DVDs Nuts

Lesser-seen, critic-approved films on disc and on demandby Justin Strout and John Thomason

The Five-Year Engagement Dry and agile, goofy and heartfelt, The Five-Year Engagement is the rare romantic marathon in which the obligatory, all-is-lost, John Mayer-set montage of love in peril is replaced by a more sophisticated, creeping dread over the alignment of circumstance and very real power struggles. Because it's brought to us by Nicholas Stoller and Jason Segel, the team behind Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him to the Greek, the feeling is punctured by mouth vomit, Segel's bare ass, vaginal reconstruction and toe amputation. But by way of Engagement's underwhelming box-office take and its somewhat retro portrait of young professionals desperately trying to carve out a place in their lives for their own happiness, this outing is still a poignant black sheep. Segel, who co-wrote the screenplay, is Tom Solomon, a chef in love with Violet Barnes (Emily Blunt), an immensely measured and well-balanced doctoral candidate. The film isn't about Tom and Violet enduring wacky set pieces together; it's about a relationship enduring Tom and Violet's specific, often conflicting needs. The result is a unique, frustrating, ultimately moving snapshot of American romance in the modern age. (available now)
Special Features: audio commentary, deleted scenes, gag reel, featurettes

Homeland: The Complete First Season In a recent, quite remarkable edition of This American Life titled "The Convert," the FBI and Department of Homeland Security came off like the kind of bumbling amateurs we hope radical terrorists are – like Four Lions, only it's true and it's on our side. Showtime's Homeland, starring Claire Danes in her first TV role since My So-Called Life, seems on the surface a jingoistic 24-esque answer to the increasing sense that "national security" is code for a part-time volunteer scoping Oregon's shores for burkas in boats. But Homeland is no West Wing war-hawk fantasy. Danes plays Carrie Mathison, one of the most unreliable spy characters ever seen onscreen. It's not that she's some triple-crossing, steely-eyed mystery, but that the overwhelming guilt she carries for an allegedly crucial mistake leading up to 9/11 starts to feel entirely plausible. This woman makes mistakes. When a P.O.W. (Damian Lewis) is rescued after eight years in captivity, Mathison starts wondering if he's a traitor, not a hero. The genius of the show is to make her so flawed that, in spite of some decent evidence – and by dent of Lewis' total creepiness – we have to wonder whether she's on to something or just sometimes bad at her job – a human, not a political, condition. (available now)
Special Features: deleted scenes, featurettes

Piranha 3DD If a bad movie knows it's a bad movie and runs with it, does that make it a good movie? It depends on which direction it runs. There's "so bad it's good," to the left, "so bad it's worse" to the right and then the dreaded middle of the road. Piranha 3DD has a workhorse spirit that keeps its trajectory steady – there's really no getting around the drive-in spectacle promised by its title, which is where the film's wisely stacked roster of alt-comedians like David Koechner and Paul Scheer (who happens to host an excellent podcast devoted to bad movies) comes in handy. But the decently rendered teen movie within, topped by real-deal, on-the-cusp talents Matt Bush and Danielle Panabaker, concludes with a clever, almost logical rescue, while David Hasselhoff greasily devours a beefy lifeguard subplot and Gary Busey throws a shoe, or something. Piranha 3DD knows what it's supposed to be, but it finds its own, unexpected course: franchise durability. (available now)
Special Features: audio commentary, deleted scenes, featurettes

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