VideoView -- UPI Arts & Entertainment

By JACK E. WILKINSON, United Press International  |  April 10, 2003 at 10:57 AM
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What's new on the home video scene...


"Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" -- Having laid the groundwork in the first movie, this stirring, fast-paced sequel sends J. K. Rowling's intrepid young wizard surging into a darker, more dangerous world of magic and monsters where an unguarded glance can spell disaster. Despite being warned of new dangers, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) joins his friends Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) for their sophomore year at Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. They find a sinister plot brewing, students are being attacked and someone is planning to break into the legendary "Chamber of Secrets" to unleash a fearsome beast that can kill or petrify with a single look. It's up to Harry to set things right, even if it means going head-to-head with such scary creatures as a cave full of giant spiders and a massive razor-toothed snake. Many of the supporting characters from "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" are back, including headmaster Albus Dumbledore (Richard Harris in his final role), the strict Professor McGonagall (Maggie Smith) and the giant groundskeeper Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane), plus newcomers Gileroy Lockhart (Kenneth Branagh), the charismatic, self-absorbed dark-arts teacher, and Dobby, the fussy, computer-generated house elf. The second in a planned series of seven Potter films, it's a rewarding family venture that manages to be inventive with new ideas while expanding on situations and personalities of the original. The double-disc DVD presentation is brimful with extras as well, including games, interviews with the stars and author Rowling, new background material and 19 additional or extended scenes. 2002. 161 minutes. Warner Home Video. Rated PG (scary moments, some creature violence and mild language).

"Spirited Away" -- The legendary animation mastery of Japan's Hayao Miyazaki is shown to full advantage in this extraordinary fantasy adventure and winner of the Academy Award for best animated feature. The story deals with a 10-year-old girl named Chihiro on an "Alice in Wonderland" journey in a strange land loaded with strange creatures. While traveling with her family to their new home, Chihiro's father unwisely takes a detour through a mysterious tunnel that leads to a world of spirits where, as she wanders off to check out a vast bathhouse, a witch named Yubaba turns her parents into pigs. Now, Chihiro must undertake a series of challenges to convince Yubaba to turn them back so they can go home. Though aimed at children, adults are just as taken by the characters and situations and, of course, the richly detailed animation. Miyazaki still relies mostly on meticulous, hand-drawn artwork with only a minimum of computer help. Good job, also, on the English dubbing. While there are some scary scenes that may be too much for younger children, "Spirited Away" overall is a delight. 2002. 124 minutes. Animated. Walt Disney Home Video. Rated PG (some scary moments).

"Drumline" -- Welcome to the rigorous, ritualistic world of the high-stepping, show-stopping college marching band, for which halftime is game time. This is the story of Devon Miles (Nick Cannon in a star-making role), an exceptional hip-hop drummer from Harlem who lands a full scholarship at an Atlanta college but nearly gets drummed out because of his cocky showboat attitude. Devon knows he's good and gleefully shows off where possible often to the detriment and embarrassment of his bandmates, bucks authority, creates a rash of problems, a talented but out-of-step irritant, a fledgling determined to shine on the drumline. Even his girlfriend (Zoe Saldana) gets fed up. But since this is a success story, a sort of rimshot "Rocky," he learns to grow up, to discipline himself and think of others. The thrust of the movie is familiar but director Charles Stone keeps it simple and sincere without the usual clichés, orchestrating a surprisingly entertaining film. Cannon is quite good, coming across as self-confident and charismatic. 2002. 118 minutes. Fox Home Entertainment. Rated PG-13 (profanity, sexual innuendo).

"Evelyn" -- Pierce Brosnan is Desmond Doyle, a hard-working -- and hard-drinking -- Irish carpenter whose young daughter and two sons are taken away by the state after his wife deserts the family. It's 1953, the Irish government and Catholic church are closely tied, and the law says a father cannot raise children alone. Frantic to get his children back and fearing that daughter Evelyn (well-played by Sophie Vanasseur) is being mistreated in her church-run home, Doyle cleans up his act, stops his heavy drinking and enlists the aid of a friendly bartender (Julianna Margulies) and two lawyers, her brother (Stephen Rea) and her ex-suitor (Aidan Quinn), in a daunting task of trying to overturn ironclad law. A compelling, heartwarming drama. 2002. 95 minutes. MGM Home Entertainment. Rated PG (thematic material and language).

"Rabbit-Proof Fence" -- In 1931 Australia there was a law called the Aborigines Act under which the government took aboriginal children of mixed race by force from their mothers and raised them in training schools, a campaign seemingly devoted to "rescuing" half-white children from a black society. In this fiction-based-on-fact movie, three young sisters are whisked away from their family and interned 1,500 miles from home. Unable to stand the strange and lonely place, 14-year-old Molly (Everlyn Sampi), Daisy (Tianna Sansbury), who's 8, and 10-year-old Gracie (Laura Monaghan) escape and start their long, harrowing trek home. They know instinctively where home is, aided by a fence that stretched for hundreds of miles across the outback to protect farmlands from a pestilence of rabbits. Kenneth Branagh plays the principal white character, the pompous administrator of the relocation policy who believed wholeheartedly in what he was doing. Based on Molly's memoirs, this is an intriguing movie, beautifully photographed and well-acted, of a shameful wrong and the remarkable will to right it. 2002. 93 minutes. Miramax Home Entertainment. Rated PG (violence).


Coming up: "The Crime of Padre Amaro," "Bloody Sunday," and "The Transporter"... "Maid in Mahattan" is cleaning up on the video rental circuit this week...

New on DVD: "A Chorus Line" (1985), is the quintessential backstage musical about the hope and heartbreak of gypsy dancers who turn up by the hundreds to audition for a handful of jobs on Broadway. Michael Douglas stars as the unenviable guy who makes the choices...

The epic "Giant" is coming to DVD on June 10 in a restored, two-disc special edition. Directed by George Stevens, the blockbuster 1956 hit, which has held up well over the years, stars Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean and Rock Hudson... TV's Dr. Quinn and Mr. Bean are making the DVD scene this month. A&E Home Video is releasing the first season of "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman," the 1990s drama starring Jane Seymour as a doctor in the Old West, and all 14 episodes of Rowan Atkinson's funny fumbler on April 29...

Saluting his 100th birthday, officially on May 29, Universal is releasing 17 Bob Hope movies on DVD on Tuesday. All are from the 1930s and '40s, beginning with the comic icon's film debut "The Big Broadcast of 1938" in which he introduced "Thanks for the Memory." Four of the memorable "road" movies with Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour are included -- "Road to Singapore" got the series going in 1940, joined here by roads to Zanzibar (1941), Morocco ('42) and Utopia ('45). Among the others, "The Paleface" (1948), "The Ghost Breakers" (1940), "Louisiana Purchase" ('41); "College Swing" (1938), "Caught in the Draft" (1941), "My Favorite Blonde" (1942). Plenty of laughs as well as plenty of extras, including a lot of clips of Hope's many trips to entertain the troops...

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