These movies arrive on video store shelves this week.
(R, 1999, 104 minutes, Warner)
Robert De Niro is a blast as a mafia don who has lost his nerve and needs counseling. And Billy Crystal more than supports him, as the shrink who agrees -- under duress -- to listen to his lamentations. Crystal's about opening up, letting it all hang out. But De Niro's about keeping your trap shut 'coz what you don't know won't kill you. It's a wonderful comic situation and both performers milk it all the way to the end. Forget about the lame storyline, full of gang turf battles and Crystal's constantly postponed plans to marry fiancee Lisa Kudrow. The matching of De Niro and Crystal is the main attraction, and it's funny stuff. Contains obscenity, violence and sexual scenes. -- Desson Howe
(PG-13, 1999, 124 minutes, Universal)
Goodhearted, thirtyish video store clerk Ed (McConaughey) agrees to be filmed 24 hours a day for a live-coverage TV show, before realizing the spotlight will also fall on his family, including his jerky, manipulative brother, Ray (an unamusing Woody Harrelson). When Ed confesses his love for Ray's estranged girlfriend (Jenna Elfman), ratings go through the roof. Director Ron Howard and comic collaborators Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel can make funny in the telegenic sense. But when they try to make light of the "Real World," media-obsessed culture, there's not enough separation between church and state. "EDtv" is too darned easy to "get," too obviously ironic, too morally readable, too strategically "wacky," as if everything was pretested with focus groups and sneak preview audiences before making it to the word processor. Contains sexual situations, partial nudity and crude language. -- Desson Howe
PLAYING BY HEART
(R, 1999, 121 minutes, Miramax)
Willard Carroll's multi-character drama, set in Los Angeles, interweaves six storylines that deal in some way with love. But these chronicles, featuring Sean Connery, Gena Rowlands, Dennis Quaid, Angelina Jolie, Gillian Anderson and others, hover between modestly engaging and downright innocuous. Carroll never licks the central problem faced in movies like this: how to build meaningful relationships and create memorable characters in a big cast, given the slim time share everyone gets on-screen. Contains sexual scenes and profanity. -- Desson Howe