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3 NINJAS: HIGH NOON AT MEGA MOUNTAIN

Columbia Tristar

Slogan: Saving the Day the Ninja Way

“This is my movie!” exclaimed young Rashad, grabbing the video box from the teetering pile. The eager lad had seen all of the previous 3 Ninjas escapades and excitedly recounted their wacky misadventures. Now that Hulk Hogan has joined the series, bringing along Loni Anderson in dominatrix garb and Jim Varney, unfortunately not in Ernest garb, it seemed like the fourth time would be charming. And so we were soon joined by Rashad’s younger sisters, Kiya and Sharte, and settled in for an evening of rollicking preteen action. (Must I add “onscreen”? Honestly, people.) Admittedly, we got a late start, which probably explains why the children fell asleep long before the movie ended. But before they did, they correctly foretold how the trio would defeat the bad guys (using the scientific know-how of a girl, no less! Imagine). Truly, this film is child’s play. PAUSE.

THE SHRUNKEN CITY

Pulsepounders

Slogan: Two Young Heroes…One Small Town

Big Hollywood studios don’t know how to make comic-book movies. They pour in money for effects that are too real, effects based on the cynical outlook of disaffected 30-something tech-heads, rather than the wide-eyed imaginings of 10-year-olds. Worse, they try to force meaning into the stories. Please. But Charles Band knows comic books. His Full Moon Studios (of which Pulsepounders is a subsidiary) has been cranking out comic-inspired series for years. So if Superman has a bottle city of Kandor, Band gives us the bottle city of Shandar, and effects that are just believable enough, and design and acting commensurate with the two-dimensional drawings that inspired them. Bravo. PLAY.

KRAA! THE SEA MONSTER

Pulsepounders

Slogan: Big Alien…Bad Attitude

Another effort from the mind of Charles Band, this is Godzilla as it should be: no computers, no product tie-ins, just a guy in a rubber suit crushing miniature buildings. Kraa! is so low-tech, you suspect the script was written with colored pencils. “I’ll watch it,” said Rashad, “but I don’t think it’s gonna be any good.” Rashad is a very perceptive kid. Even the original Godzilla was pretty stupid. EJECT.

A VERY UNLUCKY LEPRECHAUN

New Horizons

Slogan: Luck Can Change in the Twinkle of an Eye.

Warwick Davis usually plays the evil leprechaun in the Leprechaun series. Here he cavorts as a merely mischievous little person, though unlike the horror films, this was actually filmed in Ireland. The script has all the sensitivity of a Lucky Charms commercial, but little of the mystery and wonder the subject requires, as in the definitive leprechaun film, Darby O’Gill & the Little People. Of course, that has Sean Connery singing. At least Unlucky co-star Tim Matheson doesn’t sing. For the very, very young: PAUSE.

INVISIBLE DAD

A-Pix

Slogan: Now You See Him…Now

You Don’t

I put this in just to see if the effects were as transparent as they are in Invisible Mom. They are, but this time the story and acting are visibly worse, despite the impressive credit, “And Karen Black.” Mom producer Andrew Stevens and director Fred Olen Ray return, but this time without writer W.C. Martell, obviously the key to the original’s success. Word via the Net from Count Gore De Vol is that work is already under way on Invisible Mom II. We’ll see. EJECT.

GIRLS IN PRISON

Dimension

Slogan: They Were Rebels Without

a Clue!

After so much wholesome family viewing, it was time for more mature fare. For me and my friend Patty, that means catfight, catfight, catfight! And if you add Ione Skye in some nude interracial lesbo action, you have the makings of the perfect motion picture. OK, not perfect by a long stretch, but this John McNaughton-directed homage features lovely, if low-budget, ’50s design and a passel of handsome hard-smoking dames. As the controversial Anne Heche strutted her perky breasts brazenly through the shower, Patty was moved to ask, “You wonder—did Ellen see this? Is this in her video collection?” It’s in mine. FREEZE-FRAME.

MAGENTA

Moonlight Entertainment

Slogan: Beauty Made Her Irresistible. Youth Made Her Forbidden.

