- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 24, 2002

With their hypnotic 1999 thriller Heart, due next week from Spartan Home Entertainment, British director Charles McDougall and screenwriter Jimmy McGovern demonstrate that, contrary to such bloated Hollywood fare as “What Lies Beneath” (to cite but one example), multi-million-dollar budgets and two-hour-plus running times are not required ingredients in creating a taut, imaginative suspense film. “Heart” is our …

Video pick of the week
“Heart” (priced for rental VHS, also available on DVD), gives us a contemporary Liverpool that may as well be another planet, one populated by unusually callous, creepy people. There dying pilot Gary (Christopher Eccleston) is saved by a heart salvaged from the body of a teenage accident victim. Once recovered, Gary tracks down the initially anonymous boy’s grief-stricken young mother Maria Ann (Saskia Reeves). But soon enough Maria Ann becomes the obsessive one, as she sets out to judge whether Gary is worthy of the life her son has granted him.
Without giving too much away, we can say that Maria Ann is increasingly appalled by the petty Gary, his gruff, unfaithful wife Tess (Kate Hardie) and her ultra-obnoxious, TV-writer lover (Rhys Ifans). Filmmakers McDougall and McGovern need only 81 minutes to pile on some of the most inventive, ironic and, above all, organic plot twists we’ve seen, as Maria Ann formulates a plan to achieve ultimate justice for her late son.
One caveat, however: Viewers easily put off their popcorn by graphic (though obviously staged) open-heart surgery close-ups may want to blink a bit during the actual transplant sequence (cleverly set to the strains of Dionne Warwick’s “Anyone Who Had a Heart”). Aside from that bit of visual overkill, “Heart” rates as a top-notch nail-biter that also digs deep into the darker realms of the human psyche with sometimes harsh but relentlessly dead-on precision.

The ‘A’ list
In A-video news, several recent theatrical releases will be making their video debuts over the next couple of weeks. Warner Home Video issues the critically lauded all-star indie comedy The Anniversary Party, featuring (among many others) Kevin Kline, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gwyneth Paltrow and Parker Posey, along with the Mark Wahlberg showcase Rock Star, co-starring Jennifer Aniston.
In sports-related news, Paramount sets a mid-February launch for the baseball drama Hardball, with Keanu Reeves, Diana Lane and D.B. Sweeney, as does Lion’s Gate Entertainment for the basketball-themed “Othello” update O, starring Julia Stiles, Josh Hartnett, Mekhi Phifer and Martin Sheen.
Thora Birch, Scarlett Johanssen and Steve Buscemi, meanwhile, topline in documentarian Terry (“Crumb”) Zwigoff’s acclaimed fiction-film debut Ghost World, based on the popular graphic novel of the same name. It’s due Feb. 5 via MGM. All of the above will be priced for rental VHS and also available on DVD.

In tube-to-tape developments, this week HBO Home Video presents a pair of made-for-cable features: Jeffrey Wright as Martin Luther King in the fact-based civil-rights drama Boycott, set in the Montgomery, Ala., of 1965; and Dennis Quaid, Andie MacDowell, Greg Kinnear and Toni Collette in Dinner With Friends. Warner introduces the celebrity bio James Dean, with James Franco in the title role. All three are priced for rental VHS and also available on DVD.
In sell-through news, next week A&E Home Video debuts The History Channel documentary series The World History of Organized Crime ($39.95 per 2-disc DVD or 4-tape VHS sets), along with Rick Schroder as a World War I hero in the A&E original movie The Lost Battalion ($19.95 VHS/DVD).

Sci-fi forecast
On the science fiction front, Dreamworks has announced an early March launch for the epic “collaboration” of Steven Spielberg and Stanley Kubrick A.I. Artificial Intelligence, starring Haley Joel Osment and Jude Law.
Elsewhere in the busy sci-fi field, Jay Mohr encounters an evil super-computer in Black River (MTI). Antonio Sabato, Jr. and Eric Roberts share starring honors in Mind Storm (Monarch). Luke Perry visits that ever-reliable B-movie vacation spot, the Bermuda Triangle, in The Triangle (York). All of the above will be priced for rental VHS and also available on DVD.

Phan mail
Dear Phantom: Where can I find Tank? Been trying to find this for some time.
John Woods, via e-mail
Unfortunately, that 1984 James Garner vehicle has long been out of circulation. Best bet for a used copy would be www.ebay.com, while specialists like Video Library (800/669-7157), Scarecrow Video (206/524-8554) and Video Vault (800/VAULT-66) would be worth checking for mail-order rental copies.

Send your video comments and queries to Phantom of the Movies, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002 or e-mail us at: phanmedia@aol.com. And check out our Web site at www.videoscopemag.com.

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