- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 19, 2001

Producer Joel Silver, notorious for overblown-action flicks like "Commando" and "The Matrix," curbs the usual epic explosions, trims the boring back stories and even lowers the testosterone level a mite with Proximity. It's a lean, compelling B caper offering a new twist on the vigilante genre, and it's our …

Video pick of the week

New from Columbia/TriStar (priced for rental VHS, also available on DVD), "Proximity" stars onetime Hollywood bad boy and current "West Wing" regular Rob Lowe as Bill Conroy, a former professor serving a six-year stretch for vehicular manslaughter.
As his sentence draws on, it occurs to Bill that his fellow prisoners are expiring at a suspiciously rapid rate, usually as the result of "accident" or "suicide." A transport van incident allows our hero a reluctant escape opportunity, one that proves hazardous indeed when prison guards T.C. Carson and Jonathan Banks give frantic pursuit through the streets and malls of Cleveland to snuff the fugitive before he can uncover a killer conspiracy that leads back to high-profile victim's rights activist James Coburn.
Under director Scott Ziehl's supervision, producer Silver and crew bring in their entertaining chase flick at a trim 86 minutes and yield strong performances from Mr. Lowe, veteran character actor Banks and seasoned vet Coburn.
"Proximity" incorporates too many coincidences, contrivances and logic lapses to reach the top genre level. But for viewers in the mood for solid, earnest action fare that zips along in a breathless straight line, getting next to "Proximity" rates as a pretty fair idea.

Comedies on cassette

On the upcoming farce front, early August finds a host of theatrical comedies making their home-video debuts. Buena Vista contributes Blow Dry, detailing shady doings at a prestigious English hair show and starring Josh Hartnett and Rachel Leigh Cook, along with the humor-tinged romantic fantasy Chocolat, with Juliet Binoche and Johnny Depp.
Also from Buena Vista come Kirsten Dunst in the teen-oriented Get Over It, and a since-ascendant Renee Zellweger in 1994's "Shake, Rattle and Rock" a made-for-cable rock-and-yoks affair set in the 1950s.
In the comic thriller arena, Dreamworks/Universal launches The Mexican, with Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts and James (Tony Soprano) Gandolfini. Warner counters with the Elvis-themed caper 3000 Miles to Graceland, featuring Kevin Costner, Kurt Russell and Courtney Cox.
Columbia/TriStar goes the feline route with two fast-vanishing theatrical titles the widely hyped Josie and the Pussycats, with Rachel Leigh Cook, and the low-grossing gross-out romp Tomcats, starring Jerry O'Connell and Shannon Elizabeth. Columbia/TriStar then aims for a decidedly older audience with These Old Broads, wherein several aging actresses including Debbie Reynolds, Shirley MacLaine, Joan Collins and Elizabeth Taylor reunite for a TV special.
Other laugh-getters due next month include Barry Levinson's barber fable An Everlasting Piece (Dreamworks/Universal), set in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and the family comedy "Wish Upon a Star" (Columbia/ TriStar), about two battling siblings forced to switch identities.
All of the above will be priced for rental VHS and also available on DVD, with the exception of "These Old Broads" (VHS only).

Video verite

In fresh documentary developments, Image Entertainment introduces two influential features by filmmaking brothers David and Albert Maysles the compelling 1969 Salesman, chronicling the daily routines of a quartet of Bible salesmen, and 1976's Grey Gardens, a gritty look at Jackie Onassis' eccentric aunt and cousin, then living on a dilapidated Long Island estate ($39.95 each DVD).
Elsewhere, Dimension reprices the fun Full Tilt Boogie ($14.98 VHS), which takes us behind the scenes of the Quentin Tarantino-Robert Rodriguez vampire romp "From Dusk Till Dawn," with George Clooney, Juliette Lewis and Harvey Keitel.
New Video issues the acclaimed softball study Fastpitch ($19.95 VHS, $24.95 DVD). Third Coast Video gets down with Beach Party: The Movie 2001 ($19.98 DVD). ADV Films offers three volumes of Cheaters: The Best of Reality TV ($16.98 each VHS).

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: I've been looking high and low for the Anthony Hopkins film Magic, where he plays a mad ventriloquist. Any chance of finding it on video?
Vincent Lewis, via e-mail
Certainly would seem high time, with "Hannibal" due on video next month, to reissue that 1978 Hopkins horror the tape has been out of circulation since its original label Embassy Home Entertainment went belly up years back. Your best bet for a copy would be an online auction site like E-Bay; for rental copies, try Video Vault (800/ VAULT-66).

Send your video comments and queries to Phantom of the Movies, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002 or send e-mail to phanmedia@aol.com.



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