‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ Review

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Director: Bryan Singer

Writers: Simon Kinberg

Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Oscar Isaac, Rose Byrne, Evan Peters, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Olivia Munn, Alexandra Shipp, Ben Hardy, Lucas Till, Josh Helman, and Lana Condor

Synopsis: With the emergence of the world’s first mutant, Apocalypse, the X-Men must unite to defeat his extinction level plan.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

*Reviewer Note 2: There is a post-credits scene.*

 

This year has been a great year for comic book/superhero films. All of them different in their own way, and all of them will have their fans and detractors, but the mistake that everyone should avoid making is trying to compare the films in how each handled their subject matter, characters and plot. Is it completely wrong to do so? Probably not. But like I said, all the comic book/superhero films are done in their own way. Saying that, I hate that I’m making the comparison, but for the sake of making a point I guess, X-Men: Apocalypse, like Captain America: Civil War is a culmination of the last two X-Men films (First Class and Days of Future Past). What does that all mean? Well let’s find out.

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The film starts with what could be called the origin of Apocalypse (Isaac), set in the Nile Valley in 3600 BCE. However, something happens that seals him inside a pyramid until, of course, 1983, when he is set free. Seeing what the world has become, he sets out to find his followers, The Horsemen. Meanwhile, Charles Xavier (McAvoy) has opened his school with Hank (Hoult) as one of the professors. He also deals with new students like Jean Grey (Turner), who is afraid of her powers, and new student Scott Summers (Sheridan), who has just discovered his powers at the expense of a bully and bathroom stall. Raven/Mystique (Lawrence) is now seen as a public figure amongst humans and mutants, thanks to the events of Days of Future Past.

Finally, Magneto has moved on with this life and has a family, but with Apocalypse now awakened and finding his new Horsemen, Magneto gets dragged back into the world he thought he left behind. What follows is this new group of X-Men trying to stop Apocalypse from building a “better” world.

Like I, begrudgingly, mentioned earlier, one of the things X-Men: Apocalypse shares with Captain America: Civil War is that it is a culmination of the films before it. A good chunk of the film is built up from the events of First Class and Days of Future Past, so Apocalypse does feel like a true sequel to both films and a film you will appreciate more if you’ve seen both films, and know you’re previous X-Men movies history. There are some nice callbacks to the previous films and several subtle nods that fans can appreciate sprinkled throughout.

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The film itself is held together by the cast. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender continue to prove that they are worthy successors to Patrick Stewart’s beloved Professor X and Ian McKellan’s Magneto. Fassbender has the better arc of the two at the beginning of the film, but gets a bit lost in the shuffle by the third act. Nicholas Hoult’s Hank/Beast is more of a background character this time around and Jennifer Lawrence does the best she can with what she’s given, but does take more a leader role by the end of the film that makes sense and isn’t shoehorned in. Evan Peters’ Quicksilver has, once again, a standout sequence and his own arc, that gives him more to do this time around, but it doesn’t go anywhere – at least in this movie, maybe?

The new cast holds their own against the veteran cast, and gives us a great hope for future X-Men films with this cast – at least for me. Tye Sheridan gives off a good vibe as Cyclops, while Sophie Turner gets some of the meatier material as Jean Grey. However, one of the big highlights is Kodi Smit-McPhee’s Nightcrawler, which we are introduced to in a mutant fight club along with pre-Horseman Angel (Hardy). Lana Condor has a brief appearance as Jubliee, but doesn’t go anywhere really.

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As for the rest of the Horsemen, Alexandra Shipp’s Storm is the first one introduced and the most interesting out of the three since she has her own story before she becomes a Horseman. Olivia Munn’s Psylocke is just a bit disappointing, only in that she doesn’t have too much going on before hand and it feels like she joins just for the hell of it. One of the good things is that he’s actually in the movie, and she’s one of the few that actually wears her comic book outfit.

