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' John Dies at the End'

1 1/2 stars = Bad
Ratings explained

Adapted from the cult horror novel favorite by David Wong, "John Dies at the End" is about two slackers who stumble across an inter-dimensional conspiracy by monsters seeking entry to our world via a black viscous street drug called Soy Sauce.

In short, it's a terrible movie.

John (Rob Mayes) and David (Chase Williamson) are the smirking heroes who stand between Earth and an invasion by demonic spider-like beings. The two characters, who are nearly indistinguishable in terms of looks and personality, have to pull what's left of their senses together to avert encroaching doom.

David turns to Arnie (Paul Giamatti), a skeptical writer with his far-fetched narrative about Soy Sauce, mind-reading Rastas and inter-dimensional beings. Mr. Giamatti turns in one of the film's nuanced performances, but it isn't enough.

For his part, John spends the bulk of the film stoned on Soy Sauce and blathering on about things happening out of chronological time. We never truly get a sense of what he's about or why we should care whether he lives or dies as the title of the movie promises.

Written and directed by Don Coscarelli, "John Dies at the End" has a few funny stretches and at least two genuinely good performances by veteran actors that almost convince you that sitting through 100 minutes of mostly excruciating glibness isn't a complete waste of time.

Somehow, it made it into the Sundance, Toronto, SXSW and AFI film festivals, begging the question: Are there no standards to which flashy young directors are held anymore?

The extras include a commentary, deleted scenes, making-of featurette, special effects short and more.

-- Post-Gazette

' Hemingway & Gellhorn'

2 stars = Mediocre
Ratings explained

This over-the-top cable production looks at the relationship between Ernest Hemingway (Clive Owen) and Martha Gellhorn (Nicole Kidman) that plays out against the back drop of war.

Ms. Kidman seems a little bored despite playing one of the most significant war correspondents of the 20th century, who also was the third wife of Hemingway from 1940-45. It's surprising the performance is so off base because the relationship between Gelhorn and Hemingway was born in the heat of war and fanned by the passion they had for writing and each other.

Part of the problem is that Mr. Owen seems equally dispassionate in his portrayal of Hemingway.

-- Rick Bentley, McClatchy Newspapers

' Dirk Gently'

3 stars = Good
Ratings explained

This quirky detective series from the BBC falls somewhere between the weirdness of "Psych" and the sleuthing of "Elementary," with a dash of insanity only Douglas Adams ("The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy") can bring. This is the first time the four-part series has been available to American audiences.

Stephen Mangan ("Episodes") plays Dirk Gently, a holistic detective who bases his investigations on the idea that nothing happens randomly and everything in the universe is connected. This concept and a unique plot device in the first episode reflect the kind of out-there thinking that made Mr. Adams so popular.

It's one thing to be weird. It takes just the right actor to make it work. Mr. Mangan is brilliant as he makes you at times think Gently is nothing more than a con man, but he shows the complication of the character as he reveals the brilliance of how Gently's mind works. He makes this different kind of detective funny, sweet and often annoying -- but always entertaining.

-- Rick Bentley

' Planet Ocean'

This documentary, directed by Yann Arthus-Bertrand and Michael Pitiot, was made with a team of renowned international underwater cinematographers in partnership with OMEGA and with the scientific support of Tara Expeditions. The film aims to explain some of the planet's greatest natural mysteries, while reinforcing how essential it is that mankind learns to live in harmony with the oceans.

-- The Washington Post


• "Hello, Dolly!": Gene Kelly directed this movie musical starring Barbra Streisand and Walter Matthau.

• "Route 66: The Complete Fourth Season": TV drama about two buddies (Martin Milner, Glenn Corbett) who find adventure on the open road.

• "Cheyenne: The Complete Fifth Season": Clint Walker stars in this TV Western.

• "Nova: Rise of the Drones": A look at the technologies that make drones so powerful.

• "Knuckleball": Documentary that delves into the subculture of the knuckleball and the brotherhood of men who throw baseball's most mysterious pitch.

• "Tormented": Director Takashi Shimizu takes a look into childhood fears.

• "Kristen Schaal: Live at the Fillmore": Concert performance by the stand-up comedian.

"• Jackie Robinson: My Story": First-person docudrama that blends historic footage with a dramatic portrayal of Robinson by actor Stephen Hill.

• "Frontline: The Untouchables: Money, Power and Wall Street": Martin Smith investigates why the U.S. Department of Justice has failed to act on credible evidence that Wall Street knowingly packaged and sold toxic mortgage loans to investors.

• "13 Eerie": Six forensic undergrads battle zombie convicts. Brendan Fehr stars.

-- Rick Bentley, McClatchy Newspapers


First Published April 4, 2013 4:00 AM


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