Tag Archives: movie review

Movie Review – World War Z

Warning – Some Spoilers.  My movie review on World War Z for The WOD Magazine.

World War Z

Movie Review By Michael Bradley

I was looking forward to seeing World War Z after the trailers on television.  The thought of Brad Pitt bringing his resources to a film along with “fast zombies” looked interesting.  Unfortunately, the trailers are more exciting than the film.  In summary, you get to see lots of close ups of Brad Pitt wondering what to do next, amazingly convenient plot devices, and zombies that had me laughing at several points during the movie, along with others in the audience.

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It is not that Brad Pitt acts poorly in the film, but there is absolutely no character development.  He has a family he cares about that his friends use to blackmail him into helping them.  How is that for a story?  His character is some vague UN investigator, leaving you to wonder if he was para-military, medical, just good at mysteries, or what?  The movie never really explains what his expertise is in.

The beginning is the best, and even slightly scary, as zombies attack with lightning speed and people turn in just twelve seconds.  It gets you fired up for an action packed thriller that never happens.  Instead, Brad Pitt is so important, though we never find out why, that they break out all resources to rescue him.  After that, he whisks magically to Korea, Israel and Cardiff despite the world falling apart.  In each place he observes a few people un-attacked.  The story is so linear that you know at each point he will get a clue, move on, and solve the problem.

There are so many plot holes but one bares mention above the others.  Israel has managed to heed early warnings and protect its people behind a huge wall and track entrants through controlled ports of entry.  Do they bother to have even one guard or weapon on the walls?  Of course not, let’s not notice the zombies until they are jumping over.

After he and his friend along the way magically survive an aircraft crash and then magically find a WHO research center while both wounded, he gets a revelation why the zombies don’t attack certain people.  One that there is absolutely no reason for him to come up with based on the movie.  What follows includes zombies that squawk comically like chickens and one that clicks its teeth like Fire Marshal Bill from In Living Color.  At both points the audience was actually laughing out loud.

After that, Brad Pitt’s character magically communicates his vaccine around the world despite a dead satellite phone, UN personnel around the world put together the cure despite worldwide crisis, and Brad Pitt is picked up and taken across the Atlantic to be with his family.  It was the least scary zombie film ever and one of the most poorly written mystery/adventure films as well.  The movie’s earlier action scenes are entertaining, but overall the film is a disappointment.

 

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Star Trek: Into Darkness Movie Review

One of my recent movie reviews for The WOD Magazine:

Star Trek: Into Darkness 

Movie Review By Michael Bradley 

Recently it was pointed out to me by a fellow columnist that I am a movie critic while they are a movie reviewer.  Having given some thought to the distinction I would have to agree.  In an era where the focus is on advertising and trailers, I believe movie studios should be held to a higher standard when spending tens or hundreds of millions to produce a roughly ninety minute entertainment.  That is why I am glad for once to be able to wholly endorse a film – Star Trek: Into Darkness. 

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Canon is important to me, even in a movie line which has been “reset” into an alternative timeline.  What made the original Star Trek TV series such a phenomenon was not big budgets or special effects.  It was the great characters, interaction and vision of humans with the same foibles and attributes as now, cast into the future.  The characters are well known – Captain Kirk, the brash, egotistical womanizer, whether with human or alien women, always ready to fire phasers but fiercely loyal to friends and stupidly brave.  Spock, the stoic, emotionless logical being struggling with his human half.  Bones, the wry, cynical doctor.  Uhura, the modern successful woman officer.  Scotty, Chekov, and Sulu along with all the other characters overly defined by national accents and quirky personalities. 

The new Star Trek movies capture those characters and that spirit of human interaction under futuristic alien conditions better than I had ever hoped possible as a long time fan.  The casting is simply perfection.  Chris Pine nails Captain Kirk as the lucky but arrogant leader that you cheer for even though you know they deserve to get in trouble.  Zachary Quinto was born to play Spock.  Zoe Saldana recreates Uhura with an appropriately strong modern take on the role.  Karl Urban plays Dr. McCoy so well I swear I see DeForest Kelley on the screen.  Simon Pegg brings the perfect humor to scenes without being campy or foolish.  No offense intended, but I actually prefer Pegg’s portrayal to Doohan’s original.  The interaction among them all brings pure pleasure to my fanboy senses. 

