|With Six More Weeks of Winter, Its Time to Snuggle Up with a Good Video
On top of February - when winter rides Maryland hard as a beltway commuter - comes your morning newspaper. There's global warming, earthquakes, famine, war, rolling blackouts - and in Washington, a rookie team trying to run things.
That's the earful we got when we woke up our local groundhog, Chesapeake Chip, who makes his home in Kudzu Valley, for a February 1 advance copy of his Groundhog's Day 2001 weather report. "Forget it," said Chip. "There's nothing out there to bring me up. I'm burrowing in with a stack of good movies.
"As for spring, you can try me again next month."
Following the groundhog's advice, we offer you seven decades - beginning with Heidi, with Shirley Temple, from 1937 - of great, good or merely entertaining movies. Plus, new this year, we've added a warning category for the truly wretched.
Director Robert Rodriguez plays both sides, scoring with a great foreign flim and flunking with a Hollywood clunker.
For timely watching, we've included Groundhog Day and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Made in 1968, Stanley Kubrick's epic is as awesome as ever. Groundhog Day, made in 1993, has proved a classic fable.
Our picks are divided into 12 categories and arranged by date, from oldest to newest.
VISIT DOCK OF THE BAY FOR AN OVERVIEW OF CHESAPEAKE COUNTRY'S INDEPENDENT VIDEO STORES.
READ PREVIOUS GROUNDHOG DAY VIDEO SUGGESTIONS: 2000 1999 1998
This wild bunch has testosterone coursing through their reels.
1988 · 1:56 · R
Put ambition, love, loyalty and drug smuggling into a pot, stir in Mel Gibson, Michelle Pfeiffer and Kurt Russell and you've got the recipe for a hot, high-stakes adventure.
Robert Towne (Chinatown) directs this energy-packed story of an ex-drug smuggler (Gibson) who teeters on a tightrope trying to Just Say No and leave his past behind. Complications set in when childhood buddy (Russell), now a super-cop tries to reel in the bad guys using his friend to call in past favors. Restaurant owner Pfeiffer adds honey and spice and everything nice to the exciting, watchable mix.
1990 · 1:32 · R
"Why are the the innocent dead and the guilty alive? Where is the justice, where is the punishment?" Adapted from the Marvel comic book of the same name, this film answers those questions with the character of Frank Castle (Dolph Lundgren), a one-time cop whose family was killed by the mob. Now, Castle is the Punisher, climbing from the sewers, a one-man army bent on revenge, justice and punishment of wrong-doers. Louis Gossett, Jr., plays the good cop searching for the bad guys and, he believes, his ex-partner Castle. Not for the faint of heart.
Rumble in the Bronx
1996 · 1:31 · R
Somewhere between dodging broken beer bottles and water skiing on a broken foot behind a speeding hovercraft, Jackie Chan flails fists, feet and body through a gang of Bronx miscreants in his breakout American hit. Ah Keung (Chan) is in town visiting when he gets mixed up in defending the new owner of his uncle's market against a bunch of hoodlums. Under Stanley Tong's direction, Chan's self-effacing style and spectacular stunts blend with thin plot and bad dubbing for campy kung fu fun.
These fantasies for all ages add fresh stories, substance and sometimes a hard edge to clever drawing
The Land Before Time
1:10 · 1988 · NR
Director Don Bluth continually outshines others in animated films, showing he knows what children want. In this tale, appropriately titled for the time of the dinosaurs, plant-eater Littlefoot and his family are separated by a great earthquake that destroys their valley. Littlefoot and his friends spend their time searching for the Great Valley, where food is green and water is crystal blue, while hiding from meat-eaters and overcoming daily problems. Not only do children get to see dinosaurs, but they can learn a bit about love, friendship, the pain of loss and the joy of coming together again. Parents might slip in to watch it, too.
The Little Mermaid
1990 · 1:22 · G
The Little Mermaid is the story of teenage mermaid Ariel's exploration of the upper world. Themes are curiosity, adolescent rebellion and search for identity. But Ariel's quest threatens her own future and the kingdom of her father, King Triton. Teen-age human Prince Eric helps defeat the wicked sea witch Ursula, and all live happily ever after - in which kingdom, you'll have to see for yourself. Spirited songs (the movie won Academy Awards for best song and original score), dramatic scenes and believable characters make this Disney feat of animation a favorite of all ages.
