To be or not to be… or to be zombie?
That is a question… right?
Welcome Back to Rated D!
This week we triple checked the title, made sure that we hadn’t accidentally stumbled into an X-Rated Theatre, and strapped in to see the new flick "Warm Bodies". SPOILER ALERT: In a post-apocalyptic future where the undead outnumber the living, a shy, young zombie falls in love with a human.
In a post apocalyptic world where humans and zombies are literally divided by a massive wall, it’s good to know that one thing still unites us. Is it the need and longing for community of those who are similar to us? Perhaps. Is it the need for tolerance and acceptance of others regardless of how wildly drastic our differences are? Possibly. Is it powerful effect love can have on each and every one of us? Please! No, no, my friends. The one qualifying factor, the great equalizer, the untearable thread that ties us all together is this: No Cell Phones. As the credits rolled and the theater slowly illuminated, I realized that this was the first time I had been to a movie since… I don’t know when… that I was not distracted by a muffled pop-song ringtone, a cheesy notification sound effect, or (the most irritating of all) a glowing object with Facebook, Twitter, or a text message in the center, seizing my attention and drawing me to it like a moth to some brightly burning object like a… uh… moth torch. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying technology is evil (…yet…) and, sure, being able to reach anyone at any time can be a virtual lifesaver these days, but last I checked no one sends an S.O.S. via Pintrest. Out of respect for my fellow moviegoers, I put my phone on vibrate in case of an emergency and if I do need to check the time, I try to shield the glow with a hand or my jacket, but other than that half a second, it stays out of sight. In return, I just hope we can all wait until the end of the movie to play Words With Friends. After all, the person you’re playing against is probably cheating anyway. I mean, “zyzzyva”? Yeah, I’m sure you just pulled that one out of thin air, Brenda!
The plot of this movie sounds like a bad joke or like someone lost a bet during a conversation about “Twilight”. Ok… ok… girl falls in love vampire! No, werewolf! No, zombie!... eh, that’ll never work… I mean, come on! Even if we’ve experienced an influx of zombie culture over the past decade it still doesn’t change the fact that there are certain… undesirable qualities those brain munchers have that are hard to look past to say the least. For example, looking past rotting flesh and flesh-eating isn’t exactly Tom Hanks seeing past Darryl Hannah’s fish legs. But oddly, and that is definitely an understatement, this one turned out to be pretty good!
We begin our story with two not-so-quite-alike-in-dignity “households” in Post-Apocalytica where we lay our scene, following a shy young zombie, played by Nicholas Hoult (About A Boy, X-Men: First Class), who goes by R (since he can’t remember the rest of his name). With memory issues like that and other hardships like, ya know, being dead and all, he still strives to find something more out of life… or death… unlife? The likable Hoult ably takes on the task of making this monster a little more humane, winning us over with his quirky personality and hilariously, innocent narration. Even though he and his zombie buddies like the excellent Rob Corddry (Butter, Hot Tub Time Machine) can occasionally muster up a word or two, the script wisely borrows from the book on which it’s based and lets us hear R’s inner monologue. For the most part he just laments about his stagnant status quo which consists of hoarding trinkets like vinyl records (which make the music sound “more alive”) and only leaving his airport hangar home to find food in the form or flesh and, of course, brains (which are “the best part”). On one such hunt, R and his zombuddies overtake a group of humans on a pharmaceutical raid where R meets a headstrong, young soldier named, Julie, played by Teresa Palmer (Bedtime Stories, I Am Number 4). I have to say, it’s a dicey move having us watch our main character attack and literally eat someone and still root for him to get the girl, especially when the victim is her boyfriend, but somewhere between R’s narration and the “kill or be killed” circumstance, you kind of give him a pass.
After rescuing her from the being eaten by the rest of his hungry pack (what a guy!), R and Julie return to his airplane haven and begin the most unlikely relationship which may be strange, but if you’re still watching the movie by this point, you’re suspension of disbelief is probably still intact. Outside, ravenous staggerers wander aimlessly about and decrepit, skeletal monsters known as “bonies” lurk in the shadows, but inside, despite their differences, Hoult and Palmer make an attractive couple in an awkwardly hip sort of way.
In movies more based in reality, it is easy to find threads to pull at until the movie unravels, but the moment you went to see a movie about creatures that don’t have a heartbeat but can still eat and think, let alone walk around, you kind of have to be willing to accept anything. For instance, there’s a unique (albeit absurd) device that the movie employs where if a zombie eats a person’s brains, they can see their memories through their eyes and actually feel the feelings as if they were their own. Now, I’m no brain-studier-ologist or nothin’, but that seems like some good ol’ solid science-fact to me!
