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 Local News - Friday, August 22, 2003

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'Chicago' is brassy, full of energy

New to home video week:

Four stars Chicago

Big, brassy, cynical and full of energy, the Academy Award winner from 2002 announces from its dazzling opening scene to its splashy finale that the movie musical is alive and as vibrant as ever.

Director Rob Marshall handles the film's transition from Bob Fosse's stage to screen expertly. Numbers such as "Cell Block Tango" and "Razzle Dazzle" jump off the screen with verve and excitement.

Then there are the three lead performances. Renee Zellweger, mixing her trademark spacy innocence with a hint of ruthlessness, is terrific. And she can belt out a tune, too.

Oscar-winner Catherine Zeta-Jones, looking like the human equivalent of a black-widow spider, is the perfect counterbalance to Zellweger. She slinks and vamps her way through her terrific opening number like a Broadway natural.

Impressive too is Richard Gere. Combining undeniable charm with more than a hint of sleaze in the dramatic scenes, Gere also nails his big musical numbers, "They Both Reached for the Gun" and "Razzle Dazzle." Supporting characters John C. Reilly and Queen Latifah shine as well.

It all adds up to a rip-roaring film that succeeds in reaching the heights of the other classic movie musicals. Don't dare miss it.

DVD extras are highlighted by the deleted musical number "Class," which features lovely harmonizing by Zeta-Jones and Queen Latifah but whose static staging might have felt out of place alongside the razzle-dazzle of the film's other songs. "In the context of this movie, it felt very stagy," director Rob Marshall notes in commentary for the deleted tune. Marshall and screenwriter Bill Condon also provide commentary for the full movie, and the DVD has a half-hour making-of featurette

Four stars Bowling For Columbine

Americans love to kill one another. Among Western, industrialized nations, the United States outpaces all its competitors in the dubious category of murder rates -- and almost all of those killings involve guns.

In this Academy Award-winning documentary about violence in America, left-wing gadfly Michael Moore sets out to figure out why we are killing each other at world-record rates.

Part of Moore's genius is that he makes what could have been a dry, humorless documentary -- think of an episode of "Frontline" or "Nightline" -- into an alternately hilarious and scathing romp.

Watching the perpetually rumpled and paunchy Moore grill people such as National Rifle Association President Charlton Heston, TV host Dick Clark and corporate PR flacks is fun -- in a sadistic kind of way.

Three stars The Good Thief

Nick Nolte stars in Neil Jordan's tale of a down-on-his-luck thief who takes a last shot at the big time with a daring casino heist on the Riviera. The DVD includes deleted scenes and commentary from Jordan.

2 and one-half stars All The Real Girls

A smartly acted, achingly simple love story set in a nameless small town where the local Lothario changes course and falls for the inexperienced younger sister of one of his best friends. DVD contains widescreen version, audio commentary, trailers, featurettes, deleted scenes, interactive menus, scene selection and filmographies.

Three stars The Kid Stays in the Picture

Actor-turned-producer and studio executive Robert Evans narrates his own life story, from film triumphs such as "The Godfather" to his ostracism in Hollywood after a cocaine bust and "The Cotton Club" murder scandal.

3 and one-half stars All That Jazz

Also new to DVD is "All That Jazz," Fosse's 1979 autobiographical musical fantasy about an exuberantly self-destructive stage director and choreographer. Roy Scheider, who plays Fosse's alter-ego, provides interviews and audio commentary.

Three stars Roger & Me

Hitting DVD at the same time is Moore's first movie, "Roger & Me," the wistful portrait of his hometown of Flint, Mich., the devastating General Motors' plant closings there and his hilarious pursuit of GM boss Roger Smith for answers. The DVD includes commentary by Moore.

Four stars "A Film Trilogy by Ingmar Bergman"

One of the DVD boxed sets of the year, this four-disc collection makes a great companion volume to the recent set chronicling Francois Truffaut's Antoine Doinel films. Like that set, this Ingmar Bergman package focuses on a series of thematically linked films, the Swedish director's 1960s trilogy that examines faith in the modern age. "Through a Glass Darkly" is the story of a newly released mental patient sharing an intimate summer with family. "Winter Light" follows a small-town priest coping with disillusionment. "The Silence" portrays the relationship between two sisters with wildly different outlooks. The set includes the five-part TV documentary "Ingmar Bergman Makes a Movie," tracing the production of 1962's "Winter Light."

Three stars "Project Gemini," "Apollo 8," "Apollo 11," "The Mighty Saturns"

Armchair astronauts will love these three-disc sets that offer snapshots of the U.S. space program. "Project Gemini: A Bold Leap Forward" looks at the intermediate space shots that bridged the gap between the first manned launches and the Apollo moon landings. "Apollo 8: Leaving the Cradle" documents the first voyage around the moon, while "Apollo 11: Men on the Moon" culminates in Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin's stroll on the lunar surface. "The Mighty Saturns: Saturn I and IB" is a portrait of the rockets that catapulted men into space.

Originally published Friday, August 22, 2003

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