Rockie’s Vulcan Staff Picks #5 with Guest Contributor Pat Healy
A while back, I asked actor Pat Healy (The Innkeepers, Cheap Thrills) to select a few films for my staff picks shelf at Vulcan Video, in Austin, TX. To my surprise, he said yes and blessed my shelf with amazing film gems from various genres. Well, he’s back, this time he's gracious enough to offer selections for my Vulcan Staff Picks column. I implore you to take his selections to heart. The man just loves cinema and would never steer you wrong. So, here are Pat's choices, followed by mine, and I suggest you marathon them as soon as possible.
Pat Healy’s Picks
Twentieth Century (1934)
For my money, the best of the 'screwball comedies,' featuring career-high work by director Howard Hawks, and actors John Barrymore and Carole Lombard. Screwball comedies handle comedy, like film noirs handle tragedy—characters, through their best efforts, only end up making things worse for themselves and everyone around them.
Cutter’s Way (1981)
The last of the 70s noirs. Directed by Ivan Passer, Cutter’s Way is sort of a tragic precursor to The Big Lebowski, if you will. Burnout Jeff Bridges inadvertently stumbles into a crime perhaps committed by an extremely wealthy man. His PTSD-inflicted Vietnam veteran best friend (John Heard) pulls him deeper into the mire with his delusions of grandeur—or are they?—and war-induced hatred of the rich and powerful. Dynamite stuff.
The Boston Strangler (1968)
If you love David Fincher's Zodiac, you will love this, as it surely must have been an inspiration. A journalistic-minded dissection of the crimes and how they were eventually solved, in the notorious case of one of the most bizarre mass murder sprees in US history.
The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976)
Ben Gazzara gives one of the great performances in film history as strip club owner and degenerate gambler Cosmo Vitelli, in John Cassavetes’ The Killing of a Chinese Bookie. We follow Cosmo through one fateful, desperate night as he tries to repay his debts in the worst way possible.
Quick Change (1990)
Perhaps the most underrated comedy ever made, and to this date Murray's only directorial effort, sharing duties with co-director Howard Franklin. Three bank robbers (Murray, Geena Davis, Randy Quaid) pull off the heist of a lifetime with relative ease, only to face comic disaster after disaster in their quest to get to the airport through the hellish nightmare that is New York City. Pursued by dogged police commissioner Jason Robards, the crew runs afoul of the likes of Stanley Tucci, Phil Hartman, Bob Elliott, Tony Shaloub and Kurtwood Smith, just to name but a few.
Deep Cover (1992)
Bill Duke is probably best known for his amazing performance in Predator and, speaking of Arnie, his villainous turn in Commando. He did however direct a few films and hot damn is his Deep Cover amazing. A shady DEA agent sends Laurence Fishburne undercover to bust a smuggling ring. Along the way, he links up with an overly ambitious lawyer, played perfectly by Jeff Goldblum and things begin to take off right away. In a treacherous game of cops posing as robbers and civilians diving head first into the crime world. Who will come out on top unscathed? This entire film is worth it for Jeff Goldblum alone. He rarely plays a heavy in his films and here he is extremely nasty. He clearly portrays a straight-laced guy who is perverted by crime. Years later, Sean Penn would play a similar character in Carlito’s Way, which is also worth seeing. A kick-ass piece of 90s crime cinema with a killer soundtrack; Deep Cover is a must see.
The Rocketeer (1991)
The Rocketeer is a beautiful throwback to the era of fighting Nazis for Uncle Sam, only this time our golden hero has huge upper hand, with advanced cutting edge technology on his side. The character design, with his jetpack and shark like helmet, looks unique as well as stunning. I’m pretty sure someone at Marvel saw this film and knew director Joe Johnston would replicate The Rocketeer’s pulp aesthetic for Captain America: The First Avenger. This is easily one of my favorite live action Disney films, up there with 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea; both are extremely confident in approach and visual style. You also cannot go wrong with Jennifer Connelly as the love interest and Timothy Dalton playing the champagne villain. This one is a constant joy.
The Blood of Heroes (1989)
In a post-apocalyptic future, respect is earned through a brutal sport called Jugging, where contestants wear armor and wield weapons, and in order to score you must slam a dog’s skull on a spike. This is the madness that is The Blood of Heroes, aka The Salute of the Jugger. Rutger Hauer leads actors Delroy Lindo, Joan Chen and a shockingly young Vincent D’Onofrio through the bombed-out wasteland seeking out matches hoping to earn the right to play at the League, the highest level a Jugger can obtain. A hard-earned journey with a killer payoff, this underdog team will win you over and have you eventually rooting for them. Also of note, this film was conceived by writer/director David Webb Peoples, who’s writing credits include Blade Runner, Leviathan, and 12 Monkeys. Here he brings us the Mad Max football film you never knew you needed. If you follow this link, you'll hear me talk about this movie more in an episode of The Vulcan Vault.
He Got Game (1998)
In hopes of landing the next legend, star players are constantly being pulled left and right by shady dealings or illegal incentives. In He Got Game, a father (Denzel Washington), who went to prison for the accidental murder of his wife, is asked to recruit his son for a team, in order to commute is sentence. After being locked up for years, he returns home to try and achieve the impossible. His son has not forgiven him and his prison life has tainted his soul, making him quite volatile. Two of director Spike Lee’s greatest achievements are in this film: the opening credit sequence that shows people playing basketball across the nation with a swelling score by Aaron Copland, and a montage that illustrates the various traps in the inner city, that he would later perfect in 25th Hour. He Got Game is a sobering look at a sport that affects millions, yet can be truly intimate.
Duran Duran: Arena (An Absurd Notion) (1985)
A concert film with a narrative, Duran Duran: Arena (An Absurd Notion) is an odd attempt, but a wholly admirable one. Aussie director Russell Mulchay has a very interesting filmography. Highlander and Razorback stand out. He even has a Resident Evil film and Teen Wolf episodes under his belt. Back in the 80s, Duran Duran were on top of the world, selling millions of albums and concert tickets. Enter Mulcahy with the music video magic. He would shoot three of their videos and help make the band a household name. His filmography coupled with his music video history with the band allowed them to try something different. Arena has a sci-fi narrative, with an evil doctor no less, which is interwoven with a stadium performance, affecting both the audience and band members. Can Duran Duran save themselves and their screaming fans from a madman? Also, might this be a Fury Road influence? Reaching, I'm sure, but it kind of feels right.