Tuesday has long been one of my favorite days of the week. Why? That’s when new music and movies traditionally hit stores for purchase and/or rental. Remember John M. James’ column/list of new albums that used to appear in CityBeat? I admit that was the first thing I turned to as a music-mad pre-CityBeat-staff college kid when I picked up the paper every week. Where are you, John?
January is typically slow on the release front, but this week we’ve got a number of strong DVD/Blu-ray options, including the consensus critical favorite of 2010, The Social Network. Not much more needs to be said about David Fincher’s entertaining, surprisingly suspenseful Facebook origin story, so let’s move on to some other worthwhile releases:
• Alamar: Writer-director Pedro Gonzalez Rubio tells the simple story of a father and his 5-year-old son as they try to connect while on a fishing trip to rural Mexico. Distributed by tiny Film Movement, Alamar didn’t get a theatrical release in Cincinnati, which puts this acclaimed slice-of-life that rides a “thin line between fiction and documentary” at the top of my Netflix queque.
• Piranha: Supposedly a reboot of Joe Dante's 1978 original (which, curiously, was co-written by John Sayles), Alexandre Aja's version is an unabashedly bloody excursion into B-movie mayhem that features a cast of familiar faces (Elisabeth Shue, Ving Rhames, Christopher Lloyd and Jerry O'Connell, as well as cameos by Eli Roth and Richard Dreyfuss). The story is stoopid but sufficiently plausible and the cast is surprisingly game (especially a delirious O'Connell in a sleezeball role), but Aja's over-the-top presentation of the piranhas' human carnage makes Jaws look like a trip to the kiddie pool. (Spielberg's staple generated tension through what it didn't show the audience.) But that's not to say Piranha doesn't have its trashy pleasures.
• The Freebie: First-time director Katie Aselton stars as one half of a happily married early-thirtysomething couple (Dax Shepard plays the other half) with one little problem: They haven’t had sex in months. This concise, sneakily affecting 78-minute drama is the latest lo-fi indie to emerge from a burgeoning movement that includes micro-budgeted, personally driven films like Humpday, Nights and Weekends, Funny Ha Ha and those of the Duplass brothers (Mark Duplass is Aselton’s real-life husband; she co-starred with him in the brothers’ cult hit The Puffy Chair). Look for my interview with Aselton later this week at citybeat.com.
• Dances with Wolves: Yes, Kevin Costner’s Oscar-winning epic about a disillusioned Civil War veteran who is wooed by the Native American way of life finally gets a Blu-ray release in conjunction with its 20th anniversary, complete with a plethora of special features. Criticized as softheaded and sentimental in some corners, I’ve seen this thing but once, way back upon its initial release, so maybe it’s about time for a revisit.
As for this week’s truncated musical releases, I’m curious about the latest from English minimalist Art Punk masters Wire, as well as the third one from Tapes N Tapes, whose follow-up to its hyped debut fell flat.