DVD This Week: April 30 - Mania.com



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DVD This Week: April 30

Ali still packs a punch, but it's nothing compared to the damage done by Herbert West and Dr. Lamb

By John Thonen     April 30, 2002

VIDEO NEWS


STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION - SEASON 3 had previously been announced by Paramount, but now the company is sharing info on the supplemental features that the twenty-six episode set will include. "Mission Overview" will be a featurette, with interviews, taking a look at the major changes to the series which occurred during the third season. "Selected Crew Analysis" is another featurette which will take a look at the development of the show's characters, such as Dr Crusher, who returned to the series after a hiatus during year two. "Briefing" will be a third featurette, this one concentrating on behind-the-scenes looks at certain year three episodes. The final featurette, "Departmental Briefing," offers anecdotes from cast and crew about season three. The DVD set will be released July 2 with a list price of $134.99, but there are already websites offering to pre-sell the package for under $100.00.


PEARL HARBOR didn't make too many critics' "Best Films" lists, but it has proven to be a hit on video, so much so that an unprecedented DVD special edition of the film will be released this July. The 4-disc set offers a "Director's Cut" with some sixty new shots. In addition, there's a twenty-four page booklet, four '40s-era-styled postcards featuring stars Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett, Kate Beckinsale and Cuba Gooding Jr., and a reported twelve hours of special features relating to the actual, historical Pearl Harbor, or to the production of the film. It all comes in a faux-leather, airmail pouch-style case which unfolds and contains a replica of Franklin D. Roosevelt's address to Congress on December 8, 1941, regarding the events of the previous "Day of Infamy." There's even a $10.00 savings offered for owners of the PEARL HARBOR: 60th ANNIVERSARY COMMEMORATIVE EDITION when they buy this new package. Folks, I'll stand by my opinion that this ain't much of a movie, but it's one hell of a DVD package and may set the standard for all DVDs to come.


SPY GAME was recently released on DVD and there are reports that owners of Toshiba and some Pioneer and Sony DVD players are having some problems with the disc. It seems it's not possible to turn off the "English Titles For the Hearing Impaired" option. The disc's distributor, Universal, has reacted swiftly to the issue and established a return/exchange program. If you have one of these discs, and are having this problem and you aren't hearing impaired, then send it to: Spy Game DVD Return, PO BOX 224468, Dallas TX 75260. Universal is already doing a repress of the disc, but are stating that customers should expect it to take 4-6 weeks before their replacement arrives.


THIS WEEK'S NOTEWORTHY NEW RELEASES


ALI was [IMG2R]one of the bigger financial disappointments of last year, but the film itself is, while definitely flawed, brave and powerful and bolstered by a bravura performance by Will Smith, who can no longer be considered as just "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air." The film makes little attempt to tell Ali's life, instead offering a series of vignettes from a specific period of his life. Director Michael Mann draws excellent performances from his entire cast, particularly an unrecognizable Jon Voight as Howard Cosell, and does a brilliant job with juggling visual styles for the different eras the film takes place in, but the end result seems to somehow be less than the individual segments and we always feel at a distance from the characters, even Ali. It's a brilliant and ambitious misfire though, and shouldn't be missed.


AND NOW THE SCREAMING STARTS is a lesser-known Hammer title, and is generally considered a lesser effort from the studio, which isn't entirely fair. The plot is very familiar: a young bride, her husband's castle, a family curse, but things take a twist when she is raped by a ghost on her wedding night. The film is nicely directed by Roy Ward Baker and boasts an outstanding cast of the era including Peter Cushing, Herbert Lom, Patrick Magee, Ian Ogilvy, Guy Rolfe and Stephanie Beacham. There were a couple of scenes cut from the U.S. theatrical release in 1973 and this video re-release restores them. It's no lost classic, but lovers of gothic horror could do a lot worse than this one.


