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DVD mini-reviews
This week's update By: doc     visit DWF

Buy it! Ok, here's what I've bought from the used DVD store, bargain bins and in the case of newer movies, BestBuy, in the last 2 months. If you are looking for some suggestions on stuff to buy, you have a pretty full collection and can't think of any or you see some of these all the time but don't know anything about them, this is a semi-useful guide. Be aware its based on my personal preferences and biases, which are largely illogical. Without further ado, here's my latest purchases:
Buy it! Rushmore (1998)
Sometimes the characters created in a movie are better than the plotlines they are created to support. This movie is one of them. Max Fischer (newcomer Jason Schwartzman) is president of at least a dozen clubs and extra-curricular groups from beekeeping to karate to French Club in the exclusive Rushmore Prep, where is he attending on a scholarship on the strength of the play about Watergate he wrote in the 2nd grade. He puts on big budget, ambitious plays like Serpico and a Viet-Nam war special effects extravaganza. He lobbies to keep Latin on the curricula and heads a drive to build a high-tech state of the art Oceanarium on the campus. He is wise beyond his years, speaks and acts like an adult and seems in control of everything around him. The downside is he is failing every one of his classes and is on 'sudden death' probation. In the midst of all this upheaval he falls in love with one of his teachers (Olivia WIlliams). Max meets local millionaire Herman Blume (Murray), strikes up a friendship due to their mutual admiration to each other, and soon Murray is his rival for the teacher's affection. The story goes on from there but the most interesting things in the movie are the character of Max, whatever he does, and Murray's brilliant comedic flair in every line he delivers. A really quirky and cool movie that doesn't follow a typical Hollywood formula (until the very end I guess). The soundtrack rules as well with a mix of 60's British Invasion bands' lesser known songs (Kings, The Who, Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart & Faces) and 60's folkies (Chad & Jeremy, Donovan, Cat Stevens). If you don't know shit about music history, you could mistake these tunes for anything by present day bands, the genre has been so co-opted by gen Y by now.

Buy it! And Justice for All (1979)
Al Pacino as an altruistic lawyer in a flawed system. Has the classic scene "I'm out of order, you're out of order your honor, this whole system is out of order!!" Dated but a classic and Christine Lahti is actually hot back then. Jeffrey Tambor has been playing a strange fellow for longer than I thought.

Buy it! Angel Heart (1987)
I've wanted this for a long time, it went out of print and was only reissued with extra features this month. Deniro is the devil and Mickey Rourke is a private 'tec looking for a missing person and fucking Lisa Bonet in a role that Bill Cosby raised hell about at the time. The movie was actually better than I remembered it, great direction by Alan Parker (Midnight Express, Angela's Ashes, Mississippi Burning) and a fantastic surprise ending. The extras, mostly about voodoo, kind of suck but the contemporary interview with Rourke is great and the director commentary is good. Recommended.
Buy it! Big Fish (2003)
Burton's eye for style and ambiance is great as ever but the story kind of sucks. The present-day stuff between Crudup and Finney is just annoying. Crudup comes off as a whiny asshole with a great crazy dad. Let him tell his fucking stories and leave him alone, he's an old man dying of cancer, get off his ass, ok? Also has my good friend Loudon Wainwright III leading a stellar supporting cast, so can't be bad, right? ;)
Buy it! Biloxi Blues (1988)
2nd installment and best of the 3 Neil Simon autobiographical plays rendered for the big screen. Whatever you can say about Matthew Broderick, he's just a likable guy. I've liked him ok ever since Ferris Bueller. He's enjoyable to watch. Chris Walken plays a truly unique drill sergeant. Park Overall walks him through his first fuck. All in all its worth seeing.
Buy it! Brighton Beach Memoirs (1986)
Jonathon Silverman in the first installment of the trilogy is annoying. This is a typical Jewish kvetchfest. Seen it before, wasn't funny then, really irritating now. Buy only if you are a completist- the 3rd movie, Broadway Bound, was a TV movie and not available on DVD, boohoo. It stared one of the other recruits from Biloxi Blues as the young Simon played by Broderick and Silverman in their respective movies and not even having seen it I can state I'm sure it sucked balls.
Buy it! Buddy Holly Story (1978)
Pulled this out of the discount bin for $4.99 and its well worth it. Low budget film but with a load of realism and Gary Busey's first and best performance ever. He does all his own singing and playing and is _very_ good as Holly. Well worth the discount price. Buy it.
Buy it!
Buy it!
Buy it!
Charlotte Gray (2001), Veronica Guerin (2003), Elizabeth (1998)
Cate Blanchett: she's a in the French Underground during WWII rescuing her lover behind enemy lines- no wait she's an intrepid Irish reporter, exposing drug kingpins in 1990's Dublin- no she's the fucking queen of England! I like her for the most part, you got to give her she is versatile and she's done a buttload of movies (I also bought Heaven a while back, skip that stinker) so I bought all these. None are great, all are watchable. If you like Cate, she's in about every frame of all 3. If you don't, move on to the next aisle.
Buy it! Lost in Translation (2003)
Entertaining, ok, many of the lines are so Bill Murray they were obviously ad-libbed and very drolly funny, but there's no plot, not that much dialogue and hardly any story outside of the one liner description: Old actor doing commercials in Japan meets young newlywed whose husband ignores her and they share some laughs. Best picture Oscar? Only because she's a Coppola. Nothing great here, in fact, I can't imagine watching this movie again. He doesn't even screw Scarlett and she appears in panties in a few shots but no nudity. That alone might have saved it.

