Reel Critics: As zombie films go, an A for 'Z'

Director Marc Forster has done the impossible. He's made an exciting and thoughtful zombie movie for grown-ups. "World War Z" is not the creepfest of the undead you might expect. It really plays out as a medical thriller in the mold of "The Andromeda Strain" or "Contagion."

The plot begins with the sudden appearance of a mystery virus infecting humans at astonishing speed. In seconds, it transforms people into violent carnivores with rabies-like symptoms. It overtakes the populations of big cities at a lightning pace until a growling army of mutants threatens all of mankind.

Brad Pitt is cool and credible as a United Nations troubleshooter called upon to hunt down the source of the virus. Hints of political intrigue add to the dramatic reality as the anxious search jumps from Korea to Israel to England.

Spectacular special effects include wide-angle shots and aerial views that boggle the mind. Yet subtle moments and a touch of humor are injected in just the right places to keep the story grounded. But it's the professional and understated performance of Pitt that provides the gravitas to anchor the wild story.


'Bling' isn't worth yours

Based on a 2010 Vanity Fair article, "The Bling Ring" is a detached look at a group of L.A. teenagers who formed their own home shopping network.

They easily broke into the unlocked homes of Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and Orlando Bloom, to name a few, and helped themselves to clothes, jewelry and rolls of cash valued at more than $3 million.

What motivated them was the belief that the items would never be missed from the stars' overloaded closets, the chance to style and party like their celebrity idols and the assumption they'd never get caught.

It's shocking to see this crew of five (played by Katie Chang, Israel Broussard, Claire Julien, Taissa Farmiga and Emma Watson) with absolutely no scruples and no sense. The same could probably be said for the parents who failed to take much interest in their whereabouts, education or future.

Sofia Coppola wrote and directed this, her fifth film, and she doesn't give us any empathy for any of the characters. What she shows is pure materialistic worship beyond what was depicted in her earlier "Marie Antoinette."

Coppola doesn't judge or openly mock them (although the ridiculous behavior of Watson's character certainly warrants it) and doesn't bother to ask why.

I wonder why she made "The Bling Ring." It's just a tabloid story put on film to cool music. It's as empty and shallow as one of Hilton's little jeweled handbags. Skip this one and save up for a little bling of your own.

JOHN DEPKO is a retired senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office. He lives in Costa Mesa and works as a licensed private investigator. SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa and is an executive assistant for a company in Irvine.

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