This week we begin with something cuddly:
Available Tuesday on DVD.
Mark Wahlberg stars in this strange, almost surreal comedy about a 35-year-old man whose best friend since childhood is Ted, a teddy bear come to life.
Writer and director Seth MacFarlane — who’s also the voice of Ted — plays it semi-straight, squeezing considerable laughs out of the incongruity of a stuffed animal who talks trash and has an out-of-control libido.
John Bennett (Wahlberg) has trouble making anything of his life because he spends so much time with Ted. Bennett has an understanding girlfriend, Lori (Mila Kunis), but even she reaches her limits with John’s irresponsibility, greatly exacerbated by Ted.
MacFarlane successfully milks most of the material for laughs, even if a good part of it is the expected physical comedy and barf gags. The impressive special effects achieve the result of making Ted’s actions and appearances seem almost believable.
The DVD comes with both rated (107 minutes) and unrated (114 minutes) versions. The DVD includes various options, so check labels for supplements, which feature commentary, a 25-minute “making of” featurette, a six-minute gag reel, 15 deleted scenes, 11 minutes of alternate takes, a six-minute segment on filming the “Teddy Bear Scuffle,” and more.
Purple Noon (Plein Soleil) (****) The Criterion Collection brings to Blu-ray this excellent 1960 psychological thriller from French director Rene Clement, based on a novel from Fort Worth-born Patricia Highsmith (remade in 1999 as The Talented Mr. Ripley).
French heartthrob Alain Delon plays Tom Ripley, a vapid hanger-on to rich playboy Phillipe (Maurice Ronet). After a prolonged set-up by Clement, Ripley murders Phillipe while at sea on his yacht.
Ripley takes his friend’s identity and attempts to squeeze money from his bank accounts and various holdings. All the while during the rapidly paced film, Ripley can feel forces closing in on him until the film’s deliciously ironic ending.
Not rated, 117 minutes. The new digitally restored Blu-ray has an uncompressed monaural soundtrack and includes a 27-minute interview with Clement expert Denitza Bantcheva. Plus: a nine-minute archival interview with Delon and a 19-minute feature on the prickly Ms. Highsmith. Film critic Geoffrey O’Brien contributes to a 34-page booklet that also includes a reprinted interview with Clement.
Alps (***) As in Dogtooth, the earlier Oscar-nominated film from Greek director Giorgos Lanthimos, the first parts of his latest film, Alps, might leave the viewer confused. But once the strange narrative unfolds, it is easier to understand what great fun the director is having.
Here, he assembles an odd group of people in a gymnasium. They seem to be acting out a skit or performing for audiences of one or two. Eventually, we learn that they are part of a group calling itself “Alps.” The organizer of the group takes the name Mont Blanc, the highest peak in the mountain range.
They form a loose-knit company in which each will impersonate someone’s recently deceased loved one. They learn all they can about their subjects and then go into their homes, acting out small exercises of intimacy, anger and whatever else the paying customer might miss.
Complications arise when one of the employees goes rogue, not exactly acting out according to the script. It’s an odd, unsettling film with sensitive commentary about death, dying and the lingering permanency of relationships. Not rated, 93 minutes.
Riders of the Purple Sage (***) and The Good Old Boys (**1/2) It’s Western Week thanks to these manufactured-on-demand discs from the Warner Archive Collection.
These two unrated television productions sport sources of literary note. Purple Sage (1996, 98 minutes) originates with Zane Grey’s timeless 1912 novel about a range war between a Mormon clan (although the word Mormon is never mentioned) and a single woman (Amy Madigan) who dares to stay independent when her father dies and leaves her the homestead.
When a notorious gun-slinger (Ed Harris) arrives, she befriends him and then hires him. Meanwhile, a story of young love plays out between a ranch hand (Henry Thomas) and a mysterious woman (Robin Tunney) who had ridden with a gang of rustlers.
The Good Old Boys (1995, 118 minutes) is based on a novel by Elmer Kelton, a Western writer whose works have been curiously neglected by filmmakers.
Tommy Lee Jones co-wrote the screenplay and made his directing debut. He also plays Hewey Calloway, a simple-minded cowpoke who, around 1906, returns to his brother Walter’s (Terry Kinney) home in West Texas. Walter’s wife, Eve (Francis McDormand), welcomes Hewey, but nephew Cotton (Matt Damon) is leery of his peripatetic uncle.
Hewey stays around the small homestead long enough to help out as well as fall for a local schoolteacher (Sissy Spacek). But before long, his wanderlust combines with scrapes with the law to pull Hewey away from his only family.
Silent Night (**1/2) In this loose remake of the 1984 original slasher-horror film, Jaime King and Malcolm McDowell play the deputy and sheriff, respectively, of a small Wisconsin town hosting its annual Santa parade.
Reports filter into the police station about various grisly murders around town. Simultaneously, director Steven C. Miller fills in the gaps with a marauding Santa, as he surprises a series of poor victims who fall to his various methods of disposal. Bloody, violent, and off-handedly humorous at times.
Rated R, 94 minutes. The DVD includes five minutes of deleted scenes and a six-minute “behind-the-scenes” featurette.
Collision Earth (**1/2) A magnetic field has upset the cosmic order, and Earth and Mercury may collide. Only a scientist (Kirk Acevedo) ignominiously chunked from his government position years earlier can save the day. And it helps that his wife (Diane Farr) has become the only survivor in the spaceship that can push Mercury from its course — but only if her husband can send her the right computer program.
This Syfy channel original movie delivers some worthy special effects along with lesser displays. Still, engaging enough. Not rated, 90 minutes.
Mankind This 12-part series, with the subtitle “The Story of All of Us,” from History begins at the beginning, about 4 billion years ago, when cosmic conditions fell into place for Earth to form. Later — much later — man came upon the scene as the filmmakers flesh out the intervals with CGI visuals, graphs, charts, maps and anything else that helps to explain the process. Earth and man’s history are covered with expert analysis, commentary, interviews and more.
Not rated, about 12 hours. The collection also holds additional footage.
Also available Tuesday on DVD: The Bourne Legacy, Ice Age: Continental Drift, Why Stop Now.