(July 5) $10 Or Less

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Popcorn? Check. Slurpee? Check. Remote? Well, I guess I don’t need that.

Like so many summers I’ve seen come and go, when school ended this year, I again found ample amounts of time on my hands. And we all know idle hands are the tool of the devil. When I realized this at my local Hollywood Video, I experienced a “cinematic moment”: the lighting was just right and there was mood music playing in the background. Had there been a camera filming me, it would probably alternate between an extreme close-up of my enlightened expression and the copy of “Win A Date With Tad Hamilton” in my hand. No, I didn’t win a date with Mr. Hamilton. I won a short-term engagement with my local video carriers and first- and second-run theaters. My budget: $10 or less a week. My mission: See as many movies as I can get my idle hands on.

In honor of Independence Day (not the Will Smith movie), this week’s movie theme is Kicking Ass and Taking Names. In 1776, this is was the norm, and every year since then, it has been the norm. Violence, after all, adds drama and complications to any movie plot. In fact, the action genre is pretty much All-American fare. One of Thomas Edison’s earlier movies was a boxing match. It’s still engaging 110 years later. This may be because we all understand what it’s like to struggle to overcome life’s obstacles. How much more patriotic can you get? So, to the victor go the spoils and the weekend box office profits.

Place: Hollywood Video, San Bruno
Movies: 4
Days per film: 5
Total cost: $8.60

“The Magnificent Seven” (1960) – Once upon a time in Japan (about 1954), Akira Kurosawa made a movie called “The Seven Samurai,” which is styled after American western films. Eons later (1960), Hollywood decided to turn the movie into a western. Kurosawa may have been Japan’s most prolific auteur, but was Steve McQueen in the original film? I don’t think so. He was in the American version, however, alongside Hollywood’s A-list tough guys: Yul Brynner, Charles Bronson, and James Coburn. And instead of wielding swords, it’s all flying lead, south-of-the-border style. While the “The Magnificent Seven” is no “Unforgiven,” it’s a classic that can’t be denied. After all, the tagline says it all: They were seven – And they fought like seven hundred! Best fight scene (tie): 1) Britt (Coburn) duels a hotheaded fool and wins–twice! 2) Chris Adams (Brynner) and Vin (McQueen) take no guff when they volunteer to bury an Indian in the cemetery.

“West Side Story” (1961) – OK, OK. This is a musical. I admit it, but hey, it’s a musical about gangs, fighting, and star-crossed love, all set to the breathtaking Leonard Bernstein soundtrack. So your local branch of the Bloods might not fight with ballet moves. That’s OK. They still carry knives and guns, just like the fictional Jets and Sharks. Many people see musicals as a thing of the past, but this one is different. Even in 2005, its critique of immigration issues and high-risk youth is extremely valid. If you can, try to tolerate the blissfully vacant expressions of Maria (Natalie Wood) and Tony (Richard Beymer). Also, Rita Moreno delivers a knockout, Oscar-winning performance as Anita. Best fight scene: The rumble, hands down.

“The Heroic Trio” (1993) – I don’t care how good Chuck Norris is at Tae Kwan Do. Americans don’t do Martial Arts films well. This is where Michelle Yeoh, Anita Mui and Maggie Cheung come in. Together, they star in this explosive film, which is worth every minute of your time. While “Trio” is hardly representative of an entire genre (the ladies are superheroines, thank you), it’s a pleasant change of pace to see someone who isn’t Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee, or Jet Li grace the silver screen. Ultimately, the movie is pure entertainment. There isn’t a moment that drags. The editing is choppy sometimes, and the dubbed soundtrack is OK, but this movie will kick your ass all the way home from the video store. Best fight scene: Wonder Woman (Mui) and Thief Catcher (Cheung) try to stop a train from crashing into a train station while fighting Number Nine, the slave of the Evil Master.

“Coffy” (1973) – Gratuitous violence, nudity and adult situations. If these are some of your favorite things, then “Coffy” is right up your alley. Starring the dynamic Pam Grier, “Coffy” is over the top and realistic all at once. Yes, people seek vengeance on drug dealers off screen, but rarely do they aim to take down an entire drug ring–pimps, pushers, politicians, police and anyone else who gets in the way. Then again, Coffy isn’t your ordinary ER nurse. Warning: Grier seems to lose her shirt at a moment’s notice (and I don’t think she ever has a bra on), so don’t watch this with your parents. If you like this movie, you might like “Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill” and “Detroit 9000.” Best fight scene: Coffy takes on a room full of King George’s trashy white prostitutes. Yes, those are razors in her hair.

Click back next week for more movie store hijinks!