This Week In DVD & Blu-Ray: Paranormal Activity, 9, Jennifer's Body, A Perfect Getaway, And More

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This Week in DVD & Blu-ray is a column that compiles all the latest info regarding new DVD and Blu-ray releases, sales, and exclusive deals from stores including Target, Best Buy and Fry's.Rent ItPARANORMAL ACTIVITY

Costing only $15,000 to make, Paranormal Activity makes up for what it lacks in budget with pure ingenuity. The most obvious comparison is naturally The Blair Witch Project, with both films being presented as if they were genuine footage that's been discovered after-the-fact. Where Paranormal Activity shines though, is its setting: a house. Not a forest, not an isolated mansion—a normal, everyday house. When it comes to fearing a supernatural presence, there's no place people feel more vulnerable than their own home. Paranormal Activity takes advantage of this, and uses subtle filmmaking tricks to slowly ratchet up the tension as night after night goes by. I can fully understand why somebody would find the experience terrifying. I, however, did not. Though I certainly appreciate the film, and admire it for the incredible success that it's found, Paranormal Activity might just be one of the least scary horror films I have ever seen, and that's an issue that no amount of admiration or appreciation can cure. I get the distinct impression that those who found the movie frightening are people who went into it with a built-in apprehension of ghosts, which would certainly explain why it did nothing for me. I consider myself a total pansy when it comes to most forms of horror–I nearly pissed myself in terror when I saw The Grudge in theaters—but any movie that relies on my real life fear of the supernatural isn't likely to garner much of a response. If you don't share that problem, then you should only see Paranormal Activity if you're prepared to stay awake every night for the next two weeks.

Blu-ray? Yes.Notable Extras: DVD – An alternate ending. Blu-ray – Includes everything on the DVD, as well as a digital copy.

BEST DVD PRICE Target Best Buy Fry's $15.99 $16.99 $15.77 Amazon – $15.99
BEST BLU-RAY PRICE Target Best Buy Fry's $24.99 $24.99 N/A Amazon – $24.99


Most of what made Shane Acker's Academy Award-nominated short film 9 so compelling remains intact in its transition to the big screen. It's the new material—or lack thereof—that drags the film down. Over the course of a 10-minute, dialogue-free period, the world that Acker had crafted for his short provided just enough originality and intrigue to make for an engaging, moody and mysterious experience. The first 10 minutes of the feature adaptation are much the same, and that's because, well, they're pretty much the same. After the film's effectively bleak and ominous opening sequence, the characters start talking, and it all goes to hell. With stiff dialogue that sounds better suited for an '80s Saturday morning cartoon and characters devoid of any unique personality traits (or even any interesting unoriginal ones, for that matter), it's nearly to impossible to care about anything that happens in 9, regardless of the inventive, visually-captivating world that the characters inhabit. Add to that, not much actually happens over the course of the film's 80-minute runtime. Strong visuals can only take you so far, right? 9 certainly puts that question to the test.

Blu-ray? Yes.Notable Extras: DVD – Commentary with writer/director Shane Acker, animation director Joe Ksander, head of story Ryan O'Loughlin and editor Nick Kenway, 9 – The Original Short, and 3 featurettes ("9 – The Long and the Short of It", "The Look of 9", "Acting Out"). Blu-ray – Includes everything on the DVD, as well as an "On Tour with Shane Acker" featurette.

