For the second week in a row, our choices on home video are drastically limited. Only one major wide release hits shelves (the latest installment of the American Pie franchise), and it’s accompanied by three much smaller films: a Chinese drama with Christian Bale, a memoir-based indie featuring a strong Robert De Niro performance, and Paul Weitz’s latest, which finally hit theaters after an original release date of 2007 was delayed by various complications.

American Reunion


1999’s American Pie was one of the defining sex comedies of its generation, and while it spawned two sequels and a number of offshoot movies, none has equaled the original’s 61% Tomatometer, the only Fresh score of the franchise, including the presumed final installment, American Reunion. Jim (Jason Biggs), Michelle (Alyson Hannigan), Stifler (Seann William Scott), and the whole gang return for their high school reunion to catch up, reminisce about the past, and find a new generation of teens rowdier than ever. At 43%, Reunion will likely only please fans of the franchise, as critics found it treading familiar territory, but with fewer laughs.



After numerous post-production battles with Fox Searchlight, including multiple lawsuits, director Kenneth Lonergan (You Can Count on Me) was finally allowed to release Margaret back in September. Originally slated to open in 2007, the film stars Anna Paquin as a teen named Lisa who inadvertently causes a traffic accident that leads to the death of a pedestrian; while she struggles to make amends with the victim’s family, she comes to grips with the harsh realities of life. Costarring Matt Damon, Mark Ruffalo, and Matthew Broderick, Margaret scored a 70% from critics, who felt the film attempted to tackle too many ideas at once but did an admirable job portraying the emotional hell of its protagonist.

The Flowers of War


The Japanese occupation of China is a popular subject for films coming out of the latter country, but none of them have boasted the presence of The Dark Knight himself… until now. Christian Bale stars in this period drama by Chinese auteur Zhang Yimou (Hero), in which an American mortician (Bale) poses as the head priest at a Catholic convent in Nanking to protect a group of young prostitutes from rape at the hands of Japanese soldiers. Suitably epic, both in tone and runtime, The Flowers of War only managed a 41% Tomatometer score from critics, who felt the film was both a bit bloated in the middle and tonally inconsistent, despite Zhang’s typically stylish visuals.

Being Flynn


After starring in a few less than stellar films (Little Fockers, anyone?), Robert De Niro was due for another powerhouse performance, and according to most critics, he found it in Being Flynn. Unfortunately, the film around him didn’t quite measure up. Based on the memoir by Nick Flynn, the film centers around the writer (played by Paul Dano) as he attempts to make sense of his homeless, long-lost father’s (De Niro) abrupt reappearance in his life. Costarring Julianne Moore and Olivia Thirlby and directed by Paul Weitz (About a Boy), Being Flynn earned a 55% on the Tomatometer, thanks in large part to De Niro’s committed performance; sadly, most critics were hoping for deeper themes and a more subtle treatment of the relationship at its core.

This week at the movies, we’ve got a ribald get-together (American Reunion, starring Jason Biggs and Alyson Hannigan) and an epic shipwreck (Titanic (in 3D), starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet). What do the critics have to say?

American Reunion


Who would have thought we’d see the American Pie kids grow and mature? Critics say that in American Reunion, our old friends are still good company, but they’re certainly not as shocking as they used to be. The gang from East Great Falls reunites for a high school reunion, and discovers that much has changed since their wild teenage years: most have accepted the responsibilities of adulthood — with the exception of Stiffler, naturally. Still, being a grownup doesn’t ensure that you’ll be free from from lustful thoughts or public embarrassment. The pundits say if you liked the other American Pie movies, you’ll probably like American Reunion as well, but don’t expect too many surprises; while the film has a few good gags, it mostly coasts on the goodwill these characters have earned over the years.

Titanic (in 3D)


Titanic was pretty much unsinkable upon its release in 1997. This period blockbuster solidified James Cameron‘s status as one of Hollywood’s master technicians, made superstars of Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, and collected a boatload of Oscars, including Best Picture. It also won approval from the critics, who were (mostly) swept away by Titanic‘s deft blend of romantic melodrama and cutting edge special effects. This week, it’s back on the big screen in 3D, so now’s as good a time as any to revisit the biggest commercial juggernaut of the 1990s — one that’s Certified Fresh to boot. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we run down the history of the the Titanic on film.)

Also opening this week in limited release:

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