Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Jennifer's Body

Running Time: An hour and 45 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

Megan Fox is an evil, soulless succubus. In this movie she plays Jennifer, a relatively satirical version of herself as a high-school cheerleader turned satanic demon. Needless to say, the casting directors didn’t need to look for an actress with a lot of range. Jennifer’s body is sacrificed to the devil as a virgin (ahem) sacrifice by an indie band trying to gain fame and fortune. Plans go awry when the whole “virgin” part gets overlooked, and Jennifer becomes doomed to feed off of human flesh for eternity. She finds hormonal boys to be the easiest targets, and a string of murders begins to overtake the small town of Devil’s Kettle; the culprit unknown to anybody but Jennifer’s best friend: “Needy”.

The horror genre is satirized by one of its own here, a bit like the “Scream” movies of last decade. High school stereotypes are ever present; Goths and quarterbacks all try to date Jennifer, and all have their souls consumed indiscriminately, class memorials are interrupted by Jennifer’s unsubtle apathy, and sexual tension is paid off with one of the longest lesbian kissing scenes in mainstream movie history. The movie does follow the annoying trend of having college graduate-aged adults playing high school kids, but unlike other films that use this gimmick, Jennifer’s Body doesn’t drive that point home at every opportunity.

Diablo Cody wrote this movie, and the premise of a horror film written by the author of “Juno” shows very much. Quirky lines and obscure references are mainstays of Cody’s writing and are delivered in even the most dire of situations. I’d like to emphasize that last point as by “dire situations” I mean people will give off-the-wall comments even while missing half of their neck. The abundance of these quips tends to throw off the balance between horror and comedy in humor’s favor, and can leave those expecting a scary movie still wanting satisfaction.

The humor in the writing is fantastic, but many of the actors frequently and unfortunately misfire their lines. Some of the actors, such as Amanda Seyfried and Adam Brody are completely immune to this phenomenon, but others, especially Johnny Simmons, seem to flub every joke. It is one of the most terrible things that can happen to a comedy when an actor doesn’t understand what is funny about what they are saying. The problem could likely have been avoided with a little more discretion in the casting department.

The movie provides closure to the story, but the ending turns out somewhat clunky as a result. There were at least five times in the last five minutes when I was expecting the movie to cut to black and roll the credits, leaving space for a sequel. However, all loose ends are tied up and the show proves to be a standalone picture. Jennifer’s Body is much better than most scary movies that come out nowadays, and more original to boot. The fact that it works so well as comedy only sweetens the deal and, in the end, most of the audience will be left with a satisfying movie experience.

The Informant!

Running Time: An hour and 45 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

Mark Whitacre is a man compelled by his vices. On top of hard work and a positive attitude, he extorts, lies, and steals to reach the top of the corporate ladder. The path to professional success seems to be laid out for him when he learns information that could incriminate the whole of his superiors at Archer Daniels Midland, leaving their management positions open for his taking. However, when the FBI becomes involved, Mark’s greedy and compulsive behavior threatens to destroy what was one of the most famous investigations of the 1990s and the largest corporate whistleblower case in history.

The Informant tries to pass itself off as a comedy, but most of the laughs stem from his narrated idle thoughts and the film’s oddly upbeat music selection. Without these playful additions, the movie could have been a pretty straightforward historical drama. “Historical” is used loosely, of course, but skewed and added details are to be expected from any movie that claims itself to be “based on a true story”.

The plot can become a bit muddled to the audience as we are as oblivious to what is fact or fib as the people onscreen. While sometimes confusing, it can often be amusing when the characters’ baffled and incredulous reactions to Mark’s behavior mirror our own.

The movie drags on a bit around the epilogue, but is, overall, enjoyable. It is a must-see for people who either followed the case or read the book from which this movie was adapted, but those who don’t fall into either of those categories will find that the world will go on just the same if The Informant is skipped over.

Actual Rating: PG-13

There is no violence, no sex, no drugs, not even any rock & roll. This movie caught an R rating from the MPAA simply because it used “the f-word” a few more times than what is allotted to a PG-13 movie.


Running Time: An hour and a half

MPAA Rating: PG-13

What do you do after years of independent work on a heartfelt short film wins you prestigious awards and international popularity? Monetize it, of course! Exploit every cent out of your creation by adding an hour of explosions and unnecessary characters, cheesy one-liners for the kids, and slapping a famous director’s name on the final product. At least that seems to be the thought process of writer/director Shane Acker in his extended remake of the 2005 film.

The story follows a group of sentient ragdolls ("steampunks") surviving robot attacks in a post-apocalyptic alternate-universe world war 2-ish era. Film can be a helluva drug, people. After being given life by a man trying to encapsulate the spirit of the human race by dividing his soul into nine dolls, they avoid going on the stereotypical killing spree that seems to happen in every other “bring weird stuff to life using voodoo” film. Instead, they focus their efforts on trying to survive against the maniacal, mechanical beings that have already wiped out humanity.

The film's most egregious offense is that it feels like it was written by a Hot Topic focus group. Is it really possible to be a social outcast if every other living thing on the planet is as well? Leadership and military figures are demonized with a harsh emphasis on religion. The overbearing self-declared leader of the group dresses like a pope and operates from a church while apathetically dismissing attempts to save steampunk lives.

Most characters in the film show all the depth of a kiddie pool and only serve to move the plot along. The lack of real emotion conveyed by the puppets tends to cause indifference to the casualties of war. Parts that made the original "9" special are copied and pasted into this, but lose much of their impact because of the extra baggage.

9 falls short of it's potential by being a longer adaptation of the original, rather than an artistic expansion. It poses as a Tim Burton movie by following the trends that Burton created. To save your time and money, the wise choice here is to just watch the original.

Actual Rating: PG
Anybody who has seen a PG-13 rated movie this decade will understand that an unmarked body and mild, offscreen violence can hardly be considered traumatizing in comparison.