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EW review: 'Howards End' ages gracefully

By Ty Burr
Entertainment Weekly

Danny DeVito
Emma Thompson
Al Pacino
Anthony Hopkins

(Entertainment Weekly) -- The Merchant Ivory team makes coffee-table movies -- elegantly appointed dramas whose impeccable taste often smothers them. "Howards End" is the grand exception, an achingly poignant literary adaptation that even action-movie junkies recognize as the real deal.

If ever a film were made for the clarity of DVD, this is it, yet "Howards" hasn't received its bells-and-whistles DVD due until now. Thirteen years since its release, the performances remain fresh and appallingly human, even under the Edwardian finery.

Anthony Hopkins gradually shades Henry Wilcox from a charismatic man of power to a figure of societal evil -- watch his body language as he tells his second wife about his affair with a commoner -- and Helena Bonham Carter pitilessly plays Helen Schlegel as the kind of well-intentioned sob sister you alternately want to hug and slap.

But this is Emma Thompson's show. With her portrayal of Margaret Schlegel, the actress arrived first-class and won an Oscar for her pains. Watching the film today, you're struck by how Thompson turns decency and common sense into nearly erotic virtues; you realize, too, how few movies have used her so well since.

Break out the reading group notes if you want to learn how E.M. Forster's novel uses the title country house to symbolize England, because producer Ismail Merchant and director James Ivory aren't talking. There's no commentary, and the featurettes filling disc 2 fuss over surface production details and the duo's surprisingly patchy filmography.

The most fun: Merchant and Ivory bickering in interviews like an old, affectionate married couple. Mom, Dad, stop arguing -- with this one, you done good.

EW Grade: A

More from Entertainment Weekly: All about 'Howards End'external link

'Get Shorty'

By Jeff Labrecque

When director Barry Sonnenfeld admits that Danny DeVito (not John Travolta) was his first choice to play supercool Chili Palmer, I can't help thinking of the "Saturday Night Live" skit where Patrick Swayze and Chris Farley audition for spots as Chippendales dancers.

Just the thought of DeVito strutting up the stairs to dispatch a pre-"Sopranos" James Gandolfini is wince-inducing (although perhaps the title would've made more sense).

Such revelations in the new collector's edition of "Get Shorty," the 1995 adaptation of Elmore Leonard's Hollywood satire, are timely reminders -- a sequel, "Be Cool," hits theaters March 4 -- of just how irresistible Travolta's Hollywood-struck gangster was.

Extras: Ben Stiller nails a cameo in one deleted scene as the condescending young director of one of Harry Zimm's (Gene Hackman) B movies; and DeVito, who bought the book's rights without reading it, steals the show in three documentaries.

Sonnenfeld's dated commentary, however, has all the pizzazz of a wax-museum tour (''There's Hackman. There's Rene Russo''). While this DVD might not be the Cadillac of special editions, it's powerful evidence that "Be Cool" had better be good.

EW Grade: B

More from Entertainment Weekly: All about 'Get Shorty'external link


By Neil Drumming

Must the good guy always win?

Watching "Heat," the slick, Michael Mann-directed crime drama that boasts as its centerpiece the first official Al Pacino-Robert De Niro face-off, it's impossible not to root for the villain.

Neil McCauley, De Niro's professional thief, is cold, calculating and certainly a sociopath. He's also got control, finesse and ''it'' all over Pacino's overbearing and frequently overacted homicide detective, Vincent Hanna.

But as one of the film's crew members explains, "Heat," however thrilling and unconventional, is still a glorified cowboy story, and the lawman must ultimately rope the black hat in.

Extras: Five mini-docs, including one about the actual cop and robber who inspired the film. Now if only the real deal Neil hadn't gone to prison ...

EW Grade: A-

More from Entertainment Weekly: All about 'Heat'external link

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