Couch Trip

The Furies

For its first Anthony Mann release, Criterion has chosen the undervalued 1950 Barbara Stanwyck vehicle The Furies, more melodrama and less Western than anything from the director's cycle of James Stewart films that'd define his decade and ultimately his legacy. Scorching nonetheless, Furies is about the struggle for power between a New Mexico ranch and the Mexican "squatters" who claim the land. At least that's how it plays on the surface. Like Mann's best work, it probes the often unspoken mental and psychological fisticuffs, this time between Stanwyck's power-mad Vance Jeffards, her money-hungry father T.C. (an animated Walter Huston, more than ever anticipating the gravelly mumble of Nick Nolte) and a tough-loving banker (Wendell Corey). Some of the script's dialogue is ridiculous — T.C. isn't just broke, he's "flatter than a poor boy's tortilla!" — but the talkiness of the first half is more than made up for by the unforgettable moments of poetic violence that spring forth. There doubtless isn't much supplemental material around from this obscure title from the Mann canon, but Criterion has cobbled together an exemplary set, including a wonderful and hilarious 1939 fluff interview with Huston that feels every bit as staged as if he were performing at the Globe. A rare 1967 TV interview with Mann and a reflective look at Mann's work from his daughter Nina are also included, and you even get a copy of Niven Busch's novel on which the film was based. —John Thomason

Circa '82
Vivid Alt

While it's not exactly a sexed-up take on American Graffiti, this XXX offering from the allegedly edgy folks at Vivid Alt (That's right, kids! "Alt" means it's porn, but cooler! This ain't your older brother's filth trip, ya horny whippersnappers). Circa '82 does take a sincere stab at dropping its screwing and blewing into a period long gone.

With a soundtrack by the Circle Jerks and cameos (fully clothed, thank Jesus) by ex-Germ Don Bolles and Keith Morris of the Jerks, the accent here is on that early-'80s punk rock era. Which, if you were around back then, was pretty much when any bona fide punk sounds evaporated.

But who's keeping track of stuff like that when there's plenty of sex happening, which trumps nostalgia any day.

Now here's the rub: The "actors" (all of whom, by the way, were born after 1982, apart from sweet 'n' filthy Ashley Blue, an ancient product of '81) all look like regular young people. Sure, the female talent — including the lithe Sasha Grey, Lexi Belle, Maya Hills and Madison Young — is cute, but if you favor a more classic porn vixen — in other words a pneumatic fantasy megaslut — then you'll be sorely disappointed at the stable in Circa '82. Which counts for a lot; one of the main reasons people indulge in adult viewing is to watch the kind of humans they specifically can't get. And, instead of the generic, studly, faceless fuck soldiers who do the dick life-support duty in most porn, the regular dudes in Circa '82 all look like you. And that's not good. —Fern LaBott

Black House
Genius Products

Let's take a cinematic trip back to 2002 — a lifetime ago in Tinseltown terms — before most film nerds had even heard the words "Asian horror."

A modestly budgeted but creepy-as-hell remake of Japanese film The Ring changes all that right quick when it opens big at the box office. The flick offers new ideas in a genre that'd gone stale. Could the fright flicks of a whole other continent really be the answer to a horror fanatic's dream of pant-splitting scares?

Fast forward to the present and Asian horror remakes are as common as — um, the myriad other remakes Hollywood churns out. Herky-jerky pale-faced ghosts, haunted electronic devices and curses that spread faster than bad word-of-mouth at a movie premiere have lost their novelty, hence their frightfulness.

Here to restore your faith — if only partially — is the Korean import Black House. Aside from its generic cover art, this flick aims to do more than repackage the standard clichés of slow-bore Asian horror. Mild-mannered Jeon Jun-oh (The hunky Hwang Jeong-min in a subtle but intense performance) is a bespectacled former banker who has just been hired as an insurance investigator. He has a pretty fiancee, a neatly organized apartment and is a quick study when dealing with people suspected of fraud. His life gets turned upside down when a client requests Jeon personally for a house call at his ramshackle estate in the sticks. Once there he gets, of course, more than a routine customer service call. To mention any more of the plot would involve a page of spoiler alerts. Let's just say Jeon's personal life takes a beating when he gets emotionally invested in an insurance scam that's bloody and twisted. Great set design, cinematography and acting elevate director Shin Tae-ra's flick — his only misstep is an ending that loses momentum with multiple false endings and heavy-handed symbolism. You just might want to check Black House before Hollywood gets wind of it and casts Dane Cook in the lead. Hey, it could happen.
—Paul Knoll

Mannequin Double Feature
Mannequin and Mannequin 2: On the Move
MGM Home Video

It's moves that like this (that is, ones starring Andrew McCarthy) that will come back and bite a mature actress in the ass later in her career. And that's why MGM wasted no time reissuing this 1987 Kim Cattrall movie bundled with its nothing-to-do-with-her follow-up in advance of the Sex and the City movie. And really, is that two-and-a half-hour yenta yackfest about shallow women any higher a work of art than a mannequin that comes to life? I mean, isn't that what shallow Samantha, Carrie and company really aspire to, deep down? Far from an embarrassment, at least for Cattrall, this film compliments Cattrall's current sexpot role by showing us her at her unforced height of hottiness; she manages to be eye-candy even when she's head to toe in mummy bandages.

Speaking of wrapping, if you still can't wrap your head around a script which makes an Egyptian princess about to be buried alive suddenly taking residence inside a department store dummy circa 1987 and demand more supernatural mumbo-jumbo, Mannequin 2: On the Move provides that — although only Designing Women straight man Meshach Taylor returns to reprise his Little Richard in Speed Queen hyperdrive. No it's the singular Mannequin that still maintains points of interest — reprising their familiar stocks-in-trade — James Spader plays the same slimeball he always does, this time with severely slicked-back hair, McCarthy is still largely unwatchable as the mannequin maker who's too dorky to live, and Estelle Geddy is the resident crusty old broad. And yet this "zany" romp actually earned an Academy Award nod — for foisting Jefferson Starship's "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" on an unsuspecting world. You know what they say, if you can remember the '80s, you haven't banged your head against the wall long enough. —Serene Dominic

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