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Movie Renter's Guide
 

Number 119 - February, 2005

Staff

 


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Ray De-Lovely
Catwoman Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
Alien vs. Predator Saw

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Universal Pictures

2004, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 32 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Taylor Hackford


Starring Jaime Foxx, Kerry Washington, Larenz Tate

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Mild

Sex

Mild

Language

No

"Ray"

Synopsis

From his early days as a little boy in a Florida slum, to his glorious years as a superstar in the 1960's, this film chronicles one of America's most endearing musical entertainers.

Ray Charles Robinson went blind from an eye disease at the age of 7, but a strong mother helped him learn to deal with his disability, and he never looked back (no pun intended).

He shortened his name to Ray Charles and went on the road to Seattle with his first job.

He started playing in honky tonk joints with such luminaries as Quincy Jones, but soon decided that he had to be in total control of his career because managers were taking advantage of him.

As a blind African American, he had enough problems to deal with at a time when racism was acceptable, but his enormous talent just could not be denied, and once the record companies realized that Blues combined with Gospel music could make a lot of money, he was sought after by everyone.

Although married to Della Bea (Washington), he womanized most of his career, and had bouts with heroin addiction. Alcohol plagued him as well, and in fact, he died of liver failure only last year (2004).

He toured the world with his own orchestra every year until he passed away, leaving the world with memories of such classics as "Georgia on My Mind", "What'd I Say", and "Hit the Road Jack."

Commentary

Jaime Foxx did an uncanny job portraying not only the man, but the genius.

Extras

These include Deleted Scenes, Director's Commentary, Filmmakers Journey, Additional Musical Performances, and other things.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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MGM

2004, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 5 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

French, Spanish

 

Directed by Irwin Winkler


Starring Kevin Kline, Ashley Judd, Jonathan Pryce

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Mild

Sex

Suggestive

Language

No

"De-Lovely"

Synopsis

This is the life story of Cole Porter, an American composer/performer, told in flashback mode, near the time of his death in 1964 from kidney failure  (he was born in 1891).

The film begins with Cole meeting Linda Lee (Judd) a divorcee, in Paris, during the age of Flappers (Roaring 20's). They have an affair and get married, in spite of the fact that he is bisexual, and Linda knows it.

They travel and live all over the world, including New York, Venice, and Hollywood, where Linda complains because, ". . . the pickings are much too easy," referring to Cole and his numerous male lovers.

All of Porter's music reflects his constant need for love, and eventually, his escapades with men affect his relationship with Linda, who moves to Arizona and then Paris by herself.

Although it is the story of his life, the movie is really a showcase for his wonderful music, with performances of such standards as "Let's Do It, Let's Fall in Love", "Anything Goes", and "Just One of Those Things", from cameo appearances by Sheryl Crow, Alanis Morissette, Natalie Cole, Robbie Williams, and Elvis Costello.

Commentary

I think you will be surprised at all of the songs that you recognize but never realized that Cole Porter wrote them.

Although Kline does an excellent job of portraying Cole Porter, Ashley Judd steals the show with her performance. It is only a matter of time before she wins a Best Actress Academy Award® for one of her roles.

Extras

These include an Audio Commentary by Winkler and Kline, Deleted Scenes, Anatomy of a Scene, and Trailer.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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Warner Brothers

2004, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 44 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Pitof


Starring Halle Berry, Benjamin Bratt, Sharon Stone, Lambert Wilson

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

Sensuous

Language

No

"Catwoman"

Synopsis

Patience Philips (Berry) is an advertising artist for Hedare Beauty, a cosmetics company, run by an egotistical president, George Hedare (Wilson). His wife, Laurel (Stone) is the aging icon for the company, and she is being replaced by a younger beauty, both as Hedare's advertising and George's romantic interests.

Patience discovers that Hedare's newest product contains toxins, and the powers that be try to kill her.

The outcome of the chase leaves Patience severely traumatized, and through the magic of a cat whose life Patience saved, she is turned into Catwoman, a human female with many unusual powers.

Police Detective Tom Lone (Bratt) falls in love with Patience but becomes suspicious of her behavior, and thinks she might be Catwoman, who has been observed at the scenes of several crimes in the city, but who has been framed for the crimes by those who are intent on destroying her before she can reveal that the Hedare cosmetics are poisonous.

So, Catwoman sets out for revenge against the people who tried to kill her, and also to expose Hedare's toxic beauty treatments, while trying to keep Detective Lone from discovering her identity.

Commentary

This film received almost universal condemnation as a terrible movie, but if you take it in the context that it is obviously a story for younger audiences, and therefore seems puerile to adult viewers - with plenty of gorgeous Halle Berry in outfits that look like they were painted on - it is not that bad. I actually enjoyed most of it, although it was tedious at times.

Extras

These include Additional Scenes, Behind the Scenes Tour, The Many Faces of Catwoman, and Trailer.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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Paramount Pictures

2004, Color, Rated PG, 1 Hr 46 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Kerry Conran


Starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, Giovanni Ribisi, Michael Gambon, Angelina Jolie

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Mild

Sex

No

Language

No

"Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow"

Synopsis

In 1939 New York City, German scientists are disappearing one by one, and Chronicle News Reporter Polly Perkins wants to know why. Then, when huge mechanical monsters invade, Polly decides that getting the story is more important than her own safety.

