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Movie Renter's Guide
 

Number 123 - June, 2005

Staff

 


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Napoleon Dynamite In Good Company
Assault on Precinct 13 Vera Drake
Ladder 49 White Noise
Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events Beyond the Sea
   

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Twentieth Century Fox

2004, Color, Rated PG, 1 Hr 29 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Jared Hess


Starring Jon Heder,
Jon Gries, Aaron Ruell, Efren Ramirez, Tina Majorino

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Mild

Sex

Adult Themes

Language

Slang

"Napoleon Dynamite"

Synopsis

Napoleon Dynamite (Heder), an awkward, gangly teenager, lives at home with his older, unemployed brother Kip (Ruell) and his Grandma (Sandy Martin). When Grandma leaves town for a vacation, Napoleon’s Uncle Rico (John Gries) stays with the brothers and encourages them to take part in his money-making schemes.

Napoleon’s high school life is just as awkward as his home life. His schoolmates pick on him, and he often eats his lunch by himself. Napoleon befriends an introverted schoolmate named Pedro (Ramirez), and together they attempt to get dates for their school dance. Pedro decides to run for class president, and it’s up to Napoleon to save his friend’s campaign in the mandatory talent contest.

Commentary

I don’t know that this movie is all that its cracked up to be. It has a limited plot structure, and nothing very eventful happens from scene to scene. The movie’s main draws are that it features a unique comedy style, and uses fresh characters that will be popular with a generation X or Y audience. I imagine that there will be many viewers who will enjoy this movie and relate to the characters, as well as plenty of others who will fall asleep due to the slow pacing and the main characters’ droopy eyes, open mouths, and monotone voices. I thought this movie had some charm but was far too slow and mundane at times.

Extras

These include commentaries by director/co-writer Jared Hess, producer Jeremy Coon, and actor Jon Heder, "Peluca," the original short film that inspired the movie (with optional commentary), making of Wedding of the Century, Deleted Scenes, and a Stills Gallery.

 - Adrian Wittenberg -

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Universal Studios

2004, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 49 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Paul Wietz


Starring Dennis Quaid, Scarlett Johannson, Topher Grace

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Mild

Sex

Sensuality

Language

The "S" Word

"In Good Company"

Synopsis

Dan Foreman (Quaid) is an honest sales manager and family man. He faces a personal crisis when his advertising firm is bought out and his new boss, Carter Duryea (Grace), is half his age.

Carter has no experience as a sales manager and struggles to make his budget while avoiding laying off any of the staff. Carter soon finds out that he is going to need Dan’s expertise to keep the company from going bankrupt.

Dan starts to reach his limit of frustration when Carter meets and takes interest in his daughter Alex (Johansson). Despite their differences, Dan and Carter might have a foundation for a friendship, and the rest of the movie progresses in that way.

Commentary

I usually avoid these types of movies because they are so predictable, but this is one that got my interest early and held me to the end. I enjoyed Dennis Quaid’s performance, and Topher’s character had an awkwardness that gave the movie a realistic edge.

This film packs an enjoyable experience with a friendly, sincere sense of humor and characters that the whole family can relate to.

Technical

There is an emphasis on background music and close-up shots which is common for modern comedy/drama movies

Extras

These include Deleted Scenes with commentary by director Paul Wietz, Feature Commentary with the director and Topher Grace, a few video shorts about the various themes of the movie, and information about cast and filmmakers, editing techniques, and the New York location used in the movie.

 - Adrian Wittenberg -

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Universal Pictures

2005, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 49 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

DTS 5.1

 

Directed by Jean-François Richet


Starring Ethan Hawke, Laurence Fishburne, Maria Bello, John Leguizamo, Brian Dennehy, Gabriel Byrne

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

Bad

"Assault on Precinct 13"

Synopsis

A Detroit police precinct is about to be shut down and only has a few employees left.

It is a dark wintry New Year's Eve, and a prison bus carrying drug lord Marion Bishop (Fishburne) has to be detoured because of the weather. They end up at Precinct 13 for the night.

As the weather closes in, the precinct is attacked by armed men who want to get Bishop out.

