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CHICAGO (2002). Not only for theater aficionados, this top-grossing adaptation of the stage hit is a musical for people who don't even like musicals, weaving its deliriously dark tale with enough cyanide-laced cynicism to win over moviegoers who wouldn't know Oklahoma! from Oh! Calcutta! Director-choreographer Rob Marshall and scripter Bill Condon keep the proceedings both lively and lacerating, and if, after years of overexposure, the story's themes relating to the cult of celebrity have all the bite of a toothless gerbil, at least they're presented in an irresistibly engaging fashion. Among other things, this knockout of a musical finds Catherine Zeta-Jones in her best screen work to date, Richard Gere putting forth his finest effort since An Officer and a Gentleman, and Renee Zellweger adding to her head-spinning string of unassailable performances. The actors' exuberance and Marshall's imaginative staging just might be enough to raise this once-revered genre from the dead; certainly, they were enough to earn the film six Oscars, including ones for Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress (Zeta-Jones). Given the deluxe, two-disc DVDs Miramax recently issued for Gangs of New York and Frida, it's surprising that Chicago is a one-disc affair with only a few features; these include the deleted musical duet ("Class") between Zeta-Jones and Queen Latifah, commentary by Marshall and Condon, and a behind-the-scenes short. Movie: 1/2 / Extras: 1/2

THE CRIMSON PIRATE (1952). Moviegoers who have helped turn the current Pirates of the Caribbean into a bonafide smash might be interested in checking out this buoyant swashbuckling yarn that was recently released on DVD. Burt Lancaster's tenderhearted pirate is almost as fey as Johnny Depp's, and the movie was shot in that gorgeous 1950s shade of Technicolor that looks as if paint buckets had been spilled all over the film's negative. Lots of fun, with plenty of rousing acrobatics and boisterous humor. DVD extras include a text-only look at the relationship between Lancaster and Nick Cravat, Lancaster's childhood pal and circus partner who went on to co-star with the actor in a handful of films (including this one). Movie: / Extras: 1/2

MAY (2003). What initially appears to be a rip-off of Carrie, complete with potential supernatural overtures, instead turns out to be a winner in its own right, a unique psychological study about an oddball loner (a terrific turn by Angela Bettis, who, incidentally, had played Carrie in last year's made-for-TV film) with a lazy eye, a doll that she considers her best friend, and an obsession with the hands of a hunky stranger (Jeremy Sisto). A major creepfest that culminates in a terrific final shot, this study of angst within alienation marked the impressive theatrical debut of writer-director Lucky McKee. DVD extras include audio commentary by various cast and crew members and the theatrical trailer, which reveals waaay too much of the movie's plot. Movie: / Extras: 1/2


-- Matt Brunson

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