Robocop R, 1990, 117 minutes, closed-captioned, Orion Home Video. Set in the Detroit of the very near future, "RoboCop 2" is a brutal, cynically violent movie about a brutal, cynically violent civilization in decay. As savagely graphic as its predecessor but less skillful by half, the picture is about a time when all of our problems as a culture have ratcheted up a notch, when the city is bankrupt, its police force on strike, its streets a battleground ruled by a Messianic terrorist named Cain, who controls the production of a potent new designer drug called Nuke. Directed by Irvin Kershner, from a script by Walon Green and comic-book revisionist Frank Miller, "RoboCop 2" shows signs that it might have been a heartlessly funny modern commentary, a witty satire that gave the conventional inner-city police-movie cliches a wicked spin. The original "RoboCop" was a savagely stylish comic book, but what made it so resonant was the primal plight of a man whose memories, whose humanity, was lost somewhere in the wiring. He was a kind of modern Franken stein's monster, and a couple of early scenes in the sequel, again starring Peter Weller, indicate that the filmmakers are interested in exploring these themes. But the notion of the ghost of a man struggling to find himself inside the machine is little more than a ghost inside this mechanistic dumpster of a movie. -- Hal Hinson
WEE SING THE BEST CHRISTMAS EVER, G, 1990, 60 minutes, Price Stern Sloan. The latest live action video from Wee Sing creators Pamela Beall and Susan Nipp is available in time for the holiday season. According to the story, the Smith family travels to Santa's Workshop to help Gusty the elf discover the cause of his newfound clumsiness. With Santa's and the Smiths' help, Gusty regains his balance in time for Santa's Christmas Eve journey. The video follows a tried and true formula typical of Wee Sing audio and video tapes -- a visit to an enchanted land relates a simple yet effective story through plenty of dancing, singing and humor. Designed for children ages 2 to 8, "The Best Christmas Ever" features a multi-cultural cast, 20 holiday songs and scads of rhymes.
-- Dorothy Keenan
NUTCRACKER, THE MOTION PICTURE, G, 1986, 82 minutes, Kartes. With animal epics like "The Black Stallion" and "Never Cry Wolf" behind him, Carroll Ballard is more attuned to paws than pas de deux. Proof is "Nutcracker, the Motion Picture," in which the director gallops wildly through the classic as performed by the Pacific Northwest Ballet. Here "The Waltz of the Flowers" looks less like dance than a stampede of tutus, the over-fancy camera work obscuring the choreography of Kent Stowell and wife Francia Russell. Call me an old fuddy-duddy, but I like to see a dancer's feet. And in a pas de deux, I like to see both of the dancers all the time, every bit of them -- the sculptural shapes their bodies make, the muscular nuance, the startling grace. Ballard and photog rapher Stephen Burum, however, crop off arms and legs to close in on the dancers' sternums and clavicles. They miss the pointe. And that's a shame because Maurice Sendak and Stowell have created a marvelously Freudian version of this often tritely told tale. Sendak, who both wrote the book and designed the marvelous sets, bases the story on E.T.A. Hoff man's original fairy tale, "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King." The music, performed by the London Symphony Or chestra, is still Tchaikovsky, but look elsewhere for sugarplum fairies. This is the stuff of Bettelheim, the darker dreams of childhood explored: Clara's sexual awakening, the rivalry with her horrid little brother and the ambiguity of her relationship with her godfather, Herr Drosselmeier. Hugh Bigney has the dual role of the leering toymaker Drosselmeier and the exotic Pasha, master of Clara's fantasies. Other versions on video include "The Nutcracker: A Fantasy on Ice," skated by Doro thy Hamill and Robin Cousins; "The Nutcracker Ballet," performed by the Royal Ballet of Covent Garden; "The Nut cracker," performed live at the Bolshoi Theater; and "The Nutcracker," choreographed and danced by Mikhail Baryshni kov. -- Rita Kempley
~ TOP TEN
(1) Total Recall (Carolco). (2) Pretty Woman (Touchstone). (3) Another 48 Hrs. (Paramount). (4) Bird on a Wire (MCA/Universal). (5) The Hunt for Red October (Paramount). (6) Back to the Future Part II (MCA/Uni versal). (7) Cadillac Man (Orion). (8) The Rocky Horror Picture Show (CBS/Fox). (9) Q & A (HBO). (10) Betsy's Wedding (Touchstone).
(1) Pretty Woman (Touchstone). (2) Peter Pan (Walt Disney). (3) Total Recall (Carolco). (4) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie (Family). (5) The Little Mermaid (Disney). (6) All Dogs Go to Heaven (MGM-UA). (7) Silver Anniversary: The Sound of Music (CBS/Fox). (8) Look Who's Talking (RAC/Columbia). (9) Madonna: The Immaculate Collection (Warner Reprise). (10) Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (Family).