Archive for the Based on a bestselling book Category

Scoring Horror: Interview with MARCO BELTRAMI (Part 1 of 2)

Posted in 2013, Apocalyptic Films, Barry Dejasu Columns, Based on a bestselling book, Film Scores, Movie Music, Music for Film, Scoring Horror, Soundtracks, Zombie Movies, Zombies with tags , , , , on July 2, 2013 by knifefighter

Scoring Horror Presents:
An Interview with MARCO BELTRAMI
By Barry Lee Dejasu
(Part 1 of 2)

If you’ve seen any of the following movies…

  • ·         SCREAM (1997)
  • ·         MIMIC (1998)
  • ·         SCREAM 2 (1998)
  • ·         THE FACULTY (1998)
  • ·         SCREAM 3 (2000)
  • ·         THE WATCHER (2000)
  • ·         DRACULA 2000 (2000)
  • ·         ANGEL EYES (2001)
  • ·         JOY RIDE (2001)
  • ·         RESIDENT EVIL (2002)
  • ·         BLADE II (2002)
  • ·         TERMINATOR 3: RISE OF THE MACHINES (2003)
  • ·         HELLBOY (2004)
  • ·         I, ROBOT (2004)
  • ·         FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX (2004)
  • ·         RED EYE (2005)
  • ·         LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD (2007)
  • ·         3:10 TO YUMA (2007)
  • ·         THE HURT LOCKER (2008)
  • ·         MAX PAYNE (2009)
  • ·         SOUL SURFER (2011)
  • ·         SCREAM 4 (2012)
  • ·         THE THING (2012)
  • ·         THE WOMAN IN BLACK (2012)
  • ·         THE THING (2012)
  • ·         TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE (2012)
  • ·         WARM BODIES (2013)
  • ·         A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD (2013)

…then you’ve also heard the music of Marco Beltrami.

Composer Marco Beltrami

Composer Marco Beltrami

To date, he has scored almost sixty films and a number of television shows, in just about every genre.  Mr. Beltrami is recognized not only by the sheer abundance of his résumé, however; he was nominated for two Academy Awards for Best Film Score for his respective work on 3:10 TO YUMA (2007) and THE HURT LOCKER (2008).

Earlier this year, he’d scored the “romantic zombedy” WARM BODIES (partnered with fellow composer/producer Buck Sanders), as well as the latest adventure of John McClane (Bruce Willis), A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD.  This fall, moviegoers will also hear Mr. Beltrami’s music in the CARRIE remake, as well as in the post-apocalyptic snowbound train thriller SNOWPIERCER.

At present, however, moviegoers will be thrilled with the double-assault of two big summer tent pole films featuring Mr. Beltrami’s work, WORLD WAR Z and THE WOLVERINE.  Mr. Beltrami was kind enough to carve some time out of his busy schedule for an interview about his music in these films.

***

Part One: WORLD WAR Z

 world-war-z-poster03

This is the story of the end of the world in the rise of a zombie apocalypse, and humankind’s attempts to end the threat.  A former UN investigator, Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt), is forced to leave his family to help in the war against the undead

BLD: This movie, as just about everybody knows, faced an unusually long and bumpy ride in its production.  When did you become involved?  And did you have to keep up with any of its final changes (including the filming of an entirely different ending)?

MT: I started a year ago, last October.  We had a movie to work from, to look at, to get ideas from.  They had some additional photography they were doing, and some reshoots and stuff, and during that period, I stopped working, because there was no picture to work on.

BLD: So during all the reshoots, did you have to just sit and wait, or did you try to keep working at the score on the side?

MB:  It’s a long time to be on a film, and plenty of times (I had) ideas as the footage came in.  It actually wasn’t that long of a time; I already had things fleshed out for some scenes, but in terms of getting things written, it was time consuming, and the picture was not really locked (because) even then things were changing.  So it turned out to be a short schedule for something that was a long process.

BLD: Was it hard to stay focused, or did you have a general plan that you stuck to?

MB:  No, I had ideas.  We had a really good music editor that guided us on it, John Finklea, and he really stayed in close with the editorial team and the producers and was able to get a good sense of what they were looking for.  There were different people involved, creatively, and anytime there’s more than one person involved, it becomes a little bit of a translation thing, to figure out what exactly is the common ground for everybody.  (John) was really instrumental in deciphering that and helping the process go smooth.

BLD: This film focuses largely upon one particular person (Brad Pitt) and his plights in the zombie uprising.  How did you approach that dynamic of individual empathy against the backdrop of worldwide horror and survival?

