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World War Z (Blu-ray / DVD)

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World War Z (2013)Starring Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, James Badge Dale, Daniella Kertesz, David Morse, Matthew Fox, Elyes Gabel

Directed by Marc Forster

Distributed by Paramount Home Entertainment


Max Brooks’ novel World War Z stands as one of the finest pieces of zombie-themed literature in existence. The popularity of the book spread like wildfire, and a big screen version based upon the huge bestseller was a given. Unfortunately, except for the occasional nod, the movie doesn’t have very much in common with Brooks’ original vision… but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s bad. In fact, despite all of its troubles on its way to completion, and lord knows they’ve been documented countless times all over the web, the flick is actually pretty damned good.

The main difference between the novel and the film is that whereas the book read like a history of the great zombie outbreak from various standpoints, the movie focuses mainly on the story of one character named Gerry Lane (Pitt), a former United Nations employee who now spends his time devoting his life to his adoring wife (Mireille Enos) and two young daughters. Without going into detail, it’s not long before the proverbial shit hits the fan, and all of a sudden Gerry is called back to duty as a means to help solve the quick acting zombie epidemic that’s now sweeping the entire planet. For a more in-depth look at the film itself, click here as our theatrical review pretty much nails the film’s strengths and weaknesses.

What we are here to focus on right now is the Blu-ray as well as what’s on everyone’s minds… the word UNRATED. There’s no doubt about it; one of World War Z‘s biggest flaws, especially for fans of the horror genre, was its lack of gore. The PG-13 rating certainly didn’t do the flick any favors. Sure, it opened theatrically to a wider audience, but wouldn’t said audience also be the same ones who watch “The Walking Dead” on AMC? That show’s as violent as even the goriest of zombie movies. Who knows? We can only speculate. Anyway, the theatrical version of World War Z clocked in at 1 hour and 55 minutes. The unrated cut runs just over 2 hours and 2 minutes. So the question beckons… does this extended version deliver the goods, or do we just get more exposition with a hint of grue scattered about?

Surprisingly enough, the exposition is held at bay, and just about all the extra minutes are devoted to making the film’s more intense set pieces that much more intense. Especially the siege in Israel and the airplane moments. There’s some really nutty stuff there. While still far from an epic bloodbath, there are fewer cutaways from the onscreen violence. Several added headshots, the obliteration of half of a zombie’s head via machine gun, and a good old fashioned face-stomp encompass the highlights of the unrated version and definitely spice things up. While watching the extended cut, you can clearly see that the filmmakers were flirting with the notion of a hard R rating while in production but chose instead to play it a bit more safe. There’s no question though… unrated is easily the superior way to watch World War Z.

In terms of the home video packages available, there are three – a theatrical cut DVD, an unrated Blu-ray/DVD combo that includes the theatrical cut on the enclosed DVD, and an unrated 3D Blu-ray/Blu-ray/DVD combo. Unfortunately, the 3D Blu-ray is of the PG-13-rated version so the only way you’re gonna be getting the extra tidbits outlined above is on the standard Blu. In terms of picture and sound quality, the Blu-ray performs like a champ, delivering deep blacks, vibrant colors, life-like skin tones, and razor-sharp detail. We’re talking textbook HD here, kids. Add in the 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, which is wonderfully mixed, and you’ve got yourself a winner from a technical standpoint. The only area in which this package stumbles a bit is the supplemental department.

Included here are two quick featurettes clocking in at about eight minutes each and a look at the film’s production which is broken down into four parts that total about thirty-six minutes of your standard behind-the-scenes stuff. Check below for details on each. Now don’t get me wrong; this isn’t exactly a bad haul, but man, is the presentation dry. I mean arid. Aside from a few shining and brief spots, the material presented here lacks any sort of personality and comes off as a banal experience at best. Nowhere is the first cut of the film ever addressed, and there are no deleted scenes from the original third act that was re-shot. If you’re curious as to how World War Z originally ended, click here. It’s like this never existed or something. Pity, too. It would have been pretty neat to at least see bits and pieces of it.

All in all, World War Z is a rock-solid purchase for zombie fans to sink their teeth into. Sure, the Jenga-zombies we saw in all of the trailers looked kind of goofy when taken out of context, but within the movie itself the spectacle of it all is pretty damned hard not to appreciate. Will we see a new version down the road once the sequel hits? A collector’s edition with every bell and whistle imaginable including the excised original second third act? Probably, but for right now this is as good as it gets, and there’s little to complain about. Take the time. Check it out. You may just find yourself pleasantly surprised.

