DVD 4/15/08: Juno, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With, Lars and the Real Girl, Inside: Unrated, In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale

Juno (PG-13, 2007, Fox)
Sixteen-year-old Juno (Ellen Page) isn’t even sure she really wanted to sleep with Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera), so you’d best believe she had no designs of getting pregnant with his child. But that’s what happened, and here we are. Happily, Juno the person is determined to make the most of her predicament. So, too, is “Juno” the film, which serves notices that it’s possible to make a film about teen pregnancy that doesn’t preach, shoulder an agenda or try so hard not to preach that no one knows why it exists in the first place. “Juno” has its messages, but they’re far too personal to create any credible debate about hidden agendas. In fact, most of the energy is expended on the characters, and the film as a whole is more a product of pregnancy — which sometimes feels like an excuse to bring together such a great mix of characters — than something that revolves around it. More important than any of that, though: It’s funny, and neither cautiously nor brashly so. Rather, “Juno” is funny in that sharp but sweet way that makes you miss the characters when they’re gone. That’s something few movies in general, much less a film about a subject as touchy as this, can brag about doing. Jason Bateman, Jennifer Garner, Allison Janney, J.K. Simmons and Olivia Thirlby also star.
Extras: Writer/director commentary, deleted scenes (with commentary), bloopers, screen tests, four behind-the-scenes features, cast and crew jam (just what it sounds like).

Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (R, 2007, Image/ThinkFilm)
Frustrated executive Andy (Philip Seymour Hoffman) wants to rob an easy-target jewelry store, and he wants Hank’s (Ethan Hawke) help. That’s a nice, simple way to describe the narrative gist of “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead.” Knowing the details that hide in between would, at least partially, rob you of the enjoyment that comes from uncovering just how significant this simple turn of events really is. So you’ll read nothing more of “Dead’s” plot in this space, and are free to pursue spoilers (some of which are conveniently and annoyingly printed on the back of the DVD case) at your own peril. Fortunately, all is not lost should you enter the film pre-spoiled. Nice as the surprises are, “Dead’s” real strength is its characters. And while it’s entertaining to see where initial plot twists take you, it’s even more interesting to see where they take Andy, Hank and the rest of the film’s principal players (Albert Finney, Rosemary Harris, Marisa Tomei and Michael Shannon, among others). When so many ingredients come together so well, it takes a lot more than a few early spoilers to come way not feeling at least a little bit entertained by what happens next.
Extras: Cast/crew commentary, making-of feature.

I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With (NR, 2007, IFC Films)
Ladies, act fast. Not only is James Aaron (Jeff Garlin, who also wrote and directed) an overweight, out-of-work actor who lives with his mom (Mina Kolb), but amazingly, he’s still single as well. Not that he isn’t looking, of course: Were he not, we wouldn’t have a movie here. “I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With” lacks direction to an arguable extent, almost as if Garlin filled a notebook with scribbles and observations and repurposed it as a film about one pretty average man’s quest to find love and a good gig. Fortunately, he organized those thoughts rather well, and even when “Cheese” feels like it’s randomly meandering or changing direction for the sake of doing so, it manages to pull together a fairly coherent narrative that’s mindlessly but pleasantly enjoyable. Even more interestingly, “Cheese” employs a cast of laugh-out-loud funny actors (Sarah Silverman, Bonnie Hunt, Amy Sedaris, Richard Kind), wedges them into a production that’s more cutely amusing than laugh-out-loud funny, and makes the whole thing work anyway. Being cheerfully amusing probably is easier than being raucously funny, but the way “Cheese” constantly bends but never breaks is admirable all the same.
Extras: Garlin commentary, deleted scene (with commentary).

Lars and the Real Girl (PG-13, 2007, MGM)
It took longer than anyone expected, but Lars Lindstrom (Ryan Gosling) is in love. The bad news? He’s in love with a sex doll he purchased on the Internet. And so begins the madcap dysfunctional comedy that is “Lars and the Real Girl,” except that … wait, where’s the madcap hilarity? A few funny moments courtesy of Lars’ brother (Paul Schneider) aside, there really isn’t any. Rather, “Girl” purports to be a mostly serious and entirely heartfelt story of a dysfunctional human being, his synthetic girlfriend, and the impossibly unlikely outpouring of support from family and neighbors who struggle to accept what they’re seeing in front of them. That, incidentally, is what you must do as well. That “Girl” even manages to arguably succeed at telling such a bizarre story with such a straight face is a testament to its characters, its storytelling and an almost unparalleled gift of narrative restraint. But for everyone who buys into the fairy tale and adds “Girl” to his or her list of all-time favorite films, there will be someone who simply finds the whole thing — and in particular, the last act — too ridiculous to bear. Where will you stand? Only one way to find out, but this much is clear: You won’t soon forget seeing this one. Emily Mortimer, Patricia Clarkson and Kelli Garner also star.
Extras: Two behind-the-scenes features, deleted scene.

Inside: Unrated (NR, 2007, Dimension Extreme)
Tips on how to have a horrible winter: (1) Lose your husband and father-to-be of your child in a car crash. (2) Spend Christmas Eve heavily pregnant and alone. (3) Find out you’re no longer alone because a woman, for reasons not yet known, is at your door and trying to kill you. Welcome to the plot of “Inside,” which does for horror film fans what blowfish does for seafood aficionados. That’s because, comparatively tasteful opening aside, the blood does not stop flowing once it starts. “Inside” is a film shot on a budget, and most of the inexplicable action — which no person seemingly could survive for as long as our two stars (Alysson Paradis, Béatrice Dalle) do — takes place in the space of a few rooms. Our pursuer’s motivation is explained in time, but narrative clarity is no more a priority than logic or set piece design. Rather, “Inside” spends its money on corn syrup, red dye, and some of the sickest imagery one can expect the genre to produce. Even if you have a healthy appetite for blood and gore, “Inside” may prove too bountiful. If the end sequence doesn’t at least make you wince, call the lost and found, because you’ve lost your soul. In French with English subtitles, but an optional English dub is available.
Extra: Making-of feature.

In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale (PG-13, 2007, Fox)
Remember that time you had to go attend, out of some obligation or another, a hideously bad junior high school production of some Shakespeare play? Consider “In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale” on the same level, only with the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy instead of “Macbeth” as its inspiration. The overlying plot of “King” is inspired by the “Dungeon Siege” video games, which weren’t exactly clamoring for a film treatment in the first place. Not exactly surprisingly, what emerges is a generic mishmash of medieval and fantasy elements as seen in countless films before it. Had “King” left it at that, it might serve as passable entertainment for those who can’t get enough of such themes. But there’s also the matter of terrible dialogue, unintentionally humorous action sequences and effects that are special for all the wrong reasons. Were it not so long and weighed down by stretches of dull nothingness, “King” might be worth a rental for a “so bad it’s good” group viewing. But even on that level, it outstays its welcome by a good while. Jason Statham, John Rhys-Davies, Matthew Lillard, Ray Liotta, Ron Perlman, Leelee Sobieski and Burt Reynolds star, and it’s a serious wonder why so many well-to-do actors needed a paycheck this badly.
Extras: Deleted/extended scenes, behind-the-scenes feature.