brucekluger.com

    Us Weekly, 2002

    Home Video & DVD Reviews: 2002

    By Bruce Kluger


    A.I.: The double-disk Special Edition of Steven Spielberg’s eerily unsettling
    Pinocchio chronicleall about a robot boy (Haley Joel Osment) who learns to love
    boasts an onslaught of extras, including a making-of featurette, a glimpse at
    production design drawing boards, musical notes from composer John Williams,
    and cool behind-the-wiring forays into the film’s dazzling special effects. PG-13
    (DreamWorks)

    Absolutely Fabulous: Series Four: Those trampy, vampy, deliciously campy bad
    girls of BritainPatsy and Edinaland with a boozy thump on DVD, in six new
    episodes from their new season on Comedy Central. Extras include commentary,
    riotous outtakes and a pair of Ab Fab specials entitled “Mirrorball” and “Lets Get
    Celebritied Up.” Marianne Faithfull and Twiggy log in guest gigs. NR (BBC)

    All in the Family: The Complete First Season: Carroll O’Connor left us last year,
    but his beloved alter-ego still dwells at 704 Hauser Street in Queensand on this
    three-disk collection of the first 13 episodes from Norman Lear’s landmark sitcom.
    Included: “Meet the Bunkers” (the pilot), “Archie Gives Blood,” “Edith Has Jury
    Duty,” “Gloria’s Pregnancy” and “Mike’s Hippie Friends Come to Visit.” NR
    (Columbia/TriStar)

    American Pie 2: What did you expect—a trenchant white-paper on today’s youth?
    Lesbianism, Krazy Glue and a naughty trumpet dominate the hormonally charged
    gags in this harmless sequel, in which the bumbling horndogs—now collegians—
    congregate in a summer rental. The unrated version includes six bonus minutes of
    raunch, none of it involving pastry-shtupping. R; 105 minutes (Universal)

    The Anniversary Party: Co-writers/directors/stars Jennifer Jason Leigh and Alan
    Cumming soar in this unflinchingly candid study of the pill-popping, back-stabbing,
    empty-headed lifestyles of the Hollywood Hills elite. Gwyneth Paltrow, Kevin Kline
    and Phoebe Cates provide flawless turns as vapid hangers-on, in what is arguably
    the year’s most painfully funny pot-shot. R; 115 minutes (New Line)

    Atlantis: The Lost Empire: The two-disk Collector’s Edition of Disney’s animated
    adventure about the intrepid search for the mythical underwater continent includes
    virtual tours of the film’s computer-generated submarines, a two-hour “submersive”
    making-of documentary, deleted scenes, filmmaker commentary and a crash
    tutorial in “How to Speak Atlantean.” Michael J. Fox and James Garner star. PG
    (Disney)

    Bandits: Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton charm as likeable bank robbers
    whose ingenious heist routine (kidnapping the bank prez the night before a job) is
    complicated by an unlikely moll: a bored housewife they picked up in their travels
    (Cate Blanchett). Barry Levinson’s nutty crime frolic is immensely enjoyable to
    watchthen, somehow, instantly forgettable. PG-13; 123 minutes (MGM)

    Bubble Boy: Encased in a clear plastic globe, a teen suffering from an immunity
    disorder (Jake Gyllenhaal) sets out on a cross-country trek to stop his true love
    from marrying. Bikers, cultists and carnival freaks lend the script a nice subtext
    about misfitism, while Gyllenhaal radiates boyish buoyancy as the shrink-wrapped
    kid. PG-13; 84 minutes (Buena Vista)

    Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season One: The undead live on—on DVD, that is.
    Sarah Michelle Gellar kicks fanged fanny in this three-volume rerun of all 12
    episodes from the cult series’ freshman season, including the pilot, “Hellmouth,”
    and the climactic “Angel,” in which Buff and her vampire hunk suck face. Also on
    disk: commentary, trailers and DVD-ROM links to the BVS website. NR (Fox)

