Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theatres for DVD (R, 2007, Warner Bros.)
Remember that Lite Brite-like sign that recently sent the city of Boston into a terror-related panic? This is the movie that sign was promoting. If that’s all you know about “Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theatres,” be warned: This wasn’t created with your best interests at heart. “ATHFCMFFT” is expressly made for fans of the “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” cartoon, and the evidence lies in the dizzying array of characters who pop in with little introduction and explanation. Fans will cheer their arrivals; you’ll just wonder who they are. Still, to those who fancy the bizarre and have a sense of humor to match, “ATHFCMFFT” nonetheless comes recommend. Watching a manic 11-minute cartoon transformed into a manic 85-minute movie is an exercise in endurance, but it’s made easier by how genuinely funny it is. That it remains funny all the way to the last scene is an accomplishment precious few TV show-to-movie conversions can claim.
Extras: A deleted movie (no kidding), 10 fake endings, extended/deleted scenes, half-hour making-of feature, music video, music video making-of, image and music gallery, movie poster and more.
The Method (NR, 200, Palm Pictures)
Seven candidates for one job assemble for what they assume will be a series of final interviews with an as-yet-unseen HR manager. What happens instead is a daylong series of psychological tests that set out to eliminate them, one by one, until a single candidate remains. Say, doesn’t that sound like [insert reality TV show here]? It sure does, but here’s the irony: Despite being a scripted film with paid actors, “The Method” achieves a level of biting, darkly funny authenticity far beyond anything attained by the heavily-contrived television programs that share its concept. The film flirts with excessive complication toward the end, but by then the metaphor has sunk its teeth in so deep that it almost doesn’t matter. Some might find “The Method” a bit claustrophobic — a good 97 percent of the movie takes place in a single conference room — but those who can handle the coziness will discover a beautifully ugly picture of human nature that may hit a little closer to home than most would care to admit. In Spanish with English subtitles.
Extra: Making-of feature.
The Lookout (R, 2007, Miramax)
Once upon a time, Chris Pratt (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) had the world at his feet. One car crash and subsequent head injury later, he’s barely able to cook dinner, much less manage his own life. What a perfect time for someone from his past to come along and … something. Plot details for “The Lookout” are intentionally left vague here, because the less you know going in, the better. Miramax did a lousy job of promoting this one, but the advantage there is that countless trailers, commercials and press haven’t spoiled the film’s first act, much less its third. What should be known about “The Lookout” before going in: It’s a thriller and a multiple-character study, and it excels in both respects. Jeff Daniels, Matthew Goode, Isla Fisher and Sergio Di Zio round out a great cast, whose performances are as essential as the script they follow.
Extras: Crew commentary, two behind-the-scenes features.
Fracture (R, 2007, New Line)
Ted Crawford (Anthony Hopkins) shot his wife. This isn’t a spoiler, nor is it a mystery: We see it happen during one of “Fracture’s” first scenes. Arresting officer Rob Nunally (Billy Burke) is 100 percent sure he did it, and hotshot district attorney Willy Beachum (Ryan Gosling) sees no reason to feel differently. Of course, given that “Fracture” is a two-hour film and not a 10-minute short, there’s more to the story than you’re reading here. And that’s where the mystery, different feelings and fun take over. “Fracture” is an old-fashioned thriller, investing all its gold into its story and characters and letting the twisting narrative dominate in place of excessive style and other tricks. The strategy leads to a few dry scenes midway through, but it also delivers a terrific final showdown in which everything that was in front of us the whole time is cleverly laid bare. Rosamund Pike and David Strathairn also star.
Extras: Two alternate endings, deleted scenes, DVD-ROM content.
Live Free or Die (R, 2007, ThinkFilm)
Given the scarcity of good comedies on TV these days, it’s almost a shame “Live Free or Die” is merely a film instead of something bigger. Among other sitcom-perfect pieces, you have a troubled cop on the brink (Michael Rapaport), a sleazoid hardware store owner (Judah Friedlander) who doesn’t keep secrets terribly well and a con for hire (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) whose methods are excruciatingly questionable. But “Die” isn’t even primarily about these people, who instead play second fiddle to a criminal nobody with grand delusions (Aaron Stanford) and an idiot sidekick (Paul Schneider) who can’t decide whether he’s excited or scared to be in on his friend’s disastrous tumble toward oblivion. Potential runs wild in “Die” (not to be confused with the similarly-titled Bruce Willis film), and it’s a real shame to say goodbye so soon after we say hello. Fortunately, the film makes the most of the 90 minutes it gets. Zooey Deschanel also stars.
