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The Reef (Blu-ray)





click to enlarge The Reef (Blu-ray)
  • The Reef (Blu-ray)

Some folks go yachting off of Australia's Great Barrier Reef, their boat capsizes, they decide to make a swim for it, and—you guessed it—a great white shark decides it's time to eat.

Like Open Water, this movie involves actors and actresses in the water with real sharks. Inspired by a true story in which three people went into the water with one surviving, this has four people going in while one stays behind on the overturned boat. And, like Open Water, the story is very depressing.

The cast of unknowns does a good job freaking out upon each visit from Mr. Jaws. There is real terror in this movie in that the shark is not a fake, and he's a mean-looking bastard. One gets the sense that if they were in the water wearing their diving masks, the sight they would see right before getting munched is what director Andrew Traucki often catches on camera: a shark, adorned with that creepy frozen expression, swimming casually, staring right at you, and deliberating whether you are worthy of his violence.

The movie contains some lousy melodrama, and it does have an air of predictability about it. But I give the film a lot of credit for some of its tenser moments. I was watching it on my widescreen computer, and there came a time where I had to back away from the screen in order to feel a little safer. Yeah, I'm a total wuss.

Traucki and the cast ultimately make it worth watching, and a decent entry in the shark-movie genre.

SPECIAL FEATURES: A making-of documentary.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

click to enlarge Fast Times at Ridgemont High (Blu-ray)
  • Fast Times at Ridgemont High (Blu-ray)

Since the last DVD release of this hallowed high school/stoner comedy I reviewed, Nicholas Cage (who makes a small appearance in the film) has become a cinematic joke, Sean Penn has won another Oscar, and Judge Reinhold continues to do nothing of particular distinction.

In the 1980s, Cameron Crowe wrote the screenplay for the then and still controversial high school comedy that featured pot humor, masturbation, abortion, carrot fellatio and what amounted to serious statutory rape. The movie is funny, but it definitely has a sinister stench to it.

This one is always fun to revisit every five or six years just to be reminded of the talent that was involved. Hats off to folks who cast this thing for essentially starting the careers of Cage, Penn (who, while he had done Taps, wasn't a big star yet), Phoebe Cates, Forest Whitaker, Anthony Edwards, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Eric Stoltz. Is there another film in cinematic history that kick-started this many legitimate screen careers? I don't think there is.

It's also nice that the movie supplied screen great Ray Walston with what turned out to be the signature role for the final phase of his career. Mr. Hand remains one of the great teacher characters, and his squaring off with Penn's stoner Spicoli is priceless.

When I first saw this film over nearly 30 years ago, I couldn't help but think Jennifer Jason Leigh's experimental teen Stacy Hamilton was a shameless, dirty, unforgivable whore. Watching it now, my opinion is the same. She's a totally clueless whore in serious need of teen therapy.

Also, when I first saw this film, I was of the opinion that no woman had ever looked better in a bikini than Phoebe Cates, who takes her top off and prompts Judge Reinhold to—quite understandably—whack off in the bathroom. I was a young lad at the time, with only 15 years of bikini viewing experience, so Cates didn't have much competition.

Watching this film today, I am still of the opinion that no screen actress has ever looked as beautiful in a swimsuit as Cates. She can now be classified as legendary.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Holdovers from prior editions include an extensive retro-documentary involving much of the cast and crew, and a commentary with Crowe and director Amy Heckerling.

Limitless (Blu-ray)





click to enlarge Limitless (Blu-ray)
  • Limitless (Blu-ray)

Bradley Cooper gets to do some crazed, substantial acting in this story of Eddie Morra, a man suffering from writer's block who is able to access 100 percent of his brain thanks to a mystery pill.

The film isn't so much a deep rumination on what would happen to a human if he could access his whole brain as it is a shallow yet snappy thriller. Cooper is great fun in the lead role, which definitely has a humorous side. And Robert De Niro does some of his best work in years as a business tycoon who takes a shine to Eddie when he's on the miracle drug.

Director Neil Burger has made a fun movie that could've been great had it gone a little deeper. Still, it's worth the watch.

SPECIAL FEATURES: You get a commentary with the director, a making-of documentary, and two versions of the film (theatrical and an "unrated" extended cut). You also get an alternate ending.

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