Cheap thrills

Posted by · 12:14 pm · July 6th, 2009

I was tickled by — and completely related to — this piece by Cinematical’s Elisabeth Rappe in which she expounds the joys of embarrassing bargain-bin DVDs.

You know, the movies you know you shouldn’t own (and in some cases, don’t even like that much) but can’t resist picking up when you’re in the store and spy a mark-down sale sticker slapped on the cover. The ones you bury at the back of your bookshelf lest your cineaste friends see that you actually spent money on “13 Going on 30.” (Yeah, I did … and a well-spent pound it was too. Anyway, “Legally Blonde” needed company.)

Here’s Rappe on her latest red-faced purchase:

This week’s guilty grab was Australia, a film I was very disappointed in, and planned never to see again unless I stumbled on it while flipping through cable channels. But there it was on, “watched once, brand new” for $5.00 … It’s really the perfect movie for knitting to, because I can just concentrate on turning my sock heel, and look at the pretty cinematography.

My DVD shelf is chock full of such films. Kate and Leopold, The Long Kiss Goodnight (worth far more than whatever I paid), my entire Mel Gibson collection, Marie Antoinette, The Wedding Singer, and so on. The list is long and not very illustrious (Vanishing Point remake, anyone?), but at least I can say I didn’t go out of my way for most of them.

Of course, as an unashamed defender of “Australia” (and not even in an ironic way), I would defend Rappe’s acquisition on numerous grounds — not the least of which is that I spent rather more on the DVD myself. I’m not sure if I’ve ever sunk quite as low as “Vanishing Point” (or perhaps I have — where does something as godawful as “Dan in Real Life” figure?), but I support the idea nonetheless.

That said, lately the trash quotient of my DVD collection has lessened, partly because here in the UK, it’s getting progressively easier to buy brilliant cinema for next to nothing, without even having to resort to second-hand piles. Rappe defines “10 dollars or less” as bargain territory, whereas ¬£3 (just under $5) is rapidly becoming my new ceiling. Just the other day I waltzed into my local music retailer and picked up “Lust, Caution,” “This is England,” “Gomorrah” and a silky transfer of “Rosemary’s Baby” for the price of a single movie ticket. Times are good.

Meanwhile, there’s obviously a highly discerning (or just ADD-afflicted) cinephile in my neighborhood who keeps supplying my local Salvation Army store with a steady supply of next-to-new world cinema titles. Thankfully, no other customers are biting, leaving me to cream off the likes of “Moolaad√©,” “Tell No One” and “Murmur of the Heart” for 50p (80 cents) apiece. And they say charity is dead.

What are the guiltiest pleasures (or most treasured bargains) in your DVD collection? C’mon, you can tell us.

→ 33 Comments Tags: , , , , | Filed in: Daily

33 responses so far

  • 1 7-06-2009 at 12:31 pm

    Bryan said...

    Dan in Real Life has Juliette Binoche in it, so it’s not a total lost cause.

    They recently expanded my local library and held several huge book sales where I got a substantial amount of my collection for $3 each (or there was that day when it was fill the box for $5. That was a good day).

    I have Inside Man, which is a pretty bad movie, but is one of those mediocre films that’ll please everyone. Oh, and Lady in the Water. And I enjoy it.

  • 2 7-06-2009 at 12:32 pm

    Mr. F said...

    I do have a lot of trash in my collection, which for some reason I enjoy visiting every once in a while, among those are Catwoman, Elektra, Monster-in-Law, Aeon Flux, and many more.

  • 3 7-06-2009 at 12:33 pm

    Speaking English said...

    I would pay the normal $20 or $30 for “Australia,” perhaps the most under-appreciated film of the last five years. It’s pretty preposterous, really.

  • 4 7-06-2009 at 12:38 pm

    tony said...

    i saw Serpico in Wal-Mart’s 5 dollar bin today should’ve picked it up

  • 5 7-06-2009 at 1:14 pm

    adelutza said...

    I should really buy Australia. When I saw it in the theatre I slept through most of it so maybe if I try knitting while watching I would finish it. With 5$ though I might be able to pay for some knitting lessons. I’m thorn.

  • 6 7-06-2009 at 1:31 pm

    Kyle said...

    I bought Van Helsing for 3.99 once…yeah…

  • 7 7-06-2009 at 1:32 pm

    Chad Hartigan said...

    Am I the only person here who doesn’t own any DVD’s? I realized I never watched the ones I owned four years ago, sold them for cash and have been living off Netflix ever since.

