The Cheapest Seats

Movie reviews from a theater employee.
There’s a sad sense of nostalgia running through The World’s End, a longing for simpler times when a pub crawl was an epic quest, one that wasn’t so much about the result as the attempt, the stab at accomplishing something.  Unfortunately for Gary King (Simon Pegg), this nostalgia has crippled him to the point where he’s certain that if he can go back and finish what he started, his life will have meaning once again.
And so he slowly recruits his old group of friends:  Oliver (Martin Freeman), a real estate broker with a bluetooth headset ever-present in his ear; Steven (Paddy Considine), a construction foreman who used to consider himself a rival to Gary; Peter (Eddie Marsan), a car salesman working for his father who has always been meek and mild; and Andy (Nick Frost), Gary’s former best friend who has been sober for 16 years following a dramatic falling out. Through belligerence and guilt-tripping, Gary manages to convince them to return to their hometown of Newton Haven to have a crack at The Golden Mile, the 12-pub crawl the town is famous for.  But the group (which Gary has enthusiastically dubbed the “Five Muskateers”) soon realizes that something is very different, and very strange about Newton Haven.
The World’s End is the last film in what director Edgar Wright has dubbed his “Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy,” which was begun with Shaun of the Dead and continued with Hot Fuzz.  The films share no characters, nor do they share a world, but all three have strong themes of identity and individuality in the face of the societal pressure to conform (represented as zombies, village associations and the trend of “Starbucking”).  They’re all also playful homages to their genres, be it zombie movies, action films, or sci-fi stories, and as such, they’re all quite hilarious.
If I had to pick (which I don’t, but I’m going to anyway), I would have to declare The World’s End to be my favorite of the trilogy.  It’s got the strongest characters, the best action sequences, and it’s tied with Hot Fuzz for being the funniest.
Speaking of the action sequences, they’re all superbly filmed, and between this film and Scott Pilgrim vs The World, Edgar Wright has shown himself to be a fantastic action director.  Everything is always clear, the choreography is great (Brad Allen, a member of Jackie Chan’s team, was the stunt coordinator), and they just have that plain “cool factor” that makes them fun to watch.
I could go on about how great the editing is, how as the characters get drunker the film develops a subtle “drunken haze” effect in certain shots, but the bottom line is this:  what sets this film apart from Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz is the beating heart and soul it possesses.  It says you can’t stay young forever, but try not to grow up so fast or so much.

There’s a sad sense of nostalgia running through The World’s End, a longing for simpler times when a pub crawl was an epic quest, one that wasn’t so much about the result as the attempt, the stab at accomplishing something.  Unfortunately for Gary King (Simon Pegg), this nostalgia has crippled him to the point where he’s certain that if he can go back and finish what he started, his life will have meaning once again.

And so he slowly recruits his old group of friends:  Oliver (Martin Freeman), a real estate broker with a bluetooth headset ever-present in his ear; Steven (Paddy Considine), a construction foreman who used to consider himself a rival to Gary; Peter (Eddie Marsan), a car salesman working for his father who has always been meek and mild; and Andy (Nick Frost), Gary’s former best friend who has been sober for 16 years following a dramatic falling out. Through belligerence and guilt-tripping, Gary manages to convince them to return to their hometown of Newton Haven to have a crack at The Golden Mile, the 12-pub crawl the town is famous for.  But the group (which Gary has enthusiastically dubbed the “Five Muskateers”) soon realizes that something is very different, and very strange about Newton Haven.

The World’s End is the last film in what director Edgar Wright has dubbed his “Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy,” which was begun with Shaun of the Dead and continued with Hot Fuzz.  The films share no characters, nor do they share a world, but all three have strong themes of identity and individuality in the face of the societal pressure to conform (represented as zombies, village associations and the trend of “Starbucking”).  They’re all also playful homages to their genres, be it zombie movies, action films, or sci-fi stories, and as such, they’re all quite hilarious.

If I had to pick (which I don’t, but I’m going to anyway), I would have to declare The World’s End to be my favorite of the trilogy.  It’s got the strongest characters, the best action sequences, and it’s tied with Hot Fuzz for being the funniest.

Speaking of the action sequences, they’re all superbly filmed, and between this film and Scott Pilgrim vs The World, Edgar Wright has shown himself to be a fantastic action director.  Everything is always clear, the choreography is great (Brad Allen, a member of Jackie Chan’s team, was the stunt coordinator), and they just have that plain “cool factor” that makes them fun to watch.

I could go on about how great the editing is, how as the characters get drunker the film develops a subtle “drunken haze” effect in certain shots, but the bottom line is this:  what sets this film apart from Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz is the beating heart and soul it possesses.  It says you can’t stay young forever, but try not to grow up so fast or so much.

