Henry V. PG, 1989, 138 minutes, closed-captioned, CBS-Fox Video. Kenneth Branagh's "Henry V" emerges from the dark ness with the rip and sputter of a struck match. It's a magnifi cent beginning and a startling metaphor -- an inspired equiva lent for Shakespeare's "muse of fire" -- and the first stroke of brilliance in this audacious, resonant, passionate film. With this spark, Shakespeare's spokesman, Chorus (Derek Jacobi), flings open the door on his author's play, and the 28-year-old Branagh on his career as filmmaker. The work the young actor-director does here is steeped in powerful emotion. The film begins on the eve of war against France. We first see this Henry sitting upon his throne, surrounded by his advisers, a pale, potato-faced boy with an unyielding mouth and flinty eyes. Though this Harry is thoughtful, he is neither moody nor neurotic. He is not, in this sense, a modern hero. Yet neither is he the one-dimensional boy scout he is often por trayed as being, and neither is the play, as Branagh conceives it, an exercise in patriotic uplift. Branagh burrows under the play's stirring, jingoistic rhetoric to find something still, al most meditative. When Henry goes to war he goes whole heartedly, as God's soldier, assured of the rightness of his claim. And Branagh does nothing as an actor or a director to undercut him. What he brings to actual battle sequences, though, is a tone of lamentation. When the English arrows fly against the French at Agincourt, the sound they make is like a tearing of the soul. And if there is glory in the heavy clanging of metal against metal and metal against flesh as the rains fall and the mud sucks at the soldiers' boots, it is a grim, devastat ing glory-a glory weighted with sorrow. Everything about this remarkable production is exhilaratingly unexpected. -- Hal Hinson
WITHOUT YOU I'M NOTHING, R, 1990, 90 minutes, HBO. Sandra Bernhard's punch lines pack the wallop of a prizefight er's jabs. Mike Tyson-toothsome, she is a real bruiser, a raunchy knockout in "Without You I'm Nothing." Adapted from her off-Broadway success, this impudent one-woman showdown with herself is as exposed as a plucked chicken. Bernhard -- satirical, smart and extraordinarily plain -- knows how to make an audience squirm. At once the bitter geek and the beautiful dreamer, she is her own ideal of what isn't acceptable. "Glad you can see how truly beautiful I am right now," she says, admiring herself in her makeup mirror a la Harvey Fierstein in "Torch Song Trilogy." Like Fierstein, she plays a camp chanteuse with a quirky larynx and a closet full of secret longings and flashy clothes. A series of mono logues, faux interviews and musical spoofs, the movie takes place in the Parisian Room, an upscale Los Angeles nightclub where an all-black audience reacts apathetically to Bernhard in her various personae. These icons, drawn from the American pop culture of the past three decades -- straight and gay, white and black, got up in Chanel and polyester -- can't seem to get no satisfaction. The silence is deafening and we empa thize with the bony vamp, reliving our own unapplauded moments, the slights of life. Backed up by boy Harlettes and rhinestone cowboys, the act is less a cabaret than psychothera py. Written by Bernhard and John Boskovich, it is ultimately about rejection, absolute and terrible. The audience has al ready left when she says, "Without you I'm nothing," -- a bald admission, plaintive as a clown painting. -- Rita Kempley
MY BLUE HEAVEN, PG-13, 1990, 96 minutes, closed captioned, Warner Home Video. Steve Martin and Rick Moranis play the unlikely buddies in this sleepy comedy directed by Herbert Ross from Nora Ephron's formulaic screenplay. Martin, a gangster turned informant, is relocated to a bedroom commu nity outside San Diego, and Moranis, an underpaid but dedi cated G-man, is assigned to babysit Martin until time for his trial. Joan Cusack comes between the male bonders as a district attorney who tries to lock up the former Mafioso and then have her way with the federal agent. A fusty divorcee, Cusack loses her inhibitions and gives up her relentless pursuit of Martin after just one merengue with Moranis, who looks like Peanut Boy beside the towering Cusak. The chemistry between Moranis and Martin is sexier. A numbing flub-up, "My Blue Heaven" can wait, as they say. -- Rita Kempley
~ TOP TEN
(1) Another 48 Hrs. (Paramount). (2) Total Recall (Carolco). (3) Pretty Woman (Touchstone). (4) Bird on a Wire (MCA/Universal). (5) The Hunt for Red October (Paramount). (6) Back to the Future Part II (MCA/Uni versal). (7) Cadillac Man (Orion). (8) Men at Work (RCA/Columbia). (9) Betsy's Wedding (Touchstone). (10) Wild Orchid (RCA/Columbia).
(1) Pretty Woman (Touchstone). (2) Peter Pan (Walt Disney). (3) Total Recall (Carolco). (4) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie (Family). (5) The Little Mermaid (Disney). (6) Madonna: The Immaculate Collec tion (Warner Reprise). (7) Silver Anniversary: The Sound of Music (CBS/Fox). (8) All Dogs Go to Heaven (MGM-UA). (9) Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (Family). (10) Look Who's Talking (RAC/Columbia).