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'Platoon' War Still Rages in Cassette Hassle; 'Hollywood Shuffle' Steps Out Into Market

December 18, 1987|DENNIS HUNT | Times Staff Writer

Discount all the rumors you hear about the "Platoon" suit being settled, with Vestron Video winning its battle against Hemdale Film Corp. and HBO Video for the home video rights to the Oscar-winning movie.

According to a source at Vestron, negotiations between the warring factions have ceased. Apparently this thoroughly unpredictable battle, which seemed on the verge of being settled last week, is back to a standstill. But don't be surprised to hear an official announcement about the videocassette release at any time.

In the industry, this conflict is known as the " 'Platoon' mess"--which seems to grow more complex every day.

The dispute broke out early this year, when Vestron filed suit against Hemdale claiming that the film company breached its contract by selling "Platoon" videocassette rights to HBO Video. Vestron claims it has exclusive video rights. Since then, a network of complicated suits have been filed related to the situation.

For instance, "Platoon" producer Arnold Kopelson has been suing Hemdale for money he claims the company owes him--plus damages. In retaliation, Hemdale just announced a countersuit. Also, in a move related to the film's delayed home video release, one of Kopelson's creditors is now suing him.

One major consequence of the delayed release, which had been scheduled for October by HBO, is that the pay-per-view and cable release dates, originally scheduled for the first part of next year will probably have to be changed.

Whoever wins the suit may think twice about releasing "Platoon" in January. It will have strong competition from other hot movies debuting on home video next month, including "Dirty Dancing," "Back to the Beach," "La Bamba," "Dragnet," "Predator" and "Robocop."

Whenever "Platoon's" released, it should be rental smash--regardless of competition. So far, the film's grossed about $250 million worldwide.

NEW RELEASES: Virgin Vision's "Hollywood Shuffle" was co-written, produced and directed by star Robert Townsend. This unheralded, inexpensive independent movie is one the funniest of the year, establishing Townsend as a comic actor and a talented film maker. It's about a struggling actor (Townsend) working at a fast-food joint who's unsure about accepting a plum part--as an effeminate gang leader--because it's demeaning to blacks. His fantasies are turned into hilarious set pieces. The best is his parody of the TV show featuring film critics Siskel and Ebert. There's a serious message in this madness--that black actors and actresses are forced to accept roles perpetuating negative black stereotypes in order to survive.

Warner Video's "Masters of the Universe" is the first feature film about He-Man, who's popular among the kiddies as a toy and a TV cartoon character. This mighty, muscular warrior, stonily portrayed by Dolph Lundgren, battles evil on the futuristic planet Eternia. The movie, fast-paced silliness with "Star Wars" overtones, is about a battle--partly on Earth--for a powerful cosmic key. Because it's mainly for the kiddies, the heroes are relentlessly pure and noble while the villains--He-Man's nemesis Skeletor (Frank Langella) and Evil-Lyn (Meg Foster)--are rotten to the core.

Watching Lorimar's "The Fourth Protocol," many may have problems accepting Pierce Brosnan--who looks like a harmless GQ cover boy--as a cold-blooded Russian agent and Joanna Cassidy as an expert Russian bomb maker. These two are assembling an atom bomb to blow up an air base. Michael Caine, who could play a British agent in his sleep, heads the intelligence team out to stop them. Parts of it are gripping but much of it, like the subplot about high-level political in-fighting among the Russian spies, is confusing. As in any British spy thriller, there are many marvelous performances in small roles. Directed by Jon Mackenzie who did a much better film, "The Long Good Friday."

New World's "House II: The Second Story" is more of a comedy-adventure than a suspenseful haunted-house film. In a big, old, isolated house, two carefree young guys (Arye Gross and Jonathan Stack) meet up with a 175-year-old man--the friendliest rotting mummy you'll ever see--who involves them in a hunt for a magical skull. In turns out that the second story of this house is a gateway to a jungle which is the site of many of the battles for the skull. It's nonsense that's often somewhat amusing.

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