6/19/12: 65_RedRoses, Wilfred S1, Louie S2, Franklin & Bash S1, Big Miracle, Web Therapy S1, A Bag of Hammers, The FP, Jeff Who Lives at Home

65_RedRoses (NR, 2009, Virgil Films)
If you knew nothing about “65_RedRoses” except that it’s a documentary about a girl meeting people on the Internet, how emboldened would you be to bet your life savings on it being yet another story about the perils of online relationships? Filmmakers and news crews love telling that story, don’t they? This time, though, the girl in question is Eva Markvoort, a 23-year-old suffering from cystic fibrosis and whose survival hinges on finding a match for a double lung transplant. By her own poignant acknowledgment, Eva has an exemplary support staff in her family, friends and doctors. But it’s online where she finds an audience of thousands receptive to her story and a network of fellow sufferers, two of whom become deeply close friends. Though it focuses primarily on the tribulations of Eva and her two friends as they await transplants and/or deal with a new set of post-transplant challenges, “65_RedRoses” (named after Eva’s screen name, which itself was born out of a younger Eva’s amusing mispronunciation of her condition) pays considerable mind to the effect those friendships and outpourings of support from strangers have on the will to keep fighting a disease with no known cure. Weaving the two themes so tightly together gives the film a rousing voice without ignoring the grim reality of the situation. And in the face of the relentless effort to scare people away from meeting others online, “65_RedRoses” also stands as an unarguable testament to the value of greeting the concept with an open mind.
Extras: Interviews, behind-the-scenes features.

Wilfred: The Complete First Season (NR, 2011, Fox)
“Wilfred” is the story of a man (Elijah Wood as Ryan) and his dog friend, who comes over to visit when his owner and Ryan’s next-door neighbor Jenna (Fiona Gubelmann) is away at work. The only teeny little twist is that while everyone else in the world sees Wilfred as a dog, Ryan sees him as a man (Jason Gann) in a dog suit. And not just any man, but a foul-mouthed, perverted, smoking, swearing man who takes great joy in being the little devil on Ryan’s shoulder. As an aside, it’s worth noting that the night before he met Wilfred and Jenna, Ryan tried four times to kill himself and failed all four times. But other than that stuff, “Wilfred” is totally a show about a man and a dog. If you’re hoping “Wilfred” will explain why Ryan sees (and hears) a man where others see a dog, don’t. It doesn’t care why, it doesn’t explain why, and if that bothers you, that’s your problem. And how cool is that? If “Wilfred” changed nothing about itself except to make Wilfred an imaginary friend or even just a regular human being, it’d likely still be a hilariously dark show about a guy stuck in a rut and the new best friend who can’t stay out of trouble long enough to know what a rut is. Throw in the dog bit and milk that gimmick while deadpanning like its completely normal, and “Wilfred” becomes wondrous — that rare show that’s grounded, relatable and completely bananas all at once and all the time.
Contents: 13 episodes, plus deleted scenes, 16 behind-the-scenes features and Comic-con 2011 footage.
— Semi-related: “Louie: Season 2” (NR, 2011, Fox): “Wilfred’s” FX Network time slot buddy isn’t quite as fantastical with its concept, but the brilliantly funny balance Louis C.K. flashes while walking a tightrope between art and real life very arguably is not of this world. 13 episodes. Extras include commentary, but additional details weren’t available at press time.

Franklin & Bash: The Complete First Season (NR, 2011, Sony Pictures)
Jared Franklin (Breckin Meyer) and Peter Bash (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) are fun-loving guys. And when two fun-loving guys get their names in the title of their television show, the natural outcome would seem to be a show that likes to have a good time too. Refreshingly, and despite being yet another case-of-the-week show about lawyers, “Franklin & Bash” does exactly that. Structurally, it’s the same old story: Clients bring cases to the firm, the cases carry seemingly long odds of success, and Franklin and Bash put down their Playstation 3 controllers and get to work without breaking a sweat or uncurling their smiles. “F&B,” being a comedy, plays it even safer than most legal procedurals by giving its heroes a win/loss record that would make the ’72 Miami Dolphins nervous. But that’s the thing: It’s a comedy, and a comedy first. “F&B” doesn’t slack on matters of justice delivery, but it designs cases in the service of getting laughs as much as telling good stories, and it’s genuinely funny and clever enough to get those laughs. Even the murder trials are light and amusing. Dana Davis, Kumail Nanjiani, Garcelle Beauvais and Reed Diamond also star, and a scene-stealing Malcolm McDowell may be having more fun than anybody as the firm’s incredibly likable top dog.
Contents: 10 episodes, plus seven behind-the-scenes features and bloopers.

Big Miracle (PG, 2012, Universal)
Operation Breakthrough — that bizarre moment in 1988 when oil drillers, whalers, environmentalists, Americans and Soviets joined forces to free a family of California gray whales trapped in Alaskan ice while the world intently watched — is a stunning story because of who participated as much as what happened. “Big Miracle” distills that story into an easy-to-swallow family drama, and you’re warmly invited to debate whether that’s a good thing or not. The movie doesn’t exactly help itself with its struggles to arrange its priorities clearly. “Miracle” never masks the phenomenon of all those groups reluctantly working together, but it emphatically nerfs the complexities of the people and principles needed to make it happen. The sugar-coating would make more sense if it was wholly in the service of letting this be the whales’ story. But when there’s a drawn-out and wholly unnecessary subplot about reporters (John Krasinski, Kristen Bell) and newsroom politics competing with the whales for “Miracle’s” minutes, it’s harder to completely understand what the movie wants to say. Fortunately, the whales ultimately win out, even if the score is closer than it should have been. What happens here doesn’t totally jibe with what happened in 1988, but it’s an inspiring approximation of the event that forever changed the way the world looks at whales. And if it shows kids the power (and possibility) of putting aside differences for a greater good, that’s hardly a bad thing. Drew Barrymore, Ted Danson and John Pingayak also star.
Extras: Director commentary, deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes feature.

