Rockie's Vulcan Video Staff Picks for August 2017
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. For his Staff Picks, he has a few selections mined from the mighty Vulcan Video.
Fantastic Planet (1973)
A true dream of a film, Fantastic Planet has a peerless sci-fi structure that is completely unbound thanks to animation matching the imagination on display. Huge aliens keep humans as pets, often killing them from playing too rough. One human rebels after utilizing some of the aliens’ technology, setting in motion an awakening of man. Fantastic Planet looks like no other animated feature ever made with a hand drawn beauty that looks stellar no matter what year you pop it in. In a sea of remakes, I am kind of surprised no one has attacked this gem yet in a world with Avatar and Valerian. Tons of weird and scary shit to mine from.
The Last of the Mohicans (1992)
Michael Mann, for me, had managed to make a film where the score and image connected in a heartstopping way, permanently searing unforgettable images into my mind. The raw human emotion placed on top of the constant realism Mann strives for makes for some engaging adventure cinema with The Last of the Mohicans. The way this film ratchets towards its climax always felt like a magic trick. By the time we hit this sequence, the audience is fully invested in these characters that have been rambling across a harsh America. I saw My Left Foot and this in close proximity and basically thought Daniel Day Lewis was Satan himself, too charming and real to classify. There is a Director’s Definitive Cut out there which is quite good, but I prefer the version I saw in theaters three times, thank you very much.
Three Kings (1999)
Captain Jerkbeast David O. Russell has never topped his 1999 hit, Three Kings. It has a psychedelic approach to the Persian Gulf War that felt fresh at the time of release and has aged rather well. Never boring in the visual department, Three Kings has strong action sequences with some crazy characters to back it. George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube and Spike Jonze (kitchen sink cast) go after a cache of gold after pulling a treasure map out of a prisoner of war’s anus. It only gets crazier when they attach bombs to fucking footballs blowing up helicopters because of course they do. It may be morally all over the place but it manages to stick the landing regardless, Three Kings just works despite the reported on set fights. Worth it for Spike Jonze, whose character Conrad Vig might be in the running for most fascinating redneck to ever grace cinema.
Being John Malkovich (1999)
Speaking of Spike Jonze, I skateboarded through most of high school, so of course I watched a lot of skate videos. Along came this batch of creative skate videos with great soundtracks from Team Girl that had Spike Jonze's name constantly popping up. A fan before the leap to music videos, I was beyond excited for his first feature film. Still, nothing could prepare me for the masterwork that is Being John Malkovich, as the creativity on display was too incredible to deny. Charlie Kaufman’s script was a daunting monster and it was still handled flawlessly by the first time filmmaker. Jonze with a style that can only be described as a child-on-too-much-sugar played the weirdness very straight, not making light of the raw human emotion dwelling within.
Road to Perdition (2002)
My favorite Sam Mendes by a country mile and quite possibly the classiest graphic novel adaptation. Tom Hanks goes against type playing Michael Sullivan, a very dangerous mob enforcer capable of carrying out horrific shit. After getting into a pickle with the Boss’ son, an insane and deplorable Daniel Craig, Sullivan is forced to flee with his boy riding shotgun. Together they go on a revenge spree that moves along like a tommy gun fairy tale with a variety of odd characters along the road. This would be the legendary Conrad Hall’s (Director of Photography) final film unfortunately, but never fear, Road to Perdition still contains some of the best shots ever captured in his intimidating career. Everything in Road to Perdition adds up to something special with real craft on display from all involved. If a customer wants a comic book film, I usually recommend this to see the look on their faces.