- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 30, 2002

It's "Taxi Driver" in Tinseltown with a blackly witty edge in writer-director Steven Ho's inventive indie Soundman, due in June through Vanguard Cinema. It's our

Video pick of the week
In "Soundman" (priced for rental VHS, also available on DVD, www.vanguard-cinema.com), Wayne Pere stars as Igby Walters, an obsessive Hollywood sound engineer who, during a nightmarish shooting day (on a "Hamlet" set in the Old West, no less), alienates a tough grip (John Koyama), an insecure young actor (Nick Stahl) and, most damagingly, film director Terry Leonard (Wes Studi).
Humiliations continue to rain upon our beleaguered antihero, who resembles a tall Paul Simon. He loses his girlfriend (Liane Alexandra Curtis), his job and his wallet, to a pistol-wielding robber (Gilbert Trejo). The gun gives Igby a bad idea, and he acts to achieve his overriding goal: arranging a studio audition for the sweetly naive, violin-playing coed next door (Eliane Chappuis).
Much like Martin Scorsese's 1985 film, "After Hours," "Soundman" grows darker with each reel. But auteur Ho succeeds in getting us to at least partially relate to the unbalanced Igby and his myriad frustrations, even as his quest leads to increasingly violent behavior. A solid Mr. Pere receives super support from newcomers and vets alike, especially William Forsythe as an arrogant, self-centered studio head (pardon our redundancy), Mr. Studi (in a rare non-American Indian role), Miss Chappuis, Mr. Stahl and real-life ex-con Danny Trejo, adhering more closely to type as a strapped and strapping street gangsta.
Though "Soundman" which cleverly employs appropriately distorted sound effects in key spots, along with loud lead-guitar work by Guns 'n' Roses' Slash sheds its comic skin as the reels roll, it holds viewer interest up to its intense climax. This gripping indie is well worth seeking out.

Collectors' corner
Next week, 20th Century Fox goes the all-Paul route with the DVD debuts of a trio of Paul Newman faves: the 1961 pool classic The Hustler , co-starring Jackie Gleason, Piper Laurie and George C. Scott; the hard-bitten 1967 western Hombre , with Fredric March and Richard Boone; and the 1982 courtroom winner The Verdict , featuring Charlotte Rampling, Jack Warden and James Mason. The discs, along with a newly price-reduced Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid , are tagged at $19.98 each and are available on VHS at $9.98 each.
Fox also remembers The Duke, repricing four John Wayne action epics at $9.98 (VHS only): The Big Trail , The Comancheros , North to Alaska and The Undefeated .

The 'A' list
Columbia/TriStar introduces two supernatural thrillers in June: Guillermo Del Toro's genuinely haunting ghost story The Devil's Backbone , set during the Spanish Civil War and starring Eduardo Noriega and Federico Luppi, and The Mothman Prophecies , an "X-Files"-styled chiller starring Richard Gere and Laura Linney.
Warner Home Video counterprograms with Frank Darabont's uplifting 1950s-era drama The Majestic ," starring a serious Jim Carrey, along with Laurie Holden and Martin Landau. All three will be priced for rental VHS and also available on DVD.
Buena Vista opts for a lighter tone with two family comedies: the canine sports sequel Air Bud: Seventh Inning Fetch and the live-action romp Max Keeble's Big Move ($19.99 VHS/$29.99 DVD each).

Animated antics
In animation news, Paramount Home Video goes the sell-through route with the recent feature-film hit Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius ($14.95 VHS/$19.95 DVD). In the ever-expanding anime arena, Manga Entertainment revives Osamu Tezuka's Astro Boy Vol. 1 ($19.95 VHS), presenting the first nine episodes from that pioneering series, with eight more volumes set to follow.
Elsewhere, A.D. Vision releases two new episodes from the popular, long-running Sailor Moon series ($14.98 each VHS). Bandai Entertainment announces a July launch for the theatrical anime feature Escaflowne , to be available in single DVD ($29.98) and extras-laden three-disc set ($54.98) editions.

Phan mail
Dear Phantom : Is the movie Kandahar on video? It was released late last year or earlier this year. Thanks.
Jim Carlock, via e-mail
While it has yet to be officially announced, "Kandahar," the powerful drama set in Afghanistan (which received a select national theatrical release earlier this year), will likely surface in the near future via Facets Video. Check the Web site at www.facets.org for updates.

Send your video comments and queries to Phantom of the Movies, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002 or e-mail us at: [email protected]aol.com Check out our Web site at www.videoscopemag.com

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