Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

DVDs in Brief - February 4, 2009

A.V. Club Staff
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It's been 15 years since Clerks, but maturity continues to elude Kevin Smith on every level—his scripts are undisciplined and juvenile, his direction merely adequate, and his themes still pitched to the fanboys who have exalted him from the beginning. Zack And Miri Make A Porno (Weinstein) isn't a great leap forward by any means—in many respects, it's about trying to square his brand of crude-but-sweet comedy with Judd Apatow's—but Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks, as roomies who shoot a homemade porn video to pay the rent, lend the film surprising emotional resonance…

Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist (Sony), sets a pair of appealing stars—Michael Cera and Kat Dennings—loose in an indie-rock-saturated New York for a night of mishaps and romance. Sadly, it's more like Adventures In Babysitting than After Hours or Before Sunrise, with little of the charm of the director's debut, Raising Victor Vargas. It's pleasant enough, but it has the unmistakable scent of a missed opportunity…

There's nothing particularly exciting about the bestselling-book adaptation The Secret Life Of Bees (Fox); it's the kind of warm, feel-good, Lifetime-ready plugger that costs $10 million and makes $30 million, which ensures that similar films will keep getting made. A reasonably credible cast presides over the toothless story of an abused white kid (Dakota Fanning) who finds a nurturing home among black sisters in '60s South Carolina, with only a few tasteful hints of racial tension getting in the way…

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If the CGI sequel Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (DreamWorks) could be given human form, the result would be a dim-witted drool factory who spends most days on the couch; it's that lazy, bloated, and pointless. The first Madagascar featured some fun moments; the sequel idly repeats them all at length, amid a lot of loud, irritating nonsense…

Alan Rickman is reaching Christopher Walken levels of skill at being the only great thing in a mediocre movie. For instance, in the formless Bottle Shock (Fox), the based-on-reality story of the first great international triumph of the California wine scene, he perks up every scene in which he appears as a clueless wine snob. That still can't save a movie that's too hung up on unnecessary detail and random diversions to provide strong, appealing characters instead of quirky ones.

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