It’s a Disaster (R, 2013, Oscilloscope)
Almost immediately, the sympathy pangs rush in for Glen (David Cross) as his relatively new and not-necessarily-pleasant girlfriend (Julia Stiles) drags him to what, based on both assumptions and first impressions, should be one heck of a miserable couples brunch with her miserable friends. What follows, before food is even served, is such a soul-straining mashup of faux-edgy pretentiousness and bubbling angst that when the Internet dies, the power goes out and word spreads that dirty bombs have pummeled multiple cities nationwide, it almost feels like Glen caught a break. Lest there be any confusion, “It’s a Disaster” is a comedy first, any number of genre-bending things second, and a disaster movie a distant third if it’s one at all. And that, with an assist from a script that’s pretty funny despite being tasked with being intentionally grating, is what makes it so great. Without spoiling details, “Disaster” tells the kind of story that might actually unfold for real if a bunch of helpless snobs (and one well-meaning bystander boyfriend) suddenly found themselves staring down the end of days. It doesn’t try too hard to be funny (but is anyway), nor does it try and force us to find some sympathy for this group (even if some sort of seeps through anyway). Best of all, “Disaster” is that rare disaster movie that isn’t deathly predictable once it blows through its special effects budget. For starters, there are no special effects anywhere. More importantly, there are some terrific surprises in store, including a brilliant sequence that sends “Disaster” home on a note that’s jolting and fitting all at once.
Extras: Director/cast commentary, behind-the-scenes feature, Comic-con panel, viral videos.
Mental (NR, 2012, Universal)
Nearly everyone is somewhat or completely crazy in “Mental.” Shirley (Rebecca Gibney), haunted by her obsession with perfection and her delusions about it always being within reach, certainly is. Her politician husband (Anthony LaPaglia as Barry), despite his attempts to steer as clear of his family as possible, is as well. With a pedigree like that, their five daughters never stood a chance, and when Shirley gets committed and Barry hires a woman (Toni Collette as Shaz) to watch over the kids, she may be the craziest one of all. With a roster like that — and we haven’t even mentioned the shark hunter (Liev Schreiber) or the neighbors — it should come as little surprise that “Mental,” too, is rather crazy. Watch it casually or take your eyes off it for a scene here or there, and it may even appear incomprehensible. But there’s more than one meaning in play in that title, and while “Mental” isn’t much for literal clarity, it makes a point to convey that even the craziest among this group is just lucid enough to realize how crazy he or she is. That, if only barely, is all the clarity “Mental” necessarily needs. Deep down, beneath layers and layers of antics and irrational behavior, is a perfectly normal story about a woman connecting with five girls who need her. Hang onto that thread for dear life, and “Mental’s” wild, relentless and wonderfully silly exterior is simply icing — in colors, flavors and volume like perhaps you’ve never tasted before — on the cake.
Extras: Cast/crew interviews.
Wilfred: The Complete Original Series (NR, 2007, Fabulous Films/Shout Factory)
Before “Wilfred” was a cult American comedy featuring a foul-mouthed grown man in a dog suit, it was this Australian series featuring a foul-mouthed man in a dog suit. And while the same actor (Jason Gann, who also created the series) embodies that suit in both versions, the two shows go in starkly different directions almost immediately from there. In this case, Adam Zwar (as Adam) has Elijah Wood’s role as the guy who can see and speak to Wilfred as a person dressed as a dog instead of the actual dog everyone else apparently sees him as. This time, Wilfred’s owner (Cindy Waddingham) is Adam’s girlfriend instead of a neighbor he fancies. And though his stance softens slightly over time, Wilfred is overwhelmingly devoted to menacing Adam, which he does to very funny but unabashedly dark effect. The rivalry stands in stark contrast to the American reboot, which Wood’s character kicks off by trying unsuccessfully to kill himself four times before meeting Wilfred and embarking on a dark, combative but also loving and almost spiritually enriching friendship. The more complicated relationship, along with the opportunity for Gann to refine his act on his second go, makes the American “Wilfred” a more unpredictable watch. But much of what makes that “Wilfred” so funny is well-represented here as well. If you like the American version, this rare opportunity to see an alternate-universe take, courtesy of the same creative spark in the middle, is not to be missed.
Contents: 16 episodes, plus outtakes, three behind-the-scenes features and bloopers.
Identity Thief (NR/R, 2013, Universal)
“Identity Thief” likely will best be remembered for the awful things fading film critic Rex Reed said about star Melissa McCarthy and the blowback that immediately followed. And in spite of the considerable effort “Thief” puts forth, that’s probably as good as it gets. In “Thief,” Sandy (Jason Bateman) finds his identity stolen by a woman (McCarthy) who subsequently uses it as a prop in a crime spree. And because this is the movies, and because “Thief’s” depiction of identity theft is comparable in terms of plausibility to “The Net’s” depiction of the big scary Internet, the only way for Sandy to repair his credit, get his job back, clear his name and undo the mess is for Sandy himself to confront his impostor and drag her back to his home state. Why not the police? Who knows. Don’t overthink it. “Thief’s” premise isn’t so much a what-if scenario as an excuse to put on some gags about mistaken identity while a simple road trip goes predictably awry. To the movie’s credit, everyone — major and minor characters alike — gives it their charismatic and energetic all, and by sheer energetic brute force alone, “Thief” soars past terrible and into something approaching enjoyable. That, unfortunately, is its ceiling, because spirit can carry a flat script only so far by itself. But if “Thief” is the kind of movie one forgets seeing almost as soon as it’s been seen, its eagerness to please at least keeps those two forgettable hours from being completely wasteful ones. That, along with the entertaining real-life lesson about hurtful language that followed “Thief’s” release, is a much better fate than such a mismanaged premise could have asked for. Jon Favreau, Robert Patrick and Genesis Rodriguez, among others, also star.
Extras: Unrated cut (adds nine minutes), alternate takes, two behind-the-scenes features.
— “Breaking Bad: The Fifth Season” (NR, 2012, Sony Pictures): The most exciting thing about this release for “Breaking Bad” fans? It means the eight final episodes that bring this show home are just around the corner. The second most exciting thing about this set? A new, eight-minute scene that provides some additional backstory for the episode that capped the fifth season’s first half. (No spoilers, obviously.) Also included, along with the eight episodes that have aired (three uncensored, all eight with commentary), are deleted/extended scenes, 19 episodes of “Inside Breaking Bad,” six other behind-the-scenes features, audition/rehearsal footage and bloopers.