Thursday, November 15, 2001

A chance high-school reunion takes an unexpectedly menacing turn in the clever 2000 French suspenser With a Friend Like Harry, new from Miramax (priced for rental VHS, also available on DVD). It’s our …

Video pick of the week
When the independently wealthy Harry (Sergi Lopez) first encounters struggling former classmate Michel (Laurent Lucas), the latter doesn’t even remember him. But the extroverted Harry seems perversely bent on making a major impact on Michel’s present life. The passive Michel unwisely permits Harry and his flighty squeeze Plum (Sophie Guillemin) to join his family skeptical wife Claire (Mathilde Seigner) and three young daughters at their ramshackle vacation home, where Harry endlessly enthuses about Michel’s brief teenage writing career. In fact, Harry will resort to anything, murder included, to get his “friend” back on a literary track.
While “With a Friend Like Harry” requires a sizable suspension of disbelief Michel and Claire are incredibly slow on the uptake even as Harry’s behavior escalates from merely pushy to mega-obsessive director/co-writer Dominik Moll knows how to tweak his story for maximum tension and dark wit.
Among the uniformly accomplished actors, Mr. Lopez is especially adroit as the psychotic pest who honestly considers himself an altruistic self-styled patron of the arts. And unlike many mainstream Hollywood entries in the genre, “Harry” comes equipped with sufficient subtext the often exclusionary nature of creativity, among other themes to lend weight to the tale without sacrificing pace or suspense. Viewers in the mood for an intelligent thriller will want to invite “Harry” into their homes.

Andy’s gang
Director-writer Andy Sidaris and producer Arlene Sidaris reclaim their rightful thrones as the king and queen of outdoor action flicks with the DVD release of two of their wildest titles, 1987’s Hard Ticket to Hawaii and 1989’s Picasso Trigger (Ventura Distribution, $14.98 each). Both films accentuate strong female leads gung-ho federal agents Dona (Dona Speir) and Taryn (Hope Marie Carlton) who battle villains around the globe, and come fully equipped with James Bond-inspired gadgetry, lush locales, top-grade outdoor photography, and lots of explosions.
Both discs include Andy and Arlene’s entertaining and informative audio commentary, coming-attraction trailers for the entire upcoming Andy Sidaris Collection, and the tongue-in-cheek “Andy Sidaris’ Film School” featurettes, wherein the auteur, abetted by frequent action starlet Julie Strain, uses alternate takes and bloopers to offer helpful hints for burgeoning filmmakers. Withal, a must for alfresco action buffs.

Collectors’ corner
Kino Video introduces a pair of choice vintage Brit films to the DVD ranks this week: director Val Guest’s and writer Wolf Mankowitz’s 1959 musical Espresso Bongo, starring Laurence Harvey as a sort of Soho Sammy Glick who engineers young singing discovery Cliff Richard’s rise to pop stardom; and Sidney J. Furie’s affecting 1963 drama The Leather Boys, with Colin Campbell and Rita Tushingham as working-class newlyweds torn between youthful pursuits and adult responsibilities. The discs are tagged at $29.95 each.
And don’t miss the same label’s gala two-disc DVD of Elem Klimov’s 1986 masterpiece about World War II, Come and See ($29.95), a film that captures both the vile horrors and perverse poetry of war as seen through the eyes of a teenage Russian resistance fighter during the Nazi invasion of 1943. DVD extras include archival documentaries, cast and crew interviews, and a prologue by director Klimov. “Come and See” ranks among the most powerful war movies ever made.

Horror hits
Halloween 2001 may be a distant memory, but the video biz keeps the chills coming with a pair of popular theatrical horror hits. Keenen Ivory Wayans’ spoof sequel Scary Movie 2, starring younger brothers Shawn and Marlon Wayans, arrives next month via Dimension Home Video. MGM Home Entertainment starts the new year in high spooky style with Victor Salva’s Jeepers Creepers, with Gina Philips, Justin Long and Eileen Brennan. Both titles will be priced for rental VHS and also available on DVD.

Phan mail
Dear Phantom: I would appreciate it very much if you could tell me whether the following movies are available (or, soon may be) on DVD: Predator 2, Return of the Living Dead, King of Kings.
Ron Hall, via e-mail
None of the above are available on DVD as yet, though it’s a good bet all three will eventually attain that status. At the moment, “Return of the Living Dead” is out of circulation on VHS as well.

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