NGT's Winter Video Review --

The Cure for Those Cold 'I Got No Video" Blues

by K.J. Kohler

Back in the old days, when forecasters called for "the big one," the only mad dash was the trip to the supermarket for canned goods, milk, bread and toilet paper. Nowadays, all that can wait until you've hit the video store. Better to run out of milk than to find not a single movie worth seeing.

Never fear, Doc's Sub is here. Read on, and the substitute movie professor will make your trip more rewarding by steering you to your video club's library section. Here, in eight categories from action/adventure, to film classics, to tearjerkers, are found film classics as lively and lovable today as the day they were released - and often brighter than what was released just yesterday.

Clip the list and you'll be ready when El Nino or the latest version of flu hits.

Sharing some of his own favorites is guest critic Daryl Gonder. An assistant professor of English and humanities at Anne Arundel Community College, Gonder teaches the college's film study courses.



Tired of the shoot-em-ups with the fancy-smancy explosions? Try some movies that pack a wallop of a different nature.

Bound (1996 · Rated R) Clever, hugely entertaining film about two women (Gina Gershon, Jennifer Tilly) trying to outsmart mobsters. A combination caper, gangster, and slapstick film that works you up, wrings you out and leaves you breathless.

The Day of the Jackal (1973 · Rated PG) Based on a best-seller, the film follows the intricate preparations of a suave hired gun (Edward Fox) and the effort to keep him from assassinating Gen. Charles DeGaulle. This is so much better than the recent Bruce Willis wigfest that there's no comparison.

F/X (1986 · Rated R) Hired to fake the death of a Mafia turncoat, a special effects man uses his skills all the more when things go wrong. Fast paced and fun.

** Professor Gonder's Pick **

Time Bandits (1981· Rated PG) A group of dwarfs, assisted by the Supreme Being, lead a young English schoolboy through time, encountering Robin Hood (John Cleese), Napoleon (Ian Holm), and King Agamemnon (Sean Connery). "A production of George Harrison's Handmade Films, it's directed by Monty Python's Terry Gilliam. I watch this film when I have the flu," says AACC's man on the movies.


The name says it all.

Adam's Rib (1950 · Unrated) Katherine Hepburn defends a woman accused of attempting to murder her husband, not knowing that her husband, Spencer Tracy, is the assigned prosecutor. The classic battle of the sexes, fought by the classic adversaries, comes to the courtroom.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969 · Rated PG) This film's boldness knocked me out. It features Oscar winning Maggie Smith as a school teacher with a spellbinding influence on her "girls." Robert Stephens, also in the film, was Smith's husband at the time.

** Professor Gonder's Pick **

Elmer Gantry (1960 · Unrated) "Richard Brooks' playful examination of evangelical huxterism is as important in the age of televangelism as it was in the early '60s," says AACC's man on the movies. Oscars went to gabby salesman Burt Lancaster, girlfriend/prostitute Shirley Jones and Brooks' screenplay from Sinclair Lewis' novel.


These laughs don't rely on the usual gimmicks; they're wrapped around real stories.

Diner (1982 · Rated R) Barry Levinson's directorial debut is a loving portrait of guys growing up in '50's Baltimore, featuring the big screen debuts of Paul Reiser and Ellen Barkin. At my high school graduation, The Sun and WJZ's Michael Olesker revealed the man behind Mickey Rourke's character, a guy named Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass, who went on to co-own Merry Go Round.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988 · Rated PG) This everyday picture is still quite pleasing, allowing Michael Caine and Steve Martin to play off one another. They are competing con-men in a plot with twists until the very end.

The Gods Must Be Crazy (1984 · Rated PG) & II (1989) Original and offbeat, both star real-life Kalahari Bushman N!xau. After quasi-documentary beginnings, they launch into Buster Keatonish adventures. Poorly distributed until 1994, the original became the biggest foreign box-office hit in history.

Mother (1997 · PG-13) Albert Brooks' story of a son seeking to understand the reason for his failures with women and who moves back with his mom. Debbie Reynolds' return to the big screen will tickle your funny bone and make you rethink your relationship with your own neurotic parental unit.

Postcards from the Edge (1990 · Rated R) This year's lifetime achievement Golden Globe award winner, Shirley McClaine, leads an all-star cast in Mike Nichols' bitingly funny story based on Carrie Fisher's autobiographical novel about her use of drugs while launching her acting career.

