VHS Home Video
Whatever the story might be on writer/director Gregory Widen, the words "Catholic school" must be written all over his transcript. Maybe a failed priest -- the fate assigned his no-charisma protagonist (Koteas), a cop by way of seminary school who's working the homicide of an angel. Gabriel (Walken), trumpet and all, comes after the white wing tips of angel Simon (Stoltz) for a little payback and the soul he stole -- that of an evil war criminal who'll decide the war in heaven in favor of Gabriel's minions who think God's "talking monkeys" (you and me) aren't as... er, beautiful as Gabriel. Walken walks away with another prize for his cult-cluttered mantelpiece as the gleefully menacing grievous angel, though the devil (Mortensen) almost steals it back in the best Lucifer cameo since De Niro in Angel Heart. -- Raoul Hernandez
Best Brains Studio, Inc.
Vulcan Video, 609 W. 29th Street
In the tradition of television's innumerable blooper programs, those wacky folks at Best Brains (the studio responsible for Mystery Science Theater 3000) have compiled yet another video tidbit. In this video we get the straight dope -- or poopie -- on what it takes to put together an episode of MST3K. Outtakes of host segments are a laugh-riot of gaffes, blunders, and bad puns involving Mike Nelson, Joel Robinson, and robots Tom Servo and Crow. To paraphrase one of the lines from an episode of MST3K, watching MST3K Poopie is just like using voodoo -- a safe, economical way to inflict a gentle kind of evil on the world. -- Alison Macor
Warcraft II: Beyond
the Dark Portal
Fans of last year's runaway real-time strategy hit Warcraft II: The Tides of Darkness are in luck. Blizzard has released an expansion set with two new campaigns, one Orc and one human, and 50 new custom maps. Players can choose to command either the noble, but boring, humans, or the bloodthirsty Orcs. Drawbacks to Beyond the Dark Portal include a high difficulty level and dearth of cinematic cut-scenes. On the plus side, each army now has heroes (extremely powerful characters) at their disposal and there are new battlegrounds set in the Orcish homeland. In order to run Beyond the Dark Portal, players must already have Tides of Darkness installed. -- Bud Simons
D: David Anspaugh; with Elizabeth Perkins, Gwyneth Paltrow, Josef Sommer,
Jeremy Sisto, Kathleen Turner, Whoopi Goldberg, Jon Bon Jovi.
Moonlight and Valentino
VHS Home Video
I Luv Video, 4631 Airport Blvd.
In a modern world it takes death at your doorstep to consider spirituality. Ellen Simon's (daughter of Neil Simon) play-turned-film offers variations on the bereavement process that include humor, psychotherapy, and a little Jon Bon Jovi (in his film debut). Rebecca's (Perkins) husband dies and her support group -- an eccentric friend with marital problems, a domineering ex-stepmother with a cell phone/fax machine addiction, and her introverted chain-smoking sister (Paltrow) -- all come together for what those in the chick-flick biz call "female bonding" and those in the therapy profession term "letting go." The astute script fails to effectively cross over into film as it is sporadically hobbled by unsuccessful scenes and inconsistent performances. The annoying psychobabble never fully achieves Woody Allen caliber, nor stays rooted in believable drama, but instead hangs in limbo to create a kind of Melrose Place mystique. -- Stephany Baskin
D: Walter Hill; with Jeff Bridges,
Ellen Barkin, John Hurt, Diane Lane, David Arquette, Christina Applegate, Bruce Dern.
VHS Home Video
Encore Music and Video,
Unfairly dismissed by critics and audiences alike,Wild Bill is director Walter Hill's best film in years: a thematically ambitious western that deserves a second chance on video. An unusually structured, flashback-filled look at the last days of the legendary gunslinger, Wild Bill is most interesting as an ironic examination of America's mythmaking machine, although it's also satisfying as both an action picture and a drama, thanks to Hill's imaginative direction and solid, witty performances from just about the entire cast. MGM's VHS videocassette looks fine, but take a look at the laserdisc if you have the capability. It's the only format that truly does justice to Lloyd Ahern's gorgeous cinematography, which was some of the best to grace theatre screens last year. -- Joey O'Bryan