It angers me when people complain about the state of film today. Yes, there’s an orgiastic onslaught of celluloid and digital excrement shoveled into multiplexes every year…but if 2013 proved anything, it’s that art finds a way to survive and quite often thrives in the manure laid across the silver screen. This past year saw both one of the most accessible art films (12 Years a Slave) and one of the most artistic blockbusters (Gravity) of the decade blossom in the verdant soil of cinema. I mean hell, Gravity proved that a money gouging gimmick (3D) utilized in so much of that dross that strangles viewers every year can actually be used in the correct artistic context to add…fancy that…new dimensions to film.
And survival and blossoming in the midst of a shit storm – thematically that’s what the year in film was about. Witness surviving: being kidnapped into slavery (12 Years a Slave), outer space calamities (Gravity), adolescence (Mud), young adulthood (Frances Ha), marriage (Before Midnight), the sins of the father (The Place Beyond the Pines), the lonely high seas (All is Lost), Somali pirates (Captain Phillips), and false persecution (The Hunt). Hmmm…they do say that all great stories are essentially the same story, don’t they?
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 →