Blu-ray Special Features

  • Feature film in high definition (Unrated version)
  • “Origins” — The filmmakers discuss collaborating with renowned actor/producer Brad Pitt to create a zombie film the likes of which have never been seen.
  • “Looking to Science” — Explore the scientific realities of zombie behavior in nature and learn more about zombies in literature and film.
  • WWZ: Production
    – “Outbreak” — Go on set with Brad Pitt and director Marc Forster for a behind-the-scenes look at the film’s breathtaking first attack in Philadelphia.
    – “The Journey Begins” — Delve deeper into Gerry’s fight for survival during the dramatic escape in South Korea.
    – “Behind the Wall” — Explore the epic scene in Jerusalem and discover the incredible logistics of creating the elaborate stunts and crowd sequences.
    – “Camouflage” — Experience the final confrontation between Gerry and the zombies and discover the phenomenal scope of the film’s production.

    DVD Special Features

  • Feature film in standard definition (Theatrical version)

    Film:

    3 1/2 out of 5

    Special Features:

    3 out of 5

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    DIS Review – Not for the Faint of Heart!

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    Starring Bill Oberst, Jr., Lori Jo Hendrix, Peter Gonzales Falcon

    Directed by Adrian Corona


    I’ve made this claim many a time on this website before, and in the company of film friends as well: Bill Oberst Jr. is one of those actors that can literally be thrust into ANY role, and deliver a performance with so much harnessed electricity that you couldn’t believe that it was possible. I was the lucky recipient chosen to get a look at his latest project, titled DIS, and I think that I can honestly say – this is the stuff that nightmares are constructed of.

    Directed by Adrian Corona, this 60-minute dive into the black depths of hell, and in actuality DIS is located between circles # 6 and 9 in Dante’s Divine Comedy, and trust me when I tell you – there’s not a shred of comedic relief in this demented presentation. Oberst Jr plays an ex-soldier named Ariel, and his seemingly harmless jaunt through the woods will become anything but that, and judging from the film’s opening scenes, you are meant to feel as uncomfortable about this watch as any you might have checked out in recent memory.

    Perversion is the norm here, and lord help you if you’re caught where you shouldn’t be…my skin’s crawling just thinking about what I saw. Ariel’s travels are basically dialogue-free, but it only adds to the infinite levels of creepiness – you can tell he’s being stalked, and the distance between he and the horrors that await are closing in rather quickly.

    Visually by itself, this hour-long chiller can sell tickets without any assistance – hollowed-out buildings and long sweeping shots of a silent forest give the movie that look of complete desolation. Sliced up into three acts, the film wastes no time in setting up the story of a killer needing fresh blood to appease his Mandrake garden – seriously guys, I can’t type as much flashy stuff as there needs to be in order to describe this innately disturbing production.

    If you’re one of those types who tends to shy away from the graphic side of things, then I’d HIGHLY advise you to keep your TV tuned to the Hallmark Channel for some holiday entertainment, because this one registers high on the “I can’t believe someone thought of this” meter. So the quick recap is this: Oberst Jr in a standout performance, visual excellence, and an unshakable sense of debasement on a cellular level – keep the kiddies out of the living room with this one. Corona should be lauded (or locked up – just kidding) for his work on this one – HIGHLY recommended, and one that I’ll throw down as a top 5 for me in 2017.

    • Film
    4.5

    Summary

    Director Corona should be lauded (or locked up – just kidding) for his work on this one – HIGHLY recommended!

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    User Rating 5 (2 votes)
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    Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End Review – A Heavy Metal Massacre In Cartoon Form

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    Starring Alex House, Bill Turnbull, Maggie Castle, Melanie Leishman, Chris Leavins, Jason Mewes

    Directed by Richard Duhaney and Craig David Wallace


    “Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil” – Canadian television’s greatest blend of Evil Dead, Superbad and Deathgasm? Yes. That answer is yes. For two face-melting seasons, Todd “protected” Crowley High from episodic villains who were bested by metal riffs, stoner logic and hormonal companionship. Musical interruptions showcased stage theatrics like Sondheim meets pubescent Steel Panther and high school tropes manifested into vile, teen-hungry beasts. It was like a coming-of-age story got stuck between Fangoria pages – all the awkwardness with 100x more guts.

    That – for worse – was until Todd fell to a premature cancellation after Season 2’s clone-club cliffhanger. Indiegogo became the show’s only way to deliver a feature-length finale, except to reduce costs and ensure completion, the project would have to be in cartoon form. Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End suggests an animated curtain call for this otherwise live-action production, and from a fan’s perspective, familiar maturation follies befall our favorite bloodsoaked friend group. But for new viewers? Start with the far-superior original show – you’ll be lost, underwhelmed and baffled otherwise.

