- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 30, 2001

Dark 'Amores Perros' leader of large pack of foreign video picks
Your Phantom has seen many excellent baseball movies in his time, from "Bang the Drum Slowly" to John Sayles' "Eight Men Out," but Billy Crystal's 61* due Sept. 11 from HBO Home Video ($14.98 VHS, $19.98 DVD) may rate as the genre's best to date. And now it's our …

Video pick of the week
Unlike many diamond films that either overly glorify or crudely debunk major league baseball and its denizens, director Crystal and writer Hank Steinberg hit just the right note. They present their characters as serious professionals without whitewashing their warts.
"61*" dramatizes the 1961 chase to break Babe Ruth's seemingly untouchable record of 60 home runs in a single season, a grail pursued by two slugging knights on the same New York Yankees squad lovable "bad boy" and fans' hero Mickey Mantle and little-known, straight-arrow newcomer Roger Maris.
As depicted in the film, the rivalry developed as an uneasy one (particularly in Maris' case), since the two became genuine friends, with Maris even persuading the hard-drinking, womanizing, increasingly self-destructive Mantle to abandon Manhattan's distracting pleasures for a quiet life in Queens, a move that helped Mantle stay in shape for the chase.
"61*" forcefully conveys the extreme physical and emotional toll the mounting fan and media pressure placed on the reserved Maris, who even began receiving death threats for his assault on the beloved Babe's mark.
"61*" gets all the details right. Barry Pepper, late of the benighted "Battlefield Earth," is a physical dead ringer for the real Maris and a terrific actor to boot, as is Thomas ("Deep Blue Sea") Jane as the mischievous Mantle, while such real-life Yankee legends as teammate Yogi Berra (Paul Borghese), announcer Mel Allen (Christopher McDonald), player-turned-announcer Phil Rizzuto (Joe Grifasi) and retired superstar Joe DiMaggio (Michael Nouri) surface in smaller roles. With the playoff season approaching, HBO's timing and pricing could not be better. Even non-sports fans will find themselves hooked by this gripping human drama.
In other diamond developments, 20th Century Fox will release next month the acclaimed documentary by local filmmaker Aviva Kempner, The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg (priced for rental VHS, $29.99 DVD), chronicling the career of Detroit's Jewish home-run king.

Foreign fare
Studio S leads the way with Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's critically acclaimed dark comedy-thriller Amores Perros, due next month. Also arriving in September are two imports from Columbia/TriStar the fact-based Brazilian comedy Me You Them, detailing the complex lifestyle of a woman with three husbands, and Salma Hayek in the Living It Up: La Gran Vida. New Yorker Video introduces the offbeat Japanese drama The Eel, while Vanguard Cinema debuts a pair of Spanish-language comedies, In the Country Where Nothing Happens and A Paradise Under the Stars. Lion's Gate Entertainment bows French filmmaker Patrice ("Monsieur Hire," "Girl on the Bridge") Leconte's latest, The Widow of St. Pierre, a period drama starring Juliette Binoche, Daniel Auteuil and Emir Kusturica in a rare on-screen role. All of the above will be priced for rental VHS and also available on DVD.

Max "Shrek"
Though these two releases won't appear until Nov. 2, Dreamworks Home Entertainment is beating the video drum for America's fave jolly green giant Shrek's VHS ($15.95) and DVD ($19.95) issues. The double-disc DVD may set an overkill record with a planned 11 hours worth of extras, including a three-minute extended ending (which will also surface on the VHS version), and many DVD-ROM features. The blockbuster animated fable in case you've been living in even greater isolation than Shrek himself features the voice talents of Mike Myers as an unhappy ogre and Eddie Murphy as his motor-mouthed mule.

Phan mail
Dear Phantom: I am wondering if or when the following DVDs will be available and where I can find them. The movies are: The Howling, Clownhouse, The Bat (Vincent Price), The Devil Bat, The Old Dark House, The Ghoul (Boris Karloff), The Phantom Creeps (Bela Lugosi), Whispering Shadow (Lugosi), Lone Wolf and Cub. Thank you.
Donny Phillips, Effingham,
Of the above, MGM has "The Howling" ($14.99), Whirlwind has "The Phantom Creeps" ($24.99), while Image Entertainment has "The Bat" on a Vincent Price DVD double bill with "The House on Haunted Hill," and "Devil Bat" on a double bill with the companion Bela Lugosi feature "Scared to Death" ($29.99 per DVD). For ordering sources, try Movies Unlimited (800/4-MOVIES) and www.deepdiscountdvd.com.

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