Son of Rambow (PG-13, 2008, Paramount)
Shy, diminutive grade schooler Will Proudfoot (Bill Milner) is so sheltered, he has to leave the classroom whenever his teacher plays a video because he isn’t allowed to watch television. Class bully and amateur film pirate Lee Carter (Will Poulter), obviously, lives a little differently. A chance encounter has the naive but artistically gifted Will performing stuntman duties in Lee’s homemade film, and once Will catches the tiniest whiff of this television thing, it’s all over. “Son of Rambow” is one of those wonderful little films that assumes multiple personalities — an adorable coming-of-age story, a screwball comedy about boys being boys, an allegory about the perils of creative control, an anti-cautionary tale straight out of “Footloose” territory — without going overboard in any one area or ever losing its head. Sometimes “Rambow” speaks of the joys of creative pursuit; other times, it simply illustrates it. All the while, the film does a masterful job of creating real characters where others might simply have trotted out walking cartoons, and when the film isn’t trying simply to make you laugh or smile, it has more than enough ammo to tug at heartstrings without resorting to crass manipulation. The whole process seems so effortless, it’s enough to make one wonder why the likes of “Rambow” don’t come around more often than they do.
Extras: Cast/crew commentary, behind-the-scenes feature, the original homemade film that inspired “Rambow’s” creation.
My Sassy Girl (NR, 2008, Fox)
Don’t feel bad if, for the first 50 minutes or so, you don’t really understand why anyone bothered to make “My Sassy Girl,” which in fact is a remake of a 2001 Korean film. By all appearances to those who know nothing about the original, “Girl” is yet another movie about a normal, boring guy (Jesse Bradford) whose life is turned on its head by a crazy, excessively spirited girl (Elisha Cuthbert) whose instant and insatiable interest in the boring guy makes zero sense. A lot of things, in fact, don’t make sense: “Girl” randomly jaunts from one groundless scenario to another, and we’re left with no choice but to believe that random inanity is all the film has to offer. But then, and without spoiling anything here, “Girl” explains itself, and stunningly well at that. A single scene transforms just another dumb romantic comedy into a rather extraordinary modern love story, and Cuthbert’s character goes from crazy to improbably sentimental just as instantly. As twists go, it’s hard to do more in less time. “Girl” isn’t a whole lot more plausible by film’s end than it was during its first half, but those who want to believe in it will have ample opportunity to do so. It’s amazing sometimes what a single scene can do. All that said, if you don’t mind subtitles and can bother to seek it out, the better-balanced original remains the definitive version of this tale. No extras.
Postal: Unrated (NR, 2007, Vivendi)
On the surface, “Postal” is a guilty pleasure aficionado’s dream come true — a 100-minute bombshell from a notoriously awful director (Uwe Boll) that’s based on what arguably is the most intentionally vile big-budget video game ever made. Sure enough, “Postal” goes to town in bad taste country, unloading its most offensive scene in its very first minute and following closely with a barrage of bad stereotypes and gags even a 12-year-old boy might dismiss as immature. (All that talk about a naked Dave Foley turns out, sadly, to be completely true.) No informed consumer can complain about any of this, because this is precisely why “Postal” exists. What people can complain about, instead, is how much steam the film loses as it hurtles toward the big finish. Rather than repeatedly raise the train wreck bar, “Postal” plateaus about halfway through and aimlessly coasts the rest of the way, a film built around a scattershot of offensive gags but under the direction of someone with no clue how to finish it. By the time “Postal” wraps, the joke is old and the novelty sanded fully off. That’s hardly shocking news, given the full and intentional non-commitment to quality on display here, but it’s worth noting all the same. Zack Ward, Chris Coppola, Jackie Thorn and Verne Troyer star alongside Foley.
Extras: Boll commentary, an uncut copy of the “Postal 2” computer game for Windows, footage of Boll literally boxing his critics, Troyer outtake, behind-the-scenes feature.
Virgin Territory (R, 2007, Anchor Bay)
Take a “Princess Bride” wannabe, mix in a whole lot of “Porky’s,” and what you get is “Virgin Territory,” a film about… well gosh, who is to say, really? There are three, arguably four or even five, plotlines cooking at once in “Territory,” and each is unwieldy in its own particular way. Everything intertwines, often messily, and occasionally the story comes to a complete dead stop so “Territory” can cobble together an excuse to trot out some gratuitous 14th century nudity. The sum total of “Territory” is a kaleidoscopic mishmash of action, drama, comedy and nudity, and it’s ultimately hard to discern whether “Territory” is strangely enjoyable because it’s a guilty pleasure or strangely enjoyable because it’s so bad as to be good. Either way, “Territory” is, in fact, strangely enjoyable — but probably only once, and only if you’re in the right mood and watching with the right crowd. Hayden Christensen, Tim Roth, Mischa Barton, Mathew Rhys, Christopher Egan and Craig Parkinson, among others, star.
