World War Z Review

The zombie genre is transforming into a topic that is becoming so overexposed in today’s entertainment media that creating something new and fresh to add to the genre is exponentially increasing in difficulty. There are some shows/movies that are memorable due to their twist on the genre: The Walking Dead provides a compassionate look at the human element and the desire for survival and hope like never before, Shaun of the Dead is quite possibly one of the greatest parody films of all time, Zombieland is simply overall comedic and action perfection, and Warm Bodies managed to put a Romeo and Juliet twist and a unique perspective of narrative by having a zombie narrate the film. The classic films, while somewhat dated in certain cases, are still the best films at creating an air of tension and horror that instilled a general fear of thought of a potential zombie outbreak. It is not enough to be scary nowadays; a film needs to have thrills and some other form of narrative ingenuity to stand out from the crowd. If a film can’t do that, it runs of the risk of falling victim to the black hole that is “the Cliché Film.” While it doesn’t quite fall into this black hole, World War Z comes dangerously close to it.

I decided to watch World War Z for a second time before writing this review because there are often times when my opinion on a film will change after the initial viewing. I wasn’t impressed with the film after seeing it in theaters, and sadly, my opinions on the film were not persuaded one way or another after seeing it for a second time. I don’t think any less of the film than I did before, but I don’t think it had any quality points that I missed upon my initial viewing. The biggest problem with World War Z is that it doesn’t have that x-factor like other great zombie films of recent memory. It does a decent job at creating suspension and thrills, but it does nothing else to convince me that it should be placed in the realm of best zombie films of all time. Some may argue that its grand action sequences are revolutionary enough for the genre to allow the film to be placed on a pedestal, but I make the argument that creating large scale, epic action visuals takes a much less amount of artistic/intelligent creativity to create than, say, comedy or replicating a classic story with a new backdrop (referencing Warm Bodies). All it takes is half a mind a bucket load of money to create that. Money can buy you great special effects, but money can’t buy originality.

There are other things that I don’t like about the film. I don’t understand why there were four random explosions within the first thirty minutes of the film. I wasn’t aware that people being infected by a zombie like disease would be an imminent cause of the spontaneous combustion of buildings, but then again maybe I’m wrong. I have a feeling that I’m not though. I appreciate the metaphor of the zombies acting swarming ants, but it wasn’t filmed in the right way. The frantic and unstable camera movements only cause headache and frustration rather than a feeling of empathy towards the apparently hysteria of the situation at hand. The other thing that annoyed me was just how different the film was from the book. Now, I understand that the film and novel are two totally different beings and it isn’t fair to compare the two; however, it would have been nice to see some of the intelligence displayed in the storytelling of the novel translated to the big screen.

Overall, the film is fairly derivate of other zombie works with a lack of originality to allow it make a lasting impression. The ending is rather disappointing in the long run as well, and it drops a majority of the intelligence that made the novel so successful. It has solid action sequences, a relatively iconic shot of the zombies climbing up the wall built around Jerusalem, and some strong moments of tension, but in this day and age, a movie needs to do more than that to grab my attention and earn my praises.

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World War Z (2013): 2/4 stars

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The Interview Review

Let me get right into this: in a way, “The Interview” will only be remembered for the amount of diplomatic controversy it caused upon its very limited release to the general public. This movie doesn’t break any new grounds and fails overall at being a poignant and noteworthy political satire. Movies such as “In The Loop” are brilliant at ironically poking fun at the obvious problems with international politics, but what makes them special is they manage to do so in a way that is intelligent in not only its humor but also its ability to maintain a coherent, well-written plotline. The storyline of the “The Interview,” at face value at least, has a lot of potential. Sadly, the normally on point Seth Rogen has penned one of his worst screenplays to date and causes a major pitfall for the film. This movie had a lot of potential to take a controversial topic and explore it in a satirical way that was not only amusing but also somewhat beneficial to the general public, but bewilderingly decides to throw away any sort of intelligence and replace it with mindless gags and jokes that are just as flat and simplistic as the storyline ends up being.

Yes, there are a couple of funny moments in this film and I found myself chuckling aloud on more than once occasion; however, immediately after I felt guilty at laughing because it was such a childish and irreverent joke. For the most part, especially during the middle third of the film, the script is entirely void of any resemblance of a worthwhile joke. We have seen some good comedy films come from Seth Rogen and James Franco (“This is the End” and “Pineapple Express” to name a couple), but this film doesn’t seem to even try to reach the level that those two aforementioned films do. It appears that a lot of Hollywood films nowadays are under this misguided assumption that comedy films don’t actually have to be that funny anymore. Forgive me if I’m wrong, but I’m supposed to laugh during a comedy film aren’t I? Movies such as “Shaun of the Dead”, “Ghostbusters”, “Monty Python” and “Borat” work so well because while they do many things well, at the core of the film they will always be comical. “The Interview” could be forgiven for its lack of ingenuity and strong plotline if only the jokes had actually been funny.

