“Jeff, Who Lives at Home”
The Duplass brothers, who specialize in quirky low-budget comedies, deliver a modestly enjoyable tale about destiny in “Jeff, Who Lives at Home” (Magnolia).
Jason Segel plays the title character, a chubby slacker who’s obsessed with connections among apparently random events. When he gets a telephone call asking for ‘Kevin,’ he sets off on a search for the meaning of the wrong number in the great scheme of things.
The adventure links him up with his estranged brother (Ed Helms), who’s concerned that his wife is having an affair and determined to find out the truth. Meanwhile their mother (Susan Sarandon) is enjoying a surprising middle-age tryst.
The movie ends with a twist that suggests that Jeff’s been right all along and leaves everybody happy.
A “Twilight Zone” tale told in lackadaisical comic style, “Jeff” lacks a solid spine but offers some incidental pleasures on the way to its New Age punch-line.
Edgar Rice Burroughs, of “Tarzan” fame, created the pulp hero “John Carter” (wide release), a Civil War veteran who’s transported to Mars, where the reduced gravity allows him to leap over tall buildings and wield a powerful punch. He becomes a hero to one of the planet’s warring tribes, saving them from the vicious conqueror who wants to enslave them.
The movie is a special-effects extravaganza, with lots of CGI critters and weird-looking spaceships to complement the fights and stunts.
But it’s impossible to enjoy the frenetic action or care about any of the characters, even the titular one played by handsome but vacuous Taylor Kitsch.
And as usual, the 3-D makes the visuals fuzzy and indistinct. Even visually this big-budget bore is a misfire.
The only thing remotely interesting about the would-be horror thriller “Silent House” (wide release) is that it was filmed in a single take, which follows the action in real time.
But all that means is that the threadbare picture, in which a girl (Elisabeth Olsen) is trapped in a shambling old house where she’s stalked by intruders (or maybe ghosts), is so visually murky that it’s often impossible to discern what’s going on.
To make matters worse, the last reel throws in a twist that makes everything we’ve been watching pretty much a lie. So the movie is a cheat as well.
This “House” is a shambles.
The latest entry in the overused “found footage” craze is “Project X” (wide release), about a high school party that turns into a hyper-destructive happening when the kids go wild.
The picture might be something more than a riot of tastelessness and stupidity if the three characters responsible for the bash had any qualities beyond being crude and annoying. Unfortunately, they don’t, and the fact that they come out of the mayhem as heroes merely adds to the insult.
“Project X” is obviously intended as an over-the-top homage to the movies of John Hughes. He must be spinning in his grave over such a tribute.
“21 Jump Street”
An earnest eighties TV cop show has been turned into a gross-out buddy action farce in “21 Jump Street” (wide release). Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star as a couple of bozo rookies assigned to pose as high school students and uncover a drug ring.
Naturally everything goes wrong – including yet another out-of-control party, though it doesn’t go quite as far as the one in “Project X.”
Hill and Tatum actually have good chemistry and get some laughs, while Ice Cube is amusing as their predictably high-strung captain.
But the script is so raunchy that it’s positively unpleasant. And the obligatory big finale – complete with car chases, gun battles and even a shockingly grim cameo by Johnny Depp, who starred in the TV series – is so sloppily choreographed that one hopes it’s intended as a parody of bad moviemaking.
But probably not.