New on DVD this week:
Jeff, Who Lives At Home
Thirty-year-old Jeff (Jason Segel) lives in his mom’s basement and spends most of his time smoking pot and waiting for a sign about which direction he’s supposed to be headed. (Inspired, occasionally, by the Mel Gibson movie Signs). On this particular day, Jeff’s mom (Susan Sarandon) has given him one small task to do: go to the store and buy wood glue. That simple job turns into a day that will change Jeff’s life forever, as he ends up trying to save his brother Pat’s (Ed Helms) marriage and possibly the life of someone else.
Writing and directing duo Jay and Mark Duplass (last year’s Cyrus) craft sympathetic characters who verge on the pathetic, almost too sad-sack to deserve the amount of zingers thrown at them, of which there are plenty. Sarandon shines as a woman who has given up on love, until someone IMs her at work. Judy Greer is similarly great as Pat’s all-to-patient wife. When the film suddenly turns serious, however, it’s hard for the audience to switch gears. Sadly, no special features on the Blu-ray.
Math class was never as interesting as The Code, featuring engaging Oxford professor Marcus du Sautoy, who somehow manages to make the story of Pi interesting to those of us (ahem) who barely passed high school math. Over two discs and three hours, du Sautoy chats about how numbers and patterns govern everything in the universe “from the near past to the distant future.” He travels from cathedrals— talking about St. Augustine’s belief that numbers are linked to the divine—to rural Alabama, where the life cycle of the cicada follows a strange and specific mathematical pattern. Whether you’re a math geek or math-phobic, you’ll be enthralled at du Sautoy’s assertion that numbers are the key to making sense of our world. Special features include a short on the relationship between beauty and “the golden ratio,” binary code and early Ethiopian traders and the mathematical art of MC Escher.
A Thousand Words
Fans of Eddie Murphy are happy to have him back in a starring role, after a string of unsatisfying supporting performances (Tower Heist, for starters). So whose idea was it to hit the actor’s “mute” button for two-thirds of the movie?
Murphy plays fast-talking literary agent Jack McCall, the type of man who can BS his way through anything. Once you realize you have that kind of gift of the gab, you start to use it indiscriminately, like faking the birth of twins so you can cut the line at Starbucks. Jack belittles his assistant (Clark Duke), pays lip service to his wife (Kerry Washington) and all but ignores his infant son, so when he cons a New Age spiritual guru (Cliff Curtis), the universe decides to get even. A tree pops up poolside in Jack’s backyard, and every time Jack says a word, a leaf drops. When the tree is bare, Jack is dead, so goes the wisdom.
Unfortunately there is no wisdom in this plot. The message is muddled, the storyline predictable and performances are mixed. Murphy, always at his best when firing off rapid-fire putdowns, is left to mug and contort for most of the movie. You’ll find yourself wishing for an overnight frost so the darn tree would drop its leaves already and put us all out of our misery. Deleted scenes and an alternate ending are the only extras on the Blu-ray disc.