- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Before their groundbreaking TV series “In Living Color” hit the airwaves, the Wayans clan cut their comedic teeth on the sharp 1988 blaxploitation parody I’m Gonna Git You Sucka, available this week on DVD via MGM Home Entertainment’s “The Best of Soul Cinema” Collection. It’s our…

Video pick of the week

Written and directed by senior sibling Keenen Ivory Wayans, “Sucka” boasts a powerful all-star lineup that includes Jim Brown and Isaac Hayes (both looking convincingly out of shape) as retired tough guys Hammer and Slammer; Antonio Fargas, who deftly reprises his patented ‘70s pimp roles; urban-action stalwart Bernie Casey; a snarling John Vernon as token “honky” heavy Mr. Big; and the late, great Steve James as terminally out-of-sync martial-arts master Kung-Fu Joe.

Keenen Ivory Wayans doubles onscreen as the decidedly unmacho hero, a newly discharged GI clerk-typist who’s continually being rescued by his far fiercer mom (Janet Dubois). Younger brother Damon likewise impresses as a Mr. Big henchman who suffers nonstop abuse at the hands of both the good guys and his own evil employers, while sister Kim Wayans also appears in a smaller role.

Highlights include our over-the-hill gang’s slapstick assault on the villains’ HQ and one of the wackiest “seduction” scenes ever committed to celluloid. Though a sometimes sketchy script keeps the film from soaring to maximum satiric heights, “Sucka” supplies more than enough laughs to make it a must for comedy lovers and backdate urban-action fans alike.

A quartet of ‘70s titles complete the “Soul Cinema” collection: the action-packed Pam Grier showcases Coffy and Foxy Brown; the coming-of-age comedy-drama Cooley High, set in 1964; and Larry Cohen’s gangster chronicle Hell Up in Harlem, starring Fred (The Hammer) Williamson. The complete set is tagged at $62.95, with individual titles priced at $14.95 each.

Sci-fi TV

January continues to be a busy month on the cult sci-fi TV front. Warner Home Entertainment has already released the six-DVD set Babylon 5: The Complete Fourth Season ($99.98), containing all 22 episodes, along with bonus features, of the futuristic series starring Bruce Boxleitner and Claudia Christian.

This week, MGM Home Entertainment launches “Babylon 5” creator J. Michael Straczynski’s post-apocalyptic Jeremiah: The Complete First Season, toplining tele-vets Luke Perry and Malcolm-Jamal Warner, in a six-disc set incorporating 18 episodes, plus the series premiere episode, audio commentary by Mr. Perry and Mr. Warner, deleted scenes, a featurette and more.

Also new this week from MGM is Stargate SG-1: Season 5 ($69.95), a five-disc set containing all 22 fifth season episodes, plus cast and crew audio commentary, cast video diaries, the featurette “Inside the Tomb,” two still galleries and more.

For old-school sci-fi enthusiasts, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment contributes an eight-DVD collection of Irwin Allen’s enduring Lost in Space: The Complete First Season ($79.95), assembling 29 episodes plus the unaired pilot “No Place To Hide.”

Not to be outdone, A&E; Home Video resurrects another vintage sci-fi puppet series from creator Gerry Anderson: The five-disc Terrahawks: The Complete Series ($99.95) gathers all 39 episodes from the 1982-83 series chronicling the adventures of the “Terrahawks Earth Defense Squadron” and its battles against alien invaders. The set, offering extras ranging from filmmaker audio commentaries to behind-the-scenes featurettes, lands Tuesday.

The ‘A’ list

Comedies dominate the current theatrical-to-homevid slate. Brit comic Rowan Atkinson sheds his Mr. Bean persona to play a bumbling secret agent in Johnny English (Universal, $26.98), co-starring John Malkovich; the DVD includes deleted scenes, a making-of featurette and more.

Columbia/TriStar Home Entertainment sets a Tuesday release date for director Alan Rudolph’s domestic comedy/drama The Secret Lives of Dentists ($26.96), with Campbell Scott, Hope Davis and Denis Leary.

Due the same day is the mockumentary Comic Book: The Movie (Miramax Home Entertainment, $29.99), with a cult cast that includes Mark Hamill, the original Luke Skywalker; “Evil Dead” icon Bruce Campbell, and Marvel Comics honcho Stan Lee. All of the above will also be available on VHS.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: Curious about two films I can’t find on DVD. The first is Laura, with Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney, with one of the greatest opening monologues/scenes of any movie. The second is the Ray Milland movie The Uninvited, a great chiller. Are either available somewhere?

Curtis L. Russell, Odenton, Md.

Rather inexplicably, neither “Laura” (20th Century Fox) nor “The Uninvited” (Universal) is currently in circulation, though both are available (VHS only) on a mail-order rental basis via Video Library (vlibrary.com).

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: phanmedia @aol.com. Check out our Web site at www.video scopemag.com.

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