World War Z (2013)


Be Prepared for Anything.  Our War Has Just Begun.

World War Z (2013)I feel a little awkward going into this review.  I indeed saw this movie, and I even saw it in theaters, but as I go to write the review, I feel like I don’t remember the movie at all.  It hasn’t even been that long!  I saw this movie a week ago!  I don’t know if that’s a sign that this movie is bad, or that drugs are bad.  Mmmkay?  Either way, it’s a big movie, and one that I was excited to see because of the subject matter, so it deserves a review, as best I can muster one.  Let’s see if I can jog my memory as I review World War Z, based on the novel by Max Brooks, written by Matthew Michael Carnahan, Drew Goddard, and Damon Lindelof, directed by Marc Forster, and starring Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, Fana Mokoena, Daniella Kertesz, James Badge Dale, David Morse, Ludi Boeken, Matthew Fox, Peter Capaldi, Pierfrancesco Favino, Ruth Negga, Moritz Bleibtreu, Abigail Hargrove, Sterling Jerins, and Fabrizio Zacharee Guidoas.

While sitting in traffic, former UN employee Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) and his family – wife Karin (Mireille Enos), and daughters Rachel (Abigail Hargrove) and Constance (Sterling Jerins) – are witnesses as mayhem breaks out all around them.  Radio reports suspect a massive rabies outbreak, but it looks a lot more like zombies.  And an extremely fast-acting strain of zombification that turns people into zombies 12 seconds after being bitten.  Gerry manages to get his family to the safety of a naval landing craft, but in exchange he must return to his former post and find the cause of the infection in hopes of finding a cure.

From what I have deduced from my notes and my limited memory, I enjoyed this movie very much.  I also didn’t have the same problems that I heard from many people that disliked this movie because I have never, and would never, read the book this was based on.  Or any other book for that matter.  But most of the anger I heard about this movie was based around the fact that they didn’t stick very closely to the book, but I would have no idea about that.  Judging this movie on its own merit, I enjoyed it.  I did feel like the name was a little mediocre, and that it also was probably the result of someone’s sloppy hand-writing when they were writing a movie about World War 2.  But then I appreciated that they didn’t waste much time getting into the movie.  They get started with the zombies right away.  The virus doesn’t waste any time either.  It takes about 10 seconds for it to work.  That keeps the action moving, but I did think that it hindered a staple of the zombie movie.  There could be no real suspense built in scenes where the audience knows someone’s been infected but the other characters do not, or when someone really close to one of the characters is turning zombie right in front of them.  Zombie movies love to do that!  But in this movie, all you have to do is wait 10 seconds and if they haven’t turned, they aren’t going to.  It’s a minor gripe, and I did like the scene Gerry thought he might be infected so he prepared himself to jump off the roof of the building if he thought he was turning.  Downright noble of him.  I also thought this movie showed for the first time how easy it could be to survive a zombie apocalypse with things like battleships at our disposal.  Especially since it only takes 10 seconds for someone to turn.  There’d be no chance that zombies could make it onto one of these ships, allowing us to be safe on them for a very long time.

I would say there were a couple of parts to the story I took issue with, and almost all of them require ::SPOILER ALERT::  The first one was when the scientist that accompanied Gerry died.  The savior of humanity is really gonna die by slipping and shooting himself with his own gun?  I know he probably had minimal military training at best, but come on.  That’s a little goofy.  And then I took issue with the part where all of Jerusalem falls.  They all died because some people in the city had the rhythm in them?  They started singing and dancing for no reason, which attracted the attention of the zombies and caused the entire city to die.  And people wonder why I refuse to dance.  From now on I’ll be able to say, “Because of the zombies.”  And how about the doctor in the WHO (World Health Organization) facility that turns because he’s looking through a microscope and reaches for the infected blood while not looking?  I’ve seen that episode of Scrubs and I know that kind of thing can happen with infected blood, but shouldn’t you be a bit more careful?  And how is there not a doctor in the WHO facility that refers to himself as Doctor WHO? Also, how does that facility not have some ability to set off alarms remotely so that they can draw the infected away from where they need to go?  I also thought it was interesting that they overcome the problem by infecting people, because the infected wanted a clean host for their own virus.  It especially made me happy because my Hepatitis C would save me from the zombie apocalypse.  ::END SPOILERS::

I dug all the performances in the movie.  I love Brad Pitt.  He’s one of those people that I want to hate because they’re so handsome and women love them so much that I wish they weren’t also great actors, but he is.  I would say that his lady, Mireille Enos, was not believable.  I guess her performance was, but I don’t see someone that looks like Brad Pitt going for a chick that’s just cute at best.  He pulls Angelina tail!  I also took issues with her, and all of them were based around her cell phone.  I wanted to thank the movie for showing the world the arduous process of entering a contact into a cell phone.  It’s something no one in the world has any familiarity with, so I’m glad they spent so much time showing it.  And then this bitch almost gets Brad killed, and DOES get some nice military guys killed, because she had to try to call him multiple times.  He said he’d call you, bitch!  As good as I thought Brad did in the movie, I found myself less interested in him and more interested in Daniella Kertesz, the bald Israeli lady.  I liked her.  She was badass and hot.  And she was missing a hand, and that’s my biggest fetish.

