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"Go"-Ing Nowhere

Plus: The Long-awaited Restored Legend?

An Aisle Seat Entry

By Andy Dursin

STAR WARS mania is picking up--as if you needed to hear that again. Seriously, there are several excellent publications now out devoted to the upcoming EPISODE ONE film that are well worth catching if you haven't done so already. This month's MOVIELINE features two revealing interviews with Liam Neeson and James Earl Jones, who makes some pointed comments not only about his career but also Spike Lee and African-American filmmakers in general. PREMIERE, meanwhile, contains a plethora of WARS related material, the most revealing aspect being a Q&A with George Lucas himself. I don't usually mention magazines in this column (you just know FSM will be having a STAR WARS blowout this summer, as will every other film-related mag), but I thought I'd draw your attention to these two among others, in case you are feverishly awaiting this movie, as are most folks out there.

There was some news about a possibly restored video release of LEGEND out and about this week on the net--check out our Home Video Round-Up below for details, and remember to send all comments to dursina@att.net for discussion and debate!

In Theaters

GO (**1/2): Director Doug Liman's follow-up to his cult favorite SWINGERS is already the most wildly overpraised movie of 1999, for although it is mildly entertaining and always watchable, GO plays like "Pulp Fiction Lite," or a teen Tarantino-wannabe where nobody gets killed.

Liman and screenwriter John August employ a three-pronged narrative structure that begins and ends with 17-year-old supermarket clerk Sarah Polley (former child star of ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN and AVONLEA) needing to cough up some rent money or be evicted from her apartment. Stepping in to feed narcotics (actually pharmaceuticals like aspirin and allergy medication) to unsuspecting teens thinking it's the ultimate high, Polley is soon flung right into the middle of trouble with a real drug dealer and the picture moves forward with its two other, barely interconnected stories: the first involving Polley's coworker pal Desmond Askew and a group of friends causing havoc in Las Vegas, the second revolving around soap opera stars Jay Mohr and Scott Wolf going undercover to expose a drug ring for a strange cop played by William Fichtner.

Although Liman paces the film extremely well and August's dialogue is occasionally amusing, the trouble with GO is that it just isn't very compelling, nor hysterically funny. The film's first act, establishing Polley's inner-circle of friends (including Katie Holmes) selling ersatz-drugs, isn't particularly interesting and never becomes the integral focal point that the movie needs to ground the story; after Liman and August leave the bookending plot for the other two tales of reckless teens, there doesn't seem to be much motivation to return to the opening sequences with characters who weren't all that interesting to begin with. As for the following stories, both are more amusing though neither achieves (comically or dramatically) the high-pitched level of manic energy Liman infuses in his direction--the Vegas portion is freewheeling but derivative (and culminates in a car chase, naturally), while the more unabashedly comic final narrative strand lacks a punchline.

The cast tries hard and GO does manage to raise several smiles, but so much of the movie feels like warmed-over Tarantino--from its flashback framework to its "hip" dialogue and ambivalent characters-- that the movie ultimately misses the bullseye by a fairly wide margin, despite being modestly entertaining throughout. (R)

Home Video: LEGEND news, SLUMS OF BEVERLY HILLS and HEATHERS reviews

Fans of Ridley Scott's botched 1985 fantasy LEGEND received some potentially great news this past week when a couple of fairly reliable internet sites noted that the movie--long due for a restoration--is allegedly high on Universal's priority list for a Special Collector's Edition DVD and laserdisc release.

If you're a champion of Jerry Goldsmith's outstanding original score for this movie (thrown out of the butchered North American version and replaced with an inappropriate and also comprised synth score by Tangerine Dream), this comes as news that listeners have been waiting for since the film's disastrous American release in the Spring of '86.

Of course, nothing official has been announced, but it does seem that the timing is right for a restored version: it has been said that Ridley Scott's involvement was key to a possible Special Edition, and now that Scott has completed work on the upcoming Fox DVD of ALIEN ($34.95, due June with both Goldsmith's unedited score and the film soundtrack isolated on separate channels!), it appears that Scott has the availability necessary to perform the needed adjustments to the picture.

The thinking is that the hang-up has always been Scott's involvement, as well as some possible copyright issues with Goldsmith's score (I'm not clear as to the specifics of this problem, since if Universal owned the movie in the U.S. and Canada, wouldn't they own the rights to the original score as well since their TV edits included a scene that still contained Jerry's score?). The murmurs (and rumors) going around is that Universal and Scott will be attempting to include both versions of the movie on the DVD along with additional supplemental materials, something that could cause delays in clearing all the rights and undertaking the proper restoration--issues that could push this release back until next year.

