Zombies, The Movie Star Apocalypse and James Gandolfini Star in the 10 Best Stories of the Week

By  · Published on June 22nd, 2013

Zombies, The Movie Star Apocalypse and James Gandolfini Star in the 10 Best Stories of the Week

If there’s anything to remember about this week, it’s sadly that we lost one of the great actors of our era – a man who really deserved as much recognition during his career as he’s received since the announcement of his death. We’re going to really miss James Gandolfini.

Now that I’ve dried my eyes, let me note some other big stories this week. Movie star Robert Downey, Jr., was officially confirmed to be returning for more Avengers movies just as we were looking at the latest on the death of the movie star following the failure of the Will Smith tentpole After Earth. Speaking of things that can’t stay down, zombies were a big topic thanks to the release of World War Z and apparently Superman thought human beings were as invincible as him in the world of Man of Steel.

We also posted a lot of original content that didn’t make it to the Recap, like a pieces on one of the worst films of all time (From Justin to Kelly) and on one of the best (Rashomon), plus our ongoing coverage of the Los Angeles Film Festival. Maybe you should just read FSR every day and catch everything we publish so you don’t have to settle on these best of catch-up posts. Or you can enjoy both – the week as it happens and then the week in review.

Start your weekend right after the jump.

World War Z Embraces the Z-Word

“Zombies are ‘zombies.’ It’s about time. Zombie films have long demonstrated a sort of genre blindness – most of them feel as if they exist in worlds that don’t have any kind of recognizable zombie influence in media, whole parallel universes that don’t know about George Romero or Shaun of the Dead or the Resident Evil video game franchise and, moreover, have seemingly never thought about the implications of raising the dead from even a classic work like Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein.’ Perhaps they have some other genre of horror to occupy the entertainment void left by their nonexistent zombies, or maybe they just have more rom-coms (not zom-rom-coms, obviously) in their theaters. But, for whatever reason, actually saying ‘these are zombies’ in a zombie film with any kind of authority is frowned upon. At least until recently.” – Kate Erbland

More on World War Z:
Review: World War Z Wins a Few Battles But Loses the War
Stunning World War Z Concept Art Burns a City to the Ground
Drew Goddard and Damon Lindelof’s Copious Contributions to Revised World War Z Revealed
Podcast: The Best Weapon For the Zombie Meltdown
Video: Ken Burns’ World War Z

Remembering James Gandolfini’s Best Performances

“What I’ll miss most about Gandolfini is his ability to remind me in his roles that he isn’t who I feel like he is. I feel like he’s a tough-as-nails mob dictator, until I don’t because he’s a fragile and emotionally pained furry beast looking for a best friend. For his own sake I hope he wasn’t Carol from Where the Wild Things Are, but his voice was too convincing not to feel like he wasn’t (or was at some point). That film lingers on me like few do because Carol does. Because Gandolfini makes him. He’s that friend you hurt for when they hurt you, because you know they hurt. Like I said, I hope that wasn’t Gandolfini at any point in his life. I hope he was just a really good actor.” – Adam Charles

How Does Pixar’s Latest Short Compare to the Rest?

“The short attached to Monsters University, Saschka Unseld’s The Blue Umbrella, is a different kind of short film for Pixar. Its use of photorealistic CGI is a departure from the more traditional animation styles that Pixar’s shorts have previously utilized, and one that teeters on the edge of the so-called Uncanny Valley. Putting it another way – realizing the entire thing is computer-animated is both obvious (it does focus on the love story between anthropomorphized umbrellas) and unsettling (it sometimes looks too “real” to be fake, though we’re not talking Mars Needs Moms levels of weirdness). It does, however, still have that Pixar charm and emotion (really, it focuses on the love story between anthropomorphized umbrellas), though the bulk of its creativity is focused on ancillary characters (like street signs, a mailbox, and drains) that make said anthromprophzed umbrellas seem uninspired.” – Kate Erbland

More on Pixar and Monster’s University:
Review: Go Back to School with Monsters University
Watch Two Impressive Animated Films Monsters University Director Dan Scanlon Made in High School

The Biggest Problem With Man of Steel

“Superman doesn’t care about the destruction of Metropolis? There’s only one memorable instance where Superman asks, ‘Are you okay?’ And, no, it does not come during the destruction of Metropolis, surely killing hundreds of thousands, if not millions. He asks a soldier in Smallville, during a battle which doesn’t match half of the destruction of Metropolis. There’s never a brief moment or expression of, ‘We gotta hurry. People’s lives are at stake!’ For such a large body count, Superman doesn’t show much worry or urgency over the people of Metropolis. Yes, he’s attempting to stop Zod’s machine from turning Earth into a New Krypton, but there’s no question of sacrificing the lives of few for many. If this was a Fast and Furious movie, then that type of popcorn destruction would fly. But this is set up as a humanistic genre movie with 9/11 imagery, not mindless fun.” – Jack Giroux

