GRAY AREAS MAGAZINE MOVIE REVIEWS - DECEMBER 1996
ALADDIN AND THE KING OF THIEVES (Walt Disney Home
Video, 86 minutes) This is the third Aladdin film in the
series and Robin Williams is back in the role of the genie. He's
actually better than in the first film, largely because he does
a lot of imitations here of recognizable people and characters.
The plot involves Aladdin and Jasmine's wedding which is interrupted
by an attack by the 40 Theives. It turns out their leader is Aladdin's
father and he must make peace with his father before he can marry.
The plot is stronger than I've described it and the film works.
The animation's great as always and Robin Williams has almost
never been better. Don't miss this if you like animated films
or the comedic style of Robin Williams.
AMERICAN BUFFALO (Evergreen Entertainment, 87 minutes)
Superb casting brings together Dennis Franz, Dustin Hoffman and
Sean Nelson in this story about three hustlers who become criminals.
It all starts out when one of them sells a rare buffalo head nickel
to a customer and later discovers it was worth far more than he'd
realized. He enlists the help of a friend to help him steal it
back but then a third friend badgers them to let him be a part
of their plan. Well-written, well-acted and offers the unusual
twist of seeing Franz as a law breaker instead of as a police
officer (NYPD Blue) and Hoffman as a low-life who curses
BEYOND THE CALL (Evergreen Entertainment, 101 minutes)
Sissy Spacek is superb in this drama where she is contacted by
the family of a death row inmate who was once her first love.
Spacek gives him the courage to continue fighting in his legal
case, but it drains her and strains her marriage to a man who
can't fully understand why she feels the need to travel to help
some other guy. This is a must to see if you are interested in
prisons, enjoy dramas or are a fan of Spacek's. Definitely one
of her better roles.
BLIND MELON: LETTERS TO A PORCUPINE (Capitol Video,
80 minutes) I was not a big fan of Blind Melon's although I did
see them open twice for the Rolling Stones. The band underwent
a tragedy when one of their members died suddenly of a drug overdose.
They've come out of the slump kicking with this stellar documentary
which takes the form of a montage and pulls no punches in its
honesty in explaining their rise to fame, the battle with drugs,
who they are and what the music was about. One of the better rock
documentaries I've seen, this traces the band's rise through small
clubs like The Ritz to playing at Woodstock, opening for the Stones,
appearing on David Letterman's show, MTV, In Concert and
Saturday Night Live. Highly recommended, even if you know
almost nothing about Blind Melon but are just a music lover.
BOGUS (Warner Home Video) Whoopi Goldberg stars in
this touching story about a businesswoman who suddenly discovers
she's had a child left to her by a friend she grew up with. She's
black, the child's white, and worse yet, he has an imaginary friend
who he talks to constantly. Goldberg is utterly uneqipped to be
a mom, but manages, and in the end bonds with the child and all
is well. Don't miss this if you have children or are a fan of
THE CABLE GUY (Columbia Tristar Home Video, 95 minutes)
Jim Carrey and Matthew Broderick star in this film about a twisted
and lonely cable TV installer who decides customer Matthew Broderick
is going to be his friend whether he wants to be or not. Essentially
a film about stalking, this has some bizarre moments including
Carrey singing the Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit"
using a karoake machine! I enjoyed this more than Carrey's other
films, but this might be because I'm an Airplane fan, and have
a number of dealings with stalkers myself. This will probably
appeal more to younger movie goers, and doesn't speak well for
the cable TV industry, but there's a lot of truth in the fact
job turnover is high in that industry and people are sent to customers
homes without much of a background check.
THE CELLULOID CLOSET (Columbia Tristar Home Video,
101 minutes) Lily Tomlin narrates this documentary which discusses
the portrayal of gay people in Hollywood films. Covering 120 films
from the silent era to today's coverage of AIDS, there are cameo
quotes included from Tom Hanks, Susan Sarandon, Whoopi Goldberg,
Tony Curtis and Gore Vidal. Worth seeing by heterosexual film
lovers too, this paints quite a clear picture of how Hollywood
distorts issues to make money and just how long it takes for things
to change. It's not all that surprising people are so homophobic
once you examine the media lies we have been fed by many of these
films. Well done.
EDDIE (Hollywood Pictures Home Video, 100 minutes)
Whoopi Goldberg is great in the role of a basketball fan who is
chosen as coach of the day during a game. Looking for a new angle
to promote the team, the owner hires her as the permanent coach,
pissing off the players but making lots of points with the media
and fans. Eddie surprises everyone including herself by turning
the team around and making them win. Then she gets into management
conflicts with the owner and decides to be true to herself and
the fans instead of playing along to keep her job. I hate sports
but found this delightful. Don't miss it if you like sports, comedies,
women's films or want to see a rare film where a black person's
skin color is not the issue of the film.
