[Fresh on Blu-ray] Kino Lorber releases a batch of steamy films that navigate sex, crime, comedy and Vanilla Ice

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THE LAST MARRIED COUPLE IN AMERICA

Rated R, 103 minutes.
Director: Gilbert Cates
Cast: George Segal, Natalie Wood, Dom Deluise, Valerie Harper, Richard Benjamin

Some forgotten films can act as a relic into the past of where society was in that particular era. The 1980 film THE LAST MARRIED COUPLE IN AMERICA staring recently departed actor George Segal and Natalie Wood (just before her mysterious disappearance) is caught somewhere between an earnestly raunchy comedy and a heartfelt love story about reconnecting. 

Directed by Gilbert Cates in the height of the divorce boom of America where Boomers (not an insult) resized, they could have some agency in their lives and explore who they are as people and as sexual beings. It’s an honest portrayal of sexual exploration from the likes of character actor Dom DeLuise (who is endlessly horny throughout), Valerie Harper, and Richard Benjamin as an emasculated male. If you don’t take the film’s thesis too seriously and hone in on the charms of the two leads, THE LAST MARRIED COUPLE IN AMERICA is a charming look at marriage. 

The title here says it all as Segal and Wood struggle to find reasons to stay together, which certainly isn’t for the kids. THE LAST MARRIED COUPLE IN AMERICA attempts to subvert expectations on modern California relationships, but its results are skewed yet wildly engrossing. 

RENT/BUY: If this is on the totem pole of late 70s early 80s comedies for adults and the top of the line is AN UNMARRIED WOMAN/ KRAMER VS KRAMER, THE LAST MARRIED COUPLE falls somewhere in the middle brow. It’s the charisma of Wood and Segal that carries this thing across the finish line. Plus, there’s a nice historical commentary track that ties this film into the works of Frank Perry; it’s worth a purchase.

Grade: B

THE LAST MARRIED COUPLE IN AMERICA is available from Kino Lorber and major online retaillers.

THE HOT SPOT

Rated R, 130 minutes.
Director: Dennis Hopper
Cast: Don Johnson, Virginia Madsen, Jennifer Connelly, William Sadler

Noirs are a genre that is being tweaked by filmmakers one way or the other. Rarely are (good) films eager to nestle into the conventions that the meetings of a hard-boiled detective and femme fatale bring. Plus, once you add a mercurial maverick such as Dennis Hopper to the director’s chair, you can bet he’s going to take a few risks. THE HOT SPOT stars Don Johnson going toe to toe in a steamy small-town thriller with Virginia Madsen and Jennifer Connelly in a story about sex and blackmail. The games played on-screen ended up not playing out for the legendary director as the cast was iffy about promoting the film when it was released.

 It turns out that Hopper taking big risks and pushing the boundaries doesn’t always lead to commercial success. However controversial, THE HOT SPOT maybe it’s an unapologetic film that takes its time to simmer for over two hours without coming to a brimming boil. 

Drifter Harry Madox (Johnson) is a calm and relaxed used car salesman who couldn’t give two rips about his job in the dusty small Texas town. His outwardly low-key smart ass persona allows him to sneakily rob the local bank in broad daylight, leading to a fire. It’s when Harry’s morals kick in that things start to become dicey. He saves a man, but no good deed goes unpunished in cinema. Dolly (Madsen), a local woman who’s the wife of a local businessman, gives him an alibi in exchange for his affections. One thing leads to another Harry falls for Gloria (Connelly), and everything turns sideways. It’s a slow-paced yarn that many find unsatisfying, but it’s oozing with Hopper’s personality and Johnson’s ridiculous ego. 

RENT/BUY

Kino Lorber gave this film a beautiful treatment with eye-catching artwork and a slipcover. There’s something about having a little piece of Dennis Hopper’s artistry floating around the house that’s good for the soul. Kino’s Studio Classics line digs up films from the depths of obscurity, and this is one of those feverish looks into 90s independent cinema. Buy THE HOT SPOT. It’s a film that constantly changes shapes and emotions depending on your mood. Worth every penny. 

Grade: B-

THE HOT SPOT is available from Kino Lorber shop and any major online retailers.

COOL AS ICE

Rated PG, 91 minutes.
Director: David Kellogg
Cast: Vanilla Ice, Kristin Minter

In 1991, Vanilla Ice (Rob Van Winkle) was at the top of the pops with a cheesy, if not a funky fresh persona that ushered in a white guy into the rap stratosphere. While debating the ethics of cultural appropriation by Ice and his management team in the early 90s is outside of the scope here, it’s hard to deny that this guy was everywhere. It turns out that strategy was the worst-case scenario for his film debut, COOL AS ICE. 

 The consensus agrees that this is a terrible movie. However, there’s something strangely fascinating bubbling under the surface). Directed by David Kellogg (INSPECTOR GADGET) with charisma and an aesthetic that has aged quite well given the 90s are in style. The director of photography was Janusz Kaminski right before he shot SCHINDLER’S LIST. It’s a crazy world and while the movie is light on the plot that extends the length of Vanilla Ice, is a streetwise motorcyclist who falls for a girl (Kristin Minter) with an angelic reputation. A couple of star-crossed lovers and some cooky side characters is all the film offers narratively. 

Weirdly, COOL AS ICE is a smooth watch that has aged quite well in its just being a strange watch. Plus, the images shot by Kaminski are gorgeous and bring the film some personality. Kino Lorber knows how to get its audience invested in some of the stranger titles in American cinema history. Although this legendary brick sunk Vanilla Ice’s career but gave him the freedom to absolutely slay with the Ninja Rap the following year. 

RENT/BUY

If there’s a problem you have, buying this Blu-ray will solve it.

Grade: C+

COOL AS ICE is available from Kino Lorber shop and any major online retailers.

About author

James C. Clay

James Cole Clay has been working as a film critic for the better part of a decade covering new releases, blu ray reviews and the occasional drive-in cult classic. His writing is dedicated to discovering social politics through diverse voices, primarily focusing on Women In Film and LGBTQ cinema.