Originally created 05/02/97

Video watch

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: Larger Than Life, The Preacher's Wife, Bastard Out of Carolina, The Leopard Son, Ed's Next Move.

TUESDAY: The Portrait of a Lady, The Evening Star, Get on the Bus, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Seconds.

MAY 13: Ransom, Meet Wally Sparks, Stonewall, The Funeral, Losing Chase, The Cable Guy.

MAY 20: Star Trek: First Contact, One Fine Day, Swingers, Adrenalin: Fear the Rush, Beautiful Thing, Daylight, Twilight Man, Heavy, Last Hurrah for Chivalry, Address Unknown, Trigger Happy, The Missiles of October (1974).

MAY 27: The Mirror Has Two Faces, Curdled, Unhook the Stars, Cadillac Ranch, Caught, Breathing Room, Changing Habits, Killing Jar, Paradise Lost, Jerry Maguire.

Video reviews

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

THE PREACHER'S WIFE (*** 1/2, PG) A delightful fantasy about an angel (Denzel Washington) who restores the shaken faith of a pastor (Courtney B. Vance) and tries not to be smitten by the preacher's gospel-singing wife (Whitney Houston). Penny Marshall's upbeat rethink of the 1947 classic is sweet without being sugary.

LARGER THAN LIFE (**, PG) Bill Murray takes an elephant walk, but there's no new direction to this amiable road movie. He inherits an elephant and has to get it across the country in a forgettable comedy that doesn't fully exploit his deadpan talents.

DEAR GOD (* 1/2, PG) Postal workers respond to desperate letters addressed to God in a Garry Marshall comedy that combines Hallmark card sentimentality with shameless Hollywood piety.

SET IT OFF (** 1/2, R) Girls from the hood take up bank robbery in a socially conscious action movie that spends the right amount of time on the women's world and motives. Stars include Queen Latifah and Jada Pinkett.

BIG NIGHT (*** 1/2, R) A little gem about two immigrant brothers (Stanley Tucci and Tony Shalhoub) struggling to make a go of their Italian restaurant. The promised arrival of a special guest prompts the duo to prepare an elaborate feast.

101 DALMATIANS (** 1/2, PG) A live-action version of the 1961 Disney animated classic, with Glenn Close as the fur-worshiping Cruella DeVil, and Jeff Daniels and Joely Richardson as dog owners who fall in love and then see their pets' 15 puppies dognapped. Their relationship is sweet; Ms. Close does as much as she can with a caricature that resists being made into a person; and then the last act of the movie is dominated by two muchabused bad guys who seem ripped off from Home Alone. The cartoon is a lot better.

EMMA (***, PG) A delightful version of Jane Austen's novel, which also inspired the recent comedy Clueless. Gwyneth Paltrow sparkles as the village busybody who obsesses about everyone's matrimonial future except her own. Toni Collette is the unfortunate object of Emma's latest project; Jeremy Northam is her closest confidant; Juliet Stevenson is funny as a local woman with a superb opinion of herself; and Sophie Thompson and Phyllida Law (Emma Thompson's sister and mother) play Miss Bates, who talks constantly, and Mrs. Bates, who hears nothing.

MICHAEL COLLINS (***, R) Liam Neeson stars in a powerful performance as the IRA leader who developed modern techniques of urban warfare and led the Irish revolutionaries to a partial victory against England. Aidan Quinn is his best friend; Julia Roberts is the woman who loves them both (an unnecessary character); and Alan Rickman makes the IRA leader Eamon De Valera into a weak, vain man who is largely responsible for derailing the treaty Collins negotiates with Britain.

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE'S ROMEO AND JULIET (**, PG-13) This punk gang-war update of Shakespeare's tragedy sinks under a heavy weight of trendiness. Leonard DiCaprio and Claire Danes, in the title roles, lose their way in the dialogue, which tends to be shouted or mushy. Playing the balcony scene in a swimming pool was a big mistake. Only Pete Postlethwaite as the friar and Miriam Margolyes as the nurse seem at home with Shakespeare's lines, what few there are. Many scenes play like a reading from Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, except that they're not all that familiar to the cast.

LONE STAR (****, R) This is a great American movie, weaving the story of a murder and a romance into the old secrets of a small Texas border town. The bones of a dead sheriff (Kris Kristofferson) are found in the desert; Chris Cooper plays the current sheriff, whose own father is a suspect. Along the way, he encounters his high school sweetheart (Elizabeth Pena). Their parents forbade their romance, but now it begins again. Joe Morton is the commander of the local Army post, Ron Canada runs the local black bar, and as the story unfolds we discover it's about much more than a death and a love story. The best film yet by John Sayles.

SLEEPERS (***, R) Four 13year-olds from the streets of New York are sent to a reformatory, where a sadistic guard (Kevin Bacon) abuses them. Years later, two of the boys kill the guard, and the other two rig the court case against them. Effective on a superficial level, with good performances by Dustin Hoffman as an alcoholic lawyer and Robert De Niro as a neighborhood priest, but the movie's real subject is a homophobic revenge fantasy.

FLIRTING WITH DISASTER (R) A sexy, giddy mix of confusion, mischance and misadventure, this bright new romantic comedy combines the neurotic wit of Woody Allen with a wacky screwball pace. Written and directed by David O. Russell and starring Ben Stiller, Patricia Arquette, Tea Leoni and a great crew of supporting players.

BASQUIAT (***, R) The '80s story of the New York artist's meteoric rise and fall, the dope he scored and the bridges - and friends - he burned. The film, written and directed by pal and painter Julian Schnabel, is never less than interesting, even when it wallows in Painter-as-Saint pretentiousness, which it often does.

SUPERCOP (R) This 1993 Jackie Chan release is back, dubbed in English and fitted out with a harddriving soundtrack. This good-humored high adventure, set in China and Malaysia as well as Hong Kong, is lots of fun. Mr. Chan plays a police detective who teams with a People's Republic of China agent (Michelle Khan) to go after a drug lord.

THE FIRST WIVES CLUB (**, PG) Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn and Diane Keaton star as distressed, rejected spouses to philandering and very rich ex-husbands in this shrill, depressing farce about sisterhood and revenge.

AMERICAN BUFFALO (****, R) A brilliant pairing of Dustin Hoffman and Dennis Franz with David Mamet's blistering dialogue make a first-rate screen translation of his early play about two losers planning to steal a coin collection.

HONEY WE SHRUNK OURSELVES (PG) Disney's first live-action movie to debut on home video is a super special-effects effort. This fun film stars Rick Moranis as the same shrink-happy scientist who lent his zany methods to Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, and Honey, I Blew Up the Kid. This endeavor, however, allows adults more laughs: They are the ones who are diminished to less than 1 inch tall and forced to watch helplessly as the children, thinking the parents are away, stay up late, throw a party and pig out on junk food.

THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT (** 1/2, R) Geena Davis is a single mother transformed into La Femme Fatale Nikita in a cheerful but ultimately forgettable amnesia exercise. Her forgotten past as a CIA assassin catches up with her, but here at least a woman gets the biggest piece of an action movie.

JUDE (*** 1/2, 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 (** 1/2, 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.


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