You’re in for some sweet, sweet movie watching this week, starting with the latest in bromantic comedies (I Love You, Man, starring Paul Rudd and Jason Segel). Those with a High School Musical fetish should check out Zac Efron’s more grown-up vehicle (17 Again), while you twee cineastes have a new reason to worship Zooey Deschanel (Gigantic, also starring Paul Dano). Go European with a few highly rated imports (Oscar nominee The Class; Paris 36; London to Brighton) or go lowbrow with a direct-to-DVD college comedy sequel (Road Trip: Beer Pong). Lastly, check out everyone’s favorite heroes on a half-shell (the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 25th Anniversary set) and a few sci-fi throwbacks (the retro spoof Alien Trespass; Starman on Blu-ray).
Paul Rudd and Jason Segel (who last co-starred in 2008’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall) team up again in this romantic comedy of sorts about a super nice girls’ guy (Rudd) on a desperate search for a best man who finds an unlikely BFF in a carefree bohemian bachelor (Segel). Naturally, the odd couple bond over poop jokes, the music of Rush, and plenty of Apatow-styled comedy (minus the actual involvement, and some argue, the edginess, of Judd Apatow himself). This Certified Fresh valentine to the bromance — the unabashed man-love between two or more straight men — comes to DVD with even more laughs, thanks to a wealth of additional footage that includes alternate take after take of ad-libbed lines and a particularly cozy commentary track with Rudd, Segel, and director/co-writer John Hamburg (pictured in the exclusive snapshot above recording the DVD commentary on a special man-date in Hollywood). Watch an exclusive deleted scene below!
Next: Zac Efron grows up (and Matthew Perry gets younger) in 17 Again
Disney star Zac Efron continues to transition out of the ‘tween niche with 17 Again, his first starring vehicle after hitting stardom as the singing jock in the High School Musical films (a supporting role in Hairspray earned kudos, as did the forthcoming Me and Orson Welles, which was directed by Richard Linklater and debuted at the Toronto Film Festival). In 17 Again, an unhappy former basketball star (played in middle age by Matthew Perry, who we hope Efron doesn’t grow up to resemble) wishes his way back into his 17-year-old body (Efron) to relive the glorious high school life that he once had. The only catch? Save his grown-up geek of a best friend (Thomas Lennon), nobody knows who he really is, including his estranged wife (Leslie Mann) and his two teenage children. Truth be told, the formulaic fantasy wasn’t as bad as some critics feared, thanks in great part to Efron’s winning charm, resulting in a Tomatometer rating just shy of Fresh. For a handful of Zac-tastic bonus features (including a commentary track with Efron available on BD-Live, OMG) you’ll have to pick up 17 Again on Blu-ray.
Next: Zooey Deschanel as Paul Dano’s manic pixie dream girl
Anyone already tired of the Zooey Deschanel Manic Pixie Romance Film (see: Elf, (500) Days of Summer, Yes Man, The Go-Getter, etc.) should go ahead and skip this one on principle, seeing as Deschanel plays a beautiful, quirky love interest yet again — and what’s more, her character’s name is “Happy.” All others will find that Gigantic is on quirky indie overload, from its plot (28-year-old man-child mattress salesman adopts Chinese orphan baby) to its supporting cast (John Goodman as Happy’s millionaire father, Ed Asner as a mushroom-hunting senior citizen). Only a few extra scenes have been included, making for a fairly sparse DVD menu.
Next: France’s Oscar nominee, The Class
One of the best-reviewed films of last year, this French drama not only earned an impressive 97 percent Tomatometer (and Certified Fresh seal of approval), it also won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Film. Partially filmed documentary-style, The Class (AKA Entre les murs) follows an inner city teacher, played by Francois Begadueau (who wrote the original book from his own experiences) over the course of a year within the walls of a Parisian school where racially diverse students examine themselves and each other. Director Laurent Cantet cast an impressive group of non-actor teens, lending a natural energy to his film; their own self-portraits and actors’ workshop are a few of the fascinating extra features included in the release.
Next: Moulin Rouge-esque nostalgia in Paris 36
Moulin Rouge devotees might like this similarly-themed and -set musical comedy about a ragtag group of locals who attempt to restore a Parisian theater with a fantastic vaudeville show in 1936. Pure Francophiles are the target audience here, as the more bourgeois in taste might find the frothy proceedings too light and whimsical for their liking, and the multi-strand plot altogether too jumbled. However, if you’re in the mood for an unapologetically nostalgic fantasy filled with fabulous costuming, intricate musical numbers, and Amelie-like adornments (and who isn’t, really?), give Paris 36 a rental.
Next: The gritty, taut crime thriller London to Brighton
The titular train route is what two young prostitutes hope will take them away from trouble when a job goes horribly awry in Paul Andrew Williams’ directorial debut. Taut and grim (very grim, according to critics), this British crime thriller makes brutal use of cinematic realism, peeling back the layers to tell a story not just about two women on the run, but one about the sordid world of street kids and criminals on the hustle in England’s underworld. A making-of featurette, deleted scenes, director commentary and more highlight the special features.