My favorite musical artist, Janelle Monáe, referred to one of her music videos as an “emotion picture.” It was simple, just a shoulders-up shot of her singing the song, but “emotion picture” is a great description, as her expressive face conveyed the songs vibrant emotions.
After watching Upstream Color, that phrase was stuck in my mind.  Using a blend of beautifully shot imagery, a haunting score, and a fantastic performance from Amy Seimetz, the film portrays some very powerful feelings of confusion and a little hopelessness.
The structure of the film doesn’t lend itself particularly well to summaries, but the basic premise goes something like this:  Kris (Seimetz) is drugged with a worm/grub that renders her extremely susceptible to hypnosis, allowing a thief to steal all of her savings.  Some time after this, she meets a man, Jeff (writer/director Shane Carruth) who seems inexplicably drawn to her, and who may have been a victim of the same parasite.  Elsewhere, a man makes music out of found sounds and takes care of a pig farm.  These events are all related.
Now there is a story here, and according to Carruth, nothing is unexplained.  However, the film is perhaps the epitome of “show, don’t tell,” and as such, it can be difficult to piece everything together with just a single view.  I couldn’t tell you the complete story myself, though I’d like to think I understood a decent amount for my first viewing (more viewings are definitely in order).
But none of that is a negative, at least not to me.  Upstream Color is a film that works best when you let it wash over you, because as I said before, this film has some very beautiful imagery (as a fair warning, though, some of it is also a little disturbing), and when that imagery combines with the eerie score, the effect is nothing short of mesmerizing.  

My favorite musical artist, Janelle Monáe, referred to one of her music videos as an “emotion picture.” It was simple, just a shoulders-up shot of her singing the song, but “emotion picture” is a great description, as her expressive face conveyed the songs vibrant emotions.

After watching Upstream Color, that phrase was stuck in my mind.  Using a blend of beautifully shot imagery, a haunting score, and a fantastic performance from Amy Seimetz, the film portrays some very powerful feelings of confusion and a little hopelessness.

The structure of the film doesn’t lend itself particularly well to summaries, but the basic premise goes something like this:  Kris (Seimetz) is drugged with a worm/grub that renders her extremely susceptible to hypnosis, allowing a thief to steal all of her savings.  Some time after this, she meets a man, Jeff (writer/director Shane Carruth) who seems inexplicably drawn to her, and who may have been a victim of the same parasite.  Elsewhere, a man makes music out of found sounds and takes care of a pig farm.  These events are all related.

Now there is a story here, and according to Carruth, nothing is unexplained.  However, the film is perhaps the epitome of “show, don’t tell,” and as such, it can be difficult to piece everything together with just a single view.  I couldn’t tell you the complete story myself, though I’d like to think I understood a decent amount for my first viewing (more viewings are definitely in order).

But none of that is a negative, at least not to me.  Upstream Color is a film that works best when you let it wash over you, because as I said before, this film has some very beautiful imagery (as a fair warning, though, some of it is also a little disturbing), and when that imagery combines with the eerie score, the effect is nothing short of mesmerizing.  

I’ve mentioned before that I wasn’t a horror film guy at all for a long time.  I saw a brief clip of Leprechaun 2 at a neighbor’s house when I was six years old, and it terrified me so bad that I ran home screaming and crying, and carried an aversion to horror movies for quite a long time.  
Twenty years later, I was talked into watching Evil Dead, a remake of Sam Raimi’s 1982 cult classic The Evil Dead.  This film has been hyping up it’s tagline (the big words that take up most of the poster up there) pretty hard, and that’s kind of a big expectation to place on people.  And I’m sure some people were let down.  But I found myself pretty damn terrified.  And I loved it.
The story is simple; five friends meet at a remote cabin in the middle of a forest to help Mia (Jane Levy) kick her heroin habit.  The smell of rotting dead cats leads them to the basement, where they discover a book bound in human flesh, here referred to as the Naturon Demonto.  Despite a bunch of incredibly obvious warnings that the book should be left alone (it was wrapped in a garbage bag and bound with barbed-wire, for one), one of the friends reads from the book, and shortly after, all hell breaks loose.
Are most of these characters stupid?  Well yeah, but much of it is at least a little reasonable under the circumstances.  And besides, a horror film with smart characters would either be boring or more of a horror-comedy.  So while the plot is weak, I’ve come to realize that the plot isn’t exactly why people watch horror films.  They watch them for the adrenaline rush being scared creates.  And on that front, Evil Dead delivers.
The terror in this film is mostly derived from the hopelessness of the situation.  Being trapped in the middle of nowhere is bad enough; throwing demons into the mixture is just rubbing salt in the wound.  And there are plenty of wounds to be seen here.  This is one violent, gory film.  There’s burning, dismemberment, bloody vomit, and a dirty box-cutter that probably tastes terrible.  All done with practical effects, which is impressive (there are a few shots that seem to have some CGI in them, but they’re not about the gore).
But perhaps what amazes me most about this film, is that it seems to have completely dispelled my aversion to horror movies.  Granted, I’m going to be selective about it, but I find myself drawn to exploring the genre that until now I had treated like one might treat a wasp’s nest.  It’s a day I never thought would come, but I’m glad it did, because that adrenaline rush is a hell of a kick.

