Originally created 03/14/97

What's new in video



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.

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

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

MARCH 25: Surviving Picasso, Vertigo, The Grass Harp, Flirting With Disaster, Supercop, High School High, Basquiat.

APRIL 1: Sleepers, The Spitfire Grill, Walkabout, Sunchaser, Bad Moon, Sex and the Other Man.

APRIL 8: Michael Collins, Extreme Measures, William Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet, Lone Star, Somebody to Love, Love Is All There Is, Small Faces, Shadow Zone: The Undead Express, Nelly and Monsieur Arnaud, The Secret Agent, The Proprietor, Mistrial, Fire on the Mountain, War Stories Our Mothers Never Told Us, Mr. Reliable, Kaspar Hauser, Gang in Blue, Broken Harvest.

Video reviews

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

JUDE (****, R) Christopher Eccleston, Kate Winslet, Liam Cunningham. Thomas Hardy's doom-ridden final novel, about an idealistic villager's Job-like rain of misery, has been adapted with extraordinary skill. Set in 1880s England, the film stars Mr. Eccleston in the title role and Ms. Winslet as the free-thinking beauty with whom he's smitten. It's a star-crossed love, to be sure, in this crushingly sad, beautiful film.

THE HORSEMAN ON THE ROOF (**, R) Breathtaking scenery, breathless actors in puffy 19thcentury threads, and squawking crows pecking at corpses are the key elements in this handsome but increasingly wearisome widescreen historical romance, set against a backdrop of upheaval and cholera. Juliette Binoche and Olivier Martinez star, passionlessly. In French with subtitles.

SPACE JAM (**, PG) Michael Jordan, Wayne Knight. A marketing campaign masquerading as a movie and featuring the dream team of Michael Jordan and Bugs Bunny matched against invading aliens in a big hoops game. Jordan can't act and white rabbits can't jump, but the kids won't mind in this amiably amusing fantasy mix of animation and live action.

FOXFIRE (**, R) Hedy Burress, Angelina Jolie, Jenny Lewis. A pouty-lipped stranger walks into town, profoundly changing the lives of four high school girls in this clumsy tale of female empowerment, friendship, adolescent fears and sexual victimization based on the Joyce Carol Oates novel. It's like one of those American International Pictures from the '60s - half exploitation, halfearnest teen melodrama.

COURAGE UNDER FIRE (****, R) Provocative, strongly acted and ingeniously structured military drama. Denzel Washington is in superb form as a troubled Gulf War veteran dealing with his own guilt and investigating the death of a woman officer (Meg Ryan) who is up for a posthumous Medal of Honor.

THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME (****, G) As an adaptation, this is Hugonot. But Disney's cheery spin on the story still combines dark emotional hues with gorgeous state-of-the-art animation. A little tough for tots, but the studio's 34th animated feature is more rewarding for being more demanding.

THAT THING YOU Do (***, PG) Tom Hanks writes, directs and co-stars in this lightweight but extremely likable tale of the meteoric rise of a small-town rock quartet in 1964 America. With a soundtrack of jaunty parallel universe pop songs - including the oft-repeated title tune.

HARRIET THE SPY (***, 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 (***, 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 (***, 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 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 (***, 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 (*, 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 (**, 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 (**, 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.