Covering cinema from the highest of the highbrow to the lowest of the low-grade.
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
New on DVD/Blu-ray: MEETING EVIL (2012), WANDERLUST (2012)
MEETING EVIL (US - 2012)
Samuel L. Jackson had two movies open on May 4 of this year. One was THE AVENGERS, which had a $207 million opening weekend. The other was the absurd MEETING EVIL, which didn't fare quite as well. One of the most ludicrous thrillers of the year, MEETING EVIL opened on one (yes, one) screen in the US (in addition to VOD), where it grossed $525 to land in 131st place for the weekend. Based on a novel by Thomas Berger, MEETING EVIL finds John (Luke Wilson) having a very bad day: he loses his job, he comes home to find a foreclosure notice on the front door, and he's fighting with his wife (Leslie Bibb). Then he helps a stranger whose car stalled in front of his house. The stranger is Richie (Jackson), a surly, foul-mouthed, fedora-wearing madman who parks in handicapped spaces and makes John an unwitting accomplice on an afternoon killing spree in town. For a while, director/screenwriter Chris Fisher (somehow still employable after S. DARKO), seems to be aiming for the "Richie is a figment of John's imagination and John's really doing all the killing" twist, and honestly, as predictable and played-out as that is, it would've at least been something cohesive and with a purpose. Berger's novel has to do a better job of making its points than Fisher's script and direction do. There's a vaguely supernatural vibe to a lot of what's going on (what's with the little girl and the dog seemingly keeping a vigil outside John's house?), but it wraps up with a thoroughly generic explanation that's a big buildup to very little and doesn't even bother trying to tie up its loose ends. Fisher also haplessly attempts to work in some topical commentary with detective Tracie Thoms (DEATH PROOF) saying that "Rich people actin' all crazy lately...they ain't never been broke before," but it seems forced and phony. And worst of all, he can't seem to commit to what, or even who, the villain really is. The best scenes involve the sometimes witty repartee between Thoms and lead detective Muse Watson, going full-on Kris Kristofferson with the weary, chain-smoking, and gravelly-voiced act. Those two characters might've been more interesting in their own movie. Wilson is pretty bland, and even Jackson's signature self-righteous, chip-on-the-shoulder act is starting to feel a little shopworn. (R, 89 mins)
WANDERLUST (US - 2012)
WANDERLUST disappeared from theaters pretty quickly but it's already developed a cult following, which is usually the case with anything from the crew behind THE STATE, RENO 911, and PARTY DOWN (plus STELLA, WAINY DAYS, and CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL, in addition to the films THE TEN and ROLE MODELS) Directed by David Wain and co-written by Wain and Ken Marino, WANDERLUST is a lot funnier than the trailers made it look, sort-of an edgier, recession-era LOST IN AMERICA with ambitious New Yorkers George (Paul Rudd) and Linda Gergenblatt (Jennifer Aniston) falling in with Elysium, a hippie commune (or, as the residents call it, an "intentional community") in the outskirts of Atlanta. George loses his job and HBO rejects Linda's documentary on penguins with testicular cancer, so they head to Atlanta, where George has a menial job doing data entry for his obnoxious, port-o-potty-magnate brother Rick (Marino), but get sidetracked at the commune, mistaking it for a bed & breakfast. Elysium was founded by the now-senile Carvin (Alan Alda), but now run by the charismatic Seth (Justin Theroux), who doesn't understand the NYC world with its "Zenith televisions and Walkmans and laserdiscs and answering machines." The essential plot is George and Linda figuring out what they want to do with their lives, but WANDERLUST gets a lot of mileage out of a terrific ensemble cast of genuinely funny people, all of whom get big moments in the spotlight (perhaps too many for Joe Lo Truglio, who spends about 95% of his screen time completely naked as the resident nudist). From Rudd and Aniston on down to the smallest roles (a dirty-talking Linda Lavin kills in two brief scenes as a real estate agent), almost every scene has some inspired bit of lunacy taking place (an improv bit with Rudd psyching himself up for a night of free love with Malin Akerman goes on almost agonizingly long, but Wain and Marino make it worth it with a huge, one-line payoff by Kathryn Hahn in the next scene). Also with Lauren Ambrose, Kerry Kenney-Silver, Jordan Peele, Michaela Watkins (stealing multiple scenes as Marino's drunk, pill-addled wife), Zandy Hartig, Michael Showalter, Michael Ian Black, and possibly the funniest cameo of 2012. Judd Apatow produced, but wisely left Wain and Marino to do their thing. Indeed, WANDERLUST is perhaps the only Apatow production that doesn't feel like one, and not just because it isn't pointlessly stretched past the two-hour mark. (R, 98 mins; the Blu-ray contains, as a bonus feature, a second version of the film, running around 80 minutes, comprised of alternate takes with different jokes and dialogue)