JUST OUT: Y Tu Mama Tambien, Gangster No. 1 and E.T. - The Extra-Terrestrial
TUESDAY: The Sum of All Fears, Eight Legged Freaks, Triumph of Love, Harvard Man and Dahmer
Here are reviews from Roger Ebert and other critics of some recent video releases:
E.T. - THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL (PG, 115 MINUTES) Give thanks to Steven Spielberg, who prodded the studio into including the old and new versions of his boy-meets-alien classic on both the standard and deluxe DVD packages. The studio initially planned to include the 1982 original only in the expensive three-disc set, while the more reasonably priced two-disc release would have included just this year's new version, which adds scenes and improves special effects. A background documentary contrasts some of the original shots with the improvements Mr. Spielberg made in the new version (about "50 pet-peeve shots" in all, he notes). There's a featurette on the premiere of the new version, focusing on John Williams' leading a live orchestra to accompany the film. The movie also can be viewed with that live score substituted for the studio-recorded one. Among added features in the three-disc set are the film script, the CD soundtrack and a frame from a print of the film. Standard DVD set, $29.98; deluxe DVD set, $69.98. (Universal)
Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN (****, NO MPAA RATING, 105 MINUTES) On the surface, the lighthearted story of two teen-age boys who convince a sexy older cousin to join them on a journey to the beach. She teases and quizzes them and tries to teach them how she thinks a man should behave toward a woman. On another level, a journey of affluent characters through the other Mexico, a land of poverty and disappointment. And then there is a third story beating far beneath the surface, in a film of unexpected richness.
GANGSTER NO. 1. (R, 105 MINUTES) Malcolm McDowell stars in this gritty, British-made gangster flick that recalls English film noir classics such as Mike Hodges' 1971 Get Carter. Sharply directed by Paul McGuigan, it tells the story of the rise of a ruthless London mob boss. The DVD includes a passable "making of" documentary, a deleted scene and commentary from Mr McGuigan, whose strong Scottish brogue is often difficult to decipher.
ABOUT A BOY (*** 1/2 , PG-13, 101 MINUTES) Hugh Grant gives one of his best performances as a 38-year-old bachelor who's never held a job or had a relationship last longer than two months. He decides to specialize in single mothers because they are easier to date and easier to dump - but discovers that while he would make a lousy husband he might make a wonderful father. Nicholas Hoult co-stars as the young boy who adopts him; the prematurely wise boy and the eternally immature man learn a lot from each other.
MR. DEEDS (*, PG-13, 96 MINUTES) Insincere and unconvincing remake of the 1936 Frank Capra classic, with Adam Sandler in the Gary Cooper role as Mr. Deeds. Unfunny jokes, many of them involving feet, and love interest from Winona Ryder as a treacherous tabloid TV reporter.
INSOMNIA (*** 1/2 , R, 118 MINUTES) Christopher Nolan (Memento) directs a splendid remake of a 1998 thriller, with Al Pacino as an L.A. cop called to Alaska to consult on a case. Martin Donovan is his partner, Hillary Swank is a local detective and Robin Williams is a killer who insinuates himself into the Pacino character's life in a most disturbing way.
WINDTALKERS (**, R, 133 MINUTES) Starts with the fascinating story of Navajos who use their language to fashion an unbreakable code in World War II, and then buries that material in a routine war movie. Nicholas Cage, as an Italian-American sergeant is the only well-developed character.
SCOOBY-DOO (*, PG, 87 MINUTES) Live-action version of the TV cartoon series, with actors playing all the characters except for Scooby-Doo, who is animated, and steals the show. Perhaps of interest to 'Scooby-Doo' aficionados. Nothing much for anyone else.
ENOUGH (H1/2, R, 115 MINUTES) A nasty item masquerading as a feminist-revenge picture; a man victimizes a woman for the first half of the film, and then the woman turns the tables with graphic violence. Jennifer Lopez stars as a poor waitress who marries a rich man (Billy Campbell) who seems like a nice guy but turns into such an unlikely caricature of hard-breathing sadistic testosterone that he cannot possibly be a real human being.
JASON X (1/2H, R, 93 MINUTES) The frozen body of Jason is discovered centuries from now and taken onboard a spaceship, where it stars in a low-rent rip-off of the Alien pictures. Eviscerations, decapitations and skewerings, separated briefly by inane dialogue.
BROTHERHOOD OF THE WOLF (***, R, 146 MINUTES) A mysterious beast attacks women and children in a rural area of France, and a naturalist named Fronsac (Samuel Le Bihan) arrives to investigate, accompanied by an Iroquois named Mani, played by the martial arts expert Mark Dacascos. Well-made, over the top, a lot of fun.
THE SCORPION KING (** 1/2 , PG-13, 94 MINUTES The Rock stars as a professional assassin hired to kill the Scorpion King. Special effects so carelessly exuberant you can grin at them, lots of nubile maidens, attacks by sword, fire, scorpion, cobra and fire ants, and Kelly Hu as the sorceress. Pretty good at being exactly what it seems to be, an action movie that embraces its goofiness.
BIG FAT LIAR (***, PG, 87 MINUTES) A surprisingly entertaining, PG-rated comedy that takes the smartest 14-year-old fibber in Michigan (Frankie Muiz) and pairs him against the dumbest 30-something fibber in Hollywood (Paul Giamatti).