FILM / Video

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The Independent Culture
THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL (Disney U 86mins) A visual and verbal delight, and a faithful version of the Yuletide warhorse. The fact that the furry-cum-felt creatures play the roles (with Gonzo as Dickens) actually takes the curse of cheap sentiment off the story, deftly highlighting Michael Caine's all-too-human meanness as Scrooge. One complaint: not enough Miss Piggy. Retail price: pounds 13.99.

MR BASEBALL (CIC 15 104mins) Unfocused comedy does Tom Selleck's movie career no favours, telling the tale of a fading American baseball star despatched to the Japanese leagues, there to culture-clash and absorb team spirit. Everyone learns to be a better person . . .

MATINEE (Guild PG 98mins) For every budding movie fan who bought a copy of Famous Monsters of Filmland, Joe Dante's comic canter through Fifties B-movie cliches, with the Cuban missile crisis thrown in for good measure. John Goodman excels as the schlock-horror merchant unveiling his latest masterpiece (Mant - Half Man] Half Ant] All Terror]) and gimmick (Rumble-Rama) to Miami's teens; he's such a show in himself you don't mind when the script turns soft and hurries to a botched conclusion.


THREE OF HEARTS (Guild 18 105mins) The absolute pits: a love triangle between a lesbian nurse (Kelly Lynch), bisexual teacher (Sherilyn Fenn) and male escort (William Baldwin) that isn't about anything and doesn't go anywhere - even the costumes are dreadful. Insulting.


For Fellini fans: the once scandalous, denounced-by-the-Pope La Dolce Vita (Electric 15 167mins) comes in a boxed set with booklet and Italian poster ( pounds 19.99). Connoisseur offers 8 1/2, the sardonic romantic comedy of The White Sheik (U 86mins) and the rarely seen Lights of Variety, a look at life with a third-rate theatrical troupe, co-directed by Alberto Lattuada (PG 92mins), both at pounds 15.99.

Other rare work is resurfacing on tape as art house video raids the archives and tracks down copyright holders. Henri-Georges Clouzot's classic road-to-hell The Wages of Fear is available again (Arrow PG 140 mins) after a period out of circulation. Price: pounds 15.99. La Grande Illusion (Tartan Video U 110mins) a video premiere, furthers the growing reputation of Tartan Video, as does their release of Pabst's Pandora's Box (Tartan Video U 105mins), still one of the most erotic movies ever made, thanks to Louise Brooks' sleek performance as the naturally amoral Lulu. Retail price for both: pounds 15.99.

Meanwhile, Mike Leigh's Meantime (Imagine 15 90mins) arrives on video, a decade after its cinema release, telling the story of the Pollack family and their travails. Superb acting from Gary Oldman, Phil Daniels and Tim Roth in a film much superior to Naked. Price: pounds 12.99.