A discussion of Red (2010)

RedReleased: October 15, 2010. Director: Robert Schwentke. Stars: Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker, Morgan Freeman. Runtime: 111 min. 

I’m joined by Dave over at Dave Examines Movies for a fairly short discussion of the 2010 actioner “Red,” starring Bruce Willis, Mary Louise Parker, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich and Morgan Freeman, to name a few members of the core cast. It seems that, as an effort to appeal to older audiences, many studios have making movies that appeal to the older audience; like “Hope Springs” or “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.” But “Red” is no heartwarming dramedy – it’s an exciting action comedy, that came a few months after the release of Sylvester Stallone’s attempt to launch “The Expendables” franchise. Like “The Expendables,” it isn’t great in the story department – but it’s a truly fun experience.

The story follows Frank Moses (Bruce Willis), a former black-ops agent, who, after his life was threatened, has to regroup his old team in a last effort to survive and uncover his assailants.

Now, for the discussion I had with Dave… (Enjoy!)

Daniel: So Dave, how’d you like the movie?

Dave: I thought it was good, funny, and handled rather well for an ensemble comedy. I had some issues with how memorable it was though, how about you?

Daniel: I liked it, as well. Great fun, at least it’s more memorable than the other Willis geriatric actioner, “The Expendables” – so that has to count for something. What was your main issue with it?

Dave: I basically realized that the story in general was rather forgettable. I have seen “Red” once before when it first came out, and for a film that isn’t even five years old, I couldn’t remember what the premise was even about past a bunch of old guys in humorous action sequences, and yes, a lot of fun. To me, that seems to suggest little focus was actually spent on the story. For what it was, it’s exciting and hilarious to watch in the moment, but there are some things that escape your memory as time passes.

Daniel: Now that I think about that, and even though I only watched for the first time about a month ago, I’m only remembering the premise as Willis is a dangerous retiree who has to survive against a bunch of people who are trying to kill him. And I can’t remember what their motivations really were, to kill him. But do comic book adaptations usually have generic stories? It seems so, but like you say, I find it a blast – it certainly has a rewatchability factor.

Dave: It does, I agree. You can rewatch this for the sheer enjoyability of the thing. This is one of the only instances where I say screw the story, it was presented in such a fashion that you can have a blast watching. In some respect, it reminds me of a humorous version of “The Expendables”, but that’s fine, given the fact that I wasn’t a huge fan of “The Expendables.” For Red, you have a great display of chemistry between the characters and a good amount of individual humor shared between them. You might not care about *why* they are doing the things they are doing, but you do care about the characters themselves, and love watching them in action.

Daniel: Definitely! For a movie that doesn’t truly care about the story, I at least don’t have the trouble I do trying to explain the plot of something like that “The Expendables” or, even though they aren’t alike, “Grown Ups“. The characters and the action are what matter, here. The chemistry is on-point. I think the relationship between Willis and Parker is charming. I think Marvin is the best character. Malkovich is so hilarious as that eccentric.

Dave: I just love Malkovich in anything he is a part of. That man is all over the place, and I love it. As for how the movie looks: It set a tone, and it stuck to it. There is never a moment in the film where you feel like something was done out of place. You understand the world the film takes place in, and it remains consistent throughout. Is there anything negative you have to say about it?

Daniel: Agreed, director Robert Schwentke knows what he wants to do with it. Not majorly, no. For an ensemble piece, everyone gets a chance to shine, even if I felt Morgan Freeman wasn’t utilized as well as he could have been. And I was underwhelmed by the antagonists. And, like we discussed, the lack of greatness in the story department. I find when the film doesn’t have the greatest story, it’s more difficult to discuss. Do you feel the need to mention anything about it?

Dave: I would just have to say the lack of a memorable storyline dragged this film to a place it didn’t want to be in. Having that downfall basically made Red a tad forgettable in an area that will hurt them in the end. Years after people watch it, and when it pops up in a conversation, they’ll be saying, “Remember that one funny movie…with the old people…and all the violence?” Well, that could be a number of films. This film is unique in a way, it just doesn’t have the long-term click that makes it fully memorable… Do you have a rating for it?

Daniel: Hahah exactly. I’d give it a 78, because it’s not quite at an 80, lol. And even though I’m not a fan of giving random-ish scores like that any more, I think I have to bend the rules for this one.  What would you give it?

Dave: Close to yours, actually, I gave it a 76, because I see it as better than 75. Thanks for discussing Red with me, and I hope we can do it again sometime soon!

Daniel: Nice! Thanks for the discussion, Dave. I hope so, too! Would you want to discuss the sequel once we both see it?

