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November 30, 2000

The In Crowd (2000). Languid, trite and uninvolving psychological drama about a young woman (Lori Heuring) who leaves a mental institution to take a job as a waitress at a posh Southern country club only to be confronted with a lethal psychopath in the form of a manipulative Southern belle (Susan Ward). You suspect director Mary Lambert would like you to see Ward's craziness as a reflection of the country club set, but there's not enough characterization and observation in the script for her to pull it off. Warner: no list price; DVD: $19.98; (CC); PG-13 for violence, sexuality, language and drug content.

The Replacements (2000). A cliche-ridden, stereotype-driven comedy, starring Keanu Reeves and Gene Hackman, about average guys following their dreams of football glory. Inspired, if that is the right word, by the 1987 NFL strike, the result is a haphazard film about half as sophisticated as the average beer commercial. Warner: no list price; DVD: $24.98; (CC); PG-13, for some crude sexual humor and language.

What's Hot

* Last week's Top 5 VHS rentals:

1. "The Perfect Storm" (2000). Creating one of the most terrifying storms in screen history goes a long way toward obliterating flaws in character and dialogue that crop up in this version of the best-selling book about a 1991 Atlantic maelstrom and the people unlucky enough to be caught in it. Wolfgang Petersen directs, George Clooney stars. PG-13, for language and scenes of peril.

2. "Big Momma's House" (2000). If you think Martin Lawrence dressed up as a hefty grandmother is funny, this is the movie for you. But the whole project works so hard at creating funny situations that Lawrence gets no chance to be funny as himself. PG-13 for crude humor, including sexual innuendo, and for language and some violence.

3. "M:I-2" (2000). Hong Kong action-meister John Woo brings his marvelous visual sense and showy flair to this follow-up to the 1996 blockbuster. Tom Cruise, looking a bit shaggier but still appropriately steely-eyed in this new incarnation of special agent Ethan Hunt, is one of "M:I-2's" strongest weapons. With Dougray Scott, Thandie Newton and Ving Rhames. PG-13, for intense sequences of violent action and some sensuality.

4. "The Patriot" (2000). An epic look at America's war for independence that is more serious and skillful than might be expected from the team that gave the world "Independence Day." But the benefits of star Mel Gibson's charisma aside, its attempt to blend a broad canvas with an intimate family story is not completely successful. R for strong war violence.

5. "Frequency" (2000). An effective but overreaching sci-fi 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 long-dead father (Dennis Quaid) is enjoyable until the greedy final section. PG-13 for intense violence and disturbing images.

* Last week's Top 5 DVD rentals:

1. "The Perfect Storm"

2. "M:I-2"

3. "The Patriot"

4. "Frequency"

5. "U-571" (2000). A throwback to decades-old World War II submarine dramas, this ripping yarn of the attempt to steal a crucial code machine from a German sub gets high marks for tension and excitement, although it's undernourished in dialogue and character development. PG-13 for war violence.

Last week's Top 5 VHS sellers:

1. "The Perfect Storm"

2. "Fantasia / 2000" (2000). A sequel that was 60 years in the making, a blending of animation and classical music that is more ephemeral than epochal. A pleasant enough diversion that doesn't leave much of a residue. G.

3. Pokemon the Movie 2000 (2000). Leaving aside its cheesier jokes (even those made at the expense of its real-life avaricious collectors), it's better-looking and better-wrought than its full-length predecessor. OK, so that's not saying much. But one shouldn't be too hard on a kid franchise that, foaming hype and all, at least tried to convince its younger audience to be careful with living things that are their responsibility--even if those things are turquoise, orange and purple and shoot fire though their noses. G.

4. "Toy Story 2" (1999). Lively and good-humored with a great sense of fun, it picks up where its predecessor left off. Even if the existential despair of toys never previously interested you, the gang at Pixar makes it all irresistibly comic as well as surprisingly emotional. With the voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen and Joan Cusack. G.

5. "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (1966). Chuck Jones' animated version of Dr. Seuss' classic story.

* Last week's Top 5 DVD sellers:

1. "The Perfect Storm"

2. "M:I-2"

3. "Fantasia / 2000"

4. "The Patriot"

5. "U-571"

What's Coming

Tuesday: "Nutty Professor 2: The Klumps," "Scary Movie," "Strawberry Fields" and "Trixie."

Dec. 12: "Gone in 60 Seconds," "The Road to El Dorado," "Shaft" and "Whipped."

Dec. 19: "The Cell," "Chuck & Buck," "Loser," "Love's Labour's Lost," "Road Trip," "Saving Grace," "Small Time Crooks," "Where the Money Is" and "The Virgin Suicides."

Commentary by Times critics.

Rental video charts provided by VSDA

VidTrac, sales charts by VideoScan Inc.

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