    Alex House retains his characterization of Todd Smith (in voice only). At this point, Todd has thwarted the book’s apocalyptic plan, Hannah (Melanie Leishman) has died, longtime crush Jenny (Maggie Castle) isn’t as horny for Todd anymore, and best friend Curtis (Bill Turnbull) has sworn Todd’s name to Hell (since Hannah was his girlfriend). Guidance Counselor Atticus Murphy Jr. (Chris Leavins) is now Janitor Atticus Murphy Jr. because Janitor Jimmy (Jason Mewes) is now Counselor Jimmy, yet Crowley High finds itself plagued by the same satanic uprisings despite these new changes. Why is evil still thriving! How is Hannah back in class! Who is the new “Pure Evil One” now that Todd has denied the book! Welcome to the end, friends – or is it a new beginning?

    At just north of 80 minutes, structure runs a bit jagged. We’re used to Todd battling one baddie over a half-hour block – backstory given time to breathe – but in The End Of The End, two mini-boss cretins play second fifth-fiddle to the film’s big-bad monster (well, monsters – but you’ll see). A double-dose of high school killers followed by a larger, more important battle with the gang’s fate hanging in the balance. Not a problem, it’s just that more length is spent singing songs about Todd’s non-functioning schlong and salvaging relationships from the S2 finale. Exposition (what little there is) chews into necessary aggression time – fans left ravenous for more versatile carnage, underwhelmed by the umpteenth cartoon erection gag. Did I mention there’s a lot of boner material, yet?

    These two mini “chapters” – “No Vest For The Wicked” (yarn demon)/”Zits Alors” (acid acne) – never come close to rivaling Hannah Williams’ doppelganger bombshell (“Songs About Boners”/”This Is The End Of The End Of the End”). Hannah [X]. Williams waking up in a room full of other Hannahs, emerging from some sleep-pod chamber; Todd’s gang facing off against this new “chosen one” in a way that erases “Sack Boy” and “Pizza Face” from memory. The End Of The End dashes dildoes-swinging into the show’s biggest mystery while dropping call-backs and bodies with equal speed – maybe too hastily for some.

    Now, about the whole pivot to animation – a smooth rendering of Crowley High and all its mayhem, but never representative of Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil‘s very Ash Vs. Evil Dead vibe. All the practical death effects (gigantic man-eating cakes, zombie rockstars) are lost to one-dimensional drawings, notable chemistry between cast members replaced by edited recordings lacking signature wits. This isn’t Metalocalypse, where dismemberment and bloodshed are gruesome on levels that outshine even live-action horror flicks. There’s no denying some of the magic is missing without Chris Leavins’ “creepy uncle” overacting (a Will Forte breed) or the book’s living incarnations of evil. Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End plays hooded minion to Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil’s dark ruler – less powerful, a bit duncier, but still part of the coolest cult around. Just try not to think about how much radness is missing inside hand-traced Crowley High?

    It’s hard not to strike comparisons between “reality” and ‘toon, because as noted above, live actors are sorely missed in a plethora of situations. Be they musical numbers, heretic slayings, Todd and Curtis’ constant references to wanking, wangs or other pelvic nods (no, for real, like every other sentence) – human reactions no longer temper such aggressive, self-gratifying cocksmanship. It doesn’t help that songs never reach the memorable level of “Horny Like The Devil,” but the likes of House, Leishman, Turnbull and Castle were masters of selling schlock, shock and Satan’s asshole of situations. Instead, lines now land flat like – for example – Leavins’ lessened ability to turn pervy, stalkerish quips into hilarious underage stranger-dangers. Again, it’s not Metalocalypse – and without that kind of designer depth, a wall prevents inter-dimensional immersion into Todd’s extracurricular madness.

    If this review sounds over-negative, fret not – it’s merely wishes of what could have been. None of this is to say Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End should be skipped. When you’re already known for masterstrokes of ballbusting immaturity, metal-horned malevolence and vicious teen-angst creature vanquishing, expectations are going to be sky high. Directors Richard Duhaney and Craig David Wallace successfully service fans with a smile, ensuring that rivers of red scribbled blood spurt from decapitated school children just like we’re used to. It’s just, I mean – ugh, sorry, I just have to say it one more time. BY DIMEBAG’S BEARD, this would have been an epic live-action flick. As is? Still one fine-with-a-capital-F-YEAH return to Crowley High for the faithful who’ve been waiting some 5-or-so years in a Todd-less purgatory.

