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Movie Renter's Guide
 

Number 133 - April, 2006

Staff

 


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A History of Violence Capote
Red Eye Our Fathers
Memoirs of a Geisha King Kong (2005)
Brokeback Mountain The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe

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New Line

2005, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 36 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by David Cronenberg


Starring Viggo Mortensen, Maria Bello, William Hurt, Ed Harris, Ashton Holmes

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

Yes

Language

Bad

"A History of Violence"

Synopsis

In a small mid-western town, Tom Stall (Mortensen) runs a coffee shop.

He lives on a farm outside town with his wife Edie (Bello) and son Jack (Holmes).

One afternoon, two violent men come into the coffee shop and try to rob him at gunpoint. When he sees one of the robbers attack a waitress, he throws coffee in the other robber's face, takes his gun away from him, and kills them both.

Of course, now Tom is the town hero, and his shop is full of patrons all telling the story to one another.

The account makes national news, and a few days later, several strange men show up. Their leader, Carl Fogarty (Harris), accuses Tom of being a former member of the New Jersey mob named Joey Cusack.

Tom says it isn't so, and that they just think he looks like someone they used to know.

Unfortunately, the men persist, and even take to harassing his wife and son, because they want him to come back with them to New Jersey and face the music with his brother Ritchie Cusack (Hurt), who is out to kill him.

Well, Tom realizes that they won't take no for an answer, and since he has just proved he knows how to handle a gun . . . .

Commentary

The story does have some surprises, and even though you can figure out what is coming, it is still a very entertaining movie.

One of the best parts of the film is when Jack figures out what his father's history is, and being a survivor himself, he gives a bully at school what he deserves.

Extras

These include Director's Commentary, Acts of Violence, Deleted Scene, Too Commercial for Cannes, and other things.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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Sony Pictures

2005, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 54 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Bennett Miller


Starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Bruce Greenwood, Mark Pellegrino, Clifton Collins Jr., Chris Cooper

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

Bad

"Capote"

Synopsis

In 1959, two small time hoodlums, Perry Smith (Collins) and Richard Hickock (Pellegrino), tried to rob a family living on a farm in a small Kansas town.

When they could not find any money, they murdered the entire family with a butcher knife and a shotgun.

The two murderers were captured, tried, and sentenced to be hanged.

Truman Capote (Hoffman) was a writer for The New Yorker at the time, and attended the trial.

He was so captivated by the horror of what these two men had done, he decided to write a book about it.

So, he obtained access to the two inmates while they were on death row, and interviewed them many times.

He developed compassion for Perry Smith, and was able to get the courts to order a stay of the executions, which had been scheduled only a few weeks after sentencing.

Eventually, as everyone knows, since Capote's book In Cold Blood became a sensation, Smith and Hickock were executed, but it took about 4 years because of Capote's intervention.

Commentary

The implications in the film are that Capote got the executions delayed simply because he wanted time to interview them for his book, and then was impatient after he completed the main text, because he could not finish it until they were executed.

Although most of us know Capote wrote In Cold Blood, perhaps many don't remember that he also wrote Breakfast at Tiffany's. Both were made into motion pictures, and although I saw both of them at the theater when they were released, it was really In Cold Blood that engraved Capote's name in writers' history books. After Blood, he never wrote another book, and died an alcoholic.

A notable side bar of this story is that Harper Lee (Keener), who wrote To Kill a Mockingbird, followed Capote around on his interviews. Apparently, she adored him. When Mockingbird was made into a very successful movie (1962), he said he didn't know what all the fuss was about. It is amusing that he would be jealous, when he was becoming much more famous himself.

It is interesting to me that both Oscars for Best Actor (I guess they are now called Best Actor and Actress in a Leading Role) went to people portraying other real characters in life (Hoffman for Capote, Reese Witherspoon for Walk the Line). I don't consider this acting. It is mimicry. The kind of thing that impressionists do in night clubs and variety shows on TV. That does not mean the movies were not good, because they were indeed great. I just don't think the actors should have received the awards for doing an entertaining impression.

Capote was very short, about 5'4", and Hoffman is 6'. Notice that the camera is careful not to show him standing next to very many people, and often, he is sitting down.

Extras

These include Director's Commentary, Unanswered Prayers, and other things.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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Dreamworks

2005, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 26 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Wes Craven


Starring Rachel McAdams, Cillian Murphy, Brian Cox, Jack Scalia, Jayma Mays

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

Bad

"Red Eye"

Synopsis

Lisa Reisert (McAdams), a reservations administrator at a Florida hotel, is taking a flight to go on vacation.

At the airport, she meets a young man, Jackson Rippner (Murphy), who asks her to have a drink with him while they wait for their flight.

Once on board the plane, she finds herself sitting next to Rippner, just by coincidence.

After the usual small talk, she is surprised to find that Rippner knows much about her. In fact, he says, he has not just met her by chance.