** Professor Gonder's Pick **

The King of Comedy (1982 · Rated PG) "Martin Scorsese casts Jerry Lewis as himself - you'll see what I mean - beset by obsessed fans Robert De Niro and Sandra Bernhard. Comedy for those media savvy," says AACC'S man on the movies. Strong performances and a denouement that will wow you.


Original stories captivatingly told.

And the Band Played On (1993 · PG13) This informative, engaging and emotionally draining dramatic recreation of the early history of the HIV virus includes absorbing performances by Matthew Modine, Alan Alda, and Patrick Banhau. Winner, special jury prize, Montreal World Film Festival; two Golden Globe nominations.

The Last Temptation of Christ (1988 · Rated R) If you can believe director Martin Scorsese in this dramatic meditation, Jesus' real temptation would not be money, power or sensuality, but a normal human life. If you thought Jesus was portrayed as lustful, watch the scene outside Mary Magdelene's brothel: here Jesus laments his divinity and his consequent inability to marry her. As fundamentalists picketed this cinematic interpretation, teenagers cheered satanic Freddy Krueger in his fourth Nightmare.

Mindwalk: A Film for Passionate Thinkers (1991 · Rated PG) A poet (John Heard) takes his politician friend (Sam Watterson) to a French museum, where they meet a physicist (Liv Ullmann) and discuss the nature of the world, ecology, and modus operandi. Tips its hat to a film made 10 years earlier, My Dinner with Andre, a more daring conversation that often has you guessing about Andre's mental stability - also recommended.

The Shawshank Redemption (1994 · Rated R) Tim Robbins gives an incredible performance as a man, wrongly sent to prison, who refuses to break at the hands of a corrupt warden. "Hope is a good thing, perhaps the best of things," he tells Red (Morgan Freeman), who knows what it really means to be "institutionalized." Brilliant screenplay extrapolation of Stephen King's short story isn't depressing but humorous and life affirming.

Talk Radio (1988 · R) Well acted, strongly shot and directed by Oliver Stone, Eric Bogosian stars in his play about a talk show host who gradually moves from engaging his callers to provoking them. "After all," says he, "there's nothing more boring than people who love you."

Ulele's Gold (1997 · Rated R) Powerful comeback for Peter Fonda, who shows that he shouldn't have been an action star to begin with. A bee keeper struggles to rear a family amidst his older daughter's addictions. The movie deserves attention for its razor-sharp character. Fonda won the Golden Globe for this one.

** Professor Gonder's Pick **

Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (1982 · Rated PG) Girlfriends stage a 20-year reunion of a Jimmy Dean fan club they formed when he filmed Giant (his last film) in a nearby Texas town. "Altman's direction combines with Jason Rosenfield's editing to, despite flashbacks, recreate that claustrophobic sense normally associated with the stage," says AACC's man on the movies. Kathy Bates stars alongside Cher, who hadn't been on screen since 1969's Chastity.


You don't have to be tired of Hollywood to find reason to go abroad.

The Bicycle Thief (1948 · Unrated) Vittorio De Sica's simple, beautiful tale of a man who needs his bike to make a living. Won a special Oscar - foreign films didn't have a category of their own yet.

Breaking the Waves (1995 · Rated R) Bess' conversations with God take an ever-more forceful turn as her paralyzed husband tells her to take another lover to speed his recovery. Emotionally and spiritually challenging.

Leolo (1992 · Unrated) Enchanting and romantic, funny and disgusting, you haven't seen a movie like this before. A boy's imagination frames the world he lives in, creating scenes of unusual poetic value.

Tampopo (1986 · Unrated) This clever and hilarious film borrows from American westerns and Kurosawa in a search for the ultimate noodle recipe. Enjoy it with a quart of special lo mein.

** Professor Gonder's Pick **

Woman in the Dunes /Suna No Onna (1964 · Unrated) Imprisoned in a sand pit, an entomologist bonds with an ill-fated woman and her monotonous existence. "An existential tour de force, with prize-winning screenplay and novel by Kobo Abe," says AACC's man on the movies. The first Japanese director to receive an Academy Award nomination, Teshigahara leaves you up to your neck in thoughtful film making.


True white-knuckle, nail-biting thrillers that'll push you off the edge of your seat.

