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Let’s Talk About: World War Z’s Ending

It just came out, and in no way is it worthy of being the supreme focus of my attention right now, but damn if I can’t get the third act turnaround of World War Z out of my head. It seemed like a completely different movie, and while some people think the drastic changes made to the script were for the better, I am not among them.

Let me be clear, since there seems to be some confusion. The final sequence where Gerry, Segan, and that nameless W.H.O. Doctor played by that guy from Prince Caspian sneak through an infected laboratory teeming with undead is super tense, well shot, and produces a handful of sweet moments. And that scene where Pitt stares down the zombie on the other side of the door is aces. But, the reason they are there in the first place is beyond stupid! Now, I know that all zombie movies where it’s quickly established that it’s viral have plot twists like this. 28 Days Later… had the infected starving to death since they weren’t dead to begin with and Resident Evil is all over the place with different types of strains and possible cures and whatever. But, for those two, the third act macguffin that renders all zombies inert made sense because it was, at the very least, adequately set up throughout the rest of the movie. In World War Z, it’s not the case. In classic, Damon Lindelof style, the virus ignores those who are terminally ill. Why? It just does. Why? Because! And don’t give me that whole, they need a healthy host to ensure its spread. When the virus kills the host in 12 seconds and turns said host into walking husk, than terminal illness shouldn’t matter. In fact, those who are terminally ill would be perfect targets for the virus, since their immune systems are shot to begin with.

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But that’s not important. The mythology of the world is the mythology of the world. But another dumb thing, as I see it, is that the movie spends a good hour and a half setting up, and following through with a pervading sense of hopelessness and apocalyptic hysteria. This thing is moving too fast for anyone to stop, and no amount of governmentally administered meningitis is gonna fix that. Further more, the ending that we have doesn’t really present a whole lot of room for an adequate sequel. Pitt’s character muses in the final moments that, “Our war is just beginning!”. Well, it’s gonna be a damn short war considering your opponents can’t see you and won’t attack you anymore. A sequel dealing with the aftermath of the war, a la the actual book this movie is supposedly based on, would be cool, but there’s no way Paramount is going to green light that.

How should the movie really have ended? Allow me to direct your attention to an article posted at Comic Book Movie, where the full breakdown of the original third act, before Lindelof came on board, would have played out. For all the details, go there. For a quick synopsis, keep reading.

Basically, Gerry leaves Jerusalem with Segan like he did, but rather than go to Cardiff, he goes to Moscow. Immediately after departing the plane, (which lands safely. No mid-air massacre here.) Gerry is conscripted into the Russian army to help fight the zombies. His satellite phone is taken as well. Fast forward a few months into winter and Gerry has become an expert in zombie killing and soon discovers that zombies freeze in the bitter cold. Realizing that this will give the humans the upper hand, he implores the Russian leaders to extinguish all fires and lead the zombies into the open so that they can freeze. It works, and Gerry takes this opportunity to escape, having reacquired his phone. He calls Karin, who is actually in a safe zone in the Everglades. You know, one of those camps where people have to trade something in order to survive. In Karin’s case, the thing she is trading is herself, and she has traded it to, of all people, the soldier who rescued them from the rooftop in Newark. This prompts Gerry to fly into a rage and the film ends with him landing on the coast of America ready to fight for his wife and daughters.

Now that’s an ending. Ambiguous, ballsy, and one that perfectly sets up a sequel with much higher stakes. It also begins to deal with a lot of the political and philosophical themes that Max Brooks brought up in his book. The lengths that governments and people will go to to survive the end of the world is not really touched on in the movie we have, but it is everywhere in this original final act, from the practically fascist tactics of Russia to the super dark implications of what Karin does.

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But really, it’s just not as happy and hopeful an ending. And don’t get me wrong, I’m all for happy endings. Optimism is great. But name one zombie movie (except 28 Days Later…) worth its salt that ending on a particularly happy or hopeful note. Every Resident Evil movie ends with shit way worse off than it was, Dawn of the Dead ends with the survivors finding that the supposedly uninfected island was teeming with zmobies, Land of the Dead ends with the survivors fleeing the horde of now intelligent zombies, and 28 Weeks Later… ends with the infection crossing the English Channel and spreading through Europe. Did we belittle these films because they had the stones to end on a dark, ambiguous, even sad note? No. On the contrary, we celebrated them? And if any zombie movie were going to end on a dark note, it would be World War Z! The world ends! The zombie plague destroys us. The film shows us that explicitly! It takes us to our darkest point well before Pitt even gets on that plane. Why can’t it have the balls to actually explore it.

