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  • Merrick Morton

    Annette Bening and Antonio Banderas in "Ruby Sparks."

  • Bess Kargman

    Rebecca Houseknecht in "First Position."

New DVDs this week

Published: Friday, Nov. 2, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 24TICKET

"The Campaign"

(R, 85 minutes, Warner Home Video)

The excesses of partisan sniping, negative campaigning and pandering skullduggery are the comic equivalent of fish in a barrel, and every last minnow gets picked off in "The Campaign," in which Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis play North Carolina candidates going head-to-head in a farcically conniving congressional election. If only because of the actors involved, "The Campaign" has its share of laughs. The film even possesses a whiff of topicality, in the form of two super-wealthy, sweatshop-owning brothers who try to rig the election by infusing a super PAC with scads of money. But with the exception of that timely echo – and Ferrell's flawless John Edwards impersonation as a handsome, compulsively promiscuous Democratic politician – genuinely scathing satire is largely missing. Contains crude sexual content, profanity and brief nudity. Extras: deleted scenes. Also, on Blu-ray: extended cut, Line-O-Rama and gag reel.


"Ruby Sparks"

(R, 104 minutes, Fox)

Paul Dano plays Calvin Weir-Fields, a novelist who had a hit when he was 19 and now toils alone in a posh home office, suffering writer's block as he tries to match his early promise. Inspired by a dream, he begins noodling with a character who, as he pecks away at his vintage typewriter, swiftly becomes a fictional romantic ideal: Ruby Sparks, a wide-eyed, hip, uncomplicated artist who, like all awesome girlfriends, reflects Calvin at twice his size, charm and intelligence. When Ruby unexpectedly comes to life – in the redheaded, azure-eyed form of Zoe Kazan – Calvin initially thinks she's a figment of his needy imagination. But when other people can see her, too – including Calvin's no-nonsense brother Harry (Chris Messina) – he's forced into an increasingly provocative series of challenges having to do with projection, control and unconditional love. Contains profanity, including some sexual references, and drug use. DVD extras: behind-the-story featurette, plus "Real-Life Couples: Co-Stars & Directors" and "Be Careful What You Wish For. Also, on Blu-ray: cast and location (Los Angeles) featurettes.


"Safety Not Guaranteed"

(R, 85 minutes, Pictures Home Entertainment)

"Safety Not Guaranteed" takes its title and theme from an Internet meme: a purported newspaper classified ad seeking a partner in time travel. The risk of the quirky romantic comedy – which revolves around the efforts of a Seattle magazine writer (Jake Johnson, of "New Girl") and two interns (Aubrey Plaza and Karan Soni) to profile the guy who placed the ad – is from cuteness overload. Fortunately, the film's engaging and offbeat cast prevents that from happening. Although wryly comedic, the film is ultimately less about the mechanics of sci-fi time travel than about regret, mistakes and love. "Safety Not Guaranteed" is most vibrant at its edges, in the way the characters interact with each other while waiting for something to happen. Contains obscenity and sexual references. Extras: "A Movie Making Mission" and "The Ad Behind the Movie" featurettes and a time-capsule Easter egg.


"First Position"

(unrated, 95 minutes, MPI Home Video)

Bess Kargman's debut documentary follows seven aspiring dancers over a year as they prepare for the Youth America Grand Prix. It's an intense journey and Kargman captures it all, down to the dancers' bloodied and bruised feet. The 14-year-old Michaela may not have the ideal ballet physique, but she is determined to become a prima ballerina. She's the underdog, and you'll root for her at every pirouette, especially when she suffers a potentially major injury. When the final competition does arrive, the fleeting performances are almost an afterthought to what's happening backstage. It is that glimpse behind the curtains and into the lives of these very young dancers, that draws you in. Contains nothing objectionable except some really nasty-looking feet. Extras: footage of unedited and extra dances.


Also: "Americano" (2011, France), "Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection" (15-film box set with more than 15 hours of bonus features including a new documentary on "The Birds," Universal Studios), "Trading Christmas" (Hallmark Channel), "A Christmas Story 2," "Outlaw Brothers" (1990, Hong Kong), "Taxi for Tobruk" (1960, France), "Rosemary's Baby" (1968, Criterion Collection), "The Brain" (1969, France), "Love Comes Softly 10th Anniversary Collection" (based on the Christian novels and directed by Michael Landon Jr., Fox) and "House of Dark Shadows"/ "Night of Dark Shadows."

Television series: "All in the Family: The Complete Series" (28-disc set with all 213 episodes, hours of bonus features and a 40-page collectible book, Shout! Factory)

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