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World War Z

World War Z

(2013)
7 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes

I originally had low expectations for this movie (even as a huge fan of
the Walking Dead, I'm feeling "zombie-fatigued"). But the idea that
zombies are both fast and "swarm" (like ants crawling on top of each
other) to climb a huge wall is a unique twist that could make this
movie fun to watch (written May 2013).

And it ended up being a blast. It introduced an original story-line to
the zombie-apocalypse genre. First, an origin to why the zombie plague
started. Second, the potential for a cure? And lastly, Brad Pitt as the
best dad/survivalist ever. If I had to pick my team to battle the
zombie apocalypse, I'd want Brad on my team, no matter that he is 20
times more handsome than me. (written July 2013)

Afternote: If you saw the movie, don't read the book. In this rare
case, the book falls short of the movie. The book is told in
"documentary-style" based on memos etc. that recall the events "after"
World War Z. The movie tells it in real-time which is how it should be
experienced.

White House Down

White House Down

(2013)
9 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes

17 years ago "Independence Day" put Will Smith and Roland Emmerich on the map. Will Smith became the summer blockbuster hero while Emmerich became the guy who made popcorn flicks where he got to destroy stuff (most of Washington DC, national monuments, New York City, the world and more).

This summer both Smith and Emmerich had big movies ... "After Earth" and "White House Down." Both of these movies had really stupid titles but Roland delivered the goods while Will got sucked into the M Night Shamalayan's sinkhole (box office results notwithstanding).

White House Down is a blatant rip off of Die Hard, but it tweaks the premise just enough to make it different enough and wildly entertaining. Channing Tatum doesn't try to be Bruce Willis (even if he eventually gets in the same bloodied tank top) but combines his witty "21 Jump Street" humor with his "GI Joe" bad-ass-ness. The addition of Jamie Foxx as the "Obama" president and, no joke, side-kick to Tatum, adds for some great comedic moments.

Most of Emmerich's films are entertaining. Even Godzilla, his worst movie, is a mostly fun ride. But he seems to have matured to a point that all of his typical formulaic elements are made more cohesive. This formula typically goes: 1) character introduction, 2) action/destroy things, 3) quieter character development, 4) action and then an episodic cycle of 3 and 4 until the ultimate sappy happy-ending climax. The formula is there but it's better integrated and faster-moving. And he's found a way to reduce the sappiness.

It helps to have the talents of Jamie Foxx, Channing Tatum, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Six Feet Under's Richard Jenkins who all put in great performances.

If you wanted "24" to be a movie, this is it. They definitely borrow 24's "the terrorist in the end is not the terrorist in the beginning" twists and turns.

You will be entertained.

This Is the End

This Is the End

(2013)
10 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes

"This is the End" is a laugh riot. Has Seth Rogen ever been in a bad movie? His lowest rated movie per RottenTomatoes is "The Watch" (16%), but I thought that was a pretty funny and entertaining movie. I think "The Green Hornet" is the limpest of the bunch. If you are offended by that adjective, you definitely should NOT watch this movie as there are more male body/sex/potty jokes than I've seen in any other movie in my lifetime (and I am old enough to remember Porky's).

At face value, it seems like it would be pretty hard to screw this movie up with Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride, Michael Cera and a dozen others playing themselves during the "Apocalypse." Even Rihanna and Harry Potter's Emma-freaking-Watson have extended cameos. There is one cameo that is so absurd and crazy that it would be a major spoiler to reveal it.

Speaking of spoiler alerts, you'd think that the cause of the Apocalypse wouldn't be revealed, but that hasn't been the case with one reviewer mentioning that it as a literal interpretation of the Bible's Book of Revelations. You're at least 45 minutes into the movie before they reveal what is really happening (unless you are, or were, raised Catholic. Then you get it pretty early on).

Yeah, it's also a riff on the egocentricity of Hollywood celebrities, but who really cares unless you are an avid reader of TMZ or Perez Hilton. The real brilliance is in the dialogue, a ton of which has to be ad-lib/improv. There are so many jokes in this movie told in the context of the story it would fill a TV comedy series for multiple seasons.

