Wednesday, July 31, 2013

DVD Bargain Bin Report

I love DVDs. But more than that, I love cheap DVDs. So naturally I'm drawn to Big Lots like a moth to flame, or anywhere else that stocks cheap DVDs for that matter - with the exception of Wal-Mart. The less time I spend at Wally World, the better off and happier I am.

Anyway, digging through used DVDs is always fun, because you often find movies you meant to see when they came out and missed, or movies you've heard about but never seen. Sometimes you find a treasure, and other times you find yet another copy of Wild, Wild West, but you don't know until you look, and that's the fun. So for no particular reason, I thought I would go through and summarize some of my recent thoughts on a few cheap DVDs I've recently watched to see if I found some winners.

Mean Streets: Found at Big Lots for $3. Anyone with a passing interest in mob films has probably heard of this one, but I had never seen it - the first entry of the DeNiro-Scorsese canon. Honestly, it was not what I expected. This is a very non-traditional film - there's not really an arc, and there's no character to get behind - these are scumbags and we're getting a fly on the wall type look at them. Something like should be right up my alley, but for whatever reason it just didn't click for me. I was enraptured throughout the opening but at some point it kind of lost me and it never found me. I'll have to watch it again sometime.

Raging Bull: Found at the Imaginarium for $2.50. This was a great deal - it was the two-disc special edition so there's a bunch of extras to delve into at some point. Unlike Mean Streets, I enjoyed this DeNiro-Scorsese team-up quite a bit. I absolutely love the Rocky films, but while this is the anti-Rocky, I still enjoyed it. Similar to Mean Streets in that there are no heroes, the more direct narrative makes this one easier to get into. Joe Pesci stole the show for me as the main character's brother. That said, Rocky remains my favorite fight film. But now I'm prepared to see the Rocky-Raging Bull square off in the upcoming Grudge Match.

Duel: Amazon for $4 or so. Steven Spielberg's first full-length feature. As a Jaws fanatic, I've wanted to see this one for years as Spielberg says that the two films are spiritual cousins or something along those lines. This is a fun film. Very simple premise - a man is driving to a job-related function and finds himself being haunted by a road-rage obsessed trucker driving a big rig. Originally done as a TV movie, it was so well received that it was released to theaters in Europe. I love stories about normal people being thrust into extraordinary situations, and this fits the bill, with the lead character cracking under the pressure and then some.

Gridlock'd: Big Lots for $3. I haven't seen this one since a friend and I rented it back around 1997. We weren't ready for it then as I remember thinking it was pretty bad. Tupac Shakur and Tim Roth play two junkies who are trying to quit and run into all kinds of bureaucratic red tape as they attempt to enter a public rehab facility - not to mention a couple of guys trying to kill them. I really enjoyed this one. Roth is great (although his attempt at an American accent is a fail - I thought he was just playing a Brit until reading otherwise at Tupac Shakur is excellent as well, proving he had the ability to expand into roles beyond the thugs he played in Juice, Bullet, and Above the Rim (I don't remember much about Poetic Justice but do recall he was pretty good as a good cop gone bad in Gang Related). This one features really good writing, especially in the dialogue.

Rooster Cogburn: The Imaginarium for $3. True story - before watching this, I had only seen two John Wayne films: The Searchers and True Grit, of which this is a sequel. This is nowhere as good as True Grit but it has it's charms. Katherine Hepburn really did nothing for me, despite being a Hollywood legend, but Wayne was still in good form - especially seeing as he would only shoot one more film before passing away. I wouldn't offer my heartiest recommendation for this one, but if you're a Wayne fan or enjoyed the original True Grit, you'll probably like this one as well.

Independence Day: The Imaginarium for $2.50. I hadn't seen this one since around 1996 or 1997 when it came out, other than bits and pieces on TV. For a turn-off-your-brain popcorn movie, it's pretty good - overall, it still holds up. That said, why is that the poor Statue of Liberty is always getting blown away? Wasn't the Empire State building and the White House enough for this movie? Guess not, because poor Lady Liberty gets it again in this one, although she did get to save the day in Ghostbusters II. So it has that going for her, which is nice. If it's not the damn dirty apes then it's the aliens or global warming leveling the poor girl.

All that said, why in God's name are they making not only a part 2 but a part 3? Beyond that, they are making these without the participation of Will Smith! But Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman will be back, and I can only assume they are the masterminds behind the sequels since they haven't done much lately that I am aware of. (Goldblum was probably my favorite part of the film, so it only makes sense to bring him back, but the absence of Smith will be glaring I think.)

Lastly, I still think calling the film ID4 is the dumbest attempt to be cool of all-time. It makes no sense, and yet I assume they will brand the sequels ID2 and ID3 so that it will make even less sense.

That oughta do it for now - I'll finish up later with the bargain bin extravaganzas Lone Wolf McQuade, The Social Network, and The Bourne Legacy, among others.

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