Video Verdict: New DVDs for Aug. 26

It’s a solid week on the home video front as viewers are being treated to a new David Mamet drama, a charming childhood fable and a respectable documentary on Middle East politics. These three films are good enough, in fact, to make one forget about the less than worthy comedic entry from Ashton Kutcher and Cameron Diaz.

 

What Happens in Vegas
2 stars
Rated PG-13 for some sexual and crude content, and language,including a drug reference
20th Century Fox
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray
When Jack Fuller (Ashton Kutcher) and Joy McNally (Cameron Diaz) run off to Las Vegas to escape their troubles, only to get booked into the same room, it’s pretty obvious what will happen. At least it should be.

Jack is a carefree carpenter who can’t even keep a job at his father’s woodshop, and Joy is a straight-laced career woman who doesn’t know how to be true to herself. They are so different, that we know they’re going to hook up, and when they do the Champagne flows, the clothes come off and, low and behold, they wind up married.

Since they weren’t really looking for a long-term relationship, they promptly agree to an annulment. Then, Jack grabs one of Joy’s quarters, drops it into a slot machine and wins $3 million, spawning a huge legal dispute over the winnings. They are, after all, technically married.

The judge (Dennis Miller) isn’t amused by the predicament, so he orders the newlyweds to try to make their marriage work. Only after they have, he says, will he think about dividing the loot.

“What Happens in Vegas” has a handful of genuinely funny moments, and Kutcher and Diaz are solid performers. Trouble is they don’t gel on screen. It’s tough to say whether this is due to lack of chemistry or Dana Fox’s painfully forced script, but it doesn’t much matter. The movie isn’t happening.

“What Happens in Vegas” is being released in its theatrical cut on a single disc and in an extended cut on a two-disc special edition. Extra features vary, but both versions include a filmmakers’ commentary and a conversation with Diaz and Kutcher.

 

Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?
3 stars
Rated PG-13 for some strong language
The Weinstein Company
Available on: DVD
Morgan Spurlock’s follow to “Super Size Me” has an intriguing premise. What, he asks, will happen when a regular guy — himself specifically — goes on the hunt for the world’s foremost terrorist?

Trouble is, Spurlock’s premise is better than his film.

The setup sees Spurlock preparing for his journey with everything from vaccinations to a class on how to survive a political kidnapping. This is all entertaining, and it draws viewers into the picture, but once he actually heads overseas, the movie becomes a primer on the Middle East.

For folks who don’t already know a great deal about the war in Iraq, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the 9/11 terrorist attacks — and let’s hope there aren’t many — Spurlock’s film sums things up nicely. As the filmmaker travels to Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt, Morocco and other countries of interest, he asks residents if they know where Osama Bin Laden is hiding, and then he picks their brains about everything from U.S. foreign policy to their thoughts on everyday Americans. The answers are interesting and Spurlock’s presentation is entertaining, but the well-informed American won’t learn much.

Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the film is that Spurlock ultimately abandons his search. Am I giving away too much? Probably. But it seems like the right thing to do since one of Spurlock’s selling points is that he was looking to succeed at a mission the FBI and CIA couldn’t complete, and it turns out he wasn’t really trying.

DVD extras include additional interviews, an alternate ending, an animated history of Afghanistan, and a feature on being a woman in Saudi Arabia.

 

Redbelt
3 stars
Rated R for strong language
Sony Pictures Classics
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray
Writer-director David Mamet’s look at the world of martial arts is twisty and complex, but one should expect that from the master of the con game movie.

The focus here is on Mike Terry (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a skilled jiu-jitsu instructor struggling to keep his Southern California dojo alive. Although Terry is talented enough to make thousands in Mixed Martial Arts competitions, he refuses because he believes sport fighting weakens a warrior.

So, he scrapes by, teaching combat and his code of honor to dedicated students, including an attorney (Emily Mortimer) who was severely shaken by a violent attack. Alas, his values place strain on his marital relationship because his wife, Sondra (Alice Braga), is often left to pick up the bills.

