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Documentaries to “Exit” 2010 With and More New DVDs

Documentaries to “Exit” 2010 With and More New DVDs (photo)

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A look at what’s new on DVD today:

“Gasland” (2010)
Directed by Josh Fox
Released by New Video Group

“Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work”
Directed by Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg
Released by MPI Home Video

“Exit Through the Gift Shop” (2010)
Directed by Banksy
Released by Oscilloscope Laboratories

If you haven’t caught up on the year’s best documentaries in time to fill out your top 10 list, three of them will be hitting DVD shelves this week, beginning with Josh Fox’s Sundance award-winning “Gasland,” an exploration of the “hydraulic fracturing” going on in own backyard, a type of drilling that has spread to 34 states in the U.S. and has left a host of reservoirs of toxic waste and frequent gas explosions along the way. For something less serious, but equally compelling, there is also Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg’s “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work,” which follows the comedienne through one of the busiest years of her life as she works on her ever-evolving act, deals with her unique brand of fame and breaks through her legendarily retouched exterior to reveal the trials and tribulations of surviving over a half-century in show business. And last but certainly not least, art provocateur Banksy’s “Exit Through the Gift Shop,” which has been available on demand and on iTunes for a few weeks, is getting a deluxe DVD set courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratories, though don’t expect any new revelations on Banksy’s identity in the special features for this film where a paparazzo named Thierry Guetta reverses roles with the elusive graffiti artist and becomes a cause célèbre named Mr. Brainwash. (Alison Willmore’s review of “Exit Through the Gift Shop” is here.)

“The A-Team” (2010)
Directed by Joe Carnahan
Released by Fox Home Entertainment

It took awhile for “Narc” director Joe Carnahan to find his niche, but bloated action blockbusters may be just his speed. That’s no backhanded compliment as “The A-Team” is far more fun than it has any right to be, reviving the ’80s TV series about a group of dishonorably discharged army specialists whose latest mission is to clear their names after being framed by their rivals, with a warped sense of humor and flying tanks. Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, “District 9″‘s Sharlto Copley and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson star as the quartet.

“The Back Nine” (2010)
Directed by Ron Vignone
Released by Magnolia Home Entertainment

This documentary features Jon Fitzgerald as an average golfer who aims to make the professional tour while barely keeping above par in balancing his day job and family.

“The Black Pirate” (1926)
Directed by Albert Parker
Released by Kino

Douglas Fairbanks’ silent swashbuckler, famous for being one of the first films to experiment with Technicolor, is getting a pristine new Blu-ray courtesy of Kino.

“A Complete History of My Sexual Failures” (2008)
Directed by Chris Waitt
Released by MPI Home Video

Chris Waitt turns the camera on himself for this 2008 Sundance fave in which he looks back at all his past relationships and figures out where they went wrong.

12112010_Cyrus.jpgCyrus (2010)
Directed by Jay and Mark Duplass
Released by Fox Home Entertainment

The Duplass brothers long avoided the overtures of Hollywood in favor of having total control of their projects, but early word is that they were able to bring their loose, improvisational style to their first film for Fox Searchlight, a comedy starring John C. Reilly as a middle-aged divorcé who finds love with a new girlfriend (Marisa Tomei), but must vie for her attention with her grown son (Jonah Hill) who lives with her. Consider the film a bit of a dream project for Hill, who places “The Puffy Chair” among his favorite films – and it didn’t disappoint, as Hill told Matt Singer at SXSW.

“Dear Mr. Gacy” (2010)
Directed by Svetozar Ristovski
Released by Anchor Bay Entertainment

Arguably the only thing creepier than a film with William Forsythe is a film where Forsythe plays John Wayne Gacy. Svetozar Ristovski directs this film based on conversations between the serial killer and a college student (Jesse Moss) who reaches out to him for a school project, developing an unusual relationship as they test each other’s limits.

“Despicable Me” (2010)
Directed by Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud
Released by Universal Home Entertainment

Before “Megamind,” “Despicable Me” was the year’s first computer-animated film to feature a supervillain who begins to change his ways. Steve Carell voices Gru, a dapper evil mastermind who takes in three orphaned girls for his latest plot to rule the world and winds up caring for them. The Neptunes provide the score.

