- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 4, 2001

While many contemporary movies traffic in cheap irony, the 2001 art-house hit Amores Perros, new from Studio S, is that rare film that deals in deep irony, as Mexican director Alejandro Inarritu and writer Guillermo Arriaga create a near masterpiece combining all the texture and sweep of an epic novel with sharp cinematic storytelling savvy. It's our …

Video pick of the week
Using canines and an opening car crash as the connective tissue of "Amores Perros" (priced for rental VHS, also available on DVD), Mr. Inarritu and Mr. Arriaga spin three compelling interweaving episodes.
Story one involves ambitious barrio youth Octavio (Gael Garcia Bernal), who enters his ferocious fido in local lethal dogfights to earn enough dinero to run off with his sister-in-law Susana (Vanessa Bauche). Trouble is, despite all of Octavio's desperate efforts, she remains stubbornly loyal to his abusive thug brother Ramiro (Marco Perez).
Tale Number 2 climbs several rungs up the social ladder to detail the plight of successful middle-aged editor Daniel (Alvaro Guerrero), who abandons his wife and children to take up with supermodel Valeria (Goya Toledo) and her pet pooch Richie, with less than idyllic results.
Our third thread plunges us into the gutter to chronicle the story of El Chivo, "The Goat" (Emilio Echeverria), a seemingly harmless old bum with a secretly homicidal past and present (and a passel of dogs).
Mr. Inarritu's frequently emotionally and physically brutal film is also at core poignant, heartbreaking and courageously complex. There are a few flaws in "Amores Perros" the second act lags in spots and, at 153 minutes, the film could have done with a bit more trimming but the abundant rewards make an overnight rental mandatory for viewers in search of an honest celluloid challenge.

Chills in the air
The homevideo industry lowers the fear-film temp with a host of horror films arriving in time for the Halloween season. Artisan Entertainment leads the way with no fewer than four fresh fright titles: the highly regarded French import Deep in the Woods; the genuinely creepy teen-terror sleeper Ginger Snaps, starring Mimi Rogers; and a pair of sequels Tom Savini in Children of the Living Dead and Jason Connery in Wishmaster 3.
Trimark contributes a trio of scare videos Jason Flemyng in long-absent horror maestro George ("Night of the Living Dead") Romero's Bruiser, Jeff Daniels in the psychological chiller Chasing Sleep and Joey Lawrence in the youth-driven shocks-and-yoks outing Tequila Body Shots.
Elsewhere, Adrian Paul and Bai Ling star in the bloodsucker saga The Breed, while Kerr Smith and Brendan Fehr experience plasma problems in J.S. Cardone's vampire chiller Forsaken (both Columbia/TriStar).
In the sequels department, David DeCoteau conjures The Brotherhood II: Young Warriors, while Michael Gross resumes his campaign against killer "graboids" in the creature comedy Tremors 3: Back to Perfection (Universal).
In remake news, Robert Louis Stevenson's venerable Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (MTI) journeys to Hong Kong for some martial-arts action. Adam Baldwin inhabits the title role(s).
Also on the horror horizon: Brendan Fehr and John Savage visit Christina's House (MGM). Eric Roberts battles a giant monster in Raptor (New Concorde). Lou Diamond Phillips and Lori Petty tour hell's highway in Route 666 (Studio S). Direct-to-video Robert Davi and Michael Ironside co-star in Soulkeeper (First Look). All of the above are priced for rental VHS and also available on DVD.

Collectors' corner
Columbia/TriStar has good news for serious comedy buffs with its new special-edition release of Terry Gilliam's Medieval mirthfest Jabberwocky, starring former "Monty Python" mate Michael Palin. The entire Python crew, meanwhile, convenes to rewrite Arthurian legend in the brilliant 1975 satire Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Continuing in a comic vein, Moe, Larry and Curly cuff and slap anew with the same label's compilation Three Stooges Classic Short Films.
On a somewhat more serious note, Columbia/TriStar offers refurbished editions of what's arguably the best American movie ever made, director Elia Kazan and writer Budd Schulberg's 1954 crime drama On the Waterfront, starring a svelte Marlon Brando, an even svelter Eva Marie Saint, and not-so-svelte Lee J. Cobb and Rod Steiger. All of the above are priced at $14.95 VHS, $24.95 DVD each.

Phan mail
Dear Phantom: Is the 1980s King Arthur movie Excalibur, with Helen Mirren, on DVD yet? It's one of my favorites.
John Hastings, via e-mail
John Boorman's excellent 1981 medieval adventure has joined the DVD ranks, via Warner. It's available ($9.89) from the online outlet www.deepdiscountdvd.com.

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