GRAY AREAS MAGAZINE MOVIE REVIEWS JANUARY 1998
By Netta Gilboa and Christopher Schanot
187 (Warner Home Video, 119 minutes) Samuel L. Jackson stars in this superb film about a teacher who finds himself in confrontative battles with students who donít want to learn. Committed to teaching despite the risks to his life and health, Jackson does a splendid job with the strong script he has been handed. The story was written by a teacher, and claims the violence portrayed is true to life. Worth seeing.
ANOTHER 9 1/2 WEEKS (Trimark Home Video, 104 minutes) After many years, the sequel to the hit erotic film has finally been released. Alas, it's a disappointment, focusing mostly on the male character and his search for his lost female obsession. Toward s the end of the film he finally takes up with a new woman, who was a friend of the first woman, but the sex lacks the passion and creativity of the original. For die hards only.
BLUE SPEED BETRAYAL (A.D.V. Films, 60 minutes) Dubbed in English, this Japanese anime tape explores a battle aimed at destroying Earth. Like most anime, this contains violence and mature situations, and has less sex than some films in the genre. Will a ppeal most to fans of science fiction and outer space.
CHASING AMY (Miramax Home Entertainment, 113 minutes) This superb movie is about relationships, including how to cope with the fact your lover has had a wild past. While not an easy film to sum up, suffice to say the plot explores everything from comic book conventions to falling for a lesbian to drugs. Recommended viewing for when you want to watch a movie, and aren't picky about the genre it falls under.
CLASSROOM SCARE FILMS Volume 4 (Something Weird Video, 120 minutes) Hereís a collection of films intended for viewing by high school or junior high school students, perhaps in a hygiene class. Included are shorts entitled "Dating Doís and Doníts," "Pro m Dates," "Getting Ready For School," "Safety of Fire," "Posture Habits," "Letís Be Clean and Neat" and "Hitch Hiking." These are best viewed by adults who want to remember the kinds of movies they were shown as students or concerned parents who want to s hare these films with pre-adolescent children. The films are dated, but hold your interest for the most part, especially the film about the potential dangers of hitch hiking. Filmed in California, and comprised of short interviews with kids who have hitch hiked, this film subtly warns of evil people who might offer a ride for the wrong reasons. The film never once mentions the words rape, or murder, and offers very little substantial proof that hitch hiking can be dangerous. Surprisingly, while it refers to police who are opposed to hitch hiking because they know what it can lead to, the film does not include a single interview with a police officer! This is an excellent collection that delivers what it promises, whether or not the actual films disgust yo u.
CONTACT (Warner Home Video, 150 minutes) Jodie Foster stars in this science fiction movie about contact with extraterrestrials. The real message behind the film is about sticking to your beliefs in the face of adversity. Based on a book by Carl Sagan, the movie is extremely well done and will hold the interest of people not interested in UFOs, Jodie Foster, or even science fiction in general.
CONSPIRACY THEORY (Warner Home Video) Mel Gibson and Julia Roberts star in this action thriller about a cab driver with wild stories and beliefs that everything is one big government conspiracy. He turns out to be at least partially correct, and has se veral governmental agencies chasing him for what he knows. The acting is better than the plot, although this will have strong appeal to zine publishers, Internet junkies and those that fear the three letter agencies.
EXCESS BAGGAGE (Columbia TriStar Home Video, 101 minutes) Alicia Silverstone stars in this film about a rich girl deprived of her fathers attention. She stages a false kidnapping, but accidentally encounters a car thief while she is in the unfortunate position of being handcuffed in the trunk. The film picks up when he discovers her and has no idea what to do now that she has seen both his face and his chop shop. Without giving away the rest of the plot, suffice to say this is a great film.
FACE/OFF (Paramount Home Video, 140 minutes) By far the best film of 1997, this action thriller stars Nicholas Cage and John Travolta as a professional killer and an FBI agent who are arch enemies. In a bizarre twist of circumstances they end up switch ing faces, roles, voices and lives. The FBI agent ends up in prison while the criminal has access to FBI files and to sleeping with the agent's wife. While it sounds unbelievable, the plot is so strong that it works. This will keep you at the edge of your seat, and leave you as satisfied as last year's two best films, The Rock and Executive Decision. This is not to be missed even if you are not a fan of one or both of the actors.