You might wonder why I am at paragraph four and have not mentioned the plot.  That is the beauty of a well written and directed Star Trek feature.  You don’t even care what the plot is, you just enjoy watching it happen.  The plot is great though as well.  For die-hard fans you will recall that Captain Christopher Pike was the original USS Enterprise Captain in the series pilot, and later was returned to the scene of that episode.  In this time line, things happen differently.  Pike is the father figure for Kirk who lost his father at the beginning of the last film.  The search for family, friends and belonging while growing into responsibility are foremost to the new Kirk.  This is the theme shared by other crew members as well as they chafe on each other while clinging together for friendship and belonging. 

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Benedict Cumberpatch of Sherlock fame plays the villain.  His updated portrayal of Khan loses all the 1970s campiness of the earlier version played so over-the-top by Ricardo Montalban.  The movie is modern, edgy and has great visual effects.  However, it is the personal drama that makes it so enjoyable.  

The film has geo-political overtones about what people are willing to do to get an edge on their potential enemies and where lines should be drawn, including a “drone strike-like assassination” versus “arrest and trial” decision for a terrorist.  It was good that unlike other recent fare that have come off as preachy or even as propaganda for particular partisan beliefs, this one leaves the questions more to the viewer without giving definitive answers.  Kirk makes calls which are illegal, but you are not always sure they are right or wrong. 

As a Star Trek fan, I grew weary of the long line of mediocre films that preceded the last two.  It is great to see that the new reboots were able to capture that original sense of wonder, fascinating characters, sense of family with all the squabbles, and a great plot with little unnecessary diversion.  The very end was not as I would have made it, with the final confrontation with an Admiral seemingly too willing to be fully evil.  That character sticks out all the more because all the others are so complex. 

Alice Eve joins the cast as Dr. Carol Marcus, a new romantic interest for Kirk.  In the original timeline Kirk and Marcus produce a child during a tryst unknown to Kirk.  The grown child meets Kirk and is then slain.  Who knows what will happen in this timeline?  The good news is that Alice Eve was able to be strong and feisty enough to hold her own in screen time with Chris Pine, though the relationship between Spock and Uhura is by far more interesting, as you will see when you enjoy this outstanding film.

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Oblivion – Movie Review

Oblivion

Movie Review

by Michael Bradley

Oblivion is the latest Tom Cruise science fiction movie.  I have never really cared for Tom Cruise or his acting, and special effects tend to be overdone in his movies, so that was my expectation entering the dark expanse of the theater.  I was in for a refreshing surprise.  Yes, there is Tom Cruise strutting, shirt off, close ups of his face as in all his films, and there are special effects full of eye candy, but there is also a fascinating sci-fi story as well.  This makes Oblivion definitely worth seeing.

The role of Jack Harper is portrayed by Tom Cruise, who gets nearly all the screen time as well.  Andrea Riseborough, an English actor portrays Victoria and does an outstanding job.  Olga Kurylenko, the Ukraine born woman who played the Bond Girl in Quantum of Solace, plays Julia.  Morgan Freeman, as always, plays himself, but the character is named Beech.  They are the only four with significant airtime.

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The story starts out with flashbacks and narration by Jack Harper that let you as an audience know that aliens called Scavengers, or Scavs, for short, attacked the planet.  Earth won but was destroyed, so the people went off to Titan, but they have to harvest the seas for energy.  Jack and Victoria are left behind to fix the patrol drones and keep the harvesters safe from the remaining Scavs who are bent on causing them troubles.

I hate the fact that movie trailers reveal too much.  I have to confess that the first couple of “twists” in the story I had already guessed from the trailers.  It is impossible not to see them in this mass media world we live in where they spend almost as much marketing as they do filming.  Still, the movie takes several turns and some were not expected at all.  The movie moves along at a good pace, revealing things one at a time, not making you wait to long, but having you reassess what is going on along the way.

A few caught me unawares, which is what I really enjoy.  Oblivion is not a movie that you will talk about for weeks.  It has no deeper meaning to it.  However, it is a refreshing bit of eye candy, action film, that is not mindless, but actually tells an interesting tale as it goes and you use your mind a bit to keep up.  I would like to comment on a few things that did not work as well, but I won’t.  They would require spoilers, and I won’t duplicate a movie trailer by giving too much away.

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