MB:  For me, the story was at once epic, but also intimate.  There’s a universal nature to a horrific thing that’s going on.  There’s also the very personal nature of this guy, Brad Pitt’s character, trying to save his family.  The interesting thing is where these (plots) intersect, because thematically, I think the same themes can play for both, because every man’s journey is the journey of mankind.  Sometimes it became a question of instrumentation and orchestration.  There’s a thematic continuity between the epicness and the intimacy.

Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) and his wife (Mireille Enos) struggle to protect their family in WORLD WAR Z.

Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) and his wife (Mireille Enos) struggle to protect their family in WORLD WAR Z.

BLD: Did you incorporate, or even create, any unusual instruments for the score?

MB:  The original thought of the score was that it would (follow) the first scene in Philadelphia, when all hell breaks loose and things are going bad (and it) cuts to this  emergency tone.  It always did, from the first time I saw the picture.  When Buck (Sanders, composer) and I first looked at it, we thought it’d be really cool to use that emergency broadcast signal as a musical start, or like a motive, from which everything else could be derived.  So we began to research what was involved in that, and it turns out that the pitches were something that can be used melodically as well, so that became a basis for much of the music.

The other thing that we thought would be neat, rhythmically, was the nature of zombies using their teeth, so we needed something that related to that.  It turns out that there’s a… (laughs) Actually, Tommy Lee Jones told me about this; I remember I was talking to him, and he told me that in Texas they have these wild pigs called javalinas which actually communicate with their teeth.  So I did a little bit of research, and so that became a pretty important part.  I figured it might be neat to have all the rhythmic parts derived from these jawbones, or these teeth gnashing together; so when we recorded in London, that was something I focused on.

The skulls used in the score.

The skulls used in the score.

BLD: Sometimes a film falls into one particular genre, but the composer approaches it with a different angle.  (For instance, Christopher Young scored the original HELLRAISER as a twisted romance).  How did you approach WORLD WAR Z?

MB:  From these melodic and rhythmic approaches, everything else could be derived.  At heart it’s very simple.  One of the challenges on it was that there was this idea of the intimate versus the epic.  There was the thought that, on one hand, the score should be a biblical, sweeping score, and on the other hand, it’s something much smaller, where you hear the rosin on the bow kind of thing, to give it that urgency and immediacy, and aggressiveness.

So this was the first time I had ever done this, but I actually recorded the score two different ways, in two different studios, one at Abbey Road, which was a bigger group, and simultaneously we also recorded at a smaller place called British Grove, and there we were able to experiment a little bit more with the sounds, and the more aggressive sound of the orchestra.  The sound engineer, John Kurlander, was then able to mix all the elements together, and take advantage of both the smaller and the bigger scores and mix them together in a neat way.  So that was, at least for me, a greater approach, this idea for the score.

WORLD WAR Z is in theaters everywhere now.

(END OF PART 1)

© Copyright 2013 by Barry Lee Dejasu

Me and Lil’ Stevie Peek UNDER THE DOME – Episode 1

Posted in 2013, Based on a bestselling book, Me and Lil' Stevie, Peter Dudar Reviews, Stephen King Movies, TV Miniseries with tags , , , , , , , on June 27, 2013 by knifefighter

Me and Lil’ Stevie

Peek

UNDER THE DOME

(CBS Summer Series, Episode 1)

UNDER THE DOME

(Exterior/Day.  Establishing shot of some farmland off a rural highway on the outskirts of Chester’s Mill, Maine.  There are cows out in yonder pasture, doing cow stuff and not paying any attention to the propane trucks that keep entering the town and driving off into some secret location.  We hear the sound of a single engine prop plane somewhere in the sky above, flitting in and out of the clouds.  Camera pans across the pasture when suddenly, WHOOMF, a huge transparent dome gets dropped out of the sky, cutting off virtually everything inside Chester’s Mill from the outside world.  One of the cows that was standing under the perimeter of the dome gets severed completely in half in an amazing CGI bifurcation.  A figure nearby turns to look at the recently deceased bovine, and we see that it is a man holding a ventriloquist dummy in the form of Master of Horror, Stephen King.)

Lil’ Stevie:  Holy cow!

Peter:  More like “Halfie Cow!”  Good evening, Constant Viewer, and welcome to our Me and Lil’ Stevie bonus Miniseries Spotlight.  We’re examining the s premiere episode of UNDER THE DOME…brought to you by CBS.  Of course, we’re not going to get this in depth with every single episode, but we do want to bring you the best coverage possible of this summer’s biggest television event.

