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Number 122 - May, 2005

Staff

 


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Godsend Spanglish
The Phantom of the Opera Hotel Rwanda
Meet the Fockers House of Flying Daggers
The Aviator National Treasure
Blade: Trinity  

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Lions Gate Films

2004, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 42 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Nick Hamm


Starring Robert De Niro, Greg Kinnear, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

Yes

Language

The S Word

"Godsend"

Synopsis

Paul (Kinnear) and Jessie (Stamos) Duncan are a happy family living near Philadelphia. They have an eight year old son named Adam (Cameron Bright).

One cold afternoon, Adam is seriously hurt in an automobile accident and dies. Of course, Paul and Jessie are devastated.

Dr. Richard Wells (De Niro) who heads the Godsend Institute in upstate New York, catches them coming out of the church at the funeral, and tells them that if they act within 72 hours, he can give them another Adam, through human cell cloning.

At first, they are too overwhelmed with grief to consider it, but they finally agree.

Jessie is impregnated with the clone, and gives birth to Adam . . . again.

For eight years, everything seems normal, and wonderful.

And then . . . .

Commentary

De Niro is superb as usual, and in fact, is the real star here, so it is unfortunate he is not on the screen that much. The problem is that he seems bored with the whole thing, as it is not much of a challenge for someone with his skills.

Scary noises and graphic nightmare images are really not enough to save this film. Human cloning is a hot subject right now, and this story could have been so much more than the dead body in a bathtub cliché. It probably just boils down to needing a top notch script, something in short supply these days. I can hear the studios shouting out the windows, "A script. A script. My kingdom for a script." Ever wonder why so many old movies are remade? Well, getting good, new scripts is the answer. Maybe all the really talented, imaginative script writers are taking too much anti-depressants that kill their creativity.

The ending left me with the feeling, "Wait a minute. This is the end? But hey, what about . . . .?

Extras

These include Director's Commentary, Storyboard, Alternate Endings, and Trailer.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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Columbia/TriStar

2004, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 10 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by James L. Brooks


Starring Adam Sandler, Tea
Leoni, Paz Vega, Cloris Leachman

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

No

Sex

Mild

Language

Mild

"Spanglish"

Synopsis

Spanglish is a dialogue-driven character study about a beautiful Mexican women, who, with her daughter, emigrates to America.

She finds work as a housekeeper for a celebrated chef, his neurotic wife, an overindulgent mother-in-law, and their two kids.

The movie paints a humorous picture of poor communication, well-intentioned mothering and the fear of losing ones traditions.

Commentary

This is a tough movie to review. It is easy to write a scathing review about a bomb that doesn’t deserve to be seen (JJ beat me to the punch with Ocean's 12). It is also very easy to write a fawning review extolling the brilliance of a movie that everyone must see (review coming shortly).

Now to write a review about a movie that neither excites nor drains you; that’s tough, Spanglish is just such a movie. At times, it is genuinely funny, and at others, it’s just rolls along. Sort of like life I guess. And that is what this movie is about.

There is no plot. The movie is just a 2 hour character study. And, as for the characters, Adam Sandler plays a rather subdued (for Sandler) role; Tea Leoni plays an overbearing, over the top mother (just a giant smidgen too much). She borders on reach-out-and-strangle-her territory. Adam's daughter is wonderful, the son is never in the picture, and the grandmother is hilarious.

The two main characters are stunning to watch and are captured beautifully by Paz Vega (as the mother Flor) and Shelbie Bruce (as the daughter Cristina). These two steal every scene they are in.

The movie was enjoyable, yet rather long, and it seemed a bit lacking. Not a film that you think about after it is over. Won't keep you awake at night. I kept expecting Sandler to hit himself with something. Talk about being type-cast.
 

Technical

The picture quality of this movie is very good. The bright colors of summer are captured very nicely, and it appears to be a high quality transfer. There is very little edge enhancement and only minor pixelation. For the most part the picture was clean, crisp. and consistently bright.

Sound-wise, the movie is mostly dialogue. The surrounds remained quiet except for the occasional ambiance effect. Sadly no block-leveling explosions, no asteroid chases, and no gratuitous gun fights. At least the dialogue sounded clean and well-placed on screen.

