Monday, December 05, 2016

Gross People Are Funny

Source: https://web.archive.org/web/20150918185851/http://articles.philly.com/1986-06-27/entertainment/26043591_1_ruthless-people-danny-devito-jim-abrahams

Posted: June 27, 1986

"Ruthless People." A comedy starring Danny DeVito, Judge Reinhold, Helen Slater and Bette Midler. Directed by Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker from a screenplay by Dale Launer. Inspired by O. Henry's "The Ransom of Red Chief." Photographed by Jan De Bont. Edited by Arthur Schmidt. Music by Michel Colombier. Running time: 93 minutes. A Touchstone release. In area theaters.

The Attack of the Summer Movies continues with "Ruthless People," a comedy that appeals to our baser instincts, a veritable cinema cesspool whose greedy, venal characters wallow in their own bad taste as they cruelly exploit each other and milk each dubious gag for all it's worth.

The people who made "Ruthless People" - the fun guys who gave us the original "Airplane!" and "Top Secret" - probably expect us to laugh our heads off at the pushy people who populate their story. And they're right: We will laugh - not because we have lousy taste (and wicked thoughts) ourselves, but because their film is genuinely funny.

That's right. For all its inhumanity and shamelessness, "Ruthless People" is a no-holds-barred funny movie. It grabs us by the collar, looks us straight in the eye and dares us not to have fun with it. Who can fight such obnoxiousness and arrogance? I know I can't. I stopped trying after about the first five minutes.

"Ruthless People" spoofs our society's creeping (and creepy) lack of civility. Had this movie been made by John Waters with Divine in the central role, no one would have a difficult time appreciating its sick humor. But coming from the Disney people (via their Touchstone Films) and starring Bette Midler (who always seems to be walking on thin ice with audiences), the movie is likely to be grossly misunderstood. No pun intended. It's merely gross.

Inspired by O. Henry's "The Ransom of Red Chief," the abusive story is about the failed kidnapping of Midler, a vulgar princess whose vulgar husband, Danny DeVito (in a vintage DeVito performance), doesn't want her back. In fact, he was planning on murdering the harridan and pocketing her inheritance.

DeVito, the self-described Spandex Miniskirt King, initiated the kidnapping himself when he stole the breakthrough design from sweet Helen Slater. He made a fortune from it and now Slater and her husband, Judge Reinhold, want their share. They're asking a ransom of $500,000.

Midler proves to be a holy terror for the mild-mannered kidnappers, efficiently traumatizing them. She's also a professional shopper and doesn't like it one bit when she's marked down to $50,000 and later to $10,000. ''I've been kidnapped by K-Mart!," she wails.

Dale Launer, in his debut here, has written an unusually intricate comedy script which also ties in subplots involving DeVito's duplicitous paramour (knockout Anita Morris), her bleached blond bimbo boyfriend (Bill Pullman, in a movie-stealing turn), the local police commissioner (William G. Schilling), a porno tape, a pet poodle named Muffy and a "killer" doberman named Adolf.

Launer also has come up with a running joke about (and brittle observations on) men and their preoccupation with everything that's big, even to the point of indulging this obsession on stereo speakers. Reinhold works in a sound store whose biggest sexist attraction is a hulking speaker called the Domination.

With "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" and "Back to School" already on hand, this adds up to a very good summer for comedy. Now, we have "Ruthless People." That's three out of three, folks - and I, for one, am laughing about it.

Parental guide: Rated R for, well, just about everything.


Film: Raunchy Fun In A Farce On Greed

Source: https://web.archive.org/web/20150919082245/http://articles.philly.com/1986-06-27/entertainment/26045106_1_ruthless-people-danny-devito-jim-abrahams
Posted: June 27, 1986

The heiress has just learned from her kidnappers that her husband refuses to pay the ransom, even though they keep desperately reducing the figure. As the truth dawns upon her, Bette Midler takes on an expression that can only be described as sleazy hauteur, and bellows, "Marked down!"

Barbara Stone (Midler), the victim of this K mart kidnapping, is loud and obnoxious. And so is just about everyone else in Ruthless People, a movie that believes all human impulses originate below the belt and one that has a merry time proving it. When a comedy is as foul-mouthed and raunchy as Ruthless People, it helps if it's also funny. And for most of its frenzied going, Ruthless People is a diverting and very shrewdly cast farce about bottomless greed.

Although it shares some thematic ground with John Huston's savage Prizzi's Honor, Ruthless People does not aspire to the same level of sophistication and subtlety. Everything here is more superficial and aimed at the immediate laugh rather than laughter that surfaces from revelation of character. To that end, the directing triumvirate of Jerry Zucker, Jim Abrahams and David Zucker - the team behind Airplane!. (1980) - has chosen stars who can get that laugh by their response to a predicament or a sudden change of fortune.

Midler, most recently cast as another rich harpy in Down and Out in Beverly Hills, has shown that she was born to this kind of role, and she seems to play it instinctively. But as the husband who is delighted to have her taken off his hands because he was planning to kill her anyway, Danny DeVito does his best work yet for the big screen. Perhaps it takes three directors to rein him in, but DeVito is restrained here and it makes a big difference. Too often in the past he has flailed away before the camera like a man under attack by a swarm of invisible bees.

To this welcome control, DeVito has added a really mean streak to his Sam Stone. Mix in the ever-understated acting of Judge Reinhold and character actors who take gleefully to juicy cameos and you have the makings of an undemanding but well-executed entertainment.

There are scorpions who have better relationships than Sam and Barbara Stone. Sam is a clothing tycoon living in a Bel-Air mansion filled with furnishings that are as vulgar as they are uncomfortable. At the outset, he is about to murder Barbara for her money so that he can enjoy his mistress in peace.

Although Ruthless People is strictly an amorality play, the only people with a shred of decency left in them are the kidnappers. Their lives are taken over by Barbara and her unceasing demands and the realization that they are stuck with her.

Readers of Elmore Leonard's novel Switch will recognize the ingredients, and Dale Launer, a new screenwriter, has resorted to over-plotting in his approach to them. He presumably intends to keep up the tempo to a degree that moves to the next situation and reaction just as the previous one has sunk in. But the pace may have more to do with the three directors, who brought this machine-gun style to Airplane!

In fact, the funniest moments in Ruthless People come from the points where the stars find some room - usually little more than a crevice - to act rather than react. That's nearly always the case in good comedy. But Ruthless People deals in the easier kind of humor that makes audiences laugh more instead of think harder. On those terms, it's a winner. Midler may be marked down faster than a sun dress at the end of the summer, but her contribution to Ruthless People is priceless.

RUTHLESS PEOPLE * * *

Produced by Michael Peyser, directed by Jerry Zucker, Jim Abrahams and David Zucker, written by Dale Launer, photography by Jan DeBont, music by Tommy Mottola, distributed by Touchstone Films.

Running time: 1 hour, 33 mins.

Sam Stone - Danny DeVito

Barbara Stone - Bette Midler

Ken Kessler - Judge Reinhold

Carol - Helen Slater

Parent's guide: R (language)


Understanding The Mind Behind The Mayhem

Source: https://web.archive.org/web/20150922122803/http://articles.philly.com/1987-03-01/living/26223322_1_paul-robeson-german-comedy-aliens
Posted: March 01, 1987

The long-awaited release of two megahits from 1986 is the big news in video stores this week:

ALIENS (1986) (CBS/Fox) $89.98. 138 minutes. * * * A powerhouse sequel that's every bit as terrifying as the already-classic original. James Cameron's rousing mixture of action and fear returns Sigourney Weaver and a detachment of Marines to the alien planet - and guess what's waiting to say hello. Tautly constructed, vibrantly acted by Weaver and filled with flashy effects, this is the best piece of pure science fiction since Return of the Jedi.

RUTHLESS PEOPLE (1986) (Touchstone) $79.95. 93 minutes. * * * Bette Midler is in prime form as a loud, obnoxious heiress whose husband won't pay her ransom because he was planning to kill her himself. A black comedy that is both filthy and funny, and one that suggests that all human urges start below the belt. Directed by the people who gave you Airplane!

RECENT MOVIES

CODE NAME: WILD GEESE (1986) (New World) $79.95. 101 minutes. * A silly wild-goose chase starring Klaus Kinski, Ernest Borgnine and Lee Van Cleef, who are all far too old for this kind of thing. It's about mercenaries who blow up the world's opium supply.

THE GIRL IN THE PICTURE (1986) (Vestron) $79.95. 89 minutes. * * * An effervescent charmer from Scotland about young men and women coping with romantic fantasies and realities and relationships in which rules no longer exist. As a photographer who can't make up his mind about a girl, John Gordon-Sinclair, the quirky star of Gregory's Girl, delightfully skewers the fine art of male subterfuge.

MEN (1986) (Vista) $79.95. 99 minutes. * * * * The idea of a German comedy may seem a contradiction in terms, but here we have an effervescent, sophisticated film on intimate terms with both sides in the battle of the sexes.

RADIOACTIVE DREAMS (1986) (Vestron) $79.95. 94 minutes. Unusual science- fiction parody, set in the 21st century, follows the adventures of two nuclear-holocaust survivors who assume the identities of 1940s detectives after spending 15 years in a bomb shelter reading nothing but Raymond Chandler novels.

CLASSIC FILMS

ANDROCLES AND THE LION (1952) (Embassy) $39.95. 98 minutes. * * * Victor Mature acquits himself admirably in this adaptation of George Bernard Shaw's cynical tale about a simple tailor in imperial Rome who saves his fellow Christians from a lion he once befriended.

THE EMPEROR JONES (1933) (Embassy) $39.95. 72 minutes. * * * Paul Robeson, Dudley Diggs. The movie is a little stiff, but it's a tremendous opportunity to see the legendary Robeson in action; he's stunning as Eugene O'Neill's chain-gang escapee who becomes the king of a remote Caribbean nation. At the end of this tape is a 29-minute Academy Award-winning documentary on Robeson from 1979, titled Paul Robeson: Tribute to an Artist, narrated by Sidney Poitier.

LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS (1960) (Vestron) $69.95. 72 minutes. Original Roger Corman quickie about a nebbish who acquires a man-eating plant, featuring a cameo appearance by a then-unknown Jack Nicholson. Vestron is releasing both the original black-and-white film and a colorized version.

FOR CHILDREN

THE FABULOUS FLEISCHER FOLIO (1987) (Disney) $49.95. 49 minutes. Six cartoons by animator Max Fleischer, best known as the creator of Betty Boop. Included: "The Car-Tune Portrait," "The Barnyard Brat," "King for a Day," "Little Lambkins," "Chicken a la King" and "In My Merry Oldsmobile."

MUSIC AND COMEDY

THE GIBSON JAZZ CONCERT (1982) (Sony) $29.95. 60 minutes. Jazz musicians, including Clark Terry, Budd Johnson, Phil Woods, George Duvivier, Buddy DeFranco and Dick and Maddie Gibson, perform live in Denver.

HOT SHOTS (1986) (Vestron) $59.95. 55 minutes. Six comedians perform at the Improvisation Club in Los Angeles. They are Dana Carvey, Kevin Nealon, Sinbad, Joe Alasky, J.J. Wall and Charles Fleischer.

REGGAE SUNSPLASH - A TRIBUTE TO BOB MARLEY (1987) (Sony) $29.95. 104 minutes. Reggae artists gather for a five-day tribute to Bob Marley. Performers include Third World, the Wailers, Black Uhuru, Rita Marley and Silk Purse.

INSTRUCTION

BEAT THE SAT - MATH & VERBAL (1986) (Spinnaker Software) $19.95 each. 30 minutes each. Two video study guides for high school students about to take the SATs.

FIT FOR LIFE: THE VIDEO (1986) (Warner) $24.95. 80 minutes. Harvey and Marilyn Diamond host this health-and-diet video, giving recipes and menu suggestions from their best-selling book.

HOW TO ICE SKATE WITH TAI AND RANDY (1987) (Marco) $19.95. 60 minutes. Unless viewers have ice-skating rinks in their living rooms, learning the ropes from U.S. skating champs Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner will be a tough proposition. The lesson runs the gamut from dressing to dancing on ice. Old footage of the two in action is lovely, but their teaching banter with students and each other is strained. Best spend the money on an actual lesson.

OTHER

INSIDE THE LABYRINTH (1986) (Embassy) $19.95. 57 minutes. This documentary on the making of the movie Labyrinth includes interviews with director Jim Henson and star David Bowie.

RATINGS:

* * * * Excellent

* * * Good

* * Fair

* Poor

(Videos with no stars were not reviewed by The Inquirer.)


World According To Michael J. Fox

Source: https://web.archive.org/web/20151222070834/http://articles.philly.com/1987-04-10/news/26194398_1_mailroom-job-richard-jordan-movie
Posted: April 10, 1987

"The Secret of My Success," a comedy starring Michael J. Fox, Helen Slater, Richard Jordan and Margaret Whitton. Produced and directed by Herbert Ross. Screenplay by Jim Cash and Jack Epps Jr. from a story by A.J. Carothers. Photographed by Carlo di Palma. A Rastar production. Running time: 110 minutes. At area theaters.

Don't be surprised if "The Secret of My Success" sets off in your cortex a big neon sign flashing, "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying." But it may be too complimentary to this Twinkie of a comedy to compare it with a 1962 Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway hit.

"Secret's" roots, in fact, belong more to late-1950s comedies in which mistaken identities and sexual roundelays were played out in glittering Manhattan office buildings. Rock and roll has supplanted the dime-store Gershwin music, but it's basically the same kind of movie. As if you needed more proof that the '80s are like the '50s.

