VideoView -- UPI Arts & Entertainment

By JACK E. WILKINSON, United Press International   |   Feb. 27, 2003 at 12:24 PM

What's new on the home video scene...


"The Ring" -- A chilling, impressive ghost story, suitably gloomy and unsettling, that generally works despite some gaping plot holes. The film deals with a video tape that, when watched, means death for the viewer seven days later. When Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts), a skeptical investigative reporter and single mom, hears about the tape (her niece was one of the earlier victims), she tracks it down and watches it. Soon she's marked for death, too, and sets out to unravel the mystery before her time runs out. Unfortunately, her young son (David Dorfman), a solemn little person who already hears voices from the grave, also sees the tape so now his clock is ticking, too. Director Gore Verbinski is well versed in the "boo!" factor and keeps things tense but his storyline is at times contrived and implausible and leaves a number of questions unanswered. ("The Ring" is a remake of Ringu," a Japanese cult thriller by Hideo Nakata, also available, in its U.S. debut, on DVD and VHS.) 2002. 115 minutes. DreamWorks Home Entertainment. Rated PG-13 (thematic elements, disturbing images, language and some drug references).

"Half Past Dead" -- Steven Seagal plays an undercover FBI agent named Sascha who almost single-handedly foils a fierce band of terrorists that breaks into Alcatraz in this familiar action thriller. Sascha goes to prison to be near another convict, Nick (Ja Rule), in an effort to find out where an international crime lord is hiding. But his mission is soon sidetracked when a heavily armed gang literally drops in, taking over the prison to halt an execution and taking a visiting Supreme Court justice hostage in the process. Seems the condemned man is about to die without revealing where he hid $200 million in stolen gold bars and the bad guys, led by Morris Chestnut, are not about to let that happen. While waiting for their escape chopper, the invaders suddenly begin to realize their number is shrinking. Why, surprise, it's Sascha at work, silently stalking the darkened prison hallways, taking out the mob one by one and you know how this will turn out. You've seen it before; you've seen Steven Seagal do it before ("Under Siege"). Not much believable about the plot but it has plenty of action. 2002. 90 minutes. Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment. Rated PG-13 (pervasive action violence, language, some sexual content).

"8 Women" -- Imagine a tongue-in-cheek Agatha Christie mystery with music and you've got this feisty import with some of France's most famous leading ladies playing potential suspects snowbound with a corpse. The man of the house is upstairs in bed with a big knife stuck in his back. Downstairs are eight women, any one of whom could have done it, trapped by a fierce snowstorm and unable to call for help because someone has yanked the phone line. Among those searching for the truth, and taking turns breaking into song to help move things along, are the dead man's wife (Catherine Deneuve), his mother-in-law (Danielle Darrieux), his sister-in-law (Isabelle Huppert), his sister (Fanny Ardant) and Louise the maid (Emmanuelle Beart). Based on a play and filmed like one, it's a fun exercise for the actresses, a tale where nothing is really taken seriously. Not even murder. 2002. 113 minutes. In French with English subtitles. Universal Studios Home Entertainment. Rated R (some sexual content).

"The Sleeping Dictionary" -- A young Englishman and a beautiful Borneo tribeswoman are caught up in a tempestuous and forbidden love affair in this striking, direct-to-video drama. The year is 1936 and the British Empire has long arms. When John Truscott (Hugh Dancy) takes a job in the British colonial outpost of Sarawak, he is given a native servant, Selima (Jessica Alba), who teaches him the native language but also shares his bed. That's accepted tradition and nothing more, supposedly, but when John and Selima fall in love, the whole village, including John's crusty superior (Bob Hoskins) and his outspoken wife (Brenda Blethyn), turn against them. 2002. 109 minutes. New Line Home Entertainment. Rated R (some sexuality and language).

"Born Free" -- This exceptional family film is making its DVD debut looking as fresh and crisp and inviting as it did when it was first released 37 years ago. It's the true tale of Elsa the lioness, raised as a pet in Kenya by a British couple, Joy Adamson (Virginia McKenna) and her game warden husband George (Bill Travers), who find later they must set her free but first she has to learn to survive on her own. A story of courage and love, of nature and human nature, a good interpretation of the Adamson book with extraordinary photography and John Barry's famous Oscar-winning score. 1966. 95 minutes. Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment. Rated PG (some wild animal action and brief language).


Coming up: "White Oleander," "I Spy," "Moonlight Mile," "Below" and "Inspector Gadget 2"... "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" moved rapidly to No. 1 among video movie rentals across the land this week...

Steven Spielberg's "Catch Me If You Can" starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks and Oscar nominee Christopher Walken has a May 6 date with VHS and DVD... "Far From Heaven," an acclaimed romantic drama featuring best-actress nominee Julianne Moore, hits video on April 1...

A double animated treat for the young: "Beauty & The Beast: Belle's Magical World Special Edition" (Disney, 92 minutes, rated G) with Belle and her buddies brightening up the beast's gloomy castle, and "Scooby-Doo and the Legend of the Vampire" (Warner, 72 minutes, not rated), in which the gang takes on a scary Australian myth...

The movie that set the tone for Hollywood's sci-fi '50s, "The Day The Earth Stood Still" (Fox, 1951), returns in a spruced-up DVD version with a host of features including a commentary by Director Robert Wise, who later won Oscars for "West Side Story" and "The Sound of Music." Stars Patricia Neal and Michael Rennie...

Warner has grouped some real heavyweights for a pair of DVD packages. Epic Dramas include "Casablanca," "Ben-Hur" and "Gone with the Wind," while Classic Musicals gather "My Fair Lady," "Gigi" and "An American in Paris"... Fans of Ozzy's clan can catch the entire first season of the outrageous, Emmy Award-winning realty TV show, "The Osbournes" on a two-disc DVD set, beginning on March 4, featuring the wit and wisdom of rocker Ozzy Osbourne, his savvy wife Sharon and their kids Kelly and Jack. There's also an uncensored version...

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