I’ve mentioned before that I wasn’t a horror film guy at all for a long time.  I saw a brief clip of Leprechaun 2 at a neighbor’s house when I was six years old, and it terrified me so bad that I ran home screaming and crying, and carried an aversion to horror movies for quite a long time.  

Twenty years later, I was talked into watching Evil Dead, a remake of Sam Raimi’s 1982 cult classic The Evil Dead.  This film has been hyping up it’s tagline (the big words that take up most of the poster up there) pretty hard, and that’s kind of a big expectation to place on people.  And I’m sure some people were let down.  But I found myself pretty damn terrified.  And I loved it.

The story is simple; five friends meet at a remote cabin in the middle of a forest to help Mia (Jane Levy) kick her heroin habit.  The smell of rotting dead cats leads them to the basement, where they discover a book bound in human flesh, here referred to as the Naturon Demonto.  Despite a bunch of incredibly obvious warnings that the book should be left alone (it was wrapped in a garbage bag and bound with barbed-wire, for one), one of the friends reads from the book, and shortly after, all hell breaks loose.

Are most of these characters stupid?  Well yeah, but much of it is at least a little reasonable under the circumstances.  And besides, a horror film with smart characters would either be boring or more of a horror-comedy.  So while the plot is weak, I’ve come to realize that the plot isn’t exactly why people watch horror films.  They watch them for the adrenaline rush being scared creates.  And on that front, Evil Dead delivers.

The terror in this film is mostly derived from the hopelessness of the situation.  Being trapped in the middle of nowhere is bad enough; throwing demons into the mixture is just rubbing salt in the wound.  And there are plenty of wounds to be seen here.  This is one violent, gory film.  There’s burning, dismemberment, bloody vomit, and a dirty box-cutter that probably tastes terrible.  All done with practical effects, which is impressive (there are a few shots that seem to have some CGI in them, but they’re not about the gore).

But perhaps what amazes me most about this film, is that it seems to have completely dispelled my aversion to horror movies.  Granted, I’m going to be selective about it, but I find myself drawn to exploring the genre that until now I had treated like one might treat a wasp’s nest.  It’s a day I never thought would come, but I’m glad it did, because that adrenaline rush is a hell of a kick.

I noticed that quite a few of my coworkers went to see Spring Breakers yesterday, when it expanded wide enough to land in our theater.  Most of them came out saying it was terrible, and I heard a lot of other people coming out of the theater saying similar things—one man loudly called it the “worst movie ever”.  Yet one of my coworkers, who aspires to be a writer/director, really enjoyed it.  I had already planned on checking this movie out (it looked like a weird little art-house kind of film, albeit one dressed up as a part movie, and it’s been a while since I’ve seen one of those), and these reactions just cemented that decision.
The plot is fairly straight forward, revolving around four childhood friends who want to go to Florida for spring break, but lack the necessary funds to do so.  Their solution is to rob a local restaurant.  While down in St Petersburg, enjoying the unbridled hedonism of spring break, they’re arrested at a party for doing drugs.  A local gangster/rapper who calls himself Alien bails them out, and starts to take a creepy interest in them.
Spring Breakers is stuffed full of nudity, sex, booze and drugs, with a dash of violence towards the end.  And yet, none of the excess of spring break feels particularly glamorized, though that may just be me projecting my discomfort.  On that note, I legitimately did not like a single character in this movie, though I did find James Franco’s portrayal of Alien fascinating and amusing.
Now what is probably the thing that polarizes opinions on this film is the way it’s all put together.  The whole thing feels like a trance or a daze, particularly due to the use of repeated lines.  While this is effective in some instances, there’s at least one instance towards the end of the film where it just flat out irritated me.  Still, the film aims for that dazed, drugged-out feel, and by and large it succeeds at it.
If there’s one thing I can praise, it’s the film’s soundtrack.  The original score by Cliff Martinez and Skrillex fits the film perfectly, and the licensed songs are well placed; my favorite scene in the film involves a strange sequence set to “Everytime” by Britney Spears.  
In the end, though, I can’t quite say I liked this film.  It was definitely very interesting, and by no means was it as terrible as some of my coworkers claimed, but at the same time, I definitely understand why they had that reaction to it.  

