The only thing rarer than a zombie with a brain is a zombie movie with cerebral oomph, and happily we get both in Warm Bodies, a clever and touching romantic comedy featuring a surprisingly soulful zombie and the blonde human cutie he is attracted to (and not as snack food). As the movie opens with groups of the undead shuffling around a now-derelict airport, we hear the droll musings of R in voice-over. He dimly misses the social aspects of being alive, and finds his current focus on eating human brains a bit undignified.
Later, during a clash between ravenous zombies and a group of humans who have snuck out from their walled enclave to scavenge for medicine, R glances at Julie and is instantly smitten. He protects Julie by coaching her to act like a zombie, and then takes her to his hideaway — an abandoned jetliner that he has outfitted man-cave style with knick-knacks and lots of vinyl records. After hearing a bit of Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan, Julie is still frightened but begins to be intrigued and even drawn to this zombie with more character than most of the guys she knows back behind the walls. R’s interactions with Julie not only provoke rehumanizing changes within himself but also amongst other zombies. But can these two initiate a peace plan before the war between humans and zombies gets them both killed?
Although a bit derivative of Shaun of the Dead and Fido, the light-on-its-feet Bodies is delightful entertainment. Very funny, sometimes poignant, and surprisingly romantic, this is a perfect date movie.
Warm Bodies ★★★
Directed by Jonathan Levine
Starring Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer
PG-13 • 97 minutes
Continues at the Odeon, Westshore and SilverCity
Action Flick Flashback
It’s no little irony that zombies are best killed by headshots, insofar as the week’s other notable release is Bullet to the Head, wherein gravel-voiced Sylvester Stallone plays a hitman based in New Orleans. With more than enough wrinkles to become a member of the Rolling Stones, Stallone brings gravitas to the role of James Bonomo, a (semi) principled assassin who only kills “scumbags” and never hurts women or kids.
Bonomo finds himself drawn into a complex and deadly conspiracy when some guy murders his partner and tries to kill him just hours after they complete what was supposed to be just a regular whack job. Unexpectedly allied with a New York state cop who is hunting the same bad guys, Bonomo leaves a few dead bodies lying around as he starts piecing together all the details of a lucrative real estate scheme that some gangsters — and crooked cops — are all-too-ready to kill for. But all the violence is heading towards a climatic confrontation with the SAS-trained psycho who tried to kill Bonomo and, later, kidnaps his daughter.
The plot to Bullet is basic. What makes the movie interesting is that it’s helmed by action meister Walter Hill (Warriors, 48 Hrs.), who hasn’t made a movie in a decade. Very much in the tradition of a hard-edged ’70s crime thriller, there is none of the jokey irony of recent movies like The Expendables. Violent, harsh, and unsentimental, it readily lives up to its title. M
Bullet to the Head ★★½
Directed by Walter Hill
Starring Sylvester Stallone, Christian Slater
R • 91 minutes
Continues at SilverCity
Although more often referred to as Shiraz, the identical grape is also called Syrah — usually to signify that the resulting wine is less fruit-driven and more in line with the earthier style common to southern France. And so it is with Porcupine Ridge from South Africa, a supple, medium-bodied charmer whose blackberry and black cherry core has hints of cedar, sage, and violets. Classy and restrained, call it the anti-Yellow Tail. Definitely worth the splurge at $17.
IDENTITY THIEF -(Odeon/SilverCity/Uni 4/Westshore) Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids) are the antagonists in a very promising comedy about a mild-mannered businessman who makes the grave mistake of tracking down the seemingly gentle woman who has stolen his identity. Starts Fri.
SIDE EFFECTS -(Capitol/SilverCity) What is allegedly Steven Soderbergh’s last film is an edgy psychological thriller about a yuppy couple whose lives start to unravel when the wife is prescribed a fancy new drug to treat her anxiety. Starring Rooney Mara, Jude Law, and Channing Tatum. Starts Fri.
TOP GUN 3D -(SilverCity) Tony Scott’s classic tale about a renegade flyer (Tom Cruise) at the navy’s elite pilot school gets a rock-’em/sock-’em re-release in 3D.
