DVDs are fun to watch and when they contain movies, wowie! There are still lots of good things back in around about the way of last year you shouldn't go and miss. I'm Paul and here are mine!
ANVIL: THE STORY OF ANVIL
Anvil played my high school way back and I’ve always had a soft spot for this hard ‘n’ heavy metal band who refused to quit after years of wallowing in the bar circuit. Their mission was to “make it big” despite everyone telling them they should just put it to rest. Filmed by a fan that Anvil befriended when he was just a teen, this finely crafted doc is an inspirational showcase of the never-say-die attitude. They might only be recognized now because of this movie, but at least their dream of music being their day job is now a reality. You’ll laugh – you’ll cry – you’ll bang thy head!
Part covert spy thriller and part eco-expose, The Cove made the most impact on me of any single documentary in 2009. A small fishing town in rural Japan hides a very big secret that the locals go to great lengths to keep that way. Former dolphin trainer turned dolphin liberator Ric O’Barry joins a team of filmmakers who use a variety of ingenious undercover methods to document the town’s outrageous activities. I’m glad this movie was made, but getting through it sure ain’t easy. Viewing, however, is important and necessary. The DVD extra Mercury Rising is a scary cherry on top of this shocking doc.
EXTERMINATING ANGEL, THE
Continuing with their ever impressive output of releases, Criterion unveiled the first official release of Luis Bunuel’s surrealist cinematic masterstroke. A group of high society partygoers attend a posh to-do, but at the end of the gathering, they find they lack the ability to leave. I was completely unnerved and unsettled as Bunuel subtly turns the screws to construct an atmosphere of eerie unease.
FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE, THE
Never before available, this crime drama from 1973 stars Robert Mitchum as Eddie, a desperate hoodlum fighting to stay out of jail by co-operating with the cops and passing over info. The life of a snitch is complicated and Eddie tries his best to get through this situation with his body parts intact. Directed by Peter Yates (Bullitt, The Dresser) and co-starring Peter Boyle in one of his great understated roles, The Friends of Eddie Coyle is solid 70s cinema. Criterion gets kudos for bringing this otherwise hard to find gem to our televisions.
HUMPDAY/MY EFFORTLESS BRILLIANCE
I’m sneaking 2 movies into 1, but 2009 was the year I saw my first “mumblecore” movie. These are simply shot, dialogue driven indies where the script and acting are given top priority over the visuals. Mumbling all the way is Lynn Shelton, who both directed and shot this double bill. Both films are hilarious and authentic and I found myself feeling that the characters were people I knew. Every day stuff that, if assembled by someone without serious talent, would come off as boring and lame.
This one will probably show up in a few HYS… staff picks and rightfully so. The IRA prison hunger strike of 1981 is nailed to the screen by first time director Steve McQueen (not that one, of course) where it hangs stark and dripping in all of its visceral glory. The confines of the space provided will not allow me to praise Hunger strongly enough. You owe it to yourself to not merely watch, but to experience this most jarring film.
IRON MAIDEN: FLIGHT 666
Two heavy metal movies make the top of the year? You betcha! Not content to get old and let the royalty cheques pour in, IRON MAIDEN set out on the most ambitious tours ever. India, Australia, Japan, North and South America… And who flew the plane to get them there? Lead singer Bruce Dickinson, who also just happens to be a commercial pilot. Great footage, backstage access and a second disc containing a live performance from each stop on the tour! Can I Play With Madness? Yes, fellow metalhead, you can.
I’ve never been one to bite my nails, but for the duration of Julia, I chomped my slabs of keratin into bloody submission! The always versatile Tilda Swinton stars as a seriously desperate woman who just can’t stop making really bad decisions. These choices take her on a frightening journey involving all sorts of highly outrageous activities that made a boring couch potato such as me need to sleep for a week after the credits rolled. Solid as a rock thriller!
LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD
We longed to have this mesmerizing movie by French auteur Alain Resnais in our collection from the beginning of Have You Seen… It took until 2009 for us to get our grubby little mitts on it due to availability issues. And what a sight and edition to behold! Yet again, Criterion comes through with a stunning transfer and a second disc of mind-busting extras. The plot? Can’t tell you for sure. The movie? A complete visual masterpiece. You just need to block off a chunk of time, climb onto your favourite sitting apparatus and let you jaw hang low. I plan on revisiting it again soon and sharing it with someone I love. Someone other than myself.
PHANTASM 2/NIGHT OF THE CREEPS
Two of my fave 80s scream flicks previously unavailable on DVD made their way to the format in 2009. Night of the Creeps (1986) is a prime example of what made horror films of the decade so enjoyable. Gross outs, laughs and super wicked one-liners. Phantasm 2 (1988) is my pick of the series. By no means a great film, but it’s totally fun and captures ‘the vibe’ so many recent horror movies lack. And since it includes a decent recap of the first film, you can enjoy it without having seen the original (which I also happen to really love). “The funeral is about to begin!”