JUST OUT: A Beautiful Mind, Gosford Park, The Devil's Backbone, The Affair of the Necklace, Gabriela and A Rumor of Angels
TUESDAY: Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, Shallow Hal and A Walk to Remember
JULY 9: The Royal Tenenbaums, Hart's War, Impostor and No Such Thing
JULY 16: Amelie, John Q., Charlotte Gray, Pinero, Storytelling and Mean Machine
Here are reviews from Roger Ebert and other critics of some recent video releases:
A BEAUTIFUL MIND (****, PG-13, 129 MINUTES) Winner of the Best Picture Oscar stars Russell Crowe as John Forbes Nash Jr., a man who is one of the world's greatest mathematicians, and a victim of schizophrenia. From undergraduate days at Princeton to his winning of the Nobel Prize, we follow Nash on a journey that takes him into the far reaches of mathematical discovery, and into a bewildering labyrinth of hallucinations and madness. That he is able to work, create, survive and prevail, without ever fully being cured, is a triumph of the spirit. Best Actress Oscar winner Jennifer Connelly plays the wife who stands by him; Christopher Plummer is a helpful psychiatrist. Ron Howard earned the Oscar for Best Director.
GOSFORD PARK (****, R, 127 MINUTES) Robert Altman's wonderful film begins with the formula for an Agatha Christie mystery (murder in an English country house, everyone a suspect) and transforms it into a comedy about selfishness, greed, snobbery, eccentricity and class. Upstairs and downstairs, the cast is populated with a roll call of great actors: Maggie Smith, Alan Bates, Helen Mirren, Michael Gambon, Kristen Scott Thomas, Emily Watson, Derek Jacobi and many more. Like guests at a big party, we are confused when we first arrive: Who are all these people? By the end, we know. The Oscar-winning screenplay by Julian Fellowes is masterful in introducing all of the characters and gradually making it clear who they are, what they've done, and what it means.
THE AFFAIR OF THE NECKLACE (**, R, 120 MINUTES) On the eve of the French Revolution, a silly girl from a once-great family hatches a foolish scheme to defraud a cardinal, misrepresent the wishes of the queen, and steal the proceeds of a precious necklace to buy back her ancestral home. Oscar winner Hilary Swank plays the heroine, who seems too wholesome for this skullduggery (a word actually used in the movie). Jonathan Pryce is the cardinal, Joely Richardson is Marie Antoinette, and Christopher Walken, of course, leads the Illuminati.
THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE (***, R, 106 MINUTES) In the closing days of the Spanish Civil War, the boys in an orphanage await capture by fascist troops. Carlos, a newcomer, learns of old mysteries and of a nightly visitor - "the one who sighs." The staff of the orphanage, weird and secretive, seems to be tiptoeing on the graves of past misdeeds, and the movie is richly atmospheric in its telling of a ghost story.
I AM SAM (**, PG-13, 133 MINUTES) Sam (Sean Penn), who has the IQ of a 7-year-old, is trying to raise the daughter (Dakota Fanning) he fathered with a homeless woman. But social workers want to take her away and place her with an adoptive family. A high-powered Beverly Hills attorney (Michelle Pfeiffer) takes Sam's case and it becomes a way for her to become more human - but the problem is, it will take more than love for Sam to see his daughter through grade school and adolescence and out into the world.
MAX KEEBLE'S BIG MOVE (**, PG, 101 MINUTES) Max (Alex D. Linz) heads off to his first day of junior high school, where he will be bullied, fall in love and fight the principal's plan to build a vast and senseless sports stadium.
ORANGE COUNTY (***, PG-13, 90 MINUTES) With the form of a teen-age movie but the spirit of an independent comedy, this is an unusually entertaining comedy. Colin Hanks stars as a surfer whose life changes when he reads a novel and decides to study at the feet of its author, a Stanford professor. Alas, he's rejected by Stanford - so his dope-head brother (Jack Black) and loyal girlfriend (Schuyler Fisk) accompany him on a road trip to personally confront the dean of admissions (Harold Ramis).