What's Really Worth Watching

Home Video Highlights: Duplass Talks 'Jeff, Who Lives at Home'; 'E.T.' Excitement Builds

Plus Dean Martin Croons, Cracks Wise and Cocktails Again

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Jason Segel stars as Jeff, a shiftless 30-something, who ends up spending the day with his brother, played by Ed Helms, spying on his sister-in-law, whom they suspect of cheating. Co-starring Susan Sarandon and Judy Greer, written and directed by Jay and Mark Duplass. Opens March 16. (Published Friday, Jan 20, 2012)

    Call him Mark, Who Lives On Screen.

    Mark Duplass has emerged as Hollywood’s reigning renaissance man this year. After becoming familiar to audiences on camera with FX’s fantasy football comedy series “The League” and the film “Humpday,” and off-camera by co-writing, -producing and -directing the admired independent films “The Puffy Chair,” “Baghead,” and “Cyrus” with his brother Jay, Duplass seems to be everywhere lately: he conceived the idea for and starred in “Your Sister’s Sister,” played the leading man in the quirky drama “Safety Not Guaranteed,” appeared in Lawrence Kasdan’s “Darling Companion” and has a role in the upcoming film “People Like Us.”

    While he’s all over movie screens at the moment, Duplass would like you to take a peek at his most recent writing and directorial effort – in tandem with his brother – as it debuts on home video. “Jeff, Who Lives at Home” casts Jason Segel as a directionless but hopeful man living in his mother’s basement and Ed Helms as his older brother, struggling to keep it together as his marriage begins unraveling.

    Duplass hopes audiences who might have missed the film in theaters discover its subtle but still deeply funny and affecting turns from its stars. “To me, the pleasure of the film was seeing Jason Segel and Ed Helms do something that you've never seen them do before, in the way that we were able to show a different side of Jonah Hill in 'Cyrus,'” says Duplass. “I really believe in those boys, and also it was an opportunity to make a film that's not cynical. Jeff is not a cynical man. He believes in the power of the universe. His favorite movie is 'Signs.' There's a purity to someone who feels that way, and 'Jeff' has a sweetness to it that I think is kind of missing from intelligent cinema right now.”

    Meanwhile, Duplass is as amazed as audiences to see himself as busily and visibly employed as he’s been of late. “In terms of all these movies coming out at once, there's a lot happening, you're right,” he says. “I have been at it for ten years or so, but this is a special time because on the writing and directing side I've been doing a lot, but as an actor this is kind of a special moment for me.”

    With more attention from mainstream Hollywood coming his way, Duplass says he’s hoping to be able to straddle two very different film worlds. “The word ‘indie’ is confusing to me right now because there's this weird middle class that has dropped out of films, but then ‘Your Sister’s Sister’ is a very indie film, but then Emily Blunt is in it, who's a big movie star, and likewise 'Jeff, Who Lives At Home' – that's a very low-budget film, but it has huge movie stars in it. So what does that mean now? I don't know. For me it's all about finding projects where I can do exactly what I want to do without having to creatively compromise. If that's with a studio: f***ing A – I'm all about it! If that means an independent financier who's trying to tell me what to do, then I don't want to do that either. So it's just about finding creative flexibility with the right people.”

    Over the Moon For 'E.T.'

    In anticipation of October’s 30th Anniversary Blu-ray release of “E.T. The Extraterrestrial,” director Steven Spielberg’s 1982 classic was screened at the Los Angeles Film Festival in all its original glory (and yes, that means government agents toting guns and not the flashlights of the digitally revised version a few years back). To mark the occasion and pay homage to the movie’s most iconic image, the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition sent dozens of red-hoodied fans pedaling on a trek through downtown L.A., led by 13-year-old Daniel Oakes who squired a plush E.T. in his bike’s basket.

    This year promises to be a Blu-ray bonanza for Spielberg aficionados, with ‘E.T.,” “Jaws,” “Empire of the Sun” and all of the Indiana Jones films set to make their debut in the format before the end of 2012. No word yet on a date for “1941,” though.

    Vintage Dino

    June 7 marked the 95th anniversary of the birth of the legendary Dean Martin, and his fans have two more reasons to celebrate. Time-Life in 2011 had released two compilations sets featuring segments from Martin’s beloved 60s-era variety series – but with a considerable amount of musical performances cut out, due to the hefty expense of music licensing. However, the sets proved popular enough that the latest DVD collection, “The Dean Martin Variety Series Uncut” feature selected episodes in their full music flower, with all the performance sequences – including Martin’s hilarious ad-libs that often threw his celebrity guests – intact.

    Meanwhile, the crooner’s musical side gets a serious showcase in the deluxe box set “Dean Martin: Collected Cool,” a four-disc retrospective of his signature songs. Among the gems of the treasure trove: a full disc capturing a complete live performance in Lake Tahoe from 1962 that reveals Martin in his heyday performing in his inimitable persona, mixing up jokes about booze, broads and bad behavior amid the Neapolitan melodies; and a DVD featuring a rare 1983 performance in London which has Martin dusting off some of his best gags and improving some new ones as he entered the twilight of his career.

    Dino still remains a giant in the pantheon of Old Hollywood. As his friend and co-star Shirley MacLaine recently told PopcornBiz, “He was more subtle about being bigger than life. But he was. And the funniest of them: Seriously, brilliantly, inventively funny, which people didn't understand. Much funnier than Jerry Lewis – intrinsically funnier.”