If you’ve spent any time in theaters lately you’ve likely seen trailers of the coming summer blockbusters.
So answer this: Have you ever seen more tantalizing come-ons than those for “Mission: Impossible” and “Twister”?
Momentary digression: Is it just me, or do summer movies seldom if ever live up to what their trailers promise?
Now, back to this column: “Twister,” for example, is one blockbuster wannabe that is receiving a full ration of hype, both in theaters and on television. It is the handiwork of critically acclaimed action director Jan DeBont.
DeBont, you’ll recall, was responsible for “Speed,” that Keanu Reeves-Sandra Bullock money-maker of a couple of summers ago. In “Twister,” he follows the fortunes of a couple of tornado hunters, played by Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt.
If the trailers are any indication, the film features a number of gut-clenching scenes boasting “Jurassic Park”-type quality.
So what does this have to do with the video market? Well, having joined forces with the folks at National Geographic, Columbia TriStar Home Video is taking advantage of the pre-“Twister” publicity in marketing a couple of documentary videos appropriately titled “Cyclone!” and “Nature’s Fury.”
Each of the hourlong videos (retail price: $19.95) does DeBont’s movie one better. Whereas he recreates the potential power and damage of a killer tornado, the National Geographic documentaries demonstrate the real thing.
Thus, “Cyclone!” - with the help of several home video enthusiasts and narration by actor Peter Coyote - shows real-life footage of tornadoes attacking several sites in the American Midwest (dubbed “Tornado Alley”). In addition, it documents the incredible destruction of the Florida coast caused by 1992’s Hurricane Andrew.
In fact, one of the scientists whose work is highlighted in “Cyclone!” - University of Oklahoma meteorology Professor Howard Bluestein - is supposedly the basis for Paxton’s character in “Twister.”
The second National Geographic video, “Nature’s Fury,” takes up from there, detailing not only the power of tornadoes but also hurricanes, earthquakes and floods - the last two being disturbances of which Northwest residents are at least somewhat familiar.
Now, it’s one thing to sit in a movie theater and watch the wind toss a two-ton automobile around like a Tonka toy. It’s quite another to watch video footage of real cars and trucks being swept away by a killer flood or witness firsthand the leveling of a housing development by Hurricane Andrew.
“Natural disasters remind us that there are overwhelmingly powerful forces in nature that are beyond our control,” reads the Columbia TriStar press release.
That’s as true of killer storms as it is of Hollywood studios.
The obvious chemistry between Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson makes them an obvious movie-making team. If only someone would come up with a decent script for them. Ron Shelton did an average job with “White Men Can’t Jump,” but this comedy-thriller fails to score even an average grade. Harrelson and Snipes portray a pair of New York transit cops who, through a series of circumstances - few of them credible or excusable - find themselves hijacking an armored subway car filled with millions of dollars in collected fares. Robert Blake (“Baretta”) makes something of a comeback as their arrogant boss. Rated R
Tom and Huck
In an era that pays less and less reverence to certain literary classics (with the obvious exception of Jane Austen), it comes as no surprise that Disney would choose to make yet another adaptation of Mark Twain’s “Tom Sawyer.” It’s a slick package, with glorious cinematography and location shooting, and there’s an especially mean Injun Joe played by Eric Schweig (“Squanto: A Warrior’s Tale”). But the film as a whole feels like a package for child star Jonathan Taylor Thomas (“Home Improvement”), who has some range as an actor but who still feels like an odd choice to play Tom. He doesn’t feel like a match for the actress who plays Becky Thatcher, and there isn’t much chemistry between him and Brad Renfro’s Huckleberry Finn. This isn’t a bad film, but there are better options, particularly the 1938 version directed by Norman Taurog. Rated PG
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MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: WHAT’S NEW TO VIEW Now available: “Money Train” (Columbia TriStar), “How to Make an Amercian Quilt” (MCA/Universal), “Tom and Huck” (Disney), “White Man’s Burden” (HBO). Available Tuesday: “It Takes Two” (Warner), “Dead Presidents” (Hollywood), “Carrington” (PolyGram).