Tag Archives: Jonathan Levine

Warm Bodies (2013) Movie Review by Darrin Gauthier 

WARM BODIES

Director: Jonathan Levine
Writers: Jonathan Levine (screenplay), Isaac Marion (novel)
Stars: Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, John Malkovich

Plot:  After a highly unusual zombie saves a still-living girl from an attack, the two form a relationship that sets in motion events that might transform the entire lifeless world.

Running Time: 1 hour 38 minutes

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics 81%   Audience 73%

Why I watched it: It’s genre and I like the director but I’ll be honest I dragged my feet cause of the whole comedy/horror thing, when it goes wrong it’s painful.

Random Thoughts: I think Jonathan Levine is an interesting director even when his films don’t work there’s always something positive about them, he takes risks and every film he does is different from the last one.  I was worried this was going to be a YA movie where we deal with old teenager problems but I did have faith Levine would put a twist to it.

What I liked it: I’ll say it right off the bat this was a lot better than I thought it would be and the main reasons it was an enjoyable movie was the tone, the direction and the acting all were very good and made this much better than I think it had the right to.

A zombie romantic comedy, never thought I’d write that.  I should mention the script is good and it’s so smart to stay true to both genres, you’re dealing with zombies they can’t be treated as a joke,it’s a comedy it has to be funny and the third thing they nailed her is the love story works cause it’s well written and the two characters actually have chemistry.

Nicholas Hoult is good here and I have to say he’s under stated it would have been easy to go over the top but he plays with the fact that he’s a zombie he’s self aware so with that he not only makes the character likable but funny at the same time.  It helps he has Teresa Palmer to play off of cause I think she’s so underrated, she can do drama, comedy and genre and not miss a beat, she’s pretty but she’s likable and again she doesn’t scream or yell she gives a nice performance that could have been just the love interest role. The acting on the whole is solid and almost every character has an arc, even secondary characters are fleshed out.

One of the things that surprised me at the center of this film is heart, this is really a story of being human and how caring and loving makes us human, it was touching to see zombies be able to human themselves back to life, it was a nice little touch to everything and really that’s why I liked this film as much as I did cause they did a lot with what could have been a throw away story.

What I didn’t like: There’ only a couple of things nitpicks really.  I like short running times but I do think at times this movie went too fast, I would have liked more beats between big emotional set pieces, time for the two main characters to fall in love. Dave Franco didn’t work for me and his character could have been written out and he wouldn’t have been missed, I know why he was there but it’s the only misstep for me.  The other thing is the CGI for the “bonies” there the evil zombies and the CGI was not great and it kind of took you out of the movie.

Final Thoughts: Well written, acted and directed this was a very pleasant surprise.

Rating: 7/10

The Night Before (2015) Movie Review by Stephen McLaughlin

THE NIGHT BEFORE

Director: Jonathan Levine
Writers: Jonathan Levine (screenplay), Kyle Hunter (screenplay)
Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anthony Mackie, Jillian Bell, Michael Shannon, Lizzy Caplan, Heléne Yorke

“The Night Before” is set on Christmas eve with three lifelong friends Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Isaac (Seth Rogen) and Chris (Anthony Mackiespend) spending the night in New York City looking for the Holy Grail of Christmas parties. Unfortunately for Ethan, as time has gone on, both Isaac and Chris although possibly not maturing have lives of their own. Chris has become a very famous athlete living most of his personal life on live broadcasting via social media and Isaac is now married and him and his wife are expecting their first born. Ethan on the other hand is living on nostalgia and hides away from commitment and responsibility and is determined to have the night of their lives on their final Christmas eve.

The film is about the changes in people’s lives as they get older and hanging onto nostalgia can hold you back from living your life. This is mostly the case with Ethan played by the brilliant and charismatic Joseph Gordon-Levitt who as a young boy lost both his parents around the Christmas holidays and through his best friends Isaac and Chris became their own little family watching out for each other in their younger days. Every Christmas Eve they would play out their ritual of very funny antics.

Although technically a Christmas movie “The Night Before” is a comedy film in the same mold as Pineapple Express (2008) some folk might say a “Stoner Comedy” but I feel that term doesn’t complement the storyline. The plot itself is about these three friends all living different lives and have their insecurities about their futures. Although Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character Ethan is supposed to be the main focus, I felt Isaac (Rogen) was the show stealer and in two particulars scenes involving a “talking” baby in a church and the nativity set outside the church. Gordon-Levitt is given top billing and the storyline focuses around his character that serves mostly as a master of ceremonies.

Ethan has issues committing to his ex girlfriend that he realises needs more than he thought. Isaac appears to be very straight laced at the beginning of the movie which surprised me with Seth Rogen restraining himself from his usual outrageous performances. Nevertheless, we don’t have to wait long to see this character unfold after his wife gives him a box of pick n mix assorted drugs as a one night only gift. Unfortunately although hysterical, the character overshadows the other two and in more ways Chris played by Anthony Mackiespend. Don’t get me wrong Mackiespend is fantastic as the more successful of the three but underlines the insecurities that come with his found fame.

I can’t let this review go without mentioning the brilliant Michael Shannon as Mr. Green. I’ve never seen a character who is unsettling but at the same time soothing. He is of course the guy you go to for some weed but although playing the stoner there is also something quite philosophical about his character and although used perfectly in his role. I still wanted to see more of this madman.

