9/25/12: The Avengers, Delicacy, Detachment, The Do-Deca-Pentathlon, Damsels in Distress, American Horror Story S1

The Avengers (PG-13, 2012, Disney)
The movie that’s many years and multiple Marvel Studios movies in the making is finally a tangible thing, and it is nothing short of a Hollywood miracle that it’s resisted every urge to devolve into disaster en route to getting here. For the few who don’t know, “The Avengers” is a catch-all sequel to numerous Marvel movies, and it bands together those films’ heroes — Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Captain America (Chris Evans) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth), along with Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) — and fills their plate with a calamity to end all calamities. This, of course, is the point where all those heroes should get in each other’s way and create a big-budget mess to end all messes. But rather than rebel against chaos, “The Avengers” embraces it. There are no windy introductions, no unnecessarily long winks at the audience and no melodramatic bridges toward understanding. Only The Hulk gets any kind of lengthy exposition, but it’s central to the storyline and more interesting than the entirety of The Hulk’s previous movie, so it works. Everywhere else, “The Avengers” play fast and loose. Our heroes fly into frame, they get in each other’s way, they bicker in genuinely funny fashion, and when the job calls for it, they improvise and use their respective gifts to tag team to magnificent effect. “The Avengers” makes the smart play by not overloading the screen with as many villains as it has heroes, and the action is just crazy enough to thrill without letting the story lose control. As a case study for superheroes coexisting not so peacefully, it’s a riot that flies by despite the 143-minute runtime. And as a showcase for how gaudy special effects and a relentlessly clever script can play nice together, it’s as good as they get.
Extras: Director commentary, deleted scenes, three behind-the-scenes features, second screen content, bloopers, music video.

Delicacy (PG-13, 2011, Cohen Media Group)
It is no trivial feat to walk into an Audrey Tautou film and more or less steal it from her, and it’s exponentially more difficult when you’re nowhere to be seen during the first third of what already has shaped up to be a very good movie. But that’s how great a character Markus (François Damiens) is after he ambles into his boss’ (Tautou as Nathalie) office and walks out, a minute later, wondering if everything he previously knew was wrong. Without spoiling too much (which, considering how much happens before Markus even appears, means saying almost nothing), “Delicacy” is both aptly and ironically named — a tale of two socially delicate people who accept their condition with all the fragility of a kicking and screaming child. That dichotomy makes for a fun movie all by itself, but the way “Delicacy” carries it through — with equal parts comedy, grace and complete honesty, and through two characters who are equally relatable in spite of immense differences — is impressive all the same. This, unarguably, is Nathalie’s story first, foremost and from start to finish. But it’s Markus — his mannerisms, his realization that the world is full of people just as complicated as he, and his determination to embrace that in spite of himself — that elevates “Delicacy” from something great to one of the year’s best.
Extras: Tautou Interview, behind-the-scenes feature.

Detachment (NR, 2011, Tribeca Film)
Henry (Adrien Brody) is a substitute teacher, and the purpose of his day is to take a classroom of teenagers — who don’t know him, don’t trust him, and will readily terrorize and grind the souls of the regular teachers they actually do know — and try to get them to believe in anything whatsoever. You’ve seen this movie before, and it always ends with a passionate teacher overcoming impossible odds and lightning a fire under students who finally have someone believing in them. But by the time Henry faces off with a student who threatens his well-being before introductions are even made, “Detachment” has made a thousand proclamations that it most emphatically is not that movie. The kids are impenetrable, as evidenced by the bloodbath of screaming, crumbling, raging faculty left in their wake. But Henry is a fortress as well — unflinching when challenged, unafraid to throw a kid out of class and send him nowhere in particular, and so emotionally impassable as to send his students reeling instead of the other way around. “Detachment” doesn’t take any cheap and easy roads toward its construction of what must be any educator’s worst nightmare, nor is it simply a harrowing mess with no point beyond bringing nightmares to life. This, simply, is the story of Henry — the man, his objective, and the tightrope he walks between idealism and absolute black-hearted contempt for all he can and cannot help. It plumbs the depths of its characters’ personal darknesses, and with respect to the name, detached is just about the last thing “Detachment” is when it reaches the bottom. Sami Gayle, Betty Kaye, Marcia Gay Harden, Christina Hendricks, Lucy Liu and James Caan also star.
Extras: Interviews, Tribeca Film Festival premiere footage.