Ghost in the Shell
1996 · 1:22 · NR
In the tradition of Blade Runner, director Mamoru Oshii's Ghost in the Shell is set in the closer-than-you-think future as cyborgs are discovering their own sentience. Major Motoko Kusanagi, a cyborg officer in Section 9, discovers and then must rescue The Puppet Master, a sentient computer program, from the secretive Section 6. Only then through his wisdom can she discover her own potential and life's purpose. En route, she slices through bad guys with partner Bateau in a series of car chases, explosions, gunplay, bloodshed and minor nudity. Superb animation and a moody atmosphere Ridley Scott would love make this a classic of sci-fi animation.
You know the stereotypes: Bewitching bimbos, wicked witches and women who lose it all, whether for love or rebellion. Chick flicks are our female-staffers' rebellion; in our picks, whatever the stakes, the woman wins.
1991 · 1:47 · PG-13
In this fun and funny story, a French artist (Gérard Depardieu) who wants to stay in America makes a deal with an unattached horticulturist (Andie McDowell) who needs some extra money to keep her gorgeous penthouse apartment. If she agrees to marry him, he gets to stay and she gets to keep her apartment. Relax and have fun with this movie. Even chicks don't always need a heavy intellectual message - and who doesn't like a good love story?
Heart and Souls
1993 · 1:44 · PG-13
An old wives' tale says that every time someone dies, a new life is brought into this world. At the moment little Thomas Reilly enters the world, four strangers in a fatal bus accident miss their trip to heaven, staying behind to become his childhood soul friends. Twenty five years later, Thomas Reilly (Robert Downey Jr.) thinks his four friends have gone. But when the souls find out he is their last chance to make it to heaven, Reilly is seeing ghosts and going crazy. Laughs and tears carry the movie into the afterlife.
Two outstandings chicks wrench your heart. Kyra Sedgwick lost her life before reuniting with her true love and now helps Thomas Reilly hold on to his one chance at love. Alfre Woodard, who left behind her children, has only their bedtime song "Hug a Bug" to hold onto - until one of her sons shows up in an unsuspecting place.
1998 · 1:39 · R
Director Mark Herman uses old show tunes in this British dramatic comedy to get toes a-tappin'. Jane Horrocks is an agoraphobic young woman nicknamed LV (for Little Voice) who has survived years of neglect by her mother (Brenda Blethyn) by imitating her dead father's favorite singers: Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe and Shirley Bassey, to name a few. When Blethyn brings home a sleezy, two-bit talent agent played by Michael Caine, the raucous pair concoct a plan to make LV and her beautiful voice their ticket to fame and fortune. LV, of course, has other plans, which encompass staying in bed surrounded by old records. Ewan McGregor plays a telephone repairman, smitten by LV but so shy that he speaks more comfortably with his pet birds.
Classics & Epics
The gold standard, these movies lay out the yardstick to measure all their genre.
1942 · 1:43 · NR
Humphrey Bogart smokes his way through Casablanca, director Michael Curtiz's classic love story. Bogart stars as Rick, an American ex-patriot who sticks his neck out for no man, stuck in Casablanca during World War II.
When Rick's lost love, Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman) walks into his gin joint, a little sentimentality pokes through the cynic's veneer. In the end, Rick breaks his own rules.
Bergman's beauty transcends eras, Claude Rains is classic as Captain Louis Renault and Bogart is still the coolest man that ever lived.
Is it the best movie ever made? I don't know, but it's pretty damn good.
1965 · 3:17 · NR
The life of a young doctor during the Russian revolution is interwoven with a beautiful love story in this classic. Yuri Zhivago (Omar Sharif) is a compassionate man who becomes a famous poet during a time when his sentiments were unacceptable. Director David Lean carries you through a wide range of emotions. Scenes of suffering, poverty and war are very realistic. Cinematography is spectacular as, for example, incredible snow scenes in the Ural Mountains melt into fields of daffodils. The scenery together with the music make Doctor Zhivago a delight for the senses. It has great actors, villains, heroes, tragedy, and suspense - plus one of the best love stories ever.
1970 · 2:51 · PG
True to the ego it memorializes, director Franklin J. Schaffner's Academy Award-winning film (Best Picture, Actor & Director) is an epic biography with a major war for subplot. George C. Scott turns in the best performance of any war movie ever made as General Patton, portrayed as equal parts war hero, pit bull and diva. Whether preaching warrior's propaganda in full regalia before a massive American flag or jockeying for glory against Gen. Montgomery, Scott's Patton intrigues all with the intense personality of a warrior who burned bright with glory, then simply faded away.
Some of these are knee-slappers, others a bit more subdued. All of them keep us laughing - even when we're replaying them in our minds.
