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Gavin Grades The Movies

Posts from February 2013


A Good Day to Die Hard
Sometimes there are bad movies that are easy to pass off and make fun of for simply being a bad movie; then there are those bad movies that seem like a personal attack on you and your childhood.  Die Hard was not the first R-rated movie I saw as a child (Shhh...don't tell my mom) but it was the first R-rated movie that I loved.  A few years later I met one of my best friends and his mutual love of the Die Hard movies made us get closer.  It even built to one of the best moments of that love when we convinced his dad to take us to see Die Hard with a Vengenace when we were both 14-years-old.  That one, by the way, became my favorite.  But this, the fifth installment in the series that should have died in 1995, is the worst and the saddest.

I read an article that said Bruce Willis refused to do this film for so long.  He said the reason why was because the script didn't feel right at all.  Either the script he read was just some children's drawings in crayon of explosions or Willis' willingness to do a movie can be purchased with a big payday because this script is crap.  The worst part about this movie is that they set up a way for the Die Hard series to continue without Willis in that he they introduced a grown son who's a CIA agent.  I could be wrong, but the last time we saw his son was in the 1988 original and there was zero reference since then of him being a wayward screw up or a CIA agent.  But anyway...

That son is played by quickly rising star Jai Courney, who was just the baddie in the Tom Cruise flop Jack Reacher.  He got the part, I'm guessing, because his head looks exactly like Bruce Willis' but he's also not a bad actor.  It's hard to gauge if his range is worth anything past running away from explosions in slow motion, but if that's all you want from a movie, Courtney might fit the bill perfectly.  That's what made the Die Hard series so much fun was that Willis is capable of doing so much more than action films and his comedic timing was perfect for them.  The comedy that oozes out occationaly of Good Day to Die Hard is groan inducing and embarrassing.

In fact, the entire film is embarrassing that Willis is even in it.  It was directed by John Moore who hasn't had a hit yet.  Hollywood has allowed him to make dud after dud like Behind Enemy Lines, Flight of the Phoenix and Max Payne.  There isn't a single good movie on his resume and he's just added another one to it.  The one thing he does do well is orchestrate an action sequence.  There is a car chase in the beginning of the film that lasts about 12 minutes and is totally unbelievable but impressive and fun to watch.  Does it have anything to do with the story?  Barely.  Does it come out of nowhere and essentially kick the whole thing off with a "what the hell?" tone?  Sure does.  But it does end with a massive truck jumping off an overpass and into a cement tunnel.

Aside from that single 12-minute sequence, nothing else about this is even fun.  I know part of the fun of John McClane was that he was always "on vacation" and not in New York City where he worked.  But setting this whole film in Russia makes it ridiculous.  McClane is not James Bond and he never was.  He was suppose to be this regular guy that was at the wrong place at the wrong time but was the only one who could save the day.  After five films, he no longer feels like a kickass reluctant hero but instead a serial killer that seeks out hordes of bad guys that he can kill with no consequence.  Good Day to Die Hard has destroyed the series and cheapened its stock.  It's so bad that it has made me go back and look at some of those older films I hold so dear with a more catious eye and a thought that maybe they were always this bad (but I doubt it).
A Good Day to Die Hard  (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: D-
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Warm Bodies
I have a love/hate relationship with modernized Shakespeare plays.  If they're done well they can be spectacular since the core story is so timeless and inspired that a little sprucing up can make it better.  However, when it's done poorly it kicks my balls more because the core story is so timeless and inspired that it seems personally insulting to crap on something I hold so dear.  We all know that any story that exists about forbidden love owes its muse to Romeo and Juliet but it's been done and done poorly so many times that drawing the comparison seems silly now.  I had no idea that Warm Bodies was going to be more than just about forbidden love, it was going to subtly and bluntly be Romeo and Juliet.

Full disclosure, when I saw that a movie was coming out, also based on teen fiction, about a girl who falls in love with a zombie after the apacolypse destroys the planet, I thought it looked worse than Twilight because it was greedily trying to snatch up any remaining Twihards that haven't gotten over the series ending and are still searching for the next teen horror romance.  I'm not saying that that didn't happen here; however, if you're going to do that, you could have done a lot worse.

Warm Bodies is from director Jonathan Levine and after 2011's 50/50, I'd be willing to trust him in any genre.  I consider 50/50 one of the best films of that year and still insist that people watch it when I find out that they haven't.  After his success with Warm Bodies, Levine is establishing himself as a quickly rising star in Hollywood that needs to be watched since he's capable of great things.  His approach to a silly, horror romance is stylized, self-aware and slick.  The make-up and CGI FX are less than impressive but I don't blame him for that since it seems more the studio not wanting to take a bigger gamble.  

The cast is impressive too considering their unknown status outside of John Malkovic, who doesn't even have that many scenes.  Teresa Palmer (Bedtime Stories, I Am Number Four) stars as Julie and it's really too bad she looks so much like Kristen Stewart because that's all I could think about while watching, although she's a million times a better actress.  Friend of the show, Analeigh Tipton (Crazy Stupid Love) plays Julie's friend Nora and the amazingly funny Rob Corddry (Hot Tub Time Machine) plays M...zombies can't remember their names.  But the real acting credit belongs to Nicholas Hoult (About a Boy, X-Men: First Class) who plays R.  He carries almost every scene of the film on his shoulders and hardly says a word, except for his hilarious voice-overs.  By the way, do you see the names?  R, Julie, M, Nora...it's Romeo, Juliet, Mercutio and The Nurse.  Kinda clever right?  There are more nods throughout the film including the obligatory balcony scene.

Warm Bodies is far from a perfect film.  The entire second act is soggy and drags painfully at times.  But the first third is funny and clever and the ending is fun, touching and exciting.  All that is made better by an impressive and awesome soundtrack that remnids me of a Tarantino film.  But if you're going to Warm Bodies because you LOVE zombies and are hoping for The Walking Dead with silliness, turn around and lumber away.  This breaks almost every rule of zombie lore and due to a PG-13 rating is luke warm on the gore (although there is some).  This is a movie for those who want to laugh at a silly and clever horror romance without feeling like they're dunked in melodramatic dribble.  So go on and take a bite into Warm Bodies because I don't think you''ll regret it.
Warm Bodies  (Rated PG-13)
Gavin Grade: B+
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