This week’s home video releases include a horror flick starring Megan Fox, a beautiful animated film by director Shane Acker, 13 episodes from one of the most enjoyable series on TV and a thriller set in Hawaii.
A Perfect Getaway
3 stars (out of four)
DVD contains rated and unrated versions of the film. The rated version received an R for graphic violence, language including sexual references and some drug use
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray
“A Perfect Getaway” doesn’t live up to the adjective in its title, but it is the type of good, goofy fun that plays incredibly well on a Friday or Saturday night. Milla Jovovich and Steve Zahn play Cydney and Cliff, a honeymooning couple who decide to hike a remote trail on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. Their bliss is interrupted, however, when they learn that another newlywed couple was brutally murdered in Honolulu and that authorities believe the killers jumped islands.
Determined to enjoy their honeymoon, Cydney and Cliff soldier on, armed with the knowledge that anyone they meet could be a killer. Not far into the journey, they join up with Gina (Kiele Sanchez) and Nick (Timothy Olyphant), another young couple exploring the same trail. Although they decide to hike together, each couple is suspicious of the other and Nick’s wild and macho behavior starts to make him look like the prime suspect. But “A Perfect Getaway” is the sort of movie where nothing is what it seems, and that’s where the fun comes in.
If one wants to be particular, there are plot points and details that can be easily picked apart, but anyone who lets go and enjoys the ride should have an excellent time. Zahn is a terrific and underutilized actor, and he is a lot of fun throughout. Olyphant, Jovovich and Sanchez pull their weight as well, leaving us with a slight but nevertheless thoroughly satisfying thriller.
Extras on the DVD are limited to the rated and unrated versions of the film. The Blu-ray disc contains an alternate ending, plus BD-Live features.
Rated PG-13 for violence and scary images
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray
In many ways, 2009 was a disappointing year for film, but we did see two bright spots: science fiction and animation. For some reason, we got above-average crops in those two genres, and “9” – an animated science-fiction story – helped considerably.
Written and directed by Shane Acker, with production assistance from Tim Burton, the movie has an epic feel despite its 80-minute runtime. In fact, the brevity helps because it draws viewers into Acker’s world, allows the story to play out, then cuts away long before anyone has dulled to its wonders.
The story centers on a rag doll-like character known only by the number painted on his back: 9. Viewers know, from a brief introduction, that he was created by a human scientist as the remainder of our race was dying. When he awakens from a long slumber, 9 finds himself on a bleak world populated only by other rag doll beings and hideous mechanical monsters bent on destroying them. Inherently inquisitive and brave, he sets out to learn why things are this way and fight to change them, an idea that doesn’t set well with the more-reserved rag doll leader, 1.
The post-apocalyptic world in “9” is stunningly portrayed, and it is oddly beautiful despite its crumbled buildings and hazy sky. The attention to detail in the animation is as good as in any film today, and 9 and his comrades are wonderfully expressive despite the fact that they’re made primarily of fabric.
Acker has assembled a fine voice cast, including Elijah Wood, Christopher Plummer, Martin Landau and Jennifer Connelly, and they lend additional depth to the finely drawn characters. In a different year, “9” might have been the best animated movie to hit theaters, but in 2009 it’s facing stiff competition from “Up” and “The Princess and the Frog.” Regardless, it is a fabulous movie that fans of both science fiction and animation will do well to seek out.
DVD extras include the original short film that the movie was based on, several making-of featurettes and a commentary with Acker, animation director Joe Ksander, head of story Ryan O’Loughlin and editor Nick Kenway.
DVD contains rated and unrated versions of the film. The rated version received an R for sexuality, bloody violence, language and brief drug use
20th Century Fox
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray
Watching “Jennifer’s Body,” it’s difficult to believe that the straightforward and unremarkable horror flick was written by the same woman who brought us the delightfully quirky “Juno.” But Diablo Cody did indeed write both movies, proving that even talented scribes get stuck.
About the only thing “Jennifer’s Body” has in common with “Juno” is that both films focus on teen characters and the struggles that accompany coming of age.