This particular wish-fulfillment fantasy concerns a Kansas farm boy (Michael J. Fox) who, like generations of hungry Midwesterners before him, wants to straddle the top of New York's ballyhooed heap. He pries a mailroom job loose from a distant relative (Richard Jordan as the consummate slime - Oh, why isn't he a big star?), who happens to be the bombastic-but- ineffectual CEO of a multinational outfit soon to face a hostile takeover.

You know from jump street that the kid isn't going to stay in the mailroom long - though, come to think of it, a mailroom comedy would have been a much more original concept. Having used the powers of his humble station to bone up on confidential memos exchanged between higher-ups, he camps out in the office of a laid-off executive, takes an assumed name and sets out to run things smarter and better than the company's panicky "suits."

You also can guess that he falls in love with an icy - maybe slushy is a better description - Harvard-trained junior exec (Helen Slater) while remaining a sex toy for the CEO's hot-blooded wife (Margaret Whitton).

Let's not kid ourselves. Herbert Ross may be the director, but this is Michael J. Fox's movie. This swaggering, smart-alecky, always-in-control elf never strays from our good side - even if he prevails over the Big Boys not by being a better person, but by being smarter than they are. Fox is a funny guy, but he'd better watch it. Movies like these can lock an actor too closely to type, and Fox deserves to outlast the Reagan-era comedy to which he's so closely linked.

This is the kind of movie you don't watch so much as plug yourself in to. One could say this about many of the films out today, and if that's what you like, you'll probably like this, too. Personally, I get bored easily by suits. I want to hear more from the guys in the mailroom.

Parental guide: PG-13 for dashes of salty language and naughty jokes. You'll barely notice.


Fox On The Trail Of 'Success'

Source: https://web.archive.org/web/20151017221622/http://articles.philly.com/1987-04-11/news/26193449_1_movie-alex-keaton-richard-jordan
Posted: April 11, 1987

It's not exactly praise to say that The Secret of My Success may be the most entertaining 1957 comedy made this year. It's only because the genial Michael J. Fox stars that nobody has called in the Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate the movie for its hero's unethical practices.

As corn-fed Kansan Brantley Foster - a one-note variation on the theme of Alex Keaton, his character on Family Ties - Fox doesn't extend himself much. But then, Success is a movie that doesn't require much in the way of heavy lifting, either by its actors or its audience.

College-graduate Brantley lives with his American Gothic parents on a Kansas farm, but his cherished dream is to conquer New York's executive suites. With a round-trip ticket to the Big Apple as his armor and ambition as his lance, Brantley underhandedly takes Manhattan in approximately 109 minutes.

When they were minted in comedy prehistory, the jokes in this movie were already tarnished. Naturally, the audience must suffer the sight of a Brooks Brothersed Brantley surveying the hookers at the Port Authority bus station as he murmurs in wide-eyed prurience, "Toto, I don't think this is Kansas."

Nor is Success much of a movie. As scripted by the scenarists responsible for the synthetic Top Gun and Legal Eagles, Success is a high-test formula in the tank of a creaky, two-cylinder vehicle.

Once in New York, Brantley insinuates himself into the executive offices of a corporation run by a distant relative (Richard Jordan), who grudgingly gives him a job in the mailroom. On the sly, Brantley annexes the office of a pink- slipped vice president and assumes the identity of a newly hired executive.

Brantley's double life, which involves changing from sweats into suits on the express elevator between mailroom and boardroom, does not, sadly, provide double yuks. Furthermore, exactly what business Brantley is in is unclear, but it's plain that he reads other people's mail in order to get the data to stage a hostile takeover. (In a related plot development, he also falls in love with Helen Slater, corporate ice princess.)

What Success does have going for it is Fox's flawless timing and a randy performance by Margaret Whitton as the boss' lusty wife, Vera. In what could be called the Bette Midler raging-hormones part, it is her knowing cynicism and not Fox's disingenuous double-dealing that's the secret of this film's (compromised) success.

THE SECRET OF MY SUCCESS * *

Produced and directed by Herbert Ross, written by Jim Cash, Jack Epps Jr. and A J Carothers, photography by Carlo di Palma, music by David Foster, distributed by Universal Pictures.

Running time: 1 hour, 49 mins.

Brantley Foster - Michael J. Fox

Christy Wills - Helen Slater

Howard Prescott - Richard Jordan

Vera Prescott - Margaret Whitton

Donald Davenport - Fred Gwynne

Parent's guide: PG-13 (sexual suggestion)

Showing: At area theaters.


Poor Musicians Come Into Money, And Go Shopping

Source: http://articles.philly.com/1988-09-09/entertainment/26230057_1_hattie-lolly-street-musicians
Posted: September 09, 1988

Hattie is a bottle blonde whose spiky tendrils put you in mind of an alarmed porcupine. Her best friend and roommate, Lolly, is a potential henna overdose, as the redhead's paprika-tinted curls attest.

Alas, they are not cosmetologists but rather street musicians - in all probability the only punkette classical violinist and cellist in all of Manhattan. Not to mention all of world history.

If they applied a fraction of the ingenuity to their careers that they do to collaging their rummage wardrobes, they would be playing Carnegie Hall instead of in this harmless whimsy called Sticky Fingers.

The misadventures of Hattie and Lolly make for an all-frills, ragamuffins- to-riches saga in the spirit of Desperately Seeking Susan. But unlike that sunny insta-classic about lovable Lower Manhattan lowlife, Catlin Adams' Sticky Fingers has the flattering light of a sporting-goods store and the breathless drama of Supermarket Sweep.

You see, when the inevitably broke Hattie (Helen Slater) and Lolly (Melanie Mayron) fall into a bundle of stolen money, the film becomes an unstoppable shopping spree. Just how many suede sling-back heels and outsize architectural earrings can a gal buy? Just watch.

As written by Adams (a former actress) and Mayron (thirtysomething's Mel), Sticky Fingers has a wry, female-buddy humor often undercut by Adams' less- than-successful direction. She includes so many close-ups of Our Heroines' footwear - chorus lines of high-heeled sneakers, legions of army boots, regiments of lizard loafers - that you begin to suspect that Adams is indulging her own shoe fetishism.

Or perhaps she's putting lifts in what is, at best, an insubstantial comedy that cheerfully moralizes that money changes everything. Hattie and Lolly are so accustomed to living on a shoestring, as it were, that when a friend asks them to look after a green valise they discover is crowded with cash, initially the gals are too honest to spend it.

But metropolitan life with its eviction notices and robberies obliges Hattie and Lolly to dig into the cache - a gal's gotta have her cello, right? Suddenly their sunny friendship gets clouded with rivalry. Formerly the important question in their lives was survival. Now they are: Who gets to buy the designer down jacket they both covet? Which unnecessary kitchen appliances are most essential?

Both as co-writer and as director, Adams is on firmer ground with the details of Manhattan life - for instance the nosy landlady who wants to get rid of rent-control tenants - than she is with the big picture. Like the ensembles her heroines affect, Adams' movie is a collage of many motley parts.

About the actresses, who have brightened countless movies, the nicest thing that can be said here is that Slater's pout and Melanie Mayron's slackjaw mugging are cute but tedious. Ditto this vehicle.

STICKY FINGERS * *

Produced by Catlin Adams and Melanie Mayron; directed by Catlin Adams; written by Catlin Adams and Melanie Mayron; photography by Gary Thieltges; music by Gary Chang; distributed by Spectrafilm.

Running time: 1 hour, 36 mins.

Hattie - Helen Slater

Lolly - Melanie Mayron

Jean-Marc - Adam Shaw

Evanston - Danitra Vance

Reeba - Shirley Stoler

Parent's guide: PG-13 (language)

Showing at: Roxy Screening Rooms.


A Comedy Of War And A Thriller Set In Saigon

Source: https://web.archive.org/web/20150910110155/http://articles.philly.com/1988-11-10/entertainment/26244604_1_lyle-alzado-platoon-electric-chair
Posted: November 10, 1988

Two stories of Americans at war - a comic look at a recruit during World War II and a harrowing police drama set in Vietnam - are this week's best new videos.

BILOXI BLUES (1988) (MCA) $89.95. 105 minutes. * * * Matthew Broderick, Christopher Walken, Corey Parker, Penelope Ann Miller. Coming to his story in a mellow, reflective mood, playwright Neil Simon has found the right focus in this World War II service comedy, the second in his candidly autobiographical trilogy that began with Brighton Beach Memoirs and concludes with Broadway Bound. Although it has to fight for space among a number of other subplots, the central irony of those years is captured here: While the Army (personified by drill sergeant Walken, in an incredible feat of casting against type) was trying to dehumanize young Eugene (Broderick, in a performance of impeccable timing), he was learning things that humanized and shaped him as a writer and broadened him as a man.

OFF LIMITS (1987) (CBS/Fox) $89.98. 102 minutes. * * * Willem Dafoe, Gregory Hines, Fred Ward, Amanda Pays, Scott Glenn. Before Platoon, this police thriller set in Saigon in 1968 and starring Dafoe - Sgt. Elias in Platoon - would have been off-limits. It's a rough, raucous movie that is a measure of how far Hollywood has come in addressing the Vietnam experience. Dafoe is on the trail of an American officer who kills prostitutes for kicks, but the real star of the film is Saigon - a cesspool that becomes a metaphor of the corruption that touched everyone.

RECENT MOVIES

BORN TO RACE (1988) (Key) $79.98. 95 minutes. Joseph Bottoms, Marla Heasley, George Kennedy, Marc Singer. A skillful but unlucky race car driver meets and falls in love with a beautiful auto engineer who is trying to sell a controversial engine technology on the NASCAR circuit. Singer and Kennedy play rival racers who decide to kidnap her.

DESTROYER (1988) (Virgin) $79.95. 94 minutes. Lyle Alzado, Deborah Foreman, Anthony Perkins, Clayton Rohner. NFL great Alzado stars as a legendary convict who somehow managed to survive his execution in the electric chair and who is now terrorizing a film crew working on location at the prison.

LET IT ROCK (1988) (Media) $79.95. 75 minutes. Dennis Hopper, Terrance Robay, Romana Sweeny, David Hess. A fast-talking, street-hustling Hollywood agent takes a quiet, unknown keyboard player and turns him into a rock superstar for his own purposes.

THE NIGHT BEFORE (1987) (HBO) $79.95. 90 minutes. Keanu Reeves, Lori Laughlin, Trinidad Silva. A high school geek awakens the morning after a prom and finds that he's lost his wallet, his car keys - and his memory as to how it all happened or why the police and a vicious pimp want to kill him.

STICKY FINGERS (1988) (Media) $89.95. 89 minutes. Melanie Mayron, Helen Slater, Eileen Brennan, Carol Kane. Comedy about a group of women entrusted with a suitcase full of illicit drug money who decide to spend it to refurbish their apartment. When the thugs want their money back, the women go on a wild campaign to raise enough loot.

TAKE TWO (1987) (Academy) $79.95. 101 minutes. Frank Stallone, Grant Goodeve, Robin Mattson. Tense mystery centering on a woman's involvement with twin brothers who were separated at birth: One is her husband, one is her lover and one - she's not sure which - is a murderer.

YOU TALKIN' TO ME? (1987) (MGM/UA) $79.95. 96 minutes. Jim Youngs. Humorous story about a struggling actor who is obsessed with the character that Robert De Niro played in Taxi Driver.

VINTAGE FILMS

BEN-HUR: A TALE OF CHRIST (1926) (MGM/UA) $29.95. 148 minutes. Ramon Novarro, Francis X. Bushman. The silent movie version of the saga of a young Jewish nobleman and his Roman nemesis. Presented in black and white with original color tinting, an early form of Technicolor and featuring a new musical score by conductor Carl Davis.

THE BIG PARADE (1927) (MGM/UA) $29.95. 142 minutes. * * * * John Gilbert, Renee Adoree. This King Vidor silent World War I epic is gruesomely realistic, a shock to modern viewers who think Sam Peckinpah invented movie violence in 1967.

LITTLE MURDERS (1971) (Key) $59.98. 108 minutes. * * * Elliott Gould, Marcia Rodd. Bizarre, dark comedy based on the Jules Feiffer stage hit about death, violence and paranoia among contemporary New Yorkers.

THE PHANTOM OF LIBERTY (1974) (Media) $59.95. 104 minutes. * * * * Jean Claude Brialy, Adolfo Celi, Michel Piccoli. Weird, anecdotal comedy from master surrealist Luis Bunuel about politics, social manners, lack of communication and . . . well, you figure it out.

THUNDER ROAD (1958) (MGM/UA) $59.95. 94 minutes. Robert Mitchum, Gene Barry. A long-time cult favorite, often called the definitive moonshine movie. Mitchum stars as a Kentucky moonshiner who battles both the feds and gangsters to keep his bootleg operation going.

MUSIC AND DANCE

ART BLAKEY: THE JAZZ MESSENGER (1987) (Rhapsody) $39.95. 78 minutes. This look at jazz great Blakey includes interviews with Dizzy Gillespie, Walter Davis Jr., Roy Haynes and Wayne Shorter, and footage of Blakey in performance and in rehearsal.

A BROTHER WITH PERFECT TIMING (1987) (Rhapsody) $39.95. 90 minutes. Filmmaker Chris Austin profiles exiled South African pianist and composer Abdullah Ibrahim.

BATOUKA (1986) (Rhapsody) $39.95. 52 minutes. Highlights from the 1986 First International Festival of Percussion on Guadeloupe, featuring performances by African, South American and Caribbean groups.