The Do-Deca-Pentathlon (R, 2012, Fox)
In 1990, two brothers waged battle in a 25-event Olympiad that, two decades later, is an object of family legend and a squeaky hinge for wounds that keep swinging open. At long last, the bitterness has reached its inevitable summit: a rematch, and a chance to create two more decades of brand-new acrimony. The potential for silly hijinks is, naturally, endless. But anyone familiar with “The Do-Deca-Pentathlon’s” screenwriters should already know to expect no such thing. Jay and Mark Duplass are masters at taking ideas rife for broad comedy — a slacker spearheading a camping trip, straight male friends filming a love scene, a road trip transporting a puffy purple chair across the country — and turning them instead into uncomfortable and borderline miserable examinations of human discontentment. “Do-Deca-Pentathlon,” which explores sibling rivalry, poisonous resentment and the slow dispiriting tumble from the promise of youth to the dreamless grind of adulthood, is no exception. There’s still something of a comedy hovering above these raging themes, but it’s akin to someone who laughs to mask a tantrum, and it won’t fool anyone. But “Do-Deca-Pentathlon” doesn’t want to fool anybody, even if its two brothers (Steve Zissis and Mark Kelly) very obviously want to fool everybody. Establishing that distinction isn’t easy, and the movie’s ability to do so is a testament to the care put into a script that finds its own niche between comedy and tragedy. (Whether you like or dislike that niche is, of course, up to you.)
Extras: Two features starring the real-life brothers who actually created and competed in the 1990 competition. (They seem much happier than their fictional counterparts.)

Damsels in Distress (PG-13, 2011, Sony Pictures Classics)
One can only wonder what Lily’s (Analeigh Tipton) college life would have been like if she’d simply stood in a different part of the room when Violet (Greta Gerwig), Rose (Megalyn Echikunwoke) and Heather (Carrie MacLemore) spotted and sought her out. But she stood where she stood, and they found her. And just like that, the slightly lost transfer student is part of their bizarre group, which seeks to rescue fellow students from depression, stupidity, low standards and any other human condition they may not even know afflicts them. The girls call it helpful. The rest of us, of course, might call it nosy and snobby, and while “Damsels in Distress” absolutely refuses to make it official, you get the feeling it takes our side on this one. But that’s the beauty (or aggravation) of the whole thing: You get the feeling, but don’t truly know. From the open, Violet and her crew put on the bizarre, contrary airs of a group of women who behave like they’re simultaneously from 50 years in the past and 20 in the future, and “Distress” holds that note with a tone that’s subversive quirky comedy here, stuffy coming-of-age period piece there and a rambling ball of dueling self-importance and self-depreciation in between. For all the girls aspire to do, “Distress” isn’t about what is done so much as what is said, and the line between cleverness and emptily pretentiousness is practically folding over on itself. That certainly makes for an original movie, but it’s one as easy to loathe as it is to love.
Extras: Cast/director commentary, deleted scenes, cast/director Q&A, two behind-the-scenes features, bloopers.

American Horror Story: The Complete First Season (NR, 2011, Fox)
Buying a house isn’t exactly something you can just undo. But it only takes one episode of “American Horror Story” to wonder what would compel the Harmon family (Connie Britton and Dylan McDermott as Vivien and Ben, Taissa Farmiga as daughter Violet) to do anything short of everything to renege on this deal. The Harmons live in a house — famously known (except to them, apparently) as The Murder House — with a rich history of death across multiple generations. And from the instant they arrive, neighbors, creeps and criminals begin descending on the home (which Ben, a psychiatrist, bafflingly opens up to patients as his office) at a crazy and eventually tiresome clip. The house’s effect extends to the family itself, and pretty much everyone who ventures near its walls seems to suffer from some measure of chemical imbalance. For the Harmons, that means taking a miserable event from its past, compounding it with present and illusory new misery, and then drowning it inbuckets of newfound misery from all those uninvited guests. Ball it all up, and “Story” reaches a level of unpredictability that television rarely ever reaches — and perhaps television has its reasons. “Story’s” grim first episode is intriguing, but grimness soon gives way to relentless melancholia. And as that compounds and every weird person alive ambles to the door, “Story” isn’t so much unpredictable as exhausting. Surprises are great, but it helps to ground them in something — a single likable character, a single reason to not take a wrecking ball to this house and split — that gives those surprises some weight. Jessica Lange, Kate Mara, Frances Conroy and Evan Peters also star.
Contents: 12 episodes (commentary on the pilot), plus five behind-the-scenes features.

9/18/12: The Cabin in the Woods, Speak, Chico & Rita, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, The Sacred Science, End of the Road, Steve Martin: The Television Stuff, Fenway Park, Home of the Boston Red Sox: 100th Anniversary CS, New York Mets: 50th Anniv. CS, Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures

The Cabin in the Woods (R, 2012, Lions Gate)
If you caught a trace of the buzz surrounding “The Cabin in the Woods,” you probably confidently assumed it couldn’t possibly be yet another movie about attractive people going to a rustic cabin and getting the exact opposite of the quiet getaway they had in mind. Guess what? Outside the lines, it’s absolutely that. But “Woods” also is a terrific example of the wonderful places a dead tired idea can go when someone applies a little imagination to it. As the buzz implied, the fruits of that imagination are best left completely unspoiled, because the way “Woods” initially drops hints before going all in is so much more fun to watch if you have no idea what lies in store. With that said, it’s also worth noting that “Woods” is more than the sum of its twists. The attractive people aren’t roundly lovable, but they’re leagues more likable than what we’re usually stuck with in movies like this. And while the tricks “Woods” plays on old conventions are extraordinarily welcome, its ability to mix classic horror with the occasional extremely funny line — often with just the right amount of self-awareness mixed in — is every bit as impressive. Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Bradley Whitford and Fran Kranz, among others, star.
Extras: Writer/director/producer commentary, four behind-the-scenes features, Wondercon Q&A, BonusView mode.

