Valentine's Day Alternatives
Want to make sure Valentine's Day goes a little smoother on the DVD front? This special, heartfelt article may just be what t...
Trust me ladies, your man doesn’t want to watch Hope Floats, How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Love Story, or the latest Julia Roberts sob-fest, even on Valentine's Day. If he goes along with something along those lines, it’s done out of giving in to the agony of wandering around the store for an hour trying to decide on something and in the end, he’ll take just about anything to get out of there and be miserable about the selection when you get back home. To put it another way, looking for the right ‘chick flick’ to watch with you pretty much equates to going clothes shopping with you and telling you that you look great in no matter what you jump out of the changing room in, and then disassociating with you when you wear the outfit in public.
And guys, your woman doesn’t want to watch the The Godfather, Lord of the Rings, Aliens or the latest Jackie Chan flick for Valentine’s Day, and, like most other arguments, you won’t win this one with any title like those listed previously in mind either...at least not before losing your ability to father any future children. It’s her day…you need to show a little heart, a little romance, but that doesn’t mean you should make yourself miserable in the process and get stuck watching The Man Who Cried either.
So out of the kindness of my own heart and several years of invaluable experience, I’ve come up with a list of films from around my own collection, which being located here in the states is largely region one, that have a little something for her and a little something for him. I advise you to keep a few of these titles in mind come the 14th…they may just save your relationship! ***
Wild at Heart (R, 1990, 124 mins.)
For Her: Young lovers Sailor (Nicholas Cage) and Lula (Laura Dern) journey across the south on their way to California and escape her disapproving mother, Marietta (Diane Ladd). Cage croons Elvis tunes while Dern swoons in this award winning film that captured the Palme D’Or at the 1990 Cannes Film Festival and features many references to The Wizard of Oz.
For Him: David Lynch delivers what many consider his best work in this story of two lovers, Sailor and Lula, who try to escape the clutches of Lula’s disapproving, psychopathic mother Marietta. When Sailor is released from prison and the two run off towards California, mommy dearest sends a sad sack detective and her mobster, hit-man lover after them.
The film is pure Lynchian goodness with extremely bizarre characters and situations inter-cut with plenty of sex and violence, including Willem DaFoe as a seedy hit-man with a dental problem who’s a real blast. At its heart though, the film is a pure and emotional, romantic journey with performances from leads Cage and Dern that set the screen ablaze. Recently released to DVD for the first time by MGM Home Entertainment, the special edition of Wild At Heart features a re-mastered video transfer supervised by David Lynch, a new Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track to go along with the original, stereo surround mix, and plenty of special features to make sure you won’t get left like a ‘Lonely Man’ at ‘The Heartbreak Hotel’.
Starman (PG, 1984, 115 mins.)
For Her: Left lonely and depressed after the death of her husband, Jenny Hayden (Karen Allen) lives out her days drinking and watching old home movies of happier days gone by. One night, a mysterious stranger (Jeff Bridges) appears to her in the guise of her former lover and the two embark on a cross country odyssey to not only save him, but save her in the process.
For Him: Alien Jeff Bridges crash lands on Earth and must travel from Wisconsin to Arizona to rendezvous with a spacecraft that will take him back home or he will die. Not only is he so unaccustomed to Earth that the travel is wrought with misunderstandings and danger, but the United States government is in close pursuit in an attempt to capture him for further study.
While many people consider Halloween or The Thing their favourite John Carpenter film, many other less horror inclined fans consider Starman theirs. Touching, humorous and exciting, Starman is definitely Carpenter’s most warm hearted and emotional picture, working on varying levels and appealing to a broad audience. It also happens to be the only film of his to garner an Academy Award nomination—Jeff Bridges for Actor in a Leading Role in 1984. Columbia Tri-Star Home Entertainment’s DVD of the movie is strictly a no frills edition featuring only the theatrical trailer and is unfortunately the best Carpenter film to not contain a director’s commentary track, but the anamorphic video transfer and Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround audio track are more than adequate for the release. Hopefully the recent, special edition release of another Carpenter film from Columbia, Christine, means that a Starman special edition isn’t far behind.
Grosse Point Blank (R, 1997, 107 mins.)
For Her: After mysteriously disappearing on the night of his senior prom, Martin Blank (John Cusack) returns home to Grosse Point, MI for his ten-year high school reunion. Upon arriving back into town, Martin rekindles the relationship he once had with his high school sweetheart, Debi Newberry (Minnie Driver) and attempts to find meaning in his life.
