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The Star Maker

D: Giuseppe Tornatore; with Sergio Castellitto, Leopoldo Pinto, Franco Scaldati, Tony Sperandeo, Clelia Rondinella, Jane Alexander, Tano Cimarosa, Costantino Carrozza, Tony Palazzo.
VHS Home Video
I Luv Video, 4631 Airport Blvd.


The Star Maker
From Giuseppe Tornatore, the Oscar-winning Italian director of Cinema Paradiso, comes this 1996 Oscar-nominee for best foreign language film, The Star Maker. Joe Morelli (Castellitto), a charlatan with a megaphone-topped truck filled with movie-camera equipment, drives into Sicilian villages promising fame and fortune to those who look Lady Luck in the face (and pay 300 lire for a screen test to be sent back to Universal Studios in Rome). The war-worn villagers of 1953 leap at this chance for a glamorous life, clamoring to have their go at acting. Virtually overnight, the village becomes a Hollywood set with citizens spruced up in their Sunday best spouting lines from Gone With the Wind. Inevitably, screen tests become more personalized and stories and secrets that will never make it to Rome are immortalized on celluloid. This warm, comedic drama moves into tragedy when Joe's messy past and the old-world mafia catch up with him. The Star Maker's characters move through honest revelations with exacting precision, capturing the essence of hope and desperation associated with post-war village life. -- Stephany Baskin


Shattered Steel

Interplay
PC CD-ROM

I'm not sure that I can find words strong enough to express the degree of disappointment I felt when I fired up Shattered Steel for this review. Of course, I'll still give it a shot. The game is a horrendous disaster. While the game fails on many levels -- the missions, the story, the characterization, and the animation are all sub-standard -- what stands out most is the abysmal graphics engine used to display the playing environment. With games like Quake and Wing Commander IV currently popular, players expect a game that takes place in a 3-D world to look three-dimensional. Somehow, the creators of Shattered Steel contrived a hideously unconvincing psuedo 3-D game. It looks terrible and it plays awkwardly. The only saving graces for this sad attempt at entertainment software is the art for some of the game set-up screens as well as one or two decent cinematic sequences, but these are hardly of enough value to even justify the expense of producing the box the game is shipped in.

-- Kurt Dillard


Full Contact

D: Ringo Lam; with Chow Yun-fat, Simon Yam, Anthony Wong.
VHS Home Video
Vulcan Video, 609 W. 29th St.

Before he became blandly assimilated into the American filmmaking machine with the muddled Jean-Claude Van Damme vehicle Maximum Risk, Hong Kong action director Ringo Lam was giving us brilliantly out-of-control offerings like Full Contact, a beautifully shot, jaw-dropping hour-and-a-half of seedy characters, wild double-crosses, and even wilder action sequences. Hard-Boiled's Chow Yun-fat stars as a bad-ass, butterfly knife-wielding nightclub bouncer and sometime criminal seeking revenge after he is betrayed by his best buddy who has fallen in with a flamboyant, gay gangster (Simon Yam, absolutely incredible) and his outrageous entourage. Loud, violent, sexed-up, and politically incorrect as hell, Full Contact is a one-of-a-kind action film full of scene-stealing performances and the sort of loopy thrills that could only be made in Hong Kong. -- Joey O'Bryan


Brief Encounter

D: David Lean; with Celia Johnson, Trevor Howard, Stanley Holloway, Cyril Raymond, Joyce Carey.
VHS Home Video
Vulcan Video, 609 W. 29th St.

Written and produced by Noel Coward, Brief Encounter (1945) tells the tale of two happily married but adulterous Brits from different towns who pursue one another when fate and the train schedule allows... and also when it doesn't. Framed as a flashback in which a routinized, fragile wife mentally narrates to her daft yet lovable husband what must be the cinema's most unique pseudo-confessional, this lush melodrama does not wallow in emotion, but makes it a catalyst for the film's action. Lean's cogent direction utilizes Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 2 as effectively as it does the actors. For all the analysis, however, Brief Encounter somehow defies dissection. Perfectly paced, dramatic, and intelligent, it is a film to fall in love with. -- Clay Smith


Tekken2

Namco
Sony PlayStation


PlayStation owners who love fighting games have cause to celebrate. Tekken2 has finally arrived, and no other beat-'em-up currently available for the platform can come close to touching it. Following a breathtaking graphical intro, the player is confronted with a veritable plethora of game options, the best of which is a highly useful practice mode to help hone fighting skills. Tekken2 has 25 playable characters (including a dinosaur with boxing gloves), most of which have to be earned through combat. The game's graphics are exceptional, and the music is, well, quite punchy. Although many moves and combos require skill and patience to master, successfully pulling them off can be quite satisfying. A must-have for fighting fans. -- Bud Simons

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