Ultimately, what we are given from this film is another half-hearted attempt from Hollywood to create a “comedy” film. The movie is predictable, generic, and lazy for a majority of the run time. The final third of the film just becomes down right silly and insulting to anyone that thought they were going to have a worthwhile movie-going experience. Something does have to be said for the chemistry between the two main leads; Rogen and Franco work so well together and each plays their roles with a particular ease and energy that has to be admired. At the end of it, though, that’s the only thing that the movie has going for it, and it just isn’t quite enough to save this movie from being a shipwreck.

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The Interview (2014) 1.5/4 stars

Mission Impossible Rogue Nation Review

Many of my good friends have probably heard me rant about my dislike for the endless, uninventive sequels to large box office successes that are released every summer. I still like to operate under the notion that sequels should be reserved for stories that have the potential to grow on a emotional level for the main characters and ones that can take the topics and themes of the original and expand on them in a way that is beneficial to the viewer of the film. Terminator 2, Aliens, and even How to Train Your Dragon 2 were all successful sequels in my opinion because they either presented new themes and dynamics but in a similar style to the original, or they took the already existing themes and expanded on them in an intellectual advancement. There are some sequels in this world that, quite frankly, we just don’t need. The Transformers series should’ve stopped after the massive disappointment that was the second entry. While it may be hard to imagine finding meaning and purpose in a world that doesn’t have five, yes five, Police Academy films, I think I might be able to soldier through if they had stopped after the second film. There seems to be this trend that as a series of films continues the more the films decrease in quality. While the Terminator and Shrek series gave us strong entries for the first two films, even they couldn’t bring successful or meaning stories for the third entries and beyond. Terminator Genysis, which came out earlier this year, was not only the worst Terminator film ever, but also one of the worst movies I have seen this year. It is nearly an impossible task, or mission let’s say, to create any relevant and entertaining films in the fourth entries of a series and beyond. It seems fitting then that Mission Impossible would be the one franchise to be the exception to this rule.

The first three Mission Impossible films were decent action adventures, with the third one being the best in my opinion. When the fourth entry, Ghost Protocol, was set to come out in 2011, it was needless to say that I was skeptical about how the film would stack up to the first three; I was convinced the series had reached its expiration date. Somehow, the fourth film superseded everything the first three films did and breathed new life into the franchise. When it was time for the fifth movie to be released, again I was skeptical, thinking that the fourth film was just a one off. Instead, this new entry, Rogue Nation, has managed to continue the quality of Ghost Protocol, and be the second best film in the series of Mission Impossible films. Granted, while this film is not as good as Ghost Protocol was, it still has all the enjoyable characteristics we have come to love of the Mission Impossible franchise, as well as creating its own original themes and ideas that allow it to stand separate from all the others. The action sequences are unique and as entertaining as ever, and the script isn’t torturous to listen to like the one from Jurassic World was. It may not stand out as a brilliant action film like Mad Max did earlier this year, but it is entertaining enough to be enjoyed for multiple viewings and reminds us that Tom Cruise, albeit now 53 years old, is still the king of action movies.

I still don’t like sequels, especially ones that are created for the sole purpose of making money. Film is a form of art and should be held to that high standard rather than the commercial standard too many production companies seem to be obsessed with nowadays. I still stand by notion that most film franchises reach their expiration date after the release of the second or third films; however, it is nice to know that there can still be an exception to this rule. I think it would be good for the Mission Impossible franchise to quit while they are ahead, but if they can continue to make worthwhile summer action films that aren’t incredibly painful to sit through, they by all means let them keep filming.

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Mission Impossible Rogue Nation (2015): 3/4 stars

Mr Holmes Review

Ever since Sir Arthur Conan Doyle brought us this internationally adored sleuth, there has been a standard of mystery thrills and excitement that have become expected of all adventures emanating from Baker Street. The novels, the series with Benedict Cumberbatch, and in some ways, the two films starring Robert Downey Jr. have been exhilarating thrill rides that use the ever-intelligent perception and quirky personality of the titular character as its primary building block. With Mr. Holmes, however, we have been given a tale that has swapped all of the excitement and kinetic energy of previous films about the exceptional detective, and instead has replaced it with something that has never been done before: an intense study into what the actual personality of Sherlock Holmes is like.