“Disengagement” (2007)
Directed by Amos Gitai
Released by MPI Home Video

This politically-charged drama starring Juliette Binoche has taken its time to make it across U.S. shores, telling the story of a woman who travels to Israel with her estranged stepbrother after the death of her father to look for the daughter she abandoned two decades prior and get caught in the country’s military pullout of the Gaza Strip in 2005. Jeanne Moreau, Liron Levo and Hiam Abbass co-star.

12112010_DoubleTake.jpg“Double Take” (2010)
Directed by Johan Grimonprez
Released by Kino

Multimedia artist Johan Grimonprez’s latest continues to indulge his fascination with cinematic suspense that he examined with his surreal 2005 Hitchcock-inspired short “Looking for Alfred” by rejiggering film and television clips to create a parallel narrative to the 1960s that positions Hitchcock as a history professor caught up in the Cold War frenzy. British novelist Tom McCarthy co-wrote the script that sees Hitchcock battling his mirror image (Burrage) as television battles for supremacy over cinema. (Bruce Bennett’s review of the film is here.)

“Fishmen and Their Queen” (1995)
Directed by Sergio Martino
Released by Mya Communication

A sequel to “Island of the Fishmen,” schlocky Italian director Sergio Martino’s follow-up centers on two teens who navigate a radioactive wasteland to find an island where they’re enslaved by a sea queen and must fight for their survival.

“Frenemy” (2009)
Directed by Gregory Dark
Released by Lionsgate

Back when Zach Galifianakis was doing porn…actually, that’s not quite true, but it’s a testament to the “Due Date” star’s increasing level of fame that Lionsgate has dusted off this 2009 comedy, originally titled “Little Fish, Strange Pond,” from softcore-turned-legitimate director Gregory Dark. A veteran of the Hollywood, Austin and Cinequest Film Festivals, this comedy actually stars Matthew Modine as a killer whose conscience manifests itself into a companion named Mr. Jack (Callum Blue), sharing a deep conversation about existential matters until they’re rudely interrupted by a robbery at an adult bookstore owned by Galifianakis’s shady Bucky. Adam Baldwin, Paul Adelstein and Liza Weil co-star.

“Guy Maddin: Quintessential 5 Films from the Heart”
Directed by Guy Maddin
Released by Zeitgeist Video

Maddin’s 1990’s “Archangel,” 1992’s “Careful,” 1997’s “Twilight of the Ice Nymphs,” “Dracula: Pages from a Virgin’s Diary,” and 2004’s “Cowards Bend the Knee” fill out this four-disc set, but it’s the extras of this limited edition box that make the collection of the Canadian filmmaker’s recent works that make it really special with an hour-long doc narrated by Tom Waits, audio commentaries on each film by Maddin and assorted cast and crew, six of Maddin’s shorts, radio interviews, “imagined audition reels,” production design collages and more.

“The Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle” (2009)
Directed by David Russo
Released by Tribeca Film

Seattle-based filmmaker David Russo’s first feature was reportedly inspired by his own experience as a janitor, serving up sci-fi/comedy hybrid that stars Marshall Altman as a recently laid off computer programmer who turns to mopping up floors and cleaning toilets for a new job, which becomes considerably more interesting when the cookies he eats at the corporation he works for result in his giving birth to a blue fish. Tania Raymonde, Vince Vieluf and Natasha Lyonne co-star.

“The IT Crowd: The Complete Fourth Season”
Released by MPI Home Video

We don’t feature many TV shows as part of this column, but we’ll make a shameless exception for “The IT Crowd” – if you can’t get enough on IFC, repair to the basement of Reynholm Industries where Roy, Moss and Jen toil away in this office comedy.

“Killjoy 3” (2010)
Directed by John Lechago
Released by Full Moon Entertainment

If you were aware there was a “Killjoy” 1 or 2, you might be interested to know there’s a third, continuing the rampage of Trent Haaga’s killer clown, who pulls in a group of college students through a magic mirror in order to torture them.

