June 27--Filled with pre-release negative buzz about rewrites and last-minute reshoots, "World War Z" looks like anything but a troubled production.
This entry into the summer blockbuster season features some really great action sequences mixed with a little more intelligent banter than one might expect from your typical popcorn fare.
It's kind of an art house version of a zombie flick.
"World War Z" begins with an extended sequence in Philadelphia, where mass chaos erupts after a zombie attack spreads at a deadly pace.
Former United Nations employee Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) and his family are caught in the crosshairs of the attack but are rescued by his friends at the U.N.
The rescue comes with a price -- Gerry is recruited to help assist a team that is racing across the world to find a cure before the world's population is completely evaporated.
At this point, "World War Z" takes a turn and becomes more like the 2011 Steven Soderbergh film "Contagion" than "Dawn of the Dead."
Director Marc Forster really gives the film an intimate, almost quiet feel, as Gerry tries to trace the epidemic's origins.
That doesn't mean "World War Z" completely abandons the action side.
A zombie takeover in Israel is breathtaking, while a more personal showdown in a World Health Organization facility sends the film in an intriguing direction in the final act.
Pitt is solid in the lead, playing a guy who might be a hero -- even if he isn't always doing the right thing.
David Morse and Peter Capaldi pop up in small roles, giving the film a little more bite.
The family stuff feels a little forced at times, but Mireille Enos makes the most of a thankless role as Gerry's wife.
The performances are secondary, however, in a film about zombies. "World War Z" delivers that aspect in droves.
The result is one of the most entertaining action films of the summer season -- so far.
Also in theaters
If you are looking for something a little more family friendly, the week's other big release, "Monsters University" (B), fits the bill. The latest from Pixar is a charming endeavor that's sure to please children while sprinkling in just enough to keep the adults interested as well.
This prequel to "Monsters, Inc." traces the early days of Mike (voiced by Billy Crystal) and Sully (John Goodman), who meet as students at Monsters University. The duo start out as rivals, but circumstances soon force them to work together -- leading the pair to become best friends.
"Monsters University" moves along at a predictable clip, but it still works much better than the other animated film currently in release "Epic" and Pixar's last sequel "Cars 2."
It helps that Crystal and Goodman are pretty likable and get the opportunity to voice characters that are in each actor's wheelhouse.
The monster world is still a visual marvel, with plenty of detail -- including a few sight gags that may strike more of a chord with adults than it will the younger audience.
"Monsters University" isn't quite up to par with some of Pixar's best films, but it works on its own level. It's the perfect summer diversion.
"Monsters University" is rated G and is now playing at the Regal Greenwood Mall Stadium 10, Highland Cinemas in Glasgow and the Franklin Drive-In.
-- To get sportswriter/movie reviewer Micheal Compton's up-to-the minute thoughts on all things movies, visit his blog at mcompton.wordpress.com or his Twitter page at twitter.com/mcompton428. You can also email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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