JUST OUT: Deliver Us From Eva, Heaven, Narc and Just Married
TUESDAY: Dark Blue, Kangaroo Jack, Punch Drunk Love and The Hours
JULY 1: Gangs of New York, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, La Femme Nikita and The Real Cancun
JULY 8: Phone Booth
JULY 15: The Fairly Odd Parents, Gods and Generals, Laurel Canyon and Shanghai Knights
JULY 22: Final Destination 2, The Life of David Gale, Spun and Nicholas Nickleby
Here are reviews from Roger Ebert and other critics of some recent video releases:
DELIVER US FROM EVA (**, R, 105 MINUTES) Gabrielle Union plays Eva, oldest of the four Dandridge sisters. After the untimely death of their parents, Eva took upon the task of raising the girls, and has never been able to stop giving the orders, even now that they're grown up. This so annoys her sisters' men that they pool $5,000 and pay LL Cool J to seduce Eva and get her to move out of town.
HEAVEN (***, R, 96 MINUTES) Cate Blanchett sees her husband and some of her students killed by drugs and plants a bomb to kill the drug lord. It is moved by a cleaning woman and kills four innocent people. She is devastated. During questioning, she wins the love of a rookie policeman (Giovanni Ribisi), who decides to help her escape.
JUST MARRIED (* 1/2 , PG-13, 94 MINUTES) How sad to find Brittany Murphy, who made such a strong impression in 8 Mile, stuck in this witless and ungainly sitcom. She's a rich girl in love with Sports Bar Man (Ashton Kutcher), and their perfect relationship is destroyed on the honeymoon from hell.
NARC (***, R, 105 MINUTES) A cold, hard film about Detroit narcotics detectives starring Ray Liotta and Jason Patric as a veteran whose partner has been killed and the younger cop assigned to join him in the investigation. More good acting, less formula than in the usual drug/crime movie.
BIKER BOYZ (**, PG-13, 110 MINUTES) A top cast in a good idea that doesn't pay off. Based on an article about bike clubs that meet for illegal street racing. Sounds like The Fast and the Furious but isn't nearly as supercharged and has nicer characters - maybe too nice. Laurence Fishburne is the champion racer; Derek Luke is the Kid who challenges him; Vanessa Bell Calloway is a key woman in both of their lives; and the cast includes Orlando Jones, Kid Rock, Djimon Hounsou, Lisa Bonet and Larenz Tate.
FRIDA (*** 1/2 , R, 120 MINUTES) The story of Frida Kahlo (Salma Hayek), a passionate artist who struggled through lifelong pain to create extraordinary paintings, and yet was overshadowed during her lifetime by her husband, the famous and equally tempestuous Diego Rivera (Alfred Molina).
JUNGLE BOOK 2 (* 1/2 , G, 72 MINUTES) So thin and unsatisfying it seems like a made-for-DVD version, not a theatrical release. It offers a bare-bones plot in which Mowgli (voice by Haley Joel Osment) wanders off into the jungle, is threatened by a tiger and a snake, takes care of his little girlfriend and is protected by a bear (voice by John Goodman).
OLD SCHOOL (*, R, 90 MINUTES) Luke Wilson, Will Ferrell and Vince Vaughn, who clock in at an average age of 34, abandon their adult lives to return to campus and run a series of party houses at which they can meet hot chicks. Formless, witless, not funny, except for a few good scenes and some nice work by Will Ferrell as a compulsive nudist.
TEARS OF THE SUN (***, R, 121 MINUTES) Set during the Nigerian civil war, and constructed out of rain, cinematography and the face of Bruce Willis. He plays a Navy SEAL who is assigned to airlift some U.S. nationals and ends up leading a mission doctor (Monica Bellucci) and her patients through the jungle ahead of rebel troops.
THE PIANIST (*** 1/2 , R, 148 MINUTES) Roman Polanski's film is based on the experiences of Wladyslaw Szpilman (Adrien Brody), a Jewish pianist in Poland who survives the Holocaust by hiding out in the city, in an increasingly desperate struggle. The movie has a strength built on its refusal to turn this story into an uplifting parable; Mr. Szpilman survives through luck, chance and the kindness of strangers, and Mr. Polanski (himself a Holocaust survivor whose mother died in the gas chambers) tells the story not for its victory but for its witness by one who was there, saw and remembers.
THE RECRUIT (** 1/2 , PG-13, 105 MINUTES) CIA veteran Al Pacino recruits MIT whiz-kid Colin Farrell for the agency's training program on The Farm, where the recruit falls in love with another agent (Bridget Moynahan), and is trapped in a web of intrigue.
ADAPTATION (****, R, 114 MINUTES) What a bewilderingly brilliant and entertaining movie this is - a confounding story from director Spike Jonze and writer Charlie Kaufman about orchid thieves and screenwriters, elegant New Yorkers and scruffy swamp rats, truth and fiction. Nicolas Cage stars as the twin screenwriters Charlie and Donald Kaufman, struggling to adapt a book about an orchid thief (Chris Cooper). Meryl Streep plays the author of the book, whom Charlie becomes obsessed with at about the same time she is attracted to the smelly but enigmatic thief.
