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Hollywood @ home

DVD reviews: 'Evolution,' 'The Russia House'


By Paul Chambers
Special to CNN

(CNN)-Movie theaters are bursting this week with new films, many of which may be destined for post-2001 honors. On the video front however, it's a different story. Only one major video release is in the offing: "Evolution", a sci-fi comedy directed by Ivan Reitman ("Ghostbusters").

There are also a few vintage titles coming to DVD for the first time including "The Russia House" and "Coffy." Let's get started with this holiday edition of "Hollywood @ Home."

"Evolution" (2001) (Dreamworks Home Entertainment)

This is the comedy that couldn't decide what it wanted to be: an edgy sci-fi story or a "Ghostbusters" style gross-out free-for-all. David Duchovny and Orlando Jones star as two junior college teachers who discover a rather large meteorite in the Arizona desert. This giant space rock comes with its own eco-system that threatens to expand the planet, making humans an endangered species. People die in this film, making it odd that our stars treat the end-of-the world as just so much funny business. There are plenty of genuine laughs in "Evolution." But, the film overall doesn't feel right: is it trying to scare people or make them laugh?

DVD Extras: As in most modern comedies, a great deal of the humor in "Evolution" is scatological in nature. The alternate ending on the DVD is no exception. Most of the deleted scenes were a drag and left out of the movie for good reason. Other extras include a storyboard option that lets you compare scenes in the movie to how they were conceived on paper by the filmmakers. There's also an HBO featurette and another short film on the extensive special effects.

Rating: 5

Review: 'Evolution' amusing, not very involving

"The Russia House" (1990) (MGM Home Entertainment)

Like this year's "The Tailor of Panama," this film version of a John le Carre spy thriller is also about an ordinary British citizen pressed into spy service. Sean Connery plays British publisher Barley Blair, who's asked to negotiate the defection of a Soviet scientist he met at a literary think tank conference several months earlier. This film, directed by Fred Schepisi, was made before the fall of the Soviet Union, but even in 1990 it had that "dated" feeling. Even 11 years ago, Connery looked old and out-of-place romancing the beautiful Michelle Pfeiffer, who nicely handles her Russian accent.

DVD Extras: Widescreen format is offered along with the original theatrical trailer. English and French audio is in stereo surround, but Spanish audio is in mono. Subtitles in English, French and Spanish are also offered.

Rating: 4

"Coffy" (1973) (MGM Home Entertainment)

You can bet Quentin Tarrentino will be standing in line to buy this disc featuring one of his favorite stars from the Blaxploitation days of Hollywood. Pam Grier is outstanding as the nurse seeking revenge for the drug overdosing of her little sister. "Coffy" is Grier's finest film and it works really well as fast-moving action flick. On the down side, the film's sexist attitude sees almost every one of its female actors with their blouses ripped off. Still, "Coffy" is undeniably entertaining and perhaps one of the best films of its kind.

DVD Extras: Audio commentary by director-screenwriter Jack Hill, the original theatrical trailer and English, French and Spanish audio. French and Spanish subtitles, but not English. Mono sound in all languages and widescreen format.

Rating: 6

Also new this week on DVD and VHS:

"Two Can Play That Game" (Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment)

Also new this week on DVD:

"Amazing Grace" (MGM Home Entertainment)
"J.D.'s Revenge" (MGM Home Entertainment)
"Black Mama White Mama" (MGM Home Entertainment)
"Cotton Comes to Harlem" (MGM Home Entertainment)
"Friday Foster" (MGM Home Entertainment)
"Slaughter" (MGM Home Entertainment)
"Slaughter's Big Rip-Off" (MGM Home Entertainment)
"Truck Turner" (MGM Home Entertainment)
"Truly Madly Deeply" (MGM Home Entertainment)
"Carrington" (MGM Home Entertainment)
"China Moon" (MGM Home Entertainment)
"Echo Park" (MGM Home Entertainment)
"Fires Within" (MGM Home Entertainment)
"Jack and Sarah" (MGM Home Entertainment)
"Lonely Hearts" (MGM Home Entertainment)
"Maria's Lover" (MGM Home Entertainment)
"The Favor" (MGM Home Entertainment)
"The Good Wife" (MGM Home Entertainment)
"Mannequin" (MGM Home Entertainment)
"Romantic Comedy" (MGM Home Entertainment)
"Speechless" (MGM Home Entertainment)
"Wuthering Heights" (1970) (MGM Home Entertainment)




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