Sunday, January 20, 2013

Warm Bodies: HorRomCom?

Got a sneak peak of the latest genre hybrid out there: Warm Bodies. I was actually pretty interested to see how this HorRomCom (horror/romantic comedy, copyright Nick Grajewski) sized up to some of the other ones of its kind.

For those of you who haven't seen the preview, this movie is about a guy named R (Nicholas Hoult), a guy in his early 20s (presumably) who is having trouble connecting with people. No wonder, seeing as how R is a zombie. But he's special. R seems to have a mental capacity that excedes those around him. Instead of roaming around without any thoughts of his own, we (the audience) get to hear his inner monologue and thus discover the depths of his personality. His whole life (life?) changes, though, when he bumps into his true love while he is eating her boyfriend's brains (awkward).

Just go with it...

Taking her back to his home at the airport, R bonds with Julie (Teresa Palmer). She begins to see (and he begins to experience) that the zombies are capable of changing back into humans once they remember how to love. R and Julie's now-romance becomes a race against time as they strive to unite humans and zombies against the "bonies" who have sworn a vendetta against them all.

No thank you. Please get off.

Hmmm, so at first glance, it's not bad. I'm gonna talk about the things that I like about this movie. First of all, I loved the soundtrack. It very gracefully unites classic pop and old rock with the latest electro-pop, grouping together the nostalgia that R has for the past and the promises for the future. I also really liked that they add humor into the plot, despite the intense themes. R's friend Marcus (Rob Corddry) carries about half of the humor of the whole movie and he's hilarious. Also, the plot has you rooting for R and Julie to get through everything that they have to get through and really tries to portray that whole "love against all odds" thing.

Are you Team R?

And now, les problems.

The main issue that I had with this film is the chemistry between R and Julie. I totally get him falling head over heels for her (she's beautiful and seems pretty cool), but I didn't so much get that vibe from her. She is constantly running away from him, which probably is trying to elude to her vivacity but really just makes you kind of think she's a little put off by him. Also he comes across as this soulful kind of dreamer and, while she never seems like a ditz, I just couldn't really see them together. She exudes this sort of popular girl vibe and he seems more like the class poet (when will Hollywood stop putting these two types of people together?). That kind of stood in the way of me being 100% in favor of their supposed "written in the stars" romance.

Ok, seriously? We know you have boobs, come on...

I think part of the movie's problem is that it tries to do too much and satisfy too many people. Had this not been a Hollywood production I think it would've done much better. I could've seen Julie as a more artsy lost type and then she and R would've had a little bit more in common. As opposed to Julie the poor little rich girl who has been tolerating this zombie who took her hostage and then doesn't see anyone else around so she falls in love with him. With a more artsy character for Julie, the movie would've read more like Wristcutters: A Love Story and other bleak films that carry a central theme of love as hope. As is, though, I just didn't fall for it.

As an aside, Nick and a few other of the theater patrons also seemed to be annoyed at the low-budget CGI "bonies". I didn't really mind it that much since I think if they were overly scary it woud've put the movie more in the horror category, but if you're a sucker for graphics, that might getcha down.

6 out 10.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Django Unchained: Yes, Please, More, Thanks.

Woah. And yes. And yes please. And awesome. And YES. Holy crap, Django is almost too awesome for words. Normally, I'm not a huge Tarantino fan, but it's impossible not to like this movie. While it's incredibly gritty (Tarantino, duh) the subject matter and the satisfaction of revenge in this movie are spot-on. How could anyone not like a movie in which a bad-ass ex-slave takes revenge on a ton of white people? YES. I haven't seen a movie that has been this adrenaline-filled since...I don't even know!

Anyway, storyline:

Django (Jamie Foxx) is a slave in transit to be sold when he is apprehended by a friendly German bounty hunter named Dr. Schultz (Christoph Waltz). Dr. Schultz originally takes him on to identify 3 bandits that he is after, but before long Django shows his own skills at bounty hunting and the two of them not only create the best bounty hunting duo in the South, but embark on an adventure to save Django's beautiful wife named, believe it or not, Broom Hilde (also referred to as Hildy). Searching the dirtiest of the Mississippi slave trade auction records, they find that she has been sold to a Mr. Candie (Leo DiCaprio) and now lives on his plantation, Candie Land.

Bounty hunting = the best activity for making friends

With extremely brutal scenes that hark back the horrors of slavery and callousness, Tarantino somehow manages to touch on this sensitive subject matter by incorporating the melodramatic style of the 1960's spaghetti western*. Don't get me wrong, though. The vibrant colors and excessive bloodshed from this genre don't exacerbate the content, but rather reinforce it. In trying to express this era of inhumanity, Tarantino seems to understand that there is no such thing as over-dramatizing. During a time when people were viewed as literal property, it isn't surprising to see one man eaten by dogs (though it's largely off-screen), people branded with an "r" for "runaway" right on the face, and men being ordered to fight each other to the death for mere sport.

