Welcome to a new feature here on Premium Hollywood…and, believe me, it’s one I’ve been wanting to premiere for quite some time. I’m someone who enjoys trying new foods and new beverages, and I’ve often thought it would be fun to write a column which gave me the opportunity to write about the experience. Unfortunately, I’m forever buried in DVDs that need to be reviewed. Finally, I had an epiphany: why don’t I figure out a way to combine the two?
And, thus, “Concession Stand” was born.
The beverage: Mountain Dew Voltage.
Last year, over a quarter million votes helped Voltage win the so-called “DEWmocracy” election, with the taste, name and color of the product all developed by the customers themselves…well, y’know, with a little help from the folks at PepsiCo. (What, like they’re gonna give the yokels all the power?) As the bottle proudly trumpets, it’s your standard Dew brew, but charged with raspberry citrus flavor and ginseng. The color of the beverage is a slightly disconcerting shade of blue, but the raspberry mixes with the traditional Dew flavor rather well, making the taste not so far removed from a Sweet Tart. If it’s icy cold, it goes down fast and smooth…which is good, since it’s so sweet that drinking it slowly may result in you taking awhile to finish the bottle, but caffeine fiends with a sweet tooth will have no problem chugging it down to score the inevitable rush.
When I was pitched the opportunity to check out Voltage, they sent me three bottles of the stuff, so I scoured my to-be-reviewed pile to see if I had three DVDs featuring the same person in some role or other. Lo and behold, I did…and that person’s name was Lea Thompson.
Bottle #1: Exit Speed.
You know, in retrospect, I made a poor decision when I decided to lead with this straight-to-DVD flick because I thought it was going to be the hardest one to get through and therefore would require the initial, most powerful surge of caffeine from the Voltage. Okay, technically, it still held that honor, but “Exit Speed” played like a lost ’70s drive-in classic and made for a way more entertaining viewing experience than I’d intended. Thompson is one of the ten folks – others include Alice Greczyn (“Privileged”), Desmond Harrington (“Dexter”), and David Rees Snell (“The Shield”) – who are traveling by bus on Christmas Eve when their vehicle encounters a motorcycle gang who taunts them mercilessly…right up until one of the bikers ends up being run over by the bus. D’oh! As you can imagine, his buddies don’t take well to the demise of one their members, and they chase the bus to an abandoned scrapyard, where the passengers are forced to battle for their lives. Oh, make no mistake, it’s not high art, but I think writer Michael Stokes knows that; then again, he did write “Iron Eagle IV,” so I could be wrong. But given that Fred Ward’s character spends virtually the entire movie trying to catch up to the bus (you’ll laugh at how many times they cut back to shots of Ward, who’s always driving fast and furiously), I’m pretty sure “Exit Speed” is intentionally harking back to the days when films didn’t have to be good, they only had to keep moving quickly enough that you didn’t get bored.
Bottle #2: Howard the Duck: Special Edition.
Boy, the caffeine’s really kicking in now. I also didn’t factor in the fact that I was starting with the shortest film. It’s only been 88 minutes since I started my first Voltage, and now I’m moving onto my second…and starting to twitch a little bit, frankly. I guess that’s only appropriate, since the idea of watching “Howard the Duck” would make a lot of people twitch. Not me, though. I’m one of the few people who actually liked the flick. I even saw it on opening night, and although it definitely didn’t come anywhere near approaching the original Steve Gerber source material, I still thought it was a lot of fun. With that said, however, I’m a little more creeped out nowadays about the whole girl-on-duck love story, and you can’t help but wonder how much better the film would’ve been if they’d just waited a few years and had Howard CGI’ed into the movie rather than having him played by a midget in a duck suit. Thankfully, Ms. Thompson is so smoking hot here that you can forgive a lot of the film’s flaws; there’s also the bonus of seeing a young Tim Robbins as an overly excitable janitor with doctoral aspirations, Jeffrey Jones taking it over the top as an alien-possessed scientist, and, of course, the Thomas Dolby soundtrack.
The best bit for the “Howard” fans out there…and I know damned well I’m not the only one in existence…is the inclusion of a surprising amount of bonus material. The descriptor of “special edition” doesn’t always mean you’re going to get a plethora of stuff, but it does here. There are two new featurettes: “A Look Back at ‘Howard the Duck,'” featuring new interviews with the cast and crew, and “Releasing The Duck,” which takes a surprisingly forthright look at how the film was received and how it’s turned into a cult phenomenon. They’ve also included four featurettes made during the film’s original release: “News Featurette,” “The Stunts of ‘Howard the Duck,'” “The Special Effects of ‘Howard the Duck,'” and “The Music of ‘Howard the Duck.'” You know, maybe it’s just the Voltage talking, but this thing is awesome!*
*In retrospect, it was almost certainly the Voltage talking. But it’s still pretty cool.
Bottle #3: Caroline in the City: Season 2
It’s really late, and I’m so caffeinated and sugared up that I think I’m pretty sure starting to hear the electric colors, so this probably would’ve been my last Voltage for the night even I did have more than these three bottles on hand. (It’s tasty enough, but it’s not something I’d normally drink more than one of in a sitting.) Even as wired as I am, however, I still can’t really call myself excited about watching “Caroline in the City: Season 2,” and I’m sure as hell not going to be watching all 25 episodes from start to finish. But I do pick out a few episodes based on their guest stars, and they’re all quite pleasant: Phil Hartman turns up doing a Rod Serling impression in “Caroline and the Letter,” Judd Hirsch plays the father of the ever-snarky Richard (Malcolm Gets), and I have to admit that David Hyde Pierce’s role as an IRS auditor who desperately wants to be in the cast of “Cats” is downright hilarious. It’s light comedy, sure, but the “Caroline” ensemble works well together; Thompson’s cute, I’d forgotten how great Gets’s delivery was, and, man, Amy Pietz – who plays Caroline’s rather easy friend and neighbor, Annie – is smoking hot. Not necessarily a TV classic, and I probably laughed a little bit harder because of the excess caffeine in my system, but you can see why it lasted longer (4 seasons) than the average NBC sitcom of its era. Shame they couldn’t pony up for any special features, though.
* Mountain Dew Voltage is a sweet treat and a quick caffeine fix, but one bottle at a time will almost certainly be enough to do you.
* “Exit Speed” might not be worth buying, but if you catch it on TV, you might surprise yourself by getting sucked in.
* If you already admit to liking “Howard the Duck,” then you absolutely need to buy the special edition, since A) the bonus material is pretty cool, and B) you’re already out of the closet, anyway, so you might as well.
* Only the diehard “Caroline in the City” fans will be rushing out to buy Season 2 on DVD, particularly in a bare-bones set like this one, but it’s a pleasant comedic diversion. After all, every ’90s sitcom can’t be “Friends,” you know.
So there you go: the first edition of “Concession Stand.” Your thoughts…? And before you answer that, let me throw in a bit of bribery: if you’ve never seen “Howard the Duck” but have always been curious, then Hulu is glad to help solve that problem for you free of charge. If you like it, though, I’m telling you, the DVD is totally worth the money…and that’s not the Voltage talking!