Hand Made Films, 1986, Color, 104 mins.- Criterion DVD

Bob Hoskins: "See, I'm cheap. I can't help it. God made me that way."

Low-rent crook Hoskins walks straight from a stint in the slammer into still more trouble as the minder of classy call girl Cathy Tyson. The two are a study in contrasts- a short, stocky white guy with a bullfrog face and low manners, and a tall, pretty, classy black woman. They clash at first, then come to an accommodation, with the thuggish but basically decent Hoskins developing an attachment to her that drives him to help out with her personal problems- and that's when things really start to hit the fan.

Writer/director Neil Jordan serves up an emotionally raw tale of crime and longing, shot through with sleaze and violence, but leavened with quirky humor and humanity. It may not be pretty, but it's real- and the heart of that reality is Hoskins' character. A simple, socially maladroit man, he lives with another lonely guy who seems to be his only friend, and is forced to try and reconnect with the daughter he barely knows behind her spiteful mother's back. He's ripe for a little romantic fantasy, and that runs him afoul of both his boss, the quietly evil Michael Caine, and a razor-wielding pimp who knows Tyson all too well. The outcome isn't entirely happy, but if you like your dramas on the gritty side you'll enjoy this one. The disc features commentary by Hoskins and Jordan.

DEG, 1984, Color, 83 mins.- Special Edition DVD

Michael McKean: "I think that the problem may have been that there was a Stonehenge monument on the stage that was in danger of being crushed by a dwarf!"

Is there anything sadder than the spectacle of a middle-aged rock group clinging to its fading glory? That's the scenario presented in this mock-documentary of "One of England's loudest bands," as it embarks on an increasingly disastrous North American tour- but while it may be sad, it's also funny as hell.

Writer/performers Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer are the dim bulbs struggling to keep their hard rock fantasy alive, as writer/performer/director Rob Reiner tracks their rise and fall. The film has a great, semi-improvisational feel, as the band's downward spiral brings it into contact with a number of oddball characters and ludicrous situations, punctuated with "Classic" numbers like "Big Bottom" and "Sex Farm."

Highlights include flashbacks to the psychedelic Sixties, the "Well-endowed" Shearer's encounter with an airport metal detector, and the above mentioned Stonehenge monument. Even if you've seen this before, you'll want to check out the disc for the extras, which include an extensive amount of additional footage, music videos, an "In character" commentary by Guest, McKean and Shearer, and a new mock-interview with Reiner reprising his role from the film. It'll make you want to say "Rock on!"

Avco Embassy, 1968, Color, 135 mins.- MGM DVD

Peter O'Toole: "I've snapped and plotted all my life- there's no other way to be a king, alive and fifty all at once."

If you enjoy historical dramas full of colorful locations and intrigue and scenery-chewing and barbed witticisms delivered by an expert cast, you'll find that this mock-Shakespearean number delivers the goods. It begins with the crossing of swords, and everything that follows is a battle of one sort or another, as O'Toole's aging king summons his wife and sons to a Christmas court to deal with the pressing issue of who will succeed him on the English throne. The fact his queen, Katharine Hepburn, has been long imprisoned for trying to overthrow her husband tells you that this is a rather dysfunctional family, and the plots, counter plots, revelations, and betrayals that ensue are served up with that oddly civilized savagery that the Brits do so well.

As the three sons- spearheaded by the eldest, Anthony Hopkins- vie for power, the treachery spirals dizzyingly close to farce, but the humor is always pitch-black. The harshness of the medieval setting conveys the idea that the exercise of power in it must be similarly harsh, and while O'Toole is tired of conflict, he still must unleash his final kingly schemes- however costly they may prove to be. This film was adapted from a play, but while it may be guilty of being stagy, it's never dull. The disc isn't loaded with extras, but it does have a commentary by director Anthony Harvey.

For more "DVD Released Movies" click here to view back issues


© Melt Magazine 2002