FIRE DOWN BELOW (Warner Home Video) Steven Seagal stars in this action thriller about a corrupt town in which massive amounts of toxic wastes are being dumped. Seagal goes undercover to find and stop the culprits. Initially towns people who know whatís going on are reluctant to come forward, and once they do violence soon erupts. If you like Seagalís films this one has more plot than violence but wonít disappoint fans.
G.I. JANE (Hollywood Pictures Home Video, 125 minutes) Demi Moore stars in this film about the first woman chosen to undergo Navy Seals training. Needless to say she is not wanted there, and must prove herself to the staff, the suits in Washington, her fellow trainees, etc. While the subject of Navy Seals does not particularly interest me, the plot is superb and even though you have a good idea what kind of sexism she will experience there are still many surprises here.
GOOD BURGER (Paramount Home Video, 103 minutes) Produced by Nickelodeon and offering cameos by Sinbad, Abe Vigoda and Shaquille OíNeal, this comedy about kids working in a fast food joint is superb. Casting blacks and whites equally with very few refer ences to race, this film is one of the few I can think of that deals with plot and not color. If you have ever worked in fast food, youíll love this, and if you like movies about teenage life you will probably be entertained by this too.
NATIONAL LAMPOONíS DADíS WEEK OFF (Paramount Home Video, 92 minutes) Henry Winkler stars in this comedy about a man whose family goes away so he can have a week off to relax with no stress. Through a bizarre set of circumstances, his house gets turned into party central and he loses control over his time, property, money and position in life. Fairly well done although, as you would expect from National Lampoon, the plot is not very realistic.
NOTHING TO LOSE (Touchstone Home Video, 98 minutes) Martin Lawrence and Tim Robbins star in this comedy a man having the worst day of his life. In the middle of moping about finding his wife cheating on him, he gets carjacked and decided to fight back by taking the carjacker on the ride of his life. Well worth seeing if you are in the mood for something light.
THE PROPHECY II (Dimension Home Video, 83 minutes) Christopher Walken stars in this thriller about the ongoing war in heaven. Walken plays his usual bad self and this time he is back on Earth to stop a child from being born who could tip the balance of power away from his side. If you liked the original or just like Christopher Walken, you are sure to like this movie.
SEX HYGIENE SCARE FILMS Volume 2 (Something Weird Video, 120 minutes) Fans of Frank Zappa will want to run and purchase this title since it includes ultra rare, albeit brief, footage of the Mothers of Invention from the late 1960s. Part of a superb ser ies of such films, often shown in hygiene classes in high school or junior high, this particular volume offers "VD: Name Your Contacts," "Sex In Todayís World," "The Pick Up," "Boy To Man" and "Girl To Woman." Of these, the film with Zappaís music in it, "Sex In Todayís World" is perhaps the best, but my interest was also held by the 1940s U.S. War Departmentís "The Pick Up" about getting a "dose" of the clap from a "nice" girl and the "VD: Name Your Contacts" film. That film makes one wonder about the hassles involved in being a social worker who is constantly lied to by the very people who you inform have been given VD. It seems when its their turn to fess up who they have recently slept with they are not very cooperative. A well done collection worth seeing for sheer entertainment value, or for those parents who wish to remind a young person what they should guard against as they become sexually active.
SIDNEYíS PSYCHEDELIC ADVENTURE (HeadCandy Productions, 60 minutes) Setting the mood with 3-D glasses and a stick of Primo incense, this panorama of psychedelic imagery features music by Merl Saunders and Jerry Garcia. Mind blowing graphics whether you keep the glasses on or not, this tape is not to be missed by those who enjoy fractals, computerized screen savers, the music of the Grateful Dead and/or psychedelic experiences.
STAG (Cabin Fever Entertainment Inc., 92 minutes) Several friends get together for a stag party in which two strippers are hired to appear. An accident happens resulting in the deaths of one of the strippers and several of the guests. The bulk of the f ilm is spent determining how to deal with the aftermath when police and families need to be told what happened. This is a sobering look at how people who laugh and drink together may not necessarily have anything in common when things go wrong. Extremely well done and worth seeing.
TROJAN WAR (Warner Home Video) Jennifer Love Hewitt stars in this sexy comedy about a teenage girl with a crush on her best friend. She wants to have sex with him, but his attention is focused on another girl who just wants to use him to make her boyfr iend jealous. Far better than it sounds, this is well worth seeing if movies about teenage life or anything with Jennifer Love Hewitt interest you.