Stunt Double: World War Z

Back in June 2013 I reviewed World War Z here immediately after viewing it in the cinema, however it has always been my intention to give the film its own “Stunt Double” post on the blog in line with other such productions.

There’s not a huge amount to add to what I already wrote about the movie in my review, but to summarise Glasgow’s screen presence in World War Z: As has been well documented, the city doubles for Philadelphia and while CGI is employed to increase some building heights to American standards, landmarks like City Chambers and the Cenotaph remain untouched and instantly recognisable; What starts as a seemingly innocent case of traffic congestion on Cochrane Street descends in to chaos – reeling from an explosion in the direction of Buchanan Street, Brad Pitt’s Gerry rarely has time to draw breath before an out of control bin lorry violently clears the road of vehicles before coming to an abrupt halt at the corner of George Square; Gerry drives his petrified family through the path that has been cleared by the truck, swerving into the square where a moment of distraction leads to their Volvo’s collision with an ambulance; the family evacuate the car and see first-hand the carnage of people being attacked by the undead; Gerry commandeers an RV on George Street and the family make their break for freedom; as the military declares that Philadelphia has fallen we see a final, striking, aerial shot of George Square teeming with running figures.

Two updates that I do have to provide about World War Z from my perspective are:

–          My review was not particularly positive – largely due to very high expectations and some disappointment about the stark difference between the film and the book. However I have watched the movie again – more than once – and it has grown on me. While the main set pieces perhaps don’t sit too comfortably alongside each other, they do in the main each possess good individual qualities – from the classic American action of Philadelphia to the family drama on the aircraft carrier and the edge of the seat tension in the World Health Organisation facility.

–          I attended a Glasgow Film Festival 2014 event entitled “Film/TV Locations: Scotland on Your Screen” at the Centre for Contemporary Arts. The discussion, chaired by Nicola Balkind, covered many productions from both the small and big screen but due to its so far unsurpassed scale World War Z was naturally a key talking point – particularly with panellists Jennifer Reynolds (film commissioner at Glasgow Film Office) and Brodie Pringle (locations manager at Creative Scotland). Ms Reynolds introduced a Glasgow Film Office video about World War Z – now used to help sell the city as a filming location – which highlighted the numbers associated with the production’s spell in the city: 12 filming days, 94 local crew employed, over 500 extras employed, over 100 action vehicles, 14 city centre streets closed, 8,500 bed nights, £3.6 million spent locally. Furthermore it was stated that a subsequent survey of businesses in the area affected saw the majority report a positive impact on trade, while only five complaints regarding inconvenience were received. And the Glasgow World War Z experience was also credited as directly influencing the Fast & Furious 6 team to film in the city.

Review: World War Z (Contains Spoilers)

Four years ago I picked up a few books for holiday reading from an HMV sale display. One of these, World War Z by Max Brooks, I chucked in my holdall and didn’t give too much thought to – it wasn’t even the first of the books that I read on my trip. But eventually I opened it up, on the beach at Benicassim in Spain, and was instantly gripped. I’ve never completed a book in such a short space of time as I did with World War Z – it instantly became one of my favourite reads.

Three years ago I read that World War Z was to be made into a film. I was excited.

Two years ago rumours had started to appear in Scottish newspapers that scenes from The Dark Knight Rises would be filmed in Glasgow. I went to search for further information on this on the internet and by chance stumbled across a casting agency’s website, stating that they were looking for extras to shoot World War Z in GLASGOW. This seemed too good to be true but within a few days it was confirmed news across the Scottish media and by now I was ecstatic at the thought of my favourite book being adapted into a Hollywood blockbuster made in my city. You will likely know the rest – weeks later the Brangelina circus rolled into town and George Square became like a Universal Studios attraction. And it was amazing.

Last night I went to the Renfield Street Cineworld to see the completed World War Z but left without the satisfaction of 2009, the excitement of 2010 or the ecstasy of 2011. The film may have been in 3D but I’m sorry to say that my feelings were decidedly flat.

There were some positives, which I will come to, but first I – previously the movie’s biggest cheerleader – will attempt to justify my disappointment at the finished article.

Since the cameras started to roll on World War Z, a couple of things became common points for discussion in the film community – one being that the screenplay was looking like bearing little resemblance to the book, and the other being that the production was troubled, with talk of infighting, rewrites and reshoots.

