This Is 40 (2013)

This Is 40 (2013)

Getting old. It’ll happen to us all at some point or other. But what about that in-between period… and hitting 40? It’s a time when you sit back and re-evaluate your life. Did you honestly think you’d be with him / her / alone? How about those kids or lack thereof? We’re always filled with ambition and drive when we’re young: so many hopes, so many dreams. But unfortunately, not all of them are realised for every one of us. That’s where This Is 40 steps in… so you’ve turned 40, you’re married and have two kids… is this it? Is it the bliss you expected back when you were 22?

Bliss?

Bliss?

This Is 40 is the “spiritual successor” to Judd Apatow‘s Knocked Up. This time however, instead of focusing on the pregnancy part of a relationship, it hones in on that tipping point: a good few years into a relationship, when you’ve planted your roots, have a couple of kids, and have to contend with the trials and tribulations of real life. The film focuses in on the lives of Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) and their two kids, Sadie and Charlotte (Maude & Iris Apatow, respectively), as Pete and Debbie approach their respective 40th birthdays. But all isn’t well in the household. The arrival of the big 4-0 scares Debbie and really highlights all the short-givings they have in their relationship.

Now, This Is 40 bills itself as a romantic comedy. It’s from Judd Apatow and was released on Valentine’s Day in the UK so all indications would point to yes, it’s a rom-com. But this film has a very serious undertone to it and it’s not a laugh-a-minute ride to the end. This isn’t Superbad. Now, I’m not nearing 40, in fact I won’t see that until the mid-2020’s, but I can still relate to all of their issues. If anything, this film succeeds at capturing a lot of the insecurities many of us has about life more than it succeeds at making us laugh about them. That’s not to say the film’s not funny and carrying some genuinely humorous moments, but you can’t get around the issues it raises.

This is 40 (2013)

I’m a fan of Paul Rudd. Some aren’t, but I am. And I thought he really played Pete with passion here. It wasn’t his normal “deadpan, aloof, cool man” performance. I’ve no doubts that Judd Apatow wrote the part for Rudd in particular, because it all just blends so seamlessly – he and the character are one. The reason the performance works is because of the counterbalance of Leslie Mann as Debbie. She too really brings the goods – maybe a little too much cheer and not enough sorrow, but she really conveys the emotions to the audience. The fact that I left the screening feeling somewhat saddened and deeply pessimistic about the future really shows that something worked here. I really believe it’s a combination of the protagonists’ writing and acting.

But then again, this isn’t the perfect movie. For a start, I just felt that it’s run time was just a bit too long. The film felt a bit bloated with so many other sub-plots woven into it. Whilst I’m glad they were there to add complexity to the film, some of them could have probably been left on the cutting room floor, or at least parts of them should have. After all, we all needed a bikini scene AND a bra and panties scene for Megan Fox didn’t we? Both of those certainly had to be in the final film.

Megan Fox in a bra also had to make the final cut here too...

Megan Fox in a bra also had to make the final cut here too…

So, who is this film for? I don’t know if I’d recommend it to budding couples or those that are newly heartbroken as it’ll just make you despair for your own life and all the trials that are flying your way in the coming decades. Younger audiences won’t get the resonance of what’s going on on-screen and won’t feel those emotions. This film is probably best viewed by those in those “This Is 40” style relationships, or those who’ve battled through it. Actually, especially the latter group, as you’re surely the ones that won’t leave the screening feeling glum, like The Phage. I’m not sure what I was truly expecting from This Is 40, but I certainly wasn’t expecting this strange sense of sorrow after I left…

This Is 40 is an interesting take on a “romantic comedy”. Sure, it has the romance and it has the comedy, but both aren’t always at the forefronf of your mind. Be especially¬†wary if you plan on taking your new boy / girlfriend to this. Similarly, if you’re newly single, and in your 20’s or 30’s, I’d avoid this too, as it’ll probably make you question your life. Then again, maybe you’re one of those carefree singletons and this movie will leave you feeling empowered that you’re not going to be shackled down, or as Jason Segel‘s character calls it, “doing a Clooney“.

This film, much like life, can throw a lot of curveballs at you over its run time. But also just like life, sometimes you need to sit through these curveballs and stay par for the course, because ultimately there’s something pretty darn good here. It may not be the “bliss” you were expecting when you bought your ticket (to the film, not life… I think that had something to do with your parents having one hell of a fun night after watching a far more romantic movie), but stick with it. It’s not the picture-perfect marriage / film, but it works.

Phage Factor:

3.5 Star

Warm Bodies (2013)

Warm Bodies (2013)

You’ve got to hand it to creators when they decide to mash together two conflicting genres in the hope that it’ll be a smash hit at the box office. You’ve seen cowboys come into contact with aliens in Cowboys & Aliens, a straight-up heist movie become an all-out vampire fest in From Dusk ‘Til Dawn and Adam Sandler attempting to be funny again… in pretty much everything since 2002. All of these shouldn’t work, and typically don’t, but some do. So when you see February pop up on your calender you know what’s coming… romance. Yes, it’s the season of cupid, expensive dining and pricey roses, so the movie studios like to capitalise with some love-themed hits year after year. But this year, it appears they thought “hey, you know what kids like nowadays? Zombies… let’s do a zombie love movie”… and seemingly, Warm Bodies was born.

