These movies arrive on video store shelves this week.
Capsule reviews by Desson Howe unless noted. A star (*) denotes a movie recommended by our critics.
(R, 115 minutes, 1999, Universal)
Nick Nolte delivers a breathtaking, almost feral performance as a small-town policeman caught up in a bitter custody battle, who has a growing suspicion that a recent hunting fatality may have been murder. As Wade's bilious father, James Coburn casts a big, morose shadow over the mystery. The inevitable battle between father and son is the stuff writer/director Paul Schrader lives for. The movie, remarkably close to the spirit of Russell Banks's foreboding novel, makes you feel the battle of Wade's soul, as he careens between his finer and baser impulses. You don't know if you're riding the back of a beast going to hell or on the shoulders of a redemptive man headed for moral glory. Contains obscenity, disturbing violence and sexual scenes. -- Desson Howe
*HILARY AND JACKIE
(R, 121 minutes, 1998, PolyGram)
Like Scott Hicks's 1996 "Shine," Anand Tucker's fact-based drama tells the equally stirring story of another brilliant but emotionally unstable classical musician -- in this case the late English cellist Jackie du Pre (Emily Watson). Just as the earlier film plumbed the cistern of family dysfunction in its exploration of the relationship between pianist David Helfgott and his demanding father, "Hilary and Jackie" explores the paradoxical bond that holds sisters together while keeping them apart. Watson turns in a stunning performance as an eccentric, selfish and affected musical genius, but Rachel Griffiths more than holds her own as her long-suffering sibling and flute-playing competitor, Hilary. Contains profanity, discussion of sex, brief nudity and discreet lovemaking.
-- Michael O'Sullivan
THE KING AND I
(G, 89 minutes, 1999, Warner Brothers)
Let me get this straight -- it's okay to show kids a blatant caricature of an Asian man as a buck-toothed imbecile with a "No tickee, no laundry" accent that will set your teeth on edge. But its not okay to let them see another Asian man who happens to have multiple wives and dozens of children. That would be immoral. So went the thinking (apparently) of producer Arthur Rankin, who has re-made the tuneful if dated Rogers and Hammerstein musical "The King and I" into a bowdlerized, family- friendly cartoon complete with cuddly animals, a magician and overt racism. The awkward animation isn't even half decent. Contains offensive ethnic stereotyping. -- Michael O'Sullivan
(PG-13, 100 minutes, 1999, Fox)
Full disclosure: I've never played the video game on which "Wing Commander" is based, but I can't imagine it's as unexciting, as derivative or as confusing as this cinematic sleeping pill about a battle to save earth from a race of aliens that look like plastic action figures. Furthermore, for a sci-fi adventure set in the 26th century, the spaceships and weaponry bear a disconcerting resemblance to World War II surplus, as does the hackneyed dialogue. Stock characters such as the brash fighter jock (Matthew Lillard), the half-alien, half-human mystery man (Freddie Prinze, Jr.) and the tough but sexy superior officer (Saffron Burrows) are lifted straight out of "Top Gun," "Star Trek," "Alien," and a host of better films. Contains stage blood, fake-looking explosions and risque pillow talk.
-- Michael O'Sullivan