Look, we’ll be honest with you here folks, Dr. Videoport Jones and I have both been on a bit of hiatus thanks to the holidays. The Nog, it did us in. So we’re not quite in fightin’ form to take on this week’s new DVD releases. But with a new flick from Diablo Cody, some animated fare and laughable horror flicks with descriptions like “Rube Goldberg-ian murderousness” we’ll power through. For you, dear reader.
Videoport Jones: “Man-o-man, is it good to be back, especially since that means the holidays are over. What with the incessant traveling, and the having of the no money, and the having no time whatsoever to see any of the new movies whatsoever in the last two weeks. Yeah. Well, sadly, with this as the one exception. I made it through about a third of this, the second film written by the ubiquitous Diablo Cody after the vastly overrated ‘Juno.’ In interviews, in her pop culture column in Entertainment Weekly, and, sadly and persistently, in screenplays, Cody’s singular brand of superficial catchphrase-mongering and oh-so-precious quippery is factory-designed to make me grind my teeth. And this, her first foray into snarky horror comedy, doesn’t even have ‘Juno’s’ stellar cast to carry it past its script. Nope, instead, of Jason Bateman, Michael Cera, Allison Janney, or Rainn Wilson, ‘Jennifer’s Body’ has to make do with the girl from ‘Mama Mia!’ and, speaking of ubiquitously-popular for no reason whatsoever, Megan Fox. Is there an actress who’s done less to deserve moviestardom and internet-downloadability than this blank-eyed, flat-voiced, midriff-baring mannequin-woman? Sure, she’s attractive, I guess, but does it make me less of a guy’s guy if I find myself less attracted to her than any human being on the planet? I mean, I’d rather see Helen Mirren in low-rider jeans than ol’ Foxy any day. I find this movie, its star, and its writer absolutely insufferable. I cannot suffer them.”
Justin: “HELLLLLLLLLLLOOOOOOO 2010! Let’s all take a moment and pray to whatever we hold dear this is not a sign. If it is we’re gonna burn a lot of calories torching new releases this year. What to say about ‘Jennifer’s Body?’ Well, it’s about a succubus, namely a foul temptress that brings nothing but chaos and destruction in her wake. So in that sense the casting of Megan Fox was truly inspired. Seriously America, I think we all need to have an intervention on this whole Megan Fox debacle. It would be passible if she was attractive, a terrible actor and worse person. But she’s not. She strikes out on all counts. She’s frightening to look at. I’d like to take her to Fatburger and lock the doors. Something about those sunken eyes and boney, well, everything, not only is disturbing but also makes watching her awful acting the equivalent of having your face shoved in a grapefruit while getting kidney punched. Un. Bear. A. Ble. If they had gone with Mila Kunis, a similar mold as Fox with a slightly higher acting ceiling, the movie may have had a fighting chance. But that would also require El Diablo to not be so infatuated with herself and her writing. Look, I liked ‘Juno’ a lot. The sublime cast turned what was a good concept but word-heavy script into a great movie. But so help me if El Diablo keeps churning out snarky, self-aware, pithy pop-culture darlings I’ll consider her a succubus, and she will be dealt with accordingly. Up for a demon hunt old buddy? I smell a reality TV show: ‘Videoport Jones: Succubus Hunter.'”
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs
VPJ: “At the risk of repeating myself, ‘If it ain’t Pixar, it ain’t worth it.’ This is another indifferently-animated, celebrity-voiced, vaguely-pleasant time waster about a humorously-nerdy scientist (voiced by SNL’s Bill Hader) who invents a way to create meat out of thin air. Sure, sure, Justin, I can see how that’s one in the plus column for you, but, well, as a pinko vegetarian, I question how well I’d cope with the necessity of scraping bacon off my windshield every morning. Hader’s a funny guy (although depriving him of his physicality halves his entertainment value), and throw in James Caan, Bruce Campbell, Anna Faris, Neil Patrick Harris, Will Forte, and Mr. T (!), and…well, it’s no Pixar.”
JE: “See, you’re talking to the wrong guy about this movie. Here’s why: I LOVED this book growing up. Wore the pages down almost as bad as my copies of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Maybe it was the ridiculousness of the story, a town where the weather is decidedly delicious. Perhaps I was just a hungry child. This adaptation takes a few liberties in fleshing out the premise into a disaster epic on par with ‘Earthquake!’ or ‘Dante’s Peak.’ Look, I’m a big fan of Hader as well as NPH, and well, we all know I have a special place in my heart for BRUUUUUUCE! That space is also conveniently located next to the spot in my heart for bacon. Which, will probably result in a complicated surgical procedure some day. ANYHOO, this one will most likely get a viewing. Sure it’s not Pixar, so it may not make the room all dusty towards the end, but if it can sustain some laughs and be as appealing to kid Justin and adult Justin, then it wins in my book. VIVA BACON RAIN!”
The Final Destination
VPJ: “As far as horror series go, this one, while enduringly-awful, is endearingly-predictable in its Rube Goldberg-ian murderousness. The setup’s always the same: Some middling twenty-something actors survive seemingly-certain death and Death, royally pissed off, decides that ‘this time it’s personal’ and goes after the survivors with a series of needlessly-baroque deathtraps. In this, supposedly Death’s final go-round, the filmmakers have decided that it ain’t broke, and serve up a final helping of squirmy death scenes…and this time with 3-D viscera! (Videoport’s Regan assures me that the ‘death by escalator’ is the best.)”
