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World War Z

THE home video market used to be rampant with "uncut" and "unrated" versions of movies, a marketing ploy that could spike sales, since mainstream stores such as Blockbuster were obliged to only stock rated movies.

The uncut DVD release of World War Z benefits from this strategy since it was a relatively mild PG in its theatrical release. Even in its longer cut, it may not be as gory as the George Romero films that inspired it.

But then, it is also a departure from the novel upon which it is loosely based. In the book, author Max Brooks meticulously extrapolated on the unlikely zombie premise as first laid down in the Romero films: What would be the proper military response to a zombie plague after a series of devastating defeats? If zombies couldn't drown, what impact would they have on bodies of water? And so on.

Brooks's book delighted not just for its zombie-wonk detail, but because it ran counter to the Hollywood clich© in which the fate of the globe rests on a single person.

Director Marc Forster, alas, reduces the property to the solitary-hero template: Brad Pitt vs. the Zombie Holocaust.

That said, Brad Pitt vs. the Zombie Holocaust isn't actually a bad movie.

Pitt plays Gerry Lane, a former UN investigator now happily ensconced in his role as a family man with a lovely wife (Mireille Enos) and a couple of adorable kids.

But everything changes when the undead storm the streets of Philadelphia, compelling Gerry to take his brood to the safety of a government emergency installation. Gerry signs on to find the source of the contagion in the hopes of discovering a cure. The mission takes him to far-flung locations, where he manages to piece together clues that may aid endangered humanity and turn the tide.

The word "tide" might be taken literally when it comes to zombies. The one novelty it brings to the mix is zombie swarming; they crawl over each other like soldier ants at the prospect of fresh human meat. (A Blu-ray extra examines how phenomena in the natural world inspired the movie's zombies.) That and a harrowing zombies-on-an-airplane sequence makes for some impressive novelties in an otherwise familiar sub-genre entry. 'Ö'Ö'Ö

The Bling Ring

IN movies based on actual crimes, associations with Hollywood stars pop up on occasion. Recall Martin Sheen in a role inspired by spree killer Charles Starkweather in the movie Badlands, visibly flattered to be told by arresting officers that he looks like James Dean. Remember teen punk Crispin Glover in River's Edge, excited to be covering up for a friend's senseless act of murder with the immortal line: "I feel like Chuck Norris, y'know?"

Sofia Coppola's true-crime tale The Bling Ring is about lesser crimes but with a more salient Hollywood connection. Based on the Vanity Fair article "The Suspects Wore Louboutins," it tells the story of a circle of young friends who engaged in some high-profile break-and-enters.

It is a loose association initiated by the beautiful Rebecca (Katie Chang), a young woman who befriends the misfit new kid in school, Marc (Israel Broussard). But it's a relationship that comes with an unsavory degree of peer pressure. After a party, Katie likes to cruise the parked cars on the streets looking for unlocked doors and stray wallets.

The two soon graduate to bigger games. Marc checks online to see if any celebrity is out of town. If so, they descend on the house, check for unlocked doors, and gain entry to shop for jewelry, designer clothing and money. (Celebrity victims included Orlando Bloom, Audrina Partridge, Rachel Bilson and Megan Fox.)

Soon, the circle of larcenous friends increases to include the reckless Chloe (Claire Julien), Nicki (an unsettlingly ruthless Emma Watson) and Sam (Taissa Farmiga).

As a nearly unbelievable story of unlikely criminals, the film might have functioned as kind of toned-down John Waters comedy about fashion-happy idiots on an outlaw spree. Fortunately, Coppola has a more quietly subversive agenda, best exemplified in the scene depicting an invasion of Lindsay Lohan's house. A devout fan, Rebecca splashes herself with drops of LiLo's purloined perfume. Her face grows positively beatific, and this illicit communion with the rich and famous might as well be a baptism.

Coppola meticulously creates a world of absent and/or clueless parents, set against a vacant culture where the chief activity is to snap selfies in the newest hot club.

Is there a difference between fame and achievement? Or fame and infamy? Whatever. 'Ö'Ö'Ö 1/2

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 19, 2013 C16

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