CHRISTMAS AT THE RIPON CATHEDRAL (1987) (Home Vision) $29.95. 60 minutes. The second oldest church in England, founded in 664, is the backdrop for this concert of Christmas choral music by the Huddersfield Choral Society and the church's own choir. Included: "Ding Dong Merrily on High" and "Away in a Manger."

DAVID, MOFFETT & ORNETTE (1966) (Rhapsody) $39.95. 26 minutes. Ostensibly a record of Ornette Coleman's collaboration with bassist David Izenzon and drummer Charles Moffett on a theatrical sound track, this is also a look at three powerful "free jazz" figures at their height.

ERNIE ANDREWS: BLUES FOR CENTRAL AVENUE (1986) (Rhapsody) $39.95. 50 minutes. Hard-hitting profile of jazz performer Andrews, whose career soared during the 1930s and '40s on Los Angeles' Central Avenue.

GEORGE CRUMB: THE VOICE OF THE WHALE (1976) (Rhapsody) $39.95. 54 minutes. Robert Mugge's portrait of the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer.

LA TRAVIATA (1988) (Home Vision) $39.95. 133 minutes. In a production created for British television, the Glyndebourne Festival Opera, led by Sir Peter Hall, performs Verdi's classic opera.

MAXWELL STREET BLUES (1987) (Rhapsody) $39.95. 56 minutes. A look at the Maxwell Street open-air market in Chicago, where many jazz and blues greats got their starts.

MINGUS (1968) (Rhapsody) $39.95. 58 minutes. A documentary look at jazz great Charlie Mingus that includes footage of Mingus performing with a small group in a Boston nightclub and conducting his big band.

PERCY MAYFIELD: POET LAUREATE OF THE BLUES (1988) (Rhapsody) $29.95. 30 minutes. This tribute to blues musician Mayfield, who died in 1984, includes interviews with B.B. King and Ray Charles.

SHIRLEY CAESAR: HOLD MY MULE - LIVE IN MEMPHIS (1988) (A&M) $19.98. 50 minutes. Caesar, dubbed "the first lady of black gospel music," performs at the Stone Soul Picnic in Memphis.

SOUND?? (1967) (Rhapsody) $29.95. 27 minutes. Filmmaker Dick Fontaine's experimental examination of sound through the work of two musical iconoclasts: Rahsaan Roland Kirk and John Cage.

INSTRUCTION

CHI CHI'S BAG OF TRICKS: IN AND OUT OF TROUBLE WITH CHI CHI RODRIGUEZ (1988) (CBS/Fox) $49.98. 60 minutes. Golf pro Rodriguez offers advice on the everyday problems encountered by most golfers. Included: how to get out of bunkers, getting over and around trees, playing uphill and playing sideline lies.

MAKING KITCHEN CABINETS (1988) (Taunton) $14.95. 60 minutes. The video complement to cabinetmaker Paul Levine's book on making kitchen cabinets, offering a system that allows inexperienced woodworkers to make a mistake or two and still come out with a beautiful finished product. To order, call 1-800-888-8286.

THE VIDEO GUIDE TO SAFE BABYSITTING (1988) (Laclede) $14.95. 33 minutes. This guide for both parents and sitters includes advice to parents on how to choose a sitter and advice to sitters about how to react to emergencies. To order, call 1-800-633-5014.

WRESTLING

AWWF, VOL. 2: CUNNING COMPETITORS (1988) (Media) $39.95. 60 minutes. Female pro wrestling action featuring Devious Diva, Tornado Red, Flame the Dragon Lady and the Cajun Queen.

THE BEST OF WWF, VOL. 17 (1988) (Coliseum) $59.95. 90 minutes. More pro wrestling action, featuring the likes of the Big Boss Man, Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake and Hacksaw Jim Duggan.

MACHO MADNESS (1988) (Coliseum) $59.95. 120 minutes. Tribute to Randy ''Macho Man" Savage, who recently wrested the WWF World Championship from longtime champ Hulk Hogan.

THE PRICE FOR FREEDOM: THE GREAT AMERICAN BASH (1988) (MGM/UA) $39.95. 126 minutes. Highlights from Bash '88, a major professional wrestling event held in July. Includes action featuring "Nature Boy" Ric Flair, Lex Lugar and the first-ever triple-cage "tower of doom" match.

WWF WRESTLEFEST (1988) (Coliseum) $59.95. 120 minutes. Highlight from the wrestling event held at Milwaukee County Stadium earlier this year. Features a steel-cage match between Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant.

MADE FOR TELEVISION

TRIBES (1970) (CBS/Fox) $59.98. 90 minutes. Jan-Michael Vincent, Darren McGavin, Earl Holliman, John Gruber. Dated but surprisingly effective anti-war drama starring Vincent as Hollywood's idea of a hippie who unaccountably joins the Vietnam-era Marines and matches wits with McGavin as the stereotypical tough boot-camp drill instructor.

DOCUMENTARIES

AGATHA CHRISTIE: HOW DID SHE DO IT? (1988) (Home Vision) $39.95. 50 minutes. Christie's biographer Janet Morgan presents a detailed profile of the remarkably prolific author and playwright.

CENTRE GEORGES POMPIDOU: THE BIG ESCALATOR (1988) (Home Vision) $39.95. 60 minutes. French filmmaker Adrian Maben created this look at the controversial Paris museum and cultural center.

CHANEL CHANEL (1988) (Home Vision) $39.95. 60 minutes. An affectionate look at one of the century's most influential dress designers, Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel.

FRANCIS BACON (1988) (Home Vision) $39.95. 55 minutes. A look at the daily life of the acclaimed artist.

LIFE IN CAMELOT: THE KENNEDY YEARS (1988) (HBO) $19.99. 53 minutes. Another in the growing list of Kennedy videos. Made in association with the editors of Life magazine, this profile of President John F. Kennedy uses rare footage and archival photographs.

SIR TERENCE CONRAN (1988) (Home Vision) $39.95. 55 minutes. A profile of Britain's most influential furnishings designer.

TRIUMPH, TRAGEDY AND REBIRTH: THE STORY OF THE SPACE SHUTTLE (1988) (Malibu) $9.95. 54 minutes. An overview of the space shuttle from its origins through the terrible Challenger disaster to the rebirth of the program this year with the first successful flight of Discovery. Includes a great deal of NASA footage never before available to the public.

TRAVEL

TOURING AUSTRIA (1988) (TravelNet) $29.95. 60 minutes. A tour of Austria's most popular landmarks, including the Hofburg and Schoenbrunn palaces in Vienna and the delightful parks and gardens of Salzburg.

OTHER

THE LITTLE RASCALS COLLECTORS EDITION (Republic) $14.95 each; boxed set of six $89.95. 30 minutes each. Six volumes, each containing two episodes from the popular "Little Rascals" series of two-reelers that played in theaters in the 1930s.

MARKDOWNS

MGM/UA HOME VIDEO has announced a price reduction to $59.95 on its boxed set of three videos starring Elvis Presley. The set contains Jailhouse Rock (* * * * '57), Elvis: That's the Way It Is (* * * '70) and Elvis on Tour (* * '72).

GOODTIMES HOME VIDEO has re-released KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park (* * '78) at $9.99.

J2 COMMUNICATIONS has re-released On Golden Pond (* * * '81) and The Last Unicorn (* * * '82) for $19.95 each.

COMING NEXT WEEK

Comedy with THREE MEN AND A BABY, gritty action with COLORS and uplifting drama with STAND AND DELIVER.

RATINGS:

* * * * Excellent

* * * Good

* * Fair

* Poor

(Videos with no stars were not reviewed by The Inquirer.)


It's (wash.) Post Time For 'Capital News'

Source: https://web.archive.org/web/20160602024325/http://articles.philly.com/1990-04-09/entertainment/25919161_1_redmond-dunne-equal-justice-newspaper-reporter
Posted: April 09, 1990

LOS ANGELES — TV is such a risky business, you almost can't blame networks for wanting new shows to look like established hits. The most one can hope for is that producers will imitate the quality programs and not the shlock.

That's certainly the case with two new ABC ensemble dramas, both clearly modeled after the classy reigning champion, NBC's "L.A. Law."

One show, "Equal Justice," about a big-city district attorney's office, has already premiered. It's smug and preachy. The other, "Capital News," is more fun. But then it ought to be. It's set at a newspaper.

"Capital News" debuts as a two-hour movie tonight (9 o'clock on Channel 6), then moves to its regular weekly one-hour slot next Monday at 10.

The Washington Capital, a thriving daily in the nation's capital where the series is set, was obviously patterned after the Washington Post. One of the creators and executive producers, Christian Williams, used to be a Post editor. In fact, he once edited this column. (Imagine the possibilities for revenge!)

Unfortunately, the series turns out to be fairly good; the chance to get even slips away. The second episode is tighter than the two-hour premiere, on which a lot of tinkering has been done since an earlier, more raggedy version was circulated several months ago.

For one thing, Kathryn Harrold, who you'll see in the premiere as star reporter Mary Ward, was subsequently dropped from the cast and replaced, as of the April 16 episode, by Chelsea Field as star reporter Cassy Swann. Field is more believable and a less familiar face.

In addition, a totally new character has been added: Kurt Fuller as Miles Plato, an effete and supercilious gossip columnist who bops around town in a white Rolls Royce (a 1964 Silver Cloud, we are told), though he's having trouble keeping up the payments. A newspaper reporter with a Rolls? Relax. Miles has a syndicated TV deal going on the side.

Fuller is a terrific addition, a bit of dissipated glamor and sardonic humor, something to help keep the show from taking itself as seriously as ''Equal Justice" does.

In the premiere, the other characters are introduced, chief among them reporter Redmond Dunne, a hardboiled fireball played by William Russ (the character seemed patterned after Carl Bernstein); Helen Slater as Anne McKenna, a dewy-eyed novice who catches on quick; Mark Blum as Edison King, the haughty national editor who thrives on office politics, and Christian Clemson as Todd Lunden, a bow-tied business reporter who's a likable nerd.

Jenny Wright scores big in the small part of Doreen Duncan, a fiery young metro reporter who once had a thing with Dunne. Although the series is set in the nation's capital, most of the plots will center on the metro section, or local news, since it's thought these stories are easier for viewers to relate to.

The game of which character is based on which real person won't interest most viewers outside the Beltway. But surely millions of people will realize that the heroic managing editor played by Lloyd Bridges is supposed to be Ben Bradlee, executive editor of the Post.

Of course, Bridges looks much older than Bradlee does. What's hard to understand is why the writers gave him the ridiculous name of "Jo-Jo" Turner. It's hard to imagine being awed and intimidated by a guy named Jo-Jo.

Does the drama that transpires at the Washington Capital resemble real life at a big urban daily? Well, sort of.

The reporters on "Capital News" appear to be much more interested in saving the world than in getting a good story, however. In the most unlikely scene on the premiere, Redmond Dunne barges into a health club where a slumlord is exercising and hurls insults at him. "The book's still open on you, fatso!" Dunne snarls.

Later the slumlord shows up at the newspaper (where the security guards seem awfully lax) and punches Dunne in the nose. Not only is this farfetched, it might put bad ideas into the heads of angry readers.

Meanwhile, a tottering old veteran named Alexander Streeter (Lee Richardson, well cast) checks into a ghetto housing development and ends up on a rooftop trying to talk youths out of using drugs. Incidentally, Beah Richards, who plays an embattled inner-city mother in this segment, also plays an embattled inner-city mother on an episode of "Equal Justice." It's a small world - television's version of it, anyway.

Two other variations from reality might be worth noting. Michael Woods, who plays metro editor Clay Gibson, is ridiculously more handsome than real editors are; only another editor would have cast him in the part. And the offices of the Washington Capital are so airy and sunny you wonder how reporters could ever bear to leave them.

There's no TV critic at this paper, at least not yet. Perhaps they can't find anyone debonair and witty enough for the role. Even with all its incongruities, however, "Capital News" - co-produced by "Hill Street Blues" alumnus David Milch - has a nifty electricity running through it. It's a good watch.


Tragicomedy, 'Tremors' And A Cop Plot

Source: https://web.archive.org/web/20150914174203/http://articles.philly.com/1990-07-12/entertainment/25899180_1_cop-bad-cop-plot-b-movie
Posted: July 12, 1990

This week's new videos offer plenty of reasons for a trek to the video store: comedy, drama, action, monsters and a summer sky full of stars. Take your pick.

ENEMIES, A LOVE STORY (1989) (Media) $89.98. 121 minutes. * * * * Ron Silver, Anjelica Huston, Lena Olin, Margaret Sophie Stein. Like many of Paul Mazursky's best movies, this - the story of a trigamist - essentially is a comedy about a tragedy. The drama here is how Holocaust survivors, more apparitions than humans, ghost-walk among the living. The humor is in how wryly funny are their observations, how cockamamie their behavior. Oscar nominations: Huston and Olin, best supporting actress; Roger L. Simon and Mazursky, best adapted screenplay.

FAMILY BUSINESS (1989) (RCA/Columbia) $89.95. 113 minutes. * * * 1/2 Dustin Hoffman, Sean Connery, Matthew Broderick. The genetic improbability of the strapping Connery's playing father to runty Hoffman, who in turn plays father to the average-size Broderick, isn't an issue in Sidney Lumet's offbeat tragicomedy, a felonious Crimes and Misdemeanors. Family Business explores the possibility of Connery's "criminal" genes' being passed on to his son and grandson, both of whom share his flinty eyes and larcenous nature, if not his ideas on how to continue the family business of thieving.