Extras

There are all the usual extra features, such as commentary, additional scenes, and “making of”. There is also a ‘how to’ on the making of the sandwich that is featured within the movie, on the movie case, and on some posters. The sandwich sure looks good, but the extra features themselves are not as enticing as the sandwich.

 - Jared Rachwalski -

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Warner Brothers

2004, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 23 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Joel Schumacher


Starring Gerard Butler, Emmy Rossum, Patrick Wilson, Minnie Driver

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

No

"The Phantom of the Opera"

Synopsis

In the late 1800's, a Paris opera house is haunted by the Phantom (Butler), an opera singer who has hidden himself in the lower chambers because of disfigurement.

He has taken Christine Daae (Rossum) as a student, training her in secret.

When the opera's star, Carlotta (Driver), leaves because of a dispute, Christine takes her place and becomes a sensation.

A childhood friend, Raoul (Wilson), hears Christine singing and reignites their friendship, which matures into a love affair.

The Phantom becomes jealous, and attempts to sabotage their love, because he wants her for himself.

Commentary

This is one of many film iterations of the story by Gaston Leroux, including at least two made in the silent movie era. The best is probably Lon Chaney's 1925 interpretation.

In my opinion, the 2004 version is not very good, for several reasons. One is that there is too much emphasis on the staging and not enough on the characters. Secondly, the Phantom is better looking than Christine's lover Raoul, and that just does not work for a horror story where the Phantom is supposed to be an evil monster.

The music of Andrew Lloyd Webber is wonderful, but we can get that from a CD.

Extras

These include Behind the Mask, The Making of, The Story Behind, and Trailer.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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MGM

2004, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 1 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Terry George


Starring Don Cheadle, Sophie Okonedo, Nick Nolte

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

The S Word

"Hotel Rwanda"

Synopsis

It is 1994 in Rwanda (an African country). The Hutus run the government, and they attempt to rid the nation of Tutsis, through extermination. Interestingly, Belgian influence was responsible for the artificial categorization of these two groups.

Paul Rusesabagina (Cheadle) is a hotel manager at the Hotel Des Milles Collines, in the city of Kigali, Rwanda. He is Hutu, and his common law wife Tatiana (Okonedo) is Tutsi. As the Hutu soldiers close in, he risks his life to protect not only his wife and children, but many other people in the hotel and surrounding community.

A United Nations Officer, Colonel Oliver (Nolte), tries to help, but his hands are tied since he cannot fire any weapon, regardless of the threats he sees. The West decides not to intervene, and Rwandans are left to deal with the massacres on their own.

When some, but not all, of the hotel residents are evacuated, and Paul along with his family can go with them, he opts to stay and continue protecting those who were left behind.

Commentary

This is a terrible story, but a fantastic movie. Cheadle certainly deserved the Academy Award nomination for Best Actor, but there were plenty of other fine performances too, including Sophie Okonedo as Paul's wife. Maybe the extraordinary circumstances that surrounded this true story brought out the best in all of the actors.

In any case, it is an astonishing film that is a must see. We should all feel ashamed that we did so little when this disaster came about. If we can save the owls in their habitats, why can't we save part of the human race?

Extras

These include A Message for Peace, Return to Rwanda, Director's Commentary, Commentary by Don Cheadle, Trailer, and other things.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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Universal Studios

2004, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 55 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Jay Roach


Starring Robert De Niro, Barbra Streisand, Ben Stiller, Blythe Danner, Teri Polo

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

No

Sex

Mild

Language

The S Word

"Meet the Fockers"

Synopsis

After Pam Byrnes (Polo) took Greg Focker (Stiller) to Meet the Parents, now it is time for the Byrnes to Meet the Fockers, namely, Greg's parents, Bernie (Hoffman) and Roz (Streisand), who live in Florida.

Jack Byrnes (De Niro) and his wife Dina (Danner) take Greg and Pam in their trailer, down to Florida to the Fockers' home there.

Bernie greets them in the front yard while doing his exercise program, and Roz hurriedly escorts the patients in her sex therapy class out of the house before Jack and Dina can see them.

So, the Byrnes get to know the Fockers, during various escapades that include the dog getting flushed down a toilet, and Jack's grandson learning a few choice words that Jack would prefer he did not know

Commentary

The original Meet the Parents was very funny, but this sequel is just plain silly. De Niro looks like he not only feels out of place in the Fockers' home, but also just being in this foolish movie in the first place.