And Candie doesn't exactly encourage civility...

But because of this brutality, the comeuppance that each of these horrible white people receives is more than wholly satisfying. You feel the anger that Django feels as he's forced to watch all of these things happen, and as he experiences them personally as well. This makes the bloodbath all the more gratifying, as not more than one innocent person dies. Literally.

Aaaand karma's a bitch.

In classic Tarantino style, though, there is humor along with these horrifying images. In a particular scene, he somehow (incredibly) makes the KKK hilarious, none of them being able to see out of their newly-made hoods, as they try to unsuccessfully ambush Django and Dr. Shultz. Tarantino's timing is also impeccable. Despite the heavy, heavy content, there is always a line delivered by someone that creates a levity and a chuckle, making it easier to watch.

There's nothing funny about murder...
...unless it's in a costume like this...

Even the soundtrack is KICKASS. Blending old bluesy country like Johnny Cash with psychedelic songs and even big band soul tunes from the 70's, the music works in every single scene and keeps the plot from being a sob story. It also makes Django look like a certified BAMF.

Honestly, I didn't expect to love this movie because I thought it would be too intense for me (and honestly, some parts were difficult), but the payoff that you get at the end, and the delight I took in watching the playful cinematography in this, made watching the whole thing worthwhile. I sincerely hope that there were many freemen like Django in the Antebellum South.

9.5 outa 10. All around fantastic.

*So you wanted to learn about spaghetti westerns! Good for you my little munchkin! Here is the definition as described by Wikipedia:

Spaghetti Western is a nickname for a broad sub-genre of Western films that emerged in the mid-1960s in the wake of Sergio Leone's film-making style and international box-office success. It was used by critics in USA and other countries because most of these Westerns were produced and directed by Italians. According to actor Aldo Sambrell, the phrase 'Spaghetti Western' was originally created by Italian journalist Alfonso Sancha[1] In the beginning the term was used in a derogatory sense, but over time it has become accepted as descriptive. 

In addition to what the all-wise Wikipedia has said, I would also that spaghetti westerns are a little over-the-top. Most of them had an extremely dramatic love story, really graphic violence, and a lot of times had to be dubbed over in English. Movies like The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly and the original film Django are considered to be spaghetti westerns.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Silver Linings Playbook: Not all Romances Start Beautifully

So after checking out the Barnes Museum yesterday I had nothing to do all day and a voucher for a free movie in my pocket* so I headed to the Riverview Stadium and say a matinee screening of Silver Linings Playbook.  I was actually really excited cuz I'd heard some really good reviews about it.

Basically it's the story of Patrick (Bradley Cooper), who has just gotten out of a mental hospital following an incident that involved his wife and her lover. Being recently diagnosed as bipolar, Patrick is having a hard time keeping his cool after returning to civilian life. After getting into fights with his parents, scaring some of the staff at his old job (who have a restraining order against him), and having no filter when he speaks, things aren't looking so good. Until he meets Tiffany.

See how their disfunction contrasts with the family portrait in the center?
See what they did there? Huh? Yeah.

Tiffany, like Patrick, has no filter, speaks her mind, and doesn't have a problem being blunt and showing Patrick his own flaws. Luring Patrick in with hopes of being able to contact his wife (he can't cuz she has a restraining order against him), Tiffany tries (successfully) to get Patrick ro wake up to the possibilities of his own life. And through his need to show his wife that he's changed, Patrick falls into  a friendship that helps both he and Tiffany far better than any conventional therapy could attempt.

She does not take any s***.

This movie was awesome. Even though there are fairy tale romances that aren't afraid to air on the side of melodramatic and heart-wrenching (see The NotebookSleepless in Seattle, Titanic, etc.), this one is refreshingly hard to watch. Patrick and Tiffany are so socially gauche at first that their encounters aren't pretty, including her asking him if he'd like to have sex with her, accusing Patrick in public of sexual harassment, and him writing her off as a crazy slut. But as they see more of each other, their friendship grows and they become more and more protective of each other. The blunt manner in which they point out each others' flaws becomes logical and actually pretty funny. Instead of being mollycoddled into functional human beings, they are baptized by each others' fire and become more and more mentally stable with each day of each others' company.

And then they become bfflz.

