Rockie’s Vulcan Video Staff Picks #2
Rockie has been working at one of the last video stores standing, Vulcan Video in Austin, TX, for nearly a decade. The best part about working there is being able to share a recommendation with a customer. Sure, some of his recommendations have been shot down in flames, but the ones that hit always make it well worthwhile. Here are a few selections he has mined from the mighty Vulcan Video.
Bringing Out the Dead (1999)
Want the kind of job that will taint your soul forever? Try being an EMT in Hell's Kitchen for a long stretch. Director Martin Scorsese and Mega-Actor Nic Cage deliver a monster of an adaptation, based on Joe Connelly's novel with the same name. Nic Cage plays Frank Pierce and, boy, does he sell this broken man character, who just wants to save lives but is haunted by those he could not. In my experience, it seems that most people land on different Scorsese films as their favorites over this one, or at least it is never held up in the same regard as his more successful films. I find this unfortunate because the raw style it brings to the table is undeniable. Perfectly shot and yes, great needle drops, Bringing Out The Dead is as great as its movie poster suggests, which is a rare thing for a ton of cinema. Very potent work on display here. Not to be missed.
Miracle Mile (1988)
Miracle Mile is a perfect gem of a film. Harry Washello, played by Anthony Edwards, may have fallen in love with a waitress of his dreams Julie Peters, played by Mare Winningham. They agree to go on a date later that evening. All seems to be well in Harry's world. That is until he answers a random pay phone's siren-like call. On the other end is a hysterical man warning of a nuclear attack on the city of Los Angeles; the missiles are already in the air and there is nothing that will stop them. Harry decides to run into the hectic metropolis to save Julie before it is too late. The gauntlet Harry must face in order to find Julie is so insane. Characters who have zero knowledge of this attack are basically in la la land, providing obstacles or divine guidance. Easily one of the greatest films to come out of 1988. Those familiar with Cloverfield will see it owes its soul to Miracle Mile. The nukes are the Kaiju and scrambling into Hell to save someone you love is the name of the game. Dark and romantic as all get-out.
Babe: Pig in the City (1998)
For those who only know George Miller for that magical Mad Max saga, I implore you to find, watch and study Babe: Pig in the City. Miller just works magic with his camera, framing things flawlessly and punching them up with gorgeous colors. Here Miller and company are running on all cylinders, making you care about a pig and his hustle to save a farm for his endearing masters. The momentum it maintains is dreamlike, keeping you in a kids film yet unafraid to be scary as life. It can no doubt teach the deeper lessons in life that way. Yes, it's a bunch of talking animals, but you will give a damn about their well-being throughout. I always loved that Gene Siskel chose this as his film of the year in 1998 because it inspired me to see it. Dude was onto something. I've found that it pairs well with Paddington.
Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (2000)
Confession. I never watched a single episode of Batman Beyond , it's a show I completely missed out on. Like most sane people, I loved Batman: The Animated Series, and I dug most of the DC Animated stuff that flowed out soon after, so I dove into Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker and holy shit. This cartoon goes to some dark places (heads up, parents), but gives us one of the best Batman stories and fully reminds you why The Joker is the scariest monster in Bat's Rogue Gallery. Mark Hamill's virtuoso performance only further proves he was born to play this character, as he steals the show from the regular Batman Beyond cast. This addition to that old animated lore you treasure deserves praise for being able to stand on its own and be a bit more adult with the medium. Worth it for the flashback sequence and Hamill just having a ball with a character he completely understands and owns.
Rock & Rule (1983)
An animated film out of Canada that received no love in the distribution department. Thankfully, it developed a sweet cult following over the years through home video. Released in 1983, Rock & Rule is an inspiring yarn where humanity nukes itself to shit and mutated talking animals take over the Earth. Sounds cool, I know. They also play rock & roll with dangerous demon-summoning results. All of this madness completely works because the craft and design are ridiculously strong. Fluid animation backed by a staggering soundtrack, this thing still looks beautiful so many years later. That soundtrack I mentioned? Cheap Trick, Blondie, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed and (my personal favorite) Earth Wind & Fire are all part of this fascinating project. It's like a Heavy Metal episode that keeps on going, never transitioning into another sci-fi horror segment. Bucket list: please host a screening of this one day at one of my favorite theaters, I'll be there.