Speak (NR, 2011, Tumbleweed Entertainment)
“Speak” isn’t a documentary about mankind’s fear of public speaking, because it very obviously realizes that nobody needs to be told how frightening speaking to a crowd of strangers can be. All the same, though, there’s something cathartically reassuring about watching the finalists of Toastmasters International’s World Championship of Public Speaking — the Super Bowl of professional public speaking, in case the name doesn’t give that away — struggle with nerves, technique, cadence and the same paralyzing unknown that scares the rest of us. If that in itself isn’t gift enough, “Speak” sweetens the deal with some legitimately thrilling stories about the contestants, their wholly ordinary public speaking roots, and the completely extraordinary challenges some of them overcame (or contend with still) in order to compete for a title that can turn them into in-demand public speakers overnight. (Just in case the simple act of speaking to a roomful of strangers wasn’t pressure enough.) “Speak” takes us through and beyond the aftermath of the competition, and you need not have one iota of interest in the sport of toastmaking to find yourself totally enthralled by the time the finals roll around. Watching people conquer their greatest fear is compelling on any level, and it’s that much more gratifying when it happens to be our greatest fear as well.
Extras: Bonus footage, three uncut speeches.

Chico & Rita (NR, 2010, New Video)
Nearly 60 years after they recorded it, a dingy radio plays the song Chico and Rita wrote together. As it does, and as he probably has countless times before, a frail and mostly forgotten Chico listens intently and daydreams about his piano-playing days and the difficult romance he shared with a singer he never could get out of his mind. Those memories comprise the bulk of “Chico & Rita,” which evokes them with a tone and sophistication that’s rarely seen in animated movies. Occasionally, the bear hug embrace of atmosphere and setting comes at the story’s expense. Sixty years is a lot of time to cover, and the temperature of Chico and Rita’s romance compels “C&R” to skip around and recount their story in stops and starts that can be jarring and even repetitive. But these are Chico’s memories, and memories sometimes work like that, so it makes some sense in this context. And for those who leave those worries behind and just let the movie’s aesthetic undercurrent take it for a ride, it almost completely ceases to be a concern. “C&R” paints its world with a muted color palette, but it brings that palette to life with fluent animation, some very lively line work and a rousing jazz soundtrack that romanticizes the era all by itself. A little more coherence in the storytelling wouldn’t have been so bad, but “C&R’s” determination to just take viewers on a trip through time, via a medium that rarely gets used like this, makes for a very special experience all the same.
Extras: Directors commentary, soundtrack CD, 14-page graphic novel excerpt.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (PG-13, 2011, Fox)
Say this for Sonny (Dev Patel): He knows how to market lemonade while holding lemons, which is why a handful of British seniors have, for various reasons, trekked to India to live indefinitely in a hotel with amenities that include no working phones and rooms that may or may not have doors. Say this also for Sonny: What he lacks in telecommunications and the occasional door, he redeems in the art of gracious hosting — no doubt due to the fact that his humble-if-not-humbly-named hotel finally has some guests to lavish. Were “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” Sonny’s story alone — and there’s more to his story than his willingness to please his new tenants — it’d be a very likable story about a man, his dreams, and the universal language of good hospitality. But Sonny’s guests (and the outstanding cast — Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy — that portrays them) have stories, dreams, and universal languages of their own. That’s a lot to cover in two hours’ time, but the supremely graceful and relentlessly relatable “Hotel” makes it look easy as it slips in and out of stories and shifts between poignance, comedy and sharp insight without a hiccup. Broken down, it’s basically a book of wisdom that uses people as its vessels. But when those vessels are as likable and richly developed as they are here, it never feels nearly so simple.
Extras: Two behind-the-scenes features.

The Sacred Science (NR, 2011, Three Seed Productions)
When he was 22 years old and exhausted of traditional ideas to reverse the effects of the Crohn’s disease he’d been living with for 10 years, Roman Hanis went to the Amazon in search of a natural remedy — and had one five months later. He also found a calling as a healer, and 10 disease-free years later, Roman remains in the jungle, which is where Nicholas Polizzi found him while on a similar quest to reverse a friend’s Parkinson’s disease symptoms. Their partnership formed the basis of “The Sacred Science,” which brought eight people suffering from different conditions (diabetes, alcoholism and prostate cancer, to name three) to the jungle for a 30-day search for a non-traditional cure. Though “Science” takes a no-frills approach to documentary filmmaking, what results — which easily could be three documentaries instead of one — needs no stylistic help to engross. Roman’s own story, combined with “Science’s” observation that 99 percent of the Amazon’s plant life remains rife for discovery, is yet another testament to natural medicine’s potential as a biological gold mine. The eight subjects of the study experience a wide range of results, and the process of taking on so many disparate conditions in a months’ time is as fascinating as it is crazy. Just for fun, “Science” also devotes some time to the patients’ adjustments from their comfortable but frustrating normal lives to the scary, exciting uncertainty of living in the wild and on the bleeding edge. If “Survivor” was actually real and had stakes actually worth caring about, it would be what happens here, and “Science” hopefully is merely one in a long line of exciting endeavors from Roman and all who believe in him.
Extras: Three short related features.