12112010_LastInternationalPlayboy.jpg“The Last International Playboy” (2008)
Directed by Steve Clark
Released by MTI Home Video

A veteran of the Slamdance and Oxford Film Festivals in 2008, Jason Behr steps into the titular role of a man whose luck with the ladies doesn’t extend to his true sweetheart from childhood (Monet Mazur) who’s getting married to another, which when combined with the suicide of his mother, leads him to befriend an 11-year-old neighbor (India Ennenga) to confide his troubles. Krysten Ritter co-stars.

“Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole” (2010)
Directed by Zack Snyder
Released by Warner Home Video

After popularizing the use of CG environments with live actors, “300” and “Watchmen” director Zack Snyder went the whole way with computer animation in this adaptation of Kathryn Lasky’s series of novels about an army of owls who are tasked with protecting the owl kingdom against an uprising. Jim Sturgess, Helen Mirren, Ryan Kwanten, Joel Edgerton, Hugo Weaving and David Wenham lend their voices to the birds.

“Micmacs” (2010)
Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Released by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

“Amelie” director Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s latest elaborate mouse trap of a movie stars French comedian Dany Boon as Bazil, a man who lives one day at a time, thanks to a bullet lodged in his brain from a freak gun accident. He then makes it his mission to initiate a war between the local arms factories and recruits a collection of oddballs including a human cannonball (Dominique Pinon) and a contortionist (Julie Ferrier) to put his plan into place. (Nick Schager’s interview with Jeunet and Matt Singer’s review of the film are here.)

“Mother and Child” (2010)
Directed by Rodrigo Garcia
Released by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

“Nine Lives” director Rodrigo Garcia that takes a few notes from its executive producer Alejandro González Iñárritu in weaving together the stories of a nurse (Annette Bening) who gave up a baby as a teen, her grown-up biological daughter (Naomi Watts) and a woman (Kerry Washington) who is looking to adopt since she can’t conceive. Jimmy Smits, David Morse and Samuel L. Jackson play the men in their lives. (Matt Singer’s review is here.)

“Nanny McPhee Returns” (2010)
Directed by Susanna White
Released by Universal Home Video

Thanks to the mindboggling international success of Emma Thompson’s toothy caretaker, there was demand for a second installment which sees Nanny McPhee head to the farm of a mother of three (Maggie Gyllenhaal) while her husband’s away at war. Ewan McGregor, Ralph Fiennes, Maggie Smith and Rhys Ifans are among the heavyweights who offer support.

“The Nature of Existence” (2010)
Directed by Roger Nygard
Released by Walking Shadows

“Trekkies” director Roger Nygard goes to an even more final frontier than space in this doc that surveys such minds as Orson Scott Card, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Richard Dawkins, Leonard Susskind, the late Irvin Kershner and more in an effort to get the answer to one of most fundamental of questions.

12112010_OtherGuys.jpg“The Other Guys” (2010)
Directed by Adam McKay
Released by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg play low-level cops who stumble into the case of their careers after a parking violation leads to the exposure of a massive Ponzi scheme in the latest from “Step Brothers” director Adam McKay. Michael Keaton, Eva Mendes, Steve Coogan, Samuel L. Jackson, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson co-star. (Matt Singer’s review is here.)

“Resonnances” (2006)
Directed by Philippe Robert
Released by Synapse Films

The good folks at Synapse usually know their stuff, so this low-budget French thriller about a guy and his three female pals whose trip into the mountains for a getaway that turns into a nightmare involving an escaped convict and an underground beast is probably worthwhile for horror fans.

“Seeing Heaven” (2010)
Directed by Ian Powell
Released by Breaking Glass Pictures

One man’s search for his twin brother in the underground world of gay hustling and porn shoots leads him to have unusual visions in this horror film from Brit director Ian Powell.

“Slave” (2010)
Directed by Darryn Welch
Released by Phase 4 Films

Natassia Malthe stars as a woman who thinks she’s going to meet the father of her fiancé in Spain when she’s abducted and sold into sex slavery as her fiancé tries to figure out where she’s disappeared to in this horror film from Darryn Welch.

