D: Mathieu Kassovitz; with Vincent Cassel, Hubert Kounde, Said Taghmaoui.
VHS Home Video
Waterloo Video, 1016 W. Sixth

This powerful, black-and-white, French film shot in a Parisian cité (housing development) follows three racially diverse friends from the projects -- a Jew, an Arab, and a black -- through a 24-hour period after an inner-city riot. Vinz, the Jew, finds a policeman's gun that becomes a special trophy since a friend of theirs who was beaten by the cops lies in a hospital room in critical condition. Anger motivates these young men as they tear through the streets -- a driving force of pure emotion -- contemplating taking away what has been taken away from them. Hate is an intense illustration of a vicious cycle whose by-products are violence and mistrust. Most disturbing is the notion that it's a certain lower-economic class of people who keep playing out this mini-war in their own communities until virtually nothing is left. At times, it appears unrealistic that practically every encounter these boys stumble upon turns aggressive, but this structure also helps build to a potent ending. -- Jen Scoville

Pee-wee's Playhouse, Volume 5

D: Stephen R. Johnson; with Pee-wee Herman, Gilbert Lewis, Phil Hartman, Lynne Stewart, Shawn Weiss, Diane Yang, Natasha Lyonne.
VHS Home Video

Finally, someone wised up. This past year MGM/UA agreed to re-release eight volumes of CBS' brilliant but doomed Saturday morning television show Pee-wee's Playhouse. Aside from the clever packaging (placed side by side, all eight video boxes make a picture of Pee-wee Herman wearing his whimsically decorated bicycle helmet), these videos each contain two episodes as opposed to the chintzy single-episode tapes originally released through Hi-Tops Video. Rumor has it that more side-splitting episodes will be forthcoming but, for now, fans can settle back and watch Pee-wee reinvent those kooky Playhouse kids Cher (Yang), Elvis (Weiss), and Opal (Lyonne) with "Secret Names." Then, they can put on their best clean underwear to watch Pee-wee invite all of the Playhouse cohorts to help him celebrate friendship in "Party." After all, as Pee-wee says, "You don't need a reason to have a party." -- Alison Macor

Tempest X3

for Sony PlayStation
Interplay Software

Anyone who played arcade games back in the early Eighties remembers the original Atari vector-graphic shooter, Tempest. A player spun his "man" around the edge of an irregularly shaped well of enemies and attempted to destroy them before they could reach the top. Great fun. And now an improved version is available for PlayStation, which includes the original game, Tempest X3 (which has a nice techno soundtrack), and a two-player mode. The action is fast and furious and becomes challenging in a hurry. The only problem is the lack of mouse support for the game, which would have made control much easier. Still, plenty of nostalgic action for fans of the original. -- Bud Simons

The Celluloid Closet

D: Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman; with Lily Tomlin, Susie Bright, Quentin Crisp, Tony Curtis, Harvey Fierstein, Whoopi Goldberg, Tom Hanks, Shirley MacLaine, Armistead Maupin, Susan Sarandon, Gore Vidal.
VHS Home Video
Vulcan Video, 609 W. 29th

Based on the book by the late Vito Russo, The Celluloid Closet not only sheds light on the subtext of homosexuality in Hollywood movies, but also reminds us of the dozens of blatantly homosexual and gender-bending characters that have graced the screen since the beginning of film time. Academy Award-winning documentarians Epstein and Friedman show us not only the films we are expecting to find, such as The Hunger, Making Love, and Some Like It Hot, but also little-known gems from the early part of the century portraying homosexuality as an accepted, if not acceptable, social phenomenon. Scriptwriters, actors, and directors alike bemoan the censorship of the past and let us in on how they skirted the watchdogs and brought relevant sexual subtext to the screen. Gore Vidal's description of filming aspects of Ben-Hur without inciting Charlton Heston's homophobia is worth the cost of the rental all by itself. This is not a film just for homosexuals and their friends, this a film for anyone interested in Hollywood and the history of the 20th century. -- Kayte VanScoy


D: John Badham; with Matthew Broderick, Dabney Coleman, John Wood, Ally Sheedy.
VHS Home Video

With the enormous selection of crummy techno-paranoia movies on video shelves these days (The Net, Virtuosity, and Hackers are among more recent titles), the discriminating viewer will eschew a flashy cover or a big star and rent one of the classics. Not only was WarGames the first film of the new computer age to tap into fears about the dangers of technology at the hands of mad geniuses, but it's easily the best as well. It's also the movie that put Broderick and Sheedy on the movie map, and the picture was nominated for three Academy Awards in 1983, including one for Walter Parkes and Lawrence Lasker's brilliant screenplay. At the time, WarGames also sparked an almost inconceivable interest in computer hacking among juvenile tech-heads (I was one of them), and the movie's effect on Hollywood and the American consciousness can still be seen today. While these days, Microsoft is a more frightening reality than lone hacker types, the resonant phrase, "Shall we play a game?" still retains its power.

-- Christopher Null

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