"John Dies at the End" (R, 99 minutes, Magnolia Home Entertainment): This dark comedy is a mash-up 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 20-something slackers Dave (Chase Williamson) and 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.
"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.
"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 released Tuesday
"Frontline: The Untouchables: Money, Power and Wall Street" (PBS)
"Jackie Robinson: My Story" (2003)
The Best of Warner Bros. 20 Film Collection: Romance" (22-disc box set).