The doldrums of summer continue on the home video beat—July and August are traditionally the horse latitudes of DVD and digital distribution. This week's most high-profile release is AMERICAN REUNION, the latest installment of the sex and bathroom humor franchise that I've been studiously avoiding for 13 years. I tried to make time to watch Reunion this week, but things just kept coming up. Like napping and staring at the wall.
American Reunion is actually the eighth movie in the series, if you count the direct-to-DVD spinoffs (and I do). These are the kinds of titles that give direct-to-DVD a bad name. Which is too bad. Plenty of good films go direct to DVD, or sometimes indirect to DVD, as is the case with the week's other significant release.
Director Kenneth Lonergan's MARGARET, starring Anna Paquin and Matt Damon, was originally scheduled for a theatrical run in 2007. The film was intended to be Lonergan's follow-up to his critically acclaimed drama You Can Count On Me, starring Laura Linney and Mark Ruffalo. Unfortunately, creative differences led to lawsuits, which led to the film sitting on shelves in various states of completion for five years.
Margaret has been technically released to home video this week, but thanks to a rather arcane exclusivity deal, it's only available via Amazon for now. They sure are making this thing hard to get to. Look for a review here next week.
Meanwhile, this week brings some good news on the digital front. Mike Nichols' classic 1967 film THE GRADUATE has been made available for on-demand viewing through various digital platforms for the first time. Check with your cable or digital provider. (It's also available via online streaming with Netflix' “Watch Instantly” service.)
On the off-chance that you're unfamiliar with the movie—you've been in a 50-year coma, maybe, or in orbit—The Graduate tells the story of young Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman), recently graduated from college and adrift on the rocky shoals of impending adulthood. Things get complicated quickly when Ben is seduced by the original cougar, Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft).
It's still amazing to see how the movie succeeds on just about every level. Watch it again and you might have a funny feeling at the end—the conviction that this is, very nearly, the Perfect Film.
Also now available on digital and on-demand: director Rob Reiner's 1984 mock rockumentary THIS IS SPINAL TAP. Like The Graduate, Spinal Tap rewards repeat viewings, just to admire the clockwork precision of it all.
I have a pet theory that watching old familiar movies like The Graduate and Spinal Tap is the equivalent of listening to old Beatles albums. It seems to toggle similar serotonin switches. Both films have long been available in several DVD and Blu-ray iterations, but it's nice to have them up floating in the cloud like this, for instant gratification.
Finally, for any fellow British telly addicts out there, even more good news on the digital front. Boutique distributor Acorn Media specializes reissues of UK TV series both old and new — Doc Martin, Prime Suspect, Agatha Christie's Poirot and my mom's enduring favorite, Upstairs, Downstairs. Acorn recently launched its Acorn TV service, which offers subscription-based streaming video of episodes on demand.
Also New This Week:
Christian Bale in the historical drama THE FLOWERS OF WAR, filmed and produced in China, and nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at last year's Oscars.
Robert De Niro and Paul Dano in the father-son drama BEING FLYNN, based on Nick Flynn's 2004 memoir, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City.
The Blu-ray debut of the excellent and groundbreaking 1980 sci-fi freakout ALTERED STATES, featuring William Hurt, off-brand hallucinogenics and poorly secured sensory deprivation tanks.
Plus: TV-on-DVD collections from THE BIG BANG THEORY, THE GLADES, the Syfy channel's WAREHOUSE 13 and the genuinely weird Cartoon Network kids show ADVENTURE TIME.