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.
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.
For as much abuse as January receives for being a bad movie magnet, February isn’t any better, especially when you factor in the bombardment of cheesy chick flicks being unloaded in time for Valentine’s Day. In fact, with the exception of maybe one or two releases, there isn’t anything even worth getting excited about – unless you’re a really big “Star Wars” fan, in which case, keep reading. January was by no means a great month for moviegoers, but it was a heckuva lot better than what February has in store.
“THE WOMAN IN BLACK”
Who: Daniel Radcliffe, Janet McTeer, Ciarán Hinds and Emma Shorey What: A young lawyer travels to a remote village where he discovers the vengeful ghost of a scorned woman is terrorizing the locals. When: February 3rd Why: There’s no way in hell that I’m going to see this movie – not because it doesn’t look like it might be good, but rather because there are few things that scare me as unconditionally as creepy old ghost women from horror movies. (Despite really enjoying last year’s “Insidious,” I couldn’t sleep for weeks afterwards.) And that’s a shame, because “The Woman in Black” looks like it might actually rise above the typical horror trash that populates this time of year (see: “The Devil Inside”). Adapted from Susan Hill’s novel of the same name (which was also turned into a successful stage play), the script was written by Matthew Vaughn’s go-to scribe Jane Goldman and stars Daniel Radcliffe in his first post-Potter role. The actor undoubtedly had plenty of offers on the table, so the fact that he chose this Hammer horror film certainly speaks of its potential.
Who: Michael B. Jordan, Alex Russell, Dane DeHaan and Michael Kelly What: Three friends gain superpowers after making an incredible discovery, only for their friendship to be tested when one of them embraces his dark side. When: February 3rd Why: I didn’t even know about this movie until a few months ago when a friend sent me a link to the trailer, but consider me cautiously intrigued. Though I’m just as sick of the whole found footage fad as everyone else, “Chronicle” is set up in a way that it doesn’t have to adhere to the normal rules of the genre. For starters, since the main characters have superpowers (namely, telekinesis), they can put the camera pretty much anywhere they want, allowing for a more dynamic range of shots beyond the trademark shaky cam. The trailer also seems to suggest that there will be a healthy dose of action, so as long as the story isn’t a complete mess and director Josh Trank can keep the movie’s mystery a secret, this superhero “Cloverfield” could be the first surprise hit of the year.