When it comes to Oscar Isaac’s Apocalypse, Isaac owns it. Obviously, when images of him came out, Ivan Ooze was getting thrown around – which I hated – but seeing the costume in action and Isaac actually playing the character is great. One of the different between Apocalypse and other villains we’ve seen in the films is that Apocalypse doesn’t see himself as a mutant. He comes from a different time and sees himself as a God. That’s why he doesn’t care about anything or anyone that stands in his way, which is what makes him, arguably, the dangerous person the X-Men have dealt with to this point. And since the film is called Apocalypse, he does cause a lot of destruction.

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X-Men: Apocalypse does have some flaws. Some emotional beats could, and at one point should, have been stretched out. Like I previously stated, some characters aren’t completely developed, which is one of the missteps that every ensemble film does, so you really can’t hold that against the film. Even some return characters like Lucas Till’s Alex Summers/Havok, Rose Byrne’s Moira Mactaggert and Josh Helman’s William Stryker which have their moments but are put on the backburner to develop the newer characters. Not a knock on the film, and something that is completely understandable, but still a bummer.

I wouldn’t consider this a spoiler, but if you haven’t seen the last trailer for X-Men: Apocalypse, then maybe avoid this part. Wolverine does make an appearance in the film, and while it was awesome to watch him literally claw-up Stryker’s men. It did feel a little forced. I had no problem seeing Jackman in this especially knowing that this is one of his last performances as the character, but the scene felt like a way to lead into potentially Wolverine 3, and make us the audience know that Wolverine is a lot more dangerous, potentially, in this new timeline that was created thanks to Days of Future Past. It also adds a little more depth to the end-credits scene. Also, the scene pushes the boundary of PG-13 rating that could get fans excited for Wolverine 3, if they go the rumored R-rating.

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All in all, X-Men: Apocalypse is another good edition to the X-Men franchise. It’s fun, has great humor, and entertaining. Is it the best one? Well, that’s up to you, but the cast is once again solid. There are some real highlights and standout sequences, but the film does have some missteps that don’t hurt it, but are noticeable. If you’re an X-Men fan, you’ll get a kick out of the callbacks and nods.

X-Men: Apocalypse

4 out of 5

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‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ Review

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Dir: George Miller

Writer(s): George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, and Nick Lathouris

Cast: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Bryne, Zoe Kravitz, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Abbey Lee, Courtney Eaton, Nathan Jones and Megan Gale

Synopsis: In a stark desert landscape where humanity is broken, two rebels just might be able to restore order: Max, a man of action and of few words, and Furiosa, a woman of action who is looking to make it back to her childhood homeland.

 

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

 

Director George Miller has returned to the wasteland of the “Mad World” he created back in 1981. Now, some odd thirty years later, Miller has bought back the character of Max Rockatansky and his surroundings of crazy-named characters, barren landscapes, insane looking cars, and yes, awesome car chases. But, does this new Mad Max hold its own or does it crumble under the hype? Well, it’s a lovely day!

 

Mad Max: Fury Road isn’t necessarily a remake, reboot or sequel. It does have a nice “Easter Eggs” to the previous movies that fans will notice, including during the opening narration by Max (Hardy) telling us who he is and what the world has become. Really, even if you aren’t a Mad Max fan or never seen the other films, it kind of doesn’t matter. Even without the Easter Eggs, Miller gives the audience enough material to make your own conclusions or flat out shows us, what this world has become. You will have no problem entering the world of the mad.

 

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When it comes to the story of the movie, it is rather simple: Its one long car chase. The chase starts when Imperator Furiosa (Theron), a war lieutenant, leads a group of Immortan Joe’s (Keays-Byrne) War Boys, young pale-looking men who are deathly loyal to Joe, to a supposed oil and ammo run but ends up taking a detour. It’s after Joe finds out that Furiosa is on the detour that he realizes his “Wives” are missing. The Wives, who are five women that Joe uses to breed, are actually in Furiosa’s rig and decides to go out with this army to get back his “property.”

 

On the way to get back The Wives, one of the War Boys, Nux (Hoult) happens to have Max with him and they chase down the rig into the heavy promoted sand storm, which is even better than the promos. Of course, Max and Furiosa eventually cross paths and the two work together to get to safety.

