Fast-forwarding through recommended new releases and classic re-releases, including And the Ship Sailed On, La Sentinelle, Father, Some Nudity Required, Death by Design and Dash and Lilly

· The long romance between Dashiell Hammett and Lillian Hellman is already the stuff of legend, first set in stone by Hellman's own (not always reliable) memoirs and fleshed out by numerous biographers. Following the pair from their first meeting in the 1930s and through the political travails of the Red scare that sent Hammett to prison and produced Hellman's famous testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee ("I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year's fashions" — arguably her finest moment), the new film Dash and Lilly (A&E Home Video), produced for cable television and directed by actress Kathy Bates, jumps from one gossipy anecdote to another, throws in a few historical cameos (Bebe Neuwirth as Dorothy Parker), and generally makes the pair sound as if they're reading dust jackets from their own biographies. Jerry Ludwig's script achieves something that seemed almost impossible with the incongruous pairing of hard-drinking literary lions: It actually makes them dull — so dull that, amazingly, not even Judy Davis and Sam Shepard can revive them. For a more lively and worthy tribute, try Wim Wenders' fictionalized mystery Hammett or a trip to the library.

· Also new, for rental only: Paul Schrader's Affliction (Universal), the Academy Award-nominated Central Station (Columbia Tristar) and Roberto Benigni's extraordinary Life Is Beautiful (Miramax). Ignore the backlash: Benigni's dark, sentimental and gutsy comedy is great, courageous filmmaking.

Emmanuel Salinger in Arnaud Desplechin's La Sentinelle
Emmanuel Salinger in Arnaud Desplechin's La Sentinelle

For sale: Photographer Joel Meyer-owitz's documentary about his 87-year-old father, Pop (First Run Features); Alvin Goldstein's well-intentioned but dated The Unquiet Death of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg (Facets Video); and a repackaging of two animated features, the minor Robin Hood and the underrated Alice in Wonderland.

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