Someone please explain to me why this is a great movie, because I just don't see it. It's also vaguely condescending to Japanese culture by using it as a butt for jokes and little else. None of the beauty or wisdom of the Japanese philosophies or religions is referenced, only the garish bastardization of some Americanisms. I guess this is some sort of statement but its kind of lame. Otherwise, this could have taken place in Seattle, Berlin, Sydney or Cleveland. I won't be adding this to the collection.

Buy it! Children of a Lesser God (1986)
I love William Hurt in anything he does, hes fucking cool. I have been waiting for the release of Kiss of the Spider Woman, one of his best roles ever. Amazing what shit gets released and what great stuff is overlooked or tied up in contractual bullshit. Anyway, Marlee Matlin is the hottest deaf girl I've ever seen. They meet at the deaf school where they both work, they fall in love and there is conflict over the fact she's deaf, duh. But hey, she can't speak either! The perfect woman, right? Ok girls, slap me now. Good movie though, outside of a really embarrassing scene where the deaf kids dance and sing. This is what the "skip to next scene" button was made for.
Buy it!
Buy it!
Dark Crystal (1982), Labyrinth (1986) (1983)
2 Jim Henson films are in the bargain bin lately, neither holds up well in terms of special effects but they both have a certain charm, plus Labyrinth has a truly amazing looking teenage Jennifer Connelly. Bowie has got to be embarrased about this movie looking back, however. Both have interesting and decent 'making of' features, compared to the lame-ass additions to LOTR/ROTK double disk I just bought they are are actually worthwhile and insightful about how they made the film.
Buy it!
Buy it!
Buy it!
Country (1984), Cousin Bette (1998), Sweet Dreams (1985) (1999)
After seeing Jessica Lange in Big Fish I checked out her filmography to see what she had done between Tootsie and Rob Roy and lo and behold these 3 were at the used DVD dump so I picked them up: Lange and Sam Sheppard are trying to save the struggling family farm, an 18th century French Aristocrat gets her revenge, and Patsy Cline sings up a storm. All are worth the rent or a cheap buy. Jessica is a class actress whatever she does.
Buy it! The Dresser (1983)
Ok this is a type of film not for everyone- its talky and affected, with Albert Finney as a great ACTOR (ala Jon Lovitz's Master Thespian) in his latter days and the "dresser" who keeps him going. Its very dialogue-heavy, takes place in like 3 locations, all small rooms or on stage during supposed plays, and nothing of major import happens in the film. Still its in the tradition of great British theatre and its really well done. I don't know, try it, but don't blame me if you don't like it, I warned you.
Buy it! A Simple Plan (1998)
Billy Bob Thornton and Bridget Fonda aren't bad, but Bill Paxton is the most colorless, boring and lame ass actor in starring roles on the planet. He sucks the life out of every scene in any movie he's in. The only thing I ever liked him in was as Bud in Weird Science where he gets turned into that hilarious blob of gorp. In Tombstone, he made the flat portayals by Sam Eliot and Curt Russell seem manic compared to his line readings. 3 hicks find 5 million dollars in a drug dealer's plane crashed in the woods. Hijinks ensue until about everyone is dead. Woohoo.
Buy it! Riverís Edge (1986)
Based on a true story about a guy who killed his girlfriend, left her body by ďthe riverís edgeĒ, and showed all his buddies who told their buddies until the entire city under every kid in town knew about it but noone bothers to report it. Keanu Reeves, Crispin Glover, Dennis Hopper and Ione Skye-Leitch (she finally decided to cash in on her famous dad Donovanís name) star. Its so-so but worth a look if you can get it cheap.
Buy it! Truth About Cats & Dogs (1996)
Even though Janeane Garafalo is a fucking idiot when she tries to wax political, she is an interesting actress and Uma is worth just looking at. This bit of fluff hinges on the premise that guys go for the pretty girls at first glance, but if they could get to know the plain, slightly overweight girls they might find a soul-mate they would otherwise overlook. This is romantic, but bullshit of course. In real life the guy would only keep hanging around Janeane so he could get close to Uma, then once the deal was sealed, goodbye fatgirl. The movie is semi-interesting and worth the bargain bin price if you like the actresses.
Buy it! Rumble Fish (1983)
A young Matt Dillon, with a young Mickey Rourke, Chris Penn, Larry Fishburne, Diane Lane and Nick Cage (as well as youngish Dennis Hopper and Tom Waits) in a stylized version of the old-school white-boys big city gangs, back when it was slightly cool and there was honor in the gangs. Not that those days every existed in reality, but they did used to exist in the movies, unlike every gang movie now, which is wall to wall muthafucka this and nigga that and poppiní a cap in some niggaz ass over crack turfwars. This can be found on almost any discount rack for $5 new and is out of print, so snap it up, itís a classic. The fight scenes are as nearly as balletic as West Side Story but Francis Ford Coppola is a master and pulls off a 50's type juvey delinquent film noir in b&w.
