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 August

August has never been the most exciting part of the summer movie season, but the studios have treated it like a warm-down of sorts in recent years, taking the opportunity to discard their misfit films with seemingly no interest in how they perform. That may change this year, however, as there are a number of high-profile movies (including several targeted at action fans) that could end up doing some pretty big business. In fact, with the somewhat disappointing summer that we’ve had so far, it’s not entirely unreasonable to suggest that August might end up being the highlight of the season.

“TOTAL RECALL”

Who: Colin Farrell, Jessica Biel, Kate Beckinsale, Bryan Cranston and Bill Nighy
What: Factory worker Douglas Quaid begins to suspect that he’s a spy after visiting Rekall, a company that provides its clients with implanted fake memories.
When: August 3rd
Why: While not exactly a remake in the conventional sense, director Len Wiseman’s adaptation of the Philip K. Dick short story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” has nonetheless caused diehard fans of Paul Verhoeven’s 1990 original to scream blasphemy. But just like that movie was forced to get creative and expand upon Dick’s story, so too has Wiseman’s version, seemingly sticking closer to its source material by keeping the action on Earth. Colin Farrell is definitely an inspired choice to play Quaid (and just like Adrian Brody in “Predators,” it should help to limit the comparisons to Arnold Schwarzenegger), while Bryan Cranston is on such a hot streak right now that it’s hard to imagine anyone else as Cohaagen. Whether Jessica Biel, Kate Beckinsale or the special effects provide the film’s best eye candy, however, is still up for debate.

“CELESTE AND JESSE FOREVER”

Who: Rashida Jones, Andy Samberg, Elijah Wood, Emma Roberts and Ari Graynor
What: A divorcing couple tries to maintain their friendship while pursuing other people.
When: August 3rd
Why: In addition to being a smart piece of counterprogramming to “Total Recall,” the indie dramedy has been riding a wave of strong buzz since its premiere at Sundance earlier this year, where most critics praised the excellent chemistry between its two stars. Though I’m not entirely sold on the idea of Andy Samberg as a romantic lead (or a serious actor, for that matter), I’ll see just about anything that Rashida Jones does these days, especially if it leads to more high-profile roles for the “Parks and Rec” actress. Jones also co-wrote the screenplay, which boasts an interesting premise that practically guarantees it won’t be anything like the typical Hollywood rom-com, with a more dramatic streak reminiscent of movies like “Annie Hall” and “(500) Days of Summer.” And if it’s even half as good as those films, we’re in for a pleasant surprise.

“HOPE SPRINGS”

Who: Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones, Steve Carell and Jean Smart
What: After 30 years of marriage, a middle-aged couple attends an intense, week-long counseling session to work on their relationship.
When: August 8th
Why: There are usually a few movies every summer targeted explicitly towards adult audiences, and more often than not, one of them stars Meryl Streep. That’s the case once again with this geriatric twist on the traditional rom-com, which reunites Streep with her “The Devil Wears Prada” director David Frankel. Unfortunately, “Hope Springs” doesn’t look nearly as good, instead hewing closer to the vibe of “It’s Complicated,” at least where Streep’s overly giggly character is concerned. The actress appears to be trying too hard to get a laugh, while Steve Carell doesn’t seem to have that much to do. The wild card is Tommy Lee Jones, who isn’t the first person you’d think of for this kind of role, but that’s exactly why it’s such a brilliant piece of casting. And if the three actors work as well together as you’d expect, “Hope Springs” might not be that bad after all.

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A Chat with the Cast and Crew of “Casa de mi Padre” – Will Ferrell, Diego Luna, Génesis Rodríguez, Nick Offerman and writer Andrew Steele

Be sure to check out our 5 Questions interview with the beautiful and talented Génesis Rodríguez to read how she learned to cry on command!

Everyone in show business knows that comedy is hard. Apparently, however, it’s not hard enough for Will Ferrell. The SNL-bred all around comic superstar decided sometime ago he wanted to make a film in Spanish. He didn’t know what the movie would be about, but one thing was clear, the far from fluent Farrell would need to learn his part semi-phonetically, which by all accounts is every bit as difficult to do as you might imagine.

With the help of writer Andrew Steele and first-time feature director Matt Piedmont, that movie evolved into “Casa de mi Padre” (“House of My Father”). A broad but reasonably affectionate and detail-oriented spoof of telenovelas and Mexican and American exploitation movies, the film stars Farrell in one of his best performances yet as the 100% virtuous Armando Alvarez. Armando’s unwavering good guy nature is tested by the disrespect of his wealthy patriarch dad (the late Pedro Armendáriz Jr.) as well as the fact that his beloved brother, Raul (Diego Luna), has become a powerful narco at war with the ultra villainous La Onza (Gael García Bernal). Even more challenging is the increasingly melodramatic mutual attraction betwixt Armando and Raul’s fiercely stunning fiancée, Sonia (Génesis Rodríguez).

Bullz-Eye was fortunate enough to meet with several members of the cast and crew one day earlier this month. Along with comedy superstar Ferrell, we met with Latin-American heart-throb and respected U.S. actor Diego Luna, who may still be best known stateside for co-starring in 2001′s hyper-sexual “Y Tu Mamá También” with real-life lifelong best pal and “Casa” co-narco Gael García Bernal. Also along for the ride was fast rising comic actor Nick Offerman of “Parks and Recreation,” who portrays a bigoted DEA Agent. To discuss behind-the-camera matters we also spoke with screenwriter Andrew Steele (“The Ladies Man”). Also present at the event was the beguiling Génesis Rodríguez, who is the subject of a separate “5 Questions” feature.

Below are some highlights of the rather freewheeling discussions.

Will Ferrell on how “Casa de mi Padre” came to be.

I had always thought that it could be interesting to put myself in the middle of a Spanish language movie and fully commit to speaking Spanish. That heightened world of the telenovela meets the bad Mexican spaghetti western — all of that seemed like it could be a recipe for a type of movie you hadn’t seen before.

Diego Luna on his opinion of Will Ferrell’s Spanish.

He sounds perfect. You understand everything, basically. I was very worried. Forty days before we started shooting, I sat down in a bar with him and the director and he knew no Spanish at all. He couldn’t speak it.

He said, “Yeah, well, I’m gonna try.” Thirty days later he gave this two-minute monologue and, in fact, he makes sense. He understands what he’s saying. That was impressive, and [it was also] very impressive that two weeks after he forgot everything.

Will Ferrell on learning his lines in Spanish

Patrick Perez, who translated the script from English into Spanish, I kind of got to know him and he said, “Hey, I’m willing to work with you on your Spanish if you want.” I said “That’d be great.” We just started working about a month to six weeks out in front of the movie, meeting three or four times a week. Once we started filming, we would drive to the set every day and drive home every day. In the morning, [we'd] work on the scene or scenes for that day. On the way home, [we'd] start to work on the next day, to try to just embed it into my brain.

Every day I finished I felt like I’d wrapped an entire movie. It was just “Groundhog Day.” Diego and I laugh about because he improvised every take and I had no idea. “Okay, he’s finished? Now, I go.”

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