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THE VIDEO STORE GRAB 'N' RUN: Variety is the spice of life

"Five films found, fondled, forgotten"
by Charles Tatum

This time around, we turn our deficited attention- I smell fudge- to five new films picked at random on a recent jaunt through the old video store. The five films are currently readying themselves for viewing, receiving last minute rubdowns, fraternizing with each other, and creating alliances in the hope of counteracting their own perceived suckiness.

The films this week: from Action- "Combat Shock" and "Torque," from Comedy- "Cross My Heart," and from Westerns- "The Great Train Robbery (1903)" and "The Heart of Texas Ryan."

I love the smell of Troma in the morning, it smells like...a crappy film. "Combat Shock" is not your normal cup of Troma bile. This is a gritty, grim account of a veteran's life in decaying Staten Island, complete with child prostitutes, junkies, and bad television reception (sounds like my freshman year of college). The film is well acted and directed, but it is also very slow, with a terrible fake baby special effect. The gory finale is something you will not be able to forget (or stomach).

The third date's the charm, and Martin Short and Annette O'Toole have an eventful evening in "Cross My Heart." Both are keeping secrets from one another (she's got a kid, he's unemployed), and the two try to build a relationship based on a pack of lies. While the film has a staginess to it, the two leads absolutely shine in some of their best work, and the laughs are there without being forced.

Got twelve minutes? The antiquey film of the group is the century old "The Great Train Robbery." Pish posh, a silent film, but this is one of the first ones to do things we take for granted today like: linear plot, location shooting, and filming in New Jersey (Kevin Smith was not the first?). Three outlaws hold up a train, and a posse chases them down. The overacting is fun, and witnessing a piece of cinematic history might get you laid at your next film festival outing- "yes, I think the direction in 'Artsy Fartsy Festival Twaddle Number 75,' was static, but no more than Edwin S. Porter's use of composition in 1903's 'The Great Train Robbery.'"- I am so aroused. This must mean that all silent westerns are fun to watch!

Wrong! Try enduring "The Heart of Texas Ryan." Tom Mix plays "Single-Shot" Parker, who falls for local rancher's daughter Texas Ryan, and must deal with some ornery cattle rustlers. The scenery is pretty, but this was two films cut together, and half the time I did not have a clue what was going on. The dialogue is also unintentionally funny, and the more blatant racist scenes had me rolling my eyes (fireworks scare Injuns, the rustlers are led by one of those nasty Mexicans). Nice hog!

"Torque" is an instantly forgettable fable of one man's fight against society and its suffocating grasp on his ability to forge a life on this mortal coil. And it's got, like, cool bikes and chicks and stuff! This was made for the eighth grade boy in all of us (eww, please stop, he has to go home for supper), and almost counters its blatant stupidity with some really cool action sequences...almost.

Has it been five already? I haven't even warmed up the nachos! Well, I would not vote only two films off the island this week, the other three will have to endure an immunity challenge involving grape jam, Mickey Rooney, and five hundred angry bees. In order from best to worst:
1. Cross My Heart
2. The Great Train Robbery (1903)
3. Combat Shock
4. Torque
5. The Heart of Texas Ryan

Next time, I will return with five new (to me) flicks clutched in my grubby hand. You know, my writing style combines the ham fisted nuance of Hemingway with the intelligent and understated film criticism of Gene Siskel...are you hot yet?

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originally posted: 08/10/04 02:28:41
last updated: 05/11/05 00:36:35
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