TREMORS (1990) (MCA/Universal)* 95 minutes. * * * Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward. A glorious scare-'em-up in the tradition of '50s horror flicks - part Them!, part Attack of the Crab Monsters, part Dune as reinterpreted by Mad magazine. A pair of none-too-bright cowpokes battles behemoth earthworms, whose dietary requirements include people, cars and buildings. Delivers both chills (the special effects are convincing, the direction sure-handed) and laughs, thanks to a smart cast and script.

INTERNAL AFFAIRS (1990) (Paramount)* 115 minutes. * * 1/2 Richard Gere, Andy Garcia. Garcia and Gere - sporting identical cool shades and close- cropped haircuts - face off in a good cop-bad cop B-movie cast in the darkest, artiest film-noir light. Set in Los Angeles, Mike Figgis' policier has the requisite car chases and shootouts, hard-boiled dialogue and long- legged women, plus Gere in the snuggest jeans.

* This video supplier does not set suggested retail prices on titles it deems primarily for rental.

RECENT MOVIES

BIG BAD JOHN (1990) (Magnum) $89.98. 90 minutes. Jimmy Dean, Ned Beatty, Doug English. Loosely based on Dean's popular song of a few decades back, with ex-pro football star English as the gentle giant John and Dean as the backwoods sheriff tracking him through a Louisiana bayou.

BODY CHEMISTRY (1990) (RCA/Columbia) $79.95. 84 minutes. Marc Singer, Lisa Pescia, Mary Crosby. Thriller in the Fatal Attraction vein: A respected, married college lab director tumbles into bed with an obsessive woman.

CLOWN HOUSE (1990) (RCA/Columbia) $89.95. 81 minutes. Nathan Forrest Winters, Sam Rockwell. Thriller: A young boy with a pathological fear of clowns is stalked by killers dressed as - oh, you guessed!

DANGEROUS PURSUIT (1990) (Paramount)* 95 minutes. Gregory Harrison, Alexandra Powers. A woman who once had a fling with an assassin fears for her life when he turns up in her new home town to kill a visiting politician.

HAPPY TOGETHER (1990) (IVE) $89.95 102 minutes. Patrick Dempsey, Helen Slater. Youth-oriented comedy: A malfunctioning college computer assigns a shy male student a free-spirited female roommate.

NIGHT OF THE WILDING (1990) (MCEG/Virgin) $89.95. 90 minutes. Eric Estrada, Kathrin Lautner. Courtroom drama loosely based on the 1989 incident in which a group of youths attacked a woman jogger in New York's Central Park. In this version, one of the attackers is from a wealthy family, which hires a high- priced lawyer to get him acquitted.

REASON TO DIE (1989) (Vidmark) $89.95. 96 minutes. Wings Hauser, Anneline Kriel. Bounty hunter on the trail of a serial killer.

TRAPPED (1989) (MCA/Universal) $79.95. 96 minutes. Kathleen Quinlan, Bruce Abbott. An executive working late in a high-rise office building discovers all the exits are locked and she's trapped with a psychopathic killer.

VINTAGE FILMS

DEVIL GIRL FROM MARS (1954) (Rhino) $14.95. 70 minutes. Patricia Lassan, Hugh McDermott. Obscure camp classic about a black-leather-clad Martian female who sets her flying saucer down near a Scottish pub and tries to entice young men home for "breeding purposes."

HALF-HUMAN (1955) (Rhino) $14.95. 78 minutes. Kenneth Crane, John Carradine. Weird Japanese-American hybrid from the director of Godzilla, with American actors spliced clumsily into a Japanese film about a monster like the Abominable Snowman.

MONSTER FROM GREEN HELL (1957) (Rhino) $14.95. 71 minutes. Jim Davis, Robert E. Griffith. Your basic '50s giant-insect movie. This time it's wasps that are shot into orbit and then crash-land in Africa as giant radioactive mutations.

MUSIC

PETER, PAUL AND MARY 25TH ANNIVERSARY CONCERT (1986) (Rhino) 19.95. 88 minutes. For any devotee of the popular folk trio who hasn't already made a copy of this marvelous concert during the many times it has run as a PBS fund- raiser, here it is. Peter Yarrow, Paul Noel Stookey and Mary Travers perform legendary gems, such as "Blowin' in the Wind," "Puff, the Magic Dragon" and "Leaving on a Jet Plane," plus new material, some of which is as politically potent as ever.

MADE FOR TELEVISION

ANNA KARENINA (1985) (Vidmark) $89.95. 96 minutes. Jacqueline Bisset, Christopher Reeve, Paul Scofield. Tolstoy's tragic romance becomes just another TV movie in the hands of Bisset and Reeve (Scofield, as Karenin, is worth watching).

FIRE AND RAIN (1989) (Paramount)* 89 minutes. Charles Haid, Angie Dickinson. Fact-based made-for-cable drama of Delta Airlines Flight 191, which crashed at the Dallas/Fort Worth airport in 1985 after encountering a sudden ''wind shear."

THE ULTIMATE STUNTMAN: A TRIBUTE TO DAR ROBINSON (1987) (MPI) $19.98. 60 minutes. Chuck Norris hosts this tribute to Robinson, a 19-year veteran of stunt work who was at the height of his career when he was killed in 1986 in an on-the-job motorcycle accident.

THE WORLD'S GREATEST HOLLYWOOD STUNTS! A TRIBUTE TO HOLLYWOOD STUNTMEN (1990) (MPI) $19.98. 60 minutes. Christopher Reeve hosts a salute to filmdom's daredevils, including footage from movies ranging from Ben Hur to Rambo: First Blood.

VIDEO MAGAZINES

SURFER MAGAZINE (1990) (Rhino) $19.95 each. 50 minutes. Four more volumes in the series based on the hit show on cable sports channel ESPN.

MARKDOWNS

MEDIA HOME ENTERTAINMENT has reduced these videos to $19.98: Full Moon in Blue Water ('88), Hero and the Terror (* * '88), High Spirits (* * '88), Messenger of Death ('88) and Troma's War ('88).

MCA/UNIVERSAL HOME VIDEO has announced several price reductions. These Preston Sturges films are now $29.95: Christmas in July (* * * * '40), The Great McGinty ('40), The Lady Eve (* * * * '41), The Palm Beach Story (* * * * '42) and Sullivan's Travels (* * * * '41). Now $19.95: Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (* * '79), The Incredible Hulk (* * '77), Smokey and the Bandit II (* '80) and two TV movies made from re-edited episodes from the Battlestar: Galactica series - Conquest of the Earth ('79) and Mission Galactica: The Cylon Attack ('79).

RCA/COLUMBIA PICTURES HOME VIDEO has announced several price reductions. Now $29.95: Gandhi (* * * * '82). Now $19.95: The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (* * * '89), Casino Royale (* * '67), Crossroads (* * '86) and A Soldier's Story (* * * * '84).

COMING NEXT WEEK

Jessica Lange as a recent widow trying to raise two children in MEN DON'T LEAVE.

RATINGS:

* * * * Excellent

* * * Good

* * Fair

* Poor

(Videos with no stars were not reviewed by The Inquirer.)


Families Profit From This Tv Shows On Teen Issues Generate Talk, Not Cash.

Source: https://web.archive.org/web/20160426154228/http://articles.philly.com/1991-03-03/entertainment/25794522_1_abc-employee-afterschool-specials-schoolbreak-specials
Posted: March 03, 1991

Below it all in network entertainment television, there's money. Executives talk of art and creativity, but if the show can't sell the soda pop, it quickly disappears, no matter how high its motives.

But there are two admirable, long-running network shows that don't generate much cash. In fact, they can wind up losing money for local stations. Nonetheless, ABC and CBS continue churning out six or seven of them a year.

ABC has been making Afterschool Specials since 1972, when then-lowly executive Michael Eisner - now boss of Disney and designated the most powerful man in the entertainment industry by Entertainment Weekly last year - inaugurated the series. CBS started its Schoolbreak Specials when an ABC employee changed networks in 1984 and brought the idea with her.

The shows try to send messages to teenagers, but they're done with enough care that parents can enjoy them, too - and the Specials can provide a superb focus for family discussion. The networks also offer strong classroom backup; ABC provides teachers' materials to 60,000 schools, CBS to 100,000.

On the artistic side, the Specials offer a great development opportunity for rookie directors and little-known young actors, who sometimes reach astonishing heights in the one-hour telemovies.

Some examples will air in the next two months. An ABC repeat will bring back Michelle Pfeiffer, long before she became Hollywood's top goddess. She plays the slightly frumpy girlfriend of teenage alcoholic Val Kilmer, who's causing a stir as Jim Morrison in the just-released The Doors feature.

Another repeat showcases Sherilyn Fenn, for about 30 seconds, before she disappears beneath the waves and sends her family into mourning. It was made two years before Audrey Horne burst on the Twin Peaks scene in her saddle shoes. The Fresh Prince flashes by in another repeat.

Among the 130 Afterschool Specials are ones starring 12-year-old Jodie Foster in 1974, two years before Taxi Driver. River Phoenix starred in 1984, when he was a geeky 14-year-old, Michele Greene (L.A. Law's Abby Perkins) played a 15-year-old in 1983, and one memorable 1982 After-school Special teamed James Earl Jones (before he became ubiquitous) with Hermione Gingold and a trio of unknown kids: Meg Ryan, Matthew Modine and Helen Slater.

The star list is shorter at CBS, which has produced about 50 Schoolbreak Specials since Judy Price became head of children's programming seven years ago. "I don't keep a star chart," said Price. "I keep a content chart."

But stars aren't really the point of the efforts, which have garnered truckloads of prizes - Emmys and others - over the years. Both series aim, and generally succeed, at producing entertaining programs about contemporary issues that help teenagers understand that they have considerable power over their lives and that they are not alone, no matter how horrendous a problem might appear.

Of course, it doesn't hurt to land some well-known adult actors. "It can be very helpful to get names, so you can get on the talk shows and get in the papers and people know the shows are on," said Ame Simon, Afterschool Specials boss.

She said recent ABC research found that 56 percent of those responding didn't watch Afterschool Specials because they didn't know they were on. Nineteen percent knew, but forgot to watch.

With that in mind, get out your calendars and mark the following. A good plan for those with VCRs is to tape the shows, which run from 4 to 5 p.m., for later family viewing. CBS's Schoolbreak Specials (Channel 10) are on Tuesdays. ABC's Afterschool Specials (Channel 6) are on Thursdays.

TUESDAY. "But He Loves Me," on Channel 10, stars Donovan Leitch as a high-schooler who abuses his girlfriend. Fine acting makes it nerve-racking to see him become progressively more violent while his girlfriend (played by Kelli Williams) seems unable to leave and her parents think he's wonderful.

explained the topic: "Many people think that battered wives become battered wives overnight, but often they were abused during courtship or teen dating, in some cases marrying their abusers. There is a syndrome."

THURSDAY. "The Perfect Date" (Channel 6) is a laugh-out-loud comedy repeat from 1990 about a teenager who sees the biggest night of his life go sour when his prom-queen date stands him up and other catastrophes ensue. (About half of the 10 specials aired annually on CBS and half the 14 on ABC are repeats, most from the previous year.) Lycia Naff is delightful as the seeming loser who winds up replacing the prom queen. "Fresh Prince" Will Smith does a bit as a T-shirt salesman.

Like this one, many of the ABC offerings seem lighter, more fun, than CBS's. "We are not the dour hour," says an ABC handout. Neither is CBS. It's difficult to characterize either network's effort too broadly. ABC has done shows on date rape and AIDS. CBS mixes in an occasional comedy.

MARCH 19. "Frog Girl: The Jenifer Graham Story" (Channel 10) tells the story of a California girl whose views about animals made it impossible for her to dissect a frog in biology class, although her school required that she do it.

The story has been repeated in other schools, and the movie represents a departure from most Specials, which do not deal with actual case histories.

MARCH 21. "It's Only Rock and Roll" (Channel 6) looks at censorship and artistic freedom. Allison Bartlett, Gina from Sesame Street, plays a young rocker who gets involved when a record-store owner is charged with selling obscene recordings. Carole King plays a teacher who encourages discussion of art and obscenity in class, and former Monkee David (Don't Call Me Davy) Jones is a smarmy record-company exec.

Simon explained that this story fit the ABC mold by taking the young woman's personal story and setting it in the greater context of a social issue - the controversy about First Amendment freedoms. An ABC policy statement describing Afterschool Specials adds that the central characters should be ''highly relatable."

APRIL 2. "Abby, My Love" (Channel 10) stars unknown Cara Buono in the best performance of this group - a sensitive portrayal of a teenage incest victim. Josh Harrington, a little too old for the role, plays the neighbor boy who has grown up with her, the only person to whom she can turn - finally - to stop her father's abuse.

Family problems crop up frequently in these stories, and parents are not always paragons. "We want to show kids that they have the power within themselves" to address family difficulties, Price said. "If kids are born into a dysfunctional family, what are we going to say to them, 'Give up'?"

APRIL 4. "One Too Many" (Channel 6) was produced as a 1985 After-school Special, but wound up premiering in prime time. It stars Pfeiffer and Kilmer as teens who drink too much, Mare Winningham as Pfeiffer's friend and Lance Guest as Winningham's boyfriend. It's a strong caution about the evil of drunken driving, but despite its marquee value, seems more lugubrious than the others in this group.

On April 18, ABC will rerun the Afterschool Special that blinks at Twin Peaks' Fenn, but stars Jill Eikenberry and Michael Tucker of L.A. Law. It, too, got a prime-time premiere, after programmers decided it could be competitive in the evening.

