NEW THIS WEEK
-- A SURPRISINGLY EFFECTIVE CROSS BETWEEN "ROMEO AND JULIET," AND YOUR TYPICAL APOCALYPTIC ZOMBIE FLICK:
"WARM BODIES" PG-13 -- OK for high-schoolers and some middle-schoolers who can handle the zombified gore, "Warm Bodies" comes as an unexpected treat, successfully blending non-tragic bits of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" (including a nice balcony scene!) with a zombie saga and teen-friendly humor. The story (based on a novel by Isaac Marion) unravels a little in the second half, and resolves in a too-pat kind of way, but even so, it's a clever hybrid. Our narrator is "R" (Nicholas Hoult), a zombie teen in a red hoodie who can't remember his full human name. He hangs out in an airport with other zombies. He shuffles along, grunting, as words don't come easily. His pal is M (Rob Corddry), and they and others go out looking for humans to catch, and for their brains to eat. All the uninfected humans live in an urban area protected by a huge wall. Armed teams of young people venture outside for supplies and to kill any zombies who get in their way The leader of this particular city is the grim-faced Grigio (John Malkovich). One day his daughter Julie (Teresa Palmer) goes out with a patrol and encounters R and his zombie cohort. There's a fight and her boyfriend (Dave Franco) dies. R feels a connection to Julie after eating her boyfriend's brain. He protects her from the other zombies, taking her back to the abandoned airplane he calls home. They become friends and gradually fall in love. R realizes that he and M and a lot of other zombies are slowly getting better -- the disease is wearing off. Julie must make her dad understand.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The movie pushes the PG-13 envelope here and there, when Zombies get blown away gorily by humans, or kill humans and eat their brains. The skeletal creatures called "Bonies" also kill and eat other, fleshier zombies. The dialogue includes a little profanity, and there is mild sexual innuendo. -- SLY, LIKE ARNOLD, LUMBERS BACK INTO ACTION AS A HIT MAN WITH A CONSCIENCE:
"BULLET TO THE HEAD" R -- Too violent for most teens under 17, this crime story (based on a French graphic novel) is narrated by Sylvester Stallone in a growling baritone, and it may interest over-17s who like their crime sagas in the hard-bitten, noirish vein. It's not great, but has a certain grungy style. Stallone -- his much worked-on face almost a mask, his muscles bulging -- plays James Bonomo, a Louisiana hit man whose honor code dictates "no women, no kids." As the film opens, he even saves a cop named Taylor Kwan (Sung Kang) by shooting his would-be killer dead just in time. Then, in flashback, Bonomo explains how it all "went down." When he and his partner (Jon Seda) killed some gangsters in a contract hit, Bonomo refused to kill a prostitute, who then became a witness. A rival gangster comes after them, kills his partner, and later threatens the life of Bonomo's daughter Lisa (Sarah Shahi), a tattoo artist. The cop Kwon has come to Louisiana to find the same gangster, who killed his partner, and that's how the honest cop and the hit man team up. Crooked cops, gangster developers and thugs abound, and the bullets and blood fly.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Point-blank shootings involve much blood and gore. Characters use cocaine and drink booze. Naked women wander through a high-roller's (Christian Slater) house party. An incredibly graphic autopsy scene shows a victim's entire thorax cut open. Bullets are pried out of wounds, and the wounds sewn up. The script includes strong profanity.
-- A RIDICULOUSLY UNNECESSARY POSTSCRIPT TO THE FAIRY TALE:
"HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS" R -- This weird and ill-conceived revenge fantasy, in which the adult Hansel and Gretel travel the villages of olde (sic) northern Europe and get even with witches, is too gory for most high-schoolers under 16. The script also uses jarringly modern and strong profanity, and brims with other anachronisms, such as Hansel (Jeremy Renner) injecting himself with a medieval-looking hypodermic for diabetes. Their guns and crossbows appear vaguely historic, but shoot like modern assault weapons. Hansel is our narrator. He explains that after his and Gretel's misadventure as children, when their father seemed to abandon them in the woods, and a witch in a gingerbread house captured and tried to bake them (they threw her in the oven instead), they grew up on their own. They became traveling witch hunters for hire to villages with missing children and suspected witch problems. They arrive at one village where the local sheriff (Peter Stormare) is about to burn an innocent woman (Pihla Viitala) for witchery. They stop him and get to the real problem -- a grande dame of a witch named Muriel (Famke Janssen) who is organizing a gathering of witches nearby and knows more about Hansel and Gretel's childhood than they do.
THE BOTTOM LINE: One character is strung up and his body pulled apart, with gore flying. Other violence between witches and humans depicts hearts pierced or heads torn off, but the digital effects are so outlandish, none of it seems very real, so it feels less graphic. The film includes considerable strong (and modern) profanity, back-view nudity and an implied sexual situation. The relationship between Hansel and Gretel has an incestuous undercurrent that may not have been intended.
-- LEWD, CRUDE, RUDE, POTTY-MOUTHED, AND INTERMITTENTLY FUNNY:
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