DVD This Week: August 20 - Mania.com


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DVD This Week: August 20

Soldiers, cuties, monsters and talking fur-balls, plus Tim Thomerson returns as another brave sheriff who loses his head in his work

By John Thonen     August 20, 2002


HELLRAISER: HELLSEEKER, which reunites stars Doug Bradley and Ashley Laurence from the first film in the series, will hit video stores this October. But FANGORIA.COM recently reported that a sequel to that sequel is already in the works. Apparently the secret to this quick turnaround is that the filmmakers managed to bypass such time wasters as writing an original script and instead reworked an existing, but non HELLRAISER related, script to fit their needs. In fairness, the idea does sound pretty cool; a female reporter, who infiltrates a suicide cult known as the "Deaders," finds herself trapped in the midst of their plans for ritual self-sacrifice. Doug Bradley will be back as Pinhead, though no other cast has been announced to date. The film, certain to join the last couple of entries in the series as direct-to-video fodder, will start production soon in Hungary.

In October, the good folks at Anchor Bay Entertainment will release a trio of DVDs featuring the most enjoyable martial arts films ever made. MAD MISSION, MAD MISSION II: ACES GO PLACES and MAD MISSION: OUR MAN FROM BOND STREET are delightfully silly tales of the unlikely partnership of a super criminal and a hard-nosed cop who keep getting involved in outrageous situations. In Hong Kong, these were known as the "Aces Go Places" films and were hugely popular. Sam Hui and Karl Maka, along with Sylvia Chang as Maka's harried wife, pull off amazing stunts and fight with, or against, outlandish gadgets, many of which are inspired by other movies such as ROBOCOP or TRANSFORMERS toys. Amazing car and motorcycle chases, rocket-packs, Clint Eastwood look-a-likes and more keep these films from ever being dull and their upcoming DVD release shouldn't be overlooked by any Hong Kong movie fan.


THE DAY THE WORLD ENDED [IMG2R]is the last, and possibly the least, of the "in name only" remakes of 1950s AIP titles which effects guru Stan Winston, actress Colleen Camp and Lou Arkoff - son of legendary AIP producer Sam Arkoff - produced for cable recently under the "Creature Features" banner. The series has been a very mixed bag, ranging from the rather good SHE CREATURE to the dumb, exploitative, but not unentertaining TEENAGE CAVEMAN. This one seems to be trying to be a latter day INVADERS FROM MARS in the way it deals with childhood fears, but it's never scary, frequently dull and doesn't seem to have much to say, though one does admire it for trying. Good cast though, including beautiful Nastasjia Kinski, not-so-beautiful Randy Quaid and butt-ugly Stephen Toblowsky.

GREMLINS is, [IMG4R]along with GHOSTBUSTERS, one of the true genre delights of the 1980s. Director Joe Dante, working from a Chris Columbus script, delivered here a funny, scary, goofy and cartoony film about a young man whose often absentee father gifts him with an incredibly lovable ball of fur which he names Gizmo. There's strict rules to keeping a pet Mogwai though, and when the rules are broken, a small town is overrun by the mischievous, sometimes deadly, title creatures. Chris Walas' creature effects are marvelous, Phoebe Cates is nearly as cute as Gizmo, Dick Miller is a joy as a grouchy neighbor and Phoebe's story of why she hates Christmas is one of the great, non sequitur moments in film history. The DVD is available as a basic disc, but don't pass up the "Special Edition" which offers two commentary tracks, one with Dante and stars Cates, Zach Galligan, Miller and Howie (voice of Gizmo) Mandel and the other with Dante, producer Mike Finnell and effects man Walas. There's also trailers, ten minutes of deleted footage, photos and storyboards, a behind-the-scenes documentary and trailers.

GREMLINS 2: THE NEW BATCH [IMG5L]bombed at the theaters in 1990, but it's hard to imagine why as it's an almost perfect sequel. Most sequels satisfy themselves by simply offering "more of the same," but returning director Dante not only gives us more Gremlins, but also different Gremlins, plus a talking Gremlin, plus a spoof of Ted Turner, a totally new setting (a huge shopping mall/office complex) and several key returning cast members. While the first film had a bit of a scare factor, this one is played almost totally for laughs and it delivers on almost every gag. The DVD "Special Edition" here offers a commentary track from Dante and his returning producer, Mike Finnell, twenty minutes of deleted footage, a gag reel, a behind-the-scenes documentary and trailers.