 

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Mad Max: Fury Road is very unapologetic. It doesn’t care if you think it’s weird or over the top, even though it is for the most part. Miller and his crew have done an amazing job of really creating a world that has come and gone, and what is in its place it. There’s very little hope in this bleak and dry world. The world is now filled with killers and survivors, and you better be one or the other, because there is no more for a middle ground.

 

One of the best parts of Fury Road, isn’t just the action (I’ll get to that in a minute), but the cinematography. The film looks beautiful and there are constantly great looking shots that just add to the film even more. Add to that the amount of great detail the costume department spent on making these characters, especially Immortan Joe, look both; great, creepy, and even resourceful. Even better, and thankfully, Miller avoids CGI for a good chuck of the film and leaves all the awe-struck moments to real car crashes and explosions.

 

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But, all of these won’t be worth looking at it, if it weren’t for the characters. Tom Hardy plays a pretty good Max. He’s haunted by his past which is heavily touched on at the beginning and sporadically throughout the film. He’s a man of a few words and let’s his action do the talking. Seriously, Max might have the movie named after him, but he leaves a great chuck of the dialogue for his fellow runaways and is even masked for a good amount of time. It’s almost fair to say that Hardy is a supporting character in the movie and the real star is Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa.

 

Theron’s Furiosa is a not only a badass fighting woman, but a vulnerable one too. It goes to show you that Theron has a ton of range and can play both the vulnerable and kick-ass characters, that also happens to have one real arm. And yes, arguably, she is the lead character in the movie. We get to know as much of her backstory, surprising without heavy exposition, just through her actions and the way she treats her mission.

 

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I didn’t want to address this in the review, but considering it’s become an issue with not just Theron’s character, but the other female characters in the movie, I’m going to address it. The “Feminist Agenda” in Mad Max: Fury Road is stupid! People outside of Hollywood have wanted more strong female characters and when they finally get more than one, they bitch about and call it a Feminist Agenda, seriously? I know not everyone is calling it this, but the fact out of the things you can complain about in the movie, you choose to call an installment in a film series about awesome looking car chases and ridiculous names, a Feminist movie? Get a life! Also does no one remember Virginia Hey’s Road Warrior character? Hell even Tina Turner’s Aunty Entity was a pretty strong female character in Beyond Thunderdome.

 

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Anyway, let’s talk about The Wives – Toast the Knowing (Kravitz), The Splendid Angharad (Huntington-Whitely), Capable (Keough), The Dag (Lee) and Cheedo the Fragile (Eaton). Or as Immortan Joe would call them, his “property,” even though they would you hit and tell you they aren’t property to anyone. Each of them has their own personalities, but you only really get to know Toast, Splendid and Capable. The Dag and Cheedo have their brief moment to shine, but otherwise sit back on the action.

 

Hug Keays-Bryne’s Immortan Joe treats himself like a god or prophet in some sense. His War Boys are loyal because Joe promises them he’ll take them to Valhalla when they die. Keays-Bryne should be a familiar face – although you actually don’t really see his face in this – to the Mad Max world, he played the villain Toecutter in the first movie, but they have no connection in this film so don’t worry about that. Just like his crazy outfit, Immortan Joe is crazy, and ruthless.

 

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Nicholas Hoult plays Nux, the War Boy, looking to prove himself not just to Joe, but to himself and others that he can be a legend. There are other great crazy characters like you’d suspect in the movie like this, people with crazy names like Rictus Erectus (Nathan Jones) or more straightforward, The People Eater (John Howard) and The Bullet Farmer (Richard Carter). They all add to the world that is long and gone and it fully shows.

 

While the movie might be one long big car chase, the film does slow down a bit to let the characters breath a bit, but pretty much to give us, the audience a breather too. Seriously after the first rig chase, I took a deep breath and the rest of the auditorium took one too and even laughed, but a good laugh not a “this is a terrible laugh.” However, I will say during those scenes, it does slow the movie down. It’s not so much of a bad thing to be honest, but considering how much we sit through during an action sequence, the slowed down bits takes you out a bit. However, during those scenes Theron and Hardy bring their characters more to life, so I really can’t complain too much.

