Slogan: Blinded by Love. Blinded by Greed. Blind to the Truth.
"I'm just going to finish Miss Manners' column and then we can start," my special friend "J" informed me. I waited patiently because I already felt guilty enough about dragging such a nice gal into my private video hell -- especially with the promise of a Luke Perry vehicle. My guilt deepened as soon as the tiny TV star appeared. "He's got the scruffy look," said "J," unenthused. "I don't like the mustache." As gumshoe Luke began snapping nude photos of a supposedly unfaithful wife (ER's Gloria Reuben), "J" began caustically dissecting the story: "She signed a pre-nup that she would get nothing -- that happens." "Oh, boy -- stop with the private-eye music!" When I thought I had figured out the surprise ending, "J" brightened. "You're so smart," she said, then added, "for being one step ahead of plot development in a Luke Perry movie." Would Miss Manners make such a comment? But when my far superior ending proved to be only a red herring, "J" rose to my defense. "This is cheating!" she shouted at the TV, with more excitement than seemed necessary. But it was when she deemed Indiscreet "definitely watchable," that I realized I had ruined another good woman. PAUSE.
Slogan: Where Is Catherine Mason? People Are Dying to Know.
Having survived Luke Perry, I decided to push the envelope with "A Rick King Film" starring Michael Madsen and Jeff Fahey. Sheesh, it starts with a shower scene. Then goes to a transvestite bar. Someone is killing transvestites and crooked cop Fahey investigates, with help from Maria Conchita Alonso. "That hair," chortled my special friend "J." "It's so outdated. What's the deal?" When Madsen appeared, "J" had him pegged: "Look at that smile -- he's a psycho thug if I ever saw one." I didn't want to ask if she had ever seen one, but she certainly was catching on quick to the whole videocrity thing. In fact, this time, "J" figured out the surprise ending. But there was an awfully long wait before an explanatory flashback confirmed it. By which time, "J" had turned back to the Sunday paper. EJECT.
SINK OR SWIM
Slogan: 6 Friends, 1 Job....You Do the Math.
"This is the handsome Tom Arnold," said my friend the editor, who is himself a friend of Mr. Arnold's and thus has some perspective on the fidgety film star's various looks. But it's true. Mr. Arnold is sharp and assured in this extremely inside account of Hollywood desperation. As Illeana Douglas, Stephen Rea, Dave Foley, John Ritter, Jason Priestley, and Ryan O'Neal tossed off endless trade talk and obscure Tinseltown references, my friend the editor asked, "How much deeper inside can you go?" Not much. In fact, Sink plays like an encounter session at the Writers Guild of America West with a bunch of bitter, frustrated screenwriters. Having just sent a script for the perfect Tom Arnold vehicle off to Hollywood -- and having not received a response -- I found this film utterly fascinating. And so very true. Bravo, Tom -- lookin' good! PLAY.
Slogan: Cross the Line....Pay the Price.
"Is there a drummer in the house?" asks Joan Jett, playing Jerk, a tough-talking singer in a biker-bar band whose skin-pounder has just OD'd. In fact, there is -- martial artist Mark Dacascos, one day out of prison and back hanging with his male prostitute/junkie buddy. Mark sits in, attacking the drums like he was kung fu fighting. "You play hard," says Joan. "It's the only way I know how," says Mark. "It's a rush, ain't it?" says Joan. "As long as I'm rockin', I'm livin'," she says. So true. And you know, this same scenario happened to me once. Except no one OD'd, it wasn't a biker bar, I wasn't fresh out of prison, and it was Tommy Smothers I sat in with. Not as much of a rush, perhaps. Anyway, Dacascos decides to pull one last job with his homo/junkie/prison pal so he can buy drums and join Joan's band. The heist goes bad. Real bad. So bad that we don't see any more of Joan. Or Traci Lords, for heaven's sake. She plays a direct-to-video actress. "My movies are a lot cooler than some B-money action star vehicle," she says. Listen to Traci, writer/director Craig Hamann. More Joan Jett/Traci Lords vehicles, less grimy Pulp Fiction knock-offs. PAUSE.
Slogan: In This Town, the Heat Can Kill You.