    • Film
    3.0

    Summary

    Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End brings closure to hungry fans in all the ways they’d hope – albeit turned down a notch through animation. Over-the-top kills and headbanging metal riffs still reign supreme, they’re just drawn by hand instead of oozing practical effects this time.

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    User Rating 3.11 (9 votes)
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    The Shape of Water Review: A Quirky Mix of Whimsy and Horror That Does Not Disappoint

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    Starring Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Michael Stulbarg, Doug Jones

    Directed by Guillermo del Toro


    “True Blood,” Beauty and the Beast, and Twilight aside, the notion of romantic love between humans and otherworldly creatures has been a popular theme throughout storytelling history. The ancient Greeks told tales of Leda and the swan, while stories of mermaids luring sailors to their lusty demise were met with wonder worldwide, stemming from Assyria c. 1000 BC. To this day, there’s Creature From the Black Lagoon fanfic that’s quite racy… for whatever reason, some people are fascinated by this fantasy taboo.

    The new period film from co-writer/director Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water, dives right into the erotic motif with the tale of how Elisa (Sally Hawkins) and Amphibian Man (Doug Jones) fell in love. (While I personally could have done without the bestiality angle, I do applaud del Toro for having the balls to show what’s usually implied.) Having said that, The Shape of Water is about more than just interspecies passion.

    The Shape of Water is a voluptuous, sumptuous, grand, and melodramatic Gothic fable at times (there’s even a lavish 1940s style dance routine!), but mostly it’s an exciting and gripping adventure, pitting the good guys against one very bad buy – played with mustache-twirling (minus the mustache), bug-eyed glee by Michael Shannon. Shannon is Strickland, a sinister and spiteful Cold War government operative who is put in charge of a mysterious monster captured in the Amazon and shipped to his Baltimore facility for study. When using cruel and abusive methods to crack the creature’s secrets doesn’t work, Strickland decides to cut him open to see what’s ticking inside.

    Elisa, a lowly cleaning lady at the facility, has meanwhile grown fond of “the Asset,” as he’s called. She’s been spending time with him on the sly, not even telling her two best friends about her budding tenderness for the mute and isolated alien. She relates to him because not only is she lonesome, she’s unable to speak (an abusive childhood is alluded to – which includes water torture). Using sign language, she first tells out-of-work commercial illustrator Giles (Richard Jenkins), then her co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer), about the need to rescue her waterlogged Romeo from Strickland’s scalpel. Needless to say, it won’t be easy sneaking a classified government experiment out of the high security building.

    The Shape of Water is vintage del Toro in terms of visuals and accoutrement. The set-pieces are stunning to say the least. Elisa and Giles live in cozy, cluttered, age-patinaed apartments above a timeworn Art Deco moving-pictures palace; Strickland’s teal Cadillac is a collection of curves and chrome; and the creature’s tank is a steampunk nightmare of iron, glass, and sturdy padlocks. DP Dan Laustsen (Crimson Peak) does justice to each and every detail. Costumes (Luis Sequeira) and Creature (Legacy Effects) are appropriately stunning. The velvety score by Alexandre Desplat (“Trollhunters”) is both subdued and stirring.

    While the film is a fantasy-fueled feast for the senses, it’s really the actors who keep you caring about the players in such an unrealistic, too-pat story. Jones, entombed in iridescent latex and with GC eyes, still manages to emote and evoke sympathy as the misfit monster. Jenkins is endearingly morose as a closeted gay man surrounded by his beloved cats and bolstered by the belief his hand-painted artwork is still relevant in an ever-more technical world. Spencer is the comic relief as a sassy lady who’s hobbled by her station in life but leaps into action when the chips are down.

    Del Toro cowrote the screenplay with Vanessa Taylor, whose credits in the television world are numerous – but she’s probably best-known for her work on “Game of Thrones” – which adds an interesting and feminine perspective. The story definitely feels more comic-book than anything, which is okay I guess, but I prefer del Toro’s deeper delves into history and character (The Devil’s Backbone is still my fave). But, for those who love del Toro’s quirky mix of whimsy and horror, you will not be disappointed.

    The Shape of Water is a dreamlike, pulpy adult fairytale that dances on the surface of reality while remaining true to the auteur’s vision.

    • Film
    4.5

    Summary

    The Shape of Water is a dreamlike, pulpy adult fairytale that dances on the surface of reality while remaining true to the auteur’s vision.

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    User Rating 4.57 (7 votes)
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