Hoffman and Streisand, on the other hand, look like they are having so much fun, they can't stand for it to end.

Extras

These include Inside the Litter Box, The Fockers' Family Portrait, The Adventures of a Baby Wrangler, Bloopers, and other things.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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Edko Films

2004, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 59 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 (16x9 enh)

Chinese Dolby Digital 5.1

Chinese DTS 5.1

 

Directed by Yimou Zhang


Starring Takeshi Kaneshiro, Andy Lau, Ziyi Zhang, Dandan Song

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

Mild

Language

No

"House of Flying Daggers"

Synopsis

I’m in the middle of a particular translation of The Art of War, and the long introduction goes into ancient Chinese history as it relates to warfare and the overthrow of corrupt kings, which kind of fits the deal of this movie.

Ziyi Zhang, Takeshi Kaneshiro, and Andy Lau are listed as the stars of this Zhang Yimou Film. I don’t know who’s who, though I’d guess that the guy who looks Japanese is Kaneshiro, but I recognize the pretty female star from her previous roles in Hero and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

So, the basic premise is that a long, long time ago, there was an oppressive government that needed overthrowing, and the gang that calls themselves the House of Flying Daggers is up to the job. Two policemen try to infiltrate the gang by investigating a beautiful blind dancer at the local ‘pleasure house’ who they suspect of being the daughter of the previous leader of the House of Flying Daggers, whom they had previously assassinated.

Commentary

I’m not going to get into the plot anymore, as I hate it when somebody tells me too much about a good movie. Not that the plot is really this movie’s strong point. It’s alright and fine as a means to hold interest, but what really makes the film indispensable is its cinematography, music, sound effects, and wonderful, completely unbelievable choreography. This is a film that accommodates the senses, not the intellect, but does so quite smartly.

Regardless of your stance on recreational drug use (I’m very much against it, BTW), House of Flying Daggers is, at the minimum, a must see, and a strongly recommended purchase for those who’ve watched either Hero or Crouching Tiger more than a few times.

Technical

While the video quality isn’t stellar, the use of the camera and scenery is utterly wonderful, with great use of perspective and color. Music and sound effects are terrific for showing off your system. The choreography, complete with wire work and a very serious manipulation of gravity and physics (the throwing of daggers is just nuts), reminds me of the kind of way we’d like to be able to move, and perhaps achieve during our more rewarding dreams. Actually, it reminded me of hallucinating while under the influence of Robitussin™ in a dark room, listening to Enya quite loud.

Extras

These include Photo Gallery, Actors Bios, and Trailer.

 - Colin Miller -

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Warner Brothers

2004, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 50 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

Directed by Martin Scorsese


Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett, Kate Beckinsale, John C. Reilly, Alec Baldwin, Alan Alda

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

Mild

Language

The "S" Word

"The Aviator"

Synopsis

In the 1920's, Howard Hughes (DiCaprio) inherits his father's tool company, and sets out to achieve his life's dream: to build the fastest aircraft and to make movies - simultaneously.

His first movie - Hell's Angels (1930) - takes several years to complete, costing 4 million dollars, an unheard of sum in those days. He directed it himself, and it had sound as well as color in some scenes, which was cutting edge technology at the time. (The film is astonishing by the way. Rent it if you have the chance.) It was Jean Harlow's break in the movie industry.

So, between movie projects, he built aircraft, and they broke speed records. He flew them himself, and crashed a few himself, ending up with burn scars all over his body.

He was also a womanizer, having relationships with Catherine Hepburn (Blanchett), Ava Gardner (Beckinsale), and other stars of the day.

He turned TWA into a successful commercial airline, using Hughes Aircraft Company to build some of the planes.

During WW-II, he contracted with the US Government to build transports, but the war ended before he could perfect the design.

Pan Am Airlines considered Hughes a major threat to their overseas commercial flights and tried to push through a law that would allow only Pan Am to cover these routes. During hearings in Washington, D.C., however, he made a monkey out of the Senator from Maine (Alda), who was the instigator of the bill, allegedly actually written by the Pan Am president (Baldwin).

