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The Game

D: David Fincher (1997)

with Michael Douglas, Sean Penn, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Deborah Kara Unger

Two hours is about all of Fincher's (Seven) brooding atmosphere you'll be able to take before you want to strangle yourself. I don't know how Michael Douglas did it, much less how he managed to keep himself alive and kicking through one torment after another, all of which may or may not be a fantasy "game" his brother (Penn) has enrolled him in. In The Game (officially, a big bomb at the 1997 box office), Douglas plays an uber-rich tycoon who has everything he could want and is bored to tears with all of it. When kid brother promises the game will fill in what's lacking in his life, Mikey finds himself drawn to it, and a labyrinthine all-too-realistic game of murder, deceit, and betrayal begins. Set in San Francisco, I find this city full enough of intrigue even without machine gun-toting assassins and attack dogs chasing me around back alleys. And I can't imagine what I'd do if a cabbie drove me right into San Francisco Bay... but I suppose that's why you have to watch the video. As a thriller, The Game is the work of a craftsman, but be warned: don't even try to think about the plot lest it break down before your very eyes. Instead, just think to yourself, "don't ever let this happen to me." You'll thank me later.

– Christopher Null

Plymptoons:

The Complete Works of Bill Plympton

D: Bill Plympton (1992)

If you're a fan of facial gymnastics, fists to the nose, and things that go splat!, you'll likely enjoy Plymptoons, a collection of Bill Plympton's animated shorts. It's not all great stuff; the first third is a bit uneven, although "Drawing Lesson #2" is clever enough and the short saga "Lucas the Ear of Corn" is strangely affecting. The payoff comes in the collection's smart midsection, where Plympton's Gahan Wilson meets Monty Python meets Ballard Street sensibilities are on full display. (Is it just me, or is Ballard Street hands-down the best comic in the Statesman?) Highlights include "One of Those Days," a from-yer-own-eyes chronicle of a very bad day indeed; "How to Kiss," a tongue-in-cheek primer on the fine art of smooching; and the hilarious "25 Ways to Quit Smoking," an irreverent rib-tickler that's heavily invested in both self-mutilation and falling elephants. The tape concludes with a series of commercials and MTV shorts that are occasionally amusing but unspectacular as a whole. All three show the taste for the twisted seemingly required in modern animation, although Plympton comes off only a little strange and not certifiably insane like some of his peers.

– Jay Hardwig

Gorgo

D: Eugene Lourie (1961)

with Bill Travers, William Sylvester, Vincent Winter, Bruce Seton

Laserdisc, William Sylvester Roan Group

Eugene Lourie directed three giant-monster-on-the-loose films between 1953 and 1961, the seminal The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, The Giant Behemoth, and finally, Gorgo, which was every monster-loving kid's dream come true. The story is straightforward (at 79 minutes, it has to be): Enterprising salvage operators risk life and limb to capture a giant prehistoric beast and then put it on display in London, hoping to make a tidy profit. An unforeseen problem arises in the form of the monster's leviathan parent, which proceeds to smash London to matchsticks in an effort to free its young. The movie's denouement, with the triumphant parent and child returning to the sea, is both refreshing and moving. The Roan Group has remastered Gorgo from a 35mm print, and the film is presented in its original 1:66 to 1 screen ratio. Sadly, this version is rather dark, and some of the visuals (which were quite striking in their time) suffer as a consequence. Still, it's far superior to many VHS versions of the movie that were previously available. This letterboxed edition of Gorgo shows up sporadically on American Movie Classics, so potential buyers can view the film prior to purchase. In spite of the fact that Gorgo is a technological dinosaur in terms of special effects, the monsters are more believable and winning than the human characters in Spielberg's Lost World, and kids are almost guaranteed to love it.

– Bud Simons

In a Lonely Place

D: Nicholas Ray (1950)

with Humphrey Bogart, Gloria Grahame, Frank Lovejoy, Robert Warwick

When Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame first notice each other at their condominium complex in 1950's In a Lonely Place, you sense they've known one another for some time or are hiding something, but no, that's just the powerful, longing gaze of classical Hollywood cinema emblematically realized. Later, when she's called in for questioning about Bogart, who's under suspicion of having killed a nice young nightclub hostess, she provides him with an alibi. Bogart is right there at the police office listening to her do this, so he knows one reason Grahame was so obliging is because, as she says, she likes his face. She later tells Bogart, when he asks the mirror how anyone could "love a face like this" and then turns to kiss her, that "I said I liked it; I didn't say I wanted to kiss it," a classic line if ever there was one. The plot hinges around Bogart's inexplicable rage and Grahame's overly eager willingness to forgive – two finely tuned, sensitive performances that Ray, the actors themselves, and Andrew Solt's screenplay draw out in equal measure.

– Claiborne Smith

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