End of the Road (R, 1970, Warner Bros.)
Though it has aged considerably, “End of the Road” — based on the 1958 John Barth book, of the same name, about a catatonic college graduate (Stacy Keach) and the crazed doctor (James Earl Jones) who pulls him out of one madness and drops him into another — may hold more value now as a rediscovered filmmaking curiosity than it did in 1970 as an attempted statement piece. Narratively speaking, it’s a wreck, which is something of an anti-achievement given that it’s following the blueprint of a novel that made reasonably good sense. Substance crawls on its belly as shock and style light up the sky, and some of the style choices — playing the same snippet of Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Air on the G string” ad nauseam, for instance — make the movie feel somewhat overmatched in that area as well. But how surprising is any of that? Independent filmmaking wasn’t the all-access endeavor it is today, deranged art films were scarce and scary, and if “Road” looks overwhelmed, it is at least partially because it’s trespassing on an established medium with a rulebook that mostly consisted of blank pages. You can call it pretentious, inaccessible and even irredeemably terrible and have a case laid out for you to present. But the completely insane way “Road” takes its muse to the edge of coherence is still pretty wild to witness. A young, creepily stoic Keach is the movie’s star, but the absolutely maniacal performance a young Jones puts on is bound to be its legacy.
Extra: A new half-hour cast/crew retrospective with, among others, Keach and Jones.

— “Steve Martin: The Television Stuff” (NR, 2012, Shout Factory): Even the name of this set is funny. And the name isn’t alone. “The Television Stuff” compiles six uncut Steve Martin standup specials from 1976 to 1984 on two discs, and loads up a third disc with music videos, footage of Martin’s television debut, “Saturday Night Live” skits and more. That adds up to six and a half hours of Martin at his best. Additional extras include a new interview and a 24-page booklet with photos, liner notes and an essay by “The New Yorker’s” Adam Gopnik.
— “Fenway Park, Home of the Boston Red Sox: 100th Anniversary Collector’s Set” (NR, 2012, MLB/A&E) and “New York Mets: 50th Anniversary Collector’s Set” (NR, 2012, MLB/A&E): Unless you’re a Yankees fan, 2012 won’t go down as one of the better seasons in history for either the Mets or Red Sox. But at least those fanbases get a pretty consolation prize. Both sets (12 DVDs for the Red Sox set, 10 for the Mets) come presented inside beautiful coffee table-style hardcover books that house pictures and random anecdotes and trivia as well as the discs. Most of the content — a handful of uncut games, season highlight/World Series films, greatest moments compilations — has been seen previously in other sets and individual releases. But as casual anthologies for casual collectors go, it’s an easy call come gift-gifting time. For what it’s worth, each set also features a new documentary — one about Fenway, the other ranking the 50 greatest Mets of all time — as well.
— “Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures” (PG/PG-13, Lucasfilm/Paramount): Following a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it return to theaters, all four “Indiana Jones” movies arrive on Blu-ray, where you can take your sweet time watching them (or in the case of “The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” continue pretending they don’t exist). Extras include a behind-the-scenes look (with Steven Spielberg and George Lucas) at the making of all four movies, interviews and additional behind-the-scenes features.

9/11/12: Snow White and the Huntsman, Lola Versus, Karate-Robo Zaborgar, The Loved Ones, Up All Night S1, What to Expect When You're Expecting, Terra Nova, Titanic, Ghosts of the Abyss

Snow White and the Huntsman (PG-13/NR, 2012, Universal)
Roughly halfway into its existence, “Snow White and the Huntsman” opens its arms and lets a little magic in. Cute, computer-animated fairies smile as they whisk through a forest that suddenly beams with color, and the animals that greet Snow White (Kristen Stewart) exude a more forceful heartbeat than the sum total of nearly everything that precedes their appearance. But with the firing of a single arrow, the magic extinguishes as quickly as it spread, replaced by yet another helping of a grey, bleak reimagination that nobody could possibly need. You can spell “Huntsman” with one glance at any one of its movie posters, and the initial appearances check out. Like so many like-minded movies released in recent years, “Huntsman” leads with its skin, redressing its classic muse — the Brothers Grimm fairy tale, not the Disney movie — with lots of visual gloss, some computer-generated eye candy and a level of real-world grittiness that’s different enough to at least be fleetingly intriguing. (Yes, there are dwarves. No, they aren’t named Happy, Dopey and Sneezy.) Beyond the superficial, though, “Huntsman” collapses into a completely joyless heap. Whimsy and humor, even dark humor, almost completely elude it despite lots of expensive special effects doing what they do. And once the novelty of all this gloominess wears off and “Huntsman” drags itself toward a climax that’s somehow predictable despite having absolutely no basis in the fairy tale, it’s hard to fathom who this is even for, much less why (besides money) anyone endeavored to make it. Charlize Theron and Chris Hemsworth also star.
Extras: Extended cut of the movie (which adds four minutes to the runtime), filmmakers commentary, seven behind-the-scenes features, 360-degree set tour.