Lil’ Stevie:  Of course, this series is based on my 2009 novel of the same name, with the teleplay by Brian K. Vaughan (who produced the series LOST, 2009) and directed by Jack Bender (CHILD’S PLAY 3, 1991).  I even stuck around as an EXECUTIVE PRODUCER.

(Peter pushes his arm forward, planting Lil’ Stevie’s face against the side of THE DOME.)

Peter:  What’s that?  I can’t hear you when you’re talking into that weird force-field wall.

Lil’ Stevie:  Mmmff.  MMMMffff!

Peter:  (Pulling Lil’ Stevie back) The REAL Stephen King did have a hand in producing the project from novel to small screen, and has even gone on to confess that Chester’s Mill is heavily influenced by Bridgton, Maine.  But we’re here simply to recap tonight’s events and help readers decide whether they should invest the time in watching all thirteen episodes or not.  So let’s get started.

Lil’ Stevie:  Fine!

Peter:  The series begins with a stranger driving out into the woods to bury a dead body.  Dale “Barbie” Barbara (Mike Vogel, CLOVERFIELD, 2008) is seen tossing the body into the ground and covering it, and then making a very secretive phone call as he tries to high-tail it out of town.  He…

Lil’ Stevie:  No, no, no…this is ALL WRONG already!  In my book, he’s trying to flee town after being bullied at the greasy spoon he works at as a short-order cook.  He takes an ass-kicking out in the parking lot, and…

Peter:  (starts pushing Lil’ Stevie toward the side of THE DOME again.)  Do you mind?

Lil’ Stevie:  (Grimacing) I’ll be good!

Peter:  Anyway, we’re also introduced to other various occupants of this small Maine Town.  Sheriff Howard “Duke” Perkins (Jeff Fahey, GRINDHOUSE, 2007), Town Selectman and car dealer “Big Jim” Rennie (Dean Norris, TOTAL RECALL, 1990, and also best known right now for being one of the stars of the excellent AMC TV series BREAKING BAD), new editor of the Independent, Julia Shumway (Rachelle Lefevre, THE CALLER, 2011), and “Big Jim’s” psycho son, Junior (Alexander Koch, THE GHOSTS, 2011).

Lil’ Stevie:  Don’t forget about “Scarecrow Joe” McClatchey and Angie McCain, and…

Peter:  All right, here’s the thing:  Way back when we reviewed STORM OF THE CENTURY, I noted that this was going to be a problem.  This novel is one of King’s widest-scoped projects to date, in terms of cast and plot lines.  In fact, if you open the 1,000+ page novel, right at the beginning you’ll find an annotated list of primary and supporting characters…three pages worth.  Now, I read the book back when it came out, and I’m already stumped outside of the primary players we’ve already listed as to who does what in the story.  It’s ginormous.  Hence the 13 episode series.  And even so, I’m betting at least a dozen names get bumped right out of the story in transition from novel to teleplay.  Hell, King even lists “Dogs of Note” in his character list.  That should tell you something right away.

Lil’ Stevie:  So I got carried away…

Peter:  (Shaking head.)  Anyway, to make this ginormous story short, the dome is dropped just as Barbie is about to leave.  He has a minor accident seconds before THE DOME impacts, and he takes out a fence on the McClatchey farm.  Young Joe sees the accident and runs out to help, and then just like it says above, WHOOOMF, THE DOME drops.  The cow is split in half.  And then the single-engine prop plane collides with it, and then dead birds start dropping out of the sky.

Lil’ Stevie:  Meanwhile, in town, it feels like an earthquake is happening.  The ground shakes, car alarms begin going off, the church bells ring out in vibration, etc.  “Duke” and “Big Jim” rush to the scene of the airplane crash and immediately take over in delegating authority.  Only, nobody really understands exactly what happened.

Peter:  Precisely.  And during this calamity, cub editor Julia Shumway gets tipped off about the strange number of propane trucks showing up in town.  She goes to investigate into what is obviously being foreshadowed as “Big Jim’s” big secret (and it’s obvious “Duke” is looking the other way in terms of what’s going down in this little town).  And meanwhile, there’s the little problem with “Junior” Rennie.

Lil’ Stevie:  Another case of “liberal scripting!”  In my book, Junior suffers brain-tumor headaches, which literally drive him crazy.  He kills Angie right off the bat, right in her kitchen, and then revisits her dead body over and over again…

Peter:  Not here in TV Land, Kimo Sabe.  Junior does knock her out in her kitchen, but she wakes up in the bomb shelter “Big Jim” has built outside his own home.  By the end of tonight’s episode, Angie has become a hostage in what is obviously a neat little cliffhanger.  And the same goes for “Duke’s” heart attack.