 

All in all, Mad Max: Fury Road is a hell of a lot of fun. I do highly recommend multiple views, only because you’re sure to miss a few some awesome shots, or just viewing them all over again. Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron, more so Theron, keep the film going on the story and actor side of things. More importantly, George Miller brings Mad Max: Fury Road back to the things we love most about the series, awesome car chases and destruction.

 

 

Mad Max: Fury Road

4 out of 5

‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’ Review

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Dir: Bryan Singer

Cast: Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Ellen Page, Shawn Ashmore, Peter Dinklage, Halle Berry, Omar Sy, Josh Helman, Daniel Cudmore, Bingbing Fan, Adan Canto, Booboo Stewart, Evan Peters, Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart

Synopsis: The X-Men send Wolverine to the past in a desperate effort to change history and prevent an event that results in doom for both humans and mutants.

 

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

*Reviewer Note #2: Stay for the end credits.*

 

 

Loosely adapted from the classic Chris Claremont comic storyline of the same name, X-Men: Days of Future Past puts together the big screen’s original X-Men (Wolverine, Professor X, Storm, Kitty Pryde, Iceman, Colossus, and one-time enemy Magneto) and their latest members (Bishop, Warpath, Sunspot, and Blink) living in a dystopian future where mutant-hunting Sentinels have practically exterminated mutants, imprisoned the surviving ones in concentration camps with the humans who helped them. The only way for the X-Men to survive is to send one of their own back in time in order to stop the assassination that paved the way for the mutant holocaust.

 

One of the biggest differences from the comic (don’t worry, I won’t be comparing the comic to the movie during the whole review) the comics had the older Kitty (Page) transfer her consciousness into her younger self in order to warn their past-selves. In the film, the initial argument is that only Professor X (Stewart) is a strong enough telepath to do the job, but since he can’t physically handle such a long trip back the mission falls to Wolverine (Jackman). Waking up in his younger body in 1973, Logan seeks out the younger Xavier (McAvoy) who has become a shambling version of the man we met in X-Men: First Class.

 

Charles has spent the time in-between First Class and Days of Future Past moping around his mansion brooding about what he’s lost. The only one who’s still with him is Hank aka Beast (Hoult), who has made a serum to not only control is “animal form” but also for Xavier’s paralysis. The big side effect of the drug is that it has affected Charles’ psychic powers. But Charles doesn’t seem to care as he no longer wants to hear all the voices and suffering and who has lost hope since losing his Mystique (Lawrence) to Magneto (Fassbender).

 

Although she still playing a supporting character in the great ensemble, Mystique plays a major key to changing the future as she’s out to assassinate Sentinels creator Dr. Bolivar Trask (Dinklage). In order to help them track down Mystique, Logan, Xavier, and Hank will need help from Magneto, who is imprisoned at the bottom of the Pentagon. They then recruit young speedster Peter Maximoff (Peters), aka Quicksilver. From there it becomes a race against time to stop Mystique, restore young Xavier’s hope, and prevent the X-Men of the future from being wiped out.

 

This is a plot heavy sci-fi/time travel film with lots of moving parts, so we should give credit to both director Bryan Singer and screenwriter Simon Kinberg that they balance all those elements with relatively little confusion. There are some clunky moments, but overall Days of Future Past does a great job in keeping the storytelling concise and clear.

 

Days of Future Past gives each of its core crew of characters something important to do. It’s pretty clever how the story manages to make the movie’s biggest stars – particularly Lawrence integral to the plot. Xavier’s arc from self-pity to the hopeful leader embodied by Patrick Stewart is moving and one of the strongest aspects of the movie. As for young Magneto, despite agreeing to help find Raven/Mystique, he still remains firm in his beliefs even if that means turning against Xavier and Mystique.

 

Days of Future Past can be amusing and funny at times, but the movie has an overall feel of grim. You can feel it more with the future setting, as all of them are hiding and during the standoffs with the Sentinels, the filmmakers did not hold back any punches. But going back to the humor, I was somewhat surprised how much of it there was. There are also some nice callbacks to the other X-Men films (and even the comics) that will make fans happy.