Generally, however, though actors work for scale and the shows are produced for less than $500,000 - about half the budget of a quality one-hour series episode - the specials are money losers, especially for local stations.

By airing the Specials, local stations relinquish revenue generated by their local advertising on syndicated afternoon shows, taking lower network fees instead. Nonetheless, the Specials are "cleared" by nearly 90 percent of both networks' affiliates (although both networks are also careful not to offer Specials during "sweeps" months, when ratings are checked to determine local advertising rates).

"These are things that don't carry their weight," said Price, "and in the difficult times we're in . . . I think it's remarkable that we're still doing them.

"I think we do have an obligation."

With broadcasters more and more fixed on that almighty dollar, it's an obligation that ABC and CBS, and their affiliates, can be proud of fulfilling.


Male Call From The Wild

Source: https://web.archive.org/web/20141104134339/http://articles.philly.com/1991-06-07/news/25785592_1_city-slickers-dude-ranch-three-men
Posted: June 07, 1991

Whoa there, little doggies.

If you thought "City Slickers" would end the summer comedy drought emergency, think again.

It's not that "City Slickers" isn't funny - there are some laughs. It's just that it's not strictly a comedy.

Instead of a western spoof, what you get is a fairly serious attempt to show how three men in the throes of midlife crises face their problems during a big cattle drive out in the prairie.

There's some humor to lighten things up, but at its core, "City Slickers" is about male bonding, in the worst sense of the phrase. Not the actual social commerce that has been going on between men for millions of years, formerly known as friendship, but the kind of confessional, dad-hated-me hugging and crying for which the phrase was invented.

Billy Crystal stars as a salesman stuck in a dead-end job. He feels that his wife is bored and that his kids are ashamed of him.

"I feel . . . lost," he says, as doleful flute and oboe music pipes up in the background - the first of many musical cues designed to alert you that a Hallmark moment has arrived.

His wife (Patricia Wettig), in one of the movie's rare moments of backbone, tells him to take two weeks at a dude ranch and cheer the hell up. Off he goes, with two equally problem-plagued pals, a sensitive Daniel Stern and a macho Bruno Kirby (Crystal's co-star in "When Harry Met Sally . . .").

The early scenes on the dude ranch are the highlight of "City Slickers," notable for the appearance of Jack Palance as the group's flinty trail boss, a man with a face so weathered he can light a kitchen match on it.

Palance is just hilarious, playing off the tough guy image he cultivated in countless westerns. The actor's perpetually stony face conveys his undisguised disdain for the greenhorns who will accompany him on the movie's big cattle drive. His character has a particularly intense dislike for the wise-cracking Crystal's, with whom he shares several good scenes.

Just as the spoof seems to be taking off, it lands for good. Palance's role turns out to be disappointingly small, and the focus shifts to the thirtysomething problems of Crystal, Stern and Kirby's characters.

Out on the trail, the three men begin to look for meaning in their lives. As they share and bond, the sentimental conversation moves inevitably to the topics of childhood and baseball.

To our horror, we learn that all three are Yankee fans.

The rest of the movie finds the men facing some unexpected hardships, which they overcome in character-building fashion. The pat script, by "Parenthood" authors Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, uses clever dialogue to blend broad comedy with adult problems, but these two have done better.

CITY SLICKERS * * 1/2

Produced by Irby Smith, directed by Ron Underwood, music by Marc Shaiman, written by Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, distributed by Castle Rock Entertainment.

Running Time: 99 minutes

Mitch Robbins - Billy Crystal

Phil Berquist - Daniel Stern

Ed Furillo - Bruno Kirby

Barbara Robbins - Patricia Wettig

Curly - Jack Palance

Bonnie - Helen Slater

Parents Guide: (PG-13)

Showing at: Area theaters


Posed Nude; Now A Naked City Detective

Source: https://web.archive.org/web/20150918224326/http://articles.philly.com/1991-09-28/news/25802337_1_detective-police-officer-sean-furlong
Posted: September 28, 1991

Cibella Borges, tossed from the Big Apple police force 7 1/2 years ago after nude photos of her popped up in Beaver magazine, was sworn in yesterday as a detective at a Brooklyn station house. "I worked hard to get my detective shield," said Borges, 34, "and I'm quite proud of it." She posed for the shots in 1980 when a civilian police employee, eight months before being admitted to the regular force. She was fired in May 1983, but two years later had the firing overturned in state appeals court. She was reinstated with full back pay. "Sometimes they kid me, but nobody makes a big deal of it anymore," said the single Borges. "They respect me as a police officer and as a person."

LEGAL DOINGS

Oh, pray something's done about this before next weekend's wedding, but it's come to light that there's a 2 1/2-year-old bench warrant out for Larry Fortensky. Seems Elizabeth Taylor's intended was convicted of drunk driving in 1987 and ordered to a rehab program. Although he later shaped up at the Betty Ford Clinic - where his eyes first met Liz's purples - he never signed up for the court-ordered program and until he does, the warrant stands. "I really don't know anything about it," said Taylor's spokeswoman.

Edward Furlong, boy star of Terminator 2: Judgment Day, can decide for himself if he wants to live with his mother or his uncle and aunt, an L.A. judge ruled Thursday. Furlong, 14, has been living with aunt Nancy Tafoya and uncle Sean Furlong since his mother, Eleanor Torres, left his stepfather more than a year ago. The judge said that Furlong, now shooting a movie in Washington, can make his decision after all concerned undergo counseling.

MARKINGS

Bruce Springsteen had a musical reunion with Southside Johnny and Little Steven (nee Van Zandt) Thursday night at Asbury Park's Stone Pony. The occasion - the video shoot for Steven's "It's Been a Long Time" featured on Johnny's album, Better Days, due Oct. 29. The trio did the song thrice for an invitation-only audience of radio-contest winners and music-industry types. After the videoing, they tore into "We're Having a Party" with help from Jon Bon Jovi.

Lily Tomlin wanted to keep close tabs on ticket sales for her movie, The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, which opened for an ''exclusive engagement" yesterday at a Manhattan theater. What better way than to sell tickets? Which the comic actress did, womaning the box office for all six showings.

Terry Murphy, co-host of TV's Hard Copy, is recovering from facial injuries suffered Wednesday in L.A., where she was attacked by a friend's dog while dining. The Japanese akita, which attacked without provocation, according to Murphy's spokesman, also injured one of her wrists. "She's doing better," he said. "She's home in bed and her face is wrapped."

ON THE BOARDS

Macaulay Culkin, kid star of the movie Home Alone, will do live theater Oct. 9 and 10 at Manhattan's Ensemble Studio Theater. The puerile heartthrob will appear in Sam I Am by Keith Reddin, which uses the one-acter, The Big Squirrel, in which Culkin, 10, made his acting debut at 6.

Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn, stars of the talky movie, My Dinner With Andre, will "rehearse" their production of Anton Chekhov's Uncle Vanya five times a week at the Big Apple's Victory Theater from Nov. 11 to Dec. 20. Admission will be free, but is by invitation only and is limited to 35 onstage witnesses a night. The pair hope to publicize in mid-October a phone number for audiences.

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Wendy Wasserstein will act for the first time since her Yale Drama School days Monday when she appears in a scene for the benefit of the Young Playwrights Festival at Broadway's St. James Theater. Other scene-actors will include Blair Brown, Timothy Busfield, Polly Draper, Fisher Stevens and Helen Slater.

COUPLES

Nothing conservative about George Will's new girlfriend. She's the outstanding Mari Maseng, a former campaign spokeswoman for Sen. Bob Dole. She also has worked in the Bush White House. The columnist and Sunday morning talking head TV star recently escorted the 6-foot beauty to a Washington Redskins football game, where the two huddled in team owner Jack Kent Cooke's box. According to a witness, "soulful eye contact" and "touching" occurred. Ah, like!

Bon Jovi's Richie Sambora, a sometime boy toy of Cher's, is vacationing in Hawaii, even as you read, with backup singer Bekka Bramlett.

Boris Yeltsin's word on his wife, Naina: "She is no Raisa." So says Russia's anti-coup hero in tomorrow's Parade magazine. But he adds: "She is my prime minister, my finance minister and every other minister. . . . " Yeltsin says the couple share a three-room Moscow apartment with their daughter Tatiana, and grandson, Boris Jr., 9. He rejected a move to a government-owned country place, noting: "A man's home should be his own castle, not the government's."

Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, 70, accidentally broke the rib of his wife, Beryl, earlier this month while horsing around at the Wyoming ranch of a friend. According to an aide to the Texas Democrat, the Bentsens got into a playful debate as to whether it was time to go to bed. He held yes; she, no. That's when the 1988 defeated vice-presidential candidate flung her over his shoulder and carted her off to the bedroom. Said Beryl Bentsen: "I get a laugh out of it now but for a few days it hurt too much to laugh at anything." Added the senator: "We always had fun doing this . . . but no more." He's no Jack Kennedy.


'Howards End,' 'Toto' And 'johnny Suede'

Source: https://web.archive.org/web/20150924021453/http://articles.philly.com/1993-06-03/entertainment/25974018_1_helen-schlegel-belgium-s-jaco-van-dormael-ruth-wilcox
Posted: June 03, 1993

The Oscar-winning Howards End tops a list of fine films coming to video this week.

HOWARDS END * * * * (1992) (Columbia TriStar)* 142 minutes. Emma Thompson, Anthony Hopkins, Vanessa Redgrave, Helena Bonham Carter, Samuel West. Films don't come any better than this graceful adaptation of E.M. Forster's elegy to Edwardian England. Transplanted by screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala and cultivated by producer Ismail Merchant, Howards End is an English garden brought to fragrant bloom by director James Ivory. Margaret and Helen Schlegel (Thompson - in an Oscar-winning role - and Carter) are free-thinkers in love with culture and causes. Dignified Ruth Wilcox (Redgrave) suspects that the Schlegels' part-German heritage has rendered them insufficiently British. Ruth, the very embodiment of England, is that curious mix of force and fragility, a spiritual woman married to the tradition-bound and priggish materialist Henry (Hopkins). PG (mature themes, discreet violence). Available on videodisc.

TOTO THE HERO (TOTO LE HEROS) * * * 1/2 (1991) (Paramount)* 94 minutes. Michael Bouquet, Mirelle Perrier. An exuberant, bittersweet and highly original directorial debut from Belgium's Jaco Van Dormael about an old man who looks back on the seven ages he was allotted and believes he was entitled to 14. A movie whose ingenuity and invention restore your faith in the medium. In French with English subtitles. PG-13 (nudity).

JOHNNY SUEDE * * * (1992) (Paramount)* 97 minutes. Brad Pitt, Catherine Keener, Calvin Levels, Alison Moir, Tina Louise. Pitt stars in this deadpan fable about a singer with an oversize pompadour and undersize talent who thinks that the secret of life lies in simply being cool. Although writer- director Tom DiCillo's debut is bookended with a too-cute, altogether unnecessary voiceover, for the most part his film succeeds. Pitt's woozy hipster is a self-absorbed, self-deluded goofball whose hair precedes him into a room. When he finds true love (in the guise of Keener), he doesn't even know it. R (sexual situations, profanity).

* This video supplier does not set suggested retail prices on titles it deems primarily for rental.

RECENT MOVIES

BETRAYAL OF THE DOVE (1992) (Prism) $89.95. 93 minutes. Helen Slater, Billy Zane, Kelly LeBrock, Harvey Korman,. Thriller: Actor Robby Benson co-wrote this tale of a divorced mother whose life begins to fall apart after she is set up for a blind date by her best friend.

BUFORD'S BEACH BUNNIES (1993) (Imperial) $89.95. 90 minutes. Jim Hanks, Monique Parent, Rikki Brando. Lowbrow comedy with Hanks as the girl-shy son of a fast-food mogul being pursued by numerous women at the request of his father. R.

LIVE! FROM DEATH ROW (1991) (Prism) $79.95. 94 minutes. Joanna Cassidy, Bruce Davison. Drama: Hours before his scheduled execution, a condemned serial killer takes the host of a tabloid show and her crew hostage.

FOR CHILDREN

DENNIS THE MENACE (1987) (CBS/Fox) $9.98 each. 35 minutes each. Four volumes, each containing four episodes from the animated television series. Individual titles are Boys Will Be Boys, Dennis' Great Adventure, Spies Robbers & Ghosts and Animal Antics.

VINTAGE FILMS

ATHENA (1954) (MGM/UA) $19.98. 96 minutes. Jane Powell, Debbie Reynolds. Musical: Powell and Reynolds play a pair of beguiling sisters with eccentric ways.

BROADWAY RHYTHM (1944) (MGM/UA) $19.98. 112 minutes. George Murphy, Ginny Simms. Musical: Backstage tale of two competing Broadway shows.

CHARLIE CHAN IN THE SECRET SERVICE (1944) (MGM/UA) $19.98. 64 minutes. Sidney Toler, Benson Fong. Mystery: Charlie Chan investigates the murder of an inventor.

CHARLIE CHAN - MEETING AT MIDNIGHT (1944) (MGM/UA) $19.98. 67 minutes. Sidney Toler, Frances Chan. Mystery: Chan must clear his daughter's name when she is suspected of a murder.

CHARLIE CHAN - THE CHINESE CAT (1944) (MGM/UA) $19.98. 65 minutes. Sidney Toler, Benson Fong. Mystery: Chan tracks a smuggling ring that is killing off everyone who knows about it.

CHARLIE CHAN - THE JADE MASK (1944) (MGM/UA) $19.98. 67 minutes. Sidney Toler, Mantan Moreland. Mystery: Chan looks into the death of a scientist who was detested by almost everyone who knew him.

