- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 22, 2003

“Being John Malkovich” screenwriter Charlie Kaufman and director Spike Jonze easily top that effort with their bold, witty, justly acclaimed comic collaboration Adaptation, new this week from Columbia/TriStar Home Entertainment. It’s our…

Video pick of the week

In the film (priced for rental VHS, $26.95 DVD), a restrained, frequently very funny Nicolas Cage portrays both neurotic scenarist Charlie Kaufman and his identical twin Donald. When Charlie experiences difficulty adapting Susan Orlean’s nonfiction best-seller “The Orchid Thief” from book to script page, he reluctantly turns to slacker/scripter wannabe Donald for advice. As Donald’s dubious ideas intrude on the project, sensitive author Orlean (Meryl Streep) and her Everglades-dwelling subject John Laroche (Oscar-winning Chris Cooper) are increasingly run through the hack-thriller wringer, ultimately recast as secret lovers and desperate killers.

Mr. Kaufman executes this potentially risky ploy with textured aplomb, making himself, current Hollywood “standards” and general mainstream-culture vacuity the chief targets of his jokes, while more subtly skewering Orlean’s and Laroche’s individual vanities. Mr. Cage succeeds in creating two sharply defined, very different characters who happen to share the same face, while Miss Streep and Mr. Cooper hit just the right notes as their initially earnest characters are mercilessly dumbed down as the reels roll on. Brian Cox likewise earns kudos for his brilliant bit as Donald’s obnoxious screenwriter guru.

Columbia/TriStar’s widescreen “Superbit Collection” DVD arrives sans extras (save for the original theatrical trailer), but in an ultra-sharp high-definition transfer. Whatever the format, “Adaptation” rates as one of those rare challenging contemporary films worthy of repeat viewings.


Cult TV series continue to proliferate on vidstore shelves. This week marks the arrival of James Cameron’s Dark Angel: The Complete First Season in a six-disc “collector’s edition” via 20th Century Fox ($59.98). Special features include audio commentary on selected episodes, three behind-the-scenes featurettes, audition tapes, blooper reel and even a “Dark Angel” video game trailer.

Next month, MGM Home Entertainment will counter with Stargate SG-1: Season 3 ($69.95), packaged in a five-DVD gift box containing all 22 episodes plus a trio of featurettes.

Artisan Entertainment weighs in with the mini-series sequel Children of Dune ($26.98), with Alice Krige and Susan Sarandon, in a widescreen two-disc set complete with a special-effects featurette.

Continuing in a sci-fi vein, albeit a bit lower-tech, next week A&E; Home Video launches puppet pioneer Gerry Anderson’s 1961 debut “Supermarionation” series Supercar ($99.95) in a six-disc set offering nearly 17 hours of action, along with select audio commentary, featurettes and more.

The ‘A’ list

Among recent theatrical titles making their homevid debuts, this week look for Antwone Fisher (20th Century Fox), a fact-based drama starring Derek Luke as a troubled young sailor who seeks help from Navy psychiatrist Denzel Washington (who doubles as director). The DVD includes full-length audio commentary by Mr. Washington and producer Todd Black, behind-the-scenes featurettes and more.

A more dubious mentor, portrayed by Al Pacino, plays dangerous mind games with reluctant protege Colin Farrell in Roger Donaldson’s exercise in CIA intrigues The Recruit (Touchstone Home Entertainment).

Soldier Bruce Willis and his hardy band of special ops look to rescue stranded African refugees in Antoine Fuqua’s military actioner Tears of the Sun (Columbia/TriStar), co-starring Monica Bellucci. All three titles will be priced for rental VHS and also available on DVD.

Collector’s corner

Director Roland Joffre’s sweeping 1986 historical drama The Mission, starring Robert De Niro and Jeremy Irons as a soldier and a priest, respectively, who unite to protect an endangered tribe in 18th-century South America, represents one of the worthier vintage films to receive “Special Edition” treatment. Warner Home Video’s new widescreen double-disc set presents a remastered digital soundtrack befitting the majesty of Ennio Morricone’s score, full-length audio commentary by director Joffre, and the documentary “Omnibus,” an exploration of the lives of the actual Waunana Indians who portrayed the film’s fictional tribe. The set, released last week, is tagged at $26.98.

Superhero sequels

Elsewhere, two additional video titles look to cash in on the current big-screen superhero craze — Fox Home Entertainment’s The Death of the Incredible Hulk ($14.98 DVD) and Buena Vista Home Entertainment’s animated X-Men: The Legend of Wolverine ($19.99 DVD, $14.99 VHS).

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: I’d like to find on video the 1959 Van Heflin movie “The Tempest,” set in 18th-century Russia, about a Cossack uprising to dethrone Catherine the Great.

— John Bossu, via e-mail

Unfortunately, that Italian-filmed epic has yet to land a homevideo release.

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: [email protected] Check out our Web site at www.videoscopemag.com.

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