Greetings from the apocalypse! This week the groundhog is gonna see his shadow, which means six more weeks of nuclear winter. Seriously, though, I'm freezing my sack off one minute; the next I'm outside wearing a T-shirt. TAKE YOUR MEDS, EAST COAST GOD! There's several cool-looking flicks out and about this week, two of which I was present for filming, although neither director rubbed my belly for luck so no guarantees, people.
Friday, February 1
This week we have a very special "Survivor of Thunderdome" in the form of Jonathan Levine's excellent zombie romance "Warm Bodies," if only because yours truly is actually IN the movie as an official card carrying member of the undead. I visited the Montreal set in late 2011 and was lucky enough to get my shamble on as a zombified extra, so keep an eye out for me during the big third act zombie pack reveal screen-left, behind Mr. Rob Corddry. If you think a studio flying me out to a set and putting my fat face on the big screen (and the movie tie-in edition of the novel — second-to-last zombie on the right!) would influence my opinion of the film … you're probably right. In all fairness, though, Levine's hip-hoppy "The Wackness" was my fav flick of 2008, and his new zom-rom-com's delicious blend of humor, tender romance and horror is an ironic breath of fresh air after the sub-"Days of Our Lives" antics of "Twilight." Nicholas Hoult makes a very sympathetic/multifaceted lead walker, and with the help of some Springsteen songs Levine balances this genre-meets-"Romeo & Juliet" tightrope act seamlessly ... with my only minor complaint being Teresa Palmer's somewhat generic, undefined female lead. All in all, though, this is the best pro-necrophilia movie of 2013 … so far.
If you're the scholarly type who wants to understand how cultural relevance is entwined with cinematic antecedents then put on your 2-D glasses and enjoy the very first "zed-word" movie "White Zombie" on Hulu Streaming for free, yo. While this 1932 chiller has nothing to do with dreadlocked heavy metal bands, it has everything to do with Bela Lugosi in his horrific prime as a voodoo master named Murder (!) trying to put the moves on an innocent girl so another guy can marry her. The moral is never trust a guy with a Hungarian accent and mustache who creates zombies to make sugar.
All you California beach bums who want to just, like, chill and s**t can grab a fish taco and head on over to Santa Monica to the Aero American Cinematheque for a "Life of Pi"/"Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" double-fisted feature at 7:30 p.m., with this year's Academy Award nominee Ang Lee in attendance. Make all the "Brokeback" jokes you want, but don't yell out any Richard Parker spoilers at the pre-screening Q&A, dude.
Saturday, February 2
Okay, campers, rise and shine, and don't forget your booties 'cause it's cooooold out there today. It's coooold out there every day, but today is special because it's Groundhog Day, marking the festivities wherein residents of Punxsutawney, PA gather in their town square to worship a rodent like some kind of folksy H.P. Lovecraft story. Two things are guaranteed: That little winter-loving bastard is gonna see his shadow, and the classic Bill Murray romp "Groundhog Day" will be watched over and over and over again on this, its 20th anniversary. Don't want to catch it at 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. on AMC? You can relive the surprisingly existential 1993 comedy at some of the best venues around the country, including:
Nitehawk Cinema in Brooklyn, NY- 12 p.m.
SIFF Cinema Uptown in Seattle, WA- 6:30 p.m. (w/Stephen Tobolowsky)
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Austin, TX- 7 p.m.
AFI Silver Theatre in Silver Spring, MD- 8:45 p.m.
The Loft Cinema in Tucson, AZ- 10 p.m.
The New Parkway Theater in Oakland, CA- 10 p.m.
Angelika Film Center Mosaic in Fairfax, VA- 11:45 p.m.
The Belcourt in Nashville, TN- 11:59 p.m.
