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Compiled by Kevin Crust. Commentary from Times reviews. Films considered especially noteworthy by Times reviewers are designated with a *.

April 12, 2001

Bounce (2000). A failed romantic weepy, starring Ben Affleck and Gwyneth Paltrow, about a coldhearted advertising guy working through tragedy to learn the meaning of life. The two stars exhibit little chemistry playing two people brought together by a plane crash that only one of them knows is a factor in their relationship. To be fair, they're straitjacketed by the standard, cliched nature of a script by director Don Roos. Miramax/Buena Vista: no list price; DVD: $29.99; (CC); PG-13, for some language and sensuality.

Men of Honor (2000). The life of Carl Brashear, the first African American Navy diver, has been turned into socially critical pop mythology at its most potent. You may be left wondering what Brashear's real life was really like, but this is nonetheless a rousing cheer-the-hero, hiss-the-villain entertainment, with Cuba Gooding Jr.'s Brashear pitted against Robert De Niro, a fictionalized composite of the racists Brashear endured along the way. The trouble is that the picture winds up almost as much the story of the fictional character as it is the story of an actual hero. With Charlize Theron and Aunjanue Ellis. Fox: no list price; DVD: $29.99; (CC); R for language.

Psycho Beach Party (2000). You can imagine Charles Busch's campy spoof of teen genre films of the 1950s through the '70s might be fun onstage but it's pretty lifeless on the screen: talk-heavy and tedious. With Lauren Ambrose, Thomas Gibson, Kimberley Davies. Wolfe: no list price; DVD: $34.95; (CC) Unrated. Language, sex-related humor, fairly mild exploitation picture violence.

Pola X (2000). Leos Carax's latest, inspired by an 1852 Herman Melville novel, stars Guillaume Depardieu as a handsome young aristocrat with a cult bestseller under his belt whose charmed existence shatters when a dark, furtive young woman (Katerina Golubeva) moves from his dreams to reality. Swept up in romance and determined to write a "great book of truth," the novelist doesn't realize he may not have anything to say, but Carax does. A heady dazzler, with Catherine Deneuve as the writer's seductive mother. Winstar: no list price; DVD: $24.98; (CC); Unrated: adult themes, one scene of graphic though shadowy sex.

What's Cooking (2000). The delightful "Bhaji on the Beach's" Gurinder Chadha has set her sights on Los Angeles, as four diverse families prepare for Thanksgiving while facing various crises. An exceptional script, assured direction and the ensemble of 46 actors have created a serious yet often hilarious cross-cultural comedy. The result is a movie in which more Angelenos can recognize themselves than in any other picture you can think of. Joan Chen, Julianna Margulies, Mercedes Ruehl, Kyra Sedgwick and Alfre Woodard head the cast. Trimark: no list price; DVD: $24.95; (CC); PG-13, for some sexuality, brief language and a perilous situation.

What's Hot

* Last week's Top 5 VHS rentals:

1. "Charlie's Angels" (2000). This reworking of the 1970s TV series is a potato chip of a movie. Tasty and lightweight, it's fine for a cinematic snack, but making it an entire meal really isn't advisable. Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu and Bill Murray star. Directed by McG. PG-13, for action violence, innuendoes and some sensuality.

2. "Remember the Titans" (2000). Producer Jerry Bruckheimer in a serious mood is still Jerry Bruckheimer. An earnest look, based on a true story, at how two football coaches--one black, one white--brought racial harmony to a divided community, told with his usual energy, shrewdness and ability to reduce things to the simplest terms. PG, for thematic elements and some language.

3. "Meet the Parents" (2000). Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro star as prospective in-laws in one of the most fun mainstream comedies in years, a film that gets its laughs from shrewd casting, well-timed line readings and gags that are worked out to a remarkable degree. PG-13, for sexual content, drug references and language.

4. "The 6th Day" (2000). Hollywood, which has been cloning action-adventure movies for years, has gotten around to making an action-adventure movie about cloning, and who does it star? Arnold Schwarzenegger. Twice. With its standard-issue action and halfhearted dialogue and acting, not even Schwarzenegger in a dual role can save this film. PG-13, for strong action violence, brief strong language and some sensuality.

5. "Almost Famous" (2000). Writer-director Cameron Crowe uses irresistible performances and fine writing to turn a dramatized version of his own past as America's youngest 1970s rock journalist into an intoxicating mixture of Hollywood and reality. Billy Crudup, Frances McDormand, Patrick Fugit and Kate Hudson star. R, for language and drug content and brief nudity.

* Last week's Top 5 DVD rentals:

1. "Charlie's Angels"

2. "Remember the Titans"

3. "Meet the Parents"

4. "The 6th Day"

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