Polly receives a message to meet with Dr. Walter Jennings (Trevor Baxter) at Radio City Music Hall. He tells her he is the last scientist on a list to be murdered, and that he was a member of "Unit 11", an old WWI German project. He says that Dr. Totenkopf is behind the murders.

She tries to link up with an old flame and flying ace Joe "Sky Captain" Sullivan (Law), who is still angry about ending up in a Japanese prison because of something she did way back when.

But, when the monsters attack his base and kidnap his mechanic Dex Dearborn, he finally agrees to help, so they set out to find the source of the flying monsters and to rescue Dex.

During the search, they land on a flying air strip, commanded by Franky Cook (Jolie), dark leather uniform and eye patch to boot.

Joe and Polly discover that the mad scientist Totenkopf (Laurence Olivier in old film footage) has been using the monsters to raid power supplies all over the world so that he can use the accumulated energy for his own clandestine scheme.

Commentary

The movie uses heavy video processing to give a comic book look to the scenes and attempts to make it into a combination Film Noire and war movie.

One of the old Superman cartoons of that same era has a similar plot of mechanical monsters invading the USA, which I think mirrored the world's paranoia of Hitler's attempts to master Europe.

Extras

These include The Making of (Brave New World), The Art of the World Tomorrow, Director's Commentary, Deleted Scenes, and Outtakes.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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Twentieth Century Fox

2004, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 41 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Paul Anderson


Starring Sanaa Lathan, Raoul Bova, Lance Henriksen

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

Bad

"Alien vs. Predator"

Synopsis

Industrialist Charles Weyland (Henricksen) brings together a group of scientists and explorers, and tells them that a huge pyramid has been located deep under the Antarctic ice.

He insists that Dr. Alexa Woods (Lathan) lead an expedition, and she agrees, reluctantly, because there is no time to prepare.

The group lands in the Antarctic, and they find an abandoned installation where, many years before, another expedition had apparently been working but suddenly disappeared.

Upon discovering a large and very deep tunnel, the team heads downward and finds the pyramid, and unfortunately, also a group of Predators, who built the pyramid thousands of years ago, and who have now returned to earth from a distant planet.

The Predators have their own problems though, as a few Aliens also inhabit the pyramid. So, while the monsters kill the team members one by one, they also battle each other.

Dr. Woods, now alone, partners with one of the Predators to fight the remaining Aliens.

Commentary

It is amusing that the PG-13 rating in this film is for violence, language, and gore. My, how the ratings have changed. Years ago, this would have received an "R". I guess it is sex that now gets that one.

I think it is a shame that the studio is reduced to having monsters from different films end up together, because they have run out of ideas for good plots for the individual monsters. This happened in the 1940's when Frankenstein, Dracula, and the Wolfman ended up together in one film. It went on from there, when Abbott and Costello started meeting them.

Extras

These include Commentaries by Anderson, Henriksen, and Lathan, Hide and Seek, Monsters in Miniature, and Deleted Scenes (some extras are in the Special Edition only).

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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Lionsgate

2004, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 40 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by James Wan


Starring Leigh Whannell, Cary Elwes, Danny Glover. Monica Potter

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

*

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

Bad

"Saw"

Synopsis

You awaken in the dark underwater, your foot is chained to something, and all you can do is scream. You jump out of your watery prison to find out you are not alone, someone else is in the room with you. In caution, a few words are exchanged, the lights are found to reveal that both of you are chained to heavy pipes in opposite corners of a grungy old communal washroom. The middle of the room is filled with a pool of blood. In the center of the blood a man lays face down with a gun in one hand and a tape recorder in the other. It clearly appears as though he has killed himself with a bullet in the head.

At first, neither one of you can remember how you arrived in your current situation. As time passes, a series of clues left by your kidnapper explains you are part of a test to see if your life is worth living or not. This isn’t the first time your kidnapper has done this. In directing you through his test, the kidnapper makes it clear the Doctor (your cell mate across the room) will have to kill you by 6:00 pm (some 8 hours from now) in order to save his wife and child. All you have are a pair of hacksaws, but the chains are too thick, and the only option appears to be to cut off your own foot to survive.

You discover it isn’t by random chance the two of you arrived in this predicament, and maybe you know more about your prison mate than you wish to tell.

Commentary

This is a well orchestrated movie and takes place over less than half a day. It uses flashbacks to tell a story of a killer who believes he is giving people a new outlook on life (in the most brutal sense). While the time frames of the flashback are typically obvious, there are a few times the viewer might be slightly confused as to what time frame the scenes happen in.

The use of sound and lighting in the film creates a great atmosphere, and I jumped once or twice. The sets are convincing, and the acting is mostly good, although a few times it might have felt forced. Once in a while the video had a slightly grainy feel to it, which is a bonus when it comes to dark thrillers.

If you like movies such as The Ring, Stir of Echoes, or Seven, you will enjoy this movie. However, if you had trouble sleeping after any of those three films, it might be another sleepless night.

Extras

These include Commentary with Director James Wan and Writer/Actor Leigh Whannell, “On The Set” Featurette, Music Video for Fear Factory’s “Bite the Hand That Bleeds", Making of “Bite the Hand That Bleeds” Music Video, Trailers, and TV Spots.

 - Sandy Bird -

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