COMING ATTRACTIONS The VCR calls when air cools Releases cover range of choices

THE BALTIMORE SUN

As seasons change, so do recreational habits -- namely, the natural shift from outside to inside forms of entertainment. Enter videocassettes to satisfy those homebody urges during the chillier times of the year.

The ensuing months offer the usual combination of recent theatrical movies, treasured classics and eclectic alternatives -- from comedy to action to family drama to everything in between. What follows are some of the choices available this fall at your local video outlet.

September

Kicking off September's big releases are the Bridget Fonda action flick "Point of No Return" and the harrowing family drama "This Boy's Life," author Tobias Wolff's memoir of adolescence in the Pacific Northwest with an abusive stepfather (Robert De Niro). Both titles hit shelves Thursday.

Also on the slate for September are the low-budget Spanish-language action film "El Mariachi" (Sept. 6), which turned young Texan filmmaker Robert Rodriguez into a Hollywood mini-player overnight, and "Map of the Human Heart" (Sept. 8), an imaginative World War II story of love and bravery between an Inuit Eskimo (Jason Scott Lee) and a Canadian woman (Anne Parillaud). On the silly side comes "National Lampoon's Loaded Weapon" (Sept. 15), a spoof of the "Lethal Weapon"-style buddy action movies, and Sept. 29 Paramount begins releasing videos of "Cheers" shows -- two episodes of the long-running, award-winning TV series per cassette. "Quantum Leap" followers will be happy to know that MCA/Universal plans to begin releasing episodes of that popular science-fiction TV show Sept. 22. Finally, for children there's the eco-friendly animated film "Once Upon a Forest" (Sept. 21) and the Chuck Norris vehicle "Sidekicks" (Sept. 29).

On the classics front, a 25th anniversary edition of the Peter O'Toole-Katharine Hepburn film "The Lion in Winter," about Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, is on the way in September, as well as "Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing," the 1955 Korean War soaper starring William Holden and Jennifer Jones.

October

October's schedule of releases includes some big Hollywood titles, most notably Disney's smash hit "Aladdin" (Oct. 1), the highest-grossing animated film of all time (more than $200 million and counting). Other titles for children due in October include Disney's "A Far off Place" (Oct. 20), a breathtakingly short tale about a young girl and boy trekking across Africa's Kalahari desert, and "The Sandlot" (Oct. 20), a period comedy about a group of baseball-loving boys. Then there's the Burt Reynolds' comedy "Cop and a Half" (Oct. 20), teaming policeman Burt with an 8-year-old, and the bittersweet "Jack the Bear" (Oct. 6), featuring Danny DeVito as a bedraggled single parent trying to raise a family. Whether the latter's decidedly more intense story line is for the entire family is up to parents.

For adults, the pickings in October include the controversial hit "Indecent Exposure" (Oct. 13), wherein Demi Moore is sold for one night to Robert Redford for a million dollars, a measly sum next to the $100 million the film grossed at the box office. "The Night We Never Met" (Oct. 6) is a modest, funny and charming romantic comedy with Matthew Broderick and Annabella Sciorra sharing a New York apartment without ever running into each other. "Born Yesterday" (Oct. 27) is a remake of the classic political-romantic comedy that won Judy Holliday an Oscar, this time featuring Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson. "Johnny Stecchino" (Oct. 13) is loopy Italian comedian Roberto ("Down by Law," "Son of the Pink Panther") Benigni's home-grown concoction, the highest-grossing film of all time in Italy. Keep an eye out as well for "Close to Eden" (mid-October), Nikita Mikhalkov's tale of Chinese peasants that was nominated last year for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, and "Three of Hearts" (Oct. 20), an unusual love-triangle story with Kelly Lynch, Sherilyn Fenn and William Baldwin.

Classics abound in October, most with a list price of less than $20. Of notable interest is MCA/Universal's Marlene Dietrich collection, celebrating the legendary German-born chanteuse-actress. En route Oct. 20 to your video store are such '30s gems as "Blonde Venus," "Morocco," "Shanghai Express" and the splendid, sumptuously excessive "The Scarlet Empress," featuring Dietrich as Catherine the Great. From Columbia/Tri-Star on Oct. 6 comes a line of recently restored film classics, including "The Bridge on the River Kwai," "The Guns of Navarone," "Holiday" and "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." Each video in this collection will feature the original theatrical trailer and the short documentary "The Art of Restoration."

November

For November, Disney is releasing what it hopes will be a perennial holiday favorite, "The Muppet Christmas Carol" (Nov. 5), a reworking of the Dickens classic with Jim Henson's lovable characters. Among the bigger titles released in the Thanksgiving month are "Neil Simon's Lost in Yonkers" (Nov. 17), a period comedy-drama based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play and starring Mercedes Ruehl and Richard Dreyfuss, and most likely "Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story," starring Jason Scott Lee as the ground-breaking martial arts movie star. Also, be sure to check TTC out one of the year's most incisive and disturbing dramas, Australian director Gillian Armstrong's "The Last Days of Chez Nous" (Nov. 17), when it arrives in stores this fall.

Fans of the late Audrey Hepburn will surely be excited to know "Two for the Road," the illuminating 1967 marriage drama she made with Albert Finney, is scheduled to be in stores in November -- it has never been available on video before. Expect some little-seen foreign product, too, including the 1977 French adolescent drama "Peppermint Soda" (early November) and the great Japanese filmmaker Kenji Mizoguchi's 1946 film "Utamaro and His Five Women" (early November). Of possible interest to "Howards End" fans is an earlier effort by the team of James Ivory and Ismail Merchant: "Savages" (early November), a rumination on the nature of civilization.

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