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Entries in Rob Corddry (3)

Friday
Feb012013

Warm Bodies

It wouldn’t be unreasonable for a cynic to look at Warm Bodies and fear that it will ruin zombies the way the Twilight franchise ruined vampires. Like Twilight, it takes a creature that should be scary and feared and turns it into a lover, trapped in a teen-friendly romance that is sure to be endeared by young girls across the country. Luckily, Warm Bodies is nothing like Twilight. It’s funny, self-aware and all around charming. It occasionally devolves into cheese and hits a few narrative lulls that drag the overall product down, but this is a solid film that takes a concept that really shouldn’t work at all and makes it palatable to a wide reaching audience.

Eight years ago, something happened. What that something was is unclear, but it caused the dead to rise and hunger for human flesh. Now, the humans still left alive have retreated into a confined part of their city, protected by a humongous wall. Of course, resources within that space are finite, so teams must venture out occasionally to gather more necessities. One day, a group of young kids, including Julie, (Teresa Palmer), the daughter of the city’s leader, go out to do just that. Unexpectedly, they are ambushed by the dead. However, one of the zombies actually takes a liking to her, probably due to his prior consumption of her boyfriend’s brain, which causes him to gather his memories and feelings, and he ends up protecting her from the zombie horde. For some reason, when he’s around her, he feels different and actually becomes more humanlike. Nevertheless, he still speaks in grunts with only the occasional monosyllabic word and he can’t remember his name, so Julie starts calling him R (Nicholas Hoult).

The film begins in R’s head with an inner monologue. He’s dead and his brain doesn’t quite function properly, as one would expect from a zombie, but he’s aware of this (just one of many contradictions that deviates from zombie lore). He can’t feel physical pain anymore, but he feels loneliness and lost, sometimes literally given that he tends to wander around unfamiliar places. His desire to be alive, to feel and to love is something we all feel from time to time, especially when our lives become a monotonous loop we seemingly can’t get away from. Not many movies have a set-up and structure that enable them to explore such themes, or at least not in this way, which makes Warm Bodies a unique offering. He may be a zombie, but R is one of the most likable and, oddly enough, relatable characters to be on the screen in quite some time.

Its themes don’t stop and start there, however. Other themes include some we’ve already seen, like the idea of humans living like we’re dead (which was better explored in Shaun of the Dead), and some that are a little too obvious to really work, like desegregation and acceptance in a world of people that are different than you, but the fact that these themes are there at all just goes to show how thoughtful the movie is. It doesn’t desire to be the mopey tween romance it so easily could have become. It shoots much higher. Granted, its central message of “love is what makes us human” is inherently cheesy (and it singlehandedly killed 2008’s Hancock), but Warm Bodies handles it as delicately as a similarly themed movie possibly can. When the end rolls around, you won’t be wiping away tears, but you also won’t be rolling your eyes. In fact, you’re likely to find it kind of sweet.

Although a cliché saying at this point, Warm Bodies is greater than the sum of its parts. If each part was analyzed individually, it would be easy to point out their flaws (like those aforementioned memories that aren’t seen in first person as they should be, but rather in third person, the way they were shot), yet there’s a gentleness and warmness to the film, despite some blood splatter and organ eating, that can’t be overlooked. It poses no threat to the dominance of the more brutal zombies we know and love, instead creating its own little nook in zombie lore that reinvigorates the walking dead in a way few have done before. It’s not your typical romance, but it’s the movie to see this Valentine’s Day. Men and women alike will find something to cherish.

Warm Bodies receives 3.5/5

Friday
Jun222012

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

The oft heard question “What would you do if you had [insert number here] days left to live?” is not a hard one for most people to answer. Most would spend it with their loved ones waiting for death to take hold of them. The surprisingly simplistic answer of such a difficult question, and the ease from which it comes, says a lot about humanity. Despite our obsession with materialistic things, most of us know what’s truly important in life. That’s the driving force behind the new apocalyptic dramedy Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. Although hardly a revelatory study on human behavior, the film is nothing less than sincere, even when it’s a bit too jokey for its own good.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World wastes no time in setting up its grim story. As it begins, Dodge (Steve Carell) and his wife Linda (Nancy Carell) are sitting on the side of the road in their car as the radio gives them some bad news. A 70-mile wide asteroid is heading to Earth and all attempts to stop it have failed. Humankind has three weeks left to live. Linda then hops out of the car and runs away, leaving Dodge all alone. He then goes about the next week of his life lonely and depressed until he runs into his British neighbor, Penny (Keira Knightley), who wishes for nothing more than to see her family. Unfortunately, they still live overseas and all planes have been grounded. Dodge knows someone who can help her out, however, and promises to reunite her with her family if she will accompany him as he searches for his long lost high school love, Olivia, before the world ends.

