3 stars = Good
From director Jay Roach, who made three "Austin Powers" movies, comes this outrageous, comic commentary on elections where consultants remake a politician down to his pets (sorry, no pugs), cobble together catchphrases and pledge civility while going to the mattresses, sometimes literally.
Will Ferrell's Cam Brady is a North Carolina congressman who has never faced opposition, until now. Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis), the sweet-tempered director of tourism in Hammond, N.C., and son of a truculent political operative, is recruited by some nefarious businessmen to run for Cam's seat.
With campaign strategists in their corners -- Cam's manager is boyhood pal Mitch (Jason Sudeikis) while mysterious man in black Tim Wattley (Dylan McDermott) simply appears and goes to work for Marty -- the contenders sink deeper into the mud, which they often sling.
"The Campaign" takes the now-standard details of sex and other scandals, the family fallout of electioneering, ambitions for higher office, father-son issues and attempts to pander to any and all groups and ramps them up in unrealistic but often funny fashion. "The Campaign" isn't a winner by a landslide, but it might make laugh out loud now and then.
3 1/2 stars = Very good
"Safety Not Guaranteed," directed by Colin Trevorrow, is a low-budget film with a big sci-fi premise -- the possibility of time travel. It turns out to be more about characters touched by tragedy and regret than it is about its enormous sci-fi conceit. It also manages to be, even in the midst of its speculation about the nature of time and space and its ongoing revelations about its characters, a far funnier and more enjoyable ride.
Darius Britt (Aubrey Plaza) is a bored intern at Seattle Magazine who desperately wants to escape the monotony of her dead-end life. Mopey and disaffected, she jumps at the chance to accompany Jeff (Jake M. Johnson), one of the magazine's star writers, on a quixotic mission to find and profile the person who posted an ad about time travel.
With Arnau (Karan Soni), a geeky intern, they descend on a small town and camp out at a post office box waiting for their time traveler to arrive.
Kenneth (Mark Duplass), the sketchy character who placed the ad, rebuffs Jeff's attempts to ingratiate himself and discover his mission. Darius goes undercover, gains Kenneth's trust and convinces him that she wants to accompany him back in time to 2001, where he hopes to avert a personal tragedy. It turns out that 2001 was a pivotal year for her, too.
Screenwriter Derek Connolly deserves as much credit as the film's superb ensemble for crafting a script that had plenty of opportunities to get lost in its gimmicky premise but didn't. There's no way to ever guarantee a viewer's enjoyment, but this film comes closer than most.
4 stars = Outstanding
The '70s TV series had a massive influence on television because it used the traditional sitcom format to deal with topics from race to rape.
The series from producer Norman Lear featured a middle-class family played by Carroll O'Connor, Jean Stapleton, Sally Struthers and Rob Reiner. It was the unbridled comments made by the bigoted Archie Bunker that opened the door for so many conversations.
This 28-disc set contains all 213 episodes, a 40-page collectible book, a new interview with Norman Lear, the documentary "Those Were The Days: The Birth Of 'All in the Family,' " the documentary "The Television Revolution Begins: 'All in the Family' Is on the Air," the original "All in the Family" pilot "Justice For All" and the second "All in the Family" pilot.
-- Rick Bentley, McClatchy Newspapers
ALSO THIS WEEK:
• "Ruby Sparks" (3 stars): "Little Miss Sunshine" directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris reunite with actor Paul Dano in the story of a young novelist who achieved phenomenal early success but struggles until he creates a character named Ruby who inspires him. A week later, Ruby (Zoe Kazan) appears as a living, breathing person
• "The Penguins of Madagascar: Operation: Antarctica": Spunky penguins leave the zoo to go on a mission.
• "The Streets of San Francisco: Season 5": Richard Hatch joins the cast of the TV detective series.
• "Coma": Lauren Ambrose stars in the cable miniseries based on Robin Cook's book.
• "House of Dark Shadows" and "Night of Dark Shadows": Two films based on TV soap are on Blu-ray.
• "A Christmas Story 2": Daniel Stern is part of this sequel to the holiday classic.
• "My Favorite Martian: Season Three": Ray Walston plays a visitor from the red planet.
• "Kathy Griffin Collection: Red, White & Raw": A collection of Griffin comedy routines.
• "Metalocalypse: Season 4": The world's most brutal animated band is back.
• "Copper: Season One": Tom Weston-Jones stars in the cable series set in 1864 New York City.
• "Icy Escapades": Collection of winter adventures has the crew take to the tracks as snow and ice cover Chuggington.
• "Excision": A coming-of-age horror film from writer/director Richard Bates Jr.
• "Americano": A stripper helps a man uncover secrets about his late mother.
PG staff and Rick Bentley, McClatchy Newspapers