I noticed that quite a few of my coworkers went to see Spring Breakers yesterday, when it expanded wide enough to land in our theater.  Most of them came out saying it was terrible, and I heard a lot of other people coming out of the theater saying similar things—one man loudly called it the “worst movie ever”.  Yet one of my coworkers, who aspires to be a writer/director, really enjoyed it.  I had already planned on checking this movie out (it looked like a weird little art-house kind of film, albeit one dressed up as a part movie, and it’s been a while since I’ve seen one of those), and these reactions just cemented that decision.

The plot is fairly straight forward, revolving around four childhood friends who want to go to Florida for spring break, but lack the necessary funds to do so.  Their solution is to rob a local restaurant.  While down in St Petersburg, enjoying the unbridled hedonism of spring break, they’re arrested at a party for doing drugs.  A local gangster/rapper who calls himself Alien bails them out, and starts to take a creepy interest in them.

Spring Breakers is stuffed full of nudity, sex, booze and drugs, with a dash of violence towards the end.  And yet, none of the excess of spring break feels particularly glamorized, though that may just be me projecting my discomfort.  On that note, I legitimately did not like a single character in this movie, though I did find James Franco’s portrayal of Alien fascinating and amusing.

Now what is probably the thing that polarizes opinions on this film is the way it’s all put together.  The whole thing feels like a trance or a daze, particularly due to the use of repeated lines.  While this is effective in some instances, there’s at least one instance towards the end of the film where it just flat out irritated me.  Still, the film aims for that dazed, drugged-out feel, and by and large it succeeds at it.

If there’s one thing I can praise, it’s the film’s soundtrack.  The original score by Cliff Martinez and Skrillex fits the film perfectly, and the licensed songs are well placed; my favorite scene in the film involves a strange sequence set to “Everytime” by Britney Spears.  

In the end, though, I can’t quite say I liked this film.  It was definitely very interesting, and by no means was it as terrible as some of my coworkers claimed, but at the same time, I definitely understand why they had that reaction to it.  

Okay, full disclosure:  I have never seen any of the other Die Hard movies in their entirety.  I’ve seen about half an hour of the first film, and that’s it.  So I’m not really qualified to judge A Good Day to Die Hard in terms of how much it feels like a Die Hard movie.  But perhaps that’s a good thing.  Maybe this position gives me a more objective perspective.  Without the nagging expectations, I can give this film a fair shake.
And speaking as someone who has no experience with what a Die Hard movie should be?  A Good Day to Die Hard is rather boring. You would think that a film that features so many bullets and explosions would at least be fun, but due to a lackluster plot, mediocre cinematography and downright bad editing, A Good Day to Die Hard is a film that I struggle to really remember. 
From what I remember of the plot, it concerns a Russian political prisoner who has some file that will expose some corrupt Russian politician.  John McClane (Bruce Willis) has come to Russia to help his son Jack (Jai Courtney) who is apparently a CIA agent working to extract the political prisoner (who I can seriously not remember the name of; Yuri something, I think).  What follows is a chase scene (which is legitimately sort of fun to watch, even if it is completely ridiculous), some exposition, a shootout (which the trailer basically gives away, not that it is particularly noteworthy), some more exposition, and a final action sequence that feels phoned-in.
Now granted, not everything is bad.  Bruce Willis is charismatic enough, though he takes so much punishment that you never really worry about his safety.  There’s some mildly amusing interaction between him and Jai Courtney, and as I mentioned earlier, the first major chase sequence is somewhat entertaining.  It involves big trucks plowing through every single car in their path, and Bruce Willis driving an SUV over at least ten cars that I think had drivers still in them.  All of this happens with absolutely no repercussions apart from the good guys escaping and the bad guys being momentarily inconvenienced.
But even that sequence is marred by the editing.  A shot of Jack McClane driving down an alley is followed immediately by the truck that is pursuing him plowing through a statue that seemingly appears out of nowhere.  Shortly before this, John McClane is in a crowd outside a Russian courthouse, then shortly after he’s relatively alone, and then bombs go off and he’s caught in a panicking crowd again, and then he’s alone soon after.  Similarly mysterious is how the two McClanes manage to have a leisurely conversation on top of a hill that has to be in plain sight of the bad guys, before walking right into a building full of guys who somehow never notice them.
I might be being a little harsh, but action films don’t have to be like this.  They can have memorable plots; they can have good dialogue (or at least snappy one-liners); and they can give you an adrenaline rush from seeing someone gain the upper-hand in a fight and stylishly kick some ass.  But A Good Day to Die Hard doesn’t have any of that; instead, it has Bruce Willis firing automatic weapons like he was watering his garden, so convinced of his own invulnerability that it’s just really difficult to give a damn.

