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October 05, 2000

* Last week's Top 5 VHS rentals:

1. "28 Days" (2000). An empathetic Sandra Bullock performance is squandered in this " 'Happy Days' checks into Wonderland" look at one woman's experience with rehab. Directed in breezy sitcom fashion by Betty Thomas, it's a film with a jones for the obvious. (Kenneth Turan, April 14) (1:43) PG-13 for mature themes involving substance abuse, language and some sensuality.

2. "Mission to Mars" (2000). A notably lifeless film about the possibilities of life on Mars. The clunky, unconvincing and just plain bad dialogue leaves this movie as cold and distant as the Red Planet itself. Gary Sinise, Tim Robbins and Don Cheadle star. Directed by Brian De Palma. (Turan, March 10) PG for sci-fi violence and mild language.

3. "Any Given Sunday" (special edition director's cut) (1999). Oliver Stone-directed soap opera about pro football that makes a few head fakes in the direction of an iconoclastic examination of the sport but, comes out squarely for teamwork. Dennis Quaid, Jamie Foxx, Al Pacino and Cameron Diaz star. (Turan, Dec. 22) R for strong language and some nudity/sexuality.

4. "Erin Brockovich" (2000). Irresistible, hugely satisfying feminist tale about a woman the world didn't take seriously who empowered herself by helping others. A career milestone for director Steven Soderbergh and Julia Roberts. (Turan, March 17) R for language.

5. "High Fidelity" (2000). A sharp and satisfying romantic comedy about the difficulty of commitment that uses Stephen Frears' incisive direction and some very sophisticated writing to give John Cusack one of the best roles of his career. Look for these excellent actors in small roles: Catherine Zeta-Jones, Lili Taylor, Tim Robbins, Joan Cusack, Lisa Bonet, Sara Gilbert and Natasha Gregson Wagner. (Turan, March 31) (1:47) R for language and some sexuality.

* Last week's Top 5 DVD rentals:

1. "Mission to Mars"

2. "Any Given Sunday"

3. "28 Days"

4. "High Fidelity"

5. "Erin Brockovich"

* Last week's Top 5 VHS sellers:

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

2. "The Tigger Movie" (2000). Upbeat animated film about Winnie-the-Pooh's rambunctious friend, who goes in search of other tiggers. Small children will be pleased, but parents and older siblings may grow impatient. (Charles Solomon, Feb. 11) G.

3. "Erin Brockovich"

4. "The Sound of Music" (1965).

5. "DBZ: Z Warriors Prepare"

* Last week's Top 5 DVD sellers:

1. "Little Mermaid 2: Return to the Sea"

2. "Mission to Mars"

3. "Any Given Sunday"

4. "Braveheart" (1995). Mel Gibson directed and stars in this almost three-hour epic about 13th century Scottish freedom fighter William Wallace. Winner of five Academy Awards, including best picture and director (Peter Rainer). R for medieval bloodshed.

5. "High Fidelity"

What's New

"Bossa Nova" (2000). Bruno Barreto's romantic comedy has seductive music, a glowing Rio de Janeiro and plenty of chemistry between its attractive stars Amy Irving and Anto^nio Fagundes, but too many other people and complications undercut the film's impact. More of the stars and less clutter could have tipped the scales in the right direction.(Kevin Thomas, May 13) Columbia: no list price; DVD: $29.95; (CC); R for language and some sexual content.

"But I'm a Cheerleader" (2000). Well-meaning but overly superficial and contrived sendup of aversion-therapy horrors intended to turn gays straight. Natasha Lyonne and Clea DuVall are girls for whom Cathy Moriarty and RuPaul Charles' program has the reverse effect. (Thomas, July 21) Universal: no list price; DVD: $24.98; (CC); R for strong language and sexual content involving teens.

* "East-West" (2000). "Indochine" director Regis Wargnier returns with another splendid and intimate epic about the fate of a Russian-born doctor (Oleg Menchikov) and his French wife (Sandrine Bonnaire), who are among many who accept Stalin's invitation to return to the USSR after World War II only to find themselves trapped in a harsh totalitarian state. In French and Russian, with English subtitles. (Thomas, April 7) Columbia: no list price; DVD: $24.95; (CC); PG-13 for violence and brief sensuality.

"The Skulls" (2000). This junior thriller about a sinister secret society at a prominent New England university comes across as "The Firm" turned into a very special episode of "Dawson's Creek." Joshua Jackson stars as a townie turned Ivy Leaguer who joins the group. The underlying theme of the perils of elitism is never really dealt with. (Robin Rauzi, March 31) Universal: no list price; DVD: $26.98; (CC); PG-13 for violence and brief sexuality.

"U-571" (2000) A throwback to 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 though it's undernourished in terms of dialogue and character development. Matthew McConaughey, Bill Paxton and Harvey Keitel star. (Kenneth Turan, April 21) Universal: no list price; DVD: $26.98; (CC); PG-13 for war violence.

What's Coming

Tuesday: "Committed," "8 1/2 Women," "Love and Basketball," "Pitch Black," "Rules of Engagement," "Shanghai Noon" and "Time Code."

Oct. 17: "American Pimp," "Keeping the Faith" and "Toy Story 2."

Oct. 24: "Center Stage," "The Idiots," "The Patriot" and "Up at the Villa."

Commentary by Times critics.

Rental video charts provided by VSDA

VidTrac, sales charts by VideoScan Inc.

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