Looking at the book vs movie issue first, adapting World War Z – about humanity’s struggle against hordes of zombies – was always going to be a tall order. The geographical scale of the book is massive, including: multiple American perspectives, from suburbia to the military to the doomed efforts for survival of the rich and famous; detailed accounts of the fall of European cities such as Hamburg and Kiev; tales of battle and survival on all continents in locations including India, Japan and South Africa. The movie misses a trick in portraying the story’s global scale. Outside of the USA, whose own tales from the war are underrepresented, there are scenes set in four more countries – Canada, Israel, South Korea and Wales. The Nova Scotia scene is brief and not worth much discussion, while the Jerusalem segment is – in my opinion – the saving grace of the movie, but this story is owed so much more than the lacklustre sole Asian and European set pieces. In South Korea the action takes place at the U.S. Army’s Camp Humphreys – it all takes place during the dead of night in the pouring rain, a dismal setting and a lazy one – part of the beauty of Brooks’ writing is the detail of the landmarks and landscapes which help the reader picture vividly parts of the world that they may not have been to, but you can barely even see the buildings here. A fleeting glimpse of a Welsh Valleys town is a slight improvement by the time the action reaches the UK but again this lengthy part of the film is confined mainly to the interior of a generic laboratory complex. Some London-based critics were quick to express surprise at the inclusion of Wales in World War Z however the country does feature in the book, more so than England, Northern Ireland and Scotland which are also referenced in print. However Brooks presents a much more interesting scenario of councils reclaiming tourist attraction castles and reverting them to their original roles as fortifications in which the citizens can be protected from the menace outside.

It would of course be impossible to fit the whole world into one film, but part of World War Z‘s problem in achieving this global scale is the style of narrative that the producers have chosen. In the book the UN employee on which Brad Pitt’s movie character Gerry Lane is based travels the world after the deadly conflict and listens to accounts from those affected. In the film however Lane is at the heart of all the action and trotting the globe while it falls around him. Making the film in the present tense was probably the right decision, but basing it on one character was not – I have read so many reviews of World War Z that I forget who said what, however a very sensible comment made by one critic was that this film would have been much better in the style of 2011’s Contagion. Here one story is tied together by the perspectives of different lead characters in different parts of the world. This got me thinking of another film which, while perhaps not as intelligent as either World War Z or Contagion, could have been a better model for the former – 1996’s Independence Day. Like it or not, compare its content to that of World War Z – before the spaceships even arrive the back stories of Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Will Smith and Randy Quaid’s characters in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and New Mexico respectively are a lot richer and better paced than the brief Lane family kitchen table scene that we are shown before all hell breaks loose on George Square.

As I’m starting to move on from locations to actors it seems like a suitable juncture to address the other issue with World War Z – that of its very thinly veiled production problems. The biggest evidence that this was the movie equivalent of the cut and shut Ford Escort at Glasgow’s Riverside Museum is Matthew Fox’s screen time – the actor still best known as lead character Jack Shephard in television’s Lost is perhaps not the biggest star on the planet but for one of the few better known American names in the feature he appears to have less to do and say than an extra in a soap opera. Other actors are underused too. David Morse is very good as the disgraced CIA man being held under arrest in South Korea and he gets much more to say than Fox, but it is still a very brief presence. And what a waste of Peter Capaldi – he gets a decent amount of screen time but it’s probably the most two dimensional performance I’ve seen from him. His character and the other three World Health Organisation doctors in the Welsh compound don’t even get given names.

The other glaring sign of the production problems with World War Z is the near complete omission of scenes shot in Budapest, which were reportedly set in Moscow. By all accounts this should have been a set piece on the scale of Philadelphia and Jerusalem and should have in fact taken the slot that ultimately went to Wales, but the weeks of shooting in the Hungarian capital are ultimately represented by a two second glimpse of battle in a montage scene at the very end of the film.

