Red 2

Red 2 is a couple hours of pretty enjoyable entertainment. But you have to be careful to not stop and think too much about these characters, as they don’t really make any sense at all.

You will probably like Red 2 if you enjoyed:
Red
Dumb and Dumber
Lethal Weapon 2 and 3
Pacific Rim

If you don’t like movies that use good actors in wasted roles and that wink at the audience, Red 2 is probably not for you.

Here’s a trailer:

The deets:

Released July 19, 2013

Written by John Hoeber, Erich Hoeber, Warren Ellis, and Cully Hammer. Based on the comics.

Directed by Dean Parisot

Starring Helen Mirren, Mary-Louise Parker, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Anthony Hopkins, Byung-hun Lee, Neal McDonough, David Thewlis, and Brian Cox

Rated: PG-13

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Story

Frank Moses (Willis) has been out of the spy game for a while now, trying to settle down and make a life with Sarah (Parker). Out shopping, they run into Marvin (Malkovich), who informs Frank that somebody has uncovered Marvin and Frank’s participation in something called Operation Nightshade and now people are gunning for them in order to find a nuke hidden in Moscow.

To stay alive, Marvin and Frank will have to team up with some of their former cronies and find the nuke before anyone else. In the meantime, the best assassin in the world, Han (Lee), is after them and Victoria (Mirren) has also been asked to take them out. Sarah insists she wants to join Frank and Marvin on their journey, as she is clearly bored by the life she and Frank have been living, but along comes Katja (Zeta-Jones), a former flame of Moses, who might be able to help Frank and Marvin get out of the fix they’re in.

So Frank, Marvin, and the rest have to find the scientist who invented the nuke and who might know were it is. The problem is that this scientist has been locked up for more than 32 years. This is Bailey (Hopkins), and he is clearly somewhat off his rocker.

Along this seasoned group goes, firing countless bullets at all takers and basically doing their best to steamroll through all the baddies. Loyalties will be tested, as will love.

Critique

For all the hyperactivity of the fight scenes and enthusiastic effort of the players, Red 2 feels somewhat flat and generally like a bunch of people playing in the same sandbox without much direction or leadership. It feels as if the entertaining scenes were conceived in a vacuum and story was written to try to string these scenes together.

You can almost imagine the writers and director having a conversation. “Okay, so Sarah’s kind of a ditz, so we need a scene where her ditziness messes things up. Oh yeah, and also she needs to be clueless about guns.”

“Good one! Hey, let’s also have Victoria kick everyone’s ass and then deliver a zinger of a one-liner. ”

“Nice! Of course, we also need to see Moses and Marvin have plenty of banter and Moses needs to be in some awkward situations between his current love and his former flame. Willis can just mug here.”

“Good plan!”

So the story is decidedly formulaic, but where The Heat used its characters to freshen up the formula and bring sharp, intelligent dialogue into the scenes, Red 2′s dialogue is too often totally predictable and far too self-aware– winking at the audience as we are all in on the joke that these are old people delivering lines that a younger tough would usually deliver.

All of that said, here we also have consummate actors doing great work and having a lot of fun. Helen Mirren is a joy to watch, with her diminutive frame and sophisticated bearing, as she beats the tar out of people and seems to enjoy it. Malkovich steals every scene he’s in with manic energy and great timing. Zeta-Jones is a little underused; as it seems that her character is a plot device only. Hopkins has a great time and is fun to watch, although his character makes zero sense if you stop and think about him. And Bruce Willis, sadly, phones a lot of his scenes in, although there are a couple of scenes where we get to see his comedic timing.

The biggest tragedy is the casting of Mary-Louise Parker as the too-often clueless and flighty Sarah. Sarah gets far too little to do, and when she does do something right, it makes absolutely no sense– we don’t understand how she knew to do what she did. Parker is better than this role.

All in all, Red 2 is somewhat better than its predecessor, but is still a little flat, a little too silly.

Content warnings: Plenty of explosive violence and a goodly amount of salty language.

Writing: 3          Acting: 4.5          Overall: 3

If you don’t share this review with everyone you know, I hope you get red in the face!

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Warm Bodies

Warm Bodies is the coolest movie production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet since Baz Lurhman, Leo, and Claire Daines did theirs. Granted, Warm Bodies is kind of a zombie flick and is only loosely based on Shakespeare’s play, but it’s still very clever and good– and is elevated by some exceedingly good performances.

Here is a trailer:

The deets:

Released February 1, 2013

Written by Jonathan Levine, based on the book by Isaac Marion

Directed by Jonathan Levine

Starring Teresa Palmer, Nicholas Hoult, Rob Corddry, Analeigh Tipton, Dave Franco, and John Malkovich

Rated: PG-13

*     *     *     *     *

Story

R (Hoult) is a different kind of zombie. In a world that has been overrun by ‘corpses,’ which is what the remaining humans call zombies, R is introspective and longs for connection. He’s still a zombie, so get him around brains of living humans and he’s gonna attack and feed, but he’s not happy with the situation. Making things worse are the ‘boneys’, which are zombies who have gone so far that they have torn off their flesh and are now just desiccated ligament and bone– and they’re fast and vicious.

When R sees Julie (Palmer) as the zombies he’s with are overrunning a patrol, a little bit of life sparks in him and he saves her, taking her to his lair. Now these two young people from different worlds spend time getting to know each other, although R can’t really talk very well. That said, the relationship he forms with Julie changes him, with far-reaching implications. R feels guilt, by the way, at having been the zombie that ate the brains of Julie’s boyfriend, Perry (Franco).

As Julie makes her way home, the changes in R spread, starting with R’s grunting friend M (Corddry, who almost steals the show again). The boneys don’t seem to like this, so they go hunting for R and Julie. Meanwhile, Julie is trying to convince her dad (Malkovich) and her friend Nora (Tipton) that there is more to corpses than grunting and a hunger for brains.

Through all of this, R’s inner dialogue fills in character and story in a charming way. The action leads to an emotional and action-filled showdown. And it turns out that the Beatles may have been right: Love just might really be all you need.

Critique

Warm Bodies is fresh, clever, charming, intermittently very sweet, and altogether very effective. It’s not Twilight, because these people are interesting and charming and delightful– and this is a believable love story.

Written with a precise and sharp eye for the humor in this absurd premise, taking shots at zombie culture and romantic tropes, and taking time to let characters explore their space and motives– make Warm Bodies a smart, charming, and entertaining film. These are, in general, the types of characters we’ve seen, but they are mostly authentic and generally behave as real people might in such situations.

What makes another difference, elevating the film even more, is the excellent acting and voiceover work of Nicholas Hoult. The kid got his start in About a Boy and has gone on to be an accomplished fellow, playing the Beast in the latest X-Men film and doing quite a lot more. He and Teresa Palmer remind the viewer a lot of the quirky, clever, modern chemistry between Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone in The Amazing Spiderman.

With some gross-out moments and a bit of salty language, Warm Bodies isn’t for the whole family. But teens and adults will generally get a great big kick out of this movie, finding plenty of opportunity to laugh and be pleasantly surprised by the movie’s warmth.

Content warnings: A few scary zombie moments, some gory stuff, somewhat salty language, a brief scene of a girl undressing.

Writing: 4.5          Acting: 5          Overall: 4.5

Use your warm body to click on the share buttons down and to the left. Post this review everywhere, wouldja?

Also, did you think Julie forgave R too easily after he ate her boyfriend? Let me know in the comments.

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