DVD 9/8/09: Important Things with Demetri Martin S1, Crank 2: High Voltage, Good Dick, Parks and Recreation S1, Worst Week, New DVD on TV roundup

Important Things with Demetri Martin: Season One (NR, 2009, Comedy Central)
If you’ve seen Demetri Martin’s live act or his 2007 comedy special, you already know how edgy his act — one part cutely hilarious jokes, one part folksy musical number, a sketch comedy portion that literally incorporates sketch paper and magic markers — is not. But funny is funny, and Martin is really funny. “Important Things with Demetri Martin” essentially repackages his standup approach in 22-minute episode form, with each themed episode taking on such hot-button topics as chairs, safety, timing and coolness. In that respect, “Things” feels almost like an educational children’s show that lost interest in educating children somewhere along the path between conception and completion. It’s a format that serve’s Martin’s delivery rather perfectly, too. The dorkily dry delivery and random nature of the humor leave “Things” helplessly prone to the occasional gag that simply does not land. But that same spastic randomness always ensures a better gag is only seconds away, and despite the thoroughly odd nature of the whole production, “Things” hits a whole lot more often than it misses.
Contents: Seven episodes, plus commentary, deleted sketches, a free tiny poster (that’s what it’s called) and a sticker.

Crank 2: High Voltage (R, 2009, Lions Gate)
Not for one ounce of one minute does “Crank 2: High Voltage” — which finds returning hero Chev Chelios (Jason Statham) and his time-limited mechanical heart in hot pursuit of the criminals who stole his real, invincible heart — strive for sensibility. But to merely call it farcical or illogical is to do the film a serious injustice, because “Voltage” very deliberately aspires for devices far beyond simple exaggeration. The acting is purposely, ridiculously unfiltered. The fight, chase and otherwise unclassifiable action scenes — and “Voltage” consists of four and a half minutes of action for every 30 seconds of attempted storytelling — are deliriously silly, particularly when working in tandem with all that maniacal acting. Attempts to inject back story are gloriously fulfilled through any number of completely random forays into mixed media, and even the film’s occasional need for a subtitle results in some preposterous splattering of screen-sized type instead of the usual polite use of the bottom fifth of the screen. The whole thing is a mess, but it’s a controlled mess, because “Voltage” knows what it wants to do and it just goes and does it without compromise. For that reason, it’s also a wildly fun time, though movie snobs are strongly advised to steer clear. Amy Smart, Dwight Yoakam, Efren Ramirez, Reno Wilson and Keone Young all reprise their roles.
Extras: Writers/directors commentary, two behind-the-scenes features, digital copy.

Good Dick (R, 2008, Phase 4 Films)
“Good Dick” may as well be in act three once we’re invited to the party: As soon as it starts, we’re waist-deep in an awkward dance between an unnamed, socially damaged video store clerk (Jason Ritter) who lives in his car and the even more socially damaged customer (Marianna Palka, who also wrote and directed) who holes up in her apartment, steps out only to borrow a stack of videos each night, and somehow captures the imagination of our clerk despite saying only the requisite amount of words needed to complete each night’s transaction. “Dick,” for its part, stumbles around just as awkwardly, laboring under an early fog of melancholy before opting for dry comedy and ultimately settling, like most movies about romance do, for some amalgamation of the two. But like its characters, “Dick” also conceives a strange level of attraction in spite of its awkward ways. Our two not-quite heroes are likeable in spite of each having so many overtly off-putting traits, and when they can’t carry things, a consistently well-written script and a handful of strong supporting characters (Martin Starr, Eric Edelstein, Mark Webber and Tom Arnold) are there to pick up the slack.
Extras: Sundance Film Festival premiere footage, bloopers.

Parks and Recreation: Season One (NR, 2009, NBC Universal)
“Parks and Recreation” comes to us courtesy of some of the same comic minds behind “The Office,” and it shows — though not always for the right reasons. The same not-quite-mockumentary approach from “The Office” is on display here, with “Recreation” instead chronicling the small-time trials and tribulations of a very small-time wing of local government looking to convert a giant pit of nothingness into a park. Similarly prevalent is the amount of fodder that’s ripe for humor, and as “Recreation’s” episodes tick by, the show demonstrates an increased ability to mine that material for gold. But just as “The Office” got off to rocky beginnings, so does “Recreation,” which undergoes familiar difficulties as it scrambles to flesh out its characters, construct a season-long story arc, and continually make us laugh all at once. Something has to give, and early on, it’s the laughs that pay the highest price. Fortunately, as the later episodes attest, those payments aren’t in vain. Season two very likely will be “Recreation’s” real coming-out party, but this abbreviated season has its moments and makes for a nice introduction. Amy Poehler, Aziz Ansari, Rashida Jones, Paul Schneider, Nick Offerman, Aubrey Plaza and Chris Pratt star.
Contents: Seven episodes, plus commentary, an extended cut of the season finale and deleted scenes.

Worst Week: The Complete Series (NR, 2008, NBC Universal)
NBC probably wasn’t banking on “Worst Week” being a one season-and-done series, but the early demise likely was for the best for all involved. “Week” is the stateside answer to the British sitcom “The Worst Week of My Life,” and the premise is roughly the same: Sam (Kyle Bornheimer), who is set to marry Melanie (Erinn Hayes) in the very near future, must survive the week ahead without destroying everything in his path (himself included), endangering his future in-laws (Nancy Lenehan and Kurtwood Smith) and torpedoing his marriage before it even begins. The idea worked the first time around because, like most British sitcoms, each of “Life’s” two seven-episode seasons was short enough to accommodate the gimmick without dragging it out. “Week,” on the other hand, has 16 episodes to fill, and the only reason it doesn’t have more is because viewers rightly lost interest in witnessing what essentially is the same formula — Sam means well, screws up, tries to right his wrong, screws up again — repeated ad nauseam. Imagine “Meet the Parents” as a six-hour film with weaker characters and no De Niro, and you have an idea how “Week” ended up. It has its moments, and it ultimately does provide a steady stream of light, mindless amusement, but it’s hard to imagine where, if anywhere, the show could have gone from here.
Contents: 16 episodes, plus commentary.

Worth a Mention: More TV on DVD edition
— “Fringe: The Complete First Season” (NR, 2008, Warner Bros.): 20 episodes, plus commentary, deleted scenes, six behind-the-scenes features, production diary, bloopers and a Gene the Cow montage.
— “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency: The Complete First Season” (NR, 2008, HBO): Seven episodes, plus five behind-the-scenes features.
— “The Office: Season Five” (NR, 2008, NBC Universal): 26 episodes, plus commentary, deleted scenes, 100 episode retrospective, bloopers, Webisodes and an Academy of Television Arts & Sciences feature.
— “Desperate Housewives: The Complete Fifth Season” (NR, 2008, ABC): 24 episodes, plus commentary, deleted scenes, bloopers, two behind-the-scenes features and two retrospectives.