CHARLIE CHAN - THE SCARLET CLUE (1945) (MGM/UA) $19.98. 65 minutes. Sidney Toler, Mantan Moreland. Mystery: An unusual twist for the seriies - we learn early on who the killer at a radio station is, but Charlie must find out who has been ordering him to kill. Watch for a well-remembered comedy routine with Moreland and comedian Ben Carter.

CHARLIE CHAN - THE SHANGHAI COBRA (1945) (MGM/UA) $19.98. 65 minutes. Sidney Toler, Benson Fong. Mystery: Charlie and Number Four Son Fong give chase to a killer who uses cobra venom as his weapon.

GOING HOLLYWOOD (1933) (MGM/UA) $19.98. 78 minutes. Bing Crosby, Marion Davies. Musical: One of Crosby's earlier roles as a Hollywood crooner pursued by lovesick fan Davies.

HOLIDAY IN MEXICO (1946) (MGM/UA) $19.98. 127 minutes. Walter Pidgeon, Roddy McDowall, Jane Powell. Musical: Powell plays the precocious daughter of an American ambassador who spurns the love of a schoolmate for the attentions of an older man.

HONOLULU (1939) (MGM/UA) $19.98. 84 minutes. Robert Young, Eleanor Powell. Musical: Young gets more than he bargained for when he agrees to trade places with his look-alike: a Hawaiian plantation owner.

THE MERRY WIDOW (1952) (MGM/UA) $19.98. 105 minutes. Lana Turner, Fernando Lamas. Musical: Another version of the comic tale of the machinations surrounding the visit of a wealthy widow visiting an impoverished kingdom.

RICH YOUNG AND PRETTY (1951) (MGM/UA) $19.98. 95 minutes. Jane Powell, Vic Damone. Musical: Powell heads to Paris to meet dreamy hunk Damone and the mother she has never known.

SHIP AHOY (1942) (MGM/UA) $19.98. 95 minutes. Eleanor Powell, Red Skelton. Musical: Wartime morale booster with Red as a pulp-fiction author being duped by enemy spies.

COMING NEXT WEEK

Mel Gibson, George Wendt and Jamie Lee Curtis in FOREVER YOUNG.

STARS:

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(Videos with no stars were not reviewed by The Inquirer.)

MPAA ratings: Motion Picture Association of America ratings are included for all titles that received them. If the title was reviewed by The Inquirer, further parental warnings (violence, nudity, etc.) are included.


A Shining Pair For Cable Realistic Drama And Bell Biography Air Tonight

Source: https://web.archive.org/web/20150907034914/http://articles.philly.com/1993-07-18/entertainment/25975932_1_networks-chantilly-lace-cable
Posted: July 18, 1993

In differing ways, Chantilly Lace and The Sound and the Silence represent cable television at its most ambitious and admirable. Cable, rather than the broadcast networks, is the most compatible home for these shows.

Chantilly Lace, a telemovie starring seven relatively well-known actresses, begins at 8 tonight on Showtime. The Sound and the Silence, a four-hour biographical mini-series about Alexander Graham Bell, runs in two parts, at 8 p.m. today and tomorrow on TNT.

The realism of the dialogue in Lace, about seven contemporary women who hold three reunions in the course of a year, makes it unsuitable for a broadcast network, whose censorship would remove much of the show's snap and spark.

The time and care devoted in Silence to relating the story of Bell, who lived a life free of scandal, represents the kind of investment that the broadcast networks seldom make in serious, fact-based programs. Three telemovies in one season about Amy Fisher, the "Long Island Lolita"? Yes. A mini-series about Bell, one of the greatest inventors in history? No.

For most of the last decade, the total prime-time audience for the broadcast networks has declined. Chantilly Lace and The Sound and the Silence demonstrate why.

On the one hand, the broadcast networks are, because of censorship constraints, limited to fictional representations of the real world that are essentially false. On the other hand, in desperate pursuit of mass audiences, they seem to seek quality less and less, consistently choosing sensationalism over programs that might uplift or inform viewers. If the broadcast networks continue to follow those two ruts, it is hard to imagine how they can recover from their slump.

*

Chantilly Lace begins with a 40th-birthday party for Natalie, portrayed by JoBeth Williams, in the rural Colorado home of Val (Jill Eikenberry). Turns out that Natalie needs comfort more than celebration, because she has just lost her job as a film critic.

The partygoers tiptoe around a potential problem: Hannah, an artist played by Helen Slater, has married Natalie's ex-husband. But they all loosen up when Maggie, a nun portrayed by Talia Shire, describes how she believes she has sex with God. One of Maggie's listeners eagerly asks, "Do you have His number?"

Natalie's party is like most birthday parties in the sense that she doesn't like all her presents, with the absolute bottom rank assigned to a live snake given her by animal breeder Rheza (Lindsay Crouse). Not much is heard from Val's sister, Elizabeth (Ally Sheedy), and Anne (Martha Plimpton), a photojournalist. But maybe that's because Elizabeth and Anne are some years younger than the others.

When the women reassemble in the summer for their second meeting, Natalie is economically recovered, having secured a grant to do a documentary about homeless women. Rheza, previously embittered toward men, feels better, now that she's going to marry again. Hannah is happily pregnant.

Two of the women announce that they are lesbian lovers. Another seduces the muscular young man who delivers $35 worth of pizza to the group - "Here's your tip," she tells him as she strips off his tank top. Conversation in and around the hot tub on Val's porch is rambunctiously bawdy.

At the third and final meeting of the year, one of the group members has died. This segment revolves around a videotaped farewell she has left behind for her friends.

The actresses deserve considerable credit for Chantilly Lace, because they improvised much of it. Director Linda Yellen gave them a script that included only references to the highlights, such as the death, with the players called upon to make up their own dialogue. The beginning of the show is slow, because it takes a while to get all the characters introduced, and the ending gets a bit soggy, but in between are more than enough good moments to make the whole trip worthwhile.

Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922) was such a towering genius, the workings of his mind so incomprehensible to most mortals, that it takes an actor of considerable stature and assurance to sustain his role. John Bach, a New Zealander who has worked mostly in Australian TV, meets the challenge well in The Sound and the Silence.

The inventor's wife, Mabel Hubbard Bell, lost her hearing at 5 because of scarlet fever. In two laudatory pieces of casting, Vanessa Vaughan tonight portrays the teenage Mabel until her marriage, and Elizabeth Quinn tomorrow night plays the married Mabel. Both Vaughan, a Canadian, and Quinn, an Englishwoman, are deaf.

Like Chantilly Lace, The Sound and the Silence begins rather slowly, with Bell's boyhood in his native Scotland. Two excellent English character actors, Ian Bannen and Brenda Fricker, portray Bell's parents, Melville and Eliza, more than adequately.

The most famous moment in Bell's distinguished life is satisfyingly portrayed tonight. At 4:12 p.m. on March 10, 1876, Bell said into his experimental mouthpiece, "Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you." And his assistant, Thomas Watson, played by an actor with the coincidental name of Francis Bell, walks in from another room after hearing the first words ever transmitted on a telephone.

Without fanfare, this scene challenges the widely accepted version of the first words. That version, which came from a book by Watson, had Bell accidentally spilling acid on himself and then saying, "Mr. Watson, come here. I want you." But while researching The Sound and the Silence, Jon Glascoe, who developed the mini-series, found a statement by Bell saying that Watson had misremembered the event slightly and that the inventor had actually said "Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you."

Although scripts by multiple authors usually amount to a mess, this one by Tony Foster, William Schmidt and John Kent Harrison does an admirable job of making Bell's work reasonably understandable to the average viewer. You won't learn how to make a phone, but you'll get the general drift.

Nevertheless, the warmest moments in tonight's premiere are those nonexperimental interludes in which Mabel appears. As brought sweetly to life by Vaughan, you won't have any trouble understanding why Bell adored her till he died.

CHANTILLY LACE

Written by Gisela Bernice and produced by the Linda Yellen Co. for Showtime. Telecast at 8 tonight on Showtime.

The cast:

Anne - Martha Plimpton

Elizabeth - Ally Sheedy

Hannah - Helen Slater

Maggie - Talia Shire

Natalie - JoBeth Williams

Rheza - Lindsay Crouse

ValJill Eikenberry

THE SOUND AND THE SILENCE

Written by Tony Foster, William Schmidt and John Kent Harrison; produced by Screen Star Entertainment Inc., Atlantis Films Limited and South Pacific Pictures Limited for TNT. Telecast at 8 p.m today and tomorrow on TNT.

Alexander Graham Bell - John Bach

Melville Bell - Ian Bannen

Eliza Bell - Brenda Fricker

Mabel Hubbard - Vanessa Vaughan

Mabel Hubbard Bell - Elizabeth Quinn


Lassie Comes Home To The Screen As Dog Of All Trades

Source: https://web.archive.org/web/20150919114946/http://articles.philly.com/1994-07-22/entertainment/25846226_1_thomas-guiry-lassie-dog
Posted: July 22, 1994

In the latest saga involving America's favorite collie, Lassie herds sheep, kills a murderous coyote, practices family therapy without a license, gets Dad a new career and reconciles Stepson and Stepmom. Heck, this dog does everything but windows.

Kids, who know too intimately the physical and mental limitations of grown- ups, will be entranced by these superhuman feats. But Lassie may be the first family film that's too intense for adults. Imagine the inadequacy most grown-ups will feel in the face of a family pet who's brainier than Al Gore, a wiser parent than Bill Cosby and who has better hair than Fabio. And what's more, she's housebroken!

This Lassie - played by an eighth-generation descendant of the collie who appeared in the 1943 film Lassie Come Home - pounces into the lives of the Turner family on an interstate somewhere between Maryland and Virginia. The Turners are looking for a new beginning in the Shenandoah Valley, far from the crime and noise in Baltimore. Lassie is looking for a new home, having just lost her master in a truck crash.

Although 14-year-old Matt Turner (Thomas Guiry) initially is more interested in listening to his Walkman than in frolicking along the Blue Ridge mountaintops with a quadruped, before you can say kibble the dog has introduced Matt to the great outdoors.

For those of a certain age, the sight of the dog dancing on the hilltops incites the fear that Lassie will break into bark - to the tune of "The Sound of Music." Thankfully, Lassie spares us, although Basil Poledouris' saccharine score does not.

Nor does filmmaker Daniel Petrie spare us the Hollywood pieties about city versus country. In Lassie, the Virginia village with a population of 148 (Matt sourly estimates that "you can find more people in a supermarket") is presumed to be superior to Baltimore because the former is freeze-dried in the 1960s - a time of roast-beef-and-mashed potato family suppers, 4-H clubs, Beatles ballads and a 100-percent Caucasian population.

Instead of showing how the dog becomes indispensable to the Turner family, the film purveys nostalgia for an America that never was - unless you count The Waltons. This said, Thomas Guiry is quite appealing as Matt, possibly the only male teen in small-town Virginia sporting an earring, and Helen Slater has some affecting moments as the stepmother he resents because his mother's dead. By recovering his mom's girlhood diary, Lassie reconciles Matt with his mother's memory and, through other acts of collie wisdom, the dog brings Matt and his stepmom together. Would that every pound puppy could grow to be a savior.

Canine feminists be warned: As she was in the movies and the long-running TV show, this Lassie - supposedly a female - is played by a male. No matter the genus or the species, it seems that in Hollywood males enjoy greater employment opportunities.

LASSIE * *

Produced by Lorne Michaels, directed by Daniel Petrie, written by Matthew Jacobs, Gary Ross and Elizabeth Anderson, based on the character created by Eric Knight, photography by Kenneth MacMillan, music by Basil Poledouris, distributed by Paramount Pictures.

Running time: 1:37

Matt Turner - Thomas Guiry

Laura Turner - Helen Slater

Steve Turner - Jon Tenney

Jennifer Turner - Brittany Boyd

Sam Garland - Frederic Forrest

Len Collins - Richard Farnsworth

Lassie - Himself

Parent's guide: PG (coyote-collie dogfight, sequence picturing eviscerated sheep, too much for kids under 6)

Showing at: area theaters


Truly Man's Best Fantasy

Source: https://web.archive.org/web/20150919132051/http://articles.philly.com/1994-07-22/news/25845307_1_thomas-guiry-lassie-sam-garland
Posted: July 22, 1994

The enduring appeal of Lassie lies in the fact she's a shining ideal of what dogs should be, instead of what they are.

For those of us who've known dogs that vomit on carpeting, roll in their own droppings, maul the paperboy, do rude things to house guests and bring dead animals into the living room, Lassie is an escapist fantasy.

Lassie is having an off day if she does not contain a forest fire or pull a lost infant from the jaws of a ravenous bear. The versatile Lassie can also serve as lifeguard, paramedic, bodyguard, au pair and home security system.

In the new movie "Lassie," she adds a few new lines to her resume - family therapist.

Lassie wanders into the lives of a troubled Baltimore family moving from the city to an abandoned Virginia farm.

Lassie senses trouble.

"Woof," she remarks, tilting her head at a thoughtful angle.

Lassie infers correctly that the father (Jon Tenney) is taking his two children and new wife (Helen Slater) to the country in hopes that a change of scenery and lots of flannel shirts will help his boy (Thomas Guiry) recover from the pain of losing his real mother.

Lassie befriends the belligerent lad, helps him adjust to life on the farm, get in touch with his feelings and bond with his grateful stepmother. And that ain't the half of it. Lassie (the matchmaker!) also fixes him up with the cute girl down the lane, pulls him from a raging river and saves him from a slavering coyote.

