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‘Warm Bodies’ Find Love; Israel Insecurity; Koch: Movies

'Warm Bodies'
Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer in "Warm Bodies." The Summit Entertainment film is playing across the U.S. Photographer: Jonathan Wenk/Summit Entertainment via Bloomberg

Feb. 2 (Bloomberg) -- A canny reproach to the insufferable “Twilight” franchise, “Warm Bodies” is almost certainly the sweetest zombie movie ever made. Brain-munching and tender longing make a nice match.

Based on a popular 2010 young-adult novel, Jonathan Levine’s clever monster mash-up puts the (barely) beating heart of a post-Apocalypse Romeo into a hunched, ambling and boy-band-cute cadaver.

British actor Nicholas Hoult plays R, the hoodie-wearing slacker zombie who can’t remember the rest of his name -- memory loss being only one bad consequence of a virus that left most of humanity either dead or walking that way.

In articulate, self-deprecating narration, R sounds like any smart, sensitive loner.

“Don’t be creepy, don’t be creepy, don’t be creepy,” is his mantra when in the vicinity of a pretty girl, though only grunts and groans pass from his bluish lips.

R meets the love of his afterlife when he rescues the still-living Julie (Teresa Palmer) from his gang of fellow carnivores (including a very funny Rob Corddry).

“What are you?” the intrigued Julie asks, baffled by her undead suitor’s compassion and gentleness (not to mention his soulful vinyl collection of Dylan, Springsteen and Joni Mitchell).

Balcony Scene

Any high-school English major could give the answer well before the inevitable balcony scene.

Director Levine, who also wrote the screenplay, uses “Romeo and Juliet” as a touchstone rather than a blueprint, with the first half of “Warm Bodies” riffing more on the zombie genre (complete with gory attacks) than on romance.

Levine and Isaac Marion (author of the original story) concoct a genre game-changer by giving their mutants the possibility of redemption. Nothing, it seems, revives a dead heart like love.

Happily, “Warm Bodies” is also on to itself, poking fun at the gross-out frights and moony-eyed lovers that haunt today’s screen nightmares.

“This date,” R worries to himself, “is not going well. I’m going to die all over again.”

“Warm Bodies,” from Summit Entertainment, is playing across the U.S. Rating: ***1/2 (Evans)

‘The Gatekeepers’

The six former heads of the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal-security agency, who are interviewed in Dror Moreh’s documentary “The Gatekeepers” appear to be hardened military types, unreflective and untrustworthy.

As the film progresses, you may feel the same shame I did at this first impression based entirely on preconceived notions -- as biased as the ideas that the Israelis and the Palestinians bring to their confrontations with each other.

These men turn out to be not only perceptive but deeply, even self-tormentingly reflective. On the one hand, they’re security officials, and they speak without compunction of the assassinations they’ve helped carry out.

On the other, they believe the effects of the occupation are eroding the society they love. (They’re particularly horrified and enraged by right-wing Israeli terrorists.)

As one of them says, the suffering of the Palestinians you see on the job embeds itself in you, and “when you retire you become a bit of a leftist.”

Morris Style

Very much in the style of Errol Morris’s documentaries (especially “The Fog of War,” which Moreh has acknowledged as an influence), “The Gatekeepers” mixes static but elegantly filmed interviews with military footage, newsreels, intelligence videos and other documentary material (some of it staged, though exactly what isn’t clear), against the background of a creepy but restrained electronic soundtrack.

The film is on the side of complexity and debate, but within the parameters of a clear point of view: that Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians over the past half-century has been bad for the Palestinians and bad for the Israelis.

“The Gatekeepers,” from Sony Pictures Classics, is playing in New York and Los Angeles. Rating: **** (Seligman)

Ed Koch

Neil Barsky, who directed the wonderfully cogent documentary “Koch,” knows what a gift to his movie Ed Koch’s mouth was, so he doesn’t try to mute him. (As if he could.)

He credits the former mayor, who died early on Friday, with pulling New York back from near-bankruptcy; with conceiving the imperially scaled housing program that revived the city in the 1980s; and with deploying the plan that turned the Times Square district from Gomorrah into Disneyland.

But Barsky also thinks that, beyond tough love, New York needed a leader who was wise enough to understand the potency of symbols and gestures. Koch never did.

The black community regarded his decision to close Harlem’s Sydenham Hospital, which during the campaign he had promised to keep open, as a stab in the back and never forgave him. (He regretted it.)

And even though he drove New York City’s landmark gay-rights bill through the city council and may have been be gay himself (you were welcome to ask -- he’d cheerfully tell you where to go), during the AIDS crisis the gay community vilified him.

When you see him telling reporters, with a hint of a shrug, “We’ll look at any proposal they have -- it all has to be within our fiscal means,” the reason becomes clear. New Yorkers whose loved ones were dying needed to see him shed some tears.

In “Koch,” he’s an old man, and we see him in his Greenwich Village apartment, surrounded by pills. In a manipulative but still nice touch, Barsky films him coming home from a big night of meeting and greeting, a solitary figure shuffling to his apartment door and quietly shutting it behind him.

As Janis Joplin said: “On stage I make love to 25,000 people. And then I go home alone.”

“Koch,” from Zeitgeist Films, is playing in New York. Rating: **** (Seligman)

What the Stars Mean:

***** Fantastic
**** Excellent
*** Good
** So-So
* Poor
(No stars) Avoid

(Greg Evans and Craig Seligman are critics for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are their own.)

Muse highlights include Jeremy Gerard on theater and New York Weekend.

To contact the writers on the story: Greg Evans at and Craig Seligman at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at

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