Okay, full disclosure:  I have never seen any of the other Die Hard movies in their entirety.  I’ve seen about half an hour of the first film, and that’s it.  So I’m not really qualified to judge A Good Day to Die Hard in terms of how much it feels like a Die Hard movie.  But perhaps that’s a good thing.  Maybe this position gives me a more objective perspective.  Without the nagging expectations, I can give this film a fair shake.

And speaking as someone who has no experience with what a Die Hard movie should be?  A Good Day to Die Hard is rather boring. You would think that a film that features so many bullets and explosions would at least be fun, but due to a lackluster plot, mediocre cinematography and downright bad editing, A Good Day to Die Hard is a film that I struggle to really remember. 

From what I remember of the plot, it concerns a Russian political prisoner who has some file that will expose some corrupt Russian politician.  John McClane (Bruce Willis) has come to Russia to help his son Jack (Jai Courtney) who is apparently a CIA agent working to extract the political prisoner (who I can seriously not remember the name of; Yuri something, I think).  What follows is a chase scene (which is legitimately sort of fun to watch, even if it is completely ridiculous), some exposition, a shootout (which the trailer basically gives away, not that it is particularly noteworthy), some more exposition, and a final action sequence that feels phoned-in.

Now granted, not everything is bad.  Bruce Willis is charismatic enough, though he takes so much punishment that you never really worry about his safety.  There’s some mildly amusing interaction between him and Jai Courtney, and as I mentioned earlier, the first major chase sequence is somewhat entertaining.  It involves big trucks plowing through every single car in their path, and Bruce Willis driving an SUV over at least ten cars that I think had drivers still in them.  All of this happens with absolutely no repercussions apart from the good guys escaping and the bad guys being momentarily inconvenienced.

But even that sequence is marred by the editing.  A shot of Jack McClane driving down an alley is followed immediately by the truck that is pursuing him plowing through a statue that seemingly appears out of nowhere.  Shortly before this, John McClane is in a crowd outside a Russian courthouse, then shortly after he’s relatively alone, and then bombs go off and he’s caught in a panicking crowd again, and then he’s alone soon after.  Similarly mysterious is how the two McClanes manage to have a leisurely conversation on top of a hill that has to be in plain sight of the bad guys, before walking right into a building full of guys who somehow never notice them.

I might be being a little harsh, but action films don’t have to be like this.  They can have memorable plots; they can have good dialogue (or at least snappy one-liners); and they can give you an adrenaline rush from seeing someone gain the upper-hand in a fight and stylishly kick some ass.  But A Good Day to Die Hard doesn’t have any of that; instead, it has Bruce Willis firing automatic weapons like he was watering his garden, so convinced of his own invulnerability that it’s just really difficult to give a damn.

This is director Steven Soderbergh’s last theatrically-released film for the foreseeable future, which is a damn shame.  Side Effects is a tense thriller, with a slew of twists and turns that are, if not mind-blowing, incredibly satisfying.  
Due to the nature of the plot, I’m going to only briefly describe it.  Emily and Martin Taylor (Rooney Mara and Channing Tatum) are a seemingly happily married couple.  Martin has just spent four years in prison for insider trading, and since his release, Emily seems to be suffering from depression.  She ends up being prescribed a relatively new antidepressant by Dr. John Banks (Jude Law).  And then a certain side effect changes everything.
As I said, the plot takes many twists and all of them make sense and feel right.  And this is all held up by fantastic performances.  Rooney Mara, best known for her role in the American version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, is fantastic as a woman slowly becoming overwhelmed by the crushing weight of depression.  And Jude Law’s turn as a psychiatrist who becomes completely obsessed with this case is endlessly fascinating to watch.  
The film is beautifully shot, with a number of low angles that heighten the tension just as much as the plot does.  And Thomas Newman’s score settles just under your skin and worms around enough to put you off-center.  The effect is unnerving, but it all makes for a wonderful experience.
This is easily the first great film of 2013, and it really is a shame that Soderbergh is retiring from film.  But what a hell of a way to go out.

This is director Steven Soderbergh’s last theatrically-released film for the foreseeable future, which is a damn shame.  Side Effects is a tense thriller, with a slew of twists and turns that are, if not mind-blowing, incredibly satisfying.  

Due to the nature of the plot, I’m going to only briefly describe it.  Emily and Martin Taylor (Rooney Mara and Channing Tatum) are a seemingly happily married couple.  Martin has just spent four years in prison for insider trading, and since his release, Emily seems to be suffering from depression.  She ends up being prescribed a relatively new antidepressant by Dr. John Banks (Jude Law).  And then a certain side effect changes everything.

As I said, the plot takes many twists and all of them make sense and feel right.  And this is all held up by fantastic performances.  Rooney Mara, best known for her role in the American version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, is fantastic as a woman slowly becoming overwhelmed by the crushing weight of depression.  And Jude Law’s turn as a psychiatrist who becomes completely obsessed with this case is endlessly fascinating to watch.  

