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November 02, 2000

Frequency (2000). An effective but finally overreaching science-fiction thriller directed by Gregory Hoblit ("Primal Fear") that explores what happens in the present if you find a way to redo the past. The story about a police detective (Jim Caviezel) who communicates with his dead father (Dennis Quaid) is rather enjoyable until the greedy final section. New Line/Warner: no list price; DVD: $24.98; (CC); PG-13 for intense violence and disturbing images.

Gossip (2000). Slick, silly, worthless tale about the evils of rumors, spread in this instance by a trio of mindless, hard-living college students (James Marsden, Lena Headey, Norman Reedus). With Kate Hudson as their principal target. Warner: no list price; DVD: $19.98; (CC); R for sexual content, including language, and for brief violence.

Portraits Chinois (2000). "Mina Tannenbaum's" Martine Dugowson returns with a wry look at a group of Parisian 30-somethings who are steeped in self-absorption and looking for love. A minor work that promises no more than what it delivers with style and insight. In French with English subtitles. Vanguard: no list price; DVD: $29.95; (CC); Unrated. For mature audiences.

Return to Me (2000). A love story that's as fresh as tomorrow yet honors the traditions of Hollywood's most cherished tear-jerkers. David Duchovny and Minnie Driver star. A triumph for Bonnie Hunt, who directed, co-wrote the script and co-stars as Driver's sister. MGM: no list price; DVD: $26.98; (CC); PG for language and thematic elements.

Thomas and the Magic Railroad (2000). Treacly, mildly preachy big-screen version of the TV series about a magical land of talking steam engines and the people who visit them. Harmless, but adults with weak gums and stomachs should beware of its sugar content. Columbia TriStar: $22.96; DVD: $24.95; (CC); G.

What's Hot

* Last week's Top 5 VHS rentals:

1. "Rules of Engagement" (2000). This courtroom-combat drama--directed by the veteran William Friedkin and starring Tommy Lee Jones, Samuel L. Jackson and an impressive Guy Pearce--is a passable, moderately diverting entertainment that raises all kinds of thought-provoking questions it's not really interested in answering. R for scenes of war violence and for language.

2. "Toy Story 2" (1999). Lively and good-humored with a great sense of fun, it picks up where its predecessor left off. With the voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen and Joan Cusack. G.

3. "U-571" (2000) This ripping yarn of the attempt to steal a crucial code machine from a German sub gets high marks for tension and excitement, though it's undernourished in terms of dialogue and character development. Matthew McConaughey, Bill Paxton and Harvey Keitel star. PG-13 for war violence.

4. "Shanghai Noon" (2000). Jackie Chan, as an Imperial Guard out to ransom a kidnapped princess (Lucy Liu) in the Old West, and Owen Wilson as a rowdy train robber who becomes his sidekick, make for a terrific team in this zesty comedy western. (1:48) PG-13 for action violence, some drug humor, language and sensuality.

5. "Pitch Black" (2000). This routine sci-fi horror action-adventure, filmed in the Queensland, Australia, outback, is at least fast and energetic. Its biggest plus is its imposing and compelling star, Vin Diesel, who plays a dangerous prisoner among a group of people stranded in a distant, forbidding planet. R for sci-fi violence and gore, and for language.

* Last week's Top 5 DVD rentals:

1. "Rules of Engagement"

2. "Shanghai Noon"

3. "Final Destination" (2000). Swift and scary thriller of the supernatural, starring Devon Sawa as a high school student who has a sudden premonition that the jetliner that's about to take him and 39 classmates to a Paris field trip will explode on takeoff. R for violence and terror, and for language.

4. "Mission to Mars" (2000). A notably lifeless film about the possibilities of life on Mars. Gary Sinise, Tim Robbins and Don Cheadle star. PG for sci-fi violence and mild language.

5. "Keeping the Faith" (2000). Edward Norton directs and co-stars in this potent romantic comedy about a young rabbi (Ben Stiller) and a young priest (Norton), lifelong friends whose lives are turned upside down when their best pal from the eighth grade reenters their lives in the stunning and witty form of Jenna Elfman. PG-13 for some sexuality and language.

* Last week's Top 5 VHS sellers:

1. "Toy Story 2" (1999).

2. "The Green Mile: Collector's Edition" (1999). Though its Stephen King story is a good one, this Frank Darabont-written and -directed version is hampered by excessive length, the suffocating deliberateness of its pace and some truly stomach-turning moments. Even Tom Hanks' compelling performance as a prison guard can't overcome that. R for violence, language and some sex-related material.

3. "Little Mermaid 2: Return to the Sea" Made-for-video sequel

4. "Scooby Doo & the Alien Invaders"

5. "Blue's Big Musical Movie"

* Last week's Top 5 DVD sellers:

1. "Toy Story 2"

2. "Jurassic Park" (1993). Enormous amounts of money and attention were expended on making the film's half-dozen dinosaur species awfully impressive (though much too intense for small children), but very little was done to make any of the puny human beings equally involving.

3. "Toy Story: The Ultimate Toy Box Collection"

4. "Shanghai Noon"

5. "Jurassic Park/Lost World" two-pack.

What's Coming

Tuesday: "M:I-2" and "Titan A.E."

Nov. 14: "Big Momma's House," "Boys and Girls," "Fantasia/2000," "Hamlet," "The Perfect Storm," "Pokemon 2000." "Price of Glory" and "Running Free."

Nov. 21: "Chicken Run," "Gladiator" and "X-Men."

Nov. 28: "The In Crowd" and "The Replacements."

Commentary from Times movie reviews.

Rental video charts provided by VSDA

VidTrac, sales charts by VideoScan Inc.

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