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Movie Renter's Guide
 

Number 124 - July, 2005

Staff

 


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Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous The Snow Walker
Submerged Be Cool
Code 46 Primer
The Merchant of Venice Constantine (HD DVD)
Million Dollar Baby  

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Warner Brothers

2005, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 55 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

French Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by John Pasquin


Starring Sandra Bullock, William Shatner, Regina King, Treat Williams, Heather Burns

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Mild

Sex

Mild

Language

No

"Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous"

Synopsis

FBI Agent Gracie Hart (Bullock) is back into the action, but when a stakeout at a bank robbery goes south because everyone recognizes her, the boss asks her to become the spokesperson for the FBI and give it a better face to the public.

So, she tries it out, with TV interviews and public appearances for signing autographed photos. Agent Sam Fuller (King) is assigned to her as a bodyguard.

Her old friend Cheryl Frasier (Burns), who won the beauty contest in Miss Congeniality, is kidnapped, along with Stan Fields (Shatner), who was one of the producers for that contest.

Gracie decides to get involved, in spite of her boss' objections.

So, Gracie and Sam go after the kidnappers, who in spite of their bumbling, seem to keep one step ahead.

Finally, at the Treasure Island casino in Las Vegas, the FBI and the kidnappers have a showdown.

Commentary

Although I liked Miss Congeniality 1, the sequel is a stinker. This is always a risk when the star is also the producer, as Bullock was here.

It starts out well, but bogs down in the middle. The script writer must have gotten bored with the project.

Extras

These include Deleted Scenes and Trailer.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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First Look Studios

2003, Color, Rated PG, 1 Hr 43 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

English Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Charles Martin Smith


Starring Barry Pepper, Annabella Piugattuk, James Cromwell, Kiersten Warren

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Mild

Sex

Brief Nudity

Language

Mild

"The Snow Walker"

Synopsis

In the Canadian frontier, where civilization is far away, Charlie Halliday (Pepper) uses his small plane to deliver supplies.

On one of his trips, Charlie finds a family of Inuit in trouble. One of the children, a young girl named Kanaalac (Pougattuk), has a severe lung infection.

The family asks Charlie to take her to the nearest hospital in Yellow Knife, so she can be treated.

Charlie agrees, and off they go in the plane.

They get into trouble and have to crash land in a lake. Since Charlie has taken them off his original course, no one knows where they are, and Charlie's company assumes he has lost his life.

But, Charlie and Kanaalac are alive, at least for now, and as the Canadian weather closes in on them, they have to resort to survival skills, crossing the frozen tundra on foot.

While Charlie uses conventional survival techniques, Kaanalac is more tuned to the mystical nature of the land.

Commentary

This film was part of the Toronto International Film Festival, and is a great survival story.

Extras

These include Deleted Scenes, Alternate Ending, and Making Of.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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Sony Pictures

2005, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 39 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

 

 

Directed by Anthony Hickox


Starring Steven Seagal, Christine Adams, Nick Brimble, Alison King, Vinnie Jones

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Extreme

Sex

No

Language

Bad

"Submerged"

Synopsis

Chris Cody (Seagal) is a Navy Special Operations Officer who, along with his team, has been in prison for disobeying orders.

Now, the Navy wants him back and have offered him and his men freedom if they will rescue a team of soldiers that were captured in Uruguay when they tried to blow up a mind control research center, headed by a man named Lehder (Brimble).

Cody accepts the offer, but is suspicious, so he disobeys again and lands his team in a different place than originally assigned.

They rescue the soldiers and take them onto a submarine, but find that the soldiers have been brain washed, and the submarine comes under fire.

After taking care of that situation, Cody now goes after Lehder to end his mind control operations.

Commentary

This is typical Seagal fare, with plenty of exit wounds and martial arts showmanship.

Although Seagal is now getting on in years, and putting on some pounds, he doesn't seem to have slowed down at all. Of course, you never know how much of it is editing tricks. That sort of thing could make Gabby Hayes look like a martial arts genius.