1963 · 2:01 · NR
Adapted from Henry Fielding's classic novel, director Tony Richardson's Academy Award-winning film (Best Picture) is a witty romp through the bawdy side of 18th-century England. Tom Jones (Albert Finney), a rowdy young womanizer, has eyes on winning his true love's hand. It's no easy task, though, as he falls victim to his own libidinous nature, the plots of vengeful moral objectors and the rage of one jealous husband. Tongue-in-cheek, often rhyming narration keeps you up to speed with the fast-moving plot and makes for a playful lampooning.
1979 · 1:34 · R
From the opening line, "I was born a poor black child," this movie is hilarious. Steve Martin, Navin R. Johnson, decides to strike out on his own after growing up in a loving black family. His misadventures eventually lead to fame and fortune by way of some classic Martin comedy. He even finds out what his special purpose is. I laughed until I cried at this Rob Reiner movie.
1993 · 1:41 · PG
Ever feel like yesterday and the day before that were just like today? And tomorrow won't be any different, either? That's what happened to Bill Murray in the brilliantly funny fable Groundhog Day. Murray is a surly, unctuous weatherman from Pittsburgh who can't stand journeying to Punxsutawney, Penn., every spring to cover the story of the groundhog emerging from his den. Somehow he becomes trapped in his numbing reality, and each morning he awakens in Punxsutawney to endure the same event.
Grumpy ole' Bill Murray goes through some changes in this Harold Ramis film. And therein lies a few lessons for all of us about the little things in life and the wonderful people who share our worlds.
Whether horror flicks, adventures, sci-fis or over-the-top comedies, these brews are stranger - and often stronger - than your average cup of tea.
1970 · 2:00 · NR ·
With Catch 22, novelist Joseph Heller (who died as the 20th century ended), added to the language the kind of word his century could not have done without. This catch is war - World War II in particular - and that you have to be crazy to keep fighting.
Director Mike Nichols enlisted many big names in dramatizing the pains, poignancies and absurdities of Heller's Catch. Alan Arkin is Yossarian, the trouble-making bombardier pleading insanity. In the same plane - and sometimes boat - are Art Garfunkel and Martin Sheen. Pursuing the war are Orson Welles, Martin Balsam and Bob Newhart as Major Major Major. Caught in the middle are Richard Benjamin and, as the chaplain, Anthony Perkins. Turning war into profit is Jon Voight as Milo Minderbinder.
Together they romp through occupied Italy, turning war into a gotcha kind of comedy. But beware: This is black comedy, not for children or the faint hearted.
1984 · 1:33 · PG
Whoever coined the phrase "sweet 16" hadn't seen director John Hughes' accurate portrayal of high school life. Samantha (Molly Ringwald) wakes up forgotten on her 16th birthday. Her silent love for the school jock is broadcast in a slambook, and squeaky-voiced geek (Anthony Michael Hall) drools over her in every scene. Just when life can't get worse, an exchange student, four grandparents and a wedding throw her over the edge. Weirdly extreme caricatures of various stereotypes make this an unforgiving satire of adolescent life. Years afterward fans still greet each other with quoted lines, none so popular as Long Duck Dong's "Married? Yes Married! Geesh!"
1993 · 1:44 · NR
Director Ron Fricke turns lens on everything from religious ritual at the ancient temples of Yot Fa to the mechanics of a modern day poultry farm in gathering footage for this fascinating, maybe even weird, trip around the world. Though there is some song, none of it is English and there are no words spoken. Instead, Fricke uses a menagerie of spectacular images culled from every inhabited continent to show how the lives and cultures of the world's people are woven together in this unique human experience. The film debuted as a cult hit in outdoor screenings at parks and college campuses across the world. Dude. Peace.
What you'll find here are good stories playing on the strings of many emotions.
1992 · 1:53 · R
Michael Douglas offers a milestone performance in this Joel Schumacher story of an ordinary man who snaps under the pressure of everyday life. Abandoning his car in rush-hour gridlock, he heads for home on foot.
In what can only be called a bizarre turn of events, Douglas' rampage becomes absurdly funny and shatteringly violent. Robert Duvall plays the savvy cop obsessed with stopping Douglas as, sawed-off shotgun in hand, he taunts and flaunts.
This movie strikes home, making you wonder if you, too, could fall apart.
1995 · 2:52 · R
Heat is director Michael Mann's stylish look at cop and robbers in the city of Los Angles. Robert DeNiro is Neil McCuly, the leader of a crew of professional thieves who plan and take down big-money, daring heists. Al Pacino is Vincent Hanna, a robbery/homicide detective who chases criminals with an almost religious devotion.
