Bright Lights, Big City James Bridges

There is no way to overstate just how many movies Michael J. Fox made in the ’80s. Following the diminutive Canadian’s breakthrough role in Back to the Future, Hollywood studios had him honing his talents as a poor man’s Tom Cruise in dozens, hundreds, even thousands of mid-budget mediocrities. Don’t believe me? Just try to wade through all the Doc Hollywoods and Life With Mikeys next time you’re looking through the discount bin at your local Wal-Mart. Recently released on special edition DVD, Bright Lights, Big City is one of the better entries in the Fox canon, a compelling film about drug addiction and wasted potential. Fox plays an aspiring author from Kansas working a soul-crushing magazine job in Manhattan, hooked on coke, professionally derailed by his party-hardy lifestyle and still reeling over being abruptly dumped by his wife (Phoebe Cates, perhaps even more synonymous with the ’80s than Fox). Fox is surprisingly charismatic and the cast is good enough to include Dianne Wiest, John Houseman and David Hyde Pierce (don’t blink — he’s a bartender) but it’s Kiefer Sutherland as Fox’s slimy dealer who walks away with the picture. Of the special features, the "Bright City Lights” documentary is a brief and fairly useless puff piece featuring irrelevant talking heads pointing out that the film is an ’80s cultural artefact. No surprises there. More worthwhile is a commentary by the great cinematographer Gordon Willis, although the most interesting of the extras is "The Light Within,” an interview with screenwriter Jay McInerney, who based Michael J. Fox’s character on his own experiences. "I think for a long time I just thought if I drank enough and lived a colourful enough life, the writing would follow,” he admits. (MGM)