The movie was shot in Bulgaria, rather than in South America.

Extras

These include Trailers.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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MGM

2005, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 58 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

French Dolby Digital 2.0

 

Directed by F. Gary Gray


Starring John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Vince Vaughn, Cedric the Entertainer, James Woods, Christina Millan, Harvey Keitel

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

References

Language

Bad

"Be Cool"

Synopsis

Chili Palmer (Travolta) is back (from Get Shorty), and instead of making movies, now he wants to get into the music industry.

So, he meets with Tommy Athens (Woods) in Los Angeles, but Tommy wants him to make more movies.

When Tommy is gunned down by the Russian mob because he owes them a lot of money, Chili teams up with his widow Edie (Thurman), and together, they set out to turn a local entertainer, named Linda Moon (Milian), into a star.

Unfortunately, Linda is under contract to Raji (Vaughn) who works for Nick Carr (Keitel) at Carosell Records.

Nick doesn't appreciate Chili and Edie taking their star, so they turn up the heat on the two of them.

In the meantime, Sin LaSalle (Cedric the Entertainer) wants Nick to pay money that he is owed, and therein, the circle is completed.

Everyone wants something from the other guy, but Chili is the only one who remains "cool" about the whole thing.

Commentary

Get Shorty was a very funny film, but this sequel is poor fare and a big waste of time.

About the only entertainment is The Rock portraying a gay body guard for Raji, and Vince Vaughn as a white guy who tries to emulate a rapper's mannerisms.

Extras

These include Deleted Scenes, Making Of, Dance Partners, The Rock, Andre 3000, Gag Reel, Trailers, and other things.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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MGM

2003, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 32 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Michael Winterbottom


Starring Tim Robbins, Samantha Morton

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

No

Sex

Frontal Nudity

Language

Bad

"Code 46"

Synopsis

In a futuristic world where there are no countries, but rather just cities, and everyone speaks a combination of languages (English, Spanish, and Hebrew), William (Robbins) tracks down people who have forged their travel insurance papers.

Anyone who wants to travel must have this insurance, called papelles.

William is assigned to find a perpetrator who has been distributing forged papelles in Singapore.

He meets and falls in love with one of the suspects, Maria Gonzalez (Morton).

When he discovers that she is the one who has forged papelles, he decides not to turn her in.

Good thing too, because he has spent so much time in Singapore, his own papelles have expired, and he needs her to forge some for his own travel.

Complicating the situation, is that she is pregnant. This would not be a serious problem in most societies, but in this one, where people are cloned, there are severe restrictions on who can have children with whom. When genetic testing reveals that a man and a woman share 25% or more of their gene pool, they would be committing a Code 46 violation (humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes, for a total of 46).

William discovers that he and Maria share a huge number of genes. So, here he is with his papelles expired, his girlfriend is pregnant in a Code 46 violation, and oh yes, he is married with a couple of children living in Seattle.

So . . .

Commentary

The film has a Lost in Translation look about it. Slow, sleepy, and boring.

Extras

These include Deleted Scenes and a few other things.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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New Line Studios

2004, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 18 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital 2.0

 

Directed by Shane Carruth


Starring Shane Carruth, David Sullivan, Casey Gooden

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

No

Sex

No

Language

Mild

"Primer  -  What Happens if it Actually Works?"

Synopsis

Aaron (Carruth) and Abe (Sullivan), along with several friends, are electrical engineers who, in their spare time, try to invent things in their garage.

By accident, one of their experiments leads to a discovery of time travel, namely 1300 minutes into the past. Aaron and Abe decide to keep this discovery not only secret from the rest of the world, but their two friends.

At first, they try to figure out how the process works, but then realize that they can profit from their discovery by taking themselves back in time and purchasing stocks that increased in value 1300 minutes later.

Once they have traveled back, the stock market scheme becomes a minor thing, because they now have to worry about the other Aaron and Abe who are still living 1300 minutes later than they are.

They also have to keep from altering any events that could destroy their future.

