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by Nigel M Smith
February 28, 2012 10:48 AM
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Why 'Myth of the American Sleepover' Tops This Week's DVD/Blu-ray Releases

A scene from David Robert Mitchell's "The Myth of the American Sleepover." Image courtesy of IFC Films.
This week on DVD/Blu-ray: Martin Scorsese's modern nod to the past; a gonzo comedy from the mind of Todd Rohal; an overlooked feature film debut worth checking out; the latest Criterion release; and one the most divisive films to play at Sundance last year.
 

#1. Critic's Pick: "Myth of the American Sleepover" (DVD)

David Robert Mitchell makes a striking debut with his SXSW Special Jury Award-winning, "The Myth of the American Sleepover." This quiet, acutely observed crowd pleaser tracks four teenagers as they search for love and adventure on the last night of summer. Well acted by its large ensemble cast and beautifully shot, this indie signals Mitchell as a talent to watch out for.

As Eric Kohn wrote in his review, "In his feature-length debut Michell shows his broad capacity for subtext, if not prolonged conversations. The innumerable awkward exchanges dominating "Myth" sometimes gives the cast a muted, synthetic quality, but then the movie isn't exactly realistic in the first place. With nearly all the action taking place at night, the shadowy encounters become almost expressionistic and the narrative exists in a fully contained universe devoid of anyone above the age of 20."

Extras: Thankfully the film is good enough to make up for the lacklustre special features. All that's included in this release is the film's trailer.

Go here for our interview with Mitchell.
 

#2. "Hugo" (DVD/Blu-ray)

Sure, it didn't win the night's top honor at Sunday's Academy Awards, but Martin Scorsese's massively ambitious family film, "Hugo," did tie with the top dog, "The Artist," to walk away with five golden men -- no small feat. Although best enjoyed in glorious 3D on the biggest screen you can find, "Hugo" is still a wonder on the small screen, so don't miss out.

"Although technically his first children's movie, 'Hugo' contains images appealing to all ages," wrote Kohn in his review. "Guided by Howard Shore's ecstatic orchestral score and that wonderfully fluid camerawork, 'Hugo' is a sugary celebration of cinema's timeless appeal."

Extras: An audio commentary would have been nice, but we're sad to report Scorsese didn't record one for this release. What is here is great though. Included: A bevvy of featurettes that delve into the making of "Hugo." The best is the 15-minute "The Cinemagician Georges Melies," which shines a light on the legendary filmmaker behind much of "Hugo"'s inspiration.
 

#3. "The Catechism Cataclysm" (DVD)

Todd Rohal's "The Catechism Cataclysm." IFC Midnight.
Todd Rohal's ("The Guatemalan Handshake”) sophomore feature, "The Catechism Cataclysm," befuddled audiences in good way at last year's Sundance festival with its singular brand of quirkiness. The film follows Father Billy, a young priest who is forced to take a sabbatical by his superiors when he is discovered saying inappropriate things to his followers. To make the most of his time off, Billy sets off on a canoe trip with his high-school friend Robbie. When the two get lost, things take a turn for the weird.

"'Catechism' plays like a singularly wacky, surrealist sketch comedy—wildly entertaining, invariably random and delectably strange," Kohn wrote in his Sundance review of the comedy.

Extras: If you thought the feature was odd, just wait till you check out the four-minute short, "Sasquatch Birth Journal 2," included here. Also included: Four minutes of outtakes, audio commentary from Rohal and the film's two leads, Steve Little and Robert Longstreet; and both the English and Japanese trailers for the film.
 

#4. "Vanya on 42nd Street" (DVD/Blu-ray)

Chekhov's masterworks don't adapt easily to the screen, but Louis Malle makes it work by capturing a theatrical mounting of "Uncle Vanya" with deft cinematic flair. He's also aided by a formidable cast that includes a young Julianne Moore, Brooke Smith and George Gaynes. The 1994 film, which turned out to be Malle's last, gets a gorgeous new transfer, courtesy of the Criterion Collection in this souped up release.

Extras: A sparkling new high-definition digital restoration; a comprehensive new documentary featuring interviews with Andre Gregory and the cast; the film's trailer; plus a booklet featuring an essay by critic Steven Vineberg.
 

#5. "I Melt With You" (DVD/Blu-ray)

Love it or hate it, Mark Pellington's tale of men doing very bad things, "I Melt With You," made an impact last year in Park City. Those who hated it, really hated it (there were reportedly 46 walkouts at the film's first press screening), but the film landed the enviable feat of snagging distribution with Magnolia Pictures and did score some praise (Todd McCarthy was a fan).

The film concerns four 44-year-old college friends (Jeremy Piven, Thomas Jane, Rob Lowe and Christian McKay) who reunite for a weekend bender to reminisce and let loose. For these boys, that involves doing mounds of cocaine, pill popping and bedding local girls (including Sasha Grey). Things take a turn for the dark side when the narcotics trigger one of the guys to do something he can't take back.

"I knew that if you’re true to this movie, it’s not going to be for everyone and that’s one of the things I loved about it," Jeremy Piven told Indiewire back before it opened in theaters. "It shows men relating to each other [in a way] that I’ve never seen on film before. I’m very proud to be a part of it."

Extras: Fans of the film have a lot to be happy about. Included: Audio commentary with Pellington, Lowe and Piven; a statement from the director; a slew of deleted scenes; a behind the scenes featurette; the redband and greenband trailers; an interview with Pellington; and more.

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1 Comment

  • bugaloo | February 28, 2012 7:26 PMReply

    The atrocious "I Melt With You" was "divisive"? That would imply that somebody, somewhere, actually LIKED it.