BEYOND THE DARKNESS (BUIO OMEGA) is a postponed release I mentioned in an earlier column, but which demands to be singled out again. This is, simply put, one of the most infamous films ever released during the heyday of European gore films in the '70s and '80s. A cut version was released in this country on video in the '80s under the name BURIED ALIVE, and if this uncut version is any more shocking than that was, you'd deserve to be warned. Necrophilia is the main though not sole perversion on display here and is graphically depicted, as is the dissection of nude female corpses and the cremation of corpses. It's long been rumored that director Arristede Maccacessi (Joe D'Amato) used actual bodies in some of these scenes, and it's easy to believe. This is twisted, dark and demented stuff. If that appeals to you, here it is in all its depravity. If not, consider yourself warned.


BIKER ZOMBIES FROM DETROIT is another delayed title that been dealt with here before. To recap: shot on video, really bad acting, lighting and sound are coupled with a dumb plot to create a terrible waste of eighty-four minutes of your life.


CRUEL AND UNUSUAL is an, as yet, unseen Canadian produced thriller about a small-town brother and sister who befriend a charming stranger who may well be a serial killer. Veteran Canuck director George Mahalka (MY BLOODY VALENTINE) is a competent filmmaker and slumming former star Tom Berenger has the acting chops to pull off the mix of charm and menace the role demands, so this may be a minor sleeper. I'll let you know ASAP.


DR. LAMB is a notorious "inspired by a real-life case" bit of Hong Kong sleaze lifted to a higher level by Simon Yam's chilling portrayal of a psychotic cab driver who likes to eat women and not in a way they're likely to enjoy. He also dismembers them and then takes photos of the final results as a souvenir. Danny Lee, who also co-directed, is the cop on the killer's trail and all of the victims are "impure," so there's lots of fine looking Asian ladies on view in addition to the gore and grue. Sick stuff, but well done and frequently disturbing.


THE HITCHIKER'S [IMG3L]GUIDE TO THE GALAXY may be a tough sell to those who find its threadbare sets and cheesy special effects unpalatable. But if they can stick with it, most will be delighted by one of the most imaginative, amusing and witty creations in the history of science fiction. The late Douglas Adams, a former DR. WHO writer, originally created this tale of the only survivor of Earth's destruction (done by aliens to make way for an intergalactic highway) as a radio series. He later wrote HITCHIKER'S books, in addition to the popular series. In each episode this last remnant of humanity journeys through a seriously silly universe and meets some aliens who would fit in with the Marx Brothers far better than in a George Lucas film. Wonderful stuff. Check it out.


NOT ANOTHER TEEN MOVIE is a comedic send-up of "teen" movies, which are generally comedies themselves. Not the most promising of idea, but the film manages to deliver laughs pretty effectively for anyone who has seen any entry in the "teens and sex" sub-genre from FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH on up to, well... NOT ANOTHER TEEN MOVIE. The film opens with a gross-out gag that was over-the-line to me, but they get it out of the way and never stoop to those depths again, relying instead on a talented and well-chosen cast, spoofs of familiar teen movie sequences (Paul Gleason reprising his BREAKFAST CLUB teacher in a detention session for example) and even some hard to spot gags (check out the name of the pizza joint on the street when "You've Got To Be Somebody's Baby" - from FAST TIMES - is on the soundtrack). Like most spoofs, this is pretty forgettable, but if you've grown up with the teen flicks of the past fifteen or twenty years, you'll get some laughs out of this one.


RE-ANIMATOR should be welcomed by any horror fan that doesn't already own it. It's basically a very black comedy spiced up with considerable gore, a bravura performance from Jeffrey Combs, the delectable presence of lovely Barbara Crampton and the stylish direction of Stuart Gordon. All that, plus it's inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft and features the most twisted severed head sequence in the history of film. The DVD features twin commentaries, one from Gordon and the other from producer Brian Yuzna and most of the cast. Both talks are good, but the second one is a delight, almost like watching the film with friends who know more about it than you do. In addition, the disc offers a trailer, TV spots, a deleted scene and the additional footage that was added to the film to replace the cuts made to earn it an "R" rating. I believe all of this was on the earlier DVD of the film, as well as on the laserdisc some years back, but the visual quality here is better than I'd remembered on those, so the re-mastered print was worth the effort.