Talking of Philadelphia and Jerusalem it’s time to get to the positives. I’ll start with Jerusalem – for me this was the standout part of the film and the bit that reflects the epic scale that clearly had been intended for the whole production. Filmed in Malta with landmarks like the Dome of the Rock added in courtesy of CGI, this section starts with the relatively normal hustle and bustle of an ancient Middle Eastern city and concludes with sheer terror as a result of what is probably the movie’s most iconic scene – that of hundreds of zombies turning themselves into a mountain to scale the wall protecting the city. This is an incredibly tragic moment as well – the undead’s call to action in which they slaughter civilians and military across the city is ironically triggered by a moment of harmony that diplomats involved in Middle Eastern affairs could only dream of.

And so we get to the bit that qualifies World War Z for inclusion on this blog – Glasgow’s ten minute appearance as Philadelphia at the start of the film. I personally found the subsequent scenes set in Newark, New Jersey, more atmospheric and more scary, but there is no denying that – whatever faults World War Z has – the action packed fall of Philadelphia was a major coup for Glasgow. As a proud Glaswegian it is stunning to see dramatic aerial shots of George Square on the big screen in 3D, even if it is full of yellow cabs.

For me this World War Z journey has concluded and now I want to see two things. For World War Z I want to see another attempt made at it – this was okay but I can’t get away from feeling that the story could be done more justice. Maybe Hollywood will try again in a few years, or maybe it’s even something for one of the big American networks to adapt for a longer running television series. Brad Pitt recently spoke of potential sequels – turning it into a series of films would have been good but I don’t believe the ending of this first instalment paves the way for a direct follow up. For Glasgow meanwhile I want the city to move on – we had fun with World War Z but it wasn’t our first and won’t be our last brush with Hollywood. World War Z has earned something of a romanticised status in Glasgow but we should not let that overshadow the city’s already rich film-making history or stop us from thinking even bigger about the future.

Stunt Double: Tezz

tezztezz 2tezz 3tezz 4tezz 5Back in early summer 2011, a few months before Brad, Halle and Scarlett came to town, Glasgow was hosting action packed filming for yet another production – Tezz. The city’s main role in the film is to act as double for London in some pretty impressive police chase scenes, although Glasgow is frequently mentioned as the plot concerns a bomb aboard a London to Glasgow train.

Tezz is an Indian produced movie and this recent viewing has in fact been Glasgow on Film’s first Bollywood experience. It was watched with a completely open mind – knowing that, despite comparisons to Hollywood’s Speed, this would be a very different experience to the western (as in hemisphere) movies I am used to. So the couple of impromptu musical sequences that pop up in the film were unusual for an action thriller, but not unsurprising or unappreciated, although some explanation as to why characters’ speech would switch from Hindi to English – sometimes mid-sentence – would be appreciated.

As mentioned above, the film is about the race against time to thwart the bombing of a Virgin train travelling from London to Glasgow (surprisingly Sir Richard Branson doesn’t make one of his movie cameos). One of the group responsible for the plot is fleeing from the police through London on motorbike, although this scene is made up mainly of footage shot in Birmingham and Glasgow – as a result there are some fantastic stunts in The Barras and a dramatic conclusion to the chase on West Campbell Street. For Glasgow to witness such movie action on its streets is a privilege, as is to welcome some of the biggest names in Bollywood, such as Ajay Devgn (as the bomber, Aakaash) and Anil Kapoor (who plays the police force’s top counter-terrorism officer, Arjun) – an actor who has found success in both Bollywood and Hollywood through the likes of Slumdog Millionaire and Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol.

But the positives for Glasgow, the stunts and the respect for another culture cannot conceal a glaring fault with Tezz – its plot. There is a flashback scene in which GoF actually thought Aakaash’s beloved wife had died after being pushed by a British police officer, and that this was therefore a motive for vengeance – but in fact she wasn’t dead and for the record he wasn’t under that impression. His motive for risking the lives of 500 people is quite simply revenge for… him being deported. Even more farcical is that his plight is romanticised – unlike with Dennis Hopper’s character in Speed, it feels here like the viewer is for some reason supposed to feel sorry for the guy that got chucked out of the country for being there illegally and then decided to hold the government to ransom, causing death and destruction along the way. So the deportation meant that Aakaash was separated from the love of his life – perhaps the reason she didn’t follow him (and thus negate the need for him to go to such extreme measures for a reunion) indicates that she was bored of his melodramatics.