ESCAPE FROM L.A. (Paramount Home Video, 101 minutes)
I didn't care much for the original film, but this sequel (which
doesn't rely on its predecessor) is actually much better. Set
in the future, it involves the United States having separated
from Los Angeles and sending all criminals and outcasts to L.A.,
a city overrun with earthquakes, violence and crime. Kurt Russell
is back as Snake, and is sent in to L.A. in search of a doomsday
device and the President's daughter who has joined the bad guys.
But the government burns him, infecting him with a virus which
only gives him a few hours to find the device or die. So he decides
to fend for himself, not really trusting the government or the
place he's been sent to. Tons of action, a superb if slightly
unrealistic plot, and Kurt Russell at his best. The ending doesn't
cop out and leaves you at the edge of your seat too. A must to
see if you like action films.
THE FAN (Columbia Tristar Home Video, 116 minutes)
Robert DeNiro and Wesley Snipes star in this superb film about
an obsessed fan who stalks a baseball player and even kidnaps
his son. DeNiro and Snipes are perfect for their roles here, and
even if you're not into baseball there is plenty of intense drama
here to keep your eyes glued to the screen. Don't miss this is
you like baseball, DeNiro's characters or are interested in the
subject of stalking.
FIRST KID (Walt Disney Home Video, 101 minutes) While
I'm not a fan of Sinbad, I loved this movie. The plot involves
the secret service agents who must babysit the President's more
than obnoxious teenage son. They are required to follow him to
school, on dates and chaperone him at home when it's too dangerous
for him to leave the White House. The film shows some of the tragedy
in our political system which allows a man to be President at
the expense of his children's lives and shows some of the not
often thought of duties Secret Service agents have to peform.
Very funny, but also tragic at the same time. Highly recommended.
HOT YOGA (Brentwood Home Video, 30 minutes) This
beginners tape explain what yoga is and teaches the viewer how
to achieve relaxation though simple exercise. It's easy to follow,
visually appealing and short, sweet and to the point. Well done.
INTIMATE YOGA (Brentwood Home Video, 30 minutes)
Designed for couples, this beginners tape demonstrates easy to
do exercises for relaxation and intimacy. Filmed on a desert mountaintop,
and containing nudity, this is pleasing to watch even if you don't
choose to follow along. Worth seeing if you enjoy exercise, are
curious about yoga or are already involved with yoga but without
THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU (Turner Home Entertainment,
94 minutes) Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer team up in this film
about a man who has been experimenting with DNA research on the
animals and people who inhabit an island. Reminiscent of a few
films but ultimately truly unique, this has incredibly realistic
special effects, a challenging plot and, of course, great acting.
One of the better films of 1996 if you like movies containing
more depth than the average comedy.
LOVER'S KNOT (Cabin Fever Entertainment, Inc., 86
minutes) Do you believe in Cupid? In this romantic comedy, starring
Jennifer Grey, Bill Campbell and Tim Curry, one of Cupid's caseworkers
is assigned to help a couple stay together who prove to be quite
a challenge. Worth seeing, especially with a date or lover.
MY SURRENDER (Femme Productions, 83 minutes) In this
romantic adult film, a female director earns her living by filming
couples having sex with each other to satisfy their own private
fantasies and preserve them on videotape. She works well with
her clients, but lacks any love relationship of her own. Along
comes a man who she meets and tries to ignore, but he woos her
with videotapes of himself talking to her. Finally she can't resist
him any longer and they have long, passionate sex. Candida Royalle
and Veronica Hart star in a fully dressed cameo, while Jeanna
Fine and Alex Sanders star as the newly united couple in X-rated
scenes. Co-stars Jill Kelly and Mark Davis in other sex scenes
as well as two real-life couples. Combining a good plot with great
atmosphere and music, this is an ideal choice to show someone
open to the idea of watching adult films but repulsed by many
of the male-oriented selections commonly available.
MY UNCLE: THE ALIEN (PM Entertainment Group, Inc.,
90 minutes) This adorable family film will probably appeal to
all ages. The President's daughter has an invisible friend, an
alien she calls her uncle. She visits a children's shelter and
upon hearing it will have services cut due to funding, escapes
from the Secret Service agents who routinely follow her and goes
off to try to save the shelter with the help of her uncle and
his powers. When she returns the people around her come to believe
in the miracle and she does manage to save the day, even if she
did embarrass her dad in the media along the way.
