GRAY AREAS MAGAZINE MOVIE REVIEWS
BY NETTA GILBOA
THE ACOUSTIC GUITAR OF JORMA KAUKONEN (Homespun Video, 90 minutes) Intended to teach fans of Hot Tuna and Jefferson Airplane how the lead guitarist performs his blues-based fingerpicking, this covers runs, chord shapes, right-hand p icking, vibrato, string bends, double-time patterns and much more. Several songs are demonstrated including "I Know You Rider," "Water Song" and "San Francisco Bay Blues." While definitely intended for guitar students, this i s also of interest to Jormaís many fans.
BEFORE AND AFTER (Hollywood Pictures Home Video, 108 minutes) Meryl Streep and Liam Nelson star in this suspense film about a family who learn their teenage son is suspected of killing a girl he was dating without their knowledge. They hire a lawyer an d then one by one each member of the family does things to affect the case which work against the lawyerís strategy. The film raises deep questions about how well we really know our own family members, about how people can be expected to react in a crisis and about how unpredictable the law can be. Highly recommended.
BIG BULLY (Warner Home Video) Lots of big name actors star in this comedy about a bully and his victim who are reunited once again as adults. Now they are both teachers and have children who get dragged into the feud and ultimately make them resolve it . Tom Arnold stars as the bully, Rick Moranis plays the victim, and the supporting cast includes Julianne Phillips, Carol Kane and Don Knotts. More believable than many comedies, this is particularly touching if you were ever picked on as a child.
THE CATíS MEOW (Brentwood Home Video, 30 minutes) Cat lovers will melt as they watch this assortment of cats and kittens filmed at cat shows and playing at home. There are pedigrees, alley cats, talented cats, curious cats and, of course, many cute cat s. My own cats were intrigued watching this. They sat on the bed and stared at the TV, occasionally meowing which they rarely do. A companion video exists for dog fans too.
FRENCH TWIST (Miramax Home Entertainment, 100 minutes) Subtitles turn me off, but I found myself sitting through all of this sexy comedy about a wife who has been cheated on. She has a fling with a lesbian when the opportunity arises, and moves the wom an into her home. The husband is slow to come around to the idea but eventually even agrees to father a child for the lesbian. This is pretty well done for a movie, and while lesbians are insulted here they are also demystified and treated fairly. Says a lot about why people have affairs, how they can cause pain and about some of the differences between men and women.
HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS (Dimension Home Video, 88 minutes) This sequel to the popular horror series explores a slightly different theme. Here Michael, the killer, turns out to be alive and to have been kept hidden for several years. He no w has a child and comes back along with another original character, Dr. Loomis, played by Donald Pleasence. Worth seeing if you like the series, but offers nothing special in terms of originality or special effects when compared to other recent horror fil ms.
HOMEWARD BOUND II: LOST IN SAN FRANCISCO (Walt Disney Home Video, 89 minutes) This sequel reunites all three of the pets who get lost and must travel in order to find their human family again. This time the family has moved to San Francisco and the pet s need to cross the Golden Gate Bridge, avoid dognappers who want to sell them to a lab and deal with one of the dogs who falls in love with a stray and isnít so sure he wants to go back home again. Itís as heartwarming as the first film, although the plo t is a bit more predictable, and animal lovers of all ages should be sure not to miss this.
HOW THE WEST WAS FUN (Warner Home Video) Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen star with Martin Mull in this film about two kids who visit a dude ranch and discover a womanís son is trying to cause her financial ruin to benefit himself. Lots of cute kids, western gear, corporate politics and a predictable happy ending. Worth seeing if you enjoy watching the twins who are best known for their work in the TV sitcom Full House.
JACK & SARAH (PolyGram Video, 110 minutes) A manís wife dies in childbirth, leaving him to care for his newborn infant. So he hires a nanny, but mistreats her after she moves in with him and leaves a female presence him his still-healing household. Ultimately he realizes he has fallen in love again despite himself. This warm-hearted romantic tale stars Richard E. Grant and Samantha Mathis.