  • 8 7-06-2009 at 1:59 pm

    Mike_M said...

    Off the top of my head: The Last Dragon, Boondock Saints, Blown Away (Nicole Eggert version), Teen Witch…

  • 9 7-06-2009 at 2:26 pm

    James D. said...

    I feel you, Chad Hartigan. While I do own several, from back before Netflix became my addiction, I have not bought any since.

    The only trash that I have owned is Rocky Balboa and V for Vendetta.

  • 10 7-06-2009 at 2:46 pm

    andrew said...

    My Super Ex-Girlfriend, You Me and Dupree, Just My Luck, Evan Almighty, and most ashamedly Norbit. There’s a few others floating around. I also have something called Facing the Giants that I haven’t even opened yet that someone gave me but everyone says it’s shit so I think i’ll just leave it unopened.

  • 11 7-06-2009 at 2:58 pm

    Derek 8-Track said...

    everything Stallone.

  • 12 7-06-2009 at 3:52 pm

    JC said...

    It wasn’t in the bargain bin, but the film that stands out most for me (in my collection) would be Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls. Oh yes. Mind you, I think Time Magazine listed that as one of the ten best films of the ’70s, so it might qualify as “Great” in some warped sense.

    I like having a sizable (500+ titles, which is far less than many cinephiles) collection, but I’ve been Netflixing (well, Rogers Video Directing, being in Canada) lately, and also selling some highly-touted Criterion titles that I admired more than I liked (as in, I’m glad I saw them, but I doubt I’d watch them again) for the same price or more than I bought them for (ah, when the Canadian dollar was $1.09 American…good times, good times). There’s little point in selling mainstream titles, as they have so little value given all the previously-viewed items on the shelves at Blockbuster and whatnot.

    I will admit that I’ve been circling a used $5 copy of Forgetting Sarah Marshall (started off rather dumb, but got wittier, and more engaging, as it went along, IMO) for a while, possibly in a Buy-Two-Get-One-Free deal with, say, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, and maybe (gasp!) The Bank Job (actually pretty entertaining, Statham notwithstanding).

    But, these days, I’m pretty resistant to grabbing anything in a bargain section, unless it’s a smart foreign title that’s way overpriced at retail.

  • 13 7-06-2009 at 3:55 pm

    Jonathan Spuij said...

    Probably the Rambo Saga for $15 orso.

  • 14 7-06-2009 at 4:39 pm

    Zac said...

    I bought the Shanghai Surprise SE for $3 at Big Lots. What do I win? ;)

  • 15 7-06-2009 at 4:57 pm

    Brooke said...

    Stormbreaker. $15.

  • 16 7-06-2009 at 5:20 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls” is brilliant. No shame there.

    Best thing Roger Ebert has ever done in his career.

  • 17 7-06-2009 at 5:49 pm

    bmcintire said...

    I picked up a copy of PRIMEVAL on Blu-Ray at Fry’s few weeks ago. I have never seen it (and probably never will) but I got it for only $9.99 and simply could not pass it up. The same thing happened (for the same price) with BASIC INSTINCT and TOTAL RECALL at Best Buy last weekend. Shameful. I clearly need an intervention.

  • 18 7-06-2009 at 6:39 pm

    JC said...

    Wow, Guy…

    I sort of expected that response from one of you (regarding BTVOTD), but that’s a pretty harsh assessment of Ebert. Yes, I know some of the snobbier folks out there like to refer to him as “The Great White Middlebrow”, and he HAS been way too easy on some lowbrow fare in recent years, but yikes.

  • 19 7-06-2009 at 7:48 pm

    andrew said...

    I don’t think Guy meant it like that…

  • 20 7-07-2009 at 12:18 am

    Jonathan Spuij said...

    Oh and I got a double box featuring Predator 1/2 for a whopping $7 orso just the other week

  • 21 7-07-2009 at 2:07 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    JC: I think it’s a genuinely great film. If you interpret that as a slight on his career as a critic, that’s your call.

  • 22 7-07-2009 at 5:41 am

    slayton said...

    Don’t be guilty for buying 13 Going on 30 OR Legally Blonde!, Jeff – the films might be fluff but they showcase two of the most guileless, smart and striking female comedic performances of the decade. If Amy Adams managed to stir up Oscar buzz for her performance in “Enchanted” (in my opinion she probably would have gotten in had both Linney and Blanchett not been nominated) then Garner and Witherspoon deserved it for their excellent performances.