PHENOMENON (Touchstone Home Video, 123 minutes) John
Travolta stars as a man who develops unusual abilities due to
his impending death from a brain tumor. Unfortunately, he encounters
problems with his community as the differences between them develop
and he falls in love with someone and they only have a limited
amount of time together. Surely one of Travolta's best scripts,
this is a superb plot which is carried off brilliantly by Travolta.
Should appeal to all ages.
RIOT (PM Entertainment Group, Inc.) Former boxing
champion Sugar Ray Leonard stars in this film set in the near
future about international terror. Amidst riots, the daughter
of the British Ambassador is kidnapped and held hostage. She must
be rescued by a British SAS officer who has to take on gangs full
of IRA mercenaries and survive. Lots of action including fire,
fighting, violence and deaths.
THE THIEF AND THE COBBLER (Miramax Family Films,
73 minutes) Aimed at children, this animated tale will also appeal
to adults who collect animation. Parts of it reminded me of Yellow
Submarine, sans the music references. The plot involves a
princess who falls for a common cobbler while simultaneously being
targeted by a thief who is after the kingdom's gold and jewels.
Beautiful use of color, as well as star voices for the characters
provided by Matthew Broderick, Jennifer Beals, Jonathan Winters
and Vincent Price.
TINY TOY STORIES (Walt Disney Home Video, 20 minutes)
Fans of Toy Story will enjoy this earlier collection of
animated shorts also done by Pixar Animation Studios. There are
five cartoons here which each use computer animation, including
one which won the Academy award for Best Animated Short Film of
1988 and another which got an Oscar nomination in 1986. Budget
priced, this will appeal to adults who wish to explain animation
to children as well as to fans of computerized animation. There
are not many tapes out which compete with this one, and Disney
has a history of releasing films on video which then go out-of-print.
So act quickly if you want to own this treasure!
TOPX: TATTOOS AND SKIN (aired on TBS, 60 minutes)
This superb documentary about body modification traces tattooing
throughout history. Included is footage of tribal tattooing in
other countries, the resurgance of tattooing in the USA in the
late 1960s and early 1970s through rock stars, today's tattoo
conventions and interviews with those who do the tattooing and
those who've chosen to cover their bodies with tattoos. There's
also a fascinating segment on former gang members who opt to have
their gang tattoos and/or skinhead messages removed and on a woman
who makes it possible for these kids to do at no cost. No matter
how much you think you know about tattoos there is more to discover
here. Hopefully this will be released for home video, but if not
catch it whenever it repeats on TV.
TRAINSPOTTING (Miramax Home Entertainment, 94 minutes)
This is simply the best film about heroin addiction to come along
since 1970's The Panic In Needle Park which made Al Pacino
a star. Probably best classified as a cult film, this deals with
a group of friends who use heroin, choose to be addicted and steal
to support their habits. It's not a pretty life and it's not a
pretty movie. It is quite realistic which is all you can ask from
a Hollywood production. Highly recommended.
A VERY BRADY SEQUEL (Paramount Home Video, 90 minutes)
The Bradys are back, and while this film is not as good as the
original it's not half bad either. Worth seeing if you liked the
TV show and are willing to approach it with no expectations, the
plot involves Carol's original husband returning after she's long
been remarried and assumed him dead. The famiy goes to Hawaii
to search for Carol after the original husband turns out to be
a crook who is an impersonator. The "kids" pull off
the plot and it does have its moments.
WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE (Columbia Tristar Home Video,
87 minutes) This heartwarming film involves an 11-year-old girl
who wants to be popular. Nicknamed "Wienerdog" by her
classmates, she is tormented by the school bully, subject to constant
teasing and spends a lot of time alone. She falls for the star
of the local high school garage band and devises a complex and
creative plan to get him to like her. Athough this is ideal for
teenagers to see, it won a Grand Jury prize at the 1996 Sundance
film festival and is worth seeing by all ages.
WIGSTOCK (Evergreen Entertainment, 82 minutes) It's
an annual festival for transvestites and transsexuals who get
to dress up, sing and party. This documentary interviews many
of the performers, the wig designers, audience members and passersby.
Well worth seeing for sheer fun, this is an educational film which
does not cram politics down the viewers throat. Some of these
guys certainly do look better dressed up as women too, so who
are we to argue? I only wish I owned some of the costumes these
people get to wear.
THE YOUNG POISONER'S HANDBOOK (Cabin Fever Entertainment,
93 minutes) This cult film tackles the rarely talked about topic
of poisoning, tracing the life of a teenager who experiments with
poisons by killing his family members and co-workers. While critics
hailed it as funny, I thought this was deadly serious, especially
since the poison used is named and described in detail. The film
does a great job of showing why the kid does it, what prison life
is like after he's convicted and how easy it is to get out of
prison and reoffend again. Well worth seeing especially if you
like cult films, are interested in poisons or enjoy films about