Last weekend saw me attempt to plow through the September DVD releases of movies I didn’t have the chance to see when they were in theaters. World War Z was first on my list. I munched through an entire box of chocolates as I enjoyed this first installment of my movie bender weekend, while I watched people munch through other people in this surprisingly decent zombie apocalypse flick. Following that treat came the horror that was The Bling Ring. The three course meal was rounded off with the flaccid This Is The End. If this collection of movies was a Big Mac, World War Z would have been the tasty, slightly addictive secret sauce, The Bling Ring would have been the gherkin that people who aren’t weirdos pick off their burger with distaste, and This Is The End would be the limp shred of lettuce that they throw on to mislead you into thinking the Big Mac is somewhat good for you.*
World War Z
In this fast-paced action adventure horror we meet Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt), a former United Nations investigator with a seriously high clearance. He has apparently been retired for a while when we’re introduced to him and his family, which consists of his capable wife (she’ll scream like a banshee when you attack her but she’ll be kicking you in the face while she’s doing it, I liked her straight away) and two young daughters. Within the first dozen minutes the mayhem begins as an infection breaks out around them while they sit in morning traffic on their way to school.
I enjoyed this almost immediate launch into the action. There was very little build up and no apparent warning that their day was about to go tits up. Despite the quickstart, I felt the ominous atmosphere, the tension in the air and eventually the fear of the hysterical and panicking mob. In this short time when the proverbial starts to hit the fan we begin to get a feel for the kind of man Gerry Lane is. He’s a caring, loving father, obviously, but he’s also highly resourceful, clever and determined to ensure his families’ safety. I don’t think it would be possible for me to dislike this character, and I felt Brad Pitt did a good job in helping me come to this conclusion.
This is not your typical zombie movie fare. Having survived the mayhem that heralds the end of humanity and succeeding in getting his family to safety, Lane is sent out on a mission to investigate the origins of the disease. The film then takes on a slightly disjointed feel, and afterward I learned that the entire final third of World War Z had been rewritten and re-filmed post-production. I haven’t read the book so I can’t compare, but apparently the ending differs greatly.
World War Z is not without its problems, and I can understand some of the issues that my fellow film bloggers have outlined. I did absolutely enjoy it though, despite the predictability in parts, and if you can manage to suspend your belief to a certain degree I think most people would find it an enjoyable, capable and original take on the zombie horror genre.
(I also found it hilarious that Matthew Fox only had two lines).
IMDB Rating: 7.1
Do I Agree?: Affirmative.
The Bling Ring
This would not be my type of movie at all. I didn’t think there’d be any snappy dialog, or that it would be clever or at all original, I knew there’d be no car chases or gun fights, invading aliens, rampaging mutants or zombie hordes. I have little to no interest in celebrity or fashion culture and I didn’t even know this was based on true events until I pressed play. Why would I watch it? I’m pretty sure it was because of all of the Copolla names attached. That, and I like Emma Watson. And shoes, there were lots of shoes. Mostly giant size eleven Paris Hilton monster shoes, but still, they were sparkly.
To sum up how I felt throughout the entirety of this film with one word it would have to be uncomfortable. Watching those kids enter those houses uninvited and rifle through the female residents’ clothing felt sinister, it was an invasion, and I found myself inexplicably crossing my legs at regular intervals. If it was the director’s intention to ensure the viewer felt completely disassociated with these relatively unrelatable characters and this premise, then she most certainly succeeded.
And it really is easy to hate these children. And you have to remember, they are just children. Vacuous, spoiled, narcissistic, materialistic, troubled children. After I did some research on the real, original Bling Ring I found that the delinquents in the film are actually portrayed as being younger than their real life counterparts, and when you couple this with the obvious youthful obsessions with social media, celebrity and the desire to acquire “stuff” it makes sense, and it’s a message the production manages to get across loud and clear.
I’ve since read quite a few reviews and the common consensus seems to be that it wasn’t exciting enough, that the robberies were boring. I’m going to break it to you, breaking and entering and robbing someone’s house isn’t glamorous. The things you might be taking could be, but the process is not. Their MO was simple. They’d simply walk up to the gaff of a celebrity, knowing that said celebrity had advertised their absence via social media and just tried all of the doors. They were unlocked. What are you expecting? A group of teenagers dressed in black catsuits and armed with grappling hooks and glass cutters? Please. If you want Hollywood-style heists with decent acting and no pesky teens watch The Score or Ocean’s Eleven.
Not to mention the fact that many reviewers’ issues seem to be more with the underage drinking and casual drug abuse. Underage clubbing < residential theft of three million dollars. Get your priorities straight. This film was about abhorring a particular lifestyle, not sneaking into clubs with fake IDs. Hey, I did that plenty when I was a teenager, and I turned out okay, never robbed anyone. I still do it, although now I’m too old rather than too young. LOL.
Anyway, rant over. Yes The Bling Ring could have been interesting (it wasn’t) and yes it could have been these young actors’ time to shine (they didn’t). Watson did a solid job I suppose and Leslie Mann as her flaky, “The Secret” spouting mother was a good choice. All of that aside, it was wholly unremarkable, with the exception of the fact that Paris Hilton actually allowed them to film the robbery reenactments in her real home. Nuts.
IMDB Rating: 5.8
Do I Agree?: No, this was worse than mediocre. On a good day I might give it a 3. I haven’t decided if this is a good day yet.
This Is The End
When I first saw the trailer for this in the cinema I audibly groaned. These types of meta movies normally do not appeal to me, as I find them a contrived self-service to the egos of the actors, even if I actually like said actors. Having been a fan of Rogen & Co. since Freaks & Geeks I did feel as though I should give it a shot, and with enjoyable comedies like Superbad and Knocked Up under their belts it deserved a couple of hours of my time.
I was happy to be wrong about one thing. They weren’t exactly playing themselves, they were playing exaggerated, extreme versions of themselves, with certain unattractive traits of their characters being brought to the fore and laid bare for the entertainment of the audience. I was pleased with this aspect of the movie, and I was impressed to find out that much of the film was improvised. The Milkyway scenes in particular were hilarious, and without wanting to give too much away, there are a few sequences that follow which prove that the cast really are friends in real life, and as such feel comfortable enough to do and say quite unbelievable things to and with each other.
Unfortunately that is pretty much where my praise for This Is The End, well, ends. The majority of the film is spent with the gang holed up in Franco’s mega-house, while outside the rapture/apocalypse reigns. I understand the budget constraints they were under, but as a result of the limiting setting at times I felt quite bored, and with a wait of about twenty minutes in between jokes I found myself wishing for them all to go outside and just die.
Things eventually get moving (after lots of rape jokes), but at that stage they’d lost my undivided attention. I can appreciate what they were trying to achieve with this, but it just falls short in my opinion. It would have made a great comic but for me, This Is The End just didn’t work on the big screen. There were a couple of stand out, lulzy performances; Jonah Hill and Craig Robinson proving to be the most likely to coax an amused smile from me. The end sequence drew a genuine laugh out loud moment though, admittedly for nostalgic reasons (if you’re my age or older you’ll definitely appreciate it).
IMDB Rating: 7.1
Do I Agree?: Hells no. I’ll give it a 5 purely for the last five minutes and fact that I got to see Rihanna die.
*Apologies for the excessive food analogies, I was very hungry when I wrote this.