“Taxi Zum Klo” (1980)
Directed by Frank Ripploh
Released by Breaking Glass Pictures

Frank Ripploh’s semi-autobiographical film about a gay school teacher in West Berlin torn between his public and private identity is getting a remastered director’s cut in honor of its 30th anniversary.

“The Town” (2010)
Directed by Ben Affleck
Released by Warner Home Video

Ben Affleck directs and stars in this adaptation of Chuck Hogan’s novel “Prince of Thieves” about bank robbers whose allegiance to each other is tested when a witness (Rebecca Hall) to their latest heist threatens their operation and the FBI, led by Jon Hamm’s dogged investigator, begins to close in. (My review of the film is here.)

12112010_TheTrotsky.jpg“The Trotsky” (2009)
Directed by Jacob Tierney
Released by Tribeca Film

Canadian actor/director Jacob Tierney has already finished his second collaboration with the very busy Jay Baruchel called “Good Neighbours,” but in the mean time, you can catch his first, this comedy that stars the “Undeclared” star as a high school student in Montreal who believes he’s the second coming of Leon Trotsky and aims to bring Marxism to the public schools after getting transferred there by his father.

“Trouble in Mind: 25th Anniversary Special Edition” (1985)
Directed by Alan Rudolph
Released by Shout! Factory

Shout! Factory is giving another spin to Alan Rudolph’s neo-noir starring Kris Kristofferson, Keith Carradine, Lori Singer and Genevieve Bujold as denizens of the shadowy Rain City.

“True Grit” (1969)
Directed by Henry Hathaway
Released by Paramount Home Video

For a point of comparison with the Coen brothers’ adaptation of Charles Portis’ novel about a grizzled U.S. Marshal and a Texas Ranger come to the aid of a young woman to find her father’s killer, Paramount is releasing the Blu-ray of John Wayne’s Oscar-winning version of the film.

[Additional Photos: “Cyrus,” Fox Searchlight, 2010; “Double Take,” Kino, 2010; “The Last International Playboy,” MTI Home Video, 2010; “The Other Guys,” Columbia Pictures, 2010; “The Trotsky,” Tribeca Film, 2010]

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Bill Hader as Stefon Breaking Character

The Break-Up

Watch Bill Hader and Other SNL Favorites Break Character

Catch Bill Hader on the new season of Documentary Now! premiering September 14th at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: NBC/YouTube

Aw, Friday. A day of happy hours that begin at 4PM and “too rotten to miss” movies like Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey on IFC’s Rotten Fridays. A truly magical day where the possibilities are endless and the regrets are just around the corner. So as we partake in the pre-weekend, sit back and enjoy another gaggle of funny videos to run out the clock.

From a despondent croissant to unintended giggling on SNL, here are the five best videos of the week.

1. SNL Cast Breaks Up

Saturday Night Live head honcho Lorne Michaels famously decries ad-libbing during the live runs — though with hilarious folks like Will Ferrell and Documentary Now!‘s Bill Hader, there are bound to be some unscripted moments that cause the cast to lose it during a sketch. Some of the greatest SNL moments involve the players or guests breaking character, as this compilation clearly shows. (Fortunately, the shame of ruining the scene has been replaced by video viralbility.)


2. Croissant Man

Pity the breakfast pastry, for its existential ennui is too much for this world. In this short courtesy of the NY Television Festival, our favorite light and flakey morning pal waxes melodramatically to his therapist and compatriots regarding the hopeless, Sartre-level gloom that hangs over every search for Life’s purpose. (Click here to see more great shorts from the NYTVF.)


3. That Time Ray Charles Beat Willie Nelson in Chess

For your guaranteed smile of the day, here’s the tale of a game of chess between crooners Ray Charles and Willie Nelson. Turns out ol’ Ray was a bona fide chess master on par with Bobby Fischer — or maybe he was just good at evening the field by making them play in the dark. As Willie puts it, “He kicked my ass three games in a row!”


4. Why Jump Scares Suck

Ever since primitive man leapt out of a bush to scare his friend, jump scares have been employed as a cheap and easy way to jolt your audience. As YouTuber Jack Nugent explains in the latest Now You See It video, it’s far more difficult to instill a growing sense of dread and suspense than just simply having a cat screech across the foreground of a dimly lit basement.