For Him: A neurotic contract killer on assignment, Martin’s high school reunion is only incidental to the real reason for him travelling back home. In town for a few days to kill, Martin must contend with unscrupulous federal agents and rival hit-men, including the unionizing Grocer (Dan Aykroyd), all of whom want him dead for various reasons. And if that weren’t enough, Martin still has to contend with old friends and an attempt to reconcile with Debi, his constant obsession for the past decade since leaving town, while trying to complete a job.
Grosse Point Blank could be the illegitimate sequel to any number of John Hughe’s films from the ‘80s as it plays on a lot of the themes from those flicks and turns them on their ear. Mostly played for laughs, but featuring a few action scenes and a great soundtrack, the film is a fresh approach to the conventional romantic comedy featuring good performances from Cusack’s sardonic, but appealing contract killer, Minnie Driver’s befuddled radio disc jockey, and the rest of the supporting cast that includes Dan Aykroyd, Hank Azaria, Jeremy Piven and Alan Arkin as Martin’s put upon and frightened psychiatrist. Originally released on DVD in 1998 by Buena Vista Home Video, Grosse Point Blank is another film that is in desperate need of an updated special edition. The only extra included in the package is the film’s theatrical trailer, and while the audio features a nice Dolby Digital 5.1 track, the 1.85:1 video transfer is not anamorphic or the most clean image around.
Sid & Nancy (R, 1986, 112 mins.)
For Her: In a movie about two people so perfectly made for each other, this film chronicles the tumultuous relationship between Sid Vicious (Gary Oldman) of The Sex Pistols and his lover, American Nancy Spurgen (Chloe Webb).
For Him: Sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll, Sex Pistols style! The film follows Sid Vicious and his Yoko Ono, Nancy Spurgen, as they travel back and fourth across the Atlantic with and without the group and abuse the hell out of each other in this story of a love decaying minute by minute.
Alex Cox has made films that some would call subversive, such as Repo Man, and Sid & Nancy is no different. No matter if you believe the film to be total fact or not, it still remains as a gut wrenching look into a relationship doomed from the start through drugs and a common self loathing of living itself that ultimately destroys them both in the end; in its own way, it’s a Romeo and Juliet for the punk generation. Featuring knockout performances from Oldman and Webb and some great music, the film may be too much for some and not enough for others, but will leave none unaffected. If you can manage it, try to get a hold of The Criterion Collection’s now out-of-print DVD that features some great extras besides a splendid transfer of the film. Most, however, will be relegated to seeking out the more widely available, barebones edition of the film from MGM Home Entertainment that does include a decent anamorphic widescreen transfer of the film, but only the theatrical trailer as its lone special feature.
Punch-Drunk Love (R, 2002, 95 mins.)
For Her: Introverted, small business owner Barry Egan (Adam Sandler) meets and then dates Lena (Emily Watson), a mysterious woman who works with one of his sisters. As the two become better acquainted, Barry begins to loosen out of his shell and enjoy life. As an added bonus, you get to hold over the head of your significant other that you let him watch a movie starring Adam Sandler for Valentine’s Day.
For Him: Thanks to the constant belittling and badgering from his troupe of sisters, Barry is subject to sudden fits of rage, but unlike other Sandler movies the results are far funnier and unexpected. Barry gets involved with a sleazy scam artist/porn king/mattress salesman played by Philip Seymour Hoffman which leads to some outrageous confrontations.
With striking visuals and great dialogue, much like Paul Thomas Anderson’s other films Boogie Nights and Magnolia, the movie is quirky, sweet, and fresh thanks to, in a gender stereotype switch, Watson’s pursuit of Sandler as a romantic interest and Sandler’s own understated portrayal of the reserved, pudding buying Barry. Those expecting Happy Gilmore may be sorely disappointed as the humor is less of the cartoon-like, slapstick or smart mouth variety contained in his other offerings and more low key, but then again this isn’t an Adam Sandler movie…it’s a Paul Thomas Anderson film starring Adam Sandler. The two-disc set from Columbia Tri-Star Home Entertainment offers a great Superbit video transfer of the film, equally impressive Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 audio tracks and a few extras including deleted scenes.
Flesh + Blood (NR, 1985, 126 mins.)
For Her: Set in 1510, mercenary Martin (Rutger Hauer) and his motley crew of miscreants steal the beautiful Agnes (Jennifer Jason Leigh) away from a nobleman’s son, Steven (Tom Burlinson), after the elder lord reneges on payment of services. Soon after, however, the warrior and lady become lovers forcing her to choose between the hand of her kidnapper and that of her betrothed who is in close pursuit.
For Him: Brutal in it’s depiction of the time and setting, director Paul Verhoven’s first English language film is loaded with graphic, bloody violence and explicit sexual situations that include a disturbing rape scene or two, but what else do you expect from a period piece helmed by the director of such films as Basic Instinct, Total Recall, and Starship Troopers? To top it all off, you get the plague…and what self-respecting, Renaissance Age film would be complete without some sort of pestilence ravaging the countryside?
