Hand It to Him
The Science of Sleep
Feature films are to video directors what sitcoms are to stand-up comedians, and for every David Fincher and Seinfeld, there are dozens of artists who should have stayed in the field they know best. Michel Gondry, who made his name directing fantastic videos for the White Stripes, Foo Fighters, and Björk, is not a bad feature director, but his movies feel as though you could take all the cool parts, dub a little music over the words, and not lose anything. The Science of Sleep, about a young man whose real life and dream life merge, is no different. In the dreamier scenes, gorgeous stop-motion animation and knit animals and general weirdness abound. But Gondry’s visual genius makes his movies feel deeper than they are. There’s nothing wrong with eye candy, but it’s a shame when it masquerades as something else. — Jordan Harper
Eddie Murphy: Delirious
Eddie Murphy, now trapped between possible Oscar win and equally likely Norbit forfeit, was never better than he was in this 1983 stand-up special — and never worse, if you find yourself choking on the “faggot” jokes and AIDS gags that, then and especially now, revealed a young man’s ignorance and arrogance. Delirious, sadly, isn’t as brilliant as you might have recalled; the Mr. T anal sex routine and James Brown and Stevie Wonder impressions are too worn out to hold up. (Though there is no denying that the red-leather getup, which he sweats and swears through, remains a thing of beauty.) Don’t be fooled by the promise of bonus material either; there are but two outtakes, both pointless (though perhaps revealing) rants at the audience. — Robert Wilonsky
The Amazing Screw-On Head
At 22 minutes, it’s hard to rationalize a good reason to purchase this animated goof-out from Mike Mignola, creator of Hellboy — well, except that it’s genius. A bit of Pythonesque lunacy, based on a Mignola comic and retaining his crudely beautiful artwork, it stars Paul Giamatti (no, seriously) as the voice of the title character, a sort of spy-catching Iron Pipsqueak in the employ of Abraham Lincoln. The Prez calls upon Screw-On Head to save America (“by which I mean, the world”) from the evil Emperor Zombie (David Hyde Pierce), Screw-On Head’s former manservant, who stole from him the Love of His Life, Patience (Molly Shannon), now a member of the living dead. In other words, it’s deadpan nonsense — a love triangle starring a zombie, robot, and vampire, featuring an Honest Abe who says things like “We’re dealing with undead perversions of the only woman you ever loved.” Like I said, genius.
— Robert Wilonsky
Hellboy Animated: Sword of Storms
Hellboy’s turned into a bad game of telephone. The original Mike Mignola comic was brilliant, not only for its hero — a spawn of hell raised by humans to kick demon ass — but also in the stark lines and bold colors of its art. The film based on the comic captured much of the original’s eerie beauty and humor. But the cartoon based on the movie based on the comic? Not so much. The wit is still here, as are the voice talents of Ron Perlman and Selma Blair. But there’s no chills, thanks mostly to the humdrum animation. A doc reveals that the producers were forbidden to cop Mignola’s original style — a strange decree, to say the least. The less said about the included comic, based on the cartoon based on the movie based on the comic, the better.
— Jordan Harper