The movie is narrated by a young woman who is appropriately named Needy (Amanda Seyfried). Although quite attractive, she has lived most of her high school life in the shadow of her mega-hot cheerleader best friend, Jennifer (Megan Fox). One night, the girls attend a concert at a local bar, and it burns to the ground. Both teens survive, but Jennifer is altered by the experience, and Needy becomes convinced that her friend has turned downright evil.
Seyfried is respectable in her key role and Fox is appropriately scary-sexy as the movie’s femme fatale. The problem with “Jennifer’s Body” is that the storytelling is completely run of the mill. Filled with over-the-top teen angst metaphors and predictably gruesome slasher sequences, the picture screams been there, done that. Also, director Karyn Kusama seems perfectly happy dipping into the world of exploitation flicks by throwing in sequences, including a lesbian kiss, that were created to titillate without furthering her story.
The DVD and Blu-ray releases include the theatrical cut of the film, plus an unrated cut. Both versions have audio commentaries by Kusama and Cody joins her for talk about the theatrical cut.
Glee, Vol. 1: Road to Sectionals
20th Century Fox
Available on: DVD
“Glee,” an offbeat musical TV series about students in an Ohio high school show choir, is one of the most agreeable and addictive programs introduced in 2009. The ensemble dramedy is centered on the adventures of Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison), a Spanish teacher and former choral star teaching at the high school that he graduated from.
Because Will loved glee club when he attended the school, he decides to revive the struggling organization, recruiting talent from unexpected places, including the football team and cheerleading squad. The result is an eclectic cast of students who have little in common aside from fantastic voices and terrific stage presence.
The characters in “Glee,” particularly the women, are too wacky and offbeat to be believable, but that’s part of the charm. During the course of the first 13 episodes – all packaged in this four-DVD set – we watch the school’s satin-voiced quarterback (Cory Monteith) and cheerleader girlfriend (Dianna Agron) stare down a pregnancy scare as Will and his overbearing wife (Jessalyn Gilsig) prepare for a child of their own. We also observe as the amped up cheerleading coach (Jane Lynch) wages a personal war on the glee club while its self-proclaimed leader, Rachel (Lea Michele), tries desperately to become a star.
“Glee” has enough ongoing plotlines to make a soap opera fan proud, but the series’ real glory is in the music. During each episode, the cast belts out stunning choral renditions of everything from Broadway favorites to modern pop songs. The music is so good that bits from the soundtrack have become popular downloads at iTunes.
“Glee” is a standout show in a sea of television mediocrity, and the DVD release this month allows viewers plenty of time to get hooked before the final nine episodes of season one begin airing on Fox in April.
DVD extra features include the director’s cut of the pilot episode, a host of behind-the-scenes featurettes, musical segments and more.
ALSO OUT THIS WEEK
“Paranormal Activity”: For a limited-release movie, “Paranormal Activity” generated an extraordinary amount of buzz. The low-budget feature, written and directed by Oren Peli, tells of a young couple haunted by malicious spirits. Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat star.
“The Marine 2”: This sequel to the 2006 John Cena movie, “The Marine,” is probably better regarded as a spinoff since we have a new hero and new lead actor. This time around, it’s WWE star Ted DiBiase playing Marine sniper Joe Linwood. When guerillas take control of the Thailand hotel that Joe and his wife are staying in, he decides to take control of the situation.
“United States of Tara” — The First Season: This Showtime series stars Emmy Award winner Toni Collette as a woman whose personality disorder has given her three alter egos: an angry teenager, a perfect 1950s housewife, and a redneck truck driver.
The show was created by screenwriter Diablo Cody and is executive produced by Steven Spielberg.
“Facing Ali”: This documentary chronicles the career of three-time World Heavyweight Champion Muhammad Ali, as seen through the eyes of his greatest opponents, including George Chuvalo, Sir Henry Cooper, George Foreman, Joe Frazier and Larry Holmes. DVD extras include animated trivia cards and several featurettes about the film.
“Vampire Killers”: Two friends discover a group of vampire hotties while on a camping trip. Soon they find themselves trying to survive the night while protecting a busload of history students and taking down as many blood-sucking babes as possible.
Forrest Hartman is an independent film critic whose byline has appeared in some of the nation’s largest publications. E-mail him at Forrest@ForrestHartman.com