Finally, things go Mike’s way when he comes to the aid of Hollywood action star Chet Frank (Tim Allen), who is getting pummeled in a bar fight. Frank is grateful for Mike’s assistance and offers to get him lucrative consulting work in the movie business. But just when Mike thinks he has it made, he’s faced with a series of mind-numbing twists that force him to put everything — including his ideals — on the line.

“Redbelt” is an exciting ride that takes more than a little brain power to follow. Unfortunately, the climax is silly, but Mamet’s films aren’t about realism so much as enjoying the ride, bumps and all.

DVD special features include a commentary track by Mamet and Randy Couture (who is featured in the film), a short on Mixed Martial Arts, and a behind-the-scenes feature.

 

Son of Rambow
3 stars
Rated PG-13 for some violence and reckless behavior
Paramount Vantage
Available on: DVD
Writer-director Garth Jennings takes a charming look at both childhood and friendship in his tale of an unlikely camaraderie between two English boys.

One, Will Proudfoot (Bill Milner), lives in a strict Plymouth Brethern family where he isn’t allowed to watch television or listen to music. The other, Lee Carter (Will Poulter), is the school tough guy, constantly dreaming up schemes and landing in trouble.

Lee strikes up a relationship with Will by bullying him into serving as stuntman for his home video tribute to “Rambo: First Blood.” But what started as a friendship of convenience takes on genuine tones as Will and Lee bond, all the while making their film.

“Son of Rambow” is most noteworthy for its inventiveness. The story is dissimilar to anything else released in theaters this year, and Milner and Poulter infuse their characters with the sort of depth and understanding that adult actors strive for.

If the movie has a problem, it’s that things start slow, but that will hardly be a concern when you find yourself racing toward the pitch-perfect and emotionally resonant ending.

DVD extras include a filmmakers’ commentary, the short movie that inspired the project, and a making-of feature.

 

ALSO OUT THIS WEEK

Heroes — Season 2: The third season of the popular television drama “Heroes” will bow next month, and you can get caught up with this set. It contains every moment of season two, plus bonus features including a never-aired, 35-minute episode.

The Little Mermaid — Ariel’s Beginning: New feature-length Disney cartoon detailing the adventures of Ariel and her friend Sebastian prior to the events in the 1989 “Little Mermaid” theatrical release.

Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas: New, digitally restored and remastered release of the classic stop-motion animated film about Halloween Town residents who threaten to end Christmas.

Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom: Italian writer-director Paolo Pasolini’s controversial 1976 film, which transposes the stories of the Marquis de Sade’s “120 Days of Sodom” to 1944 Fascist Italy. The plot revolves around four powerful men who kidnap a group of youngsters and torture them mercilessly. The graphic depiction of the events has resulted in the movie being banned in some countries, but there are critics who consider it a brave and unflinching classic. Presented in Italian with English subtitles.

Entourage — The Complete Fourth Season: The continuing adventures of up-and-coming star Vince Chase (Adrian Grenier) and his friends from Queens, New York. In season four, Vince’s dream project is finally coming together, but it’s never easy going in Hollywood. Also stars Kevin Dillon, Jerry Ferrara, Kevin Connolly and Jeremy Piven.

NCIS — The Fifth Season: More action and drama from Navy investigator Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon) and his group of talented special agents.

Everybody Hates Chris — The Third Season: All the latest antics from a fictionalized version of a teen-aged Chris Rock (Tyler James Williams) who is doing his best to be cool while growing up in Brooklyn.

The Untouchables — Season 2, Volume 2: The final 16 episodes from the second season of this 1960s crime drama. Robert Stack stars as Prohibition agent Eliot Ness, who is dedicated to crushing gangster Al Capone.

Battle 360°: The Complete Season One: This History Channel series uses computer animation and actual footage to document the exploits of the USS Enterprise aircraft carrier during World War II.

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