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The Bottom Shelf #111

06.07.2007

Most of you out there who managed to successfully spawn have probably had to shell out a decent chunk of change on crap that you didn't want to see and struggled to get through without ripping your hair out. This weekend, instead of indulging your mini-people in another round of penguin agony, try these movies on for size.

INTO THE WEST (1992)
Directed by: Mike Newell
Starring: Gabriel Byrne, Ellen Barkin

-- click here to buy this DVD at Amazon.com --
-- click here to rent this movie at NetFlix.com --

When did it become a rule that the only way to get your kids to watch a movie was to make it bright, shiny and attached to a Kids' Meal? When did we as a society make the collective decision that crap is OK to show our kids just because it's saturating our market, permeating every television channel that we overindulge in allowing them to watch? When did we start thinking that our kids were too stupid to grasp onto a well told tale, to enjoy a movie that is full of spirit and joy in addition to the pain that we should be allowing them to experience more than a damn Nickelodeon cartoon? I have a feeling that it was around the time that we all decided that "good enough" was just fine, so long as we didn't have to feel uncomfortable or think for any extended period of time. In other words, we feed our children shit because it's more convenient than sitting down to a meal (or a good movie) with them.

The story of a man and his two young sons, former members of a band of "travellers," INTO THE WEST takes old Irish legends and spins them with a modern day love of Westerns. While this movie was originally marketed as being a Wild West story, it is far from it. Realistic and gritty in its portrayal of the slums of Dublin, honest in its dealings with the death of family members and yet filled with magical overtones that will make even the coldest heart swell, this is the kind of movie that more people should be watching together as a family. Absolutely gorgeous cinematography of the Ireland that most people are unaware exists lends the backdrop to a story of two brothers, a horse and an escape from the law.

What I like about INTO THE WEST is that it never panders. Not to children and not to adults. It has the capability of telling the story of a dead mother, an alcoholic father and two street wise children who are so attuned to the pitfalls of having neglectful parents that they've perfected their scamming techniques to stay afloat and help out their friends. Not every child on this planet is a fat little glutton sitting in front of a television or computer screen, full of an undeserved sense of entitlement. Showing a movie like this one to more of the new generation coming up might make them stop and ask stupid questions like, "Why don't they have any food?" But that's where we all as parents (and various other supportive family members and friends) are supposed to be there to explain why.

Favorite Scene:

When the children break into the local movie theater and are feeding popcorn and soda to the horse.

Favorite Line:

"How many children do you have?"
"15, give or take."

Trivia Tidbit:

Amazingly, the man who wrote the script for this movie was also the director of the abysmal GET RICH OR DIE TRYING, starring that wonderful actor 50 Cent.

See if you liked:

WILD HEARTS CAN'T BE BROKEN, NATIONAL VELVET, DREAMER

DROP DEAD FRED (1991)
Directed by: Ate de Jong
Starring: Phoebe Cates, Rik Mayall

-- click here to buy this DVD at Amazon.com --
-- click here to rent this movie at NetFlix.com --

I can't believe that there are people who haven't heard of this movie. I was planning on steering clear of it because I didn't think that it was obscure enough to be considered Bottom Shelf fodder. Scratch that. I didn't think it was obscure, period. Yet as I was discussing some of the movies that I like to watch with my kid (albeit, I understand that my kid is a little off from most little kids her age enjoy) I brought this movie up to be told by more than one person that they'd never heard of it. I was so aghast that I couldn't speak for a couple of minutes. If you know me, you'd understand what a feat silencing me is.

The movie starts with a mousy looking Cates, recently separated from her unfaithful husband, attempting to find a way to get back together with the lout. When her plans fall through, her overbearing mother steps in to take over her life again, prompting a visit from her childhood imaginary friend, Drop Dead Fred. Fred was responsible for a great deal of mischief that she got into as a child (some of which is recounted in some great flashbacks) and he picks up right where he left off. While Cates begins to regain her life, she also loses Fred, as well as the fears that caused him to be necessary in the first place.

This is not a chipper, run-of-the-mill family flick. In fact, there is enough innuendo to keep it from being FAR from what most families are willing to show to their kids. Perhaps that's why there are people who still haven't seen this movie. Too immature for most adults (aside from those of us who have retained our inner children) and too risque for many children, it's no surprise that the film company had trouble marketing the movie. But that's no excuse for anyone to not have watched it since its release on VHS and subsequent DVD formats. If you've ever had moments in your life where you needed to escape and had the imagination to construct a way to do so without ever leaving your bedroom, this is the movie for you.

Favorite Scene:

The lunch scene with Cates and her childhood buddy. Oh, no... the scene where Carrie Fisher strangles the air believing it's Fred. No... the part in the psychiatrist's office with all of the other imaginary friends. Yeah, with this flick it's harder to pick than normal.

Favorite Line:

"Hold on, hold on... that's not how the pigeons do it! You're supposed to stamp on her head and peck her!"

Trivia Tidbit:

Even though the name looks somewhat Asian, director de Jong is actually Dutch and DROP DEAD FRED was his first movie made in English.

See if you liked:

PROBLEM CHILD, LITTLE MONSTERS, BEETLEJUICE

It's a pity that our children will never understand CGI for the miracle modern invention that it is. Unless, of course, you dust off the old VCR and give them a dose of their own medicine, forcing them to sit through the crappy practical effects that we learned to love with a smile.

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