Scan Lines

Showgirls

D: Paul Verhoeven; with Elizabeth Berkeley, Kyle McLachlan, Gina Gershon, Glenn Plummer, Alan Rachins.
VHS Home Video
Encore Movies & Music, 8820 Burnet

No director who ever set out to deliberately make a bad movie made a good bad movie -- it's always those with loftier aspirations that trip and stumble face-first. Enter for bad-movie aficionados Showgirls, a stinker of the first order and well worth the time watching it. Only the most hormonally challenged will be titillated by the constant parade of flesh in this totally lame-o story of Nomi Malone (Berkeley) who just wants to be "a dancer" -- a naked one, of course. Add a meaningless subplot that ends in rape and one of the most ludicrous love scenes in cinematic history, and the recipe for cine le pew is complete. Small wonder that Malone's mantra in the movie -- "It doesn't suck" -- became the film's best-known line. It does suck, but in a way we all love.

-- Margaret Moser


Afterlife

CD-ROM for PC* and Mac
LucasArts Entertainment

Afterlife is a politically incorrect SimCity, a pun-filled comedy routine masquerading as a "god" game -- or is it a sim with a sense of humor? Whatever its classification, you're not in any Kansas metropolis anymore -- there's a heaven and a hell to grow and try to keep in precarious balance. The game combines amusing hi-res graphics, matching sounds, unforgivable puns (visual and otherwise), and, by God, a real sim engine under all that frosting that will take several tens of hours to master. It's karmic, it's comic, it's almost terminally cute, but there is solid gameplay here. You can even "lose" SimCity mayors up for a challenge. Nabobs with a sense of humor ready to lay down the deadly earnestness of divine ambition, this game is for you. (Single speed required, triple speed advisable; onboard acronym-decode acceleration highly recommended). -- Jim Cooper


Sense and Sensibility

D: Ang Lee; with Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, Hugh Grant, Alan Pickman.
VHS Home Video
Vulcan Video, 609 W. 29th

Between Ang Lee's rich directorial vision and Emma Thompson's Academy Award-winning script, Sense and Sensibility came out on the top of the Austen revival heap in 1995. It's easy to feel sympathetic with the young and vivacious Marianne Dashwood as well as her pragmatic older sister, Elinor, one all heightened sensibility and the other all good sense. Once again, we find Austen pitting the middle class against the true elite and marrying up the best young women into money. As director of Eat Drink Man Woman and The Wedding Banquet,both films about modern day Chinese-American families, Lee was not necessarily the obvious choice for a mannered English costume romance, but his refined touch is a perfect match for this poignant tale. -- Kayte VanScoy


Mansfield Park

D: David Giles; with Sylvestra Le Touzel, Nicholas Farrell, Anna Massey, Bernard Hepton, Angela Pleasence.
VHS Home Video
Vulcan Video, 609 W. 29th

On the other end of the Jane Austen adaptation spectrum, the spirits of Mansfield Park are sorely dampened by poor production values. If they had had video cameras in the 19th century, then this is what their home movies would have looked like. The perfectly good story of Fanny Price, the lowly cousin who is too good a soul not to marry well, is dragged out for four harrowing hours in this 1983 BBC TV mini-series. If you're looking for a good costume picture with which to while away the afternoon, don't make it this one. -- Kayte VanScoy


The Thin Man

D: W.S. Van Dyke; with William Powell, Myrna Loy, Maureen O'Sullivan, Nat Pendleton, Minna Gombell, Cesar Romero, Natalie Moorhead, Edward Ellis, Porter Hall.
VHS Home Video

In 1936, just two and a half years after its release, film critic Otis Ferguson was already calling the comic detective thriller The Thin Man a legend. He remarked that the film seemed to be "photographed in a bowl of light," and though James Wong Howe's cinematography is notable, the film's charm is created in large part by the perfect pairing of William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles. Their superb screen chemistry, as well as their canine sidekick Asta, provides ample reason to rent this classic, though the screenwriters' finely woven adaptation of the Dashiell Hammett novel is another reason. In short, a charming and intriguing film.

-- Clay Smith

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