World War Z

Paramount Pictures

The Weekend Watch is an open thread where you can share what you’ve recently watched, offer suggestions on movies and TV shows we should check out (or warnings about stuff to avoid) and discover queue-filling goodies from other FSR readers. The comments section awaits. I’ll get the ball rolling with the movies/TV my eyeballs took in this weekend.

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Brad Pitt 12 Years a Slave

After the first Sunday of March, movie star Brad Pitt might be an Academy Award winner — not for his acting, but for his role as producer. His production company, Plan B, has been deployed since 2006 as a platform for making films (many that star or co-star Pitt, and a few that don’t) largely outside of the franchise and sequel mentality that a name brand like Pitt would otherwise be subject to. Pitt is hardly the first example of an actor who exchanges celebrity capital for some industrial and artistic autonomy – examples of powerful actors who have used the capacity of producer to buck the studio system go as far back as Humphrey Bogart – but Plan B is unique particularly because it’s been utilized as a means for Pitt to rather self-consciously define himself against any conventional understanding of his movie star image. Rather than use the production arm as a means for gritty, challenging, Hollywood-unfriendly lead roles (as Bogart did with In a Lonely Place), Pitt is casting himself conspicuously on the margins of his own work, often in supporting roles that have in common characters who somehow omnisciently perceive a bigger picture than what’s available to the foregrounded characters around him. These are characters that exist inside and outside the narratives of their films simultaneously.

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2013review_action

I’ve always been far more partial to action accomplished via choreography than with CGI shenanigans. There’s a place for both, obviously, but I’m more impressed by the agile movement of bodies than I am by the placement of pixels. Unfortunately, fight scenes unassisted by CGI or wire-work are becoming a bit of a rarity these days. That said, there’s still plenty of fun to be had with action scenes, big or small, that are created with the aid of technology or that eschew fisticuffs all together for exciting gunplay or vehicular hijinks. This year’s best action films are a mix of all of the above and include both domestic and international movies. What’s not included? Movies featuring superheroes. It wasn’t an intentional slight, believe me, but when it came time to rank which films offered up the most legitimately exciting and visceral thrills the thirteen below beat out the likes of Iron Man 3, Man of Steel, and others. Remember, this isn’t a ranking of movies but of the action in the movies, meaning while these aren’t all necessarily great films they do represent the best action to have hit screens this year. To that end, keep reading for a look at our choices for the Best Action Movies of 2013.

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bayona

Zombie fans were ready to attack World War Z with their criticisms well before it even hit theaters. Not only was there every indication going in that the film had very little to do with its source material, a book by Max Brooks that was wildly popular with horror fans, but there were also constant reports of troubles with the script and the budgeting of the movie, problems that eventually resulted in its entire ending being re-conceptualized and re-shot. Those aren’t exactly the kind of indicators that instill confidence in potential customers. Really, by the time World War Z came and went from theaters, all of the talk that went down in the build up to its release proved to be a moot point though. Not only did the film prove to be a financial success despite all the doom and gloom from film pundits that proceeded its release, but it also proved to be just about as much of a failure with critics as it was a success at the box office—and for reasons that had nothing to do with how far it diverged away from its source material.

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mar

Globally, World War Z made over $535M dollars this summer. For a movie that cost in the neighborhood of $200M, that’s not a bad haul, especially when you take into account the bad buzz leading up to the film’s release. General moviegoers probably couldn’t have cared less about the third act of a film being reshot, but for most movie nerds, it’s a knee-jerk warning sign. A movie that requires reshoots always draws negative attention despite presenting an opportunity to get some pickup shots, a scene to add some clarity, or in the case of World War Z, a whole new act. Even in the age of special features, we’ll probably never get to see the original ending that the reshoots made irrelevant. At the end of the day, the bad-buzz-creating gamble paid off with this well-liked zombie hit. Speaking with the film’s director Marc Forster it was obvious how happy he was to see World War Z not get chewed up at the box office like some foresaw.