Extras: Behind-the-scenes feature, outtakes, costume gallery.
Where in the World is Osama bin Laden? (PG-13, 2008, Weinstein Company)
Morgan Spurlock’s recent successes must have had him feeling a teensy bit invincible as he embarked on the making of “Where in the World is Osama bin Laden?,” which finds him trekking across the Middle East and employing a hypothetical scenario involving the pending birth of his son as justification for the journey. Obviously, Spurlock didn’t find his target. What’s less clear is whether the film achieves whatever intention it originally had. The overlying message — that people over there are, far more than not, just as normal and grounded as people over here — is a nice sentiment, and there are moments where the film illustrates that point with inspiring conviction. Too often, though, the mood meanders, and viewers who approach “Laden” from different angles are equally likely to call it out for excessive preaching, unnecessary showmanship and/or trivialization of an entirely serious subject. Critical eyes can see through these problem spots and respect the positive message that lies beneath, but anyone who knows how to do that probably also knows everything the film had to say in the first place. Spurlock’s first-person everyman approach remains a unique and welcome addition to the documentary filmmaking landscape, but he’d do wise to consider just who his audience is and what his work can do for them. “Laden,” all good intentions aside, appears to have skipped that step.
Extras: Alternate ending, animated history of Afghanistan, interviews, two bonus segments.
Chicago 10 (R, 2007, Paramount)
If you enjoy watching documentaries, is it because you find the format enlightening or entertaining? If it’s the latter, your time and trouble may be well-served should you check out “Chicago 10,” which stretches the boundaries of what a documentary is while revisiting the drama and subsequent trial surrounding the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. That boundary-busting works for and against the film. “Chicago 10” cleverly mixes archival footage of interviews and anti-war protests with animated dramatizations of the trial, and it balances the two media with energy and spirit (and some great music) to spare. Watching “Chicago 10” is so much fun, in fact, that it’s dangerously easy to forget you’re not really learning much of anything. “Chicago 10” paints the protesters as charismatic heroes and the opposition as a bunch of freedom-hating squares, and the story behind the story, when told at all, is painted overwhelmingly in black and white. Were this a work of fiction, such excessive subjectivity would probably be fine. But 1968 really happened, and telling half the story, no matter how well-dressed, is as bad as not telling it at all.
Extra: Remix contest-winning video.
Worth a Mention
—Warner Westerns: If you’re a lover of westerns but your library is feeling a bit stale, thank Warner Bros. for going nuts and releasing no less than three sets at the same time. “Errol Flynn: The Warner Bros. Western Collection” includes four Flynn films (“Montana,” “Rocky Mountain,” “San Antonio” and “Virginia City”), while “Warner Home Video Western Classics Collection” features six (“Escape From Fort Bravo,” “Many Rivers to Cross,” “Cimarron,” “The Law and Jake Wade,” “Saddle the Wind” and “The Stalking Moon”). Warner also is offering a three-disc collector’s edition of “How the West was Won,” which includes a remastered cut, commentary, a behind-the-scenes film and a smattering of collectable books and photo cards.
Best of the Week’s TV on DVD
Per usual, late August brings with it new seasons of TV on DVD. Among the best of the bunch:
— “The Shield: The Complete Sixth Season” (NR, 2007, Sony Pictures): 10 episodes, plus commentaries, deleted scenes and two behind-the-scenes features.
— “Heroes: Season 2” (NR, 2007, NBC-Universal): 11 episodes, plus commentaries, deleted scenes, alternate season finale ending, season three sneak preview, six behind-the-scenes features, Web featurettes and an art gallery.
— “Everybody Hates Chris: The Third Season” (NR, 2007, CBS/Paramount): 22 episodes, plus commentaries, deleted scenes, Webisodes, cast interviews, Chris Rock voiceover session footage, outtakes, one behind-the-scenes feature, bloopers and a music video.
— “Dexter: The Second Season” (NR, 2007, Showtime): 12 episodes, plus two sample episodes each of “Brotherhood” and “The Tudors,” a sample episode of “Californication,” a Michael C. Hall Podcast and an interview with Hall.
— “Entourage: The Complete Fourth Season” (NR, 2008, HBO): 12 episodes, plus commentaries, U.S. Comedy Arts Festival panel featuring the cast, one behind-the-scenes feature and a trailer for the fictional film “Medellin.”