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Last week’s holiday led to a lull in home entertainment releases, but this week we’re back on the horse, with a few great movies and TV programs fans will be able to watch in a variety of different formats. Read on to learn about some of July 9th’s best releases, and maybe even a few that may have slipped under your radar.
Spring Breakers Blu-ray
In Spring Breakers, four girls escape the constricting lifestyle of their southern hometown to go on an unforgettable spring break road trip filled with alcohol, drugs, naked bodies, beach scenes and a rapper and gangster named Alien (James Franco). Directed by Harmony Korine, the narrative tells a story of realistic but untamed young women and men whose characters come together in a beautiful, surreal setting full of artistic intention.
Before Faith (Selena Gomez), Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Brit (Ashley Benson), and Cotty (Rachel Korine) can make their way to Florida to revel in a party-filled environment, they must get the cash to live their dream. The emboldened young women decide to rob a restaurant to get their funds, giving us a glimpse at a side that is wilder than the average college student normally displays. Later the girls party and live it up, but when they are introduced to the charismatic but intimidating Alien, he opens the girls up to possibilities beyond the their grasp.
Korine’s surreal vision is often melodic, even when it implements techno music and shots of guys knocking back alcohol or girls ripping off their tops to propel the plot forward. With its dreamy pace and dreamier cinematography, the movie gives viewers enough of a break from reality that they can invest in the film’s bad girls and gangster characters. After all, Alien may threaten individuals with guns, but he also likes to play a goofy white piano right by the ocean. The girls may have robbed a restaurant with squirt guns, but they still love to sing Britney Spears off-key.
The marketing for Spring Breakers certainly made it seem like a slew of party-friendly movies already on the market. However, while there were still plenty of assholes willing to get crunk or get naked on camera for the film, the movie’s focus is on four girls who are struggling to bridge the gap between childhood and adulthood and to determine exactly what sort of women they want to become along the way.
You can order Spring Breakers over at Amazon.
Best Special Feature: If you really want to get an in-depth look into the movie, you’ll want to check out the 3-part documentary aspect that looks at the cast and crew’s perspectives while shooting the film. Korine and Franco both like to talk about the artistic nature of the film, while poor Selena Gomez keeps apologizing to her younger fans for being a part of a wild, R-rated flick. Most of the extras with this set are engaging, but the “Breaking it Down: Behind Spring Breakers” documentary really allows fans to see how the movie came together.
Other Special Features:
“Harmony’s Ear Candy—A Deeper Look at the Music Score”
Audio Commentary with writer/ director Harmony Korine
Theatrical Trailer/ TV Sports
The Host Blu-ray
Stephanie Meyer does one thing really well. She tells open and honest love stories with enough complication to keep them interesting, and it’s these relationships that have kept audiences flocking to her literature over the past several years. However, with The Host, the writer mashes her love story with unimaginative science fiction tropes and frames it all under a convoluted storyline that only shows how little she understands world building or writing complicated characters. It’s even worse on film.
I mention the novel because many of the problems with Andrew Niccols’ The Host stem directly from the way the novel was written. The tale is a fairly simple one. Sometime in the future a set of aliens will come to Earth. The aliens are an invasive species that eventually take humans as hosts. Most of the time when this happens, the alien is able to completely take over the brain of the human, but every now and again, a human will fight back.
This brings us to Saoirse Ronan’s character, Wanda, an alien still living with a human named Melanie fighting within her head. Eventually, the two sort of reach a point of amicable companionship and Wanda moves to live with some humans hiding out in the desert. She begins to experience feelings and falls into a complicated love triangle with Jared (Max Irons) and Ian (Jake Abel). The basic premise is serviceable enough and Ronan does well at playing two characters living in one body. She’s schizophrenic and weird and differentiates the young woman and the alien enough that her performance is actually decent. But, as I’ve been hinting so far, there are some major problems, including that the male characters who for the most part are unrealistic and the duel existence of Wanda and Melanie who both need their own voice.
While poor Irons and Abel don’t bring much to the table other than to show anger and affection in different moments, Ronan has her work cut out for her playing two characters. Unfortunately, the way that The Host is set up means that Niccols has to use voice overdubs whenever Melanie is talking. This means Wanda is often agitated and talking to herself onscreen. It’s meant to be dark and serious, but these moments are often arduous to get through or uncharacteristically comical. The problems the book created for the film are numerous and with a subpar plot, The Host is never particularly engrossing or likeable.
You can order The Host over at Amazon. Best Special Feature: The Host’s disc has a really nice setup and the movie looks great on Blu-ray. The extras on the disc are a little more sparse, but I did enjoy the “Seeker PSA” that seems to have been part of viral marketing efforts for the movie and that urges the host race of aliens to embark on a journey to Earth.
Other Special Features:
“Bringing The Host To Life”
Feature Commentary with Meyer, Niccol, and Producer Nick Wechsler
Director Paul Weitz has made a name for himself over the years by creating accessible, character-oriented films that often include love and adults with children, as seen in About a Boy and In Good Company. His latest film, Admission tells a story of a rigid admissions officer at Princeton University who begins to open up and broaden her emotional perspective, thanks to a man who runs a nearby alternative school.
Tina Fey and Paul Rudd star in the comedy as the aforementioned admissions officer and head of the school. The actors are two of the most likeable and most accessible comedians in America and it was only a matter of time before someone threw them together in a movie. Unfortunately, while Fey’s awkward comedy could have gelled well with the goofier parts of Rudd’s personality, the latter is often asked to be a straight man in a movie that mixes in too many serious moments.
Blame it on the script by Karen Croner, who could have chosen to tell an inoffensive and charming romance story between the two leads or even tell a working girl's story with romance on the side. Instead, we get a bland mix of Fey working at the admissions office at Princeton, all while trying to juggle an estranged relationship with her mother, a home life that’s in shambles, a new romance, and a secret adoption that’s cropped up from her past. All of these stories seem to come from different movies, and while most of the characters and plotlines are likeable enough on their own, the movie finds itself in shambles when it tries to interrelate or connect its storylines in any way.
Fey’s mother is played by Lily Tomlin, and despite the focus on Fey’s Portia, it’s Tomlin’s Susannah that really brings in the laughs, reminding us that Admission is supposed to be a comedy and not another sentimental romance headed up by a few smart-looking individuals. Even with Tomlin’s sharp wit, like a lot of its college applicants, Admission doesn’t live up to expectations.
You can order Admission over at Amazon.
Other July 9 Releases: Unless otherwise noted, releases are available on both DVD and Blu-ray.
Warehouse 13: Season 4 DVD
Dead Man Down
Tyler Perry’s Temptation
How The West Was Won: The Complete First Season DVD
Portlandia: Season 3
Would You Rather
Robot Chicken: DC Comics Special
Finding Bigfoot: Volume 2 DVD
The Power of Few
Bonanza: The Official Sixth Season vol.1 DVD