So, now instead of physics, the two young men have to deal with the philosophy of what they have done.

Commentary

This film has received rave reviews from some, but scathing opinions from others. I am from the latter group.

The story is poorly told, with terrible color timing, and there is at least one bad continuity issue about an hour into the movie.

The script almost seems ad lib, and it is very difficult to follow what is going on.

Extras

These include Director's Commentary, Cast Commentary, and Trailers.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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Sony Pictures Classics

2004, Color, Rated R, 2 Hr 18 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Michael Radford


Starring Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons, Joseph Fiennes, Lynn Collins, Zuleikha Robinson

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

No

Sex

Nudity

Language

No

"The Merchant of Venice"

Synopsis

In late 16th century Venice, Jews are not allowed to own property, so they resort to usury (lending money at interest) in order to make a living.

Shylock (Pacino) is a Jew who lends money.

Antonio (Irons), a merchant (brings items by ship to Venice to be sold), has great contempt for Jews, and spits in Shylock's face in a public courtyard one afternoon.

Antonio's friend Bassanio (Fiennes) has fallen in love with Portia (Collins), whose father has stated that she can only marry a man of wealth, and that her suitors must win her by choosing the correct box of three, the one which contains her picture.

Bassanio is not a man of wealth, so he asks Antonio if he can borrow 3000 ducats (about $750,000 in today's money) and put on a big party to show that he is "wealthy", then on to choose one of the boxes.

Antonio does not have that much cash, so together, they go to Shylock and ask to borrow the money.

Shylock agrees, but states that rather than interest, if Antonio defaults on the loan, he will have to give up one pound of flesh.

Antonio's ships are sunk on their way to Venice, so now he cannot pay.

Portia, now in love with Bassanio, decides to help by offering Shylock 6000 ducats, twice the loan amount, if he will forget about the pound of flesh agreement.

In the meantime, Shylock's daughter Jessica (Robinson) runs off with a Christian, and . . . well, it gets even more complicated.

Commentary

This is one of the most popular of Shakespeare's plays, but some consider it anti-Semitic, and although Pacino had been offered the starring role of Shylock a number of times, he had turned it down because of that, until Radford asked him.

I did not interpret it as a story of anti-Semitism, but rather, a story of anger. A story of how a Jew, who lives in a world of racial restrictions, takes the opportunity for revenge against one who had spat upon him once, but who now wants his help. I mean, after all, wouldn't you feel like getting a little revenge against someone who spit in your face, regardless of your ethnic background?

Extras

These include The Making of, Teacher's Guide, Director's Commentary, Cast Commentary, and Trailers.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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Warner Brothers

2005, Color, Rated R, 2 Hr 1 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

French Dolby Digital 5.1

 

HD DVD: 1080p; Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Audio; Dolby Digital True HD 5.1 Audio

 

Directed by Francis Lawrence


Starring Keanu Reeves, Rachel Weisz, Shia LaBeouf, Djimon Hounsou

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

Bad

"Constantine" (HD DVD)

Synopsis

John Constantine (Reeves) is a demon chaser in Los Angeles. He tried to commit suicide some time before, and now he is trying to get back into God's good graces, and so into heaven, because lung cancer has made his days limited.

He works by exorcising demons from "half breeds", human beings who have been taken over by the evil ones, and whose only access into the real world is by inhabiting human bodies.

Now, Constantine finds that demons are trying to get into the world of humans directly, without going through their bodies.

Even worse, the son of Satan will be born, and if he gets into the real world, all hell will break loose.

A local police detective, Angela Dodson (Weisz) becomes involved because her twin sister Isabel committed suicide, and Angela, being a Catholic, wants Isabel to go to heaven (Catholics consider suicide a mortal sin, and so those who kill themselves will go directly to hell).

Constantine visits hell to see if Isabel is there, and determining that she is, tries to help Angela fix the situation, and also his own. Coughing blood, he knows he does not have much time.

Commentary

I am not a fan of demon movies, but this one is good, in fact the best one I have yet seen.

