Originally created 07/11/97

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: When We Were Kings, Vegas Vacation, Absolute Power and Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie.

TUESDAY: Shine, Metro, Ghosts of Mississippi, The Relic, The Eighth Day, Fools Rush In, Angel Baby and Fun and Fancy Free.

JULY 22: Sling Blade, Hamlet, Donnie Brasco, Private Parts, Smilla's Sense of Snow, The Second Jungle Book: Mowgli and Baloo and Underworld.

JULY 29: Jungle 2 Jungle and Albino Alligator.

AUG. 5: Evita, Murder at 1600, Booty Call, Love and Other Catastrophes, That Darn Cat and Pooh's Grand Adventure - The Search for Christopher Robin.

Video reviews

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

ABSOLUTE POWER (**1/2 , R) A great cast, including Gene Hackman as president, Ed Harris as a cop and Clint Eastwood (who also directed) as a master thief, doesn't live up to its possibilities in this Beltway thriller about murder and deceit at the highest levels of government. Still, it's an enjoyable affair.

VEGAS VACATION (PG-13) The Griswolds discover Vegas.

WHEN WE WERE KINGS (****, PG-13)An exhilarating documentary tribute to Muhammad Ali, a fascinating account of the George Foreman-Ali slugfest held in Kinshasa, Zaire, on Oct. 30, 1974, and a thoughtful examination of how sports and politics, race and music, all came together for the historic "Rumble in the Jungle."

THE CRUCIBLE (***1/2 , PG-13)Superlative performances by Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Scofield animate playwright Arthur Miller's screen adaptation of his classic play, a parable of the Communist witch-hunts of the 1950s involving the Salem witch trials of the 1690s. With Joan Allen and Winona Ryder.

FIERCE CREATURES (**1/2 , PG-13) Kevin Kline has a dual role, as an Aussie media baron who buys a zoo, and as the man's son, who wants to prove himself by boosting its profits. John Cleese is the man in charge of the zoo; it's his inspiration to kill all the harmless animals because dangerous creatures sell more tickets.

SCREAM (***, R) A self-aware horror movie, in which the characters are teen-age horror film fans. When a slasher attacks, they know what to do - they think. With Neve Campbell as the heroine, Courteney Cox as a TV reporter, Drew Barrymore as a victim, and Henry Winkler as the high school principal (The Fonz makes good). Bloody and violent, perhaps too gruesome for some, but horror fans will understand the special effects and appreciate the in-jokes.

GRIDLOCK'D (***, R) The late Tupac Shakur gives a great performance, teaming up with gritty, ironic Tim Roth in the darkly comic story of two friends who decide to kick drugs after Tupac's girlfriend (Thandie Newton) is rushed to the ER with an overdose. They spend an endless day shuttling from one Detroit welfare agency to another, while being chased by vindictive drug dealers and suspicious cops.

DAS BOOT (****, R) This restored 1997 director's cut is more than an hour longer than the 1981 version that won six Oscar nominations. Wolfgang Petersen's direction is always convincing as he shoots almost entirely inside a 10-by-150-foot submarine space, recording a North Atlantic mission during which the crew members face likely death. Jurgen Prochnow stars as the captain, who in one chilling scene backs his sub out of reach of drowning Allied sailors. A harrowing, brilliant film, all the more effective and absorbing at the greater length.

IN LOVE AND WAR (**, PG-13) The story of a World War I love affair between an 18-year-old Ernest Hemingway (Chris O'Donnell) and a 26-year-old nurse named Agnes von Kurowsky (Sandra Bullock), who saves his leg from being amputated but eventually breaks his heart. Not much chemistry; their love is more sentimental than passionate. And not much insight; the romance is told like a conventional Hollywood love story and doesn't reflect in an interesting way on the man Hemingway would become. Directed by Richard Attenborough.

MARS ATTACKS (**, PG-13) A sort of Mad magazine version of Independence Day, star-studded (Jack Nicholson, Glenn Close, Pierce Brosnan, Tom Jones, etc.) and subversively silly. With their bloodshot ping-pong ball eyes and DayGlo-green brains, the computer-generated Martians are not your friendly little E.T.'s. Alien invasions haven't been this much fun in years.

MY FELLOW AMERICANS (**, PG-13) The Hollywood equivalent of government waste casts seasoned comedy veterans Jack Lemmon and James Garner as former presidents who take to the road to prove their innocence in a political scandal. A tired contrivance whose vulgarity owes more to the outhouse than the White House.

MICHAEL (***, PG) A charming fable about an angel (John Travolta) who arrives at the Milk Bottle Motel in rural Iowa. Its owner (Jean Stapleton) informs a trash tabloid, whose brash editor (Bob Hoskins) dispatches three reporters (William Hurt, Andie MacDowell and Robert Pastorelli) and a cute dog to investigate. No great drama or stirring developments but a lot of sweetness and charm.

MARVIN'S ROOM (***1/2 , PG13) Diane Keaton plays a woman who has devoted her life to caring for a sick father, only to grow ill herself. Perhaps a marrow transplant can save her; that would mean a reunion after 20 years with her estranged sister (Meryl Streep) and her sister's sons (Leonardo DiCaprio and Hal Scardino). Fine performances that walk the line between drama and comedy.

