City of Men (R, 2007, Miramax)
Though the distributor, producer, Brazilian locale and two of the title’s three words remain the same, “City of Men” is not a direct sequel to “City of God,” but rather a theatrical follow-up to the television series of the same name (which, to confuse you further, also inspired the filming of “God”). Fortunately, you need not have seen any of that to appreciate “Men,” which sufficiently stands on its own as a tale of two best friends (Douglas Silva and Darlan Cunha) who are turning 18 together but quickly grow polarized by an emerging gang war and some ugly family history that simultaneously comes to light. A few brief flashbacks from the show fill in the gaps where necessary, but “Men” overwhelmingly and intensely marches forward and alone on the strength of its present day, weaving together a multi-thematic story that expertly gives insight into the light and dark sides of the characters and the world in which they live. If that sounds like pretentious art film purgatory to you, don’t worry: Gifted with character though “Men” may be, it’s every bit as rich in the thrills department. In Portuguese with English subtitles. (Side note: The series, available on DVD from Palm Pictures, makes a most worthy companion should you enjoy the film.)
Extras: Behind-the-scenes feature.
Get Smart’s Bruce and Lloyd: Out of Control (NR, 2008, Warner Premiere)
Just as you should stash away the fine china before throwing a big soiree at home, it’s probably wise to hide whatever billion-dollar gadgetry you have lying around if you’re throwing an office party at a government facility that specializes in developing cutting-edge technology to aid undercover agents. Unfortunately, someone got sloppy at Control, and a devious partygoer has successfully executed the rather simple task of stealing the agency’s lone invisibility cloak. Agents 86 and 99 are in the field, so it’s up to lab rats and “Get Smart” bit characters Bruce (Masi “Hiro” Oka) and Lloyd (Nate Torrence) to get it back. As capers go, “Get Smart’s Bruce and Lloyd: Out of Control” is pretty by the numbers — an elaborate excuse to give additional screen time to (and cash in on) characters moviegoers might have wanted more from after seeing “Smart.” In that sense, it succeeds, even if the result of that accomplishment is more mildly amusing than laugh-out-loud funny. “Control” does have a few really good laughs and some neat inventions, but it comes recommended only to fans of the parent film — and, due to its short, 70-minute length, as a rental rather than a buy.
Extras: Three behind-the-scenes features.
My Blueberry Nights (PG-13, 2007, Weinstein Company)
We all have that shameful list of movies we enjoy in spite of their best efforts to inspire feelings to the contrary. If you see “My Blueberry Nights,” which follows a jilted lover’s (Norah Jones) yearlong journey from the closing hours of a diner to the other end of the country, there’s a fair chance it’ll find a place on that list. Between the premise, settings and characters (Jude Law, Rachel Weisz, Natalie Portman and David Strathairn leave the strongest impressions), “Nights” throws a mountain of cheese at you, and there’s no shortage of dialogue lines that feel too rehearsed to properly resonate with their complete intended impact. That’s not a knock on the cast, nor is it necessarily even a criticism of execution. The script rules all in “Nights,” and it’s hardly out of the question to assume the film’s hokey quotient isn’t at least partially by design. Diners, casinos, dive bars and noir aren’t exactly strange bedfellows, after all. It doesn’t much matter anyway: As alluded to before, there’s something about “Nights” that makes it engaging in spite of these obvious distractions. Specifically, Jones hits the ground running with her character, and “Night” finds intelligent ways to keep viewers’ eyes on her even when competing forces seem to want to divide your attention.
Extras: Director interview, behind-the-scenes feature, stills gallery.
Drillbit Taylor: Extended Survival Edition (NR, 2008, Paramount)
There are comedies you never forget because they’re funny, and there are comedies so unforgettably awful that your mind’s eye cannot, in spite of its best efforts, erase them. Then there are movies like “Drillbit Taylor” which you’ll probably spot in a bargain bin five years from now and wonder if you actually saw it or just imagined seeing it. The premise ? homeless con artist (Owen Wilson) scams a trio of desperate nerds (Nate Hartley, Troy Gentile, David Dorfman) into hiring him as a bodyguard while he robs them blind ? has no shortage of comic potential. Especially early on, some of that potential even comes to fruition. Inevitably, though, formula raids the place, with tired jokes, tired violence and absolutely dog-tired plot turns borrowing liberally from the vat of forgettable comedy clichés. Perhaps if “Taylor” started weak and finished strong, the high note on which it might have ended would have made it easier to recommend and remember. But it moves in the opposite direction instead, and if you see this one looking up at you, you’d be wise to do the same.
