Ninotchka

D: Ernst Lubitsch; with Greta Garbo, Melvyn Douglas, Bela Lugosi, Ina Claire.
VHS Home Video

During its original release, the greatest attraction of this 1939 comedy written by Billy Wilder et al., was the fact that Garbo actually laughed in the film, and today that attraction is just as magnetic. Nineties viewers, however, will also find it a fascinating document of international politesse that, though pointedly humorous, is pointed nonetheless. Garbo plays a Soviet commissar come to Paris to monitor the activities of three bumbling underlings, and accidentally falls in love with a Parisian playboy. Ninotchka is the amusing and touching epitome of what people are talking about when they say they just don't make 'em like they used to. -- Clay Smith


27 Pieces of Me

D: Gerald Donahoe; with Tina M. Denning, Angelique Von Halle, Jonathan Harris, Rebecca M. Davis, Scott Ramirez.
VHS Home Video
I Luv Video, 4631 Airport Blvd.

From the first-ever annual Rainy States Film Festival of 1995, an event orchestrated to showcase independent filmmakers of the Pacific Northwest, comes the feature-length 27 Pieces of Me. Tanya's sister Ramona (Von Halle) leaves her husband in hometown Bartley, Nebraska to surprise her self-exiled sister Tanya (Denning), who lives as an artist in Seattle. A tense reunion causes Tanya's friend and studio-mate Bold (Harris) to impose his friendly amateur therapy on the sisters in attempt to heal their wounds. "Award winning," they say. I hate to rain on their parade, but all the lattes in Seattle couldn't invigorate the one-dimensional story line stocked with cliché scenarios and overtly deliberate acting style. What could have been an exploration of the plight of misunderstood artists, homosexuals, and siblings, results in three adult characters acting like a trio of pouty "inner children" flipping lines back and forth. However, Gina Hicks' interesting cinematography, the original score by Matt Nimms of the Tiny Hat Orchestra, and music by Seattle's local bands Ganja Farmers, Stinkhorn, and Lisa Koch enhance the enjoyment factor.

-- Stephany Baskin


Quake

id Software
PC CD-ROM

Quake has hit like the entrails of a butchered and gutted steer hitting the floor of an abattoir. Hellish brutes ceaselessly heave forth as spew from the gaping maw of some crippled demon rejected by Lucifer. There is a story behind this haunting game, but who really cares? It's the action and atmosphere that matter, and there's more than enough of both. The levels are beautifully elaborate; the soundtrack by Trent Reznor hauntingly ominous. Once you tire of playing alone you must find a way to check out the multi-player game. If you've got access to a LAN, play it there, but with a modem you can play over the Internet as well. This game has to be lived, not read about. -- Kurt Dillard


Shadow of Angels

D: Daniel Schmid; with Ingrid Caven, Klaus Loewitsch, Adrian Hoven, Anne Marie Duringer, Jean Claude-Dreyfus.
VHS Home Video
Waterloo Video, 1016 W. Sixth

Marketed as a Fassbinder film, this one was actually co-scripted by the prolific German filmmaker from a stage play he wrote and directed. The film version is directed by Daniel Schmid (in steady camera Fassbinder style, I might add). Still a typical example of the themes explored throughout his works, the story manages a glimpse of something higher in the lowest depths of the world. If some of Fassbinder's scenarios weren't so desperate, the stylized, lofty language abounding from the characters who inhabit them could appear almost funny -- a sign of the director's many successes in the genre of absurd comedy as well. Shadow of Angels (1976), however, is a sparse, hopeless story of an unwanted, consumptive prostitute (Caven) who eventually meets a repugnant, yet wealthy john who pays her to listen to him rant. Fassbinder himself stars as the homosexual pimp to whom this woman is devoted; their dysfunctional relationship is all the more chilling in light of the fact that he was for a time married to the actress in real life. -- Jen Scoville


Jupiter's Wife

D: Michel Negroponte.
VHS Home Video
Vulcan Video, 609 W. 29th

Maggie Cogan claims to be many things: the wife of Zeus, the daughter of film star Robert Ryan, and the mother of quintuplets. She is a schizophrenic who lives with her backpack and dog pack in Central Park. Negroponte documents two years in the marginal but strangely happy life that Maggie leads, but also probes deeper into the truth behind her cryptic fantasy life. As the mystery of her past unfolds, the depth of Maggie's loss emerges. What he finds is a woman of strength and courage who was left behind by the world when the winds of her mental illness really took hold. -- Kayte VanScoy

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