- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 1, 2002

While often described as a gender-reversed "In the Company of Men," writer-director Patrick Stettner's moral fable The Business of Strangers, due next week via MGM Home Entertainment, stands tall on its own merits (to say nothing of high heels). It's our

Video pick of the week

Like Neil Labute' s 1997 film, Mr. Stettner's effort (priced for rental VHS, also available on DVD) clinically captures the cold, lonely world of corporate vagabonds and their sterile environs generic airports, offices, hotel suites and bars and zooms in on an alpha-beta pair with contrasting personalities and shared axes to grind (or, in this case, bury deep into their perceived enemies' thick skulls). But Mr. Stettner leans more heavily than Mr. Labute on the seeming allies' increasingly accusatory confrontations with each other even as they impulsively stalk their common "prey."
Stockard Channing is outstanding as weary, middle-aged, small-time CEO Julia Styron, who fires tardy temp Paula Murphy (an equally excellent Julia Styles, a fair stretch from her teen-queen roles) in a fit of pique, then seeks to befriend the younger woman when her own fortunes improve. A frequently hostile Paula at first delights in merely baiting Julia, but the ante increases considerably when she embroils her in a revenge scheme involving headhunter Nick Harris (Frederick Weller, also quite able here), whom Paula identifies as a rapist.
"Business" unfolds during a single day and night and is admirably daring in presenting its moral complexities and class-and-power clashes, one likely reason why the film scored only a limited art-house theatrical run. Fortunately, home video accords the pic well-earned equality on vidstore shelves, where viewers in the market for challenging adult entertainment can avail themselves of this underrated gem.

In fresh tele-video developments, HBO Home Video goes the documentary route with the chilling portrait The Iceman: Confessions of a Mafia Hitman ($19.98 DVD/$14.98 VHS), combining two "America Undercover" specials from 1992 and 2001 wherein convicted assassin Richard Kuklinski tells his brutal story to the camera.
In fictional mob news, the same label sets a late August date for The Sopranos: The Complete Third Season ($99.98 per DVD/VHS sets); DVD extras incorporate audio commentary by series creator David Chase, episode director Steve Buscemi and actor Michael Imperioli (who plays Christopher Moltisanti in the series), along with a behind-the-scenes featurette.
Also on HBO's variegated slate: Mike Hodges' fact-based murder mystery miniseries Dandelion Dead ($19.98 DVD/$24.98 VHS), set in 1920s England and starring Michael Kitchen, Sarah Miles and David Thewlis; the absolutely knockout boxing bio Don King: Only in America, spotlighting a brilliant Ving Rhames as the notorious fight promoter; and the stand-up comedy concert Jeff Foxworthy: Totally Committed ($19.98 DVD/$14.98 VHS each).

The 'A' list

Making its home-video debut later this month is the large-scale Vietnam combat drama We Were Soldiers (Paramount Home Video), drawn from reality and starring Mel Gibson, Madeleine Stowe, Greg Kinnear and Chris Klein. In a lighter vein, 20th Century Fox introduces the Tim Allen comedy showcase Joe Somebody, while Columbia/TriStar contributes the femme-driven farce The Sweetest Thing, featuring Cameron Diaz, Christina Applegate, Selma Blair and token male Thomas Jane, cavorting in a script by "South Park" writer Nancy M. Pimental. The titles will be priced for rental VHS and also be available on DVD.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: I am looking for three films, circa 1958-1960: Not of This Earth, Homicidal and The H-Man. Thanks for your help.
Tony, via e-mail
William Castle' s twisty 1961 psycho chiller "Homicidal" just recently joined the DVD ranks via Columbia/TriStar ($24.95). The 1958 Japanese import "The H-Man," at one time available via RCA/Columbia, is no longer in circulation, while Roger Corman's genuinely spooky 1957 alien-infiltration tale "Not of This Earth" has yet to land a legit home-video release, though two remakes (1988, 1996) are available (go figure).
Send your video comments and queries to Phantom of the Movies, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002 or e-mail us at: [email protected] Check out our Web site at www.videoscopemag.com.

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