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Movie Renter's Guide
 

Number 131 - February, 2006

Staff

 


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The Constant Gardener The Legend of Zorro
Doom The River King

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MCA

2005, Color, Rated R, 2 Hr 9 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

French Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Fernando Meirelles


Starring  Ralph Fiennes, Rachel Weisz, Pete Postlethwaite, Danny Huston, Daniele Harford, Packson Ngugi

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

Yes

Language

Bad

"The Constant Gardener"

Synopsis

At a lecture in Kenya, Justin Quale (Fiennes), a member of the British High Commission, meets Tessa (Weisz), an activist who is suspicious of Britain's pharmaceutical companies who use Africans to test and improve dangerous drugs.

Justin and Tessa fall in love and get married. At Embassy events, Tessa embarrasses Justin with her pointed conversations with British officials. Nevertheless, he adores her, and in fact admires her independent thinking.

One afternoon, Tessa is murdered, and Justin thinks it is because of her continued research into the pharmaceutical companies' policies.

So, in spite of the Commission demanding that Justin let them do the inquiry, Justin proceeds with his own investigation, and he discovers not only that the pharmaceutical companies are guilty as charged, but that Tessa had been involved romantically with Commission officials.

His task now is to gather the proof of what he knows, and stay alive.

Commentary

Fine acting, along with a great story by John le Carrť, make for a very entertaining movie. It gets a little slow here and there, so subtract one star.

Very worth the rent for an evening.

Extras

These include Embracing Africa, Extended Scenes, Anatomy of a Global Thriller, From Page to Screen, and other things.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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Sony Pictures

2005, Color, Rated PG, 2 Hr 9 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Martin Campbell

 

Starring Antonio Banderas, Catherine Zeta Jones, Alberto Reyes, Rufus Sewell, Adrian Alonso, Nick Chinlund

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Mild

Sex

No

Language

No

"The Legend of Zorro"

Synopsis

Alejandro de la Vega (Banderas), A.K.A. Zorro, has retired, as requested by his wife Elena (Jones). They have a 10 year old son, Joachin (Alonso), who is just as feisty as his dad.

A local French Count, Armand (Sewell), makes trouble, and Zorro must ride again. Elena, angry that Alejandro has broken his word, leaves him and begins seeing the Count, romantically.

Alejandro, broken hearted, resorts to drinking and embarrassing Elena at parties given by the Count.

Then, he discovers that Elena is actually secretly working for the government, because Armand is suspected of trying to stop California from voting itself into the US as a state.

Meanwhile, Alonso also wants to help, and his parents discover he is a valuable third party in their quest.

Commentary

The critics panned the movie, and it only made about half its production costs in the US market, although it did well in total, if you include Europe.

However, I have always been a Zorro fan, including way back in the days when it was a TV series. That series was produced by Disney, and this movie has the same look, with comedic overtones, and the ubiquitous padre (Brother Ignacio, played by Alberto Reyes) who helps Zorro with his activities.

So, with no exit wounds, no naked bodies, and no bad language, which by today's standards, keeps things pretty modest, I still got a kick out of it, and I think many of our readers will too. It's a family film in all sense of the term.

Extras

These include Director's Commentary, Deleted Scenes, Multiple Angle Scenes, Visual Effects, Stunts, and other things.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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Universal Studios

2005, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 53 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

French Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

 

Directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak

 

Starring Karl Urban, The Rock, Rosamund Pike,

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

Bad

"Doom" (HD DVD)

Synopsis

When a research team on Mars is threatened by unknown forces, the Marines Rapid Response Tactical Squad is called in to go up there and neutralize whatever is causing the problem.

The Marine forces, headed by Sarge (The Rock), get there and find Dr. Samantha Grimm (Pike) is having trouble with her experiments, and that may have caused the unknown forces to emerge.

So, they enter a series of dark laboratories, to find strange monsters have taken over the facilities.

One by one, the Marines kill the creatures, and then discover that some of the soldiers have been infected with viruses from the creatures, and are becoming creatures themselves.

So, now the Marines race to destroy the creatures before the entire research facility, scientists and Marines, are infected.

Commentary

This movie is supposedly based on the game Doom, but it only partially resembles it. The game is about research into portals for space travel, with monsters getting through the portals. There are some portals in the movie, but they are not firmly integral to the story, except at the end when Sarge tries to keep the creatures from getting through the portals back to earth.

If it were not for the fact that this story is just a variation of Aliens, with fancier graphics, it might have been more interesting.

HD DVD Version (8/06 - Kris Deering): Doom is a rather new film so one can expect a flawless master to work with, and apparently that is what we have here. Fine object detail is excellent and depth of image is impressive. There is a bit of inconsistency between CGI and the real world, but it isnít too distracting. The toughest part of this presentation is how dark the image gets. I canít stress how important a dark room is when watching this one. Even with my room totally pitch-black shadow detail was obscured on occasion. But overall this was a very good visual presentation.

As one would expect from a science fiction action movie based on a video game, the sound design is pretty aggressive. But sometimes I thought it wasnít aggressive enough. Action was a bit tamer in this film than I would have thought given its game roots, but it was still fun to listen to. Surrounds are used EXTENSIVELY, especially in the first person part of the film. You also get a lot of split channel effects, which was very cool. The low end of this soundtrack is very aggressive so anyone using a smaller subwoofer should take notice so no damage occurs. - Kris Deering

Extras

These include Rock Formation, Basic Training, Doom Nation, Master Monster Makers, and other things.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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First Look Pictures

2005, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 39 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Nick Willing

 

Starring Edward Burns, Jennifer Ehle, John Kapelos, Rachelle Lefevre, Thomas Gibson

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

Yes

Language

Bad

"The River King"

Synopsis

In a small New England town, Detective Abel Grey (Burns) and his partner, Joey Tosh (Kapelos), find the body of student, Guy Pierce (Gibson), from a local private school frozen in the ice of a river.

When Abel questions the school's officials, he finds resistance, and then begins to question the validity of their claim that it was a suicide or accident. Perhaps it was a murder.

However, the Police Chief tells Abel to forget the whole thing. Case closed.

But Abel won't let it go. He speaks extensively with one of Guy's teachers, Betsy (Ehle), and they become involved in spite of the fact that Betsy is engaged.

Guy's girlfriend, Carlin Leander (Lefevre), seems heartbroken, and she claims it was an accident, but the whole thing is just too suspicious to close the case.

Abel's search for the truth is complicated by his own brother's suicide many years before, also down by a river.

The clues are a Chinese puzzle box, a white rose that turned red, and a scarf found at the scene.

The search eventually leads to the school itself, which wants to bury the tragedy as quickly as possible for fear that its reputation will be damaged.

Commentary

This one went directly to DVD rather than to the theater first, perhaps due to politics, because it is certainly better than much of the fare that costs us 10 bucks a pop at the ticket office.

Extras

There are none, which is a shame, as the story is filmed in a very interesting locale.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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