Extras: Extended cut, cast/crew commentary (no Wilson), writers interview, deleted/extended scenes, bloopers, lines montage, five behind-the-scenes features.
Triloquist (R, 2008, Dimension Extreme)
While Chucky the doll seemed perfectly content terrorizing his own masters, Dummy (that’s his name) has a more complicated and nurturing relationship with mentally challenged and mute owner Norbert (Rocky Marquette). And why not? Norbert’s brother Angelina (Paydin LoPachin) seems diabolically insane enough for all three of them. So “Triloquist” offers a clever twist on the suddenly crowded doll horror genre. Problem is, it doesn’t really know what else to do once that offering is handed over. The plot meanders from random act to random act, twisting so much without direction that the term “plot” turns out to be somewhat generous. Between bloodshed, “Triloquist” repeatedly leans on the same three-headed joke ? Dummy’s a pervert, Norbert makes stupid faces, Angelins’s a homicidal sexpot ? and wrings the well completely dry. The short (78 minutes) runtime would suggest that “Triloquist” is easy to enjoy regardless of quality, but a few trips around the same block of jokes will change that perception before the show is even halfway finished. Should you make it that far, you might as well stick around for the absurdly amusing final scene, which merely serves to remind us how much unrealized potential this idea had. No extras.
Vantage Point: Two-Disc Special Edition (R, 2008, Sony Pictures)
Hey, you like explosions? Well, how about the same explosion over and over? That’s what you get in “Vantage Point,” which replays — and replays, and replays — the events of a presidential assassination attempt and terrorist attack from the perspectives of eight different people at the scene. As you might expect, each character’s perspective brings with it a few morsels of information previously withheld, and as you might also expect, things are not as clear-cut as they originally appeared to be. Exciting, right? Sure … except that, with a 90-minute runtime, “Point” has to do an awful lot of cramming. That means no time to develop the characters as anything beyond flat archetypes, which in turn makes most of the twists little more than contrived plot turns for contrivances’ sake. When someone isn’t who we figured they were but we never cared in the first place, why start now? Throw in numerous replays of the attack — albeit from different angles, which at least is something — and “Point” becomes an exercise in intellectual anesthesia that’s worth barely more than the sum of its mostly forgettable parts. Dennis Quaid, Matthew Fox, Forest Whitaker, William Hurt and Sigourney Weaver, among others, star.
Extras: Director commentary, deleted scenes, cast/crew interviews.
Worth a Mention
— “Yankee Stadium: Baseball’s Cathedral” (NR, 2008, MLB/Shout Factory): Red Sox and Mets fans probably would rather own a DVD of Yankee Stadium’s pending demolition, but fans of baseball history should check out this two-disc set, which contains a two-hour retrospective that covers everything from Opening Day 1923 to Opening Day 2008. A bounty of extras includes Lou Gehrig’s famous farewell speech, bonus highlights and a stadium tour.
— “Mad Men: Season One” (NR, 2007, AMC/Lions Gate): What, you didn’t know AMC did original scripted series? Well, it does. And if this show about Madison Ave.’s Golden Age is any indication, it does them rather well. A second season begins in July, so this is your chance to catch up. Includes 13 episodes (commentary on all), plus four behind the scenes features, a music sampler, a season two preview and extremely dysfunctional (albeit pretty) packaging.
— “30 Days: The Complete Second Season” (NR, 2008, Arts Alliance America): Bad news: Morgan Spurlock is in jail. Good news: He gets out in 30 days. Other experiments in season two touch on such topics as religion, outsourcing and immigration. Contents: Six episodes.