BEST DVD PRICE Target Best Buy Fry's $17.99 $16.99 $15.77 Amazon – $16.99
BEST BLU-RAY PRICE Target Best Buy Fry's $24.99 $24.99 N/A Amazon – $24.99


Say what you will about Diablo Cody, but you cannot accuse her of lacking diversity in her project output. Immediately following her scribing of an Academy Award-winning dramedy screenplay about teen pregnancy, she attempted to tackle two distinctly different beasts: a TV series about a wife and mother suffering from dissociative identity disorder, and a horror-comedy about a possessed high school cheerleader who eats boys. A for effort, Cody, but your horror-comedy kind of stinks. Not to say that Cody is entirely at fault for this one—her script yields a number of failed attempts to retain the hip lingo featured so prominently in Juno, but it's primarily the direction by Karyn Kusama that falters. Kusama just cannot get a handle on either the horror or the comedy, and the end result is a movie that does neither particularly well. I respect what Cody was attempting to achieve in regards to using Jennifer's demonic possession and relationship with not-so-popular best friend Needy acting as a metaphor for that strangely acidic bond that high school girl BFFs share, but with an ending that produces more awkward laughter than any sort of emotional response, Kusama fumbles that theme as well. In defense of the film though, I will concede that, by B-horror movie standards, Cody's script imbues it with enough freshness to make for an easy watch. Just keep your expectations low.

Blu-ray? Yes.Notable Extras: DVD – Theatrical and extended cuts of the film, as well a commentary with director Karyn Kusama, and a commentary with both director Karyn Kusama and writer Diablo Cody. Blu-ray – Includes everything on the DVD, as well as 6 deleted scenes, video diaries, featurettes ("Jennifer's Body: The Dead Pool", "Megan Fox Is HOT", "Megan Fox Peer Pressure PSA", "Fox Movie Channel Presents 'Life After Film School' With Writer Diablo Cody"), a gag reel, and a digital copy of the extended cut.

BEST DVD PRICE Target Best Buy Fry's $14.99 $15.99 $15.77 Amazon – $14.99
BEST BLU-RAY PRICE Target Best Buy Fry's $24.99 $22.99 N/A Amazon – $22.99

A PERFECT GETAWAYWARNING: If you haven't seen any of the trailers or TV spots for A Perfect Getaway, then the below paragraph may be considered spoilery...

5 minutes and 6 seconds. That's how long it took for me to figure out the ending to A Perfect Getaway. Any other attentive viewers are likely to do the same, which creates a substantial problem for the film, considering that it spends its first two acts smugly announcing how clever it is. You see, one of the characters is a screenwriter, and this leads to full-on conversations about the variety of tropes one would likely use when writing a thriller. Hey, aren't we watching a thriller? What a crazy coincidence! These self-referential moments are so intrusive and distracting that it often feels like the characters are actively breaking the fourth wall. It's not as though this device can't be implemented in a more nuanced fashion, as Christopher Nolan did exactly that in The Prestige. But writer/director David Twohy, as talented as he is, is no Christopher Nolan. That's not to suggest that the film is a total loss, since it's actually rather fun to work out the endless dual meanings of the scenes and the characters' dialogue. I've read complaints that the twist doesn't make sense with how certain scenes played out previously, but those complaints are false—if you think a scene doesn't make sense, you're misinterpreting it. The twist is equally satisfying in that it doesn't simply amount to a dull expository flashback sequence, instead providing an added layer of complexity to the characters that effectively gels with all previously revealed character/plot exposition. It also sets the stage for an ultra-violent third act that Twohy pulls off beautifully, with the few silly moments being overshadowed by some very creative and suspenseful sequences. Special mention should also be made of Timothy Olyphant, without whom this film would have likely fallen apart. His badass, charming-as-all-hell demeanor is what keeps the dialogue-heavy first two acts engaging, and he was also the only character that I found myself fully invested in by the time the film came to its end.

Blu-ray? Yes.Notable Extras: DVD – Theatrical (1 hour 38 minutes) and director's cut (1 hour 48 minutes) editions of the film. Blu-ray – Includes everything on the DVD, as well as the Original Scripted Ending.