“You’re scum, that’s what you are,” says a character in this “A Gregory C. Hines Film.” True. What begins as a mere rip-off of Lolita ends in ugly psychodrama as all the scumballs get what they deserve and what no one deserves to watch. The credits proudly declare “And introducing Crystal Atkins as Magenta,” but this is not a name to remember. The vaguely humanoid creature can barely speak, barely move her mouth—an important skill in an erotic thriller, neither of which this is. EJECT.

FRENCH EXIT

Columbia/Tristar

Slogan: Even in Hollywood, Falling in Love Is the Luckiest Break of All.

I’ve been had. This thing was made in 1995. While it’s nice to see Timothy Leary back from the dead, I’m not surprised that director Daphna Kastner’s tale of star-crossed screenwriters (Jonathan Silverman and Madchen Amick) sat on the shelf so long. But ’twas not all fruitless viewing. For the film’s best performance is by the fiery redhead Molly Hagen, whom I immediately pledged to make mine. After some preliminary cyber-stalking, I located a few small images at hard-to-find-actresses.com (really!) and discovered that all the old reviews agree: Exit is not terrible, but not terribly exciting or insightful. And all agree that Molly is faboo. Back off, geeks! FREEZE-FRAME.

THE LEADING MAN

BMG

This “A John Duigan Film” begins with ex-rocker Jon Bon Jovi walking through London to the Talking Heads song “Burning Down the House.” What might be a sarcastic comment on the former hair-band singer is actually foreshadowing, and the film settles into a love quadrangle among flighty theater folk. We should all be happy that Mr. Bon Jovi is forsaking music for the cinema, for which his sulky, shirtless charms are better suited. He holds his own with such English eminences as Barry Humphries, and everyone is so charmingly wicked you want to forget that there are children being hurt by all the cheating. If they didn’t keep showing the tearful tykes, you could. PAUSE.

HOMEGROWN

Columbia/Tristar

Jon Bon Jovi is also in this funny-but-not-exactly-a-comedy film about pot farmers, as are Jamie Lee Curtis, Hank Azaria, Billy Bob Thornton, Judge Reinhold, and Ted Danson, with music by Yes-man Trevor Rabin. But the most enlightened casting is that of Leigh French. Though unrecognizable and with barely one line, her minuscule appearance shows that the filmmakers were on the ball—French first gained notoriety on the late-’60s Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, playing a stoned hippie in a continuing segment called “Have a Little Tea with Goldie.” At the time, it was an inside wink to the potheads in the audience. (“Tea,” geddit?) It was years before I got the joke; I just thought French was kinda cute, but really dumb. The really dumb execs finally caught on and canceled the show. Thirty years later, after bravely releasing the pot-centric Half-Baked, studios have again decided that marijuana is nothing to joke about, and Tristar sent this right to video. PAUSE.

THE AVENGERS

A&E Home Video

Slogan: The Original British Cult Classic

“The Avengers has been very good to me,” Patrick Macnee says from the comfort of his Rancho Mirage, Calif., home. While the digitally remastered re-release of his excellent TV series is a bit removed from the purview of this column, when the opportunity arises to speak with John Steed, one leaps. One also leaps at the opportunity to take another swipe at the ludicrous big-screen Avengers remake. Based on a reading of the movie novelization, my suspicions are confirmed—the sadly miscast Uma Thurman-Ralph Fiennes version will stink on ice. Thus these tapes from the first season the series ran in color are well-timed. When queried about earlier episodes, Macnee replies, “I wish they’d colorize those 26 black-and-whites I did with Di Rigg, because they were sooo good. The A&E people were shocked when I said it.” As most right-thinking people should be. But we’ll forgive Macnee, who lives partly on the show’s residuals. “I don’t think they’ll sell in black and white,” he argues. Maybe, maybe not; but even he admits, “They’re awfully good, aren’t they? Those black-and-white ones, in my opinion, are the best.” Mr. Macnee’s opinion is absolutely correct. But full-color Emma Peel is also worth every penny. PLAY.

—Dave Nuttycombe

Next month: Martell it like it is!

BULK ERASE: Don’t get this tape near your VCR.

EJECT: Major time-waster.

PAUSE: Worth part of your time.

FREEZE-FRAME: Some scenes suggested for mature audiences.

PLAY: OK, but not necessarily synonymous with “good.”