The sequel for the original ending would be really cool. Seeing Pitt trekking across an America still trying to fight back, only this time he will have to fight humans as well? Yeah, that would be… wait, never mind. They just did that story. It’s called The Last of Us!

Really, the handling of the third act is my only real gripe with World War Z. The film is still super intense, really inventive with how it portrays a zombie pandemic, and does, admittedly, stay true to the spirit of Brooks book even if it doesn’t really have anything in common with it. But it could have been great! Whether or not the original ending would have made it so or would have sunk the film even more remains to be seen. Guess we can only surmise on what might have been!

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The Black Hole Presents: Best of the 2010s (So Far): Part 10

Best_of_Decade

We are a little over 25% done with this decade! That’s a lot of movies! Oh lordy is that a lot of movies! If you were like me, narrowing down all the movies you saw into one list took more than a fair share of brain power when it came time to write up thine lists at the end of 2009. The following series will, at least for me, and maybe for you, help to alleviate that for when 2019 bows out. It’s good to do something like this! Every week, I’ll erase some of the red from that image up there, revealing the next in my list of the ten best films I’ve seen since 2010 began. These are not reviews! I’ve written those already. These are quick analyzations of why I think these films deserve to be on this list over the countless others that could have been on it! I fully expect you to denounce half the stuff I put up here! That’s what I want! Come with me! 

This is the last post. Did you guess what was coming? You get cookies!

Cloud Atlas!

Oh boy!

I knew I was in for something pretty nuts when first I sat down in the theater. About half way through, I knew what I was seeing was probably one of the best movies of the year. By the end, I knew it was one of the best movies I had ever seen! What the Wachowski’s and Tom Tykwer did with David Mitchell’s novel, itself a brilliantly original piece of work, is nothing short of astounding. Six separate stories, all told concurrently, with the same cast playing different roles in each. Oh, and each actor plays different races, ages, and even genders. Sound ambitious? That’s because it is!

The remarkable thing is that there is a veritable smorgasbord of genres and elements being thrown at the canvas here. You would think that there would be a veritable war taking place on the screen as these various styles all compete with each other. What’s remarkable is that there is no conflict at all. In fact, there is harmony, with one style informing another. Doors closing in one story coexist with doors opening in another. Death in one story heralds life in another. Comedy mixes effortlessly with drama mixes effortlessly with action mixes effortlessly with romance. And so it goes.

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The cast all do stupendous jobs juggling their six roles. Sometimes they are front and center in one story. Other times they are nothing more than a cameo in others. The visuals are striking and inventive; the depiction of a far future Korea look sick and the images of 1970s San Francisco conjure up the best of films from that era.

Really, though. Even if Cloud Atlas weren’t the masterpiece that it is, it would probably have still made this list, because the scope and ambition of what it is trying to accomplish is just too damn gobsmacking! Put it to you this way! In London, me and my flatmates watched a lot of movies in our downtime at home. When we started watching Cloud Atlas, they were hooked pretty quickly! By the time we were done, they were all like, and I quote, “This movie is fucking great!” Movies like this come around ever so rarely! Thank god I was alive for this one!

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The Black Hole Presents: Best of the 2010s (So Far): Part 9

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We are a little over 25% done with this decade! That’s a lot of movies! Oh lordy is that a lot of movies! If you were like me, narrowing down all the movies you saw into one list took more than a fair share of brain power when it came time to write up thine lists at the end of 2009. The following series will, at least for me, and maybe for you, help to alleviate that for when 2019 bows out. It’s good to do something like this! Every week, I’ll erase some of the red from that image up there, revealing the next in my list of the ten best films I’ve seen since 2010 began. These are not reviews! I’ve written those already. These are quick analyzations of why I think these films deserve to be on this list over the countless others that could have been on it! I fully expect you to denounce half the stuff I put up here! That’s what I want! Come with me! 

