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Movie Renter's Guide
 

Number 132 - March, 2006

Staff

 


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North Country Walk the Line
Domino Jarhead
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Prime
The Weather Man Pride & Prejudice

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Warner Brothers

2005, Color, Rated R, 2 Hr 6 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

French Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Niki Caro


Starring Charlize Theron, Frances McDormand, Sean Bean, Woody Harrelson, Sissy Spacek, Michelle Monaghan, Richard Jenkins

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

Yes

Language

Bad

"North Country"

Synopsis

In the 1980s, the Pearson Taconite Mine, located in a small Minnesota town, only has a few women workers, and the men don't like having any.

Josey Aimes (Theron) spits up with her husband and decides that the only way to make enough money to support herself and her two children in a mining town is to work for the mining company.

So, she applies for a job there in spite of her father Hank (Jenkins) not wanting her to do that.

Her friend Glory (McDormand), who already works at the mine, tells her that she will have to face a lot of nasty remarks if she works there. Josey is willing to put up with it because she can make much more money at the mine than at any other job.

Josey starts work, and is appalled at the harassment she has to endure along with her female colleagues. They are assigned the dirtiest of all the jobs, and they come back to their locker room at the end of the day to find it coated with filth, time and time again.

She complains to the company president, and he basically tells her she can resign if she wants.

Finally, after an attempted rape by one of the miners, she asks a lawyer friend, Bill White (Harrelson), to help her file a class action lawsuit against the company.

She needs several other women to join the suit for it to be class action, and Glory, in spite of dying from Lou Gehrig's disease, becomes part of what will be a ground breaking suit that sets the stage for sexual harassment laws in the United States (based on a true story).

Commentary

Theron does another terrific acting job that landed her a Best Actor® nomination.

No special effects, just a great story.

Extras

These include Stories from North Country, Deleted Scenes, The Making of, and other things.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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20th Century Fox

2005, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 16 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

French Dolby Digital 5.1

Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1

English DTS 5.1

 

Directed by James Mangold


Starring Joachin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon, Robert Patrick

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

No

Sex

Mild

Language

Mild

"Walk the Line"

Synopsis

In the mid-1950s, Johnny Cash (Phoenix) was just another country boy trying to start a singing career.

He walks into Sun Studios in Memphis, where Elvis Presley and other to-be-famous talent started out, and records "I Walk the Line".

One of my childhood memories is of Cash singing this hit on the Jackie Gleason show in 1956. I remember it vividly, and it has stuck with me all these years.

That was the beginning of stardom that would take him to the heights of Country Western music.

Although he is married, he falls in love with another singer, June Carter (Witherspoon), who is also married and resists him at first, but there is just no turning away from the lanky young man with the incredible music.

Eventually, they marry, and when Johnny becomes addicted to drugs, she helps him through the crisis.

All this time, Johnny's father, Ray Cash (Patrick), belittles his son's music, and this makes him very depressed, probably the root of his drug addiction.

Nevertheless, Cash makes it through this problem, and others, to become The Man in Black, and one of America's greatest musical icons.

Commentary

Reese Witherspoon won the Oscar® for Best Actor® for her portrayal of June Carter. Although she does indeed do a fine job, this is simply an impression, which is a lot easier to do than create a character from scratch. Even I can do a reasonable Humphrey Bogart or John Wayne impression.

So, Witherspoon's performance was no great acting job worthy of an Oscar®. This is the sort of thing that has resulted in less and less viewers of the Academy Awards Ceremonies over the past few years. It is just too political, and viewers are not stupid. Adding a good comedian as host won't fix the problem either.

Extras

These include Director's Commentary and Deleted Scenes. You have to buy the Special Edition to get the rest of the extras.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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New Line

2005, Color, Rated R, 2 Hr 7 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Tony Scott


Starring Keira Knightley, Delroy Lindo, Mickey Rourke, Edgar Ramirez

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

Mild

Language

Bad

"Domino"

Synopsis

Domino Harvey (Knightley), daughter of actor Laurence Harvey, is bored with her privileged Hollywood life, and she wants something different.

She sees an ad in a newspaper for bounty hunters, so she applies for the training and is accepted.

Ed Mosbey (Rourke) heads up the team and her training, which is on the job, not in a school room

She quickly learns her trade and becomes notorious.

She just can't seem to escape the L.A. "thing", as a TV producer asks her and her team to become part of a reality show.

So, they now not only have to risk their lives breaking the doors down on wanted criminals, but have to deal with cameras and microphones looking over their shoulders while they do it.

This is particularly dangerous, as the team is after a gang of thieves who have started armored car heists.

