Originally created 02/13/98

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.


Air Force One, Intimate Relations, Love Serenade.


Good Burger, The Matchmaker, Most Wanted, Critical Care.

FEB. 24:

The Edge, Myth of Fingerprints, Ernest in the Army, Dead Waters, Dark Carnival, To Kill a Mockingbird (35th anniversary), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation.


Peter Pan.


The Full Monty, A Life Less Ordinary, Jesus Christ Superstar (25th anniversary), The Peacemaker.

Video reviews

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

AIR FORCE ONE (** 1/2 , R)

Harrison Ford's personal appeal almost, but not quite, salvages this collection of movie cliches about presidents, terrorists, hijackings, hostages, airplanes, politics and cat-and-mouse chases. Gary Oldman is the bad guy, Glenn Close is the vice president, and Mr. Ford does battle after Air Force One is hijacked in midair.


Two young sisters lead lives of quiet desperation in a moribund little town in the Australian outback, and then excitement strikes as a disc jockey from Brisbane arrives to take over the local radio station. Both women are looking for a boyfriend -- but there's something fishy about this guy, played with snaky detachment by George Shevtsov. Funny, with the kind of weird, offbeat humor we expect from Australia, and engaging performances by Rebecca Frith and Miranda Otto as the hopeful sisters.

HERCULES (*** 1/2 , G)

The new Disney animated feature tells the story of "Herc," half-god, halfman, exiled from Olympus and winning his way back despite the opposition of the evil Hades (voice by James Woods). Amusing supporting characters, especially Phil, a satyr voiced by Danny DeVito, who becomes Hercules' trainer. A new visual look, based on the work of British illustrator Gerald Scarfe, makes the characters look edgier and less comfortably rounded than usual, and the story is the usual combination of entertainment for the kids and sly in-jokes and satire for the grown-ups.


One of the best pure police procedurals in a long time, starring James Belushi and the late Tupac Shakur as cops who are partners in a scam to murder drug dealers. When they kill an undercover agent by mistake, they desperately try to plan a cover-up, which keeps coming apart. Instead of lazy, routine action scenes, writer-director Jim Kouf sticks to personalities and plot, telling a fascinating story; his big supporting cast includes first-rate actors in colorful roles. Only the unsatisfactory ending keeps the movie from an even higher rating.

G.I. JANE (*** 1/2 , R)

Demi Moore stars as a woman selected for Navy SEAL training. If she survives a regimen that 60 percent of the men fail, she'll point the way for "100 percent integration" of the services. Ms. Moore is focused and effective, and there are complex, interesting supporting performances by Viggo Mortensen (in charge of training), Scott Wilson (the commanding officer) and Anne Bancroft (a powerful senator).


Benicio Del Toro is very funny in a scene-stealer as a car thief who accidentally kidnaps a rich girl (Alicia Silverstone) who has locked herself into her own trunk to fake a kidnapping. Jack Thompson is her rich father, and Christopher Walken is dependable as a fixer named "Uncle Ray."


A rescue ship enters the orbit of Neptune to find a missing research vessel, which had on board a gravity drive allowing it to generate black holes and take shortcuts through space and time. The ship has reappeared after seven years. Where was it, and what happened to it? Laurence Fishburne plays the captain of the search vessel, and Sam Neill is the scientist who may or may not have the answers. Nice atmosphere, good special effects, but the screenplay is thin.


Too much for one movie: a steamy sexual melodrama about a brutal father who controls a string of male prostitutes who pose as streetcorner vendors of maps to the stars' homes. After his son (Douglas Spain) returns from Mexico, the father puts him to work. The family also includes a dying wife (who has conversations with Cantinflas), a weirdo brother, a sister who only wants to get out and a maltreated mistress. When the hero meets a TV actress who wants him written into her show, the plot takes one twist too many and becomes a parody of itself.


Joe Pesci plays a gangster whose life depends on delivering eight heads to San Diego as proof that their owners are dead. His bag is switched at an airport, and he tracks a college student (Andy Comeau) to a Mexican resort where the kid is meeting his fiancee (Kristy Swanson) and her parents (George Hamilton and Dyan Cannon). Mr. Pesci has many funny scenes, but the other characters lack his crazed intensity.


Tim Robbins is a corporate executive who grows desperate after becoming convinced his wife is cheating. Martin Lawrence is a car hijacker who discovers he has picked on a madman. Their destinies become mingled during desperate days on the road, in a comedy that succumbs to serious distractions. Some nice isolated laughs, but it's shapeless and meandering.


A gentle, good-hearted movie about the American icon Beaver Cleaver, played here by Cameron Finley, who joins the school football team in order to persuade his dad to buy him a bike. Then the bike is stolen, setting off a series of deceptions and misunderstandings. Not a satire on the original TV sitcom, but a celebration of it.


Wide-ranging farce starring Judy Davis as a dedicated Australian communist who writes weekly letters to Stalin, is rewarded with an invitation to the 1952 party congress in Moscow and after a wild night with Stalin gives birth to what is possibly his child -- who grows into an Australian agitator. With F. Murray Abraham, Oscar-winner Geoffrey Rush and Sam Neill as a double agent. Many different styles and kinds of material confuse the focus.


A visually lush but confusing epic by Chen Kaige (Farewell My Concubine), starring Gong Li as the acting head of an opium-addled family and Leslie Chueng as her childhood playmate, now a Shanghai gigolo who returns to the country estate to seduce her and help steal the family fortune. A needlessly convoluted plot makes it difficult to care about the characters, and the opium haze reduces any sense of urgency.

SOUL FOOD (*** 1/2 , R)

A warm-hearted, funny movie about a big family in Chicago and its crisis when the matriarch (Irma P. Hall) grows ill. There are three sisters (Vanessa L. Williams, Vivica A. Fox and Nia Long), all married, some with problems, and the extended family includes cousins, the minister, the eccentric uncle, and young Ahmad (Brandon Hammond), who tells the story.

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 but now creeps through its air shafts, sabotaging Mr. Stewart's plans. A dreadful film; its only interest involves Mr. Stewart's attempt to retain his dignity in the midst of idiocy.

HOODLUM (***, R)

Laurence Fishburne stars as Bumpy Johnson, the inventive gangster who was the right-hand 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 the 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.

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.

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.


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