Dave: I was going to suggest the same thing. Sounds like a plan!

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Warm Bodies (2013)

Warm BodiesWarm Bodies

Release Date: February 1, 2013

Director: Jonathan Levine

Stars: Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, John Malkovich

Runtime: 97 min

Tagline: Cold body. Warm heart.

Finally, this gives both Zombieland and Twilight fans a chance to come together and watch a movie in peace!

Warm Bodies is told from the fresh point of view of a zombie, the highly unusual R (Nicholas Hoult), who goes around an airport, occasionally having almost conversations with his best zombie bud, M (Rob Corddry). Their zombie group runs into a human group ran by Perry (Dave Franco), boyfriend of the main girl, Julie (Teresa Palmer). After Perry gets killed, R is immediately attracted to Julie, and he brings her to his home in an abandoned airplane. They soon form a bond, R wants to become human again, Julie begins to change his heart for the better, and their relationship might just rattle the whole lifeless world as they know it.

One of the only similarities between this and Twilight is they are both Young Adult novels. The girl is also attracted to a supernatural sort-of being, even though zombies are the norm in the post-apocalyptic world they are living in. One thing that is hard to comprehend of this human-supernatural being relationships: Are these girls that desperate that they have to resort to the basically dead? As soon as one guy sparkles in the sunlight or puts on a little make-up, do they seriously immediately develop tendencies of a strange branch of necrophilia?

Anyway, the film is also romantic, and the similarities to Twilight basically stop there. This is a testament of human connection. Julie begins to teach R how to actually live, and because of this, he opens up to her and learns how not to be dead. He learns how to talk, and he learns how to feel and dream, something that is extremely unorthodox for a zombie. One thing that helps him be more human is this: In this specific world, when a zombie eats a victim’s brain (R keeps Perry’s as a snack food), they absorb their feelings and their memories; the little slide show of memories in their head is as close as they get to dreaming.

Speaking of those memory flashbacks, they give a chance to show visuals in the film. They aren’t very good, they come off as hypnotic and fairly headache-inducing. They’re a cool attempt, sure, but they’re hard to admire when one has to squint at the screen. One other thing that is irritating about the feature is that zombies only grunt, and cannot form words… So any huge fan of zombie flicks may be wanting to scream: “OH! THE HORROR! THIS ISN’T RIGHT! THE DEAD DON’T TALK!” The film may be altogether unrealistic, but it doesn’t stop it from being fun.

Other than Twilight, this film has similarities to over zombie flicks, like Zombieland. They are both quite funny, and this could be seen as the next best zombie date movie. One thing that is similar to TV’s The Walking Dead is the hiding the human scent trick, where zombie blood is smeared on humans. Also, this has many similarities to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, something that is evident in the characters’ names themselves. There is a balcony scene that mirrors that of the play, and that is the biggest similarity. The love is forbidden, even when R hopes it to be true. The two things getting in their way: Julie’s father, a military leader of the world named Grigio (John Malkovich); and Boneys, a skeleton being that all zombies eventually become. These are the two main conflicts, and, fortunately enough, they don’t make the film crowded or really distract from the story at hand. The Boneys actually add some real intensity to the feature, and they get one good scare, but they’re so CGI’d to a point of no scary return. If one of these guys came up to me in alley, I’d just look for a computer to unplug.

This isn’t a perfect feature because it doesn’t take full advantage of its fresh premise. It piles on a few predictable moments, but it still does an admirable job. If Jonathan Levine wasn’t behind this with directing and adapting the novel by Isaac Marion, it might not be the surprise hit turns out to be. I cannot compare the book to the film, but the laughs Jonathan Levine manages to generate are great. If you can find humour in R’s unique commentary of gaining human attributes and becoming a real boy, you’ll enjoy this a lot. If this zombie staring awkwardly at others is your type of comedy, you’ll be smiling like crazy. However, while Hoult generates a many yuks, and Palmer proves sexy enough to get this guy’s heart beating again, and Analeigh Tipton (Crazy, Stupid, Love.) generates a few laughs, Corddry gets the biggest laughs with hilarious one-liners.

In a nutshell: Warm Bodies proves to be 2013’s zombie date movie. It gives a fresh spin on the genre with it being narrated by the zombie (who comments things like, “Boy we move slow, this is going to take a while*”).Without a lot of solid competition, it also proves to be the one of the best films of the year. With a fine use of an ultra cool premise, this is a solid flick that could have been a little better. Maybe more Malkovich would make this astounding instead of just really good…

*They run when they attack, so I must ask… Why can’t they just fast-walk everywhere?

80/100