VideoView -- UPI Arts & Entertainment

By JACK E. WILKINSON, United Press International  |  March 27, 2003 at 10:30 AM
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What's new in the world of home video...


"Far From Heaven" -- It's suburban Connecticut, 1957, a time when, as the song goes, "the autumn weather turns the leaves to flame." The setting seems pretty much picture-perfect, as do the lives of Cathy and Frank (Julianne Moore and Dennis Quaid), a perfect family in a perfect house on a perfect street. The local society editor is writing a profile about their perfection. But in reality it's an illusion soon to be undone by forbidden desires. Cathy, whose sheltered life is somewhat bothered by the flap over integration when it's mentioned, develops a close friendship with their new black gardener (Dennis Haysbert), which the whole town notices right away and, of course, misinterprets it all and suddenly warm friends turn icy overnight. The crusher, though, comes from Frank, who's busily climbing the corporate ladder and often comes home late, when he admits tearfully that he's gay, a situation he manages to keep hidden as a family secret -- for now. Writer-director Todd Haynes has fashioned a fascinating drama that captures the feel and look of the '50s with lush photography and a fine Elmer Bernstein score. His cast is first rate topped by strong portrayals by Moore, who was nominated for a best actress Oscar, and Quaid. 2002. 107 minutes. Universal Studios Home Video. Rated PG-13 ( mature thematic elements, sexual content, brief violence and language).

"Red Dragon" -- In this riveting thriller and prequel to "Silence of the Lambs," Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins)is imprisoned after trying to kill FBI agent Will Graham (Edward Norton), with whom he had been working, and his sordid past is revealed. Graham takes early retirement to Florida but is pulled back by his former boss (Harvey Keitel), who needs help in catching another serial killer, one known as the Tooth Fairy. Graham in turn decides he needs Lecter's help in solving the case and the two meet again, cautiously, and while Lecter, held in maximum security at a hospital for the criminally insane, seems to be aiding in finding this latest maniac (Ralph Fiennes), he may be setting him up. Emily Watson plays a young blind woman caught in the middle. In this third crack at the role of Hannibal the Cannibal, Hopkins is still an eerie though familiar presence, mannered and menacing as ever, the pre-eminent bogeyman. Based on Thomas Harris' novel, this is the second time it was filmed, the first being the underappreciated "Manhunter" (1986) with Brian Cox as Hannibal. The double-disc DVD presentation contains a tasty array of extras including a discussion of Lecter's psyche with real-life FBI profiler John Douglas and what would motivate him to eat his victims plus an interview with Hopkins on why his insane doctor has such appeal. 2002. 124 minutes. Universal Studios Home Video. Rated R (violence, grisly images, language, some nudity and sexuality).

"Maid in Manhattan" -- A charming Cinderella love story that's quite inviting even though just about everything turns out the way you expect it to. Jennifer Lopez plays Marisa Ventura, a single mom who works as a maid in a posh New York hotel, and Ralph Fiennes, a monstrous figure in "Red Dragon," becomes a rich, handsome senatorial candidate named Christopher Marshall. They meet accidentally after she has unwisely tried on a guest's $5,000 outfit which he thinks is hers and she does nothing to dispel his misconception as they go for a walk in the park with his dog and her sharp young son. A second meeting turns into a romantic interlude, then she vanishes, leaving not even a glass slipper behind. A Big Search ensues and when he discovers the truth, Chris is mortified. But, he gets over it. The moral is anything is possible -- if you look like J-Lo. 2002. 105 minutes. Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment. Rated PG-13 (some language/sexual references).

"The Truth About Charlie" -- Jonathan Demme's makeover of "Charade," the 1963 romantic thriller, stars Mark Wahlberg and Thandie Newton in the roles held in the original by Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, the setting's still Paris and the camerawork is splendid. Newton is Regina, who returns from a vacation to find her husband of three months missing. She's helped in her search by Josh (Wahlberg), a suspiciously friendly stranger, and Bartholomew (Tim Robbins taking the Walter Matthau role), another stranger she should be suspicious of, and by police who reveal her husband, Charlie, was not the upstanding art dealer she thought he was but apparently a thief who had absconded with a stolen fortune. His angry former partners meanwhile are looking for the loot and figure Regina knows all about it. The film revolves about Newton whose fragile beauty and presence enable her to carry it off. If you would like to compare the two films, "Charade" is included among the DVD extras. 2002. 104 minutes. Universal Studios Home Video. Rated PG-13 (some violence and sexual content/nudity).


Coming up: "The Other Side of Heaven," "Friday After Next" and "The Wild Thornberrys Movie"... And, on April 11: "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets"... "The Ring" rates No. 1 among the nation's video renters this week... Disney's "The Lion King," best-selling video of all time, will make its DVD debut on Oct. 7 in a double-disc edition...

"The Hours," nominated for an Academy Award as best picture of the year and featuring Nicole Kidman, winner of the best actress Oscar, comes to video June 24. It's the first of the five best picture nominees to make it to the home screen. "Spirited Away," winner of the best animated feature, is due April 15. And, "Talk To Her," for which Pedro Almodovar won for best original screenplay, has a May 27 video date...

"West Side Story" stands tall among movie musicals as one of the most honored films of all time -- 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and a legacy of great music. MGM brings back the 1961 movie version of the Broadway hit in a grand twin-disc DVD presentation with a sharp, unblemished widescreen image and a six-track enhanced Dolby mix that gives added punch to classic numbers. The DVD extras include the documentary "West Side Memories," an hour-long look at the film's creation, glimpses of dance rehearsals, a complete script and footage of Natalie Wood, Russ Tamblyn and other non-singers doing their own singing (they were replaced later by professionals). Some of them, notably Natalie, did well...

Fifteen years ago, something new came to the movies. And, it was an eye-opener, a funny, unique entertainment from stem to stern. "Who Framed Roger Rabbit," a collaboration between the Disney studios and Steven Spielberg, was the first film to successfully blend human actors with cartoon characters and make it all seem real. Now, it's back in a two-disc DVD loaded with extras that, among other things, show how it was all done. Resembling a '40s thriller, it's set in Hollywood and adjacent Toontown, where the animated "Toons" live, among them boisterous Roger Rabbit and his voluptuous wife Jessica ("I'm not bad -- I'm just drawn that way") and where private eye Bob Hoskins, the human one, comes to investigate a murder. Before the wild antics are over he has run into just about every cartoon star from Betty Boop to Bugs Bunny...

For the first time, a week's DVD rental revenue has topped that of the VHS format. DVD movies generated $80 million in rental revenue, two million more than VHS, for the week ending March 16, according to VidTrac, an industry reporting arm of the Video Software Dealers Association. The landmark week came six years to the month after the launch of the DVD format in the United States.

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