5. Best Supporting Weirdo

“Here’s to the crazy ones,” Steve Jobs famously said, paying homage to the oddballs and misfits who stand out from the pack and, more often than not, define their surroundings. In this rapid-fire supercut, some of our favorite nutjobs (like Beetlejuice, Cameron Frye and Death) are paid homage for keeping pop culture protagonists on edge and the audience entertained.

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Bill and Ted Bogus Journey Keanu Reeves Alex Winter

Rotten Journey

5 Reasons Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey Is Too Rotten to Miss

Have an excellent time with Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey tonight at 8P during IFC's Rotten Fridays.

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Photo Credit: Orion Pictures/Everett Collection

We live in an age of unimaginative sequels. Filmmakers know the easiest way to cash in is to trot out the same plot and characters and hope we don’t notice. Which is why what we need now more than ever is Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, airing tonight at 8P as part of IFC’s Rotten Fridays.

Sure, the 1991 sequel to Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (coincidentally airing on IFC tonight at 6P before Bogus Journey) scored a meager 54% on the Rotten Tomatoes. (Even before the “Tomatometer” was a thing, Bogus Journey was the definition of a lackluster sequel.) But its mix of head-scratching craziness (Robots! Aliens! William Sadler as Death!) and solid gags (“You sunk my Battleship!”) have earned the flick a cult following among fans of oddball sequels. Before you tune in tonight, check out some reasons why Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey earns the coveted title of being one of IFC and Rotten Tomatoes’ movies that are “too rotten to miss.”

5. It’s Visually Most Triumphant.

Bogus Journey
Orion Pictures

The first movie may be a classic, but there’s no doubt the look of this scorned sequel took things to a whole other level. Instead of resting on Excellent Adventure‘s laurels, new director Peter Hewitt decided to go for broke creatively, offering up a vivid visual style that highlighted the film’s themes of life, death, failure and regret. While it may not be the popular opinion, there’s no doubt that as pure eye candy Bogus blew the first flick out of the water. Just ask Michael Wilmington, who wrote in the Los Angeles Times that “Bogus Journey is better than the original: more imaginative, more opulent, wilder and freer, more excitingly visualized.” Righteous review, dude!


4. Evil Bill and Ted Robots? Excellent!

Bogus Journey robots
Orion Pictures/Everett Collection

Bill and Ted have to be two of the most loveable doofuses to ever grace the silver screen, so it shouldn’t come as a shock that seeing them go full-on bad guy is a real treat. The evil robot clones of Bill and Ted still have their sleepy-eyed, stoner outlook on life — they just also happen to be bad to the bone. This fun twist brings new life to the franchise, another example of how screenwriters Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon really mixed things up. Plus, they rock!


3. Bill and Ted Go To Hell. Outstanding!

Bogus Journey
Orion Pictures

If Tim Burton ever directed a Freddy Krueger movie, it might end up looking something like Bill and Ted’s journey to Hell. While the sequence is righteously funny — with an unending descent into Hades going from terrifying to boring in the blink of an eye — it also has a dark, nightmarish quality that’s like an M.C Escher painting that knows your deepest, darkest secrets. Alex Winter’s turn as young Bill’s toothless “Granny Preston” wanting a kiss still gives us nightmares.


2. The Grim Reaper is Bodacious.

Bogus Journey
Orion Pictures

William Sadler, who’s played everything from a badass terrorist in Die Hard 2 to a loveable convict in The Shawshank Redemption, kills it as, well, Death. Heavily influence by Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal, Sadler plays the Grim Reaper as a stoic force of nature who learns to loosen up thanks to some righteous new friends. The scene where Bill and Ted best him in a batch of board games may seem a bit broad at first blush, but what are Ted “Theodore” Logan and Bill S. Preston, Esq. supposed to do? Play chess?


1. The Dudes Truly Become Wyld Stallyns.

Bogus Journey Wyld Stallyns
Orion Pictures

One of the few shortcomings from the most unrivaled first film is that we never really get to see the boys become rock legends. Thanks to some time traveling shortcuts — and a 16-month sabbatical of guitar lessons and baby making — Bogus Journey ends with the Wyld Stallyns finally living up to their righteous reputation, ready to make the music that will put an end to war and poverty and align the planets into universal harmony. Also, it’s excellent for dancing.