★★★½ ARGO -(Capitol) Despite some liberties taken with the facts, this account of a CIA agent who managed to smuggle six Americans to safety from Iran during the famed 1979-’80 hostage crisis is surprisingly even-handed, very suspenseful and truly entertaining. Directed by and starring Ben Affleck. Starts Fri.
★★½ BULLET TO THE HEAD -(Westshore) Sylvester Stallone displays appropriate gravitas as a hitman who joins forces with a cop to put the hurt on a common enemy, a violent thug who has killed people close to both men. As directed by action veteran Walter Hill, this is very much in the style of ’70s hard-edged crime thrillers. See review above.
★★★ DJANGO UNCHAINED -(Odeon/SilverCity) Quentin Tarantino’s latest is a gory tale about a freed slave-turned-bounty-hunter (Jamie Foxx) tracking down the brutal plantation owner (Leonardo DiCaprio) who has bought his wife. This mash-up of spaghetti western and blaxploitation flick is clever, but many people will find the idea of Tarantino riffing on a holocaust for his own movie-making amusement rather offensive.
★★★ THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY -(Capitol/SilverCity/Westshore) This long-expected Lord of the Rings prequel has a young Bilbo Baggins head off with a posse of dwarves to reclaim some treasure stolen by a mean old dragon named Smaug. Hobbit fans will love it, people with less of a passion for those with hairy feet should merely be entertained. With Ian McKellen, Ian Holm, Hugo Weaving, Christopher Lee, and Andy Serkis as the perfidious Gollum.
★★ GANGSTER SQUAD -(Westshore/Caprice) A great cast gets to overact while playing with guns in a luridly fictionalized and very brutal crime thriller about the struggle of the LAPD in 1949 to run mobster Mickey Cohen and all his goons out of town. With Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling, Josh Brolin, and Emma Stone.
★★½ MAMA -(Westshore/Capitol) In this tastily gothic horror offering two little girls are abandoned in the woods the day their mother is murdered by their father. Five years later they are found by an uncle, who takes them in. Unbeknownst to him, a supernatural entity who’s been looking after the girls comes along for the ride. Note: reopening at the Capitol 6 on Monday.
★½ HANSEL AND GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS -(Capitol/SilverCity/Westshore) Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton star as witch-whacking bounty hunters, in a horror-thriller that is witless, charmless, and shockingly dull-witted. The Brothers Grimm are owed an apology.
★★★★ LINCOLN -(Odeon/Uni 4) Stephen Spielberg directs award-winning playwright Tony Kushner’s (Angels in America) account of Abraham Lincoln’s darkest days as he fights the Civil War and also fights political battles in his cabinet over plans to free America’s black slaves. The superb cast includes Daniel Day-Lewis, Tommy Lee Jones and Sally Field.
HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA -(Caprice) A hotel where vampires and sundry other monsters hide out from humans gets a big scare when a backpacking dude shows up looking for a room. This animated comedy features the voices of Adam Sandler, Kevin James, and Andy Samberg.
★★★½ LIFE OF PI -(Odeon/SilverCity/Caprice) Oscar winning director Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain) helms this visually gorgeous adaptation of Yann Martel’s magical and spiritual novel about a young man’s epic adventures while lost at sea — most of which are shared with a terrifying Bengal tiger.
★★★½ LES MISERABLES -(SilverCity/Caprice) Victor Hugo’s sweeping tale of love, poverty and an obsessed policeman stalking a reformed criminal in 19th century France inspired the best of the mega-musicals, and now makes a stylish migration to the silver screen. This elegant, emotionally powerful film manages to be both epic and intimate. Starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, and Anne Hathaway
★★ PARENTAL GUIDANCE -(Caprice) Billy Crystal and Bette Midler play grandparents who agree to look after their grandkids, only to get into trouble when their old-style parenting approach comes into conflict with that of their progressive kids. Lame but harmless, and occasionally good for a giggle.
★★★ QUARTET -(Odeon/Uni 4) Dustin Hoffman turns in his directorial debut with this droll and heartfelt comedy about a retirement home for classical musicians where the annual concert to celebrate Verdi’s birthday is disrupted by the arrival of a diva’s diva (Maggie Smith). The great cast includes Billy Connolly, Michael Gambon, Tom Courtenay, and Pauline Collins.
