DVD & VHS This Week: July 16 - Mania.com



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DVD & VHS This Week: July 16

We've got super-spies, both female and male, plus dancing hamburgers, a lovable gamine and a doctor's visit gone bad - this and more, in another week of Vidiocy

By John Thonen     July 16, 2002

VIDEO NEWS


EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS is, along with the TV miniseries V, the two movies which most influenced the mega-hit INDEPENDENCE DAY. The latter is already on DVD and the former will join it this September when Columbia TriStar releases it as the latest in its "Ray Harryhausen Collection." The film itself is typical '50s sci-fi - and only a little better than average for that sub-genre. However, dimensional animation master Ray Harryhausen contributes work, notably flying saucers destroying Washington D.C., which has made the film a classic of its type. The disc will offer three featurettes, including the excellent "Harryhausen Chronicles," "This is Dynamation" and a making-of featurette. Also included will be a photo gallery and trailers.


SLEEPAWAY CAMP is [IMG2R]a relatively minor offering from the heyday of slasher movies, but the film has earned a cult following nevertheless, most likely due to its particularly perverse and genuinely shocking conclusion which helped the film spawn a pair of sequels. Anchor Bay released the first film on DVD a while back and will soon follow it up with separate releases of the sequels, SLEEPAWAY CAMP II: UNHAPPY CAMPERS and SLEEPAWAY CAMP: TEENAGE WASTELAND, plus a box set of the entire trilogy. Cleverly labeled THE SLEEPAWAY CAMP SURVIVAL KIT, the set features audio commentary from the writer and director of the series, behind the scenes footage, outtakes, deleted scenes, a still gallery, trailers and poster art reproduction. Also included is a sixteen-page booklet on the series and some "collectible" medical supplies. Watch for it August 27th.


THIS WEEK'S NOTEWORTHY NEW RELEASES


AMELIE is one of the greatest cinematic pleasures of the year. I'll confess that, like many Americans, I'm no great fan of the French as a people or as filmmakers. But I have enjoyed the dark fantasies of director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, creator of CITY OF LOST CHILDREN and DELICATESSEN as well as ALIEN RESURRECTION. While there was humor and touches of love in those films, they gave no hint Jeunet had as magical and universal a film as AMELIE in him. The film's story is a simple one: a young girl finds a hidden box of treasures and in the course of returning it to its owner, she begins a journey of giving gifts and pleasure to others she encounters. And, of course, her actions bring her both selfless pleasure and honest love. I enjoy a good wallow in the depths of darkness as much as any film geek, but if you ever need a movie which will make you feel good about life, yourself and your world, this is one of the few virtually guaranteed to do it.


BETTER OFF DEAD [IMG3L]is one of several "teen comedies" which first helped make John Cusack a star. Cusack has since proven, by lieu of sheer talent, that he's no Freddie Prinze and this is by far the best of those lightweight films which first brought him to the public's attention. It also stands alongside FERRIS BUELLER'S DAY OFF as one of the best ever of that largely dishonorable genre. Under the direction of "Savage" Steve Holland, who also wrote this minor gem, this is a silly, sometimes surreal story of a young man who loses his girlfriend only to fall in love with a girl who can't speak English, while also being pursued by a vengeful paper boy, drag racing Asians and having an encounter with a dancing hamburger. It's as goofy as it sounds, and a lot of fun.


OUR MAN FLINT [IMG4R]stars James Coburn, an actor whom, at the tender age of twelve, I considered to be the coolest man alive. Movies like THE PRESIDENT'S ANALYST, WATERHOLE #9 and DEAD HEAT ON A MERRY-GO-ROUND kept him on that pedestal for me for sometime, but this, and THE MAGNIFICIENT SEVEN, were what put him there. Coburn plays (and he is playful in the role) Derek Flint, a super-secret agent who is waited on hand-and-foot by beautiful women, seduces femme fatales with little more than a glance, gets personal calls from the President, is a master of martial arts (Coburn actually was a friend and student of Bruce Lee's) and simply exudes more "coolness" than any other agent, even Sean Connery. The film itself is a silly little low budget tale of a group of scientists who attempt to bring peace to the world through totalitarian rule which they intend to achieve via control of the world's weather. This is still a fun movie.


JOHN Q broke [IMG5L]the string of critical and commercial successes star Denzel Washington had enjoyed since THE BONE COLLECTOR. This tale of an average guy who finds the American health care system could save the life of his son, but won't because he has no insurance coverage, opened well and could easily have been an important film since it touches on a concern of nearly every American. Instead, it's heavy-handed, maudlin, unbelievable and so manipulative of its audience that it borders on being insulting.



TOP SECRET was reviewed here several weeks ago when it was originally to be released to video. To recap: funny movie, not seen by a lot of people when in theaters. Made by the guys who made AIRPLANE and THE NAKED GUN series. Offers a likable and amusing Val Kilmer and a classic sequence with Peter Cushing and another with a cow. Check it out.


MODESTY BLAISE was a bad film even when it first came out in 1966, and it's even worse today. This is basically an attempt at an "oh-so-hip" distaff Bond film, about a beautiful female secret agent, played by the stunning Monica Vitti. Unfortunately, director Joseph Losey was a terrible choice to helm this comic book styled spy spoof, as he had no appreciation for pop art nor any respect for the action film genre. The result is an almost unwatchable film which might amuse some of you who are curious about the era. Others, keep your distance.


I SPIT ON YOUR CORPSE, I PISS ON YOUR GRAVE [IMG7L]is the kind of film which could make one embarrassed to be a horror movie fan. This micro budget effort is competently made and not all that badly acted, but it takes shock cinema to a disgusting level, offering perverse hardcore sex scenes which rank amongst the most depraved sequences to be found outside of the world of pornography. The movie would like to see itself as a sequel to the notorious I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, and even presents its female lead as being the daughter of the main character in that atrocity. If you've ever wanted to see a woman masturbate with a broom handle and then sodomize a man with it, if you've ever had a hankering to see that same woman perform oral sex and bite the man she was with, if you've ever wanted to see a movie which you'd later deny watching... this is the one.


LOVERS LANE was made three years ago and was released on VHS sometime back, and is now finally showing up on DVD. It's a very familiar slasher tale, clearly modeled after the then hot I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER mold and was, in fact, originally entitled I'M STILL WAITING FOR YOU. On the positive side, its unusually well acted for this kind of stuff and the director uses his camera fairly inventively and even manages to earn some suspense, though nothing in the plot will surprise any serious fan. One minor trivia note can be found in the fact that this is the genuine "slasher" movie which Anna Faris, sporting blonde hair here, starred in just before she made fun of exactly this kind of movie in the "slasher" spoof, SCARY MOVIE.


EASTER EGG HUNT


I mentioned last week that the re-release of THE FIRST NUDIE MUSICAL was of limited interest to any but the terminally curious, but the DVD REVIEW website recently unveiled a hidden goodie on the disc that might make the disc marginally more attractive. It seems that if you go to "Special Features" in the main menu and press "Right" you'll highlight an onscreen donut. Now, press "Enter" and you'll go to the "Poster Gallery." Now, select "Special Features" and then highlight "Audio Commentaries" on the new menu that appears. Now, press "Right" and you'll be able to hear an audio clip of a deleted song from the film, which plays over a still image of a scene from that cut sequence.


COMING ATTRACTIONS


Next week: Hookers, hikers, hauntings, Hell, heroes, heroines and headhunters.



Vidiocy is our weekly Video & DVD column.

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