World War Z
It's not that all movies need to be extremely gory, OK? I'm not an animal. I'm a respectable person — a Canadian person, for God's sake — who abhors real violence. But when approximately every other scene in your movie requires someone to kill a zombie with whatever happens to be at hand, then your movie shouldn't be PG-13, PERIOD.
That said: Now that I see that someone else agrees with me about all the squelchy dismemberments that were sorely missing from World War Z's theatrical cut, and that same someone has made an unrated cut available on demand, some of the weirder shots in the movie make more sense. Oh, that's why that one zombie seemed to be getting dispatched juuuuuust below the bottom of the frame, or why that other thing (no spoilers) happened juuuuuuuust to the left of the screen: Those moments were actually framed and shot properly, for adults, and then they got bowdlerized and cropped for all the parents who brought their 13-year-olds to see the zombie apocalypse minus the aftermath of heads getting smashed in. I mean, I'm guessing. Like I said: We didn't see it in the theater.
My unslaked blood lust aside, World War Z is OK. Brad Pitt does his best, and Peter Capaldi helped lift my flagging spirits in time for the fairly tense climax. But I have yet to see any zombie movie that has improved upon 28 Days Later … or the Dawn of the Dead remake, and this one certainly didn't.
Wesley Morris: "Nearly every scene has been photographed with handheld cameras. The presumable conceit is that we're panicking in the mosh pit, too. But all the shaking and jostling and veering, and all the split-second editing, produces a movie that never slows down enough to earn your fear. The story doesn't unfold. It gushes. It spews."
New and Notable
The Bling Ring
You may remember the handle "The Bling Ring" from endless E! reports, Mary Jo Sales's Vanity Fair story, the short-lived reality soap Pretty Wild, or the 2011 Lifetime movie. (The last of these is streaming on Netflix. Don't be fooled: Emma Watson isn't in it.)
If none of those is familiar: In the early '00s, a group of Calabasas teenagers went on a crime spree robbing celebrities' houses. And even though The Bling Ring is inspired by true crimes — specifically as represented in Sales's story — and the personalities of their perpetrators, unlike, say, Blue Caprice (see below), it's fictionalized: The victims are all people who were robbed in real life, but the thieves' names and some identifying details have been changed, and the time period has been blurred. There's not much to the plot, but Coppola gets especially fascinating performances from Watson and from Leslie Mann, as her mother, who home-schools her daughters with a curriculum she has designed herself based on The Secret. Don't sleep on Claire Julien, either; I'm not exaggerating when I say she gets a disgusted-by-clueless-parent reaction moment toward the end that is truly starmaking.
Wesley Morris: "[Sofia Coppola] allows you to lament the degraded nature of stardom and consider the pointlessness of materialism."
Actor Brit Marling and director Zal Batmanglij follow The Sound of My Voice with The East, in which (once again) she stars, he directs, and both co-wrote the screenplay.
In this thriller, Ellen Page and Alexander Skarsgård play members of an eco-terrorist group planning organized retaliation against a series of corporations they judge to have committed environmental crimes. Marling is an employee at one of the targeted companies who goes undercover to infiltrate the group.
Wesley Morris: "Marling and Batmanglij don't fear or resent entertainment: They make effective thrillers. With each successive collaboration, you can feel them slowly coming in from the margins."
"In Theaters"/Early Release Picks
Like Fruitvale Station, Blue Caprice is a festival sensation that transforms horrifying real events into narrative film — in this case, the "Beltway Snipers" who shot 13 people, killing three, in the D.C. area in 2002. Isaiah Washington (of Grey's Anatomy, notoriously) plays John Allen Muhammad; Tequan Richmond (Everybody Hates Chris) is Lee Boyd Malvo, Muhammad's unfortunate teenage protégé.
Wesley Morris: "[T]he film creates one of the most chillingly becalmed portraits of insanity I've seen."
[Read Morris' full review from today here]
It seems impossible that David Sedaris's work has never been adapted on film before, but it's true!
Based on one of Sedaris's early short stories, C.O.G. (watch the trailer to see what it stands for) stars sometime Glee guest star Jonathan Groff as Sedaris's avatar, along with House of Cards costar Corey Stoll, Law & Order repeat offender Denis O'Hare, Pretty Little Liar Troian Bellisario, and Happy Endings alumna Casey Wilson.