Home Video: 'Out of Sight,' 'Madeline' best bets
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From Reviewer Paul Tatara
(CNN) -- Now that all the snowman cookies are gone, you weigh 12 more pounds than you did a month ago, and (in case you haven't noticed) you're not getting any younger, there's only one course of action that really makes any sense: Park your butt on the couch and watch a video. In my 187-pound opinion, there are a handful of new releases currently hitting the stores that are well worth your trouble, mostly in that "I'll wait to see it on video" kind of way.
There's also one shiny new piece of action junk, which I'm gonna make fun of, but you'll probably still rent it. What's a critic to do? (I'll also include a movie "from the vault," a personal favorite of mine that you may have never seen before. I, on the other hand, have probably seen it 29 times, thus making it responsible for about 8 of those 187 pounds.)
'Out of Sight'
Rated R, 110 minutes
Easily one of the best (and most enjoyable) films of 1998, this is a movie from the late, lamented 1970s school of action directing. Steven Soderbergh shoots with a refreshing minimum of fancy editing or needless camera movement. Much of the film is near cinema verite, sometimes looking more like a classic documentary than a would-be blockbuster. That adds to the effect, though.
George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez display high-wattage chemistry as a handsome prison escapee and the impossibly sexy Federal agent who falls in love with him as she follows his trail. There's loads of great dialogue, and formidable supporting performances from Don Cheadle, Albert Brooks, Ving Rhames, Steve Zahn, and Dennis Farina. At one shocking juncture, the importance of not falling down while carrying a loaded firearm is clearly conveyed by Keith Loneker, as one of Cheadle's unlucky henchmen. This is the way this kind of movie should be done, but never is anymore. And, since it died at the box office, it probably won't happen again for a long, long time. Better savor it.
'Lethal Weapon 4'
Rated R, 120 minutes
This is the way this kind of movie is always done. And, since it raked in a king's ransom at the box office, you can rest assured that you'll be seeing about 45 more just like it before the end of the new year. Danny Glover and Mel Gibson star once again as virtual cartoon characters who "crack wise" (they're not funny, or even particularly bright) while people shoot at them and things blow up in stereophonic boom.
"Things blowing up" is sort of a mantra here, with such quaint contrivances as character development and clever plot twists being stuffed in the cedar chest with grandma's needlepoint while the producers shell out for more and more dynamite. Gibson wins awards and gets treated like an artiste for "Braveheart," then turns around and does something as overtly idiotic as this. Go figure, but don't forget to figure in his fat paycheck while you're doing it. (I can understand the re-selling-out, though. I'm sure he was barely scraping by before this one fell in his lap.)
Rated R, 105 minutes
Oh Gwyneth, oh Gwyneth. My celluloid crush on Miss Paltrow almost overwhelmed me in "Sliding Doors," due to the fact that she plays one woman, but plays her twice, complete with different (though not equally attractive) hairstyles. This is a fairly solid romantic comedy with the unique twist that we're following an individual woman in two different directions at once.
Gwyneth Number One loses her job, then returns home to an inexplicably philandering boyfriend (played by John Lynch, who's not very good). Gwyneth Number Two loses her job, then falls into a romance with a regular guy (John Hannah, of "Four Weddings and a Funeral") who helps her turn her life around after the usual arguing and smooching. Writer/director Peter Howitt keeps things chugging along nicely, although he's not above making one couple kiss passionately in the rain. (Gee, how did he ever think of that?!) A nifty date video, especially if you're bipolar.
Rated PG, 82 minutes
I almost squeezed this one onto my "10 Best" list for 1998, not because I think it's so spectacular, but because I realize how hard it is to find decent movies for kids these days. (Hell, I know how hard it is to find decent movies for humans.) Newcomer Hatty Jones is tremendously charming as the title character, a little girl who lives in a French boarding school during the 1950s and continually leads her pack of curious friends into kid-type trouble.
Frances McDormand plays the woman in charge of the pack, and Nigel Hawthorne is the stuffy old rich guy who wants to shut down the school after his more generous wife passes on. Based on the popular series of novels by Ludwig Bemelman, "Madeline" actually features kids who can (believably) think for themselves, and say funny things when they finally speak up. Director Daisy Von Scherler Mayer may have found her calling here; she seems born to direct intelligent children's movies. The photography is great, too!
From the vault: 'The Last Detail' (1973)
Rated R, 105 minutes
The dialogue is brilliantly profane, and Nicholson gives what I consider to be the most powerful performance of the 1970s. Anyone who thinks he's doing great work now because he breathes hard through his nose and shouts a lot in "A Few Good Men" will have a heart attack over this. The sailors cavort through a textbook series of male-bonding episodes that eventually questions the validity of machismo as the ultimate escape clause. It's a truly amazing movie.
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