Something Old, Something New, Something Eighties, Something P.U.
Scanlines' Summer Rentals, Games, and Favorites
(Scanlines wishes to thank Encore Movies & Music, I ™ Video, and Vulcan Video for their assistance in providing videos)
The grandaddy of every crummy sports flick on the planet, Endless Summer (1966 D: Bruce Brown; with Mike Hynson, Robert August), is truly an indie gem. Homemade on a camera that didn't even record sound, Endless Summer sees surfers as missionaries, carrying the message of hanging 10 to the world's most primitive beaches with an occasionally sly narrative. The awesome wave-top maneuvers and jaw-dropping scenery could only be outdone by, what else, Endless Summer II (1994, D: Bruce Brown; with Patrick O'Connell, Robert "Wingnut" Weaver). Three decades after the first film, two Endless Summer wave junkies make a pilgrimage to many of the spots surfed by their forebears, only the beaches are a lot more crowded. The surfboard hot-dogging is even crazier with the advantage of 30 years of creative honing behind them. If viewing beach after glorious beach wears thin, just fast-forward to their trip to Fiji, with its three-story waves and dreamy deserted mini-isles.
For the land-locked, surfing translates to skateboarding -- witness Gleaming the Cube (1989, D: Graeme Clifford; with Christian Slater, Steven Bauer, Micole Mercurio, Ed Lauter). Only a moron would actually use the phrase "gleaming the cube," but Hollywood coined it to market this Slater vehicle the same year as his big break in Heathers. Watch as his zit-faced mug fights to avenge through skateboard justice the murder of an adopted Vietnamese brother. This script stinks royally, but you do get to see Slater's body double pull off some pretty cool hijinks -- like skating under a moving semi-truck. As if. Thrashin' (1986, D: David Winters; with Robert Rusler, Sherilyn Fenn, Josh Brolin, Pamela Gidley) is no antidote, unfortunately. It's the blonde-winged haircuts against the dangle-earring crew on the mean streets of California's San Fernando Valley. Thrashin' more resembles The Warriors meets Xanadu, with plenty of knife fights breaking up the boardwalk skate sequences.
Did someone mention Xanadu (1980, D: Robert Greenwald; with Olivia Newton-John, Michael Beck, Gene Kelly, Sandahl Bergman)?
In skateboarding's wimpy younger cousin -- rollerskating -- the creepy, mythical world of Xanadu features Olivia Newton-John as an Electric Light-Orchestrated muse wearing a flouncey, slit-to-the-hip dress that could inspire anyone. The soundtrack is awesome, but ONJ's rollerskating prowess ain't all that, even with a cameo from Gene Kelly and an animation sequence. Xanadu wished it could have had half the cool of its roller-rinking predecessor, Roller Boogie (1979, D: Mark L. Lester; with Linda Blair, Jim Bray, Beverly Garland, Roger Perry). Not only does Roller Boogie offer herds of people with nothing better to do than disco around on skates all day, but it also has some major T&A, which probably rates it high on the Joe Bob Briggs' scale. Even the men are outfitted in flimsy satin skate shorts that end just post-cheek, suggesting that if the sexual revolution hadn't gotten out of hand by the late Seventies, fashion certainly had.
Sports films seem to require both a mid-film dance interlude and a sub-plot pitting the subculture against The Man, and Rad (1986 D: Hal Needham; with Bart Connor, Lori Loughlin, Talia Shire, Ray Walston, Jack Weston), about the tense world of BMX racing, has it all. Director, Hal Needham also gave us Smokey and the Bandit and Cannonball Run, and Rad consequently feels like it constantly wants to break off into a madcap chase scene. Instead, though, we get a school dance sequence which is nothing short of odd: The leading couple perches on their BMX cycles, hopping romantically on one tire around the dance floor. Really weird.
Somewhere between skateboarding and BMX freestyling in the Eighties you get breakdancing, the street-smart equivalent of those rich kid sports. Breakin' (1984, D: Joel Silberg; with Shabba-Doo, Boogaloo Shrimp, Phineas Newborn 3rd) broke a land speed record by releasing its sequel, Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo (1984, D: Sam Firstenberg; with Shabba-Doo, Lucinda Dickey, Boogaloo Shrimp, Susie Bono), in the same calendar year. Strap on your spiked leather bracelet and push down your leg warmers, though, because these flicks are more about fashion than anything else, clearly more inspired by Jennifer Beals' torn sweatshirt in Flashdance than the cultural phenomenom for which it is named.