  • 23 7-07-2009 at 6:44 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    I couldn’t agree more, Slayton — Witherspoon would have made my Best Actress top 5 in 2001, while in a lesser year than 2004, Garner would have made the cut too. Brilliant work in both cases, and a textbook example of what the Oscars miss by focusing so heavily on prestige fare.

  • 24 7-07-2009 at 9:10 am

    Eunice said...

    You’ll hate me, Guy.

    I’ve gotten ‘North by Northwest’, ‘From Here to Eternity’ and the original ‘The Manchurian Candidate’ for about $5. That’s a bargain. Haha.

    My ‘cheapest’ thrills would have to be romantic comedies in general. Like ’27 Dresses’, for example. Or ‘Mean Girls’, which I don’t think is cheap given how well-written and funny it is.

    And give ‘Dan in Real Life’ a chance. It’s a good movie, highly entertaining. I just wish they didn’t cast such a smug looking guy like Dane Cook for the part of Steve Carell’s brother. Juliette Binoche and Emily Blunt saved it for me. I’m glad they were smart enough to hire two excellent actresses for their respective roles.

  • 25 7-07-2009 at 9:46 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Good work, Eunice! Bargain-hunter extraordinaire.

    I’m sorry, but I wanted to gouge my eyes out while watching “Dan in Real Life” — or better yet, crawl into the screen and strangle every member of that family. Excruciating. Even my undying love for Binoche couldn’t help me there.

    (On another note, about Blunt, was anyone else bothered by the fact that she is — and looks — at least 20 years too young to play a classmate of Steve Carell?)

    Sorry, I digress.

  • 26 7-07-2009 at 1:04 pm

    Eunice said...

    Thanks, Guy. I’ve been very lucky, that’s all I’m going to say about that. I was able to watch Casablanca for the first time recently, thanks to a bargain, and I guess it’s safe to say that it’ll be getting multiple viewings on my laptop.

    I don’t recall Blunt being specifically introuced as Carell’s classmate, and I’ve seen “Dan in Real Life” at least thrice on HBO. I think she was more like a childhood friend, someone they happened to grow up with. For some reason, I didn’t actually pay attention to the real-life age gaps between the characters, so I’m not sure if she was also Carell’s classmate.

  • 27 7-07-2009 at 3:17 pm

    Patryk said...

    All the lesser Colin Farrell DVD’s…”Phonebooth” comes quickly to mind.

  • 28 7-07-2009 at 3:20 pm

    JC said...

    Guy: Oops…sorry for the misunderstanding regarding Ebert.

    I’ve just been hearing a lot of highbrow critics slam him in recent years and, though I understand their frustration in his rating many fluffy mainstream movies too high, they shouldn’t attack the man. He’s been a great ambassador for the widespread appreciation, and study, of film over the years, and most of said attacks just seem to smack of professional jealously.

    So many of these critics try to appear above it all, and indifferent to the opinions of casual mainstream filmgoers, yet it’s pretty evident they’d like significantly more attention than they usually get…thus the target becomes people like Ebert. And unlike a number of them, he at least seems to have a genuine love for film, rather than a passive-aggressive attitude towards it.

    So, again, sorry for misreading your comments; though you would appear to be the most “highbrow” of the main writers on this site, you’ve typically maintained a genial, openminded tone, and I should’ve known better.

  • 29 7-07-2009 at 3:26 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    No need to apologize, JC.

    In truth, I have my own occasional issues with Ebert’s critical style, but I would never diminish his standing — his devotion to the artform is what every critic should strive for. Nothing but respect for the man on my end.

  • 30 7-07-2009 at 4:05 pm

    JC said...


    My biggest issue with his writing style tends to be that he sometimes leans too much on plot synopsis (which I usually avert my eyes from before seeing a film), and doesn’t really dig deeper into some worthier films unless it’s a blog entry. I know he’s more than capable of doing so, but occasionally he coasts a bit (deadlines, deadlines).

    I still can’t believe he gave away details about the third-act two-ferry Joker scheme in his TDK review, in the FIRST FEW PARAGRAPHS! Heh.

  • 31 7-13-2009 at 5:44 am

    ntimon1 said...

    Hit – summer 2009.
    Best new tattoo

  • 32 7-13-2009 at 11:40 am

    Eunice said...

    Back to “Dan in Real Life”, Guy. Even if you didn’t enjoy the movie, did you at least like the music?

  • 33 7-13-2009 at 12:15 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    Oh dear, I’m afraid I wasn’t keen on the music either. The same kind of folky singer-songwriter noodling that so irritated me in “Away We Go.”

    Sorry, we’re just on different pages with this one!