Once you wake up and find yourself living this exact same Saturday again, why not drink a raw egg, Rocky-style, and watch "Cop Land" at 7:45 a.m. on IFC? With this 1997 small town drama Sylvester Stallone tried to remind everyone that he coulda been a really good actor, you know, if he wanted to or whatever. Robert De Niro is there to coach the Italian Stallion about only taking roles in meaningful, prestigious films like "Killer Elite" and "New Year's Eve."
I'm saluting Stallone because "Bullet to the Head" blasts its way into theaters this weekend. I also visited the New Orleans set of this bad boy back in 2011, having the distinct pleasure of watching Sly get in and out of a Ferrari and swim through a pool complaining about how murky it was. Riveting action. Yes, I also observed Jason Momoa shoot eight guys very LOUDLY with a silencer (while very quietly trying to forget the previous weekend's "Conan" box office), so it wasn't a total wash. This standard issue buddy movie pairs Sung Kang's by-the-book cop with Stallone's brutal hitman, but the against-procedural is directed by the great Walter Hill, who basically invented this stuff with "48 HRS." Even though the trailers make it look like a direct-to-VHS movie from 1989, I'm cautiously rooting for Hill to succeed.
If you want to know what made the former Sam Peckinpah protégé so awesome check out Hill's 1979 cult classic "The Warriors" on Netflix Instant. A New York City street gang draws the wrath of every other thug in the city and has to fight their way through hot-girl-, skinhead- and clown-themed gangs in order to get their asses back to Coney Island alive. This is the reason why Ol' Dirty Bastard was always saying, "Warriors come out and play-ee-ay!" Like ODB, there ain't no father to Walter Hill's style.
Sunday, February 3
Those who have read this column know by now that Sunday is our day to lay off the philistine blockbusters and absorb some culture, so today is no different, jerkwads. At 9 a.m. TCM delivers the cinema history goods with "Warner Bros 90th Anniversary: Tales From the Lot." This new documentary promises lots of spirited talking heads of actors and execs dishing an inside look at the famed studio's history, from their humble origins as a studio pumping out gangster movies like "Little Caesar" and "Public Enemy" to the more refined releases of today like "Gangster Squad" and "Bullet to the Head"… oh.
If you're like me and you "accidentally" took too many sleeping pills after hearing J.J. Abrams was going to direct "Star Wars: Episode VII" then you can enjoy some solace in the form of Broadway actor, raconteur and former "Luke whatsisname" Mark Hamill on The Nerdist Podcast. This special new live edition of Chris Hardwick's always-amiable nerdgasm has Hamill discussing several hilarious anecdotes about that little movie from 1977 as well as his second career as a cartoon voice actor (The Joker, anyone?). My favorite moment comes when he discusses robo sexuality in cartoons: "I did a character called Larry 3000 on 'Time Squad,' and I got a review that said, 'Hamill plays a robot that makes C-3PO look like a Teamster.' I told Anthony Daniels that, and it's funny when people speculate about that. How can a robot be gay? It's an oxymoron, they're machines!"
What's the last thing a drummer says in a band? "Hey, how about we try one of my songs?" Former Nirvana drummer (and my fellow Northern Virginia survivor) Dave Grohl has somehow transcended this hoary old joke through nearly two decades of post-Cobain success with The Foo Fighters. Now he's dipping his drumstick into filmmaking with the music doc "Sound City," which just played Sundance and bows this week in theaters and VOD. It chronicles the famed Los Angeles recording studio that birthed everything from Neil Young's "After the Gold Rush" to Nirvana's "Nevermind" up to its folding last year, concluding with Grohl recording a tribute album with the likes of Paul McCartney and Trent Reznor. Coincidentally, Grohl is the guest on another new episode of The Nerdist Podcast, so your car/subway trips to the theater this week will NOT be boring. Rock on.
As I ride off into the distant horizon, here's wishing you fellow weekend road warriors the best outing possible from this burnt-out, blighted wasteland. Enjoy your fast Internet, clean-ish movie theaters, plentiful gasoline and all the comforts of home, for this world lives now only in my memories …