ANTWONE FISHER (*** 1/2 , PG-13, 113 MINUTES) A young sailor has a hair-trigger temper, and it lands him in the office of the base psychiatrist. Newcomer Derek Luke plays the sailor, in a powerful debut performance, and Denzel Washington, who plays the doctor, is making his directorial debut. The DVD has an interesting feature on the real Antwone Fisher.
STAR TREK: NEMESIS (**, PG-13, 116 MINUTES) Data (Brent Spiner) is discovered to have a clone, which seems redundant, and Picard (Patrick Stewart) shares a secret with a rival commander, but it is time for Star Trek to reinvent itself. In an introduction to half a dozen deleted scenes on the DVD, producer Rick Berman notes the first cut of the movie ran 45 minutes longer; the disc includes a substantial portion of that deleted material, but they're of interest mainly to hard-core Trek fans.
25TH HOUR (*** 1/2 , R, 134 MINUTES) Spike Lee's elegiac film stars Edward Norton as a drug dealer spending his last day of freedom before a seven-year prison sentence begins. He visits his father (Brian Cox), talks sadly with his girlfriend (Rosario Dawson), meets with his best friends from high school (Philip Seymour Hoffman and Barry Pepper). The DVD has six fairly lengthy deleted scenes, including one of Mr. Lee's trademark character montages, in which the performers deliver colorful personal takes on what it means to have sway and status in Manhattan. The disc also offers a five-minute "Ground Zero" tribute, a collection of images Mr. Lee shot around the clean-up site at the World Trade Center, the neighborhood in which some of the action takes place.
ANALYZE THAT (**, R 95 MINUTES) Mob boss Paul Vitti (Robert De Niro), who seems to have gone nutty in Sing Sing, is released to the personal custody of his shrink, Ben Sobel (Billy Crystal). Over the vehement objections of Mrs. Sobel (Lisa Kudrow), Vitti moves in, tries to hold down straight jobs, and gets her husband involved in a heist. Like the movie, the DVD extras are uninteresting, including lackluster audio commentary from the normally effusive director Harold Ramis.
THE HOT CHICK (1/2 *, PG-13 101 MINUTES) Through an exchange of magic earrings, a thug played by Rob Schneider finds himself changing places with the sexiest girl in high school. Her mind occupies his body, and vice versa, although because Mr. Schneider is the star we have to look at him all the time with her inside, and get only a few glimpses of her (Rachel McAdams) occupied by his mind. The movie is vulgar, tasteless, dumb and not funny. The DVD has a handful of deleted scenes, including an alternate ending.
CATCH ME IF YOU CAN (***, PG-13, 140 MINUTES) Leonardo DiCaprio stars as a gifted impersonator and con man who, before the age of 21, successfully passes as a doctor, a lawyer and a pilot - and passes a lot of bad checks. Tom Hanks is the FBI agent on his trail, and they develop a strange relationship based on the kid's loneliness and the agent's grudging admiration for his abilities. Directed by Steven Spielberg, who goes for no deep lessons but simply tells a good story that is, incredibly, based on fact. The two-disc DVD set has half a dozen featurettes, the most interesting one a look at the real Frank Abagnale, who talks in wonder about his ability to cash $2.5 million in bad checks in all 50 states and 26 foreign countries.
EXTREME OPS (PG-13, 93 MINUTES) A bad movie that's for extreme-sports fanatics only. Snowboarders, a skier and a film crew set out to shoot a daring stunt for a TV commercial and end up in a fight to the death after they stumble onto terrorists hiding in the Austrian mountains.
THE EMPEROR'S CLUB (***, PG-13, 109 MINUTES) Kevin Kline stars as a beloved teacher at a rich boy's prep school who is challenged by a troubled student (Emile Hirsch) and is so pleased when the student finally improves that - well, the teacher cheats a little on his behalf. But then the student cheats, too, setting up an unusually complex film that is not about absolute ethics but about what a good man does when he finds himself in a bad situation.
TREASURE PLANET (** 1/2 , PG-13, 100 MINUTES) Robert Louis Stevenson meets Star Wars in an animated outer-space version of the pirate classic from Disney. The DVD has commentary from the filmmakers, an alternate opening and ending for the movie, an animation featurette with Disney heir Roy Disney and an interactive ship tour and treasure hunt.
TWO WEEKS NOTICE (***, PG-13, 100 MINUTES) Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant are charming and lovable in an entirely predictable romantic comedy. She's a lawyer dedicated to the environment, he's a billionaire developer dedicated to despoiling it, and it's love at first hate. Writer-director Marc Lawrence writes dialogue that's sharper and wittier than we expect, and the characters have an edge to them, but basically it's a formula picture, done with skill and charm. The DVD has two lengthy extra scenes that were wisely eliminated from the film, including a dull epilogue in which Ms. Bullock and Mr. Grant's characters tie the knot and a making-of featurette.
BLOODY SUNDAY (*** 1/2 , R, 107 MINUTES) On Jan. 30, 1972, a civil rights march in Derry, Northern Ireland, ended with a confrontation between some of the marchers and British Army paratroopers. At the end of the day, 13 marchers were dead and 13 injured, one of whom later died. The army's actions were exonerated by an official inquiry, but for many others it was guilty of a massacre. Paul Greengrass' film, shot in the form of a documentary, is stunningly effective in re-creating events of the day. James Nesbitt plays the march leader; Tim Pigott-Smith leads the army.
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