Horrible Bosses (R/NR, 2011, New Line)
The title doesn’t lie: Nick, Dale and Kurt (Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis, respectively) have horrible bosses (Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston and Colin Farrell, respectively). They’re so horrible, in fact, it occurs to our three anti-heroes that the risks associated with having them killed might be better than the much safer soul erosion that accompanies continuing to work for them (or, apparently, looking for a new job). Logic and other such intrusions have no place in “Horrible Bosses,” and that works just fine, because from almost the first minute, the movie embarks on a relentlessly funny circus of terrible people and terrible ideas that never grows tired despite a manic energy and plan that predictably goes haywire before going haywire again (and again). All that energy would be tiresome if “Bosses” fell flat even momentarily, but even when it engages in some wholly obligatory slapstick, it does so with a little more edge and ingenuity than we usually get. Best of all, “Bosses” goes out swinging as fiercely as it did when it barged in. There’s a character with an unprintable name (played by Jamie Foxx) who owns many of the movie’s best scenes, but it’s Day who snags the absolute best moment right before the closing credits roll in.
Extras: Extended cut, deleted scenes, four behind-the-scenes features.
The Trip (NR, 2010, IFC Films)
Actor/writer Steve Coogan (played loosely by Steve Coogan) certainly had the right idea when he agreed to a limited-run stint as The Observer’s food critic. What better way is there to take your girlfriend to a string of nice restaurants than on someone else’s dime? What a shame, then, that she can’t make it. Fortunately, Steve’s loss is our gain when friend and collaborator Rob Brydon (played, of course, by Rob Brydon) comes along instead. Regardless of what the name implies, “The Trip” isn’t really about the trip, and it certainly isn’t about the assignment. Arguably, it isn’t about anything. There’s a narrative tiptoeing around the movie that touches on many of the life themes that come to mind during a journey like this, and the way it’s pieced in adds a nice layer of poignancy to the movie. But overwhelmingly, “The Trip” is simply Steve and Rob playing alternate-dimensional versions of themselves and rattling off one semi-improvised and very funny conversation after another about cremation, bad impersonations, comedy’s common ground with duck fat lollipops and whatever else pops into mind during the long drive from stop to stop. “The Trip” has since become a television series centered around the same premise, and it’s easy to see why: Even in semi-character, Coogan’s and Brydon’s friendship is palpably authentic, for worse as well as better, and chemistry like that makes the funny bits that much funnier and the sweet moments that much sweeter.
Extras: Deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes feature, appetite-whetting food preparation footage, photo and poster galleries.
The Tree of Life (PG-13, 2011, Fox)
There are no wrong answers when it comes to debating the worth of a movie that strives to be worthy, but that doesn’t mean some aren’t more fun to argue about than others. None this year may merit more debate than “The Tree of Life,” which doesn’t so much tell a story about a troubled father/son relationship as it does incorporate that relationship into a larger picture of… well hey, that’s up to you. Do the disconnected pictures of family life feed into the film’s visions of nature, the stars and various other representations of a bigger picture, or are those scenes meant to be distilled down to life as we know it — small, intimate and often personally driven by a mere handful of the billions of people who fill a massive planet that itself is a drop in the universe’s bucket? And then there’s option C, in which you dismiss “Life” as a pretentious wreck of a film that uses a lot of beautiful imagery to say a whole ton of nothing. A million more interpretations lie in between these three, and if the measure of a movie’s success is its ability to make people talk after it says its piece, it’s hard to dismiss “Life” as a failure even if there is plenty of ground on which to dismiss it elsewhere. If you see it, best not to do so alone. But if you do, take notes, because there will be an exam later. Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain and Sean Penn star. No extras.
Terri (R, 2011, Fox)
When you see high schooler Terri (Jacob Wysocki) for the first time — in his overweight, disheveled, awkward, poor, wears-pajamas-to-high-school glory — what expectation might you have for his story? Is this another “Precious”-style sob story about an unpopular kid who, in addition to battling numerous personal issues, must also carry the ailing uncle (Creed Bratton) who should be caring for him? Or this another “Napoleon Dynamite” story about a bunch of live-action cartoon characters who act weird just because? Turns out, neither is the case, because in a shockingly un-Hollywood development, Terri is actually something akin to normal underneath his quirky exterior. He’s unpopular but not a sad-sack bully target, awkward but well-spoken and rather refreshingly forthright, and unafraid to make a minor spectacle of himself if it takes the heat off someone who can’t handle it. As a movie, “Terri” is unevenly paced and about as neat as its namesake in terms of conventional plot development. But as a coming-of-age character story about a guy whose most shocking trait is how relatable he is, “Terri” is an unabashedly pleasing ode to the notion that — in the words of Asst. Principal Fitzgerald, played by John C. Reilly — “life’s a mess, and we’re all just doing the best we can.” How’s that for some comforting honesty? Olivia Crocicchia also stars.
Extras: Deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes feature.
