Take Five
By George Rose
June 16, 2009

The only thing better than a catfight is a catfight complete with 80s hair!

It's the same old song and dance this week. No time for the beach, no time to watch all the great movies out there and not time to take a five minute break for myself. My brother's big fat Greek wedding (no joke, two Greek families are about to collide) is this upcoming Saturday, June 20th and my family has been running around like chickens with their heads cut off. From tux fittings, to some family visitors arriving A WEEK EARLY, to finally getting my hair cut, to working 13 hours at the restaurant so I can leave with only $20 in my pocket, to blah blah blah blah blah. The weeks are never gentle or forgiving, and are always filled with obligations and "last minute favors". There is always something to do. Two weeks ago I was so busy that I relegated the five films selected to what I discovered on our newly installed Verizon Fios cable TV. Last week I tried making up for it by using my day off to write more than you all cared to read. This week, it's another wham-bam quickie.

Today I had a three hour break between shifts so I went to the mall to get my hair cut. They didn't have any immediate openings but they said there was one available in an hour. It wasn't worth going home for that hour so I figured I'd go to the only place I love as much as the movie theater... Best Buy. I still had a $50 Visa Gift Card that was given to me a few weeks back at my graduation party and decided to finally spend it. First stop, the Blu-Ray DVD section. I wanted to make the most of this $50 gift card since the restaurant I work at pays me pennies, and was determined to avoid purchasing anything new and buy only what was on sale. Did you know you can get some awesome Blu-Ray DVDs for just $10-15? Now is the time to start building your high definition collection if you haven't begun already. Standard definition is so last season. Here is what I purchased:

The Untouchables (1987)

I only learned of this movie about a month ago. See, the thing is I'm not really into mob-movies. I understand their appeal but for some reason am just incapable of enjoying them. I wasn't even a huge fan of The Godfather. I know it's a "classic" but I still just can't for the life of me seem to remove my prejudice of all things mobster. That was until I saw The Untouchables. Maybe it was because I was partying with friends and we were all a bit intoxicated but I agreed to watch the movie and enjoyed it nonetheless.

It's a fictionalized tale of a federal agent (Kevin Costner) who is set on bringing down the legendary Al Capone. He and his group of Untouchable misfits (including Charles Martin Smith, Andy Garcia and Sean Connery) quickly learn that Capone is legend for a reason and begin dying off while attempting to have the mob boss convicted of tax evasion. Funny how mobsters always have the time to slay the innocent but never can spare the time necessary to do proper accounting, right? While the plot isn't one that would normally draw me in, the acting and one-liners are incredible. Sean Connery won a supporting Academy Award for his role as Malone but will be remembered by my friends and I for his epic delivery of "you're muckin' with a G here pal!" It may not make sense now but you will feel the weight of that line as soon as you hear it.

In any case, I had already picked up two other Blu-Ray movies (still to come on this list) and could afford one more with my gift card. There was only one copy of The Untouchables left and it was in my price range so I purchased it. I'd say I'll loan it to you but that probably won't happen. In any case, if you're a fan of mob-movies you'll most likely enjoy The Untouchables. If you're not a fan, then maybe this is the movie to help you cross the threshold too.

Total Recall (1990)

The first movie that was on sale that I picked up was Total Recall and for very good reason. It is a yearly tradition for me and my college buddies to go to Vermont on Christmas break to stay at my friend's ski house. The tradition had been in place for a few years before I become friends with the guy but I was introduced to a new way of watching movies: on endless repeat. As it turns out, part of their tradition is to pick one movie that will stay on the TV all weekend as we ski and drink ourselves stupid. On my first trip to Vermont with the crew, the film they selected was Total Recall.

I had already seen the movie several times but never ten times in two days. Surprisingly, the movie just gets better and better (or did we just get more and more drunk?). The movie is about a man named Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger, of course), an Earthling who continues to have dreams about Mars. Assuming it's his subconscious telling him he'd like to be there, he visits "Rekall Inc", a place that promises to deliver the most vivid vacation dream sequence. From there, the first-time viewer isn't sure whether he wakes up into his own real life action or if he is stuck in the dream. Either way, we get to watch Schwarzenegger travel to Mars to find answers about his desire to be on Mars and why there are Martians trying to kill him.

While The Untouchables may have been enjoyable because of the influence I was under, booze had nothing to do with Total Recall's entertainment value. There are tons of aliens, plot twists, conspiracies and action sequences that will keep you on the edge of your seat throughout, and plenty of humor to help wash it all down. Nobody does action like Arnold and no party is complete without Total Recall playing in circles in the background.

American Psycho (2000)

Remember when Christian Bale wasn't famous enough to scream obscenities at the production crew from atop his high horse and get away with it? I do, and one of the roles for which I will best remember him (no, not Batman) was in American Psycho, the third Blu-Ray I purchased on my Best Buy excursion. Based on the book of the same name, Bale stars as Patrick Bateman, a wealthy Wall Street investment banker with a screw loose. The problem is, we aren't really sure which screw is loose.