Lola Versus (R, 2012, Fox)
Lola’s 29th birthday begins with the astrological promise that life-changing upheaval is in store whether Lola (Greta Gerwig) wants it or not. Sure enough, upheaval comes via a marriage proposal from Luke (Joel Kinnaman). Lola accepts, and “Lola Versus” proceeds to combine two unlikely forces — overt cynicism and unabashedly cute silliness — into one instantly likable story about wedding planning, parents, single friends and non-toxic wedding cake. And all of this lasts all of six minutes before a curveball crashes the party and turns “Versus” into something else entirely. Without spoiling what that something is, it’s nothing you haven’t seem before. But it compels “Versus” to effectively start over as a different movie while keeping in mind everything we learned — and liked — during those first six minutes. The combative tone of the title doesn’t lie, and Lola isn’t always in the right when she picks a fight. But it doesn’t matter, because by the time “Versus” truly begins, we already like her and have taken her side. “Versus” does lots of things well during its funny, thoughtful and honest rewriting of an old story concept. But its construction of a character before her story truly even begins is its best and most memorable trick.
Extras: Filmmakers commentary, alternate ending, deleted scenes, three behind-the-scenes features, outtakes, premiere footage.

Karate-Robo Zaborgar (NR, 2011, Well Go USA)
The tag line — “Part Motorcycle. Part Karate Expert. All Robot!” — gives you some idea of what you’re in for with “Karate-Robo Zaborgar,” which busts out one heck of a tale about corrupt lawmakers, vengeful cyborgs, mad science and a rebellious but righteous cop (Itsuji Itao/Yasuhisa Furuhara as Daimon) who rides a motorcycle that transforms on cue into a sentient, karate-trained robot named Zaborgar. Purely in the realm of insanity, “Zaborgar” masterfully delivers by combining what must be intentionally cheeseball special effects with an imagination that puts spectacle, humor and creativity on identically high pedestals. But the movie’s best play lies with Daimon. Despite being at the center of the chaos, Daimon grounds “Zaborgar” and gives it a soul with a highly personal and surprisingly engaging (and, considering the circumstances, shockingly coherent) story that spans 25 up-and-down years. “Zaborgar” produces several surprisingly likable characters, but it’s especially a treat to root for Daimon as he makes the final turn toward a conclusion that’s epic, straight-faced, heartfelt but also funny and knowingly so. That’s a line so thin as to be too contrary to even exist, but “Zaborgar” draws it anyway and toes it with such ease that it may as well be a mile wide. In Japanese with English subtitles.
Extra: Collection of “Go, Zaborgar, Go!” shorts, in which Zaborgar completes errands in as dramatic a fashion as possible.

The Loved Ones (NR, 2009, Paramount)
Things are bad enough for Brent (Xavier Samuel), now six months removed from crashing his car — and killing his father — after he swerved to dodge a mysterious and bloodied man standing in the middle of the road. Unfortunately, they’re only going to get a whole lot worse after Lola (Robin McLeavy) asks him to the prom and he turns her down. Let’s just say she has trouble taking no for an answer, as our mysterious man in the road already knew. “The Loved Ones” is a horror movie, and it’s a product of the times as far as horror goes, so it’s silly to worry about spoilers when so much of what happens arrives so promptly on schedule. But “Ones” also perfectly embodies why, if you’re going to do something that’s been done to death, it makes all the difference in the world to do it with flair. Style runs wild, and “Ones” walks a threadbare line between pitch-black dark comedy and horrifying terror with dazzling confidence. Can you admire a movie that’s uniformly despicable? If that’s a challenge, it’s a challenge “One” accepts. And thanks to a completely crazy girl and the lengths to which she pushes the object of her desire — simultaneously pushing us to root savagely for some kind of payback or rally — it’s a challenge met. (With that said, viewer discretion furiously advised. A contemptible movie you can admire is still contemptible.)
Extra: Cast/crew interviews.

Up All Night: Season One (NR, 2011, NBC/Universal)
At least according to them, Reagan (Christina Applegate) and Chris (Will Arnett) were pretty cool people before their first child was born. (Numerous contrary examples pop up during “Up All Night’s” first season, but let’s humor them.) Regardless, with Reagan’s maternity leave ending, she’s back at work as a producer of her famous friend Ava’s (Maya Rudolph) daytime talk show, while Chris takes a crack at life as a stay-at-home dad. The results are, as expected, highly imperfect but mostly sufficient. And as goes their attempt at parenting, so goes their sitcom. “Night” isn’t the funniest show on television, and it doesn’t seem primed to ever be part of that conversation. When Rudolph’s mostly unlikable character dominates an episode, it often isn’t funny at all. But that only happens every so often, and when the focus stays on Reagan, Chris and the many ways they aren’t nearly as cool as they think they are, “Night” is consistently amusing at worst and genuinely very funny at best. Lame though they may be, Reagan and Chris are good for each other, and rooting for them is nearly as fun as laughing at them.
Contents: 24 episodes, plus deleted/extended scenes and the uncut parody music video from the third episode.