    Bull Durham: In 1988, Kevin Costner burst onto the scene as the quietly studly
    minor-league wash-up who brought vampy baseball groupie Susan Sarandon to
    her knees (and, along with her, 100 million American women). This Special Edition
    DVD of the pitch-perfect romantic comedy includes commentary from the cast’s
    starting lineup (including Tim Robbins) and a new making-of doc. Play ball. R (MGM)

    Captain Corelli’s Mandolin: In this soggy saga, Nicolas Cage is an opera-loving
    Italian soldier who falls for a Greek beauty (Penelope Cruz) while stationed in the
    Mediterranean during WWII. Alas, director John Madden (Shakespeare in Love) is
    ambushed by scenery-chewing scenery, plodding plotting and foreign accents that
    slip like a tank on a mudhill. Pass. R; 124 minutes (Universal)

    The Curse of the Jade Scorpion: Writer-director-star Woody Allen sleep-walks
    through another lightweight crime caper, this time about an insurance investigator
    who turns jewel thief after being entranced by a nefarious hypnotist. Helen Hunt
    cracks wise as Woody’s officious co-worker, who despite despising him somehow
    falls under his spell. Great Forties detailing, though, PG-13; 102 minutes
    (Dreamworks)

    Don’t Say a Word: When his daughter is kidnapped by jewel thieves, New York
    shrink Michael Douglas is told he can retrieve her by deprogramming an
    institutionalized mental patientby sundown. Wacko premise (and Brinks
    truckloads of plot contrivances) notwithstanding, it’s stylishly taut and decently
    acted, especially by Brittany Murphy as the pretty psychotic. R; 113 minutes (Fox)

    Fatal Attraction: Fifteen years ago, this heart-stopping thriller scared the pants
    back onto philandering men everywhere, as straying hubby Michael Douglas runs
    for his life from psycho, bunny-boiling, ex-lover-from-hell Glenn Close. The DVD
    edition includes a featurette on the film’s cultural fallout, rehearsal footage, an
    alternate ending and commentary from cast and crew. Watch your back. R
    (Paramount)

    A Fool There Was (1915): Part of Kino’s “Vamps, Vixens and Virgins” series, this
    “scandalous” pre-Production Code silent established Theda Bara as cinema’s
    premiere “vamp,” here going through men like cashews aboard a luxury liner. On-
    disk extras include a scrapbook of stills, as well as the Rudyard Kipling poem, “The
    Vampire,” on which Bara’s character was based. Color-tinted. NR (Kino)

    Friends: The Complete First Season: Who needs a date on Saturday night
    when you’ve got 10 straight hours of Joey, Ross and Chandler? This four-disk
    replay of the blockbusting series’ freshman year includes all 24 episodes (including
    Joey’s stint as Al Pacino’s butt-double), plus previously unseen footage, an
    interactive tour of Central Perk, and a “How Well Do You Know Your Friends?” trivia
    challenge. Guest stars include George Clooney and Noah Wyle. NR (Warner)

    Ghost World: Based on the underground comic book, this tartly offbeat critics’
    darling stars Thora Birch (American Beauty) as a brutally cynical teen who blazes a
    curmudgeonly trail through empty-headed L.A. with fellow misfit Scarlett Johansson.
    Steve Buscemi sulks up a masterpiece as a record-collecting loner who matches
    Birch’s sour misanthropy pound for cranky pound. R; 111 minutes (MGM)

    Glitter: Mariah Carey’s murky roman à crap follows a young girl’s skyrocket from
    welfare kid to superstar crooner, and the clichéd characters and hackneyed plot
    twists she encounters along the way. Co-stars include Max Beesley as the singer’s
    volatile svengali-lover (can you say Tommy?) and her voice and cleavage, both of
    them clearly ample. PG-13; 104 minutes (Columbia TriStar)

