Penn Teller: Bull****! The Seventh Season (NR, 2009, Showtime)
You would think it would get old. Penn Jillette can drop an atomic F-bomb only so many ways, Teller’s options as an even-tempered mute are even more limited, and “Penn Teller: Bull****!” would appear to be constricted by sticking to the same formula — pick subject, build subject up, viciously (but intelligently, with facts, data and reasoning as well as violent barrages of words unfit to print) tear subject down — for seven seasons. But 700 seasons wouldn’t be enough time to cover the amount of bullbleep the world has on offer, and the disparately unique ways Penn and Teller tell their subjects to wear it simply do not get old. An episode of “Penn Teller: Bull****!” is a battle of attrition between hysterically funny and brilliantly illuminating, and there’s no point in determining which side wins when both are performing at levels as high as these. Season seven takes on video games, organic food, stress, taxes, the apocalypse, lie detectors, orgasms, astrology and … lawns.
Contents: Nine episodes, no extras. In a curious move acknowledged but not explained on the box, the episode about the Vatican has been left off the DVD.
Tooth Fairy (PG, 2010, Fox)
The sound you hear, just as you heard it when this one hit theaters, is that of millions of fans mourning the seeming passing of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s action hero career. But here’s the thing about “Tooth Fairy,” which stars Johnson as a soon-to-be-washed out hockey star forced to work tooth fairy duty after angering the tooth fairy gods (really): It’s as much a showcase for his real draw — force-of-nature-level charisma — as anything in the action realm. “Fairy” most definitely is a movie for kids first and parents second, and it’s chock full of predictable non-twists, bits that don’t shoot for the moon and jokes that cut as sharply as a wooden butter knife. But even the movie’s most vanilla bits tend to aim higher than the entirety of entirely too many kids movies, and between those moments, “Fairy” flashes some comic brilliance with surprising semi-regularity. Johnson’s talent is uniquely potent enough to work here as well as anywhere — he plays down without dumbing it down — and with an equally surprising and comparably unrestrained supporting cast (Stephen Merchant and Julie Andrews throughout the film, Billy Crystal and Seth MacFarlane pulling first-rate cameo duty), he isn’t working alone.
Extras: Tooth fairy training center feature, “Fairy-oke” singalong.
Paper Covers Rock (NR, 2008, IFC Films)
“Paper Covers Rock” is, like a lot of independent slice-of-life movies, dense with minutes in which completely unremarkable things happen and characters aren’t necessarily doing anything that has a direct effect on the central storyline. But when those minutes make you want to shake some sense into the main character (Jeannine Kaspar as Sam) one minute and telepathically tell her it’s going to be all right the next, they clearly aren’t being spent in vain. Our introduction to Sam takes place with her halfway through a suicide attempt while her kindergarten-aged (Juliet Stills) daughter prepares herself for school, and the vast majority of “Rock” consists of the rambling aftermath of Sam’s hospitalization and her subsequent attempts to piece her life back together. Much of what follows is mundane, and the story occasionally goes in circles. But the meandering and spinning makes sense in the context of Sam’s own missing bearings, and even when nothing really is happening, “Rock” makes sure to leave each scene with just a little more insight into where everything is going. The picture it ultimately paints feels authentic rather than like some trite march toward some hackneyed emotional crescendo, and the ironic result of that unassuming construction is a final trio of scenes that resonates in exactly the right way to just the right degree. Sayra Player also stars.
Extras: Two behind-the-scenes features.
Tetro (R, 2009, Lions Gate)
It takes a special kind of person with a special level of creative control to make a movie like “Tetro,” Francis Ford Coppola’s coming-of-age story about 17-year-old Bennie’s (Alden Ehrenreich) attempts to reconnect with his estranged older brother (Vincent Gallo as Tetro) and understand what happened to leave his family in pieces. Consequently, it takes a special kind of tolerance to enjoy Coppola’s work on the level it’s designed to be enjoyed. Laid out in bullet point form, “Tetro” delivers on multiple fronts: The sense of setting is terrific, Gallo’s turn makes Tetro as potentially engrossing to us as he is to Bennie, and a loving attention to detail provides warmth and character to a storyline we’ve all seen before on paper. But “Tetro” is a nothing short of a complete validation to all who detest the things that constitute an outsider’s stereotypical picture of arthouse cinema. The monochromatic, high-contrast cinematography and shameless use of a soundtrack that might make film noir connoisseurs roll their eyes is one thing. But with each turn “Tetro” takes, pieces of its initially promising sense of humor fall off. By film’s end, the air is so thick with self-seriousness overreactions to relatively harmless plot developments that this may as well be parody were it not so self-unawarene. “Tetro” never fully loses sight of what made it worth sticking with once some investment is made, but even those who suspend their sense of irony and give this the long leash it needs might find it hard not to chuckle at how completely up its own self-serious derriere the final act is.
Extras: Coppola/Ehrenreich commentary, six behind-the-scenes features.
Leap Year (PG, 2010, Universal)
Only those who have never seen a movie before could find a way to be fooled by “Leap Year,” which attempts to deviate from the basic romantic comedy template about as often as someone born on February 29 celebrates a proper birthday. In the occasional right light, there’s something very slightly pleasant about how completely unadventurous the whole thing is. Amy Adams is sweetly likable (in typical Amy Adams fashion) as Anna, who attempts a surprise trip to Dublin to propose to Jeremy (Adam Scott) — a prototypical male movie lead too occupied with business trips and workaholism to propose first — only to get sidetracked and lost in the quaint middle of nowhere. The natives are a dependable mix of wholesome and politely condescending in their role as hosts to the clueless (but sweet!) American, and Declan (Matthew Goode) fills the niche as the brooding (but handsome!) local whose role in this whole triangle is carved in wood the very second he enters the picture. And there’s the problem with “Year:” Every last moment is telegraphed — not just by the movie itself, but by decades of movies that already beat to death the plot turns down which this one strolls. The charm of predictability works only so often and not for very long, and nothing about “Year” is special nor lovable enough to overcome how completely ordinary everything feels once that charm runs out.
Extra: Deleted scenes.