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October 19, 2000

"American Pimp" (2000). The Hughes Brothers, of "Menace II Society" and "Dead Presidents" fame, have made their first documentary, a revealing, disturbing portrait of pimps, their lives and their women, that ranges from the outrageously funny to the just plain outrageous. MGM: no list price; DVD: $19.99; (CC); Unrated. Extremely strong language, strictly adult themes and situations.

"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. Buena Vista: no list price; DVD: $29.95; (CC); PG-13 for some sexuality and language.

"Toy Story 2" (2000). 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 (that would include most of us), 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. Buena Vista: $26.99; DVD: $39.99; (CC); G.

What's Hot

* Last week's Top 5 VHS rentals:

1. "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 though it's undernourished in terms of dialogue and character development. Matthew McConaughey, Bill Paxton, Harvey Keitel, Jon Bon Jovi, Jake Weber and Erik Palladino star. PG-13 for war violence.

2. "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.

3. "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 Skulls. The underlying theme of the perils of elitism is never really dealt with. PG-13 for violence and brief sexuality.

4. "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. PG-13 for mature themes involving substance abuse, language and some sensuality.

5. "Snow Day" (2000). Made by writers and a director out of Nickelodeon's farm team, "Snow Day" is a harmless--if somewhat dull--film targeted at preteens. The presence of Chevy Chase, Pam Grier, Chris Elliott and Jean Smart suggests that there is more for adults than there really is. PG for brief mild peril and language.

* Last week's Top 5 DVD rentals:

1. "Final Destination"

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. 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. R for strong language and some nudity/sexuality.

4. "28 Days"

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. A special nod to supporting players Todd Louiso and Jack Black, who are the comic center of the film. 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. (1:47) R for language and some sexuality.

* Last week's Top 5 VHS sellers:

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

2. "Scooby Doo & The Alien Invaders"

3. "Blue's Big Musical Movie"

4. "Sleepy Hollow" (1999). An exquisitely mounted (if ghoulish) retelling of the Washington Irving short story (with Johnny Depp as Ichabod Crane and Christina Ricci as Katrina Van Tassel) created to the exact specifications of bizarre-meister Tim Burton. How pleased others will be depends on their tolerance for the grotesque. Miranda Richardson, Michael Gambon and Casper Van Dien co-star. R for graphic horror violence and gore, and for a scene of sexuality.

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