Originally created 02/28/97

Video watch

Video releases

Here is a list of what's new in video stores this weekend and a partial schedule of what's coming on video. Release dates are subject to change.


Harriet the Spy, Last Man Standing, Bulletproof, 2 Days in the Valley.


The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Bound, Courage Under Fire and That Thing You Do!


Space Jam, Jude, The Horseman on the Roof, Maximum Risk, The Glimmer Man, Sweet Nothing and Foxfire.


The First Wives Club, Walking and Talking, The Long Kiss Goodnight, Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves and American Buffalo.

Video reviews

Here are reviews from Roger Ebert and other critics of some recent video releases:

HARRIET THE SPY (*** 1/2, PG)Michelle Trachtenberg, star of Nickelodeon's Adventures of Pete & Pete, plays the lead in this adaptation of Louise Fitzhugh's novel about an inquisitive teen.

LAST MAN STANDING (**, R)Walter Hill's ultra-violent cross between a Western and a Prohibition gangster picture stars Bruce Willis as the new man in a Texas town torn by gang rivalry. He blasts away and never misses, but the film itself is aimless.

TWO DAYS IN THE VALLEY (***, R)A violent, funny crime caper that crisscrosses the sun-and-smog-blurred Los Angeles landscape with a big cast (Danny Aiello, James Spader, Eric Stoltz, Teri Hatcher and many more) and a dark sense of humor. Way better than most of the hip, ironic and ultra-bloody gangster pics in the post-Pulp Fiction deluge.

PURPLE NOON (****, PG-13) A reissue of French director Rene Clement's 1960 film starring Alain Delon as an ingratiating ne'er-do-well who is engaged to return an errant young man to his parents in Paris.

SWITCHBLADE SISTERS (**, R) Exhumed from oblivion by Quentin Tarantino, this ho-hum 20-year-old exploitation picture centers around a gang of L.A. babes in bell-bottoms and leather. Although there's potential for high camp, it doesn't deliver; director Jack Hill's style is nondescript and his stars dull.

THE NEVERENDING STORY III: RETURN TO FANTASIA (G) Continuing of kid-friendly fantasy-adventure series, this time with Jason James Richter (Free Willy) assuming the role of Bastian.

TRAINSPOTTING (***, R) The misadventures of a closely knit group of Edinburgh heroin addicts who have long since passed beyond the party stage and into the stage where life is flying out of control. Filled with high energy and a lot of bawdy humor, but circular, like addiction itself. The real subject is the fierce camaraderie of addicts who hold on to each other for support and understanding against the ordinary world, which has become too complex for them to negotiate.

A VERY BRADY SEQUEL (** 1/2, PG-13) A man claiming to be Carol Brady's long-lost first husband, Roy, turns up alive, and shakes up the Bunch with a sneaky scheme. Jan creates a fictitious boyfriend. Alice puts hallucinogens in the spaghetti sauce. Greg and Marcia share a far-out pad in the attic. And RuPaul is the high school guidance counselor. Not a great comedy, but with a lot of smiles; better than the 1995 film.

FLY AWAY HOME (*** 1/2, PG) A wonderful family film, starring Oscar winner Anna Paquin as Amy, a 13-year-old girl who goes to live with her eccentric dad (Jeff Daniels), who builds ultralight aircraft. She rescues some goose eggs, and the chicks think Amy is their mother. Using one of her dad's planes, Amy encourages them to fly, and eventually leads them south for the winter. A charming fantasy, lifted above the Free Willy genre by good dialogue and acting, and the goofy originality of the characters.

BAMBI (G) Disney celebrates the 55th anniversary of Bambi, Thumper, Flower and Falina in this animation classic with a videotape that's been restored and digitally remastered by THX. This latest version will be available for only 55 days. Released in 1942, Bambi is a perfect example of the lush animation that was characteristic of Disney before the age of computers. The forest backgrounds are pure works of art and the animal characters have a lifelike charm all too often missing in today's assembly-line animation.

JACK (* 1/2, PG-13) Robin Williams plays a 10-year-old boy with a medical condition that causes him to age at four times the normal rate; he enters the fifth grade looking like a man of 40. Unfortunately, instead of empathizing with the character, the movie often goes for obvious gags and superficial payoffs. A heartfelt scene with a teacher (Jennifer Lopez) shows the direction it might have taken.

BOGUS (***, PG-13) A little boy becomes an orphan, and then finds his life filled with two unconventional parent-substitutes: Whoopi Goldberg as an aunt he never knew, and Gerard Depardieu as an imaginary friend who bounces out of the pages of a coloring book. Light as a feather, charming, seductive for kids.

IL POSTINO (*** 1/2, PG-13) A good-hearted comedy about a simple man from an Italian island who becomes the postman for the famous poet Pablo Neruda when he is exiled there. Because he thinks poems can seduce women, the postman insinuates himself into the poet's life, hoping to pick up some tips. He learns more than he intended. With Philippe Noiret as the patient Neruda and Massimo Troisi (who died the day after filming ended) as the determined postman.

