`Lilian's Story,' a favorite at film festival, goes to tape

June's list of straight-to-video releases includes a film-festival sleeper from 1997, a couple of all-star dramas, and a British series from the co-director of the new theatrical movie, "Chicken Run."

Toni Collette, who recently earned Oscar and Tony nominations for her work in, respectively, "The Sixth Sense" and "The Wild Party," stars in Jerzy Domaradzki's "Lilian's Story," which Vanguard Video is releasing on tape June 27. First shown here three years ago at the Seattle International Film Festival, this is a beautifully acted Australian variation on "Sling Blade," in which a mental patient, locked up for decades, is released to a world she doesn't recognize.

Ruth Cracknell is the oldest of four actresses who take turns playing this much-abused woman, who is accused of living in the past but eloquently insists that "it's a life . . . everything matters." The movie is getting an American release solely on the basis of Collette, who won an Australian Film Institute award for best supporting actress for her performance.

Terence Stamp, who made something of a comeback last year with prominent roles in "The Limey" and "Bowfinger," plays a Buddhist monk in Roger Young's "Kiss the Sky," which MGM Home Entertainment has just released. He counsels two friends (William L. Petersen, Gary Cole), who leave their families to live on a remote tropical island with Sheryl Lee. The Hollywood Reporter praised its "smart script and sharp performances." The R-rated tape runs 102 minutes; the unrated DVD version is 105 minutes.

Two-time Oscar nominee Charles Durning plays a homicide detective who helps uncover a high-level conspiracy in Jack Ersgard's "Backlash," a suspense film co-starring JoBeth Williams, James Belushi and Tracey Needham. The DVD version includes a commentary track by Ersgard and his writer-actor brother, Patrick.

Peter Lord, co-director of "Chicken Run," which opens in theaters June 23, is also the co-creator of "The Morph Files," an animated British series about the desktop adventures of "Morph," a character who lives in a wooden box and has the ability to change shape at will. BBC Video has just released three volumes of episodes, priced at $10 per tape.

Also bypassing theaters:

"The White Lioness." Nelson Mandela makes a cameo appearance in this adaptation of Henning Mankell's crime novel about a Swedish murder that leads investigators to Russia and South Africa.

"La Cucaracha." Winner of the top prize at the 1999 Austin Film Festival, Jack Perez's R-rated drama stars Eric Roberts as a would-be novelist on the brink of madness. Roberts and Perez provide a commentary on Paramount's DVD edition.

"Tripfall." Eric Roberts again, this time playing the leader of a violent gang of kidnappers. A vacationing couple (John Ritter, Rachel Hunter) are their targets.

"Final Voyage." Ice-T leads a gang of pirates who hijack a luxury liner. In a role reminiscent of Bruce Willis' part in "Die Hard," Dylan Walsh plays a security guard who is the only person to escape detection by the pirates. According to Artisan Entertainment, the DVD is "loaded with special features."

"Meeting Daddy." The late Lloyd Bridges co-stars with his son, Beau, in this comedy about a neurotic New Yorker (Josh Charles) who meets his Southern-belle dream girl (Alexandra Wentworth). Kristy Swanson is also in the cast.

"Mercy." Serial-killer thriller starring Ellen Barkin as a homicide detective and Julian Sands as a psychotherapist with a few secrets. The tape version is 94 minutes; the DVD is 117 minutes.

"Night Runs Red." Edward Holub's tale of a femme fatale who seduces a former lover while trying to escape a drug dealer.

"Pups." Thriller starring Cameron Van Hoy and Mischa Barton as impulsive bank robbers and Burt Reynolds as the negotiator who tries to free the hostages they've taken. MTV's Kurt Loder is in the cast.

"Johnny B.: From City Streets to Jail." Richard Brooks and Vonetta McGee co-star in the story of an angry young man who drops out of college following the murder of his older brother.

"Twin Warriors." Hong Kong martial-arts thriller starring Jet Li and Chin Sui Hou as friends who grow up in a monastery but later find themselves on opposite sides during a military takeover. Michelle Yeoh is also in the cast. This 1993 film was originally called "Tai Chi Master."

"Choke." Martial-arts master Rickson Gracie is interviewed in this Manga Entertainment tape, in which he talks about the mindset of a great fighter. Although it isn't rated, the cassette carries a warning: "contains scenes of graphic violence."

Video Watch by John Hartl appears Fridays in MovieTimes.