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IN BRIEF

Ernest Goes to Jail PG, 1990, 100 minutes, closed-cap tioned, Touchstone Home Video. The good news is "Ernest Goes to Jail." The bad news is he gets out. Beloved huckster Jim Var ney has his third outing as Ernest P. Worrell, here a bank janitor who becomes a juror in a murder trial. When the defendant notices that Ernest is a dead ringer for impris oned crime boss Felix Nash, a switch is arranged and Ernest must do hard time. An endearing boob, he manages to befriend the other convicts and extricate himself from the big house. John Cherry, the director of all three Ernest movies, the Ernest TV special and the "Hey Vern" commercials, continues to make a good living by underestimating the American taste. -- Rita Kempley
GREMLINS 2 -- THE NEW BATCH, PG-13; 1990; 107 minutes; closed-captioned; Warner Home Video. The tone of Joe Dan te's "Gremlins 2 -- The New Batch" is set even before the actual movie has started. The picture begins with the familiar logo from the Looney Tunes cartoons, and lounging on top, as usual, is Bugs, carrot in hand and a prankish gleam in his eye. That gleam expresses completely the spirit of the Warner Bros. animations, and precisely what Dante is hoping to reproduce -- a kind of live-action Looney Tune, a flesh-and- blood movie with a cartoon heart. But the soul of Bugs is barely in evidence here. Very little in this sequel is markedly different from the original; even the stars (Zach Galligan and Phoebe Cates), the creatures and the basic setup are the same. After the passing of the old man who owned him, Gizmo, the impossibly adorable Mogwai who was the source of all the mischief in the earlier picture, is plucked out of an alley in New York's Chinatown and taken to Clamp Centre, a corpo rate gulag that serves as headquarters for a financial empire run by a Donald Trump-like mega-magnate named Daniel Clamp (John Glover). The movie picks up steam, though, in its second half when thousands of floppy-eared demons -- who are close in temperament to Hell's Angels -- begin speeding through Clamp's corridors of power with most evil intent, laying waste to everything in their path. Dante and special-effects wizard Rick Baker have focused all of their ingenuity on the creatures. Clearly it's with them, and not the film's real actors, that Dante has felt the greater empathy. -- Hal Hinson
THE SURE THING, PG-13; 1985; closed-captioned; 100 minutes; Nelson. Steven Bloom and his college chum Jonathan Roberts were inspired by "It Happened One Night" when they wrote this delightful collegiate road comedy. Directed by Rob Rei ner, "The Sure Thing" stars John Cusack, then 17, as a randy Ivy League freshman who accepts a transcontinental blind date with Nicollette Sheridan, the Sure Thing of the title. Only on the way west, he finds the Real Thing (Daphne Zuniga) and his young life becomes immeasurably more complicated. Zuni ga, a starchy preppie miss, becomes caught up in the cross- country romance a la "When Harry Met Sally . . . " when she and Cusack find they are sharing a ride to the Coast. The two are initially incompatible, but their mutual animosity turns to love somewhere near Albuquerque. So now Cusack must choose between easy sex with Sheridan and personal growth here in the guise of true love. Cusack's energetic performance drives the movie on its happy way. "The Sure Thing" is being released as part of a package of Reiner films. -- Rita Kempley
~ TOP TEN
RENTALS
(1) Pretty Woman (Touchstone). (2) Total Recall (Carolco). (3) The Hunt for Red October (Paramount). (4) Back to the Future Part II (MCA/Uni versal). (5) Bird on a Wire (MCA/Universal). (6) Another 48 Hrs. (Para mount). (7) The Rocky Horror Picture Show (CBS/Fox). (8) Cadillac Man (Orion). (9) Q & A (HBO). (10) Glory (Touchstone).
SALES
(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) The Rocky Horror Picture Show (CBS/Fox).

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