Impressive, sure, but Lassie's just getting started. While the family tries to make a go at sheep ranching, Lassie volunteers to herd sheep and keeps a suspicious eye on a neighboring rancher (Frederick Forrest) - a man who wears a black hat, uses tobacco products, owns guns, eats meat and is of course a villain with a secret plan to ruin the family's courageous farming venture.

This isn't a beloved screen classic, but it is a competent story about a classic, beloved character. "Lassie" is a simple, earnest, wholesome family drama for younger children and parents who want to take their children to a movie that does not feature severed heads and a Nine Inch Nails soundtrack.

LASSIE * * *

Produced by Lorne Michaels, directed by Daniel Petrie, music by Basil Poledouris, written by Matthew Jackobs, Gary Ross and Elizabeth Anderson, distributed by Paramount Pictures.

Running Time: 90 minutes

Matt - Thomas Guiry

Laura Turner - Helen Slater

Steve Turner - Jon Tenney

Jennifer - Brittany Boyd

Len - Richard Farnsworth

Sam Garland - Frederick Forsythe

April - Michelle Williams

Lassie - Herself

Parents Guide: PG

Showing at: Area theaters


A Lineage Of Lassies Is Behind The New Film

Source: https://web.archive.org/web/20150921203151/http://articles.philly.com/1994-07-27/entertainment/25846935_1_rudd-weatherwax-thomas-guiry-lassie
Posted: July 27, 1994

Legend: A story from the past, believed by many, that is rich in marvelous deeds performed by a hero.

In a word, Lassie.

For more than 50 years, Lassie has made millions of people around the globe believe. This summer, Paramount Pictures is giving it another go with a new, big-screen Lassie.

Director Daniel Petrie says he was pleasantly surprised by the "charm, sweetness and intelligence" of his wanting-to-please canine star. Not so Bob Weatherwax, Lassie's trainer. Weatherwax is son of the late Rudd Weatherwax, owner-trainer of the collie star of Lassie Come Home, the 1943 Elizabeth Taylor-Roddy McDowall film that started it all. He's come to expect the sensitivity and sweetness of collies.

Most people know that all of the Lassies - including the current, eighth- generation descendant of the original - have been male. Petrie, director of such films as Fort Apache, the Bronx and Resurrection, tells why: "There was a female dog starring in Lassie Come Home until midway into the film, when she was to jump in a river and swim across it. But Lassie didn't fancy that, and refused to go."

That's when Rudd Weatherwax, lobbying on behalf of Lassie's stand-in, whom he had trained, spoke the fateful line: "Pal will do it." Pal did, snatching the role from the competition and ensuring that all future Lassies would be male.

Puppies in the Lassie dynasty - there have been about 2,500 - are bred for their distinctive markings. Those that resemble the original receive extensive training that lasts about 18 months for basic instruction, and up to two years more for elaborate routines. Because they look the same, the dogs are able to double for one another.

"Our new Lassie was just a 1 1/2-year-old pup when filming began," Petrie says, "so when some of the long shoots proved too tiring, Lassie's dad took over and completed the scene."

Like all stars, Lassie has stunt doubles, says Weatherwax, who makes it clear that his charge does scenes, not tricks.

Virginia's pristine lush Shenandoah Valley provided the setting for the new Lassie. Thomas Guiry (The Sandlot ) stars as Matt, Lassie's young master. Helen Slater is Laura, Matt's stepmother, and Jon Tenney plays his father, Steve.

"This Lassie preserves many elements of the original film," says Tenney. ''Yet this story is very much a contemporary one with issues pertinent to the '90s. Out of work, the father moves his family from the city to rural Virginia, becomes a sheep rancher and rediscovers himself and his dreams."

The story begins with a family in flux: Matt's mother has died, his father has remarried, and the family - including Matt's sister, Jennifer - is en route to a new home. They come upon the aftermath of a fatal truck accident in the process of being cleared away, and only little Jennifer sees the trucker's collie watching from the sidelines.

"Lassie selects this family as her new owners at a crossroads in all of their lives," says Slater. "The collie becomes a catalyst for Matt in his grieving for his mother and in accepting his stepmother."

"In keeping with the Lassie tradition," Petrie adds, "the collie guides the boy, teaches him things and watches over him, keeping him from danger."

"Matt is confused and doesn't know how to take his new stepmother," says Guiry, 13. "He has a bit of an attitude toward her."

And what of being in a movie with Lassie?

"The coolest part was when we were in the water and they kept reshooting," he says. "I was very tired, and all of a sudden I got so cold I just ran out of the water. I looked back and Lassie was right behind me. Lassie licked me, so I guess we're buddies. . . . She'd come right to me each time I'd arrive on the set."

Parents of young children may find it handy to know that many situations that appear menacing didn't really happen. In a rushing river Lassie looks as though she's about to succumb to the rapids. What viewers don't see are three trainers in wet suits, just out of camera range, who are standing with arms outstretched, ready to carry the collie ashore.

The ferocious fight scene between Lassie and a wolf is really just old friends playing. The two were raised together from infancy, and were having such a good time wrestling that the cinematographer had to use great care not to show the animals' tails, which were wagging nonstop.

And the wolf's terrifying growl, full-face on camera? As the wolf slurped on a juicy bone, his trainer gently tapped him on the back of the head, knowing instinct would have the animal look directly into perfectly placed camera lines and give his most aggravated growl and furious facial gestures.

*

The Story of Lassie, also must viewing for Lassie fans, premieres nationally next month during PBS's pledge period (Channel 12 at 8 p.m. on Aug. 17 and 10:40 a.m. on Aug. 20; Channel 23 at 5 p.m. on Sept. 10). The special, which celebrates the 50th anniversary of show business' most famous collie, is by the husband-wife documentary team of Gene Feldman and Suzette Winter, who have chronicled Hollywood and its stars for 20 years.

"Lassie was our first four-legged star," Feldman says, "and this production became a labor of love for us."

June Lockhart, who played the mother in many Lassie TV shows, is host of the hour special, which takes us from the beginning - Eric Knight's story that became Lassie Come Home - through Lassie's eight films, including the new one. It also features highlights from her radio days and TV debut in 1954. The network series and its syndicated successor, Lassie and Timmy, aired original episodes until 1974.

Viewers of the special reap the glorious benefits of Feldman and Winters' exhaustive research, as archival footage of Lassie and the stars who appeared with her flash by. It's great fun to watch . . . Liz Taylor, Roddy McDowall, Margaret O'Brien, Janet Leigh, Jimmy Stewart.

Fearless, loyal and true, Lassie again and again demonstrates her determination and courage. We see her fording countless rivers, crossing impossibly steep mountain ranges, coming to the rescue, jumping through windows, even fighting off Nazis. There is a scene in which Lockhart falls and cannot free her foot, and asks Lassie, "Do you remember where the C-clamp is in the barn?" The collie not only remembers, she immediately sets off to retrieve it, saving the day!

Lassie's name has appeared above the names of some of Hollywood's greatest, but nobody seemed to mind. "Many times the others and I would be walking," remembers O'Brien, "and Lassie would ride by in her limousine."

Rudd Weatherwax himself put things in perspective when someone commented about Lassie being seated on his couch. "That's OK," the trainer is reputed to have said. "Lassie paid for that couch!"


A Star-studded Cable Telemovie, But It's Improvised

Source: https://web.archive.org/web/20150919170746/http://articles.philly.com/1994-08-14/entertainment/25841294_1_parallel-lives-showtime-reunion
Posted: August 14, 1994

The names of the 19 stars of Parallel Lives don't quite reach from A to Z - only from B to W. But they still add up to one of the largest casts of recognizable names ever to participate in a telemovie.

The 19, extending alphabetically from James Belushi and James Brolin through JoBeth Williams and Treat Williams (no relation), were drawn to Parallel Lives (8 tonight on Showtime) because the show continues one of the most interesting experiments on pay-cable. This is the second largely improvised telemovie presented by Showtime, after last year's Chantilly Lace. In both films, all players were given character outlines and a sketch of the action and were told to make up their own dialogue.

Both Chantilly Lace and Parallel Lives were produced and directed by Linda Yellen. Lives is better than Lace, which suggests that Yellen's grasp of this difficult form is improving.

Yellen started with the premise that the 1948 class of Delta Epsilon Pi fraternity and Sigma Epsilon Chi sorority are having their 25th reunion at Millbank College. The reunion is organized by Stevie Merrill, who is portrayed by Liza Minnelli in Lives' best performance. Stevie functions as the anchor of Parallel Lives, meeting and identifying each new arrival for viewers.

The zaniest is rock star Una Pace (Lindsay Crouse), who is accompanied by her choreographer, Ed Starling (Paul Sorvino), and an Imaginary Friend (Dudley Moore), whom only she can see and hear. "Parallel Lives," a ballad that Una and her Imaginary Friend compose in the middle of this show, gives the production its title.

The straightest are Rebecca Stone (Patricia Wettig), who is running for the U.S. Senate seat formerly held by her father, Robert Ferguson (Jack Klugman). Rebecca is represented by a public-relations firm headed by Winnie Winslow (JoBeth Williams), accompanied by her young assistant, Elsa Freedman (Helen Slater), who tells Winnie that she is hoping to find time to lose her virginity during the weekend.

The richest is Francie Pomerantz (Gena Rowlands), a widow who lives in Paris and is expected to give the college $11 million on the weekend. Also looking for some of Francie's money is businessman Charlie Duke (Ben Gazzara), who owes $400,000 in gambling debts. Charlie still has enough scratch left to afford an attractive female "assistant," Matty DeRosa, who is so young that Francie initially thinks she is Charlie's daughter. (Matty is portrayed by Mira Sorvino, who is Paul Sorvino's daughter.)

The most promiscuous are airplane pilot Peter Barnum (Treat Williams), a freelance Lothario who flies in with Lula Sparks (Jill Eikenberry), whose occupation is unmentioned and whose head is almost as empty as her bedtimes are active.

Observing them all, and secretly tape-recording them as often as possible, is a shady journalist, Nick Dimas (James Belushi), who once shared a one-night stand with Winnie and infuriated her by subsequently writing about it.

The overall quality of Parallel Lives is remarkable, given the fact that it was filmed in only 11 days, which is about half the time devoted to shooting the average telemovie. Although there wasn't really a scriptwriter, union rules require that screenwriting credit be ascribed to someone, so the producers took the names of somebody's mother and grandmother and attributed the script to "Gisela Bernice," also the purported author of Chantilly Lace. Yellen said this device worked so impressively that several producers have asked that Bernice write something for them.

Lives is interesting at the beginning, as Stevie smiles and shakes hands with each newcomer. It slows and sags a bit in the middle, as such contrivances as a panty raid and a poker game lead nowhere, and then ignites at the end into a mini-Agatha Christie mystery presided over by the local sheriff, portrayed by Robert Wagner.

Lace and Lives together provide more than enough reasons for Showtime and Yellen to continue this approach. But a cast numbering somewhere between the seven in Lace and the 19 in Lives would probably be best, given that a couple of characters tonight are underemployed and remain fundamentally undefined.

PARALLEL LIVES

Written by "Gisela Bernice"; produced and directed by Linda Yellen for Showtime. Telecast at 8 tonight on Showtime.

PARTIAL CAST:

Stevie Merrill - Liza Minnelli

Peter Barnum - Treat Williams

Rebecca Stone - Patricia Wettig

Robert Ferguson - Jack Klugman

Winnie Winslow - JoBeth Williams

Nick Dimas - James Belushi

Una Pace - Lindsay Crouse

Ed Starling - Paul Sorvino

Lula Sparks - Jill Eikenberry

Charlie Duke - Ben Gazzara


'Baby's Day Out': Gaffes And Laughs

Source: https://web.archive.org/web/20160103132002/http://articles.philly.com/1994-12-15/entertainment/25853764_1_movie-videodisc-baby-bink
Posted: December 15, 1994

Three comedies top this week's list of new movies on video.

BABY'S DAY OUT * * * (1994) (Fox)* 99 minutes. Joe Mantegna, Lara Flynn Boyle, Jacob Worton, Adam Worton. In one corner we have 9-month-old Baby Bink, Buster Keaton in diapers, who views moving objects as transportation opportunities instead of as physical threats. In the other is a trio of bumbling babynappers, Three Stooges types, who regard the physical world as an obstacle to be evaded and who, of course, get mashed or mangled by every girder or vehicle that safely carries Baby Bink out of their collective grip. Although it's a retread of past John Hughes comedies, most notably Home Alone, the film is as irresistible as the Worton twins who play Baby Bink. PG (slapstick violence, infant-in-jeopardy). (CC)

BELLE EPOQUE * * * (1993) (Columbia TriStar)* 109 minutes. Jorge Sanz, Fernando Fernan Gomez, Maribel Verdu. The surprise winner of the 1994 foreign- film Oscar, Fernando Trueba's tale of a handsome army deserter and four beautiful sisters is a spring breeze of a movie about lust and love, sex and sunny days in the Spanish countryside. Easy on the eyes, this wide-screen period piece doesn't demand much of its audience. There are great feasts, a costume ball, a tango, a little opera and a literal roll in the hay (among several other vigorous carnal encounters). In Spanish with English subtitles; also available in a dubbed version. R (sexual situations, profanity, brief nudity, adult themes). Available on videodisc. (CC)

I LOVE TROUBLE * * * (1994) (Touchstone)* 123 minutes. Julia Roberts, Nick Nolte. Roberts and Nolte, rival reporters at competing Chicago newspapers, are like a silky Labrador and a playful golden retriever sniffing out the story - and each other - in this comedy-adventure. Their great chemistry keeps this cocktail of a movie frothy. Written by director Charles Shyer and producer Nancy Meyers, Trouble is a fizzy romantic comedy but a fizzle as an thriller movie. Paradoxically, it's a movie where the action sequences just slow it down. PG (suggestive dancing, mild oaths, violence). Available on videodisc. (CC)

BLOWN AWAY * * 1/2 (1994) (MGM/UA)* 121 minutes. Jeff Bridges, Tommy Lee Jones, Suzy Amis. Bridges is a Boston police bomb-squad member, and Jones is a vengeful Irish terrorist engaged in an increasingly personal vendetta against him. Full of pyrotechnic wizardry, but it lacks both the pace and dynamite punch of Speed and the rudimentary script, which is cratered with dramatic inconsistencies, fails to develop the potential chemistry between the two stars. R (violence, profanity). Available on videodisc. (CC)

THE WEDDING GIFT * * 1/2 (1994) (Miramax)* 87 minutes. Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent. A Dreaded Disease movie based on the true story of a British woman whose flu symptoms devolved over the course of years into blackouts, numbing pain and the inability to use her hands or to walk. As the middle-class, middle-aged couple Deric and Diana Longden, Walters and Broadbent are an engaging pair - their down-to-earth charm goes a long way toward humanizing the TV-ish, disease-of-the-week subject matter. Sian Thomas co-stars as a blind writer befriended by the Longdens, as they carom desperately from one medical consultant to another in hopes of finding the cause of her deterioration. PG-13 (medical situations, physical suffering, profanity). Available on videodisc.

