Friday, May 10, 2013

Friday Night Movie Reviews

We pushed back our monthly movie review super-post to give Free Comic Book Day the attention it deserved, but we are back on track with four very varied mini-reviews. We've got a foreign treat, a modern zombie flick, a retro-gaming love letter from Pixar, and a Mel Brooks classic that you won't believe came out 20 years ago. Man, we're all so old.

Onwards to the movies!

Warm Bodies (2013) by Jacinta

Nicholas Hoult plays R, a nice young man who like many nice young men of his age likes knocking around in his hoodie, hanging out with friends, and listening to his carefully cultivated vinyl collection. He’s met this girl and she makes him feel kind of funny. She seems to kinda maybe like him too, but there’s one problem; she’s alive, and he’s, well, dead. On the outside he’s a groaning, shuffling zombie, but inside his own head he’s still as articulate as he was when he was alive. This makes for a great deal of twentysomething angst while R tries to woo his new lady friend. Who he kind of captured. And is sort of holding against her will. But hey, if Beauty & the Beast taught us anything, it’s that Stockholm Syndrome is romantic.

I really liked the trailer for this one, so did go into it with some expectations. A zombie romantic comedy (or zom-rom-com, if you will) is not exactly the most common pitch for a movie, but it really does work. Replace the undead beau with a socially awkward geek hipster who struggles to talk to girls and it’s pretty much the same thing. Apart from the whole brains-eating part, obviously. I would be tempted to say the romance element outweighs the zombie scare factor, but I’d just come off a week-long Walking Dead binge, and the zombies in Warm Bodies were like teddy bears in comparison. I did like that they gave R a purpose in his desire for brains. He would experience the desires and memories of the people he ate, and thus learnt more about Julie by eating her dead boyfriend’s brain (which he was presumably carrying around with him, he was constantly snacking on it. Weird). Sure, it was kind of creepy, but Julie’s boyfriend was a dick, and it’s not like unreasonably attractive zombie R could really talk to her to find out stuff, right? Right? There were a few subtle references likening R and Julie to Romeo and Juliet, though they were capped off with a not-so-subtle imitation of the balcony scene just in case you hadn’t already twigged to the whole ‘lovers kept apart by circumstance and warring factions’ thing.

Warm Bodies is a very unique and entertaining movie, and if we all have to ride out pop culture’s current obsession with zombies, then it’s good there are movies like this where we can enjoy the quirks of the genre without all the gore. At a little under 100 minutes it felt quite short by today’s usual standards, but at the end of the day it IS a romantic comedy that just happens to feature zombies, so in reality not that unusual. It’s the perfect date movie, light and funny, but with enough action to balance out the romance-y stuff.

8 Women (2002) by Suzanne

It’s admittedly out of the blue for me to fixate on a not-particularly-well-known foreign film and decide I must see it, but I’d managed to carry around a promotional piece for this film for about six years because I was so entranced by it and as such when I realised this was a movie my library owned, I resigned myself to some solo movie-watching. The promotional item itself was a small glossy booklet, with a page for each actress and their character, and some sassy french phrase appropriate to their persona. The impression communicated (successfully) was that of an all-female game of Cluedo - the patriarch is murdered, and each woman has a motive and a secret, and they are cut off from the outside world by a storm. Sparks fly! Hair is pulled! Cigarettes are smoked! Catherine Denevue swans about in fabulous fur coats!

It’s set in the approximate 1950s, meaning the slavish attention to costuming, colour, lighting gives it all the impression of a stage musical. Oh, and everyone sings. There’s one song each, and whilst each was cute (if unexpected) the only one who stuck with me was Fanny Ardant’s. She plays Pierrette, the murdered man’s younger sister and reputedly a scarlet woman, and she sings about the uselessness of freedom if you are not brave enough to embrace it while she lazily strips off her coat and gloves and scarf and lights a cigarette and is basically as aggressively handsome and luscious and French as you could possibly wish for. Ardant was a bit of a discovery for me - I’d really taken the plunge because of Catherine Denevue and Emmanuelle Beart (who I still have an epic ladycrush on), both of whom are wonderful, but it is intended as an ensemble piece and in that it’s perfect. It’s frothy, ridiculous, effervescent black comedy that escalates continually as each woman’s secret is revealed.

Robin Hood: Men In Tights (1993) by Capey

Parody and spoof films from the 80’s and 90’s are my bread and butter. I was brought up on them as a kid and watched them over and over again. Movies like the Naked Gun, Hot Shots, Spaceballs and Loaded Weapon were rented on VHS often and for weeks on end. I’m sure it drove my parents insane.

Robin Hood: Men in Tights (Tight tights!) is one of my all time favourites. From the comedic genius of Mel Brooks comes a truly hilarious spoof of Robin Hood, and more specifically Costner’s Prince of Thieves. With Cary Elwes playing the lead (and looking very old school Green Arrow), the movie has a surprisingly great cast. We have a very young Dave Chappelle, Amy Yasbeck (From Wings, does anyone else remember that show?), Isaac Hayes, Patrick Stewart (!), Dom DeLuise and Tracy Ullman among others. Also Richard Lewis puts in a great turn as Prince John.

The jokes are completely silly and lack any subtlety but I simple adore it. This is my humour from my earliest days. Sight gags, bad puns and hilarious over acting fill this film to the brim. I’m not sure if it has aged well for people who didn’t love it in their youth but it’s still leagues better than recent spoofs like the Scary Movie series. The musical numbers are truly fantastic. I hope one day Mel takes this to the stage like he did with The Producers.

If you have a love of bad jokes and ham fisted spoofing definitely check this one out!

Wreck-It Ralph (2012) by Luke

“I’m gonna’ wreck it!” And by that I mean, “I’m gonna’ wreck for it anyone who thinks that this film is anywhere near as good as Pixar favourites like Toy Story 2”.

I had high hopes for Wreck It Ralph, but throughout it Disney repeatedly reminded me that this one really is for kids, lacking much of the cross-generational appeal of Pixar’s greats. By the time we’re interminably mired in Candyland watching the well-trodden trope of an unlikely underdog yearning to win, I’m shuffling restlessly, wondering, “Wait... Why did I think this thing was for me?”

Of course the drawcard for me was the retro video game nostalgia, and you have to commend Disney for acquiring the rights to include a whole bevy of pre-existing characters owned by other companies, a la Who Framed Roger Rabbit. And the premise of being able to jump back and forth between said games is an alluring one. However the film never really capitalises on the established characters who are mostly relegated to the background, and there are very few video games to explore - the film choosing to shun games we know in order to outstay its welcome in Sugar Rush. And how can you hear Sarah Silverman’s recognisable voice without reliving all the filthy things that have come out of her mouth?

So all I learned is that just because you’re a glitch it doesn’t mean that you can’t be a hero. America loves heroes, right? Even their sandwiches are heroes. Great for kids. Not so great for cynical older men.

1 comment:

  1. I FRICKEN LOVE MEN IN TIGHTS. Luke and I saw Waiting for Godot with Ian McKellen and THE SHERRIFF OF ROTTINGHAM in it.

    And Amy Yasbeck was the cute reporter in The Mask, another personal favorite...