Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Video Store Grab 'n' Run: It All Begins With 'A'

In my neverending halfhearted search to see every film ever made, I thought this column would be a good idea. My only criteria would be that I have not seen a handful of videos before, just grab them and run. I started with the letter "A," bolted into the video store with my bored first grader right behind me, and ran into a problem right away.

I had seen every film that began with "A" in the Horror, Sci-Fi, Religious, Western, and Cult categories (a peek into my video watching habits) at my video store. I decided to hit some of the remaining genres, taking an "A" title from each. I chose from Comedy- "About Adam," from Drama- "Against the Wall," from Action- "Agent Red," from Children's- "The Amazing Panda Adventure," and from Mystery/Suspense/Thriller- "The Art of Murder" (my video store has some great genre categories!) Five flicks I had not seen, and a week to watch them in. My sixth choice was "There Goes a Train," a half hour live action video my six year old and two year old sons are obsessed, it ain't that good. I arranged the videos in shortest to longest running time, and popped in the eighty-five minute panda movie:

Young boy, young girl, and young cuddly panda cub get stranded in the wilderness, and stumble upon various perilous adventures while waiting for the conveniently happy ending to come at its appointed time. MAN is panda's greatest enemy (obviously), and American KIDS are spoiled rotten. Chinese people eat gross things like monkey brains and slugs, hence no amazing slug or monkey adventures, and Stephen Lang is too good for most of the films he is in. This silly kids' film has some pretty scenery and a dumb script, just like another cub driven wilderness movie I reviewed called "Alaska."

Speaking of pretty scenery and a dumb script, next up was "Agent Red." The scenery was Meilani Paul, whose pandas I would love to cuddle anytime. Agent Red is a deadly chemical (like Diet Pepsi Twist) that kills everyone it comes in contact with. Terrorists steal it, and Dolph Lundgren and Meilani Paul make like Steven Seagal and Erika Eleniak to take it back. Also known as "Captured," this "Die Hard"/"Under Siege" ripoff is full of bad stock footage and worse acting.

Pandas bring good luck, and good luck made me pick "About Adam." I wish every romcom was as funny as this one. On the surface, Lucy (Kate Hudson) and Adam (Stuart Townsend) meet and fall in love. However, Adam's getting along REALLY well with Lucy's family, bedding two other sisters and showing a brother how to score. This is very good stuff, with an interesting premise that does not follow any Hollywood formula (it was shot in Ireland). When was the last time a romantic comedy had this much sex, with this many people enjoying it?

The panda gods punished me with "The Art of Murder," a bored erotic thriller. Joanna Pacula is having an affair with Boyd Kestner, but they are blackmailed by Peter Onorati. They kill him, and try to cover up the crime, as hubby Michael Moriarty drinks and beats up Pacula a lot. Double crosses, triple crosses, and quadruple crosses pile up in a mild (one sex scene) video that feels like a very special episode of "Red Shoe Diaries."

Attica is where murderers go, and in the film "Against the Wall," they ain't happy. John Frankenheimer directs Kyle MacLachlan, Samuel L. Jackson, and Clarence Williams III in a brutal film that takes place almost entirely in the prison; no actors try to play Nelson Rockefeller or read more into this than there is. Some of the plot points are misplayed, but the starring trio does some of their best work here, as does a great supporting cast including Harry Dean Stanton, Frederic Forrest, Anne Heche, and Tom Bower.

Out of the five, two were good and three were not. If I had to rank them best to worst:

1. About Adam
2. Against the Wall
3. The Amazing Panda Adventure
4. The Art of Murder
5. Agent Red

What about the next Grab and Run column? Go for the "B"'s? My public library has a lot of videos, that might provide some really obscure stuff...