The digital demons are very real in appearance, if not odd by the way of having an open cranium.

HD DVD Version (6/06 - Kris Deering): Constantine was already a great looking DVD, but I was really excited to see it on HD DVD. I had the opportunity a while back to compare this VC1 encoded transfer to the actual D5, and I can attest that it is pretty much transparent in every way.

There is some very light banding in some sequences if you REALLY look, but this was also the case with the D5 master. I think the only objectionable scene is the at the end on the rooftop with the cityscape in the background. This scene just looked a bit too noisy for my taste, especially in comparison to the rest of the video presentation. Otherwise, this is a really standout visual reference with incredible blacks, detail, and depth. By far one of the best HD DVDs I've seen yet.

Constantine includes not only the Dolby Digital + 5.1 soundtrack that Warner has been including on all their HD DVD releases, but also a Dolby True HD 5.1 soundtrack. Dolby True HD offers lossless multi-channel audio playback similar to what is found with the DVD Audio format. Unfortunately, the Toshiba HD-A1 HD DVD player does not offer 5.1 playback of this sound format (yet), so I had to listen to the DD+ soundtrack. But that wasnít a disappointment! The DD+ soundtrack is very reminiscent of the original DVD soundtrack with excellent use of the surround environment and lots of low-end goodness. Surrounds are used quite a bit and lend to the atmosphere of the film. Sound design is excellent all around. I canít wait to have full playback capability of TrueHD soundtracks so I can give this disc another whirl.

All of the supplements are the same from the previous DVD except for a great iHD feature; video commentary. This is basically an audio commentary with occasional clips and video, overlaid onto the main feature, including videos and on-set footage. This is the first disc I've viewed that has this feature, and it was pretty cool, though I am not a big commentary guy.

This is one of the first "must own" HD DVDs so far, in my opinion, and a great film for this format's infancy. It is an audio and video treat. - Kris Deering -

Extras

These include Deleted Scenes and DVD-ROM material.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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Warner Brothers

2004, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 12 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

French Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Clint Eastwood


Starring Clint Eastwood, Hilary Swank, Morgan Freeman

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

Mild

"Million Dollar Baby"

Synopsis

Frankie Dunn (Eastwood) is an aging boxing coach and manager, running a gym, and trying to manage a boxer who may just get a shot at the championship. Frankie keeps delaying the championship match though, saying that he needs just two or three more fights to have the experience.

A 32 year old woman, Maggie Fitzgerald (Swank), who hales from Missouri, shows up and starts training. She wants Frankie to train her. He says, "I don't train girls."

Frankie's potential champion decides to vacate the premises and go with a manager, Mickey Mack (Bruce MacVittie), who has the contacts to actually get him a fight with the current champion.

So, Frankie, now suddenly without a fighter, decides to train Maggie, who does show some promise.

Knocking all of her early adversaries out in the first round, Maggie suddenly becomes a contender herself, and Frankie gets her a shot at the WBA World Championship for women welterweights.

Commentary

Although an excellent movie, Baby is no Best Picture by any stretch of the imagination, when compared to The Aviator. And although Swank is good, again, it is no Best Performance by an Actor. This is definitely another blow to the credibility of the Academy.

They make up for political stupidity somewhat by giving Morgan Freeman a long overdue award for supporting actor. Besides playing the character Scrappy, who keeps the gym clean, he serves as narrator, a la The Shawshank Redemption. What a fine actor he is!

But, the film as a whole is very entertaining, and it certainly is not your typical fight movie, taking into account what happens at the end. The story is sort of a tragic Rocky. Some say that Baby is not a fight movie because of the controversial finale. But, that is nonsense. It is a fight movie. Look at Champion, the 1949 boxing film that made Kirk Douglas a huge star. It has a tragic ending too. The irony is that Swank's performance in Baby pales beside Kirk Douglas' performance in Champion, and yet he was denied the Oscar for Best Actor. The Academy's stupidity goes back a long way.

Extras

These include Born to Fight, Roundtable Discussion, Behind the Scenes, and Trailer.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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