Blu Tuesday: Slackers, Hippies and More

Another week, another great selection of Blu-rays. It’s too bad that every month isn’t as prolific as this, because it would sure make my job a whole lot easier. Although there are a few missing titles as usual (like the awful found footage comedy “Project X,” the inspirational drama “Big Miracle,” and the latest seasons of the FX comedies “Louie” and “Wilfred”), you’re not really missing anything. And on that note, let’s get started.

“Jeff, Who Lives at Home”

The so-called mumblecore movement is an interesting approach to filmmaking, because a director never really knows what kind of movie he’s going to end up with until it’s completely finished; which is probably why the Duplass brothers’ latest film is so different from what most people expected. Though it certainly had the right ingredients for a great comedy, “Jeff, Who Lives at Home” is instead a surprisingly heartfelt and meditative dramedy about the importance of family and finding one’s place in the world. It may not be as funny as advertised, but thanks to some naturalistic performances by sitcom stars Jason Segel and Ed Helms (both of whom prove perfectly adept at drama), the film still works, albeit on a whole different level. Mark and Jay Duplass have always been more interested in getting good performances out of their actors than the story, and that’s never been more evident than it is here, because without their core cast, “Jeff, Who Lives at Home” would be an absolute bore.

Blu-ray Highlight: Believe it or not, Paramount’s Blu-ray release has no bonus material whatsoever. I’m not sure how that happened, but it’s a disappointment nonetheless.

“Wanderlust”

I’ve never really understood the appeal of the David Wain-directed cult classic “Wet Hot American Summer,” so it’s no surprise that I didn’t like his latest comedy, because it feels like a more grown-up version of that film. Of course, just because the characters are more mature doesn’t mean that the humor isn’t still juvenile, and unless you’re a fan of Wain’s previous work, you probably won’t find much to laugh at here. Most of the supporting cast is wasted playing broad stereotypes that are weird just for the sake of being weird, while the script falls back on the same hippie clichés that we’ve seen many times before. Justin Theroux is one of the few actors who doesn’t completely embarrass himself as the alpha hippie who takes a liking to Jennifer Aniston’s closeted free spirit, and Paul Rudd has a few moments of improv genius, but it’s not enough. Though the film shows some promise early on, “Wanderlust” stalls out almost as soon as Rudd and Aniston’s characters arrive at the commune, and once Wain backs himself into that corner, it’s a lost cause.

Blu-ray Highlight: The making-of featurette “God Afton!” does a pretty good job of balancing the generic EPK-style material (like a breakdown of all the major characters and actors) with more detailed bits on things like Joe Lo Truglio’s prosthetic penis, turning Justin Theroux into a master guitarist, and the many stunts involved in the film.

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Coming Soon: A Moviegoer’s Guide to March

Springtime is finally here, and as the weather starts to get a little better, so does your choice of movies. Though March wasn’t always known as a month where you could score big at the box office, Zack Snyder’s “300” changed all that, and since then, the studios have been more open to releasing some of their higher profile films in an attempt to cash in on the pre-summer excitement. If it’s big-budget epics you’re after, or just a great comedy anchored by some big names, then you’ll want to continue reading.

“BEING FLYNN”

Who: Robert De Niro, Paul Dano, Olivia Thirlby and Julianne Moore
What: While working in a Boston homeless shelter, Nick Flynn re-encounters his estranged father, a con man and self-proclaimed poet.
When: March 2nd
Why: This is the kind of film that you’d normally expect to see during awards season, which is what makes Focus Features’ decision to release it in March so refreshing. Of course, it could just mean that the movie simply isn’t good enough to be Oscar bait, but with actors like Robert De Niro and Paul Dano involved, it seems pretty unlikely. Based on playwright Nick Flynn’s memoir, “Another Bullshit Night in Suck City” (a great book title, but hardly one that rolls off the tongue when buying a ticket at the movie theater), “Being Flynn” might just be the film that finally gets De Niro’s acting career back on track. If nothing else, it’s great to see Paul Weitz directing some much headier material following the dreadful “Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant” and “Little Fockers.”

“JOHN CARTER”

Who: Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Willem Dafoe, Dominic West and Mark Strong
What: After a Civil War veteran is inexplicably transported to Mars, he becomes mixed up in a conflict amongst the habitants of the planet.
When: March 9th
Why: I had never even heard of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ series of pulp fantasy novels when a “John Carter” movie was first rumored a few years ago as a possible directing project for Jon Favreau, but after seeing the initial trailer, I was sold. It’s been awhile since a sci-fi epic has come along that actually looks the part, and a lot of that credit goes to Andrew Stanton, who, although he’s best known for directing Pixar hits like “Finding Nemo” and “Wall-E,” is following in the footsteps of colleague Brad Bird with his live-action debut. While it will be interesting to see what Stanton can do outside the realm of animation, however, the film’s success will ultimately depend on whether Taylor Kitsch can prove to be the action star that Hollywood is betting on him to become.

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