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Video Reviews: It's war, dinosaurs, teen romance and safecrackers on the shelves next month

Friday, November 30, 2001

By Barbara Vancheri, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Unlike most months (and for obvious reasons), December is not backloaded with all of the good releases. Still, there will be enough videos to take your mind off shopping, cleaning, cooking, baking and, of course, working. The big gun is "Pearl Harbor," but "The Princess Diaries" and the high-wattage heist picture "The Score" should find new audiences.

Dec. 4

"Pearl Harbor" -- At the time this big-budget war picture was released, critics weren't kind. Moviegoers flocked, nevertheless, to see Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett as farm boys turned flyboys in love with the same woman. Now, it's arriving on video three days before the 60th anniversary of the deadly attack. It will be released several ways, including a two-tape or two-disc set with extras. The ultimate version, a three-disc set with the director's cut, won't be out till May.

"Summer Catch" -- Freddie Prinze Jr. and Jessica Biel star in this romantic comedy that's a rehash of all the poor boy-rich girl films you've ever seen, with elements borrowed from baseball movies such as "Bull Durham," "Major League" and "For Love of the Game." Prinze is a Cape Cod native and pitcher getting his last shot at a pro career, and Biel is a rich girl who catches his eye.

"Beethoven's 4th" -- A park mix-up sends a well-bred show dog named Michelangelo home in Beethoven's place in this "Prince and the Pauper" takeoff.

"John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars" -- A candidate for the list of worst movies of 2001, this sci-fi film is set on Mars in the year 2176, when society is matriarchal and 640,000 people live and work on the Red Planet. Natasha Henstridge is a police officer and Ice Cube a convicted murderer in this ludicrous, violent and unintelligible effort.

"American Outlaws" -- Colin Farrell and Scott Caan are among the young guns in this new take on Jesse James and his legendary gang.

"The Land Before Time: The Big Freeze" -- The eighth title in this franchise introduces two characters, three songs and has lessons about diversity, teamwork and the meaning of family and friends.

Also: "Almost Famous/Untitled -- The Bootleg Cut" DVD, with an extended version of Cameron Crowe's movie; "The Mists of Avalon," the TNT miniseries that aired in July; "Cora Unashamed," inspired by a Langston Hughes story; and "Pokemon: Mewtwo Returns."

Dec. 11

"The Score" -- If you loved David Mamet's "Heist," you should like this caper flick starring Robert De Niro, Edward Norton and Marlon Brando. De Niro is an expert safecracker and jazz-club owner in Montreal who reluctantly breaks his rules: Never steal anything in your hometown, never take unnecessary risks and always work alone.

"Rush Hour 2" -- Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan are reunited as mismatched cops on vacation in Hong Kong who are drawn into a new case when the American embassy is bombed and two people die.

"Jurassic Park III" -- Sam Neill is back as paleontologist Alan Grant who, against his better judgment, agrees to accompany a wealthy adventurer and his wife on an aerial tour of Isla Sorna off Costa Rica. They land and all hell breaks loose, proving that you can go to the well (and island where dinos breed) one too many times.

"Hedwig and the Angry Inch" -- John Cameron Mitchell wrote, directed and stars in this adaptation of his play about an embittered East German transsexual rocker.

"Following" -- Christopher Nolan ("Memento") wrote and directed this black-and-white film about an unemployed aspiring writer in London who's obsessed with following strangers.

"The Basket" -- Peter Coyote and Karen Allen star in this family film, set in 1918, about a Pacific Northwest farming community struggling to come to terms with the pain and prejudice of wartime America. Coyote is a teacher who arrives with cosmopolitan views and knowledge about basketball, gleaned from its inventor.

"Call Me Claus" -- This holiday movie, starring Whoopi Goldberg and Nigel Hawthorne, debuts on TNT Dec. 2. With Garth Brooks' music.

Also: "Druids," a historical drama set in 60 B.C. on the Celtic Isles and starring Christopher Lambert.

Dec. 18

"The Princess Diaries" -- Anne Hathaway and Julie Andrews star in this modern fairy tale about a socially awkward San Francisco teen who suddenly learns she's a real-life princess.

"Moulin Rouge" -- The title refers to a decadent dance hall, brothel and theater that brings together a beautiful courtesan (Nicole Kidman) and a struggling writer (Ewan McGregor) for a doomed romance. Set in 1899 Paris but with modern music by Nirvana, Madonna, the Beatles and Queen.

"Scary Movie 2" -- "Scary Movie" ended with the phrase "No sequel," but the filmmakers just couldn't resist trying to strike box-office gold a second time. The only thing they mine is fool's gold as they give scenes from "The Exorcist," "What Lies Beneath," "Hannibal" and other films crude, lewd twists.

"Jackpot" -- In this film from the makers of "Twin Falls Idaho," Jon Gries plays a man who leaves his wife and baby daughter to seek fame as a country singer. He and his manager (Garrett Morris) travel from town to town to compete for prize money in karaoke contests and, they hope, build a fan base.

"Center of the World" -- Wayne Wang directed this film about a dot.com millionaire and rock-band drummer who moonlights as a stripper. She agrees to accompany him to Vegas for $10,000, but sets very strict rules.

Also: "The Circle," a subtitled festival favorite about repression of Muslim women in Iran; "Hamlet," starring Campbell Scott; "Uprising," NBC's miniseries about Jewish resistance fighters in the Warsaw ghetto; "Petit Freres," a French film from the director of "Ponette" about a 13-year-old girl who runs away from home with her beloved dog; and "Twin Peaks: The First Season" on special edition DVD.

Dec. 25

"Dancing at the Blue Iguana" -- A movie about strip-club dancers in the San Fernando Valley doesn't exactly scream "Christmas release" now, does it? Daryl Hannah plays a dancer who wants to adopt a child, while Sandra Oh is a clandestine poet, Jennifer Tilly faces an unplanned pregnancy and newcomer Charlotte Ayanna has an abusive boyfriend.

"Kill Me Later" -- Selma Blair is a bank loan officer whose plan to kill herself is disrupted by a robbery. Instead of leaping from a building, she's taken hostage -- and agrees to cooperate if he'll kill her later.

Dec. 26

"Two Can Play That Game" -- Vivica A. Fox and Morris Chestnut star in this sassy African-American, Los Angeles version of HBO's "Sex and the City." Fox is the romantic guru of her circle who, after spotting her boyfriend with a man-stealing rival (Gabrielle Union), tries to teach him a lesson.

"Evolution" -- David Duchovny and Orlando Jones are instructors at a community college who try to keep their meteor discovery quiet -- until lab samples start evolving and working their way up the evolutionary ladder in this comedy.

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