On one hand, I want to praise the movie for its originality. On the other hand I feel like it should be noted that it is just as much of an adaptation of “Romeo and Juliet” as “West Side Story”. On a third hand, I’ve just had a brilliant idea for “Dead Side Story: A Zombie Musical”. And on a fourth hand, I only have two hands. Surprisingly, putting a fresh new spin on an old story and without taking itself too seriously or overfilling it with too much drama-drama-drama, Director Jonathan Levine (50/50) brings this fun little undead story to life that actually has some genuine emotion and some heart... and I ain’t just talking ‘bout the ones gettin’ eatin’. Nailed it.
D's Recommendation – 3.5 out of 5 – And They Say Romance is Dead.
To Celebrate February 14th…
"You Gotta’ Have Heart!"
Movies about Heart Transplants!
1. Dirty Work (1998) – Matter of the Heart: To afford a heart transplant for their father, two sarcastic slackers start a business where they get revenge on your enemies for you. So maybe this movie isn’t the greatest and sure Norm MacDonald isn’t gonna win any acting awards… especially since they don’t give out acting awards fifteen years after a movie came out… but there’s still something fun about this crude, vulgar comedy. Some hilarious lines, ridiculous pranks, and even one of the last appearances of Chris Farley help this one stay afloat.
2. John Q (2002) – Matter of the Heart: After his son’s heart problems and medical politics exhaust his options, John Q. Archibald takes an emergency room hostage until they agree to perform the operation. Denzel, as the father, is as good as usual and what wouldn’t a man do to save a member of his family? Certainly he’d rip off that two part episode of “Chicago Hope” that focused on the exact same situation. Still, some smaller ideas get expanded on the big screen, but the melodrama in this intriguing, moral vs. ethics story saturates the plot a bit too much… as you might have guessed from the cheesy title.
3. 21 Grams (2003) – Matter of the Heart: The intertwining stories of a struggling ex-con who accidentally kills a woman’s two children and husband (whose heart is given to a depressed, dying teacher). All his theories he’d be preaching and in his classroom he’d be teachin’ if he only had a heart! Hey! If you felt terrible after “Babel”, you’ll have a much harder time stomaching this one! Yes, the acting from the terrific cast including the tortured Benicio del Toro (ex-con), the heart-breaking Naomi Watts (widow), and the hopelessly lost Sean Penn (Tin Man) is top-notch (Top notch? Ok Grandpa) and the wicked, woebegone web weaved is worth the watch, but, man oh man, be prepared to be miserable.
4. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (2008) – Matter of the Heart: Dr. Jones gets wrapped up with a cult that practices human sacrifice by tearing out people's hearts before destroying the body. Ok... so I ran out of movies about heart transplant that I had seen or hadn't already reviewed! I had a eloquently written review of "Seven Pounds" but ages ago I used it during my "Shakespeare Inspired Titles" D's List so it was off limits. Every man's gotta have a code. To some purists, this movie gets a bad rap for being too hokey, but growing up with it, I always had fun watching it!
5. Smokin’ Aces (2007) – Matter of the Heart: When a million dollar hit is made on a slimy Vegas entertainer, assassins of sorts besiege the Lake Tahoe hotel where the FBI is hiding him to get his heart. What starts off as a uniquely stylistic, “True Romance”-like ride loses its sense of humor and pace, reaching a dizzying ending that still can’t make you care about any of the characters. There’s lots of potential, but most of what it amounts to are crazy scenes (that are a little fun to watch) and over-the-top performances that would be fine if the story didn’t suddenly try to become so serious.
Rated DVD –
In a decimated hotel room filled with empty bottles and littered with drug paraphernalia, a naked woman searches for her clothes amongst trash while a disoriented man argues with his ex-wife on the phone before snorting a line of cocaine. And then he flies a plane.
Hey there, Terrifying! I thought that was you!
As if matters couldn’t get worse, suddenly in mid-flight the plane goes into a nosedive and now rests in the stoned hands of Capt. Whip Whittaker, played by Denzel Washington.
Oops, excuse me, Worst Nightmare! I thought you were someone else!
After the crash, an engaging story of substance abuse, alcoholism, and the power of denial begins to unfold as the National Transportation Safety Board begins to investigate the crash and Whip begins to fear for his future (even though he should be focusing on his present). Although his actions saved lives, a handful of people know he was under the influence at the time of the crash and, like most addicts, his attempts to quit cold turkey often result in an incapacitated failure.
“Flight” is nominated for both Best Original Screenplay and Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role at this year’s Academy Awards and it’s not much of a surprise. Personally, I don’t think the always great Denzel will be able to wrestle the statue away from Daniel Day-Lewis (or Bradley Cooper even), but he is solid as per usual. Also, I did enjoy the intriguing character-driven story (moreso than the dialogue), but although it was good, it’s not my number one pick for the Oscar this year.
Next Time on Rated D...
Side Effects – Twisty turns in the world of pharmaceuticals and therapy… finally!