The Idolmaker

D: Taylor Hackford; with Ray Sharkey, Tovah Feldshuh, Peter Gallagher, Joe Pantolino, Maureen McCormick.
VHS Home Video
Encore Movies & Music, 8820 Burnet

For all the dopey rock & roll clichés to which The Idolmaker falls victim, this 1980 movie remains late actor Ray Sharkey's best screen performance -- an ambitious, Svengali-like songwriter who sees his talents better manifested in others. As he cultivates and grooms for stardom various teen idol up-and-comers (including a young Peter Gallagher), he discovers a yearning to pursue the spotlight himself. Tovah Feldshuh's ho-hum turn as the uptight teen-magazine editor is a useless subplot, serving only to provide the obligatory romance angle, but Maureen McCormick's brief appearance as a groupie will delight Brady Bunch fans who fantasized about a grittier side of the Marcia-meets-Davy-Jones segment. Sixties-pop composer Jeff Barry penned the soundtrack, which booms and genuinely resonates with the same exhilaration as the era itself. -- Margaret Moser

Dead Presidents

D: The Hughes Brothers; with Larenz Tate, Keith David, Chris Tucker, Freddy Rodriguez, Rose Jackson, N'Bushe Wright.
VHS Home Video
Waterloo Video 1016 W. Sixth

There's no doubt that Menace II Society, the Hughes Brothers' first effort, is a powerful film depicting the cyclical nature of the dead-end existence bred by the economics of the inner city. Dead Presidents shares this theme, but in a more subtle, mature way. A group of good-natured boys who go off to Vietnam and return home with all the standard hardships (plus being broke in the ghetto), eventually organize an inconceivable robbery they believe will deliver them from the war zone once and for all. While Dead Presidents offers a fresh perspective on both movie genres (war and crime) it attempts to combine, the film is rather ambitious in its undertaking. There are essentially three movies in one here -- pre-Vietnam, during the war, and the difficult Seventies re-entry which spurs on the crime -- and the weight of the story detracts from a basically quality film with both a good cast and atmosphere. Each of these parts could make a film in itself, and Dead Presidents suffers a little for it. -- Jen Scoville

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

D: Fritz Lang; with Dana Andrews, Joan Fontaine, Sidney Blackmer, Philip Bourneuf, Barbara Nichols.
VHS Home Video
Vulcan Video, 609 W. 29th

When the future son-in-law of a newspaper tycoon is indicted for strangling a showgirl and dumping her body, everyone is shocked except the audience, who is already in-the-know about his little experiment with the justice system. And what a lonely one it could turn out to be. While the accused and the audience relax in the knowledge of his innocence, the power-hungry prosecutor is fast proving the guilt of this curious cat. Joan Fontaine smolders as the prim and bejeweled fiancée of the high-powered beau-on-trial. Though not director Lang's best film noir effort -- the plot is a bit convoluted and unbelievable -- my craving for a silvery Fifties suspense film was certainly satisfied. -- Kayte VanScoy

Mission Force Cyberstorm

CD-ROM for Windows

Cyberstorm allows you to command a force of up to 26 HERC robots through brutal battles on distant planets against the parasitic Cybreds. Each battle is a test of planning and preparation as well as tactical prowess. Before landing in hostile territory, the player puts together a squadron of gigantic HERCs by selecting chassis, armor, shields, weapons, and so on. Then genetically engineered Bioderms are created to pilot the beast-like machines. Once in the fray, pilots are directed to favorable positions in order to lay waste to the defending Cybred forces. Each turn allows access to the action from above, commanding the Bioderms to victory. While fighting the computer-controlled Cybred forces is interesting, a greater challenge awaits those who choose multi-player battles where up to eight humans can participate at once. -- Kurt Dillard


D: Christopher Hampton; with Emma Thompson, Jonathan Pryce, Steven Waddington, Samuel West, Rufus Sewell, Penelope Wilton.
VHS Home Video

Taking one's time to tell a story reaps its own rewards, but in filmmaking that reward is often a dubious distinction. Christopher Hampton's Carrington falls prey to this criticism, yet it is a wonderful story nonetheless. Divided into chapters, Carrington provides glimpses of the "dazzling but doomed" life of the painter Dora Carrington and her love relationships, particularly with the potently gay writer Lytton Strachey. And although the viewer wants more than glimpses of these characters, the film vividly recreates the Bloomsbury world they inhabit. Ultimately a statement about self-destruction, Carrington convincingly conveys the vicissitudes of the avant-garde, artistic life. -- Clay Smith

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