Videolfile (Starburst Reviews) Video reviews by David Bassom
DVD reviews by David Richardson
From Starburst's monthly Reviews section
selected from Starburst #260

Selected this month: new Star Wars and Austin Powers on VHS; plus Farscape triumphs on DVD

Read Alan Jones' reviews for
Pitch Black • Being John Malkovich • Lake Placid and Princess Mononoke when you buy Starburst #260

In every issue - a major Reviews section of the latest sci-fi and fantasy media, including:
a TV View, from the US or UK: our popular Bookshelf section on the latest Sci-Fi/Fantasy novels and writers, plus new Soundtracks releases, games and websites in Cybertech, home entertainment in Videofile and DVD File, and John Brosnan's It's Only A Movie

Bookshelf section here

A score of other videos and DVDs to rent or buy are reviewed in the issue!

Star Wars:
Episode I – The Phantom Menace
3rd April, rental and retail VHS • widescreen version available • Cert U • Fox
Order it from Black Star today!

Star Wars Ep1 on VHS

Menace to society

Starring:
Liam Neeson
Ewan McGregor

It was the most eagerly-awaited film of all-time, and had cinemagoers from across the galaxy lining-up outside their local flea pits. Now, hot on the heels of its spectacularly successful theatrical release, the fourth Star Wars film ignites onto VHS. By turns brilliant and banal, The Phantom Menace will once again disappoint viewers expecting a groundbreaking, imaginative or emotionally-charged addition to the saga. But thanks to its stunning set-pieces, rousing score and awe-inspiring special effects, this $115 million prequel still emerges as an immensely enjoyable cosmic rollercoaster ride.

At heart, The Phantom Menace is writer-director George Lucas’ souped-up retread of the original Star Wars. Set a generation before the adventures of Luke Skywalker and Han Solo, the film’s plot essentially follows Jedi Knights Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and Obi-Wan Kenobi’s (Ewan McGregor) attempts to save Princess Leia’s mother-to-be, Queen Amidala (Natalie Portman), from the evil Trade Federation. Unfortunately, however, whereas Episode IV’s storyline embodied a fairy tale-like simplicity, Episode I’s plotting is needlessly-complex and frequently lacks momentum.

The film’s direction doesn’t help matters either. Lucas seems to focus all his efforts on the movie’s special effects, and only allows the likes of Liam Neeson, Pernilla August and Ian McDiarmid to really shine. Disappointingly, Episode I also lacks the sense of warmth and camaraderie that characterised the original trilogy.

Come the closing credits, though, all such quibbles will have been blown away by The Phantom Menace’s many assets. The movie’s opening battle sequence, Tatooine pod race and incredible closing lightsaber duel all make unforgettable additions to the Star Wars canon. Visually, the film manages to surpass its predecessors with its sumptuous vistas and remarkable CGI characters. And John Williams’ majestic melodies provide a welcome link between Star Wars old and new.

For those reasons – and those reasons alone – The Phantom Menace is an essential purchase. Don’t miss it.

Starburst rating: 8

Austin Powers:
The Spy Who Shagged Me
20th March, retail VHS • Cert 12 • EV
Order it from Black Star today!

Austin Powers 2 on VHS

Spy hard – oh behave!

Starring:
Mike Myers
Heather Graham

The International Man of Mystery is back! Picking-up from the 1997 original, The Spy Who Shagged Me propels British secret agent Austin Powers (Mike Myers) back to the Sixties, where he attempts to save both the world and his all-important ‘Mojo’ from the evil, erm, Dr Evil (Myers again).

Essentially a big-budget reworking of the superior original, Austin Powers’ second outing is bulging with the usual mix of toilet humour, Carry On-style innuendo and knowing in-jokes. And while it might not stand up (ahem!) to repeated viewing as well as its illustrious predecessor, The Spy Who Shagged Me’s tried-and-tested blend of hilarious setpieces and winning performances will leave most people feeling extremely satisfied.

Farscape 1
DVD Doublepack
28th February • Cert 12 • 250 mins, 1.33: 1
Order it from Black Star today!

Farscape on DVD

"TV has never looked this good"

Starring:
Ben Browder
Claudia Black

The Feature

Already attracting a burgeoning fan base across the globe, this latest addition to Sci-Fi TV makes for rewarding viewing, thanks to the excellent ensemble cast, quite stunning CGI effects and its winning sense of humour. While the premise is nothing new (basically it’s Buck Rogers meets Blake’s 7), series creator Rockne S O’Bannon is at least pushing new frontiers, creating a colourful, outlandish Fantasy that contrasts with the standard antiseptic SF fare.

The first four episodes are on this beautifully packaged double-pack DVD, boasting an almost uniform high standard. Just beware some excruciating acting from guest star Lisa Hensley as Matala in Back and Back and Back to the Future

Starburst rating: 8

The Extras

TV has never looked this good: the stunning Farscape production values really come to life on DVD, as the pin-sharp 1.33:1 picture (with amazing colours) is complemented by rich, cinema-standard Dolby sound. The quality evident on the packaging continues on the disc menu, which assaults the senses with dynamic moving images from the show.

Extras include character profiles (one per disc) for John Crichton and Aeryn Sun. Ben Browder and Claudia Black discuss their respective characters, supported by tons of excerpts and comments from the producers. Thumbs up for A Cutting Edge Sci-Fi Show, a 22-minute documentary that follows Farscape from its genesis to the screen. O’Bannon and his team recall its roots, while we get a backstage pass to the Henson Creature Workshop to see how Rygel, the Pilot and a host of aliens are constructed.

With on-set footage, prosthetic secrets and input from the cast, this really is a rewarding experience. The package is rounded off with a dynamic three-minute Farscape trailer and DVD-ROM materials. Buy it.

Starburst rating: 9

Reviews © Visual Imagination 2000. Not for reproduction