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Picks and Pans Main: Movies

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World War Z

Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, James Badge Dale | PG-13 |


Want to know the truth about World War Z? Well, that’s going to be a problem. Because the way to enjoy this nervily ambitious zombie movie based on Max Brooks’s bestseller is to lie to yourself. With a few judicious falsehoods, it can be solid, mindless summer fun. Repeat after me …

LIE NO. 1:

This is not a zombie movie.

Think of it as a plague picture, because these creatures don’t act like the old-school walking dead. In a crackling scene that sets the pace for the film’s thrilling first act, the day goes to hell for former U.N. investigator Gerry Lane (Pitt) when Philadelphia explodes as he takes his daughters to school. One minute it’s a routine traffic jam, the next people are launching themselves at each other at freakish speed. Oh, and these zombies cooperate, piling like ants to reach their targets in very cool-looking 3-D shots that will nevertheless annoy fans of the classic slow-shuffle brain muncher. Still, so far, so good.

LIE NO. 2:

There are no logic problems.

Why does Gerry, who’s neither a scientist nor a doctor, need to go on a global search for ground zero of the zombifying virus? Great question! Don’t ask it. Sure, he could look out his window and learn as much as he will in his deadly travels, but then you wouldn’t see zombies storm Jerusalem.

LIE NO. 3:

The plot is totally cohesive.

The great opening scenes and sluggish midsection feel of a piece, but WWZ makes a boneheaded turn from there, then mops up with a nicely tense finale that feels like it’s from a different film. If it weren’t for Pitt’s star-wattage performance and solid scares, the film would be a mess. And that’s no lie.

Monsters University

Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Helen Mirren | G |


They’re sly at Disney, slipping Shakespeare (The Lion King) and Victor Hugo (The Hunchback of Notre Dame) into kids’ movies. So what canonical opus finds its way into this one? Revenge of the Nerds. While a rematch of Lambda Lambda Lambda and Alpha Beta feels as fresh as dirty socks to you, it’s likely new to your 6-year-old, who’ll be thrilled to see Monsters, Inc.’s Sulley (Goodman) and Mike (Crystal) meet as roomies at Monsters U. They both want to major in scaring, but clash (Mike is a grind, Sulley is a natural) until a campus tourney to find the best scarers makes them work together. Mirren adds flair as the unnerving Dean Hardscrabble, but there’s not much else that’s new on this nostalgia trip.