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August 10, 2000

What's Hot

* Last week's Top 5 VHS rentals:

1. "The Whole Nine Yards" (2000). An occasionally amusing comedy about a friendly hit man (Bruce Willis) who moves in next door to a square-jawed, not to mention square, dentist (Matthew Perry). (Kenneth Turan, Feb. 18) R for some sexuality/nudity and violence.

2. "The Beach" (2000). A tedious and unsatisfying film about a young American vagabond (Leonardo DiCaprio) who journeys to a hidden Thai paradise after being given a secret map. DiCaprio's character is naive, self-involved and pretentious, and the island's community of dropouts and slackers seems slightly weird and even sinister almost immediately. (Turan, Feb. 11) R for violence, some strong sexuality, language and drug content.

3. "The Ninth Gate" (2000). Director Roman Polanski's second encounter with the devil (the first was the classic "Rosemary's Baby") is a well-crafted anti-thriller with a genteel and moody air. Johnny Depp, Frank Langella and Lena Olin star. (Turan, March 10) R for some violence and sexuality.

4. "The Green Mile" (1999). Although its Stephen King story is a good one, this version, written and directed by Frank Darabont, is hampered by excessive length, the suffocating deliberateness of its pace and some truly stomach-turning moments. Even Tom Hanks' compelling performance as the head guard on death row in a 1935 Louisiana prison can't overcome that. (Turan, Dec. 10) R for violence, language and some sex-related material.

5. "The Hurricane" (1999). Denzel Washington does exceptional work, perhaps the best of his career, as boxer and unjustly imprisoned murder suspect Rubin "Hurricane" Carter. Regrettably, the rest of this conventional, middle-of-the-road bio-pic is not up to his level. (Turan, Dec. 29) R for language and some violence.

* Last week's Top 5 DVD rentals:

1. "The Beach"

2. "The Whole Nine Yards"

3. "The Ninth Gate"

4. "The Hurricane"

5. "Bicentennial Man" (1999). Robin Williams gives a touching performance as a robot who gradually transforms into a human being in this romantic but overly glossy sci-fi fable. Directed by Chris Columbus. (Kevin Thomas, Dec. 17) PG for language and some sexual content.

* Last week's Top 5 VHS sellers

1. "The Sixth Sense" (1999). Director M. Night Shyamalan's startling and nervy film about a child psychologist (Bruce Willis) who tries to help a boy with a disturbing secret (Haley Joel Osment) is one of the creepiest thrillers to arise in years. Rich in a kind of matter-of-fact horror. (John Anderson, Aug. 6) PG-13 for intense thematic material and violent images.

2. "My Dog Skip" (2000). Based on Willie Morris' 1995 memoir, this film is a standard-issue Hollywood family film about a boy (Frankie Muniz) and his dog growing up in a small Southern town during World War II. It's a little too glossy, and Skip is a bit too much the trained performer, but young Muniz is good, as are Kevin Bacon and Diane Lane as the boy's parents. (Thomas, Jan. 12) PG for some violent content and mild language.

3. "Thomas the Tank Engine: Make Someone Happy"

4. "Pokemon: Final Badge"

5. "Runaway Bride" (special edition) (1999). While it's fun to see Richard Gere and Julia Roberts smooching on screen for the first time in nine years, the flawed and unpleasant conception of a woman who abandons men at the altar crossing swords with a misogynist newspaperman will leave viewers with an unavoidably sour taste. (Turan, July 30) PG for language and some suggestive dialogue.

* Last week's Top 5 DVD sellers

1. "The Beach"

2. "The Green Mile"

3. "Independence Day" (1996). Mean, marauding aliens hit planet Earth planning to take no prisoners. Spectacular special effects are joined to a cardboard story line that exactly reproduces the fatuous sensibility of the 1950s. Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum star. (Turan) PG-13, for sci-fi destruction and violence.

4. "The Whole Nine Yards"

5. "Jaws Collector's Edition" (1975). A hellishly exciting movie. A bit sterile perhaps and fascinated with its own gadgetry, but a spine-tingler all the same. The premise: A shark of unbelievable size, fury, cunning and blood lust is terrorizing a New England beach town. With Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss.

What's New

"Bedrooms & Hallways" (1999). A jaunty British romantic comedy about two pals, a gay man and a straight man, discovering sexual fluidity as they become involved not only with each other but also, unwittingly, with the same woman (Jennifer Ehle). (Thomas, Nov. 4) First Run: no list price; DVD $29.95; (CC); Unrated: adult themes.

"The Grandfather" (1999). Jose Luis Garci's rueful, funny and deeply moving fable in which a curmudgeonly old aristocrat must chose between love and honor. An Oscar nominee for best foreign-language film of 1998, the period tale stars the formidable veteran Fernando Fernan-Gomez. (Thomas, Oct. 8) Miramax/Buena Vista: no list price; DVD $29.99; (CC); PG for thematic elements and language.

What's Coming

Tuesday: "After Life," "The Cider House Rules," "Erin Brockovich," "Family Tree," "Ghost Dog," "Here on Earth," "It's the Rage" and "Titus."

Aug. 22: "Agnes Brown," "Beyond the Mat," "Mifune," "Not One Less," "Simpatico," "Supernova" and "The Tigger Movie."

Commentary by Times critics.

Rental video charts provided by VSDA

VidTrac, sales charts by VideoScan Inc.

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