KANSAS CITY (***, R) Robert Altman's film re-creates Kansas City, circa 1934, as jazz greats duel at the Hey Hey Club and a gun moll (Jennifer Jason Leigh) kidnaps a politician's wife (Miranda Richardson) in a harebrained scheme to get the black gambling boss (Harry Belafonte) to release the moll's husband. The story is intercut with the jazz; Mr. Altman seems to be encouraging improvisation and one-upmanship on both the musical and dramatic sides. Good-looking, good-sounding, original and inventive.

THE FAN (**, R) Standard stalker stuff with Robert De Niro as a baseball nut obsessing over the San Francisco Giants' new $40 million slugger (Wesley Snipes). Tony Scott directs in a never-mind-the-exposition barrage of fast edits, slow-motion montages and crashing music.

DEAD MAN (***, R) Johnny Depp plays a wandering accountant in Jim Jarmusch's mystical western, which is populated with odd cameos (Robert Mitchum, Crispin Glover) and puzzles over themes of life, death and the hereafter. There's real poetry here, some of it William Blake's.

ALASKA (***, PG) Exciting wilderness adventure about teens (Thora Birch and Vincent Kartheiser) who trek into the Alaskan outback to save their father and befriend a polar bear. It's pure formula, but an exceptionally well-done formula.

D3 THE MIGHTY DUCKS (* 1/2, PG) The Disney studio persists in flogging a dead duck in a further and totally redundant adventure that sends the Ducks to private school.

EDDIE (** 1/2, PG-13) Whoopi Goldberg plays the Knicks' No. 1 fan, who's hired in a publicity stunt to be the ailing team's head coach. The trash-talking, dreadlocked dame has the stuff to push these losers into a winning streak. Co-starring Frank Langella and John Salley. Evidently what a losing franchise needs in a coach is not a strategist, but a psychotherapist/mom. Moderately entertaining.

ESCAPE FROM LA (**, R) An earthquake has turned Los Angeles into an island, and a right-wing federal government has turned the island into a prison. So-so reprise of John Carpenter's cult hit Escape from New York, livened up with jibes at California.

PHENOMENON (** 1/2, PG) John Travolta is transformed into a genius on his 37th birthday, becoming an inspiration to some, prey to others and a pariah to his townsfolk. With Kyra Sedgwick, Robert Duvall and Forest Whitaker.

TALES FROM THE CRYPT: BORDELLO OF BLOOD (R) Dennis Miller, Angie Everhart, Corey Feldman and Chris Sarandon star in this horror comedy.

SHE'S THE ONE (**, R) A romantic comedy with unnecessarily serious undertones, from Edward Burns, whose The Brothers McMullen came out of Sundance to win large audiences in 1995. Now he gives us the Brothers Fitzpatrick; he plays a cab driver who marries a passenger (Maxine Bahns) after a 24-hour courtship; his brother (Mike McGlone) is torn between his wife (Jennifer Aniston) and a mistress (Cameron Diaz). Dad (John Mahoney) is a salt-of-the-earth type who encourages the lads to put on the gloves and step into the back yard to settle their differences.

KINGPIN (*, R) From the makers of Dumb and Dumber and, believe it or not, even dumber. Randy Quaid is a naive Amish bowler and Woody Harrelson his handler in a comedy without a single watchable frame.

FLED (** 1/2, R) Two cons, one black, one white, escape in shackles from a chain gang. There are many links to The Defiant Ones and other buddy-action movies, but this is enjoyable, escapist entertainment given some needed class by Laurence Fishburne.

WELCOME TO THE DOLL HOUSE (*** 1/2, R) Todd Solondz's excruciatingly funny chronicle of the humiliation and torment heaped on geeky Dawn Wiener (Heather Matarazzo), an 11-year-old struggling with self-loathing and the loathing of her peers and parents. A dark, sharply observed comedy.

A TIME TO KILL (** 1/2, R) The latest John Grisham adaptation takes the apartheid-movie approach and tells a black tragedy from a white perspective. Samuel L. Jackson plays a father who takes revenge on the men who raped his 10-year-old daughter. His trial is undermined by histrionics and thuggery outside the courtroom.

THE STUPIDS (PG-13) Idiocy reigns in this Tom Arnold comedy.

A FAMILY THING (PG-13) Burdened with a feeble title, this engrossing film stars Robert Duvall as a Southerner in his 60s who suddenly discovers that his mother was black and that James Earl Jones is his half brother. A fine piece of restrained direction by Richard Pearce and a scenestealing performance by Irma P. Hall.

THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU (**, R) This latest version of H.G. Wells' 100-year-old tale makes no case for an update. Moreau's crazed crossbreeding of man and beast is an experiment in progress. So is the script, and John Frankenheimer can't resolve its inconsistencies and excesses.


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