What to Expect When You’re Expecting (PG-13, 2012, Lions Gate)
It’s easier to hit your target when you shoot for the roof instead of the moon, and it’d be unfair to criticize “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” — which takes a loaded cast and weaves together a handful of stories about the silly, stupid, unfortunate and sweet things expectant parents do — for hitting the mark it had in its sights. As a comedy, “Expecting” is consistently tepid, with its one true laugh coming in a scene with Elizabeth Banks that’s more cathartically funny than ha-ha funny. That same scene, which finds “Expecting” at its most honest — arguably provides the movie’s dramatic high point as well. “Expecting” explores some dark corners of pre-parenthood, but it merely peeks in before backing away and quickly changing the subject. The most compelling storyline also is the one that gets the least amount of screen time. So all in all, not such a great movie, right? Maybe. But you get the feeling “Expecting” isn’t trying to be great so much as it simply wants to be pleasant, and it certainly is that. While never hilarious, its attempts at comedy are reasonably amusing. And while it fails to take chances outside of that one aforementioned scene, it engages with its stories and very emphatically embraces all — good, bad and ugly — that accompanies being a parent. “Expecting” shoots for the middle, but it also aims for the parents and parents-to-be who would appreciate it most, and its hits that target squarely. Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Chris Rock, Anna Kendrick, Matthew Morrison, Dennis Quaid and Ben Falcone, among others, also star.
Extras: Deleted scenes, two behind-the-scenes features.

Terra Nova: The Complete Series (NR, 2011, Fox)
We’re at the point now where it’s merely bittersweet whenever a show with a great idea lands on network instead of cable television. If impatient executives don’t outright kill a concept before it can find its footing, the 20-plus-episode format almost always waters it down. Fittingly for “Terra Nova,” it’s the worst of two worlds. The premise — an accidental discovery of a parallel crack in time allows hand-picked citizens of a dying Earth to travel 85 million years to the past and give the planet a second chance — is awesome. Most of these people have never even seen clouds or the moon, much less green grass and fresh fruit, and that — along with time travel, the significance of a complete do-over and the juxtaposition of technology from 2149 with dinosaurs and other prehistoric wildlife — opens the door to who knows how many storylines. So it’s demoralizing when “Nova’s” opening episodes revolve around (a) a group of insurgents who want to upend the burgeoning new world order, (b) a husband jealously eyeing his wife’s old friend and (c) an angsty teenager who, almost immediately after teleporting 85 million years into a past he couldn’t possibly comprehend, decides the smart play is to lash out at his dad and find mischief that nearly kills him. “Nova” has moments of intrigue and visual wonder, but it too often settles for storylines that may as well be from any old family drama or dystopian future. The potential remains there after the first season, and there are blocks on which to build, but Fox’s swift cancelation makes that completely irrelevant.
Contents: 13 episodes (extended cuts of the last two), plus commentary, deleted scenes, director diaries, two behind-the-scenes features and bloopers.

Also (in Titanic-related re-releases)
— “Titanic” (PG-13, 1997, Paramount): Perhaps you’ve heard of this one. But you might be surprised to learn that one of the highest-grossing movies in the history of mankind hadn’t existed in Blu-ray form until now. “Titanic’s” Blu-ray debut comes in two flavors — a four-disc Blu-ray 3D/Blu-ray/digital copy combo and a four-disc set with the regular Blu-ray, digital copy and a two-disc DVD version — and both include two new behind-the-scenes retrospectives and numerous extras that previously appeared in “Titanic’s” numerous DVD editions.
— “Ghosts of the Abyss” (G, 2003, Disney): James Cameron’s other Titanic film — a documentary that plunders the depths to explore the ship’s wreckage — makes its not-so-coincidental Blu-ray debut as well this week. The three-disc set includes Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray and DVD copies of the film, though the 3D version is strictly for the original 60-minute feature. (The other two versions include both the theatrical cut and a 90-minute extended cut.) A behind-the-scenes feature with bonus footage also is included on the standard Blu-ray disc.