 

Glasgow’s Super Bowl double whammy

On Sunday gone, an estimated 108.4 million television viewers tuned in to watch the biggest event in America’s sporting calendar – Super Bowl XLVII – as it was beamed live across the globe from New Orleans. The annual championship game of the NFL – this year featuring the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers – has become a massive commercial spectacle, from the live opening and half-time performances from the likes of Beyonce to the hugely expensive adverts rolled out especially for the event by various corporations. Alongside the beer, car and trainer commercials, the Super Bowl is often the place to catch first or enhanced glimpses of forthcoming film releases as the studios show off their most anticipated productions in lucrative “TV spots”. Super Bowl Sunday is therefore as exciting for the movie community as it is for the sporting community.

Given the scale of the event and its audience it is quite a coup for Glasgow that it can claim to have been visible in not one but two movie TV spots during the Super Bowl.

The very brief (34 seconds) trailer for World War Z repeats much of what we have seen before on this film’s previous trailer – one difference in the Super Bowl spot though is that we see the Lane family’s silver Volvo (like the one pictured on location here) speed off along Cochrane Street. There is also a brief glimpse of a supermarket interior – this may or may not be from filming that Brad Pitt did at a former Kwik Save store on Paisley Road.

 SONY DSC

Another spot gave us the first look at Fast & Furious 6 – look out for a car crashing through the window of a specially constructed set on Broomielaw at 0:26 and a police car doing a somersault on Cadogan Street at 0:36. You will also see the curious looking vehicle filmed by Glasgow on Film at 0:35.

Glasgow’s Global Visitors: Brad Pitt

brad pittName: Brad Pitt

Born: 18th December 1963 in Shawnee, Oklahoma, USA

Credits include: Se7en, Inglourious Basterds, Fight Club

Reason for visiting Glasgow:

Brad Pitt’s first recorded visit to Glasgow was in 1994. At the time the actor was filming Interview With The Vampire in the UK and made a point of travelling to Scotland to do some sightseeing around the country – as an architecture and design enthusiast, a tour of Glasgow’s Charles Rennie Mackintosh buildings was high on his agenda. In a December 1994 issue of Rolling Stone magazine there is an in depth interview with Pitt partly conducted in the city by writer Chris Mundy, who accompanied him on the trip, while Scottish newspapers have also made frequent references to his visit – including the Fight Club star’s apparent liaison with the girlfriend of a Glasgow gangster and the words of warning he received as a result. A 2010 article in The Scottish Sun quotes Pitt as saying of his 1994 visit “Edinburgh and Glasgow are special – the architecture is something there”.

The 1994 visit may have slipped under the radar of most of the city at the time, however it was a different story in 2011 when Pitt returned to Glasgow to film World War Z – with equally famous partner Angelina Jolie and the couple’s children accompanying him on the visit. From the moment the specially chartered Virgin train carrying the family and other members of the film’s crew pulled into Central Station from London to the point when the cameras – which had been filming primarily around George Square, but also partly in Cardonald – rolled out of town there was a lot of hype about the actor’s presence. From themed T-shirts to specially named sandwiches and newspapers offering “Brangelina” guides on what to do while in Glasgow, Brad Pitt was – for a couple of weeks – at the centre of the city’s attention.

Welcome To 2013!

First of all, a very Happy New Year to all – hope 2013 brings you everything you wish for.

Today Glasgow on Film is taking the opportunity to look forward to what promises to be a vintage year for cinema exposure, and to share hopes and wishes for what else can come the city’s way…

Coming Soon

2011 and 2012 were big years for movie production in Glasgow – 2013 sees the fruits of the film-makers’ labours hit the big screens, and it is hard to remember any other time when so many Glasgow linked features were due to come out. And what a variety of movies too – see below for the releases that are coming our way in 2013.

Cloud Atlas:Already released in the USA (and in fact due for DVD/Blu-Ray release there on 5th February), this ambitious production hits British cinema screens on 22nd February. Based on a 2004 novel by British author David Mitchell, this is a German production written and directed by Lana and Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer. The film’s official synopsis reads: “…Cloud Atlas explores how the actions and consequences of individual lives impact one another throughout the past, the present and the future. Action, mystery and romance weave dramatically through the story as one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero, and a single act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution in the distant future”. The movie is set in multiple places and times and as such, filming took place at locations across Europe including Dusseldorf, Edinburgh, Majorca and of course Glasgow. Glasgow was used for the filming of two scenes – one set in 1970s San Francisco and involving Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving and Keith David (filmed around the Bothwell Street/St Vincent Street area, this involved a car crash and gunfire); the other scene was filmed further along St Vincent Street and involved Jim Broadbent leaving a mocked up tailor’s shop in what appears to be contemporary (or 20th Century) London. As became something of a habit in 2011, GoF went along for a “nosey” at the San Francisco scene filming and managed to spot Hugo Weaving and – from a distance – Halle Berry. Look out at 1.11 on the trailer below for a very fleeting glimpse of this scene.