This also had a great shout-out to the Philly Eagles, the culture that surrounds us here (think of the best white-trashy South Philadelphians you know), and the superstitions of sports. A great parallel story that runs through this movie is Pat's father's (played by Robert De Niro) obsessions with luck. Being a bookie, he relies heavily on the Eagles' winning games, and without any other income, this is a pretty big gamble (as I'm sure all of my Eagles fans will realize). The luck that seems to come as a result of Pat and Tiffany's newfound friendship and love helps steer the story into fairy tale territory and makes the ending of this one either a happy coincidence, or a lesson about how strong love is.

Or maybe how Philadelphians shouldn't lose hope
in the Eagles, I'm not quite sure...

So realistic, yet cute, Silver Linings Playbook really is a believable fairy tale. See it.

8.5 outa 10 stars. Really left the theater on top of the world after this one.

[I will put a trailer here later cuz YouTube is acting up]

*Ok, just wanted a side rant about movie theater loyalty cards: THEY'RE AWESOME. Any major theater will probably have one. I have a Regal Crown Club card and it's great. About every four movies you get a free popcorn or soda and every so often you get a free movie voucher (excluding all the exciting ones in 3D and new releases of course, but what can ya do?). I also have one for my movie theater at my parents' house, which I think is the same, but I hardly ever go there so the most I've gotten is a free popcorn. Great way to maximize your experience at the movies and it doesn't cost you a dime. How can you say no?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Le Hobbit: Le Unexpected Journey

Well, my children, after the insane-o crazy December work frenzy, I have finally found the time to chronicle and dissect my latest cinema visit, which was spent seeing The Hobbit. I was pretty excited to see this for a multitude of reasons:

A. I had been nerding out hardcore with my boyfriend/Tolkien guide, Sir Nicholas, and watching all of the Lord of the Rings films for most of early December (when I wasn't watching Muppet Christmas Carol anyway). With his help I went from understanding about 42% of what was going on to understanding an astounding 79%, making the films much more sensical and interesting.

I mean it could be a holiday movie...

B. I love Martin Freeman. If you didn't notice him in either Love, Actually or Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, watch them again. Do it.

So cute!

C. Peter Jackson is a beast. Like actually insane.

Normal, perfectly normal...

D. The dwarves looked funny and entertaining :)

And their creative braids will surely affect
the latest fashion trends.

The movie starts out a few hours (or perhaps days) before the events that pass in the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring. Thinking about leaving The Shire in the immediate future, he sets down to write about his first adventure with a group of dwarves and Gandalf the Gray.

We are given the back story of the dwarves existence in Middle Earth. They lived in a mountain and crafted beautiful works to be sold at a market that sat adjacent to the mountainside. But one day a dragon came and invaded their home, shacking up at the king's own treasure room (dragons have a thing for gold, if you're not familiar with your mythical creatures) and leaving the dwarves to live out their existence as nomads. This is where the quest comes in.

Ah, nothing like a good quest.

After years of trying to rough it living among men and in small groups, a small group of dwarves has decided, with the help of Gandalf, to storm the castle and try to take back what is their homeland. To help them, Gandalf enlists Bilbo as their "burglar" as he is tiny and light on his feet. Despite the skepticism of the dwarves, he joins them on their journey the following day. The events that follow include a few run-ins with orcs, a visit to the Elves's Rivendell village, an escapade with trolls, and a battle royale with an underground goblin village, where Bilbo gets the legendary ring.

Not that ring...

So I had read the book The Hobbit when I was about 16 years old, I think, and could only remember about half of the plot, but it wasn't a horrible hinderance when it came to watching this film. In fact, Crazy Jackson decided to expound upon the original story of The Hobbit and give it some meat from Tolkien's Appendix so that it could be divvied up into not only one movie, but two (in this case, my normal annoyance with open endings and leeway for sequels shall stand aside, because I'm actually glad he's doing so much justice to the book and more). That being said, there's so much that happens in this film I'm glad he took the time to get to it all.

The cinematography is beautiful, and it's no question that Jackson has a veritable genius when it comes to bringing to life the wonders of this foreign Middle Earth. The perspective on all of the assorted creatures is impeccable, and the detail that goes into each of their faces, from the stout and large-nosed dwarves to the hideously creepy Gollum, is frighteningly realistic. I would definitely recommend seeing this film in the 3D version, especially the version with the more frames per minute because it's gorgeous.

I don't know if it's the advanced technology or the
fact that he's in the dark, but he seems a lot creepier now...

A word of warning, though: I would hesitate to bring small children to this. Being more beefed up than the original book, the film has some more serious fodder to it than you might think, and hints often to the upcoming war and tragedy that we see in the Lord of the Rings movies. And though the dwarves are pretty funny, they are set against hideous and scary creatures like goblins, orks, trolls, and the (once again) frighteningly creepy Gollum. If you have a stoic kid, go for it, otherwise I would air on the side of caution.

9 outa 10 stars. I wish it had been a little shorter :X