Originally created 08/08/03

Video watch

JUST OUT: Bringing Down the House, What a Girl Wants and Agent Cody Banks

TUESDAY: Cradle 2 the Grave, Helen of Troy, House of 1,000 Corpses and P.S. Your Cat Is Dead

AUG. 19: Bowling for Columbine, Chicago, The Good Thief and The Kid Stays in the Picture

AUG. 26: Chasing Papi, From Justin to Kelly, Levity, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and R.S.V.P.


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

AGENT CODY BANKS (** 1/2 , PG, 110 MINUTES) James Bond as a suburban American 15-year-old (Frankie Muniz) in a high-speed, high-tech kiddie thriller that's kinda cute but sorta relentless.

BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSE (**, PG-13, 105 MINUTES) Steve Martin plays an uptight rich lawyer, and Queen Latifah portrays an escaped con who says she is innocent and needs a defender. They meet in an Internet chat room. He's expecting a blond bimbo, and when that's not the case, they have comic struggles and misunderstandings - until, incredibly, he takes her case but not her hand, and Eugene Levy appears like a tag-team partner to carry her off.

WHAT A GIRL WANTS (**, PG, 104 MINUTES) Nickelodeon star Amanda Bynes plays an American teenager who discovers from her mother (Kelly Preston) that her real father is the wealthy Sir Henry Dashwood (Colin Firth). Flying to London to meet him for the first time, she is involved in the intrigues of family and royalty.

DAREDEVIL (***, PG-13, 97 MINUTES) Ben Affleck plays a Marvel superhero who was blinded as a youth by an accident that gave him superpowers in his other four senses. By day he's a lawyer, by night a crimefighter, up against Kingpin (Michael Clarke Duncan) and Bullseye (Colin Farrell). Jennifer Garner is his love, and when it rains on her head he can "see" her face with his ears. Better than your average superhero movie - good looking, not more absurd than it needs to be, kind of touching at times.

PIGLET'S BIG MOVIE (G, 75 MINUTES) Little Piglet from the Winnie the Pooh gang headlines his own animated family flick, with the pint-size porker at the center of a series of flashback adventures as his pals try to find him when he's lost in a storm.

SOLARIS (*** 1/2 , PG-13, 98 MINUTES) A space station orbits the planet Solaris, which apparently has the ability to read minds and create people that we miss and desire. George Clooney plays a psychiatrist dispatched to the station, only to discover there his dead wife (Natasha McElhone), apparently alive once again. Two survivors on the station (Viola Davis and Jeremy Davies) warn him not to be deceived by this duplicate. And what, if anything, does the planet hope to gain by its gifts? Directed by Steven Soderbergh as the kind of smart, engrossing film that has people arguing about it on their way out of the theater.

THE QUIET AMERICAN (****, R, 118 MINUTES) In Vietnam in the early 1950s, an aging London correspondent (Michael Caine) and a cheerful young American (Brendan Fraser) are both in love with the same dance-hall girl (Do Thi Hai Yen). Neither quite admits she is in it for the money. The American, who poses as an aid worker, is actually a CIA agent there to facilitate terrorist acts that will bring a pro-American government to power. Based on a novel by Graham Greene, and containing one of the very best performances of the masterful Mr. Caine.

NICHOLAS NICKLEBY (***1/2, PG, 132 MINUTES) A version of the early and entertaining novel by Charles Dickens, jolly and exciting and brimming with life, and wonderfully well-acted. Charles McGrath (Emma) adapts and directs, and the cast features one typecasting coup after another, including Christopher Plummer as Uncle Ralph, Jim Broadbent and Juliet Stevenson as Mr. and Mrs. Squeers, and Timothy Spall as Charles Cheeryble.

THE LIFE OF DAVID GALE (R, 130 MINUTES) Kevin Spacey stars as a famous opponent of capital punishment, who, in what he must find an absurdly ironic development, finds himself on Death Row in Texas, charged with the murder of a woman (Laura Linney) who was also opposed to capital punishment. This movie is corrupt, intellectually bankrupt and morally dishonest.

SPUN (***, R, 101 MINUTES) The low-rent world of speed freaks, seen more as a dark screwball comedy than with the usual tragic crime tones. Mickey Rourke cooks the dope, John Leguizamo sells it, and their world includes Jason Schwartzman (Rushmore), Mena Suvari (American Beauty), Patrick Fugit (Almost Famous) and Brittany Murphy (8 Mile and Just Married) - as if this were a documentary about Hollywood youth gone wrong.

GODS AND GENERALS (* 1/2 , PG-13, 216 MINUTES) A Civil War movie that Trent Lott might enjoy. Less enlightened than Gone With the Wind, obsessed with military strategy, impartial between South and North, religiously devout, it waits 70 minutes before introducing the first of its two speaking roles for blacks; Stonewall Jackson assures his black cook that the South will free him, and the cook looks cautiously optimistic. If World War II were handled this way, there'd be hell to pay.

LAUREL CANYON (**, R, 103 MINUTES) Frances McDormand triumphs in a movie that is otherwise too programmed. She plays a 40ish L.A. record producer with a younger boy toy (Alessandro Nivola). When her straight-arrow son (Christian Bale) and his fiancee (Kate Beckinsale) arrive from Boston, there's trouble: The fiancee is drawn into a triangle involving the mother and her lover, and the son ... well, it all seems too mapped-out, but Ms. McDormand's performance is seductive and convincing.

SHANGHAI KNIGHTS (***, PG-13, 107 MINUTES) A nice mix of calculation and relaxed goofiness, as Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson once again team and enjoy playing their ridiculous roles. It's a period-Western-kung-fu comedy that, like its predecessor Shanghai Noon (2000), bounds from one gag to another like an eager puppy. Most of the action takes place in London, for little better reason than to tick off famous locations; the sight of the heroes dangling from the minute hand of Big Ben is probably inevitable.


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