Bloodless zombies would appear to be that latest trend if April’s Warm Bodies and this week’s World War Z are anything to go by. No blood means studios get a lower censorship classification and – hopefully – a bigger audience. But the absence of viscera also appears to bring with it a loss of metaphoric power. These zombies don’t mean anything very much; they certainly don’t have anything to say about the world we inhabit, or the fears we share. They are vehicles for jumps, scares and gotcha moments (or in the case of Warm Bodies, not even that).
In World War Z, co-producer Brad Pitt plays Gerry Lane, not a Beatles song but a disillusioned former UN troubleshooter trying to start a quiet life with his young family in Philadelphia. A rapidly spreading outbreak of a mystery rabies-like disease turns his – and everyone else’s – life on its head. In a matter of seconds the bite victims become almost unstoppable predators, hunting the healthy in growing packs.[pullquote]The Hunt felt like a beat-up in more ways than one[/pullquote] Lane and his family are evacuated to an aircraft carrier where the last remaining evidence of authority attempts to restore order. There he unwillingly submits to his old boss (Fana Mokoena) and agrees to help trace the source of the disease and maybe find a cure. With the help of a handful of Navy SEALS and a bright young endocrinologist (Elyes Gabel) he travels to South Korea where the first reports of the outbreak only to find on his travels that things are far worse than anyone can imagine.
Brad Pitt is chased all over the planet by zombies in World War Z, Will Smith’s son Jaden chases all over the planet looking for a beacon disguised as a pizza cutter in After Earth, Remembrance and Camille Rewinds are the arthouse reviews, and @sakura59 sums up the Sydney Film Festival.
As usual, the vagaries of holiday deadlines mean that, just as you are arriving back at work to gleefully greet the New Year, here I am to tell you all about 2012. The best way to use this page is to clip it out, fold it up and put it in your pocket ready for your next visit to the video shop – that way you won’t go wrong with your renting. Trust me – I’m a professional.
But this year I have a problem. Usually I manage to restrict my annual picks to films that were commercially released to cinemas. I’ve always felt that it wasn’t fair to mention films that only screened in festivals – it’s frustrating to be told about films that aren’t easy to see and it makes it difficult for you to join in and share the love. This year, though, if I take out the festival-only films the greatness is hard to spot among the only “good”.
As usual, I have eschewed a top ten in favour of my patented categories: Keepers, Watch Again, Mentioned in Dispatches and Shun At All Costs. In 2012, only two of my nine Keepers (films I wish to have close to me forever) made it into commercial cinemas and one of them isn’t even really a film.
Andrew Dominik was born in Wellington but shipped out at the age of two for Australia. We really need to claim him back as he’s one of the most intriguing directors currently working. Perhaps that should be “rarely working” as his latest, Killing Them Softly, is only his third feature credit in 12 years. Chopper turned heads in 2000 and got him to Hollywood. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford was an elegiac adaptation of a great novel, the screen version echoing great late-period westerns like Heaven’s Gate and The Long Riders.
In Killing Them Softly, Dominik remains in genre territory but again he is transcending and subverting it. It’s a gangster flick featuring a bunch of familiar figures – James Gandolfini (The Sopranos), Ray Liotta (Goodfellas), Ben Mendelsohn (Animal Kingdom). You see those names on the cast list and you think you know what you’re going to get, but here they stretch out in suprising directions, revealing layers of humanity no less ugly than the clichéd bang-bang we are used to, but truer, sadder and ultimately more trenchant.
Ben Affleck’s tense and funny Argo, Academy Award front-runner The Intouchables, Brad Pitt is a philosophical mob enforcer in Killing Them Softly plus Dean Hewison from the Kiwi peeping tom-romcom How to Meet Girls From a Distance.