9/4/12: The Pirates! Band of Misfits, Sunny, A Beginner's Guide to Endings, My Sucky Teen Romance, 8:46, For the Love of Money, Bored to Death S3, The Magic School Bus CS, Parks and Recreation S4, The Office S8

The Pirates! Band of Misfits (PG, 2012, Sony Pictures)
Given the ingenious worlds Aardman Animations has created via the likes of “Wallace & Gromit,” “Flushed Away” and “Chicken Run,” it’s a little strange — and a little disappointing — to see the studio settle for the kind of subject matter any cut-rate computer animation studio could use to cough up a movie. That’s one way of looking at “The Pirates! Band of Misfits.” Fortunately, the other way — that Aardman has taken something ripe for mediocrity and very emphatically put its clever, charming stamp on it — applies as well. Subtly, that charm begins with The Pirate Captain and his crew, a likable bunch who want to be globally notorious but are too polite to scare anybody. But without spoiling the how or why, “Misfits” really becomes fun when the gang meets Charles Darwin (yes, that Charles Darwin) and his monocle-wearing monkey sidekick, who contends for funniest character status without saying a single word. “Misfits” is yet another brilliant demonstration of how to drop jaws with stop-motion animation. But as usual, Aardman’s unsung secret weapon is its writing, which avoids the typical trite kids movie stuff in favor of humor that’s genuinely clever and just the right kind of silly for any age. The lack of a wholly original world to explore makes this less interesting than Aardman’s other ventures, but only by a hair. Considering how creative the studio’s track record is, that is no minor accomplishment. Hugh Grant, Salma Hayek, David Tennant, Martin Freeman and Imelda Staunton, among others, lend their voices.
Extras: Filmmakers commentary, animated short “So You Want to be a Pirate!,” Mr. Bobo’s Flash Card Challenge, printable activity pages.

Sunny (NR, 2011, CJ Entertainment America)
Na-mi (You Ho-jeong) is a normal, slightly bored wife and mother of one — which, once you realize how magnificently socially backward she was as a teenager (Sim Eun-kyeong), is a more impressive feat than it seems. But those who knew that version of Na-mi also know that her teen years, spent as part of a clique of high school misfits known as Sunny, were the best of her life. When she unexpectedly reunites with the clique’s former leader (Jin Hee-kyung as Chun-hwa) — now diagnosed with terminal cancer and carrying a dying wish to reunite the entire group for one last hurrah — the search for the rest of Sunny is the spiritual reawakening she badly needs. And if this all sounds very dour to you, then guess again, because if there’s one and only one thing “Sunny” is not, it’s a downer. “Sunny” certainly is heartfelt — genuinely and considerably so, in fact. It’s also hilariously silly, irreverent, figuratively and literally cutting and prone to bouts of singing, dancing, screaming, slapstick and clique-versus-clique battles that are vicious and adorable at once. Bouncing regularly between the clique’s past and present, “Sunny” fires nearly every emotion it can cram into the cannon as it completely whittles away the line between comedy and drama. But any interest in using Chun-hwa’s illness as anything but a means for celebrating the genuine joys of friendship among misfits simply isn’t present. And given how much fun “Sunny” has with its idea of a spiritual reawakening, the dark clouds aren’t the least bit missed. In Korean with English subtitles.
Extras: Four behind-the-scenes features, the uncut soap opera scene (makes sense after you see the movie), music video.

A Beginner’s Guide to Endings (R, 2010, Entertainment One)
That Duke (Harvey Keitel) had five sons with three women while married to only one suggests his fathering career may have been a haphazard one. But that’s nothing compared to the bombshell he leaves his three oldest sons (Jason Jones, Scott Caan, Paulo Costanzo) following his self-inflicted exit from the world. Because of a drug trial Duke participated in, the three boys have only so long left to live themselves. An understandable moment of self-pity notwithstanding, it’s time for them to make their dying days count in the only way — recklessly, stupidly — Duke’s offspring know. And for better and worse, “A Beginner’s Guide to Endings” follows their lead. It’s erratic and continually in danger of completely leaving the rails, but it’s unpredictable and exciting (in an amusing sort of way) for the very same reason. The one constant, and the arguable saving grace, is the brothers themselves. Amid the chaos that occasionally feels like insanity for insanity’s sake, “Endings” takes surprisingly great pains to give our dying heroes some dimension beyond their father’s reflection. Turns out, they’re as messy and broken as expected, but a whole lot more likable than one might assume. When “Endings” flirts with disaster and threatens to lose control, that likability not only reins it back in, but also makes the randomness fun to behold while it lasts. J.K. Simmons and Tricia Helfer also star.
Extras: Two behind-the-scenes features.

