This month’s DVD purchases reviewed briefly. Some good, some bad and some ugly from the used DVD repository- one man’s schlockfest is another man’s classic Z-movie. Some classics and some cult classics (movies only a few obsessed geeks watch hundreds of times.)
Salma Hayak can actually act. This is a fantastic movie about the real life romance between painter/revolutionary Frida Kahlo and her lover, Mexican Communist/muralist Diego Rivera, played by Alfred Molina (Fear and Loathing, Boogie Nights, Chocolat, Magnolia) who is rapidly becoming one of my fav actors. The trailers hype Ashley Judd and Antonio Banderas but they are in the movie a combined ten minutes or less. The movie focuses on the two principles and they carry it with no problem. Excellent visual style, interludes of Mexican magical realism and Frida’s paintings represented in real tableau. Buy this movie.
Fatal Attraction (1987)
Old enough to where many people may have never seen this. Glenn Close is actually kind of hot and Michael Douglas originates the role he played in his next 5 movies. This is the movie that originated the term “bunny-boiler” for an ex-gf from hell. The DVD includes the original ending and lots of other stuff.
Hard Eight (Sydney) (1996)
Paul Thomas Anderson’s (Boogie Nights, Magnolia) first movie, and the really intelligent and original script enticed a stellar cast to sign up- Philip Baker Hall, John C. Reilly, Sam Jackson, Gwyneth Paltrow in a dark film about grifting and gambling. Lots of extras on the DVD as well.
Knockaround Guys (2001)
One of the rash of QT type ripoffs (see BoonDock Saints) about small time hoods with lots of dialogue and attitude, but the actors are pretty damn good so it makes it worthwhile. Barry Pepper, Seth Green, Vin Diesel (who is actually much better in supporting roles than starring) Dennis Hopper and the great John Malkovich all ham it up in an entertaining, if cliched mafia goes to Montana film.
Billy Bathgate (1991)
30’s gangster flick with Dustin Hoffman, Bruce Willis and Nicole Kidman. Plus its full of great character actors like Stephan Hill and Mike Starr. Good dialogue, interesting and entertaining story, the period stuff is impeccable. Bruce Willis gets the cement shoes treatment and Nicole does several scenes of full frontal, and I have to say she may have the best ass in the biz.
House of Games (1987)
Playwright David Mamut wrote and directed this movie about con men starring his wife Lindsey Crouse as a psychiatrist studying the criminal mind of Joe Montegna,Ricky Jay and J. T. Walsh. This story has more twists and turns than a corkscrew. I love movies that don’t go the way they typical Hollywood formula says they should go. Mamet is probably one of the best writers of dialogue out there, its so smooth its almost like music, each actor playing off the others’ riffs like trading soloes. Lindsey Crouse is a really underappreciated actress. It makes you sick to see hacks like Mandy Moore making millions because she’s a hot teenager while a real artist like Crouse is largely unknown, but the business isn’t fair I guess. The revenge is Crouse is still getting roles in her 40’s and Moore will be history by the time she hits 21.
Age of Innocence (1993)
Daniel Day Lewis, Michelle “Catwoman” Phiffer and Winona Ryder in this period-piece about romance and manners in Victorian high society. Lewis is worth watching in anything he does, and if there’s one part Ryder can act no problem its the dumb, naive ingenue. Interesting story and lovely sets and costumes. A good time for all.
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002)
George Clooney directed bio-pic about Chuck Barris, gameshow producer and erstwhile CIA killer. This film reminds me a lot of Autofocus, the Greg Kinnaer movie about Bob Crane. Both are about popular TV personalities who have dark private lives. This one is a bit more stylish and off the wall. Hilarious bit with small cameo by Brad Pitt and Matt Damon as bachelors #1 and 2, passed by for a dweeb who talks a good game on the pilot for The Dating Game.
Money for Nothing (1993)
Not one of John Cusack’s best, but pretty good “true” story about a working class schmoo in Philly who finds $1.2mil that falls off a Brink’s truck. God a what a cast: Debi Mazur, Mike Rappaport, James Gandolfini, Benicio del Toro, Michael Madsden, Philip Seymour Hoffman, etc. Worth it just to see all these people work together. Madsden fucking rules, period.
This is an older movie, Natalie Wood in her last movie (she died during filming actuallly and standins did some back shots to finish) Chris Walken at his looniest, Louise Fletcher at her Nurse Ratchett dominitrix-est, Cliff Robertson in jodhpurs, sci-fi thriller about scientists who come up with a way to tape emotions, senses, thoughts and play them back in a headset for the ultimate in virtual reality. Hijinks ensue.
Ninth Gate (1999)
Overlooked Johnny Depp movie with Frank Langella and Lena Olin. Very stylishly directed by Roman Polanski (Rosemary’s Baby, Tess) and has a really dark ambiance. I don’t know why this film wasn’t more popular, its better than many of the films Depp has done. Polanski truly is a master, even if he is a child anal rapist.
Another old one, with Robert Redford as a reluctant candidate for California Senator, who becomes seduced by the power into giving up his principles. What else. However, its still relevant as hell to today’s politics. Peter Boyle and Melvin Douglass support.
Intolerable Cruelty (2003)
I missed this at the theater and only first saw it on DVD. I’d heard it was quirky and offbeat and strange, but this was just from people who weren’t familiar with the Coen Bros. Style. This is the next decade up from their 40’s movie homage, The Hudsucker Proxy, to a 50’s snappy dialogue love story. They didn’t write this, its obvious, and it would have to be about at the bottom of my list for a Coen Bros. movie, but its better than 90% of what came out last year. Billy Bob Thornton is great and George Clooney looks ancient while Catherine Zeta Jones looks fantastic in some really stylish outfits. Other than that, its pretty much just a fun ride, nothing groundbreaking or unique here. Enjoyable, far from their best work. See The Man Who Wasn’t There for BillyBob in a tour-de-force role with the Coens. Still, for completists, of which I am, you got to have this in your collection.
