Sunday, December 30, 2007


Greetings. Herein is the repository of my Videocrity column, begun in the Washington Post and continued in the Washington City Paper. I think it was four years' worth of video watching; the mind grows foggy.

When I was reviewing them, mostly on VHS (and it wasn't THAT long ago!), "direct-to-video" was largely a pejorative term. Now studios are creating whole DTV departments and proudly marketing "home video exclusives," often sequels and threequels to movies that were successful enough to warrant another go, just not in a theater.

This is how I began the column's relaunch in City Paper and serves as my mission statement:

"There will always be a market for Brian Bosworth movies."

This frightening quote comes from Don Gold, senior V.P. of Vidmark, one of the big guns in direct-to-video entertainment. In fact, the DTV world is so expansive it not only embraces failed athletes but can supply constant work for the tiny Coreys, Feldman and Haim. In killing the radio star, video has unleashed opportunities for almost everyone else.

The home-video business is larger than the multiplex market, and growing. Independence Day and Fatal Attraction get all the press, but what of the horde of also-rans and blatant rip-offs they inspire? Each month, their flagrantly packaged boxes arrive on the rental shelves, having been scoffed at, scorned, and utterly dismissed by critics, who are more concerned with art and meaning than an insightful shower scene or ingenious explosion.

Since there will always be Brian Bosworth movies, there must be someone who will take such works as seriously as they take themselves. Someone who will review them, who will provide perspective on the art of the shower scene, offer analysis of the meaning of the monster-POV stalking shot. Someone to pass judgment on the obligatory parking-garage or abandoned-factory chase scene.

That person died of a massive brain hemorrhage, so I'll have to do.

Each month, this column will dive into the cultural dumpster, where bright intentions are thwarted by lack of talent, and talentless hacks succeed by exploiting greed and lust. It's a stinky job, but every once in a while, you come up with a rose.

As a further aid to befuddled videophiles, we offer the following rating system: At the bottom of the bottom is BULK ERASE. Do not get this tape near your VCR. Less virulent, but not worth your time, is EJECT. PAUSE means some of it is worth some of your time. FREEZE-FRAME: Some scenes suggested for mature audiences. The highest accolade is PLAY, but caveat emptor always—this is not necessarily synonymous with "good."

So you may read all the columns in order beginning below. The absurdly huge list of all the DTV movies in my collection is here.




Triboro Entertainment Group

So nice to see John Carradine working again, even though he's been dead since 1988. As the "Judge of Hell," he is glimpsed in a few mugging close-ups and heard in brief sampled dialogue--never at the same time. Ed Wood would be proud. Equally inspiring is the conspicuous use of stuffed dummies standing in for poleaxed victims. Monty Python would be proud. Viewers who make it through this low-watt Halloween "homage" may not be proud. (Mitigating recommendation: Scream Queen Linnea Quigley is introduced in a shower scene gratuitous even by her gratuitous standards. PAUSE.

PM Entertainment Group

Choice: Pay first-run money to watch Denzel Washington in Virtuosity, or save bucks renting Hologram Man--the exact same story starring the Cro-Magnonesque Joe Lara? Hint: The first word uttered is a scatological exclamation. So is the second. One could likewise sum up the entire effort. Since he's been converted into a super energy being--with a "more robust power base"-- why does evil psycho/psycho co-writer Evan Lurie escape from "holographic stasis" only to spend his time in martial arts fisticuffs? Hologram Man is a paen to the militia mindset that lacks even the illusion of one dimension. For the easily fooled. EJECT.

Turner Home Entertainment

We always suspected that Brigitte Nielsen was a terminatrix from another planet. She's on Earth to save her people from TV's Richard Moll. He's wearing a Darth Vader suit (and filling it well); she's wearing a leather outfit that showcases her linebacker shoulders--head and which she is above the short lead actor. In addition to listing Fred Asparagus, Alan Fudge and Patrick Peach in the credits, Evil Dead director Sam Raimi has a cameo as the Neville Chamberlain of interstellar overlords. (Nice death scene, Sam). On the Blow'd Up Real Good scale, this rates a Pretty Good, thanks to ace blast guy Albert Lenutti. Cliche checklist: Anyone scream, "NOOOOO!" at the side of a fallen comrade? Yes. Climactic shootout in an abandoned factory? Yes. Nudity? No. Laughs? Barely and unintentional. Pause-button moments to clear the head? Many. Sequel possibility? Open. Recommended for pyromaniacs. EJECT.

Cascom Home Video

Truth is stranger than fiction, and acting is better than re-enactment. The producers try too hard when they stage fake depictions of blooper stories told--with Jack Webb prowess--by various law enforcement officers. The same tales read much better in books like Chuck Shepherd's America's Least Competent Criminals. If you rent videos for their readability, the trivia screens are amusing. EJECT.

Touchstone Home Video

Give Julia Sweeney credit for effort, execution, and vision. Her androgynous character is more fully developed than most movie creations. But even the nude scene fails to answer the question that pops up every two minutes: What ARE you?!? As infuriating as this 90-minute tease is, there are some genuine chuckles. Pat isn't as annoying as Billy Madison, fellow SNL cohort Adam Sandler's feature, which WAS released theatrically. One would suggest sexism--if one were sure which sex was being ismed.

Dimension Home Video

If, like me, you missed I and II, you may find yourself wondering just who is "He Who Walks Behind the Rows"? After a lot of quasi-religious mumbo jumbo from a pre-teen antichrist and much vomiting, "He" is revealed to be a rather arbitrarily designed stop-motion THING, easily dispatched with a few blows from a handy scythe wielded by the formerly dim, suddenly valiant post-teen teen hero. Grotesque without being scary, Corn III's greatest horror is the clear intention for future harvests. Not worth the fertilizer. EJECT.

Ancient Mysteries: New Investigations of the Unsolved

A&E Home Video

Talk about bait and switch! The box promises the haunting face of a real spooky looking guy (Turin, I guess), but he never shows up to waste anybody. What we get instead is a lot of yaketa-yaketa about carbon-dating and medieval weaving techniques from a bunch of sleep-inducing scientists and scholars without the slightest sense of drama. Besides, it was made in 1988. We should by now be watching Shroud Three: Turin's Revenge!

Next: Not With My Wife You Don't


LIFE 101
Monarch Home Video

Congratulate me, I just met my next wife! The preciously perky Ami Dolenz--yes, she's Monkee Mickey's daughter--lights up this modest '60s coming-of-age tale. In fact, all the scenery in this movie is of interest, because it was shot extensively on the University of Maryland campus by Davidsonville, Md., physicist/real estate tycoon/low-budget auteur Redge Mahaffey. After the opening theme--Ted Nugent and the Amboy Duke's most excellent "Journey to the Center of the Mind"--things slow down a bit, but co-star Corey Haim turns in a surprisingly unpretentious performance. And gals, I understand he's available as well. PAUSE

Orion Home Video

Congratulate me, I just met my next wife! Fresh from her triumph as a giggly teen in Clueless, Stacey Dash puts on--and takes off--an adult wardrobe to vamp and lip-sync her way through this tepid erotic thriller. You can tell it's an erotic thriller because everything looks like Lakeforest Mall after hours. Both Eros and thrills are seriously undermined by co-star Dan Gaulthier's unfortunate resemblance to Jim Carrey--not allrighty then. And maybe I missed something while fast-forwarding to the good parts--of which there are only three, none particularly good--but it seems as if my betrothed got away with murder--of her husband. Hmmm.... EJECT.

MCA Universal Home Video [CC]

Darkman's first outing was basically "Phantom of the Batcave," and this sequel has also fallen victim to the Batsuit Syndrome: Goodbye, Liam Neeson, hello, Arnold Vosloo (Hey, we laughed first time we heard the name "Schwarzenegger," too). Stepping into the bandages as disfigured, semi-deranged scientist Peyton Westlake, Vosloo has a certain appealing Connery coarseness. Unfortunately we see more of his real (i.e., fake) face than his hooded one. This is really Larry Drake's show, and as Robert Durant--so evil even the flaming high-speed helicopter crash of D-I didn't kill him--Drake mugs so fiercely you'd swear HE has the rubber head. Despite lines like "Only I am allowed to wear my face!," and much unashamed cigarette smoking, II doesn't have the comic zip of the Sam Raimi original. Which is irrelevant, because the trailer already alerted us: Coming soon--Darkman III: Die, Darkman, Die. Another unlikely scenario. PAUSE for Halloween.

Columbia Tristar Home Video

If you laughed the first time you heard the name "Vosloo," you'll REALLY laugh when Björn Jörundur Friöbjörnsso is on screen. This Icelandic comedy proves that from bitter cold comes a fine dry wit. An impossibly convoluted shaggy dog tale, "Control" revolves around Björn's need to retrieve a TV remote control for his demanding Mum so she won't empty the bathtub and kill his goldfish. Accomplishing this odd but simple task somehow involves "the most experienced gang in Iceland"--who take their cues from comic books--Monopoly-playing soft-drink bootleggers, sleepy metalheads, incompetent kidnappers who can't tell right from left ("So what?" they counter) and pettiness beyond belief--all the more enjoyable because, deep down, we know it CAN happen here. Of course, quirky songbird Björk sings the closing theme, as she probably does for all Icelandic films. PLAY.

SMV Enterprises

Defining the line between clever and stupid, professional wisenheimers Johnny Brennan and Kamal are not everyone's cup of obnoxiousness. Obviously produced as an MTV special that proved too real for the "Real World" network, the Jerkys add surveillance-camera voyeurism to their usual audio outrages. The result is "Candid Camera" without Allen Funt's disingenuous pretense that it's all good fun. Funny it is, but good? After all, we're laughing because it's such utterly bad behavior: Commandeering the PA in a grocery store to mock the customers, confusing tour bus patrons and pestering MTV interns. Well, that last IS fairly worthwhile, especially when they yank an earnest MTV receptionist's feminist chain--she instantly cries sexual harassment. No, honey, it's just jerkiness. PLAY

Active Home Video

The best thing about this dubious endeavor is the ironic cast it gives to the FBI warning at the beginning of the tape. After quickly suggesting that one avoid getting a ticket in the first place, the producers pad the following 29 minutes with more of the blatantly obvious. The most interesting advice comes from a psychologist who prescribes humanizing any cop encounters by imagining John Law standing there wearing only a swimsuit and a funny hat. Yeah, tell THAT to the judge. EJECT.

