The last few months I’ve been finding some killer deals on used VHS (and even DVD) movies. The VHS tapes of course are cheap because the movie rental places are starting to clear their own inventories of them to make room for DVD’s, while the DVD’s (well some DVD’s) are on the cheap because lots of older movies are now being released on DVD to generate $ for the movie companies.

So anyway, here are a few of my recent finds. . .

Empire Records – I forgot how good that movie was. Parts of it are of course rather silly and unbelievable but those parts kinda make it more endearing too. (btw, I really love that word “endearing.” One of my friends uses that word a lot and it has rubbed off on me.) — By far though the star of the movie is the music. Listening to that really takes me back in time. I think the mid-1990’s were the peak for good music. It’s all gone down here since then.

Return to Me – I really dug this movie because first and foremost Minnie Driver is in it (she is such a neat actress and has such a cool look about her). I also liked it because it was a good love story (I know it’s against male stereotypes but I love good love stories) and because of the way the movie portrayed older people. So few movies today portray the realities of intergenerational American life in an affectionate and warm way.

The Graduate – I’m probably the last person in America to not have seen this movie so I won’t bother reviewing it other than to make a couple of points. First that movie depicted the confusion of being in the early 20’s to a T, or at least it described my experience pretty well. (Of course I didn’t have a Mrs. Robinson around to screw with my head, but if I did I would have gotten in just as much trouble at that age.)

Secondly, the music made the movie. Simon & Garfunkel blow me away.

Finally, what I dug most about the movie was the filmmakers created such memorable scenes… the seduction scene (so sexy without showing much of anything), the swimming pool scene when Ben was looking up at his parents and the Robinsons, the confrontation by Mr. Robinson, and especially the wedding scene at the end.

Even for today that last scene (fighting off the family with the cross) would be very edgy. I’m amazed they got away with it in the 60’s.

Angel and the Badman – a classic film that starred John Wayne (who also produced) and the Gail Russell (I think is one the most beautiful women who have ever walked the face of the earth).

Here’s a couple of review from that do a pretty good job of explaining why I dig this movie so much:

    How can you go wrong with a movie featuring the great Harry Carey as a philosophical lawman named Wistful McClintock? Well sir (or ma’am), you can’t, and this first production from John Wayne’s personal unit at Republic is simply one of the loveliest Westerns anybody ever made. The producer-star plays gunslinger Quirt Evans who, wounded by his archrival Laredo Stevens (Bruce Cabot), is taken in and sheltered by a Quaker family–in particular, by the daughter of the household, a dark-eyed angel (Gail Russell) who could entice Satan himself to the path of virtue. Not that these good people get pushy about converting “Brother Evans.” For his part, Marshal McClintock, who’s amiably looked forward to hanging Quirt someday, keeps dropping by to see which happens first–Quirt’s reformation, or Laredo’s return to finish the job he started.

    Entrusting the direction to screenwriter James Edward Grant, Wayne bolstered Grant’s debut by tapping Yakima Canutt to handle the hard-riding second-unit stuff. The Duke also stole a few moves from a little project he’d been working on with Howard Hawks, Red River. Such larceny may have been superfluous. Grant wrote far and away the best script Wayne had ever had at Republic, creating a gallery of memorable characters (including comparative bystanders) and developing some very entertaining business for them–especially for such juicy character actors as Paul Hurst (the Quakers’ mean-spirited neighbor), Olin Howlin (a braggadocious telegraph operator), and Hank Worden. The result was a minor classic deftly blending humor, romance, authentic sweetness, and just enough leathery menace to keep things on the generic up-and-up. This one’s a real treat. –Richard T. Jameson

    The ‘feel good’ caliber of this western classic is second to none. You’ll come to appreciate almost every character- and especially that of Gail Russell’s.

    The spiritual themes and qualities that imbue the lives of the film’s charitable Quaker family are irresistible and give the film its special charm. Gail Russell, in her radiant prime, is immortalized in the role of Penny, the Quaker daughter who is willing to abandon her sheltered life for Wayne, but not her principles. Often a silent performance- her eyes communicate deeply what’s in her heart. She brings a thoughtful, heartfelt presence to the film that is unforgettable, and nearly steals every scene she’s in. John Wayne is also in top form and demonstrates his understated comedic talent here better than ever. (There’s plenty of humorous scenes sprinkled throughout the film. Even the bad guys wry humor and sarcasm make for comic moments)

    Harry Carey plays a dogged, Columbo like lawman who is shadowing Wayne, looking for a good excuse to “hang him with a new rope”, a fitting honor on account of how much he respects him. Dialogue is excellent with some memorable one-liners like the reference to Wayne as a fellow who has “closed the eyes of many a man, and opened the eyes of many a woman”.

    The story has good episodic development, with interesting plot twists and timely changes of pace that allow the film to stand up to repeat viewings. Even the obligatory bar room brawl and ultimate showdown are set up uniquely and carried out in a refreshing manner. And did I mention Gail Russell? Check out the timeless scene of her tending to the lamb in the barn. Lord have mercy. I’m ready for farmer school.

    – Gary K from Anchorage, Alaska

The great thing about this movie is that you can snag it for $5.99 at Wal-mart (boy I hate that joint, but they do got some good deals) as part of an 11 movie set featuring some of John Wayne’s older movies. (the only one though that is any good is Angel and the Badman)

  • Also while on the subject of movies, check out It is interesting and worth reading even when you don’t agree with them.