One could say that I’d have to call World War Z completely forgettable because of the empirical evidence I have from personally forgetting most of the movie shortly after watching it.  But as I started writing the review I realized that everything I could force myself to remember was enjoyable.  The story was good and kept me interested all the way through, even with the few small quibbles I had with some parts of the story.  And the performances caused no complaints.  I’m perfectly comfortable recommending that you see this movie while it’s still in theaters.  World War Z gets “Mother Nature knows how to disguise her weakness as strength” out of “That’s not stupidity or weakness; that’s just human nature.”

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Contact (1997)


If It Is Just Us, Seems Like an Awful Waste of Space.

When I was looking through my DVD collection to pick out my favorite science fiction movie, I found it fairly difficult.  I had already done a lot of the bigger and more popular movies in the science fiction genre, such as Star Wars, Star Trek, and Back to the Future.  But then I saw this movie and decided, “Okay, so people are probably going to piss all over this being my favorite science fiction movie, but I’m gonna do it anyway.”  But look here, people.  This movie has space travel and aliens in it.  That definitely makes it a science fiction movie.  And it’s based on a book written by Carl Sagan.  So fuck your faces.  This movie is Contact, based on a novel by Carl Sagan, written by James V. Hart and Michael Goldenberg, directed by Robert Zemeckis, and starring Jodie Foster, Matthew McConaughey, John Hurt, Tom Skerritt, James Woods, William Fichtner, David Morse, Jena Malone, Angela Bassett, Jake Busey, and Rob Lowe.

Dr. Eleanor “Ellie” Arroway (Jodie Foster as older Ellie, Jena Malone as younger Ellie) is a promising scientist that spends all of her time working on the SETI project (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence); having been inspired to do so by her late father (David Morse).  She works for a while at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico until Government scientist David Drumlin (Tom Skerritt) pulls the funding because he believes she’s wasting her talents.  Ellie is undeterred and takes her team, including her blind friend Kent Clark (William Fichtner), to find other funding, leaving behind the guy she met that she was getting too involved with, Palmer Joss (Matthew McConaughey).  After months of searching, she finally finds funding in the eccentric billionaire S. R. Hadden (John Hurt), giving her the ability to use the Very Large Array in Socorro County, New Mexico.  Years later, Drumlin pokes his head in again to screw things up for her.  On their last day with the array, Ellie finds a signal coming from the star Vega of repeating prime numbers.  The government gets involved, bringing Drumlin and National Security Advisor Michael Kitz (James Woods) into the picture.  On further analysis, they find that there are plans in the signal to build a transport device, but who will be the one to go?

I really like this movie.  Yes, it’s arguably not the most sci-fi movie ever, but it still definitely counts in my opinion.  It’s got a whole bunch of science in the movie, and it never happened so it’s also fiction.  Add in the travel through space and time and a brief appearance by aliens and I say it totally counts.  Deep down, I feel that I like this movie so much because of its religious undertones.  Or overtones, in some parts.  Personally, I believe in God, but I’m also big into science.  I’d equate myself with the Palmer Joss character.  I have my religious beliefs, but I don’t usually argue with people about theirs and I consider myself more fond of the search for truth.  This movie doesn’t take a strong stance in either the direction of belief or science, it more takes a stance that the over the top crazies in both directions are the jerk faces.  Jake Busey’s character, for instance, is a big jerkface.  But, on the other side, Ellie could kind of be a jerkface as well.  It’s a fairly accurate characterization from many atheists I’ve met that they seem to think they’re so superior to those stupid people that believe in a big man in the sky.  When Ellie and Palmer were in bed talking about it and she started saying things like, “Did you ever think that might not have been God,” he tolerated it.  I would’ve said, “Look, I didn’t criticize you for all your ‘I love stars and little green men’ bullshit!”  I liked it when later in the movie she says that she’d need proof to believe in God and he comes back with, “Did you love your father?  Prove it.”  Booyah, bitch!  I did feel bad for Ellie when she didn’t get taken on the transport at first because she doesn’t believe in God, but it also made sense.  If they’re supposed to be sending someone to represent Earth and 95% of Earth believes in a god of some sort, then they probably shouldn’t send someone that thinks the other 95% is stupid.  At the end of the movie, it all gets thrown back in her face in a really cool way, when no one believes what she’s saying about the transport because she has no proof and all her Occam’s Razor stuff is thrown back in her face, it’s very satisfying.  And just as satisfying that all the people who don’t believe her are basically criticizing something she believes, even though that’s what got her kept off the transport in the first place.  They don’t point it out, but the audience is well aware of what’s going on.  The movie doesn’t answer any questions when it comes to religion, but it doesn’t really try to.  It just poses a lot of questions that I found really thought-provoking and made me appreciate the movie.  The rest of the story was also very good to me.  I liked the science in the movie and it all seemed very sound as far as I could tell.  The drama aspects of the movie also succeeded with me.  The part of young Ellie calling into the Ham radio to try to talk to her recently deceased father broke my heart.  And you feel pretty shitty for Ellie in the other parts of the movie, especially when Drumlin keeps getting control and credit for her historic find.