My Sucky Teen Romance (NR, 2011, Dark Sky Films)
For sci-fi nuts, comic book nerds and teenage girls riding the vampire wave until it breaks, the annual SpaceCON already was the place to be this weekend. But after a vampire (Devin Bonnée as Vince) bites Paul (Patrick Delgado) and Cindy (Lauren Vunderink) during a robbery at the grocery store where they both work, “place to be” may be understating it. Paul, Cindy and Vince (who looks like a cross between Edward Cullen and a dollar store James Dean) all are attending SpaceCON, which means opportunities abound for the immensely awkward siring of new wannabe vampires. And boy, does opportunity knock. “My Sucky Teen Romance” wields a spectacular mastery of socially awkward teenspeak, alternating between clumsy speech and clumsy body language like Ali used to mix jabs and hooks. The mastery is partly to be expected considering it’s the product of a 19-year-old writer/director, Emily Hagins, who cannot be too far removed from the real thing. Perhaps also expected: For all the contemporary experience Hagins has studying tongue-tied teenagers, there’s still lots of learning to do with regard to storytelling. “Romance” offers plenty to like thanks to its endearingly clumsy characters, but a different kind of clumsiness settles in with regard to building on their story and finishing as strongly as it began. Our fidgeting cast is amusing at first, but it wears thinner as “Romance” runs out of ingenuity and skates through a sloppy last act. Hagins still produces a product that’s beyond her years, but if the novelty of that feat means nothing to you, your interest in “Romance” may expire before the movie does.
Extras: Short film “Cupcakes,” Hagins/producer commentary, deleted scene, bloopers.

8:46 (NR, 2012, Virgil Films)
The rush of films set inside Sept. 11 has dwindled considerably with the 10th anniversary having passed, but that doesn’t mean we’ve come to any kind of definitive grips with what happened. “8:46’s” attempt to reconcile through art is certainly well-intentioned, with portions of the film’s proceeds benefiting the Tuesday’s Children charity. In commencing exactly 24 hours before the first plane hit the World Trade Center — and introducing us to a large cast of characters (all fictional) on just another Monday before the worst day of their lives — it’s also novel. But intentions, ingenuity and a dangerous topic don’t absolve “8:46” and shield it from criticism. At 55 minutes long, it’s extremely short for a story featuring such a large ensemble cast, and the time crunch reduces most of the characters to simple archetypes who fill a quota but don’t have any room to do anything more. The closing credits claim the movie’s purpose is to give a face and heart to those most closely affected, but we don’t really get to know anybody here beyond a few slim details. And, after 11 years of documentaries, memorials and stories about the real people who died and survived that day, it’s a little absurd to come along with a fictional crop of characters and claim a need is being fulfilled here. Good intentions or not, “8:46” feels half-baked and confused — the embodiment of an idea that arrived too late and does too little once it finally gets here.
Extras: Tuesday’s Children video and feature, photo gallery.

For the Love of Money (R, 2012, Lions Gate)
If someone were to navigate the music of the 1970s and use movie biopics as their only compass, they might wonder why an entire decade’s worth of time produced only a dozen or so songs. The soundtrack you’ve heard in a million other movies set in the ’70s returns once again in “For the Love of Money,” and it isn’t the only familiar face. “Money” purportedly is based on a true story about a man (Yehuda Levi as Izek) who tries to escape a life of crime and go legit, only to see his old life find and catch up to him. But is the true story about the gangster, or is it about the movie’s screenwriter and his love of movies about gangsters? “Money” is entertaining thanks to a strong cast (James Caan, Edward Furlong, Oded Fehr, Jeffrey Tambor, Paul Sorvino) making the most of the time it gets. But that time isn’t always plentiful, because the movie rarely catches its breath as it bounds from cliche to cliche. From the music to Izek’s wistful narration to pretty much every single significant thing that happens, “Money” is a museum of stories already seen, heard and told a thousand times over. Its energy still makes it somewhat enjoyable, but its transparency will press anyone who sees it to remember it even days later.
Extra: Behind-the-scenes feature.

— “Bored to Death: The Complete Third Season” (NR, 2011, HBO): Perhaps no show has enjoyed a more baffling existence on HBO than this one, which flew completely under the radar despite starring three actors (Jason Schwartzman, Zach Galifianakis and Ted Danson) who may or may not have been headlining movies and even other television series while simultaneously moonlighting here. Sadly, the inexplicable force that kept “Bored to Death” rolling for three seasons has finally lost power, but not before giving us one last brilliantly funny go-around with the world’s most lovable and terrible detective agency. Includes eight episodes, plus commentary, deleted scenes, outtakes and episode-by-episode behind-the-scenes features.
— “The Magic School Bus: The Complete Series” (NR, 1994, Scholastic Media): Before you look at the 25th-anniversary sticker and panic, children of the 1990s: No, you’re not THAT old (at least, not yet). The “Magic School Bus” book run is the primary object of Scholastic’s anniversary celebration, but this animated series box set — all 52 episodes on eight discs, plus a 24-page activity book and guide for parents — is along for the ride as the books’ younger sibling.
— “Parks and Recreation: Season Four” (NR, 2011, NBC/Universal): How sad is it that the smartest half-hour of network television politics in 2012 is happening on a sitcom? Very. But at least we can laugh about it for a half hour at a time, right? Includes 22 episodes (some extended), plus deleted scenes, websides, campaign ads, bloopers and a music video.
— “The Office: Season Eight” (NR, 2011, NBC/Universal): The post-Michael Scott era was pretty much what fans feared it would be — enjoyable in spots, but mostly a reminder of how pivotal Steve Carell was as the show’s anchor. Includes 24 episodes (some extended), plus deleted scenes, webisodes and bloopers.