Video Verdict: New DVDs for July 1

It’s a dramatic week for DVD, as many of the new video releases focus on the serious side of life. But, if you’re in the mood for laughs, there’s an Owen Wilson comedy waiting in the wings.

 

Drillbit Taylor
3 stars (out of four)
Available in rated and unrated versions. The theatrical cut received a PG-13 for crude sexual references throughout, strong bullying, language, drug references and partial nudity
Paramount Pictures
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray

The always charming Owen Wilson stars as the title character, a homeless man who signs on as the bodyguard for three bullied high school freshmen — Ryan (Troy Gentile), Wade (Nate Hartley), and Emmit (David Dorfman). Drillbit doesn’t know much about being a bodyguard, but he needs the cash and the gig has perks, like access to the clothes his clients’ parents wear.

Soon enough, he’s cobbled together a conservative wardrobe and landed a substitute teaching position at the kids’ school, allowing him to make time with an attractive teacher (Leslie Mann). Drillbit tells the kids it’s so he can keep an eye on them, but they begin to doubt his motives.

“Drillbit Taylor” is essentially a silly, throwaway comedy, but it’s also a good time. The film is littered with solid gags and Wilson sells his role with comic conviction, making it the perfect choice for a night of ultra-light entertainment.

There are two DVD releases of the movie, one featuring the theatrical cut and another with an extended, unrated cut of the film. Extra features vary by version but both include deleted scenes, a gag reel and a short feature on screenwriters Seth Rogen and Kristofor Brown.

 

Vantage Point
2 stars
Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense violence and action, some disturbing images and brief strong language
Sony Pictures
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray

At first, the “Rashomon”-like setup of “Vantage Point” — a presidential assassination attempt seen from many viewpoints — has appeal, but the gimmick becomes tiring as viewers are forced to watch the same scene over and over and … well you get the idea.

In total, “Vantage Point” contains eight different points of view and, while each offers story details that weren’t present before, a good deal of the material is recycled. Therefore, what starts as an entertaining and intriguing thriller quickly devolves.

It helps that Dennis Quaid is likable as a secret service agent charged with protecting the U.S. president (William Hurt), but he doesn’t relieve the monotony of replaying the same events time and again. Forest Whitaker also turns in a nice performance as a witness to the presidential attack, but all other characters get only cursory character development.

What’s more, the climax, which finally frees us from the oft-replayed intro, is pretty silly.

The DVD is available in a single-disc version and as a two-disc special edition. Extra features vary by release.

 

My Blueberry Nights
3 stars
Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material including violence, drinking and smoking
The Weinstein Company
Available on: DVD
In her first outing as a movie star, singer Norah Jones plays a spurned woman named Elizabeth. Hoping to recover from her boyfriend’s unfaithfulness, she spends long hours eating at a New York diner and chatting with the handsome manager, Jeremy (Jude Law). One night, after Elizabeth has fallen asleep in his restaurant, Jeremy bends down and kisses her. But the next day she leaves town, taking a soul-searching journey across the U.S.

Elizabeth’s travels lead her to a friendship with an alcoholic police officer (David Strathairn) and with a young poker player with family issues (Natalie Portman). Jones sometimes seems green in comparison to her extremely experienced co-stars, but she does a credible job overall.

Director Wong Kar Wai’s storytelling has peaks and valleys. For instance, the section with Strathairn is beautifully crafted and engaging, while the bit with Portman is a little forced. Fortunately, the overall result is a worthwhile tale of love and self-discovery.

DVD extras include a short on the making of the film, a Q&A with Wong Kar Wai and a photo gallery.

 

City of Men
3 stars
Rated R for violent content, language and some sexuality
Miramax
Available on: DVD
This Brazilian drama is reminiscent of the wonderful 2003 film “City of God,” and for good reason. “City of God” director Fernando Meirelles served as a producer, and the movie looks at the same topic: young people struggling to make their way amidst the violence of a rundown favela.

An adaptation of the Brazilian television show “City of Men,” the movie focuses on two friends, Ace (Douglas Silva) and Wallace (Darlan Cunha), who are trying to stay on the straight and narrow while gang violence erupts around them. The cast is outstanding, and director Paulo Morelli paces his story well, delivering an excellent mix of relationship drama, action and violence.

Those who loved “City of God” will note that “City of Men” is not as powerful, but that’s no reason to stay away. It’s still a very good film.

The only DVD extra is a piece on the making of the film.

 

ALSO OUT THIS WEEK

Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns: Writer-director-actor Tyler Perry’s latest is about a single Chicago mother who travels to Georgia to attend the funeral of the father she never knew. The people she meets are unlike any in her big city home.

Get Smart’s Bruce and Lloyd Out of Control: This direct-to-DVD spinoff of the new “Get Smart” movie focuses on two characters who have only minors roles in the theatrical release. Masi Oka and Nate Torrence star.

Mad Men — Season One: The AMC television series about the advertising game circa 1960s New York gets a four-DVD treatment. Jon Hamm stars.

Sex and Death 101: Sex farce about a man (Simon Baker) who receives a mysterious list of all the women he has slept with and all those that he will sleep with. Only trouble is he’s due to be married in a few days and his fiancee isn’t close to the last name on the list. The film was written and directed by “Heathers” scribe Daniel Waters and it also stars Winona Ryder.

Mishima — A Life in Four Chapters: Director Paul Schrader’s (“Auto Focus,” “Affliction”) fictionalized look at the life of Japanese author Yukio Mishima.

Patriotism: This 30-minute Japanese film tells the story of two lovers who agree to commit ritual suicide after the man, a naval officer, is dishonored. Yukio Mishima, wrote, co-directed and starred in the 1966 film, making this release something of a companion to the above-referenced “Mishima — A Life in Four Chapters.”

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