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discs day of the dead

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. Day of the Dead The zombie apocalypse continues to ravage the Earth, and one of the last pockets of survivors makes their home in an abandoned missile silo. The group is divided unevenly between civilians and soldiers, but as the days pass and the undead keep coming, the tension among the living rises to dangerous levels. George Romero‘s Dead films currently number six, and while his most recent three are mostly forgettable, the original trilogy remains a classic both collectively and individually. And this is where I admit that I find Day to be the best of the bunch. Tom Savini‘s effects are the most gorily effective of the series, and while it lacks the previous films’ allegory and metaphor, it manages a self-contained story complete with good guys, bad guys, and entertaining set pieces. And hell, even John Harrison‘s score is fantastic. Scream Factory’s new Blu-ray gives the film the treatment it deserves complete with original artwork, a new HD transfer, and a load of extras including a documentary almost as long as the movie itself. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Documentary, commentaries, featurettes, galleries, trailer]

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WORLD WAR Z

The reports of World War Z’s inevitable death at the box office were greatly exaggerated. Between those anticipating another Ishtar and others conducting pre-emptive autopsies, many presumed the movie’s very public production woes — script overhaul, scrapped ending, expensive reshoots, ship-jumping collaborators — would act like a deadly infection, poisoning the movie’s buzz and making its survival at the box office unlikely. Instead, it went on to gross $536m internationally. It’s a turn of events that surprised more than a few, but if you take a closer look at the film’s much publicized rewritten third act, the success may not have been a surprise to World War Z itself. That’s because those last 45 minutes symbolically represent not just the film’s eleventh hour overhaul and its awareness of the dangerous movie-killing risk it was taking, but also its confidence that it would succeed. Warning: World War Z spoilers ahead.

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Marquee

As if the summer box office wasn’t already glutted with more than enough blockbusters to last us right into fall, Paramount Pictures has now announced that they’re bringing back two of their most plagued productions for a special studio-specific double feature to end the summer with a bang (or, potentially, a whimper). Paramount is bringing both Star Trek Into Darkness and World War Z back to select theaters for a one-week engagement (August 30th through September 5th) that will, thoughtfully enough, cost moviegoers just the price of one ticket. Both films were troublesome for Paramount in different ways – STID had to live through director J.J. Abrams’ persistent insistence that his film was not a new spin on the classic Khan storyline, only for fans to discover that, well, it was. The Brad Pitt-starring World War Z had its own cross to bear – months and months of reshoots and rewrites that typically spell doom for any film. Neither film has been a true box office bust – STID pulled in nearly $460m worldwide (more than its predecessor), with WWZ making just over $526m worldwide – but is that enough for Paramount? Apparently not. But with Paramount putting together its own double feature to grab the last dollars available from an exhausted (and exhausting) summer, we couldn’t help but wonder what other studios could put together their own second-run double features and, if they did, what we’d actually like to see from them.

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zombietruth-1

If you’ve spent any time watching movies, reading news stories about bath salts, enjoying AMC original programming, or farting around on Facebook, you’ve encountered the question about whether a zombie apocalypse could actually happen. Zombie stories range from the absurd (in films like Chopper Chicks in Zombietown) to the allegedly realistic (most recently in World War Z), but they all hinge on the question of what you would do in a worldwide outbreak of brain-eaters. Now that zombies have become possibly the most revered monster in horror and popular cinema (with Twilight vampires not counting because they aren’t real monsters), some people have wondered how fictional the day rising up is, but since we like to think outside the coffin, we started wondering: If a zombie apocalypse did happen, how long would it actually last?

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world_war_z_ver14_xlg

Now that Marc Forster’s World War Z has hit theaters (earning both a respectable-enough $66M since its Friday release and a newly-revitalized sequel plan), it’s finally appropriate to really dig deeply into what the troubled production’s many changes meant to the final product. Well-publicized delays, a bloated budget, and questions about the relationship between its director and the rest of its team have all plagued the film, but the most enduring question about World War Z has long centered on late-breaking script edits that chopped off an entire act and reimagined not only how the film ended, but how the emotional aspects of the film worked to make that new ending work. Of course, there are spoilers ahead if you have not yet seen the film. Last week, we finally got some insight into the long-buzzed-about scripting changes made to the film by Damon Lindelof, Drew Goddard, and (to a lesser extent) Christopher McQuarrie. While it was no secret that the final act of the film had been wildly altered by the three’s post-original-filming contributions (millions of dollars of physical reshoots will remove the secrecy from just about anything), the finer details of those contributions were not readily available until Mike Ryan at The Huffington Post got word from a source about what exactly was changed, edited, and added by the scribes. In short, the entirety of the third act was added (and the original, “Battle of Russia”-centric act was removed) and a related set of smaller scenes that pepper […]

