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World War Z (2013)

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Despite feeling all too much like a video game and suffering from a lack of ferocity that has made the zombie sub-genre what it is today. “World War Z” is able to, for the majority, overcome its unbalanced nature and numerous setbacks to deliver heart-racing thrills, surprisingly tense sequences, and another masterful, yet effortless performance from Brad Pitt in this piece of blockbuster eye-candy that ultimately works. While those, like myself, looking for a faithful adaptation of the source material will predictably be disappointed. “World War Z” should accomplish what it set out to achieve with its family friendly rating, high-profile names like the aforementioned Brad Pitt and Max Brooks, in addition to a big-budget which is, appeasing die-hard zombie enthusiasts and appealing to the summer crowd without alienating one or the other. Although there is little structure to speak of and that the film itself is practically void of an ending, “World War Z” thrives.

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Gerry Lane (Pitt) is a former United Nations employee living in Philadelphia. As him and his family sit in traffic, reports of a rabies outbreak has spread. Soon, Gerry and his family are overrun in chaos and destruction as a pack of these infected humans begin destroying the city and infecting others. Managing to escape with the help of an old colleague, Gerry is thrust back into action and must assist a young virologist in creating a vaccine. Gerry is reluctant, but must proceed in order to secure the safety of his family. Some time after, the infected beings are aptly titled zombies, seeing as they crave flesh and are no longer living. Gerry must seek the help of various nations and shady characters in order to find a cure.

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Regardless of how successful “World War Z” performs at the box office or is critically received. In the end, one can’t shake the feeling that a supreme opportunity was wasted here. The film is undeniably fun to watch and offers enough fresh material to rise above the typical summer dribble. Nonetheless, an adaption of Max Brooks best-selling novel should have provided more of what makes the zombie sub-genre so compelling. Brooks consistently tackles this version of an apocalyptic plague with brains just as much as brawn and sadly, this adaptation of his innovative best seller really doesn’t offer an abundance of either. That being said, what “World War Z” utterly lacks in ingenuity, it more than makes up for with undead that are almost super-human, cool CGI, and a fluid story that feels like a video game based on mission-objectives.

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From the get-go, “World War Z” plants its foundation firmly in intellect and implies that it will further dissect and depict the scientific and physical aspects of this world-wide plague. However, this set-up tails off significantly into rumours, acts of god, and a series of foreseeable cliches. Although it isn’t enough to completely disparage the film, it is rather distracting and really undermines the intelligence of the viewer. The fact that the final draft of the film was edited and reshot significantly, enough to push back its release six months really is discouraging. Yet, considering all the notions that the film was slapped together and salvaged by numerous writers with varying inputs. “World War Z” contains the right amount of visceral characters, breathtaking action, and a plethora of undead beings to triumph.

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In all honesty, the number of supremely talented writers it took to adapt “World War Z” is astounding. Each one is talented, as well as experienced and their track records aren’t filled with lacklustre efforts either. With the likes of Drew Goddard (The Cabin in the Woods), Damon Lindelof (Star Trek Into Darkness, Prometheus), J. Michael Straczynski (Thor), and Matthew Michael Carnahan (State of Play), tackling “World War Z” shouldn’t have been the hassle it turned out to be. Nevertheless, while it may have taken more collaborates than needed, the job got done, with a bit of flare I might add. Director Marc Foster, who prior to “World War Z’s” release was still honing his craft and searching for his masterpiece, in my opinion anyway, directs another slightly above average piece, but is still yet to find his true muse. While there is some impressive camera work and Foster undoubtedly knows what he is doing behind the lens, I feel he is yet to realize his full potential.

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As for “World War Z’s” cast, which features Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, James Badge Dale, and Daniella Kertesz. It’s easy to see how one can argue that their performances are what really saved the film instead of its extensive rewrites. As always, Brad Pitt brings his usual subtle dynamism and visceral style, while continuing to build a sterling reputation. James Badge Dale is still one of the most underrated and underused actors in the industry and his performance in “World War Z” just adds fuel to the fire. Daniella Kertesz does a phenomenal job supporting Pitt and seems to have caught everyone off guard. However, while Kertesz gives an outstanding portrayal, I feel that Mireille Enos really stole the show. She easily provides the most honest and terrified take on surviving the end of the world, especially fearing for her children. Everything about her performance is truly believable and endearing.

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Although “World War Z” is missing a vibrancy that results in achromatic visuals. Its fast-moving, large-scale battles with the undead and vast destruction of man-made creations save its colourlessness. The direction and storyline, while missing individualism is passable with some good sequences sprinkled here and there. “World War Z’s” performances are seemingly the only consistency throughout the film and while this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, for a film with so much potential and original criteria to compare it to, its hard to get excited over typical cinematic qualities. All in all, “World War Z” succeeds and even though on the surface it’s rock solid, underneath its superficial traits, there is gooey inconsistencies and not much merit. So, take it for what it is, an enjoyable, brainless blockbuster that’s easy on the eyes and tons of fun.

World War Z: 7 out of 10.

Shame (2011)

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If you have any inquiries regarding your sexual orientation or if you think you masturbate too frequently, this film will answer all your questions. Of course I am kidding, to an extent. Shame is an uncensored look at sexual addiction and the strain it places on social interactions, careers, and personal and formal relationships. Shame stars the always incredible Michael Fassbender (Fish Tank), Carey Mulligan (Drive), and James Badge Dale (The Departed). Shame is directed by the emerging rock behind the camera Steve McQueen (Hunger), who has one of the most highly anticipated films of 2013, Twelve Years A Slave.

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Brandon (Fassbender), is a New York office worker in his thirties. On the outside, Brandon appears to be any ordinary New Yorker, social, formal, and active. It is these very qualities that allow Brandon to carry out his sexual needs and desires in a consistent and secretive manner. However, when Brandon’s sister Sissy (Mulligan) arrives unexpected and begins to live with him, Brandon’s sexual addiction starts to become unveiled. After a night out with David (Dale) to watch Sissy perform, boundaries are crossed and Brandon and Sissy’s personal lives begin to disintegrate.

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If you plan on watching Shame with family or on a first date, I would reconsider. If you feel uncomfortable viewing nudity or sex in private or public, this film is not for you. After seeing this film at the Toronto International Film Festival, I would urge you to reconsider however. Set aside your morals and pride for a couple of hours and watch this film. This unflinching look at sexual addiction is the first film of its kind. Fassbender goes all out, literally and figuratively with no restrain. This is Fassbender’s most invested role since Hunger, also directed by McQueen. Fassbender and McQueen are the future Scorsese and DiCaprio. Carey Mulligan’s portrayal of a wild, unforgiving, depressed sibling was one of the best supporting actress performances of 2011. McQueen, who has been relentless since directing his first full length feature Hunger, sheds a necessary light on film censorship and the need for less of it. There is no hiding behind the curtain of appropriateness in this film. The world is a harsh environment and McQueen displays it beautifully.

Shame: 8.5 out of 10.