Blu Tuesday: Teddy Bears, Super Soldiers and Spoiled Brats

It’s been a few weeks since my last column due to what can only be described as one of the busiest months of my adult life, but I’m finally back with another edition of Blu Tuesday. Thankfully, there weren’t too many must-have Blu-rays released while I was out, but I would suggest picking up the following if you haven’t already: “The Dark Knight Rises,” “ParaNorman,” “Lawless” and the “Tarantino XX” box set. This week’s selection isn’t that much better, but there are a handful of titles worth checking out.

“Ted”

Seth MacFarlane has already built a media empire that currently dominates Fox’s Sunday night line-up, but it was only a matter of time before he moved on to a bigger challenge, and though “Ted” represents the multi-hyphenate’s first foray into feature filmmaking, the movie is such a confident debut that you have to wonder why it took so long to make the jump in the first place. While the film can feel like a live-action version of “Family Guy” at times – featuring trademarks like cutaway gags, a knock-down-drag-out fight, and enough boundary-pushing humor to comfortably earn its R rating – you don’t have to be a fan of the show to enjoy “Ted.” It certainly wouldn’t hurt, but there are also things that MacFarlane is able to do here that can’t be done in animation, and it creates a more well-rounded movie as a result. Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis are both solid in their respective roles, but it’s MacFarlane who steals the show as the foul-mouthed teddy bear. His decision to perform the motion capture and provide the voice of Ted not only does wonders for the interactions between him and Wahlberg, but it makes him feel like a real, living, breathing thing, and that goes a long way in making the film such an incredibly funny buddy comedy.

Blu-ray Highlight: There’s a lot of great bonus material for fans to dive into – including an amusing audio commentary with Seth MacFarlane, Mark Wahlberg and co-writer Alec Sulkin – but the making-of featurette is the best of the bunch, focusing mainly on visual effects and MacFarlane’s decision to perform Ted live on the set during filming.

“The Bourne Legacy”

I was a little wary when Universal announced that they were continuing the Jason Bourne franchise without Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass (or for that matter, the title character), but “The Bourne Legacy” proves that there’s still life to the series without them. One of the most important factors in its success was the decision to bring Tony Gilroy back to write and direct the fourth installment, because no one knows the Bourne series better than him, and it was likely his idea to design the story so that it runs parallel to the events in “The Bourne Ultimatum.” That way, there’s still some sort of connection between Jeremy Renner’s Aaron Cross and Damon’s Bourne, even though they never actually cross paths. If they do get around to making another film, that would be the next logical step, but for what’s essentially a spin-off, “The Bourne Legacy” is a lot better than it probably has the right to be. It’s still not as good as the original trilogy, but between its talented cast (which includes heavy hitters like Rachel Weisz and Edward Norton) and superb action sequences, there’s more than enough here to keep you invested in the Bourne saga.

Blu-ray Highlight: Though it’s a little disappointing that none of the film’s cast appears on the audio commentary, the track – which features director/co-writer Tony Gilroy with several of his crew members – is a great conversation about making the movie, with each participant getting the chance to discuss their contribution to the film in detail.

“Girls: The Complete First Season”

“Girls” is one of those shows that makes me question why I continue to tune in every week. Though it’s a big hit with a lot of critics, and there’s invariably something that makes me laugh out loud each episode, the HBO comedy’s quartet of leading ladies doesn’t make it easy to enjoy. Creator Lena Dunham’s Hannah is easily one of the most annoying characters on television; Allison Williams’ Marnie makes more bad decisions than a horror movie victim; Jemima Kirke’s Jessa fails to prove what makes her so alluring to men; and Zosia Mamet’s Shoshanna… well, I don’t actually have anything bad to say about her. That might make “Girls” sound like a pretty insufferable viewing experience (and it is at times), but even with such terrible characters, it manages to deliver some surprisingly biting commentary on this generation’s crop of entitled, self-centered twentysomethings. Still, if it weren’t for breakout star Adam Driver’s hilarious performance as Hannah’s weirdo on-again, off-again boyfriend, there’s a pretty good chance I would have tuned out a long time ago, because he single-handedly makes the show worth watching.

Blu-ray Highlight: HBO doesn’t normally include many extras on their Blu-rays, but the two-disc release of “Girls” is loaded with bonus material, and many of them are really good. In addition to a pair of roundtable-type conversations between Lena Dunham and her female co-stars, and Dunham and producer Judd Apatow, there’s also a cool making-of video diary that goes behind the scenes of several Season One episodes.

  

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A Chat with Peter Farrelly (“The Three Stooges”)

The initial reaction to the idea of a new Three Stooges film for 2012 brought no end of moans and groans from Moe, Larry & Curly purists, but after Bobby and Peter Farrelly’s film hit theaters, many were surprised by the fact that it didn’t completely suck. Indeed, it was actually about as good as anyone could’ve hoped, thanks in no small part to the Farrelly’s devotion to making the best possible tribute to the comedic trio that they possibly could, aided in no small part by the efforts of Chris Diamantopoulos (Moe), Sean Hayes (Larry), and Will Sasso (Curly). Bullz-Eye talked to Peter Farrelly in conjunction with the film hitting DVD, and he spoke about the trials and tribulations of getting the film made, his Zen attitude toward the lengthy casting process, and his continued optimism that the Farrellys’ next film will indeed be “Dumb & Dumber 2.”