Buy it! Simon Birch (1998)
Joseph Mazzello again and Ian Michael Smith as his precocious dwarf-kid best buddy. Smith fits the character physically but canít act for shit, and delivers every pithy line, which was probably comedy gold in the book, with all the emotion and art of a kindergarten play. The story is sappy and idiotic, and it blatantly telegraphs every plot device in advance. Donít buy it unless you are a real sucker for cute dwarves.
Buy it! Shadowlands (1993)
Anthony Hopkins and Deborah Winger in a slow moving British flick where Hopkins plays a role reminiscent of the butler in Remains of the Day. This time Hopkins character, private school don and author of the Narnya books C. S. Lewis is a little less reticent and Wingerís New Yorker character is a little more aggresive than Emma Thompsonís proper English housekeeper so they actually hook up. Joseph Mazzello (Radio Flyer) plays her son.
Buy it! White Men Can't Jump (1992)
Woody Harrelson and Weslie Snipes about 2 guys hustling street basketball long after they are waaaay to old to be hustling street basketball. The purveyor of this movie, Ron Shelton (Buil Durham) expects us to believe they not only make a living doing this Snipes also supports a wife and kid doing it. Please. Anyway, its fairly entertaining and funny and Rosie Perez does her usual bit as the feisty little hispanic chick and the guys have all the usual adventures that playground basketball husting guys have with lots of trash talk, run ins with local hoods, cons and double cons, etc. All this would have been a lot more plausible had they been 18 year old highschool dropouts instead of guys in their late 30's, but whatever. Its worth having for the chop fights alone: "You're mother is so fat, she fell and broke her leg and gravy came out!"
Buy it! Sleeping Dictionary (2003)
English officer stationed in some god-awful place like Malaysia or somewhere gets this unbelievably hot babe as his 'dictionary' to teach him the language and sleep with him too (hence the name, nudge nudge). They fall in love and cultural differences fuck them around. Bob Hoskins is in this one too. I somehow doubt all these mama-sans looked like Jessica Alba in actuality, but hey, its a movie. Very long, somewhat boring in spots but a way to while away a few hours and its not terrible. Plus lots of nude scenes with Alba's hot body double- sorry guys, she was underage here so its impossible it was her, plus her face is never in the shot. Still nice looking piece of tail for a dictionary.
Buy it! Wild Things (1998)
Neve Campbell and Denise Richards in plenty of nude and lesbian love scenes make this movie worth 8 bucks for anyone. They play 2 highschool girls who accuse Matt Dillon of rape, and there are twists and turns in the plot that are predictable and lame but Bill Murray's scenes save the movie as Dillon's low-rent lawyer. That and the make-out scenes between Denise and Neve.
Buy it! Hoffa (1992)
Nicholson in a role only he could have played as the late, missing labor leader. Nicely done period piece and the accompanying contemporary footage of the real Hoffa show how on-target Nicholson was in the portrayal. Danny DeVito co-stars as a fictional side-kick and directs; he does the former a lot better than he does the latter. Its full of awkward camera angles and overall bad direction. Nicholson probably directed himself so his work is great, almost everyone else is a bit stilted. It has the feel of a TV movie.
Buy it! Mermaids (1989)
Winona Ryder and Christina Ricci with Cher as their mom and Bob Hoskins as her boyfriend. Cher basically plays what she would be like if she wasn't famous the kids play what it would be like to have a mom like that. The unbelievable part is that she would be fucking Bob Hoskins. Ricci is just a little kid here but she's actually good and not annoying like some little child actors and Winona is an angsty teen, what a stretch for her, huh? Not a bad movie though.
Buy it! Room with a View (1985)
I've been looking for this discontinued DVD for a while, they finally rereleased it: Merchant-Ivory (Remains of the Day, Howard's End) collaboration with Helen Bonham-Carter, Maggie Smith, Judy Dench, Denholm Elliot and Julian Sands. If you like English period pieces you'll love this, if you don't, skip it. Its hilarious though, and Daniel Day Lewis is great as Bonham's affectatious, pompous suitor.
Buy it! Tapeheads (1988)
John Cusack and Tim Robbins are video enterpreneurs trying to hit the big time. Lots of cameos by mid-80's rappers, rock stars and starlets. I knew this was stupid going in, I just didn't think it would be that un-entertaining. Not worth the $3 I paid for it, even with a bonus CD of the hit "I've Lasted Longer Than Any Reasonable Man Would Try". That song describes me as I watched this entire abomination.
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