Career Opportunities (1991)
John Hughes 80’s junkfood movie with Jennifer Connely and Frank Whaley (Brett in Pulp Fiction). Entertaining, and Jennifer has never looked hotter, although you have to put up with a lot of schtick from Whaley. I did have the satisfaction of watching Pulp Fiction right after and Sam Jackson makes him pay.. Stupid fun for the entire family.
Melvin and Howard (1980)
Forgive all the old ones this week, but this is a fantastic movie that most people have never heard of. I didnt know it was a Jonathon Demme (Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia) movie until I bought it, but it shows. Its basically about this working class hero who befriends Howard Hughes, then gets written into his will. But that’s only like 10% of the movie. The rest is just this working class guy living his life, with sleazy women (Mary Steenburgen full nude as an exotic dancer, surprisingly she has a great ass) in doublewide trailers and working at the factory and as a milkman, hoping to be milkman of the month and win that color TV.
Mortal Thoughts (1991)
A Demi Moore movie I actually like. Bruce Willis as her best friend’s boorish husband is great and Glenn Headly (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels) is scary, sexy and evil. Worth it from the discount rack. Harvey Keitel co-stars.
North Dallas Forty (1979)
Another oldie, I finally found, I’ve always loved this. Nick Nolte and Mack Davis in the most realistic football movie I’ve ever seen. Any Given Sunday and Remember the Titans are Hollywood bullshit mythology of the way football really is- ND40 tells it like it really was, dirty, drug filled and brutal, on field and in the business offices. You really get the feel for how these guys fuck their bodies up, and most of them have very short careers and end up half crippled with bad knees and concussed brains. They cut some of the most violent scenes from the book, but still a great movie. Once in a while check out something pre-1990, its worth it.
Rain Man (1988)
Everyone knows this one, but its just been rereleased as a collector’s version. Only real addition is commentary by Barry Levinson (The Natural, Diner, Avalon, etc) and he’s one of the greats. Worth it just to hear his insights on filmmaking.
Under the Tuscan Sun (2003)
Middle aged lady finds herself in Italy. Sure, divorce is easy if you have big bucks to buy a villa in Tuscany and you look like Diane Lane. She does look a little elderly here though, hard to believe shes only 38. This movie did nothing for me, must be a woman thang. Goes nowhere, does nothing, pat, contrived ending and stupid situations. One of those mistake buys.
I just really like John Cusack so almost anything he acts in interests me. I related so much to his character in Hi Fidelity I feel an affinity with him even when he’s playing an idiot in this movie. Kate Beckinsale is beautiful and funny and desirable (she was fantastic in Cold Comfort Farm ) and Cusack’s real life buddy Jeremy Piven is hilarious. Couple meets, things don’t work out then before both are coincidentally about to be married 10 years later they decide to look each other up. That’s only the beginning of the coincidences in an implausible but still slightly charming piece. There are much worse romantic comedies than this one, even if you do have to suffer through Molly Shannon hamming it up. Jeremy Piven and Eugene Levy doing their usual schtick, so all in all its not bad. On the downside, it has fucking Molly Shannon. I’d gladly see her dead with knives in her eyes. The presence of a recent (90’s and up) SNL alumnus detracts from the entertainment value of any movie.
Meryl Streep, Kurt Russell and Cher in a working class movie. Reminds me a lot of Norma Rae and the tone of working class white trash is also reminiscent of another movie I bought recently, Melvin & Howard. Entertaining and funny in parts, especially with Cher’s lesbian/funeral parlor hairdresser-makeup artist girlfriend trading barbs with Russell.
Veronica Guerin (2003)
For Cate Blanchett fans only, pretty non-descript movie about an investigative reporter who seems more stupid than anything, fucking with drug dealers and IRA gunmen who keep warning her they are going to kill her, but after several ass-whippings and near-death experiences they finally have to shoot her repeatedly to get her attention. I give it a “thumbs-eh”.
Dark children’s story by the master of dark children’s stories, Roald Dahl (James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). Anjelica Huston as the Head Witch who hates kids something awful. Jim Henson’s last movie, with talking mice and one of the best scary witches ever.
Cool Hand Luke (1967)
I finally found this one for $5 and everyone should own it, its a great movie with some memorable quotes= “What we have heyah, is a failyah to communicate!” I was struck by how similar to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest this is, the situation, all the archetypal characters are there, plus the basic premise, all these guys trapped in this institution rebel vicariously through this one non-conformist who gets killed for his efforts. One of Newman’s best, and he’s made some great ones.
Searching for Bobby Fischer (1993)
This is the week for movies that remind me a lot of other movies. This is a precocious kid who really gets into chess, then it overwhelms him, plus his parent pushes him too hard and his mentor misunderstands him and alienates him when all he wants is to be like other (dumb) kids, then he comes to terms with his genius and everything is just great. Kind of exactly like Little Man Tate. Can’t they take an idea stolen from another movie and take it in a different direction? Have the kid become a serial killer, I don’t know. Still, its entertaining if predictable (will he win the big chess match at the end??? Only if he plays it on his mom’s terms, not his bumbling, machismo-handicapped jerk of a dad!) but its got Joe Montegna, Ben Kingsley and Larry Fishburn so it can’t be all bad. Fish alone makes it watchable. Does Joan Allen play anything but a cuntish, ball-breaking bitch while at the same time self-righteously facing down evil MAN types? Not here she doesn’t.