July 4, 2008
New DVD Reviews: ‘Drillbit Taylor,’ ‘My Blueberry Nights,’ ‘Vantage Point,’ ‘Mad Men: Season One”
By Barry Caine, The Oakland Tribune, Calif.
Jul. 4--HERE'S ALL YOU need to know about "Drillbit Taylor: Extended Survival Edition": The extras are more fun than the movie -- about three nerdy young high schoolers who hire a supposed soldier of fortune (Owen Wilson) to protect them from two older bullies.The Judd Apatow-produced comedy isn't awful; some scenes satisfy. And Apatow regular Leslie Mann (she's his wife) is incandescent in the supporting role of a sexually charged schoolteacher with a thing for losers. The film struck me like "Superbad" without the raging hormones, the raunch, the sweetness or the clever writing. "Drillbit's" kinder, cleaner, more simplistic, and targeted at a younger set (it's PG-13).
The action's as predictable as a "Little Rascals" short and the screenplay's like an afterthought, but, except for a couple of sleepwalking moments by Wilson, the cast's plucky.
Extras: An affable bunch, including outtakes and a line-o-rama (actors keep ad-libbing after flubs); a short on directing kids; a rap-off; filming the school sprinkler scene; a droll bit by Danny McBride as Wilson's homeless pal; filmmakers' commentary; more.
Easy as pie
An earthy film with earthy extras, "My Blueberry Nights" gives singer Norah Jones her first lead -- as a jilted woman who drowns her depression in blueberry pie at an all-night cafe and easy conversation with its owner
Eventually, she solos on a cross-country road trip and runs into an alcoholic cop (David Strathairn) and his estranged floozy wife (Rachel Weisz) at one stop, and a enigmatic young gambler (Natalie Portman) at another.
A composition in romantic lighting, director Wong Kar Wai's slice-of-life film plays like a trio of relationship vignettes, all giving Jones' character reason to reflect -- which she does continually. Strathairn and Weisz are superb, Law and Portman very good. Jones has little to do but listen, watch and process. No surprises, but adult entertainment that goes down easily.
Extras: Appealing making-of short; Q&A with the director; still gallery.
The best way to enjoy "Vantage Point" may be to watch it over five days, one for each of the characters whose perspectives make up the bulk of this repetitive thriller about the assassination of the U.S. president (William Hurt) during an anti-terrorist summit in Spain.
Unlike "Rashomon," the granddaddy of P.O.V. dramas, the segments offer little in terms of new insight; you get the same vital 15 or so minutes with little variance. But director Pete Travis keeps the action moving at a brisk pace and creates an exciting albeit predictable finale.
Most of the befores and afters are shown through the eyes of a Secret Service agent (Dennis Quaid), a camcorder-toting tourist (Forest Whitaker), a Spanish detective, a terrorist and her reluctant assistant. Not a lot here, but it's intense and diverting.
Extras: Interviews with cast and crew; lively shorts on plotting the assassination scene and coordinating stunts; one outtake; director's commentary. More on the two-disc version.
A good sell
In "Mad Men: Season One," the take-no-prisoners Madison Avenue hucksters who give this multi-award-winning AMC TV drama its title are a mesmerizing lot, despite a severe shortage of scruples on their part.
Set in 1960, the show follows the hard-drinking, heavy-smoking band of greedy cutthroats, headed by ad-man supreme Don Draper (Jon Hamm).
Misogynistic, philandering and ambitious, Draper, like his male cohorts, cares only about the sell, professionally and personally. They're not particularly likable. But Draper's conflicted character makes him intriguing, and the characters generate plenty of heat.
The writing and the ensemble are top-notch (Elisabeth Moss, Vincent Kartheiser and January Jones also play major roles). The series is also excellent at capturing the look and attitudes of the times, and it's addictive.
Extras: Commentaries on all 13 episodes; shorts on the world of the "Mad Men," the changes in media in the '60s, the look of the people and places, and the music.
Also on DVD
"Bob the Builder: Let's Build the Beach": Bob and his Can-Do crew build a beach.
"City of Men": Best friends since childhood choose different sides in a Rio de Janeiro gang war.
"Get Smart's Bruce and Lloyd Out of Control": Spy agency's clumsy techies (Masi Oka and Nate Torrence) from the "Get Smart" movie try to find a missing invisibility cloak they invented.
"Meet the Browns": Tyler Perry film with Angela Bassett as an unemployed single mother of three whose life jump-starts after she and the kids travel to Georgia for the funeral of the father she never knew.
"The Royal Diaries": Teen-oriented tales of Cleopatra, Isabel of Spain and Elizabeth I.
"Shotgun Stories": Two sets of half-brothers engage in a blood feud in Arkansas.
"The Tattooist": U.S. tattoo artist steals sacred artifact and horror ensues.
"Triloquest": Psychotic teenage sibs and a creepy dummy leave a trail of corpses on the way to Vegas to become the city's top ventriloquist act.
"The 2007 Newport Music Festival Connoisseur's Collection": Fest's best classical-music concerts on 10 discs.
"The Wig": A woman unknowingly gives her sister, battling cancer, an evil wig.
TV on DVD
"Anglo-Saxon Attitudes"; "The Closer: The Complete Third Season"; "Fireman Sam: To the Rescue"; "Rebus, Set 3"; "The Streets of San Francisco: The Second Season, Volume One"; "30 Days: The Complete Second Season"; "'Til Death Do Us Part"; "Tyler Perry's House of Payne: Volume Two"; "Walker Texas Ranger: The Fifth Season."
July 15: "Shutter"
July 22: "21"
Reach Barry Caine at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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