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MANILA, Philippines - Two new movies that opened last week, “Seduction” by the Philippines’ Regal Films Inc. and “Warm Bodies” by North America’s Summit Entertainment, bear identical traits even if they are distinct in premise — the former a lethal-love-triangle drama, the latter a zombie-licious romantic comedy.
How similar are they? Let me count the 10 ways:
1. The lead actors used to be kid actors
The chief cast member of “Warm Bodies” is 23-year-old Englishman Nicholas Hoult, whom most moviegoers first saw as the boy in the 2002 Hugh Grant starrer “About a Boy.” Hoult has since pursued acting full-time (“X-Men: First Class,” “A Single Man”) and has been modeling.
Richard Gutierrez of “Seduction,” slightly older at age 29, has been on camera since his grade school years and has been in several movies and commercials, and is also into modeling.
2. The directors are reputable
Obscured on “Seduction’s” poster in favor of its 3 hot lead stars is the name of director Peque Gallaga, he of the recently remastered “Oro, Plata, Mata.”
The 69-year-old filmmaker is also known for the steamy “Scorpio Nights,” and some observers were anticipating “Seduction” to be some sort of echo of that infamous 1985 flick.
For its part, “Warm Bodies” is directed and scripted by Jonathan Levine who, while much younger in terms of age (36) and career (“Bodies” is his 5th feature film), has earned considerable acclaim through, among others, “The Wackness” (the Audience Award winner at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival) and the Joseph Gordon-Levitt dramedy “50/50.”
3. Love, love, love
Both movies are all about that L word, although the erotic “Seduction” is also about another L word: lust, its helping of sexy (yet hardly arousing) scenes meriting an R-13 MTRCB rating.
There are at least 3 types of love tackled in the Aloy Adlawan-scripted “Seduction”: a man’s love for a stereotypical chaste woman (played by Sarah Lahbati), his love for his ailing father (a noticeably thinning Mark Gil), and his love for his firefighting job, made complicated by a corrupting 3rd party (Solenn Heussaff).
The PG-rated “Warm Bodies” offers a fresher concept. Based on the young-adult novel by Isaac Marion, “Warm Bodies” presents a new spin to the zombie apocalypse concept: It declares that love will conquer all — even the state of being undead.
4. What the heck is happening?
“Warm Bodies” offers a Z-movie innovation: the zombie point of view, through various instances of first-person narration by “R” (Hoult), one of the many ambling corpses in a ruined, largely deserted America.
Things head into the zombie-meets-girl zone, yielding one of the most unlikely lovers in movie history (Teresa Palmer plays the proverbial love interest), and culminate in the compelling suggestion that genuine affection can help remedy any lethal infection.
“Seduction” presents an edgy yet simple enough tale, yet it has an abundance of head-scratching features: jarring editing, an underdeveloped story, an uneven tone that drags across romantic, rowdy and raunchy moments, and baby-faced Richard G. smoking more cigarettes than a Wes Anderson movie.
Perhaps Gallaga, line producer-longtime collaborator Lore Reyes and company were gunning for a surrealistic flick but ended up compromised by the need to deliver a commercial finished product.
5. Haven’t we seen you before?
From its source book alone, “Warm Bodies” was unabashed in being a mashup of zombiedom and “Romeo and Juliet” (down to the name of its romantic pair, “R” and “Julie”).
Yet in its first act, where the undead guy and the living girl get to know each other, viewers might also remember “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial,” given the dynamic between a human and an inhuman stranger up to the hatred-will-tear-them-apart climax.
Given Gallaga’s capabilities, it’s puzzling that “Seduction” casually mimics several seen-before details, all of them involving Heussaff the hottie.
At one point, Solenn, as “Sophia,” emerges as a pulse-quickening, in-two-piece visage out of the waters of Caramoan Island, the closest she gets to an Ursula Andress-James Bond moment.
And while it seems that Sophia’s eventual mutation into a femme fatale would be predictable, there must have been some way for her scorned-woman bit to avoid being a psycho-likeness of Glenn Close off “Fatal Attraction” and Sharon Stone off “Basic Instinct.”
Plus: There’s a bedroom surprise by Heussaff that resembles Robert De Niro’s own in “Cape Fear,” and the factoid that Sophia’s wealthy parents had died in a boating accident, leaving her a rich orphan… exactly like Stone’s “Basic Instinct” character!
6. Some humor amid the drama or horror
In the midst of its romance and risqué ways, “Seduction” hands out a handful of har-har moments, such as a queasy copulation between Gutierrez and former teen star Shyr Valdez, who has now ballooned into a mature middle-aged gal.
But the movie’s one pure bit of wit comes via veteran actress Vangie Labalan, who at one point gives wanna-be charmer Gutierrez a deadpan kiss-off: “Huwag mo akong daanin sa tangos ng ilong mo.”
More funny moments abound in “Warm Bodies,” making it a worthy addition to the horror-haha canon that also includes the British zombie comedy (“zombiedy”?) “Shaun of the Dead.”
Yet the funniest “Warm” feature turns up through…
7. A hit song (for each)
The use of pop songs to accentuate movie moments is nothing new. Still, there are a gazillion tunes out there and the right one can make a film all the more engaging.
In “Warm Bodies’” case, it’s the must-see use of John Waite’s 1984 no. 1 hit “Missing You” that hits the spot.
“Seduction” uses a top hit as well, Ogie Alcasid’s “Kung Mawawala Ka,” but in forgettable fashion: Gutierrez attempts to sing it to Lahbati. As she giggled, I was wishing there’d be a power failure so I could demand for a refund.
8. Digital blah abound
There are some visible applications of CGI in both these movies.
In “Warm Bodies,” it’s through the “bonies,” skeletal creatures that run and eat anything with a heartbeat. The bonies are supposed to be “Bodies’” real antagonists, but their obvious artificiality is a distracting drag.
In “Seduction,” there are at least 3 fire scenes where the flames are noticeably fake, while in another scene, Heussaff dances casually across burning charcoal — all of which underscore the fact that, uh, the movie does lack heat.
9. Good performances, bad performances
“Warm Bodies” boasts of convincing turns by its Hoult and Palmer (the latter coming off like Kristen Stewart’s better-acting twin) and nifty supporting work by comedian Rob Corddry.
Curiously, it’s veteran John Malkovich, as Julie’s Big-Brother-like father, who delivers a so-so performance, narratively restrained from taking “Bodies” to truly insane heights.
In the case of “Seduction,” Lahbati and even Heussaff turn out to be fine performers, and it would be a pity if the self-exiled Lahbati would not flourish as an actress.
It’s Gutierrez who needs work if he intends to stick to being a thespian.
If anything, “Seduction” shows that Raymond Gutierrez’s twin brother — who tries hard to act tough by constantly cursing, shouting, throwing stuff, and chain-smoking — is not that cut out for bad boy roles.
10. Their potential is not fully tapped
“Warm Bodies” is pleasurable entertainment that’s worth the trip.
It could have been a fuller-bodied diversion, fully attuned to the rich possibilities of its story, ending up being satisfying but short of being altogether enriching. Maybe a TV series down the line would do the trick?
As for “Seduction,” the possibilities for it to have been a better, more seductive movie are too many, I don’t know where to begin. - Rappler.com
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