Warm Bodies (2013)

Warm Bodies is an interesting chimera. On one hand its horror… hell, it’s about zombies, and some of them look pretty damn repulsive (the so-called “bonies”). But on the other hand it tries to slam in a romance, as one of our shambling zombie friends, “R” (Nicholas Hoult) is conflicted, because beneath his vacant exterior is a mind questioning everything about his existence. He doesn’t remember his name, nor anything pre-turning into a zombie. But all of this changes when he meets Julie (Teresa Palmer) – a regular human who’s out scrambling together supplies for her father, the Colonel (John Malkovich), who manages the last bastion of humanity. You see, R falls in love with Julie… after he’s eaten her boyfriend’s brains. And so begins the most bizarre love story you’re likely to see in 2013.

Let’s get one thing straight: I’m a zombie purist. Maybe not even a “purist” per se, as I like my zombies to run around, as opposed to shambling around. I’m a huge fan of 28 Days Later and The Walking Dead – two films / shows that I really think have nailed the genre to a t. So maybe this is clouding my judgement of Warm Bodies. You see, these zombies are remarkable adept. They’re a bit like really clever velociraptors from Jurassic Park; not only can they open doors (clever girl), but they can also sit down, operate machinery and seemingly talk to one another. This isn’t what a typical zombie does. So any big genre fans in the audience will automatically feel a little awkward and uneasy. This isn’t the undead they’ve come to know and love. Hell, they show RESTRAINT. And feelings. What?!

Yeah, zombies can operate polaroid cameras with ease nowadays...

Yeah, zombies can operate polaroid cameras with ease nowadays…

Although the movie got a good deal of sniggers and laughter from the audience I was in with, I just failed to connect with much of the humour. Yes, there were certain lines from R’s best friend M (Rob Corddry) that made me chuckle, but overall I can’t say my thirst for brains humour was sated. This film tries to bill itself as a “rom-zom-com”… you know, trying to make out it’s the first to do this. Unfortunately, it’s clearly forgetting the existence of Shaun of the Dead – one of the most fantastic genre-mashes of the past decade. That film scored high in romance, zombies and comedy. Unfortunately, I felt that Warm Bodies was lacking in the “com” part. It had the zombies, that’s quite obvious, but it really lacked the laughter.

And let’s come on to the romance too whilst we’re at it. The more astute amongst you will notice something about those names… R, Julie, R’s best friend M… in a romantic story. Ringing bells? The original novel by Isaac Marion is a huge homage to Romeo & Juliet (hence Romeo, Juliet and Mercutio), but it doesn’t hit quite the same notes as the classic tale. Whilst I thought the romance between R and Julie was touching, I just felt that the dialogue coming out of Hoult‘s mouth was too jarring and awkward. The best dialogue of the film came from his inner monologues – they were touching and funny on occasion too. You’ve got to give credit to Hoult, as this is a very difficult role to undertake as it’s either going to come off as hammy or camp. There’s no way you’re going to come across as anything else when you’re trying to play the zombie role as “light and funny”.

Warm Bodies (2013)

The one thing that really kept me going was the plot – I was intrigued to see how they were going to finish off the film. Was it going to go the tragic Romeo & Juliet way, or are we going to see something entirely different? Obviously, I’m not going to blurt it out here, but I found the story quite interesting, having not read Marion’s novel. But that can only take you so far. I’m relieved that the acting from the core cast was of a good calibre, but it wasn’t winning me over to any real degree. As I say, I feel for Hoult, as he’s a fantastic young actor, but this isn’t the best showcase of his talents owing to the obvious limitations of his character.

Once I got over the initial shock of “these aren’t proper zombies are they?”, then the film became much more enjoyable. The film will try and bill itself as being for “fans of zombies”, but I’d dispute that. In fact, if you’re a die-hard fan of the genre, I’d probably tell you to exercise caution here, as you might not like what you see. Those brain-dead corpses in your mind aren’t really ferocious here, not are they brain-dead. If anything I’d recommend this film to casual fans of zombies, or those that don’t even have an opinion on them. You’ll get much more out of this than the more dedicated amongst you.

As a mash-up of genres, Warm Bodies certainly is not a bad attempt. Whilst it’s not From Dusk ‘Til Dawn, it’s certainly not terrible. If this film takes off at the box office, I can’t help but wonder what abominations the studios will cook up to keep the audiences coming in for Valentine’s Day. Perhaps a romance between a woman and a ghost? Oh, that’s done? Erm, how about a romance involving vampires? Oh, they’ve done that too? They made how many of those? Wow. OK, maybe we should just have a romance between a boy and a boulder. That hasn’t been done before. It’s unique and edgy. Though hopefully it doesn’t end in quite the same tragic way as 127 Hours. A messy divorce.

Phage Factor:

3 Star