 

The movie’s biggest surprise is the character that’s been the greatest object of scorn online: Quicksilver. Quicksilver does not have a ton of screen-time but he’s Pentagon prison break sequence is a highlight of the movie. I do not know if it’s a scene stealer – although some people are saying it is – but this is another example of not judging a character by his publicity shots.

 

I already hinted at it earlier in the review, but the cast is great. James McAvoy’s Charles Xavier is more at the forefront this time around and has a great arc that McAvoy handles so well. Jackman does his usual best as Logan aka Wolverine. Nicholas Hoult has less to do than he did in First Class. Lawrence, who has become a major star since the first movie turns into a badass but is also conflicted once she finds out she’s the key to the future. Fassbender was one of the best things about First Class, so it kind of sucks that he doesn’t have a ton to do this time around. Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart of course bring their A-game and it’s nice to see them together again as the characters.

 

The other mutants like Sunspot (Canto), Warpath (Booboo Stewart), and Blink (Fan) have some cool moments teaming up with Bobby/Iceman (Ashmore) and Storm (Berry). Fan favorite Bishop (Sy) is nice to see on the big screen finally but some will feel like he was underused. One underused and slightly disappointing characters is Bolivar Trask played by the awesome Peter Dinklage. This is not a knock on Dinklage who plays Trask well but the character as a villain is not compelling enough.

 

The film’s action sequences are well-done and engaging, from its opening scene of the future X-Men fighting the Sentinels to the Paris standoff through to the climactic battle in Washington D.C. Even the Pentagon prison break sequence, which nicely balances humor, visual effects, character, and tension.

 

All in all, X-Men: Days of Future Past is funny, grim, bleak and filled with great action and some strong performances. For fans of the series and comic, you will appreciate the fact that Bryan Singer and Simon Kinberg attempt such a beloved and complex story.

 

 

X-Men: Days of Future Past

5 out of 5

Jack the Giant Slayer Review

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Dir: Bryan Singer

Cast: Nicholas Hoult, Eleanor Tomlinson, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Ian McShane, Bill Nighy

Synopsis: The ancient war between humans and a race of giants is reignited when Jack, a young farmhand fighting for a kingdom and the love of a princess, opens a gateway between the two worlds

 

Fairy tales adaptations have become more popular over the last few years. Whether they are family-friendly, Disney-fied retellings, darker tone myths (Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth could be consider one) and revision from Red Riding Hood or Alice in Wonderland. But now comes Jack the Giant Slayer (originally titled Jack the Giant Killer) which at times feels like a combination of all the previously mentioned but also trying to be it’s own thing.

The movie stars Nicholas Hoult (seen recently in Warm Bodies) as the titular Jack, a farm boy who must rise to the challenge when he inadvertently opens a pathway to the land of the giants, sending his love-interest, Princess Isabelle (Tomlinson), into their dangerous world. When her father, King Brahmwell (McShane) finds out that her daughter is missing and is up the beanstalk he sends her guard Elmont (McGregor) with his men and a shady Roderick (Tucci). Of course Jack offers to help and despite him being a “simple farm boy” Elmont decides to take him.

The performances are generally strong, but like the rest of the movie, they are a mixed bag when it comes to some of the tones. Tomlinson and Hoult have great chemistry as both sharing desire to have some adventure. The always reliable McGregor and Tucci play a bit the comedic roles but also have their moments when they have serious moments. Tucci always plays a great “lovable ass” character and this is no different. I don’t know what it was about McGregor’s Elmont at the beginning but he felt a bit cartoony but changes later on in the movie.

Tomlinson plays the princess that doesn’t want to be stuck in the castle and wants to get to know the people she can eventually rule over. Hoult plays Jack really well and makes us care what happens to him. Hoult shows his acting chops once again and is starting to become one of my favorite actors and that he can be a true star.

