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posted: 3/30/2013 5:01 AM

DVD preview: 'John Dies at the End'

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The Washington Post

Coming April 2

"John Dies at the End" (R, 99 minutes, Magnolia Home Entertainment): This dark comedy is a mashup of grindhouse gore, film-noir narration and a headache-inducing sci-fi premise about a drug that opens a portal to a parallel universe inhabited by evil creatures bent on human destruction. Framed as a series of flashbacks related to a skeptical reporter (Paul Giamatti), "John Dies at the End" is the story of what happens when twenty-something slackers Dave (Chase Williamson) and his friend John (Rob Mayes) discover a drug called "soy sauce," which forever alters their senses and perception of reality. It has the kind of hipster humor familiar to fans of "Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie," with a midnight-movie vibe. Adapted by writer-director Don Coscarelli from Jason Pargin's 2007 comic horror novel, "John Dies at the End" is not for everyone. Yet even those who can appreciate its satire of/homage to genre movies may tire of its broad approach. Contains obscenity, violence, gore, and sexual and drug content. Extras: Commentary with Williamson, Mayes, Coscarelli and producer Brad Baruh; deleted scenes; making-of featurette; special effects short; casting sessions; Fangoria interview with Giamatti.

"Hemingway & Gellhorn" (unrated, HBO): Intending to re-create the torrid romance between two of the 20th century's most talented writers, this fanciful but slapdash movie instead portrays a couple who engaged in a decade or so of grudge sex, using civil wars and populist uprisings as their preferred marital aids. Clive Owen and Nicole Kidman star as Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn, two people who couldn't get turned on unless guerrilla forces were advancing over a nearby hill. There's also David Strathairn as a haughtily righteous John Dos Passos and Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich as propagandizing filmmaker Joris Ivens. There's plenty of scenery to be gnawed on, and Owen in particular has fun gnawing on it. But "Hemingway & Gellhorn," directed by Philip Kaufman ("The Unbearable Lightness of Being") from a script by Jerry Stahl and Barbara Turner, is overly enamored with its ridiculous sense of sweep. Extras: commentary with Kaufman and editor Walter Murch, and making-of and visual effects featurettes.

"Planet Ocean" (unrated, Universal): This documentary, directed by Yann Arthus-Bertrand and Michael Pitiot, was made with a team of renowned international underwater cinematographers in partnership with OMEGA and with the scientific support of Tara Expeditions. The film aims to explain some of the planet's greatest natural mysteries, while reinforcing how essential it is that mankind learns to live in harmony with the oceans.

Also: "Frontline: The Untouchables: Money, Power and Wall Street" (PBS), "Jackie Robinson: My Story" (2003), "Knuckleball," "The Kick" (2011, Thailand/South Korea), "The Best of Warner Bros. 20 Film Collection: Romance" (22-disc box set from Warner Home Video), "The Sweeney," "Charlie: A Toy Story" (Dove-approved family film), "American Masters Philip Roth: Unmasked" (PBS), "Forbidden Woman," "Earth's Final Hours" (Syfy channel feature), "Tormented" (2011, Japan) and "A Turtle's Tale 2: Sammy's Escape From Paradise."

Television series: "The Bible" (History channel miniseries), "Dirk Gently" (2010-12, BBC) and "Route 66: The Complete Fourth Season" (1963-64).

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