DVDs for 12/29/09 – Perfect Paranormal Getaway Activity: Facing Ali

The release week between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day is traditionally an off week for DVD, usually with just a couple of minor releases. Not so this year. TV releases this week include Glee: Season 1: Road To Sectionals (Fox) and United States Of Tara: The First Season (Paramount) (see TV on DVD here), and there are some substantial film releases debuting this week.

David Twohy’s A Perfect Getaway (Universal) is a deft piece of genre filmmaking, which is no backhanded compliment. In a film culture where B-movie plots are routinely executed with budgets in excess of $100 million in place of intelligence and thrown into thousands of theaters, the well-tuned genre piece is an increasingly rare breed. A Perfect Getaway is a type of film we’re used to seeing in myriad variations: an urban couple leaves the comfort of civilization for a vacation isolated in the wilds, where there just so happens to be a killer on the loose and no end to suspicious characters.

A Perfect Getaway: Trouble in paradise

Twohy delivers everything we expect—attractive performers in paradise (Steve Zahn and Milla Jovovich as cute urbanites fumbling through the jungle, Timothy Olyphant and Kiele Sanchez as rather more prepared trail companions), breathtaking landscapes and lush scenery, ominous tensions and plenty of action—and something you likely did not: suspense, surprise and sheer fun. In a film culture where genre storytelling all too often boils down to the stock gimmicks used over and over again with special effects or high concept twists to hide the familiarity, this is so refreshingly old school smart that it feels almost new. For more on the film, read my feature review here. The DVD features both the theatrical cut and a “Director’s Cut,” which runs about ten minutes longer, but no other supplements. The Blu-ray features an alternate ending, which isn’t all that different but is significantly shorter. I prefer the original.

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New review: 9

Directed by Shane Acker; screenplay by Pamela Pettler, from a story by Shane Acker

Not to be confused with District 9 (the aliens in Johannesburg film from earlier this year) or Nine (the musical remake of 8 ½ due out later this year), this animated film offers the sock puppet saviors at the end of the world. It’s sort of like The Terminator mythos are interpreted by the Brothers Quay, set in a world where the machines have destroyed all life on Earth but for these nine animated rag dolls.

Burlap saviors at the end of the world
Burlap saviors at the end of the world

Not your average animated bedtime story, as you might have guessed from a film produced by Tim Burton (The Nightmare Before Christmas) and Timur Bekmambetov (Nightwatch). It’s weird and dark and full of cruel creations of metal and bone built only to hunt and kill. Our hero, 9 (voiced by Elijah Wood, Frodo himself, with an innocent courage), is a doll-sized blob of burlap and gears and zippers who awakens in a workshop in the ruins of civilization full of curiosity and questions (who am I? what has happened?). When he finds others like himself, he’s just met with more questions and the dogmatic proclamations of a self-appointed demagogue (Christopher Plummer) who preaches a gospel of fear and forbids the others to venture outside. He prefers ignorance to engagement with the dark technology (“Sometimes fear is the proper response”) and has his own guard dog of blindly loyal soldier enforce his commands. Others have already fled his tyrannical rule to make their own stand in the ruins. But when 9, moved by curiosity and instinct, inadvertently reawakens the dark technology, you have to wonder if that authoritarian elder was partly right.

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