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THE VIDEO STORE GRAB 'N' RUN: I See "U"

Sometimes "U" suck
by Charles Tatum

The video store grab and run involves nothing illegal. I never stuff videos and DVDs down the back of my sons' pants, and toss them over the electronic sensors at the video store. I never instigate fistfights between my two boys, distracting the employees while I sneak into the "Over 18 Only" room. And I never anonymously call the police, making up untrue morals charges against my ex-wife so I can raid her stash of videos for material for this column after she is hauled in for questioning...I promise...no, really....

This week, me and the kids visited the "U" section of the video store for five unsuspecting victims: "Under Siege 2: Dark Territory," "Universal Soldier," "Universal Soldier: The Return," "Unspeakable," and "Uranus." I do like myself some Dina Meyer...

...except in this. "Unspeakable" is a terrible combination of "Fallen," "The Silence of the Lambs," "Prison," and any other death row flick you can think of. Meyer has invented a brain reading machine and hooks it up to a convict who might be the devil. Too bad she couldn't hook it up to the screenwriter so we could watch any of the better movies he borrowed ideas from for this stinker. Unscary and underwhelming.

"Uranus" is not a space epic, but a French film about the waning days of World War II. A small town struggles with being liberated, and taking revenge on Nazi collaborators, some of whom cooperated merely to survive. Sounds heavy handed, but there are a number of darkly comic moments, and the film is fascinating from start to finish. A real find. Okay, now we'll take that science fiction.

Of course, it's really bad science fiction. In "Universal Soldier," Dolph Lundgren and Jean-Claude Van Damme are perfect, genetically altered soldiers who suddenly remember who they were in their previous lives. Big bloody action sequences follow, and so did my boredom. This film was not written, it was assembled from spare parts of better films. Will the sequel be better? Are you high?

I wish I was. "Universal Soldier: The Return" is not as bad as the original, but that is like saying lung cancer is not as bad as kidney failure. Van Damme returns in this one, cured from the first film, battling a new round of indestructible soldiers. Everyone here moves in slow motion, and no one seems to be enjoying anything about this loser film. The only plus this has on the original is that it is twenty minutes shorter. Let's cleanse our taste buds with a crass little Seagal, full bodied yet genteel.

Steven Seagal killed his only film franchise with the money losing "Under Siege 2: Dark Territory" which features some great stuntwork, a great villain, a cute teenage girl...and Seagal mumbling and stumbling around, hurting various meanies and trying to act. Not as bad as the previously viewed "Universal Soldier" flicks, but do not ever ask yourself why Seagal is not opening in two thousand theaters anymore after watching this.

Yikes, not a good week this week. The five films, ranked best to worst:
1. Uranus
2. Under Siege 2: Dark Territory
3. Unspeakable
4. Universal Soldier: The Return
5. Universal Soldier

That's it for this week. More unhealthy choices lie ahead- bad films, anonymous sex partners, my lunch. See you soon.


link directly to this feature at http://www.efilmcritic.com/feature.php?feature=1207
originally posted: 10/12/04 00:13:55
last updated: 05/11/05 00:34:31
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