Two new vampire movies highlight a slender video week, with the same message: those nasty nocturnal neck nibblers are "everywhere."
"Blade II" -- Wesley Snipes returns as vampire hunter Blade, the half-vampire, half-human juggernaut whose shadowy life is devoted to destroying the undead in this stylishly violent, full-throttle action gorefest. The appearance of a breed of powerful rogue vampires, the Reapers, bent on not only wiping out all humans on Earth but all other vampires as well, forces Blade into a wary alliance with his sworn enemies, the night stalkers of the Vampire Nation, in an all-out effort to stop this new bunch of ghoulish creatures. From then on it's one bloody battle after another as Blade leads a small, crack team of fighters through dark, dank corridors in search of a vicious enemy that greatly outnumbers them. Among his team is the sultry beauty Nyssa (Lenor Varela) with whom Blade has a romantic moment of sorts. Kris Kristofferson returns as Blade's mentor Whistler, who supposedly died in the original. Snipes seems perfect for this role, always cool in the face of danger with quick hands and quicker feet, a fierce fighter with more gadgets than James Bond, never taking things too seriously. Macabre master Guillermo del Toro's film, bathed in darkness and Gothic imagery, goes a bit far at times with its gory goings on and doesn't always make sense but is an attention grabber and in some respects an improvement over the 1998 original. 2002. 95 minutes. New Line Home Entertainment. Rated R (strong, pervasive violence, some drug use and sexual content).
"Queen of the Damned" -- The other new vampire story of the week, a so-so adaptation from Anne Rice's "The Vampire Chronicles," is largely notable as the last screen appearance of the late rock star Aaliyaha. She plays Akasha, centuries-old queen of the vampires, looking more like the queen of the Nile, but doesn't appear in the flesh until the movie is well along. The flick centers on Rice's vampire Lestat (Stuart Townsend), who climbs out of his coffin to reinvent himself as a pop music star in, suitably, Death Valley. We first see Akasha as a statue in a Egyptian crypt-like shrine before she's brought back to life by Lestat's music and immediately begins planning how, together, they will rule the world, a plan that doesn't sit well with her subjects. Not much bite to this one. 2002. 101 minutes. Warner Home Entertainment. Rated R (vampire violence).
And then there's Universal's "Vampire's Kiss," a bizarre 1989 tale new on DVD starring a young Nicolas Cage in an over-the-top performance as a successful literary agent whose womanizing puts him with a pretty pickup (Jennifer Beals) who bites him on the neck, sending him into wild, uncontrollable behavior because he thinks he's turning into a vampire.
"The Sweetest Thing" -- What starts out as a light romantic romp with Cameron Diaz and a couple of very attractive pals looking for love gets bogged down early in the apparent Hollywood belief that vulgarity is always funny. The more the bodily fluid jokes (the grosser the better), the more the big yuks -- and big bucks. It worked in "Something About Mary." It doesn't work like that here. The story deals with a party girl (Diaz) who falls for a guy (Thomas Jane) but doesn't get his name when they part and spends the rest of the movie looking for him and getting a big surprise when she finds him. Christina Applegate and Selma Blair play her buddies who join in the big hunt. 2002. 84 minutes. Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment. Rated R (strong sexual content, vulgarity, profanity, brief nudity).
"The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring" continues as the No. 1 video rental across the land... September's video lineup opens with the Ben Affleck-Samuel L.Jackson drama "Changing Lanes," Jody Foster's "Panic Room" and the swashbuckling "Count of Monte Cristo" on the 10th. Coming on the 17th are Woody Allen's comedy "Hollywood Ending," the psychological drama "Frailty" and the romantic comedy "Kissing Jessica Stein." And, on the 24th come Sandra Bulloch's "Murder by the Numbers," the charming "Monsoon Wedding" and the thriller "Enigma"... And, also on Sept. 24, a two-disc DVD special edition of The Beatles' "A Hard Day's Night"...
Columbia TriStar confirms "Men in Black II" will be released on VHS and double-disc DVD on Nov. 26, assuring the studio a hearty holiday season. Already set for Nov. 1 is "Spider-Man" with "Stuart Little II" and "XXX" probable for early December... Disney's summer animated hit "Lilo and Stitch" will hit the video shelves on Dec. 3... With the popular TV mob series about set to begin its fourth season, HBO has packaged the third season of "The Sopranos" in a four-disc DVD layout... Getting ready to celebrate the 15th anniversary next year of the animated dinosaur video series "The Land Before Time" with the 10th and biggest entry in what Variety describes as a billion-dollar franchise, Universal is bringing out No. 9, "The Land Before Time: Journey to Big Water" on Dec. 10. It all started with Steven Spielberg's pre-"Jurassic Park" 1988 original...
Bizet's masterwork "Carmen" has appeared in many forms through the years but probably none like this. MTV's "Carmen: A Hip Hopera," now on VHS and DVD from New Line, tells the story in hip-hop style with Beyonce Knowles as the irresistible Carmen Brown and Mekhi Phifer as the unlucky guy whose life she turns upside down. Cast also features Mos Def... More from TV: the sixth season of Fox's "X-Files," all 22 episodes, is due Nov. 5.