Sgt. Jake Roenick (Hawke) takes charge, with only one other officer, Jasper O'Shea (Dennehy) on hand to help. The others, including Dr. Alex Sabian (Bello) are not trained to handle guns.

But, what about the prisoners? They all know how to use guns don't they?

So, now the odds are better. Two police officers, some office staff, and a bunch of prisoners, all armed, fight off a bunch of gangsters trying to break in and take Bishop.

And then they discover the gangsters are not who they thought they were.

Commentary

Outside of being a little preposterous - namely all the explosions not seeming to alarm the neighbors into calling for help - and the police handing a Thompson machine gun to a prisoner - this is a pretty exciting story. I expected less, and got more.

Extras

These include Deleted Scenes, Plan of Attack, Behind Precinct Walls, Armed and Dangerous, and other things.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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Momentum Pictures

2004, Color, Rated R, 2 Hr 5 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Mike Leigh


Starring Imelda Staunton, Richard Graham, Philip Davis

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

No

Sex

Thematic

Language

No

"Vera Drake"

Synopsis

In 1950's London, Vera (Staunton) and George (Graham) Drake don't have much money, but the family is happy.

Even though they have a "wireless" (a radio) for entertainment, they would much rather sit around the kitchen table and talk with family members, including George's brother Stan (Davis) who lives nearby and works with George in their auto repair shop.

Unbeknown to the family, Vera has an illegal outside activity: She helps young women who have unwanted pregnancies by performing abortions. These women can't really afford to pay for the abortions, but she doesn't charge them for the service.

One of the girls becomes very ill after an abortion, and the police become involved.

When the family then finds out what mum has been up to, we discover what kind of stuff really holds a family together.

Commentary

With no special effects, you must have a good script and fine actors. Fine acting is an understatement here. What a difference there is between English actors and American actors. Imelda Staunton puts to shame most of America's best, including some that have won Best Actress. Even the supporting actors here - most of whom I have never heard of - do a job that is beyond what we typically see from world renown top stars in the USA. What a shame we can't learn from this kind of talent. If we could combine this level of acting with our own superlative special effects, movie goers would not be able to take their eyes off the screen.

Extras

Only Cast and Crew Documentary and Trailer are included as extras.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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Touchstone Pictures

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

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

French Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Jay Russell


Starring Joaquin Phoenix, John Travolta, Jacinda Barrett, Robert Patrick, Billy Burke

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

Bad

"Ladder 49"

Synopsis

At the Baltimore Fire Department, rookie Jack Morrison (Phoenix) arrives just in time to work on a big fire. His job is handling the "pipe" (fire hose), and he does a good job.

At a subsequent fire, Jack falls into a deep hole, and while the other firemen try to find him, he relives his early days in the department, through flashback.

Captain Mike Kennedy (Travolta) sees in Jack a potentially great fireman, but worries about the effect that this dangerous job will have on his new wife, Linda (Barrett).

The other firemen, including Lenny Richter (Patrick), take a big liking to this young man, and they all work together to not only put out fires and save lives, but to keep themselves safe.

When Jack and Linda start having children, they become even more concerned about whether Jack will come home every night after being in so much danger.

Now, with his fondest memories in tow, Jack fights to stay alive while Mike and the other men work their way closer to him in the conclusion to the story.

Commentary

This is the best fire fighting movie I have ever seen, and is very supportive of the men who work in such a dangerous profession.

Extras

These include the Making of . . ., Real Stories, Deleted Scenes, and other things.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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Universal Studios

2005, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 38 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Geoffrey Sax


Starring Michael Keaton, Chandra West, Deborah Kara Unger, Ian McNeice

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

A Few Bad Words

"White Noise"

Synopsis

Jonathan Rivers (Keaton) and his wife Anna (West) live a wonderful life. He is a successful architect, and she is a novelist.

One afternoon, as Anna drives off, Jonathan has an uneasy feeling.

Anna does not return, and for days, search parties comb the area where they live.

Her body is discovered at the bottom of a ravine.

Of course, Jonathan is devastated.

He meets a strange man, Raymond Price (McNeice), who tells Jonathan that he has been contacted by Anna from beyond. At first, Jonathan is suspicious, but soon, he realizes that perhaps he can contact her through Price.

