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February 1, 2013

Reel advice: Near-death experiences


Reel advice: Near-death experiences
Professional scenery chewers Al Pacino and Christopher Walken show great restraint in Fisher Stevens' action comedy Stand Up Guys (Lionsgate). When Val (Pacino) is released from prison after serving his 28 year sentence for murder, old friend Doc (Walken) is there to greet him at the gate, offer him a ride in his ancient Buick and provide him with a place to stay in his crowded flat/studio.

Doc, retired from the mayhem biz, prefers to paint sunsets. However, he has one last job to do, involving Val. Vengeful mob boss Claphands (Mark Margolis, who does all the scenery chomping in the movie) has saddled Doc with the chore of wiping out Val for the murder of his only son by 10 a.m. of the morning following his parole. So, their reunion has a time limit.

Reel advice: Near-death experiences
Making the most of the time they have left Val and Doc raid a pharmacy (where they score Viagra and more), visit a bordello, eat, visit an emergency room, go dancing (Pacino recycling some of his Scent of a Woman moves), steal a car, take former partner-in-crime Hirsch (Alan Arkin) for the ride of his life, help rape-victim Sylvia (Vanessa Ferlito) get revenge on her perpetrators, eat, attend an impromptu funeral, reconnect with an unsuspecting family member, shop for suits and have another meal. They also finally address the events that led up to Val's lengthy prison stay and why taking the fall made him a stand up guy.

(Warm Bodies tickets on sale now!)

Nevertheless, both men are aware the whole time that one of them must kill the other. Resourceful as they are grumpy, Val and Doc may be down, but they're not out. Like an AARP Butch and Sundance, the alter-kockers make plans to go out in a blaze of glory. Stand Up Guys may not earn the Academy Award-winning trio of Pacino, Walken and Arkin new Oscars, but it's an entertaining and, occasionally, touching movie.

The zombie comedies Zombieland and Shaun of the Dead went a long way in reviving and finding humor in the cinema of the undead. Jonathan Levine's Warm Bodies (Summit) takes the genre one step further in the direction of rom-com. Yes, you read that right. Warm Bodies has body heat.

Narrator R (Nicholas Hoult of A Single Man) is one of the more articulate walking dead in a post-apocalyptic America. Living on the opposite side of a massive wall with his fellow un-breathing brethren, he divides his time between shuffling around an abandoned airport, hunting humans, collecting a variety of goods and avoiding the vicious and malicious skeletal Bonies (the most deadly zombies of all!).

Julie (Teresa Palmer), daughter of Grigio (John Malkovich), the militaristic leader of America, is part of a team of young people who are sent out, beyond the wall, on a series of missions. On one particular pharma-salvage Mission, along with her boyfriend Perry (Dave Franco) and best friend Nora (Analeigh Tipton), a zombie encounter not only leads to the death of Perry (at the hands of R), but the abduction of Julie (also by R), as well. As it happens, when a zombie eats the brains of one of its kills, the memories of the dead person become those of the zombie's. Perry affections for Julie are transferred to R who saves her from the other zombies and unexpected relationship is given life.

When R finds himself changing and becoming more alive, due to Julie's presence, there is hope that the same transformation can occur among the other zombies. Now all Julie has to do is convince her shoot-first- ask-questions-later father. Borrowing from Romeo and Juliet, among other sources, Warm Bodies is lively and clever. It gets most of its life source from Hoult, who gives R a humanity not usually found in zombies. Rob Corddry, as Marcus, R's closest zombie friend, almost steals the show. As cold weather entertainment goes Warm Bodies is hot.

(Warm Bodies tickets on sale now!)

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