As far as “The Night Before” goes, it’s more than just a comedy. The sentimental element is there that is traditional with the holiday season. Perhaps it doesn’t have those memorable lines or scenes that other holiday movies have. It’s an enjoyable but strange little movie that I think everyone should give a try. For me I only had one niggle with the film and that was Christmas Eve felt a lot longer than 24 hours. We’re a good hour into this film and a lot of events have happened in this time leading to the party of a lifetime when suddenly they are all at Chris’ Mum’s house having dinner. This is after a few bars and a few bizarre incidents have happened in chasing down a thief and meeting Mr. Green. Apart from that the movie moves along okay and you will have a laugh or six along the way. Watchable and Recommendable.

50/50 (2011) Movie Retro Review by Stephen McLaughlin

50 50

Director: Jonathan Levine
Writer: Will Reiser
Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt,  Seth Rogen,  Anna Kendrick, Bryce Dallas Howard, Anjelica Huston, Matt Frewer, Philip Baker Hall

I recently revisited the movie 50 / 50 starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Adam a  27-year-old guy who learns of his cancer diagnosis, and his subsequent struggle to beat the disease. Now for anyone who hasn’t watched this yet, this may sound like a depressing drama full of patronising clichés. In fact, “50/50” is a comedy of sorts and handles the subject with the right balance of enlightenment, inspiration, hope and care.

It’s always going to be difficult for any writer to angle for a comedic side to a story based on a cancer diagnosis, but Will Reiser who wrote “50/50” handles the topic with care and believe me the funny parts are funny and along the way there are some beautiful and surprisingly tender scenes between the characters.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt has this knack of being a very likeable guy no matter what role he plays. Adam is a good guy who writes for a living for a local radio program and lives with his girlfriend Rachael (Dallas Howard). We find through conversation that the relationship is faltering and it’s really only when Adam is diagnosed that the couple become a bit closer to each other although it is short lived when Adam’s friend Kyle (Rogen) discovers Rachael is being unfaithful to Adam and captures this on his Cellphone. Bryce Dallas Howard although has limited time in the movie adapts very well as the girlfriend who bails on her Boyfriend when the tough gets going.

Gordon-Levitt portrays the role of Adam as a very subdued and content guy but as the story unfolds his temperament begins to unravel slightly when he begins to learn of his illness and dealing with the breakdown in his relationship. Gordon-Levitt is very subtle in his anxieties of his struggles and you only get to realise this more so in his therapy sessions that he has been attending with Katherine (Kendrick) these scenes at first are portrayed awkwardly and both actors really play off each other well in the situation.

Anna Kendrick as Katherine is a great choice of casting and plays the role perfectly as an inexperienced therapist (Adam is only her third patient) But by the time the movie concludes, she really comes into her own and all those little quirks she has early on are away as she begins to develop a closeness with Adam and understands him more.

Angelica Huston plays Adams mother Diane. We are introduced to Dianne when Adam decides to let his mother know of his condition and although she comes off as a little controlling and dominant to a degree we learn that her husband and Adams father Richard (Serge Houde) is suffering from Alzheimer’s and Diane is really just trying to hold things together. Huston although is in very limited scenes is very powerful in them and no more so in the scene when she reveals she has been seeking counselling herself to deal with her Son’s illness. It’s a very touching scene and this is where the writers find the balance and trust the audience will accept the seriousness of the situation in a “comedy”. I always believe there is a fine line between comedy and tragedy and it is really evident in “50/50”

Although Serge Houde as Adam’s father doesn’t have much to do it really is handled well between the relationship with Diane and his son Adam. Even more so when Adam is about to go into theatre as a last ditch chance to save his life. I’m telling you, get the hankies ready as Houde portrays a man who might not see his son again and looks lost and sad not knowing what is going on. I’m not really selling this movie as a comedy am I?

Seth Rogen for me is hit or miss. I always felt this with certain comedic actors that sometimes too much is…… too much. Hey I felt that way about John Candy sometimes so don’t judge me! Rogen in “50/50” does what he does best. He portrays the bumbling drunken friend that although comes across as trying to consume Adam’s life and giving him bad advice is at heart a good guy. Probably for about 85% of screen time Kyle is a pain in the ass and downright irritating but Rogen manages to even make that screen time funny and the payoff to his character is in the last third of the movie as we discover his insecurities, anxieties and a caring side to him and Adam’s conditions really has effected him.

Writer Reiser should be commended for these really fleshed out characters and Levine (Director) keeping the flow of the movie interesting and the pacing consistent. This is  evident in most scenes where the dialogue is consuming the screen and Adam’s hospital visits introduce us to two cancer patients in Mitch and Alan portrayed by the brilliant pairing of Matt Frewer and Philip Baker Hall. The chemistry between the three actors is balanced and adds light to the difficult storyline.

“50/50″ is a well written and directed film that has a strong cast and a great chemistry between them. Although released over 6 years ago the story and the characters is what makes the film rewatchable and enjoyable to revisit every few years. I recommend this movie to anyone who hasn’t watched it as I feel the right blend of comedy and drama will keep you interested. Highly Recommended.