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A potpourri of new DVDs

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SINCE the invention of TV in the 1950s, we of the human species, like it or not, have grown increasingly dependent on visual stimulation. With the onset of music videos and video games, with their narcotically satisfying quick cuts and rapid edits, our brains have become increasingly addicted to the flickering stimulation of the mighty moving image. We suck it up, like a drug, through our wide-open eyeballs, and we are happy. You cannot deny it. It's true and it's real and it's happening to you. And though certain neo-Luddites will cry out against it, nostalgically wishing that our cerebral cortexes might all spontaneously regress to a pre-MTV, pre-video, pre-television state, these people are wasting their wishes. We will not go back. We will not go back.

Here then, for all the happy image-addicts on your Christmas list, are a few suggestions of new and unusual DVDs that will be sure to invoke some brain-pulsing rapid-eye movement, even while you're wide awake, staring merrily at the tube in the dark.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Sure, technically speaking, there's more frenetic energy and visual stimulation in the new live-action Jim Carrey version of this Dr. Seuss holiday classic. But that's not available on DVD yet, and the original cartoon version is way more colorful. The DVD version features a mini-documentary about the Grinch's musical feats--"Songs in the Key of Grinch"--along with an interactive Grinch trivia game and a trippy little interview with June Foray, the voice of Cindy Lou Who.

Excalibur

This 1981 Round Table acid-trip was a fantastic blend of medieval eye candy and some very hallucinogenic plotting. The DVD includes feature-length commentary by director John Boorman, who explains the thought processes behind the best film in the history of Sword-and-Sorcery cinemas. Enjoying its 20-year anniversary in 2001, Excalibur is also interesting for early-in-their-career performances by Liam Neeson, Patrick Stewart, and Gabriel Byrne.

Repo Man

Served up in a nifty tin that looks like a box with a license plate for a lid, the new collector's edition of this genre-defying classic includes a soundtrack CD and a book of behind-the-scenes photos. The DVD itself, about a punk who repossesses a car with an alien in the trunk, includes in-depth commentary by director Alex Cox, a gallery of photos, and the Repo Man comic strip.

Cannibal: The Musical

Billed as Oklahoma-meets-Bloodsucking Freaks, this filmed version of the stage play by South Park's Trey Parker contains some of the most bizarre images ever put on tape, including snowbound gold miners singing and dancing their hearts out, literally. The DVD has bucket loads of extras.

Aliens

Yes. Alien was more eerie and elegant--and more downright scary--than its frenetic sequel, but 1986's sequel, Aliens, by director James Cameron, is so mesmerisingly fast-paced and crammed with rapid-fire imagery that your brain can barely contain it all. That's cool. The DVD features gobs of extra stuff, including 17 minutes of restored footage and a behind-the-scenes documentary.

Pink Floyd: The Wall

What moron said that Michael Jackson's Thriller was the best video ever filmed? This 1982 feature-length rock-and-roll phantasmagoria, directed by Alan Parker and based on Pink Floyd's anti-war masterpiece, is the most amazing blend of rock music and reality-bending imagery since the Who's Tommy.

2001: A Space Odyssey

This one's obvious. Since its initial release in 1968, Stanley Kubrick's mind-blowing fantasia on space, time, intelligence, evolution, and a conflicted computer named Hal has been waiting for this moment. As we hover on the actual brink of the year 2001, our brains are thirsty for the dual hits of special FX light-show weirdness and nostalgia. (Extra! Extra! Makes a great "theme gift" when wrapped up with a CD of Richard Strauss' grand soundtrack theme to 2001, Thus Spake Zarathustra).

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From the December 21-27, 2000 issue of the Northern California Bohemian.

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