- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 26, 2001

While not as cerebral as Olivier Assayas's conceptual 1996 movie-biz comedy "Irma Vep" but far funnier than David Mamet's surprisingly flat "State and Main," Jean-Philippe Toussaint's The Ice Rink cleverly details the travails suffered by supremely patient film director Tom Novembre as he tries to get his hockey-themed drama "Dolores," (a) in the can, and (b) screened at the Venice Film Festival. It's our …
Video pick of the week

In "The Ice Rink," new from Kino Video (priced for rental VHS, also available on DVD), Mr. Novembre's task is complicated by the presence of a roughneck Lithuanian hockey team with a confused interpreter, temperamental starlet Dolores Chaplin (Charlie's foxy granddaughter), American actor Bruce Campbell, intrusive TV cameramen documenting the film-in-progress and, above all, the treacherous rink itself, an icy expanse the skate-equipped actors and crew never quite learn to negotiate.
While admirably avoiding broad or gross-out humor, Mr. Toussaint's approach is occasionally a tad too low-key to mine his premise (one tailor-made for Buster Keaton in his prime) for its maximum mirth potential. Still, at a streamlined 80 minutes, "The Ice Rink" moves at a brisk pace and furnishes enough amusement to please behind-the-scenes celluloid-comedy buffs.
And, it goes without saying, fans of cult genre actor Bruce Campbell (of "Evil Dead" and "Adventures of Brisco County Jr.") will want to check out their fave's deft, change-of-pace antics as the ruggedly handsome American actor hired to give added international star power. The DVD edition of "The Ice Rink" includes coming-attraction trailers for eight additional foreign films currently in Kino's collection.
Collector's corner: DVD division

In vintage DVD developments, Paramount adds a quintet of classic titles to its growing DVD roster next month: Michael Caine plays Len Deighton's savvy secret agent Harry Palmer in Funeral in Berlin. The late, great Steve McQueen makes his film farewell as a modern bounty hunter in The Hunter.
More: Dustin Hoffman suffers orthodontic indignities at the hands and drills of Nazi dentist Sir Laurence Olivier in Marathon Man. Mary Tyler Moore, Donald Sutherland and Timothy Hutton experience extreme angst in Ordinary People.
Paramount digs deeper into its vaults for 1951's A Place in the Sun, director George Stevens' acclaimed screen translation of Theodore Dreiser's novel "An American Tragedy," featuring indelible performances by Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth Taylor and Shelley Winters. The discs will be tagged at $29.99 each.
Columbia/TriStar, meanwhile, introduces Richard Attenborough's multiple-Oscar-winning biographical epic Gandhi, starring Ben Kingsley, Candice Bergen and John Gielgud, to DVD ($24.95) later next month.
Half-price horrors

In fear-video developments, Artisan Entertainment joins the early Halloween rush by repricing a quartet of high-profile chillers. Slimmed to $9.98 each VHS ($19.98 each DVD) are the original Blair Witch Project; Roman Polanski's occult thriller The Ninth Gate, starring Johnny Depp and Frank Langella; and the underrated Stir of Echoes, a neat supernatural thriller with Kevin Bacon as a man saddled with a sudden case of second sight. Artisan also reissues Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows ($14.98 VHS, $19.98 DVD).
Winstar winners

The foreign and indie specialists at Winstar Entertainment go the sell-through route with a trio of titles next month: Norman Reedus, Chad Lowe and Sybil Temchen headline in the coming-of-age drama Floating. French filmmaker Cedric Kahn explores the limits of obsessive love in L'Ennui. Director Hou Hsiaio-hsien examines the life of famed Taiwanese puppeteer Li Tien-hu in the acclaimed Chinese import The Puppetmaster ($19.98 VHS, $24.95 DVD each).
Bren there, done that

Meanwhile, on the all-important Brendan Fraser front, 20th Century Fox announces an early August date for the elaborate live-action/ animation mix Monkeybone. Universal plans an early-October launch for the summer blockbuster The Mummy Returns. Both will be priced for rental VHS and also available on DVD.
Phan mail

Dear Phantom: Some time in the past year a mint or remastered print of Visconti's The Leopard was presented in New York City. Any chance it will soon appear on DVD or VHS? It is one of my favorites and a great film.
Herb Shank, Hanover, Pa.
I have not heard of any official announcements as yet, but when a print is remastered for theatrical reissue, there's usually a strong chance it will surface on home video, and "The Leopard" would certainly lend itself to a gala DVD treatment.

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