Wednesday, October 30, 2013

"The closer you look, the less you see."

My arms hurt, like I just got finished playing a championship round of "Forearm Smash" with Rich.  You don't know Rich, I went to high school with him, and if you did a forearm smash with him, it hurt.  Ergo, my arms really hurt.  Stupid kettle bells.

The good/bad bit from yesterday ended without a heart attack so all in all, a good day.  Today?  It's dark and rainy.  Probably will be fine.

This week's "Tales From the Script" is an elementary school flashback - we're going to compare and contrast "World War Z" and "Now You See Me."  What?  They don't have anything in common?  Au contraire.

WARNING: Spoilers follow.  There is nothing other than discussion of these two films below and if you plan to see them, I may be ruining the surprises for you.

I did not have great expectations for this film.  I know the book was good but I didn't read it.  #1 and #2 saw it in the theater and thought it was great.  I didn't go.  I'm just not a zombie guy.  Long before the current national obsession began, I was plagued by zombie dreams and so I am just not entertained by them.

WWZ exceed all of my expectations.  It may not be a classic, destined to be taught in film schools for years to come, but it was very good at what it was.  The story moved along at a good clip and while there were no real surprises in the plot, you didn't have to wait for the film to catch up with where you were.  The setting was spiced up with all sorts of tid-bits.  I especially like the North Korean solution.

WWZ got all of the mumbo jumbo out of the way early.  That's key for a film like this.  The world was set, and then the rules were followed.  People were becoming zombies and Brad Pitt was some sort of specialized trouble shooter with mad skilz that would save the day.  Straightforward “grailing.”

When I say they got the pace down, they nailed it.  This was one of the most suspenseful films I've watched.  It wasn't so much scary as immersive - very similar to the feeling evoked by "Gravity."  In fact, watching this was much like watching "Aliens" back when it first came out.  These are not your Father’s zombies.

It was gory, it was startling, and there was a bit of foul language so the PG-13 rating is more than fair.  If you can stand that, are looking for an action movie, and want dangerous zombies rather that the pitiful walking dead sort, then you may want to catch WWZ - the first Brad Pitt movie I've seen where he leaves his shirt on for the whole film.

I thought this was going to be an awesome movie.  The opening teaser they released back in the beginning of the summer had me saying things like, "If we only see one movie in a theater this year, it has to be this one."  We didn't make it to the theater.  It was gone very quickly from our neighborhood.  Now I know why.

It wasn't a bad movie - we were entertained - but it wasn't good either – that’s harsh, it didn’t meet my expectation from the promise of the poster.  I got a trusted recommendation to see it and I did enjoy it, but… there were problems.

The biggest problem I had was that the mumbo jumbo was NOT taken care of in the beginning.  In fact, the end was just plain dumb.  I felt cheated.  I don't mind twists, turns, surprises, etc., but the end of this film was pure double mumbo jumbo.  Dues ex machina all the way.

And that was the next problem I had with the movie.  I realize that they were magicians and it was magic but there wasn't a single setback for any of them.  The ego problems were never really explored, the love triangle never developed, no growth, no challenges.  They walked in, floated around a bit, and walked out.  Dues ex machina.

Then there were the technical things – like a high speed chase on the FDR.  Are you kidding?  Has anyone involved with the film every been on the FDR?  There was also the scene where they discretely followed the safe – with six police cars escorting it, lights flashing.  I know about a loose tail and that’s not what it looks like.

There were some great scenes and I enjoyed them, but it's almost like in the planning there were a couple of clear ideas and the writers sort of strung them together with taffy.  I did like how they used magic to fight and escape - the card trick payoff was brilliant - but they came off as super heroes without a super villain to fight.

My final complaint with NYSM is Morgan Freeman.  He was awesome.  Amazing.  Dominated the screen.  Nobody else in the film was in his league so he made them look bad.  In some cases, really bad.  Casting him didn't bring the movie up, it pointed out how good it wasn't.  I don't want to be down on the rest of the cast, but he made their performances seem flat.  That may have been the way it was written too, though.  It's hard to inject life into a lifeless role.  But Atlas?  I just didn't like him, never rooted for him, and didn't care what happened to him.

There wasn't any gore in NYSM, the rating was just for language and they had to put a lot in to bring this fairly tame story in the profitable PG-13 slot.  There were bright lights, a good fusion jazz soundtrack, and plenty of magic tricks going for this film, it's not a waste of time.  It just isn't as good as it could have been.  I mean really, who thought that was a good ending?

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