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A romantic kung fu comedy? Yep, it works

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

A great film from Germany, a must-own set for any serious film fan, celebrity interviews and a double feature starring George Reeves are all in this week's DVD column.

The Kebab Connection

This charming romantic comedy from Germany is part "Romeo and Juliet," part kung fu action picture and part culture clash. Does it work? Absolutely!

Denis Moschitto plays Ibo, a Turkish immigrant who dreams of producing the first German kung fu movie. When the commercial for his uncle's fast food restaurant turns out to be a hit, Ibo thinks he's on his way, but then he discovers his German girlfriend Titzi (Nora Tschirner) is pregnant.

Suddenly he's on the outs with this father and when he hesitates about proposing to Titzi, he's minus a girlfriend.

Ibo must prove himself to her, to his father and to the producer who is considering his film. His path is made more difficult thanks to the local Turkish/German mafia, a rival Greek restaurateur and his sexy daughter, and an encounter with ouzo.

The film is in German with English subtitles and may not be at the local Blockbuster, but hunt it down. It's a great little movie.

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The Premiere Frank Capra Collection

This five movie set of some of director Frank Capra's best work needs to sit on any serious film buff's shelf. Capra, like John Ford, Orson Welles and Erich Von Stroheim, was a director whose films carry a distinctive tone and social context.

Unlike Welles and Von Stroheim, whose style and technique sometimes did not always endear themselves to either studio execs or the public, Capra was like Ford in understanding how he could use the system to tell stories that had meaning for both him and the audience.

The phrase "Capra-corn" was coined to describe Capra's sometimes sentimental, but also very human approach to his subject material, and that's unfortunate as it colors his films as being naive. Capra's films, while often ending on very high notes, present that faith has to be tested and many of his films convey some very dark moments.

This collection includes "American Madness," "It happened One night," "Mr. Deed Goes to Town," "You Can't take it With You," and "Mrs. Smith Goes to Washington," as well as a feature-length documentary made in 1997 and a book on Capra.

What treats are in this collection: the great romantic comedy of "It Happened One night," and the triumph of the average man in "Mr. Deeds and "Mr. Smith." What might surprise some viewers is "American Madness," an earlier more obscure Capra film that is both social commentary and crime drama.

Go out and buy this set for the movie lover on your list.

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Inside The Actor's Studio

I must admit certain envy for James Lipton and his show "Inside The Actor's Studio," as I would love to have a similar program myself. The difference between the two of us is I would like to present interviews with character actors and supporting players rather than the megastars that is standard for his show.

My own experience has been those performers bring a far more grounded view of show business. The folks featured in this set of four interviews (Clint Eastwood, Barbra Streisand, Paul Newman and Robert Redford) are performers at the top of the Hollywood "A" list.

And perhaps that's part of the problem I have with Lipton. While he has his hundreds of blue cards (which he reveals during an introduction that he writes himself) and that he doesn't engage in the practice of "pre-interviewing" his guests, he always comes across as a star-struck guy.

While some of his questions are probing, he frequently doesn't go for the subject material that might make his guest a little uncomfortable. For instance with Clint Eastwood, he didn't ask about Eastwood's habit of establishing relationships with leading ladies and how this can affect his films. Nor did he talk to Eastwood about being a poster boy for the right wing and whether or not he was comfortable with such a description.

Granted, I guess, I wouldn't want to poison the well after all if you're hard on one of these folks, others might not want to come.

So if you're a fan of the show and don't share my reservations, this is something you might want for your collection.

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George Reeves Double feature: Thunder in the Pines, Jungle Goddess

This new collection the folks at VCI Entertainment is essentially designed to cash in on the renewed interest in George Reeves due to the movie "Hollywoodland" and also to be an unabashed valentine to the actor best known for playing Superman in the 1950s television series.

Reeves was indeed an actor with looks and talent whose promising career at major studios was derailed by his service during World War II. He was never able to regain his position at the big studios and wound up performing in low-budget affairs such as these two films.

Of the two, "Thunder in the Pines" is actually a lot of fun in the cheesy B-movie tradition. Reeves and co-star Ralph Byrd play "fighting pals," who are lumberman hankering to get rich. They are also in love with the same girl, which complicates the plot quite a bit. Both stars seem to be having a good time with the material and, in turn, so did I.

The second film, which also co-stars Byrd, is a different matter. "Jungle Goddess" is your standard "find the white girl marooned in the jungle that is now queen of a tribe" plot that about three million or so B- movies had. Reeves looks slightly uncomfortable at times and undoubtedly was revealing his feelings for this lackluster project.

The extras include a variety of fan produced little films and essays that illustrate just how many people still love the actor who died in 1957.

If you're a B-movie fan, the scorecard is 50 percent for this collection. I'd still buy it with that ranking!

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