* This video supplier does not set suggested retail prices on titles it deems primarily for rental.

RECENT MOVIES

BLIND JUSTICE (1994) (HBO)* 85 minutes. Armand Assante, Robert Davi. Assante plays a Civil War soldier blinded by a nasty Mexican bandit. He escapes to a friendly town and recovers - until guess who shows up. R.

CAGE II . . . THE ARENA OF DEATH (1994) (Summa)* 94 minutes. Lou Ferrigno, Reb Brown, Shannon Lee. Gentle-hearted Ferrigno is kidnapped by an evil syndicate and trained to be a hand-to-hand cage combatant.

DIRECT HIT (1993) (Republic)* 91 minutes. William Forsythe, Jo Champa, George Segal. A weary CIA assassin on the brink of retirement refuses his final assignment, becoming the protector of the woman he was supposed to kill. R. (CC)

ERNEST GOES TO SCHOOL (1994) (Monarch) $94.95. 89 minutes. Jim Varney. In this outing, Ernest is a dimwitted custodian who tries to get his high school diploma. PG.

OBLIVION (1994) (Full Moon)* 94 minutes. Carel Struychen, Julie Newmar, George Takei. In a futuristic world, a man returns to his home town to avenge the death of his father. PG-13. (CC)

A PLACE FOR ANNIE (1993) (Republic)* 98 minutes. Sissy Spacek, Mary-Louise Parker, Joan Plowright. Three very different women team up to give a home and a future to an abandoned baby. PG. (CC)

FOR CHILDREN

GEO KIDS (1994) (Columbia TriStar) $12.95. 33 minutes each. Three tapes produced by National Geographic magazine, presenting nature to young children. Individual subjects are Flying, Trying and Honking Around; Baby Cubs, Baby Ducks and Kooky Kookaburras; and Cool Cats, Raindrops and Things That Live in Holes.

VINTAGE FILMS

CRY WOLF * (1947) (MGM/UA) $19.98. 83 minutes. Errol Flynn, Barbara Stanwyck. This sad attempt to re-create the Gothic uneasiness of Jane Eyre has Stanwyck playing a widow who learns that the house she has inherited has a few secrets in the attic. (CC)

NEVER SAY GOODBYE * * (1946) (MGM/UA) $19.98. 97 minutes. Errol Flynn, Eleanor Parker. A divorced couple's young daughter acts as a matchmaker, forcing them to reconcile their differences. (CC)

INSTRUCTION

ALI MacGRAW'S YOGA MIND & BODY (1994) (Warner) $19.98. 55 minutes. The actress offers an exercise regime in hatha yoga. She is joined by instructor Erich Schiffman.

DIXIE CARTER'S UNWORKOUT II: YOGA FOR YOU (1994) (MCA/Universal) $19.98. 62 minutes. The star of TV's Designing Women offers two quick, no-impact stretch- out routines and a 10-minute relaxation session.

REEBOK WINNING BODY WORKOUT (1994) (PolyGram) $19.95. 60 minutes. A body- sculpting program by fitness trainer Petra Kolber, featuring skater Nancy Kerrigan, volleyball player Liz Masakayan, and ice-hockey goalie Manon Rheaume.

STEP REEBOK: CIRCUIT CHALLENGE (1994) (PolyGram) $19.95. 45 minutes. Fitness expert Gin Miller presents a fast-paced body-shaping, fat-burning, sculpt-and-strength workout.

DOCUMENTARY

MARILYN: THE LAST WORD (1993) (Paramount) $19.95. 57 minutes. Terry Murphy and Barry Nolan host this report from the TV series Hard Copy about the mysterious events surrounding the death of Marilyn Monroe. (CC)

COMING NEXT WEEK

Susan Sarandon, Tommy Lee Jones and Brad Renfro in THE CLIENT and Thomas Guiry, Helen Slater and Lassie in LASSIE.

Stars:

* * * * Excellent

* * * Good

* * Fair

* Poor

(Videos with no stars were not reviewed by The Inquirer.)

MPAA ratings: Motion Picture Association of America ratings are included for all titles that received them. If the title was reviewed by The Inquirer, further parental warnings (violence, nudity, etc.) are included.

(CC): Closed captioned.


Variations On A Theme By Hitchcock

Source: https://web.archive.org/web/20160102111819/http://articles.philly.com/1994-12-22/entertainment/25852839_1_thomas-guiry-lassie-profanity
Posted: December 22, 1994

A tense legal thriller and a quirky comedy top this week's list of new movies on video

THE CLIENT * * * (1994) (Warner)* 121 minutes. Susan Sarandon, Tommy Lee Jones, Brad Renfro. A clever variation on the classic Hitchcock situation that puts a child, instead of an adult, between the authorities and criminals. Director Joel Schumacher's movie ultimately works because of its willingness to depart from the worn conventions of its genre in a way that eluded The Firm and The Pelican Brief. John Grisham's story is further enriched by Sarandon and Jones. PG-13 (violence, profanity). Available on videodisc. (CC)

SPANKING THE MONKEY * * * (1994) (New Line)* 99 minutes. Jeremy Davis, Alberta Watson, Carla Gallo, Bejamin Hendrickson. A perceptive and hauntingly funny debut film detailing how a college freshman's summer plans go haywire when he has to forgo an internship to tend his bedridden mother. While playing parent to his mom, who continues to treat him like a child, the young man and his mother become embroiled in an oddball Oedipal situation. No MPAA rating (discreet nudity, incest, profanity). Available on videodisc. (CC)

LASSIE * * (1994) (Paramount)* 92 minutes. Thomas Guiry, Helen Slater, Jon Tenney, Frederic Forrest. In the latest saga starring America's favorite collie, Lassie herds sheep, kills a murderous coyote, practices family therapy without a license, gets Dad a new career, and reconciles stepson and stepmom. Heck, this dog does everything but windows. Kids, who know too intimately the physical and mental limitations of grown-ups, will be entranced by these superhuman feats. But Lassie may be the first family film that's too intense for adults. PG (collie-coyote dogfight, other animal-to-animal violence). (CC)

FOREIGN STUDENT * 1/2 (1994) (MCA/Universal)* 96 minutes. Robin Givens, Marco Hofschneider, Edward Herrmann. A dreadful coming-of-age story about the ''impossible love" between a Gallic collegian and a young black woman in the segregated South of the mid-'50s. An insufferably twinkly Hofschneider (Europa, Europa) and the radiant Givens are star-crossed lovers, stealing off to a railroad shack. Rife with stereotypes, this awkwardly directed film comes with an unintentionally hilarious remembrance-of-things-past narration. R (sexual situations, profanity, drunkenness, racial slurs). Available on videodisc. (CC)

WAGONS EAST! * (1994) (Live) $99.98. 107 minutes. John Candy, Richard Lewis, Ellen Greene. A deathly western spoof in which a Mild Bunch of pioneers gives up the rugged frontier life and heads for civilization. Candy, the mirthful, girthful star who died on location in the final weeks of production, is cast as a whiskey-soaked wagonmaster, but despite the actor's considerable heft, his presence here is spectral. He doesn't have one moment, one line that can be described as funny. The same can be said for the rest of this sorry crew, including comedian Lewis. PG (violence; sexual and scatological humor, of a sort). Available on videodisc. (CC)

* This video supplier does not set suggested retail prices on titles it deems primarily for rental.

RECENT MOVIES

EYES OF AN ANGEL (1994) (LIVE) $92.98. 91 minutes. John Travolta, Ellie Raab. A downtrodden dad and his neglected daughter find hope in the form of an abused stray Doberman. PG-13. Available on videodisc. (CC)

EYES OF A WITNESS (1994) (New Line)* 90 minutes. Jennifer Grey, Daniel J. Travanti. Thriller: American businessman Travanti finds himself in the wilds of Kenya accused of a murder he did not commit.

FAST GETAWAY II (1994) (LIVE) $89.98. 94 minutes. Corey Haim, Cynthia Rothrock. Haim and Rothrock reunite as a less-than-adroit bank-robbing team. PG-13. Available on videodisc. (CC)

LADY IN WAITING (1994) (Atlantic) $92.95. 85 minutes. Michael Nouri, Shannon Whirry, William Devane. Thriller: A cop tracks a serial killer who preys on call girls. R (also available in an unrated version).

MARRIED PEOPLE SINGLE SEX 2: FOR BETTER OR WORSE (1994) (Triboro) $92.95. 93 minutes. Kathy Shower, Monique Parent. A trio of bored married couples think they have have found the answers to their problems in other people's bedrooms. R (also available in an unrated version).

RUNNING FREE (1994) (Vidmark) $92.99. 90 minutes. Jesse Montgomery Sythe, Jayme Lee Misfeldt, Michael Pena. Fact-based coming-of-age tale about a boy seeking the wolverine cub he befriended on a previous trip to Alaska. PG-13. (CC)

THE STONED AGE (1994) (Vidmark) $94.99. 90 minutes. Michael Kopelow, Bradford Tatum, Clifton Gonzales. Comedy set in Southern California in the late 1970s, in which two guys discover a wild beach house. R.

FOR CHILDREN

SHERLOCK: UNDERCOVER DOG (1994) (Columbia TriStar)* 80 minutes. Benjamin Eroen, Brynne Cameron. During summer vacation on Catalina, a boy and a girl encounter a talking dog. PG. (CC)

VINTAGE FILMS

FOOTSTEPS IN THE DARK (1941) (MGM/UA) $19.98. 96 minutes. Errol Flynn. Comedy: Flynn is a high-society investment banker who moonlights as a mystery writer. (CC)

NORTHERN PURSUIT (1943) (MGM/UA) $19.98. 94 minutes. Errol Flynn. Action: Errol is a Mountie infiltrating a group of Nazis. (CC)

UNCERTAIN GLORY (1944) (MGM/UA) $19.98. 102 minutes. Errol Flynn. Flynn is an escaped criminal who finds himself at the mercy of Nazis after his train derails. (CC)

MADE FOR TELEVISION

THICKER THAN WATER (1993) (A&E) $39.95. 150 minutes. Theresa Russell, Jonathan Pryce. Made-for-BBC thriller with Russell as the evil twin sister of a woman killed in a car accident.

UNNATURAL PURSUITS (1993) (A&E) $39.95. 143 minutes. Alan Bates, Richard Wilson, Deborah Rush. Made-for-BBC comedy with Bates as a drinking, chain- smoking British playwright.

OTHER

COLLEGE GIRLS (1994) (NightVision) $19.95 each. 60 minutes each. Four tapes, each offering views of college women. Individual titles: Girls of the Ivy League, Girls of the Big 10, Girls of the PAC 10 and Girls of the South Eastern Colleges.

FORBIDDEN FANTASIES (1994) (AVision) $29.95. 60 minutes. Erotic fantasies depicted, from an exotic harem to high-tech erotic interaction.

GIRLS OF HOOTERS (1994) (Playboy) $19.95. 52 minutes. The loveliest employees of the infamous restaurant chain are profiled.

KAMA SUTRA: THE ART OF MAKING LOVE (1994) (A*Vision) $39.95. 60 minutes. Couples demonstrate the secrets of the ancient lovers handbook.

1995 VIDEO PLAYMATE CALENDAR (1994) (Playboy) $19.95. 55 minutes. Playmate of the year Jenny McCarthy is profiled.

PET OF THE YEAR SPECTACULAR (1994) (A*Vision) $39.95. 60 minutes. Five women vie for the title of Penthouse Pet of the Year.

SECRETS OF MAKING LOVE, VOL II (1994) (Playboy) $19.95. 60 minutes. Tips on breaking out of marital routines.

COMING NEXT WEEK

Those lovable animated dinos are back in THE LAND BEFORE TIME II: THE GREAT VALLEY ADVENTURE.

Stars:

* * * * Excellent

* * * Good

* * Fair

* Poor

(Videos with no stars were not reviewed by The Inquirer.)

MPAA ratings: Motion Picture Association of America ratings are included for all titles that received them. If the title was reviewed by The Inquirer, further parental warnings (violence, nudity, etc.) are included.

(CC): Closed captioned.

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