Web Therapy: The Complete First Season (NR, 2008, Entertainment One)
Because 50 minutes of listening to the same patient drone on is incredibly boring to her, narcissistic therapist Fiona (Lisa Kudrow) has a new plan: three-minute sessions, conducted strictly via webcam from the convenience and protective walls of her own home. Whether it’s good for her clients is questionable — 47 fewer minutes a week of Fiona may be as healthy for them as anything therapy could accomplish — but it mostly works just fine for the show. Presented entirely through two-way video chats, “Web Therapy” breaks each half-hour episode into smaller pieces wherein Kudrow and a large roster of characters (Jane Lynch, Rashida Jones, Bob Balaban and Courteney Cox, among several familiar faces) semi-extemporaneously play off each other. What results isn’t always very funny — the bloopers in the credits are the unintentional highlights of some of the weaker episodes — but “Therapy” hits more than it misses. Better still, it isn’t leaning on gimmick alone: Clients and other characters (including arguable cast MVP Lily Tomlin as Fiona’s mom) make recurring appearances, and for a show about improvised three-minute snark-offs, there’s a surprising amount of story continuity coursing through the season.
Contents: 10 episodes (all with commentary), plus a behind-the-scenes feature, outtakes and a season two preview.

A Bag of Hammers (NR, 2011, MPI Home Video)
There’s a moment roughly halfway through “A Bag of Hammers” where Ben (Jason Ritter) has to tell his neighbor’s young son (Chandler Canterbury as Kelsey) that life as they know it is about to get considerably more complicated. It’s from this talk where “Hammers” gets its name, and it’s this talk — all five or so minutes of it — that grants arguable immunity to the likable but messy 80 minutes that surround it. “Hammers” begins as a silly comedy about two slacker friends (Ritter, and Jake Sandvig as Alan) who do everything in their underhanded power to make a living any way but legitimately. The kid and his mom (Carrie Preston) enter the picture as tenants renting the house next door, and it’s during the aforementioned complication where their meandering story enters full intertwine mode with Ben and Alan’s meandering story. Though the details are better left unspoiled, the union of those stories forces a change of mood in “Hammers,” which finds a middle ground between quirky comedy and heartfelt drama but doesn’t necessarily find its footing along the way. To the contrary, it’s distractingly wobbly, biting off more storytelling than it can chew and practically breaking the sound barrier while cruising through some very complicated barriers en route to an ending that feels frantically pulled together. “Hammers” scrambles with heart, and the goodwill borne from that mid-movie conversation may be enough to carry it through. But it’ll be tough for even the most forgiving viewer to abstain from some head scratching when that race to the ending reaches peak speed. Rebecca Hall also stars.
Extras: Behind-the-scenes feature.

The FP (R, 2011, Drafthouse Films)
Take your standard movie about gang warfare. But imagine that instead of guns and fists, the crews settle their differences with “DanceDanceRevolution” showdowns that are intense enough to kill those who compete. Then take that concept and imagine if a fan of “Rocky IV” designed a story where one combatant dies and his best friend (Jason Trost as JTRO), who has left the sport, embarks on a furious comeback that includes a training montage. Once you’ve done all that, ask yourself one question: Why are you imagining all this when, somehow, it already exists? If the gray area of movies that are simultaneously terrible and wonderful was a city, “The FP” might be its mayor. The joke — replace traditional combat with video game dance-offs using an unapologetically transparent “DDR” knockoff — is exactly what it sounds like, and “The FP’s” parodies of iconic and far more straight-faced movies hits squarely on the nose as well. As happens with movies that live and die by a gag, it wears thin in spots and feels long even at 83 minutes. But the completely crazy energy “The FP” brings to the gag is too insane to let the joke fully stagnate even at its most tired. The setting — part dystopian future, part 1980s music video — is amusing, and while the script is inane, there’s a surprisingly high amount of so-stupid-they’re-funny lines lying in wait. Calling “The FP” good may be a bit much, but calling it dull would just be dishonest. And it’s always better to be fun than simply be good.
Extras: Directors commentary, two behind-the-scenes features, 16-page liner notes booklet.

Jeff, Who Lives at Home (R, 2012, Paramount)
Jeff (Jason Segel) most definitely lives at home, and one must assume “Jeff, Who Lives at Home” finds this hugely significant or funny if it’s willing to name itself after that fact. No other explanation makes as much sense, even if that one doesn’t totally check out either. “Home,” the entirety of which takes place in a single day, isn’t simply about Jeff: It also covers the present conditions of his brother Pat (Ed Helms), who doesn’t live at home but may be headed back there if his marriage continues failing, and his mom (Susan Sarandon), who considers herself washed up until an anonymous admirer at work gives her hope. In contrast to his more cynical mom and brother, Jeff believes things happen for a reason, and he believes this strongly enough to follow a would-be premonition across town and see where it takes him. (Despite the title, Jeff spends very little time at home in “Home.”) The journey eventually culminates in a moment of truth of sorts. But “Home” makes some puzzling stops along the way, juxtaposing thoughtful and funny scenes with clumsy and rambling moments that don’t contribute much of anything. That culmination, and the emotional right turn down which it sends at least one character, isn’t necessarily the good kind of exclamation point, either. Though good-hearted and engaging here and there, “Home’s” course of events leaves it open to accusations of contrivance. And if you find yourself on the side of the prosecution in that argument, those closing scenes aren’t likely to dissuade you one bit. No extras.