Fox's "Glee" has been the only new show this year from network TV that has made a cultural and critical impact. In this case, the acclaim is deserved. The show is fun, funny and fundamentally sweet while still dealing with real emotional problems.
Created by Ryan Murphy ("Nip/Tuck," "Popular"), the series is a fresh take on the old high-school story of jocks and cheerleaders vs. geeks. Matthew Morrison is Will, a well-meaning teacher at McKinley High School in Ohio, who gets the chance to take over the now mostly despised glee club, which was where he had his glory days in high school. The superstars at McKinley are the cheerleading squad known as the "Cheerios" run by Sue Sylvester, a fear-inducing Bobby Knight-like figure played brilliantly by Jane Lynch. Seeing glee club as a threat - because they are taking funds from her group - Sue sends a trio of Cheerios to join up and spy.
The cast includes young Broadway veteran Lea Michele as Rachel, a high-maintenance diva; Cory Monteith as Finn, the school's quarterback with a passion for singing; Kevin McHale as the wheelchair-bound Artie (the actor is not in real-life a paraplegic); Amber Riley as the overweight Mercedes with the powerful voice; and Dianna Agron as Quinn, the talented cheerleader who is pregnant.
The joy of the show are the musical-dance numbers, ballads, rockers, hip-hop and some very clever mash-ups, wonderfully performed by the talented cast. That's the setup. If you haven't seen the series, I urge you to check out "Glee, Vol. One: Road to Sectionals," which covers the first half of the season. (It returns April 13 in the timeslot following "American Idol.") By the way, "Glee" has already racked up a number of award nominations, including best ensemble comedy from the Screen Actors Guild and four from the Golden Globes (best comedy as well as individual ones for Morrison, Michele and Lynch).
The extras on the DVD box set include full-length audition pieces by Michele and Riley as well as featurettes called "Dance Boot Camp" and "Deconstructing `Glee' With Ryan Murphy."
In "Jennifer's Body," It Girl Megan Fox ("Transformers") parades in outfits suitable for Maxim magazine layouts - when they're not covered in blood, of course. Written by Oscar-winning Diablo Cody ("Juno") and directed by Karyn Kusama ("Girlfight"), the pair seem half too smart for this teen horror flick, which is neither as diabolically black as Michael Lehman's "Heathers" nor as committed to cartoonish goriness - a la, say, filmmaker Robert Rodriguez - as it needs to be.
The film begins with the line "Hell is a teenage girl," which sounds clever at first given young female hormones and all.
The line is said by "Needy," short for Anita (Amanda Seyfried of "Mamma Mia"), a sort of plain Jane (well, they try to make plain) who inexplicably is best buds forever in the small Minnesota town called Devil's Kettle with Fox's character, Jennifer, a cheerleader whose obsession with being hot. Needy is already locked up in a mental institution at the start of the film; so you know the story isn't going to go well for the two of them. It involves a satanic ritualistic sacrifice of a virgin that doesn't go as planned by a struggling indie rock band who wants to have the success of Maroon 5.
That's a joke right there
As she did in "Juno," Cody fills her characters' mouths with her own style of clever culturally hip babble. Some of it is amusing - and Cody delivers a number of zingers - but since other parts are meant to convey the vapidness of the characters, it can get a bit bothersome. The film succeeds best, though, in exploring the weird relationship between Jennifer and Needy. It is sisterly, symbiotic, sexual, sadomasochistic and simply confused. Too bad "Jennifer's Body" misses some opportunities.
Instead it opted for some tried-and-true horror-story tropes.
"Paranormal Activity" is perhaps percentage-wise the most profitable movie ever made. (Who can really tell?) This extremely low-budget thriller was something of a cultural sensation when it came out.
Using the trick of calling it amateur footage - like the more sophisticated "Cloverfield" or even "The Blair Witch Project" - it begins by thanking "the families of Micah Sloat and Katie Featherston."
It turns out that Katie had been experiencing some disturbing sensations, and Micah, armed with a new video camera, decides to record the whole thing, including hooking a rig up in their bedroom, where most of the action takes place.
Your level of belief will determine how much you buy into the film. (Personally, I'm a bit tired of the found-amateur-footage gimmick. It's too easy to rely on and an excuse for poor filmmaking.) Directed by Oren Peli at a cost of somewhere between $10,000 and $15,000 with a U.S. box office of more than $107 million, "Paranormal Activity" is reasonably good at building up suspense and tension without resorting to the usual overwrought score and creepy sounds. And if you're susceptible to ghost stories, that will help.
"9" - the numerical animated one, not the spelled-out musical - is another dystopian fantasy. From Shane Acker, whose 2005 animated short of the same name received an Oscar nomination, the film takes place in the future when humans are gone from the Earth and what is left is zippered sock-puppet-type creatures - the last one named 9 (voiced by Elijah Wood) - who have been somehow given the gift of life.
With their creator dead, 9 and the others wander the planet filled with eerie creatures, including a killer robot known as the Beast (not the most original name). The puppets fight among themselves as to what they should do. Jennifer Connelly voices the warrior 7, while Christopher Plummer is the control-minded 1; so you know where they stand.
As the tale unfolds, the mysterious origin of these magical creatures is revealed, but it doesn't make much of an impact in this sci-fi story, which sketchily follows the template of other post-apocalyptic fantasies. The film is more devoted to creating an aura of menace and its own bizarre, though at times fascinating, visual style.
Considering that Acker's mentor, Tim Burton, and Russian director Timur Bekmambetov ("Wanted") are two of the film's producers, it's not surprising. Because of its look, "9" will keep you watching, but you may not be paying attention to what it's about.