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DVDS / NEW RELEASES

'What Just Happened,' 'Breaking Bad: The Complete First Season,' 'Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder,' 'The Haunting of Mary Hartley,' 'Sex Drive.'

February 22, 2009|Noel Murray

What Just Happened

Magnolia, $29.98; Blu-ray, $34.98

In the Barry Levinson-directed, Art Linson-penned, inside-Hollywood comedy, Robert De Niro plays a put-upon movie producer -- not unlike Linson himself -- who over the course of a week on the job has to deal with a star who refuses to shave his beard, an ex-wife who might be sleeping with his best friend, and a director who's sabotaged a blockbuster by including a scene of a dog getting shot.

De Niro is funny as a semi-powerful man struggling to hang on, and Levinson finds just the right level of beautiful chaos. Not much happens in "What Just Happened," but the movie contains great lines and captures the business side of show business with an only slightly jaded eye. The DVD and Blu-ray include a jovial commentary by Levinson and Linson and a smattering of dry featurettes.

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Breaking Bad:

The Complete First Season

Sony, $39.95

"Mad Men" isn't the only top-drawer original series to air on cable network AMC. Bryan Cranston won an Emmy for the white-knuckle comedy-drama "Breaking Bad," in which he plays a cancer-ridden high school chemistry teacher who becomes suburban New Mexico's top crystal meth cook to help provide for his family's financial security. Cranston's performance is amazing -- he's at once half-mad and deeply depressed -- and he's working from scripts that delve into moral questions with humor and heartbreaking compassion. The first season DVD set serves "Breaking Bad" well too, adding insightful commentary tracks by Cranston and series creator Vince Gilligan, plus deleted scenes and bonus interviews.

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The Haunting

of Mary Hartley

20th Century Fox, $29.99

When a small-town teen with a psychotic mother begins to experience visions and nosebleeds, she wonders if she's going crazy -- or if something more demonic is at work. A cast of talented young actors makes this film easy to connect to, but director Mickey Liddell and screenwriters John Travis and Rebecca Sonnenshine strand their cast in a routine shock-fest in which the scares are corny and the plot thin. The DVD features are pretty sparse too, limited to short interviews with Liddell and his stars.

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Futurama: Into

the Wild Green Yonder

20th Century Fox, $29.99; Blu-ray, $39.99

The "Futurama" made-for-DVD movie series limps to an end with "Into the Wild Green Yonder," a distressingly sketchy 90 minutes that sees our universe-hopping adventurers riffing on Vegas, poker, miniature golf, environmentalists and women's prison movies. The movie starts strong, but about a third of the way through, it runs out of ideas. The DVD and Blu-ray redeem "Into the Wild Green Yonder" slightly with a raucous commentary track and featurette package, including the aptly titled " 'Louder, Louder!': The Acting Technique of Penn Jillette."

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Sex Drive

Summit, $26.99; Blu-ray, $34.99

This teen comedy is noteworthy mainly for writer-director Sean Anders' willingness to resolve as many scenes as possible with the raunchiest, most inappropriate joke he can imagine. Only a fraction of those jokes score, and "Sex Drive's" leading man, Josh Zuckerman, is a bit of a void, but Clark Duke is hilarious as Zuckerman's nerdy but seductive best friend, and the movie as a whole has a seedy charm. The DVD and Blu-ray feature one of the dullest commentary tracks ever recorded and a scant half-hour of useless, jokey featurettes.

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