- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 5, 2002

Time of Favor, by American-born writer-director Joseph Cedar and set in Israel, is due next week via Kino Video (priced for rental VHS, also available on DVD, https://kino.com). This complex political thriller, with a slow but steady build, vividly dramatizes how unchecked religious zeal can lead to disaster. It's our

Video pick of the week

The film follows the fortunes of three friends, all disciples of radical Orthodox Rabbi Meltzer (Assi Dayan, son of Moshe, the late Israeli military and government leader). When a rivalry develops between rising military commander Menachem (Aki Avni) and quietly intense (possibly insane) intellectual Pini (Idan Alterman) over the rabbi's disenchanted daughter Michal (the mono-monikered Tinkerbell), rejected suitor Pini channels his frustrations into an irresponsible terrorist plot, with the third West Bank Musketeer, family man Itamar (Micha Selektar), caught in the middle.

While never straying far from intimate human drama, Mr. Cedar presents a troubling picture of modern Israel's often fractious society. Even fellow soldiers within the Orthodox company, like the pragmatic Mookie (Amnon Wolf), question the lead characters' blind devotion to the manipulative rabbi's dangerous beliefs, while higher military and civilian authorities argue about how to control the potentially volatile movement.

Mr. Cedar also makes a wise choice in setting up Michal as the film's rarely consulted voice of reason, a young woman who refuses to be a pawn in a game run by stubborn men.

Withal, "Time of Favor" rates as one of those rare films that satisfies on every level, even as it leaves viewers pondering the fragile prospects for lasting peace in a landscape seemingly torn in every direction.

The 'A' list

Among recent theatrical releases targeted for video store shelves, Warner Home Video hopes to find a fresh audience for Danny DeVito's fast-vanishing black comedy Death to Smoochy, starring the ubiquitous Robin Williams as a vengeful kiddie-show host.

Dreamworks debuts another inside-showbiz satire, Hollywood Ending, wherein director Woody Allen doubles on screen as a has-been auteur suffering from psychosomatic blindness. And speaking of actors moving behind the camera, Arliss Howard directs himself and better (or is that bitter?) half Debra Winger in the drama Big Bad Love (MGM Home Entertainment), based on stories by author Larry Brown.

In indie developments, Wellspring Media offers a duo of diverse coming-of-age movies Randy Redroad's Native-American-themed The Doe Boy, showcasing James Duval (of "Doom Generation") as a troubled Cherokee youth, and the French import "Girls Can't Swim," with Isild Le Besco and Karen Alyx as gal pals on the verge of adulthood.

And, in one of the few recent films combining Gallic and Native-American elements, Universal unleashes Christophe Gans' unique period adventure/horror film saga The Brotherhood of the Wolf.

All of the above will be priced for rental VHS and also available on DVD.

Cult TV

The British TV invasion continues apace as the cathode archivists at A&E Home Video issue new boxed sets (Nos. 4 and 5, $39.98 each) containing a total of 16 episodes from the popular 1960s espionage series Secret Agent (aka "Danger Man"), starring Patrick McGoohan as suave spy John Drake.

The label also debuts Horatio Hornblower: The Complete Adventures ($79.95), a six-disc set encompassing the entire C.S. Forrester-based seafaring miniseries, with Ioan Gruffud as the intrepid title hero. DVD extras include two History Channel documentaries "England's Royal Warships," with host Edward Windsor, and "Sail 2000: Aboard the Eagle" along with the behind-the-scenes featurette "The Making of Horatio Hornblower."

Guinness gold

In another Anglophile alert, Anchor Bay Entertainment (www.anchorbayentertainment.com) offers a treat for Alec Guinness lovers with a quartet of AG's vintage comedy classics, due next week: 1949's Kind Hearts and Coronets (with Alec in eight roles); 1955's The Ladykillers, co-starring Peter Sellers; 1951's The Lavender Hill Mob, featuring Stanley Holloway; and 1951's The Man in the White Suit, with Joan Greenwood.

The full-frame DVDs are tagged at $19.98 each. Anchor Bay also presents the same titles in an Alec Guinness Collection boxed set ($69.98) that includes the bonus feature film Captain's Paradise.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: Are the following recent flicks available in VHS form: Gravesend (1997), Money Kings (1998), Ten Benny (1998), New Rose Hotel (1999) and Joe Gould's Secret (2000)?

Eddie Reardon, via e-mail

Movies Unlimited (800/4-MOVIES, https://moviesunlimited.com) carries director and co-star Stanley Tucci's excellent "Joe Gould's Secret" ($14.99) on VHS, along with "Gravesend" ($19.99) and "Ten Benny" ($9.99). "Money Kings" and "New Rose Hotel" remain "priced for rental" ($99.99 each).

Send your video comments and queries to Phantom of the Movies, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; or send e-mail to: [email protected] Check out our Web site (www.videoscopemag.com).

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