DVD Tuesday: ‘Crazies’ and ‘Hot Tub Time Machine’

by W. Andrew Powell

Timothy Olyphant and Radha Mitchell in The Crazies

Timothy Olyphant and Radha Mitchell in The Crazies

New this week on home video: Timothy Olyphant tries to survive a town of infected killers in The Crazies; John Cusack goes on a wild ride through the eighties in Hot Tub Time Machine; Paul Bettany plays Charles Darwin in the drama, Creation; and a look at Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief.

The Crazies
Starring: Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell, Danielle Panabaker, Joe Anderson
Director: Breck Eisner

Rated: 8/10

Zombies are scary, but there is something even more horrifying about regular people infected with a disease that turns them into monsters capable of inhumane, brutal acts of murder.

Based somewhat loosely on George A. Romero’s classic 1973 horror thriller, Breck Eisner’s The Crazies is the story of a tiny town in Iowa that finds itself overrun with plague victims who turn insane and start killing everyone in sight.

With the military called in to shoot survivors, whether they’re infected or not, as a means to keep the contamination from spreading, a small group of uninfected people try to find a way to survive as the population increasingly turns ultra-violent.

Timothy Olyphant leads the cast as Sheriff David Dutton, a stead-fast do-gooder who quickly uncovers the strange clues that suggest the government is behind the terrible events in his small town. Rounded up by the military, David is separated from his wife, played by Radha Mitchell, who is singled out as one of the infected. Although David could easily just walk away form the town, when the opportunity presents itself he sneaks back to rescue his wife and another way to escape the doomed town.

Co-starring Joe Anderson as Deputy Russell, The Crazies is a solid action-horror film that puts great use to Romero’s original story, while somewhat reinventing it for this era. Much of the original theme though, including the fear of disease, and the inhumane acts of a terrible government, needed little updating. After all the real-life viral outbreaks around the world, and the modern image of the U.S. government, The Crazies is just as relevant today as it was in 1973, and once again shows the genius of Romero’s stories.

From the opening strains of Johnny Cash singing “We’ll Meet Again,” to Olyphant’s grim portrayal of a nearly shattered hero, The Crazies is a chilling horror film that is incredibly entertaining, and even a little thought-provoking. The DVD package also comes with a number of above-average making-of featurettes, including a detailed look at the story, the makeup, plus an awesome tribute to Romero’s films over the years.

Hot Tub Time Machine
Starring: John Cusack, Crispin Glover, Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson, Lizzy Caplan, Sebastian Stan, Cornelius Crane Chase, Lyndsy Fonseca
Director: Steve Pink

Rated: 7/10

Hot Tub Time Machine is one of those rare movies that can almost be summed up completely by its title. With tongue-in-cheek appeal, the film is everything you could hope for in a far out comedy, complete with a fun cast headed by John Cusack, and a plot that has brainless hijinks written all over it.

Cusack is Adam, an average guy on vacation with his best friends, who have all become a little bit bored with their lives. Between their problems, including a controlling wife, the video game junkie who never leaves his basement, and a party animal with no parties to go to, the group of men have seen better days, at least until they discover that there’s a hot tub at the dilapidated ski resort where they’re vacationing.

Little do they realize until the next day though that the hot tub was actually a time machine.

After a drunken night, where they end up in said hot tub, the group of guys are transported back to 1986. Appearing to everyone around them as their younger selves, the guys initially take some time getting used to the idea and worry that they shouldn’t change the future, but once they realize they can do anything, they wonder if they can make their future selves a little happier.

Co-starring Rob Corddry as Lou, Craig Robinson as Nick, and Clark Duke as Jacob, Hot Tub Time Machine is a raucous, slapstick farce peppered with random humour and just a little gross-out comedy.

It’s the best of all things screwball and actually plays out like some of the funnier comedies from the eighties.

Hot Tub Time Machine is a lot of fun, and while it’s not for everyone, the DVD is worth renting at the very least.

Starring: Paul Bettany, Jennifer Connelly, Toby Jones, Jeremy Northam
Director: Jon Amiel

Rated: 5/10

Charles Darwin is a monumental figure in the scientific world. His theories on evolution helped shape the modern study of biology, and it seems almost overdue that a modern film should look at his exploits.

With Paul Bettany as Darwin and Bettany’s wife Jennifer Connelly as Darwin’s wife, Emma, the film explores some of the theological and political problems that plagued the scientist throughout the earlier years of his life.

Struggling with his daughter’s failing health, and eventual death, Darwin is ultimately torn between religion and science as he attempts to finish his book, “The Origin of Species”, which has been in progress for a number of years. While Emma is very religious, she is still supportive of her husband, but they both realize the implications of Darwin’s research and what it will undoubtedly mean for the church.

Haunted by images of his daughter, Darwin’s research, while exhilarating and life-consuming, is causing him to question how he can go forward before God if he were to finally reveal what he has discovered. The memory of his daughter also causes him unending grief, making him second-guess whether he should release his research at all.

Directed by Jon Amiel, best known for his films Entrapment and The Core, Creation aims to be a potently interesting biopic as it mashes Darwin’s psychological state against his scientific reasoning, but more commonly the film meanders into unfortunate clichés.

The film is randomly engaging, but it fails to energize what could have been an unquestionably interesting story. Amiel’s clumsy attempts at wringing emotion from these characters can only be called ham-fisted missteps, and the overall flow of the film is jumbled and messy as we jump back and forth through Darwin’s life.

Perhaps a straightforward approach to the story would have been dull, but it felt like the film was confusing, more than it was being clever. Something that utterly tainted by interpretation of the film and its story.

Performances in the film are generally quite good though, particularly Bettany and Connelly, who were both deeply invested in the darker parts of the story. Co-stars Toby Jones and Jeremy Northam also stand out, as does Martha West as the young daughter, Annie.

Creation fumbles around at times, and misses big opportunities, but it’s not a terrible film, it just far from what I would call a potent drama.

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief
Starring: Logan Lerman, Uma Thurman, Pierce Brosnan, Sean Bean
Director: Chris Columbus

Lastly, from director Chris Columbus comes the adaptation of Rick Riordan’s popular teen adventure novels about a teenager named Percy Jackson, who happens to be related to the Olympian god, Poseidon.

With the gods feuding once again, and a war brewing on Olympus, Percy must train to use his newfound powers so he can protect the planet from the wrath of the gods. Teaming up with another demigod, as well as a satyr, Percy must enter portals to visit both Mount Olympus, and the Underworld, if he intends to save the day.

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