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Secret of Roan Inish [VHS]

Secret of Roan Inish [VHS] Lowest new price: $12.00
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List price: $9.95

As one of the most respected American independent filmmakers, John Sayles has created a body of work as distinguished in its diversity as for its consistent quality and inspiring originality. He's never been one to march to the commercial beat, but chooses instead to follow his creative impulse wherever it leads him. The Secret of Roan Inish led Sayles to the beautiful and moody West Coast of Ireland; it is a tale of a girl who discovers that her family has been touched by myth and magic throughout the years. Following the death of her mother, young Fiona (Jeni Courtney) is sent to live with her grandparents on the Irish coast across from Roan Inish, the island where her family once lived. She's told stories about the selkies--seals that can turn into humans--who have been connected with Fiona's family over the ages. At first she's not sure if the selkies are real or mythological, but she later realizes that they hold the key to reclaiming her family heritage.

What's remarkable about this film (which Sayles adapted from Rosalie Fry's novel Secret of the Ron Mor Skerry) is that it's not told as a cute fantasy for children, but as a straightforward, unsentimental story of a young girl's family history. That gives the film--which was beautifully photographed by master cinematographer Haskell Wexler--an understated charm that is completely absorbing in its atmosphere and subtle tone. There's magic as well, to be sure--you could almost swear that the seals and seagulls in the film took direction from Sayles as well as any human actor! --Jeff Shannon

On Golden Pond [VHS]

On Golden Pond [VHS] Lowest new price: $0.70
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Writer Ernest Thompson, who came up with the original stageplay of On Golden Pond and adapted it for film, is lucky to have two giants of the screen give dignity and breadth to his sometimes trite dialogue. Henry Fonda, in his last role, plays a prickly English professor at the disagreeable age of 80. Visiting his summer house by a Maine lake with his wife (Katharine Hepburn), the old man forges an unlikely bond with a lonely boy, comes to terms with his daughter (Jane Fonda), and suffers disorienting effects of mild dementia. Even playing a tired old man, Fonda is an absolute lion of a movie star, and Hepburn brings her special spirit to the part of his worried bride. The onscreen relationship between Henry and Jane Fonda naturally makes one think about their much-discussed difficulties offscreen, but that's a side benefit in a movie that is really just a celebration of simple human decency. Directed by Mark Rydell (Harry and Walter Go to New York). --Tom Keogh

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Ethan Frome [VHS]

Ethan Frome [VHS] Lowest new price: $34.98
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Here's the film of a novel nobody liked in high school (but probably succumbed to when they read it in later life, as they should). Based on the book by Edith Wharton, it's one of those repressed romances of longing and regret carried out in real time and real life. Liam Neeson plays the humble Ethan, manipulated into marrying a plain and sickly woman (Joan Allen, every bit as good as she is in The Contender), who still manages to dominate him. When she grows so ill that Ethan requires help to care for her, they import her poor cousin (Patricia Arquette), who sparks thoughts in Ethan that never occurred to him with his wife. Neeson has a great fire within, as he confronts an array of possibilities that simply remain out of reach because the alternative is unthinkable in this tight-knit New England community. Arquette bubbles with life, while Allen can freeze blood at 100 paces with one of her icy glances. Slow-moving at times but worth it for the final payoff. Directed by John Madden (Shakespeare in Love). --Mark Englehart

The Promise [VHS]

The Promise [VHS] Lowest new price: $39.97
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A rich student's fiancee has her face destroyed by a car accident, and refuses to return to him fearing the loss of his love.

Lily in Winter [VHS]

Lily in Winter [VHS] Lowest new price: $8.99
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VHS Tape

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The Letter [VHS]

The Letter [VHS] Lowest new price: $7.49
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In the opening sequence of The Letter, director William Wyler delivers a primer on film directing: at a rubber plantation, in the tropical funk of a Malaysian night, the heavy stillness is suddenly broken by shots... and a woman with a gun, descending a staircase. She is the wife of the plantation owner, and the dead man is, ahem, not her husband. Holding the gun so securely is Bette Davis, in one of her greatest performances (her acting of a big revelation, late in the film, is still an astounding piece of emotional fluency). The story is taken from one of those sturdy Somerset Maugham tales that has proved itself in many versions, but this is the keeper; it was nominated for seven Oscars®, including best picture, director, and actress, winning none. Wyler's impeccable direction, and Davis's take-no-prisoners approach to an "unsympathetic" character, make for a completely satisfying picture. --Robert Horton

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Looking for Mr. Goodbar [VHS]

Looking for Mr. Goodbar [VHS] Lowest new price: $190.00
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A dedicated schoolteacher spends her nights cruising bars, looking for abusive men with whom she can engage in progressively violent sexual encounters.Free upgrade to first class mail.