    Hearts in Atlantis: Anthony Hopkins is an eccentric stranger with mystic powers
    who enters the lifeand headof a fatherless boy in small-town Fifties America.
    Director Scott Hicks (Shine) brings gentle urgency to Stephen King’s story of a child’
    s search for magic and love, and Sir Anthony is mind-blowing as the mind-reader
    with a secret. PG-13; 101 minutes (Warner)

    Heist: Oily stolen goods kingpin Danny DeVito taps master crook Gene Hackman
    to orchestrate a complex gold theft, only to face off with his safe-cracking posse in
    a deadly game of double-cross. Writer-director David Mamet doles out the clues
    with pinpoint precision in this deliciously deceptive crime caper. Delroy Lindo and
    Rebecca Pidgeon co-star. R; 109 minutes (Warner)

    The Hunchback of Notre Dame II: In this perfectly enchanting direct-to-vid sequel
    to Disney’s 1996 musical fable, Quasimdo is quasi stud, vanquishing the bad guy
    and falling in love. The chimes-and-whistles DVD includes an interactive puppet
    theater, a musical bell tower, and “A Gargoyle’s Life,” a smirky confessional by
    cathedral “pigeon perch” Jason Alexander. Tom Hulce and Jennifer Love Hewitt
    star. G (Disney)

    Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back: Arrested-adolescence auteur Kevin Smith takes
    another toke on his Jersey boys saga, this time sending his weed-addled heroes on
    a cross-country trek to stop Miramax from filming their life story. As usual, Smith
    infests the antics with star-studded cameos (Affleck, Damon, Rock) and showbiz
    send-upsfrom Charlie’s Angels to Scooby Doo. For fans only. R; 104 minutes
    (Dimension)

    Jerry Maguire Special Edition DVD: Forget “Show me the money”it ’s more like
    “Show me the Tommy.” This two-disk reissue of Cameron Crowe’s 1998 romantic
    comedy pumps up Tom Cruise’s dashing turn as a down-and-out sports agent with
    deleted scenes, rehearsal footage and up-close commentary by the ex-Mr. Kidman
    himself. Co-stars includes Oscar-winner Cuba Gooding, Jr. and the pre-Bridget
    Jones Renée Zellweger. R (Columbia TriStar)

    Joy Ride: This DVD's got drive. The disk edition of director John Dahl’s overlooked
    creeperabout three college freshmen on the run from a psycho trucker during a
    cross-country jauntis souped-up with extensive commentary, audio auditions for
    the CB-voice of the film’s menacing villain and four different high-octane endings.
    The ride never stops. Leelee Sobieski stars. R (Fox)

    K-Pax: When a loner in shades (Kevin Spacey) materializes at Grand Central
    Station claiming he’s from another galaxy, it’s up to mental ward shrink Jeff Bridges
    to determine if he’s a bona fide E.T.or just bonkers. Spacey trots out his quirky
    best in this engaging paean to outer space, the inner mind and fresh produce. PG-
    13; 121 minutes (Universal)

    The Larry Sanders Show: Season One: This three-disk flashback to year one of
    Garry Shandling’s brilliant cable-chronicle of late night TV’s most neurotic talk show
    host features all 13 episodes, commentary by the dependably arch star himself,
    and an engaging overview entitled, “Garry Shandling Talks: No Flipping.” Guest
    stars include Robin Williams, Billy Crystal and Mimi Rogers. NR (Columbia TriStar)

    The Last Castle: Robert Redford dons prison togs as a questionably court-
    martialed three-star General bent on reforming the systemfrom the insideand
    provoking his spiteful warden (James Gandolfini). Despite the timeworn premise,
    Bob injects the righteous-jailbird formula with patriotic fervor, especially in the
    mucho macho, star-bangled finale. Rod Lurie (The Contender) directed. R; 133
    minutes (DreamWorks)

    Life as a House: Dying architect Kevin Kline hopes to mend fences with his
    estranged son and ex-wife (Kristin Scott Thomas) by enlisting their help in the
    construction of a cliffside dream home. Soapy scripting keeps the floorboards
    creaking, though Kline hits the nail squarely as a man desperately seeking
    salvation. Mary Steenburgeen delights as a horny neighbor. R; 124 minutes (New
    Line)

