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Blu Tuesday: Time Travel, Fantasy Girls and Dirty Politics

Movie fans have plenty to look forward to this week with plenty of great titles arriving on Blu-ray. And it’s not just limited to the films featured below, either, because Criterion is releasing the horror classic “Rosemary’s Baby” for the first time on the format, and Universal’s “Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection” is finally coming to stores.

“Safety Not Guaranteed”

“Safety Not Guaranteed” is an amalgamation of everything that’s great about independent filmmaking – from its hugely original script to its wonderful cast of characters – but the one thing that it does better than anything else is create a cinematic experience that’s rich in both comedy and emotion. A lot of movies have tried to juggle the two in the past, but Colin Trevorrow’s directorial debut is one of those rare few that actually pulls it off. Though it can technically be described as a time travel movie, “Safety Not Guaranteed” is more about the characters’ relationships than the veracity of its sci-fi premise, and that’s thanks to Derek Connolly’s excellent script and the fantastic cast. All four actors click really well as a group, but they also deliver some great individual performances, especially Aubrey Plaza, who proves that she can do more than spout witty one-liners and mug for the camera. Though the movie didn’t enjoy as much success in theaters as it did on the festival circuit, it’s hands down one of the funniest and most sincere films I’ve seen all year.

Blu-ray Highlight: It’s not much, but “A Movie Making Mission” provides some good insight into the making of the film, with interviews from director Colin Trevorrow and the cast discussing the movie’s origin, shooting certain scenes and the time machine.

“The Campaign”

It’s been a while since Will Ferrell starred in a comedy that really made me laugh, and Zach Galifianakis isn’t as funny as his popularity would suggest, but “The Campaign” is better than I expected, even if it never fully takes advantage of its promising setup. The movie walks a fine line between silly and stupid, and although it veers into the latter far too often, it’s no surprise why director Jay Roach cast the two comedians, because they excel at playing these types of buffoonish characters. The film’s real MVP, however, is Dylan McDermott, who does more with a single look or line of dialogue than what Ferrell and Galifianakis are able to achieve in an entire scene. The duo still earns its share of laughs with their usual shtick, but while the movie’s goofball tone is successful to some degree, “The Campaign” would have worked even better as an edgier, darker comedy in the same vein as Alexander Payne’s “Election.” Roach has even had some success in recent years with the HBO election dramas “Recount” and “Game Change,” so it seems strange that he was afraid to push any boundaries here, because it was a big missed opportunity.

Blu-ray Highlight: There’s nothing of note worth discussing, but the two-disc effort does include an extended cut of the film, a handful of deleted scenes and a gag reel.

“Ruby Sparks”

It’s been six years since Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris’ directorial debut “Little Miss Sunshine” took Hollywood by storm, and people were beginning to wonder whether the filmmaking duo would end up becoming just another one-hit wonder. The dreaded second album syndrome is something that haunts artists working in any medium, so it’s curious that Dayton and Faris decided to approach the subject head-on by making a film about that very thing. It may seem a bit presumptuous of Zoe Kazan to write the movie with herself and long-time boyfriend Paul Dano in mind for the lead roles, but it’s evident pretty early on that the two actors have great chemistry. Dano continues to impress in his second outing with Dayton and Faris, while Kazan, although solid as the title character, deserves more kudos for her debut screenplay, creating a charming and mostly original love story that doesn’t always go in the direction you’re expecting. Though it was only inevitable that “Ruby Sparks” would be compared to “Little Miss Sunshine,” the movie is a clever but flawed Woody Allen-esque comedy that proves that its directors aren’t just a one-trick pony.

Blu-ray Highlight: Fox’s Blu-ray release is a pretty disappointing affair. Although the bonus material includes five featurettes on a variety of topics like the story, the cast and filming in Los Angeles, they’re so brief that it feels like little more than an afterthought.

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Coming Soon: A Moviegoer’s Guide to July

You’ll probably notice that there aren’t very many movies receiving wide releases this month, and that partly has to do with the return of a certain wise-cracking web-slinger to the big screen, but it’s mostly because every studio is terrified of “The Dark Knight Rises,” and they should be. Christopher Nolan’s last Batman film absolutely dominated the box office, eventually grossing just over a billion dollars worldwide, and if the business that “The Avengers” has been doing is any indication, the third installment is going to easily exceed that. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other movies worth checking out, because just about every title on this list should be considered must-see.


Who: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Martin Sheen and Sally Field
What: Peter Parker finds a clue that might help explain why his parents disappeared years earlier, leading him to his father’s former partner, Dr. Curt Connors.
When: July 3rd
Why: Sony’s decision to reboot the Spider-Man series only a decade after Sam Raimi’s first movie was released has earned its share of naysayers, but having already seen director Marc Webb’s new version, most people are going to be happy with the direction the series is headed. Though it’s a bit of a pain to have to sit through Peter Parker’s origin story all over again, Webb makes it just different enough that it’s never boring. The action scenes are also well-staged, and Spider-Man’s wise-cracking humor remains intact, but the best part about the movie is the characters themselves. Not only are the actors perfectly cast in their respective roles (especially Andrew Garfield, who embodies everything that’s great about Spider-Man), but the relationships are actually interesting, and you can’t say that about every superhero film, Raimi’s trilogy included.


Who: Taylor Kitsch, Aaron Johnson, Blake Lively, Salma Hayek and Benicio del Toro
What: Marijuana growers Ben and Chon face off against the Mexican drug cartel that kidnapped their shared girlfriend.
When: July 6th
Why: It’s been awhile since Oliver Stone made a movie worth caring about, but this big screen adaptation of Don Wilson’s bestseller has certainly piqued my interest. A drug-fueled crime thriller that looks like something the director would have made back in the 90s, “Savages” has a cool premise and a great cast to boot. Okay, so maybe Taylor Kitsch hasn’t had the best year between “John Carter” flopping and “Battleship” failing to find its sea legs at the domestic box office, but Aaron Johnson has impressed with his career choices lately, and the idea of Salma Hayek playing the big bad is oozing with potential. Though it’s unclear whether the film is supposed to have that grindhouse feel on purpose, if Stone can pull it off, he might just have another cult hit on his hands.


Who: Joel Kinnaman, Matias Varela, Dragomir Mrsic and Mahmut Suvacki
What: A three-tiered story centered on drugs and organized crime, focusing on a young man who becomes a runner for a cocaine dealer.
When: July 13th
Why: I don’t know a whole lot about Daniel Espinosa’s “Easy Money” (originally titled “Snabba Cash” in its native country) other than it stars Joel Kinnaman of AMC’s “The Killing” and was a near-universal hit on the festival circuit, but quite frankly, that’s enough for me. The Swedish film industry has gotten a huge boost thanks to the “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” series in recent years, and “Easy Money” reportedly follows in the same footsteps. Though I wasn’t crazy about Espinosa’s U.S. debut, “Safe House,” it had enough good moments (especially the fight scenes) to suggest he’s a promising talent. Plus, I’d see anything Kinnaman does these days, because his work on “The Killing” is so amazing that it’s no wonder he’s been tapped as Hollywood’s new It guy.

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