Jonah Hex

John Malkovich phoning it in is about the same as Megan Fox putting her all into her acting. By that I mean their respective southern accents aren’t annoying. That’s really the main lesson I learned from Jonah Hex. Well, that and how to ruin a movie with thirty seconds of animation.

The crux of the story is Quinton Turnbull (Malkovich) killing Jonah Hex’s (Josh Brolin) family then branding him and leaving him for dead.Then we have that annoying animation the renders half the plot points in the first hour of the movie redundant, draining all the tension out of the story effectively ruining the narrative.

It's probably the simplest, most cost effective way to completely ruin a movie I’ve ever seen.

The plot is pretty much from  the Will Smith Wild Wild West . Angry southerner doesn’t want United States to survive, gets his hands on a Super Weapon, powered by the dark magicks of Eli Whitney (looking like it belongs in an episode of Disney’s The Gummi Bears), and away we go.

Hex gets wind of these nefarious doings and, at the behest of an oddly sober President Grant (Aiden Quinn), he goes to stop Turnbull and his band of henchmen, including an Irish psycho (Michael Fassbender) with a Maori tattoo on his chin. There’s a few fight sequences between this Looney Potato Eater and Hex, though they’re more confusing than anything else, and of course Hex eventually gets the better of him.

Megan Fox is in this movie too, but like a vast majority of her roles, she isn’t given much to do and isn’t really relevant to the plot. People appear to cast Megan Fox to distract from their inability to write women. There are worse ways to do it, like Brian DePalma or Frank "WhoresWhoresWhores" Miller will just have them raped and/or murdered. This is what progress looks like, unfortunately. Her character, whose name escapes me, is not in anyway interesting but does have a very tiny waist.

Hex, on the other hand, is the most interesting character in this movie which is good since his name is on the title. He is kind to animals, generally polite to women and at best crass to other men when he’s not shooting them dead. Brolin gives a dogged performance as Hex, playing more or less the character he played in No Country For Old Men, but with magic powers.

The opening animation is more is less the first grievous error that brings the rest of the films flaws into glaring relief. The portrayal of Ulysess S. Grant as the President was, again, a little more sober than history would suggest, but that pales in comparison to casting Lance Reddick in something that only gives him about five minutes of screen time. I could watch two hours of him giving the "Shining up shit and calling it gold" speech from The Wire. To only have him play the Whistler to Hex’s Blade is a crime.

This movie works easily with Wild Wild West, in fact. But I warn you, you’ll come away thinking you’ve watched the same movie twice...and that it wasn't very good.

Monsters Vs. Aliens

This is precisely the sort of movie I would make if I wanted something kids could watch in awe, while the adults laugh themselves silly.

Starting out with some SETI-style researchers-who only took the job because they wouldn't have to do anything-end up having their plans foiled when they detect a U.F.O. It turns out to be a meteorite that crashes into Earth, specially on top of Susan Murphy (Reese Witherspoon), turning her into a 50-foot-tall woman.

Oh, and ruining her wedding.

In short order, the usual black helicopter goons show up and whisk Susan off to the secret government lab, where she meets all the great b-monsters of the 1950's. B.O.B the blob (Seth Rogan)-a lovable pile of sentient goo, Dr. Cockroach (Hugh Laurie)-a not-too-subtle reference to The Fly, The Missing Link (Will Arnett)-who is more Creature from the Black Lagoon than walking ape, and Insectasaurous-the requisite giant monster that resembles nothing less than the product of an unholy union of a gerbil, a puffer fish, and a ladybug. These characters are wardened by the hysterically funny Gen. W.R. Monger, played with verve by Keifer Sutherland-who, quite frankly, sounds like he wrestled a bull by the horns, took said horns, and carved them into the microphone he used to record his voice over.

Apparently the Monster crew has been sequestered for some time, only to be released when the world is accosted by the (slightly) intelligent alien warlord, Gallaxhar (Rainn Wilson ). Their mission: Defeat Gallaxhar's terrifying probe robot, then his army of very stupid clones, and finally Gallaxhar himself. I'm not really spoiling anything when I tell you they win. It's a kids movie after all. That's not really the point, it's not that they win, but how.

Full of hysterical sight gags, clever bits of dialogue ("This place is an X-file, wrapped in a cover-up and deep-fried in a paranoid conspiracy!"), a dash of satire, and a surprising number of adult contemporary hits. Phrases like "Code Nimoy! Code Nimoy!" are frequently mixed-in with references to Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Beverly Hills Cop-nevermind the fact that the entire movie is a nod to Dr. Strangelove. Even so, there's a good balance between the referential pop-culture humor and jokes that stand on their own. It doesn't hurt that the supporting voice cast is top notch as well, with Stephen ColbertPaul Rudd, and Ed Helms all contributing.

The icing on the character cake is Susan, who does the full Sarah Connor/Ellen Ripley Hero's Journey: going from delicate flower to destroyer of robots and stomper of alien ass. More importantly, she realizes she doesn't need a man to make her happy. You go, girl!

We don't do "family" movies on the Cavalcade often, but when one comes down the pike that has so many nods to the movies that inspired our love of schlocktacular cinema, we have to take a look. Fortunately, this movie's great on all levels. If you were to Cavalcade it, feel free to mix and match it with one of the fore-mentioned 50's romps, Monsters Inc., or Bolt-which has even more nods to Hollywood b-movies.