Lil’ Stevie:  There are a lot of other changes as well.  The storyline of Julia Shumway’s husband getting bumped off (remember the guy Barbie buries at the beginning?).  And who the hell are these radio personalities?  In my book, the only radio station is the one playing Christian broadcasting.

Peter:  Well, we knew going into this that parts of the story were going to be changed around…particularly the ending.  But for now, let’s sum this up and get to bed.  Overall, most of the characters and plot devices in this story have been done before.  Sometimes better, sometimes not so much.  Barbie instantly reminds me of Stu Redman from THE STAND.  “Big Jim” reminds me of Robbie Beals from STORM OF THE CENTURY (and quite frankly, Norris never captures the power-mad bully as King envisions him in his novel).  Chester’s Mill is another small Maine town where the people are all middle to lower class and have their dirty little secrets.  But to be fair, the acting has been rock-solid and nitpicking all these little discrepancies is kind of fun.  The special effects seem to be above average for television, and overall, I can honestly say I did enjoy the first installment.  Then again, I’m a rabid King fan, so I suppose I’m kind of biased.

Lil’ Stevie:  That’s right, boy!  Bow to my awesome power of storytelling.  I command you!

(Peter takes Lil’ Stevie off his arm and throws him at THE DOME.  There’s a faint buzzing sound as Lil’ Stevie’s body begins to convulse and smoke).

Peter:  What we’re trying to say is, “We’ll be tuning in next week for episode 2 to see where things are going.”  We think you should, too.

(Lil’ Stevie drops to the ground, panting and gasping for breath.)

Lil’ Stevie:  It’s like “Big Jim” keeps saying…”We’re all in this together!”

The End

© Copyright 2013 by Peter N. Dudar

(UNDER THE DOME will be airing throughout the summer on Mondays at 10pm EST, on CBS)

UndertheDome_FirstEpisodeTag

WORLD WAR Z (2013)

Posted in 2013, Apocalyptic Films, Based on a bestselling book, Cinema Knife Fights, Disease!, Horror, Medical Experiments!, The Future, Thrillers, Zombie Movies, Zombies with tags , , , , , , on June 24, 2013 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: WORLD WAR Z (2013)
By L.L. Soares and Michael Arruda

WorldWarZ-Poster

(THE SCENE: An airplane on a transatlantic flight. L.L. SOARES and MICHAEL ARRUDA are in their seats. A FLIGHT ATTENDANT approaches them)

FLIGHT ATTENDANT: Would you gentlemen like something to drink?

LS: A flagon of ale would do nicely.

MA: A “flagon of ale?” What is this, the Middle Ages? You’ve been watching too much GAME OF THRONES.

LS: Don’t worry about it. Just tell her what you want.

MA: Hmm.  I’ve never had a “flagon” of anything.  Make that two, please.

(FLIGHT ATTENDANT walks away)

LS: Welcome, everyone, to a new installment of Cinema Knife Fight. This time, we’re reviewing the new Brad Pitt movie, WORLD WAR Z. It’s based on the bestselling novel by Max Brooks and is yet another movie about a zombie apocalypse.

MA:  I detect an edge in your voice.  Tired of zombie apocalypses?

LS: Hell, yeah. Aren’t you?

MA:  Not really.  I’ve been enjoying the recent explosion of zombiemania.

LS:  Well, I haven’t, and when I first heard about this one, I immediately thought, not more end-of-the-world-with-zombies nonsense. There was a time when I used to say that George Romero’s first three “Dead” films were my favorite movie trilogy, but there have been so many zombie movies in the last decade—and most of them have been pretty bad—that I’m just tired . I’m really getting sick of this subgenre.

MA: I’m not as sick of it as you are.

LS: Good for you.

In WORLD WAR Z, Pitt plays Gerry Lane, a former United Nations envoy, who spent time in several war-torn regions before retiring to spend more time with his family, which includes his wife Karin (Mereille Enos, best known as Sarah Linden on the AMC series THE KILLING) and their daughters Constance (Sterling Jerins) and Rachel (Abigail Hargrove). As the movie begins, they wake up to begin a typical day, but something goes wrong when they’re in the family car later that morning, caught in traffic outside of Philadelphia. Something strange is happening.

