Read an Excerpt
TLA Film and Video Guide
The Discerning Film Lover's Guide 2000â"2001
By David Bleiler
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 1999 TLA Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
À la Mode
(1994, 90 min, France, Rémy Duchemin)Jean Yanne, Ken Higelin, Francois Hautesserre. Can you say "French fluff"? In some regards, this is too soft a term for this mildly enjoyable but ultimately wispy comedy. In keeping with the genre of "Sex and the French Teenager," À la Mode follows the ever eventful life of young Fausto — from the bicycle accident that leaves him orphaned to his apprenticeship with a Jewish tailor in Paris. It is not an exaggeration to say that practically nothing by way of significant story or character development comes Fausto's way, but he does, almost magically, find himself becoming a prestigious fashion designer — overnight! The standard stuff is on display here: the coy redhead with whom he gets his first lay, the good-hearted best friend with a talent for farting the tunes of Beethoven ... beginning to get the picture? Still, the film is amiable, gooey fun and for those in search of hollow entertainment, this will be just the ticket. (aka: Fausto) (French with English subtitles) **½ VHS: $19.99
À Nos Amours (To Our Loves)
(1983, 102 min, France, Maurice Pialat)Sandrine Bonnaire, Evelyne Ker, Dominique Besnehard, Maurice Pialat. A beautifully rendered portrait of a sexually explosive young girl and her tumultuous home life. Sixteen-year-old Suzanne faces the wrath of a neurotic mother, a withdrawn father and an abusive brother because of her casually nubile air and promiscuous wanderings. In this fascinating study of a smoldering family climate, Bonnaire (Vagabond) charges the role of the troubled teenager with a powerfully erotic presence. (French with English subtitles) ***½ VHS:$19.99
À Nous la Liberté
(1931, 97 min, France, Rene Clair)Henri Marchand, Raymond Corby, Rolla France. A surreal and satirical attack on automation and industrialization, this intoxicating, brilliantly executed romp follows the exploits of a bum who becomes a millionaire only to realize that he was happier poor. The central character and many comic scenes provided the inspiration for Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times. (French with English subtitles) **** VHS: $29.99
À Nous la Liberté
(1992, 60 min, US) An anthology of short films that is a must-see for anyone interested in clay animation. In addition to the several brilliant works featured in this collection, there is also a documentary about the Aardmans' unique style of animation. Their process of "lip-synching" original situations to pre-existing soundtracks results in astonishingly rich films that are both funny and haunting. Includes Nick Parks' Academy Award-winning Creature Comforts.*** VHS: $29.99
Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
(1953, 77 min, US, Charles Lamont)Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Boris Karloff, Reginald Denny. After much success meeting Frankenstein and Captain Kidd, Abbott and Costello set their sights on Robert Louis Stevenson's famous doc and his alter ego. In Victorian London, Bud and Lou are policemen on the trail of Jekyll, or is it Hyde? Some good laughs though the film is not as consistently funny as their earlier efforts. **½ VHS: $14.99
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein
(1949, 83 min, US, Charles Barton)Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney, Jr., Glenn Strange, Jane Randolph. Bud and Lou found great success in this very funny horror spoof. The boys get involved with Frankenstein (Strange), Dracula (Lugosi) and the Wolf Man (Chaney) — even the Invisible Man makes an "appearance." There are plenty of snappy one-liners and silly shenanigans, and Bud and Lou's enjoyment is clearly infectious. ***½ VHS: $14.99
The Abduction from the Seraglio
(1980, 145 min, GB, Dave Heather)Ryland Davies, Willard White, Valerie Masterson, James Hoback, Joachim Bissmeier, Lillian Watson. This extravagant, opulent production of Mozart's opera, staged by the Glyndebourne Festival Opera, features imaginative set design and costuming and joyful, engaging performances propelled by crystalline, mellifluous voices. Belmonte (Davies) seeks to rescue his fiancée Constanze (Masterson), who was captured by pirates and sold to the harem of the Turkish Pasha (Bissmeier). A frothy, pleasantly enjoyable variation on Mozart's recurring theme of tribulations compassionately resolved by a wise and merciful father figure. Featuring the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the Glyndebourne Festival Chorus. ***½ VHS: $29.99
(1977, 105 min, GB, Mike Leigh)Alison Steadman. Steadman stars as an overwrought hostess of a small get-together with the neighbors. The action is filmed on video and never leaves the claustrophobic confines of her living room. As she and her guests top off with gin and tonic after gin and tonic, the sparks begin to fly and her highly strung husband becomes all the more agitated. While the piece is filled with several hilarious moments, the overall tenor becomes more and more nerve-wracking due to Steadman's almost fascistic insistence that her guests "drink up." **½ VHS: $29.99
The Abominable Dr. Phibes
(1971, 94 min, GB, Robert Fuest)Vincent Price, Joseph Cotten, Terry-Thomas, Peter Jeffrey, Hugh Griffith. Price camps it up in one of the few horror films which successfully marries laughs and shivers. Cotten and Terry-Thomas are just two of the victims on whom Price seeks vengeance for his disfigurement and his wife's death. The Art Deco sets give the film a stylish look. (Sequel: Dr. Phibes Rises Again) ***
About Last Night ...
