DVD Corner

Posted Oct. 09, 2009, at 8:11 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:57 a.m.

“Drag Me to Hell” DVD, Blu-ray: Apparently, the foreclosure crisis is worse than imagined. According to Sam Raimi’s “Drag Me to Hell,” Satan is involved, which poor Christine (Alison Lohman), a loan officer in California, learns at the start in a series of events that go horribly (and hilariously) wrong. What we have here is rare — a modern-day horror tale told well. Sweet-natured Christine is jonesing for a job promotion. Faced with some pretty stiff competition in a vicious co-worker, she decides to delight her boss by turning down an elderly woman (Lorna Raver) who no longer can afford the payments on her house. Hurt and infuriated, the woman falls to her knees, glares at Christine with her bum eye, waves some voodoo hoodoo her way, and puts a curse on Christine that wreaks havoc on her life. With Justin Long as her bewildered boyfriend, Clay, Christine is forced to battle a bevy of Beelzebub beasties, all of which want to steal her soul away into a crypt of fiery rottenness. How will she fight back? That would involve this vegetarian slaughtering small animals, her participation in ground-shaking seances, and a whole host of other unmentionables that often are played as much for laughs as for horror. This is a movie about backbone, and if Christine is going to keep her soul, she’s going to have to find hers, usually while caked in mud or some other goo. What ensues is a solid horror movie that features such big laughs, you come away wishing most comedies were as funny and as bright. Rated PG-13. Grade: B+

“How the Grinch Stole Christmas” Blu-ray: About as warm and as lyrical as a cold lump of Who Hash. Ron Howard’s $120 million bore cheapens Seuss’ tale and turns it into a garish spectacle of back-lot special effects crudely stapled to Jim Carrey’s unceasingly unfunny, over-the-top mugging as the Grinch. Desperate to stretch Seuss’ story into a full-length feature film, what we’re left with is a movie that departs from the text and the ideas that inspired it. In Howard’s world, the Whos aren’t the gentle people Seuss imagined but a piggish band of louts driven by greed and commercialism who are no better than the Grinch. Cindy Lou Who (Taylor Momsen) is the exception, but since the film turns only to her to provide the balance of good vs. evil (in the book, it was the townspeople vs. the Grinch), that balance is shot. Momsen is cute, but Carrey’s nonstop shenanigans overwhelm her. His performance isn’t acting, per se, but pandering reduced to a series of sight gags, some so raunchy adults might find themselves wondering what happened to the Grinch they grew up with. Rated PG. Grade: D+

“Land of the Lost” DVD, Blu-ray: Saying this rotten movie is slop is like saying that entering a subway restroom at the lunch rush hour is like wandering into a French perfumery. Will Ferrell stars, but nobody will applaud. The film is based on the old Saturday morning television show some of us grew up on in the 1970s, but which is barely recognizable here. While it’s true that the original, low-budget show was no cultural high point, it’s easy to retain an affinity for it, especially since it was appealingly cheesy in its cheapness, but also because it did find pockets in which to be imaginative and entertaining. This bastardization, which cost over $100 million to produce and is among the year’s biggest financial flops, does not — it’s a bust across the board. Ironically, that proves fitting, since this shallow little peep show from Sugarville has a thing for the female bust, with one of the ongoing jokes being that a character’s breast is repeatedly groped by men and creatures throughout. So, you know, feel free to show the movie to the whole family. In the film, Ferrell is Dr. Rick Marshall, a buffoonish scientist close to finding a way to travel through time where past, present and future will merge. With the help of a fellow scientist (Anna Friel) — it’s she who’s groped — they achieve Ferrell’s dream and soon are off with some sidekick boob (Danny McBride) to the land of the lost. There, Sleestaks and dinosaurs roam, as does chaos, but none of it is gripping. And yet here’s the thing — as bad as the movie is, you have to give it props for offering one revelation, and that’s how dinosaurs became extinct. Forget about such myths as disease, climate change or a giant asteroid striking the earth. Apparently, they stumbled upon Rick’s time warping device, saw into the future, caught a whiff of this stiff, and died from embarrassment. Rated PG-13. Grade: BOMB

“Looney Tunes: Spotlight Collection, Vol. 7”: Here is a fine reason some of us champion Chuck Jones as one of the kings of animation. He may never have had a theme park, but Jones had something arguably just as formidable — an edge, an irreverent wit, an anything-goes imagination, and especially his enduring, endearing cast of characters — Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig and Daffy Duck chief among them. In the seventh volume of “Spotlight Collection,” there is a caveat — if you already own the six editions of the superior “Golden Collection,” only two shorts will be new to you here. Everything else has been recycled. Worse? There are no extras. Still, if you don’t own any of the other collections, this affordable set of 26 shorts is well worth a look, even if Warner disappoints by not going the distance. Grade: B

“The Proposal” DVD, Blu-ray: Just say, “I don’t.” This forced romantic comedy occasionally works — especially during its first half — but eventually it falls apart during its inept second half. Sandra Bullock is mean Margaret, a book editor with a lackey in Andrew (Ryan Reynolds) who finds out that the career she loves might come to a halt if she’s deported back to her homeland of Canada. To save herself, she strikes a deal with Andrew, who is working his own angles and agrees to marry her for a price to keep her in the country. What are the odds that they fall for each other in the process? It’s that predictability (not to mention the movie’s increasingly stupid dialogue and situations) that fells the film, which, given the genuine chemistry Bullock and Reynolds possess, could have saved itself had it had a better script. Rated PG-13. Grade: C+

“South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut” Blu-ray: A film so laced with obscenities, raunch and violence, it could single-handedly sink the Bible Belt. But the film, just like the popular Comedy Central cartoon on which it’s based, also has its moments of brilliance, particularly in its parody of Broadway show tunes, which the film mimics throughout with panache. Wit fuels “Uncut’s” script, and that’s what saves it from being just another crude movie. Creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone actually have something to say — particularly to those desperate to censor artists — and they say it loudly with a raised middle finger. Why “Uncut” didn’t get slapped with an NC-17 rating is beyond me, but for those wondering what really can come out of the mouths of babes, well, look no farther. Rated R. Grade: B+

WeekinRewind.com is the site for Bangor Daily News film critic Christopher Smith’s blog, DVD giveaways and movie reviews. Smith’s reviews appear Fridays and weekends in Lifestyle, as well as on bangordailynews.com. He may be reached at Christopher@weekinrewind.com.

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