I'M NOT RAPPAPORT (**1/2 , PG13) Walter Matthau and Ossie Davis are effortlessly charming and moving as two old guys sitting on a bench in Central Park, talking. And when they talk, the movie works. But when writer-director Herb Gardner needlessly hauls in contrived plot points (a drug dealer, a job threat, a mugger, an endangered girl) the talk gets interrupted by sitcom artifice.

BEAVIS AND BUTT-HEAD DO AMERICA (***, R) Catastrophe strikes when the boys' TV set is stolen, and the search for it leads them out West and even into the Oval Office. But the movie's not about its story; it's about B&B's attitude, one of overwhelming alienation and ignorance. The movie uses them as a satirical hammer to bash away at the disintegration of values. Funny, and deeper than it seems.

) Hal Hartley's film tells the same story three times, in three countries, in three slightly different ways. Each time, a flirtatious lover tries to decide between two enticing partners. More interesting to think about and talk about than to see.

JERRY MAGUIRE (***, R) Tom Cruise is a sports agent who loses his job, his fiancee and all but one of his clients (Cuba Gooding Jr.). But a lowly accountant (Renee Zellweger) believes in him, and she steals the show as a lovable young woman who helps inspire the weary road warrior to trust in his ethics. Good work by all of the actors, many heartwarming scenes, inside dope about pro sports - maybe too much material for one movie, but it works anyway.

THE MIRROR HAS TWO FACES (***, PG-13) Barbra Streisand directs and stars as a college professor who meets another prof (Jeff Bridges) on a blind date and likes him enough to go along with his no-sex conditions for marriage. (He believes he can't function well when he's in love.) Uneven in parts (both of their big lecture scenes play badly), but with a lot of wit and verbal intelligence in the dialogue scenes, and very touching as Ms. Streisand and her mother (Lauren Bacall) get honest about the subject of physical beauty.

UNHOOK THE STARS (***, R) Gena Rowlands stars as a widow who is drawn into the disorganized life of her neighbor (Marisa Tomei) when she's asked to care for the younger woman's little boy. Soon Ms. Rowlands and the boy are fast friends, and Ms. Tomei is getting some tactful guidance. But what is Ms. Rowlands to do with her own life? A truck driver from Quebec (Gerard Depardieu) has some ideas, which she's none too certain about. A human and touching comedy.

STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT (***1/2 , PG-13) The best of the eight Star Trek films in its technical credits, and among the best in the ingenuity of its plot. The evil Borg travel back through time to prevent mankind's first contact with the Vulcans, and the Enterprise follows them through a temporal vortex to save man's future. Meanwhile, the Borg capture the android Data and try to "assimilate" his artificial intelligence into their hive mind. Intriguing chemistry between Patrick Stewart as Picard and Alfre Woodard as the assistant to inventor James Cromwell, whose warp drive initiates man's first contact with others.

ONE FINE DAY (**, PG) Michelle Pfeiffer and George Clooney are divorced parents, unexpectedly saddled with child care for the day, who drag their kids along to their jobs and whose paths keep crossing - as they fall in love in the process, of course. A tired formula story, but the stars are appealing and have nice chemistry.

SWINGERS (***, R) A few days in the lives of a group of friends who hang around Hollywood coffee shops, bars, clubs and apartments, talking of their plans to make it big in showbiz. Jon Favreau stars as a would-be comic who mopes about the girl he left behind, and Vince Vaughn is the friend who advises him on Hollywood lore. Low-key, sweet, funny, another entry in the genre of the Great American Coffee Shop Movie.

DAYLIGHT (**, PG-13) An explosion in the Holland Tunnel seals off both ends and traps the usual mixed bag of disaster movie survivors in the middle, where Sylvester Stallone tries to rescue them from fire, flood, ceiling collapse and rats. A few nice performances - Mr. Stallone is skillful at this kind of role, and Stan Shaw and Viggo Mortensen do good supporting work - but this is the kind of movie you've seen a dozen times before.

RANSOM (**1/2 , R) Mel Gibson stars in this strange thriller about a kidnapped boy and his father's dangerous plan to get him back - and get back at the abductors. With Rene Russo, Gary Sinise and a miscast Delroy Lindo.

THE FUNERAL (***, R) Abel Ferrara offers a taut and involving crime drama set in the 1930s in his most subdued and accessible mode. After the murder of his brother, Christopher Walken's racketeer must decide if vengeance is worth the cost, moral and otherwise.

GET ON THE BUS (***1/2 , R) Spike Lee returns to the freshness of his earliest movies with this moving and often very funny tale of a busload of guys on their way to the 1995 Million Man March. Their spiritual renewal takes place long before they arrive in Washington.

THE EVENING STAR (**, PG-13) Pointless and endless sequel to Terms of Endearment, which tries to fill the vacuum left by Debra Winger with tragicomic soap opera. Shirley MacLaine, as the domineering Aurora, and the film's game cast eventually succumb.

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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