Extras: Cast/crew commentary, alternate ending, making-of feature, deleted scenes, bloopers.
Cashback (R, 2005, Magnolia)
In a sense — and perhaps bolstered by the pitch on the DVD case — “Cashback” is another comedy about bored employees finding ways to have fun at a boring job (in this case, a grocery store). But “Cashback” is just a workplace comedy like “Titanic” is just a film about going on a cruise. It began life as an Oscar-nominated short film about the power of heartbroken insomniac/art student Ben Willis’ (Sean Biggerstaff) imagination, and it remains that more than anything else. (Case in point: The entire short film returns, untouched, as one the feature-length film’s narrative turning points.) Wacky workplace hijinks and imagined existentialism make for strange bedfellows in a not-quite-two-hour film, and “Cashback” will inevitably aggravate and alienate as many people as it enchants. What some see as funny and inventive, others will find pretentious and scrambled. Neither argument is without merit. If the point of the film is to get people talking, mission definitely accomplished.
Extras: The original “Cashback” short film, making-of feature.
51 Birch Street (NR, 2005, Image Entertainment)
One day, somewhat casually, filmmaker Doug Block decided to turn on his camera and film his parents, who to that point had been a model of domestic consistency after more than 50 years of marriage. But as he attempted to chronicle what made them work after all these years, everything stopped working. Block’s new problem: How do you reminisce about two people’s lives when the two people in question won’t, for vastly different reasons, reminisce with you? “51 Birch Street” ultimately ends up fulfilling its nostalgic mission, albeit on much different terms than originally intended. The result lies in the eye of the beholder: Some will see a selfless sharing of hard lessons learned, while others will see an ungrateful child selfishly exploiting the two people who raised him. Some simply will feel smothered by a heavy-handed soundtrack that regularly undermines the film’s many moods. The filming style and subject matter make “Street” impossible to universally recommend, but those who find common ground in Block’s predicament will almost certainly take something away — maybe good, maybe not — from his work.
Extras: Feature on the family’s reaction to the film, “I Flunk Adultery” music video (makes sense after you’ve seen the movie)
Roundup of the Week: New Collections on DVD
— “MGM Movie Legends” Collections (NR, various years, MGM): Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and Frankie & Annette are the three newest honorees in MGM’s excellent “Movie Legends” series. The Elvis collection features four films (“Kid Galahad,” “Clambake,” “Follow that Dream,” “Frankie and Johnny”), while Sinatra gets five (“A Hole in the Head,” “Guys and Dolls,” “Kings Go Forth,” “The Manchurian Candidate,” “The Pride and the Passion”). But Frankie & Annette fans win this round, reaping eight films (“Beach Blanket Bingo,” “How to Stuff a Wild Bikini,” “Beach Party,” “Bikini Beach,” “Fireball 500,” “Thunder Alley,” “Muscle Beach Party,” “Ski Party”) on four discs. No extras in any of the sets.
— “Elvis!: Lights! Camera! Elvis! Collection” (NR, various years, Paramount): Perhaps Elvis fans win after all, thanks to this set, which packs eight films (“King Creole,” “G.I. Blues,” “Blue Hawaii,” “Roustabout,” “Girls! Girls! Girls!,” “Fun in Acapulco,” “Paradise Hawaiian Style,” “Easy Come Easy Go”) into one very attractive box. No extras.
— New “Hanna Barbera Classic Collection” sets (NR, various years, Warner Bros.): Space Ghost and Birdman have found new lives as a talk show host and lawyer, respectively, on the Cartoon Network. But if you’d like to see what they were like before they settled down, “Space Ghost & Dino Boy: The Complete Series” (20 episodes, plus a retrospective) and “Birdman & the Galaxy Trio: The Complete Series” (20 episodes, plus a different retrospective) can shine all the light you need.
— Speaking of Cartoons: Complete series sets for “Todd McFarlane’s Spawn” (NR, 1997, HBO) and “The Archies” (NR, 1968, Genius Entertainment) also are available, as is “The Woody Woodpecker and Friends Classic Cartoon Collection: The Walter Lantz Archive” (NR, various years, Universal), which compiles 75 remastered theatrical shorts from the original cartoon. Each set comes with extras, including behind-the-scenes material and interviews.
— “Space 1999: 30th Anniversary Edition” (NR, 1975-77, A&E): This sci-fi classic is the latest series to get the A&E Megaset treatment, with all 48 episodes (three with commentary) packaged together on nine discs. A bounty of extras includes production/promotional galleries, behind-the-scenes features, interviews, alternate scenes and a fan-made series ending.