New Video

It may sound like a horror show to sit and watch a man beset with untreatable pancreatic cancer, but this smile-filled interview with the author of "Pennies From Heaven" and "The Singing Detective" is one of the most life-affirming 70 minutes you may spend. Facing his impending demise with a flask of liquid morphine and packet of cigarettes, Potter seems the healthiest, most vital, most thoroughly alive person on the planet. Utterly clear-eyed about himself, Potter brightly discusses his life, work, politics, death and the importance of "nowness." He died mere weeks after this recording, but left a more enlightening TV chat than any Baba Wawa soft-focus flatter-fest. PLAY.

Next: Tickle Me, Clint


Republic Pictures

Brother Ron puts him in all his big-budget pictures, but in "Apollo 13," Clint Howard didn't get to stare at the screen with an oozing, pustulated face and scream, "I'm infested--SHOOT ME!" I'm predicting Opie grabs a statue come Oscar time. Tragically, I fear the Academy will once again ignore Clint's efforts. True, other than some tick-cam imagery and a tick stampede, this isn't quite as commendably absurd as Frogs (with Oscar-winner Ray Miland). But Clint seems happy, maybe because he's working with his father, Rance. Dad smiles pleasantly in one scene before his lifeless corpse is pulled from a swamp in the next. Who says Hollywood doesn't understand family values? With respect for Clint, and my ex-flame Ami Dolenz--PAUSE.


It's been more than 70 years since the film industry abandoned New Jersey for the West Coast. Somehow, the feverish folks at Troma Films haven't gotten the news. Typically, most of "Femme's" creative thought went into the catchy title. One would think that having characters like Master Sun, Madam Li, and lesbo Nazis would guarantee some intrigue. But the plot is so huge, most of the film is spent just getting to the next sadistic complication. Quadruple threat writer/producer/director/star Margot Hope plays a secret agent/assassin/avant-garde artist/peeping tomette who is also a mistress of 1,000 disguises. None of them, however, quite hide the shame. BULK ERASE.

Triboro Entertainment Group

Can't anyone make a decent lap dancing movie? Instead of "Showgirls'" overblown score, this visit to Silicon City offers bad Jersey rock and lyrics Richard Marx wouldn't even write: "Does anybody hear you scream, on the boulevard of broken dreams?" Innocent starlet Angie fails her big audition, flubbing the line: "I'm sorry that I can't be everything to you--mother, sex-goddess, businessperson." But after a week writhing all over strangers, she learns the meaning behind those words: "It's more than dance moves--it's an attitude." Now she can dance the lap dance of her life and get the part. More importantly, she cares: "You're a battered woman! You need to go to a battered woman shelter!" Soft-core with an imagined message. Makes me wanna shout, I'm infested--SHOOT ME! FREEZE-FRAME

Live Entertainment

"Get that money!" "A'right." "Get that money!" "Ow! I'm gonna get it! I'm gonna get it!" "Get that money, man!" "Oof! A'right, man. A'right, man!" LL Cool J finally gets the money, but he certainly doesn't deserve it. The usually likeable rapper is LL One Note in this uninformed crime story about a DJ with a past who gets involved with The Wrong Woman. Mostly he gets people dancing lethargically to lame rap ("Say 'Yeah!' Wave ya hands in the air!"), when he's not clenching his jaws and flaring his nostrils to bad Quiet Storm music--even in the sex scene, which takes place during a quiet storm! But everyone keeps their raincoats on, so all we get is some wet shoulder action. Of the many unanswered questions in this slow-going caper, this I want to know: Where did they find that 1972 chunka-chunka, wah-wah guitar car-chase music? EJECT.

Live Entertainment

Poor Elizabeth Hurley--such bad luck with boyfriends and screenplays. Here she plays a scientist with a smart collection of satin lingerie who works at The Institute. Days are spent giving a psycho killer brain injections of her hormone discovery, "BFND." At night, she, too, imbibes. Instead of mellowing Psycho out, BFND causes everyone in England to disappear except the lead actors, who wander around in each other's stylish nightmares while Nutboy does a fair Freddy/Hannibal Lecter impression. Two points: A. The producers don't insult us by trying to explain everything; B. What the hell is going on here? Liz apparently cooked up gallons of BFND. For this, the generic brand brain injection seems more appropriate: Wild Turkey. EJECT.

Next: Virtual Virtues


Triboro Entertainment Group

Nothing virtual here except the many breasts--perfect compliment to the fake acting. Intercutting between bulky porn-quality thespians sitting in front of computers typing sensuously somehow fails to convey much "Tom Jones"-style eroticism. More interesting are the aged, dispeptic cops--graduates of the Foster Brooks Police Academy--who quote "TV's Most Wanted" when formulating theories and tell the prime murder suspect to "do a little investigating on your own." This much incompetence is always entertaining. And--hey! Isn't that the girl from "Lap Dancing?!" PAUSE.

Turner Home Entertainment

"Blade Runner meets Die Hard," says the box. Make that minor BR character (Brion James) meets shameless DH knockoff. The dazed Michael Dudikoff is an ex-cop turned janitor who must use every janitorial skill to defeat a shaggy-blonde James--resembling Connie Stevens with a goatee more than a techno terrorist--before James can "disrupt the entire matrix." The office park setting is as virtual as it gets. EJECT.

Columbia Tristar

Cyber Bandits aren't as lethal as Virtual Assassins but they're both so faux. Still, I've always dreamed of hearing Grace Jones say "Strap him down boys!" Sadly, the moment passes too quickly, and involves mush-mouthed Martin Kemp. In a Trader Vic's 2000 environment, Kemp snarls at sinister-bearded Robert Hays about a super weapon that Henry Gibson (wearing Brion James' wig) invented. It's a piece of plumbing and it doesn't do anything. Unstrap me, please. EJECT.


Pat Morita truly is a TimeMaster. Here he makes 90 minutes of your life disappear. But blame the director, who apparently cast his own children in major roles and co-wrote a script that--to quote it's oft-used phrase--"sucks the life out of you." EJECT.

Full Moon

A troubled American family inherits a castle filled with bad furniture and a strange little man in an anatomically creepy nude suit. (Attention body piercers and tattoo enthusiasts--here's the new look!) Content to remain locked in a dungeon and whipped by his mother for 40 years, Naked Boy has become Macho Man since Countess Dearest kicked, strutting his unpleasant butt grotesquely. Strap him down again, boys. EJECT.

Live Entertainment

Wilfred Brimley is a genial general who doesn't enjoy killing. Powers Booth is some kind of dark-suited operative who does. Who didn't know that? Kinda "Outbreak" meets "Predator." Those are two good films. This is a mutant species. EJECT.


In this second "chapter" of a 6-part series, many lessons are sweetly learned amid swordplay and pre-Jurassic dinomation as a plucky 9th-grader flies through time saving the universe. Real 9th-graders may find this all so silly, but K-6ers should be diverted. Parental warning: Some creatures bear a frightening resemblance to Truman Capote. PLAY.

First Run Features

This is a Swedish comedy, which means it's funny in a very sad way. After his wife dies, kooky old dad runs away to find the woman he had an affair with the year his daughter was born. Grownup daughter tags along, fleeing her distracted husband, leaving him with a baby that can apparently cry on cue. That's painfully amusing. Maybe it's collic. Maybe it's just Sweden. PAUSE.

A&E Biography

Like most A&E biographies, this begins happily, charts a rise to stardom, then ends tragically. Useful for the lapsed, respectful for the faithful, with some interesting fun facts for trivia buffs (He was a stone-mason, not a carpenter, some say). PLAY.

A&E Biography

Unlike most A&E biographies, this ends cheerfully. Jack Perkins sounds almost Brimleyesque in his folksy recitation of the 1,700-year history, from Turkish bishop to consumerist spokes-Santa. Along the way there are scads of fun facts and Father Andrew Greeley's sanctioning of pitchman St. Nick. An informative way to crush the kiddie's fantasy. PLAY.

Next: They'll Be Back


Turner Home Entertainment

Woah! Robocop and Terminator in the same movie! Even without their metal suits, Peter Weller and Robert Patrick remain very likable killing machines. They also rise above the handicap of having to portray what might loosely be described as "human beings." As mercenaries with emotions, they quote Shaw (oddly, I didn't puke), and keep the body count fairly low while being pursued by Charlotte Lewis--a hit-woman who believes that tight leatherware is appropriate mid-summer outdoor attire and has more testosterone than either guy. PLAY.

Live Entertainment

"Are you thinking of what brought you to this moment?" Peter Weller asks a hapless foe in "Decoy" before dispatching him, samurai style. Watching an erotic thriller directed and starring C. Thomas Howell definitely sets the mind to spinning deep, dark thoughts about life's cruel turns. Despite a Fabio haircut that must be constantly brushed out of the eyes, and obvious sympathy cameos by buddies Donny Most, Lou Diamond Philips, Kieffer Sutherland, and--Carrot Top?!?--this generates as much heat and sense as if it were directed by and starring C. Thomas Howell. EJECT.

Live Entertainment

Or as the titles have it, saintsandsinners. For you see, they're all squooshed together, two old buddies and the gal who, literally, comes between them--caught up in a menage a dysfunction, menage a deception, menage a screaming and yelling and drug-dealing. Yet, there's a safe sex message. And, after almost everyone is gunned down, a happy ending. If they'd kept shooting, it would have been much happier. EJECT.

A&E Home Video

This is largely a biography of the 1931 Universal film, but that's deserving enough--after 64 years, Karloff & Co. still deliver. From Edison's 1910 version to Kenneth Branagh's faithful flop, from Sir Walter Scott to geeky collectors, the narrative veers almost drunkenly over the topic, spending as much time with Mel Brooks as with Mary Shelley. Even the abundance of bow-tied eggheads can't dull the appeal of Ms. Wollstonecraft's "pale student of unhallowed arts"--though host Roger Moore comes close. PLAY.

