Video/DVD Releases

July 11, 2002

`Charlotte Gray'

PG-13 121 minutes **

Charlotte Gray (Warner, 2001) is a freeze-dried version of Sebastian Faulks' juicy novel about a passionate young Scotswoman who enlists with British intelligence and serves as a courier and go-between with the French Resistance during World War II. Director Gillian Armstrong works more like a concept artist than a dramatist. She doesn't just emphasize the theme that war is a nasty muddle. She subordinates everything else to that idea, including the heroine's two love interests: an RAF pilot (Rupert Penry-Jones) stranded alone in France, and a rural Resistance leader (Billy Crudup). The British flier registers as a flimsy motivation for Charlotte (Cate Blanchett) to go to France, and the underground fighter comes off as a cipher. What's worse, Charlotte herself seems both hopelessly self-absorbed and impossibly ill-trained. This movie is a major disappointment. (Michael Sragow)

`Hart's War'

R 125 minutes ** 1/2

Hart's War (MGM, 2002), set in a German POW camp during World War II, tests how long a movie can leave viewers in limbo, and how many tricks it can pull to haul them out of it. The picture fails on both counts - and ends on a jarring note of uplift. Still, it's fitfully compelling. The main plot kicks in when Lt. Thomas Hart (Colin Farrell), a Yale law student in civilian life, is ordered by the top American officer at the POW camp (Bruce Willis) to defend a black flier (Terrence Howard) against the charge of killing a vicious racist sergeant (Cole Hauser). At first, it's bracing to see a picture that touches on ethical quandaries underlying the waging of a "just war." But the movie never does more than touch on those quandaries. (Michael Sragow)

`The Royal Tenenbaums'

R 108 minutes ***

The Royal Tenenbaums (Touchstone, 2001) chronicles one of filmdom's more dysfunctional families. Papa Royal and Mama Etheline are long-separated and haven't spoken in years. And their three kids, Chas, Margot and Richie, brilliant child prodigies all, have long since flamed out, their lives now in various holding patterns. But then Royal decides it's time to summon the clan back together. Director Wes Anderson (Rushmore) continues his fascination with characters and situations skewed all wrong. Gene Hackman as Royal, degenerate and clueless, is a joy to watch, and the rest of the cast - Anjelica Huston, Gwyneth Paltrow, Owen Wilson, Ben Stiller and Luke Wilson - hit their marks more often than not. (Chris Kaltenbach)

`A Walk to Remember'

PG 100 minutes * 1/2

A Walk to Remember (Warner, 2002) is a love-between-mismatched-teens tale, with a lump of Titanic/Love Story tragedy tacked on. Though there is a refreshing sweetness about it, it can't rise above the banality of author Nicholas Sparks' recycled small-town romances. Shane West plays a high-school punk who brings a little fun into the life of a preacher's plain-jane daughter (singing star Mandy Moore). (Orlando Sentinel)

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