Everyone's on the take in this "A Danny Cannon Film," but crooked cop Ray Liotta is less of a scumbag than Anthony LaPaglia, Anjelica Huston, Jeremy Piven, one of the Baldwins, Tom Noonan, and the ever-present Kari Salin-Wuhrer. Still, he's pushed to pull a heist to cover his gambling debts. The heist goes bad. Real bad. Why are movies more concerned with the supposed "honor" among thieves and less interested in the efforts of regular folk to live honest lives? Maybe because Kari won't appear topless in those films? Sorry I asked. PAUSE.
A LETTER FROM DEATH ROW
Slogan: There Is No Lie More Terrifying Than the Truth
"A good writer can make the mind imagine," says the narrator of this "A True Psycho Thriller." "A great writer can make the mind believe." And a heavy metal singer can write, co-direct, and star in "A Bret Michaels Creation." That is, if he is Bret Michaels, lead singer with '80s hair band Poison. But can he make us believe? Bret certainly tries. He struts his ultra-buff bod in shirtless glory. He cries. He emotes with a dream-sequence dwarf. There's a "Special Appearance" by Charlie Sheen that comprises one close-up and four lines. And a nothing-special appearance by Martin Sheen for one scene. "None of us are innocent!" shouts Bret. "None of us! Every one of us has our snapping point!" This, I fear, is my snapping point. Believe it. EJECT.
TRAILER TRASHIN' -- YOU'RE ON YOUR OWN Once again, the pile reached dangerous heights, so I invited my award-winning filmmaker friend Brad over to help wade through the many, many videos that I don't quite have time to watch in their entirety. I mean, I'm at least three Rutger Hauer films behind. The following comments are based on box art, liner notes, and a quick scan of the trailer. Oh, we did take a short break to check out the cheerleader competitions on ESPN and then play a bit of the Kevin Bacon game. Other than that, these tapes got our full attention.
New Horizons Home Video
Slogan: A Lone Fighter. A Furious Asteroid: One Will Claim the Planet as Its Own.
"They actually had a decent piece of hardware floating around there," said my award-winning filmmaker friend Brad, who specializes in creating fake flying-saucer footage on his home computer. Yes, the spaceships and effects look very good. Even Michael Paré looks good. I didn't see any of the asteroid/comet/danger-from-space movies this summer. But I might actually watch this.
Slogan: He's the Sixth One in His Family. And He's a Little Bit Crazy.
"Urban action at its best!" says the box. For some reason, Rob Lowe (with a scruffy Joe Namath-Fu Manchu mustache), Ice-T, Mario Van Peebles, and Burt Reynolds (in a cowboy hat) have found their way to one of those formerly communist Eastern European countries that are falling apart and are involved in some pretty stylish-looking urban action. I love urban action when it's at its best, and this does look very good. I may actually watch this.
TOP OF THE WORLD
Slogan: Surviving Is Against All Odds.
Dennis Hopper says the name of the film twice in the trailer. Excellent! Helicopters are exploding; Peter Weller, Peter Coyote, and the lovely Tia Carrere are fighting on trains, in Vegas casinos, all over the Hoover Dam. I may actually watch this.
Slogan: Shannon Tweed Has an Offer You Can't Refuse.
"Shannon Tweed -- isn't she like really old?" asked my friend Brad, who creates fake flying saucers on his home computer. Then he tried to tell me that the picture of the erotic thriller queen on the box was a PhotoShop fake. While it's hard to say what's fake and what isn't with Ms. Tweed, I still maintain that she's the real deal. And in this "A Ralph Portillo Film," the very gracefully aging actress plays "an undercover agent sent on a covert operation in Mexico [where] she uses all her weapons including her brains and body against a playboy counterfeiter and his sadistic henchman." Co-starring Steven Bauer. My friend Sean says, "Yes! Watch this!"
Slogan: Sometimes You Have to Take the Law into Your Own Hands.
Neither the copy on the box nor the trailer for this Gary Busey vehicle made much sense, except that there's a "murderous web of assassination and deceit" and hints of a possible Roy Scheider love scene. Co-starring Steven Bauer. I may not watch this.
Slogan: Don't Fall Victim to Her Charms.
Revenge of the Nerds star Robert Carradine in an erotic thriller? Hmmm...where's Steven Bauer when you need him?
Next month: The Professionals.