Also, cookies if you can guess what’s coming next. If you know me at all, it shouldn’t be too hard!

It goes without saying that Joseph Gordon-Levitt is my favorite working actor. Lately though, I’m starting to cool on him. It’s just been awhile since he really wowed me like in Mysterious Skin or (500) Days of Summer. I’m wondering if he’s just coasting on his stardom now, or if he’s just biding his time.

This is what I felt like before I saw Looper. And then I saw it. And… wait, you need me to spell this out for you?

Looper is an ingenious, twisting, witty, super violent slice of science fiction from the mind of Rian Johnson, who is the guy who basically put JoGo on the map to begin with. A labyrinthian time travel yarn to rival 12 MonkeysPrimer, and… why not, Back to the Future, Looper deals with heady themes about identity, fate, and whathaveyou, all wrapped in a bonecrunching action movie.

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JoGo is surprisingly against type here. Sure he’s charming, handsome, and rocks a badass gun. But he’s also arrogant, sexist, and a total friggin’ jerk! It’s a great change of pace for him, and hopefully he continues to explore that side of him. Bruce Willis is just as hardened a badass as we expect a gun toting character played by Bruce Willis to be. But he’s also a tortured soul on a mission that tests him and drives him to despicable acts. Emily Blunt is a great warming presence as the women who quickly realizes that she has more to do with the chaos than she thought. And Jeff Daniels is just awesome!

The action is bloody and brutal, the dialogue stings, and it looks just sick for a micro budget like this. It is a wholly original, bold vision from guys who could have very easily done something soulless but guaranteed to be a hit. They didn’t. Thank God!

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The Black Hole Presents: Best of the 2010s (So Far): Part 8

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We are a little over 25% done with this decade! That’s a lot of movies! Oh lordy is that a lot of movies! If you were like me, narrowing down all the movies you saw into one list took more than a fair share of brain power when it came time to write up thine lists at the end of 2009. The following series will, at least for me, and maybe for you, help to alleviate that for when 2019 bows out. It’s good to do something like this! Every week, I’ll erase some of the red from that image up there, revealing the next in my list of the ten best films I’ve seen since 2010 began. These are not reviews! I’ve written those already. These are quick analyzations of why I think these films deserve to be on this list over the countless others that could have been on it! I fully expect you to denounce half the stuff I put up here! That’s what I want! Come with me! 

Also, cookies if you can guess what’s coming next. If you know me at all, it shouldn’t be too hard!

Drive came out of nowhere and floored me! Here was a director I had only heard about fleetingly and the guy from that dumb Nicolas Sparks movie that everyone loved for some reason. And it was an artsy fartsy take on a pretty standard crime story. It didn’t look all that. And then everyone who saw said it was basically sex, and I’m almost dangerously impressionable, so of course I went and saw it. And what I saw was not artsy fartsy. it was not a pretty standard crime story. That guy from that dumb Nicolas Sparks movie that everyone loves was really friggin’ awesome!

Drive is a so good because it doesn’t ever try to over complicate it’s deceptively simple story which provides more than enough avenues for Nicolas Winding Refn to allow his characters to breathe and exist. Ryan Gosling’s Driver seems to be the bleach blonde male version of Lisbeth Salander, but he is anything but a cyborg. He’s a super cool, seemingly detached wheelman, who is capable of mind boggling brutality when those he cares for are threatened. And let’s be real, when it’s Carey Mulligan who’s threatened, and a seriously intimidating Albert Brooks who’s doing the threatening, who would stomp on a dude’s head until it’s just a puddle of mush.

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Oh yeah, the violence in this movie is almost obscene in how graphic it is. It comes in spurts and never lasts long, but it stays with you long after the movie is over. I haven’t looked a straight razor the same way since I saw this film. Blood. Oh, sweet jesus, the blood!