Catch Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey this Friday at 8P on IFC’s Rotten Fridays!

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Bulworth Warren Beatty

Choose or Lose

The Funniest Political Comedies From the ’90s

Documentary Now! tackles '90s politics with "The Bunker," premiering September 14th at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox/Everett Collection

While this election season seems like the greatest source of political comedy ever, it’s got nothing on the ’90s. During the original recipe Clinton Era, there were a large number of films that shined a light on the dark humor of politics.

As we gear up for the September 14th premiere of “The Bunker,” the season premiere episode of Documentary Now! that takes a look back at the tumultuous 1992 Ohio Governor race, let’s flashback to a simpler time when Donald Trump was just a rich guy happy to be in Home Alone 2. It was the time of flannel shirts, Beavis and Butt-head and politicians with their heads up their own butts. Grab some Crystal Pepsi and check out the funniest political comedies of the ’90s.

10. My Fellow Americans (1996)

Legendary actors James Garner and Jack Lemmon play two politically opposite ex-Presidents thrust together in an attempt to prove that the current President (played by Dan Aykroyd) is behind a bribery scandal that Lemmon’s Pres. Kramer is being framed for. My Fellow Americans was supposed to star Lemmon and his Grumpy Old Men costar Walter Matthau, who backed out of the project due to health problems. As great a duo as they were, James Garner seemed like the perfect choice for Pres. Douglas — with his natural Southern charm, his character is like an older Bill Clinton.


9. The Distinguished Gentleman (1992)

The Distinguished Gentleman might be the last movie you would shout out if you were ever on Family Feud and “Eddie Murphy movies” was a category, but it’s still a fun comedy with Eddie bringing the cool factor that made him a huge star in the ’80s. Here Murphy plays a con man who decides to run for a Florida Congressional seat because he shares the same name as the congressman in his district up for re-election who just died of a heart attack. After getting the backing of a Florida seniors organization (the Silver Foxes), Murphy’s appropriately named Thomas Jefferson Johnson runs as the “name you know” and ends up winning. He starts out buying into the idea of “playing the game” in order to get paid by lobbyists but eventually ends up changing his con-man ways. Hey, it’s a ’90s Eddie Murphy comedy. Things tended to work out in Eddie’s favor.


8. Black Sheep (1996)

The second buddy road trip comedy starring Chris Farley and David Spade suffers from being compared to the much funnier Tommy Boy, but there are still some hilarious moments here. Farley, in one of his final roles, plays Mike Donnelly, a well-meaning but goofy mess who manages to repeatedly muck up his brother’s campaign for Governor. Casting Tim Matheson, of Animal House fame, as the smarter and handsomer brother was a great choice and Farley and Spade get into plenty of shenanigans including encountering Gary Busey as a crazed Vietnam Vet. The scene where Farley takes the stage at a “Rock the Vote” concert will have you snorting Crystal Pepsi out of your nose.


7. The American President (1995)

Before he created The West Wing, Aaron Sorkin honed his presidential speech writing skills with the screenplay for The American President, a romantic comedy where Michael Douglas’ single Prez romances Annette Bening’s plucky environmental lobbyist. Directed by rom-com master Rob Reiner, the movie is loaded with sweet and funny moments, like when Pres. Shepherd (Douglas) calls Sydney (Bening) to ask her out the first time and she hangs up thinking it’s a prank call. We even get a sneak peek of President Bartlett, as Martin Sheen turns up as Shepherd’s no-nonsense his Chief-of-Staff. Sorkin claims he wrote the screenplay during a time when he smoked a crack. If that’s the case, every screenwriter should be give that method a try.


