A teddy bear, a super spy, and a baby are fodder for this week's new DVD releases.
Ted, Grade A-minus: A grown man must deal with his cherished childhood toy.
Ted works because Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, and all of the cast members not created by Hasbro treat the story seriously. Because they don't question a world where a teddy bear can come to life, it's easier for the audience to accept the concept and just laugh at the pull-no-punches humor.
Against a musical score that sounds like it was ripped off from the old TV series That Girl, the film smoothly goes from romantic comedy to buddy picture to stalker movie. Ted has less tact than Don Rickles and Daniel Tosh combined, but Seth MacFarlane, who's both director and writer, finds places to make the character warm and fuzzy. How can you not like a teddy bear who laments that he looks like "Snuggle's lawyer" when he wears a suit?
The Bourne Legacy, Grade C: The series continues with a new hero (Jeremy Renner), whose life-or-death stakes have been triggered by the events of the first three films. For a film franchise that's going through a rebirth, Bourne Legacy looks a lot closer to retirement age. The film moves slowly with a convoluted plot, uninspired action scenes, and too many people babbling scientific and spy jargon. This is not the legacy the series deserves.
The film's climactic chase scene starts with lots of running across rooftops. When it finally gets to street level, director Tony Gilroy plays the scene so long that the tension is drained long before the payoff. Even the bystanders watching two men battle on motorcycles seem bored.
Renner's a capable replacement for Matt Damon on the action side. What he lacks is the on-screen charisma of his predecessor, and that makes his Aaron Cross far less complicated, and interesting, than Bourne.
Gayby, Grade B-minus: Director Jonathan Lisecki had success on the film festival circuit in 2010 with his 12-minute short "Gayby" (rhymes with baby). It's the story of two singles who have been friends since college - Jenn (Jenn Harris) and Matt (Matthew Wilkas) - and as thirtysomethings decide to have a baby. The twist is he's gay and she wants to conceive the child "the old-fashioned way."
Lisecki has turned that short into a feature film with the same story line and actors. Although it's a sweet movie, it shows that more is not always better.
Also new on DVD this week:
Backwards: A rower who fails to make the Olympics takes a job coaching rowers at a high school. Sarah Megan Thomas stars.
Ice Age, Continental Drift: The gang must use an iceberg as a ship when their continent begins to drift.
Law & Order, Criminal Intent - Season 9: TV crime drama starring Vincent D'Onofrio.
JAG, The Complete Series: Includes 10 seasons of the TV military law show.
The Story of Film, An Odyssey: A 15-part documentary looks at the movie business.
Girls, The Complete First Season: Lena Dunham stars in the cable comedy.
Mankind: The 12-hour History Channel series spans the first flourishing of civilization in Mesopotamia to the discovery of America.
Creep Van: A misfit teams with a con man to stop the murderous vehicle.
Django!: Two spaghetti westerns - A Man Called Django and Django and Sartana Showdown - are available on one DVD.
Futurama, Volume 7: Billy West is a voice talent for the animated series.
Hazel, The Complete Fourth Season: Shirley Booth stars in the TV comedy.
Doomsday Book: A man tries to survive in a world infected by biological toxins.
41: HBO documentary on George Herbert Walker Bush.
Collision Earth: A team must find a way to save Earth when Mercury is knocked out of its orbit.
Gunsmoke, The Seventh Season, Volume 1: James Arness stars as the famous lawman.
Dick Tracy: The film about the comic-strip cop is now available on Blu-ray.
The Portrait of a Lady: Nicole Kidman stars in the film based on the Henry James novel.
Families of Italy: The latest release in the Families of the World series.
Kill 'Em All: Assassins must fight their way out of a high-tech bunker.