PRETTY IN PINK is [IMG8R]a wonderful little time capsule which might best be used to remind us that the '80s are over, and that we are damn grateful for it. Was there really a time when Molly Ringwald, Jon Cryer and Andrew McCarthy were stars? When the craptacular music on the soundtrack was popular? When people dressed like this? Worst of all, as lame as this movie seems today, it's still ten times better than the teen-oriented muck of the new millennium, such as VAN WILDER.

PROJECT VIPER [IMG9L]premiered a few weeks ago on the Sci Fi Channel and, as programmer fare like this goes, it's not half bad. It all involves an artificial life form genetically engineered for space, which ends up back on Earth and chomping down on the locals thanks to some sort of enemy agent nonsense. None of this makes much more sense than that description, and there's a couple of action scenes which are too obviously stock footage from a bigger budgeted movie somewhat awkwardly worked into the plot here. What pushes this one above run-of-the-mill direct-to-video fare is a strong cast: former star Theresa Russell, almost a star Patrick Muldoon and top drawer character actor Tim Thomerson, and a pretty cool looking CGI monster. Well worth a peek on a slow TV night.

PULP FICTION is, [IMG10R]like it or not, a landmark of '90s cinema. Not only did it signal a change in the style, content and even structure of pop cinema, but it also made John Travolta a star, again, made Samuel L. Jackson a star, made Bruce Willis a respected actor and altered the concept of the movie soundtrack. Following dozens of ill-conceived imitations, the film will never seem as astoundingly "new" as it did in 1996, but it's still a riveting and exciting trio of intertwined tales. The DVD "Collector's Edition" features a documentary, deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes footage, stills, trailers and TV spots, reviews and articles, director Quentin Tarantino being interviewed on Charlie Rose, Siskel and Ebert discussing "The Tarantino Generation" and more. A piece of film history which may one day be viewed as having been as important and influential as CITIZEN KANE. Or not.

THE SWEETEST THING [IMG11L]is sort of the downside of what happens when an actress gets clout in Hollywood. Cameron Diaz, a much underrated actress, could have done a lot of things with the influence her success in THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY and CHARLIE'S ANGELS brought her. She might have made a powerful drama, a sweet romantic comedy, a film of meaningful social import or a "small" movie driven by fascinating and believable characters who could have touched us all. Or, she could make AMERICAN PIE with girls in the lead roles. A dumb, raunchy, full-of-itself bit of forgettable tripe which perpetuates the same sexual stereotypes as crap like TOMCATS, but thinks it's OK since it's girls doing it. Yeah. You got it. That's what she did.

WE WERE SOLDIERS is the latest of the string of war films which have followed the success of Spielberg's SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. It may also be the best. This Vietnam era movie tells the story of the first major battle of that war, wherein newly arrived American soldiers came under the attack of a force some one hundred times their size who were also far more familiar with the landscape of the battle. The filmmakers do an admirable job of making us see our own soldiers as people, not simply as warriors, a task the breathtaking but empty BLACKHAWK DOWN failed to accomplish. Even more admirably, it never turns the enemy into monsters, faceless, immoral killing machines. The North Vietnamese are treated with virtually equal respect as the main characters, save for the backstory we are given on the lives and families of the U.S. soldiers during the film's first hour. Mel Gibson gives one of his finest performances as a real life career soldier and he's well supported by Sam Elliot, Greg Kinnear, Barry Pepper and even the normally leaden Chris Klein. This is not so much a war film, though its battle scenes are riveting, as it is a movie about people who happen to be in a war. If that difference doesn't seem clear here, it will be once you see the film.

ZOLTAN, HOUND OF DRACULA is a delayed release we discussed in an earlier column. Not as bad as it sounds, especially when you consider that it was also known as DRACULA'S DOG.


Last week saw the release of DR. WHO: TOMB OF THE CYBERMEN and this week sees DVDreview.com's unveiling of a fun hidden goodie on the disc. You'll need to choose the "Special Features" option and go to the second page and then select "Audio Options." Now press "Enter" and find an audio advertisement for the Dr. Who story arc called "The Abominable Snowmen," which was the series of episodes which immediately followed "Tomb of the Cybermen" in the series' original BBC run.


Next week: Moody mobsters, manic monsters, macabre mariners and multiple maniacs. MMMMMMMM. Sounds like a tasty week to me.

Vidiocy is our weekly Video & DVD column.

Questions? Comments? Let us know what you think at feedback@cinescape.com.


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jnager 3/13/2012 10:16:39 PM

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