BEST DVD PRICE Target Best Buy Fry's $19.99 $17.99 $15.77 Amazon – $17.99
BEST BLU-RAY PRICE Target Best Buy Fry's $29.99 $26.99 N/A Amazon – $26.99


The other of Diablo Cody's two most recent post-Juno efforts, United States of Tara fares much better than the lackluster Jennifer's Body. Cody took what easily could've devolved into a cartoonishly over-the-top show about a wacky personality-changing housewife who's always getting into trouble, and turned it into a surprisingly moving glimpse into the life of a family forced to contend with some truly bizarre circumstances. As broadly imagined as the alternate personalities themselves are, Toni Collette somehow instills in each of them just the right balance of quirk and believability. Without her performance to anchor the series, I suspect it would've ended in failure. As vital to the show as Collette is though, she would be nothing without the characters that surround her, and Diablo Cody thrives here as well. With United States of Tara she has crafted a truly vivid family dynamic, filling it with distinctive, fully-realized characters, each of whom has their own set of engaging issues to contend with. My only real complaint of the show is that it seems to lack forward momentum. Cody takes her sweet time building up the story, and at only 30 minutes an episode, she doesn't make much room for plot progression. By the end of the season, I was somewhat underwhelmed by how little had actually transpired.

Blu-ray? No.Notable Extras: Audio Commentary by Diablo Cody and Jill Soloway, and two featurettes ("Sitting Down with Diablo Cody", "Meet Toni Collette").

BEST DVD PRICE Target Best Buy Fry's $26.99 $29.99 $27.77 Amazon – $26.99

Skip ItGLEE (SEASON 1, VOL. 1)

It pains me to put Glee in the "Skip it" section. Let me be clear: the show is gold, this DVD release is not. Obviously a cash grab by Fox, this Vol. 1 set contains only the first 13 episodes of the season, while the full first season set is planned for a release sometime in mid-2010. I'll save my thoughts on the show until then.

Blu-ray? No.Notable Extras: Director's cut of the pilot episode, exclusive behind-the-scenes featurettes, and audition videos from the cast.

BEST DVD PRICE Target Best Buy Fry's $24.99 $26.99 $23.77 Amazon – $24.99

Other noteworthy DVD (and Blu-ray) releases this week...CarriersVampire Killers – The Marine 2 [DVD / Blu-ray] – Facing AliThe SpecialsNOTE: Some deals may be in-store only.$12.99 – Arrested Development (Season 1 – 3)$14.99 – 24 (Season 1 – 6), How I Met Your Mother (Season 1 – 4), Family Guy (Vol. 1 – 7)$17 – True Blood (Season 1), Dexter (Season 3), The Office (Season 5)$17.99 – Mad Men (Season 2), Battlestar Galactica (Season 4.5), House (Season 1 – 5), Weeds (Season 1 – 4), Heroes (Season 3), Psych (Season 3), Monk (Season 7)$19.99 – Sons of Anarchy (Season 1), The Simpsons (Season 12), Nip/Tuck (Season 5 pt. 2)$9.99 – Sex and the City (Season 1 – 6)$17 – Blu-ray sale: The Hangover, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Public Enemies, Terminator Salvation$8.99 – Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, The Hangover$11.99 – Terminator Salvation$15.99 – The Office (Season 5), House (Season 5)$16.99 – The West Wing (Season 1 – 7)$17.99 – Battlestar Galactica (Season 4.5), Friday Night Lights (Season 3), Heroes (Season 3), Monk (Season 7)$18.99 – It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (Season 4)$19.99 – Fringe (Season 1), Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (Season 2), Dexter (Season 1)$24.99 – Star Wars: Clone Wars (Season 1)$24.99 – Blu-ray sale: True Blood (Season 1)$29.99 – Blu-ray sale: Fringe (Season 1), Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (Season 2)$3.49 – Constantine, Empire Records, Mystic River, Ben-Hur, All the President's Men, Rumble in the Bronx, Menace II Society, Absolute Power, Heartbreak Ridge, City Heat, New Jack City, The Exorcist, Frequency, The Witches of Eastwick, Thirteen Ghosts, Dave, City by the Sea, Action Jackson, Bed of Roses