Copyright 2001

[ November 16th 2001 ]

Complaining about inadequate plot and characterization in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider is like going to a porno flick and asking why more effort wasn't put into the costume design.

Attention people of Earth: "Tomb Raider" is based on a video game, and it's one of the best movies of its very specific kind. It looks great, has entertaining action set pieces and perfectly casts Angelina Jolie as the three-dimensional manifestation of the busty pixilated adventurer.

The DVD is padded with extras including some deleted/alternate scenes, a U2 music video and documentaries on the stunts, effects, Jolie's training and the "Tomb Raider" video-game phenomenon. Its DVD-ROM features include a game demo.

The two-dimensional comedy "Osmosis Jones" features an animated Chris Rock as a maverick cop with an uptight partner struggling with bureaucratic superiors to bring down a nasty bad guy. It's a very clever, very gross, very funny spoof of the clichéd cop genre, but it takes place in the animated City of Frank - aka the inside of live-action slovenly Bill Murray.

Younger kids may flatline at the rapid-fire anatomical jokes - made under the producing auspices of the Farrelly Brothers (Shallow Hal, There's Something About Mary). The DVD includes "Deleted Spleens," behind-the-scenes and voice-recording-session documentaries, an audio commentary and an interactive feature called "Frank's Gross Anatomy."

You won't find a more one-dimensional comedy than "America's Sweethearts". Billy Crystal co-wrote and co-stars as a publicist trying to navigate a bitterly separated movie-star couple (John Cusack and Catherine Zeta-Jones) through a big press junket for their new film. Julia Roberts plays the woman's sister, who's nurturing a crush. The farce is flat, the laughs seldom and the ending preordained.

For a laugh-out-loud farce, try "The Closet", a political correctness satire by "La Cage Aux Folles" writer Francis Veber. Daniel Auteuil plays a boring accountant whose estranged wife and son hate him and who's about to get fired from his condom-factory job. But he hatches a plan: He starts a rumor that he's gay, without changing his behavior at all. Suddenly, everyone finds him fascinating and treats him better - most notably the office macho pig (Gerard Depardieu).

For some respectable teen melodrama: Kirsten Dunst is the first half of the title in "Crazy/Beautiful" and Jay Hernandez is the second half: She has issues, he's straight-laced, they're in love, and it's destructive.

Considerably more destructive: the title character of "Chopper". The extremely violent and funny tale of real-life convict Mark "Chopper" Read has a big cult-film shelf-life potential as well as a great performance from Eric Bana, the Aussie signed to star in the upcoming "Incredible Hulk" movie (directed by "Crouching Tiger's" Ang Lee).

The "Weekend with Chopper" DVD extra features video footage of Bana hanging out on Read's home turf listening to the amiable psychopath and best-selling author of "How to Shoot Friends and Influence People" tell the stories behind the film. The footage makes Read seem like the ultimate yarn-spinning drinking buddy - until, say, you stiff him on a round.

Finally, proof that whining gets results: After releasing "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" only in a cropped full-frame version this August, Warner has coughed up a wide-screen version. But if he had spent his money on the first version, Hulk would smash!

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