Jonathan goes to Price's home where he sits down among a number of TV screens and VCRs. Price tells him he is using a technique to record what is called the Electronic Voice Phenomenon (EVP). Faint images, embedded in white noise, along with voices, can be seen and heard. Jonathan is convinced now that he will be able to speak to his dead wife.

So, Jonathan spends all his spare time in front of the TV screen, hoping to reach Anna.

Unfortunately, the spirits have other things in mind. Dark, evil things . . .

Commentary

Sounds like a good plot, doesn't it? However, the story is told so poorly, with such confusion, that it is difficult to tell what is going on, and where.

There are too many visual and auditory clichés as well.

Extras

These include Seeing is Believing, Deleted Scenes, Making Contact, and Recording the Afterlife at Home.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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Paramount Studios

2004, Color, Rated PG, 1 Hr 38 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

French Dolby Digital 5.1

Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Brad Silberling


Starring Jim Carrey, Emily Browning, Liam Aiken, Kara and Shelby Hoffman, Jude Law, Timothy Spall, Billy Connolly, Meryl Streep

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Mild

Sex

No

Language

No

"Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events"

Synopsis

In turn-of-the-century Boston, Klaus (Aiken), Violet (Browning), and Sunny (Hoffman) Baudelaire are orphaned when their parents are killed in a fire.

The local agent who places orphans, Mr. Poe (Spall), takes the children to Count Olaf (Carrey), who welcomes them in with great enthusiasm, because what he is really after is their inheritance.

Soon, the kids discover what Olaf is up to, and ask to be put in a different home.

So, Poe turns them over to their Uncle Monty (Connolly), whose hobby happens to be collecting snakes.

Olaf shows up in disguise, but the kids turn the table, and Olaf takes off again. Too bad Uncle Monty is dispatched in the meantime.

So, it is off to Aunt Josephine's (Streep) house they go, and she has her own problems, not to mention the fact that her house is built on stilts that hang over a deep ravine.

Olaf shows up in disguise again, and the kids have a little harder time proving his real identity to Auntie, because she does not have all her oars in the water.

Commentary

Both my wife and I thought this might turn out to be boring, but it is an absolute delight. I am not a Carrey fan, but I have to admit he is brilliant in Snickets. However, the two little Hoffman sisters who play Sunny Baudelaire, are real scene stealers.

If you are a Harry Potter aficionado, you will love this movie.

The disc is produced with some of the best video quality I have ever seen on DVD. It is almost high definition in apparent sharpness.

Extras

These include the Director's Commentary, Outtakes, Deleted Scenes, and other things.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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Paramount Studios

2004, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 58 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

French Dolby Digital 5.1

Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Kevin Spacey


Starring Kevin Spacey, Kate Bosworth, John Goodman, Bob Hoskins, Benda Blethyn, Caroline Aaron, William Ulrich

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

No

Sex

Sensuality

Language

Bad

"Beyond the Sea"

Synopsis

Bobby Cassotto was born in the 1930s, and had rheumatic fever as a young boy, which damaged his heart. Doctors tell his mother Polly (Blethyn) that he would not live past his 15th birthday.

Polly teaches Bobby how to sing, play the piano, and dance, and he decides that he is not going to let his illness stand in the way of a career in entertainment.

So, he changes his name to Bobby Darin. Success does not come right away, but when his music finally hits the top of the charts, he is off and running.

He wants to do everything: record music, play Las Vegas, and make movies.

He does them all, and at the same time. On the set of one film, he meets Sandra Dee (Bosworth), another star in the film.

Immediately he falls in love, and sets out to have her for his wife, much to the consternation of Dee and her mother.

Bobby wins her of course, and they have their first child.

Their marriage is strained by them both having high powered careers, and they fight all the time about it, but they persevere.

Darin goes on to be nominated for an Academy Award and writes numerous songs that we all are familiar with.

Commentary

Much of the story is not necessarily accurate, but that does not matter. It is a great film, told in musical style, about one of our most important entertainers.

Spacey is obviously a big Darin fan, and he is very believable here.

Extras

These consist of Commentary and Making of.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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