This week on home video, we’ve got a smattering of comedies, both good and bad, an inspirational family film, a Nic Cage thriller, and a couple of Criterion editions dedicated to movies by the prolific Steven Soderbergh. See below for the full list!
It’s not a remake of the 1987 Matthew Broderick/Helen Hunt drama about chimps who can fly planes, but a lot of people probably would have preferred that. Produced by Todd Phillips (director of The Hangover), Project X follows the exploits of three high school friends who throw the mother of all house parties in hopes of raising their social status. Unfortunately, most critics felt it lacked both originality and genuine laughs, choosing instead to wallow in predictable and mean-spirited debauchery. At 26%, you’re not guaranteed quality cinema, but if all you’re looking for is lots of teen drinking and gratuitous nudity, by all means, help yourself.
The first thing you’re likely to think when you hear “inspirational family drama about saving endangered animals” is, “Oh, another one?” But by most counts, Big Miracle admirably avoids most of the pitfalls presented by the familiar premise. Based on true events, the film stars The Office‘s John Krasinski as Adam Carlson, a news reporter whose story about a group of gray whales trapped in the Arctic Circle spurs an international effort to free them. Costarring Drew Barrymore, Kristen Bell, and Dermot Mulroney in a genuine feelgood family movie, Big Miracle‘s sunny story shows what good can come when petty differences are set aside, and for that, it earned a 74% on the Tomatometer.
David Wain’s last film, Role Models, was his most successful directorial effort, despite finding a cult audience with his 2001 debut Wet Hot American Summer. For Wanderlust, Wain reteamed with Paul Rudd, pairing him with Jennifer Aniston in a comedy about an overworked NYC couple who, in the midst of a drastic life change, find themselves stranded in a hippie commune that forces them to reexamine their lives. Despite likable performances from its talented cast and some confident work by Wain himself, Wanderlust didn’t quite hit the funny bone as hard as it should have, and it’s currently just shy of Freshness at 59%.
Jeff, Who Lives at Home stars Jason Segel as a stoner occupying his mother’s basement who, on one eventful day, believes he is recieving signs from the universe that something interesting is about to happen. He exits the house into the bright suburban sunlight and begins his quest. His much-harried mother is played by Susan Sarandon, while his overbearing, more successful brother is portrayed by Ed Helms. Much like the image Segel cultivates for himself, the film is goofy but big-hearted, and reaches a delightful and poignant ending.
The trailer for The FP intentionally starts off looking like an Escape from New York-era dystopian thriller, with appropriately anachronistic clothing and dialogue, and it’s only when the Dance Dance Revolution-esque arcade game fires up that it becomes apparent that it’s a self-aware send-up of the genre; the kicker is when JTRO (co-writer/director Jason Trost) suddenly blurts out,”Hey L Dubba E! I challenge you to a Beat-Off!” It’s obvious that Trost and his brother, Brandon Trost, are aiming for a cult following with The FP, but for about half the critics, this futuristic turf war over video game supremacy was all just a little too obvious. At 42%, The FP has some trouble finding its tone, but with the right group of buddies, you might just get a kick out of it.
The original title for Seeking Justice was The Hungry Rabbit Jumps, which almost seems more appropriate for a Nic Cage thriller. Here he plays Simon, a man whose wife’s (January Jones) brutal rape leads him to make a deal with a stranger (Guy Pearce) for retribution outside of the legal system, inadvertently entangling him in a dangerous web of vigilante justice. At 24%, Seeking Justice is unfortunately an all too familiar potboiler whose premise isn’t quite clever enough to make up for its lack of originality in execution.
Gray’s Anatomy and its follow-up companion piece, And Everything is Going Fine, are a pair of documentaries by Steven Soderbergh. The subject: Spalding Gray, a writer/actor famed for his lengthy onstage monologues, filled with anecdotes of sardonic wit and bitter truths. In 1996’s Gray’s Anatomy, Soderbergh documents Gray’s journey into researching alternative medicine for a disease, which becomes a springboard into religion, death, and spirituality. The follow-up documentary, And Everything is Going Fine, was released in 2010 after Gray’s suicide. It’s a tender but truthful tribute to an American treasure.