If you want chivalry go watch Errol Flynn or Douglas Fairbanks ‘cause this movie ain’t got it. Caked with blood, sweat and mud, the film obviously isn’t for all tastes due to its rather graphic nature, but fans of Verhoven’s directorial style or Rutger Hauer should find plenty to like. Released just over a year ago, MGM Home Entertainment’s DVD features a nice anamorphic video transfer and Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround sound along with a couple of extras, including writer and director commentary from Paul Verhoven himself.
True Romance (NR, 1993, 121 mins.)
For Her: Think Pretty Woman…nice guy Clarence (Christian Slater) meets nice girl Alabama (Patricia Arquette) who turns out to be a prostitute. After spending one night together, they fall in love and decide to run away together and begin a new life. The film also features Brad Pitt and Val Kilmer in supporting roles.
For Him: Think Reservoir Dogs…after falling in love with prostitute Alabama and freeing her from her whacked out, drug dealing pimp Drexl Spivey (Gary Oldman), Clarence accidentally steals a briefcase full of cocaine belonging to mobster Vincenzo Coccotti (Christopher Walken). The two lovers head to California in an attempt to sell the coke and use the proceeds as a nest egg, unaware that Coccotti has sent his men to get it back.
Written by Quentin Tarantino and directed by Tony Scott, the film features numerous cameo performances including Brad Pitt as Floyd, the drug addled deadbeat with a penchant for household cleaning products, Val Kilmer as Elvis and a host of others including Dennis Hopper, Samuel L. Jackson, Tom Sizemore and James Gandolfini. Quirky, surprising, and as violently bloody as they come, but also works as a romance between the two leads thanks to a great cast who seems to be enjoying themselves and Tarantino’s offbeat and inventive script. Make sure to pick up Warner Home Video’s more recently released unrated director’s cut, two-disc set over the older, barebones single disc edition, which features multiple audio commentaries and a bevy of other extras to go along with a better picture and your choice of Dolby Digital or DTS 5.1 audio tracks.
Miracle Mile (R, 1989, 89 mins.)
For Her: Lonely and shy trombonist Harry (Anthony Edwards) is in Los Angeles for a few days with his touring group when he meets the girl of his dreams, Julie (Mare Winningham), while visiting the La Brea Tar Pits along the stretch of road known as The Miracle Mile in this tale of fates intertwining and love at first sight.
For Him: After picking up a ringing pay phone at 4:00 a.m., Harry is mistakenly informed by a breathless and hurried solider that World War III has begun and that the missiles are already in the air! It’s now up to him to save Julie and get out of town before the bombs start to fall, unless of course the caller on the other end of the line is playing nothing more than a cruel prank.
From the moment Edwards receives the baffling phone call, the film switches to an almost real-time format as the chaos in the city slowly begins to build along with the tension of each passing moment. Skilfully written and directed by Steve De Jarnatt, who doesn’t let the cat out of the bag too early on whether the threat is real or all a hoax, Miracle Mile greatly adds credence to Alfred Hitchcock’s old analogy that the build up of a bomb possibly exploding is the real payoff, not the explosion itself. Also of note is the great score provided by Tangerine Dream which works well to set the mood and pace of the film. Unfortunately the DVD from MGM Home Entertainment is a simple, barebones offering with only the theatrical trailer included, but even worse is the 1.33:1, pan and scan video transfer. Still, even with the disc’s shortcomings, the film itself is definitely worth a look.
Natural Born Killers (R, 1994, 118 mins.)
For Her: Mickey (Woody Harrelson) escapes from prison via a tornado to rescue girlfriend Mallory (Juliette Lewis) from her abusive father. The two then marry themselves upon the horizon of a scenic landscape and venture on a Bonnie and Clyde like odyssey across the country.
For Him: Overflowing with blood, bullets, and mayhem, this extremely violent and dark humoured film chronicles the exploits of fictional mass murders Mickey and Mallory Knox and the pursuit of them by a famed police detective, Jack Scagnetti (Tom Sizemore), and tabloid reporter Wayne Gale (Robert Downey Jr.).