The look of the movie holds up pretty damned well.  It’s not that old of a movie, but the graphics are mostly sound in the movie.  The opening of the movie was both a cool idea and a really good look.  They started out looking at Earth, listening to radio transmissions.  Then they backed up through the galaxy, playing older and older transmissions until silence.  They also put Bill Clinton into a bunch of scenes.  Adding his face to the scenes was convincing, but it obviously dates the movie a little bit.  The older and older this movie gets, the more likely it will be that people wouldn’t know who that was supposed to be.  Also, the graphics of travelling through the wormhole were really cool looking.

I really liked all of the performances in this movie.  For the most part, they stuck to some really good actors, so it wasn’t really a shock.  I think the world knows that Jodie Foster is a good actress, or at least was twice when she got her two Academy Awards.  But she was very good in this movie as well.  Foster is really believable and cute in her role, being able to convey her character’s excitement when she talks about the stars and the planets, and it’s very endearing.  This movie is probably the only occasion that I can think of that I was not annoyed by Matthew McConaughey.  His character in this movie was the one I identified with the most, and he did a good job doing the acting that was required.  The best example for me was the part where he had to ask the question that he knew would get Ellie disqualified.  The conflict is very evident on his face.  John Hurt was another character I liked.  He was definitely eccentric, and I liked the fact that he always seemed to know more than he was letting on.  Tom Skerritt was a very unlikeable character throughout the movie, but he did a good job at it.  He was always trying to steal Ellie’s thunder, but he did get me to start warming up to him near the end, which made what happen slightly after more effective.

All things being equal, the simplest answer is that this movie is really good.  The slightly more complicated answer is that I really liked the story, the look, and the bulk of the performances in the movie and it made for an interesting and thought-provoking movie.  I really recommend the movie, even though the inevitable outcome is the bulk of you saying that I can’t consider it a science fiction movie, let alone my favorite one.  Well to hell with you too.  Contact gets “I think it’s worth a human life” out of “You could call me a man of the cloth, without the cloth.”

Congratulations goes to Loni, who won the long battle to try and figure out this controversial choice for my favorite non-reviewed science fiction movie.  And more congratulations goes to her for being wise enough to say it was a good movie.  To hell with the rest of you!

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook (Robert T. Bicket) and Twitter (iSizzle).  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

The Hurt Locker (2008)


This Box is Full of Stuff That Almost Killed Me

Today’s movie had a lot of buzz going for it when it came out. I remember hearing about it, but never wanting to see it. I saw it as an action/drama set in the middle of a war and there was something about bombs in it, and I decided “I don’t really wanna see that.” I like a good action movie, but the combination of it being a drama and it being a drama set in a realistic, present day war situation made me think it would take a lot out of me to watch it. I’ve seen enough war movies to know that I am too much of a coward … I mean pacifist … to want to go there and do that, so why would I want to watch a movie about it? Well it came time for me to do it anyway, and so here is your review of The Hurt Locker, written by Mark Boal, directed by Kathryn Bigelow, and starring Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty, Guy Pearce, Christopher Sayegh, Ralph Fiennes, Christian Camargo, David Morse, and Evangeline Lilly.

In the beginning, Staff Sergeant Thompson (Guy Pearce) is out to disarm an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) with his teammates, Sergeant Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and Specialist Eldrich (Brian Geraghty). Someone in the area with a cell phone sets it off and kills Thompson. Shortly after, Thompson is replaced by Sergeant First Class James (Jeremy Renner). The rest of the movie follows these three through various situations that test their abilities and their patience. Sanborn and Eldrich don’t get along with James’ eccentric and renegade ways through each of them. They have to disarm a bomb in the trunk of a car next to the UN and James decides he would rather work with his radio and bombsuit removed, they detonate some explosives in a remote desert and Sanborn talks with Eldrich about “accidentally” setting off the explosion as James goes to get his gloves from the kill zone, they find the body of a boy that James had befriended on the base filled with explosives, and other situations as we count down the days until their tour of duty is over.