Commentary

The movie is based on the real Domino Harvey who actually did reject the good life in favor of becoming a bounty hunter. She had been a model, and she used her beauty to throw her prey off guard before putting the handcuffs on them.

Her life ended tragically when she accidentally overdosed on drugs just before the film's release.

Extras

These include I Am a Bounty Hunter, Deleted Scenes, Director's Commentary, and other things.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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MCA

2005, Color, Rated R, 2 Hr 36 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Sam Mendes


Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Jaime Foxx, Peter Sarsgaard, Kevin Foster, Scott MacDonald

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

Yes

Language

Bad

"Jarhead" (Blu-ray/HD DVD)

Synopsis

Pfc. Anthony Swofford (Gyllenhaal) is at Marine boot camp, training to be sent to the Middle East in preparation for Operation Desert Storm, to take Kuwait back from Saddam Hussein and his Iraqi invaders.

To say that the recruits are going through hell in training is an understatement, but nothing like what is in store for them.

Staff Sgt. Sykes (Foxx) makes sure that they experience everything in camp that they might expect overseas, and it ain't pretty.

Early during the training period, Swoff sees the men branding one of the other soldiers. When they come after him for a branding, he passes out. When he wakes up, he sees that he was actually not branded, and they tell him he has to earn it first.

Swoff trains to be a sniper, with his "Spotter" Troy (Sarsgaard).

Once they get to the Saudi desert and march towards the Kuwaiti border, they find that their only enemies are the sand, the heat, and the fumes from burning oil wells that Hussein has set on fire.

Commentary

We all know that the war for Kuwaiti freedom only lasted a few days, not months. And instead of 50,000 casualties that were expected, almost no one died.

So, knowing that history, you can realize that this movie does not have a lot of violence, and in fact, Swoff and his spotter are even ordered to stand down when they are about to shoot an Iraqi officer in the distance.

With that said, the movie is more about expectation than resolution. It is not really a "war" movie. The story is based on the real Anthony Swofford's book about his Marine experiences. I suspect the book was more entertaining than the movie.

HD DVD Version (8/06 - Kris Deering): Jarhead is one of the only Universal HD DVD releases so far that appears to be filtered. This was apparent almost right away as the image doesn’t maintain that crispness that newer releases tend to have at this resolution. While it still looks really good, it just doesn’t have that nth degree that a great HD transfer has. Colors are incredible though and extremely saturated. Contrast is also impeccable, and there are no compression problems. I would have preferred a non-filtered transfer, but this is still far better than the DVD.

The audio presentation is a bit better than the standard DVD release. Bass seems to be turned up a notch and is slightly more refined. Surrounds are used aggressively, especially later in the film, and create a very realistic soundstage that puts you into the film a bit more. I did notice some strain in some of the dialogue though, which is unusual with bigger budget films.

Extras

These include Director's Commentary, Swoff's Fantasies, Deleted Scenes, and other things.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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Warner Brothers

2005, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 37 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Mike Newell


Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Timothy Spall, Michael Gambon, Ralph Fiennes, Robbie Coltrane, Alan Rickman, Brendan Gleeson, Miranda Richardson

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Only the two-disc version has extras.

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

No

"Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire"

Synopsis

Harry is entering another year at the Hogwarts school for Wizards.

This year, there is the Triwizard Tournament, where entrants from each of the three schools (Hogwarts is one of the three) compete.

The entrants are chosen from the Goblet of Fire, which sends the names out of its fiery cup.

As it were, Harry Potter is not one of the three names, but a few minutes later, the cup sends his name along, so he becomes the fourth student to compete, meaning that Hogwarts will have two contestants.

All of the teachers, even including Severus Snape (Rickman), think Harry is too young, too inexperienced, to compete, but Harry says he is willing. So be it.

The tasks include dealing with dragons and sea snakes, but in the last task, Harry meets Lord Voldemort (Fiennes), whose Death Eaters are rising once again.

Commentary

Exceptional CG, and the casting of Ralph Fiennes as Lord Voldemort, make this the most entertaining of the Potter films, at least to me.

Michael Gambon replaced Richard Harris as Professor Dumbledore in the last two films including this one, and he does a pretty good job, but does not quite have the character that Harris did. What a loss that was.

Extras

These include Conversations with the Cast, Additional Scenes, Preparing for the Yule Ball, The Maze, Reflections on the Fourth Film, and other things.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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Universal Studios

2005, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 46 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

French Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Ben Younger


Starring Uma Thurman, Meryl Streep, Bryan Greenberg

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

No

Sex

Yes

Language

Mild

"Prime"

Synopsis

Rafi Gardet (Thurman) is 37 years old, recently divorced, and depressed over it all.