Bullz-Eye: Not that you haven’t been asked this more than a few times, but…what’s your very first memory of experiencing the Three Stooges?

Peter Farrelly: You know, the God’s honest truth…? I don’t remember it. Because they were always there. I’ve been watching the Stooges since I could turn on a TV. But I guess the thing I recall the most is, for some reason, I went through a period when I was, like, a freshman in high school where they were on every day from I think 4 – 5 PM, and I just remember it being the highlight of that winter. [Laughs.] Every day, because it was freezing out, you’d just get in the house and turn on the TV. Every kid in my school at that time was watching. For some reason, they were going through some sort of a renaissance. Everybody was watching them that year.

BE: Not that you guys have ever been afraid of testing boundaries, but it would seem to be pretty daunting to update the Three Stooges. I think the last time anyone tried it was with “The Three Robonic Stooges.“

PF: Yeah, we knew it wasn’t gonna be easy, but we love the Stooges and…the God’s honest truth is that we felt like they were going away. I had little kids…well, they’re 11 and 13 years old now, but the last few years, I asked their friends, and two-thirds of them did not know the Three Stooges. Or they had heard of them, but they didn’t really know who they were. And that bothered us, because we’re huge Stooges fans – they’ve given me more laughs than anybody – and we wanted to bring them back. But we knew that…you know, look, anytime you do anything like this… There was a huge, huge opportunity to fall on our faces, but I did believe that it should be done, the movie should be made, and I felt very confident that we could pull it off.

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Coming Soon: A Moviegoer’s Guide to June

With the exception of Marvel’s “The Avengers” (which not only lived up to expectations, but is also currently destroying the competition at the box office), last month wasn’t exactly the greatest start to the summer season. Thankfully, June looks like it’s going to fare a little better, with a return by director Ridley Scott to the genre that made his name, the latest from animation giants Pixar, and even some good old schlock in the form of Abraham Lincoln versus vampires. It’s hardly the type of blockbuster month we’re used to, but there’s enough variety and promise among these films that it doesn’t matter.

“SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN”

Who: Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron and Sam Claflin
What: A twist on the classic fairy tale where the Huntsman ordered to kill Snow White winds up becoming her protector and mentor in a quest to vanquish the Evil Queen.
When: June 1st
Why: First-time director Rupert Sanders’ coming out party looks mighty impressive from a visual standpoint, and I’d like to believe that a cast of this caliber (from the three leads down to the seven dwarfs) wouldn’t have signed on to the project if the script wasn’t good. The idea of adapting the popular story into a fantasy action film is certainly an inspired one, as it not only broadens audience appeal, but allows for the introduction of newer elements as well. I’m a bit surprised that Universal hasn’t revealed more of the aforementioned dwarfs in the marketing campaign, but while they’ll likely play a bigger part in the movie, it’s quite refreshing not to have every single detail ruined in advance.

“PROMETHEUS”

Who: Noomi Rapace, Logan Marshall-Green, Michael Fassbender and Charlize Theron
What: A team of explorers discover a clue to the origins of mankind, leading them to a distant world where they must fight to save the future of the human race.
When: June 8th
Why: Whether or not “Prometheus” has anything to do with the original “Alien” (and at this point, I don’t think even Ridley Scott knows for certain), it’s shaping up to be one of the coolest movies of the year, despite my concerns that it’ll pull a “John Carter” at the box office. The trailers have done an excellent job of whetting our appetites while still remaining fairly elusive about what the hell is going on, and from the footage I’ve seen, it’s obvious that the film shares many of the same visual and tonal cues with the 1979 sci-fi horror classic. Though Noomi Rapace has a lot to prove in her first Hollywood leading role, Scott has smartly surrounded her with enough talent that she’s under no real pressure to carry the movie on her own. With that said, however, she certainly looks the part of an Ellen Ripley substitute, and that’s something worth getting excited about.

“SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED”

Who: Aubrey Plaza, Jake Johnson, Mark Duplass and Karan Soni
What: Three magazine employees head out on an assignment to interview a guy who placed a classified ad seeking a companion for time travel.
When: June 8th
Why: I had the good fortune of seeing the Sundance hit at SXSW earlier this year, and I can’t say enough great things about it. Based on a real-life classified ad that became an Internet meme, “Safety Not Guaranteed” is a magical film about the human spirit whose charm is difficult to ignore. The character-driven dramedy is an amalgamation of everything that’s great about indie filmmaking – from its hugely original script, to the quirky characters, to the incredibly honest and funny performances by its cast. 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 “Safety Not Guaranteed” is one of those rare few that pull it off almost effortlessly.

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