US, premiered 1983
Mickey Mouse? Doing calisthenics? The breakout success of home workout videos in the early '80—the most apparent being Jane Fonda's Workout in 1982—inspired Disney to take the trend into its own mouse mittens. In 1983, Disney launched The Disney Channel, and it tapped dancer Kellyn Plasschaert to lead an early morning, Jane Fonda-esque workout show for kids titled Mousercise. Disney characters like Mickey and Goofy joined a child cast during their workouts, and in between exercising, the show featured short sketches with the characters. Mousercise also spawned hit soundtracks (which are streaming) and a popular standalone VHS release, which was drenched in leg warmers, overly shampooed hair, short shorts, Mickey attempting to stretch, and a high-energy finale that would make Italo Disco proud.
The show ran from 1983 to 1996 but you'd hardly know it today. For as long as Mousercise ran on The Disney Channel, it's surprising how little of it made it over to the digital era. Some of the episodes are available on YouTube, but most of the media is unavailable to the public, as DefunctTV overviewed in a great episode last year, embedded below. Given the comeback of Mousercise during the pandemic, I wouldn't put it past Disney to drop this on Disney+ sometime this year. CHASE BURNS
France | US, 1991, 98 min, Dir. Steven Soderbergh
In his third Unstreamable appearance, director Steven Soderbergh wades into the life and work of Franz Kafka in Kafka. The mostly black and white noir/biopic/thriller was his second film and stars Jeremy Irons as the titular character. Kafka’s life somewhat resembles that of the writer and his literature—he’s an insurance clerk, moonlighting as an unsuccessful author in the early 20th century. He has a terrible relationship with father. And when his friend disappears, he gets drawn into a twisted, bureaucratic, underground organization that pulls from the plots of Kafka’s The Castle and The Trial. It’s surreal and paranoid, but a mostly underwhelming and tonally confusing watch.
And Soderbergh agrees! When It was released, Kafka was a major commercial and critical flop. It only came out on VHS and has largely languished in obscurity. For years, Soderbergh has said he plans to recut the film entirely, redubbing the whole thing in German and dropping a Blu-ray edition of both versions. “I’d like to make it a little more abstract and more of a hardcore art movie,” he told Indiewire in 2013. “It’s not a tweak: it’s triage.” As of 2020, it seems like quarantine gave him the time to accomplish that recut (as well as trimming the unstreamable Full Frontal and Schizopolis). Keep your eyes peeled for a freshly reinterpreted version of this early Soderbergh film. JASMYNE KEIMIG
Hong Kong, 1983, 108 min, Dir. Sammo Hung
This is the first film in the original Lucky Stars martial arts trilogy, which came from director and actor (and Hong Kong legend) Sammo Hung. The films follow the Five Lucky Stars, an ensemble of five men who get thrown in prison for petty crimes but restart their lives by creating a cleaning company together and—because why not—fighting crime with martial arts. The original group in Winners and Sinners includes Sammo Hung, Richard Ng, Charlie Chin, Stanley Fung, and John Shum—although a major reason to watch is for Jackie Chan. Specifically, a sequence that involves Chan competing in an intense rollerskating competition that culminates in a 30-or-so-car pile-up on a highway.
The sequence starts innocuously. Chan's character, "police officer CID 07," goes undercover by competing in a skating competition where crooks plan to exchange counterfeit money. Chan does a bunch of tricks for the crowd, including jumping through a flaming hula hoop, all while wearing a cute daisy-yellow jumpsuit. That short performance evolves into Chan somehow skating down a highway, and—because why not—dodging speeding cars as they crash into each other. I was already gasping at Chan's groovy skating; the explosive motor sports really sent me over the edge. I'm a fan. CHASE BURNS
Canada | United Kingdom, 2003, 104 min, Dir. Richard Kwietniowski
Also in his third Unstreamable appearance is Philip Seymour Hoffman in Owning Mahowny. He plays Dan Mahowny, a Canadian bank worker with an extreme gambling addiction. As he struggles to pay a debt off to the mob, he starts to skim larger and larger amounts of money from his place of work. His luck, it seems, comes in the form of his colleagues being oblivious to his deceit and not at the Atlantic City tables, where he loses millions night after night.
Through it all, Hoffman plays Mahowny with no glamor or glitz, but with a type of studied vacuousness that’s chilling. It’s clear that his compulsion to keep raising the stakes is a debilitating addiction that threatens his character’s wellbeing. But it results in a rather uninteresting film because of how Hoffman plays Mahowny as a husk of his former self. As a performance, it’s fantastic, but it’s a bit uninteresting to watch as a film.
I should also note that the film is based on a real-life story from the early 1980s when Brian Malony embezzled over $10 million from the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce to feed his gambling habit, one of the largest schemes of its kind in Canadian history. JASMYNE KEIMIG
*Unstreamable means we couldn't find it on Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, or any of the other 300+ streaming services available in the United States. We also couldn't find it available for rent or purchase through platforms like Prime Video or iTunes. Yes, we know you can find many things online illegally, but we don't consider user-generated videos, like unauthorized YouTube uploads, to be streamable.