Turner Home Entertainment

Where the A&E biopic ends with Bobby "Boris" Pickett's "Monster Mash," this begins with it. What is more amazing is that 34 years after his one-hit, and 20 years after "Rocky Horror," Pickett is the star of this musical monstrosity, which is based on his play. And, yes, he'll be singing that song again later. Wacky with a capital Ack, this seems best timed to cash in on whatever goodwill Jimmie "J.J." Walker has left. I'll be too kind. PAUSE.

Republic Pictures [CC]

Yes, Alicia Silverstone gets naked, but you ain't seeing nothing. In fact, if it weren't for the overheated fantasy sequences of a bunch of drunken white people and their slightly less inebriated kids, this would be one dull night. As it is, only the 10-year-old sees any real action--a view of Playboy--until imagination becomes real and reality turns more unpleasant than the sight of Alicia kissing J.T. Walsh. PAUSE.

New Horizons

The last viewer of this act-fest about a talky psycho holding hostages in a nudie bar bailed after only 32 minutes. Interestingly, that's the exact point at which I grabbed for the remote. Being a professional, I fast-forwarded a few more minutes, saw that it only got uglier and considered the words a wise man once asked me: "Are you thinking of what brought you to this moment?" I killed the power altogether and reached for my sword. BULK ERASE.

Next: Battle of the VJs


WarnerVision Films

In the ever-expanding pantheon of MTV VJs--and now MTV VJs making movies--Duff rules. Go on--argue for perky Martha Quinn, saucy Daisy Fuentes, even scary Nina Blackwood or kooky Kari Wuhrer. I don't care. While I'm insanely obsessed with those gals, too, they don't quite radiate Duff's sparkling combination of spunk and smarts. Now acting under the pseudonym "Karen Duffy," the videotrix is surrounded by an almost "A" cast in an almost surprising futuristic story which almost compensates for the cruel use of body doubles. Despite her grimace-heavy "stern" acting style, Duff remains charmingly spunkified. How spunky? She removes her own "goad." (You don't really want to know.) PAUSE.


The current MTV vid queen I obsess over is ex-Playboy centerfold Jenny McCarthy, co-host of Singled Out, the music channel's hyperactive version of The Dating Game--for people who positively should not be encouraged to meet and reproduce. The only dirt here is how filthy you feel witnessing such smugly witless single-entendre banter. Jenny, we're through. BULK ERASE.

WarnerVision Films

Having your mind ripped is far worse than having your goad removed. In fact, it's much like watching a monster movie without any monster suit. This Alien plot-ripper offers a shirtless, Fabio-style pretty boy becoming increasingly less pretty as he "evolves" into the perfect killing machine. This he accomplishes by writhing and vomiting. Ever since Halloween, nobody stays dead anymore, but the triple-resurrection cheat ending is not nearly as scary as screen psycho supreme Lance Henriksen playing a loving dad. EJECT

Live Entertainment

Choice: Lonette McKee or a 1931 Bugatti? Billy Dee Williams goes so gaga over the car, he lets Carl Weathers run off with wife McKee. One would think that such studly hunks locked in a love triangle would set the VCR to steaming. Instead, co-executive producer (?) Weathers is topless far more than McKee, and while, thankfully, Billy Dee keeps his clothes on, I fast-forwarded through the "love scenes" in hopes of finding some action, jackson. "I never thought it would end like this," gasps McKee at one point, though it was obvious from Frame One. EJECT.

Triboro Entertainment

Trying to follow the plot will give you a severe case of whiplash, but credit Aussie martial arts star Richard Norton with trying to add some maturity to the adolescent chop-socky genre. Not an unadvisable plan for a 40something kung fu fighter, but Norton is big on Down Under charm and can act well enough to suggest that with a coherent script he might take a flying leap at an A actioner. But then, the executive producer is listed as "Richard Norton," so maybe he's content with putting on a nice suit and, maturely, kicking people silly. FREEZE-FRAME.


By no reasonable standard a good movie, but proof that if you throw enough expletive deleted at the screen something's gonna stick. So I caught myself laughing out loud several times at this relentlessly juvenile Airplane-style parody of Sharon Stone films, among others. Occasional flashes of near-wit--like a "twin half step-sister" character--aside, don't tell anyone I'm almost recommending it. PAUSE.

Triboro Entertainment

One entire tedious plot comes and goes before we get to any massage, which lasts maybe 40 seconds and is hardly enlightening. But this is women's erotica, meaning the nakedness is in the sympathetic service of topics like economic empowerment, sunbathing and the art of pool boy maintenance. Sorry, ladies, but playing "Spot the Investors" during the party scene wasn't diverting enough to prevent one from longing for a house call from Mr. Mind-Ripper. EJECT.

Next: Corey!



"I just thought you'd be happier to see me," mopes Corey Feldman at the start of this zombies-on-campus film. Well, we would be except that, well, you're Corey Feldman! The aging Brat Packling should never have stopped playing precocious 11-year-olds. In this "adult" role, he heats up the screen like a popsicle in a strained tale about a college fraternity of the undead trying to revive a demon. Voodoo gives the concept of Mumbo Jumbo a bad name. EJECT.


Mucho mumbo jumbo here, with the accent on the jumbo, as Pamela Anderson plays a sculptress of erotic works. While she stays home slathering plaster on other busty babes, her boyfriend switches bodies with a dying Nobel scientist and minds with a dead serial killer who had something against the well-endowed. Those not swift enough to catch Barb Wire before it sank will find ample examples of the Baywatcher's charms. I thought I'd be happier to see her. FREEZE FRAME.

Full Moon

Can anyone fax me a copy of Julie Newmar's deal with the devil? Cause the way those old Catwoman-style suits still fit, she definitely got the better bargain. But she's not alone among '60s icons running amok in this Outer Space Western: George "Sulu" Takei and Isaac "Shaft" Hayes both vie for the Hambone Award. The six-shooters vs. rubber monsters plot has all the good-humored charm--and primary color production value--of a Marvel comic, with a snappy interstellar score. And Musetta Vander's cheeky Bettie Page impression has me searching for Oblivion 1. PLAY.


The smoky sax score--I'd guess about a pack-a-day habit--clues us that we are supposed to be in steamy sexual territory. Actually, we're in the movie Barfly after everyone's sobered up. And no matter how well pouty Pamela Gidley tries to disguise it, there's no cure for that hangover. EJECT.

Tai Seng

The white-shirt-and-black-tie squad take on the casually dressed criminals and the sharp-suited bureaucrats in this Hong Kong gunsocky flick that moves so fast you must speed-read the subtitles, some of which follow: "I am the Triad kingpin." "Stop thinking you're Rambo." "Watch out for the bullets." "Someone who has lost his love finds his beer sour." "Reserve two seats at the karaoke tonight." "There will be a gun battle--hold all traffic lights at red." "I want to have dinner with you at Stanley Steak House." "Aim your guns at them." "Why are the reporters here so fast?" PAUSE.

Live Entertainment

Brian "Boz" Bosworth should get himself to Hong Kong before it closes. The failed football star could learn something about action movies. Like, "action" doesn't mean "sadistic violence." And "casting" doesn't mean hiring failed rap star Hammer to play a drug lord. But the worst thing about movies starring professional athletes: the crying scene. EJECT.

New Horizons

How interesting to be personally acquainted with the co-writer of a Shannon Tweed "erotic thriller." To know that his script was re-written because, as the director noted, it reflected the emotional outlook "of a 13-year-old." To know that the author is a former employee of the Washington Post, but is not Oscar-nominated screenwriter Paul Attanassio. How interesting to have to tell someone that his name is on a really, really bad film. But we can blame the director. Partially.

This Just In (6/12/99): The "author" of Electra, who we will now reveal as Mr. Lou Aguilar, Jr., wrote in to protest our review. He informed us that director "Ellen Cabot" (Beach Babes From Beyond) is in fact Dave DeCoteau (Leather Jackets—A Love Story), and then made some rather severe allegations about why Dave prefers being known as Ellen, if you know what we mean. We do, Lou, but we still say, EJECT.

Next: Weird Killing Machines



"I don't even think or feel like a human being anymore," pouts pretty Nicole Eggert in this Robocop "homage." "I'm just some weird killing machine," the Robobabe complains. Weird, maybe. Tedious, definitely. They have the technology, but they just can't build a believable Richard Grieco. Then again, if you've always wanted to watch the former 21 Jump Street star's head melt, you're in luck. Otherwise, EJECT

Surrender Cinema

With such an inspired title, I'm willing to forgive almost anything. And the tag line: "She's a totally different species"--genius! But this tale about a buxom energy being from beyond dropping in to "collect data" on "physical pleasure" is simply uninspired porn without the money shots. And that is unforgivable. EJECT.

Cult Video

Here, the same Femalien premise has been transformed into--on the one hand--an artsy investigation into the paranormal, and--on the other hand--five nearly nude chicks sitting around a sauna remembering when they were completely nude. Either way, "A" for effort, "I" for incoherence. The saunettes enjoy using words like "epiphany." I had one and I was fully clothed: The button labeled EJECT.


In Happy Gilmore, a doofus applied hockey skills to golf. Here, a dreamer thinks his baseball talent will make him rich on the links. Like the game, Swing is fairly pleasant, but real slow going. Duffers may enjoy the pace. For the rest of us, watching this golf movie is as entertaining as, well, watching golf. PAUSE.

New Horizons

Despite the title, it's cheaper to film in daylight than at night, so the producers tossed out years of vampire lore, scheduled morning shoots and hired martial artist Don "The Dragon" Wilson to show that kung fu and head butts are better than a cross or a stake through the heart for fighting the undead. Thankfully, the feral Wilson has almost no dialogue in his silent but deadly quest to destroy a disco-hopping vampire cartel led by the elegantly slithery Nicholas Guest (brother of Spinal Tap's Nigel Tufnel!). Stylishly derivative, Hunter proves that bad movies don't have to stink. PLAY.

BMG Video

Mr. Weepy meets Mr. Creepy and darn if I wasn't rooting for the disturbing James Remar to beat some sense into the simpering "male" lead. A yuppie reunites with a down-and-out mystery man who once saved his life and utters the words you should never say to anyone: "Why don't you stay in our pool house?" Things don't go swimmingly, especially for the woefully neglected Suzy Amis. She should have ditched both crybaby husband and her agent. EJECT.