If Seeking a Friend for the End of the World had to be described in as concise a way as possible, it would be as a film with moments of profound beauty accompanied by an uneasy dose of emotion evaporating comedy. Its early moments are too farcical for its own good, laying a dishonest groundwork for a film that eventually reveals hidden layers of meaning as it goes on. With cameos by notable over-the-top comedians like Rob Corddry and Amy Schumer, the movie plays too much to its silly side while the characters face a grim and unavoidable situation. Despite an initial appreciation for these scenes, they don’t hold up upon reflection because what follows is a devastating, gut wrenching finale.

That in no way, of course, diminishes the impact of said finale. The ending is simultaneously terrifying and utterly beautiful. It manages to both make you smile and make you cry and the very last shot, which I dare not give away, will stick with you. It couldn’t have ended a better way. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World may be the most emotionally affecting movie to be released so far this year and that’s in spite of its larger deficiencies, like some awkward bonding scenes involving riots and a suicide assisted assassination.

Much of the credit can be given to Steve Carell, who once again proves his dramatic talent. His character is a very sad man, someone who waited his entire life for happiness to find him and now that he’s out of time, he recognizes he waited too long. Carell brilliantly realizes this man. He doesn’t whine over what could have been (and any mention of it is solely for expository purposes rather than a superficial attempt to win the audience’s affection); he just shows it on his face. Even when making a joke, even when he’s trying to feign happiness, his look gives him away. Sadness pervades him. Carell continues to impress in whatever role he’s in, be it comedy or drama, and though I doubt he’ll be recognized for it, he gives what is sure to be one of the best performances of the year.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, like so many movies, has tons of potential to be great, but squanders it. The fact that the ending of the movie still works as well as it does shows that with a little extra care, with some more reasonable early film decisions and a maybe a few cuts here and there, it could have been something special. But this is one of those rare movies you won’t look back on and remember disappointment. You won’t dwell on its problems. You’ll remember how the ending made you feel (and it’s bound to make you feel something) and the ensuing effect it had on you. While I can’t justifiably make the argument that the film is anything more than simply good, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World hits so many right notes that, in retrospect, its problems don’t seem so large at all.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World receives 3.5/5

Friday
Mar262010

Hot Tub Time Machine

Back in January, I was invited to attend an early screening of a little film called Hot Tub Time Machine. It was a rough cut and it was, well, a little rough. The editing needed to be tighter and a few side story issues needed to be resolved. Now it has been completed and the finished product is, well, still a little rough. It's a shoddily structured, messily interpreted hour and a half trip through an unoriginal screenplay reminiscent of dozens of other time traveling films that simply replaces whatever time traveling device they used with a hot tub. Still, its goofy nature and fun, unabashed ridiculousness are hard to deny.

The story, as irrelevant as it may be, can be summarized in one sentence. After Lou, played by Rob Corddry, tries to kill himself, his friends Adam, Nick and Jacob, played by John Cusack, Craig Robinson and Clark Duke, travel to their old vacation spot, a ski resort in the mountains, where they are transported back to the 80’s via hot tub and must travel in the same footsteps they did all those years ago, lest they disrupt the past and change the future for the worse.

Much like Snakes on a Plane or the more recent Ninja Assassin, Hot Tub Time Machine is a movie most will want to see based on the delightfully absurd title alone. Those people will not be disappointed. Like a good spoof movie, the film never stops with the jokes. It never bothers with heart or meaning or character development. It simply provides a constant string of gags that allow the four actors to play off each other.

Unfortunately, for every hilarious joke, there was one that fell flatter than an anorexic supermodel, including disgusting bodily fluid jokes that even the most juvenile of viewers will find degrading. Blood, urine, vomit, you name it, this movie has it. In the first 20 minutes alone, you get all of the above and then some, bringing to mind a scene where Nick digs out keys from the anus of an animal and throws them at someone. This type of lowbrow humor is to be expected, but that doesn't make it funny.

It's during the more perceptive scenes that Hot Tub Time Machine really shines. It knows what it is—over-the-top, tongue in cheek and very silly—and it takes its 80’s setting and capitalizes on it. Cusack, known for his seminal roles in 80’s films like Say Anything, is used to the fullest and the film puts him in situations that echo movies of that era, even going so far as to duplicate one of the most famous shots from Sixteen Candles, a film which he played a minor role in.

In a way, Hot Tub Time Machine is kind of smart in its stupidity. There is nothing going on behind the camera, but the comedic chemistry of the four actors is good and the witty script prove some thought went into it. It’s ironic, really. The film has brains, but you’ll have to turn yours off to enjoy it.

Hot Tub Time Machine receives 3/5