TIE ME UP! TIE ME DOWN!
NC-17, 1990, 105 minutes, closed-captioned, subtitles, RCA/Columbia Pictures Home Video, $89.95.
The cords that tie us one to another -- silken, insidious, invisible -- become literal ropy metaphors in Pedro Almodovar's controversial but really rather tame look at human bondage. If "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown" was a satire of the faithless Lothario, "Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!" is its spooky antithesis, the darkly comic story of an all-too-devoted lover. Victoria Abril, an Almodovar heroine from the tip of her sharp tongue to her painted toes, is a heroin addict and porn star who seems to be coming into her own as a B-movie queen when she runs afoul of Antonio Banderas, a 23-year-old just released from a mental hospital. With his Bates Motel burr and his gaunt good looks, Banderas is obviously not your ordinary stage-door Johnny. Should there be any doubt, the music score announces him like a creaking stairway on a stormy night in Transylvania. Banderas, who spent the night with the heroine during one of his frequent freeloughs, has determined that he wants to marry her and raise a big family. When Marina ignores his valentines, compliments and headstands, he decides to kidnap her, convinced that she will grow to love him. "I'll never love you, ever," says the actress, understandably enraged at being handcuffed, gagged and lashed to the bed. Ultimately he's right, she becomes attached to him in a spiritual fashion and the physical ties are no longer necessary. It's kinky, yes, but then kinky is what this particular filmmaker is about. Explicitly sexual, this entertainment is not first-date material. Rita Kempley
Unrated, 1990, 84 minutes, Warner Reprise Video, $19.95.
Unrated, 1990, 32 minutes, Warner Reprise Video, $9.95
Athens, Ga.'s, favorite band has emerged in the past five years as one of the great and original American bands, able to fill large stadiums without resorting to spandex and smoke machines. "Tourfilm" is a record of R.E.M.'s 1989 "Green" world tour and marks the first time the band has been filmed live in performance. What sets this apart from other concert films is the process in which the raw footage, a combination of 8- and 16-millimeter (sometimes recording the 35mm projections the band uses in concert), was assembled by five different editors, including lead singer Michael Stipe and director Jim McKay (who also put together the 35mm projections). If all this sounds confusingly layered, it's fairly typical of the way R.E.M. bends rules and expectations, visually as well as musically. Since Stipe is a charismatic, albeit quirky, performer, all this makes for fascinating and artsy visuals. The angles and editing are at times dizzying, but more often the results are intriguing. "We live as we dream, alone," Stipe sings in "World Leader Pretend," and you get the feeling that applies to filming as well. There are 16 songs on "Tourfilm," including such favorites as "Stand," "The One I Love," "It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" and "Finest Worksong," and most of them comfortably straddle the personal and the political. Stipe's a wonderful messenger, the slight quiver of his vocals giving the songs a sweet emotional underpinning that's then powered by Peter Buck's jangling guitar. "Pop Screen" collects nine R.E.M. videos, and it's typical of the group's flouting of MTV expectations that its members appear only (and fleetingly at that) in two of them. Among the better pieces: the idiot dance of "Stand," the moody monochrome of "Orange Crush," the crazed rehearsal footage of "Turn You Inside Out," and "Pop Song 89," in which a topless Stipe cavorts with a trio of topless go-go dancers (no, MTV didn't play it). Richard Harrington
R, 1990, 113 minutes, closed-captioned, Orion Home Video, $94.98.
"Navy SEALs" are Ninja Turtles without the shells. The seagoing heroes take on a gang of Arab terrorists in this jingoist thriller allegedly based on the real missions of the clandestine commando team. Led by top frogs Michael Biehn and Charlie Sheen, the highly trained men slip into a Middle Eastern seaport to rescue a Navy helicopter crew held by the unfriendly fanatics. Hidden in the stronghold is a cache of American-made Stinger missiles -- the ultimate terrorist weapon in that they are portable, hand-held and deadly. Alas, the men haven't the time to both destroy the weapons and save the men. Biehn, the cool one, and Sheen, the hot one, work out their differences as they attempt to locate the missiles with the help of a beautiful half-Lebanese journalist (Joanne Whalley-Kilmer). Attracted to both men and troubled by a terrorist attack on a passenger plane, she provides the answers that lead to a showdown in the rubble of Beirut. Director Lewis Teague brings plenty of punch to this standard-issue screenplay written by former SEAL Chuck Pfarrer and Gary Goldman. Familiar war movie themes are treated in familiar ways, as "Navy SEALs" celebrates the manly art of battle and the notion that we are No. 1. Rita Kempley
R, 1990, 102 minutes, Warner Bros. Home Video, $89.95.
Bob Hoskins's "Raggedy Rawney" is one of those odd, misshapen children of ardor. It's a disaster, but one that comes straight from the heart, so it has around it a kindly aura -- the glow of oblivious awfulness. The film, which the gifted English actor wrote, directed and starred in, reportedly is based on a story Hoskins heard first at a tender age from his Gypsy grandmother, presumably before his critical faculties had fully formed. Set at an unspecified time of war, in an unspecified country, it presents the story of a young army recruit named Tom (Dexter Fletcher), who runs away from his unit during a bombing raid and, suffering from shock, temporarily loses his mind. In this deranged state, he wiggles into a frilly little red dress, blackens his eyes and smears on a layer of white pancake. And while wandering through the woods, he comes across a band of Gypsies who, after he demonstrates his magical powers, take him in. With his full, voluptuous lips and skinny build, Tom is accepted without question as a woman. And for a time, it seems that he believes it as well. Just what he believes, though, or what the state of his mental health is remains mostly a mystery for much of the movie. Whatever the case, the leader of the Gypsies, Darky (played by the director), is happy to protect him, so long as he continues to perform such tricks as predicting the winners of horse races or divining the best fishing holes. Unfortunately, Hoskins can't give his story any shape or cohesiveness. Hoskins's own character is authentic in that irrefutable way that's his trademark, but the paltriness of the material here holds him back. Hal Hinson