There is a mystery side story in this film, but it is just a pawn on the overall chess board that is the portrayal of the deteriorating mind of a once brilliant man coming to terms with the consequences of his previous endeavors. In this film we see Sherlock Holmes confront his inner demons and begin to realize that his past and present decisions had profound effects on those around him, all amidst the immense struggle of combatting his degrading memory. The Sherlock Holmes we are accustomed to seeing is efficient, intuitive, powerful, self-confident, and relentless in his pursuit of the truth through fact-based evidence. Sir Ian McKellen, on the other hand, gives us a masterfully unique performance in a way that only he could portray. His version of the character is fragile in both body and mind, reflective, humble in ways, and ignorant in others. He begins to realize that there are things in the world that can’t be perfectly explained by fact, and that it is impossible to grasp the concept of the human spirit and pure human emotion by simply examining the evidence on the surface. Thankfully, by the end of the film, we see a rejuvenated Mr. Holmes who, while still fragile in body and mind, is the most human and relatable form of the sleuth we have ever encountered. This is a feat that could only be achieved by McKellen’s subtle grace and pure dominance of the screen.

You shouldn’t go into this film expecting it to be similar to all of the other stories we have been gifted that revolve around the magnificent Sherlock Holmes. Albeit that this movie may be a tad slow, but I would gladly trade the Baker Street thrillers for more introspective reflection through this amazing character. We get a fresh, new twist on a classic and worn out figure that breathes new life into the character and opens up an entirely new world of questions that we can ask ourselves regarding this famed man. I like Sherlock Holmes when he is an infallible force of truth seeking intelligence, but I love this version of Holmes where we see him more as a person we can relate to, that has to not only deal with mortal issues like we do every day, but also has the challenge of understanding the invisible human element of life and consequences. He may have solved many great mysteries, but I think coming to terms with the idea that he may not be able to look at everything through a fact-based, logical lens is the most challenging mystery Sherlock Holmes has ever solved.

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Mr. Holmes (2015): 3.5/4 stars

Top Movies of the 2010s (So far….)

This was by far the hardest list for me to create because not only have we had a great decade in cinema so far, but it is also hard to judge the influence of films that are still babies in relation to the history of cinema.  After putting in the most work on any list I have posted, I have finally finished.  Here are my top movies from the first half of this current decade:

10.  Toy Story 3- As dark as you could possibly get for an animated Pixar film, this third installment in the near perfect trilogy shows us a different and more mature side to the classic Toy Story characters we all know and love, while pulling at our heartstrings in such a way that only Pixar knows how to do.

9.  Inception- One of the most original live action films we’ve seen in a while, this sci-fi action thriller is as a perfect example of what happens when you combine a perfect cast, a brilliant director, a wonder composer in Hans Zimmer, original storytelling and great editing/effects. No wonder this film was one of the great box office hits of 2010; it restored my faith in the concept that a film can be an intelligent, unique story as well as a commercial success.

8.  Django Unchained- While slightly ruined by the last 20 minutes of unnecessary violence that did nothing to enhance the film, Tarantino still manages to breathe new life into the Western genre by providing his own take on the Spaghetti Western. It also serves as a reminder of the brilliance of the combination of Waltz and Tarantino.

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7.  Fruitvale Station- One of the most under-appreciated films in my opinion, this short film (84 minutes) manages to accomplish so much in a short space of time. It allows us to grow so attached to a character that by the time it’s finished, it leaves you speechless. Celebrating the joys of life and second chances while condemning unnecessary violence, Fruitvale Station has perfect subtextual themes for this current decade.

6.  The Artist- In an age where technology has dwindled our attention span down to new lows, this silent, black and white film manages to recreate the magic of 1920s and 30s cinema in a way that is undeniably entertaining and enjoyable for all audiences of this century.

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5.  12 Years a Slave- The Schindler’s List of slavery, this Steve McQueen directed film beautifully yet gruesomely captures the hardships of slavery and the feelings of desperation felt during that time period. It is not an easy film to watch by any means, but in some year’s time, it may well be necessary viewing.

4.  Birdman- A brilliant directorial feat, this film is an exceptional showcase of what can happened when every aspect of filmmaking is done right and sets new ground for creativity in camera movements while accomplishing the seemingly impossible task of reviving Michael Keaton from cinematic limbo.

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3.  Short Term 12- As I wrote in my previous review on this site, Short Term 12 is essential cinema and so intimate in how relatable it is on an emotional level that it even gives Boyhood a run for its money. No movie has come as close to the emotional levels that Boyhood achieved than this film.

2.  The Social Network- Finding a movie that perfectly defines a generation in its themes, plot, and popularity is difficult, but with the Social Network, we may have just found that exact movie for this current generation of youth.  Jessie Eisenberg is a revelation as the Facebook pioneer and Fincher places his soon-to-be-classic fingerprints all over the film.

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Honorable Mentions: Hugo, Under the Skin, Beasts of the Southern Wild, American Hustle, Whiplash, The King’s Speech, Dallas Buyer’s Club, How to Train Your Dragon, Wolf of Wall Street, Gravity

1.  Boyhood- When I was making this list, there was no doubt in my mind that this film would be number one. Epic in its run time and the fact that it was filmed over 12 years, this film would still be able to stand on its own due to its immense emotional depth and realism. Boyhood manages to accomplish one of the quintessential goals of cinema: perfectly capture the definition of the human spirit.

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