THIS WEEK’S MOVIE RELEASES:
“Warm Bodies”: I’m always thirsty for zombie flicks of all kinds, from the original “Dead” gorefests through “Dead Alive” to the more modern interpretations such as “28 Days Later”; I particularly have a soft spot for zombie comedies such as “Fido,” “Zombieland” and “Shaun of the Dead.” Now comes a zombie romcom, replete with star-crossed lovers, a stubborn, bull-headed father, and hordes of humans, zombies and “skeletons” (zombies who have been reduced to just skin and bone) battling it out — it’s kind of a post-apocalyptic Romeo and Juliet with great special effects, poignancy and laughs. Nicholas Hoult stars as R, a zombie who begins to have memories, learns how to talk, and even has dreams — highly unusual for a living-dead survivor of a zombie epidemic. He encounters Julie (Teresa Palmer), a human survivor, and rescues her from a zombie attack, secreting her to a hiding place where the pair form a special relationship in their struggle for survival. Julie sees that R is different from the other zombies — he’s becoming increasingly more human — and when she returns to safety, she has to persuade the other humans that the zombies are slowly transforming into something closer to themselves. It’s exciting, romantic and transformative — a little love can save the world. Co-stars Rob Corddry as R’s buddy, M, and John Malkovich as Julie’s militaristic dad. Based on the novel by Isaac Marion. Bonus features include a host of behind-the-scenes featurettes, commentaries, and “Zombie Acting Tips With Rob Corddry.”
“Identity Thief” is a meandering slapstick comedy that bases its laughs on the interactions between a very big, brassy woman (Melissa McCarthy) — a thief who lives off a stolen identity — and a smaller, meeker office worker (Jason Bateman), the man who was her mark. When accounts rep Sandy Patterson (Bateman) finds that his identity has been stolen, his credit destroyed and his life threatened by outstanding police warrants, he decides to track down the culprit, the fake Sandy Patterson (McCarthy), and bribe, coax and wrangle her from Florida back to Denver, where he can prove who the real Sandy Patterson is. Along the way there’s car chases, car accidents, gunfights, bounty hunters and all manner of inanity. Co-stars Jon Favreau, Amanda Peet, Tip “T.I.” Harris, Genesis Rodriguez, John Cho, Robert Patrick and Eric Stonestreet. Bonus features include a gag reel, alternate takes, and behind-the-scenes featurettes.
Also due this week: “Escape From Planet Earth,” an animated family adventure about an astronaut from the planet Baab who becomes stranded on the “dark planet” (Earth) and must find his way to safety to save the universe; and “A Good Day to Die Hard,” the latest installment in the adventures of John McClane (Bruce Willis), the heroic New York cop with a knack for being in the wrong place at the right time. The latest predicament takes him to Russia to track down his estranged son, Jack (Jai Courtney), who has been imprisoned in Moscow as a spy. Aside from a wild vehicle chase on the streets of Moscow, the film is pretty tame, lame and unbelievable. Yippie-Kai-Yay, Fox.
“Perfect Understanding” (1933), starirng Gloria Swanson, Laurence Olivier and John Halliday. Cinema icons Gloria Swanson and Laurence Olivier made just one film together, and now that rarely seen gem — a 1933 romantic comedy written by an uncredited young Michael Powell — has been recovered and restored for its Blu-ray and DVD debut. Before the Production Code Administration clamp down in 1934, Hollywood and British filmmakers had the luxury to explore romance, sex and crime in candid and straightforward ways, and this film — a kind of combination of “Design for Living” and “Trouble in Paradise” in its treatment of sexuality and “The Rules of the Game” in its satire of the “sophisticated” upper class — was one of the last to flaunt that freedom. It was also a pivotal film for Swanson, who had struggled in the early years of the talkies to maintain the vaunted position she had held as a silent-screen superstar. She produced the film herself, and it was the only one she made in Britain. Unfortunately, she made only two more films after this before her famous comeback in 1950’s “Sunset Blvd.” Judy (Swanson, 34) and Nicholas (Olivier, 26) are a young society couple who marry based on the “perfect understanding” that they will be allowed to enjoy extramarital adventures and never let jealousy come between them. That arrangement is soon put to the test when, during their honeymoon, they go to Cannes to spend time with friends. Though fairly predictable in its story line, director Cyril Gardner (who also was a film editor, writer and actor) keeps the film moving along quickly, adding some nifty flourishes of action in what is pretty much a talk oriented outing — in one scene, for example, Judy and a would-be suitor (the extraordinary John Halliday) stroll around the grounds of a palatial estate discussing the pros and cons of marriage while in the background — in each room they pass — couples are quarrelling and bickering over extramarital affairs and fidelity. It’s all very wonderful stuff. The disc includes two Mack Sennett comedy shorts from 1933: “Husband’s Reunion” and “Dream Stuff.” From the Cohen Film Collection.
“Mad Max Trilogy” BLU-RAY: Here are the films that set the benchmark and template for all post-apocalyptic films in modern cinema: “Mad Max” (1979), “Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior” (1982) and “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome” (1985). Director George Miller — with fledgling actor Mel Gibson (as highway cop Max Rockatansky) — created a post-oil end-of-civilization scenario where gangs of punks with spiked hair, body piercings and violent genes drove all sorts of motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles and souped-up cars across the wasteland of Australia in search of ever-dwindling supplies of gasoline, kicks, death and destruction. In “Mad Max” (which Miller made by earning money as an emergency room doctor), Max and his cop buddies still patrol the roads of Australia in a futile effort to uphold what remains of the law. When the evil Toecutter and his band of insane motorcyclists attack his family, Max goes above the law to bring his own brand of justice to the road. In “Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior,” civilization has finally crumbled, and Max, wandering alone in the Australian Outback, joins up with a small camp of desert survivors to defend an oil refinery under siege from a ferocious marauding horde of crazies. Both films are noted for their incredible vehicle chases, stunts and crashes. In the weakest of the three, Max travels to Bartertown — an “oasis” of water, food and gasoline run by Tina Turner — and becomes the savior of a tribe of children. Warner has repackaged all three films in a nifty limited premium tin container for $49.99; perfect for Father’s Day. Note: Warner Bros. and Miller are reteaming for “Mad Max Fury Road,” starring Tom Hardy as Max, with Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult and Zoe Kravitz, with a 2014 theatrical release date.