There is a sudden rash of attacks as seemingly normal people become violently aggressive and begin to bite other people. This is first suspected to be a rabies epidemic, but it’s clearly something even worse. When someone is bit, it takes only 12 seconds for them to start flopping around on the ground, having convulsions, and then turning into an undead zombie. And the disease, whatever it is, is spreading fast.

MA:  I enjoyed this plot point.  I liked the idea of the dead people turning into zombies so quickly.  That being said, I don’t think the movie used this to any great effect. 

LS:  The Lane family finds themselves in the middle of it all, and try to stay alive, eventually getting helicoptered off of the roof of an apartment complex and taken to an aircraft carrier in the middle of the Atlantic. There, Gerry’s former boss, Theirry Umutoni (Fana Mokoena) tries to convince him to help them find out what is happening and why. Gerry is reluctant and doesn’t want to leave his family, but then it’s made clear to him that if he doesn’t help them, he and his family will not be given shelter on the ship.

Gerry goes with a group of Navy Seals and a gifted young doctor to South Korea to follow a lead pointing to a possible “patient zero.” Meanwhile, the zombie population continues to multiply at an alarming rate, threatening to overtake the earth.

Gerry’s travels will take him to Korea, Jerusalem and Cardiff, Wales before he can get any answers and even begin to confront the vile disease that is running rampant.

I have to admit, I wasn’t looking forward to this one. As I said, I’m really sick of zombie movies, and the last one we saw this year, WARM BODIES, wasn’t much of a treat.

MA:  No, that one wasn’t.

(The seat in front of them shakes violently).

MA:  Hey, take it easy up there, will you? 

LS:  What’s his problem?

MA:  No idea.  (Strange grunting is heard)  Maybe he didn’t like his peanuts.  Anyway, you were saying?

LS:  WORLD WAR Z also was getting the reputation of being troubled project, from hiring several writers to polish the script, to going over budget. But I know from experience that this kind of “trouble” does not mean a movie is going to be bad. Both APOCALYPSE NOW (1979) and JOHN CARTER (2012) had bad publicity before they were released, with people complaining about “troubles” during their makings, and both are great flicks.

MA:  Well, APOCALYPSE NOW is, anyway.

LS:  But still, watching this one, it was much better than I was expecting.

MA:  Yeah, I had a lot of fun watching this one.  It actually sold out right after I bought my ticket.  I hadn’t been in a packed sold out theater in a long time.  Of course, the reason it sold out was because unlike the recent blockbuster releases like IRON MAN 3 and MAN OF STEEL, it wasn’t playing on a zillion screens in the multiplex!  It was only one two screens, one in 2D and one in 3D.  I saw it in 2D.  I bet the 3D version didn’t sell out.

Still, a sold-out show is impressive, and the audience was buzzing with lots of energy.

LS:  I actually saw it the first night it came out, which was Thursday for some odd reason. Summer movies have been coming out at odd times this year—THIS IS THE END had a similar early release—and I had just come out of seeing MAN OF STEEL when I realized WORLD WAR Z was playing that night as well, so I bought a ticket. It wasn’t sold-out, mostly because I don’t think a lot of people knew it was opening early, but there were plenty of people there. And I didn’t even know there was a 3D version of this one!

Anyway, back to the review. First off, Brad Pitt is pretty good here. It’s not one of his best roles, like Jackie Cogan in KILLING THEM SOFTLY (2012) or Tyler Durden in FIGHT CLUB (1999)—Gerry Lane is more passive than either of those characters—but he can definitely carry a movie.

MA:  I agree.  Pitt is very good here. 

And he’d better carry this movie because he’s the only character in the film with ample screen time.  But the bottom line is he does carry the movie quite nicely, as he’s enjoyable to watch.  That being said, there are a number of other characters in this film who I also liked and wish that they had been developed more.

LS:  Yeah, you’re right, there are several underdeveloped characters here. But overall, the whole cast is pretty good. I’m starting to like Mareille Enos a lot, for example. She’s excellent in the series THE KILLING, and while the role of Karin Lane was more of your standard “significant other in peril” type of thing, I’m just happy to see her getting more opportunities to be in bigger films. I thought she was an interesting choice for Pitt’s wife, since she seems more “real” than the usual supermodel type.

MA:  Yes, I liked Enos, too.  I liked Daniella Kertesz even better.  She plays the Israeli soldier Segen who accompanies Pitt’s Gerry Lane for most of his adventure, and loses her hand in the process. 

LS: Kertesz is a standout here. Once her character gets in the thick of things with Pitt, she really shines. She might have been my favorite character in the movie. I want to see more of her.

