DVD 12/2/08: Wanted, Garbage Warrior, Step Brothers, Fly Me to the Moon, Lower Learning, Slap Shot 3: The Junior League

Wanted: 2-Disc Special Edition (R, 2008, Universal)
Cube rat and lifelong doormat Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy) is actually an inhumanly gifted assassin. He just doesn’t know it yet. “Wanted” explains the how and why of Wesley’s heretofore-hidden talents, and it’s pretty interesting in an entirely implausible way, but it’s completely your call whether to care about Wesley’s dad, his powers, and this mysterious fraternity of assassins (Angelina Jolie, Common and Morgan Freeman, among others) and to which he appears destined to belong. Like “Shoot ’em Up” earlier this year, “Wanted” exists primarily to entertain by whatever violent and flashy means it can, and the ridiculous, special-effects-laden and sometimes hilarious results it delivers are done so with tongue lodged deeply in cheek. Take it too seriously, and you might as well not bother: Between the absurd script, convenient twists and logic holes large enough to swallow us all, “Wanted’s” cracks are deep and omnipresent. But if that reads like a recipe for possibility rather than disaster — and if an tragicomic opera about superhuman humans and bullets that curve around corners sounds like your idea of a good time — “Wanted” might be some of the most fun your movie-watching eyes have all year.
Extras: Extended scene, four behind-the-scenes features, digital copy.

Garbage Warrior (NR, 2007, Open Eye Media)
It’s easy to feel humbled by and jealous of Michael Reynolds during the first act of “Garbage Warrior.” Yes, his housing development literally is made of soil and other people’s trash. But the world he and his fellow dwellers designed also made him a completely independent man — able to eat, live, play and even enjoy the latest in electronic convenience without any need to make a dime or lean on the government. Naturally, that’s all the powers that be need to hear in order to begin the process of pulling Reynolds’ dream down an undertow of paperwork, filibusters and absurd legalese. As documentaries go, “Warrior” doesn’t pull any fancy tricks, but it doesn’t really need to. Reynolds’ story is inspiring at first and aggravating shortly after, but what happens in act three — when the issue becomes bigger than all the players combined — is what really makes it interesting. Your preconceived beliefs likely will dictate whether you’re rooting for or against him by this point, but Reynolds makes a case for changing minds by establishing himself as a practical, accessible component of an issue often begging for just such a thing. “Warrior” does engage the global warming dialogue — it’d look silly ignoring it — but this is Reynolds’ film, and those ideals expressed in act one remain the film’s indisputable point of attraction.
Extras: Interviews.

Step Brothers: 2-Disc Unrated Edition (NR, 2008, Sony Pictures)
Brennan Huff (Will Ferrell) is a 39-year-old manchild who still lives at home with his mom (Mary Steenburgen). Dale Doback (John C. Reilly) is pretty much the same thing, only one year old and living at home with Dad (Richard Jenkins). Given the title of the film, you probably can see where this is going, and “Step Brothers,” for its part, doesn’t disappoint in the predictability department. But if you’re a fan of Ferrell’s starring roles, then this, too, comes as no surprise. “Step Brothers” is about laughs first and everything else a distant second, and those who enjoy the dry, funny, sometimes-gross stupidity that happens when Ferrell and Reilly get together likely won’t be disappointed here. That reads like stock praise, but “Step Brothers” is a stock comedy — a film that likely won’t stick with you much at all after it ends, but one that’s well-equipped to entertain while it’s on. Adam Scott (who practically steals the movie as Brennan’s bullying older brother) and Kathryn Hahn also star.
Extras: Deleted scenes, six behind-the-scenes features, digital copy.

Fly Me to the Moon (G, 2008, Summit Entertainment)
Bugs and computer-animated films have a strange love affair that refuses to quit, and in “Fly Me to the Moon” — about a trio of adventurous critters who sneak a ride on the space shuttle during the Apollo 11 expedition — ordinary houseflies finally get their big moment. On its own merits, “Moon” is a harmless but likeable kids movie — nowhere near Pixar’s ballpark, but miles better than the likes of “Space Chimps” and similar such dreck. Our fly friends and their relatives are pretty universally likeable, and if “Moon” gets kids curious about space travel and history, so much the better. Of course, the wonders of space will pale in kids’ eyes once they take the included 3D glasses for a test drive. “Moon” includes an optional 3D cut of the film and throws in a couple serviceable pairs of 3D glasses, and skeptics beware: The effect works amazingly well. Watching the film in its entirety this way isn’t at all advisable — hello, eyestrain — but the gimmick is slick enough to merit checking out for at least a little while. Too bad there’s no way to switch between cuts on the fly.
Extras: Interactive planetarium game, two sets of 3D glasses for 3D version of film.

Lower Learning (R, 2008, Anchor Bay)
Were you to reimagine “Lower Learning” as a flow chart or some sort of brainstorming mind map, the result might look positively horrifying on paper. For a film with such pedestrian storytelling designs — elementary school is going under, evil principal (Rob Corddry) is purposely tanking it and well-meaning but somewhat hopeless vice principal (Jason Biggs) must rally fellow teachers (Monica Potter, Will Sasso and Hayes MacArthur, among others) and students to save the school — “Learning” has a ridiculous amount going on. There’s the main plotline, a bunch of side plots involving those and other teachers, even more material about the kids (some who crack wise like grownups and one, in particular, who is the most adorable thing ever), a little corner devoted to a surprise inspector (Eva Longoria Parker), a completely bizarre dissection of our vice principal’s haunted past, and a character (Ed Helms) who exists solely for gag purposes in a film already facing a huge gag surplus. It’s as if someone outlined a television series, had a change of heart, and crammed the whole thing inside a 97-minute film. Predictably, “Learning” is a mess. Surprisingly, though, it’s not a disaster. There’s so much going on and so much talent involved that some things were bound to work no matter what, and while “Learning” is nowhere near the best comedy you can rent this year or even this week, its short attention span continually ensures that something good is never too far off.
Extras: Behind-the-scenes feature, deleted scenes, outtakes.

Slap Shot 3: The Junior League (PG, 2008, Universal)
When fans of a beloved franchise catch wind of a straight-to-video sequel, the reaction typically ranges from revulsion to stark, irrational fear of the worst. Often, the fear goes at least partially unrealized. In the case of “Slap Shot 3: The Junior League,” though, the reality likely is even worse than whatever darkness your imagination could possibly conjure. Whereas the original “Slap Shot” stands even today as one of the great countercultural sports films ever made, “League” is a mopey teen dramedy with an absurd premise (win the game, save the town!) and a laughably bland romantic subplot. That’s a bit brutal in its own right, but it’s nothing compared to how the film turns the great Hanson brothers (Jeff Carlson, Steve Carlson and David Hanson) into the film equivalent of a hair metal band headlining a county fair. They’re trying to recreate the magic, they fail miserably, and you don’t know whether to feel worse for them for falling so hard or for yourself for wasting time and money to watch them do it. All of which begs the question: Who in the world is this for? New viewers won’t even know who the Hansons are, while Hanson devotees will be left horrified by what money and executive stupidity did to their heroes.
Extras: Deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes feature, hockey legends feature.