A critical guide to the week's videos
Post-Tarantino Travolta is rapidly, and unfathomably, resembling the pre-Pulp Fiction model. And it all (re-)started so well: a storming performance in Get Shorty - thanks to another crackling script, and more snappy suits - and a thoroughly competent stab at action-packed menace in John Woo's Broken Arrow. But despite the large scale, humanitarian rescue from wise-cracking babies and animals, in what could have turned into a Look Who's Talking life sentence, John Travolta seems to be sliding back into the same charmingly inoffensive, but ultimately inconsequential, territory. Except he can now sleepwalk through films after naming his price. And, in America his name is priceless - Michael (or Travolta with wings) took $60m in its first two weeks on release.

This week sees the rental release of Jim Turteltaub's Phenomenon (PG) Buena Vista, 10 Mar. A mechanic, George Malley (Travolta as Travolta being "Ordinary Bloke") is struck by a divine/alien light, finds himself possessed with hyper-intelligent powers - gasp as he learns Portuguese in 20 minutes, sniffle as he empathetically finds a lost, sick child, fume as those nasty chaps at the FBI refuse to believe his powers are harmless - wins the woman of his dreams, and sorts out his friends from his foes. Travolta does, admittedly, turn in a convincing performance as an archetypal Joe Normal, alternately bemused and bedazzled by his new-found talents, and the film would be even more inconsequential without him. But, as with Turteltaub's While You Were Sleeping, cloying sentimentality wins the day. And Travolta didn't even make use of those powers of foresight to spot the limits of Michael when the out-of-season, celestial turkey landed on his desk.

In a quiet week at the video store, Alan Jacobs's Nina Takes a Lover (18) Columbia TriStar, 10 Mar, offers some diversion. Laura San Giacomo and Paul Rhys offer a couple of charming performances in a falling-in-love tale enlivened by its flashback, confessional telling.

The big retail release is Casino (18) CIC pounds 14.99/pounds 15.99, 10 Mar. Overlong, with a laboured dependence on voice-overs, and (in comparison to GoodFellas) an utterly uninvolving plot, it's still visually seductive. If you're going to take a gamble, get the wide-screen version to appreciate the full effect of Scorsese's technical masterclass.

Comments