6. Wag the Dog (1997)

Before Dustin Hoffman joined Robert De Niro’s “circle of trust” in Meet the Fockers, the legendary actors co-starred in the David Mamet-scripted dark comedy Wag the Dog. You can’t capture the era of ’90s politics better than a film dealing with the cover-up of a Presidential sex scandal. Oddly, the movie actually came out before Monica Lewinsky and her dress entered the minds of Americans. Today, the plot of Wag the Dog might be an episode of Scandal, but if you look back to 1997, it was a biting political satire of what goes on behind-the-scenes of power and politics. De Niro plays D.C. spin-doctor Conrad Bean, who hires a Hollywood producer to stage a fake war in Albania as a distraction to help insure the President’s re-election. In a stellar cast that also includes Anne Heche and Woody Harrelson as a psychotic ex-soldier turned war hero, Hoffman stands out as a Hollywood bigwig who has a strong resemblance to Godfather producer Robert Evans. (Look for Bill Hader’s take on Evans in the new season of Documentary Now!.)


5. Bulworth (1998)

Warren Beatty was born with the looks of a guy who should run for Senate, and in Bulworth he plays a veteran senator who has lost his way and hires a hit man to kill him. Faced with his impending death, Senator Bulworth has an almost religious conversion to honesty and starts railing against the corruption of corporate money in politics. (We imagine Bernie Sanders has this one in his Netflix queue.) Like a lot of ’90s movies comedies, there is a gimmicky scene where Bulworth raps during a speech. Still, the film is so sharply written, the scene is both hilarious and a prescient look at the way white establishment types would go on to co-opt hip-hop culture.


4. Bob Roberts (1992)

If you love a good mockumentary with conservative folk songs (who doesn’t?), Bob Roberts is the movie for you. Tim Robbins wrote, directed and starred in this underrated comedy, which was inspired by a SNL sketch he had appeared in a few years earlier. Bob Roberts is a folk-singing, conservative self-made millionaire running for Congress in Pennsylvania who appears to be 100% All-American. Robbins is great at using his wholesome grin to mask the fact that his character is a drug smuggling tyrant with fits of rage. Look for everyone from Alan Rickman as Roberts’ campaign manager to a young Jack Black (see above) as a scarily enthusiastic fan.


3. Dick (1999)

Before the Watergate scandal informant was revealed, there were plenty of theories over the years as to who “Deep Throat” really was. The 1999 comedy Dick posits a possible alternate history of Nixon’s downfall as it follows two adorably upbeat and politically clueless teenage girls (energetically played by Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams) who randomly become “Tricky” Dick’s dog walkers after ending up meeting him on a White House field trip. Over the course of the rollicking disco-fied comedy the girls come in contact with every player in the infamous White House scandal, including a hilarious Woodward and Bernstein, played by Will Ferrell and Bruce McCulloch of Kids in the Hall fame. (The duo’s ’70s hair alone is worth watching for.) Dan Hedaya is perfectly cast as Nixon, showcasing a softer side of the infamous president after he unwittingly eats some pot cookies. An underrated comedy, Dick is a blast of ’70s fun and a great showcase for its cast of rising stars.


2. Dave (1993)

Dave is a classic everyman-turned-hero story with a winning Kevin Kline as an affable guy who just happens to be a dead-ringer for the leader of the free world. When Pres. Mitchell has a stroke while fooling around with his mistress, his Chief of Staff (Frank Langella) hatches a plan to temporarily have Kline’s Dave fill in for the President. Langella and Kline are great together, and the scene where Dave calls his accountant friend (played by Charles Grodin) to come over to the White House and balance the budget is just one of the sharp ways director Ivan Reitman and screenwriter Gary Ross (Big) poke fun at politics. Look for Sigourney Weaver, reteaming with Reitman after the Ghostbusters movies, as the First Lady who slowly begins to realize something is off about her Husband-in-Chief.


1. Election (1999)

If you think national politics is cutthroat, just wait until you meet high school president candidate Tracy Flick. Tracy, as played by Reese Witherspoon, is like a teenage version of Amy Poehler’s Leslie Knope, but without the likeable personality. Mathew Broderick hits all the right notes as the teacher who starts off being respected but finds his whole life falling apart while overseeing the election. A dark comedy that shows the downside of driven political candidates, Election is a film that remains topical with every new voting season.

Watch MTV’s Tabitha Soren covering the heated 1992 Ohio Governor race below. To find out who wins, catch the season premiere of Documentary Now! September 14th at 10P on IFC.

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