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Movie Renter's Guide
 

Number 106 - January, 2004

Staff

 


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S.W.A.T. Out of Time
Once Upon a Time in Mexico Open range
Radio

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Columbia Pictures

2003, Color, Rated PG-13

1 Hr 53 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 (16:9 Enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Colin Farrell, Michelle Rodriguez, LL Cool J, Brian Van Holt, Jeremy Renner, Josh Charles, Olvier Martinez

Directed by Clark Johnson

 

DVD Release Date 12/29/03

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

MPEG Flags

N/A

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

The "S" Word

"S.W.A.T."

Synopsis

Plot Overview

The L.A. S.W.A.T. (Special Weapons and Tactics) team is profiled in this story of how a specially trained group of policemen are brought in when certain situations arise, requiring their assistance.

Sgt. Dan Harrelson (Jackson) is called in to beef up the S.W.A.T. team by selecting highly talented police officers and train them.

Jim Street (Farrell) was on the team originally, but had been kicked off. Dan wants him back because of his skills as a marksman.

Michael Boxer (Van Holt) ), Chris Sanchez (Rodriguez), and Deacon Kaye (Cool J), round out the team, and Harrelson begins their training.

In the meantime, a major international French criminal in the drug trade, Alex Montel (Martinez), is picked up on a routine moving violation, and then is discovered to be wanted by several countries around the world.

S.W.A.T.'s assignment is to transport Montel to a Federal Penitentiary, and since he has offered 100 million dollars to anyone who helps him escape, the team not only has to deal with Montel's gang members, but the gangs of L.A. who want to cash in on the offer.

Commentary

I thought this might just be a schlock movie, but it is actually quite entertaining, and I was surprised to learn that one of the main goals of S.W.A.T  is to prevent anyone from getting killed.

The audio is superlative, with great surround sound in the fight scenes.

Extras

These include a gag reel, deleted scenes, commentaries by the director and cast, screenwriters and technical consultant, a behind the scenes featurette on how they landed a plane on the 6th street bridge, and the making of featurette.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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MGM

2003, Color, Rated PG-13

1 Hr 45 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 (16:9 Enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

French Stereo

Spanish Stereo

 

Starring Denzel Washington, Eva Mendes, Sanaa Lathan, Dean Cain

Directed by Carl Franklin

 

DVD Release Date 1/6/04

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

MPEG Flags

N/A

Violence

Yes

Sex

Yes

Language

The "S" Word

"Out of Time"

Synopsis

Plot Overview

Matt Whitlock (Washington) is the Chief of Police in a small Florida Keys town. He is in the middle of a divorce from his wife Alex (Mendes) and also is having an affair with Ann (Lathan), the wife of a security officer (Cain).

Ann is being treated for cancer, and does not have the money for special medical options, so Matt gives her the money in his safe that he is keeping for an investigation into a drug dealer's operations.

As a reward for his kindness, Ann reassigns the beneficiary of her million dollar insurance policy to him, so that if she passes away in spite of the special medical treatments, he will get the million dollars.

Matt had assumed that the investigation would take many months, and that the drug money would not be needed for that time. Unfortunately, the FBI speeds things up, and they request that Matt make the cash available to them when they send their officers to pick it up.

It gets worse, much worse, as Matt finds out he has been set up.

Commentary

The movie starts out kind of slow, then picks up to break-neck speed after about half an hour. Of course, Washington is great as usual. He is one of the finest actors around, and along with Harrison Ford, is a favorite of mine.

With the close to explicit sex scenes in this film, I am surprised it is rated as PG-13. I would have rated it as R. We are getting much too permissive of what many might find offensive, since PG-13 allows young kids into the theater.

Extras

These include an Audio Commentary by the director, Character Profiles, Outtakes, Screen Tests, a Photo Gallery, and Trailers.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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Columbia Pictures

2003, Color, Rated R

1 Hr 38 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

English Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Starring Antonia Banderas, Salma Hayek, Johnny Depp, Mickey Rourke, Eva Mendes, Danny Trejo, Ruben Blades, Willem Dafoe

Directed by Robert Rodriguez

 

DVD Release Date 1/20/04

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

MPEG Flags

N/A

Violence

Yes

Sex

Yes

Language

Bad

"Once Upon a Time in Mexico"

Synopsis

Plot Overview

In Mexico, El Mariachi (Banderas) is hired by Sands (Depp) to kill a drug lord named Barillo (Dafoe) before Barillo can assassinate the President of Mexico (cameo by veteran actor Pedro Armendariz who played in movies in the 1950s with John Wayne).

