The death bell has begun to ring for the VHS video system, a point made clear by a recent report in VIDEO BUSINESS magazine which tells that Circuit City has begun to phase out the format from their over six hundred stores. The article explains that some stores are already DVD-only and that the chain may double their DVD inventory once the fast fading VHS format is gone. The nation's other leading electronics retailer, Best Buy, has already gone on record that they have no immediate plans to follow Circuit City's move.
E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL is one of the most widely anticipated DVD releases since the format's birth. That wait will come to an end October 22, but will return with the passing of the 2002 Christmas season when Universal will put the title on an indefinite sales moratorium. The title will come in two DVD versions, a "Limited Edition" which offers only the CGI enhanced (and politically-corrected) version, and an "Ultimate DVD Edition," offering the re-release version and the original version of the film, along with some ten hours of extras, including a separate soundtrack CD. As is usual for Spielberg, there is no commentary track.
THIS WEEK'S NOTABLE NEW RELEASES
AMERICAN PSYCHO II: ALL AMERICAN GIRL hits video stores as a genuine surprise. No, not that it's all that great, but it is a lot less bad than one would have expected from THAT '70S SHOW hottie Milia Kunis and that '60s bad actor William Shatner, in a Canadian-lensed sequel to an intellectual serial killer film. I mean, as soon as I heard that this one involved a little girl who was the only survivor of Patrick Bateman's murderous rampage, who has grown up to become a killer herself, I knew this film would have to suck. As anyone who watched the unfairly maligned original knows, Bateman never killed anybody. His crimes were just demented fantasies playing out in a madman's mind, so this is a sequel to something that didn't happen. But, for such a terrible idea, this is a surprisingly watchable film. Kunis is a college student obsessed with serial killers and Shatner is a teacher whose support could help her achieve her dream of getting into the F.B.I. In order to gain that support, she's got to be Shatner's number one student, a title she's willing to go to any means to obtain. It's not gory, and much of the film does take place in Kunis' fantasies. It's not a patch on the brilliant original, but it's worth a few bucks for a rental.
THE ATTIC EXPEDITIONS is so much better than the horror dreck the studios have been foisting on us in theaters lately SOUL SURVIVORS, JASON X, VALENTINE that it's hard to imagine why it's ended up going straight to video. Seth (BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, IDLE HANDS) Green is just part of a strong cast, including horror vets Jeffrey Combs and Ted Raimi, in this tale of a young man incarcerated in a mental hospital for a brutal murder. It's a nice take on the "who's running the asylum" concept, both well acted and cleverly plotted. To tell much more would rob the film of its surprises, but this is easily the best direct-to-video title since GINGER SNAPS.
BENEATH LOCH NESS is almost beneath contempt. The mystery of why someone would make junk like this is almost as baffling as the fabled "Nessie" herself. Poor production values, phony accents, weak CGI effects and a plodding storyline are just some of the things wrong with this film which stars Patrick Bergin and lovely Lysette Anthony. While the legend of Loch Ness is certainly a durable one, it has yet to inspire a quality film. It may happen someday, but this ain't it.
EQUINOX KNOCKS sports a "Special Edition" tag on DVD, but that's about the only thing "special" about it. This is a heavy-handed gender switch tale about a put upon high school girl who gets her friend the witch to change her into a boy. There's nothing wrong with the idea 1985's JUST ONE OF THE GUYS did a fine job with a similar premise, a girl posing as a guy but EQUINOX KNOCKS isn't interested in being as clever or sweet as that film was. It wants to smack its idiot audience over the head with its message and put down those who put down the film's main character, without ever recognizing that doing so makes the filmmakers no better than those they are criticizing.