New Line Home Video CC

"If at any time you feel overwhelmed, disengage the activity and return to your starship." Such were Femalien's instructions. Whoopie Goldberg lacked a similarly perceptive escape clause and her latest movie was thus sentenced straight to video. Whoever advised co-starring with a guy in a dinosaur suit--which is frankly more flattering than the latex gear Whoopie is shoehorned into--needs to take a meeting with a certain weird killing machine. In fact, everyone involved should. Silly, but not silly enough for kids, I watched until I didn't think or feel like a human being anymore. If you want me, I'll be in my starship. BULK ERASE

Next: Jeepers, Creepers


New Line

Pointless! Insane! But, jeepers, what genius! The short take: Girl meets insect, girl loses insect, girl finds monkey. I hate to spoil it by explaining further. Though hyped as a Jennifer Connelly vehicle, it's not quite the buxom starlet we enjoyed in Mulholland Falls; here she's young enough to be her own daughter. This Euro-production sat on some shelf so long that Donald Pleasence returns from the grave to relay such mumbo jumbo as, "It's perfectly normal for insects to be slightly telepathic." This is proven when Jennifer is actually teamed with a fly to go detecting. INSANE! Jennifer, a student at "The Academy," has some unspecified power over bugs ("Insects never hurt me. I love all insects"), and, like Lassie, the fly returns to lead her to clues. The second-unit filmmaking is better than the first--lots of close-ups of emoting arthropods--and the FX budget went to poorly fake a firefly's light, but the ending is so stupefying--yet emotionally satisfying in a demented way--that it must be seen to be believed! PLAY.


What hath Tarrantino wrought? This recipe is becoming unappetizing: Get many quirky actors who, alone, cannot carry a picture, lump them together into a Quentin stew, add rambling disquisitions on conspiracies, Francis Scott Key and Ray Charles, sprinkle in mournful bottleneck slide guitar, wait 90 vague minutes and, voila! Burned again. Except for the very delicious desert of watching a guy relieving himself on Luke Perry. One never tires of watching that. EJECT


Curious. This may be anti-violence commentary, a slap at our cultural imperialism, complete with Western-style showdown. Or, it may be a regular slasher flick, the result of our cultural imperialism. While there are umlauts all over the credits, and the dialogue is dubbed--in redneck dialect even--the cast was clearly speaking English when they filmed this tale of a nebbish film editor named Ed who goes loopy after being forced to watch too many slasher flicks. But then, we are forced to watch, too, and it's hard to tell which scenes the filmmakers really believe in. Nice closing song about donuts, though. PAUSE.

Pulp Fantasy

The concept probably came from a comic-reading kid: Evil quadruplets, each endowed with different abilities--super-sight, -strength, -breasts, etc.--led by a guy who's just a huge head. But the horror aspects vie with the erotic-thriller production, resulting in a weird hybrid both smarter than it needs to be and really, really stupid. But good sport Jacqueline Lovell displays a sharp, Sharon Stonesque spunkiness (among other things that Stone also likes to display) which is worth noting. PAUSE.


Vosloo's back! They can't keep the Batsuit filled, but Darkman's rags seem stuck on Arnold V. Still, in his return engagement as the avenging scientist, he takes second billing to...Jeff Fahey? The spooky-eyed Fahey is a drug lord-slash-bad parent who plans to milk the Darkster's adrenal glands and sell the super steroids to street punks. But this is a family values Darkman. Vosloo gives lines like "I'm nobody's lab rat!" appropriate weight, and there is much face-ripping-off, but while all the pulp elements are present, they're arranged without the care of the original. Most egregious is the gratuitous plug for the Universal Studios Tour. It is so shameless that I must punish the corporate suits with an EJECT.

New Horizons

What? Jeff Fahey again, so soon? Yes, and this time he's dragged my perky ex-wife Ami Dolenz (Monkee Mickey's gal) into his private hell--or private Virtual Reality Pod. In fact, Fahey has made this movie before. It was called The Lawnmower Man. But there is no groundbreaking computer animation here. You have to accept that it's a state-of-the-art virtual reality machine because it has a row of sequentially blinking lights. That and the fact that "everyone at the lab is just so excited." Of course they are, they're part of some kind of God-Knows-What conspiracy. I might be more inclined to lose myself in the VR thrills, except it's just routine nudity. And blinking lights. EJECT.

PM Entertainment

If Anna Nicole Smith were a real actress, she'd be able to do more than one convincing shower scene. In this Diehard rip--er, homage (the Widow Marshall plays an "ace helicopter pilot" who foils terrorists in a high-rise), I was lathered only into a sense of deja vu. But we don't love her for her big acting skills, so for those reasons, and for continued audacity, I shall admit that she gives me PAUSE.


Forget that pretentious Claire Danes/Leonardo DiCaprio version in theaters, this is the definitive filmed treatment of the Shakespeare classic—if only because, finally, there's a happy ending. And Motörhead's Lemmy provides the narration. In the rivalry between the families of "Monty Cue" and "Cappy Capulet," Juliet is a now a vegetarian semi-lesbian and Romeo digs dirty CD-ROMs. Troma boss Lloyd Kaufman has made the Bard's language meaningful to a modern audience by adding fart jokes and frequent use of the F-word. More clever than the usual Troma fare, this gorefest with scenes of explicit body-piercing and toe-sucking is still juvenile. But so was the audience for the original. PLAY.

Next: Video Valhalla


New Line [CC]
Slogan: For the Love of His Woman. For the Honor of His Family. For the Survival of His People.

Why are they still making Viking movies? Because it's hard to fit lines like, "I will see you in Valhalla!" and "Gunnar's gone mad! He's killing people down by the river!" into a romantic comedy. This is certainly neither, though it is epic in landscape, if not talent. The directorial debut of a cinematographer, this is the first film I've seen where the voice-over only serves to confuse. Still, windy Iceland looks positively inviting, and there's plenty of gruesome, manly combat. Who but a Viking would wrap his intestines around a rock and call that dying with dignity? Salud! PAUSE.

Republic Pictures [CC]
Slogan: When the Fairy Tale Ends, the Nightmare Begins.

Max Grodenchik is Rumpelstiltskin! Actually, he's more of a Sheckystiltskin, constantly joking and bearing more resemblance to Billy Crystal's septuagenarian Catskill comic character, Buddy Young Jr., than any Grimm creature. But grim this is, and in bringing the fable to modern L.A. the filmmakers demonstrate only what is wrong with modern horror films: Glibness and gratuitous destruction have replaced any evocation or examination of our primal fears. Like the fear of watching the clearly intended Rumpelstiltskin II. EJECT.

Slogan: "The First Female Action Hero."

Can "America's First Lady of Fitness" Rachel McLish follow fellow world body-building champ Arnold Schwarzenegger to box-office bonanza? Even though her English is better, the sinewy author of Flex Appeal doesn't use much of it. In fact, the star of the In Shape workout videos sparkles onscreen with the same luster as second-string lunk Chuck Norris. But the author of Perfect Parts doesn't get much of a chance. After McLish effortlessly wreaks revenge on the evil businessmen who killed her family and put a nuclear plant on their Indian land, the producers let a man save both the day and Ravenhawk. Drop and give me 20. EJECT.

Cult Video
Slogan: Women Are the Law.

The cover art was designed to attract men, but a woman directed this utterly witless tale of a lone dude on a planet of babes. Meaning that there is equal-opportunity gratuitous nudity. And a man probably wouldn't have bothered giving the planet an Old West setting. Stupefying, yes, but the costumes—when worn—are first-rate. Nothing makes sense, but this is targeted at couples who need a VCR to jump-start real entertainment. PAUSE.

BMG Video
Slogan: Life Just Went Over the Edge.

"I thought you'd have preferred if I was a boy," says Elizabeth Hurley to her aristocrat dad in what might have been the big emotional moment of this extra low-key film about...something. I honestly never figured it out. Surprisingly, Hurley displays her un-boyish attributes and also proves that one can be a dissolute, high-society heroin addict and still have a fabulous complexion and look smashing in evening wear. Hair model C. Thomas Howell proves that he's got a great agent who can continue to find him work. EJECT.


"Forgive me, Father, for I am sin." That's a nice line. Problem is, it's on the box, not in the script. The film boasts such sterling dialogue as, "Do you have, like, computers and Internet access?" This tale of comely coeds trying to contact "The Horned Demon" for reasons that remain unclear is really a 20-minute Night Gallery episode padded with teasing nudity and shots of weather. If you missed the similar-themed The Craft when it was in theaters, feel free to miss this at the video store. EJECT.

Next: A Blizzard of Boz


Live Entertainment
Slogan: A Hunted Man In a Deadly Pursuit of His Past.

This is Brian Bosworth's version of The Long Kiss Goodnight, which was Geena Davis' version of a Brian Bosworth film. Mild-mannered banker Bosworth (uh?) is hit by a car, loses his memory, then becomes haunted by flashbacks of a life much more violent than that of most--but not all--finance professionals. The mystery is fairly intriguing, with Brad Dourf attempting an unstereotypical spin as the evil gang leader. And Boz even attempts something fairly atypical--acting. And, darnit, that's also intriguing--until everything starts blowing up and we're back in a Brian Bosworth movie. And the mystery? It is explained in one long sentence by a guy who steps out of a helicopter at the very end. Close, but no exploding cigar. PAUSE.

Live Entertainment
Slogan: There Is No Antidote.

Ex-football star Boz returns, again, this time as an ex-football star turned Secret Service agent and personal bodyguard to the president. Apparently, blonde highlights are regulation in this administration--not too surprising considering the strangely cozy relationship between the president and his evil top adviser, Eric--we keep catching them alone together, relaxing at night in some cabin in the woods. In fact, everyone's in the woods, wandering around Ontario's Algonquin Park becoming infected with the deadly secret virus that the predictably rogue government-within-the-government developed for unspecified purposes. Everyone except Boz. He coughs a bit, then shrugs off the bug and keeps on hiking and fighting. So either it's not much of a virus, or Boz is even more super than he keeps telling us he is. The scene with the president joining hands in a cultish "One World!" chant is just plain odd, but Boz gets to tell him off to his face. Good move, Boz. Bad movie. EJECT.

