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Three recent releases are entertaining

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

A fun but very dramatized biopic, a blast from the 1980s and a movie that will still galvanize audiences 20 years after its release are in this week's DVD offerings.

Take the Lead

Antonio Banderas proves once again he is one of the charismatic actors working today in the film based on the life and work of dancer and teacher Pierre Dulaine.

Now the movie is only "inspired" by Duliane's groundbreaking work in the New York City schools teaching ballroom dancing. If you want to see an accurate version of Duliane's work, then rent a copy of "Mad Hot Ballroom."

If you're looking for a fun and inspirational film on which kids with behavior problems work through their difficulties thanks to the discipline of learning how to dance, then this is your movie. It's not a classic, but it is a film that is thoroughly entertaining.

Banderas not only looks the part of the soft-spoke dance instructor, but he shows he can dance as well. His young co-stars also carry off the dance duties quite well.

Although Alfre Woodward plays the role of the doubting high school principal a little too broad and the conclusion of the film is sheer Hollywood hokum, these are minor distractions to an otherwise enjoyable film.

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Tom Snyder's Electric Kool-Aid Talk Show

Deadheads and fans of the peace and love generation will want to see this new release from Shout Factory that packages several segments from Tom Snyder's "Tomorrow Show" from 1979, '80 and '81.

Snyder was a great conversationalist whose interview style could include hard-hitting questions mixed with personal observations. His long-running program on NBC came on after "The Tonight Show," and often featured guests who wouldn't be considered for prime time.

This DVD has two interviews with author Tom Wolfe, one with Dr. Timothy Leary, and another with author Ken Kesey and Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead, who performs four songs.

The interviews with Wolfe are pretty interesting as the veteran social observer speaks with Snyder about American society. The Leary interview is a little odd as Snyder clearly has some doubts about Leary and the role he played in make legitimizing illegal drugs.

If Shout Factory is going to mine "the Tomorrow Show" archives as it has with those of "The Dick Cavett Show," there should be many more interesting compilations.

By the way this DVD is of particular interest locally as Leary was a native of Springfield and Wolfe mentions Springfield in one of his interviews. He was a reporter for the former "Morning Union," in the 1950s.

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Body Double

Just in time to help promote the new Brian DePalma thriller, "The Black Dahlia," is one of the director's most controversial films. When released in 1984, "Body Double" angered many critics with what some people saw as anti-woman movie.

I saw the film then and haven't seen it again until the release of this DVD. It's no more misogynynistic than a million other Hollywood films. Actually it's a pretty clever collage of various cinematic styles and influences.

Craig Wasson plays Jake Scully, an unemployed actor, who gets a housesitting gig from another actor. The perk is not only the opulent house and amenities, but also the view of a beautiful neighbor who performs an erotic dance in front of her window every night.

What Scully doesn't realize is that he is being set up as a witness to a murder of that neighbor. The only person who can help him discover who the killer is a porn star named Holly Body, played by Melanie Griffith.

DePalma had made a name for himself as a latter day Hitchcock with films such as "Sisters," "Dressed to Kill" and "Blow Out." This film may be his most overt homage to Hitchcock with a little bit of "Vertigo" and "Rear Window."

The cinematic ingredients don't stop there, though. DePalma pulled a Quentin Taratino by adding a grisly murder straight out of a drive-in film. He also dabbled with "porno chic" by considering casting a prominent porn actress in the documentary on the film, DePalma wouldn't name just who in the "Holly Body" role. DePalma said that this actress did work with Griffith on her role.

With its lurid plot, significant violence and porn backdrop, "Body Double" still is a film that can polarize an audience. It's not for everybody, but if you like DePalma's work and if you've not seen this one as yet, it's well worth checking out.

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