Next: Road Trip gets a sequel in Beer Pong
Shockingly, it took nine years to get a sequel to the Breckin Meyer-Seann William Scott college comedy Road Trip (thanks, if you can call it that, go to Paramount Vantage for seizing the rights to make this long-awaited follow-up). With the sole exception of a cameo by Road Trip‘s DJ Squalls, Road Trip: Beer Pong assembles a new crew of college kids who hit the road for an adventure full of shenanigans, this time headed for the National Collegiate Beer Pong Championship. Personally, we’d rather rack up our own cups than watch some actors throw down (or watch these guys hit some impossible trick shots), although in real life, there are no “Bodacious Babes of Ta Tas” at our beer pong/Beirut tourneys. An unrated cut, bloopers, and a beer pong tutorial are just some of the illuminating special features in the release.
Next: Retro creatures featured in Alien Trespass
Conceived and presented as part homage, part spoof to the bygone creature features of the 1950s, Alien Trespass sets itself up as a “lost” film from the era, a conceit that it never quite surmounts. Boasting an “all-star” cast (headlined by Eric McCormack, Robert Patrick, and Dan Lauria), this faux-B movie alights on a desert town where an alien spacecraft crashes, releasing two passengers: a galactic police officer of sorts, and the fugitive monster who could destroy the entire planet. But the nostalgic charm wears off too soon, leaving stilted dialogue and inconsistent special effects and direction — what one might consider not just unintentionally campy, but altogether bad.
Next: The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles complete film set!
Lovers of sewer-dwelling martial arts-mastering mutant turtles should jump at the chance to own all four of Donatello, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Leonardo’s feature films, released this week in a 25th Anniversary edition box set, but will they? Children of the ’80s (now full-fledged grown-ups) can capture a little bit of that bygone turtle power with 1990’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (46 percent), the first live-action film to translate the pizza-loving heroes from animation to the big screen (as a bonus, you may delight in the fact that the Blu-ray set discs are presented in the form of different kinds of pizza). One of our personal favorites, however, was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Secret of the Ooze (36 percent), and yes, it is because of Vanilla Ice’s Ninja Rap. Perhaps we can all agree to give a pass to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III (32 percent), because no sequel ever goes to Japan and succeeds (as the Bad News Bears and the 3 Ninjas can attest). Rounding out the collection is the 2007 animated update TMNT (33 percent).
Unfortunately, the only advantage to picking up this TMNT set on either DVD or Blu-ray is the additional promo swag included in each set (temporary tattoos and bandannas in the DVD set, collectible cards, a Kevin Eastman-signed sketch and beanie in the Blu-ray box). Cowabungle, dude.
Next: John Carpenter’s Starman hits Blu-ray!
After directing such genre classics as Halloween, Escape from New York, and The Thing, John Carpenter turned his attention to a much gentler kind of science fiction; the result was 1984’s Starman, a fish-out-of-water tale about an alien (Jeff Bridges) who mimics the form of a grieving widow’s (Karen Allen) late husband and kidnaps/asks her to drive him cross-country to a homebound rendezvous ship. Although the 1980s-era special effects seem a bit dated (exception: Bridges’ shape-shifting transformation from infant human form to grown man in the span of a minute is still as creepy as ever), and its dialogue is frequently corny, Starman looks great in HD and is a worthy addition to your sci-fi geek Blu-ray collection. (Sadly, there are zero bonus features on the disc.)
Until next week, happy renting!
This week at the movies, we’ve got speedy cars (Fast & Furious, starring Vin Diesel and Paul Walker) and a languid summer (Adventureland, starring Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart). What do the critics have to say?
Fast & Furious is the fourth installment of the venerable cars-going-vroom franchise, and unfortunately, critics say it’s the weakest of the lot. The principals from the first film, The Fast and the Furious — including Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez, and Jordana Brewster — are back, and they pick up where they left off. Diesel plays Dom, an ex-con who’s still bitter at undercover cop Brian (Paul Walker), but soon, the pair join forces to investigate the death of a mutual associate. The pundits say this franchise is running on fumes; though Fast & Furious features some decent stunts, its groan-worthy dialogue, indifferent performances, and lack of dramatic momentum make for a pretty middling — albeit shiny — package. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we compile Vin Diesel’s best-reviewed films.)
Greg Mottola is building a solid rep as an astute chronicler of coming-of-age joys and pains. Hot on the heels of Superbad is Adventureland, a dramedy that critics say dishes laughs and sentiment with a deft hand. Jesse Eisenberg stars as James, a college grad who gets a job at an amusement park. With the help of Em, a cute co-worker (Kristen Stewart), his wacky bosses (Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig), and his slacker co-workers (Martin Starr, Ryan Reynolds, and others) he learns a thing or two about life. The pundits say Adventureland is bright, funny, sharply acted and deeply heartfelt; throw in a killer soundtrack, and you’ve got a Certified Fresh movie. (Also, be sure to see which movies Greg picked as his Five Favorite Films.)
Also opening this week in limited release:
Finally, props to Speaker for the Films for coming the closes to guessing 12 Rounds‘ 23 percent Tomatometer.