LAST MAN STANDING (PM Entertainment Group, Inc.) Cops and robbers is the theme here as a bank robber battles the police and turns out to have friends in high places who assist him. Lots of guns, chase scenes and explosive fires with a hunt that becomes personal to the officer in charge. Stars Jeff Wincott and will appeal more to those who like lots of action scenes than a unique plot or big name stars.
NO CONTEST (Columbia Tristar Home Video, 98 minutes) Andrew Dice Clay, Robert Davi and Shannon Tweed star in this action film about a beauty contest whose contestants get taken hostage by a group of terrorists. The police stand outside trying to free t he hostages while the terrorists kill them and blow up cars to make the seriousness of their demands felt. Not bad for its genre, this actually has a female lead save the day.
SCREAMERS (Columbia Tristar Home Video, 118 minutes) This sci-fi action thriller stars Peter Weller, Roy Dupuis and Jennifer Rubin. Itís about a man assigned to protect others from ravage and plunder through the use of Screamers. Screamers are manmade killing devices which travel underground and shriek right before they attack their prey. They mutate in human form and, of course, must be stopped. Lots of good special effects and a story line that works better than Iíve been able to describe it. Worth s eeing if you enjoyed films like Alien, Tremors or Total Recall.
SIREN (Wolfe Video, 45 minutes) This erotic lesbian fantasy drama was made by women for women. Itís not an adult film, but it does deal with a character who writes erotic fiction and does have some sex scenes. Very different, both in point of view and photographic style. Worth seeing if lesbianism interests you or if you like feminist films.
SOFT DECEIT (Turner Home Entertainment, 95 minutes) Kate Vernon and Patrick Bergin star in this thriller about a very savvy criminal who eludes the law, the church and the mob and then gets released in a deal with law enforcement only to elude the law again. Vernon plays the cop who makes the deal and then falls for Bergin and ends up siding with and helping him. Good plot and one of her better roles. Definitely worth seeing.
THE SUBSTITUTE (Live Entertainment, 114 minutes) A high school teacher is married to a mercenary and after she is beaten by some of her students he becomes their substitute teacher. The entire school is corrupt, with even the principal working hand in hand with gang leaders to sell drugs and trying to stop the substitute teacher from breaking it up at all costs. Tom Berenger, Ernie Hudson and Diane Venora star in this action film which has some violence, of course, but much more plot and character deve lopment than much of its genre offers. Worth seeing.
TURN UP THE VOLUME (Brentwood Home Video, 50 minutes) The first six volumes of this rock and roll video magazine series include unique and exclusive footage of rock stars ranging from Megadeth to Soundgarden to Kiss. Nina Blackwood hosts the tapes whic h have segments that run approximately ten minutes each with artists like Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Lita Ford, Ozzy Osborne, Jon Anderson, Mr. Big, Sass Jordan and Ugly Kid Joe. These are very well done and worth owning if you like even a few of the bands included.
TWO MUCH (Touchstone Home Video, 117 minutes) Antonio Banderas stars as a thief who makes his living by showing up at funerals and trying to get the family to pay for artwork the deceased supposedly purchased shortly before his death. One of his sales backfires, and in the process of ducking the family member who wants to beat him up for trying to cheat them he meets Melanie Griffith. She decides she wants to marry him and begins making plans before he even knows her. Her sister, played by Daryl Hannah , quickly complicates the arrangement as does Banderas himself when he reinvents himself as his twin brother in order to propose to Daryl Hannah whom he finds himself wanting more than Griffith. Good acting, although the plot is a bit unbelievable.
UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL (Touchstone Home Video, 124 minutes) Robert Redford and Michelle Pfeiffer star in this terrific film about two journalists who work together and fall in love. Redford gives one of his best performances ever as Pfeifferís mentor an d the film delves into the problems of a dual-career couple as well as some of the harsh realities behind the camera in the world of TV news. This is a must-see film which continues to offer plot twists until the very end which were not predictable from t he filmís outset.