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DVDs In Brief: September 7, 2011

Coming off the franchise-killing X-Men: The Last Stand, the new X-Men: First Class (Sony) faces the formidable work of rebooting the series, completely redoing the origin story, and introducing new faces in familiar and unfamiliar roles. It’s a Herculean task, even by the standards of bloated summer blockbusters, and the film mostly pulls it off gracefully, helped along by two charismatic performances by Michael Fassbender (as Magneto) and James McAvoy (as Professor X) and a clever revisionist take on the Cuban Missile Crisis. With the table-setting out of the way, the next entry should cruise… 

Joe Wright’s Hanna (Universal) is stylish, beautifully shot, and high-concept, with fairy-tale trappings that become all too literal by the climax. But the film can’t live up to the promise of its opening, as teenager Saoirse Ronan (also the star of Wright’s Atonement) grows up in isolation in a frozen wasteland and emerges with a mission. The story peaks early, then loses its way much as Ronan’s character does. As with most conspiracy films, the tantalizing early mysteries are more appealing than the nonsensical explanations…

Just as the American version of The Office took some time to emerge from the outsized shadow of its British source, Parks And Recreation took a season to find itself and its comic voice. By its third season, Parks And Recreation (Universal) had evolved from a talented underachiever to possibly the funniest show on television. The introduction of ringers like Rob Lowe and Adam Scott could easily have reeked of desperation; instead the two fit snugly into the best ensemble in television, surrounded by the likes of Aziz Ansari, Nick Offerman, Christopher Pratt, Rashida Jones, Aubrey Plaza, and as the show’s indomitable, true-blue center, the great Amy Poehler. Like Parks & Rec, it took Poehler a while to shake comparisons to Steve Carell’s deluded boss in The Office, but her competence and strength give the show its ballast…

No half-hour comedy is more restlessly inventive week to week than Community, and in its second season (Universal), the show continued its habit of conceptually ambitious episodes that sometimes failed, but more often took the network sitcom to places it had never been before. Highlights include a stop-motion animated Christmas episode, an elaborate riff on conspiracy thrillers (and blanket forts), an extended homage to My Dinner With Andre, and an epic two-part paintball finale…. 

Adapting a Raymond Carver story, Everything Must Go (Roadside) stars Will Ferrell as a guy who lives for five days in his front yard after his wife kicks him out of the house and changes the locks. He also puts his stuff up for sale, which brings him into contact with neighbors and passersby. There’s nothing especially wrong with Everything Must Go, which is engaging and well-acted, but director Dan Rush applies a generic indie earnestness to it that makes it thin and forgettable…