This is a pretty awesome movie, but not quite perfect. It has great action, fantastic tension, superb performances, but the story gives me a little bit of difficulty. The movie is mostly about disarming bombs, which is usually a really slow, but super tense situation, and the movie captures that brilliantly. I was captivated by the movie practically all the way through. I would say the pinnacle of the tension was the scene where they had a super realistic sniper battle after meeting Ralph Fiennes and his crew of mercenaries. The building was really far away and none of the trained snipers were still alive and they kept missing because of the range of the enemies and things kept going wrong like the bullets jamming because the sniper’s blood was in the clip and other enemies were creeping up behind them, but it was really tense and enthralling. It ended on a bit of a low note, but it was still really good. It was also filmed really well, and this was best illustrated in the very beginning when Guy Pearce dies. It exploded, causing the dirt to pop up off the ground and the rust was shaken off of a nearby car. It was really cool to look at. The problem I had with it was that it never really explained to us how Guy Pearce actually met his end. He was running away from the explosion in a bomb suit and blood exploded onto the visor of his helmet. Not being a bomb expert (as I’m sure most viewers aren’t), I wondered what it was that killed him, but never found out. Was it the shockwave that killed him? Shrapnel from the explosion? I have no idea. It didn’t take me out of the movie, but I feel like they should have dumbed it down a bit for the non-veteran audience. The real problem I had with the story was that it practically didn’t exist. It was just following around three guys going to various, somewhat unrelated situations and resolving them as best they could. There was never any story arc or resolution. It was kind of about how people get addicted to war, and they showed that at the very end when Renner returns to his wife and kid for a short time, but then returns to the service for another year of service. It feels like a bit of easy writing because you just put the same three guys into real-life dangerous situations, but you instantly get the emotional response from American audiences because we all love our troops and watching things that they actually have to deal with while we’re relatively comfortable and safe over here gets our attention. But you didn’t have to write this, so it seems a bit lazy without some kind of story arc. It didn’t actually occur to me until right after the movie though, so obviously it wasn’t that big of an issue because the things they did right overcame the lazy writing. One other thing that occurred to me as strange in the writing was what happened with Christopher Sayegh’s character “Beckham”. He was a little boy that Renner had befriended at the base and then later they find him dead and packed with explosives. This is deeply troubling to Renner in the movie, but what is deeply troubling to me is that it later turns out that this was some other random boy and Beckham was still alive. Not only does this strike me as kind of “all these people look the same” racist, but it takes away that scene’s emotional impact for the audience and for no good reason. Why not just leave it as that boy and we would all still be bummed about it? Instead Beckham just comes back later and we think “Oh, sucks for that other boy, but at least the one we knew was still alive. But James might be kind of racist, right?” I mean I couldn’t tell that it wasn’t him that was dead, but I acknowledge my racism!

The performances in this movie are fantastic all the way through. Renner was unrealistically a maverick in the field – which is something that they would not tolerate in the actual Army – but his performance was great. He kept his cool relatively well in tense situations, but really showed what he could do when reacting to finding Beckham’s dead body. And, though the movie shat on that later, his performance remains fantastic. Anthony Mackie also gave a great performance. He was the more realistic character in the group, trying to follow the proper protocols when Renner was doing his own thing. The problem I had with his character is the part where he was discussing killing Renner. I don’t know if that stuff goes down in the real Army, but I’m sure it’s not doing good things for their recruiting numbers. I like to think of my Army as the guys that are practically a family and leave no man behind, not the guys that may cause the guy to get left behind because he’s kind of a dick. Brian Geraghty is also very good, but I felt like his character was a little melodramatic at times and depressing. After Guy Pearce died in the beginning, he just kept talking about death nonstop. I understand it being a devastating thing to go through, but it’s not helping you get home to just be waiting to die yourself. He did have a lot more of the emotional performances in the movie because of it though. Ralph Fiennes and Guy Pearce were really good in the movie as well, but they go by so quickly, even though they’re the biggest names in the movie.

Finally watched it and very glad I did, The Hurt Locker combines great visuals, great tension, and great performances to make a pretty amazing movie. The only thing that struck me as off in the movie is the lack of any cohesive story to tie the awesome situations together. But this is still definitely a movie worth watching. I never felt like the real life drama took anything out of me, but it was super entertaining and demands your attention. You can find it on Netflix, but I’ll probably be purchasing it soon. The Hurt Locker gets “There’s enough bang in there to blow us all to Jesus” out of “”Support your troops, and whatnot.”

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