New Horizons
Slogan: The Year 2062. Humanity Has Survived War and Famine. Now It Must Face...

This virus movie is so interminable, it had me hoping someone like, say, Boz, would show up and save it. Instead, James Brolin smugly saunters around to no great effect. He's irrelevant to the muddled story about life after a future war has made sex fatal. If you're thinking parable, forget it. Here, men and women are engaged in a literal war of the sexes--bikini babes with machine guns ride muscle cars and creepy Richard Lynch indulges, as he always does, in mindless destruction. It's a familiar future because we've seen it so often in the past: It looks like Road Warrior. Thankfully, curling irons survived WWIII, so the women looks smashing in their Queen of Outer Space wardrobes. Sadly, logic and coherence perished completely. EJECT.

PM Entertainment
Slogan: It's Every Man For Himself.

Another ex-athlete, Sugar Ray Leonard, has been making a lot of poor decisions lately. You'd hope he'd have something else to fall back on other than the canvas, but don't count on a film career. His death scene is particularly undignified. But why did anyone get involved in this hateful story of a "future" society run amok. The producers offensively use footage from the LA riots for veritas. I don't think so. After spending half the film showing dredlocked, black gangbangers manhandling blonde models, they try to justify themselves by making the blacks lackeys in the conspiracy of the real bad guys: the IRA. "We mustn't let color come between us," says an actor in a lousy Irish accent, though the film has already made a lie of that statement. Ostensible star, martial arts mannequin Gary Daniels, can't even manage a jaw clench to convey any kind of emotion. But I was moved to action when the film had the hypocritical gall to lecture me at the end. Take this: BULK ERASE.

Live Entertainment

This is Billy Zane and Robert Downey Jr.'s version of the John Travolta/Christian Slater explode-a-thon, Broken Arrow. While this film lacks Arrow's bloated budget, it also lacks Christian Slater. Then again, it does have Downey Jr with a hair extension and a pitiful Southern accent. But he dies. Twice. The real advantage of this flick is the sweeping African scenery. Co-producer Zane returns to Phantom territory--yes, another heroic white guy saving the natives, with an Evil Oriental thrown in--but the film's real concerns are high-spirited B-Western action in picturesque locations. The train ambush-on-horseback is fun. The script is not exactly rigorous, relying more on coincidence than cleverness, and the talk gets tedious, but the waterfalls are lovely. PLAY.

Slogan: Look What the Wife Dragged In.

Here's an impotency cure: Tie your girlfriend's lover to a chair and make him watch the two of you rekindle your passion. Then again, if your girlfriend is former MTV videotrix Kari Wuhrer and you still need to drag Big Night's Stanley Tucci into your boudoir, you've got more problems than I want to know about. Credit Kari with choosing material based on a play and not a music video--which means that the nudity is not gratuitous at all...and not extensive enough--but the action remains too talkily stage-bound and the play-like quality is so far off-Broadway that I didn't exactly feel strapped to the chair while I watched. FREEZE-FRAME.

Live Entertainment
Slogan: This Year's Student Body Is Shaping Up.

Al Lewis stopped playing Grandpa Munster 31 years ago. So you can imagine the delight on the face of the beach bunny he gets to cuddle with in this Baywatch-with-nudity inanity. Corey Feldman stopped being cute 10 years ago--and the 'burns and goatee aren't helping. But why does Corey get his picture and name on the box when he is so utterly extraneous to the plot? And an extraneous plot at that. Though set at a near-nude beach, the producers felt it necessary to add scenes at a strip club. Perhaps they were inspired after casting porn star-turned-porn-director Ron Jeremy in a small role. From the way Corey acts during the "love" final scenes, he probably thought Ron was directing. Ick. EJECT.

Next: Whatever happened to Corbin Bernsen?


Paramount [CC]

"I go wherever my fancy takes me." So says Corbin Bernsen, here playing a capricious serial killer. Fancy has taken the close-cropped actor from major league TV to the Major League film series, to the DTV minors. But Bernsen's a solid team player and the set-up for this nearly tense thriller is fairly intriguing: nutcase chooses victims randomly, informs them they are next, and slowly toys with them. Who hasn't thought of doing that? But there is the constrained feel of a TV movie about this product. Animal House hero Tim Matheson directed, with no special flair, though he proves his seriousness by playing a supporting role in a highly unflattering hairstyle. PAUSE.

Paramount [CC]

"You know, in a strange way this has all the promise of a better ending." So says Corbin Bernsen, here playing a true-crime author chasing down a capricious serial killer. The promise is largely unfulfilled, though co-star Christine Harnos has a pretty good kung fu kick. There are so many well-timed coincidences that you stop caring after a while, but I did have this epiphany: I say thank God we've changed into a service economy--now that all of our factories are rusting into funky dishevelment, they make perfect movie backdrops for grimy fight scenes. EJECT.

Live Entertainment

"Hey, what am I doing in this hateful movie?" So doesn't say Corbin Bernsen, but his apology would be appreciated. In his defense, Bernsen appears in so few scenes it's never clear what his role is. But the utterly reprehensible moral is sickeningly clear: It is better to be a murderous thief than a crooked cop. OK, maybe it's a close call, but are we really supposed to root for the double-crossing thug because he didn't shoot first? And what of the heroine? A guy kills her brother so she applies for a job in his nudie bar? That's a plan? The misspelled title remains unexplained, but the opening does show a guy making money using PhotoShop and a bubblejet printer. That's an upgrade I'm waiting for. EJECT.

BMG Video [CC]

Yes, that Cadillac Ranch. This film was "inspired by" the famous Ant Farm installation with all the planted autos, but the greater inspiration was Thelma and Louise, though I don't recall those two spending so much time in tight cut-offs. In neither case did the inspiration strike very deep. Three sisters wrestle with the legacy of an absent father while trying hard to be colorful. Christopher Lloyd plays a sadistic creep with his usual enthusiasm, but I'm really starting to worry about Suzy Amis. What's with the pole dance? The important lesson is that someone should take better care of those Caddies. PAUSE.


More Daddy issues, more inspirational art, and more Christopher Lloyd. Also Teri Garr, Shelly Duvall, Eileen Brennan, and Moira Kelly, who stars as Lloyd's alienated, shoplifting artist daughter, who moves into a convent to save money so that she can devote her full attention to hating Dad. This is less a story than a bunch of quirky characters working stuff out, speaking in wise aphorisms, and telling many life stories that no one really wants to hear. But actors love roles where they get to laugh and cry in the same scene. With so much meaning being dispensed, why does it take 92 minutes for the bleeding obvious to be revealed? EJECT.

Rhino Home Video

You gotta admire a guy who, after coming up with a wacky but impractical idea, follows it through to the bitter end, even though the stupidity of the endeavor must have been apparent from the start. Roots rock singer/songwriter/soundtrack composer Ben Vaughn decided to record an entire album inside his 1965 Rambler. For those unfamiliar, the Rambler was one of the first "compact" cars. The music turned out far better than you might expect, catchy even--especially "7 Days." This 24 minute video is a semi "making of," with most of the tunes worked into the story. Oldies DJ Jerry Blavat and a local Rambler fanatic gamely play along. While Vaughn doesn't quite pull off his Chris Isaac impression, there's still some charm at work. And, man, those cars. PLAY

Pulp Pix

Oh, Stella, Stella, Stella! In her cameo role, '60s blonde bombshell Stella Stevens looks very good for 61. But this is a movie even her son Andrew, king of the cable erotic thrillers, wouldn't touch. Boasting two Penthouse Pets (one Australian, one Pet of the Year), one International Swimsuit Model, and nearly unintelligible sound, this nude-a-thon offers the single-entendre "comedy" of pornography, with acting as plastic as the body parts. Real pornographers know enough to keep the, uh, gags to a minimum. EJECT.

Next: Girl Power


Slogan ("provacative" box): They Won't Live to Regret It.
Slogan ("thriller" box): It's Too Late For I'm Sorry.

I missed Scorned 1, which starred Shannon Tweed and Andrew Stevens (Stella's son). No. 2 stars Tane McLure, an equine, upstart rival for Tweed's "Erotic Thriller Queen" crown. You may remember McLure from such films as Illicit Dreams 2 and Midnight Tease II. Or maybe not. The big-boned McClure plays a woman haunted by a vague trauma. "Erotic Thriller King" Stevens is the producer and gives himself a "special appearance by" credit, which is not entirely special. He did hire a Stevensish actor to play McLure's husband, whose most casually gratuitous of casual affairs brings back McLure's memories of when she was a psychopath. Naturally, she reverts to form and seeks revenge on a variety of people who don't quite deserve it. Just who's scorning who is not entirely clear. But is it asking too much that the makeup department cover the leg bruises during the love scenes? EJECT.

New Horizons

I missed Black Scorpion I, which also featured Joan Severance. You may remember Severance from her many Playboy pictorials and Red Shoe Diaries episodes on cable. Now co-producer, Joan returns as the titular cop turned leather-clad crimefighter to avenge her father's murder. Comic book movies should never be multimillion-dollar events. They should all be like this: action, angles, attitude, primary colors, and as low-budget as newsprint. Energetically directed by Jonathan Winfrey, BSII is all Dutch tilts and swish pans, and takes the juvenile comic book philosophy seriously--which is to say stupidly--never hampering it with "meaning." True, the black gangmembers mug with a shamelessness not seen since Mantan Moreland, but they seem to be genuinely enjoying themselves. And it's Garrett Morris' best work in years. PAUSE.

New Line [CC]
Slogan: All the Rules Are About to be Broken.