Based on the mid-'70s novel by Judith Rossner (which itself was based on a true story), this film was supposed to be the one that established Diane Keaton's credibility as a "serious" actress--and yet she won the Oscar for the other film she did the same year, Annie Hall. Still, Looking for Mr. Goodbar is a solid and intriguing film, which offered the first substantial film roles to Richard Gere and Tom Berenger. Keaton is a repressed Catholic school teacher who works with deaf children. In the midst of the sexual revolution, she discovers her own appetite for carnal pleasure--but tries to keep it physical, avoiding emotional entanglement, until she meets Mr. Really Wrong. Keaton is solid but director Richard Brooks can't keep this from dragging. --Marshall Fine

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One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest [VHS]

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest [VHS] Lowest new price: $2.95
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A nice rest in a state mental hospital beats a stretch in the pen, right? Randle P. McMurphy (Jack Nicholson), a free-spirited con with lightning in his veins and glib on his tongue, fakes insanity and moves in with what he calls the "nuts." Immediately, his contagious sense of disorder runs up against numbing routine. No way should guys pickled on sedatives shuffle around in bathrobes when the World Series is on. This means war! On one side is McMurphy. On the other is soft-spoken Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher), among the most coldly monstrous villains in film history. At stake is the fate of every patient on the ward. Based on Ken Kesey's acclaimed bestseller, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest swept all five major 1975 Academy Awards: Best Picture (produced by Saul Zaentz and Michael Douglas), Actor (Nicholson), Actress (Fletcher), Director (Milos Forman) and Adapted Screenplay (Lawrence Hauben and Bo Goldman). Raucous, searing and with a superb cast that includes Brad Dourif, Danny DeVito, Christopher Lloyd in his film debut, this one soars.

One of the key movies of the 1970s, when exciting, groundbreaking, personal films were still being made in Hollywood, Milos Forman's One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest emphasized the humanistic story at the heart of Ken Kesey's more hallucinogenic novel. Jack Nicholson was born to play the part of Randle Patrick McMurphy, the rebellious inmate of a psychiatric hospital who fights back against the authorities' cold attitudes of institutional superiority, as personified by Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher). It's the classic antiestablishment tale of one man asserting his individuality in the face of a repressive, conformist system--and it works on every level. Forman populates his film with memorably eccentric faces, and gets such freshly detailed and spontaneous work from his ensemble that the picture sometimes feels like a documentary. Unlike a lot of films pitched at the "youth culture" of the 1970s, One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest really hasn't dated a bit, because the qualities of human nature that Forman captures--playfulness, courage, inspiration, pride, stubbornness--are universal and timeless. The film swept the Academy Awards for 1976, winning in all the major categories (picture, director, actor, actress, screenplay) for the first time since Frank Capra's It Happened One Night in 1931. --Jim Emerson

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Island of the Blue Dolphins [VHS]

Island of the Blue Dolphins [VHS] Lowest new price: $30.00
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Brand: Universal Studios

Island of the Blue Dolphins was released on July 3, 1964. It was directed by James B. Clark and starred Celia Kaye as Karana. Jane Klove and Ted Sherdeman adapted the script from O'Dell's novel, and the film was produced by Robert B. Radnitz and Universal Pictures. The film was made on a slight budget and did not receive a wide release, and reviews were mixed. However, Kaye won a Golden Globe Award for "New Star of the Year" for her role.Free upgrade to first class mail.

My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys [VHS]

My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys [VHS] Lowest new price: $34.99
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Scott Glenn is H.D., a champion rodeo rider whose career is ruined after being gored by a bull. He returns home to discover things have drastically changed -- the family farm has been abandoned, his old girlfriend Julie (Kate Capshaw) is a now a widowed mother, and his sister Cheryl (Tess Harper) has put his father (Ben Johnson) in a nursing home. H.D. rescues his father from the home and returns him to the ranch. But when H.D. leaves the farm to visit Julie, his father seeks out Cheryl. Cheryl retaliates by threatening to return her father to the nursing home and sell the ranch. At this point, H.D. takes notice of rodeo contest which would give him $100,000 if he can ride four bulls for a total of 32 seconds. H.D. bonds with his father as he gruelingly prepares for a return to the rodeo to win the contest and buy the ranch.

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