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December 29, 2009

Midnight DVD Round Up - December 29, 2009

As 2009 is coming to a close, I took an opportunity tonight to catch up with three films new to DVD that have Midnight Movie written all over them. Two of them are films I'd missed theatrically, but one was one of the most enjoyable films I viewed this year. And now, I'm gonna ramble about them to you.

First up was the Karyn Kusama/Diablo Cody collaboration Jennifer's Body, notable to some as a "feminist" horror film and to most as a Megan Fox eye-candy festival. My expectations of this one were pretty low, but I still had a bit of faith in Cody after unapologetically loving Juno.

The story follows Fox's Jennifer as she slowly transforms into something vicious, all while being watched by her best friend, "Needy" (Amanda Seyfried). The opening of the film gives a sneak peek of where the story would end up, but I still got some enjoyment out of watching the story unfold.

Fox, as stated above, is the selling point of this one, and I didn't expect her to survive my scrutiny. However, she didn't bother me much. There are a lot of blatant shots designed to make her look good for advertisements, but they also seem to fit her character well. Seyfried gives a strong "survivor girl" performance, despite some silly character changes throughout the film.

Jennifer's Body is a silly horror film, but it at least feels slightly original and bucks a few trends that occasionally bog similar genre flicks down. Add in Cody's fresh, though occasionally intentionally perplexing, dialogue, and the movie has plenty of decent moments. I wouldn't go out of my way to recommend it to anyone, but I definitely enjoyed it more than I expected to and could find it being a decent horror film to watch as a "party" film with others. Which, I guess, is kinda a recommendation.

Next up was the Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov produced animated film 9, directed by Shane Acker. Unlike Jennifer's Body, I had hopes for this film to be a fun visual treat. Unfortunately it let me down a bit.

I must start by saying that 9 is quite impressive from a visual standpoint. The post-apocalyptic landscapes are filled with wrecked buildings and strewn corpses, and the ragdoll characters are fun to watch. The "beasts" the film brings forth are interesting creations, though I did find them to be a little bit too intricate at times - look, I understand these machines are supposed to be so advanced that they destroyed humanity, but I felt like I was spending so much time counting tentacles and noting the frayed wires that I wasn't focusing on the act of the robot chasing the ragdoll. However, it's a minor complaint about a film that's so visually rich.

Unfortunately, the film lacks any depth in story. Our numbered characters do each have a distinct personality, thanks to their individualized designs and the excellent vocal talents involved. But the story is straightforward to a fault and repetitive - discovery, battle, discovery, repeat - which leaves it feeling more like a demo reel than an actual narrative film. I definitely like what 9 brought to the table in image, but the final product left me dissatisfied - to the point that I wouldn't recommend this for anything more than the technical aspects.

The final film I want to talk about is NOT the new to DVD Paranormal Activity, which I reviewed after my theatrical viewing. While I now look back at the film less fondly than I did in that glowing review....I'm still a little too afraid of it to watch it again. Yeah, I'm a wimp.

The final film I do want to talk about is David Twohy's A Perfect Getaway. I had the pleasure of catching this one in theaters back in August, and couldn't wait to check it out again. As I now see it a second time, it's bringing a lot of smiles to my face.

A Perfect Getaway is the twisty tale of three couples on a trail in Hawaii. It starts with Cliff and Cydney (Steve Zahn & Milla Jovovich), two newlyweds who're honeymooning on the islands, who run into Cleo and Kale (Sin City's Marley Shelton and future THOR Chris Hemsworth) and the colorful duo of Nick and Gina (Timothy Olyphant & Kiele Sanchez) - and begin to realize that one of the couples are killers on the run. While initially skeptical of the volatile Kale, Cliff begins to become more curious about Nick's tall tales of international intrigue and his claim to be a "Goddamn American Jedi" as the couples travel together.

All of this leads to a third act that I found entirely compelling on first viewing. Now that I'm seeing it a second time, I'm convinced that this is exactly my kind of thriller. Twohy's script is self-referential and shows that he's well aware of the ridiculous behavior a lot of films like this rely on. And while this one has its share of goofiness in the twisty journey, it never takes itself too seriously. Meanwhile, the cast is fantastic - particularly Olyphant, who's deserved to be a big star for some time - and the whole thing is perfect escapist fun. In fact, if I were going to make a list of my future midnight movies from 2009, this would be near the top based on how rewatchable I find it.

It's a shame Twohy is best known for his larger scale Riddick films, because his more contained scripts like this (along with his alien invasion film The Arrival and the supernatural submarine flick Below) seem to be where he's most effective. I can't promise you'll be able to accept this one as much as I have, but I find myself ready to recommend it as strongly as any thriller I've seen in recent memory.

(One note about A Perfect Getaway: Stick to the theatrical version. The only thing added to the director's cut is a lot of extra explanation that slows down the third act tremendously.)

1 comment:

Scare Sarah said...

Interesting titles here, Mike. I'd forgotten I wanted to watch Jeniffer's Body! Thanks for the reminder!