I AM SAM features yet another superb Sean Penn performance, lost within a film hardly worthy of his efforts. Penn is a mentally challenged man who will never progress beyond the intelligence level of a pre-teen child. However, this man-child is himself a father, with a daughter who will soon intellectually surpass her father. The question is, should Penn remain responsible for his offspring, or should the courts take his child away from him and place her in the foster care of someone society would judge more mentally capable of the responsibility. It's a worthy question, one of the value of an intangible like a father's love contrasted against a legal system which feels a responsibility to demand and provide more mature care for the girl. Unfortunately, those themes get lost in this manipulative tearjerker, which also manages to waste the talents of Michelle Pfeiffer, as Penn's lawyer, and young Dakota Fanning as Penn's daughter.
THE MAJESTIC is as big a misfire as any film in recent memory with the possible exception of THE PHANTOM MENACE. Director Frank Darabont (SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION) teams with Jim Carrey, who proved his dramatic chops in THE TRUMAN SHOW, and a host of fine character actors to offer an uninteresting, maudlin, heavy-handed tale. The film offers the viewer an amnesiac Hollywood writer who wanders into a small town in a post car crash daze and finds himself welcomed as the son of one of the locals, finally returned after several years missing-in-action after WWII. Before long, he's rebuilding the title location a boarded up movie theater and rebuilding the hopes and dreams of the town and its occupants in the process. It takes a special kind of magic to make an idea like this one work, and I admire Darabont for trying it, but he, and his cast, fall flat on their faces with this one.
ROLLERBALL is the "R" rated version of the film which director John McTiernan wanted released to the theaters rather than the "PG-13" cut which passed through America's cinemas faster than Bin Laden through the CIA's fingers. I have more than a little respect for McTiernan, and I'd love to say that this version of the film is tremendously better and demands to be seen. But it isn't. The action is fiercer, more graphic and longer lasting, but the film is still pointless and uninteresting.
ORANGE COUNTY is an enjoyable, but minor, little teen oriented romantic comedy which would normally go straight to cable. However, the presence of the offspring of Tom Hanks and Sissy Spacek in the lead roles, and lunatic du jour Jack Black in a showy supporting position, earned this one theatrical play. Colin Hanks and Schuyler Fisk both make auspicious debuts here, and make one believe in them as real teens trying to surmount a problem how to get Hanks accepted at Stanford University and develop their relationship. The big laughs come courtesy of Black, as Hanks ne'er-do-well older brother, with more than few giggles delivered by supporting characters essayed by the likes of Catherine O'Hara and Chevy Chase.
THE MOUNTAIN MEN is a rather fun, and often profane, romp which we covered a couple of weeks ago when it was first scheduled to be released. It's about a pair of aged mountain men, played by Charlton Heston and Brian Keith. Heston's son, later the director of NEEDFUL THINGS, wrote this one.
EASTER EGG HUNT
One of the most determinedly silly movies of the past decade has got to be Weird Al Yankovic's UHF. I've already extolled its wacky pleasures when it was recently re-released, but now info is leaking out about a couple of hidden goodies which might add to the film's off-the-wall-joys. From the "Main Menu," select "Audio Setup" and then press "Down" followed by "Enter." The result is an introduction to the movie from Weird Al himself, which he recorded in 1989 while the film was in production. Now, go back where you started and again select "Audio Setup" and wait for that menu to come up. Highlight "Francais" and press "Left" for a deleted scene featuring Michael Richards. Again, back where you started, at the "Main Menu," but now select "Scene Selections" and go to that menu where you'll select the option for scenes "13-16" and immediately push "Down" for a deleted Fran Drescher scene. Lastly, go to "Special Features" again and highlight "Deleted Scene." Text will pop up telling you to turn the disc over for this feature but if you press "Enter," Weird Al will appear to verbally tell you to flip the DVD over. Now, if you keep doing this a few times, each of Al's appearances find him increasingly frustrated with your failure to follow his previous instructions. Cute stuff.
Jennifer Connelly gets something to Crowe about, plus a collection of some of the worst sci-fi ever put on TV, and a collection of some of the best. There'll be a bride and a beast, a wolf-girl, his and hers vampires and singing and dancing naked people. Now that's variety.
Vidiocy is our weekly Video & DVD column.