    Lisa Picard is Famous: Two talentless actors—a grating ingénue and her gay
    monologist pal—shoot for stardom in this biting mockumentary that shines a klieg
    on the emptiness of fame. Griffin Dunne directs traffic with an appropriately arched
    brow, while Buck Henry, Carrie Fisher and Sandra Bullock log in wonderfully wry
    cameos. PG-13; 90 minutes (First Look)

    M*A*S*H: Five Star Collection: Director Robert Altman supervised this spotless
    double-disk restoration of his 1970 Korean War opus, which includes documentary
    featurettes, extensive commentary and footage from the film’s 30th Anniversary
    reunion. Also available: a separate three-DVD compilation of all 24 episodes from
    the TV series’ inaugural season. Fans will flip. Film rated R; TV show NR (Fox)

    Mark Twain: Facts is facts: Ken Burns is an American treasure. This time, the
    tireless documentarian zooms in on the country’s beloved humorist, yarn-spinner,
    curmudgeon-commentator and, above all, gifted scribe, tracing Sam Clemens’
    storied journey from Huckish Missouri boy to puckish elder statesman. An effusive
    army of Twain scholars provides insight, among them Hal Holbrook and Arthur
    Miller. NR; 220 minutes (Warner/PBS)

    Mulholland Drive: Don’t sweat the plot. David Lynch’s dark and brilliant
    travelogue through Hollywood’s thorny underbrush brashly detours off into a
    hallucinogenic dreamscape, in which a freshly-scrubbed, would-be starlet (Naomi
    Watts) stumbles into a thicket of intrigue and murder, populated by mobsters,
    moguls and a mysterious amnesiac (Laura Elena Harring). A confounding
    masterpiece. R; 147 minutes (Universal)

    The Musketeer: Call it Crouching Swashbuckler, Hidden Screenplay. Airborne
    chop-socky abounds in this all-brawn-no-brains update on Dumas, in which
    D'Artagnan (Justin Chambers) enlists the help of France’s legendary plumed trio to
    avenge his parents’ death. Tim Roth sears as the murderous villain, but gets lost
    somewhere between 1600s Paris and 2002 Hong Kong. Mena Suvari (American
    Beauty) co-stars. PG-13; 105 minutes (Universal)

    No Man’s Land: Winner of an Oscar and Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film, this
    darkly comic combat chronicle finds two fog-addled soldiersone Serb, one Croat
    trapped in the same trench during the 1993 Bosnian conflict. Wry observations and
    barbed banter fly like bullets in Danis Tanovic’s boldly cheeky peek at the absurdity
    of war. R; 98 minutes (MGM)

    Nostradamus: After accurately forecasting Henry II’s death in 1559, Michel de
    Nostredame became the world’s poster boy for prophecy, racking up more than
    1300 predictions, from the French Revolution to JFK’s assassination. This compact
    spin through the life of the astrologer-physician-mathematician is especially eerie in
    the wake of this year’s global calamities—and downright compelling. NR; 60 minutes
    (BFS)

    O: Call it Shakespeare in Air-Jordans. Loosely based on the Bard’s Othello, this
    gripping basketball drama follows a fiery high school hoops star (Mekhi Phifer)
    whose sky-rocketing game planand off-court love lifeis sabotaged by a sadistic
    white teammate (Josh Hartnett). Martin Sheen delivers a slam-dunk as the boys’
    rabid coach. R; 94 minutes (Lions Gate)

    Ocean’s 11: Before George, Brad and Julia came Frank, Sammy and Dino. This
    hipper-than-hip reissue of the 1960 casino-heist caper that inspired Soderbergh’s
    hit remake includes commentary by Frank Sinatra, Jr. and Angie Dickenson (who
    appeared in the original), a now-and-then interactive map of Las Vegas, and clips
    from a Tonight Show episode guest-hosted by Ol’ Blue Eyes himself. Vintage cool.
    NR (Warner)

