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THE VIDEO STORE GRAB 'N' RUN: The Malevolent Seven

"Random movies from a random section of a random store."
by Charles Tatum

You remember the drill- I go find videos I have not seen, grab, run, and review them. And with a video store gift card in hand, I entered a local establishment and picked videos from the letter of "S." Why "S"? Why not? Of course, the videos are due back in five days, so I only chose two.

I scouted out my local independent music seller, who just dumped all his video rental stock for fifty cents a tape, (sorry, he kept the porn to rent out). I picked three videos there, and the total cost to me for this column so far comes to under two bucks. Why I think I'll splurge on a Diet Dr. Pepper while I'm here!

In honor of Chris Parry having to pawn his property and sell his body on the streets (again) to write this column, I thought I would hit the local library for a couple of more entries! My county library is tiny. The city library is huge, but the county library is small. This is the place I retire to after work to kick back and write these missives on one of their computers. Sometimes those computers are being used by smelly weird people who like the "Spank Me, I'm Your Slave" chat room, but when they get up to, ahem, "use the restroom," I am able to reach the rest of the world via the 'net. The library has a ton of videos for check out for absolutely nothing. These videos have been donated by both patrons and video stores going out of business, so next to big hits of yesterday sit obscure stuff even I am skittish about renting.

This week's seven picks run the gamut: from Comedy- "Second Sight," "Sgt. Bilko," and "Splendor," from Action- "Soldier" and "Speed 2: Cruise Control," and from Drama- "Split Decisions" and "Street Smart." I sit back, curse the snowstorm that is contributing to my determination to move to Key West or Tahiti once my kids are grown up, and whip out the Bilko...and then I watch the first movie.

Steve Martin is a funny guy. He is so thoughtful in interviews, and good onscreen, I have always liked him. Of course, I have not always liked the movies he has made, and "Sgt. Bilko" is one of them. First off, Martin is a riot. He is the only reason to see this weak military comedy. When Martin is not on, the movie sucks. When on, it does not suck as much. The plot is not important since this is a one man show for its star. Ignore the supporting cast and bask in Martin's Bilko, and nothing more.

Kurt Russell is the lead in "Soldier," but nothing he tries can save a boring sci-fi action flick. Russell is a human killing machine who is retired and dumped on a garbage planet after being replaced by genetically altered soldiers. Russell lives with some refugees, learns the true meaning of love, peace, and Christmas, then battles the very same genetic soldiers, who happen to arrive on the very same garbage planet for maneuvers. I could watch Connie Nielsen read out of a phone book, but nothing can save this shoot-'em-up junk that quickly bores. Good cast, lousy flick.

Sandra Bullock returns as Annie, that delightful bus driving pixie from "Speed," in "Speed 2: Franchise Out of Control." Jason Patric makes a poor substitute for Keanu Reeves, Willem Dafoe makes a poor villain, and Jan de Bont makes a poor action flick that fails on any level where dialogue or common sense is needed. This film throws everything it can think of on the screen, and nothing sticks. Huge disappointment.

Threesome, anyone? I can get a babysitter. Okay, how about "Splendor"? Kathleen Robertson cannot make up her mind about who she loves more, dumb musician Matt Keeslar or brooding writer Johnathon Schaech. She begins seeing both, and the three move in together. Then Robertson meets Eric Mabius. Maybe he is the right guy for her, even though she does not love him. Schaech and Keeslar finally wake up and smell the pregnancy test, and fight to win their girl back. Edgy director Gregg Araki did this oddball comedy, which almost works. The script has a few laughs scattered about, the cast is so immensely likable you may want to sleep with them all, but Araki's direction is so lacking, it pulls the rest of the project down with it. I have not liked any of his previous films, so I am still waiting for that one film I know he is directing just for me, a freelance film critic with relationship issues and a dead end manual labor job. Yeah, I know I'm the only one out there.

Have you ever seen a film that was so bad, you wanted to harm yourself? No? Well, just pop in "Second Sight," and grimace at the shit that falls off the screen and piles on your rug. John Larroquette plays his Dan Fielding TV character to another version of Bronson Pinchot's Balki in this stupid comedy about a Catholic cardinal's kidnapping in Boston. Bostonians should have dumped the film makers in the harbor, not the tea. There is not one laugh in this turgid flick about a psychic detective agency, but you will be moaning and maybe sobbing a little. That's what I did. This was one of the videos I picked up for fifty cents. Two quarters, and I feel ripped off and violated. I think I found the worst film of the group.

Let's take a few rounds in the ring. "Split Decisions" is a boxing drama about Gene Hackman and his two sons, Jeff Fahey and Craig Sheffer. It's simple, Fahey is murdered, Hackman and Sheffer avenge- in the ring. The plot is so implausible, it ruins the good performances and nicely handled direction. This was another fifty center that may find an audience- at my local library's annual book sale after I donate the tape.

"Street Smart" is another drama, featuring Christopher Reeve, Kathy Baker, and Morgan Freeman. Reeve makes up a magazine story about a pimp, and pimp Freeman tries to use Reeve as his alibi in a murder investigation as Reeve's lie brings down the lives of those around him. While the acting is top notch, it is hard to get behind Reeve's character. Helpful advice to him like "you idiot, you shouldn't have lied," and "don't sleep with the whore" kept getting stuck in my throat. A technically good film, I hated the main character so much I could not recommend it.

There we have them- seven films. None of them really made me tingle in my special place, but if I had to rank them best to worst:
1. Splendor
2. Street Smart
3. Split Decisions
4. Sgt. Bilko
5. Soldier
6. Speed 2: Cruise Control
7. Second Sight
Of the seven, four were already in the HBS/EFC database, so I added "Second Sight," "Split Decisions," and "Street Smart." If you have seen these films or reviewed them, then post like the wind.

I don't know when the next column will rear its ugly head, but I need to hit the stores, libraries, rummage sales, and that storage box marked "important papers- do not open" collecting dust under the bed. Full length reviews for the seven films are on the site now, the next column will definitely be just five...yes, I'm almost done with the computer...sorry, Mistress Katrina has a computer sex date...see you next time.

link directly to this feature at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/feature.php?feature=893
originally posted: 01/05/04 13:42:32
last updated: 05/11/05 14:03:21
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