She sees Dr. Lisa Metzger (Streep), a Psychotherapist, about her problems.

One day, Rafi meets an aspiring artist, David Bloomberg (Greenberg), who asks her out. She is a bit reluctant at first because he, at 24, is so much younger than she. But, she decides to go for it anyway.

Rafi tells Dr. Metzger about it, and gets the approval she desperately wants.

As Rafi tells Lisa more and more about her new beau, Lisa realizes with a shock that the young man is her son, and that Rafi does not know this.

Now, Lisa has to face the serious issue that there may be a conflict of interests, but decides to let things go on by themselves for now.

Problem is, Rafi is so much older than David, and she is not Jewish. Lisa wants her son to marry someone in his own faith, so she tries to talk him out of the relationship, but he persists.

Commentary

This would have been a very boring story if it were not for Meryl Streep. The expressions on her face when she talks to Rafi during the psychotherapy sessions, discussing Rafi's and David's sexual experiences, are priceless.

Extras

These include Director's Commentary, Deleted Scenes, Prime Time Players, Outtakes, and other things.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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Paramount Pictures

2005, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 41 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

French Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Gore Verbinsky


Starring Nicolas Cage, Michael Caine, Hope Davis, Gemmenne de la Peña

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

No

Sex

Yes

Language

Bad

"The Weather Man"

Synopsis

Dave Spritz (Cage) is a weatherman in Chicago, offering such predictions as "Spritz' Nipper" (a cold day ahead).

He is very successful on TV, but his home life is miserable, having just gone through a painful divorce from Noreen (Davis).

His daughter Shelly (de la Pa) is 12 years old, and going through her own problems at school, with kids calling her vulgar names.

So, Dave decides to spend more time with Shelly, and maybe even try to get back together with Noreen.

If that isn't enough stress, Dave's father Robert Spritzel (Dave changed his name to Spritz), develops Lymphoma, a deadly form of cancer.

They all go to New York so Robert can get further tests, Dave can bond with Shelly, and at the same time, Dave has to decide if a job offer in New York at a very high salary is the right choice.

Commentary

Cage is wonderful in the role of sad sack Dave, who is constantly getting fast food thrown at him from people who are angry with his cold weather predictions, has a tough time getting to know his daughter, and being depressed with his failed marriage and dying father.

Extras

These include Atmospheric Pressure: the Style and Pallette, Forecast: Becoming a Weatherman, Trade Winds: The Collaboration, and other things.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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MCA/Focus Features

2005, Color, Rated PG, 2 Hr 7 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 Joe Wright


Starring Keira Knightley, Donald Sutherland, Judi Dench, Matthew Macfadyen, Talulah Riley, Rosamund Pike, Simon Woods, Tom Hollander

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

No

Sex

No

Language

No

"Pride & Prejudice"

Synopsis

Jane Austen's (1775 - 1817) classic love story comes to the screen . . . again.

It's 1815, English countryside. Mr. (Sutherland) and Mrs. (Riley) Bennet have five daughters, all unmarried.

When two rich gentlemen, Mr. Darcy (Macfayden) and Mr. Bingley (Woods), come to live just down the road, the Bennets, especially Mrs. Bennet, are hopeful.

They are all introduced at a social event, where Mr. Bingley is obviously attracted to the oldest sister, Jane (Pike).

Mr. Darcy, who is also at the party, seems to take little notice of anyone, but in fact, can't help but be attracted to Elizabeth Bennet (Knightley).

The problem for everyone is that Bingley and Darcy are upper class, while the Bennets are lower middleclass, and Lady Catherine de Bourgh (Dench) makes sure everyone knows their place.

When Mr. Darcy finally declares his love for Lizzie, he refers to her class, insulting her. She says he would be the last person she could ever love.

Well, of course, love always finds a way.

Commentary

This story has been turned into a movie over, and over, and over: 1940, 1952, 1958, 1967, 1980, and 2005.

In the 1940 version, Greer Garson played Elizabeth, and Laurence Olivier played Mr. Darcy. Elizabeth is supposed to be a teenager, and Garson, far from being a teen, showed her age. To top that, MGM wanted to save money on costumes, so they used leftovers from Gone with the Wind, which is an American Civil War story (1860s), even though Prejudice is set in the early 1800s (the Regency Era of England: 1812-1830).

Keira Knightley overpowers everyone else in the film with her astonishing acting skills. She was getting ready for her role in Domino during filming and had cut her hair. So, she had to wear a wig here, and cover her muscles with sleeves.

Extras

These include Director's Commentary, Jane Austen: Ahead of Her Time, A Bennet Family Portrait, and other things.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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