I missed Poison Ivy 1 with Drew Barrymore. Missed Poison Ivy 2 with Alyssa Milano. But Ivy 3 star Jaime Pressly has a feral Rebecca DeMornay quality that makes me guess this is the best Poison Ivy of all. Because to the question, "Do you always swim in the nude?" the answer seems to be, "Yeah, buddy!" The concept has been stripped, literally, to the obligatory sequences. The scarily dissipated Michael Des Barres (ex-husband of super-groupie/author Pamela) plays another philandering husband whose infidelity dooms a house full of innocent parties. Years ago, Daddy caught his mistress--the maid, mother of the Poisonous One--cheating on him with the pool boy. So daughter inexplicably returns to use her extraordinarily impressive body to wreak unjustified revenge. Anyway, it's Susan Tyrell's best work in years. FREEZE-FRAME.

Live Entertainment
Slogan: There's Something Out There, and It's Found a Way In.

"This thing is not a monster! It's a visitor!" screams the lady scientist, who's just had a bonding moment with the Kongishly doomed, ET-eyed creature. Actually, it is a monster. Silicon-based, we're told, but apparently corduroy-covered. And tapioca-filled. Even though Alien's influence is still being felt, the surprise success of Species--especially on video--added fresh fuel to the creature-among-us genre. Thus we have Lifeform. The idea is worthy of a better Star Trek episode. In fact, is a Star Trek episode. In 1983, the Viking II spacecraft we sent to Mars disappeared. Suddenly, it returns. That's interesting. The mumbo-jumbo factor is kept in check and the mystery almost carries. And I like tapioca. PAUSE.

Vidmark [CC]
Slogan: Terror Is in the Eye of the Beholder

What is Naomi Campbell doing in this movie? Not modelling. Not acting. She's definitely not naked. In fact, she has no business here, because this is a fairly thoughtful film that's trying to be about something--many things, actually: abortion, father's rights, battered women, media manipulation, shirtlessness. The often shirtless Johnathon Schaech is a charming psycho who abuses his girlfriend and when he learns she is pregnant, kidnaps her so that she must bear his child. Stylish split-screen sequences and convincing acting lurk behind the exploitation title and box art--not to mention Charlotte Rampling's best work in years. PAUSE.

Slogan: First the Siege...Then the Wedding.

This low-key Aussie film is supposedly based on a true story. During the summer of '68 in Sydney, a good-natured, small-time ex-con lifts some knick-knacks from a junkyard as gifts for his girlfriend. This prompts an absurd overreaction that becomes a huge media event. How huge? It lures "all three channels." Mostly, the affair just disturbs the neighbors, who'd rather watch The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Hostage negotiations become marriage planning sessions and everything unravels in a satisfyingly deadpan fashion. Hearing Cream songs is nice. Using "For What It's Worth" is probably a bit much. Using "A Little Help From My Friends" is definitely too much--especially since Joe Cocker's version wasn't a hit until 1970. But, hey, I like tapioca. PLAY.

Rocket Pictures
Slogan: Some People Can...Other People Con.

Seymour Cassell is one of "those guys." You may not know his name, but you've seen his distinctive craggy face often--full white head of hair, bushy matching mustache under an enormous nose--usually playing mobsters and wiseguys. In big films, he's a small-time hood. In small ones, he's the big guy. Here, he's a big Hollywood producer who scams everyone at the Cannes film festival. Filmed guerrilla-style at the 1995 fest, this is basically a home movie for industry suits. It probably plays well at company parties. A surprising array of names agreed to be dragged in for good-sport cameos: John Malkovich, Jon Cryer, Treat Williams, Lara Flynn Boyle, director Jim Sheridan, many others. While Cassell is a natural, appealing presence, there is much squirmy flailing by the pros called upon to improv the storyline. An engaging exception is Ann Cusack, who must become my wife. The best performances are from the executives: producers Robert Evans and Menacham Golam, Troma's Lloyd Kaufman. The most successful sequence is an odd encounter with Jim Jarmusch and Johnny Depp. But Chris Penn relays a brutal Madonna joke that is worth the price of admission. PAUSE.

New Horizons
Slogan: Not Seeing Is Believing.

Does the name Barry Livingston ring a bell? You may remember him better as Ernie Douglas. Yep, Chip's little brother from My Three Sons is all grown up--well he's aged. Now he's playing Dad to a supposedly cute kid. There's another surprising name on this genial PG family film: director Fred Olen Ray. You may remember Ray from such films as Bad Girls from Mars, Droid Gunner, or Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers. Also curious is that the producer is--again--Andrew Stevens (yes, he hired his mom, Stella for a bit part). And the writer is William C. Martell, the Robert Towne of low-budget genre scripts. Martell revealed to the Hollywood Scriptwriter that he took the job as a favor, and apparently all three men desired a professional change of pace. He also explained that in the world of low-budget DTV, there are 12-, 18-, and 24-day films. That's the entire length of production. Invisible Mom is a 12-day film. The invisibility effects would not fool Georges Melies' audience, but kids may like the concept. PAUSE.

Next: The Plan's the Thing


Leo Films

In the mid-'80s, Tom, Pat, and I wrote a screenplay that pitted evil aliens from space against alcoholic Earthling teenagers. In a moment of inspired irony, we titled it "Plan Ten From Outer Space." As we sat in his Hollywood office off Sunset Boulevard, Jay Levey told us, "This is the funniest script I've ever read." Levey is "Weird" Al Yankovic's manager, so his words carried some weight. Of course, his next words were, "I can't do anything for you," and our cleverly-titled effort remained unproduced. But we always carried the smug confidence that we were so far ahead of the comedy curve with that name that no one could trump us--one day the world would recognize our absolute hipness and laugh.

Imagine my delight to discover that Utah's Trent Harris was on the same wavelength. Well, not exactly the same. The painful tragedy of this film is that our lovely title has been exploited to no special purpose. Though Harris does use the phrase in the film--several times--it's not really supported by the story. Instead, this Plan Ten seems to be a personal diatribe against the Mormon Church. "It's hard for outsiders to understand Salt Lake City without understanding the Mormon Church," says a character. In fact, it's hard to quite grasp what exactly Harris has against the Osmondites. With historical interludes and talk of the "secret of the bees," Harris seems to be positing a new Mormonism--derived from beyond the stars by vengeful females. The one inspiration that Harris had that we didn't was casting Karen Black. Damn! To hear her recite lines like, "Behold! I am Nihor of Kolob!" and sing a song with similarly loony lyrics almost makes this jeremiad worthwhile. "The work of a madman," snorted Tom, with more than a trace of bitterness. Can I rate it other than EJECT.


Sigh. Though advertised in the trades, repeated calls failed to produce this tape. Perhaps a future column. I will say this: Plan Ten is still a funnier title.

Vidmark [CC]
Slogan: A Madman Holds the U.S. Hostage With the World's Most Destructive Weapon.

And then Tom, Pat, and I wrote a script about a maniac who holds D.C. hostage with atom bombs. Which is more or less the plot of this film. While ours was a comedy (our story ends with the District blown to smithereens. That's funny), this film begins with grim footage of the Oklahoma bombing to set up a tale of renegade right-wing domestic terrorists. (Future filmmakers should be careful about exploiting the tragedy--juries are willing to attach the death penalty to that event. Audiences may agree.) The Neanderthalish Joe Lara plays a McVeigh figure hunted by Redford-lite Frank Zagarino, who gets to spout lines like, "I'm going in--with or without your approval!" Along the way, we meet a beautiful babe of a scientist, who apparently took the MIT course in counter-terrorist acrobatics. "All I have ever asked of a movie, since I was 8 years old," said Tom, "was a scene with a guy running around in flames," I think he enjoyed this more than me. EJECT.

Seasonal Films

Our A-bomb film was to have starred D.C. martial arts legend Chuck Jeffreys. Chuck is an extremely talented actor/stuntman/comedian who didn't wait for us to get our act together. Chuck's been in many A-pictures--Malcolm X, 12 Monkeys, Stargate--and starred in a video game, but what he really loves is making the chop-socky. Though this often takes him to Hong Kong or the Philippines, his latest effort was produced in the new kung fu hot spot, Harrisburg, Pa. Chuck plays "Dark Cloud," one of the "Superfighters," who--when they're not beating each other up in rigged iron-man bouts--double as goons in a protection racket. But this isn't really Chuck's film. The star is a diminutive white guy, Brandon Gaines. The whiny Gaines could never really take on Chuck. He's even dwarfed by the manishly voluptuous female Superfighter--her arms are twice as thick as his. Superfights marries the spiritual discipline of Tai Chi with the brutal buffoonery of Wrestlemania. Which is surprisingly effective, especially in the climactic battle. The quadruple-time choreography is giddy good fun. Despite 29 severe kicks to the head (lost count of the body blows), the hero is left with little more than a stylish trickle of blood in the corner of his mouth. And Chuck will kick me in the head if I don't rate it PLAY.

Good Times

The guy we had lined up to do all the promotion for our films was Jeff Krulick. The man behind the genius video, Heavy Metal Parking Lot, Jeff is a tireless go-getter, and when he found out that Ernest Borgnine spends his free time wheeling across the country in a luxuriously-equipped bus--doing the driving himself, mind you--Jeff got himself invited aboard and recorded part of Ernie's journey. Clever editing keeps this from becoming as claustrophobic as, well, a bus trip, and Borgnine seems a genuine, good-natured host. A pleasant excursion to nowhere, the 45 minutes races by without need of a rest stop. PLAY.

(Finally, I have no personal connection with the remaining films. They are included as part of my commitment to full-service reviewing. You're welcome.)

Tai Seng

"Hold it, I'm going to kill you." Nice try, clown--Jackie Chan never holds it. He never holds still. A 1980 film now finding its way into video stores, this is unlike Chan's recent Stateside successes--it makes no concessions to American sensibilities. An example of the "historical" genre, everyone wears simple peasant outfits, but it could be any time. The plot is as rigorous as a Three Stooges film--in fact, the similarities are striking. Many of the jokes come at the expense of bumbling, toothless, cross-eyed rubes and the story is best summarized as: a bunch of stuff happens. More ballet than battle, the fighting is part high-wire act, part 2/4-time choreography that showcases Chan's specialty with props. Definitely look for the subtitled version. The Speed Raceresque copy I watched had Jackie dubbed by Crocodile Dundee's uncle. But we do get to hear Jackie sing the closing song, a disco ditty, "Born To Be a Kung Fu Fighting Man." PAUSE.