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wwz07

Spoilers Ahead: This article contains advanced talking points for Marc Forster‘s World War Z. We recommend reading it after you see the film. I know. It’s pretty futile starting up a list of unanswered questions regarding a popcorn flick about vaguely defined zombies co-written by Damon Lindelof. But just because something is futile doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. I haven’t read the original book by Max Brooks, which apparently doesn’t matter given how little the movie resembles the text. I also haven’t followed every little piece of the production, but that shouldn’t matter either since the movie on screen should stand alone. However, where there is some relevance to explaining something on screen by the issues of the rewrites and reshoots and such, so I do try to mention it if I’m aware of it. Speaking of the infamous production problems, they do tend to factor into narrative flaws and holes and confusion like those I raise below. Additionally the expectation that the story of World War Z will continue in sequels means the filmmakers might be choosing to flesh out some stuff later on. And of course, as usual, some of the questions are not answerable at all because they’re more criticisms in the form of a hypothetical query or simply disagreements with how the movie was plotted or how the characters thought or acted. All in all, let these talking points first and foremost serve as a means to discuss the movie in full without concern for spoilers.

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KenBurnsWorldWarZ

World War Z is not a very faithful adaptation. By placing it during the war, director Marc Forster and star Brad Pitt have fundamentally altered Max Brooks‘ after-the-fact oral history. Which is understandable. They wanted a big-budget, globe-spanning adventure, and that’s hard to squeeze out of a guy traveling the world calmly speaking with survivors. The movie is out this weekend (Rob’s review), and we couldn’t help but wonder what it would have looked like if it were a little more faithful to the book. So we turned to our old pal Sleepy Skunk to make a video that imagines what Ken Burns‘ version of World War Z would have been like. For all of you aching for a zombie documentary, here’s a small piece of alternate history.

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3

What’s the perfect zombie-killing weapon? We settle the question with writer/director Joel Morgan, who may or may not be opening a crowbar store in the near future. And if one Apocalypse isn’t enough, we’ve got another in the form of comments made by Steven Spielberg about the inevitable “meltdown” of the Hollywood studio system. Geoff and I get our hands dirty with that one before appreciating and responding to this screenwriting post by Scott Myers at Go Into the Story. Grab your crowbar and prepare yourself. For more from us on a daily basis, follow Joel Morgan (@joelmorgan23), the show (@brokenprojector), Geoff (@drgmlatulippe) and Scott (@scottmbeggs) on the Twitter. And, as always, we welcome your feedback. Download Episode #21 Directly Or subscribe Through iTunes

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World War Z Movie

The problems involved with getting Max Brooks’ “World War Z” to translate fluidly to the big screen in the Marc Forster-directed and Brad Pitt-starring film of the same name have been documented seemingly since the film was first announced, with a significant emphasis placed on scripting troubles that eventually turned into final product troubles that necessitated massive reshoots. Even in its early stages, the script for World War Z seemed plagued; as far back as April of 2010, a long-promised final script by Matthew Michael Carnahan (as originally written by J. Michael Straczynski) was continually dangled over both fans and the production itself. Even when that incarnation of the script was (finally) finished, World War Z still wasn’t ready for the big screen – though it was eventually filmed as such. After filming was completed last year, the scripting problems of the film made themselves so obvious to the Paramount brass that the studio brought in not one, not two, but three well-known scribes to “crack” the ending of the film – a rescripted final act that led to weeks of reshoots, millions of dollars spent, and the complete scrapping of a reportedly epic battle set in Russia. A banger of an article written by Laura M. Holson in the June issue of Vanity Fair has so far presented the most wide and researched look at the troubles that ate away at the zombie film, but even that piece wasn’t able to answer the big question – who wrote what? […]

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review world war z

Zombie movies come preloaded with some fairly clear-cut expectations. Unless they’re going the comedic route, a la Zombieland or Return of the Living Dead, a zombie flick should be scary, feature folks shambling running rising from the dead, and show lots of gory flesh-munching and grievous bodily harm. Or, you know, they can just make it up as they go along. World War Z chooses that latter route, and the result is a PG-13 zombie film that offers very little to chew on, but while it fails as an entry into the zombie sub-genre it finds a little bit more success as an action/adventure with an unconventional leading man. Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) is new to the stay-at-home dad thing, but his past job as an elite problem-solver for the government used to being dropped into international hot zones comes in handy when a family drive through Philadelphia is interrupted by a zombie apocalypse. His old governmental cronies come calling, and after a terrifying night holed up in an infested apartment building Lane and company are airlifted to the safety of an aircraft carrier. The catch is that in exchange for his his wife (Mireille Enos) and children’s loosely guaranteed safety they expect Lane to head out into the big, undead world in search of patient zero and a cure.