The Fast And The Furious 6: The latest instalment in this long running series of road-based action movies, starring Dwayne Johnson, Vin Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez, is released in cinemas on 24th May. It has been indicated that the setting for this movie (previous The Fast And The Furious films were set in the USA and in one instance Tokyo) will be London and while much of the filming took place in the capital, Glasgow and Liverpool lent their streets and tunnels as stunt doubles for a couple of scenes. The scene shot on Glasgow’s Cadogan Street did not involve any of the film’s actors, however there was a car chase involving some impressive stunts – including a Metropolitan Police car being flipped into the air. Better captures of the action can be found on YouTube, but here anyway is GoF’s rather primitive footage of some of the vehicles setting off.

wwz 13World War Z:Mentioned here before, the 2013 movie that is perhaps most highly anticipated by Glaswegians. Released on 21st June, the feature that saw George Square transformed into Philadelphia has Brad Pitt travelling the globe as a United Nations employee while the nations of the world struggle against a zombie pandemic. Here once again is the trailer, with Glasgow featuring heavily at the start, and one of GoF’s set photos.

Others to look out for, with release dates still to be confirmed, are: Under The Skin – Scarlett Johansson became a familiar sight in Glasgow, shooting this movie about a seductive alien; Filth– another Irvine Welsh novel turned into a movie, this one starring James McAvoy and Jamie Bell; Not Another Happy Ending – a romantic film starring Karen Gillan.

Hopes For 2013

Glasgow on Film hopes that all of the above films will be successful, further inspiring confidence in the city as one of the world’s leading movie making locations. It would be great to see even more productions come to Clydeside – the reputation is definitely out there now so who knows who will roll into Glasgow next. Perhaps 2013 will be the year that a new studio complex in Govan is given the green light – if so that will lead the way for a very bright future for the movie industry in Glasgow.

In the meantime Glasgow on Film looks forward to continuing to catalogue everything that links the city to the big screen. Later this week subjects will be as diverse as Glasgow’s appearance in The Fourth Protocol, visits by Mila Kunis, Ardal O’Hanlon and Bruce Willis and the movie appearances of Tony Roper. And coming soon a look at many more films including Young Adam, Irvine Welsh’s Ecstasy, NEDS, Red Road and The Angels’ Share.

Thank you for visiting and once again, a very Happy New Year!

Gift Idea: Get Around Glasgow’s T Shirts And Stuff

ShawlandsRedemptionVia the wonder that is Twitter, Glasgow on Film this week learned about an absolutely fantastic website – getaroundglasgow.spreadshirt.uk

Get Around Glasgow has a huge selection of T shirts, hoodies and tote bags – every one of them uniquely Glaswegian, with some brilliant messages and imagery. You will find everything from stylised tributes to the city’s many areas (a Coca-Cola style Carnwadric for example) and well known phrases to very smart interpretations of topical stories to come out of Glasgow, such as 2011’s infamous “Hurricane Bawbag” and the recent opening of the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome, and designs inspired by Glasgow television classics like Still Game and Taggart.500seconds

As for movies, take your pick – again the choice in this category alone is immense. There’s A Poke Of Chips Now, The Springburn Identity and Pollok, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels to name a few, and Bond fans are well catered for with the likes of From Royston With Love, The Govan Daylights and Dr. Naw. Meanwhile there are some very special designs that were produced when Glasgow went wild for World War Z during last summer’s shoot in the city – examples being Brad’s Zombie Army and I Was A Glasgow Zombie.

With Christmas fast approaching the Get Around Glasgow website is well worth a visit – these quirky clothes are ideal for people who love FromRoytsonWithLoveGlasgow and people who love movies.