Saturday, July 27, 2013

On the Way to Work This Morning

I have zero desire to see The Wolverine, but I have to admit this is a very sweet poster.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

On the Way to Work This Morning

On the Way Home Last Night

There are lots of wild rabbits in my neighborhood, often seen hopping through alleys and across sidewalks in the early morning and early evening. The past two nights, I've seen this little bunny on the same lawn, contentedly munching away at the grass. It didn't even run off when I stopped to take its picture. Perhaps it's semi-domesticated.

Every Picture Tells a Story 7/24/13

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Every Picture Tells a Story 7/23/13

The best I ever looked--at the wedding reception for Mr. & Mrs. Fluffy, 7/02.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

On the Way Home Last Night

This Week's Travel Reading

What better to read on a steamy, sticky summer morning than the story of hot and bothered doing things they know they really shouldn't do, but want to do anyway?

Every Picture Tells a Story 7/17/13

Is this what Elton John meant by "Crocodile Rock"?

Friday, July 12, 2013

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Every Picture Tells a Story 7/9/13

The Iowa Pharmacy sign still creaks in the breeze on Western Avenue years after it closed.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Review: World War Z

From the earliest days of the narrative motion picture to today, studios have been adapting literary works for the big screen. And, for just as long, they've been changing those literary works to better fit the needs of the new/different medium. Most times, this comes down to tossing out a whole lot of narrative and hitting the essential/basic plot points--the Harry Potter films, for example. Sometimes this means changing major plot points to accommodate movie stars--compare the ending of the remake of True Grit starring starring Jeff Bridges to the original big-screen version starring John Wayne; one is very true to Charles Portis's novel, the other is not.

And sometimes, it means tossing out the literary work completely and keeping nothing but the title--the James Whale/Boris Karloff version of Frankenstein may be the best example of this, with Edgar G. Ulmar's The Black Cat (also starring Karloff) a close second. Little of Mary Shelley's novel was used for Frankenstein, save the title and the basic concept (a scientist plays God by creating life and suffers the consequences). The Black Cat uses even less of its source material, appropriating only name of Edgar Allan Poe's short story and adding a brief cameo by the titular feline.

My Point? The practice of changing/ignoring literary works while adapting them to the big screen is as old as the movies themselves, and it is possible to produce good--even great--movies under these circumstances.

World War Z, "adapted" in title/basic concept only from the best-seller by Max Brooks (son of screen legends Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft), is not a great movie. It is really not a good movie either, though it does have good moments in it, especially early on. What's somewhat baffling is why so much cash was dropped acquiring the rights to adapt World War Z when this zombie apocalypse could have been executed for far less.

Maybe it was the global scope of Brooks's novel--which bounces from the USA to Japan to Israel to South America--that appealed to star Brad Pitt and director Marc Foster. Obviously, though, they were turned off by the novel's narrative structure, which looks back on the war with the undead through interviews with people from all walks of life all over the globe (heads of state, soldiers, suburban moms, etc.); it's something like Studs Terkel's Working, only with a lot more zombies. Brooks used this structure for sometimes sly, sometimes obvious political/sociological commentary while not neglecting the horror elements of the story.

World War Z the movie, on the other hand, goes for a much more conventional, action-driven narrative while jettisoning nearly all of the characters and situations from the novel. Pitt stars as Gerry Lane, a retired United Nations investigator who's more than happy to spend his days making pancakes for his wife (Mireille Enos) and their two adorable daughters. Life is idyllic--and, therefore, doomed to change big-time.

And so it does--while driving through Philadelphia, Gerry and family get caught up the undead outbreak, with seriously fast zombies swarming through the streets and sinking their teeth into anything that moves (at a tasteful distance--this movie is, after all, rated PG-13). The family must now fight to survive long enough for Gerry's buddies at the UN can rescue them.

Said rescue comes at a price, though: The UN wants Gerry go back into the field and investigate the cause of the zombie plague and, hopefully, come up with a solution, and fast: the population of the world is dropping like a stone.

Up to this point, World War Z the movie is engaging, entertaining and involving--we care about what happens to Gerry, his wife and his kids. Unfortunately, once Gerry flies off to investigate the origins of the plague, the wife and kids--and, pretty much, any further character development--fall very much into the background, and action set pieces dominate the rest of the way.

The action scenes themselves are well orchestrated, with swarms of flesh-hungry fiends charging forward, spilling over walls and toppling buses. We've seen fast zombies before (28 Days Later and the remake of Dawn of the Dead, but never like this, acting in most scenes more like locusts or ants than individual monsters. That gives the action scenes a greater scale--it's almost more like a natural disaster than a zombie-made one--and lend some scenes an appropriately claustrophobic quality.

Unfortunately, the lack of individuality in such scenes also makes the action more anonymous and distant than in most zombie movies, where getting bitten by a single flesh-eater is as much an immediate threat as the multitudes of gut-munchers milling about in the streets.

Speaking of gut-munchers...we don't really see much of that in this movie. I'm hardly a gorehound, but if you're going to make a movie about a plague of flesh-eating zombies, we damn well better see them eat flesh. And we don't.

So not only are the characters robbed of opportunities to develop, but the monsters themselves are robbed of their most prominent threatening feature--some might say their only threatening feature--making it difficult to care about predator or prey.

There's a good--even great--movie to be made from Max Brooks's novel. This World War Z isn't it.

Every Picture Tells a Story 7/5/13