Yes, the ending is a bit contrived and it seems like Pacino and DeNiro are trying to out cool each other. Pacino does some of his post-Scent of a Woman who-ing and ha-ing, while DeNiro is at his brooding best. But the action sequences make the trip worthwhile. Like Mann's later work in The Insider, Heat is beautifully shot and scored.
Crime has never looked so good.
1996 · 2:15 · R
In Lone Star, director John Sayles pieces together the complex culture and dirty history of a small town in Rio County, Texas. With tensions smoldering all around, a skeleton is found on an abandoned army firing range. When the body is lifted, secrets from the town's past boil up.
Chris Cooper stars as sheriff Sam Deeds, a man trying to live down a failed marriage, a lost love, the legend of his father - while solving a 40 year-old murder.
Lone Star is a subtle, understated and fun little movie.
Films so gripping you'll forgive the subtitles to see them - even on the small screen.
The Eighth Day
1966 · 1:58 · NR · French
Harry is a workaholic whose life is falling apart. His marriage is breaking up and he's out of touch with his kids. He is losing his life in the fast lane until one rainy night he runs into a man on the road who will change his life over the next eight days. This movie is incredibly moving. Daniel Auteuil, who also played in Jean de Florette, is wonderful in the role of the workaholic. Thoughtful, funny and sad, we learn how it's sometimes easier to see the things we're missing through someone else's eyes.
1985 · 2:40 · R · Japanese
King Lear meets samurai swordplay in director Akira Kurosawa's epic tragedy, a direct adaptation of Shakespeare's play set in 16th-century Japan. Aging warlord Hidetora Ichemoji (Tatsuya Nadakai) sparks greed and rivalry among his three sons when he cedes his kingdom to them. With brothers divided and a devious Lady Kaede (Mieko Harada) manipulating the eldest brother Taro (Akira Terao), arrows, swords and random other things soon fly in extraordinary battle scenes mounting up to a climactic assault on the main fortress. All that samurai action blends with colorful costumes and sets to make this a beautiful film to watch.
1993 · 1:21 · R · Mexican
This low-budget film - produced for a mere $7,000 - is director Robert Rodriguez' first work, and it is not to be missed.
A mix of Hitchcock's wrong man with a modern shoot-'em up, El Mariachi is the story of a young, guitar-carrying musician (Carlos Gallardo) searching for work in the small towns along Mexico's northern border. Unfortunately, the Mexican mob has him confused with a renegade hit-man who hides his weapons in a guitar case. And that's where the fun begins. Initially el mariachi runs, hoping to convince his pursuers of their mistake. But happenstance keeps him alive while the body count rises, limiting his chances for clearing up this mistaken identity. Despite the violence, you'll find yourself laughing.
Here are nail-biters that send icy fingers crawling up the back of your neck.
1946 · 1:43 · NR
This Alfred Hitchcock thriller includes spies, Nazis, a controlling mother and a chase scene on the faces of Mount Rushmore. The daughter of a Nazi war criminal, Ingrid Bergman is recruited by American spy Cary Grant to infiltrate a Nazi organization in South America - at any cost. When she is so successful that she marries the group's ring leader (Claude Rains), a struggle ensues not only between Bergman and Rains' evil mother but also between Grant and Bergman, who have fallen in love.
Hush Hush, Sweet Charlotte
1964 · 2:13 · NR
Charlotte (Bette Davis) has a rotten husband (Joseph Cotton). He and his girlfriend (Olivia DeHaviland) are trying to drive Charlotte insane. They play mean tricks on her by making her see things that aren't real. I like old movies like this. Director Robert Aldrich is scary without flashy special effects. It has wonderful acting and the timeless elegance of Davis and DeHaviland. So, turn out the lights and grab a blanket because an eerie song and sudden surprises will make you want to hide under the covers.
1994 · 1:46 · R
What you can't see can kill you in this intense, terrifying and erotic tale of a beautiful blind musician (Madeleine Stowe) who, after 20 years, regains her sight - along with blurry visions and murderous hallucinations. One night she witnesses a brutal murder. Or does she? Even she's not sure.
As the evidence mounts, police detective (Aidan Quinn) becomes her only protector. Together they are drawn into a deadly game played in the shadows.
Not Just for Kids
These films have special appeal for younger audiences, but many an adult viewer will enjoy a second childhood.
