Taken from a short story by Philip K. Dick, The Adjustment Bureau has a great premise: there is a bureaucratic agency governing every decision you make, and if you stray from The Plan, they will step in and adjust your life. What could have been a Truman Show or an Eternal Sunshine instead becomes a mediocre time-waster, as the adjusters’ arbitrary rules and the silly chase scenes get in the way of real chemistry between forbidden lovers Matt Damon and Emily Blunt. It’s a shame to see Anthony Mackie, who was good in The Hurt Locker, turn in a stupefyingly dull performance, but it’s worse to see Richard Slattery, who unloads at least two dozen savagely memorable remarks on each episode of Mad Men, reduced to shouting things like, “Can’t I get a break in this case?!” Under the anonymous, visionless direction of George Nolfi, the film is a cosmic farce as a bunch of old white dudes attempt to cock-block Damon on an epic scale. The spark between Damon and Blunt makes things mildly entertaining. Extras include audio commentary from Nolfi, deleted and extended scenes, and three featurettes.
(Originally reviewed by me, and much more favorably by Paul, in “Secret Origins.”)
It’s nothing new, but this raunchy, sweet-natured comedy will win you over with its charm. Innocent Wisconsinite Ed Helms is sent to the Cedar Rapids insurance convention, where he encounters sex, drugs, and moral compromise. Director Miguel Arteta–a TV vet who’s helmed episodes of great shows like Freaks and Geeks, Six Feet Under, and Helms’ The Office–knows how to get the most mileage out of his material. The cast is superb: Helms is winning as the naive Midwesterner; John C. Reilly has pretty much perfected his charmingly lamebrained doofus shtick at this point; and Anne Heche makes for a sweet love interest. Then there’s Isiah Whitlock Jr. from the HBO program The Wire, playing an “enthusiast of the HBO program The Wire,” who steals just about every scene in as low-key a way as possible. Extras include deleted scenes, a gag reel that I can only assume will be hilarious, three featurettes, and one of the fake insurance commercials. Additional Blu-ray features are “Convention Collection” pieces, Fox Movie Channel Presents featurettes, and a BD Live clip with Ed Helms.
LOUIE: The Complete First Season (Two-Disc DVD/Blu-ray Combo)
Parks and Recreation turns in solid gold every week and Community is breathtakingly inventive, but this little-seen FX series gets my vote for best comedy on TV right now. Comedian Louis C.K. plumbs the painful depths of such topics as religion, fatherhood, depression, stand-up, and his own mother. There are such memorable sequences as Louie experiencing the most hellish plane trip in history, and a sleeping gas-induced hallucination in which he talks Osama bin Laden out of terrorism. The humor on display is black as night, but Louie’s problems and hang-ups are mostly relatable, and even when they’re not, C.K. makes them fascinating to watch. Making the whole thing even more impressive is that C.K. writes, produces, directs, and stars in every episode. He struck out with his short-lived HBO sitcom Lucky Louie, but Louie is a masterpiece of uncomfortable situations, awkward pauses, and the Germans’ finest contribution to the art of comedy, schadenfreude. Extras include deleted scenes, unaired comedy sketches, and commentary.
Everyone’s favorite lovelorn schmuck on How I Met Your Mother, Josh Radnor makes his directorial debut with Happythankyoumoreplease, about a clutch of young New Yorkers trying to figure out their love lives and aspirations. Radnor plays an aspiring novelist who takes in a young boy separated from his family on the subway. His friends include Malin Akerman as a woman with an auto-immune disorder which has made her hairless, and Kate Mara a singer and waitress who catches Radnor’s eye. It gives off more than a whiff of the precious Garden State, but I’ll try not to hold that against it. Extras include deleted scenes, commentary from Radnor, and a featurette on the musician Jaymay.