video monthly

a guide to the best new releases
Click to follow
The Independent Culture
One of the reasons that I'll Do Anything (Columbia, 15, rental) is so bemusing, so otherworldly, is that it's set in a Never-Never Hollywood populated by sharpened wits who keep making incisive digs at the business they're in. Only in the movies, eh? The other reason is that it's a musical which has been de-musicalised. The likes of Prince and Sinead O'Connor contributed new compositions to the picture but, after shooting, level- headedness prevailed and the songs were surgically removed. What you're left with is a downright peculiar romantic comedy which veers between self-satisfied satire and arch-artificiality but never actually builds to any of the substantial peaks, dramatic or humorous, which the fine performances beg.

Chief among these is Nick Nolte, playing a struggling actor whose relationship with his wife (a frenzied Tracey Ullman) and daughter begins to fall apart as his roles dry up. When Ullman is otherwise disposed, Nolte is left with an arrogant little brat to manage. But things improve when he auditions for Albert Brooks, an uptight movie producer who prays before test screenings.

When the script avoids Hollywood, the picture is a delight, but too often it aims at easy targets. There's an excruciating scene in which a bozo producer reels off a list of "quality" actors and explains why they'll never be box-office dynamite ("Willem Dafoe? Bad teeth. John Malkovich? Too weird"). We're supposed to pity the poor executive, who can't see the value of these sturdy actors. But it's a brattish bit of wound-licking which typifies the most narcissistic elements of the movie, and presupposes where our sympathies lie. Still, the cast are splendid - the few scenes between Nolte and Ullman are like watching firework displays, but the sweetest tang comes from Brooks and Julie Kavner, as studio brass brought together by a mutual aversion to movie business bullshit.

Brooks turns up in this month's funniest video release, The Scout (Fox; 12; Rental), a likeable comedy poorly directed by the once-great Michael Ritchie. Yet once again, the criminally underrated Brooks saves a film almost single-handedly. Here he plays a Yankees talent scout who discovers a potential star (Brendan Fraser) playing street baseball in Mexico. Whisking him back to New York, the troubles really begin when Fraser is brought before a sceptical psychiatrist (Dianne Wiest) who detects emotional short- circuiting in the lad that could jeopardise his career. The playing is light and lucid. And you don't feel shortchanged either: the honest ending and shades of bruising see to that.

Try to find time this month for: Stargate (Guild, PG, rental), a far- out sci-fi adventure which dares to be daft; ditto The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (Unique, 15, pounds 12.99), which boasts a vintage John Lithgow psycho sideshow; Blanche (Arthouse, 18, pounds 15.99), one of Walerian Borowczyk's most restrained moments, with the transfixing Ligia Branice as a medieval maiden whose beauty proves fatally captivating; and two top-drawer music videos both touched by cinematic grandeur: REM: Parallel (Warner, 15, pounds 10.99), a collection of crisp, original and occasionally moving promos to match songs blessed with those same qualities, and Suede: Introducing the Band (WinerWorld, 15, pounds 11.99) wherein the best band in Britain rock out and leave you in need of a stiff drink.

Music is paramount in Above the Rim (First Independent, 15, rental), an engrossing basketball drama that's not afraid to stare cliche in the face in the name of a rollicking good showdown. We've got five Above the Rim sets to give away, comprising a copy of the film, a T-shirt and the exemplary soundtrack CD. Just send the answer to this question - in which controversial Madonna promo did Above the Rim star Leon have a major role? On a postcard to: Above the Rim Video Comp, The Independent, Arts, One Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL by 16 Aug.

In last month's competition, we asked you to name the film in which 'Rob Roy' co-stars Tim Roth and John Hurt first appeared together. The answer was 'The Hit'. The five winners are: Steve Bird, London; MD Wright, Bangor- On-Dee; Alan Maughan, Co Durham; W Shore, Surrey; and D Bridgman, Manchester