The Ides of March (R, 2011, Sony Pictures)
The 2012 election circus-o-rama has begun whether you like it or not, and if you run with the crowd that (a) likes it despite also (b) assuming the very worst of the candidates and staffers who scheme, snipe and overpromise their way into your voting heart, this movie is for you. No, really — here. Take it and keep it. “The Ides of March” drops in on the campaign of Mike Morris (George Clooney), who is attempting to trade his residency at the Pennsylvania governor’s mansion for one in the White House. By his side: Idealistic junior campaign manager Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling), grizzled senior campaign manager Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and a staff that includes an intern (Evan Rachel Wood) who catches Stephen’s eye. What happens next, in the thick of the Ohio Democratic Primary, is at once intriguing, presentationally polished and absolutely, depressingly predictable. “March” is a thriller about the rotten things people do in the name of getting elected to idealized public service jobs they have no business accepting, and because this is Hollywood, it’s even slimier than the slime we read about in real life. But for what? “March” looks good, but it’s a good-looking march down a deathly tired road, and the little bit of ironic preaching it shoves in at the end serves no purpose other than to cement just how hopeless and foolish it is to believe in the people we elect and the system that gets them elected. We already knew that, and we’ve been down this road before, so what — especially in the name of entertainment — are we doing here again? Paul Giamatti also stars.
Extras: Writer/producer/Clooney commentary, four behind-the-scenes features.
Thurgood (NR, 2011, HBO)
Thurgood Marshall crashed through racial barriers like a Civil Rights battering ram, leaving an incredible trail of accomplishments that culminated in his becoming the United States Supreme Court’s first black justice. So if someone told you a fearless one-man play based on his life and the struggles he endured was riotously funny, would you believe them? If not, absolutely do not hesitate to see for yourself. “Thurgood” puts Laurence Fishburne on stage all by himself and fully in character as Marshall, and while Fishburne’s document of Marshall’s life includes the good times, it has no qualms whatsoever about taking on the bad and absolutely bear-hugging it. If the N-word makes you uncomfortable in any context, the bellow in which Fishburne sometimes delivers it to a live audience might startle you. And if that startles you, it just might blow your mind when the bellowing of that word is part of the punchline of a story that makes the audience roll in the aisle. There’s nothing jokey about Marshall’s accomplishments, but that need not mean the man who achieved them can’t flash a lively sense of humor when recalling them. “Thurgood” is frequently poignant and always thoughtful, but its relentless tendency to be sharply, brilliantly funny is almost unreal given the subject nature. Fishburne’s delivery — inside and outside the script, as a hilarious impromptu bit with late-arriving audience members demonstrates — is spectacularly alive, and it paints a picture of a man who loved life too much not to fight to make it better for himself and countless others. Why can’t all history lessons be this gratifying? No extras.
— More Fishburne: In tandem with “Thurgood’s” release, HBO is releasing a new Blu-ray edition of 1995’s “The Tuskegee Airmen,” in which Fishburne (along with Andre Braugher, Cuba Gooding Jr., Mekhi Phifer and John Lithgow, among others) starred. The new release includes a 32-page color book with behind-the-scenes photos, liner notes and photos of the real Tuskegee Airmen.
Delocated! Seasons 1&2 (NR, 2009, Adult Swim)
Meet Jon (Jon Glaser), whose real name isn’t Jon. He, his wife (Nadia Dajani) and son (Jacob Kogan) have been pulled out of their old lives and dropped into New York City as part of the Witness Protection Program, and as an extra precaution, they’re instructed to wear ski masks and have their voices permanently altered via surgery. As a complete antithesis to that caution, they’re also the stars of the hottest new reality show on television, making them stand out more than ever. And in a move that’s just rotten, the man trying to kill them (Eugene Mirman) is also part of the show — and proves so popular with viewers that there’s talk of a spin-off. All this and a separation, too — and that’s just “Delocated’s” pilot episode. Reality shows have become so passé that even making fun of them is slightly passé, so it’s worth pointing out that while “Delocated’s” completely farcical premise does a wonderful job of putting reality television in its miserable place, it’s equally capable at making fun of pretty every other genre on which it sets its sights. Arguably, once you get to know Mike (Kevin Dorff), the sweetly oversensitive federal agent assigned to protect Jon, “Delocated” ventures down a wavelength that has it zinging sitcoms, dramas, Lifetime movies and reality television in one hilarious simultaneous burst. The premise probably should get old after a few episodes, but once “Delocated” settles in and runs wild with every ridiculous storyline it can dream up, it’s too relentlessly funny to even break a sweat.