BMG Video
Slogan: Women Are a Mystery. Love Is a Tragedy. Naturally, It's a Comedy.

"BMG Independents and Counter Productions present in association with Whinot Productions / Monte Cristo International / Odessa Films (France) and in association with In Pictures, Ltd. and CFP, Distribution a D.J. Paul/Jon Resnik production of a film by Richard Schenkman." Whew. Be proud of that possessory title, Richie. Perhaps those many credits explain why this never made it to a D.C. theater, but the similar Swingers did. Readers of the Straight Dope know that star Jon Cryer is to be thanked for finally solving the mystery of the word "pompatus," bandied about in Steve Miller's 1974 song, "The Joker." He is not to be thanked for the many shirtless scenes he gave himself as one of the writer/producers. Yes, the song is heard, and the film tries to give its own definition. Mostly, this is thirtysomething: The Next Generation. Sample dialogue: "Just say what you mean!" "I can't." I can: PAUSE.

Cabin Fever [CC]
Slogan: It's 10 p.m.--Do You Know Where Your Dad Is?

"Walk away--that's an order!" shouted the general in Warhead. Alas, my duty was clear--though I did fast-forward frequently. This is cinematic training wheels--if kids buy the absurd illogic and utter gratuitousness of this story, they will surely grow up to enjoy more expensive hack Hollywood product. A shame, because I am convinced that Hulk Hogan has within him a great work. Well, at least he's trying--with little help from the director, who has no idea how to shoot action clearly, resulting in some insulting editing. Hulk's version of True Lies, the story finds spy-daddy Hulk captured by some vague evil organization and rescued by his kid and Junior's multiculti buddies. Years ago, Esquire called Lesley-Anne Down the most beautiful woman in the world. As the wicked Ms. Big, she still is. Likewise, Barry Bostwick is aging well, even if his career isn't. The Hulkster is looking more like Robert Duvall than seems healthy. And that "rap" song at the end! EJECT.

Next: Not Even Remotely of This Earth


New Horizons

Been waiting for the comic version of Taxi Driver? Of course not, but here it is anyway, with Cheers' George Wendt as a cheerful Travis Bickle, visiting from the stars to wreak vengeance upon Earthly scum. This he does to teach his busty daughter something about violence, of which there is none on his world. Put aside the fact that George seems to be quite expert at violence himself, that this 'hood is populated largely with well-scrubbed, white, Actors Equity crackheads, and that Wendt and his alien wife are for some reason decked out Leave It To Beaver-style, and that they ham it up as if they are guest-hosting Pee-Wee's Playhouse. No, the blatant entrapment of said scum is so extreme that you want to shout, "Hey, they may be scumbags, but they're our scumbags, so just get the hell back to your own damn planet!" EJECT.

Slogan: His Arrival, Your Departure.

Frank Zagarino is the alien--very Uberman in a blond, Grace Jones 'do--but he does most of the chasing, so I'm not sure what the title means. The opening sets an intriguing mood, but the Voodoo becomes Voodon't real quick. I mean, this RoboTerminator has been buried in an underground crypt for centuries--why, as soon as he's revived into sunny South Africa, does he need to steal a raincoat? Answer: 'cause it looks cool when he's back-lit. Every scene is motivated by coolness instead of coherency. Which means that watching this "A Mark Roper Film" is like reading a comic book with frames missing--nothing hangs together. There's one neat stunt and a nice, spooky finale, but even though it's set in Africa, there's still no excuse for upholding the "Black Guy Dies First" rule. EJECT.

New Horizons

It's the Greaseman! Could this be Douglas Tracht's feature debut? If so, he chose an appropriately second-rate vehicle. Doug gets two inconsequential lines and a minuscule reaction shot. Clint Howard and Paul Bartel have more screen time, though to equally unavailing effect. "Hero" Joanna Pacula seems most not like us with her indeterminant accent. This Roger Corman-produced piffle plays horror for chuckles while still expecting the gore to have some impact. It doesn't, thanks also to the intrusive and inappropriate music, which sounds like it came from an underproduced '60s kids show. I'm going to give away the ending because it's so amazingly stupid: The reason the Strange New Couple in Town are kidnapping people and chopping them up is because they come from a planet where plastic surgery is the highest art form and they need to practice. Don't even think about it, just move along. EJECT.

BMG Video

With an Elvis-obsessed Yakuza hitman, and cameos by Tim Thomerson, Stephen "Flounder" Furst, Fred Willard, Jake Johannsen, Vincent Schiavelli (who didn't require makeup to become an alien in Buckaroo Banzai), and Bobcat Goldthwait, (who blows up real good), you might think you're in Quentin Quirktown, but this is Tarantino with balls--it doesn't play violence for laughs and it's gun lust is at the service of an almost-justified vigilantism. Michael Rooker usually plays evil psychos. Here, he gets to bulge his neck veins as a frustrated Dad, decent guy, and wrongly-disgraced detective forced to side with the Yakuza against the Mafia and, of course, crooked cops. The mark of this film's class is that scenes in a topless joint do not feature toplessness. Best of all, mysterioso Elvis impersonator Orion sings the end theme! PLAY.

Columbia/TriStar [CC]

It's Yakuza vs. Mafia again in "A Frank Capella Film." Hair-metal-video art direction, swirly camera work, and a whole lot of wrecked cars disguise some casually immoral killing, but the plot twists enough to keep the finger from the fast-forward button. And Russell Crowe, Helen Slater, and Michael Lerner act as if they expected this to wind up in theaters. I worry that poor Helen is too far beyond her Supergirl glory to ever fly on big screens again. I need to have a talk with her. And now that Michael Rooker is going straight, I want to see more of bug-eyed bad guy Kristopher Logan--scary, scary. PAUSE.

Slogan: Even in the Middle of Nowhere, Miracles Are Closer Than You Think.

I grant points for saying the name of movie in the movie. And points for playing Lee Michael's obscure "Do You Know What I Mean" on the jukebox. And maybe scenes of the Australian Outback would be more fun to watch in freezing February. In the July heat, the sluggish pace seems even longer. Strictly Ballroom's Paul Mecurio and Mr. Reliable's Colin Friels spend a lot of time avoiding a confrontation while a group of disparate characters gathered in an abandoned diner/garage spout meaningful lines like, "Don't be afraid of what you are" and yaketa-yaketa-blah-blah until the Twilight Zone ending. I would not have submitted this for Serling's approval, but next time it snows, Beyond might give you PAUSE.

Vidmark [cc]
Slogan: Based on Characters Created by Stephen King.

I missed it when "they" came back the first time, and the crusty old priest's explanations don't quite explain anything. But this is Stephen King-derived potboiler--meaning cabalistic Sabbaths, subterranean blood pools, and dickless demons (well, they panned all the way down, so I had to look--and it wasn't there! Call the art department). Michael Gross is quietly becoming a DTV stalwart and he shaved his beard for this role as a man trying to settle a long undead score, or a score with the undead. Anyway, it's nice to see Gabriel Dell Jr. following in his father's footsteps. Dad was a founding Bowery Boy and member of Steve Allen's original Tonight Show gang. I'm sure he's proud that his son is upholding family tradition by playing a complete idiot. The lead villain, another Arquette, resembles a feral Jerry Seinfeld so closely, his literal Evil Twin, that when he comes back again again (as is suggested), I hope he brings George and Kramer with him. That's the only way I'll watch it...again. EJECT.

Next: Naked Rock Stars!


Slogan: "Gentlemen Don't Eat Poets."

Sting nude! Sting kissing men--on the lips!. Sting's wife's naked butt! Isn't that the recipe for successful drama? I used to think so. But even with a naked Theresa Russell and Alan Bates' impressive toupee, this period tale of manor house murder and drawing-room intrigue is not nearly as intriguing as the players think it is. One should be grateful for such Masterpiece Theater production values in the DTV world, and perhaps there's a metaphorical point being made about the human condition. But I think Sting is right when he sings in the closing credits, "This was never meant to be." FREEZE FRAME.

New Horizons
Slogan: "Thirsty for Justice, She'll Settle for Blood."

Vampirella is a simple concept. Basically, the costume carries the day. But in this "A Jim Wynorski Film," the distaff Drac must contend with such plot-hogging distractions as a top secret governmental vampire-hunting squad (including Van Helsing's son), competing generations of vampire tribes, synthetic blood, multiple locations (supposedly) around the world--including vampires with ray guns in rockets. And Roger Daltry. A rock star by night and Vlad, leader of the evil interstellar blood-suckers by day, Daltry seems to be doing a twitchy Adam Ant impression, with a worse backup band. The needless complications render everything bloodless, though Talisa Soto fills the suit fairly well, investing lines like "Only on this planet is vampirism a mockery of itself!" with the quiet dignity they deserve. The real mockery is encountering the sniggering John Landis in a pointless cameo. EJECT.

Slogan: "The Deadliest Undercurrent Is Desire."

When wrestlers and playmates meet the result is always...drama! A Roddy Piper vehicle--formerly "Rowdy" Roddy Piper when he was a professional wrestler--the Redford of the Ring has transformed into a fairly credible thespian, of the squint-acting school. But we know that eventually he will use his wrestling skills--windmills and pile-drivers--to save the day. This being "A Serge Rodnunsky Film," Roddy can't save the viewer from visual whiplash. Serge wrote, directed, and edited, the last credit necessary because his direction is so haphazard no one else could have made sense of the scattered images. Ultimately, neither could Serge. "Maybe the wind and the sea were playing strange tricks," says Roddy. No, that's poor camera placement. Tawny Kitaen, still fondly remembered for her saucy car hood dance in that Whitesnake video, is now cruelly relying on body doubles. Though I have sympathy for any production that must credit "Lookout" and "Lab Security," the bizarrely wrong-headed and unethical ending cannot be rewarded. EJECT.

Slogan: "We Really Shouldn't Do This But...We're Doing It Anyway."