A major medical problem kept getting in Hughes' way, namely a very serious case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). He had an aversion to dirt, and he ended up living alone in a single room, afraid to be exposed to anyone coming into the room with him. Nevertheless, the illness did not prevent him from accomplishing some amazing things in his lifetime. OCD is treated these days with Prozac® and other SSRI drugs (these medications increase the amount of serotonin in the brain, and OCD is thought to be caused by not having enough of this neurotransmitter in the nervous system). I wonder how such treatment would have changed Hughes' life.

Commentary

I have not seen Million Dollar Baby, which beat The Aviator for Best Picture at the Academy Awards a few months ago. But, it will have to be really something to outdo Aviator for entertainment. Best movie I have seen in a long, long time. Its almost 3 hours of storytelling just zoomed by. Wow, what a story! I don't particularly agree with the choice of DiCaprio for the Hughes character, as he looks too boyish for the role, but Scorsese sure knows how to do movies right, no matter who's the star.

Extras

The Extras are on a second disc, and include The Making of, The Role of Howard Hughes in Aviation History, The Affliction of Howard Hughes: Obsessive Compusive Disorder, Costuming and Scoring, and other things.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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Walt Disney Pictures

2004, Color, Rated PG, 2 Hr 11 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

Directed by Jon Turtletaub


Starring Nicolas Cage, Diane Kruger, Sean Bean, Jon Voigt, Christopher Plummer, Justin Bartha

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Action

Sex

No

Language

Mild

"National Treasure"

Synopsis

Ben Gates (Cage) is a treasure hunter, looking for an enormous cache of gold and other precious artifacts that the founding fathers of the United States have hidden.

He and his colleague, Ian Howe (Bean) discover a ship buried in the arctic snows, and inside is a clue to where the treasure is stored. Problem is, the next clue is a secret invisible map on the back of the Declaration of Independence, which is a rather valuable - and closely guarded - document in Washington, D.C.

Ben says that he won't disturb the document, but Ian is determined to get at it, so they part ways, on rather unfriendly terms.

Ben realizes that unless he does something, Ian will steal one of our most precious historical documents, so he decides to steal it to keep Ian from getting it.

In Washington, Ben and his sidekick Riley Poole (Bartha) meet Abigail Chase (Kruger), an officer at the National Museum where the Declaration sits on public view.

Suspicious, she secretly watches Ben's activities, and ends up in the getaway truck, determined to keep an eye on the Declaration.

They visit Ben's father, Patrick (Voigt), and then Abigail becomes convinced they are telling the truth when the map comes up under chemical and heat treatment.

So, now the Gates team competes with Ian Howe's team to get to the treasure before each other, all the while trying to evade the wrath of the FBI.

Commentary

This movie was a big disappointment. I thought it would be more like an Indiana Jones story, rather than just a bunch of traffic jams in Washington, D.C. New York City, and Philadelphia. The last 30 minutes give us a taste of what it could have been.

Extras

These include Alternate Ending, Deleted Scenes, Treasure Hunters Uncovered, Knights of the Templar, Trailer, and other things.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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New Line

2004, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 53 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

English DTS 5.1

Directed by David S. Goyer


Starring Wesley Snipes, Kris Kristofferson, Dominic Purcell, Jessica Biel, Ryan Reynolds

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Extreme

Sex

Suggestive

Language

Bad

"Blade: Trinity"

Synopsis

Blade (Snipes) continues his hunt for vampires to destroy them, all the time taking medicine made for him by Whistler (Kristofferson) that lets him work in the daytime while the sun is shining.

The vampires know they must stop Blade before he destroys them all, so they make it appear he is a serial murderer, bringing the FBI into the picture.

They also resurrect the original, the one and only Dracula, who now goes by the name of Drake (Purcell).

A new team of vampire hunters has also emerged: The Nightstalkers, headed up by Abigail Whistler (Biel) and her partner, Hannibal King (Reynolds).

Blade and the Nightstalkers are given new and more deadly weapons to fight the vampires, including lasers that will cut their enemies like sliced bologna. Silver swords help out a bit too.

And so the battle goes on, with the final pairing of Blade and Drake.

Commentary

The third time is not the charm in this case. There are plenty of pyrotechnics, but if you want a decent storyline, look elsewhere.

When Drake transforms into his real monster self at the end, it looks like they took the headgear for Predator out of the closet. Seeing those expanding cheeks on the vampire dogs was a hoot.

Extras

These include Inside the World of Trinity, Commentaries, Goyer on Goyer, Blooper Reel, Alternate Ending, and other things.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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