Submarino (NR, 2010, Entertainment One)
Together, brothers Nick and Ivan had a hard childhood, enduring an alcoholic mother and the death of a baby brother who fell into their care. Apart as adults, the road hasn’t smoothed out, with Nick (Jakob Cedergren) fresh out of prison and Ivan (Morten Rose) in the throes of a drug habit that’s ravaging his relationship with the son (Gustav Fischer Kjærulff) he has to raise alone following the death of his mother. “Submarino’s” portrayal of the childhood years is brief, but it’s stirring enough to establish that relationship and lay its heart on the ground floor before burying it beneath a rockpile of cold, grown-up reality. Good thing, too, because the picture of that reality is almost too bleak for the movie’s own good. If “Submarino” has a serious flaw, it’s that the brotherly reunion on which the film hinges is, when it finally summons the bond from those early scenes, almost cruelly brief. Then again, maybe that’s by design. “Submarino’s” storytelling remains gripping even when the bleak-o-meter is at full rage, and whether its handling of the reunion makes it that much more meaningful or simply aggravates you, the way the relationship comes full circle is supremely gratifying. In Danish with English subtitles. No extras.
Zookeeper (PG, 2011, Sony Pictures)
In the imaginative movie gimmick power rankings, “animals who talk like people” rates somewhere between “direct-to-DVD sequel” and “from the writers who brought you ‘Batman Forever'” in terms of raising hopes for greatness. At least in the case of this gimmick, the harmless cutesiness somewhat compensates for the lack of imagination. Superficially, “Zookeeper” is exactly what you probably suspect it is: a rather familiar story about a down-on-his-luck zookeeper (Kevin James as Griffin) who, with the help of some zoo animal friends who only just revealed their ability to speak fluent and sardonic English, sets out to change that luck. As an elevation of the art form, it is no such thing — predictable as can be, more contrived than predictable, and more impressive for its talking animal special effects than any chance taken with the script. But “Zookeeper” also has its share of amusing moments, likable animals (and humans) and good intentions that don’t get swallowed alive by dance numbers or the other insulting audibles Hollywood calls when it can’t think of a way to respect kids’ intelligence. Cynics can see through it, of course, but if this is for kids — and it probably is, even if some of Griffin’s storylines will fly over their heads — it has enough to like to make it worth recommending. The cinematic needle shifts not one bit, but talking animal movies have turned out many times worse than this one does.
Extras: Deleted scenes, six behind-the-scenes features, bloopers, playable demo of the “Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One” PS3 game (Blu-ray/combo pack only).
— “Planet Earth: Six-disc Special Edition” (NR, 2006, BBC Earth): The BBC’s stunning nature special launched a thousand Blu-ray and HD-DVD player purchases as the first home video product that truly begged to be seen in high definition. This new iteration (available on DVD as well as Blu-ray, in regular packaging or in a nifty globe-shaped limited edition box) finds the nine-plus-hour series looking as stunning as ever, and includes four new programs — “Great Planet Earth Moments,” “Snow Leopard: Beyond the Myth,” “Secrets of the Maya Underworld,” “Elephant Nomads of the Namib Desert” — that nicely complement the original series’ 11 episodes. Also included: producer commentary, an option to watch the series without the narrator, one behind-the-scenes feature and a sneak peak at the upcoming Discovery “Frozen Planet” special.
— “Jem and the Holograms: The Truly Outrageous Complete Series!” (NR, 1985, Shout Factory): Between their magnificent “Transformers,” “G.I. Joe” and even “M.A.S.K.” sets, Shout Factory has done right by the memories of everyone who grew up in the 1980s wanting to be an action hero. This time, though, the kids who sang into their hairbrushes get their nostalgic due as well. “Jem and the Holograms” packs all three seasons and 65 episodes of the cartoon into an appropriately glitzy box. That adds up to 10 discs’ worth of memories to sift through. But the 11th disc may be the set’s arguable star, thanks to a trio of behind-the-scenes features that span 99 minutes altogether and divide their time between cast, crew and fan interviews and recollections. Other extras include a toy commercials collection, animated storyboards, video jukeboxes for each season and DVD-ROM content (a “Jem” writers bible and pages from Hasbro toy catalogs, a licensing kit and a feature in Rock Rap Magazine.)
— “Casper the Friendly Ghost: The Complete Collection 1945-1963” (NR, 1945/63, Shout Factory): It doesn’t receive the visual fanfare that adorns the “Jem” set, but this humble three-disc collection will touch just as many (if not more) nostalgic nerves. The set includes all 55 theatrical shorts that appeared between 1943 and 1959, as well as all 26 episodes of the 1963 television cartoon. Extras include commentary on selected shorts and episodes, interviews, a comic book cover gallery and a terrific liner notes booklet.
— “Aqua Unit Patrol Squad 1” (NR, 2009-11, Adult Swim): It’s supremely lazy to tell people that if they like X, they’ll like Y as well. But honestly? If you like “Aqua Teen Hunger Force,” you’ll like “Aqua Unit Patrol Squad 1,” because it’s the exact same show with a new name and theme song. A two-parter that comprises the first two episodes sets up a new storyline set nine years into the future, but by episode three, we’re right back where we used to be. So don’t let the new name fool you, and buy (or avoid) with confidence. Fittingly, in addition to the seven episodes that comprise the “first” season of “Squad,” this set also includes the “final” 10 episodes of “Force” as well. Also included: the thrilling third chapter in the live-action “Terror Phone” series.