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Weekly Alibi Videodrome

By Scott Phillips

MARCH 13, 2000:  First the inexplicable success of Titanic, and now a new sign of the coming apocalypse: the most recent videos from teen-pop chickies Britney Spears ("From the Bottom of My Broken Heart") and Mandy Moore ("Walk Me Home") were both directed by kickboxing ex-junkie Gregory Dark. Surely, Videodrome fans know that Dark (along with "brother" Walter) brought the world such smut classics as White Bun Busters, Deep Inside Vanessa Del Rio, and New Wave Hookers (starring 15-year-old Traci Lords). But does Mandy's mom know about this? I wanna see the outtakes, that's all I'm saying.


Gunhed

I've seen a half-assed bootleg of Gunhed (a.k.a. Ganheddo) a couple of times, and it's always left me feeling confused. I figured it was because the American actors speak English, while the Japanese actors speak -- you guessed it -- Japanese, and the bootleg didn't bother with subtitles. However, thanks to Mike at Astro-Zombies (the local source for cool movies), I finally got to see the legitimate VHS release, with all the Japanese dialogue reasonably well-dubbed. And you know what? The damn movie is still confusing.

It all starts with a little pre-title sequence explaining the discovery of an element called "Texmexium," which is this great stuff that everybody wants. Then we learn about Island 8JO, where the super-computer Kyron 5 was built as part of a self-contained, massive industrial complex. The computer declared war on the human race (as all super-computers eventually do), and a Gunhed battalion (giant transforming robots!) was sent in. The robots and all the human soldiers were wiped out by Kyron's defenses (including more giant robots!).

As the movie opens, a group of scavengers aboard The Mary Ann (a funky plane) are headed for 8JO in order to salvage computer chips and plastic. For some reason, all the scavengers have names beginning with the letter B: Brooklyn (our hero), Bombay, Bohunkus. (OK, I made that last one up. I think.) The lead scavenger chases Brooklyn out of the cockpit, yelling, "You can't call him a man until he pilots my Mary Ann," which sounds really filthy to me.

Anyway, the scavengers touch down on 8JO, and everyone but Brooklyn is slaughtered within about five minutes. Brooklyn teams up with Brenda Bakke (Under Siege 2, Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight), a "Texas Air Ranger" whose compadres have also been killed off. She manages to get her hands on a vial containing the Texmexium, which Kyron needs in order to do some kind of heinous shit. The rest of the movie follows Brooklyn and Brenda as they wander through the levels of the complex in an attempt to avoid the fruity robot sent to retrieve the Texmexium. Brooklyn rebuilds a shattered Gunhed robot, leading to some nifty special effects. A couple of kids scamper around, squealing and yelping. The sassy Brenda wears rubber pants. About two-thirds of the way through the movie, my pal Scott said: "I feel like I've fallen asleep two or three times and missed parts of this thing." Overall, I'd have to recommend Gunhed simply because of the production design and the cool giant robot stuff, but my advice is to keep the fast-forward button handy, and be prepared to feel as if you've suffered a missing-time experience. (1989, A.D. Vision)


Empire Records

Speaking of Astro-Zombies -- if I can't get a dream job there, then I wanna work at Empire Records. This flick never got anything like a real theatrical release, and most people who've seen it will try to pick a fight with anyone who likes it, but what do those idiots know? Set in the titular record store, Empire tracks the store's employees over 24 hours, starting when Rory Cochran (Dazed and Confused) discovers the place is in danger of being sold to a corporate chain. Trusted to close the store and not screw up, Rory takes the day's receipts and heads for Atlantic City, hoping to increase the wad and save the store -- which of course falls into the category of "screwing up." He loses the money and must face the store's manager, Anthony La Paglia, who exiles the foolish employee to a couch in the back room until he can figure out how to handle the situation.

Meanwhile, we meet Renée Zellweger and Liv Tyler (who wears a schoolgirl skirt and wants to lose her virginity to Maxwell Caulfield, a cheesy singer who's doing an in-store). Other clerks include Ethan Embry (credited as Ethan Randall) and Robin Tunney (End of Days), who shaves her head in the bathroom and wants to off herself. The minimal plot is secondary to the lives and loves of our little group, and the angst flies fast and furious as their workday progresses. Aside from Robin's suicidal tendencies and Rory's current status as "thief," art-boy Johnny Whitworth struggles to tell Liv that he loves her, Ethan capers like a spastic chimp and Renée must deal with her slatternly inclinations.

Director Allan Moyle also brought us Pump Up the Volume and the under-appreciated Times Square, both teen classics in their own right. A must-see for Liv's dance moves and attempted seduction scene (if you're of that bent). (1995, Warner)

For more of Scott Phillips' fevered ramblings, check out home.earthlink.net/~ssphillips/ or e-mail ssphillips@earthlink.net


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