Remember when a Stephen King movie was an event? Remember when a John Cusack movie was an event? Heck, the John Cusack/Stephen King movie 1408 (2007) was actually pretty badass. Here in 2016, the latest Cusack/King vehicle gets an On Demand release shortly before a limited theatrical run. Produced three years ago, this one was better off staying on the shelf, and is easily one of the worst King adaptations. Cusack, reteamed with his 1408 costar Samuel L. Jackson, plays Mike, a graphic artist estranged from his wife and son. Shortly after placing a call to them on an airport payphone, Mike witnesses cell phone users spazzing out and going into a zombie state after some sort of pulse. Director Tod Williams is utterly lost with this opportunity, making a humorless piece of horror satire wrought with lethargic performances, shoddy camerawork and terrible special effects. The origin of the “pulse” that sets off the zombie apocalypse is never fully explained, and no real villain is ever established. The ending is a confusing mishmash of three finales—as if the director couldn’t make up his mind. Cusack seems pissed to be in this thing, while Jackson is clearly bored and resigned to the fact that he signed up for a stinker. Eli Roth was the original director on this, and he left due to creative differences. Maybe he was arguing that a film like this should be crazy and even funny. This one takes itself a little too seriously, and boasts some of the worst movie editing you are likely to see this year. The career of Cusack continues to spiral out of control, Nicholas Cage style. (Available for rent on iTunes and On Demand before and during a limited theatrical release.)
4 Popstar: Never Stop Never StoppingIt’s been nine years since the comedy trio Lonely Island—Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer—made its cinematic debut with the now cult fave Hot Rod. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping gives them a chance to play in their favorite sandbox: the music world. The results are what feel like the first fully realized Lonely Island movie. Given how damn funny the movie is, let’s hope there are many more to follow. All three members of the Lonely Island contribute as writers and performers, while Taccone and Schaffer handle directing chores. The movie goes along the mockumentary route, clearly spoofing all of those bio films from the likes of Justin Bieber, the Jonas Brothers and Katy Perry. Samberg headlines as Conner 4 Real, a former member of the boy band/rap group the Style Boyz, who has gone his own way with a successful solo career. After that initial success, Conner’s latest solo album is tanking—Rolling Stone rated it a shit emoji—and his career handling has entered the panic phase. He goes on tour with an opening act that’s better than him. He gets sponsored by appliances that play his music when you operate them. And he basically sells out like a whore. A good chunk of the movie features what Lonely Island does best—silly parody songs. It’s consistently funny in a random, insanely weird kind of way.