September 30, 2009

Away We Go

Also this week: The Girlfriend Experience, 42nd Street Forever, The New York Ripper, Management, House Party Collection

Highlight of the Week

Away We Go (Alliance) Sam Mendes shies away from his heavy-handed approach toward American malaise and instead pulls off this bit of studio mumblecore. Marketed to appear like a Juno-calibre smugfest, it’s actually a smart, soulful and idiosyncratic look at a thirtysomething couple anxious to settle down someplace before their child is born. Office geekthrob John Krasinsky and Saturday Night Live vet Maya Rudolph bring terrific performances, with the film’s episodic road-trip construction allowing them to go from absurd to absorbing. Additional strengths include an insightful script by literary couple Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida and polished, inventive cinematography from Ellen Kuras, which makes for a gorgeous Blu-ray version. Extras: excellent commentary with Mendes, Eggers and Vida, making-of, haughty doc on green filmmaking, deleted scenes. 

Also Available

The Girlfriend Experience (Mongrel) Call it “Sex, Lies and Digital Video.” Self-effacer extraordinaire Steven Soderbergh crafts one of the year’s most impenetrable character studies in the low-fi voyeuristic tradition of Full Frontal and Bubble. One of the film’s key innovations (among many) is casting real-life porn star Sasha Grey in the lead as a placid, high-end prostitute. Extras: commentary with Soderbergh and Grey, behind-the-scenes featurette.

42nd Street Forever, Vol. 5: Alamo Drafthouse Cinema (Synapse) The staff of Austin’s legendary cinema (second home to one Harry Knowles) curates the fifth volume of this, the best exploitation trailer comp you could ever wish for. Sleazoid sex-coms, hammy horror flicks and crude Kung Fu non-classics take up this two hour collection of some of the best worst movies you’ll never see. Extras: geeky staff commentary, 30-minute doc on the Alamo Drafthouse.  

The New York Ripper (Blue Underground) At one point banned and censored to shreds, Lucio Fulci’s stylish 1982 slasher was pigeonholed as deeply misogynistic and unfit for public viewing. Cut to today and the film is available fully intact and in harrowing high-def, with several illuminating extras. Not exactly, as the cover art calls it, “The Most Controversial Horror Film Ever Made!,” this is one of Fulci’s bleakest, most gruesome works and only recommendable to brave horror buffs interested in seeking out one of the director’s final forays in the giallo filone. Extras: interview with actor Zora Kerova, NYC locations then and now, trailer. 

Management (Alliance) Playwright/screenwriter Stephen Belber marks his directorial debut with an unevenly charming, stalkeresque rom-com. Resembling a cross between Viggo Mortensen and Crispin Glover, Steve Zahn delivers his usual man-child routine to woo Jennifer Aniston away from her ex-punk bf, well-played by Woody Harrelson. Failsafe afternoon rental at best. Extras: commentary with Belber and Zahn, deleted scenes, gag reel.

Lowlight of the Week

House Party Collection (New Line) Before Mike ’n’ Jonah made a splash with Superbad, Kid ’n’ Play got the party started in the esteemed House Party saga, one of the most notorious guilty-pleasure relics of the 1990s. With each instalment more abysmally awesome than the last, the fourth, which doesn’t even feature Kid or Play, is just unbearable. Extras: making-of  ’n’ music video.