Rescue Me: The Sixth Season and the Final Season (NR, 2010-11, Sony Pictures)
The beautiful thing about “Rescue Me” — a show set in the wake of Sept. 11, featuring characters who served for the FDNY on that day in a fictional parallel universe, and even featuring (across the show’s entire run) one character who died in the twin towers — is that it never once became an insufferable, opportunistic, beat-you-over-the-head allegory for the real and terrible things that happened that day. Instead, what we get is a show about people — firefighters, the people who love them, and the respect they pay to those lost on that day and every day since. Sept. 11 set the table, and in a rare feat of a television show going according to plan, its 10-year anniversary cleared it. But in between, “Rescue Me” told stories about dysfunctionally lovable people, the brotherhood that unites them, the thrill of the rescue that drives them, and the friends, spouses and children who do stupid things and watch them do stupider things in return. It’s funny, dark, blunt, uncommonly heartfelt, able to cram a middle finger and bear hug into a single sentence, and not above illustrating a storyline through song and dance. If you can put up with a little raunchiness and see through the pretense of the premise, what lies within is a deranged and life-affirming show with few (maybe no) peers. Start from season one if you haven’t dipped in yet, and know that the series ends on the same bright note on which it began.
Contents: 19 episodes, plus deleted scenes, the creators’ last call, a season retrospective, a loving montage called “Balls!” and bloopers.
Hesher (R, 2011, Lions Gate)
Life has really been testing young T.J. (Devin Brochu) lately, and not simply by violently knocking him off his bike a full three times before “Hesher” is 11 minutes old. When we finally get a chance to catch our breath, the picture is much worse: T.J.’s mother is gone, his father (Rainn Wilson) is a broken shadow of his former self, the school bully (Brendan Hill) won’t leave him alone, and one careless mistake has somehow led to a complete maniac named Hesher (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) taking residence in the basement. That’s a big mess, and “Hesher” goes big with it, savagely swerving between outrageous dark comedy and absolutely brutal human drama before just smashing the two together and seeing what happens. Occasionally, what happens is a lot of energy searching for a lot of outlets, and the scrambled emotions will strike some as a story without a clear notion of where it’s going. Turns out, the opposite is true: “Hesher” so confidently knows exactly what it is and what it’s about that it simply isn’t afraid to latch onto the most outrageous allegories it can dream up and ride them like a bull through a sea of Pamplonians. The result? An unforgettably satisfying payoff that marries crude and heart-on-sleeve fury like maybe no movie before it ever quite has. Natalie Portman also stars.
Extras: Deleted scenes, outtakes, two behind-the-scenes features, sketch gallery.
Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop (R, 2011, Magnolia)
If you know who Conan O’Brien is, you almost certainly already know how his 2010 went. So we’ll skip the refresher course and get right to the point: If you’ve longed to see what that saga looked like behind the curtain, you should really take a look at this. “Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop” documents the assemblage and execution of the 32-city tour that filled time during Conan’s television exile, and at the absolute very least, it’s an inspiring look at the art of creating something amazing that, if all had gone according to plan, would never have even existed. But “COCS” isn’t simply a picture of Conan and crew filling time so much as reconciling a sudden and bitter void, and if you expect nothing more than a funny but shallow look behind the scenes, this will surprise you. Yes, it is very funny. But it’s an angrier, edgier kind of funny than Conan’s shows typically allow us to see. And while the tour may be the story, the movie’s surprising appetite for candor weaves one hell of a subplot about just how dually exhausting and intoxicating the whole process — from conception to an aftershow that needs its own aftershow — can be. The light with which “COCS” paints its star is often surprisingly unflattering, but Conan’s willingness to let that light shine simply cements further what most of his fans admire about him in the first place.
Extras: Director/Conan/Andy Richter commentary, deleted scenes, Conan interview, interview outtakes.
Thor (PG-13, 2011, Paramount)
Thor (Chris Hemsworth) isn’t your garden-variety superhero, because most superheroes aren’t literal gods like he is. Consequently, “Thor” isn’t your garden-variety superhero movie. Our acclimation period with our titular hero commences with him already in full world-beater mode, and in place of the same old humble beginnings, we get a humble comeuppance when a foolhardy act results in Thor’s banishment to the mortal realm (or Earth, as we call it) and his body’s downgrade to mortal status. Anyone with a movie IQ of more than six can conclude that this is where “Thor” embarks on a predictable march toward our fallen hero’s redemption, with a stop along the way that puts Earth and Thor’s newfound mortal friends (Natalie Portman, Kat Dennings) in grave peril. But while certain obligations make certain twists entirely predictable, they work in concert with one seriously entertaining fish-out-of-water story to make that a surprisingly trivial issue. “Thor’s” action scenes are still the big draw, but it’s the amusing ways Thor and his new neighbors get to know each other that count as its most fun work. Tom Hiddleston and Anthony Hopkins star as Loki and Odin, respectively.
Extras: Short film “Marvel One-Shot: The Consultant,” director commentary, deleted scenes, seven behind-the-scenes features, feature on the upcoming “Avengers” movie (which is where Thor’s story continues).
