DVD 7/15/08: The Year my Parents Went on Vacation, The Bank Job, Never Forever, Saving Grace S1, Meet Bill, Steel Trap

The Year my Parents Went on Vacation (PG, 2006, City Lights)
It’s 1970, Brazil’s freedoms are crumbling to military might, and Bia (Simone Spoladore) and Daniel (Eduardo Moreira) have decided to leave their 12-year-old son Mauro (Michel Joelsas) with his grandpa while they “go on vacation” and flee the country. Unfortunately, in their rush to run for the border, neither parent bothered to check that grandpa was home — or, for that matter, alive. Now, with political turmoil erupting around him but with him too consumed with Brazil’s World Cup chances and his newfound (and unwanted) independence to understand or care, Mauro has to find a way to contend with loneliness, the strange neighbor (Germano Haiut) who takes him under his wing and a diverse community of people who are fascinated by his unexpected arrival. “The Year my Parents Went on Vacation” has all the makings of a cute coming-of-age film — which, happily, it is not. Rather, it strikes an amazingly disciplined balance between Mauro’s rather innocently mischievous perspective and the nothing-innocent-about-it state of affairs that surrounds him. There are moments of quirkiness, sadness, humor, seriousness and warmth. But no one thing dominates the others, and “Vacation’s” smart, nuanced and disarmingly affecting story never lets the film’s seams show. In Portuguese with English subtitles.
Extras: Interviews, behind-the-scenes feature.

The Bank Job: 2-Disc Special Edition (R, 2008, Lions Gate)
Every band of small-time crooks should be so lucky as Terry Leather (Jason Statham) and his crew, who learn from a little birdie that a bank’s security system will be temporarily disabled at a given time. Unfortunately, the crooks don’t know the real reason why this is happening or who — in this case, government agents looking to snuff out some potentially devastating blackmail — is behind it all. Fortunately, dear viewer, you do — and that’s what makes “The Bank Job” so much fun. The small-time heist is both exciting and surprisingly funny, the big-time heist is enjoyably devious (and, in one case, excruciatingly vicious to the eye), and watching the whole thing slowly collide over 110 minutes is fun in spite of all the inevitability, because you just know it’s going to get uglier before it gets pretty. Statham gets a chance to show his range and takes full advantage of the opportunity, and “Job’s” supporting cast (Saffron Burrows, Stephen Campbell Moore, Peter De Jersey, Daniel Mays and David Suchet, among others) is loaded with good characters whose stories sneak up on you while the main plot barrels forward. “Job” doesn’t break ground or take any brave chances with its genre, but it combines humor, lust, action, danger and a little terror in all the right ways. As breezy summertime entertainment goes, this will do just fine.
Extras: Crew commentary, deleted/extended scenes (with commentary), two behind-the-scenes features, digital copy.

Never Forever (R, 2007, Hart Sharp)
Try though they have, Sophie (Vera Farmiga) and Andrew (David Lee McInnis) cannot seem to conceive a child. But a chance encounter at a fertility clinic with a down-on-his-luck immigrant (Jung-woo Ha) — who, like her husband, is Korean — leads to an arrangement: She pays him a flat fee per “encounter,” and a considerably higher amount once he impregnates her. What could go wrong there? You know, besides everything? “Never Forever” is, simply as a matter of course, at least partially predictable: You know something is going to go awry here, because there would be no need for a movie if Sophie’s plan resulted in nothing but 90 minutes of smooth sailing. Fortunately, as it needs to, “Forever” isn’t entirely reliant on the basics of its narrative. Far and away, the film places a premium on the development of its three lead characters, and it does that more by showing than telling. That leads to some arguably hammy moments that lend an air of soapiness to the production. But “Forever” never lets that excess get out of hand, and its ability to restrain but never entangle that intensity gives those inevitable turns a much greater sense of impact than a safer movie might have left.
Extras: Two behind-the-scenes features, photo gallery.

Saving Grace: Season One (NR, 2007, Fox)
You may, upon watching the first couple episodes of “Saving Grace,” wish to watch them again before moving forward (or, perhaps, giving up). That’s because “Grace” — which primarily is about a hard-living detective (Holly Hunter as Grace Hanadarko) who drunkenly stumbles into the arms of a guardian angel (Leon Rippy) in whom she doesn’t even believe — is about a lot more than that simple description implies. There’s the married fellow cop (Kenny Johnson) with whom she has a damaged affair. There’s the religious but bitter forensics specialist (Laura San Giacomo) who can’t decide if she’s more fascinated by or jealous of Grace’s discovery. Oh, and have you met the guy on death row (Bokeem Woodbine) whom Grace sees in dreams and random visions while he does the same with her? All that and more awaits during any given hour, and only after a few episodes does “Grace” — which also has to cram some police work into the plotline — start to settle down and find itself. For your patience, the reward is high: “Grace” delivers not only one of the strangest assemblages of characters on television today, but a slew of well-written scripts that unleash a fascinating, entertaining and surprisingly balanced exchange of ideas about spirituality, faith (or lack thereof) and what makes a soul tick when all else fails. Bailey Chase, Gregory Cruz, Dylan Minnette and Mark L. Taylor also star.
Contents: 13 episodes, plus commentary, five behind-the-scenes features, music video and a rapid recap.

Meet Bill (R, 2007, First Look)
Hey, look, it’s Bill (Aaron Eckhart)! He’s just this guy who works in his father-in-law’s bank, is married to a wife (Elizabeth Banks) who seems more interested in someone else (Timothy Olyphant), and has sprouted a beer gut that, like so many other things, has caught him fully off guard. Why a local high schooler (Logan Lerman) wants him as a mentor is anybody’s guess, especially when the student seems more put together than the teacher. Like its title character, “Meet Bill” wants to be something it can’t quite be — in this case, a slightly kinder, slightly gentler but equally resonant interpretation of the middle-age wake-up call so perfectly captured in “American Beauty.” But while it has the pieces it needs and shows a ton of promise in the early going, “Bill” doesn’t quite know what to do once the ball really starts to roll. It flirts with dark comedy, but loses either its subtlety or its nerve and settles for something trite and cute instead. Then it tries again, only to fail again, and the cycle creates a mess of a movie that bounces so erratically between ideas that it barely goes anywhere by story’s end. Ultimately, and unfortunately, Bill’s movie seems just as confused about its self-identity as Bill is about his. That might make for good entertainment were our world as trite as his appears to be, but that isn’t remotely the case. Jessica Alba, Reed Diamond and Todd Louiso also star. No extras.

Steel Trap (R, 2007, Dimension Extreme)
It’s not clear, nor ever satisfactorily explained, why a group of successful but miserable media types decided to spend New Year’s Eve in each other’s hateful company. But they did, the party is a drag as expected, and when a handful of the guests receive a cryptic invitation to an even more exclusive party on another floor in the same building, each accepts without hesistation. And so kicks off one crazy person’s impossibly efficient plan to kill off seven entirely obnoxious people in all manner of cleverly torturous ways. Does “Steel Trap” sound a little familiar? Like, say, roughly 100 other generic horror films that have clogged the straight-to-DVD marketplace in the last few years? Guess what: That’s all it is. “Trap’s” entire reason for being is to draw blood. It certainly isn’t to endear us to the horrible cast, which spends the entire 93 minutes provoking each other with wince-worthy dialogue straight out of a high school short story assignment. Nor is it to dazzle us with a good endgame: The twist at the end is, in addition to insultingly illogical, boring. “Trap” relentlessly dares you to dislike it, and you should honor its wish and do so. Just save your money and do it from afar.
Extras: Director/Writer commentary, behind-the-scenes feature, photo gallery.