New releases this week on DVD and Blu-ray: Josh Brolin takes on a ruthless terrorist in the wild west comic book adaptation of Jonah Hex; Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley play with science in the horror film Splice; plus a look at How to Train Your Dragon and the Robocop Trilogy on Blu-ray.
Starring: Josh Brolin, John Malkovich, Megan Fox, Will Arnett, Michael Shannon, Michael Fassbender, Julia Jones, Aidan Quinn, David Patrick Kelly
Director: Jimmy Hayward
What is there to say about a film that pretty much sums itself up with its trailer?
Jonah Hex is the latest comic book adaptation that frankly gives most of the other adaptations a bad name. For every Dark Knight, there’s a Punisher, a Spawn, or a Jonah Hex, and it’s no fault to the source material. Jonah Hex is simply a lazy adaptation that could have been a lot better, with the right team and motivation.
Directed by Jimmy Hayward, who previously co-directed Horton Hears a Who!, the story follows Josh Brolin as the cursed former soldier, Jonah Hex, who had to watch as his family was killed before his eyes by the scoundrel Quentin Turnbull, played by a sneering John Malkovich. Barely surviving with his life, the incident left him able to speak to the dead and survive almost any wound. Now, Jonah discovers that the man who he once thought was dead is planning to destroy the capitol on the night America celebrates it’s 100th anniversary.
Briefly teamed up with his prostitute girlfriend, Lilah, played by Megan Fox, the enraged Jonah packs as much firepower as he can onto his horse and sets off to make amends for a lifetime of pain that has left him warped and almost as bad as the man he’s trying to kill.
Taking a page from the abhorrent Wild, Wild West, Jonah Hex is set in an alternate-reality America where these average men can get their hands on strange technology that puts most modern weapons to shame. That’s not such a bad thing though, as it gives the film a level of cool that works in its favour. As a popcorn film that’s a must, but the film needed more than just cool ideas. It needed a better script.
And that’s where Jonah Hex falls apart. Written by Brian Taylor and Mark Neveldine, the guys who wrote and directed the Crank films, Jonah Hex is a badly written mess that starts out well enough and ends ridiculously.
Taking a mere five minutes to build the character’s back story, Jonah Hex at least starts off with a bang before it falters into a lame subplot about some really old-school terrorists who still harbour a grudge after the South lost the American revolution. That concept feels incredibly cheap the way it plays out, and Malkovich’s villainy is more of the same for an actor who has fallen into a groove that is getting really old.
Taylor and Neveldine have the bones of something cool here, but their dialogue is, once again, a total joke. That worked for a film like Crank, but by the end of Jonah Hex it’s hard not to laugh at every other line that Brolin spits out, most of which are not meant to be as funny as they sound.
All of that said, I liked parts of Jonah Hex. It’s a bad film wrapped around a character that Brolin does a decent job of realizing, despite the faults of the script and direction. This is a popcorn film that satisfies most of the blockbuster requirements, but fails to be much more than a film people will watch late at night before they forget it again the next day.
For me, Jonah Hex is most notable because it’s another example of how badly DC comic book characters are generally rendered. Hopefully they can turn that around at some point and maybe revisit this character who deserves at least one more shot, even if it is just between the eyes.
Starring: Adrien Brody, Sarah Polley, Delphine Chaneac
Director: Vincenzo Natali
From Vincenzo Natali, the director of Cube, comes a sci-fi thriller about two scientists experimenting with life itself to create new animal hybrids. The duo push the boundaries of science and ethics, however, when they experiment with human DNA and create something with horrible consequences.
Starring Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley, the film received big praise from critics when it debuted in theatres, including from writer Lisa Schwarzbaum from Entertainment Weekly.
“The outstanding creature effects by Howard Berger only get more astonishing as Splice splits into an eerie horror picture,” Schwarzbaum wrote, “then divides again into something out of Rosemary’s Baby.”
How to Train Your Dragon
Starring: Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, America Ferrera, Craig Ferguson, Jonah Hill
Directors: Dean DeBlois, Chris Sanders
Dreamworks Pictures is back with another yet-to-be classic animated film, this time set in a mythical world where dragons are real, and a tribe of Vikings prove their heroism by slaying them.
Jay Baruchel voices the young Hiccup, a teenage Viking living on the island of Berk who hopes to prove himself to the tribe. Instead of slaying a dragon though, Hiccup finds himself making friends with one of the beasts who he was supposed to kill.
Featuring the voice work of America Ferrera, Craig Ferguson, Jonah Hill, David Tennant, and Kristen Wiig, How to Train Your Dragon is a top-notch film whether you have kids or not.
“Though the dragons are cool in their various forms and the battle scenes are epic and exciting,” Joe Neumaier wrote for the New York Daily News, “watching two former foes become friends is what really makes the story fly.”
Robocop Trilogy [Blu-ray]
Starring: Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Dan O’Herlihy, Ronny Cox, Kurtwood Smith, Miguel Ferrer, Belinda Bauer, Robert John Burke
Directors: Paul Verhoeven, Irvin Kershner, Fred Dekker
In a future that may not be that far away, Detroit is a battle ground for gangs, drug lords, and the few weary cops trying to make the peace. As the city tries to fight back, the mega corporation OCP steps in with their latest creation: a cyborg with the guts of a cop, but the weaponry of a robot.
Robocop is a classic eighties action movie that pretty much helped define the decade, and although the sequels were not quite as classic, the trilogy is worth a look whether you saw the films the first time around or not.
As the good man says, “I’d buy that for a dollar!”
The only flaw with the Blu-ray set is that the first film comes out looking the most ragged, while the two sequels manage to look marginally better in the transfer. Unlike the previous DVD release a few years ago, the Blu-ray package also comes with no features at all, so if you’re picking up the trilogy, you’re doing it strictly for the films themselves.