For the real deal on that era, check out Style Wars (1983, D:Tony Silver and Henry Chalfant), a prize-winning documentary capturing the early Eighties cultural explosion out of New York City that spawned graffiti art, rap music, and breakdancing. Nobody scripted the hip of the original Rock Steady Crew or their graffiti-bombing brethren, and like the original pioneering cool of the surfers in Endless Summer, the rest of us are still trying to catch up.
-- Kayte VanScoy
D: Atom Egoyan (1994) with Bruce Greenwood, Elias Koteas, Don McKellar, Mia Kirshner, Arsinée Khanjian.
In recent years, Canadian auteur Atom Egoyan has proven himself to be a master of the flashback technique, and Exotica is one of the finest examples of his work to which you can treat yourself. The winner of seven Canadian Genie awards (virtually all of them) in 1994, the film tells the multi-path story of tax auditor Francis Brown (Greenwood), his mysterious past, and his even more mysterious present, set largely in the confines of the titular Toronto strip club. While the small screen does little justice to the vast lushness of Exotica (and the video's box shamefully makes it look like a Shannon Tweed film) it's still such an intimate picture that the viewer is inexorably sucked in. Even better, Exotica is such a multi-layered pleasure that it improves with each viewing. (Look for a five-night video rental outfit.) And while it is underappreciated by many for being too convoluted, Exotica promises a huge payoff for the intelligent, dedicated, and patient viewer. Small brains need not apply.
-- Christopher Null
The Doom Generation
D: Gregg Araki (1995) with Margaret Cho, Christopher Knight, Lauren Tewes, Heidi Fleiss, Amanda Bearse, Parker Posey, Perry Farrell.
Indulge yourself. The Doom Generation has everything you could want -- rich visuals, equal opportunity nudity, high camp, and a buried message. Filmed on location in Hell (which looks a lot like L.A. to me) this flick is essentially a road movie gone soft porn with a strange heart. Amy (Rose McGowan) and Jordan (James Duval), two young lovers tripping on a potpourri of chemicals, meet up with "X" (Johnathon Scheach), a tough guy from nowhere with an interesting assortment of tattoos. They hit the road, leaving a trail of dead Quickie-Mart clerks in their wake. The trio also discovers a bizarre assortment of, for lack of a better term, stars during their run from both the law and a gang of Nazis. While the dialogue and/or McGowan's delivery is laughably bad, the movie itself seems to be hinting at some larger truth, some obscure comment on the human condition that makes its images stick in your mind hours after the VCR has shut itself off.
-- Adrienne Martini
for Sony Playstation (Namco)
Command and Conquer
Westwood Studios (Sony Playstation)
Soul Blade could certainly be described as Tekken 2 with weapons. Certainly, it bears a striking resemblance to Namco's earlier classic fighting contest, and a game player's preference for one over the other will likely be a matter of taste. Still, Soul Blade has a number of improvements worth noting. The introduction is even more stunning than Tekken 2's, the backgrounds animate, there's a nifty sidestep move, and a new mode of competition has been created for the game (the edge-master mode). There are a couple of additional playable characters that can be won (although nothing like the array in Tekken 2), but Soul Blade should not be overlooked by any Playstation owned with a taste for fighting games.
Playstation owners who are fans of realtime strategy finally have something to get excited about. Westwood's Command & Conquer, the enormously popular PC game and precursor to the far superior Red Alert has finally arrived. The game comes on two discs, one for each opposing side, GDI and NOD. Who these organizations are is really unimportant. What does matter is that they're trying to completely destroy each other, and therein lies the basis for Command & Conquer. Each side has a number of missions of varying difficulty, along with some identical and some slightly different units to deploy against the opponent in battle. This version plays reasonably well enough, though a mouse option would have been nice. Although the game also includes the covert operations scenarios, computers gamers will find little new here. Still, until Warcraft 2 hits the Playstation in the late spring or summer, this is the only game in town.
-- Bud Simons