The film is beautifully shot, with a number of low angles that heighten the tension just as much as the plot does.  And Thomas Newman’s score settles just under your skin and worms around enough to put you off-center.  The effect is unnerving, but it all makes for a wonderful experience.

This is easily the first great film of 2013, and it really is a shame that Soderbergh is retiring from film.  But what a hell of a way to go out.

This film may have the lowest main-character body count of any zombie movie ever made.  Warm Bodies follows the undead “R”, who cannot remember his name or much of who he used to be.  But he can think, and occasionally manages to get a word or two out.  Then he meets Julie, and things get weird.
If Warm Bodies has a fault, it’s that it’s only good, not great.  Everything works well, but it just feels like some potential was slightly squandered.  But there’s still plenty to enjoy here.  
The most enjoyable thing is Nicholas Hoult’s performance as R.  There’s extensive voice-over (after all, R can’t really talk much, at least at first), and while this can sometimes be grating, it works well here.  It’s amusing, as are R’s zombie mannerisms.  Really, this film lives on how likable R is.  
The other characters are well acted, though John Malkovich’s role as Julie’s no-nonsense dad is annoyingly shallow for the most part.  Better is Rob Corddry as R’s best zombie friend M, who starts to change when he sees how Julie is changing R, which in turn begins to affect the other zombies.
And that’s probably what I enjoyed most about this movie:  the underlying message about how love makes us human.  Granted it’s not subtle at all, but it’s the kind of cheesy “daww” story that I have a soft spot for.  
Could this film have been developed a little more?  Yes.  But I still enjoyed it for what it was.

This film may have the lowest main-character body count of any zombie movie ever made.  Warm Bodies follows the undead “R”, who cannot remember his name or much of who he used to be.  But he can think, and occasionally manages to get a word or two out.  Then he meets Julie, and things get weird.

If Warm Bodies has a fault, it’s that it’s only good, not great.  Everything works well, but it just feels like some potential was slightly squandered.  But there’s still plenty to enjoy here.  

The most enjoyable thing is Nicholas Hoult’s performance as R.  There’s extensive voice-over (after all, R can’t really talk much, at least at first), and while this can sometimes be grating, it works well here.  It’s amusing, as are R’s zombie mannerisms.  Really, this film lives on how likable R is.  

The other characters are well acted, though John Malkovich’s role as Julie’s no-nonsense dad is annoyingly shallow for the most part.  Better is Rob Corddry as R’s best zombie friend M, who starts to change when he sees how Julie is changing R, which in turn begins to affect the other zombies.

And that’s probably what I enjoyed most about this movie:  the underlying message about how love makes us human.  Granted it’s not subtle at all, but it’s the kind of cheesy “daww” story that I have a soft spot for.  

Could this film have been developed a little more?  Yes.  But I still enjoyed it for what it was.

Now I’ll fully admit that after Movie 43, anything would seem like a good movie.  But I’ll try to not let that inflate my opinion of Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters.  
No promises that I’ll succeed, though.
Most people should be familiar with the story of Hansel and Gretel, two children led into the woods by their father, who stumble upon a gingerbread house that is home to a nasty witch.  She forces Hansel to eat copious amounts of candy to prepare him for being made into dinner, while Gretel builds the fire.  But Gretel manages to free herself, kill the witch, and thus begins a lifetime of witch hunting for the two siblings.
The film focuses on the town of Augsberg, whose children have been going missing recently.  Enter Hansel and Gretel to solve the case and kill some witches.  The plot is rather thin, but it’s well-paced and there are no glaring plot-holes that jumped out at me, so points for that.  The dialogue is similarly lacking, but I laughed considerably more than I did at Movie 43 (sorry, no more comparisons, I promise).  And the action scenes are coherent and fun to watch, though perhaps not quite as thrilling as they could be.
What makes this movie work for me is the cheesy B-movie feel.  It’s not taking itself super seriously like last year’s Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter did.  The story takes place in a German town, but the accents are all over the map.  There’s no set time-period, a fact that isn’t helped by the presence of bizarre automatic weapons.  But the film didn’t seem to care, and by the end, neither did I.  
I wouldn’t say you need to rush out to the theater to see this right away, but if you’re bored when it hits a second-run theater/Redbox/Netflix, then give it a shot.  Just adjust your expectations and you should have fun.

Now I’ll fully admit that after Movie 43, anything would seem like a good movie.  But I’ll try to not let that inflate my opinion of Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters.  

No promises that I’ll succeed, though.