    Ocean’s Eleven: Sorry, doll-faceit ain’t a finger-snappin’, cool-cat, back slap to
    Vegas like the original. But Steven Soderbergh’s slick remake of the Rat Pack’s
    1960 casino crime caper still hits the jackpot, led by the hunkathon ensemble of
    George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Andy Garcia. Julia Roberts holds her
    own with the boys as Clooney’s long-suffering and (sigh) still smitten ex-wife. PG-13
    (Warner)

    Original Sin: Antonio Banderas is a Cuban coffee magnate whose American mail-
    order bride (Angelina Jolie) is everything’s he’s longed forbeautiful, smart and
    sexy. Too bad she’s also psycho imposter. Despite the overwrought scripting, Tony
    and Angie’s erotic chemistry keeps the blood pumping, especially in an extended
    love scene, available only on the DVD. R; 116 minutes (MGM)

    The Others: Nightmares, anyone? Stylishly nerve-wracking, this goth creeper stars
    Nicole Kidman as a wigged-out, widowed mother of two who shares a gloomy
    English manor with things that go clank and thump in the night. Director Alejandro
    Amenábar’s fog-draped haunted house story is a true heart-stopper, highlighted by
    an “I get it!” finale, à la The Sixth Sense. Keep the porch light on. PG-13
    (Dimension)

    Rat Race: Eccentric casino mogul John Cleese stages a Vegas-to-New Mexico
    treasure hunt for two million bucks, handpicking a batch of oddball contestants,
    including a warm-hearted mom (Whoopi Goldberg), compulsive gambler (Jon
    Lovitz) and narcoleptic Italian (Rowan Aktinson). Directed by Jerry Zucker
    (Airplane), this Mad, Mad World-wannabe is terminally silly, yet somehow a hoot.
    PG; 112 minutes (Paramount)

    Riding in Cars With Boys: In Penny Marshall’s poignant, if overlong, dark
    comedy, Drew Barrymore skillfully steers her way through the speed-bumpy memoir
    of writer Beverly Donofriofrom pregnant teen to struggling mom to budding writer.
    Steve Zahn shuffles and shrugs as Bev’s deadbeat husband, while James Woods
    logs in another grouchy turn as her disapproving dad. PG-13; 131 minutes
    (Columbia TriStar)

    Rock Star: Mark Wahlberg is a garage band wannabe who finally lands his big
    break; Jennifer Anniston is the spunky girlfriend with a front row seat to his
    inevitable crash-and-burn. Despite a thin script and familiar characters, this baby
    rocks, thanks mainly to the pulsing soundtrack and the comely stars’ heart-
    quickening chemistry. R; 106 minutes (Warner)

    Roots 25th Anniversary Edition: It’s about time. The landmark 1977 TV
    miniseries, based on Alex Haley’s prize-winning ancestral African memoir, comes to
    disk in a handsome three-volume set that includes extensive video and audio
    commentary by cast and crew, as well a complete “Roots” family tree. LeVar Burton,
    Ben Vereen and Louis Gosset, Jr. star. NR (Warner)

    Serendipity: Beautiful but attached singles John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale spar
    over a pair of gloves at Bloomies, drink hot chocolate, part companythen spend
    the rest of the flick playing a game of cutesy-cat-and-mouse. Both stars glow
    beneath the halo of true love, but the screenplay is as hopelessly airy as cotton
    candyand just as sticky-sweet. PG-13; $30 (Miramax)

    Sex and the City: The Complete Third Season: Charlotte gets engaged,
    Miranda gets an STD (and braces), Samantha fulfills her fireman fantasy, and
    Carrie discovers that her new boyfriend swings both ways. This bawdy, boxed set
    replays all 18 episodes from year three of cable TV’s sassiest series, with guest
    appearances by, among others, Matthew McCanaughey, Vince Vaughn and Hugh
    Hefner. NR (HBO)

