- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 31, 2002

Fable specialist Philip Haas' adaptation of Ursula K. Le Guin's 1971 cult novel The Lathe of Heaven, new from A&E; Home Video, floats into vidstores this week as something of a celluloid dream about dreaming. It's our
Video pick of the week
In "The Lathe of Heaven" ($19.98 VHS/$24.98 DVD), Mr. Haas, known for "Angels and Insects" and "The Music of Chance," gives us Lukas Haas (no relation) as George Orr (as in Orwell?), a down-and-out youth adrift in a New Age variation of a "1984" future.
When intrusive authorities learn of his "delusional" belief that his dreams constantly reshape reality, George is remanded to ambitious shrink Dr. Haber (a restrained James Caan), who, after determining that George's power is real, electronically manipulates his subject's dreams to further his own career. At the same time, George strives to dream up a new altered reality in a bid to jump-start a romance with married lawyer Heather (Lisa Bonet), even if he has to inadvertently destroy much of the world's population (off-screen) to accomplish his end.
Viewers looking for Philip K. Dick-style thrills (e.g., "Blade Runner," "Total Recall") won't find them here; "Lathe" is much more a meditation on the subjective nature of perception than a genre-fulfilling sci-fi piece. Those in the mood for a quietly reflective allegory that challenges as it entertains should deem "The Lathe of Heaven" 104 minutes thought-provokingly spent.
Animation update
In the ever-burgeoning animation arena, Rhino Home Video brings joy (and joysticks) to boomers of a certain age with its gala Gigantor Boxed Set Season 1 ($59.95 4-DVD set), offering all 26 episodes. The black-and-white 1960s show chronicles the adventures of young Jimmy Sparks, who defends Earth against hostile aliens with his remote-controlled giant robot. DVD extras include interviews with director-writer Fred Ladd and anime historian Fred Patten, a photo gallery and more.
A&E; Home Video contributes another boomer special with its Courageous Cat & Minute Mouse collection ($79.95 four-DVD set). A genial spoof of his own "Batman" creation, illustrator-writer Bob Kane's 26-episode 1960 cartoon series pits a crime-fighting feline and his loyal rodent partner against fanciful furry villains.
In a more somber vein, Central Park Media releases Isao Takahata's World War II survival tale Grave of the Fireflies, rated by many critics (Roger Ebert among them) as one of the Japanese animation industry's crowning achievements. The double-disc DVD ($29.98) includes interviews with Mr. Takahata and Mr. Ebert, behind-the-scenes featurettes, storyboards, DVD-ROM features and more.
Manga Entertainment, meanwhile, issues the final installment of its popular sci-fi anime series "Neon Genesis Evangelion" with The End of Evangelion ($29.95 DVD).
Foreign fare
The new video line Choices Select debuts this week with a pair of upscale Euro titles. The Hours and the Times speculates on what may have transpired between John Lennon and Beatles manager Brian Epstein during a brief 1963 Barcelona vacation; the DVD comes complete with a behind-the-scenes featurette and audio commentary by writer-director Christopher Munch. In the 1987 epic Intervista, Federico Fellini blends fact with fiction in an elaborate ode to the cinema, set at Rome's legendary Cinecitta Studios and starring Marcello Mastroianni; the disc includes commentary by Fellini expert Ken Wlaschin along with additional interviews. The DVDs are tagged at $24.95 each.
No fewer than three acclaimed Iranian films reach these video shores this week. Facets Video (www.facets.org) debuts a pair by feminist filmmaker Tahmineh Milani, Half Hidden and Two Women ($29.95 each DVD/VHS), both exploring the plight of women in the Middle East. Miramax introduces Majid Majidi's Baran (priced for rental VHS, also available on DVD).
The A list
A pair of high-profile theatrical comedies will go the sell-through route in early December. Mike Myers' International Man of Mystery gets in touch with his inner mojo in the cameo-studded spy spoof sequel Austin Powers in Goldmember (New Line, $26.98 DVD, $22.98 VHS), co-starring Beyonce Knowles.
Michael J. Fox, Geena Davis and Nathan Lane lend their vocal talents to the animated talking-mouse follow-up Stuart Little 2 (Columbia/TriStar, $27.95 DVD, $24.95 VHS).
Phan mail
Dear Phantom: I watched a series on aviation on the Discovery Channel or the History Channel about five years ago. The series ran four consecutive nights. I believe one of the episodes was titled "Lafayette Escadrille." Do you know if this series is available on video?
Jack Gerns, via e-mail
No luck with that particular series, though Movies Unlimited (www.moviesunlimited.com) carries several aviation-history titles worth checking out.
Send your video comments and queries to Phantom of the Movies, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002 or e-mail us at: [email protected] Also check out our Web site at www.videoscopemag.com.

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