Most people should be familiar with the story of Hansel and Gretel, two children led into the woods by their father, who stumble upon a gingerbread house that is home to a nasty witch.  She forces Hansel to eat copious amounts of candy to prepare him for being made into dinner, while Gretel builds the fire.  But Gretel manages to free herself, kill the witch, and thus begins a lifetime of witch hunting for the two siblings.

The film focuses on the town of Augsberg, whose children have been going missing recently.  Enter Hansel and Gretel to solve the case and kill some witches.  The plot is rather thin, but it’s well-paced and there are no glaring plot-holes that jumped out at me, so points for that.  The dialogue is similarly lacking, but I laughed considerably more than I did at Movie 43 (sorry, no more comparisons, I promise).  And the action scenes are coherent and fun to watch, though perhaps not quite as thrilling as they could be.

What makes this movie work for me is the cheesy B-movie feel.  It’s not taking itself super seriously like last year’s Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter did.  The story takes place in a German town, but the accents are all over the map.  There’s no set time-period, a fact that isn’t helped by the presence of bizarre automatic weapons.  But the film didn’t seem to care, and by the end, neither did I.  

I wouldn’t say you need to rush out to the theater to see this right away, but if you’re bored when it hits a second-run theater/Redbox/Netflix, then give it a shot.  Just adjust your expectations and you should have fun.

The problem with Movie 43 isn’t that it’s too vulgar or obscene or something like that.  It’s definitely crass and lewd, but that can be used to good comedic effect in the right hands.  Unfortunately, those hands were nowhere near Movie 43, so the problem is that it’s just so unfunny.  
Movie 43 is a series of loosely connected sketches (the connection is so thin that it’s completely abandoned towards the end).  It’s primarily the brainchild of Peter Farrelly, the older half of the Farrelly brothers, who have made decent films with gross-out humor.  After seeing Movie 43, I’m inclined to believe that there’s an imbalance of talent between the brothers.  
The basic premise is that Dennis Quaid is a crazy hobo who somehow got into a movie studio to pitch a bunch of ideas to a movie executive, played by Greg Kinnear.  The ideas range from Kate Winslet going on a blind date with Hugh Jackman, only to find he had a pair of testicles hanging from his neck that no one seems to notice, to Johnny Knoxville kidnapping a foul-mouthed leprechaun Gerard Butler as a birthday present for his friend Sean William Scott.  There’s also a scene involving Halle Berry playing Truth or Dare with Stephen Merchant on a blind date, that includes, (among other asinine dares) Berry mashing guacamole with her bare breast.
I use the actors names instead of the characters partly because I don’t really remember any of the character names, but also to illustrate that this movie somehow managed to get some big names.  How the hell this was accomplished I have no idea, though I’ve read that Peter Farrelly basically guilt-tripped several of the actors into doing this.  The fact that it was shot over a period of four years whenever the actors had time probably helped.
Now I’m not going to lie; I did chuckle once or twice, but more at the fact that someone actually thought that any of these scenarios were even remotely funny.  Every sketch is just one joke, one note played loudly by a tuba until the tuba player is purple in the face.  One sketch starring Terrence Howard is about a basketball coach trying to inspire confidence in his all-black team by pointing out that the opposing team is white, his team is black, therefore they should crush them.  That’s literally the entire sketch, that “joke” repeated over and over.  
I’ve never had such an unpleasant experience at a movie theater.  I’ve avoided movies along the lines of [Genre] Movie, because they didn’t look funny at all.  But Movie 43 has garnered such a negative reaction from critics that I just had to see what the fuss was all about.  And now that I have, I’m sorry I asked.

The problem with Movie 43 isn’t that it’s too vulgar or obscene or something like that.  It’s definitely crass and lewd, but that can be used to good comedic effect in the right hands.  Unfortunately, those hands were nowhere near Movie 43, so the problem is that it’s just so unfunny.  

Movie 43 is a series of loosely connected sketches (the connection is so thin that it’s completely abandoned towards the end).  It’s primarily the brainchild of Peter Farrelly, the older half of the Farrelly brothers, who have made decent films with gross-out humor.  After seeing Movie 43, I’m inclined to believe that there’s an imbalance of talent between the brothers.  

The basic premise is that Dennis Quaid is a crazy hobo who somehow got into a movie studio to pitch a bunch of ideas to a movie executive, played by Greg Kinnear.  The ideas range from Kate Winslet going on a blind date with Hugh Jackman, only to find he had a pair of testicles hanging from his neck that no one seems to notice, to Johnny Knoxville kidnapping a foul-mouthed leprechaun Gerard Butler as a birthday present for his friend Sean William Scott.  There’s also a scene involving Halle Berry playing Truth or Dare with Stephen Merchant on a blind date, that includes, (among other asinine dares) Berry mashing guacamole with her bare breast.