Still, if that's what it will take to finally see an unexpurgated, letterboxes version of LEGEND in this country, then so be it. Fans have waited long enough that another few months won't be a problem if this release is performed with the right care and includes the extra materials viewers have been waiting for. Given Universal's outstanding restoration of 1941 among others in their "Signature Collection" series over the last few years, LEGEND is undoubtedly in the right hands, and we'll post updates as soon as they become available to us.

In the meantime, for specific links to the gossip and all sorts of definitive info on the movie, the music, and the myriad versions of LEGEND out there, be sure to check out the essential "LEGEND FAQ" (one of my favorite links) at http://www.figmentfly.com/legend/index.shtml

Other news--Columbia's June DVD of GHOSTBUSTERS is supposed to contain a bounty of all-new supplements, including plenty of deleted scenes not even contained on Criterion's old deluxe laserdisc release. Commentary and all sorts of goodies round out what should be one of '99's most anticipated DVD releases, which will hit store shelves in early June. Also, Universal's long-planned Special Edition release of THE LAST STARFIGHTER hits shelves in a laserdisc edition this week, later on DVD. (Neither release has any music-intensive content as far as we can tell). Image, meanwhile, has scheduled both V and V-THE FINAL BATTLE for domestic laserdisc premieres this June.

Image recently released one of last year's better indie films, SLUMS OF BEVERLY HILLS (***), on laserdisc. Writer-director Tamara Jenkins has fashioned an unique coming-of-age story featuring a gypsy- like family traveling around Beverly Hills and assorted Cali locales during the 1970s. As the blossoming teen daughter of father Alan Arkin, Natasha Lyonne (once one of the little tykes on PEE-WEE'S PLAYHOUSE) gives a terrific starring performance as a girl growing up in a jumbled era with a motherless family recently complimented by wacky cousin Marisa Tomei, a would-be nurse in training who just got out of rehab. The film's finale feels a bit awkward (as they are in most movies of this sort), but most of the picture is well-written and thoroughly well performed, with Lyonne, Arkin, and Tomei each giving memorable performances. The movie may not be a "CLUELESS for the '70s," as one reviewer's comment notes on the cover (it's too disjointed and erratically paced for that), but SLUMS OF BEVERLY HILLS is nevertheless strangely affecting and contains plenty of laughs, with a star-making performance by Lyonne, soon to be seen in this summer's vulgar, raunchy (and highly anticipated) teen comedy AMERICAN PIE.

Just released from Anchor Bay on DVD is HEATHERS (***), a movie that needs no introduction to most viewers. This 1988 teen comedy, while almost completely lacking a bona-fide high school atmosphere as such (the extras look like they're about 40!), has one of the largest cult followings of any film released during the last twenty years, and made stars out of Winona Ryder, Christian Slater, and Shannen Doherty. A pitch-black comedy about teen suicide and murder in the "in crowd," HEATHERS has aged fairly well, with its pointed observations of high school cliques and social relationships still relevant to any high school education. Even if director Michael Lehmann and screenwriter Daniel Waters never topped their effort here (their next big movie was HUDSON HAWK, though at least Waters also co-wrote DEMOLITION MAN and BATMAN RETURNS), HEATHERS stands as enough of an achievement for most filmmakers' dossiers. Anchor Bay's DVD looks a whole lot better than Lumivision's Special Edition laserdisc from a couple of years ago, although the source materials still don't appear as if they're in the greatest of shape. The trailer (with its obnoxious "Three Blind Mice" musical backing) and a featurette are both included on the DVD, although the interesting commentary track found on the laser is disappointingly absent here.

Finally, if you're a laserdisc fan still hunting for bargains, Image reduced the price on hundreds of titles. Check out the full listing at http://www.laserviews.com/laser-news.html and if you happen to see something of interest, find it and buy it soon--many titles are low in stock and unlikely to be repressed, given the fragile state of the industry now. Also worth checking out is Ken Crane's, which recently reduced many other excellent lasers on their website--goodies like the restored DANCES WITH WOLVES among others for $10! Visit www.kencranes.com and click on the Specials link for the complete listing.

BACK NEXT TIME... With more reviews and releases. Be sure to keep your comments coming in to dursina@att.net and we'll see you next time! Excelsior!


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