Movie Notes

In the spirit of this note from my Sask brother, a summary of my recent movie encounters:

  • Here Comes Mr. Jordan, Heaven Can Wait, Down to Earth — Three movies all based on the same Harry Segall play. I’ve watched each of the three over the past month. Down to Earth is so bad as to be watchable the entire way through only by devoted fans of the genre, and even that was a stretch; it stinks. Heaven Can Wait, the 1978 Warren Beatty version, is the best of the three, mostly for the stellar cast (James Mason, Buck Henry, Charles Grodin, Dyan Cannon and Julie Christie among them). Here Comes Mr. Jordan is also well done, and an interesting watch for we fans of the Beatty film, as they are close in many details. So watch the first two, and leave off the last.

  • Time Code — A weird movie with the screen split into four for the duration, shot in real time with four converging plots. If you are interested in seeing the experiment, get it on DVD, as there are some really neat options, including one which allows you to select which of the quadrants you hear audio from. Otherwise quite confusing, and a stretch to say its entertaining.

  • American Buffalo — As a diehard David Mamet fan, I’m surprised I’d never seen this 1996 version of Mamet’s play. Stars Dustin Hoffman and Dennis Franz, who are both brilliant (slight edge goes to Hoffman). Classic Mamet-style dialogue. Classic Mamet-style plot.

  • Hurly Burly — A pretentious and confusing movie starring Sean Penn, Robin Wright, Kevin Spacey, Gary Shandling and Chazz Palminteri. Excellent performance from Penn. Is Gary Shandling really an actor? Not sure about Palminteri. Too cerebral to be truly entertaining, but worth a watch.

  • Sabrina — The modern one, with Han Solo in the lead. Worth watching again. Well constructed romantic comedy. Of course it’s missing Audrey Hepburn, for which you need to turn to the original.

  • Groundhog Day — Ironically, given the plot, the movie can be watched time and time again, and wears very well. Bill Murray is under-rated. Andie Macdowell is not under-rated, but she performs well.

  • The Gift — We rarely abandon movies, but Cate Blanchett chanelling Sissy Spacek, Keanu Reeves as an abusive drunk, Hilary Swank doing whatever she does and finally Katie Holmes. It was all enough to get us to stop the DVD and occupy ourselves with more interesting pursuits. Maybe it’s a good movie, but we’ll never know.

Since we’ve been DVD-ed for the past couple of months, our local DVD rental experiences go something like this: stay away from Jumbo, as the DVDs are poorly organized and intermixed with VHS tapes; Super Club has a healthy selection of new releases, and is usually empty, meaning no crowds (though turned left up University Ave. is an impossibility during daylight hours given the traffic coming south); Blockbuster, besides being corporately evil, has poor parking, too-perky clerks, and a shelving style that renders all but new releases impossible to browse; That’s Entertainment, recommended to me by Matt Rainnie, is probably the best of the lot: good parking, good selection, decent pricing — my only complaint is that their division of movies into comedy, drama, etc. seems somewhat arbitrary.


Nils Ling's picture
Nils Ling on January 3, 2002 - 07:52 Permalink

Try a double bill with “Waiting for Guffman” and “Best of Show” … identical casts, doing brilliant improv in these “mockumentaries” … if you have any kind of a sense of humour, you’ll be doubled over — but people who don’t “get it” are absolutely baffled. Not much by way of extras on the DVD’s — the commentaries by Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy are — well, uncomfortable, most of the time. But a great couple of movies. As for video stores, I’m a long time customer of That’s Entertainment … they treat their customers right.

Charlie's picture
Charlie on January 3, 2002 - 13:58 Permalink

Saw “Best In Show” a couple nights ago, quite enjoyed it. Also saw “Amelie” at City Cinema which was very good.

Steven Garrity's picture
Steven Garrity on January 3, 2002 - 15:24 Permalink

Good call on Groundhog Day — best scene, when the truck goes over the cliff and the tostitos guy says, “He could be all right?” then the truck explodes. I still laugh at that sometimes.

Also a good call on That’s Entertainment. I lament the loss of Plaza Video though, where the clerks had actually seen the movies and had opinions about them.

Matt's picture
Matt on January 3, 2002 - 16:25 Permalink

Love, love, love “Groundhog Day.” Same with Best in Show and especially Waiting for Guffman. Christopher Guest is a genius. Check out The Spinal Tap DVD as well… best commentary track ever.

I was lucky enough to receive the new Godfather DVD collection for Christmas. Fantastic. I mean, the movies are classics (well, 1 and 2 anyway) but Coppola’s frank commentary (almost getting fired everyday on the first film, fighting to keep Brando and Pacino) is revealing and fun.

Here’s why I recommended “That’s Entertainment” to Peter. I was in one day, spoke with the owner and was asking about whether he had the new “Citizen Kane” DVD release. He said he didn’t but that he would pick it up that afternoon. He did! Customer service! And it was great!

Their selection is very good and I also like the fact that they carry “Criterion” DVD, nicely put together packages of landmark films like Seven Samurai, Do the Right Thing, etc…

And you can rent boxed sets — I picked up the entire second season of The Sopranos for $9.99 and had it for 14 nights. Other stories just rent the individual DVDs so it ends up costing more.

steve rocker's picture
steve rocker on January 3, 2002 - 17:06 Permalink

I too am a big fan of “Waiting for Guffman” and “Best in Show”. I thought “HurlyBurly” was one of the worst movies ever — a bunch of vain, actory posturing by bored film stars. “Time Code” was a dreary mess too I thought. I kind of liked “The Gift”, I must say. I’m strangely drawn to Cate Blanchett. I’ve just read “Alias Grace” and I understand she is to star in a film adaptation of this book. I’m waiting for “the Royal Tennenbaums” to be released here, as it comes from the director of one of my favourite movies of all time, “Rushmore”, and also the under-rated “Bottle Rocket”. These are two great pre-tennenbaums renters.

Johnny Rukavina's picture
Johnny Rukavina on January 3, 2002 - 17:30 Permalink

Bill Murray is under-rated. Andie MacDowell is not under-rated.” Rarely have truer words been spoken.