Actor Val Kilmer has never really clicked with audiences and become the star his talent and looks once seemed to guarantee him. Part of the reason for this failure is that he so often comes across as an unlikable and arrogant ass, both on and off screen. MGM and Paramount will soon be releasing two early Kilmer films which, had they found an audience at the time of their original release, might have shown audiences a more likable side of the actor. In July, MGM will offer up the DVD re-release of REAL GENIUS, an enjoyable comedy about a group of youthful geniuses who outwit a government plan to use their talents for military purposes. Paramount will unveil the re-release of TOP SECRET, an uproarious WWII spoof from the team responsible for the AIRPLANE and NAKED GUN movies. In an unusual move, Paramount's budget priced release will offer a commentary track, alternate scenes and storyboards as disc extras.
There's also good news over at Warner Brothers, who recently announced an outstanding list of genre titles which they plan to release this August. These titles include writer/director Nicholas Meyer's TIME AFTER TIME, the best big bug movie of all time, 1954's THEM, effects master Ray Harryhausen's final film, CLASH OF THE TITANS, director Joe Dante's GREMLINS and GREMLINS II, and Albert Finney in the intelligent man's werewolf tale, WOLFEN. Also being released in August are such lesser items as Irwin "The Master of Disaster" Allen's THE SWARM, John Boorman's dreadful EXORCIST II and one-time TV sensation V: THE FINAL BATTLE.
THIS WEEK'S NOTABLE NEW RELEASES
12 MONKEYS is, [IMG2R]in spite of being inspired by the 1962 short LA JETEE, purely the product of the fervid imagination of its director, ex-Monty Python member, Terry Gilliam. Bruce Willis gives his finest performance to date as the prisoner who journeys through time to help save the near-future from a devastating plague. The film itself is as fascinating a conundrum as any faced by Willis and may be too challenging for some viewers, but for most, the film is a brilliant achievement.
BEACH GIRLS AND THE MONSTER is an odd bit of cinematic trash which is often confused with THE HORROR OF PARTY BEACH. While that film is a so-bad-it's-good gem that never hoped to be anything more, BEACH GIRLS has higher aspirations, yet is not nearly as entertaining. Alternately known as THE INVISIBLE TERROR, MONSTER FROM THE SURF and SURF TERROR, the film does deliver the expected beach girls, surfers and crappy looking "Gillman" costume. But considerable time is also spent on the problems of the family of a scientist, played by Jon Hall, who had once been TV's RAMAR OF THE JUNGLE, and who also directed this film.
EARTH VS [IMG3L]THE SPIDER is part of HBO's CREATURE FEATURES, a film series whose titles come from films of the 1950s which were released by American International Pictures, but which otherwise bear no connection to that film. While the recently released SHE CREATURE, from the same series, was a minor masterpiece, this one is pretty dumb and atrociously acted by "stars" Dan Aykroyd and Theresa Russell. The makeup effects work, from co-producer Stan Winston's company, is generally quite good, but there is little else to recommend this film about a troubled teenager who is slowly turning into a man-sized arachnid.
FIRESTARTER: REKINDLED was heavily hyped by the Sci-Fi Channel when it premiered there recently, and is reportedly a pilot for a TV series of the same name. The film is designed as a sequel to the Drew Barrymore vehicle FIRESTARTER, a mediocre 1984 film based on a Stephen King novel. Weak as the original film was, it did boast a strong cast, including the youthful Barrymore and no less than George C. Scott. All this one has is a hammy Malcolm McDowell and a bored-looking Dennis Hopper. This follow-up finds that cute, but psychically pyrotechnic, little Charlie McGee has grown into a hot (no pun intended) looking young woman who learns that the experiments which created her are continuing. If that sounds more than a bit like DARK ANGEL, then you've found the real inspiration for this film and you can skip the agony of watching it.
HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES hails from 1959 and this adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's venerable Sherlock Holmes tale is a fine example of its producer, Britain's Hammer Studios, during their heyday. Offering the always dynamic pairing of Peter Cushing as Holmes and Christopher Lee as Lord Baskerville this Terrence Fisher gem also features Andre Morell as Dr Watson, a far less bumbling interpretation of the character than that seen in Nigel Bruce's portrayal in the Basil Rathbone Holmes series. Fisher's recent turns as director of Hammer's seminal HORROR OF DRACULA and CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN had left him in good stead as the man to deliver this tale with an emphasis on terror and suspense, but without losing its literary qualities. HOUND is the most frequently filmed of all the Holmes stories but, in spite of at least a dozen other adaptations, this is easily the best of the bunch.
ROSE RED falls [IMG4R]about mid-way amongst the cornucopia of cinematic Stephen King adaptations we have all been buried under during the past twenty or so years. It's no CARRIE, or even IT, but it's also not a GRAVEYARD SHIFT. This one is based on a recent King novel and, like much of his work, bears a lot of resemblance to the ideas of others, notably the original THE HAUNTING and THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE. However, King manages enough twists and human-interest elements to make the story his own. Fans of both King and horror in general should have a good time with this story of an investigation into a haunted house which premiered last year as a four-hour TV mini-series.
OCEAN'S ELEVEN is a lighter-than-air, semi-remake of the less than classic 1960 film featuring Frank Sinatra and his Rat-Pack buddies. Nobody in this Stephen Soderbergh adaptation is as cool as Sinatra, slick as Dean Martin or hip as Sammy Davis Jr., but George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and an unbilled Don Cheadle come damn close, and this is a far more enjoyable film than the stale original. The story involves a complex scheme to rob several Vegas casinos in a single night, but suspense and plot twists are always second to the charm and humor of the cast, which also includes Julia Roberts, Andy Garcia, Bernie Mac, Elliot Gould, Scott Caan and more. My only complaints: the loss of the original film's great surprise ending its only memorable aspect, and the absence of Sammy Davis Jr.'s voice crooning the title song from the first film. You'll forget this remake fifteen minutes after it's over, but you'll have a great time watching it.
STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION - THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON marks the continuation of Paramount's rollout of the entire seven year mission of the starship Enterprise under the command of Captain Jean Luc Picard. This six-disc DVD set offers all 22 episodes of the series' 1988 season, along with an additional hour of interviews and behind the scenes footage, as well as a look at the scores of props created over the series' run. The second season is when TNG really came into its own and this collection features a number of classic episodes, including A MATTER OF HONOR, TIME SQUARED and Q WHO?, as well as several of the show's best Data programs, ELEMENTARY MY DEAR DATA and MEASURE OF A MAN.
EASTER EGG HUNT
Fox's BEHIND ENEMY LINES benefited at the box office from its release not long after the swell in patriotism that followed the tragedy of September 11th. The ever-reliable DVD REVIEW website recently unveiled a minor hidden goodie that might intrigue viewers of the film's recent video release. If you select "Special Features" and then choose the "Pre-Vis Ejection Sequence," followed by pressing your "Up" button and then "Enter," you'll be treated to some footage of the film's likable star, Owen Wilson, clowning around on the back of a truck.
Next week, Nicole Kidman finds someone other than Tom, Johnny Depp gets ripped, Cuba Gooding Jr. goes to the dogs and a reminder of the days when David Duchovny actually had a career.
Vidiocy is our weekly Video & DVD column.