Animal Twister

After having exhausted the theatrical franchise with the hits “Twister,” “Let’s Twist Again” and “Twister and Shout,” Warmer Home Video goes straight to video with their latest entry into the series. While the theatrical budgets mushroomed with each film (“Twister and Shout” cost $550 million), the video suffers from an obvious lack of ideas and budget.

After having killed off original film stars Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton in the tornado thriller “Twisted,” the DTV stars Jim Varney of “Ernest” fame and Irene Cara from “Fame.” They play former tornado chasers now working as animal wranglers at the new Animal Park in Florida. While out on their early morning duties, the two are trapped in the swamp by an unexpected tornado. It’s up to Cleetus (Varney) and Carla (Cara) to save the animals before they blow away.

The special effects are horrendous (you can see the wires on the plastic sheep as they fly through the air) and the performances really blow. Co-stars Steven Seagal as an alligator wrangler (he dies in the first two minutes of the film) and Jean-Claude Van Damme (as the wind bag that starts the tornado) are only okay. (Warmer Home Video)


Murray Schlesinger’s 14-hour documentary on the history and processing of beets is an upbeat and fascinating effort that never ceases to amaze. Utilizing historical and archival footage and photographs, plus interviews with current and former beet workers fleshes out this intriguing look at one of the nation’s most underrated taste treats. Narrated with conviction by former Monkee Davy Jones, “The Beet Goes On” takes us behind the scenes at a beet canning facility, where the beets are cleaned and prepared for market.

Watch in delight as hundreds of workers slice, dice, puree and steam the delightful little red plant. While the video does make mention that the canning plant uses 13-year old former Honduran rebels as workers, the emphasis is on the upbeat. There’s even a four-hour segment covering the beet industry’s annual gathering “Beet Off 1998.” Here, workers and fans gather to revel in everything beet, from beet ice cream to beet meat sandwiches. Although not rated, the documentary does feature some harsh language. (National Gee Whiz Video)


Here’s an interesting idea for an ensemble film that takes it’s cue from a film called “Twenty Bucks.” In that film, the focus was on a single twenty dollar bill and the different characters it passes between. “Hole” singer Courtney Love makes her director’s debut with this tale of a cold sore, and how it makes it’s way around Manhattan, and eventually, the Oval Office. Even though the script is credited to seventeen writers, the film still has an improvisational feel to it. Thanks to the large, familiar cast, the film manages to be about something more than herpes.

Margot Kidder is sensational as Judith, a former stripper and escort who is looking for a new line of work now that Disney has revitalized Broadway. The action gets started when she lands a job as a secretary for Industrial Giant Max Million (Timothy Hutton), and kisses him as a thank you. Two weeks later, Million is having drinks on his yacht with super model and “House of Fashionable People Like Me” hostess Brandy Wine (Kim Delaney). One drink from Max’s glass, and voila, you get the picture. Before the month is out, the cold sore is passed on to a professional football player (Ben Affleck), a hot dog vendor (Christopher Walken), an anal museum guard (David Arquette), and a trio of performance artists who kiss everyone in their audience as part of their act (hilariously played by Rosanna Arquette, Markie Post and Susan Dey).

The biggest joke arrives at the end when both Hilary Clinton and Monica Lewinsky end up with the same cold sore. Obviously shot on a low budget with an emphasis on character and dialogue rather than pyrotechnics and chases, “Cold Sore” is an unusual little effort that didn’t hang around theaters very long, so now is your chance to “catch” this irresistible virus. (Touchbone Home Video)


Every time Walt Disney Home Video pumps out a new hit video, some smaller, insignificant company tries to beat them to the punch with a cheap rip-off. Since they have released two phenomenally popular “Lion King” titles, it was only a matter of time before someone else clawed their way on to the bandwagon. Enter “The Lion Drag Queen,” an intermittently entertaining effort that features sub-standard animation and only a few memorable tunes. The big surprise here is the caliber of voice talent involved. Nathan Lane and Harvey Fierstein share top billing as the two male lions who share a lair together. While children may have a hard time understanding the arrangement, it does lend a new angle to animation. Lane plays Cha-Cha, who tends to the needs of “her” hubby Chi-Chi, while trying to keep their pride in the pride. Conflicts arise when the other lions complain about Cha-Cha and Chi-Chi’s designer mane cuts and picky eating habits. For instance, Chi-Chi will only eat gazelle if it’s been lightly broiled over a bed of wood briquets, generously sprinkled with sea salt and the sweat of an armadillo.

Sure makes meals interesting. The main conflict arises when the two try to attend the “Lion’s Ball,” and misread the invitation. Even though the animation is weak, there are some songs that merit mentioning. “Getting Some Tail” is a funny, sexually confusing melody, while “Hair Ball” brings down the house. Available for sell-through at $99.99. (Dizzy Home Video)


Here’s an amusing take on the hard-core rap scene. When meek and mild Miles (rap newcomer Ice T-Bag) learns that his father has just lost his blue-collar job and his family might be forced to move back to the projects, he decides to help out his family by becoming a rapper. Having no hood experience, Miles raps about what he knows, but no one wants to listen to rap with titles like “My Sister’s a Straight A Student,” and “Hard Work Got Me a Raise.” So Miles is forced to adopt a criminal lifestyle so people will take his rap seriously. Before you know it, Miles is hanging out with his new home boys, slapping their girlfriends around and calling them “ho,” and randomly shooting at people on the street from their car. Writer-director Hyped-Up Smith creates a modicum of suspense by putting Miles on a fence and forcing him to make a decision about his life. Will he return to his solid family, even though they’re poor, or will he maintain his gangster rap persona, make a lot of money from other people’s pain and suffering, and wind up with a gold front tooth even though he doesn’t need it?

The film is filled with violent images that are a nice counterbalance to the film’s placid opening moments. The performances are typical for the genre, while the soundtrack is filled with a dozen undistinguishable rap tracks. (Old Line Home Video)


Even though it’s being billed as family entertainment, this tale of a former Marineland seal who decides to get even with his former employers is filled with dark imagery and several graphic death scenes.. Snorkels is the star of the show, a sassy seal with attitude. He craves and gets applause and acceptance from the audience and fish from his trainers, Bret (Woody Harrelson) and Susie (Andie McDowell). When the marine park goes bankrupt, Snorkels is returned to the sea to fend for himself. Taunted and tormented by the other seals for being sassy, Snorkels looks to land for help. There, Snorkels is found and befriended by two orphaned children (J.R. Larsen and Carrot Top), who with their mother Catalina (Catherine O’Hara), give the loveable seal a home. One day while the family is shopping, Snorkels, who is waiting in the car, recognizes Bret and Susie. He memorizes their license plate number, and with the help of Squawk, the family’s intelligent talking parrot, manages to trace down the couple through the DMV. The film really comes alive when Snorkels and the children scheme to get even with Bret and Susie, who promised to take care of him all his life. Their scheme, involving piranha, poison tipped darts, pink ping pong balls and naked photos of Alyssa Milano on the Internet, provides enough suspense and dark laughs to make it a fun ride. But for children? Even though it’s PG, there’s two be-headings, one severed limb, and a really nasty scene involving Snorkels, Bret and Susie, and five gold horns. Ouch! Available for sell-through at $22.95. (Vermin Video)


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