MA: David Morse enjoys a brief bit as an ex-CIA agent who gives Lane some valuable information, and Fana Mokoena does a nice job as Pitt’s former boss Thierry Umutoni. 

I also enjoyed the entire group of scientists at the World Health Organization.  As I said, there were a number of characters that I would have enjoyed seeing developed more, but that’s not where this one goes.  It’s all about Brad Pitt and the zombies.

LS:  And director Marc Forster —whose resume includes everything from MONSTER’S BALL (2001), THE KITE RUNNER (2007) and the James Bond movie QUANTUM OF SOLACE (2008)—does a good job of focusing on key scenes that build a strong sense of suspense.

MA:  I really enjoyed Forster’s work on the James Bond movie QUANTUM OF SOLACE.  It was one of the most efficient and fast-paced Bond movies ever, in a series famous for overlong over the top action scenes.  I thought he did just as good a job here with WORLD WAR Z.

There are some key scenes of suspense, especially early on in the movie.  I especially liked the sequence at the beginning on the crowded streets of Philadelphia when Pitt and his family first encounter the zombie threat.  The scenes near the end of the film at the World Health Organization were also very suspenseful.

LS: There’s also that great scene with Pitt and Kertesz trapped on a plane full of zombies! Don’t forget that one.

MA: But better than the suspense, I thought Forster made this one very cinematic.  Pitt’s character travels all over the world, and there’s great use of these locations, or at least it looks that way. I’m sure there’s a lot of CGI involved, as I don’t think they filmed in South Korea or Israel.  But the point is, the film looks good, and there’s a grand sweeping cinematic feel to it.  Most of the time, heavy CGI use looks fake, but I got the sense in this one that I was actually at these places all across the world.

LS:  But the most important question is, no doubt, what about the zombies?

MA:  I don’t think that’s the most important question.  I mean, I love THE WALKING DEAD, but it’s not just because of the zombies.  It’s because of characters.

LS: I agree. But at the same time, it’s the zombies that first grab people and pull them into the theaters. They want to see the zombies in action.

wwz_banner

(FLIGHT ATTENDANT comes over and hands them two flagons of ale, then goes to the next passenger in front of them)

FLIGHT ATTENDANT: And what would you like to drink, sir.

(PASSENGER STARTS GRUNTING LOUDLY)

FLIGHT ATTENDANT: Oh my God, he bit me! (RUNS down the length of the aisle)

MA: Uh oh, that’s not good.

LS: Excuse me a moment (drinks some ale). What were you saying?

MA: I was saying that it’s bad news when the passengers start biting.

LS: Yes, that certainly is bad.

(Seat in front of them starts shaking violently)

MA (bangs on the back of the seat in front of him):  Hey!  Want to keep it down?  We’re trying to review a movie here!

LS: Rude bastard.

(HIDEOUS ZOMBIE leaps up from seat in front of them and growls at them menacingly.  LS pulls a gun from underneath his seat and shoots the zombie in the head.)

MA:  Nice going, although you really don’t want to be shooting off a gun on a plane.

LS:  Why not?  They explode a grenade on a plane in the movie.

MA: Yeah, that wasn’t one of the more realistic moments in the film.  So what did you think of the zombies in this movie?

LS: Well, it’s a PG-13 movie, so I wasn’t expecting much, but I was pleasantly surprised.

MA:  Really?   I wasn’t.  But continue.

LS:  Some of the zombies are actually kind of cool. The effects, which I am assuming are a mix of makeup and CGI, looking convincing and visually keep your interest. And these zombies are really fast and love to tackle and bite people, which is how they reproduce. At first, I thought they were just contaminated people, but it eventually is made clear that yes, these people are the reanimated dead, and they are incredibly dangerous. It seems though that only people bitten by the zombies are transformed in death. People who die in other ways don’t come back.

They also move in very fast-moving packs. In a scene in Jerusalem, for example, hundreds of angry zombies climb up on top of each other rapidly, like crazed ants, to reach the top of a high stone wall and get over it, to the people inside. These creatures move like a swarm of giant insects, which was just different enough from what we’re used to to make them interesting.

MA:  Yes, I agree about the swarming.  That was different.  But I wasn’t impressed with the zombies here at all, and I actually thought they were the weakest part of the movie.  I like the zombies in THE WALKING DEAD much better, and the zombie kills in that show are much more graphic and squirm-inducing than anything seen in WORLD WAR Z.  To me, if you’re a fan of zombies, you might be disappointed with this one.

