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Views From Off the Beaten Track

November 19, 1998|SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Several big films recently made their video debuts, including "Armageddon," "The Horse Whisperer" and "Godzilla." But there are several lesser-known titles currently gracing the shelves of video stores. Here's a look at a few of those to see if they are worth renting.

A fine cast helps brighten "Music From Another Room" (Orion), a quirky romantic comedy that performed poorly in limited release earlier this year. Charlie Peters wrote and directed the farce, which begins sweetly but peters out before the final curtain.

Talented British actor Jude Law ("Gattaca") stars as a 25-year-old man who believes he found the love of his life when he was 5 and helped with her delivery. Now, 20 years later, he tries to romance her (Gretchen Mol) despite the fact that she's engaged to another man (Jon Tenney).

Oscar nominee Brenda Blethyn ("Secrets & Lies") plays Mol's dying mother, and Jennifer Tilly goes dramatic with mixed results as Mol's blind sister who finds love with a waiter with a penchant for wearing powder blue suits.

"Bang" (Monarch) is an intriguing independent thriller that was something of a sleeper hit in the major cities in which it was released last year. Roger Ebert gave it a strong thumbs up; the Chicago Tribune described it as a "triumph" and The Times' Kevin Thomas wrote that it was one of the year's top 10.

Written and directed by Ash, "Bang" stars Darling Narita as a struggling actress who is evicted from her Los Angeles apartment. When she's taken advantage of at an audition with a sleazy producer, she ends up assuming the identity of a Los Angeles motorcycle cop and begins to wield power she has never had before. Peter Greene also stars as a homeless man who befriends her.

Director Mike Newell ("Four Weddings and a Funeral," "Donnie Brasco") was the producer of the compelling British mystery "Photographing Fairies" (Polygram). Based on the cult novel by Steve Szilagyi, "Photographing Fairies" is an adult companion piece to last year's family film "Fairy Tale: A True Story."

Toby Stevens plays a cynical photographer who is confronted by a woman whose photographs of her daughters with supposedly real fairies are images he can neither explain nor discredit. When he travels to the countryside to investigate, he finds himself involved in a web of passion, romance and violence. Oscar winner Ben Kingsley, Emily Woof and Phil Davis also star in this British import.

It's hard to believe that "Little Boy Blue" (Warner) won top honors at the Denver International Film Festival, the Hamptons International Film Festival and the Stockholm International Film Festival. Perhaps it was the only film in competition, because it's pretty dreadful.

Nastassja Kinski, Ryan Phillippe ("54"), John Savage and Shirley Knight star in this seamy, nasty piece of tripe about a teenage boy who not only has an incestuous relationship with his mother--his father is impotent--but also is the father of his two younger brothers. "Deep in the Heart (of Texas)" (Vanguard) is a charming, leisurely paced comedy about a British filmmaking couple (Kenneth Cranham and Amanda Root ) who come to Austin, Texas, to interview various colorful citizens for a BBC documentary. The couple gets more than they bargained for when the trip turns into a journey of self-discovery and an examination of their marriage. Believable performances from Cranham ("The Inspector Calls") and Root ("Persuasion") make this worth a look.

Don't bother to watch Vanguard's other new release, "Angel Blue," a dreadfully silly spin on "Lolita." Sam Bottoms stars as a successful professional who falls in love with his teenage baby-sitter. He ends up losing his job, his wife and his young baby. It's the audience, though, who is the real loser.

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