(1986, 113 min, US, Edward Zwick)Rob Lowe, Demi Moore, James Belushi, Elizabeth Perkins, George DiCenzo. David Mamet's play "Sexual Perversity in Chicago" comes to the screen in the form of this sluggish adaptation which fails to fully capture the play's hard edge. Lowe and Moore play Chicago singles who begin an affair, but their relationship suffers from Lowe's lack of commitment. Ditto the film. Belushi and Perkins costar in far more interesting roles as the leads' respective best friends. ** VHS: $14.99; DVD: $29.99
(1943, 90 min, US, Richard Thorpe)Joan Crawford, Fred MacMurray, Conrad Veidt, Basil Rathbone. Crawford takes on the Nazis in this standard but nevertheless compelling spy thriller set in 1939. Joan and Fred are newlyweds on a European honeymoon who are asked to do their part for British intelligence. Up against Crawford, who had the benefit of those shoulders, the Germans never had a chance. *** VHS: $19.99
Above the Law
(1988, 99 min, US, Andrew Davis)Steven Seagal, Pam Grier, Sharon Stone, Henry Silva. The fact that martial arts macho guy Seagal was allowed to make more movies after this, his debut, must be proof of his being above the laws of common sense. Seagal's performance is robotic and difficult to watch and the story that he gets partial credit for is conventional, convoluted and, at times, preachy. On top of all that, the fight scenes here are surprisingly tame. Considering Seagal's much-hyped martial arts pedigree, one might expect at least some flashy moves, but our hero seems almost tentative here, mostly just pushing the cartoonish bad guys to the ground. Director Davis had previously made the half-decent Chuck Norris film Code of Silence and would go on to make The Package and The Fugitive, but here his talents seem to be in hibernation; there are few action sequences of note. ** VHS: $9.99; DVD: $24.99
Absence of Malice
(1981, 116 min, US, Sydney Pollack)Paul Newman, Sally Field, Wilford Brimley, Melinda Dillon, Bob Balaban, Josef Sommer. Newman and Field's first-rate performances distinguish this absorbing social drama about Newman's efforts to clear his name after reporter Field is duped into printing an article falsely implicating him in the murder of a union leader. Dillon gives a touching performance as Newman's girlfriend also affected by the story. Screenwriter Kurt Luedtke (a former reporter) has fashioned an insightful and penetrating treatise on the responsibility of the press and of the manipulation of truth and the media. Brimley nearly steals the show as a no-nonsense prosecutor. *** VHS: $14.99; DVD: $29.99
(1986, 107 min, GB, Julien Temple)Eddie O'Connell, Patsy Kensit, David Bowie, James Fox, Ray Davies, Ege Ferret, Anita Morris, Sade, Slim Gaillard. Temple's rousing musical is a journey into the heart of the swinging teenage scene of London in the late 1950s and the brutal racism which still afflicts that city today. O'Connell stars as a young photographer drawn into the music and fashion worlds; Kensit is the designer he's in love with. Bowie makes a neat cameo as a slick associate of the nefarious Fox, and he sings the title tune, too. The music, as orchestrated by jazz giant Gil Evans, is unbeatable and includes a truly seductive number by Sade. ***½ VHS: $14.99
(1997, 120 min, US, Clint Eastwood)Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, Ed Harris, Laura Linney, Judy Davis, Scott Glenn, Dennis Haysbert, E.G. Marshall. There's more to worry about than campaign finances in President Alan Richmond's White House; the Secret Service has just murdered his girlfriend, and hampering a cover-up is the witness who was hiding in the next room. In Eastwood's sleek, competent thriller, efficiently adapted by William Goldman (based on David Baldacci's novel), politics does indeed breed strange bedfellows. Giving a particularly effacing, witty performance, Eastwood plays Luther Whitney, a thief who is now on the run after witnessing the handywork of President Richmond (played with great vigor and venom by Hackman) and his staff. All of Washington, D.C. becomes a board game of cat and mouse as Whitney tries to elude government agents and the police. That this works at all is testament to director Eastwood — the story isn't always plausible, but it's always in focus. Absolute Power is a wild ride up and down the Beltway all the same. (Available letterboxed and pan & scan) *** VHS: $19.99; DVD: $24.99
(1991-96, 90 min each, GB)Jennifer Saunders, Joanna Lumley. Edina Monsoon (Saunders), actively recuperating from her psychedelic teen years, has never met a fad she didn't like, wear or commit vast quantities of money to. Patsy Stone (Lumley), Eddie's best friend, confidante and leech, consumes drink and drugs as others breathe, and will hump anything with a pulse. They are selfish, manipulative, shameless, contemptuous and completely without any trace of redeeming value save this: They are hysterically funny. They utterly exploit family, friends, employees and indigent nations in their ceaseless quest to acquire things. Any things. Their escapades are punctuated with flashbacks to their youth, when they first became allies against a world burdened with rules, expectations and dress codes. Eddie's daughter Saffron has devised the ultimate rebellion: Utter normalcy. Eddie is also at war with her two ex-husbands and her dotty British mum, while Patsy rails at the ghost of her bohemian mother. Is their frenetic obsession for consumer products driven by the void of existential despair? Are they never satisfied because their real, unrecognized needs are spiritual, not material? Who cares? Pour yourself a glass of wine, darling, and indulge in rude, wickedly funny and extremely witty excess. Just don't look in any mirrors for a while afterwards. All volumes are available in a 7-pack for $99.99 (VHS), or separately for $19.99 each. ***½
Series 1, Part 1: Edina and Patsy discover "Fashion" when they organize a show; Is Edina getting "Fat"? It's time to exercise, or liposuction; The girls are bound for "France" but this vacation isn't exactly what they had in mind.
