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Used DVD Bonanza at Hollywood Video
February 27, 2010

Hollywood Video is closing 760 stores as part of bankruptcy reorganization, and that includes the one near us. We stopped by today to see what we could find. We wound up with a bunch of used DVDs, which made us wonder whether visiting was a good idea or a bad one. We found some discs we’d been looking for, but we already have plenty we have yet to watch. Still, it’s hard to resist DVDs at $5 or less — I can’t go the movies for that! (Even though we had to get new blank cases for most of them — that plastic gets nasty with that many hands touching it.) Here’s what we picked up.

Classics

Cat Ballou cover
Cat Ballou
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Cat Ballou — KC had never seen this 1965 comedy Western starring Jane Fonda in her innocent sexpot days. When her dad’s ranch is endangered, she rounds up a motley crew consisting of her Native American best friend Jackson, a bad boy criminal, his con man uncle (Dwayne Hickman, aka Dobie Gillis), and a drunk gunfighter (Lee Marvin, who won Best Actor for his dual role as this and the creepy assassin twin brother). Plotwise, it’s a very typical Western, except for the cast and the attitude.

It’s got that 60s feel, when they were trying to be a little more realistic (they talk about the bias Jackson experiences and how times have changed from the glory days of the outlaw) but everything still had that glossy Hollywood sheen to it, like how Fonda’s hair is always glorious, even when she’s on the run. And they go through an undercranked “run the film fast with wacky music” section in homage to what they thought of old movies.

Casino Royale cover
Casino Royale
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One of the best parts of the movie is “The Ballad of Cat Ballou”, a running commentary told in song by strolling troubadours played by Stubby Kaye and Nat King Cole (who unfortunately passed away several months before this was released). I’d forgotten that, for a comedy, there’s a pretty dark beginning, as Fonda is shown in jail, sewing a dress, waiting to be hanged for murder. And yes, someone actually says the line, “Don’t you worry your pretty little head about it.”

The vintage trailer shown here is unintentionally hilarious, calling her “girl train robber” and trying to use the phrase “sex maniac” without saying “sex”. It emphasizes how stereotypically female the role is, showing her when she guilts her friends into turning criminal by yelling about how they say they care about her, crying, running out of the room, and then throwing things at them. Bipolar much?

The Great Race cover
The Great Race
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Casino Royale — The only James Bond film we own. Isn’t that a weird choice? Stars Peter Sellers, accompanied by David Niven, Orson Welles, Woody Allen, Ursula Andress, and a Burt Bacharach score. It’s described as psychedelic satire — I haven’t seen it yet — and comes with the other one, the made-for-TV 1954 version starring Barry Nelson, the very first James Bond film.

The Great Race — Another piece of weirdness from 1965, this time via Blake Edwards. Tony Curtis (The Great Leslie), Jack Lemmon (Professor Fate), and Natalie Wood (Maggie Dubois, proto-feminist reporter) star in the story of a 1908 auto race from New York to Paris via Russia. Claims to feature the biggest pie fight ever filmed and inspired the later “Wacky Racers” cartoon. Kids love this movie. It’s so over the top!

Strictly Ballroom cover
Strictly Ballroom
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Strictly Ballroom — I had an inkling to see this after watching the similarly inspiring Shall We Dance? recently. I’m glad I was able to find it, since the DVD is apparently out of print these days. It’s a wonderful romantic comedy with the underlying dream every girl wishes for of being discovered and made over to demonstrate an unexpected talent.

Chaplin — With my recently discovered love of Robert Downey, Jr., I figured it was time I watched his tour de force, especially given the outstanding cast and the setting in old Hollywood. I think he should have won the Oscar for this performance, given his skill and physicality in this role. Maybe one day we’ll get the director’s cut, with the extra footage Richard Attenborough wanted to include.


Recent Movies

Julie & Julia cover
Julie & Julia
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Julie & Julia — Loved it when I saw it in the theater, and I was curious to hear writer/director Nora Ephron’s commentary. Plus, I’ll get almost anything Amy Adams is in (although we skipped Underdog, where she’s the voice of Polly).

X-Men: The Last Stand cover
X-Men: The Last Stand
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X-Men: The Last Stand — I sort of feel like I have to have a copy of this on the superhero movie shelf, plus I didn’t hate this as much as others seemed to. I even liked Kelsey Grammer as the Beast. Any movie where I can watch Hugh Jackman jump around being heroic is worth a lazy weekend afternoon.

