' World War Z'
2 1/2 stars = Average
The zombies in "World War Z" are not the sorts of flesh-eaters who lumbered around the cemetery and farmhouse in Evans City in George Romero's classic. These are lightning fast and modeled after a pack of rabid dogs who swarm or launch themselves at people or, sometimes, car windows or the rungs of a helicopter.
"World War Z" stars Brad Pitt as former United Nations investigator Gerry Lane, who is forced back into the field to keep his wife (Mireille Enos) and two daughters safe in the aftermath of worldwide death, destruction, chaos and apparent zombie attacks.
Gerry finds himself gruesomely globe-trotting in an effort to figure out where the pandemic originated and, far more urgently, how to stop the spread of the virus and the armies of zombies it's creating.
Once infected, eyes cloud over, backs arch and bodies contort, and the undead ooze a thick black goo rather than crimson blood.
"World War Z" is powered by Mr. Pitt, compelling as a family man who reluctantly flies into the fray. Although there are supporting characters, notably his fretful wife, his former boss (South African actor Fana Mokoena) and an Israeli soldier (Daniella Kertesz), this is pretty much Brad's show.
The film has scenes with zombies zipping by so fast that you can barely register what's happening.
Marc Forster ("Machine Gun Preacher," "Monster's Ball") directs a screenplay credited to four writers, five if you count Max Brooks, who wrote the source novel, "World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War."
The movie version comes with too much frenzied action and too few measured moments to plot the art and science of war against the living dead.
The extras include unrated cut; behind-the-scenes featurette; zombies in literature and film; and a four-part "WWZ: Production" featurette focusing on the first attack in Philadelphia, the escape in South Korea, the pivotal Jerusalem scene and the final zombie confrontation. Also available in 3-D.
' The Bling Ring'
2 1/2 stars = Average
"The Bling Ring" follows a group of SoCal teenagers who track celebrity travel plans in order to rip off the nifty stuff just sitting there waiting to be ripped off in their mansions.
"Let's go shopping!" is their call to arms in writer-director Sofia Coppola's (largely true) tale, based on Nancy Jo Sales' Vanity Fair article, "The Suspects Wore Louboutins."
The instigator is Rebecca (Katie Chang), an affluent Korean-American student at Indian Hills High School, who, like her pal Chloe (Claire Julien), is obsessed with luxury-designer fashions. They're joined by half-sisters Nicki (Emma Watson) and Sam (Taissa Farmiga), whose single mom (Leslie Mann) practices that oxymoronic thing called "home schooling" -- airheaded, touchy-feely religious notions with a total absence of supervision.
The girls' private textbooks are Teen Vogue magazine and "The Hills" reality TV show, which impart the values of looking great, getting stoned on the beach and celebrity worship. New kid Marc (Israel Broussard) is inducted as the token (fashion-conscious) male, easily lured and seduced by the partying. He aims to please by his Internet expertise with Google Maps and celebrity websites to provide the addresses -- and absences -- of the rich and famous: Paris Hilton, Audrina Patridge, Orlando Bloom, Megan Fox and, above all, Lindsay Lohan.
The girls view their plundering as a form of entertainment. Only Marc has nagging worries about the possible consequences. Before the 2008-09 spree is over, they heist more than $3 million in clothes, jewelry and cash. Insatiable and increasingly fearless, they start posting and posing with the booty on their cell phones. Can discovery be far behind?
Ms. Watson is terrific, with her glittered eyelids and space-cadet delivery, but Ms. Mann is the real standout actress here as Nicki's mom, a former Playboy Playmate who gives hilariously clueless pep talks to her cute little con artists in panties.
Like the kids themselves, the film is maximum surface, minimal substance. Director Coppola provides some obligatory social comment but defaults largely to documentary rather than narrative mode.
Along with a making-of featurette, there's an interview with Ms. Sales and "Scene of the Crime With Paris Hilton."
3 stars = Good
Four stories crisscross in the first fictional film from Henry-Alex Rubin, a co-director of the Oscar-nominated documentary "Murderball" about wheelchair rugby. The most wrenching is about 14-year-old Ben (Jonah Bobo), a musically gifted but friendless misfit who becomes the victim of a mean-spirited prank.
Two schoolmates invent the profile of a girl who comes on to him. When his goes viral, his humiliation leads to a drastic act, which draws his lawyer-father (an excellent Jason Bateman) into his world.
In another storyline, a couple played by Paula Patton and Alexander Skarsgard have their identities stolen, their bank account drained and their emotional confessions and grief laid bare. When the police cannot seem to help, they turn to a widowed detective (Frank Grillo) who has problems of his own, even if he doesn't realize it just yet.
Andrea Riseborough turns up as an ambitious TV reporter who tries to convince a teenage boy (Max Thieriot, "House at the End of the Street") on an adult-only website to be interviewed for a story. They both face some thorny questions about just who is exploiting whom.
"Disconnect" traffics in coincidence, convenient delays or melodrama but makes a case for powering down the computer or smartphone and -- how retro -- talking to one another.
ALSO THIS WEEK:
• "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation -- The Thirteenth Season": Includes featurette on "CSI:NY" crossover.
• "Waking the Dead: Season Eight": British series about a team that looks into cold cases.
• "Bates Motel: Season One": Re-imagining of Alfred Hitchcock's film into cable TV series.
• "Arrow: The Complete First Season": Gritty network series based on the DC Comics hero.
• "Dalziel & Pascoe: Season 8": Mismatched detectives face another set of puzzling cases.
• "Behind the Candelabra": Michael Douglas stars in the cable movie about the life of Liberace.
• "Haunted History": History channel series that takes viewers into ghostly events at historic locations.
n "The Haunting of Helena": A girl and her mother have their dreams turned into nightmares.
• "Lionhead": Young man desperately wants to marry his girlfriend against the wishes of her imposing father.
• "Wild Things With Dominic Monaghan": Encounters include the largest insect on Earth.
• "Shanghai Calling": New York lawyer ends up in a legal mess that could end his career.
• "Breakout": Camping trip takes a dark turn when siblings witness a murder.
• "Day of the Dead": George Romero's horror classic on Blu-ray.
• "War of the Buttons": Tale of two rival groups of kids from neighboring villages.
-- Rick Bentley, McClatchy Newspapers
First Published September 19, 2013 4:00 AM