Series 1, Part 2: Eddie's daughter is graduating, and she's stuck in an "Iso Tank"; It's Eddie's "Birthday," and life isn't beginning very well at 40; In "Magazine," Eddie has a new boyfriend, and it's not fair that Patsy doesn't have one.
Series 2, Part 1: Patsy has to look 35 for a magazine article, so is it a trip to "Hospital" to do it?; In "Death," Eddie's father dies, but is it art?; Eddie and Patsy take a trip to "Morocco" on a fashion shoot.
Series 2, Part 2: "New Best Friend" finds old friends coming to visit; Will Eddie be "Poor" when her two ex-husbands cut her off?: Eddie thinks Saffron's ready to give "Birth" when she discovers the teen may have a boyfriend.
Series 3, Part 1: Will Edina fly all the way to New York just to purchase a "Doorhandle"?; It's all for fun and fun for all as Eddie and Patsy have a "Happy New Year"; The girls have "Sex" on the brain when they plan an orgy to get in touch with their inner selves.
Series 3, Part 2: Model Naomi Campbell appears as Eddie gets "Jealous"; "Fear" is all that's left when Patsy threatens to move to New York; It's "The End" when Eddie searches for Patsy in New York.
"The Last Shout": The very final episode of "Absolutely Fabulous." Edina's near-death experience on the Alpine slopes couple with daughter Saffron's impending marriage bring out Eddie's own inimitable brand on mother love and caretaking. Another frenetic, high-octane ride through the pop-cultural morass of the late 20th century. The two-episode tape runs 100 minutes.
(1978, 105 min, GB, Anthony Page)Richard Burton, Dominic Guard, Dai Bradley, Billy Connelly. Another wicked thriller from Anthony Shaffer, the author of Sleuth. Burton stars as a "holier-than-thou" priest whose teaching efforts at a Catholic boarding school are mocked by his mischievous star pupil, with tragic results. Though made in 1978, the film was not released in this country until 1988, four years after Burton's death. *** VHS: $9.99
(1983, 85 min, US, Arthur Bressan, Jr.)Richard Ryder, Raphael Sbarge. This daring, powerful yet sensitive account of a battered adolescent's coming to grips with his abusive parents and his awakening homosexuality caused quite a stir in the gay community with its positive approach to man/boy love. While filming a documentary on child abuse for his master's thesis, 35-year-old Larry (Ryder) meets 14-year-old Thomas (Sbarge), the victim of abuse from his violent mother and father. The two become close, with Thomas beginning a healing process with the help of the older filmmaker. Their nurturing relationship, spurred by the advances of Thomas, eventually turns to love. Faced with certain breakup and, for Thomas, more beatings, they flee together to San Francisco. A controversial film which isn't quite as incendiary as it may appear. *** VHS: $39.99
(1989, 145 min, US, James Cameron)Ed Harris, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Michael Biehn, Leo Burmester, Todd Graff. Outstanding special effects and production design highlight this suspenseful underwater science-fiction adventure. Though Cameron combines the same excitement and tension he created in Aliens and The Terminator, he shifts the pace halfway through the film, and the result is a heart-pounding thriller which gradually becomes an under-the-sea E.T. Harris stars as the commander of an oil rigging outfit who makes contact with an alien being. Forget the similarly themed Deep Star Six and the silly Leviathan which came before it, for this is far superior entertainment. (Letterboxed version of the director's cut is available for $19.99) *** VHS: $9.99
(1961, 120 min, Italy, Pier Paolo Pasolini)Franco Citti, Franca Pasut, Silvana Corsini. Pasolini's first feature film is a harrowing, realistic and unsentimental look inside the slums of Rome, where its denizens — the prostitutes, hustlers and petty thieves — attempt to eke out an existence any way they can. Within this underworld of corruption is Accattone (Citti), a young pimp who is torn between the easy pickings on the street and his efforts, motivated by love, to go straight. A brutal slice-of-life film which documents Pasolini's lifelong obsession with the outcasts of society, an obsession which eventually led to his death in 1975 at the hands of a man not unlike Accattone. Pasolini was assisted on the film by a young Bernardo Bertolucci. (Italian with English subtitles) ***½ VHS: $29.99
Excerpted from TLA Film and Video Guide by David Bleiler. Copyright © 1999 TLA Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.