Contents: 19 episodes, plus commentary, deleted scenes, flip books and demo footage.
Dirty Girl (R, 2010, Anchor Bay)
Sometimes it’s better to be lovable than perfect. Titled and packaged like a cheap scandalous black comedy, “Dirty Girl” initially earns its name as a story about Danielle (Juno Temple), a loud and proud class tramp who is disgusted to have to “marry” the chunky, unpopular and gay Clarke (Jeremy Dozier) for a 30-day sex ed assignment. As we get to know Danielle, “Girl” shows its stripes as a nostalgia-soaked period piece set in 1987, and as Danielle and Clarke get acclimated, it turns into an over-caffeinated live-action cartoon that no longer seems concerned with looking scandalous. Two unspoiled plot developments turn it into a road trip comedy, and the road trip sends “Girl” careening hard into after school special territory. The schizophrenia is impossible not to notice. Pleasantly, though, it’s surprisingly easy to forgive. That Danielle and Clarke learn to get along is predictable, but the degree to and manner by which they forge their strange bond is endearing in a contagiously feel-good way. Their friendship elevates them from archetypes to completely appealing characters, and that makes “Girl” easy to love even when it delivers one case of emotional whiplash after another. Have you ever been moved by a sack of flour with a smiley face on it? Once you get to know Joan — Clarke and Danielle’s “baby” during their assignment — your answer may change. Milla Jovovich, William H. Macy and Dwight Yoakam also star.
Extras: Writer/director commentary, deleted/extended scenes.
Cold Sweat (NR, 2010, Dark Sky Films)
Ali (Marina Glezer) has a thing for Roman (Facundo Espinosa), so you can’t totally blame her for riding along while he investigates why his now-ex-girlfriend decided to suddenly cut off contact and run away with someone she met online. But volunteering to venture, alone, into the dilapidated house where she supposedly is shacking up? Not her brightest idea — especially when she discovers it’s a trap devised by two elderly former political radicals (Omar Musa and Omar Gioiosa) who have a cache of explosive chemicals and some dementedly vile ideas on how to experiment with them. Why, you ask? As always, who knows: “Cold Sweat” ties our madmen’s motives into snippets of 1970s Argentinian political history, but it isn’t abundantly clear why or how the procurement of dynamite brought them to this unhinged state 35 years later. Cloudy intentions seems to be something we just accept in horror movies. Fortunately, if it’s something you can accept, the payoff is pretty great. “Sweat” passes on needless gore in favor of a leaner, more acutely intense story that focuses squarely on these five characters the whole time. Murky motives aside, the two seniors make a wonderfully crazy duo — bickering old stooges one moment, terrifying evil geniuses the next. The victims, meanwhile, are likable enough to make their peril worth your concern, and without the usual cadre of disposable supporting characters to kill off, their survival takes hold early and keeps that grip throughout. The classically pure tension scares in ways needless bloodshed never can. (With that said, the one time “Sweat” truly indulges its gratuitous side, the payoff is pretty awesome — and arguably slightly poetic.) In Spanish with English subtitles.
Extras: Deleted/extended scenes, two behind-the-scenes features, digital comic book, collection of promotional spots and galleries.
Bombay Beach (NR, 2011, Entertainment One)
Once upon a time — specifically, 1950s California — the Salton Sea’s Bombay Beach was a bustling embodiment of the American dream’s limitless power. Now? It’s just another place time forgot — a poor, run-down community where few live and even fewer visit. So what happened? “Bombay Beach,” unfortunately, doesn’t really say, so you’ll have to look that up elsewhere if the premise has you curious. Instead, “Bay” is a wandering look at those who live there now. At that, it’s engaging and inviting — a reminder both of how much we all have in common and how different day-to-day life can look in one part of the country versus another. If you want more than that, though, “Bay” isn’t selling. Dependent entirely on the narrative these residents offer it, the movie itself isn’t interested in grand dissections of the 60 years that upended Bombay Beach’s fortunes. Frankly, outside of one of the DVD special features, it has no inclination to explore anything that happened before or after the camera began rolling. Everything that concerns “Bay” happens during its lifespan, making for an engaging look at life in the moment that will delight some while leaving others completely unfulfilled.
Extras: Selected-scene commentary, updates on the people we meet in the movie, deleted scenes, music videos.