You never saw this footage because, hard to believe, it is even more tedious than what aired. This tape is so "real" the naughty words are bleeped. Nothing is said about the real-world affair between Becky from the first series and one of the show's directors. (Becky always seemed too smart for the program. I hope she's put her life together. Rebecca: call.) All we see are lights and people falling over and witless castmembers yelling to be left alone. (Don't worry, soon enough your 15 minutes shall pass.) Two things are revealed: The banality of the cast and the skill of the editors. That the illusion of psychodrama can be constructed out of 70 hours of such drivel recorded each week is a testament to the evil genius of MTV's methodology. Despite brief flashes of New York Eric's behind and Miami Flora's breasts, I found the packaging more interesting: "This videocassette was manufactured to meet critical quality standards." Not mine, pal. EJECT.

Slogan: "Get Ready for Profits You Can't Escape!"

Not since radio's Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar has there been a drama about a hard-charging insurance actuary. Sadly, this film stars the non-charging Andrew McCarthy. When I had the privilege of observing the making of what became the very popular film, Weekend at Bernie's, I stood as close to Mr. McCarthy as I am to you--if we were standing very close together. The experience left me...nearly unaware that I was standing close to Andrew McCarthy. The focus-puller radiated stronger vibes. Combined with the fact that the fleshy ex-brat packer looks 10 years too young to be convincing as an aristocratic executive caught in a sprawling murder mystery makes this "A Danilo Bach Production" play as compellingly as if shot from a Blue Cross form. Poor Paul Sorvino tries to maintain some dignity. I think I would rather have watched him in the love scenes. EJECT.

Amazing Fantasy
Slogan: "Deformed. Devious. Depraved."

Hideous? Yes, in so many ways. And yet...I couldn't turn away. In part because Jacqueline Lovell is nude or semi-nude for most of the film. "I'm free, I'm proud. I'm woman," is how she dismisses her exhibitionistic exploitation. (Clearly an actress with more to offer than her delightful figure, Lovell should be getting all the roles meant for Kathleen Turner--when Kathleen Turner was hot.) The plot is absurd times 12: Rival collectors of "medical oddities" (that is slimy, bulbous puppets) vie to see whose oddities are odder. That these specimens are, by implication, deformed, aborted fetuses is not satisfactorily dealt with. Though sickening, what kept me glued was the wry performances, especially by Lovell and Jerry O'Donnell as a sarcastic detective, and the script's twisted lines like, "I, sir, am a gourmet of the unusual. You are merely a...gourmand!" The puppets cry. The puppets kill. Genius! PLAY.

Slogan: "And Africa Will Never Be the Same."

"I've never allowed myself to be seduced by the blandishments of illusion and false hope," says a biddy in Grave Indiscretion. Well I have, at least where Ernest P. Worrell is concerned. I keep rooting for the guy. Before everyone in America was reciting the trademark phrase, "KnowhatImean?," I was fortunate to view the original "Hey, Vern" commercials made for a local Tennessee retailer. 30-second classics of wide-angle comedy, they announced a fresh--if repulsive--face on the low-comedy scene. And really, what is the difference between Ace Ventura and Ernest? Jim Varney's face probably contains even more Silly Putty than Jim Carrey's. The difference is material. "It's always good to have the monkeys on your side," Ernest says here. The chimps are with ya, pal. It's the writer/director you need to watch out for. John Cherry has written and directed all the Ernest films, to increasingly meager effect. Filmed in Johannesburg, if you have an alcoholic toddler in your home, this may prove diverting. Otherwise, EJECT.

Next: Vegas, baby!


Slogan: A Top-renting cast

This is "A Larry Bishop Film," the writer/director being a Joey Bishop production, Joey being a member of the Rat Pack, the Rat Pack having made the quintessential hipster/heist movie, Ocean's 11, of which this might be a deconstructed--or perhaps unconstructed--version. With Frank, Dean, and Sammy on the soundtrack, Trigger Happy distills the essence of gangster attitude with low-budget inventiveness and an A-budget cast: Richard Dreyfuss, Jeff Goldblum, Ellen Barkin, Gabriel Byrne, Diane Lane, Burt Reynolds, Kyle MacLachlan, Gregory Hines--not to mention Christopher Jones (unseen since 1968's Wild in the Streets), creepy Michael J. Pollard, creepier Juan Fernandez and Billy Drago, and creepiest--and Ocean's 11 alum--Henry Silva! With Larry Bishop as a hitman. And this list doesn't include the many unusual--and one alarming--cameos. Young Lar was obviously scarred by hanging around his father's cronies, but if nothing else, he offers an inspired twist on the gunfighter showdown. PLAY.

Slogan: Sometimes Revenge is the Best Therapy.

Larry Bishop wrote the script for this "A Robert Vince Production" and gave himself a featured role as, again, a soulless hitman. Larry definitely has a thing for gangsters, sharkskin suits, and stylized shootouts. And apparently a lot of daddy issues to work out. Denis Leary is some kind of hood on a killing spree avenging his father's death. He kidnaps Joe Mantegna, some kind of hood, and forces him to deal with his own papa problems, too. I was reminded of the baptism sequence in The Godfather, here extended to feature length, with a limo ride as the connecting device instead of a baptism. So, it's not really very much like The Godfather, is it? Except that Abe Vigoda looks glum in both films. But I don't think Traci Lords ever sang a song in a Coppola film. Whatever. PAUSE.

Live Entertainment
Slogan: Even Losers Get Lucky Some Time.

Rebecca DeMornay does not do her own singing in this "A Ken Scwenker Production," but she fakes it nicely. As Executive Producer, she cast herself as a fringe Vegas floozy looking to cash in on the apparently enchanted winning streak of naive Vincent D'Onofrio. Richard Edson, Delroy Lindo, Michael Madsen, Billy Bob Thornton, and an appealingly overheated Frank Whaley also want a piece of the action. Filmed on the outskirts of Vegas, director Alex Cox--dangerously resembling Sid Vicious in a cameo--removes even the fake glamour from the Entertainment Capital of the World. But that doesn't leave much to watch except weird Whaley and delicious DeMornay. PAUSE.

BMG Video [CC]
Slogan: All They Want Is Another Shot...

Hello, my name is Dave Nuttycombe and I am very glad that I am not an alcoholic. Though if I was, I wouldn't have to go out to AA meetings--I could just watch this tape. Basically an AA session with celebrity winos (Faye Dunaway, Parker Posey, Amanda Plummer, Spaulding Gray, Howard Rollins, Diane Wiest) telling horror stories in between scenes of Richard Lewis falling sickeningly off the wagon, the best moments are the drunk scenes--which bolsters the drinking-is-fun argument. And what's with all the cigarette smoking? As a comedian-who-wants-to-be-taken-seriously, Lewis acquits himself credibly, though you still hope for some jokes. Useful while under the influence, otherwise EJECT.

Paramount [CC]
Slogan: A Famous Writer. An Obsessed Fan. And a Fatal Rejection.

"I spotted your weakness," Larry Bishop says in Trigger Happy, "you care." Yes, for some reason I do care--about poor Corbin Bernsen. Never watched his TV shows but I can't escape his video work. I'm 2 for 2 on this series, which is not quite jelling. On the plus side, Corbin has ditched the kung fu fembot from first film for the saucily perky videotrix Nia Peeples. But the gruesomeness of the story--the brutal killing of unconvicted rapists--doesn't jibe with Berson's supposedly light-hearted writer character. That the psycho killer is a super ninja is a bit too convenient, and I became more fascinated watching the art direction: Corbin lives in a fantastic house overlooking a river in Vancouver. Because I care, I want to visit it again in No. 3. EJECT.

New Horizon
Slogan: Hard Wired for Destruction.

"Being a psycho is nothing to be ashamed of," says Denis Leary in Underworld. He hadn't seen Richard Grieco terrorizing Corbin Bernsen in Circuit Breaker. The last time we saw Grieco, his head was melting. Here it explodes. This is a good trend, because while his name doesn't rhyme with "psycho," it's close enough--and he should be ashamed. Corbin and wife take a "shortcut through the quasar" in a rental spaceship (!) to get medical help for their daughter, who doesn't seem very sick. The film almost becomes Event Horizon when they come across the shirtless Grieco's rocket. As lousy as that film was, at least the models weren't right out of an Aurora kit. However, it's reassuring to know that IBM keyboards are still standard in the future. The fake computer talk is entertaining ("Computer, generate theta stimulator." "Bypass her conscious brain."), but you do not bed the creature that just killed your family. Circuit Breaker bypassed my conscious brain. EJECT.

Columbia TriStar [CC]
Slogan: A Smart Comedy About Getting Stupid

"You intend to captivate people with the plight of the affluent, suburban white male?" John Rhys-Davis asks mockingly of moping art student Ben Affleck. Apparently so is this stupid comedy about being moronic. A house full of goons drink and complain about women, though they don't even remotely deserve girlfriends--especially the jerk who mistreats my ex-flame, the winsome Megan Ward. Pointless, mindless, witless philosophizing followed by pointless, mindless, witless destruction. Allysa Milano does not get naked. Cameos by Matthew McConaughey when he was a nobody and Brendan Frazer when he was a chubb. Nice soundtrack by the Vandals and others. Buy the CD instead. EJECT.

Columbia TriStar [CC]
Slogan: Robots Rule the Earth. Only One Man Can Stop Them.

"Why don't you ever write about movies people want to see?" a colleague asked, cutting me to the quick. Let me explain: No one wants to watch a Rutger Hauer film. But I watch them so that when an extraordinarily important Rutger Hauer film comes along the world shall hear of it. Omega Doom is that Rutger Hauer film. Set in a post-apocalyptic nuclear winter (Brataslava), this "An Albert Pyun Film" plays like an Off-Broadway version of Ionesco's Robocop. Beginning auspiciously with "Once upon a time..." and quoting Dylan Thomas, narration informs us that Hauer is a robot "wounded in his program" so that he "forgets his prime directive." This leads him Shane-like into the middle of dispute between the New Wave shade-wearing Roms and the beyond thunderdome Droids. The illogic is as astounding as the dialogue is insane: "You're a lousy 5.5 upgrade. I've killed your kind before." "I'm not the droid I used to be." "Sometimes I wish I were created a drone." "You cut off my head, what more do you want?" Specially credited as The Head, Norbert Weisser uses this limitation to wildly overact. And, credit notwithstanding, "Mr. Hauer's Trainer" does not seem to be working overtime. PLAY.

Next: Chop-sexy!