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DID YOU READ

Ten Great Films You Can Buy For Under Ten Bucks

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By Matt Singer and Alison Willmore

IFC News

[Photo: “The Color of Money,” Buena Vista Pictures, 1986)

We here at IFC News recognize the great contributions companies like The Criterion Collection have made to the fields of film preservation and restoration, and we treasure the DVDs of theirs in our respective collections. But let’s be honest. Those suckers are expensive: always at least thirty bucks, and sometimes as much as twice that for the really cool sets.

You might be under the impression that the only movies worth owning are the ones that have been blessed with one of these glitzy DVD treatments, which often act as much as a seal of approval as anything else. And when wading into the murky waters of DVD discount bins, it’s easy to get discouraged amidst a sea of low-rent cartoons and minor Elvis movies.

But know this: there are diamonds in the rough out there, only these diamonds don’t cost as much as diamonds. These are great movies that are dirt cheap; so great and so cheap, in fact, that there’s really no good reason your DVD shelf shouldn’t be without them. Here are IFC’s guaranteed-to-delight-and-impress-but-not-kill-your-wallet picks.

Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

Directed by John Carpenter

List price: $9.98

So you’ve got this thousand-year-old incorporeal sorcerer who needs to marry a girl with green eyes; a stolen truck named The Pork Chop Express; two rival Chinatown street gangs; Kim Cattrall as a lawyer whose last name is actually Law; a trio of magical weather-monikered henchmen; and Kurt Russell doing what is, apparently, a mulleted John Wayne impression. There’s no denying John Carpenter’s “Big Trouble in Little China” is trash, but it’s great trash, the kind you reach for when you’ve got a few friends over, a few beers in you and a desire for raucous, campy entertainment. In other words, this DVD is an invaluable purchase.

The Color of Money (1986)

Directed by Martin Scorsese

List price: $9.99

“The Color of Money” has a bad reputation, as a minor film by Martin Scorsese and as the movie for which Paul Newman finally won his Best Actor Oscar, not for his performance, but as a sort of lifetime achievement award. Having “The Color of Money” in your DVD collection, then, sends a statement; that (a) you don’t automatically accept the conventional wisdom about any movie and (b) “The Color of Money” is one of the most underrated movies of the 1980s — not to mention one of the most underrated movies by Scorsese and one of the most underrated sequels of all time. Watch it for some of Scorsese’s most dynamic camerawork and Richard Price’s razor-sharp screenplay, pick up a few talking points about how Newman’s Fast Eddie fits in with other Scorsese anti-heroes, and watch your auteur cred grow.

Days of Heaven (1978)

Directed by Terrence Malick

List price: $9.98

In the history of cinema, there have been plenty of films to offer up unforgettable images of loveliness and emotional weight, but it’s possible that none can ever match the elegiac beauty of Terrence Malick’s “Days of Heaven.” Cinematographer Néstor Almendros won an Oscar for his work — a lower-billed Haskell Wexler would later write to Roger Ebert that he sat in a theater, timing the scenes he shot with a stopwatch to prove that over half the footage was his. Whoever was responsible, the film’s shots of the endless Texas landscape, so often steeped in golden, late day light, are both epic and achingly wistful, a reminder that the happiness recounted by the film’s narrator Linda (Linda Manz) was fleeting and is still mourned. One to own on the basis of its sheer greatness.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)

Directed by John Ford

List price: $9.98

John Wayne made a ton of pictures. A lot of them weren’t very good, a bunch have fallen out of copyright, and plenty of those are available in poorly transferred discs. But there are significantly less of his truly great films available for the budget-minded DVD consumer — you’re really left with John Ford’s “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” and Wayne’s elegiac final picture “The Shootist” from director Don Siegel. Though I love both films, I’m giving the nod here to “Valance,” and really, how could I not? It’s one of the most important westerns Ford ever made, particularly in the way it shows the director, nearing the end of his career, coming to grips with the way in which his ideas and art had become accepted as some kind of literal representation of life on the American frontier. No surprise, then, that the film concludes with the classic line “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” Plus you get to hear John Wayne call Jimmy Stewart “pilgrim” a whole lot.

The Naked Gun (1988)

Directed by David Zucker

List price: $9.99

Speaking personally, I will say that while I have many better-made, more important, more artistic movies on my own DVD rack, I haven’t watched any disc I own more times than my copy of “The Naked Gun,” David Zucker, Jim Abrahams and Jerry Zucker’s timeless cop pastiche. Maybe it’s not the funniest movie ever made — but maybe it is. And it’s definitely one of the most quotable; and ten bucks is a small price to pay to have your own copy to memorize whenever you please. I’d suggest you start with the priceless scene in which Leslie Nielsen’s hapless Lt. Drebin gives a rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” that makes Roseanne’s look respectful in comparison (“And the rockets red glare! Bunch of bombs in the air!”). You’ll never attend a sporting event in quite the same way again.

