World War Z
Zombie films typically appeal to a niche audience (of those who like zombie films), but in World War Z, director Marc Forster aims for a larger crowd. Forster, whose record includes such gripping dramas as Monster’s Ball and the incomprehensible action pastiche of Quantum of Solace, has found a way to meld the zombie movie into a mainstream disaster movie on the lines of Contagion in his latest release. He also introduces A-List star Brad Pitt as UN worker Gerry Lane, who races across the globe trying to get to the bottom of a zombie pandemic before humanity itself is wiped out. Inevitably, he must balance this mission with his devotion to wife and children, and a higher morality than beleaguered governments believe is strictly necessary.
Starring Eric Bana and Olivia Wilde as a brother and sister pair of robbers who have to split up in the wilderness after a casino heist goes awry and they must find their way across the Canadian border. Wilde’s character meets up with Jay (Charlie Hunnam), discovers romance and orchestrates a Thanksgiving reunion with her brother that starts off as macabre social satire and ends in a bloody gun battle. Veterans Sissy Spacek and Kris Kristofferson — as Jay’s parents — and Treat Williams as the sheriff provide great support, and the intermittent action is fast and brutal. Falling winter temperatures and a police search closing in on the fugitives help build tension, but the inadequacy of the script, and an uncertainty whether to play for thrills or drama, hopelessly undermine the film. For all that, you could do much worse on a Friday night when you can’t get tickets for World War Z.
The Angels’ Share
Ken Loach’s particular brand of British socialist realism has won him a devoted following, but this has never translated into Hollywood-type fame and fortune. His most recent major release was the highly acclaimed The Wind That Shakes the Barley, a hard-hitting drama set against the British presence in Northern Ireland. The Angels’ Share could not be more different, following new dad Robbie (Paul Brannigan) as he struggles to turn over a new leaf following a close brush with imprisonment. Going straight is not easy, as his criminal past prevents him from finding a job. Although The Angels’ Share is a light-hearted comedy with a bit of a heist film thrown in (as criminality might be the only way Robbie can make it in respectable society), Loach still has his eye on the social inequalities that plague modern-day Britain.
A documentary that looks into the life of renowned film title designer Pablo Ferro, the man who created the title sequences for such films as Dr. Strangelove, Stop Making Sense, Midnight Cowboy, Bullitt, The Thomas Crown Affair and A Clockwork Orange. The film uses some animation to tell the story of Ferro’s life, bringing in such Hollywood greats as George Segal, Beau Bridges, Jon Voight, Andy Garcia and Anjelica Huston. It also includes interviews with Ferro’s wife, children and former girlfriends, who help deal with the darker aspects of his life in the 1960s and Ferro’s unconventional approach to fatherhood. Directed by Richard Goldgewicht and narrated by Jeff Bridges, the documentary is a surefire winner for anybody interested in the movies.
Switch 天機 — 富春山居圖
Andy Lau (劉德華) and Lin Chi-ling (林志玲) headline this big-budget globe-trotting heist movie that wants to outdo James Bond and Mission Impossible. It draws inspiration — to put it politely — from a slew of recent Hollywood action thrillers, while adding a whole martial arts and super-luxury setting that often falls over into parody. The plot, such as it goes, centers on a famous Yuan Dynasty painting that is stolen just prior to a major exhibition. The ensuing scramble for the priceless work of art brings in British art collectors and Japanese yakuza, and takes the cast to exotic locations around China, Japan, Italy and Dubai. The film reportedly cost NT$800 million to make, and clearly the director Jay Sun (孫健君) wanted to make sure that this lavish outlay was appreciated by the audience.