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Raising Arizona VHS
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Blood Simple made it clear that the cinematically precocious Coen brothers (writer-director Joel and writer-producer Ethan) were gifted filmmakers to watch out for. But it was the outrageously farcical Raising Arizona that announced the Coens' darkly comedic audacity to the world. It wasn't widely seen when released in 1987, but its modest audience was vocally supportive, and this hyperactive comedy has since developed a large and loyal following. It's the story of "Ed" (for Edwina, played by Holly Hunter), a policewoman who falls in love with "Hi" (for H.I. McDonnough, played by Nicolas Cage) while she's taking his mug shots. She's infertile and he's a habitual robber of convenience stores, and their folksy marital bliss depends on settling down with a rug rat. Unable to conceive, they kidnap one of the newsworthy quintuplets born to an unpainted-furniture huckster named Nathan Arizona (Trey Wilson), who quickly hires a Harley-riding mercenary (Randall "Tex" Cobb) to track the baby's whereabouts. What follows is a full-throttle comedy that defies description, fueled by the Coens' lyrical redneck dialogue, the manic camerawork of future director Barry Sonnenfeld, and some of the most inventively comedic chase scenes ever filmed. Some will dismiss the comedy for being recklessly over-the-top; others will love it for its clever mix of slapstick action, surreal fantasy, and homespun family values. One thing's for sure--this is a Coen movie from start to finish, and that makes it undeniably unique. --Jeff Shannon
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Maybe the Blu-ray is correct.
Cage plays H.I. McDunnough, a career criminal who has a penchant for robbing convenience stores, along with getting caught. During his various incarcerations he falls for, and eventually marries, a police officer named Edwina aka Ed (Hunter) and the pair move into a starter home (a trailer) while H.I. goes on the straight and narrow, taking on a respectable job. Things go well, that is until the couple learns, while trying to start a family, that they can't have a baby due to the fact Ed's `insides were a rocky place where H.I.'s seed could find no purchase'. Not only that but adoption isn't an option, given H.I.'s checked past. As despair over their situation sets in, the couple learns of a local businessman named Nathan Arizona (Wilson), `the owner of the largest chain of unpainted furniture and bathroom fixtures throughout the southwest', and how his wife just gave birth to quintuplets. From disparity comes a plan to snatch one of the babies and raise it as their own, the thought being perhaps Arizona and his wife have more than they can handle, and won't miss one too much. They snatch the baby and return home, only to soon be visited by a couple of H.I.'s jailbird buddies, the brothers Gale (Goodman) and Evelle (Forsythe) Snoats, who've recently effectuated themselves an early release from prison. Matters are further complicated as H.I. loses his job and soon finds himself reverting back to his old, criminal ways (seems Gale and Evelle are planning a bank job, and want H.I. in on the heist). Eventually things come to a head as a large, dirty, greasy, hairy bounty hunter aka the warthog from hell named Leonard Smalls (Cobb) makes the scene, his intent being to collect the child by any means necessary.
This is one of those movies where everything works in terms of the writing, dialog, direction, performances, casting, and so on...the best aspect, in my opinion, is the unique writing as there's a ton of quotable lines from the film, a few of my favorites listed below (for context on most, you'll just have to see the film)...
`Son, you got a panty on yer head.'
`Now, what's it gonna be young feller? You want I should freeze or get down on the ground? Cause if'n I freeze, I can't rightly drop. And if'n I drop, I'm gonna be in motion.'
`Anyone found bipedal in five wears his a** for a hat!'
And then, of course, there's the classic line that comes as Nathan Arizona, after the abduction, is being questioned by local, state, and federal authorities. At one point someone asks him what the baby was wearing at the time of the abduction and Arizona replies, in an agitated state, `I don't know - they were jammies! They had Yodas'n s**t on 'em!'...and there's a lot more where that came from...something else, what makes the dialog work as well as it does is the delivery, not only by the main performers but also by the supporting cast members. Both Cage and Hunter are excellent in their roles, as are Goodman and Forsythe as the criminally dimwitted, slovenly Snoats, and Trey Wilson, as Nathan Arizona. Frances McDormand also does very well as the wife of H.I.'s boss, but know her role is fairly small, at least compared to her part in the Coen Brothers' Fargo (1996), for which she ended up earning her an Academy Award. I also really liked Randall 'Tex' Cobb in his role, which presented him more as a malevolent force of nature rather than your average, on screen villain. As far as the direction, I thought it was done extremely well, especially during the opening sequences prior to the opening credits, which sets up a lot in a relatively short amount of time, and subsequently sets the tone well for the rest of the film. There are so many great scenes throughout the film but the one that comes to my mind is a short one, and features Gale and Evelle, who've absconded with the baby after learning his true identity, as they stop at a gas station/convenience store to pick up supplies. Evelle's interaction with the store attendant in terms of diapers, balloons, and whatnot, is worth the price of admission alone. All in all this is an extremely funny, entertaining, and even thoughtful film, and one definitely worth owning as, if you're like me, you'll most likely watch it more than once.
The picture, presented in widescreen (1.85:1), on this DVD is very clean and clear, and the Dolby Digital Surround audio, available in English and French, comes through very well. There's really not much in terms of extras, except for an original theatrical trailer, subtitles in English and Spanish, three television spots, and previews for a couple of other Coen Brothers releases including Barton Fink (1991) and Miller's Crossing (1990). Actually, I'm somewhat surprised, at the time this review was written, that a newer DVD release of this film, one packed with extras, including a commentary or two, has yet to come out, but perhaps we'll see one sometime in the near future.
An early Coen Brothers classic film.
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