The Asphalt Jungle (1950 · Unrated) John Houston's frequently copied masterpiece has been remade three times (The Badlanders, Cairo, Cool Breeze). It's the staging of a jewel robbery in thrilling detail. Characterizations, including Marilyn Monroe's, are completely believable.

The Name of the Rose (1986 · Rated R) Sean Connery does justice to Umberto Eco's novel - the quickest 611 pages I ever read. Combines good sleuth work with the eerie, unfamiliar world of a 13th century abbey.

Three Days of the Condor (1975 · Rated R) In this classic Sydney Pollack thriller, Robert Redford returns to find his CIA office bullet ridden and all his colleagues dead. As he tries to save his life, his job reading books comes in handy, as does Faye Dunaway, whom he forces to shelter him. Great suspense flick.

** Professor Gonder's Pick **

M (1931 · Unrated) Fritz Lang's haunting tale of a psychotic child killer and the efforts at apprehending him is an early talkie with an unforgettable performance by Peter Lorre. "The original and still the best of the genre, now in a cleaned-up print."

Not Just for Kids

These films are geared toward younger audiences, but they're not just kids' stuff. They're every bit as entertaining and imaginative as their adult counterparts.

A Little Princess (1995 · Rated G) A father heads to WWII, leaving his daughter (charming debut of Lielsel Matthews) with a vicious boarding school director. Remembering her father's words, "Every girl is a princess," she casts her magic on all. Oscar nominated for Best Cinematography and Art/Set Direction.

The Princess Bride (1987 · Rated PG) "When I was your age, television was called books," Peter Falk tells Fred Savage. The special book he reads to him has "fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love and miracles." Director Rob Reiner's dialogue is excellent, as is wrestler Andre the Giant's film debut as a giant.

Red Balloon (1956 · Unrated) Pure gold. With a personality of its own, a big red balloon magically follows a little boy around. Captivating special effects. Albert Lamorisse's film won Oscars for Best Writing/Best Original Screenplay.

Young Sherlock Holmes (1985 · Rated PG 13) Before lifetimes of adventure, Sherlock and Watson had the adventure of a lifetime. With Oscar nominated special effects, this Steven Spielberg produced film directed by Baltimore's Barry Levinson is jolly good fun, case closed. Don't rewind through the closing credits, or you'll miss the revealing hidden ending.

** Professor Gonder's Pick ** Babe (1995 · Rated G) The most famous pig since Wilbur tried his hand at sheep herding. "Delightfully intelligent," says AACC's man on the movies, "the film functions on a variety of levels, enabling adults to watch it almost as frequently as do their kids." Babe fans might look again for four continuity errors (sheep thieves' ramp, Babe's muddy/clean feet, the alarm and the fax machine) and the straps holding the sheep in formation. Golden Globe Winner-Best Comedy/Musical; six Oscar nominations.


If "Sad Songs Say So Much," then these three-hanky movies must say even more.

In the Gloaming (1997 · Rated PG) In Christopher Reeve's film, Robert Sean Leonard (Puck, Dead Poets' Society) comes home to die from AIDS as loving mother (Glen Close) and aloof father (David Straithairn) watch. With Whoopi Goldberg as his caretaker and Bridget Fonda as his jealous sister. Four Emmy nominations.

Shadowlands (1993 · Rated PG) In Richard Attenborough's film, real-life author C.S. Lewis (Anthony Hopkins) lives with his brother until American poet Joy Ghrisham (quite possibly Debra Winger's best performance) enters his life, bringing a magic he thought existed only in books. Her hospitalization tests Lewis' religious convictions (he was an atheist turned Catholic). Filmed "Bird and Baby" pub was actually the "Eagle and Child" pub Lewis frequented. Writing and Winger earned Oscar nominations.

The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985 · Rated PG) A lonely movie fan's idol walks off the screen. Woody Allen's movie within a movie has a heart-breaking finale. Won Golden Globe for best screenplay.

When A Man Loves A Woman (1994 · Rated R) Meg Ryan draws on her soap opera training for a textured performance as a wife and mother who hits the bottle hard. Andy Garcia is nicely cast as her husband.

** Professor Gonder Offers No Pick **

"I don't watch tearjerkers," says AACC's man on the movies. "But I got a little teary watching Waterworld - or was it Dances with Dolphins? - thinking about what I could have done with all that wasted money."

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VolumeVI Number 4
January 29 - February 4, 1998
New Bay Times

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