JE: “You are back and in rare form my friend. ‘Rube Goldberg-ian murderousness!’ Eloquent and about as descriptive as you can get. I’d almost call this series ‘Death by Mad-Lib.’ Let’s see: ‘In this scene (blank) walks into a (blank) with a faulty (blank) and is (blanked). Hard.’ Look, I have absolutely no use for this film whatsoever. I’m not on the horror bandwagon and not even on the ‘so-bad-it’s-freaking-hilarious’ horror movie bandwagon. I’m guessing that bandwagon departs and returns from Videoport on a regular basis. But if cheese and adorable twenty-somethings getting brutally axed (in the most hilarious fashion, of course) is your thing, then indulge friends.”
VPJ: “Computer-animated, post-apocalyptic sci fi anyone? Tim Burton’s tagged his name onto this one (which was actually created by Shane Acker, expanding on his original short), and it features some impressive voices, as per usual (I see Elijah Wood, Christopher Plummer, Jennifer Connelly, John C. Reilly, and the ever-weird Crispin Glover). Um…not Pixar, but I’ll see it.”
JE: “Your rules on viewing non-Pixar animated features is complicated to me. So ‘Cloudy’ is a No, but ‘9’ is a Yes? Is it the meat thing or Burton? Or do you have a thing for creepy puppet-looking animated heroes? Cause ‘9’ has that in a heaping supply. This is a post-apocalytic adventure that starts from a sobering premise: Humanity screwed it up and killed the crap out of each other, leaving only creepy doll-like people. Can you sense that I think the dolls are creepy? Cause I do. As good as this story could be, – and frankly the feature-length has hints of sci fi-retreadedness – I have a feeling that watching it would give me nightmares. I’ll take a pass.”
VPJ: “Boy, sure wish I’d had time to see this one in advance of this column. I’ll bet I would have had some interesting things to say. Over to you, Justin…”
JE: “And what would you have missed exactly? Another in a series of ‘faux-mentary’ horror films, this one about a young couple whose home is PLAGUED BY MYSTERIOUS EVIL FORCES! Is it The Devil? Eli Roth hiding in closet? The ghost of Rod Roddy? It’s tough to say. But fortunately the couple documented the whole thing on a…OK, I’m sorry, I can’t keep up this charade. OK, yes, I know people like getting scared, and yes, I can see the appeal of making it seem as realistic as possible from a storytelling standpoint. But this movie has the fatal flaw I find with so many other horror movies: When things get creepy just leave. Period. Don’t try to tough it out. Don’t call an expert on the occult (unless it’s Doctor Strange). And DON’T FILM IT ALL. Seriously who takes the time to set up a camera and tripod in the midst of all kinds of freaky stuff going on in your home? ‘Oh honey wait a sec, the white balance is acting up and not capturing the bleeding walls at all…'”
VPJ: “A well-reviewed indie film co-starring one of my hetero man-crushes? Yes, please. Sure, it nominally stars the lovely Michelle Monaghan (so good in ‘Gone Baby Gone’) as the titular hard-livin’ hedonistic driver-lady who’s forced to change her ways when her long-ago-abandoned son turns up, but, for me, the real attraction is that her co-trucker boyfriend is played by Nathan Fillion of ‘Firefly,’ ‘Serenity,’ and total awesomeness fame. Sure, his film career hasn’t quite taken off yet (although he was, as ever, shamefully-ignored in the underrated horror comedy ‘Slither’), but I’m squarely in his corner…to the extent that I fully intend to watch this film at some point.”
JE: “Ah Capt. Tightpants…er, Mal Reynolds. A man’s man, and yes a member of the guy-love club. He certainly can do no wrong in my eyes and I’ve got hope he’ll make The Leap to bankable leading man on the big screen. As for Monaghan, good for her for taking on the kind of ‘uglied-down for the sake of art’ role that garners praise from critics and respect from directors (not to mention people like you and me). Since the last ‘truck drivin’ movie I saw was either ‘Smokey and the Bandit’ or ‘Black Dog'(yes I have no shame), maybe this will make the must-rent watch list.”
LIGHTENING ROUND! And now some quick hitter reviews of movies the holidays prevented me from doing my duty towards: 50 Dead Men Walking (The true story of a brass-bollocked Irish lad who worked as a double agent for the British against the IRA), Adam (Hugh Dancy attempts to re-prove Hollywood’s assertion that even the most serious mental illnesses can be cured by the cuddly attentions of a hot neighbor in this offbeat romantic comedy), Lorna’s Silence (From the ever-heartbreaking Dardenne Brothers – “La Promesse,” “L’enfant” – comes another tale of the crushed hopes of the European underclass), A Woman in Berlin (Heavy stuff from Germany in this true tale of a patriotic Nazi woman attempting to make the deals necessary to emerge from the Russian occupation of Berlin as little raped as possible), Diminished Capacity (Matthew Broderick and Alan Alda team up as a journalist with memory loss and the Alzheimer’s-afflicted uncle he moves in with in this darkly-comic dramedy), The Escapist (Good ol’ Brian Cox leads a mass prison break out in this British comic caper), Carriers (Now that he’s all famous and stuff, Star Trek’s Chris Pine’s heretofore-unreleased biozombie film suddenly finds itself released).