★★★ SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK -(Odeon/Uni 4) A bi-polar man (Bradley Cooper, The Hangover) is trying to put his life — and his marriage — back together when he meets a fascinating woman (Jennifer Lawrence, The Hunger Games) with problems of her own. This quirky (and over-rated) romantic comedy is directed by David O. Russell (Three Kings, The Fighter).
STAND UP GUYS -(Capitol) Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, and Alan Arkin star in a hip crime comedy about some aging con-men who get back together for one last job.
★★★ THIS IS 40 -(Caprice) This sequel to the raunchy Judd Apatow comedy Knocked Up shows an older Pete and Debbie, complete with two kids, who now find themselves colliding with a mid-life crisis. Despite some sloppiness, this is an insightful, touching, and very funny movie.
★★★ WARM BODIES -(Odeon/SilverCity/Westshore) Zombie love is the subject of this charming, clever, and highly unusual romcom, as a zombie with a heart saves a human girl . . . and sets strange events in motion. Ahhhh. See review.
★★★ WRECK–IT RALPH -(Caprice) John C. Reilly provides the voice for a video-game villain who tires of being a bad guy and sets out on a quest that throws an entire video arcade into chaos. This occasionally-inspired animation lark includes the voices of Sarah Silverman and Jane Lynch.
★★★★ ZERO DARK THIRTY -(SilverCity) This grapping thriller about the decade-long hunt for Osama bin Laden is now on the hunt for a handful of Oscars. Directed by Oscar-winner Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker) and starring Jessica Chastain (The Tree of Life).
★★ MOVIE 43 -(Capitol)
★★★½ RUST AND BONE -(Odeon)
★★★★ EVEREST -(10 am & 4 pm)
FIRES OF KUWAIT -(11 am & 5 pm)
JANE GOODALL’S WILD CHIMPANZEES -(2 pm & 6 pm)
★★★½ MYSTERIES OF THE GREAT LAKES -(3 pm & 8 pm, Sun.-Thurs.)
SHARKS -(1 pm & 7 pm, Sun.-Thurs.)
★★★★ SKYFALL -(7 pm, Fri.-Sat. only)
super speedway -(noon & 9 pm, Sun.-Thurs.)
Cinecenta at UVic screens its films in the Student Union Building. Info: 721-8365. cinecenta.com.
★★★ HICKS ON STICKS -(Wed.-Thurs., Feb. 6-7: 7:00, 9:15) Boarders (and others) will enjoy this Canadian doc about the efforts of several guys to bring the gospel of skateboarding and heavy-metal music to the hinterlands of B.C. and Alberta. See review.
★★★ FLIGHT -(Fri.-Sat., Feb. 8-9: 3:00, 7:00, 9:45) Denzel Washington is excellent in a morally complex drama about a heroic pilot who does an astonishing job of saving an airliner from certain destruction, only to find himself in a world of trouble for unexpected reasons.
★★★★ THE GOLD RUSH -(Sat.-Sun., Feb. 9-10: 1:00 matinee) This witty and touching tale of crazy doings during the Klondike God Rush is one of Charlie Chaplin’s most inspired masterworks.
★★★★★ LAWRENCE OF ARABIa -(Sun., Feb. 10: 3:00, 7:00 & Mon., Feb. 11: 7:00 only) Films don’t come any more epic than David Lean’s 1962 portrait of T. E. Lawrence, the flamboyant military officer who gave inspired and eccentric service in the Middle East during the First World War. This is superb stuff.
THE WORLD BEFORE HER -(Tues.-Wed., Feb. 12-13: 7:10, 9:00) This award-winning documentary is set in India and portrays the very different lives of two young women — both of whom are on paths to a “success” that will still circumscribe their options in life because of their gender.
MOVIE MONDAY – Is screening a gamer double bill: Indie Game: The Movie, followed by King of Kong: A Fist Full of Quarters. The first doc is all about the making of contemporary video games; the second looks a fierce rivalry between two very different competitors who both hope to be the world’s best player of Donkey Kong. 6:30/8:30pm MONDAY in the 1900-block Fort. By donation. 595-FLIC. moviemonday.ca.
AWARENESS FILM NIGHT -is screening a collection of 10 short films on creating healthy, cooperative, resilient and happy communities. WEDNESDAY, 7 pm, at Edward Milne Community School theatre, 6218 Sooke Rd.