Taking Woodstock cover
Taking Woodstock
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Taking Woodstock — Haven’t seen it, figured we’d give it a shot, since we like pop history and music-related movies, and the cast is diverse and promising. We got Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist for similar reasons, although we’ve already seen it.

But my favorite discovery was the first three seasons of Coupling! That’ll be a fun rewatch.

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9 Responses  
Bill D. writes:  

I liked X-Men: The Last Stand, too. Not the best of the series, but still fun. I’ve never figured out why people rake Brett Ratner across the coals for trying to ape Bryan Singer’s style for the first two movies, though. For one thing, people would’ve complained if he had tried to change too much. And more importantly, Singer’s Superman Returns might as well have been called Bryan Singer’s Richard Donner’s Superman! Singer’s a better filmmaker than Ratner, no question, but I don’t see why he gets a pass for what I call Tribute Band Movie Making because of it.

 
Mitchell Craig writes:  

The Great Race, like most supersized comedies of the 1960s, is too long for its own good, but it does have its pleasures:

1. Tony Curtis as The Great Leslie, channeling Burt Lancaster’s brio. Edwards originally wanted to cast the latter as Leslie; if he’d succeeded, hopefully he would have partnered him with Kirk Douglas as Professor Fate.
2. The aforementioned pie fight was so-so, but there is a hilariously massive (and massively hilarious) bar brawl, complete with Larry Storch hollering “Now willya give me some fightin’ room?!”
3. The ice floe scene is an enjoyable respite between the knockabout set pieces.
4. There’s also a great swordfight between Ross Martin and Curtis.

 
Johanna writes:  

Nice analysis on both, thank you. I’m looking forward to rewatching them in light of what you’ve pointed out.

 
Thom writes:  

I finally started watching Coupling by way of Netflix’s view instantly on my PS3. I am about half way into season 3, and have been enjoying it. It’s really obvious that Moffet was inspired by Friends, but it works in the show’s favor.

It’s definitely a lot of fun, and quickly finds it’s own footing. I still chuckle that NBC tried to make an American version… seriously, remaking a show that was partly inspired by your own hit seems almost…incestuous. :)

 
Johanna writes:  

Yeah, although some may be put off by the extremely sexual content, Coupling is very well-written. I can’t imagine why they thought, given the relative Puritanism of the US, that a remake would be possible here. Why not just import and run some of the good British sitcoms, like The IT Crowd, instead of trying to remake them and failing so badly?

 
Thom writes:  

Exactly. People complained Friends was nothing but sex, did they really think taking a show that was recognized as “similar to Friends-but raunchier!” was going to fly in the U.S.?

I think the Office is an example of how to do it. Basically, find the stuff that will connect in the other country-and for the Office, I would say it’s the awkward humor and relationship stuff, but have new characters. After the Office’s stumble (a first episode that was the original show’s first episode script almost word for word) it quickly established it’s characters as being different, to the point that similarities were familiar and pleasant synchronicity, instead of merely ripping the original off. This is, in my Opinion, why the Moffet Coupling succeeded. Yeah, I can see where characters are “like” Friends characters (Jane is clearly the show’s Pheobe-yet she stands on her own by her pathological narcissism… where as Pheobe was more sweetly confident in who she was) and yet, they are very much their own characters. And now I have a crush on Sarah Alexander.

 
Johanna writes:  

Did you see her in I Could Never Be Your Woman? It’s a small role, and not a very flattering character, but she does a good job with it.

 
Thom writes:  

I have not. But I am a die hard fan of Paul Rudd. So I must add it to my Netflix Queue. :)

 
Underdog’s Supporting Cartoon Cast » DVDs Worth Watching writes:  

[...] Go Go Gophers was blessed with a real earworm of a theme song (“Go Go Gophers, watch ‘em Go Go Go…”), and the series was popular enough that it was spun out into its own series in 1968. Reportedly, it was, at least in part, based on the comedy/western F Troop, staring Ken Berry, Forrest Tucker, and Larry Storch. If you’ve ever seen the show, it was about as close as a live-action show could get to a cartoon. (Well, that and The Great Race.) [...]

 
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