This is a two-hour comedy movie. Do they make any comedy movie that long? I just hope it has a "Lord of the Rings" style Extended Edition on DVD.

Man of Steel

Man of Steel

(2013)
10 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes

I had low expectations going into "Man of Steel" given the mediocre reviews (57% on RottenTomatoes) and Zack Snyder's track record that started to look a bit like M. Night Shyamalan's. After his break-out debut with the "Dawn of the Dead" re-make and followed by the eye-popping "300," he started to stumble with the mind-bending "The Watchmen," a cartoon movie about owls, and the disposable "Sucker Punch." But I was hopeful given the guiding hand of producer/screenwriter Christopher Nolan and screenwriter David S. Goyer.

Man of Steel was a pleasant surprise that was vigorous and entertaining.

Russell Crowe nearly resurrects his Gladiator greatness as Kal-El's/Clark's/Superman's reserved but badass father on Krypton. The deeper dive into the chapter of Krypton's demise is absolutely captivating with the addition of a ton of science fiction elements.

Instead of re-treading Superman's back-story on earth which has been covered abundantly already, the use of flashbacks between the adult and young Clark works really well. Henry Cavill as Superman does a decent job switching from brooding to giddy to serious, although when he's not in his suit his sculpted body looks totally unreal. Amy Adams as Lois Lane plays the part of a strong female lead well while putting the character, as always, in completely ridiculous situations requiring the classic save by Superman.

Michael Shannon from HBO's "Boardwalk Empire" is solid as the maniacal and ethnocentric General Zod.

Unfortunately, the movie falls into tedium and redundancy during the "smash-things" climax where Superman and Zod (and his minions) do 20-times more smashing and destruction than all of "The Hulk" movies combined. The Avengers smash-things climax was even longer (I think) but 20-times more entertaining because they smashed things in very different ways. There is a limit to how many times you can watch invincible beings get hurled through buildings.

Ultimately, even these flaws can't diminish a well-crafted reboot of the oldest super hero of all time. Zack Snyder may have just got his mojo back.

Vanishing On 7th Street

Vanishing On 7th Street

(2010)
10 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes

I guess we now know where the so-so-but-still-entertaining 2011 movie "Into the Darkness" got it's premise: Brad Anderson's obscure "Vanishing on 7th Street." Anderson's other endeavors "The Machinist" (Hey, Christine Bale can get really skinny!), Session 9 (yes, abandoned mental health institutions are very creepy!) and TransSiberian (don't trust the suave Spanish guy or the Russians!) are all pretty good. And the premise of this flick is also decent. BUT ... SPOILER ALERT, and, CAVEAT! If you haven't seen the movie, watch it before you read my review. And if you have never seen the classic "Ghost" or don't know what "The Rapture" is, you'll probably really enjoy this flick. If this applies to you, go here for a good review: http://www.fearnet.com/news/review/tiff-2010-review-vanishing-7th-street

The premise starts out promising. Nearly everybody disappears at one point leaving just their clothes behind. The "survivors" need to stay in the light which continues to dwindle as the movie progresses (batteries don't last that long, "daytime" gets shorter and shorter).

Then, it get's very derivative. The ominous shadows which constantly encroach the antagonists sometimes appear as human figures. Anderson clearly saw the classic movie "Ghost," and the "shadow-monsters" have the same look-and-feel and ominous groans as "Ghost's" shadow-monsters had as they dragged the bad guys to hell. Then Thandie Newton's character starts praying and the shadow monsters retreat. People disappear and leave their clothes behind and that doesn't ring a "religious" bell? If you don't remember "The Rapture," it was an evangelistic (and absurd) belief that God will whisk the virtuous to heaven wherever they may be while leaving the rest of the planet to rot in hell. Well, I guess most of the planet is virtuous given that the majority of people get "beamed up" leaving their clothes behind, and a handful of folks are left to fight off the shadow-monsters. And if you are still unconvinced, why was the only survivor a kid who curled up in a church and the only other person left was a little girl (the new "Adam and Eve" to populate the planet). And they road off into the sunset, I mean, "shadows," together.

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