Nighy voices the main villain giant General Fallon that despite the giant CG design (I’ll get to that in a bit) creates a dramatic, and in moments legitimately scary, villain. McShane finds the perfect balance between heartfelt, offbeat and funny playing the king/father character which is nice to see.

Now the giants who are…not really that special. There are really only three physical different looking giants; General Fallon, which has two heads (for some reason), a giant with an afro, and an almost not necessary rival to Fallon, Fumm. Besides them all the giants pretty much look the same especially near the end when they’re wearing their armor to fight the humans. The design of the giants works on only a few occasions but other than that the effects are put into the amazing looking landscape of the giant world.

The movie has a pretty interesting a cool opening it that he shows the tradition of storytelling. It opens with Jack and Isabelle listening to the story of the defeat of the giants as told by their respective parents. It even has a pretty cool animated sequence showing the history and what is to happen. That intertwining sequence plays later on in the movie when the two are grown up and talking to their father (Isabelle) and uncle (Jack).

All in all, Jack the Giant Slayer does have some really fun moments and doesn’t fall into “just being for kids” kind of movie. The movie does jump around a lot between genres which makes it hard to really get into because once you get use to one you have to adjust to the other.

Jack the Giant Slayer

3 out of 5

Warm Bodies Review

Dir: Jonathan Levine (The Wackness, 50/50)

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

Synopsis: After R (a highly unusual zombie) saves Julie from an attack, the two form a relationship that sets in motion a sequence of events that might transform the entire lifeless world

Over the years Hollywood has been trying to do some new things to “re-mold” zombies movies. From slow zombies, fast zombies, and yes, even pet zombies but Warm Bodies has a take on the genre that’s, at least from I can recall, entirely new: a zombie rom-com told from a zombie’s perspective

Based on the novel of the same name, the story centers on R (Hoult), a zombie who besides have inner monologues is bored with his life, which involves shuffling around an abandoned airport and having grunting conversations with his best friend M (Rob Corddry).

They eventually run into a group of humans, including Nora (Tipton), Julie (Palmer) and her ex-boyfriend Perry (Franco). R soon falls for Julie, saves her, and keeps her in his hideout plane. His love looks to restarts his heart, setting off a change that could affect the whole post-apocalyptic world.

Now, on the surface the movie may seem like another Twilight-esque film about the love between a human and a monster, but to the credit of author Isaac Marion and writer/director Jonathan Levine, the story has much more to it. At its core, Warm Bodies is a teen film, good or bad. It borrows from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, though thankfully, apart from one scene, it doesn’t do so heavy-handily.

As with many films in the zombie genre (or any genre really), Warm Bodies has a touch of social commentary. There’s a funny observation about technology turning us into zombies, how we are more connected yet less personal with each other. The movie also has a clever switch that sees R terrified in the human world, mirroring Julie’s experience in the zombie one when he’s at the airport.

Majority of the humor comes from R’s inner thoughts and some of it when he talks about his zombie appearance. R is a sort of emo teen zombie and Hoult does a great job at being a likable guy (yes even as a zombie). Palmer’s Julie isn’t necessarily the damsel in distress here. She holds her own against the first zombie attack but she also has this very likably quality about her which makes you believe why R’s falls in love with her. Malkovich plays Julie’s father, the tough General Grigio, who leads the remaining human race and doesn’t think twice about killing zombies, his opinion of them is tainted from a previous event that you can’t blame him for.

The one thing Warm Bodies does not bring is the massive gore and blood that we have come to know with the genre. Even with the PG-13 rating, there are a few moments that should make zombie fans happy but nothing huge. However, even with all that the movie does not really need the gore and massive bloodshed. There are some few intense scenes and some thrills with the evil zombies, called ‘the bonies’, who are skeleton-like creatures, and though the CGI on them doesn’t always look good, there are a couple of moments where they’re quite scary.

All in all, Warm Bodies is pretty fun and should be viewed in that manner. If you go into the movie thinking it’s just Twilight, you probably won’t like the product. The movie does do a few interesting things that some will probably be surprised with (if you haven’t read the book that is) but I don’t think it will necessarily change the genre.

Warm Bodies

4 out of 5

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