But it’s director Refn’s act of mashing up all kinds of different genres and aesthetics that makes the Drive the memorable piece of work that it is! It’s very old fashioned, evoking the crime thrillers of a bygone era like Bullit and Dirty Harry. It’s also exceedingly modern, with all its sheen and pizzaz. It’s very european, with its techno-pop soundtrack and eclectic color palette. And yet it’s also very american, with its cast of lowlifes and fleet of muscle cars. It’s a mutant of a movie, but it’s a wicked brew of all kinds of awesome that, through some otherworldly alchemy, becomes something unforgettable.

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Post Haddock & Chips Coma

Holy shit! Where did the past three and a half months go?

Well, I am back from London. Nothing I could write here could adequately express how incredible an experience it was. So many awesome people, so much theater, so much history and culture to take in. It was, without a doubt, the best time of my life.

So, let me tell you a bit about it!

The program I was at, The British American Drama Academy, specializes in conservatory training for Americans itching to get a taste of the British superiority when it comes to theater. There were 43 other people in the program with me, 14 of which had already been there for an entire semester before I got there. Here are a few of them.

DSCN0748Ignore the mustache. I’ll explain in a bit.

From left to right, that’s Jesse and Justy and Max and Sam. I lived with these guys. They made my experience. I could not have wished for a better group of guys to live with. Flat 45 forever!!

DSCN0084And this was the group of kids I had class with. This picture was taken when we decided to punk our stage combat teacher, Philip (the guy with the beard and no smile) by all wearing stripes. He was… not amused.

Ok, let’s see if I can do this. Top row, from left to right: Adrienne, Amanda, Sam, Ali, Margarita, Karisa, Amos, Kristen, moi, and Jabree. Bottom row, from left to right: Alyssa, Chantel, Samantha, Emily, and Joanna. I learned sooooooo much from these people! It was great!

DSCN0708And this was the group of people I worked with on my end of term production. We did a production of Federico Garcia Lorca’s Blood Wedding, which was done in conjunction with two other shows, put on by the rest of the group. Those were The Eumenides and a show no one’s ever heard of called Hamlet.

Ok, here we go again. From left to right: Adrienne, Amos, Jacky, Max, Kate, Katie, Hayley, Liz, Emily, Tsebiyah, Ali, Rob, Tana, and Gabrielle. We had a great director, a great designer, a terrible movement director (you can’t win em’ all), and a great starting concept which we built on through out the whole rehearsal process. It was incredibly fulfilling.

And that’s what the mustache was for. We are all a bunch of American 20-something year olds. One of us, at least, had to look spanish.

And now that you’ve met a couple of the people… meet the rest!

Bada Spring 2013I’m not giving you all the names. That’s just crazy!

Now, since I was studying theater in London, I was able to see a crap ton of things. Some of the things I saw had famous faces in them. Others had nobody that anyone had ever heard of. Some were in huge, proscenium arch stages. Some were in tiny little black boxes that could barely sit fifty people. And it was all worth seeing. I had my problems with a lot of the shows I saw, but never did I regret making the trip to the theater afterwards.

I saw far too much to go in depth on everything, so here are some choice tidbits.

I don’t know what the best play I saw was. I know that it’s between two.

Billie Piper as Connie in The EffectThe Effect is a new play by Lucy Prebble, who wrote Enron and created Secret Diary of a Call Girl. I was super excited to see this because Billie Piper had a big role in it, and I’m a huge Doctor Who fanboy, so I basically love her. Anyway, The Effect is brilliant. It centers around a drug trial for anti-depressants, and how two of the patients start to fall in love with each other during it. The thing is, they don’t know if it’s real or if it’s a side effect of the drug. It’s a remarkable piece of work that not only offers up poignant and well developed characters with interesting and heartfelt relationships, but delves pretty heavily into the science of psychiatry, brain chemistry and drug therapy. What’s impressive is that the science is completely accesible to someone who knows literally nothing about it. Someone like me. I don’t know if my favorite production. It’s definitely my favorite script, but my favorite production might have to go to something else.

