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

July 26, 2001

Ed Gein (2001). Straightforward account of the quietly deranged Wisconsin farmer who murdered two local women and exhumed the bodies of about a dozen more for extreme forays into cannibalism and necrophilia. It benefits from Steve Railsback's low-key portrayal in the title role, but the film does not begin to suggest that Gein would have an enduring, dark mythic impact, inspiring "Psycho" and some 40 other movies. With Carrie Snodgress. First Look: no list price; DVD: $19.98; (CC); unrated. Appropriate for adults only.

Pollock (2000). Jackson Pollock, one of the key figures in Abstract Expressionism and America's first postwar art star, was a man destined to be consumed by his internal fires. Putting a figure so close to the stereotypical Hollywood view of the artist as tormented and self-destructive on film is a chancy enterprise. But Ed Harris, working as star and producer as well as first-time director, has managed to bring it off successfully. With Academy Award winner Marcia Gay Harden and Amy Madigan. Columbia/TriStar: no list price; DVD: $24.95; (CC); R, for language and brief sensuality.

Sweet November (2001). Keanu Reeves stars as a workaholic San Francisco ad exec with Charlize Theron as the free spirit determined to save him. They make a fine team, but this all-stops-out romance, which means to be seductive, seems merely contrived and manipulative. Warner: no list price; DVD: $24.98; (CC); PG-13, for sexual content and language.

Valentine (2001). Smart, stylish horror picture directed by Jamie Blanks that comments on the scariness of the contemporary dating scene and the eternal cruelty of adolescence. It's also a fine showcase for its young cast: Marley Shelton, David Boreanaz, Denise Richards, Jessica Capshaw, Jessica Cauffiel and Katherine Heigl--but it's not for the squeamish. Warner: no list price; DVD: $29.98; (CC); R, for strong horror violence, some sexuality and language.

What's Hot

* Last week's Top 5 VHS rentals:1. Down to Earth (2001). A remake of "Heaven Can Wait" starring Chris Rock that, in typical Hollywood fashion, puts this charismatic comic actor into tepid popular entertainment. The film comes alive only at those moments when Rock allows himself to be himself and launches into devastating riffs. PG-13 for language, sexual humor and some drug references.2. The Wedding Planner (2001). This set-in-San Francisco romantic comedy starts out promisingly with workaholic wedding planner Jennifer Lopez dazzled by pediatrician Matthew McConaughey only to discover later that he's to be the groom at her next event. The film lacks the wit, verve and invention of its vintage predecessors. PG-13, for some sexuality, brief language and a perilous situation.

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