The movie begins with his seemingly normal, high-society life and quickly becomes a downward spiral of delusion as he realizes how boring and pointless it all really is. As a form of excitement, he begins killing without reason and in the most brutal ways (though I haven't read it, I've heard the book is far more graphic than the already disturbing film). By the end, we come to learn that he is so crazy he may have made the whole thing up in his head. Is he a deranged murderer or simply deranged? Though we never can be sure, Bale delivers a brilliant, believable turn as a man on the brink of madness. The mystery itself isn't why the movie is appealing so much as the hilarity of the character presented. From his shallow views of society to his homicidal rants, Bateman is both the banker and the slayer we all perversely idolize though hopefully have nowhere inside of us. I had never thought to say it before the film but have yelled "don't just stare at it, EAT IT!" to several friends since. If you know what I'm quoting and just laughed, then we're on the same page. If not, go rent the movie (or purchase it at Best Buy for $10) as soon as possible. You may find yourself buying bone-white business cards by the end of it. At the very least, you'll forgive Bale for being an out of control A-list star and remember the acting-root-rungs he climbed to get on top of that pedestal.

Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny (2006)

The total of the previous three films came to $35. Not bad for three great movies, considering a new Blu-Ray release goes for that same price (and really, who is trying to buy He's Just Not That Into You this week?). I used the remainder of my gift certificate to get new headphones for my iPod and the remainder of my time walking through the standard definition DVDs. One thing I noticed was that so many of the movies being sold are from the last two or three decades. There is very little offered from the past before that, which is quite sad since it makes it that much more difficult for me to find, watch and recommend those "classics" certain people keep nagging me about.

Instead of searching harder I landed on Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny. If you want an award winner, go back to the top of my list and check out The Untouchables. If you're young enough to appreciate the occasional insanity that is Jack Black, then you'll love this pick. Tenacious D is the musical genius of Black and his buddy Kyle Glass (you may have head/downloaded the song "Fk Her Gently"). After releasing a few of their unforgettable tunes, they decided to unite and make a movie loosely based on their adventures together. In order to become the band they know they have deep inside them, they set out on a mission to get the Pick of Destiny, made from the chipped tooth of Satan.

The road there and back is full of hilarious vocals, out-of-this-world guitar riffs, sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll. Once scene, involving JB tripping on mushrooms, is particularly mesmerizing as he flies through the air as Sasquatch's son. Little deep thought is required to invest in the film but the payoff is massive... if you have an appreciation for mindless humor. I can't judge if you don't, seeing as how I personally don't enjoy mobster movies, but for those seeking high times with some friends I recommend you try this Pick of Destiny.

Zombie Strippers (2008)

A lot of great movies aren't released into theaters. Most direct-to-DVD movies aren't worth the time of day but some are sent straight to the shelves because of their inability to tap into the mainstream. That doesn't mean they aren't entertaining. It just means not enough people would pay to see it, it doesn't expect any Academy Award nominations, or it's too graphic and would probably be slapped with an NC-17 rating. One of those releases is Zombie Strippers. I happened to pass this DVD while rummaging the isles of Best Buy and remembered having rented it from Netflix during my senior year of college (who can resist such a tempting title?).

The plot is extremely simple: in the near future, a government agency creates a dead-cell-reanimating virus to help bring back soldiers that were lost in one of the many unnecessary wars being fought at the time. Naturally, the virus is unleashed. This is the start to many of the zombie horror films we know today but shows a side of the spread unlike anything we've ever seen. Rather than show a post-apocalyptic view of the aftermath, we are introduced to the notion of zombie strippers. The virus finds itself in the town of Sartre, Nebraska, and more specifically, in one of their underground strip clubs. After a stripper catches the infection (I'm still talking about the zombie virus, people), we learn how perverse this small town really is. Zombie is the newest and most exciting fetish these townsfolk have ever seen and they begin rallying behind the undead dancers instead of the clean white trash. Should the uninfected stars conform to the latest craze and reap the monetary benefits or should they keep their "class" and go bankrupt for the sake of morality? What do you think they decide?

The movie stars horror icon Robert Englund (of Nightmare on Elm Street fame) and porn-legend Jenna Jameson (of... well... porn fame), so there is some fanboy fun to be had here, but surprisingly has no sex scenes whatsoever. The worst you'll find here is nudity and torn flesh, which is pretty typical of any other horror movie these days. What makes the film worth watching is how the virus makes the strippers perform. There are dance moves and acrobatics (and sure, some semblance of a plot) that will leave you uninterested in our own reality's version of gentlemen's clubs. Don't be fooled, though - this half-risque/half-horror film is purely for the sake of laughs. Not much is scary and not much is actually something to be turned on by, but how often do you get to see zombie strippers? Isn't the point of film the show us what we can't see in our own reality? And boy, does this film show it!

Like I've said before in previous articles, I don't have a list of my favorite movies ever that I pick from and I'm not running down the 100 picked by AMC. I simply go through my week, try my hardest to find a five minute break to write an article (more like a few hours), and see what movies come to mind that are of entertainment, not necessarily critical, value. There is something here for everyone (an award winner, an action adventure, a character piece, a comedy, and even a movie about zombie strippers). You should probably watch some of these first before judging my selections, since I'm sure you'll like at least one of these, but if you're mind is already made up and you don't think any of these are for you then check back next week for another random selection of films I'm fond of.