More on Man of Steel and Superman:
Will They Really Make Man of Steel 2 In Time for 2014?
Screenwriter David S. Goyer Explores First Contact with Man of Steel
Development Hell: Why We Didn’t Get a Superman Movie From 1988 to 2006
Scenes We Love: A Superman Father & Son Moment

Robert Downey Jr. Finally Confirmed for The Avengers Sequels

“In fact, he’s going to be coming back to play Tony Stark in at least two more…We’re still being left with a couple lingering questions. Is this going to be the end of Marvel making Iron Man movies with Downey Jr, so they can concentrate more on deepening their roster of characters and potentially finding another big money-maker? Or is it just a matter of time before all of those Iron Man dollars that are still being left on the table eventually lure Downey and Marvel back into future negotiations? They say that money talks, but that might not mean so much once you have a computer butler who talks too.” – Nathan Adams

This Summer Has Kicked Off the Post-Movie Star Era

“The reason that the summer of 2013 is important for the post-movie star era isn’t only because of the failure of After Earth in contradistinction to the success of, say, Man of Steel. One needs to look no further for evidence that we’ve entered a post-movie star era than This Is the End. That film brazenly collapses any prior distinctions between the movie star and the public celebrity. Each actor references one another’s career choices and public reputations, indulges in an exaggerated and self-deprecating hybrid of movie persona and public identity, and criticizes the supposed virtues of fame altogether. Moreover, the film presents little distinction between movie star, celebrity, and fraternal member of a famous entourage; This Is the End presumes that you know who both James Franco and David Krumholtz are.” – Landon Palmer

More on Hollywood’s problems:
The Simple Math of Why Hollywood is Broken

The LEGO Movie Actually Looks Good!

“It looks exactly like the big adventure Lord and Miller have promised – complete with some wise words from Morgan Freeman, the sinister threat of President Business (voiced by Will Ferrell) and a playful CGI/stop-motion looks fantastic. The LEGO Movie is also still a giant commercial for LEGOs, but if business is going to infect filmmaking, it should at least be done with some flair and storytelling skill. Lord and Miller promise to bring that to the kid’s table here even if it’ll be weird to see product placement inside of product placement.” – Scott Beggs

David Slade Personally Offered Filmmaking Tips

“Don’t Fix It In Post. Fix that shit right now. You do not know what is going to happen tomorrow; the earth is constantly orbiting the sun and making days that will end with or without the shots you need. Don’t assume post production will rescue you unless you really know a great deal about the mechanics of post production and know you have enough in the budget to cover the kind of fixes that can be done digitally. Your DP or 1st AD may suggest to you that you fix a problem in post, go through with them what that solution is, and then run it by your producers before agreeing. When you wrap, your 1st AD and DP will go onto something else. You are the one with the problem that still needs fixing.” – David Slade

50 Shades of Grey Finally Found a Director

“Curiosities aside, this choice is pretty damned fantastic. Previous clues as to who Universal was looking at hinted at a prestige voice, and that’s absolutely the right direction to take when adapting something that (sorry, fans) is a joke to a huge swath of the populace. Sam Taylor-Johnson falls into that category. She can take the stiffly-written book and hopefully make it sing alongside screenwriter Kelly Marcel. Great hire here.” – Scott Beggs

In Defense of The Green Hornet

“Its action is actually satisfying, especially for a movie that’s mostly a comedy. All of the scenes where Kato is using his martial arts skills are actually intricately choreographed, and Gondry shoots them far back enough that you can legitimately appreciate the choreography. For modern action that’s basically a miracle. There’s a sequence where a hit is being put out on the Hornet and word is spreading though the town that artistically uses split screen to delight as well. Though this is definitely not the visually-focused film that you’d probably expect from Gondry, he manages to get an impressive flourish in there every once in a while….The Green Hornet manages to make a car take an elevator to different floors in an office building and not have it play as being entirely over the top. That’s got to be viewed as something of an accomplishment. Maybe even a bigger accomplishment than casting Seth Rogen as an action hero and not having it become infamous for being an all-time misfire.” – Nathan Adams

Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.