El's girlfriend Carolina (Hayek) goes along with El for the hit.

The adventure is complicated by a woman, Ajedres (Mendes) whose loyalty to which side is in question.

The story comes down to a huge battle on the Day of the Dead celebration, when Barillo and his associates attack the Presidential Palace.

Commentary

This is one of the worst movies I have seen in a long, long time. The story line is so difficult to understand, I can't say whether it is preposterous or not.

It is shot in such a way that the camera jumps around like it was taken by a news reporter.

The whole thing reminds me of the old "Spaghetti Westerns" which had a very unusual approach to the way the story was told. However, those Spaghetti Westerns were tame compared to this movie. It is extremely violent, and there is a scene where Sands gets his eyeballs drilled out and  . . . well . . . you will just have to see it for yourself.

Columbia Pictures should be careful about which movies they put their name on. I get the impression this was an Indie that Columbia distributed.

Extras

These include several games.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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Touchstone Pictures

2003, Color, Rated R

2 Hr 19 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 (16:9 Enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Starring Robert Duvall, Kevin Costner, Annette Bening, Michael Gambon, Michael Jeter

Directed by Kevin Costner

 

DVD Release Date 1/20/04

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

MPEG Flags

N/A

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

Mild

"Open Range"

Synopsis

Plot Overview

In 1882, Boss Spearman (Duvall), Charlie White (Costner) and their hands Mose and Button move cattle across country. They are considered "Free Grazers" because they use land belonging to other ranchers to feed their cattle along the way.

Boss sends Mose to a town called Harmonville to get some supplies, and when he does not return, Boss and Charlie go try to find him.

They discover that Mose is in jail for getting into a fight with one of the locals, Denton Baxter (Gambon), who owns most of the land. They get Mose out of jail and take him to Dr. Barlow who, along with Sue Barlow (Bening), treats Mose for cuts and bruises.

The situation gets much worse when they discover that Baxter and his men want to steal all of their cattle, and perhaps do much worse to them because they hate free grazers.

And so, in keeping with so many Westerns, there is a showdown.

Commentary

Costner has matured as a director, although he continues to not be much of an actor. Fortunately, Duvall is there to take up the slack, and his performance is Oscar-worthy.

The final gun battle is the best I have ever seen on film, and the thunderstorms will give your subwoofer a good workout. It is funny that old movies used big tin sheets to generate thunder when all they really had to do was set up a microphone outdoors during a big storm. Those tin sheets didn't even come close to sounding realistic. Later movies, like this one, use real recordings of thunder for the sound track, and what a difference that makes to the ambiance. The rain is also going in all the channels, and it feels like one is sitting right in the middle of it.

It is interesting to see how lighting in saloons has changed from the CinemaScope days when there were no shadows at all, to modern Westerns that show such places like they really appeared . . . dark and dirty.

Extras

The extras are on a separate disc and include America's Open Range, Beyond Open Range which shows Costner's activities as director of this film, Deleted Scenes, a Storyboard, and a Music Video Montage.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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Revolution Studios

2003, Color, Rated PG

1 Hr 49 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

English Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Starring Cuba Goodings, Jr., Ed Harris, Debra Winger

Directed by Mike Tolin

 

DVD Release Date 1/27/04

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

MPEG Flags

N/A

Violence

Mild

Sex

No

Language

No

"Radio"

Synopsis

Plot Overview

In the 1970s, a High School football team coach, Harold Jones (Harris) notices a young man, James Kennedy (Goodings) who walks by the practice field everyday, but who is not a student in the school even though he is obviously the age when he should be.

Coach Jones soon discovers that James is mentally handicapped in a very severe way. He hardly speaks to anyone and seems oblivious to his surroundings.

When the football team teases James, the coach decides to ask James to come onto the field and help out the team by folding towels and other small chores.

The only link that Jones sees between James and the world is his radio, so, not knowing James' real name at that point, nicknames him "Radio".

Exposure to people who are attentive and caring soon transforms him into a much more open person. He begins speaking and communicating with everyone, and soon the whole school student body loves this young man.

A problem arises when James seemingly is a distraction during football games, and the quarterback's father tries to get the school to remove him from the school grounds.

Commentary

Cuba Goodings, Jr. is one of America's finest young actors, and his performance in Radio is worthy of an Academy Award. It is unfortunate he was not nominated, but I guess there were lots of great performances in 2003. By the way, this film is based on a true story.

Extras

The extras include a Director's Commentary, Deleted Scenes, Writing the Screenplay, and a featurette on the actual Radio who is now in his 50s and still working with the football team at that high school.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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