Nashville (1975)

Directed by Robert Altman

List price: $9.98

“Nashville” requires more from you than you expect — Robert Altman’s masterpiece is a film that sprawls, but also one that spins its storylines obliquely, catching people and relationships in medias res. I’ve tossed it in the DVD player to have on in the background while doing something else, only to find myself unable to not pay attention to it. By the end, always, when Barbara Harris picks up the mic to sing “It Don’t Worry Me,” I’m enraptured. There’s nothing more I need add to the scads of acclaim “Nashville” has built up over the years; the only thing that remains to be written is that, unlike many other critically acclaimed films, “Nashville” is one you may actually reach for to watch for fun.

The Quick and the Dead (1995)

Directed by Sam Raimi

List price: $9.95

Here’s a tip for enjoying this film at home: when Sharon Stone is on screen, just put your hand over her. Voilà — suddenly you’ve got a rollicking western pastiche with a presciently excellent cast that includes a pre-“L.A. Confidential” Russell Crowe and a pre-“Romeo + Juliet” Leonardo DiCaprio. Even with the outrageously miscast Stone left uncovered, Sam Raimi’s underrated and over the top homage to Sergio Leone and later, wilder westerns is a jolly good time, and precisely the kind of DVD you’d actually watch instead of just displaying on your shelf as a sign of your impeccable taste. Extra credit must be given to Gene Hackman, whose wicked John Herod rules the town of Redemption with an iron fist, a lightning draw and a heart squishy with unlikely regret.

Targets (1968)

Directed by Peter Bogdanovich

List price: $9.98

“Targets” is a great part of a collection as a “lender” — a disc you don’t watch too much, but you give out to people who spot it and go “What the hell is this movie?” In this case, it’s a remarkable overlooked film from writer/director Peter Bogdanovich. It was produced under remarkable conditions, too: star Boris Karloff was under contract to producer Roger Corman for two shoot days and Corman entrusted Bogdanovich to make a movie — any movie — by recycling footage from the Karloff/Corman film “The Terror” with stuff from the two new days. Bogdanovich’s solution was as ingenious as it was economical: in “Targets,” “The Terror” material plays itself, as does Karloff (sorta) as an aging horror film star struggling to find relevancy in a darker time with darker movies. In a concurrent story, a young man (played by Tim O’Kelly) with a happy family loses his mind, kills his loved ones and goes on a murder spree. It’s a smart, disturbing movie that surprises pretty much everyone who watches it. More of my friends have watched my copy of “Targets” than I have at this point, and a couple of them have even bought the disc themselves.

3 Days of the Condor (1975)

Directed by Sydney Pollack

List price: $9.98

The 1970s were a pretty amazing decade for American film, and any self-respecting DVD collector needs to own at least a few New Hollywood films that demonstratively scream seventies. That means anti-government, anti-corporate and, above all, deeply paranoid. You could go with Alan J. Pakula’s “The Parallax View” ($9.98) starring Warren Beatty, but I’ve always preferred the somewhat less pretentious, somewhat more entertaining “3 Days of the Condor,” starring that other left-wing icon, Robert Redford. The Sundance Kid plays low-level CIA operative Joseph Turner (codename: Condor) who returns from his lunch break to find his co-workers dead, which sets off a movie-wide manhunt, a veritable blooming onion of deception, and a love affair with Faye Dunaway, which, come to think of it, is another de rigeur 70s trope.

Vanishing Point (1971)

Directed by Richard C. Sarafian

List price: $9.98

In Quentin Tarantino’s half of “Grindhouse,” Zoë Bell hops off a plane from New Zealand and has only has one thing on her mind — she wants to drive an Alpine White 1970 Dodge Challenger. While I’d probably be more in line to take a shower and a nap, I can’t fault her choice of make and model. It’s the same car as the one Barry Newman’s Kowalski, loaded up on Bennies, takes from Denver to Cisco, California in “Vanishing Point,” one of the great car chase movies of all time, if a particularly existential and shaggily 70s one. Cred alone could justify this purchase — “Vanishing Point” is a solid cult favorite, and one that’s always being threatened with remakes. Charles Robert Carner directed one for TV in the late 90s, starring Viggo Mortensen as a kinder, gentler Kowalski; another big screen remake has been kicking around in development. All the more reason to have the original on hand.

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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.