SPIDERMAN: THE ULTIMATE VILLAIN SHOWDOWN is a well-timed release of episodes of a long past TV cartoon series which feature soon-to-be superstar "Spidey" against the greatest villains the world has ever seen. It's just very average Saturday Morning kids fair, but the upcoming Sam Raimi live action version of the film will help create a renewed interest in the character and his stories, which will hopefully be an important part of the film.


STAGEGHOST: Horror [IMG4R]westerns are a small, and often disreputable, sub-genre, with John Carpenter's VAMPIRES probably being the best of the bunch, even though it's a modern day western without conventional cowboys or old west towns. STAGEGHOST has a decent enough premise a stagecoach way station into which pulls an empty coach with the note "Give It Back." Soon, the station is surrounded by eerie figures with flaming torches and it seems as if they are under siege by supernatural forces. It could work, but it doesn't. The presence of veterans like Terry Moore (the original MIGHTY JOE YOUNG), John Vernon (ANIMAL HOUSE) and Edward Albert (BUTTERFLIES ARE FREE) helps, and puffy-looking Albert manages to be pretty convincing as a gunman, but the film's limited budget is constantly apparent and director Stephen Furst (that's right, Flounder from ANIMAL HOUSE) does flounder in the action scenes and fails to generate an active pace or any real suspense. Nice title, good box art, OK idea. Not so hot a movie.


VAMPIRES IN HAVANA is a rather fun animated film created in Cuba. Surprisingly, there are no real social or political agendas here and, while the animation is crude, the story about a potion that allows vampires to exist in sunlight is pretty entertaining. Worth a look for those desiring something out of the ordinary.


ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST (DR. BUTCHER M.D.) is yet another infamous zombie/cannibal shocker from the Italian exploitation film industry circa the 1980s. This one drew a lot of attention in theatrical release in the U.S. thanks to a clever re-naming of the film as DR. BUTCHER M.D. (MEDICAL DEVIANT) with the blurb, "He's a depraved, homicidal killer, and he makes house calls." All of this helped make this gorefest a big draw in New York City's much missed sleaze theatre strip in Times Square. The film itself is pretty typical for these meatball monstrosities and has nothing to do with "house calls," though there is a crazy doctor. There's also natives, zombies, jungle, an expedition with a couple of hot looking women and deaths by boat propellers among other devices. ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST (not to be confused with CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, or with CANNIBAL APOCALYPSE for that matter) is about average as far as these type films go. It's not as good as the works of Lucio Fulci, but if you like your blood and guts with a touch of spaghetti sauce, this one ain't half bad.


EASTER EGG HUNT


THE ONE hit video a few weeks ago and has proven to be a popular title for those challenged by nuisances such as plot and characters. The ever popular DVD Review website recently shared a hidden goodie to justify a second viewing of this 88 minute martial arts fight. Select "Special Features" and then press your "Right" arrow on your remote. A symbol will appear on Jet Li's chest and if you then press "Enter" you'll be treated to an interview with Li about adjusting to America. A second, if rather odd, hidden goodie can be found if you go to the second page of "Special Features" and press the "Up" arrow, which highlights the movie's logo at the top of the screen. Now, press "Enter" and see a short interview with Mark Borchardt best known, if at all, as the outlaw moviemaker profiled in the documentary AMERICAN MOVIE who talks about his cameo appearance in THE ONE.


COMING ATTRACTIONS


We'll kindle a fire with some beach girls who are more interested in Bruce Willis and George Clooney, who are a couple of real hounds.




Vidiocy is our weekly Video & DVD column.

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