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Thursday, May 20, 1999 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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New on video

XX "Winchell" (R). First shown last November on HBO, this biography is a puzzling disappointment. The movie takes one of America's most colorful eras and all-time flamboyant journalists and creates an equation of dullness. As Walter Winchell, the subject of the movie, might have said: "It's got no jazz, no razzamatazz." Stanley Tucci, whose past work ("Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle," "Murder One") reflects a fine capacity for suave cold-heartedness, would seem ideal for this part. Yet his Winchell is debonair, a guy who doesn't seem to be striving even when he is. The real person was just the opposite. - Kay McFadden

XXX 1/2 "The Cruise" (PG-13). Tour guide Timothy "Speed" Levitch brings his own fascinating take on New York, and life, to this documentary by Bennett Miller. Original and stimulating, it showcases one of the characters that makes the Big Apple what it is.

XXX "Holy Man" (PG). In Eddie Murphy's 1998 Disney movie, he plays a wandering pilgrim with a feel-good philosophy; Jeff Goldblum and Kelly Preston are the couple who use him to hawk products on their beleaguered Good Buys Home Shopping Network. Goldblum does his best work since "The Fly," and Murphy makes his character sound and act human.

1/2 "Very Bad Things" (R). Very bad isn't quite appropriate, but very mean it is. Five guys dispose of a dead stripper, then face guilt and each other when they get back home. Cameron Diaz is a mercenary bride. - Keith Simanton

XX 1/2 "Orgazmo" (available in R and unrated versions). Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of "South Park" and stars of "BASEketball," made this sporadically funny comedy about a Mormon missionary who stars in a porn movie. (Rhino Home Video has also just released three more volumes of "South Park" videos, including one "mini-movie" that was originally presented in segments on the Comedy Central series, and footage of Parker and Stone at work on their "South Park" movie, which opens next month in theaters.)

XXX 1/2 "Bent" (R). When it was first performed onstage nearly two decades ago, Martin Sherman's "Bent" was a powerful eye-opener that stirred audiences around the world with its story of homosexuals finding love in a Nazi concentration camp. Today, this play about gay pride, declining promiscuity and enforced safe sex seems eerily prescient. It's still set in the 1930s, when the Nazis first clamped down on gay bars and sent their customers to concentration camps, but much of it has acquired a contemporary edge. As the characters move from sexual celebration to spiritual commitment and political awareness, they follow the same path as many AIDS victims and survivors. This 1997 film version, directed with style and conviction by first-time filmmaker Sean Mathias, has an immediacy that heightens this effect.

XX "The Impostors" (R). Stanley Tucci follows up his charming 1996 indie hit, "Big Night," with this stilted screwball comedy about a pair of 1930s actors (Tucci, Oliver Platt) who land on a cruise ship with a menacing German (the scene-stealing Campbell Scott), a social director (Lili Taylor) and a detective (Matt McGrath).

XX 1/2 "Lilies" (R). Winner of the 1996 Genie (Canadian Oscar) for best picture, this stylized tale of gay teen love and institutionalized homophobia was directed by John Greyson, who made the AIDS musical "Zero Patience." Based on Michel Marc Bouchard's play, "Les Feulettes," Greyson shifts fluidly between two very different eras, using an all-male cast of prisoners to play both male and female roles. The time-tripping and the gender-bending get terribly arch and arty at times, but the script occasionally punctures its own pretensions. - John Hartl

Also new in stores

Today - "Mike Legge's Braindrainer," "Brent and Blake Cousins' Slaughter Day."

Tuesday - Tom Hanks in "Saving Private Ryan," Disney's "The Brave Little Toaster to the Rescue," Whoopi Goldberg in "Alice in Wonderland," Ioan Gruffud in "Captain Horatio Hornblower," "Ernest Hemingway: Wrestling With Life," Billy Warlock in "Opposite Corners," Agnes Jaoui in "Un Air de Famille," Edward James Olmos in "The Wall," "Divining the Divine," "A Dreamer and the Dreamtribe," "Kickboxing Workout," Sharon Stone in "Gloria," "Altars of the World," Helena Bonham Carter in "Theory of Flight," Don Fisher in "Major Rock," "Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, Star Trek: 30 Years and Beyond," "Narcotic," "Maniac," "Reefer Madness," "The Fabulous Story of the Cuban Cigar," "Pat the Bunny Sing With Me," CBS Fox Video's "Tiger Woods: Son, Hero and Champion," CBS/Fox Video's Golf's "Greatest Shots Vols. I and II," "ABC Modern Marvels: The Golden Gate Bridge," "The Building of Hoover Dam," "The Empire State Building," seven volumes of MPI's "Music Classics."

New on DVD

XX 1/2 "Dark Star" (G) (Roan Group Magic Lantern Entertainment, $30). Produced at film school, this 1974 science-fiction satire is the creation of John Carpenter, who went on to make "Halloween," and Dan O'Bannon, who was instrumental in the creation of "Alien." The DVD includes both their original student film version of "Dark Star," which runs just 68 minutes, and the inflated, less effective theatrical release, which is 15 minutes longer. The picture has always been a ramshackle affair, but the sendups of "2001," "Star Trek" and surfing movies are still pretty funny.

New on laserdisc

XXX "The Parent Trap" (1998 remake) (PG) (Walt Disney Home Video, $40). Disney's nimble retread of the 1961 Hayley Mills comedy stars capable newcomer Lindsay Lohan as twins who have been separated since early childhood and meet accidentally at summer camp. The laser version includes an alternative audio commentary by director Nancy Meyers, producer Charles Shyer and cinematographer Dean Cundey, who discusses the sleight-of-hand used to make Lohan look like two different people. The disc also features one scene that was deleted from the theatrical release.

Screen gems

John Hartl's tips for when the New Releases bin is bare:

1. XXXX "Star Wars" (PG). George Lucas' 1977 original set the tone and style of the series. It remains the most playful and imaginative entry. The latest installment, "The Phantom Menace," plays like a poor Xerox copy.

2. XXX 1/2 "The Empire Strikes Back" (PG). The 1980 sequel to "Star Wars" remains one of the most intelligent spin-offs ever produced. Fans still argue over whether it's also the best in the series.

3. XXX "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home" (PG). The most popular and enjoyable episode in the long-running series. A new documentary about the Trekker phenomenon, "Trekkies," opens in theaters tomorrow.

Video bargain of the week

XXX "Blood Simple" (R) (Universal Studios Home Video, $10). One of the Seattle International Film Festival's discoveries, this low-budget 1984 film noir marked Frances McDormand's movie debut. The story of a jealous husband who sets out to kill his wife and her lover, it was the first hit from the Coen brothers ("Fargo," "Raising Arizona").

Copyright (c) 1999 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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