    Sexy Beast: Oscar nominee Ben Kingsley spits, twitches and rants as a violently
    bonkers gangster trying to recruit underwater safecracker Ray Winstonenow
    retired to a Spanish villafor one last heist. Kingsley’s emotional pyrotechnics
    serve as a depth charge for this knotty, hallucinogenic crime storybut be warned:
    the cast’s cockney is nearly indecipherable. R; 88 minutes (Fox Searchlight)

    Spy Game: Robert Redford is a CIA sleuth on the eve of his retirement, racing to
    save rogue protégé Brad Pitt from execution in a Chinese prison. Tony Scott’s
    knotty espionage yarn is a slick and frantic exercise in screenplay skullduggery,
    though the characters remain a mystery long after the plot neatly unfolds.
    Catherine McCormack so-stars. R; 127 minutes (Universal)

    Thir13en Ghosts: When the widowed father of two inherits a glass house from his
    dead uncle (F. Murray Abraham), the family moves in, only to discover that cranky
    spooks run the joint. Disastrously updated from William Castle’s 1960 B-movie fave,
    it’s a crash-and-clatter fiasco that, despite the glass mansion’s eye-popping
    splendor, is beyond the help of Windex. R; 91 minutes (Warner)

    Tortilla Soup: In this Latin variation on the Chinese confection, Eat Drink Man
    Woman, Hector Elizondo is a Mexican-American widower and master chef,
    struggling to hang onto his culinary genius and three restless daughters. Like the
    title recipe, it’s spicy and satisfying—and the food scenes are divine. Raquel Welch
    plays the delicious widow down the lane. PG-13; 103 minutes (Columbia TriStar)

    Training Day: The plot has more holes than the Hollywood Freeway. But Denzel
    Washington electrifies as a jacked-up, Caddy-cruising L.A. narcotics detective
    putting rookie dick Ethan Hawke through the pacesand holy hellon his first
    mean streets outing. Both actors deservedly earned Oscar noms (and Denzel won
    his) for their gritty, combustible portrayals of men on the edge. R; 122 minutes
    (Warner)

    Tron: 20th Anniversary Collector’s Edition: Two decades before Pixar and
    PlayStation made computer animation an art form, Disney broke ground with this
    eye-popping, effects-laden adventure about a hapless hacker sucked into a video
    game. The two-disk birthday release pours on the extras, including an exhaustive
    making-of featurette, deleted scenes and pre-production animation tests. PG
    (Disney)

    The Usual Suspects: Thank God for DVD. The disk edition of Bryan Singer’s
    1995 crime thriller (starring Kevin Spacey) boasts enough extras to help unravel
    the flick’s maddeningly knotty plot, among them, “Keyser Soze: Lie or Legend?”a
    featurette devoted solely to the story’s nefarious linchpin. Also included:
    commentary by Oscar-winning screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie and an amusing
    gag reel. R (MGM)

    Wynton Marsalis: Blues & Swing: This DVD salute to the jazz artistry of Pulitzer
    Prize-winning trumpeter Wynton Marsalis be-bops from the concert hall (Westwood
    Playhouse, 1988) to the classroom (Harvard University), where the peerless horn-
    blower demonstrates his classy brassiness on such faves as "J Mood" and "(Do
    You Know What It Means To Miss) New Orleans." Also on disk: a Marsalis
    discography. NR (Pioneer)

    Zoolander: Writer-director-star Ben Stiller pouts, preensand soarsas a
    dumber-than dirt coverboy who becomes tangled in a global assassination plot
    hatched by a deranged fashion mogul (Will Ferrell). Wickedly written and hilariously
    performed, this through-the-heart skewer of runway world moronics features
    sashay-on cameos by real life supermodels Heidi Klum and Claudia Schiffer. PG-
    13; 89 minutes (Paramount)