1937 · 1:28 · NR
Who can resist the classic tale of Heidi or the cute curls of little Shirley Temple? Heidi is a misunderstood orphan with a grumpy grandfather left to care for her. But soon these two are singing together, until Heidi's aunt kidnaps and sells her. Little Heidi makes the best of every situation and has everyone falling for her. Along the way, Shirley Temple sings and dances her way into your heart. Who can resist a film from a time when moviemakers made you feel good?
1944 · 2:05 · NR
Velvet Brown is a young girl in love with horses. One very spirited and fast horse is destined to be hers because she is the only one who can ride it. Her dream of winning the Grand National seems impossible, but with the help of her friend and trainer, anything can happen. You can almost feel yourself in the English countryside with its quaint villages and rolling hills. It's fun to watch Mickey Rooney and a beautiful, young Elizabeth Taylor and the exciting ending will keep you on the edge of your seat. Kids and adults will love this movie.
Little Man Tate
1991 · 1:39 · PG
Jodie Foster's directorial debut introduces super-intelligent second grader Fred Tate. Plagued by nightmares and stomach problems, Fred struggles to fit in. When Jane Grierson (Dianne Wiest), the director of an institute for gifted children, discovers Fred, his single mom Dede (Foster) is wary of what is best for her different little boy. This is an endearing story of the struggles and triumphs of a young genius.
What once loomed ahead now often lags behind, which adds the paradox of obsolescence to these foretellings. But it's still fun to explore the far horizons of the imagination, and the Frankensteinean possibilities of science are as scary as ever.
001: A Space Odyssey
1968 · 2:19 · NR
Now that Stanley Kubrick is dead and 2001 is here, how fares his epic of human evolution? Fashions are a little out dated, while space stations outdistance us still. But the elements awesome back in 1968 are as good as ever. Cinematography is still cosmic, the music of the spheres still rings with the same harmonic irony and Hal - while not quite Frankenstein - has become synonymous with science gone awry. By the way, this movie proves for all times you don't need toothy, slimy monsters to scare us silly.
1984 · 2:17 · PG-13
Sandworms, precious spice, interplanetary monarchy and a Messiah figure all play into director David Lynch's weird movie adapted from Frank Herbert's book. Paul Atreides (Kyle MacLachlan), a young nobleman, discovers his prophetic connection with the natives of an exploited desert planet and leads their fight for freedom from colonial oppressors. Though not for everybody, there's plenty to enjoy as Atreides discovers mystical powers through sacred water and delivers rebellion unto the monarchy by way of space fighters and giant, domesticated worms. Weird sci-fi is the best kind.
The Puppet Masters
1994 · 1:49 · R
Top-level government agents and extraterrestrials team up in this unrelenting suspense of a small mid western town whose people are being taken over and manipulated like puppets. Donald Sutherland leads the team that somehow must eliminate the multiplying aliens.
Based on the Robert A. Heinlein's novel, The Puppet Masters rocks with riveting special effects and rolls with heart-stopping action of the sci-fi kind, giving new meaning to the phrase "go forth and multiply."
If you head to the check-out aisle with one of these titles in hand, don't say we didn't warn you.
1978 · 1:31 · NR
Even Dennis Hopper admirers will nap through this one. The story drags as a faith healer and TV evangelist (Hopper) discovers a mysterious virgin and spends a fortune to put her under contract to boost his ratings. It sours as she falls in love with one of his employees (Michael Moriety) and becomes pregnant. The good rev seeks revenge, playing for keeps.
Even a miracle couldn't help this one.
1995 · 1:43 · R
As good as director Robert Rodriguez's prequel, El Mariachi, was, this movie is bad. Women might think hunky Antonio Banderas (replacing Matthew Broderick-look-alike Carlos Gallardo in the starring role) is worth the rental price. Men might think Salma Hayek in the buff makes this dud worthwhile. Don't believe it. Rodriguez's attempt at a mainstream Hollywood blockbuster has sucked any life from this story, leaving only bad acting - despite performances from Steve Buscemi and Cheech Marin - wasted pyrotechnics and a few corny lines like, "he carries a suitcase full of guns."
1997 · 2:58 · R
The Postman, latest of director Kevin Costner's post-apocalyptic flops, is set in a ruined and desolate America dominated by warlords. A drifter (Costner) happens upon some postal artifacts and decides to become a mail carrier, The Postman, delivering freedom to the masses astride his pretty horse and restoring the nation while fighting off ornery minions. All the while, he totes an all-but-forgotten American flag and talks some cheesy dialogue with squatters, including Tom Petty, amid three hours of melodramatic music, bad acting and slow-motion galloping. Return to sender, postage due.