(Scanlines wishes to thank Encore Movies & Music and Vulcan Video for their assistance on providing videos)
William Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet
D: Baz Luhrmann (1996)
with Leonardo DiCaprio, Claire Danes, Paul Sorvino, Brian Dennehy
Setting Shakespeare's tragedy Romeo & Juliet to music by the likes of the Butthole Surfers probably has The Bard rolling in his grave, but what the hell, it's open season on the classics these days. I won't even pretend that I understand all the nuance and symbolism of Luhrmann's instantly popular retelling of the tale, but I will say that this is one of the most entertaining renditions of any Shakespearean work I've seen to date. Closer to an update of West Side Story than anything else, what makes this rendition of the "two star-crossed lovers" saga stand out is dialogue which is largely faithful to the text set against a post-modern backdrop frighteningly reminiscent of Los Angeles. Plus there's the issue of a soundtrack that's probably sold more copies than the film did tickets.... Will this version survive the test of time? Probably not, but it will forever stand out as an amazing and powerful experiment in filmmaking. If you dismissed the movie as kids' stuff in its theatrical release, think again, and get thee to a video merchant. -- Christopher Null
Map of the Human Heart
D: Vincent Ward (1996)
with Jason Scott Lee, Robert Joamie, Anne Parillaud, Annie Galipeau, Patrick Bergin, John Cusack, Jeanne Moreau
Map of the Human Heart is a soaring love epic which centers around the idea that charting the heart is an immeasurable, ever-changing process, that such a map can only be calculated in dreams, traceable exclusively in those fading, inexpressible moments where fantasy and logic grapple like titans on the edge of daylight. The sprawling narrative begins in the 1930s in the Arctic north, as told in flashbacks by an alcoholic Inuit Eskimo named Avik (Lee). On his weathered face we read the pockmarked scars which reveal the burden of the unforgiving latitudes of the man's life. We first behold a young Avik (Joamie) dressed in layers of furs, boots, and gloves, bouncing gleefully toward the sky on a trampoline hand-stitched of seal skin. Above him, a twin-prop British plane carrying a cartographer (Bergin) roars like a monstrous premonition, touching down on the young Eskimo's life, and forever changing its course. From this snowy, mystical realm, we travel with Avik to a Montreal hospital where he fights off tuberculosis while embracing the love of a young half-Indian, Albertine (Galipeau), and finally, into the volatile European theater where Avik plays the role of aerial photographer. While on the surface Heart's settings and story seem at times wrought with sentimentality, the film ultimately accomplishes much more than cheap nostalgia. With its extraordinary performances, writer-director Vincent Ward dares to brave issues of interracial offspring, alcoholism in the Eskimo culture, and portrays a non-glorifying approach to a traditionally romanticized world war. -- Marcel Meyer
D: Rowdy Herrington (1989)
with Patrick Swayze, Kelly Lynch, Sam Elliott, Ben Gazarra
D: Roger Donaldson (1988)
with Tom Cruise, Bryan Brown, Elisabeth Shue, Gina Gershon
Go ahead, laugh if you will at the therapeutic powers of the Guilty Pleasure Action Romance. Sometimes, though, it's necessary to turbo-charge your movie rental needs with telegraphed plot, beautiful persons, and gratuitous debauchery. Sometimes, you need the dream duo of Road House and Cocktail.
Each of these 1980s "star vehicles" overflows with gender-equity jiggle and unintentional laughs. The shameless twin bill offers Tom Cruise flashing his teeth and Patrick Swayze baring his butt. Cruise's ambitious Manhattan bartender, Brian Flanagan, recites goofy poems that drive women wild, while Swayze's Zen bouncer, Dalton, urges his staff of bar doormen to "be nice until it's time not to be nice." Blonde Athena Kelly Lynch works both ends of this must-see doubleheader, and picks up a nice paycheck to boot.
The more underappreciated movie here is Road House. In it, former philosophy major Dalton restores order at a rough-and-tumble Missouri saloon. Butting heads with an evil bidnessman, our Mercedes-driving Odysseus woos a beautiful physician. She -- of course -- abhors violence and has recently rebuffed the advances of the villain. Mayhem, and one man's inner search for faith, ensue.
Cocktail co-stars Cruise and the wondrous Elisabeth Shue. The movie is eye candy for anyone pondering the duality of man. Brian Flanagan is Everyboy, equal parts fortune-hunter and bartender. Like Road House, Cocktail presents a classic hero faced with a dilemma, using the "pub" as breeding ground for all things morally bankrupt. It also makes parallel use of a wisecracking Christ Figure. In Cocktail Bryan Brown does the Obi-Wan Kenobi thing, compared to Road House mentor Sam Elliott.
Dalton's objective in Road House: Keep the notorious "Double Deuce" clean and safe from drunken miscreants who would just as soon have it, um, dirty and somewhat risky. Seems an easy enough task for a one-man wrecking crew who studies Kierkegaard. But Dalton's barbaric past closes in, as he struggles for redemption in a place where only the savage dwell: Jasper, Missouri. Cocktail is equal to the task, as the opportunistic Flanagan tries, George Bailey-like, to break out of the small-time only to be faced with a neat, mindless row of dominoes. Topple them, and lose the girl, the future, the American Dream.
We won't ruin the movies' climaxes, but you should know: Neither is set in a warehouse. So, all hail the mighty Guilty Pleasure Action Romance. Rent Road House and Cocktail. But before you do, check WGN and The Superstation. You might get lucky. -- Stuart Wade