TIN MEN R, 1987, 112 minutes, Touchstone Home Video, $89.95.
"Bonanza" jokes, Sinatra music and the fries at Fells Point Diner are once again immortalized by Bal'mer auteur Barry Levinson. His second story in a planned home town trilogy concerns a breed of fast-talking aluminum siding salesmen, the delightfully dishonest tin men who sat across the aisle from the gang at the "Diner." This sentimental comic celebration of manliness circa '63 focuses on two tin-game rivals and Cadillac owners (Richard Dreyfuss and Danny DeVito) who meet in a fender-bender that quickly escalates into a major feud. It's a fin for a fin, a taillight for a taillight till Dreyfuss tires of the Caddy-bashing tactics and decides to seduce DeVito's wife (Barbara Hershey). The chemistry crackles among the trio of leads, whose performances are uniformly superb. Levinson, who writes and directs, has a sense of place and time that remains unsurpassed. There's a little Willy Loman in these tin men, and for local color, a little Frank Perdue.
Rita Kempley LIGHT OF DAYPG-13, 1987, 107 minutes, Vestron Video, $79.98. deftext
This Paul Schrader film about brother-sister rock 'n' rollers in Cleveland is another of the director's moralistic fables about the unforgiving rigors of the creative life.Patti (Joan Jett), the lead singer and driving force behind a run-of-the-mill band called "The Barbusters," only wants to get out in front of an audience and feel the beat. Her brother, Joe (Michael J. Fox), who works at the local factory stamping out tacky commemorative trays with pictures of Prince Charles and Princess Di, isn't as driven; he likes to play music but he isn't willing to wreck his life for it. Patti says that she is trying to live her life according to an idea; for her rock is an ethic, a philosophy of life. But Joe is the one who has to be responsible and make sure that her baby isn't left on the street corner somewhere. This isn't a great role for Fox; there's no chance for him to put his boyish adorability on display, and without it there's nothing much left for him to draw on. Jett, on the other hand, gives Patti a feral toughness, but in the scenes with her dying mother, played with actressy brio by Gena Rowlands, she shows us the misery that she tries to escape from on stage. Schrader's attempt to tear into the rusted-out heart of working class darkness comes across as an exercise in determinism: his characters are empty for no other reason than he says they have to be.
-- Hal Hinson JUMPIN' JACK FLASH R, 1986, 100 minutes, closed-captioned, CBS Fox Video, $34.98. deftext
Whoopi Goldberg's classy clowning turns this slipshod comic thriller into an enjoyable cloak-and-dagger escapade. Goldberg plays a computer whiz whose job with an international banking firm takes an exciting turn when she intercepts a Mayday from a British agent trapped behind the Iron Curtain. Soon she is up to her high-tops in hair-raising intrigue, using her input to save Jack Flash, the spy who guides her via computer correspondence. Penny Marshall of "Laverne & Shirley" fame makes her fairly unimpressive debut as a director, allowing Goldberg to grandstand and overwhelm the supporting cast. There's one priceless segment in which Goldberg crashes a diplomats' ball disguised as Diana Ross, though she looks more like Jack Lemmon in "Some Like It Hot." While she's sleuthing upstairs in the embassy's computer room, her strapless gown is sucked into a paper shredder. "I had moths. Big, mutant, junkie moths," she explains, tottering off on stilty heels in her shredded finery.
-- Rita Kempley EVIL DEAD 2 unrated, 1987, 90 mins., Vestron Video, $79.95. deftext
In this, the sequel to "the ultimate experience in gruesome terror," director Sam Rami doesn't mess around: We're not three minutes into the film before the first artery spurts. Basically, the movie is a haunted house, but one with a gloriously sick joke behind every door. The story is worked out better than most in this genre (especially the neat twist at the finish). Trying to get away for a romantic weekend, a pair of young lovers drives up into the mountains to what they think is an abandoned cabin for a weekend alone. Ah, the cabin -- as fans of the first film remember, is hardly a cozy trysting place. Evil spirits abound and body parts -- and bodies without parts -- cavort and gambol. At one point, our hero's hand takes a rabid dislike to him and runs amok, pummeling him about the face and body, and breaking dishes over his head. The actors, in particular Bruce Campbell, send up the usual slasher-flick haminess: They actually make a comic style out of B-movie awfulness. The scare effects, which come at you in manic waves, are staged with Keystone Kops-like precision: It's slapstick gore at its kickiest and most unrestrained. This is not a movie where you have to pull the crank on the chainsaw more than once.
-- Hal Hinson THE MAGIC FLUTEUnrated, 1985, in English, 148 minutes, Home Vision, $49.95. deftext
Produced by the National Arts Center of Canada and originally telecast by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., this "Magic Flute" unfortunately makes its worst impression right at the beginning, with lighting that suggests someone may be trying to save on the electric bill. It is not the first home video edition of Mozart's crazy, mixed-up masterpiece. Without even considering the brilliant, eccentric movie by Ingmar Bergman, it has direct competition from the highly polished Glyndebourne production -- available for $79.95 from Video Arts International -- and it may eventually have to compete with taped editions of the excellent Salzburg production that has been seen on PBS and the whimsical one with sets and costumes by Maurice Sendak that has played in Washington. In any case, conductor Mario Bernardi leads a finely paced and balanced, excellently sung and generally well-acted interpretation that offers good value for $30 less than the VAI edition.
-- Joe McLellan