This is a big weekend of video offerings. Look for an Oscarwinning performance by Diane Wiest, a riveting portrayal of humorist Dorothy Parker by Jennifer Jason Leigh, the mostly smooth comic pairing of Michael Keaton and Geena Davis along with the athletic posturings of Christopher Lambert and Jason Scott Lee and the thespian posturings of Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen.
Bullets Over Broadway
This latest Woody Allen film is his funniest and smoothest effort in years. It stars John Cusack as a pretentious playwright who will do anything to get his latest drama produced in New York - even agree to the demands of a single backer who turns out to be a mobster. And while that backer’s chief demand, that his bimbo girlfriend play an important role, doesn’t make him happy (quite the contrary), it does provide the comic tension that holds the movie together. As always, Allen provides shining moments for the entire cast, including Jennifer Tilly as the girlfriend, Chazz Palmintieri as a street hood with an instinctive feel for theater, Tracey Ullman as an insecure supporting player and, especially, Diane Wiest as a diva of affectation. Rated R.
The Jungle Book
This is a tepid, live-action retelling of the Rudyard Kipling novel. Even the welcome presences of Jason Scott Lee (“Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story”) as the jungle boy Mowgli and Cary Elwes as the British officer who becomes Mowgli’s sworn enemy, can’t help much. For real entertainment, rent the 1967 Disney animated version. Rated PG.
Up until the final 20 minutes, this political comedy-drama represents the best work that Michael Keaton and Geena Davis have done in years. In telling the story of two political consultants working on a U.S. senatorial campaign, Keaton the conservative and Davis the liberal, the film manages to be smart, hip and, best of all, funny. But then the filmmakers try to force a stupid plotline on the action, and things fall apart. Rated PG-13.
The year is 1969, and Ted Danson is a high school science teacher who decides to drive his son to the Craters of the Moon national monument. The reason? The route he has chosen will cause his classic Pontiac’s odometer to register the same mileage as the NASA mission will travel on its mission to the moon. It is OK at this point to say, “Huh?” Precious to a fault, the movie is a half-baked attempt to discuss fear and the need to challenge life. The performances of Danson and real-life wife Mary Steenburgen are of summer-stock quality. Rated PG.
Luc Besson (“La Femme Nikita”) has a bit of talent, as the visual feel of this little thriller demonstrates. But in directing such a familiar-feeling story, involving a fearfully effective killer-for-hire and the 12-year-old orphan girl who adopts him, he proves once again that visual effects aren’t enough. Jean Reno is effective as the killer, and Natalie Portman has her moments as the girl. But their scenes are made problematic by the sexual undercurrent that Besson never directly addresses (instead, he hints at it by, at least once, having the girl ape Madonna crooning “Like a Virgin”). Only Gary Oldman is worth watching, his portrayal of a duplicitous DEA agent being an over-the-top work of art. Rated R.
Highlander: The Final Dimension
Christopher Lambert is little more than forehead in this third installment of a series that started only fairly strongly and went downhill fast. As the immortal Scotsman who roams the world in search of other immortals, whose heads he wants to cut off (another “Huh?”), Lambert is forced to confront his most deadly rival - played by his “Gunmen” costar, Mario Van Peebles. Nothing makes sense, the love scenes are obligatory and the ending is purely predictable. Rated PG-13.
xxxx What’s new to view Available this weekend: “Bullets Over Broadway (Miramax), “Highlander: The Final Dimension” (Touchstone), “The Jungle Book” (Disney), “Pontiac Moon” (Paramount), “The Professional” (Columbia TriStar), “Speechless” (MGM/Universal), “Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle” (New Line), “My Antonia” (Paramount), “Scanners; The Showdown” (Republic). Available on Tuesday: “Low Down Dirty Shame” (Touchstone), “Richie Rich” (Warner).
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