The second film on this list written, but not directed by, Quentin Tarantino, this Oliver Stone flick caused quite a stir upon its release in 1994 and became the poster child for what it so bitingly tried to satirize—extreme violence in the media and our fascination with it. With his liberal use of intermixing different photography, editing and genre styles, Stone’s film is a virtual film school in action and at times strangely hypnotic. The performances from the main players are all top shelf and appropriately over the top when they need to be in order to carry off what is essentially a black comedy. There are two versions available on DVD, the theatrical cut from Warner Home Video and an unrated, director’s cut from Lion’s Gate Home Entertainment. Since each carries roughly the same extras, the choice between the two versions comes down to the presentation of the film itself, and in this case the Warner release wins out. The unrated director’s cut is presented in a non-anamorphic widescreen transfer and is virtually identical content wise to the theatrical edition save about five minutes, so make sure to get the anamorphic video available on the Warner disc for the better picture quality.
Shaun of the Dead (R, 2004, 99 mins.)
For Her: Shaun (Simon Pegg) is a decent guy, but a below average twenty something with no real ambition or goals in life other than meeting up with his friends every night at their favourite pub. Fed up with Shaun and his lifestyle, girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield) decides to move on with her life and summarily dumps him. Determined to win her back, he risks life and limb to prove to her that his love is true and that he can change his ways.
For Him: It’s zombie Armageddon as the recently deceased return to life and terrorize London’s Crouch End! Seeing it as an opportunity to resurrect his own recently dead relationship, Shaun and best friend Ed (Nick Frost) set off to rescue Liz, her flatmates, and his mother from the exponentially growing, undead horde. Armed with little more than a cricket bat, the party makes their way to the safest place Shaun can think of—he and Ed’s favourite pub, the Winchester.
Billed as a romantic comedy with zombies, Shaun of the Dead was probably the funniest film that I saw last year, serving up laugh after laugh while paying homage to all of the genre’s films that came before. Don’t let the fact that it’s a comedy fool you, however, as there are enough gruesome sights and great makeup effects work to please any undead aficionado, but here they’re mostly delivered with a wink. The film does start to come loose at the seams towards the end, but for the most part it’s pure, fried gold. Universal Home Video’s DVD is packed with some great extras and equally worthy picture and sound that should please any fan of the film or anyone else discovering it for the first time. While on the subject of zombie love, I also recommend that you check out Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive, a.k.a. Braindead (NR; 1992, 97 mins.) if you find that one sweet, undead farce just isn’t enough for Valentine’s Day.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula (R, 1992, 128 mins.)
For Her: Count Dracula (Gary Oldman) finally finds the woman who he believes to be the reincarnation of his long lost love in young Jonathan Harker’s (Keanu Reeves) betrothed, Mina Murray (Winona Ryder). Travelling to London from his desolate castle in the Carpathian Mountains, Dracula attempts to seduce and win over his one, true love.
For Him: Professor Abraham Van Helsing (Anthony Hopkins) leads the hunt for the vile Dracula through the streets of London and back to Transylvania in an attempt to rid the world of his evil forever. The film also features some very cool makeup effects, action scenes, and more than a couple very tasty vampire brides.
Francis Ford Coppola’s film is about as lush a retelling of Stoker’s tale as you can get and visually the film is as impressive as they come; its three Academy Award wins for costume, sound effects and makeup are richly deserved and it should have won in its other nominated category for best art direction as well. The only thing keeping this from being a truly great movie is the sometimes wooden performances, especially from Reeves and Ryder, but the rest of the cast looks to be having fun, especially Hopkins and Oldman in their respective roles and Tom Waits, who is a real hoot, as Renfield. Unfortunately, Columbia Tri-Star Home Entertainment has yet to release a decent edition of the film to DVD with their only offerings being a no frills release and a Superbit release with still no extras, but better picture and DTS 5.1 sound. If you are looking for another take on the same material, I recommend Universal’s Dracula (R; 1979, 107 mins.), recently re-released to DVD after being long out-of-print and starring Frank Langella as Dracula and Sir Laurence Olivier as Van Helsing. Far superior to the older Image release, the new disc from Universal Home Entertainment features much better picture and sound to include a new anamorphic video transfer and director commentary from John Badham.
<hr size="1"> *** - In no event will DVDAnswers or Matt Joseph be held liable to you for any consequential, incidental or indirect damages (including damages for loss of wife, girlfriend or any such loss of significant other, loss of certain bodily functions and/or actions of said body, loss of freedom and/or ‘guy time’, loss of bedroom privileges that may include sleeping on the sofa or in the doghouse, and the like) arising out of the use or even inability to use this article or the inability to know sarcasm or a joke when you read it, even if DVDAnswers has been advised of the possibility of such damages. DVDAnswers' liability and that of Matt Joseph (especially that of Matt Joseph) to you for actual damages from any cause whatsoever, and regardless of the form or the action will be void, as the service is provided free of charge and all in good fun. Have a Happy Valentine’s Day!
Editorial by Matt Joseph
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