These movies arrive on video store shelves this week.


(R, 1999, 103 minutes, Paramount-MTV)

In Alexander Payne's hilarious, razor-sharp satire, Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon), an overexuberant student, is running for Student Council president with satanic single-mindedness. Knowing she's too evil to be allowed such success, her teacher Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick) recruits popular quarterback Paul Metzler (Chris Klein) as a rival candidate. But as the psychological battle becomes more intense, Tracy gets tougher, and Jim's life follows a dark descent. Payne, whose feature debut was "Citizen Ruth," finds a perfect fulcrum between humor and tragedy, black comedy and poignancy. Contains profanity, nudity and sexual scenes.

-- Desson Howe


(R, 1999, 97 minutes, Dimension)

Director David Cronenberg creates another creepy mini-masterpiece: a futuristic cyberworld where people "plug in" to virtual games via a hole in their spinal columns. Allegra Geller (Jennifer Jason Leigh), the inventor of a game called eXistenZ, has attracted both devotees and enemies. Ducking her foes, she is obliged to test her damaged game system with newfound companion Ted Pikul (Jude Law). "eXistenZ," inspired loosely by the plight of author Salman Rushdie, traces a delicate, humorous line between light satire and heavy forebodings.. Contains macabre, disturbing material, including violence, sexual situations and nudity.

-- Desson Howe


(R, 1999, 109 minutes, Universal)

In "Life," inmates Eddie Murphy (petty hustler Ray Gibson) and Martin Lawrence (aspiring bank teller Claude Banks) get life with little hope of parole in a 1930s Mississippi jail. But in director Ted Demme's surprisingly delicate comedy, they turn those life sentences into great entertainment. "Life" is a well-textured, if sentimental narrative that starts in Harlem in the 1930s and continues all the way to Afros and bell-bottoms. And throughout these eras, our central inmates get better with age. Contains fisticuff violence, nudity and obscenity.

-- Desson Howe


(R, 1999, 107 minutes, Miramax)

The directorial debut of actor Tony Goldwyn is also a pleasant reemergence for Diane Lane. She plays Pearl Kantrowitz, a sexual late bloomer whose life changes during a trip to the Catskills in 1969. When she responds to Walker Jerome (Viggo Mortensen), a free spirit, she must withstand the fury of her husband Marty (Liev Schreiber), the sanctimoniousness of her mother-in-law (Tovah Feldshuh) and the complete shock of her daughter Alison (Anna Paquin). Unfortunately, the movie's attempt to crosscut Pearl's sexual liberation with events like Woodstock renders everything somewhat ridiculous. Contains sexual scenes, nudity and obscenity. -- Desson Howe