The Bling Ring (3.25/5)
America’s obsession with celebrity isn’t a novel premise. For decades upon decades, America has firmly dedicated itself to the small percentage of people who can elicit the radiating glow of flashbulbs. Singers, actors, and athletes initially demanded our attention for many years, but by today’s standards, dastardly antics and an immeasurable wealth, not talent, drive page views and magazine sales. Obsessing over a world-renowned actor is one thing; it’s another to idolize a trust fund baby that has built a reputation around crotch shots, ridiculous shopping sprees, and ineptitude. In the case of Sofia Coppola’s newest film, The Bling Ring, shallow existences spark hollow behavior. Based on real events, The Bling Ring follows a clique of well off teenagers that are intensely attracted to a materialistic life. Presumably feeling as if their affluent life is not enough, nor is their aggressive consumption of alcohol and blow, the teens actively attempt to steal decadence from the very people they place on a pedestal. Over the course of a year, the group breaks into the houses of Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and Orlando Bloom, stealing millions in jewelry and clothing, and they seemingly learn nothing in the process.
Considering the nature of the story, there’s a satirical dagger thirsting for rich blood, but Sofia Coppola never quite delivers a fatal blow. Instead, The Bling Ring is a vapid exercise that fails to dissect its subjects with precision. Over the course of its running time, we’re given minor glimpses into the lives of these teenage thieves trying to steal an ounce of celebrity, but the true nature of their crimes are never explored. Coppola continuously shows us the effect, but never does she get involved enough to build the cause. If anything, Coppola’s singular statement on celebrity possessions would’ve gained more traction had she framed her story beyond the real robberies, where the star fucked thieves actually gained notoriety for their crimes. Without bite, The Bling Ring is a limp affair that spends most of its time showing its characters trying on clothes and decreeing how much they love “that shoe.” Buried under its nothingness is stunning cinematography and an impressive performance from Emma Watson, whose doe-eyed gaze and valley girl voice provides the film with some much-needed energy and fun. Otherwise, The Bling Ring is a toothless satire that’s as derivative and pointless as its character’s behavior.
World War Z (3.75/5)
Six months ago, World War Z was dead. Pushed back after needing its third act reworked, and facing an ever ballooning budget that has reportedly reached $200 million, World War Z preemptively become one of the biggest flops in Hollywood history. Miraculously, despite the film facing many production issues and a wall of horrible press, it’s actually a relatively smart film with some intense sequences. Based off the novel of the same name, World War Z drops us in the middle of a zombie infestation. Our portal into the undead invasion is Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt), a family man who was once a former UN employee. On a usual day, where the hustle and flow of a major city offers excitement in the form of bumper to bumper traffic, Gerry finds himself catapulted into a worldwide zombie pandemic, where his expertise in extraction attracts the eye of his former employer. After surviving the first attack, Gerry and his family find refuge on an US Navy ship but there’s a caveat: Gerry must leave his family and investigate the origins of the crippling outbreak. The investigation finds Gerry eluding zombies across the globe, which ultimately leads to some enthralling scenes, but it’s the family aspect that validates World War Z’s existence. I think we’ve all experienced our fair share of zombie films over the years, and in many ways we have become immune to their immediate danger, but the love generated between Gerry and his family raises the film’s stakes.
The performances between Pitt and Mireille Enos, with the latter playing Gerry’s wife, are genuine. Surrounding the film’s family oriented angle is a political undercurrent that works harder than most summer blockbusters, especially when the value life comes into question. The film certainly could’ve pressed the political button harder, yet a relatively watered down approach is greatly appreciated when the message could’ve been lost all together. Undermining the film’s efforts is a climax that’s disjointed. One would think that a film revolving around a zombie apocalypse would end with a cataclysmic bang, but World War Z never induces a rush of blood to the head. It’s far more pleased with slowly jaunting to the finish line, never allowing our heart rate to rise above its resting level. Even though the ending falters, World War Z’s biggest weakness is the direction of Marc Forster, who has an issue directing action with clarity. From the implementation of an egregious shaky cam technique to mishandled action choreography, Forster demonstrates he’s out of his element. But he redeems himself by tethering the action to something that ultimately matters: family. As hokey as that may sound, it’s one of the major elements that breathes life into the once dead film.