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Reviews: March 26

24 Mar, 2006 By: Home Media Reviews

Match Point

Match Point
Street 4/25
DreamWorks, Thriller, B.O. $22.8 million, $19.95 DVD, ‘R' for some sexuality.
Stars Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Emily Mortimer, Scarlett Johansson.

If viewers pick this up looking to see the usual Woody Allen film, they'll probably be disappointed. Though he wrote and directed Match Point, which garnered an Oscar nom for best screenplay, this title is nothing like his previous works. That isn't to say it isn't interesting. It's just a bit slow.

Former tennis pro Chris Wilton (Rhys Meyers) is lucky enough to have captured the attentions of an heiress, but stands to lose it all when he lusts after her brother's fianc?e (Johansson), a struggling actress. A story of ambition and romance turns into a comment on justice and fate as the tension rises to a surprise conclusion. Like Martin Scorsese's period piece The Age of Innocence, the English drawing-room drama is out of character for Woody Allen, but it's a strong film nonetheless.

Selling Points: The Oscar nom and Johansson are big draws for this film. Allen fans also will want to pick it up. Stephanie Prange

On the Outs
Prebook 4/3; Street 5/9
Polychrome Pictures, Drama, $19.97 DVD, ‘R.'
Stars Judy Marte, Anny Mariano, Paola Mendoza.

These three girls have some problems — serious problems. Keisha “Oz” Osborne (played brilliantly by Marte of Raising Victor Vargas) is a drug dealer, Marisol is a coke addict and Suzette is a teenage runaway. They all live in Jersey City, N.J., and their paths all lead them to jail.

Oz is in and out of the slammer. Although she has a tough tomboy exterior, the 17-year-old is really a good girl trying to get by and take care of her family. Her brother, Chuey, is mentally handicapped because he was a crack-baby. Oz takes on responsibility for herself and Chuey by selling cocaine. Chuey has an asthma attack and dies, and her mom falls off the wagon and back on cocaine.

Marisol has a little girl, Autumn. They live with Marisol's great-aunt, who supports them with her disability check.

Marisol's daily goal is to find money for her next fix; her daughter's welfare is secondary. Strung out and roaming the streets, Marisol gets hit by a car. She winds up in jail. Her great-aunt has a stroke, and social services places Autumn in foster care.

Naive Suzette is taken by smooth-talking drug dealer Terell. She gets pregnant, and her mom makes an appointment for an abortion. But Suzette wants to keep the baby and runs away with Terell. After killing a boy, Terell puts the gun in Suzette's backpack. She gets caught and arrested.

On the Outs is a fast-paced drama in which none of the characters finds a happy ending. But the bleak look at real problems that affect inner cities makes for a compelling film.

Selling Points: For those who love Kids and other indie films that depict gritty drama, this one is worth watching. Angelique Flores

Prebook 4/4; Street 5/2
Koch Lorber, Drama, $29.98 DVD, NR. In French with English subtitles.
Stars Gerard Depardieu, Emmanuelle B?art, Fanny Ardant.

To be transfixed by Nathalie -- a prostitute (French siren B?art) hired by Catherine (Ardant) to help understand her 25-year husband Bernard's (Depardieu) cheating ways -- is to ignore the obvious.

There's the requisite plot twist, which my girlfriend recognized right away, and the fact that French films often achieve impressive intensity with earnest acting and real drama -- not melodrama and special effects.

I, on the other hand, sat there mesmerized by Nathalie's innocent big eyes and gorgeous lips. Her erotic recollections are underscored by a sultry beauty and curves.

Catherine, a gynecologist who meets Nathalie regularly and pays for explicit updates on her trysts with Bernard, finds herself in a world that not only startles her but also begins to change her. Catherine isn't so much annoyed by Nathalie's tales as she is gripped by her own repressed sexuality and the fantasy she wants to believe.

Selling Points: This 2003 film features a venerable French cast that rises above what could have been a perfunctory storyline. Erik Gruenwedel

Dingle, Barry
Street 4/25
Indican, Comedy, $21.99 DVD, NR.
Stars Barry Shurchin, Veronica Cartwright, Erik Palladino.

Barry Dingle … Dingle, Barry. Say it out loud and snigger. Then sit back, watch and prepare to snigger some more. Dingle (writer-director-producer-star Barry Shurchin) is a surprisingly lovable loser who is accused of date rape. He finds himself in this unfortunate situation after following the overbearing tutelage of his mother, who is determined that her absurdly monikered son captures the affections of a senator's daughter.

The writing is snappy, witty and infused with the total deadpan humor of Shurchin.Cartwright is pitch-perfect as the aforementioned overbearing mother who will go so far as to wax her awkward adult son's back. It's hard not to look at her and picture her vomiting cherry pits a la The Witches of Eastwick, though.