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Zombies

After years of chatter, delays, and just plain trouble, the big screen version of Max Brooks’ game-changing zombie oral history, in the guise of director Marc Forster’s extremely changed and chopped up World War Z, finally hits theaters this Friday. While the production’s apparently awful journey to a theater near you (complete with enough script changes to make anyone consider letting a zombie eat their brains, just so you no longer have to attempt to keep track of who wrote what and when and maybe even how and one of Hollywood’s biggest reshoots ever) is finally over, it still remains to be seen if the world is ready for a big blockbuster (read: wildly expensive) zombie movie starring Brad Pitt. While the final product is certainly entertaining (and generally in a positive way), Forster’s film is still just a zombie movie, which is why the coolest thing about the film (really) is the fact that it busts out “the z-word” within its first hour, scoffs at it a bit, and then just runs with it. In World War Z, the world is screwed, Pitt plays a guy trying to stop an outbreak that’s based on a guy who reported on said outbreak ten years later (sorry, source material), but at least zombies are “zombies.” It’s about time.

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World War Z Concept Art

It was a piece of concept art that got me (and many more) excited about a “World War Z” movie in the first place. For everyone who’d read Max Brooks’ beautifully thorough oral history, it was a little hard to imagine it translating well to film, though. With a ton of different voices, an after-the-fact central focus and a labyrinthine structure, Brooks’ academic recounting of the times surrounding “The Great Panic” didn’t seem like a good fit for a movie (unless Ken Burns was going to direct). The Brad Pitt-starring film coming out this weekend seems to confirm that. Many, many elements from the book have been changed — including the elimination of the historical perspective in favor of placing us into the immediate danger — but even if it’s an In Name Only Adaptation, World War Z still looks impressive on a lot of levels. One of them is its visuals. To celebrate the film’s look, “World War Z: The Art of the Film” is out, and we have an exclusive look at 4 of the images tucked away in its binding. Enjoy, but remember to wipe the brain matter from your lips when you’re done.

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Man of Steel

Last month was all over the map in terms of reactions. Almost every major, and a few of the minor, releases were met with raves and naysayers: Iron Man 3 made up for the second Tony Stark film, but wasn’t without its own issues; The Great Gatsby, which yours truly ate up, saw some critical venom; Star Trek Into Darkness has its feverishly passionate fans, despite a clunky villain and plenty of leaps in character and dramatic logic; Now You See Me was good fun, but didn’t fare well with critics; and some took Noah Baumbach‘s charming Frances Ha to task for following a character who can go to Paris for two days. There’s a handful of releases this month which are destined for heated discussion, at least during their opening weekend. A few of those movies make up the must-see releases of June 2013.

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World War Z

Trick question. There are no zombies in this new poster for World War Z. Sure, there are probably plenty lighting the world on fire just below Brad Pitt‘s iron stare, and perhaps there are even a few in those swirling helicopters, but for a film that is about a zombie invasion, this poster sure as shooting doesn’t seem interested in presenting even one brain-chomper. Draw your own conclusions. World War Z opens on June 21st. [Paramount]

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World War Z Poster

This isn’t the World War Z that we thought we were going to get. Fans of Max Brooks‘ contemplative book that chronicles the zombie apocalypse by soberly speaking with important survivors expected something from director Marc Forster that would look a bit more, well, like that book. This new trailer for the film is a zombie-covered ray of hope, though. Not that it’ll be close to the source material; that it’ll be a good movie regardless. It shows an awful lot of Brad Pitt looking pensive, but it also shows the human cost beyond the ant-like hordes that cover and devour all in their path. The vision of them taking down a helicopter isn’t frightening, but the thought of them trampling you, chewing your face off and welcoming you into their legion within a matter of seconds is pretty damn terrifying. If it feels familiar, it’s because this new look at the film feels a lot like the marketing for Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion. Which makes sense. What are zombies anyway if not human-sized viruses? Check out the trailer for yourself:

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