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Tackle a few football flicks

By STEVE PERSALL

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 25, 2001


REWIND

Videos worth another look

Apparently, there's an important football game being played Sunday in Tampa. But there's always an important football game playing somewhere on home video.

Here are some suggestions for your pre-Super Bowl viewing:

North Dallas Forty -- Nick Nolte rebels against pro football's greed getting in the way of the game. Made in 1979, ahead of its time. Watch for the brutish charm of the late John Matuszak, a former University of Tampa star.

Semi-Tough -- Dan Jenkins' hilarious novel turned into a romantic triangle with Burt Reynolds, Jill Clayburgh and Kris Kristofferson. Includes a funny, backhanded swipe at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' winless beginnings.

The Longest Yard -- Reynolds again, this time leading a prison football team in a grudge game against the guards. His Mean Machine vs. The Dirty Dozen would be a better match-up.

Horse Feathers -- Groucho, Harpo, Chico and Zeppo leave their Marx on college football. Horse Feathers is playing Saturday at Salvador dali Museum in St. Petersburg at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., free of charge with paid admission to the museum.

All the Right Moves -- Tom Cruise was 21 and already showing signs of stardom in 1983. He plays a high school linebacker bucking for a college scholarship. Craig T. Nelson later starred on TV as a much more sympathetic Coach.

Jerry Maguire -- Here, Cruise becomes a sports agent showing the money to a hotshot wide receiver (Oscar winner Cuba Gooding Jr.). Armchair quarterbacks can fast-forward past the lovey-dovey stuff with Renee Zellweger.

Black Sunday and Two-Minute Warning -- Terrorists attack the Super Bowl with an explosive blimp and sniper's rifle. But only after the halftime show.

M*A*S*H -- The game occurs late and lusty in Robert Altman's Korean War comedy.

The Fortune Cookie -- Jack Lemmon is slightly injured on the sidelines of a Cleveland Browns game, but his shyster lawyer/brother-in-law (Oscar winner Walter Matthau) predicts a big payday.

Rudy -- Sensitive overachiever (Sean Astin) succeeds as a walk-on player at Notre Dame. Based on a true story, directed by David Anspaugh with the same emotional pull as his previous sports movie, Hoosiers.

School Ties -- Brendan Fraser plays a working-class Jewish football stud recruited by a stuffy prep school. Good depictions of 1950s-era football and a sturdy lesson in tolerance.

Any Given Sunday -- Football is war and war is hell, as far as Oliver Stone is concerned. Lousy story for a misused cast, but the game sequences could be more exciting than anything we'll see Sunday.

NEW RELEASES

The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle

(PG) Fearless Leader (Robert De Niro) escapes from Cartoon World, launching a plot to take over the world with mind-numbing television shows.

If you believe that's already happening, this smartly developed blend of live-action and animation is right up your alley. Our heroes, Rocky the squirrel and Bullwinkle the moose, assist a fledgling FBI agent (Piper Perabo, Coyote Ugly) in apprehending Fearless Leader.

Jason Alexander and Rene Russo ham it up as Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale, the dumbest super-secret spies imaginable. Children should enjoy the slapstick; adults will appreciate the mature satire underneath.

First impressions: "Inside jokes comes fast and furry as Rocky and Bullwinkle spoof computer-animated technology and the stupidity of television, like endangered species that won't go down without a bite ...

"The movie isn't as daring or seamless as Who Framed Roger Rabbit? about mixing 'toons and humans. 'This is completely different!' Fearless Leader snaps at a henchman who dares mention that movie.

"Like every other joke, you either get it or you don't. But, who can't appreciate a river called Crymia or military generals named Foods, Store and Admission? If those silly gags and dozens like them aren't funny, then Wassamotta U.?"

Second thoughts: The box office failure of this movie was a surprise. Home video should convert a few reluctant viewers.

Rental audience: Baby boomers and culturally aware children.

Rent it if you enjoy: The original TV series, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Space Jam.

Steal This Movie!

(R) Vincent D'Onofrio stars as 1960s radical Abbie Hoffman, colorful organizer of anti-war protests and a target for government surveillance. Janeane Garofalo co-stars as his wife who remains devoted, even when Abbie goes underground and falls in love with another woman (Jeanne Tripplehorn).

Robert Greenwald's film is brazenly slanted in Hoffman's favor, so that even hawkish viewers may be charmed by his gall.

The film is basically a hodge-podge of infamous episodes, from Hoffman's disruption of the New York Stock Exchange to upheaval at the 1968 Democratic National Convention and the Chicago 7 trial that resulted. D'Onofrio's performance holds the pieces together.

First impressions: Steal This Movie! sneaked into one Tampa Bay theater last year without fanfare or advance screenings for critics. After watching the film, you wonder if the FBI or CIA had anything to do with Lions Gate Films' lousy distribution strategy.

Second thoughts: Swell. Now I'll bet my name is somewhere on a list of subversives.

Rental audience: Old hippies, new idealists.

Rent it if you enjoy: The Big Fix, Hair.

Cecil B. Demented

(R) Maverick filmmaker John Waters spoofs Hollywood with a tale of guerrilla cinephiles kidnapping a fading star (Melanie Griffith) and forcing her to act in an underground movie.

Like Waters' friend Patty Hearst, she becomes sympathetic to her captors. Nobody displays any sympathy for the audience enduring this unfunny mess, one of the worst films of 2000.

First impressions: "This is a movie that Waters should have made 20 years ago, before he changed from a gross-out rascal into a cranky cog in the system, before he became "respectable"... Cecil B. Demented is tame stuff compared to Waters' early underground works or even his most recent film, Pecker.

"Mostly, the film seems like a halfhearted effort to offend from a filmmaker who has done it longer than anyone else. After the Farrelly and Wayans brothers' recent transgressions in taste, Cecil B. Demented seems like a knock-knock joke."

Second thoughts: This movie isn't worth the effort.

Rental audience: Serious devotees of Waters' raunchy style.

Rent it if you enjoy: An Alan Smithee Movie: Burn, Hollywood, Burn.

DVD

New and noteworthy for digital players

Alice's Restaurant

You can get anything you want on the Alice's Restaurant DVD except a recording of Arlo Guthrie's hippie-dippy song. Arthur Penn's 1969 film version chopped the 18-minute song into segments for dramatic purposes.

The DVD skips its chance to offer the entire, uncut saga of draft evasion, littering and (literally) blind justice among its bonuses.

"If I had known it would be such a hit, I would have written it shorter," Guthrie says during audio commentary that, along with a theatrical trailer, are the only extras provided on the disc.

The good news is that Guthrie's stream-of-consciousness narration is captivating. A little fuzzy on details sometimes, but that can be expected after his counter-culture experiences in the '60s. Guthrie's amiable manner makes the alternate audio track preferable to the original soundtrack.

As a movie, Alice's Restaurant seems hopelessly dated.

"All these sight gags worked better 30 years ago," Guthrie concedes.

The story, for what it's worth, goes like this: Arlo gets kicked out of college, visits his ailing father, folk legend Woody Guthrie, and friends living in a Stockbridge, Mass., church. He gets busted for littering, confounds the draft board and generally acts as a flower-power Candide.

Listening to Guthrie relive those true experiences and the film's production is a treat, full of anecdotes and random trivia. Penn's movie captured a rebellious era; Guthrie's hindsight brings it into a stoner's focus.

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