busy crafting his own original film, Interstellar).  In comes Zack Snyder, a keen visual stylist who too often succumbs to his own fetishes involving shaky camera-work and overblown non-sensical FX spun into a blender, to direct.  The result is the overstuffed but weirdly entertaining Man of Steel – which brings great comfort to the writer in me, for it’s Goyer’s script (thoughtful, though full of holes and far from perfect) that rises above Snyder’s bombastic attempt to derail the film at every turn.

Man of Steel’s greatest assets (apart from Zimmer’s score) are the cast members.  The filmmakers wisely brought on two of this generation’s greatest character actors to take on key roles: Michael Shannon, enraged and menacing as General Zod and quadruple Oscar nominee Amy Adams as a feisty and smarter than usual Lois Lane.  It’s a real treat to watch Shannon not so much chew scenery as he does annihilate it (literally, his super-alien romper-room shenanigans with our title character bring down buildings) and it’s refreshing to see Adams’ Lois get in on the action and discover Clark Kent’s true identity from the start.  She coos and pants in his arms when he rescues her, but she’s no fool and unlocks the key to bringing down Zod.  Meanwhile, enjoyable cameos abound with Russell Crowe overacting as Jor-El; Kevin Costner under-acting as the senior Kent; Diane Lane pretty, naturally aged and forlorn as Ma Kent; Laurence Fishburne sadly wasted as Lois’ boss; and Christopher Meloni as a noble military man. Continue reading

They Were Playing My Jam Until…in The East

Follow the sound of my voice in The East.

Follow the sound of my voice in The East.

Brit Marling has to be one of the strangest young “artists” to emerge from the indie movie scene in the last few years.  She has a classic natural beauty, a deep whisper of a voice and an intriguing upside down smile that make her very watchable on-screen.  She’s also a writer and ideas creator behind the scenes, cooking up thought-provoking roles for herself and her fellow actors  Yet after seeing her in four interesting films (After Earth, Arbitrage, Sound of My Voice and now The East), I’m not entirely convinced of her acting ability.  She has a vacant stare (which works to her advantage depending on the role), an aloof physical presence, and while she knows how to cry predictably emo-style in emotional breakdown scenes, she rarely shows any other emotion.  It’s like she’s wading slowly through water up to her eyes on-screen.

Well, Marling has re-teamed with co-writer and director Zal Batmanglij for the eco-terrorism indie thriller The East.  Whereas in their previous endeavor – the quasi-entrancing Sound of My Voice – Marling played a soft-spoken cult leader claiming to be a time traveler, here in The East she is the corporate operative assigned to infiltrate a clandestine vigilante terrorist co-op which targets corporate polluters and big pharmacy.  The group is lead by the soothingly charismatic Alexander Skarsgard, who we eventually learn is a former trust-fund boy turned terrorist.  Also on board for the well-rounded cast are Patricia Clarkson (excellent as always but underused) as Marling’s cold client-focused boss and Ellen Page (convincingly dedicated to the cause) as a key player in the terrorist group. Continue reading

Sympathy for the Devil’s Children in Lore

Saskia Rosendahl has a bright future ahead after her expert depiction of Germany's dark past in LORE.

Saskia Rosendahl has a bright future ahead after her expert depiction of Germany’s dark past in LORE.

At a posh German estate, a gaggle of beautiful blond-haired blue-eyed children have been ignorant of the horrors of war but are now suddenly brooding when news of their Führer’s death hits home and their once stalwart and dependable parents suddenly lose it. Nazi officer dad and crumbling mom dash off on different paths headed for prison or death at the hands of the invading Allied forces. As is so classic in German folklore (notice the double meaning behind the film’s title – both our young protagonist’s short-hand name and representing a bit of modern volk-lore) the abandoned children led by Lore (a devastatingly natural Saskia Rosendahl – running hot and cold, confident and scared, petulant and innocent at the flip of a switch) disappear into the Black Forest headed for Grandmother’s house.

Adapted from a novel by Rachel Seiffert, Australian director Cate Shortland delivers in a realist way what The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (for all its power) fumbled heavy-handedly with in its attempt to declare Germany’s actions in WWII as a form of nationalist murder-suicide. Much like the children in Haneke’s The White Ribbon who grew up to become the people who joined the Nazi party, the children in Lore represent Germany as a whole…complacent, seduced and all too willing to follow a madman promising decorum and riches. When that madman dies, the cause is revealed as a vicious hoax, and the children are left to literally wander in the woods scrounging to survive.

Continue reading