- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 7, 2002

Your Phantom pretty much bailed on the late 1970s-early 1980s rush of teen hijinks romps after "Animal House" and "Caddyshack," so we undoubtedly missed some of the references and homages in Wet Hot American Summer. Director-co-writer David Wain's affectionate spoof is our …

Video pick of the week
The flick is new from USA Entertainment (priced for rental VHS, also available on DVD). Enough of its gags work that even a relative stranger to the genre can find many moments of amusement in the film, which adopts an admirably amiable tone, even when delivering the occasional gross-out joke.
The action unfolds during a single day and night at fictional Camp Firewood in 1981, where the camp directors (led by an appealing Janeane Garofalo) are hopelessly confused. The college-age counselors are perennially in heat, and their pre-teen charges are pretty much left to their own oft-disastrous devices.
Among the pic's sharper riffs are those dealing with paranoid, homophobic 'Nam vet cook Gene (Christopher Meloni) and his meaningful relationship with a talking vegetable can and astrophysicist David Hyde Pierce's desperate efforts to prevent the camp from being pelted with Skylab space junk.
The somewhat overkill DVD extras (five hours of bonus material) include audio commentary by Mr. Wain, Miss Garofalo and co-writer Michael Showalter; behind-the-scenes footage; (mostly mercifully) deleted scenes; and cast and crew interviews.

Action update
In the upcoming A-movie action arena, look for a trio of recent theatrical titles to surface during the next few weeks: Steve Zahn and Leelee Sobieski star in the high-speed action thriller Joy Ride, while former "Ghandi" Ben Kingsley undergoes a radical image change as a vicious gangster in the British import Sexy Beast, both from 20th Century Fox (priced for rental VHS, also available on DVD). Denzel Washington similarly plays against type as a corrupt cop in Training Day (Warner, $22.98 VHS, $26.98 DVD).
On the direct-to-video front, Maxwell Caulfield joins Alexandra Paul in Facing the Enemy (New Concorde), while Dolph Lundgren tries again in Hidden Agenda. Nicole Kidman goes the ninja route in the newly unearthed Aussie oldie Nightmaster (both Trimark), and ever-reliable character actor Richard Lynch returns in the border-set caper Reflex Action (MTI). All are priced for rental VHS and also available on DVD.

'Tron' on DVD
Disney may have been a bit ahead of its time when it first unleashed the video-game sci-fi thriller Tron on a largely unprepared public in 1982, but the film seems more in synch with an age that finds video games a common source for lavish big-screen treatments. With its two-disc "20th Anniversary Collector's Edition" ($29.99), the label offers not only the original movie, starring Jeff Bridges as a wronged vid-game whiz and David Warner as his greedy corporate arch-nemesis, but five hours of bonus material. This includes audio commentaries, a new "Making of Tron" documentary, deleted scenes, a 3-D animated menu and storyboards.

WGBH Boston Video unveils a pair of BBC "Masterpiece Theater" titles. Hugh Bonneville, Stephen Dillane and Paul Rhys take the lead roles in the miniseries The Cazalets ($49.95 per three-tape VHS set), a sprawling family saga set in 1937 England drawn from Elizabeth Jane Howard's novels. Albert Finney and Sue Johnston topline in My Uncle Silas ($19.95 VHS), based on the short stories of H.E. Bates and set in pre-World War I Britain.

On the ever-expanding Japanese animation front, expect the youth-oriented Strange Dawn (Urban Vision, $29.95 DVD, $22.95 VHS), about two young girls transported to a miniature world. Also due are two new combat anime titles from Bandai Entertainment, Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th Team Vol. 4 and Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory ($24.98 DVD, $19.98 VHS each). In domestic animation developments, Disney's deluxe "2-Disc Collector's Edition" of "Atlantis, the Lost Empire" is now available ($39.99).

Phan mail
Dear Phantom: One of my favorite films is the King Arthur adventure Excalibur. Is it available on DVD?
Edward Timmons, via e-mail

John Boorman's offbeat but excellent 1981 take on the Arthurian legend, starring Nicol Williamson and Helen Mirren, joined the DVD ranks a few months back, albeit in a fairly no-frills edition. It's available online ($9.89) from deepdiscountdvd.com, if you can't find the disc locally.*

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