— More Thor: “Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers” (NR, 2011, Shout Factory): The latest, feature-length entrant in the Marvel Knights motion comics series expounds on the sibling rivalry as seen in the film. Extras include two behind-the-scenes features.
Carrie Fisher: Wishful Drinking (NR, 2010, HBO)
Carrie Fisher’s claim to fame needs no introduction, and thanks to her own candor, neither does a personal and professional downfall that includes divorces, drugs and an unsolicited admission of mental illness. “Wishful Drinking” brings the saga to its almost inevitable next stop — a one-woman stage show, with Fisher riffing on everything from childhood to “Star Wars” to Googling herself to the time she woke up with a dead friend in her bed. As a whole, “Drinking” is far from perfect, occasionally meandering through the realm of self-indulgence before Fisher’s own self-awareness pulls it down to earth. Fisher’s checking also sometimes works against her — in particular, whenever she latches onto something poignant and quickly backs out with a dry remark instead of pushing further to see where it takes her and her audience. At its worst, it’s sometimes hard to figure out what “Drinking” is even supposed to accomplish. Fortunately, it’s usually during these darkest moments where Fisher says something sharply funny enough to chase the doubt away. Whatever “Drinking” should have been, once was and never will be, the one thing it is is consistently funny. That alone doesn’t make it the cathartic knockout it could have been, but it does make it entertaining.
Extras: Deleted scenes, interview with Fisher’s mother.
Just Peck (NR, 2009, Image Entertainment)
Short and scrawny high school sophomore Michael Peck (Keir Gilchrist) isn’t much to look at, and when a class-cutting adventure leaves him face to face with dream girl Emily (Brie Larson), the stammering that trips and falls out of his mouth isn’t much to listen to, either. Normally, this is the point in the movie where Peck devises a wacky scheme to get the girl in the end. But whether it completely means to or not, “Just Peck” goes another, better way. There are lengthy stretches where “Peck” doesn’t quite seem to know where it wants to go, and whether you see it in the faces of half-used supporting characters (Marcia Cross, Adam Arkin, Camryn Manheim) or in the trajectories of storylines that jump off the tracks before jumping back on, you’ll probably notice its tendency to meander at some point. But there’s merit in the messy, clumsy way “Peck” tells its story. Cute, dry and dark humor mingle comfortably but contribute equally to the development of two characters who are much more interesting than appearances first suggest, and the not-so-neat story caps with a not-so-neat ending that’s more satisfying than what teen movies usually spoon-feed us. No extras.
Son of Morning (R, 2011, Entertainment One)
Some impulsive journalism has led to the widespread belief that the sun’s imminent end is upon us, and if you can get the public to swallow that, the image of lowly commercial copywriter Phillip Katz (Joseph Cross) bleeding from one eye in church is more than enough to blindly convince the world he’s humanity’s savior. Problem is, even if Phillip really was a savior and his bleeding eye wasn’t just a side effect related to prescription medication, he likely couldn’t save “Son of Morning” from itself. Even if lampooning people’s desperation in the face of doom is no longer fresh idea, it remains one with lots of room in which to have lots of fun. But “Morning” starts senselessly weird, stays senselessly weird and just rambles full bore with neither a filter nor much idea of what it wants to even do with this premise. A good cast (Danny Glover, Heather Graham, Lorraine Bracco, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Stephen Root) is on board, but all it does is fill the shoes of characters who behave strangely yet amount to nothing more than the same old parody archetypes. Even background style choices — an intrusive soundtrack, to name one — just kind of flail their arms and get in the way. In the end, all the noise adds up to nothing much, and “Morning” basically leaves looking like everything it set out to make fun of when it entered.
Extra: Graham interview.
Worth a mention
— “Star Wars: The Complete Saga” (NR, 1977-2005, Fox): Let the latest round of hand-wringing commence, and let the theories fly that George Lucas tweaks his baby simply because it’s fun to drive its most ardent fans absolutely crazy. “The Complete Saga” brings all six “Star Wars” movies to Blu-ray for the first time, and if you want them in that format, the newest tweaks — Ewoks blinking, Yoda going digital for “The Phantom Menace,” Darth Vader screaming “Noooo” an inexplicable second time — are part of the deal. (Greedo still shoots first, too. Sorry.) All the extras from the preceding trilogy DVD sets return for the Blu-ray, which is available as a single, six-film set or as separate trilogy sets. New pack-in bonuses include the 2007 documentary “Star Warriors,” a 30th anniversary “Empire Strikes Back” retrospective, the 90-minute “Star Wars Spoofs” and six lengthy making-of features made between 1977 and 2007.
— “Citizen Kane: 70th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition” (PG-R, Warner Bros.): Less controversial but every bit as essential is this set, which applies a new, 1080p-ready digital transfer to the arguable (and argued) greatest movie ever made. Along with the film’s first Blu-ray incarnation, this set includes the Oscar-winning documentary “The Battle Over Citizen Kane” and the Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning making-of dramatization “RKO 281,” both of which are must-sees if you’re a fan of the movie that birthed them. Additional extras include commentary tracks by Roger Ebert and director/film historian Peter Bogdanovich, interviews, a 48-page hardcover companion book, newsreel footage of the premiere, a photo gallery and replicas of the original movie program, lobby cards and various studio documents.