National Catholic Register

Arts & Entertainment

Videos on Release

BY Loretta Seyer

February 21-27, 1999 Issue | Posted 2/21/97 at 1:00 PM

 

Into Thin Air: Death on Everest

This film is based on Into Thin Air, journalist Jon Krakauer's non-fiction best seller that recounted a 1996 disaster on Mount Everest. Krakauer had been assigned by Outside magazine to accompany a party of climbers in an assault on Everest and chronicle his experiences. The catch was that most of the climbers were inexperienced mountaineers. Many had paid tens of thousands to be escorted up the world's highest peak. But Everest is unforgiving even to the moneyed, and the mountain killed several of them and their guides after a series of unwise decisions. Into Thin Air: Death on Everest has a fascinating tale to tell about arrogance and hubris, but the film's technical quality interferes with its clarity. The background music makes it hard to hear essential dialogue, and the editing is too rushed on occasions, making the story hard to follow.

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Merlin

Hallmark Entertainment has long specialized in producing television specials fit for the whole family. One of its most successful recent efforts was the miniseries Merlin. This lavish tale about the wizard of the Arthurian legends proved so successful it was released on videotape. Merlin is an absorbing tale, proving once again how rich and evocative the Arthurian cycle is even for this generation of technology-minded people. The miniseries is filled with special effects that do justice to the power of Merlin and other creatures that inhabit his world. These include Queen Mab (Natasha Richardson), the enchantress who constructs Merlin (Sam Niell), and Frick (Martin Short), her elfish aide-de-camp. Mab and Frick try to draw Merlin into the old, dark, pagan ways, but he's intrigued by the light of the new Christian world. Merlin tries to support the triumph of the good, but he's afflicted by the evil and the weakness that lies within humans. Although Merlin puts a spin on the Arthurian legends that might disturb some purists, it provides enough intrigue and entertainment to keep most watching happily.

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Skiing — Warren Miller's Snowriders II

For years, winter enthusiasts would see fliers posted at local sports shops advertising an upcoming screening of one of Warren Miller's compilations of hot-dog skiing. They would gather in small crowds on uncomfortable chairs and watch footage of jaw-dropping aerial stunts amid gorgeous winter scenery. Some audiences even had a chance to query Miller himself, an outdoorsman who had turned his passion for skiing into a filmmaking avocation. Well, Miller has gone big-time. He now produces full-length movies of amazing footage. His latest is Skiing — Warren Miller's Snowriders II, and it certainly offers more of the spectacular feats that made Miller famous. The video highlights stunning skiing in locales as diverse as New Zealand's Mount Cook, British Columbia's Whistler, Switzerland's Alps, Alaska's Mount McKinley, and Kazakhstan's public slope. It also shows such oddities as mountain bicycling over snow cornices and kayaking down snow chutes. The video is a head-shaking look at the lengths that some people will go to in their sometimes reckless search for thrills. V:0 L:0 N:0 S:0

Still Breathing

Several generations of the men in a San Antonio family have had one, special ability. Somehow they have been given the power to see in their dreams the face of their future wife. Fletcher (Brendan Fraser) is the latest member of the family to experience the phenomenon. This strapping but gentle young man is finding his life as a musician and street entertainer complicated by mysterious visions of his future love. Finally, Fletcher receives one strong image saying, “Formosa.” He thinks it means his beloved is living in Taiwan, and he books a flight for the island nation. When he reaches Los Angeles on a stopover, Fletcher discovers that Formosa is the name of a restaurant. He ventures there and discovers the face that has been haunting his dreams. It belongs to Rosalind (Joanna Going), a sophisticated artist who has been unhappy in love, leaving her deeply cynical about men. Slowly, Fletcher charms Rosalind. She tries to withstand him because she doesn't trust her heart or her true nature. Still Breathing is a slight, almost whimsical film, but it has a haunting quality and a sense of the romantic that stays with viewers long after it's over.

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Loretta Seyer