What's new in the world of home video...
"One Hour Photo" -- Robin Williams gives a strong, scary performance in Mark Romanek's psychological thriller as Sy Parrish, a longtime, dangerously lonely employee of a one-hour photo lab who becomes obsessed with a family whose pictures he has developed over the past decade. One wall of his spartan apartment is papered with hundreds of photographs -- extra copies he has made over the years of snapshots brought to him by the Yorkin family -- Nina (Connie Nielsen), Will (Michael Vartan) and their son Jake (Dylan Smith). As he observes at the beginning, "People take pictures of happy moments of their lives," and that is what he sees of the Yorkins, nothing but "happy moments," living vicariously through these people, getting to know them, he thinks, in his creepy fantasy world, through pictures and the occasional, brief contact with them at the store. It's not surprising that Sy wants closer contact with his adopted family but in trying to do so he's caught up in a series of events that causes his already precarious mental balance to tumble. 2002. 96 minutes. Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. Rated R (sexual content and language).
"The Four Feathers" -- This sweeping saga of love, heroism and redemption has been filmed six times before but is still an intriguing adventure yarn told from a somewhat different perspective. The year is 1884 and Harry Feversham (Heath Ledger), an up-and-coming young British officer and general's son who secretly would rather not be in the army, has just been ordered to the Sudan to take on the dangerous Mahdi, a Muslim fanatic. Rather than leave his fiancee, the lovely Ethne (Kate Hudson), he stuns everyone by resigning his commission. That leaves him in total disgrace (although he seems surprised), his father disowns him and Ethne and three of his best buddies hand over a box containing four white feathers, symbols of cowardice. Left behind and finally facing the consequences, Harry decides he must do something to make amends, taking off alone for Sudan where, disguised as an Arab, he sets out to save his men from a desert ambush. While coming up well short of the 1939 version, it's overall an entertaining though at times illogical film, with strong visuals and well-staged battle scenes. 2002. 127 minutes. Paramount Home Entertainment. Rated PG-13 (intense battle sequences, disturbing images, violence and some sensuality).
"City by the Sea" -- Robert De Niro stars in this gritty crime drama as Vincent LaMarca, a top New York homicide cop who makes a shocking discovery in an investigation into the death of a low-level drug dealer called "Picasso." The evidence points to his son as the No. 1 suspect. The case takes Vincent back to his old stomping grounds, Long Beach, N.Y., the city by the sea, once a gaudy tourist mecca, now an abandoned ruin, infested by the homeless and drug addicts, and opens up old emotional wounds. Fourteen years earlier, he and his wife had gone through a bitter divorce and he had turned his back not only on her but on his young son as well. Now his son Joey (James Franco) is an addict, grubbing through filthy streets for enough money for a fix, an endeavor that brought him face to face with Picasso. Vincent, a loner haunted not only by rejection of his family but childhood recollections of the execution of his murderer father, is determined to bring in Joey but keeping him alive becomes increasingly difficult. The splendid cast also includes Frances McDormand and William Forsythe. 2002. 108 minutes. Warner Home Video. Rated R (language, drug use, some violence).
"Possession" -- This is the story of two love affairs, one in the mid-19th century, the other in the present day, with a bit of mystery tossed in, all tied together cleverly in writer-director Neil LaBute's adaptation of the A.S. Byatt novel. Roland Michell (Aaron Eckhart) is an American researcher who has come to London to further his studies into the life of author Randoph Henry Ash (Jeremy Northam), one-time poet laureate to Queen Victoria. Michell finds two previously unknown letters from Ash, prompting him to believe that Ash, noted as a model of marital fidelity, may have had an affair with an obscure female poet named Christabel LaMotte (Jennifer Ehle). This brings him into collaboration with England's foremost authority on Cristabel, Maud Bailey (Gwyneth Paltrow), who scoffs at the scruffy American at first but changes her outlook as they unravel the story of Chrisabel and Ash's relationship. They also find themselves growing closer together, cautiously, warily, but certainly. 2002. 102 minutes. Universal Studios Home Entertainment. Rated PG-13 (sexuality and some thematic elements).
"Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams" -- A rousing family action adventure fantasy that just may top the original with more spectacular gadgets, creatures and special effects. Written, directed and edited by Robert Rodriguez, the film features more exploits of the Cortez family with Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino returning as the parents and Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara back again as the kids, Carmen and Juni. Their latest mission, hampered somewhat by a couple of rival spy kids, is, in James Bond-like fashion, nothing less than to save the world from a weird scientist (Steve Buscemi) who rules an invisible island with some even weirder inhabitants. When the going gets rough, the whole family gets into the act, including grandfather Ricardo Montalban in his flying wheelchair. Lively, imaginative fun. 2002. 86 minutes. Dimension Home Video. Rated PG (action sequences and brief rude humor).
Coming up: "The Road to Perdition," "The Tuxedo," "Knockabout Guys" and "Tuck Everlasting"... "The Bourne Identity," the Robert Ludlum spy yarn starring Matt Damon, remains No. 1 in video rentals this week...
You won't find any of the five movies nominated for a best picture Oscar -- and only a few hopefuls in the other categories -- in video stores and probably won't for some time. Most are still playing in theaters and waiting to see how they come out at the big show on March 23. One exception is best-actress nominee Diane Lane's "Unfaithful," which was released to the small screen in December. "The Road to Perdition," with Paul Newman up for a best supporting actor award, is due Feb. 25. Videoviewers have fared better with the nominees for best animated feature film, three of which -- "Ice Age," "Lilo and Stitch" and "Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron" -- already are on the market with April dates set for "Spirited Away" (15) and "Treasure Planet" (8)...
Twenty years ago, Alice Walker's "The Color Purple," an inspiring drama of a poor African-American girl growing up in the rural South, won a Pulitzer Prize. Two years later, Steven Spielberg made it into a movie that earned 11 Academy Award nominations. It returns on Feb. 18 in its two-disc DVD debut, remastered with a new digital transfer and boasting four new commentaries featuring interviews with Walker and stars Whoopie Goldberg, Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover... That charming, captivating Italian import "Cinema Paradiso," winner of the 1989 Oscar for best foreign language picture, returns in a new extended version that adds almost an hour of new footage. A memorable treat for the movie lover.