Don’t let the “Twilight for zombies” ads fool you: Jonathan Levine’s Warm Bodies is far from brooding. It’s a charming and witty tightrope act, sending up and fitting into both the zombie genre and the romcom genre. It’s an idealized romantic take on the tropes of the zombie apocalypse, chock full of cute teenagers and vinyl records, but the script and performances are sharp enough to make any potentially overly precious moments palatable. Levine has a knack for well-timed scenes, absolutely flawless soundtrack choices, and getting the best work possible out of his cast. Rob Corddry, so terrific in Hot Tub Time Machine and his brilliant television show Childrens Hospital, gets a real breakout here as a supporting character who is more than comic relief: while he doesn’t get the screen time his character deserves, he provides perhaps the biggest of the many heartstring tugs throughout the film. While perhaps the zombie aficionado in me would’ve longed for some more violence and conflict, I was firmly invested in the characters’ journey. It might not give as much for gender theorists to chew on as Twilight or other romcoms, and it may be light and fluffy in nature— but give me more fluff like this, Jonathan Levine. Warm Bodies left me with a warm feeling.
I won’t lie and say John Dies at the End is for everyone. Don Coscarelli’s newest film, available now on VOD and in select theaters, is weird with a capital W… but it’s absolutely my preferred flavor of weird. Yes, there are drugs, alternate dimensions, telepathy, time travel, and demons made of various meats (don’t ask). Yet the style of the film is so distinct and the voice so witty that even those incompatible with the subject matter should be impressed by the execution, marked with wild ambition for what is clearly a very low budget. Dave (Chase Williamson) and John (Rob Mayes) get caught up in a whirlwind of interdimensional activity after exposure to a drug dubbed “soy sauce” gives them wild visions and ordains them with unusual powers. The film is told in flashback to a reporter named Arnie (Paul Giamatti, also one of the film’s producers). While it’s admittedly somewhat structureless and some of the hijinks are most interesting than others, there’s enough spacey sci-fi philosophizing to keep me smiling throughout. Let me put it this way: if you watch the opening sequence, and it’s not your bread and butter, then you likely won’t care whether John dies at the end or not. If you dig the opening scene (like me), sit back and soak in the delightful weirdness.