I Love You, Man (R, 2009, Paramount)
Sometimes, a comedy doesn’t have to be laugh-out-loud hysterical to be a good comedy. Witness “I Love You, Man” which finds slightly uptight realtor and bromantically-challenged Peter (Paul Rudd) desperately hunting for some guy friends before walking down the aisle with his friend-endowed fiancée Zooey (Rashida Jones). As Paul Rudd-fronted comedies go, “Man” is lighter than usual in the belly laugh department, settling mostly instead for smirks and chuckles. That’s all the more surprising given the considerable comedic gifts of the supporting cast (Jason Segel, Jaime Pressly, Jon Favreau, Andy Samberg, J.K. Simmons, Thomas Lennon). But while “Man” falls a bit short in the laughs department, it so perfectly captures the trying ritual of post-graduate male bonding that it doesn’t matter. Rudd’s socially awkward plight is funnier and more dead-on than any one gag can convey, and the desperation that pours out of his every faux pas is relevant enough to carry the movie on its own. “Man” doesn’t leave it much choice: Funny scenes abound and there’s a dog who can mug with the best of them, but there’s also the tired pattern that finds the film abruptly veering into serious territory before going through the same predictable motions too many comedies endure when trying to wrap up the story neatly. By then, though, enough goodwill has accrued to make these motions tolerable, if never actually satisfying.
Extras: Rudd/Segel/director commentary, deleted/extended scenes, making-of feature, bloopers.
London to Brighton (R, 2006, E1 Entertainment)
It’s best to check your wandering minds at the door when engaging in a viewing of “London to Brighton,” which kicks off with a three-headed batch of scenes (a girl and a woman on the run from someone, a seemingly powerful man apparently looking for someone else, a small-time hustler with no overly obvious ties to either party) that only loosely make relative sense without any context to prop them up. But upon close study and in spite of the ensuing confusion, those scenes still manage to establish a mood and build some compelling character foundations that make all those unknowns worth waiting for. And once “Brighton” decides to pay out some answers, it doesn’t ever really stop, choosing one moment to filling in the blanks laid out by those early scenes and choosing the next to take all we know and barrel forward with the story. “Brighton” mixes the separate chronological tracks sharply and effortlessly, the separate story elements comes together as one, and without spoiling what ultimately happens (don’t let the back of the box ruin it for you), the payoff is unflinchingly harsh and unsettling to a commanding degree. Lorraine Stanley and Georgia Groome, among others, star.
Extras: Director commentary, alternate ending, deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes feature.
17 Again (PG-13, 2009, New Line Cinema)
As is depressingly common in real life, Mike (Matthew Perry) peaked in high school and never really lived up to the hype from there. And as seems to be common in movie land, some inexplicable voodoo has given Mike a second chance to embody a modern-day version of his younger self (Zac Efron) in hopes of rediscovering the fire that sparked him back in the day. The plot of “17 Again” is so trite, even Mike’s best friend (Thomas Lennon, who essentially steals the movie out from under the main characters) acknowledges as much in the film. But that quick, subtle and funny self-admission also makes it clear “Again” isn’t, as the marketing and premise might imply, trying to sell us warmed-over 1980s movie leftovers. The script is blessed with similar winks where needed, Lennon and Melora Hardin (as New Mike’s high school principal) alone provide more real laughs than one could possibly see coming, and Mike’s adventures take a number of original, sharply-written turns that a 1980s film in the 1980s couldn’t even envision, much less tackle. Leslie Mann, Sterling Knight and Michelle Trachtenberg also star. No extras.
Gigantic (R, 2008, Vivendi)
“Gigantic’s” maiden scene finds mattress salesman Brian (Paul Dano) discussing the behavior of rats with a researcher friend. A few moments later, Brian leaves that friend to his work, steps outside, and gets inexplicably roughed up by a homeless man (Zach Galifianakis). Later on, at the depressing mattress warehouse where he works, he receives a visit from an eccentric rich man (John Goodman) with an equally unusual daughter (Zooey Deschanel) who decides without warning to take a long nap on one of the showcase beds. And on and on this story sort of randomly goes. Pinning a plot on “Gigantic” is a fruitless endeavor, because as soon as it seems clear what the movie’s intentions are, a handful of scenes featuring characters we haven’t even met clouds the picture all over again. Under careless conditions, that’d make for an aggravating experience. But “Gigantic” knows its characters are its reason for being, and it places an appropriate level of importance on giving them dimension and making those quirks funny and endearing rather than just quirky for quirky’s sake. That’s all the film needs to cobble together a proper beginning, middle and end, even if our time in “Gigantic” feels like little more than an entertaining look-in on a handful of lives in progress. Ed Asner and Jane Alexander also star.
Extras: Deleted scenes, image gallery.
The Wild Man of the Navidad (NR, 2007, IFC)
Sometimes, a movie is so bad that it’s good. Other times, as with “The Wild Man of the Navidad,” it’s so enjoyably multifaceted in its delightful awfulness that it honestly becomes impossible to tell whether it’s really this bad or the filmmakers are doing it on purpose. At that stage, it doesn’t even really matter. “Navidad’s” premise — a mysterious creature lurks in the woods, seen by some but dismissed as legend by most — comes straight out of a textbook. But the oversaturation of 1970s grit isn’t quite as common, nor is the unfiltered, moonshine-soaked portrayal of backwoods living run amok. Then there’s the awesomely terrible acting and the monster itself, which, in keeping with the microscopic-budget theme, looks like a guy running around in a badly shredded Snuggie. The sum total of all these pieces is a film as hypnotically entertaining as it is powerfully awful — a crown jewel in the rare air of so-bad-you-have-to-experience-it cinema. Don’t plan your next group movie night without it.
Extras: Director commentary, director introduction, three behind-the-scenes features, pre-production footage.
Worth a Mention
— “Pulling: The Complete Second Season” (NR, 2008, MPI): The darkly, astoundingly funny British sitcom about three women hanging onto their 20s for dear life — and a hapless ex-husband who frequently makes the girls look normal by comparison — is back for seconds and easily keeps pace with its nearly-perfect first season. Includes six episodes, plus deleted scenes.
— “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: 25th Anniversary Collector’s Edition” (PG, Warner Bros.): Enjoy all the moments from your favorite “TMNT” films, and look good doing so. This set includes the three original live-action films, as well as computer-animated 2007 film, inside a nifty manhole cover-themed DVD tin that handily doubles as a 10-disc DVD holder. Each movie features the extras that accompanied them in their previous DVD incarnations, and the set also comes with four turtle masks and some temporary tattoos.