Ed Gein (2001). Straightforward account of the quietly deranged Wisconsin farmer who murdered two local women and exhumed the bodies of about a dozen more for extreme forays into cannibalism and necrophilia. It benefits from Steve Railsback's low-key portrayal in the title role, but the film does not begin to suggest that Gein would have an enduring, dark mythic impact, inspiring "Psycho" and some 40 other movies. With Carrie Snodgress. First Look: no list price; DVD: $19.98; (CC); unrated. Appropriate for adults only.
Pollock (2000). Jackson Pollock, one of the key figures in Abstract Expressionism and America's first postwar art star, was a man destined to be consumed by his internal fires. Putting a figure so close to the stereotypical Hollywood view of the artist as tormented and self-destructive on film is a chancy enterprise. But Ed Harris, working as star and producer as well as first-time director, has managed to bring it off successfully. With Academy Award winner Marcia Gay Harden and Amy Madigan. Columbia/TriStar: no list price; DVD: $24.95; (CC); R, for language and brief sensuality.
Sweet November (2001). Keanu Reeves stars as a workaholic San Francisco ad exec with Charlize Theron as the free spirit determined to save him. They make a fine team, but this all-stops-out romance, which means to be seductive, seems merely contrived and manipulative. Warner: no list price; DVD: $24.98; (CC); PG-13, for sexual content and language.
Valentine (2001). Smart, stylish horror picture directed by Jamie Blanks that comments on the scariness of the contemporary dating scene and the eternal cruelty of adolescence. It's also a fine showcase for its young cast: Marley Shelton, David Boreanaz, Denise Richards, Jessica Capshaw, Jessica Cauffiel and Katherine Heigl--but it's not for the squeamish. Warner: no list price; DVD: $29.98; (CC); R, for strong horror violence, some sexuality and language.
* Last week's Top 5 VHS rentals:1. Down to Earth (2001). A remake of "Heaven Can Wait" starring Chris Rock that, in typical Hollywood fashion, puts this charismatic comic actor into tepid popular entertainment. The film comes alive only at those moments when Rock allows himself to be himself and launches into devastating riffs. PG-13 for language, sexual humor and some drug references.2. The Wedding Planner (2001). This set-in-San Francisco romantic comedy starts out promisingly with workaholic wedding planner Jennifer Lopez dazzled by pediatrician Matthew McConaughey only to discover later that he's to be the groom at her next event. The film lacks the wit, verve and invention of its vintage predecessors. PG-13, for some sexuality, brief language and a perilous situation.
3. Unbreakable (2000). It's unreasonable and unfair to expect any film to have the special impact "The Sixth Sense" had on audiences, but M. Night Shyamalan (who wrote, directed, produced both films) has recycled so many of the same elements here that he seems to be inviting comparisons. The real problem is the story, which starts out as implausible and gets increasingly more difficult to take seriously as it unfolds. Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson and Robin Wright Penn star. PG-13, for mature themes, some disturbing violent content and a sexual reference.4. Thirteen Days (2000). If high stakes make for high drama, the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, that near-fortnight of tension and peril--arguably the closest the world has come to being annihilated--is as dramatic a subject as anyone could want. And director Roger Donaldson and a fine ensemble--topped by Kevin Costner, Bruce Greenwood and Steven Culp--have handled it adroitly. David Self's careful, measured script earns our respect and our attention. Dealing with all the crises and decisions gives the film a surprising amount of tension and watchability for a story whose outcome we already know. PG-13, for brief strong language. 5. Save the Last Dance (2001). A twist of fate sends a 17-year-old aspiring ballerina (Julia Stiles) from a Norman Rockwell small town to urban Chicago and an interracial romance with a bright youth (Sean Patrick Thomas) hoping to land a premed scholarship. There's a lot of dancing and heart-tugging but a gritty edge of big-city realism as well. PG-13, for violence, sexual content, language and a brief drug reference.* Last week's Top 5 DVD rentals:1. Down to Earth2. Unbreakable 3. The Wedding Planner4. Thirteen Days 5. Snatch (2000). A brisk, cheerfully amoral entertainment by Guy Ritchie ("Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels"). Back again are the elements that made "Lock, Stock" so engaging: a London underworld setting, a fearsomely complex plot line, hordes of colorful characters, plus the distinctively breezy dialogue that is Ritchie's trademark. Even if it's not quite as lighter-than-air as its predecessor, it remains a lethal diversion. With Benicio Del Toro, Dennis Farina and Brad Pitt. R, for strong violence, language and some nudity.* Last week's Top 5 VHS sellers:1. Shirley Temple Gift Set2. Bring It On (2000). A smart and sassy high school movie that's fun for all ages, starring Kirsten Dunst as the captain of a cheerleading team at an affluent San Diego-area high school that has won the national cheerleading competition five years in a row. To her complete chagrin, she discovers that their current hip-hop routine was ripped off by her predecessor from a Compton high school. PG-13, for sex-related material and language.3. The Emperor's New Groove (2000). A lighthearted animated adventure-morality tale ideal for youngsters, yet conceived with a wit and sophistication that will be appreciated by their parents. G.4. Coyote Ugly (2000). It's a bad movie--but it's not one of those fiascoes that leave you in a foul mood. PG-13, for sensuality.5. The Original Kings of Comedy (2000). Spike Lee's sharp concert film lets us know why black audiences have turned the Kings of Comedy show, featuring Steve Harvey, D.L. Hughley, Cedric the Entertainer and Bernie Mac, into the highest-grossing comedy tour in history. In the tradition of Richard Pryor's "Live on Sunset Strip," Eddie Murphy's "Raw" and Martin Lawrence's "You So Crazy." R, for language and sex-related humor.
* Last week's Top 5 DVD sellers:1. Thirteen Days2. Unbreakable3. The Wedding Planner4. Snatch5. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000). A film by Ang Lee that transcends categorization and reminds us what we go to the movies for. Starring Chow Yun-Fat, Michelle Yeoh and Zhang Ziyi. PG-13, for martial arts violence and some sexuality.
Tuesday: "The Brothers," "Head Over Heels," "The Trumpet of the Swan."
Aug. 7: "Chocolat," "An Everlasting Piece," "The Mexican," "Recess: School's Out," "3,000 Miles to Graceland," "Vatel."
Aug. 14: "Blow Dry," "Enemy at the Gates," "15 Minutes," "Get Over It," "Josie and the Pussycats," "Tomcats."
Aug. 21: "Hannibal," "Say It Isn't So," "South of Heaven, West of Hell."
Aug. 28: "Company Man," "Into the Arms of Strangers," "Joe Dirt," "See Spot Run."
Aug. 31: "Exit Wounds," "The Dish," "The Invisible Circus."
Rental video charts provided by VSDAVidTrac, sales charts by VideoScan Inc.