SID AND NANCY R, 1986, 111 minutes, Nelson Entertainment, close captioned, $19.98
This tale of two punks in a funk also serves as a eulogy for an era and its music in the hands of director Alex Cox of the cult comedy "Repo Man." It is a surprisingly compassionate but aggressively ugly dramatization of the drug-addicted love affair between Sex Pistol Sid Vicious (Gary Oldman) and groupie Nancy Spungen (Chloe Webb). They were irredeemable brats who shot up, spat up and hung onto each other like a rock Romeo and Juliet in the half-decade of slam dancing and safety pin earrings. Finally and not surprisingly, he kills her and later himself. This is an unsparing tragedy of young love that never grew old. And neither did the music -- which is rerecorded by surviving former Sex Pistol Glen Matlock. Incidental music is provided by the Pogues, Joe Strummer and Pray for Rain. Not everyone's cup of tea.
Rita Kempley A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN Unrated, 1945, B&W, 129 minutes, Playhouse Video, $59.95.
Elia Kazan's first film as a director is an honest, luminous heartbreaker based on Betty Smith's novel about turn-of-the-century tenement life. Two of the actors received well-deserved Oscars: James Dunn for his poignant portrayal of alcoholic pipe dreamer Johnny Nolan, and Peggy Ann Garner as Francie, the adolescent daughter who worships him. For both stars, the film marks career pinnacles never again approached. Dorothy McGuire plays embittered wife Katie, pinching each precious penny, and Joan Blondell glistens as her sister, a devoted man-chaser whose motto is "try everything once." Beautifully shot by Leon Shamroy, "A Tree" is best watched with family or close friends, since it's virtually impossible to get through it dry-eyed. The look of hopeful trusting innocence on young Garner's face is devastating and haunting, and the movie affects you at such a basic, organic level that a discussion of its cinematic significance would just seem trivializing. But for the record, it is a classic of its kind, and its kind is extremely rare.
Tom Shales A PRAYER FOR THE DYING R, 1987, 108 minutes, Virgin Vision, $89.95.
As an actor, Mickey Rourke exudes a kind of dank, mushroomy quality. He's not likable in the conventional sense; it's possible, in fact, that no other actor has ever cared less about his audience appeal. But there may not be another actor working today who's as bizarrely compelling, or who conjures up as many conflicting, puzzling responses -- even when he isn't any good. Or, as is the case here, if the movie isn't any good. In this story, Rourke plays a sour-faced redhead named Fallon who's wanted for the bombing of a school bus full of kids. On the run from the cops and his compatriots in the IRA, Fallon heads for London, where a local crime boss (Alan Bates) tries to hire him to bump off a rival hood. The carrot for Fallon is that in exchange, he will be given $50,000, a passport and guaranteed safe passage out of the country. Fallon wants no more of killing, but he has no choice -- it's either kill or be killed. Though this sounds like a challenging moral dilemma, the movie manages to squander it. The director, Mike Hodges, peoples the screen with stock figures who make thunderous pronouncements about the nature of sin and the state of Fallon's soul. And Hodges seems not to realize that there's anything hackneyed or heavy-handed in the film's good-versus-evil symbolism. Bates is wonderfully, prissily amoral as the funeral director/crime boss, and Bob Hoskins, as the priest who opposes him, contributes his usual pit-bull tenacity. But Rourke is the center of attention. He's playing a dangerous man here, and he appears truly, disturbingly dangerous.
Hal Hinson THE LOST BOYS R, 1987, 98 minutes, Warner Home Video, close captioned, $89.95
Some fandango, this Peter Pan with vampires -- an entertaining combo of coming-of-age comedy, horror fantasy and teen romance complete with a gang of beautiful boy immortals. Kiefer Sutherland plays the leader of this eerie pack -- a menacing, heavy-metal Dracula who uses peer pressure to recruit the new kid in town. Jason Patrick is this all-American teen hunk, who just moved to sleepy Santa Clara with his just-divorced mother (Dianne Wiest) and his kid brother (Corey Haim). Patrick starts growing fangs after one wildly romantic night with the vampire moll (Jami Gertz). "I'm at the mercy of your glands," complains his younger brother, who helps save the day with the aid of a boy vampire killer (Corey Feldman). Their squirt guns loaded with garlic juice, the daring boys set out to trap the vampires, who sleep by day in their creepy, oceanside den. Alas, all the vampire lore of yore is not necessarily so. Joel Schumacher of "D.C. Cab" directs this inventive parable on the perils of reaching one's majority.
Rita Kempley A MAN IN LOVE R, 1987, 110 minutes, Nelson Entertainment, $79.98.
There are two possible responses to Diane Kurys' "A Man in Love." You can stalk out in a huff at the utter ludicrousness of the thing or you can stay with it and howl. I howled. Not just anyone can make a film as monumentally boneheaded and pretentious as this, and as a result, Kurys may come to occupy a special place in your heart -- she's game, but in all the wrong ways. The movie is supposed to be about how artists create. What it's really about is how self-indulgent jerks parade their temperaments as proof of their talent. The film's main difficulty is that Kurys doesn't seem to know the difference between the two. The story chronicles the love affair between an American movie star (Peter Coyote) and his costar (Greta Scacchi), who fall for each other while on location in Rome for a film about the life of the Italian writer Cesare Pavese. There's an immediate seductiveness to movies about movie-making, and Kurys captures some of that, especially as she shifts locations from Rome to Paris and Tuscany. The sensuousness and languor of all this, and the handsomeness of the performers, are appealing; it's like flipping through the pages of Vogue. And with about the same intellectual substance and depth.