LS: I don’t know, when the zombies slow down a bit and are more individuals, they’re kinda scary. I thought the zombies in the World Health Organization complex were pretty cool. The way they look, and their weird movements and sounds. I didn’t think they were bad at all.

Look, it’s PG-13, so they don’t show any gore. For the most part, the zombie killings are pretty bloodless. While I understand the rating is meant to attract a bigger audience (i.e., more money!), I think it was a dumb move. More explicit zombie attacks mean more scares, and more effective zombies. I’m not saying the zombies in WORLD WAR Z are perfect, but they’re better than I expected for wimpified, PG-13 zombies. Hell, if THE WALKING DEAD was a movie instead of a TV show, I bet it would get an R rating for violence. So right off the bat, WORLD WAR Z has a disadvantage. We knew it wasn’t going to be gory or scary enough. That said, the zombies are pretty good here.

WORLD WAR Z is not a home run, but it’s much better than it has any right to be. I give it three knives. And I’m sure, if I was still a zombie fan, I would rate it even higher.

MA:  I disagree.  I think zombie fans might like this one less, because the bar has been set so high recently with THE WALKING DEAD

LS: Look, anyone coming into this movie expecting something as good as THE WALKING DEAD is going to be disappointed. THE WALKING DEAD is like the gold standard for zombie stories right now.

MA: That being said, I liked WORLD WAR Z a lot, and I had a lot of fun watching it, but that’s because it told a convincing story, was helmed by a talented director, and had an enjoyable cast led by Brad Pitt.  But in terms of actual zombies, I just didn’t think they were all that memorable.  They didn’t come close to the zombies in THE WALKING DEAD or any of the Romero movies. They simply weren’t scary enough.  I don’t think I was scared once by a zombie in this movie, and that’s not a good thing.

But there was plenty about this movie I liked, starting with Brad Pitt.  He really is a terrific actor, and it’s rare for me not to enjoy him in a movie.  Here, as United Nations agent Gerry Lane, he comes off as a man devoted to his family, driven by the desire to keep them safe, yet he also easily makes the switch to effective envoy, as he puts his considerable talents to use to do his job and get to the bottom of the zombie pandemic.  Lane’s investigation into finding the origins of the zombie problem, which makes up the bulk of the movie, held my interest throughout.

As we already said, the supporting cast is terrific, as is the direction by Marc Forster, and the screenplay by Matthew Michael Carnahan, Drew Goddard, and Damon Lindelof tells a compelling story from start to finish.  While I wasn’t a fan of the actual zombies in this one, I enjoyed the story a lot.

The guy behind me didn’t share my sentiments, however.   As soon as it ended, he shouted out, “That was stupid!”  I didn’t find it stupid.  I found it an enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours. 

Sure, I would have preferred it to have been scarier, because it’s not scary at all, which is weird when you think about it.  It’s a zombie movie, for crying out loud!  Why isn’t it scary?  But it is suspenseful and engaging. 

LS: Yes, it’s much more suspenseful than scary. But for what it is, it works.

MA: I also give it three knives.

(Things get suddenly very quiet. LS and MA stop talking and look up, to see they are surrounded by hungry zombies clacking their teeth)

LS: Uh oh.

MA: Looks like we’re suddenly on the menu.  (to zombies)  Could I interest any of you in flagon of ale? (holds out flagon)

(Zombies grunt and shake their heads).

MA: Now, what?

(LS lifts a baseball bat and hands MA a hammer)

MA:  What are these for?

LS:  To bash in some zombie brains, of course!

MA:  Things are going to get mighty messy. 

(LS & MA attack zombies, as BATMAN-like signs are superimposed on the screen with the words, SPLAT!, THWRPP!, GURGLE! CRUNCH! and RIP!)

—END—

© Copyright 2013 by L.L. Soares and Michael Arruda

Michael Arruda gives WORLD WAR Z ~ three knives!

LL Soares gives WORLD WAR Z ~three knives, as well!

 

 World-War-Z-poster

THE LIFE OF PI (2012)

Posted in 2013, 3-D, Adult Fairy Tales, Animals Attack, Art Movies, Based on a bestselling book, Bill's Bizarre Bijou, CGI, Fantasy, International Cast, Man vs. Nature, Visually Stunning Films, William Carl Articles with tags , , , , , on January 11, 2013 by knifefighter

LIFE OF PI (2012)
Movie Review by William D. Carl

lifeofpi_poster

Ang Lee’s film version of Yann Martel’s best-selling novel, Life of Pi, is nothing short of miraculous.  The director who introduced most Americans to the beauty and grace of martial arts films in CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON (2000) and took on gay cowboys in BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN (2005) has achieved a nearly impossible task in filming Martel’s masterpiece.  The novel is a gorgeous rumination on storytelling, truth, God, and our place within God’s universe,  hidden within the guise of an adventure novel.  Lee has managed to film this adventure story without losing any of the beauty or depth of Martel’s musings.  It’s a tricky move, and it could be Ang Lee’s best film.

