This Week in Blu-ray / DVD Releases: July 9
This week: Let's do Stifler's mom one more time. Also: Japanese smut, and (for some reason) a big week for 1981 movies.
► You know the only reason there’s an AMERICAN REUNION is because everyone’s career from the original ‘American Pie’ 13 years ago has flatlined. So here they are, and they all look miserable revisiting this franchise –seriously, if these were the best takes, this must have been a grim shoot. It doesn’t help the story is completely useless, since ‘American Pie 3’ already dealt with the gang facing adulthood and letting go of their youth. It’s more of the same here as they reconvene for their 13th high school reunion (who has a 13th?), and of course Stifler’s the only one who hasn’t grown up. Everyone is back in some form, though it’s Eugene Levy as Jim’s dad who has the best moments, trying to move on after the death of his wife. The guy has been in all eight ‘American Pie’ films and this is his reward.
► Among the words I used to describe Ken Russell's ALTERED STATES after stumbling out of the theatre in 1981, "future classic" wasn't among them. But here it is, and this bizarre mess of a movie has been referenced on everything from 'South Park' to 'Fringe' to (of course) that equally classic A-Ha video. For his movie debut, William Hurt is a university professor who subjects himself to sensory deprivation experiments, transforming back to a primal state and eventually a pyrotechnic blob. It's basically one long metaphor for '60s drug culture, when acid was supposed to bring you to a state of higher consciousness when all it really did was make you a smelly hippie. Bonus tidbit: This is also Drew Barrymore's first movie.
► The sordid history of Kenneth Lonergan's MARGARET would make for a good documentary some day. Originally scheduled for release in 2007, Lonergan delivered a three-hour cut of the grim drama when he was contractually obligated to make it 150 minutes of less. Cue the lawsuits. It was eventually released to theatres last year, to no fanfare (it opened on exactly one screen in the UK). Despite the off-screen battles, the film earned some critical love for its heartrending story of a Manhattan student (Anna Paquin) who causes a pedestrian's death when she distracts a bus driver one day. She then joins the victim's best friend for a lawsuit against the driver.
► Amongst all the crap he makes lately, there are signs Robert De Niro is still trying. BEING FLYNN has him as a con man who reunites with his son (Paul Dano) after 18 years at a homeless shelter. Directed by Paul Weitz, whose 'About a Boy' is ridiculously underrated, and based on poet Nick Flynn's 2005 memoir 'Another Bullshit Night in Suck City.' Julianne Moore and Lili Taylor co-star.
► The only two things I remember about CHARIOTS OF FIRE: 1. As we left the theatre we realized my six-year-old brother wasn't with us ... he fell asleep five minutes into it and was still in his seat. 2. It beat out 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' for Best Picture that year, which may be the first time I muttered the words "that sucks balls" to the TV (repeated the next year when 'Gandhi' beat 'E.T.' - Spielberg got so screwed in the '80s). It's still a clinical bore of a movie, saved only by that great Vangelis score and a nice early performance from Ian Holm as the personal trainer of British Olympic runner Harold Abrahams. It's a slick Blu-ray, at least, with no less than four documentaries and a new interview with director Hugh Hudson.
► Director Naosuke Kurosawa’s 1980 debut sleazefest ZOOM IN: SEX APARTMENTS (originally called ‘Zoom In: Rape Apartments’) is straight out of the Argento playbook: Weird visuals, unnerving sex scenes, a whole lot of ‘what the hell did I just watch?’ afterwards. A woman is raped while riding her bike one night by someone who likes dousing his victims’ genitals in gasoline. She survives, and becomes strangely obsessed with him.
► Back in the summer of ’81, OUTLAND was greeted as another ‘Alien’ – gritty, mature sci-fi. The sets and special effects were a dead ringer, and the story - basically ‘High Noon’ in space – had Sean Connery as a deputy who arrives at a mining colony to investigate why a bunch of workers are dying in weird ways. The move stiffed on arrival, however, and has been given shoddy treatment on DVD for two previous releases. Hopefully the same transfer wasn’t used for this week’s Blu-ray release.
► This is how creepy and uncomfortable Japanese anime has become – here’s a show called PANTY & STOCKING WITH GARTERBELT, and I’m not sure if it’s a parody. Animated in a Powerpuff Girls style to make it more icky, it’s about two nasty angels booted from heaven for being dirty little sluts, who try earning their way back in by defeating evil spirits with weapons made out of lingerie. You just know there’s one guy out there going to Comic Con purely for the Panty & Stocking cosplay.
Also out this week:
SO WHAT DVD/BLU-RAYS ARE YOU GUYS STOKED ABOUT THIS WEEK?!