I use the actors names instead of the characters partly because I don’t really remember any of the character names, but also to illustrate that this movie somehow managed to get some big names.  How the hell this was accomplished I have no idea, though I’ve read that Peter Farrelly basically guilt-tripped several of the actors into doing this.  The fact that it was shot over a period of four years whenever the actors had time probably helped.

Now I’m not going to lie; I did chuckle once or twice, but more at the fact that someone actually thought that any of these scenarios were even remotely funny.  Every sketch is just one joke, one note played loudly by a tuba until the tuba player is purple in the face.  One sketch starring Terrence Howard is about a basketball coach trying to inspire confidence in his all-black team by pointing out that the opposing team is white, his team is black, therefore they should crush them.  That’s literally the entire sketch, that “joke” repeated over and over.  

I’ve never had such an unpleasant experience at a movie theater.  I’ve avoided movies along the lines of [Genre] Movie, because they didn’t look funny at all.  But Movie 43 has garnered such a negative reaction from critics that I just had to see what the fuss was all about.  And now that I have, I’m sorry I asked.

Gangster Squad is known primarily for being pushed back and having a key scene replaced after the shooting in Aurora, CO.  A scene in which mobsters fire indiscriminately into a movie theater audience was replaced with a confrontation in Chinatown.  Ultimately the switch is cosmetic, though the Chinatown scene seems to work better (though that is ultimately impossible to say without seeing the theater scene).
Another high profile movie was pushed from 2012 to 2013 last year; the new G.I. Joe movie was moved from June 2012 to March 2013, almost a full years delay.  That move could point to faltering confidence in the film, as March is usually a much weaker month for the movie theater business than June (exceptions like The Hunger Games are interesting, but ultimately just exceptions).  With Gangster Squad, it seems as though Warner Brothers was never too confident in the film to begin with, as the original release month of September is even slower than March. Now it’s January, which is also not a very busy month.
Was WB right to be wary?  Perhaps.  Gangster Squad focuses on a small group of Los Angeles cops in 1949 who form a team dedicated to giving mobster Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) as much hell as they can muster.  The film is “inspired by” true events, meaning that there was a “gangster squad” in the late 40s/early 50s and they were formed in response to Mickey Cohen becoming a real problem in Los Angeles.  Apart from that (and the use of other real names), the story goes wherever it wants to.  
There are some good performances here, as to be expected with a cast of Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Sean Penn, and Nick Nolte, to name a few.  But sadly they’re not given a whole lot to work with.  The story actually feels cobbled together from other movies, creating some odd (but not jarring) tonal shifts.  I get the feeling that Sean Penn thought he was in a completely different film, and it makes him one of the more interesting actors to watch.
The action is engaging enough, and is shot well enough that it can be clearly understood.  But it also feels a bit too familiar (if you haven’t seen the trailer I would advise against it, as it sort of gives away the “feel” of the action).  
There’s a decent film here; I just wish it had tried a little harder.

Gangster Squad is known primarily for being pushed back and having a key scene replaced after the shooting in Aurora, CO.  A scene in which mobsters fire indiscriminately into a movie theater audience was replaced with a confrontation in Chinatown.  Ultimately the switch is cosmetic, though the Chinatown scene seems to work better (though that is ultimately impossible to say without seeing the theater scene).

Another high profile movie was pushed from 2012 to 2013 last year; the new G.I. Joe movie was moved from June 2012 to March 2013, almost a full years delay.  That move could point to faltering confidence in the film, as March is usually a much weaker month for the movie theater business than June (exceptions like The Hunger Games are interesting, but ultimately just exceptions).  With Gangster Squad, it seems as though Warner Brothers was never too confident in the film to begin with, as the original release month of September is even slower than March. Now it’s January, which is also not a very busy month.

Was WB right to be wary?  Perhaps.  Gangster Squad focuses on a small group of Los Angeles cops in 1949 who form a team dedicated to giving mobster Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) as much hell as they can muster.  The film is “inspired by” true events, meaning that there was a “gangster squad” in the late 40s/early 50s and they were formed in response to Mickey Cohen becoming a real problem in Los Angeles.  Apart from that (and the use of other real names), the story goes wherever it wants to.  

There are some good performances here, as to be expected with a cast of Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Sean Penn, and Nick Nolte, to name a few.  But sadly they’re not given a whole lot to work with.  The story actually feels cobbled together from other movies, creating some odd (but not jarring) tonal shifts.  I get the feeling that Sean Penn thought he was in a completely different film, and it makes him one of the more interesting actors to watch.

The action is engaging enough, and is shot well enough that it can be clearly understood.  But it also feels a bit too familiar (if you haven’t seen the trailer I would advise against it, as it sort of gives away the “feel” of the action).  

There’s a decent film here; I just wish it had tried a little harder.