Curious_IncidentAt first, I was dubious about The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. It was a theatrical adaptation of a book that seemed completely ill suited for any sort of adaptation, let alone one for theater. Never mind that the book was pretty scarring for me when I first saw it. But, a lot of people who had been in London longer than me said that it was a big hit when it played at The National Theater and for good reason, because it apparently was incredible. And a lot of my friends were going to go see it, and I didn’t want to be the guy who was anti-social so I tagged along. And, yeah. It was stunning! The lead, and bear in mind that I saw the understudy when I went, was sensational. The role of Christopher demands soooooo much and the guy I saw delivered the fucking goods! The production design was easily the coolest I saw there, turning the Apollo Theater into a vibrant, dynamic, high tech mindscrew complete with crazy projections, lights and sounds, and some confetti at the very end for good effect. GAHD! I loved it!

peter and aliceAfter that, I don’t even know where to go; there was so much. I saw both Helen Mirren and Judi Dench light up the stage in two different plays. Mirren teamed up with Peter Morgan again and reprised Queen Elizabeth in The Audience. It was a series of vignettes that concern the Queen’s weekly meetings with the Prime Minister. It spans the decades, showcasing pretty much every PM that she has dealt with, with the exception of Tony Blair. And yes, that means Maggie Thatcher is a character here. They, apparently, changed the script in the wake of her death. I didn’t get to see that, but it’s still cool to think about. It was a fantastic show and Mirren was sensational. Dench teamed up with Ben Whishaw and writer John Logan (aka, a Skyfall reunion) in the new play Peter and Alice. It concerns a real life meeting between Alice Hargreves and Peter Davies, aka the original Alice and Wonderland and the original Peter Pan. Dench and Whishaw were great and there is fleeting beauty in Logan’s script, but the whole thing is woefully overcooked, coming off as cheap and melodramatic as opposed to realizing the subtlety and nuanced characters that defined Logan’s Red.

And the rest was still pretty good. Since it’s London, I saw a bunch of Billy’s work. That’s Shakespeare, for all the five year olds who read this site. Mark Rylance headlined a production of Richard III and Twelfth Night, which also had Stephen Fry in it. James McAvoy led an absurdly violent take on Macbeth, and the Royal Shakespeare Company’s performance of The Winter’s Tale was memorable as well.

And let’s see… The Magistrate with John Lithgow, Once which is the musical based on the movie and not as good, Gruesome Playground Injuries with terrible American accents, One Man, Two Guvnors which had me gagging from laughter, Les Misérables which was exactly what I expected, Port which was exceptionally British, The Master and the Margarita which was… I don’t even know, Feast which felt like a big ol’ party, Our Country’s Good which made me think I was back in high school, Monkey Bars where adults spoke children’s words verbatim, and Quartermaine’s Terms with Rowan Atkinson. And that’s not at all everything I saw. I confess, I forget everything I saw. It was a lot!

Like I said, this isn’t enough. You’re probably sitting there, reading this, all “Oh, this kid had a great time acting all refined and British, but I bet he’s glad to be back in America where things are fat.” and “Oh, theater. How dignified. No butler. We’ll take our brandy and cigars on the veranda this evening; the weather’s lovely.” First off, nobody talks like that. And secondly, you’re wrong. It’s been a week, so I can safely say I’ve acclimated back to these Yankee shores (shut up Dad, I’m not complaining), but I want nothing more than to go back to the shitty showers and washing machines at the Landward, to mess up some old people’s night at trivia every Monday, to get up at 5 in the morning on a Saturday and wait in the front of a theater in the bitter cold for 4 hours to get tickets for that night, to hop on the bus and hit up the Lexington, and then hit up Helens for 4 am shawarma afterwards, to hop on a train to Paris for a random weekend because I could, to sit in a masterclass with Fiona Shaw and learn more from her in an hour and a half than I have from most other teachers, to pop into The National Portrait Gallery or The National Gallery or the Tate Modern or The V&A and not spend a pence, to lounge in Flat 45 talking bullshit with my flatmates, to dress to the nines and act incredibly self-righteous with the rest of the guys because, unlike BADA School for Girls, the BADA School for MEN is a dignified order, to waste away the hours reading scripts, to waste away the hours at The Earl of Camden after a day of class, to fret about lines and Prospero and The Chairs and stage falls and Chris Cook’s papers and being earnest and duende, to joke around with any of the other 43 people I was with, to… well, you get the idea.