Ricky Gervais’ persona has curdled since his post-Office cult hero-worship days. Still, there’s real genius inside that over-inflated head and, as proven on his radio shows, podcasts and an HBO animated version of those podcasts, his most favorable role is as head agitator among his closest friends, Office co-creator Stephen Merchant and “bald-headed manc twat” Karl Pilkington, Gervais’ radio producer, friend and, more often than not, intellectual enemy. The Ricky Gervais Show podcasts have proven to be endless wells of amusement thanks to Pilkington’s appalling lack of worldview or rational thinking and Gervais’ cackling disbelief over his ignorance. So when U.K. TV channel Sky1 teamed with the frenemies, sending Pilkington and a cameraman around the globe in order to broaden his horizons – dubbed An Idiot Abroad, aired in the U.S. on the Science Channel and available on this two-disc set – the result was predictably jaw-dropping. To watch Pilkington’s open-mouthed, dull-eyed reactions to the Taj Mahal or Machu Picchu in Peru, complaining the entire way, is to both marvel at a man’s lack of perspective and to equally cringe at how close to home that whining might be. It’s hard to argue with the need for toilets and a bed, no matter how much character the hardship might build. (available now)
Special Features: Deleted scenes
Director and visual artist Alma Har’el’s gorgeous hybrid doc-tone poem is a grandiose portrait of three people living in Southern California – near the Salton Sea, to be specific – and how they make use of their time in an impoverished, nearly post-apocalyptic piece of the country. Red, an elderly former oil worker, bootlegs cigarettes and seems to have found a measure of contentment; 7-year-old Benny is already on a bipolar cocktail and plays in rusted ruins; CeeJay, who hopes to play for the NFL, escaped gang violence in South Central and considers his new wasteland a refuge. Their stories are told in a vaguely linear, musically alive fashion, complete with interpretive dance numbers and the sounds of soundtrack luminaries like Bob Dylan and Beirut. Like its location, Bombay Beach is far from traditional and likes it that way. You will, too. (available Jan. 17)
Special Features: Selected scene commentary, deleted scenes, featurette
Writer-director Abe Sylvia’s portrait of a liberatingly slutty high school girl who doesn’t take anyone’s shit is exactly one-half of a very good movie. It starts at a school in 1987 that teaches abstinence and banishes Danielle (Juno Temple) to the special-needs class in the basement for one too many, ahem, colorful outbursts. In her new environment, she’s paired with tortured gay kid Clarke (Jeremy Dozier), whose father wants to send him to military school because he likes to sing show tunes. Between Temple’s wild abandon and several tongue-in-cheek musical numbers, this high school portion begins to feel like the kind of show Glee should be: absurd, ecstatic and condemning of traditional norms. When Danielle decides to travel cross-country (in Clarke’s father’s car and on his dime) in search of her biological father, Clarke in tow, Dirty Girl dissolves before our eyes. All that remains is sentimental schlock and caricatures where characters once were. But man, that first half – and Temple’s performance – is just exhilarating. (available Jan. 17)
Special Features: Audio commentary, deleted scenes
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