- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 17, 2002

Something of a Peruvian "Mean Streets," director Felipe Degregori's engrossing adaptation of Oscar Malca's novel City of M, due next week via Vanguard Cinema (priced for rental VHS, $19.98 DVD), casts Santiago Magill as the eponymous M, a bored, jobless Lima youth whose future looks dim indeed. It's our

Video pick of the week

The unskilled M splits his days between fruitlessly searching for work and hanging with his homeboys. An unexpected opportunity crops up when ambitious bud Pacho (Christian Meier) asks M and unpredictable pal Coyote (Jorge Madueno, the rough equivalent of Robert De Niro's Johnny Boy in "Mean Streets") to serve as mules for a Miami drug run, with a promised $25G payoff. While our protagonist spends mucho screen time considering the dangerous assignment's pros and cons, three other members of M's posse opt for entry into the less lucrative gardenia-growing racket. Well, there wouldn't be much of a tale to tell if M didn't succumb to temptation, which, unsurprisingly, turns out to be a muy malo idea.

"City of M" succeeds less on its unstartling story line than on the strength of its specific, credible characters, grittily exotic Lima locations, steady pacing and terrific Peruvian punk and hard-rock soundtrack, sufficient virtues to qualify the film as viewing time profitably spent. Pair this with the equally sharp 1996 Chilean youth-crime caper Johnny 100 Pesos (Wellspring Media), ($24.95 DVD, $19.95 VHS) for a full night of vivid South American celluloid lowlife.

The 'A' list

Looking ahead to November, Columbia/TriStar introduces a pair of recent select theatrical releases: the dark comedy The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys, starring Kieran Culkin and Jodie Foster; and writer-director John Sayles' ensemble drama Sunshine State, set in Florida and featuring Edie Falco, Angela Bassett and Alan King.

Elsewhere, Warner Home Video issues the cross-dressing sports farce Juwanna Mann, with Miguel A. Nunez Jr. and Vivica A. Fox. Action specialist Walter ("The Warriors") Hill focuses on a big-time prison boxing match in Undisputed (Miramax Home Entertainment), starring Ving Rhames and Wesley Snipes as intense ring competitors. The Tom Clancy adaptation The Sum of All Fears, with Ben Affleck and Morgan Freeman, arrives later this month via Paramount. All of the above titles will be priced for rental VHS and also available on DVD.

Sisterhood is plentiful

Warner Home Video lavishes a bouquet of bonus materials on its "widescreen edition" of director Callie Khourie's all-star adaptation of Rebecca Wells' novel The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, an emotional tale about a mother and child reunion featuring Sandra Bullock, Ellen Burstyn, Ashley Judd, James Garner and Maggie Smith. The DVD includes eight additional scenes; copious commentary by Miss Khourie, co-star Miss Judd, composer T-Bone Burnett and several other behind-the-camera personnel; a documentary featurette; and other extras. The disc, available Oct. 29, sells for $24.98.

Video verite

In documentary developments, Docurama debuts a brace of recent theatrical titles: Go Tigers!, an up-close and personal portrait of high school football mania in Massillon, Ohio, and Keep the River on Your Right: A Modern Cannibal's Tale ($24.98 DVD, $19.98 VHS each), recounting eccentric American anthropologist Tobias Schneebaum's 1950s descent into the depths of the Peruvian jungle. In a musical vein, Eagle Media presents Andrew Lloyd Webber: Masterpiece, a gala three-hour concert recorded live in Beijing ($24.95 DVD).

Tele-video

Universal Studios increases the output of vintage TV series to DVD with a pair of popular crime shows. This week the label launches Law & Order: The First Year in a six-DVD box set ($79.98) containing all 22 premiere-season episodes along with ample extras, including an intro by producer Dick Wolf. Due later this month are Baretta: Season One ($39.98 3-DVD set), starring Robert Blake, and the single-disc Best of Baretta ($19.98), showcasing the series' little-seen pilot, plus two bonus episodes.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: I remember seeing a movie on TV, back in the '60s, about a bunch of dump-truck drivers who drive their rigs around dangerous mountain curves. A young Sean Connery was in the film. Do you know what flick I'm talking about, and is it available?

Russ Bell, via e-mail

That would be the 1957 British suspenser Hell Drivers, with Mr. Connery, Stanley Baker, Peggy Cummins, Patrick McGoohan and a very young David McCallum. Unfortunately, the film has yet to join the home-video ranks.


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] Check out our Web site at www.videoscopemag.com.


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