One for the guys, one for the gals

Still basking in a Valentine's glow, or hungover with a heavy heart? Here's two flicks to get you through the weekend

This post-apocalyptic zombie rom-com proves that the after-effect of The Twilight Saga is still lingering like the persistent stench of the undead. The artifice is simple, at once classical and a no-brainer: a cross species romance between photogenic creatures, namely the living and the dead, set in an artificially hostile environment where the inter-mating stops short at kisses.

Warm Bodies

Starring Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, John Malkovich. Directed by Jonathan Levine.

The pallid, flesh-eating hunk in this case is played with appropriate weirdo charm by Nicholas Hoult; and at first I thought I was hallucinating to mistake the leading woman, Teresa Palmer, as Kristen Stewart from Twilight, but other eyewitnesses also confirmed the uncanny likeness. So there you go, the reincarnations of Edward and Bella will continue to haunt us unconverted for a while.

Warm Bodies, adapted from an Isaac Marion book, however has a distinctive conceit that gives it an initial edge: the story is told largely from the point of view of the zombies. The opening 15 minutes lifts our hope that this would be a different, waggish post-mortem romance as we follow R, the young zombie in a red sweater, around an abandoned airport where the infected population _ reduced to the ashen, slumbering, murmuring state of half-life _ wander. R (played by Hoult) can't remember exactly what sort of viral apocalypse struck Earth (or at least this American city) but it doesn't matter; his interior monologue has an edge of self-parody tinged, at times, with sadness. Video games and popular culture have made us think of zombies as scary, hungry and downright repulsive. Here the brief air of sorrow feels fresh.

Only briefly though. Once the wheel is set in motion, we're back in teen romantic comedy territory. Julie (Palmer) is a survivor whose father (John Malkovich, massaging every syllable of his lines) is the zombie-hating, militaristic leader of a walled-off human colony.

But when R rescues Julie from becoming an all-you-can-eat buffet for his starving friends, they develop a friendship that grows into _ I'll give you one guess _ love. Sometimes comical, sometimes dragging, Warm Bodies, supposedly inspired by Romeo And Juliet no less, is pitched as an offbeat Valentine's Day date flick, and given that roses have the same colour as blood, even this insipid treat may pass off as an OK idea.

A Good Day To Die Hard

Starring Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney. Directed by John Moore.

The kick of the first Die Hard movie, back in 1988, is its simplicity: A group of terrorists seize a skyscraper and Bruce Willis, as the nearly-immortal John McClane, is the only person trapped inside who has enough firearms and temerity to save the hostages. Also, the casting of Alan Rick-man as a genius villain _ more professorial than those wacky Bond nemeses _ lifted the film up several notches.

Over the years, the crisp kineticism and wry wit of the original waned. In A Good Day To Die Hard, the fifth in the franchise, the complicated setup and the film's tenacious desire to wreak as much explosive havoc on Moscow avenues get us slightly disorientated. Of course we all want a good dose of destruction especially in the aftermath of Valentine's Day, but the slam-bang demolition orchestrated here, though rambunctious enough, seems run-of-the-mill.

"I'm on vacation!". That's Willis' wisecracking line here. The die-hard policeman John McClane goes off to Moscow to see his estranged son, Jack (Jai Courtney), only to get dragged into a CIA plot to save a key eyewitness in a conspiracy to bring down a politician, or something like that. Heavy artillery, sadistic beatings, father-son bickering, maniac car-chase around Moscow's Garden Ring in armoured vehicles, and impossible escapes from bombed-out buildings, rooftops, and even at radiation-soaked Chernobyl facilities _ the two McClanes give us all, in a dizzying speed that sometimes blurs it all.

Willis fans will still enjoy his smirk, but otherwise it makes me want to pop in the disc of the original Die Hard and turn the volume up again. Those were the days, the real days.

About the author

Writer: Kong Rithdee
Position: Bangkok Post columnist