"A Beautiful Mind" -- Winner of the Academy Award for best picture of the year, Ron Howard's beautifully crafted film tells of John Nash, the Nobel Prize-winning mathematician whose discoveries influenced our lives but who spent much of his own life battling schizophrenia. When we first meet Nash (played in a bravura performance by Russell Crowe), he's a brilliant but erratic student at Princeton where his great intelligence puts little emphasis on social skills. Years later, after making a revolutionary economics breakthrough, he's teaching at MIT where he meets and marries Alicia (Jennifer Connolly in an Oscar-winning role). His happy days are short-lived, however, as he begins showing signs of paranoid hallucinations and by the time he is admitted to a mental hospital he is diagnosed with advanced schizophrenia. Crowe, who carries the movie, is absolutely believable whether explaining a complex problem, sharing a cozy moment with Alicia under the stars or flailing away at imaginary adversaries. John Nash was one of the lucky ones, able eventually to pull out of his devastating downhill slide. Today, he still teaches at Princeton, still walks to the campus every day. 2001. 129 minutes. Universal Studios Home Entertainment. Rated PG-13 (intense thematic material, sexual content and a scene of violence).
"Gosford Park" -- Robert Altman's entertaining , multifaceted comedy-mystery follows a group of upstairs guests and downstairs servants gathered for a weekend in the English countryside where dinner at eight is spiced by murder before midnight. It also deals with selfishness, greed, snobbery, eccentricity and class exploitation -- delivered by a rich cast of British actors. It's November, 1932, and Sir William (Michael Gambon) and Lady Sylvia (Kristin Scott Thomas) have invited a houseful of guests for a shooting party. Among the guests, Sir William's sister (Maggie Smith), the movie star (Jeremy Northam), the Hollywood agent (Bob Balaban) and his "valet" (Ryan Phillipe). Downstairs we meet the butler (Alan Bates), the housekeeper (Helen Mirren) and the cook (Eileen Atkins). Thirty-five characters in all, balanced expertly by Altman, who loves a crowd. Overall, jolly well done and nominated for the best picture Oscar, 2001. 137 minutes. Universal Studios Home Entertainment. Rated R (some language, brief sexuality).
"A Rumor Of Angels" -- A sentimental journey for two unlikely friends from different generations who have little in common other than tragic events that numbed their lives. Together they find a way to live with death. Vanessa Redgrave is Maddy, a cantankerous recluse who lost her son in Vietnam, and Trevor Morgan is James, a 12-year-old boy she befriends in this touching tale of mourning and mysticism. James lost his mother in a car crash, which he survived, and has never learned to cope with it, getting little help from an absentee father (Ray Liotta) and a standoffish stepmother (Catherine McCormack). Predictably, Maddy is able to pull everyone together and face down her own demons. 2000. 95 minutes. MGM Home Entertainment. Rated PG-13 (thematic elements, an accident scene and brief drug references).
"Orange County" -- Shaun (Colin Hanks) is a carefree surfer who's life is changed when he stumbles onto a book buried in the sand in this humorous teen comedy. It makes him want to be a writer and points him toward Stanford where the author (Kevin Kline) teaches. Should be an easy matter because his grades are high but Stanford surprisingly turns him down because his ditzy counselor (Lily Tomlin) sent in the wrong transcript. Now, he's determined more than ever and will try any wild scheme to set things right. It's the first big movie break for Tom Hanks' son and pairs him with Schuyler Fisk, Sissy Spacek's daughter who plays his supportive girlfriend, and director Jake Kasden, Lawrence Kasden's son. Cast also includes John Lithgow, Catherine O'Hara and Jack Black as Shaun's dysfunctional family. 2001. 83 minutes. Paramount Home Entertainment. Rated PG-13 (drug content, sexuality).
Coming up next: "Shallow Hal," "Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius" and "Affair of the Necklace"... "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" tops video rentals and sales across the land this week...
New on DVD: "Brideshead Revisited," the 1982 TV drama is revisited in a three-disc collector's edition that includes all 11 hours of the show, digitally remastered, a biography of author Evelyn Waugh and a host of other extras. Heading the splendid cast were Jeremy Irons, Anthony Andrews, Laurence Olivier, Claire Bloom and John Gielgud...
Dashing Douglas Fairbanks, the handsome, athletic action star of the silents, paid fond farewell to that enriching era with "The Iron Mask" (1929), his last silent movie, and moved into the talkies with a sound prologue. Though 46 at the time, dynamic Doug still performed stunts with grace and ease in this follow-up to his 1921 "The Three Musketeers." "The Iron Mask," along with two other Fairbanks swashbuckling classics, "The Mark Of Zorro" (1920) and "Don Q, Son of Zorro" (1925), has returned to video stores in a restored DVD format...
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