More DVDs for 01/11/11 – Into the Water with Piranha and Alamar

After a three-week hiatus, my DVD column is back on MSN, and it kicks off with the much-lauded The Social Network, the favorite leading into the Oscar season. I cover it in detail on my blog here. That pretty much crowds out the balance of releases this week (MSN’s column incorporates last week’s releases as well) but here are couple more titles this week, one that I recommend and one that I recommend you steer clear of, namely…

Part remake, part sequel, part excuse for a shameless exhibition of gore and nudity, Piranha (2010) (Sony) is a high-tech drive-in movie for 3D multiplex screens. The 3D experience is being offered in one iteration of the Blu-ray (for consumers that have invested in 3D compatible TVs and Blu-ray players) but the rest of us get the standard presentation. Since the film has little to offer beyond the exploitation spectacle (and even that was of limited entertainment value) there’s even less to recommend it than in the big screen 3D incarnation.

This is a film where two pneumatic nudes (Kelly Brook and Riley Steele) dive under a glass-bottom boat for what is referred to in the credits as an “underwater ballet,” a girl’s face is yanked right off her skull when her hair gets caught up in a motorboat propeller and a prehistoric piranha gobbles up and then belches out Jerry O’Connell’s penis into the camera. That’s not exactly the plot, which has to do with an earthquake releasing an ancient species of piranha from an underwater cavern into the vacation lake, but it is the raison d’etre for this mix of watersports, gratuitous nudity and bloody gorefest. Director Alexandre Aja has offered some interesting exercises in horror, but this isn’t one of them. Elisabeth Shue stars as the sheriff of a lake town in the desert that goes crazy over spring break and Adam Scott is a scientist called in to investigate a curious creature captured on the lake just before all hell lets loose. Steven R. McQueen and Jessica Szohr play the nice teenagers amidst the decadent party kids. Features entertaining enough commentary by director Aja and two producers (when Aja proclaims he’s proud of his naked underwater ballet, it’s hard to tell if he’s being serious or not) and five featurettes. The Blu-ray also features six deleted scenes (with optional commentary) and five more featurettes. I couldn’t imagine why you’d need this many supplements for this film, but there you have it.

Alamar (Film Movement), a gentle film from Pedro González-Rubio, follows what may be the final reunion between a father and son on the coast of Mexico before the five-year-old boy flies off to Rome with his Italian mother. There is no animosity here, just a loving, almost idyllic time fishing and diving in paradise, living on the sea and making the most of their time together in a way of life disappearing in the modern world. The handheld camera gives it a documentary quality, the feeling that life is unfolding in front of us, but the beauty of the coastal locations is less profound than compassion and generosity presented in these precious moments. As loving a film as you’ll see this year. In Spanish with English subtitles. Also features the animated short film No Corras Tanto from Spain.

I review the avant-garde meta-mystery Double Take (Kino), starring Alfred Hitchcock and his double(s), for Turner Classic Movies here.

Also new this week: the animated adventure Alpha and Omega (Lionsgate), Heartbreaker (IFC) with Roman Duris and Vansessa Paradis, the World War II thriller The Hessen Conspiracy (Anchor Bay) with Billy Zane, Soul Kittens Cabaret (Image) with Fantasia Barrino and Faith Evans and the documentary Picture Me: A Model’s Story (Strand).

For TV on DVD for the week, see my wrap-up here. For the rest of the highlights, visit my weekly column, which goes live every Tuesday on MSN Entertainment.

Author: seanax

I write the weekly newspaper column Stream On Demand and the companion website ( I'm a contributing writer for Turner Classic Movies Online, Keyframe, Independent Lens, and Cinephiled, and the editor of Parallax View ( I've written for The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, The Seattle Weekly,, Senses of Cinema, Asian Cult Cinema, and Psychotronic Video, among other publications, and I am a contributing editor to Parallax View. I currently live and work in Seattle, Washington, with my two cats, Hammet and Chandler.

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