Retail dvd & video (entertainment in video, widescreen)

Ripley’s Game

Amazing how rapidly John Malkovich has plummeted from exquisite art-house bloom to a kind of Graham Norton version of Donald Pleasance, but his teetering vanity is quite well suited to Liliana Cavani's absurd yarn. This time, Ripley is pseuding it up among the renaissance treasures of Italy's Veneto region, and takes his revenge on tactless English picture-framer Dougray Scott by turning him into a reluctant serial killer. Diverting but hugely forgettable.

A Man Apart

This is a workmanlike, halfway-successful attempt to consolidate charmless lunkhead Vin Diesel's status as the action star of the moment. Actually, he's not half bad as the widowed (and therefore vengeful) narcotics agent Sean Vetter, but veteran action director F Gary Gray (The Negotiator) is absolutely treading water. Best saved for a Friday night when you've got nothing else to do.

Dire Straights

Who'd have thought after the debacle of Velvet Goldmine that Todd Haynes' next film would be as clever, meaningful and powerfully resonant as this masterpiece of stylised social commentary? In the 1950s, the expatriate German director Douglas Sirk directed a series of Hollywood films that at the time were sniffily known as "women's pictures", which only later were recognised as brilliantly crafted satires, as sharply observed as novels like Revolutionary Road, Richard Yates' classic dissection of the Eisenhower years.

About Schmidt

In Alexander Payne's wickedly mordant satire, newly-retired Warren Schmidt is forced to acknowledge the sheer empty horror of a wasted life that has left him with a ghastly marriage to someone he no longer recognises as the woman he fell in love with, a neurotic daughter who's about to marry an hilariously useless water bed salesman and a past he can't remember because in all the years now behind him he did little of merit and nothing of note. Dysfunctional families are currently all the rage, but About Schmidt has a dark individuality and coruscating comic edge that makes it uniquely compe

Take It To The Street

Scorsese's awe-inspiring paean to a city born through conflict

S1mOne

Another self-regarding screenplay from Andrew (The Truman Show, Gattaca) Niccol, but Al Pacino is on hand to paper over the concept's cracks. A director whose prima donna (Winona Ryder) walks out, he simulates virtual actress S1mOne ("hmm, less Streep, more Bacall"), who becomes a global superstar. Could go further, but the comedy's smart and the acting, ironically, is great.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding

A massive worldwide hit, Nia Vardalos' no-budget romp must be something special, right? Well, nope. Inoffensive as it undoubtedly is, it appears to the un-Greek eye to latch 99 per cent of its gags onto national stereotypes. The better scenes, lampooning office hierarchies, are like a good episode of Friends. The rest is Victoria Wood at her most tired. Granny'll love it on telly at Christmas.

I Am Sam

Sean Penn has done many good things, and none of them can be found in this sentimental guff. As Sam, he's an autistic who, with the help of saintly lawyer Michelle Pfeiffer, tries to prove he's a fit father to his daughter. It's manipulative, dishonest, and wreaks carnage on The Beatles' songbook. Penn was Oscar-nominated. You have to laugh.
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