A young writer visits a middle-aged Indian man, Pi (Irrfan Khan of SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, 2005 and  THE AMAZING SPIDER MAN, 2012), after hearing he has a story that will make him ‘believe in God.’  Pi fixes him dinner, walks with him, and relates his tale…the story of how he came to Canada and how he became the man he is today.

Piscine (pronounced pissing) Patel (played by newcomer Suraj Sharma) changed his name at an early age to Pi, for obvious reasons.  Growing up in India within his father’s zoo, he communes with the animals while learning about God.  Throughout his youth, he becomes a Hindu, a Christian, and a Muslim, never understanding how the various religions contradict each other; he only sees the ways they work in conjunction.  Through this process, his idea of God becomes very real and very different from most people’s concept of a higher being.  He falls in love with a young dancer at the same time his father decides to move the family to Canada.  They will transport the animals from the zoo on a steamer ship and sell them to start a new life.

Pi and "Richard Parker" circle one another in LIFE OF PI.

Pi and “Richard Parker” circle one another in LIFE OF PI.

During the crossing, a horrific storm destroys the ship, killing everyone and leaving Pi alone on a 26 foot lifeboat with a crippled zebra, an orangutan, and a 400 pound Bengal Tiger named Richard Parker (the same name as a cannibalized character in Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Case of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, “who survived a shipwreck only to be eaten by the men on a raft).  Richard Parker makes short work of the other animals and turns his hungry eyes upon our hero, Pi.  Most of the film involves the grudging respect each of these characters form for each other, with a brief detour on a deadly carnivorous island in the shape of the Lying Vishnu, the Destroyer.  Pi  raves against God, accepts the world as it is, becomes disappointed, marvels at the world’s wonders (including a stunning scene where a whale breaches above his boat after chasing bioluminescent plankton), and eventually survives the ordeal (obviously, since he is relating it to the writer.)

The ship sinks.

The ship sinks.

But here’s where everything gets truly interesting.  How much of Pi’s story is true and how much is created in his brain?  Does the truth make it a better story, or is the story good on its own terms?  These are questions not easily answered, and the ending is challenging, especially to modern viewers who like everything spelled out for them in twenty foot letters.  But it retains the amorphous truth of the novel beautifully, and we are left to form our own opinions about truth and the beauty of a story.

Speaking of beauty, LIFE OF PI is the most beautiful film I have seen since THE LAST EMPEROR (1987).   Every single frame sparkles as if encrusted with jewels.  The colors are so vibrant, they create a 3D effect, and the depth of vision in the 3D version is astonishing.  This isn’t used for shock effect, but for a clear depth of vision that really puts you into a life boat on that sea that seems to stretch out forever.  The cinematography by Claudio Miranda (CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON, 2008 and TRON: LEGACY, 2010) is never short of dazzling.  In India, the world appears as though a memory, an impossibly beautiful world.  The carnivorous island is a relief after so much ocean, but the danger is always there beneath the surface.  In the scenes where Pi  speaks with the writer, the photography is flat, normal, dull, reinforcing the theme of storytelling as an art, as an act of beauty and creation.

A whale dives overhead.

A whale dives overhead.

As for the much-discussed special effects, they are certainly special in every way.  At no point does the viewer wonder if Richard Parker or the other animals are CGI.  They are as real as Pi himself.  Every hair, every nostril flare, every drop of water is so real as to be hyper-realistic.  It’s an amazing feat, and I believe it will win the Oscar for special effects.  Rarely do special effects blend so realistically into the rest of the film as to become unnoticeable.

Another beautiful image from LIFE OF PI.

Another beautiful image from LIFE OF PI.

LIFE OF PI can be a heady brew for some with all of its references to various religions, deities, works of literature etc.  It is also a grand adventure in the old fashioned Robert Louis Stevenson vein, suspenseful and often terrifying.  How Ang Lee intertwines these two facets of the story make for one of the most brilliant and astonishing films of the year.  It’s a nearly perfect jewel of a movie.

© Copyright 2013 by William D. Carl