This is one of those independent films that hooks you from the beginning, takes you on a ride and makes you glad you gave it a chance.

Selling Points: This will have to get by on word-of-mouth. There are no major stars or tie-ins to speak of, although Cartwright has a highly respectable resume of film and TV credits to her name. For indie film lovers, this is one of those times they can feel they've supported a real up-and-comer. Jessica Wolf

The Intruder
Street 4/25
Genius, Drama, B.O. $0.02 million, $24.98 DVD, NR. In French with English subtitles.
Stars Michel Subor, Gregoire Colin.

Movies like The Intruder infuriate my brother. It obtusely and slowly constructs the life of a mysterious fiftysomething man who lives in the woods. After an illicit heart transplant, he goes globetrotting to gather what appear to be ill-gotten gains and to find a long-lost son.

My brother can't stand it when a film doesn't answer questions, but The Intruder refuses to do that, putting together not entire scenes, but sometimes-silent moments in a life, seasons rolling in and out. The man seems to have a shady past, but his history is largely left to the imagination. What we presume to be family and friends hover in and out of his life as he moves from his home all over the world. Symbols hover enticingly all around — dogs as companions, ships on the water, multiple languages weaving in and out — but viewers are left with few concrete facts.

For those willing to sit back and let the largely incoherent body of a man's life wash over them, this is perfect arthouse fare. For those who, like my brother, want to know who's who and why things are happening, well, go elsewhere.

Selling Points: Critics lauded this film, and arthouse fans will find director Claire Denis' filmmaking fascinating and rewarding. Brendan Howard

Prebook 4/4; Street 4/25
Lifesize, Drama, $27.95 DVD, NR.
Stars Emmanuel Xuereb, Charis Michelsen.

A romantic drama with both an edge and a twist, Erosion is about a man's struggle with the imminent death of his estranged wife, while he trots around town with his married lover in a series of forbidden trysts. But like a William Faulkner novel, the film in a broader sense is not just about dealing with death and abusing power, but about the human condition and man's ability to endure by doing whatever he feels he needs to do, regardless of the emotional toll it takes on others.

Erosion is moody and atmospheric, definitely for the arthouse set, with its nonlinear storytelling and a quasi-intellectual monolog on the nasty lead character's philosophy of life -- delivered, cryptically enough, in a costume shop. It's a heavy film with a fair amount of erotic moments, as much a portrait of cruelty and pain as it is of survival.

Selling Points: This gripping drama, from hot young Chinese director Ann Lu, is the followup to her first feature film, Dreamers, an official selection at no fewer than seven film festivals. Erosion was inspired by Lu's marriage to cinematographer Neal L. Fredericks. Ironically, the couple separated during the filming, and shortly after the film was completed, Fredericks died in a plane crash while on a film shoot in Florida. Thomas K. Arnold

QUICK TAKE: Working Girls
Named for Dabney Coleman's despicable boss character, 9 to 5: Sexist, Egotistical, Lying, Hypocritical Bigot Edition ($19.98) streets April 4 from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment with undespicable extras: a documentary, deleted scenes, a gag reel and more. Best of the batch is commentary with stars Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin and producer Bruce Gilbert. They step on each other a bit, but they're fun and lively. Brendan Howard

FROM THE VAULT: Excellent English
I wouldn't consider myself a romantic, but I really do like 1996's The English Patient, which I've heard ranks as an all-time chart topper — especially among women.

It's not hard to see why. Count Almasy (Ralph Fiennes) is a handsome Hungarian mapmaker on assignment in the Sahara during World War II who finds himself sucked into infidelity, love, politics and betrayal.

After being horribly burned when his plane is shot down, Almasy is cared for near the end of the war by Hana (Juliette Binoche), a nurse with her own history.

Unaware of his past or even his name, Almasy — with the help of Hana, morphine and family friend Caravaggio (Willem Dafoe) — reflects on a past that involved an intense relationship with Katherine (Kristin Scott Thomas), a married woman.

Hana, of course, has her own subplot, a unique loving relationship from the front line with Kip (“Lost's” Naveen Andrews), an endearing bomb expert from India.

Romanticism aside, I found myself drawn into the movie by the engaging story, the strength of the characters, the intricate interwoven plotlines and the spectacular cinematography.

Directed by Anthony Minghella, The English Patient earned nine Oscars and numerous other accolades in 1997. It's as much an epic as any David Lean film, most notably 1965's Dr. Zhivago. Both films deserve repeat business.

A special edition DVD of The English Patient streeted June 2004 from Buena Vista Home Entertainment. Erik Gruenwedel

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