Originally created 01/09/98

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 RELEASED:

When the Cat's Away, Masterminds, Fire Down Below, Hoodlum.

TUESDAY:

Career Girls, Soul Food, Buddy, Picture Perfect, Wishmaster, Grizzly Mountain, Dream With the Fishes, Money Talks, Temptress Moon, Children of the Revolution.

JAN. 20:

The Game, Nothing To Lose, Broken English, Leave It to Beaver.

JAN. 27:

Event Horizon, Star Maps, Brassed Off, The Disappearance of Garcia Lorca, City of Industry, 8 Heads in a Duffel Bag, Kull the Conqueror, Hollow Reed.

Video reviews

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

MASTERMINDS ( 1/2 -star, PG-13).

The unflappable Patrick Stewart faces the challenge of one of the year's worst films. He plays the evil security chief of a private school, whose ransom demands are battled by the kid computer genius (Vincent Kartheiser) who was expelled by the school.

HOODLUM (***, R)

Laurence Fishburne stars as Bumpy Johnson, the inventive gangster who was the righthand man for Harlem's Queen of Numbers (Cicely Tyson) during a 1930s battle between the black-run policy racket and the Mafia. Tim Roth is Dutch Schultz, who tries to muscle in, and Andy Garcia plays his boss, Lucky Luciano. Director Bill Duke finds an effective balance between the inevitable action scenes and good character development as the film explores deeper economic and racial issues beneath the surface.

CONSPIRACY THEORY (** 1/2 , R)

The makings of a smart and funny conspiracy comedy are buried in an unconvincing romance and distraction of superfluous action scenes. Mel Gibson is quite good as a paranoid New York cabby whose nutty theories are mostly -- but not always -- insane. Julia Roberts is the justice department official who humors him. Then one day it appears he may be onto something. Fine, but why torturously show them attracted to one another, and why shoehorn in show-stopping stunt sequences? Patrick Stewart has fun as the shadowy villain.

OUT TO SEA (***, PG-13)

Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau play clones of their grumpy old men, but this movie's funnier than either of the Grumpy pictures. They get a free cruise but have to pay their way as professional dance partners. Mr. Matthau can't dance, but he can play poker, and he also gets into a high-stakes game for the heart of a brassy blonde on board (Dyan Cannon) while Mr. Lemmon falls for a sweet and dazzling widow (Gloria De Haven). Charming lightweight entertainment.

AIR BUD (***, PG)

Surprisingly entertaining, sometimes magical movie about a junior high school student (Kevin Zegers) who makes friends with a lost dog that can shoot baskets. Sounds like a dumb formula film, but director Charles Martin Smith makes it fresh and new, and sometimes very funny.

'TIL THERE WAS YOU (**, PG-13)

Inane love story involving two characters who are destined to meet and are kept apart by the details of a tedious and annoying plot. Jeanne Tripplehorn is a ghostwriter, working on the life of Sarah Jessica Parker, who is dating architect Dylan McDermott, who is destined for Ms. Tripplehorn. Countless unnecessary side plots, confusing look-alike characters, tedious conversations that would be instantly over if one key misunderstanding were not carefully preserved.

SPAWN (*** 1/2 , PG-13)

An intense, vivid, overpowering visual experience, telling the story of a horribly scarred man who is recruited to lead the forces of Armageddon but then is caught between good and evil. Michael Jai White plays Spawn, an impressive-looking hero both in his horribly burned body and in his spectacular costume. John Leguizamo, is almost unrecognizable because of makeup and special effects, plays the shape-shifting Clown, agent of evil.

CONTACT (*** 1/2 , PG-13)

Jodie Foster stars as a radio astronomer who picks up intelligent signals from space. They include instructions on how to build a device to reach those who sent the signals. Robert Zemeckis' film, based on the novel by the late Carl Sagan, is the most intelligent and absorbing story about extraterrestrial intelligence since Close Encounters. The science is sound; the characters are psychologically convincing; and there's a tricky debate: Should man's first emissary to another race be required to believe in God? With Matthew McConaughey as Ms. Foster's sometime lover and sparring partner, Tom Skerritt as her rival, John Hurt as a visionary billionaire, and James Woods and Angela Bassett as presidential advisers.

A SIMPLE WISH (* 1/2 , PG)

Martin Short stars as a trainee fairy godperson who materializes when a little girl (Mara Wilson) asks for a godmother to help her father (Robert Pastorelli) win a Broadway audition. But Mr. Short is still learning the tricks of the trade, and meanwhile an evil former godmother (Kathleen Turner) and her sidekick (Amanda Plummer) complicate the story. The baddies don't have much to do with the rest of the film; the story lacks tension; and kids may not get involved in the showbiz insider humor.

MY BEST FRIEND'S WEDDING (***, PG-13)

When Julia Roberts and Dermot Mulroney became best friends in college, they vowed that if they were still single at 28, they'd get married. Now they're 28 -- but he's marrying a 20-year-old (Cameron Diaz) whose dad owns the White Sox! Ms. Roberts puts on her big smile and goes to work sabotaging the union. Predictable romantic comedy? Only in the setup. The resolution of Ronald Bass' screenplay is surprising and refreshing.

CON AIR (***, R)

Action and one-liners in a nonstop special-effects extravaganza with enough wit to kid itself. John Malkovich holds it together with a dry, ironic performance as master criminal Cyrus the Virus, who organized the hijacking of a flight carrying dangerous prisoners. Nicolas Cage is the Army hero on board; John Cusack is the hero federal marshal; and Steve Buscemi has fun as a Hannibal Lecter-type serial killer. Entertaining, well-made, instantly forgettable.

GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE (***, PG)

Brendan Fraser stars as a dimwitted, muscular, likable liveaction version of the TV cartoon star, who is great at swinging from vines but tends to crash into trees. Leslie Mann plays the American heiress who falls for him and brings him to San Francisco. Not a great film, but it does have great laughs, many of them involving an elephant that thinks it is a dog.

SPEED 2 (***, PG-13)

The sequel to Speed lacks the same freshness but has a goofy charm of its own, and lots of sensational special effects. Sandra Bullock and Jason Patric star as lovers on a cruise ship that's hijacked by mad computer expert Willem Dafoe (who believes he got copper poisoning from electromagnetic fields and travels with leeches to purify his blood).

MEN IN BLACK (***, PG-13)

Aliens are among us, and superstraight-arrow government agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) is assigned to keep track of them. He gets a rookie sidekick (Will Smith), and they go on the trail of an alarming alien named Edgar (Vincent D'Onofrio), who has occupied the body of a hillbilly and plans to conquer Earth. Amazingly varied alien creatures created by Rick Baker, in a movie with a wicked sense of humor.

CHASING AMY (***, R)

A surprisingly intense and funny comedy about two comic-book artists who fall in love even though she's a lesbian. But it's more complicated than that, in Kevin Smith's triumphant return to form after the hilarious Clerks (1994) and the disastrous Mallrats (1995).

FREE WILLY 3: THE RESCUE (**, PG)

The third installment in the continuing saga of a boy and his orca is such a frightening work of eco-terrorism that you want to save the whalers. The whales are cute, though, however perverse it is to make a pro-animal movie with animatronic creatures.