He tells her that his accomplice is sitting outside her father's home, and will kill him if she does not do what he asks.

She is told that she must call the hotel where she works and move Charles Keefe (Scalia), a politician, to a different room than he had reserved, when he arrives there with his entourage.

Lisa realizes that they plan to assassinate Keefe, and she must decide how to save Keefe from being killed, and at the same time, keep her father alive too.

Commentary

Wes Craven is known for his horror films like the original The Hills Have Eyes (1977), so he knows how to pace scary moments.

I was surprised at how enjoyable (and scary) Red Eye is.

Murphy's character name Jackson Rippner is an obvious reference to Jack the Ripper, and he oozes evil in this story. You will be satisfied at what happens to him.

Extras

These include Director's Commentary, The Making Of, Wes Craven: A New Kind of Thriller, and other things.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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Showtime Entertainment

2005, Color, Rated R, 2 Hr 10 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Dan Curtis


Starring Christopher Plummer, Ted Danson, Brian Dennehy, Daniel Baldwin, Ellen Burstyn, Jan Rubes, Steven Shaw

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

No

Sex

Yes

Language

Bad

"Our Fathers"

Synopsis

Fathers chronicles the emerging facts about the huge number of children abused by Catholic priests over several decades, and how the church tries to maintain secrecy.

This particular story centers on events in Boston, Massachusetts, where Cardinal Bernard Law (Plummer) eventually had to resign because he had moved priests known to have molested boys from parish to parish without notifying the authorities or church members.

A Boston attorney, Mitchell Garabedian (Danson), takes on the cases of a few locals who claim to have been molested by a particular priest, Father John J. Geoghan (Shaw). Suddenly, dozens of men who had been molested by Geoghan when they were children come out of the woodwork, and Garabedian realizes he has a major Class Action suit on his hands that will be on the front page of every newspaper in the world.

Father Dominic Spagnolia (Dennehy), pastor of one church in Boston, is furious that church leaders want to keep this issue from seeing the light, and demands an accounting. The church counters by having a man claim that Spagnolia molested him.

The charges are false, but then, another man claims that he was Spagnolia's lover. Church members don't care about Spag being gay, and support him in his desire for complete exposure of what the church is trying to hide. 

Commentary

I don't imagine you will be able to buy this DVD at the Vatican Bookstore, because it paints an ugly picture of Catholic leaders, and condemns the secrecy that the church wants to maintain even to this day.

Bernard Law ended up resigning his post as Head of the Boston Diocese, was called to Rome, and was named Archpriest of St. Mary Major Basilica by Pope John II, so the criticism goes all the way to the top in this "Good Old Boys" look at the men who wear the red robes.

Extras

There are none. No need for any.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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Sony Pictures

2005, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 25 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

French Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Robert Marshall


Starring Ziyi Zhang, Ken Watanabe, Suzuka Ohgo, Li Gong

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

Yes

Language

No

"Memoirs of a Geisha"

Synopsis

In 1929, an impoverished father in a remote fishing village has to sell his 9 year old daughter Chiyo (Ohgo) to a school in Kyoto that trains Geishas (young ladies who provide entertainment and companionship to Japanese men).

Of course, this is all against Chiyo's will, and it does not help matters that she is separated from her sister, who was also sold.

It isn't long before Chiyo escapes, but she has nowhere to go. As she sits on a small bridge in town, trying to figure out what to do, a young man who is known as The Chairman (Watanabe) sees her tears and offers her a frozen treat.

He was so kind to her in a strange world, she is immediately smitten, and vows to meet him again when she becomes a woman.

So, she goes back to the school and performs her duties in the process of learning the Geisha arts.

As a teenager (Zhang), she now has considerable skill, and is nearing the completion of her training. Her new name is Sayuri. Again, she meets The Chairman, but in her desire to make him fall in love with her, Chairman's boss has priority, and she must take care of his needs, all the while keeping an eye on her future lover, so she has planned.

All during this time, her rival Hatsumomo (Gong) at the Geisha school makes things very difficult for her in the quest for her true love.

Commentary

This movie is truly magical. It's shocking - almost insulting - that Crash won Best Picture against this kind of competition. The story is mesmerizing, the costumes are breathtaking, the acting superb.

Extras

These include Director's Commentary, Geisha Bootcamp, The Look of a Geisha, The Way of a Sumo, Sayuri's Other Journey, and many other things.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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Universal Pictures

2005, Color, Rated PG-13, 3 Hr 7 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Peter Jackson


Starring Naomi Watts, Jack Black, Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann, Colin Hanks

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

No

"King Kong (2005)"

Synopsis

Well, I think we all know this story by now. It has been told many times on the big screen, although not to the computer graphics extent here, and that was what we were all waiting for - to see what Peter Jackson would do with the tale.

In the early 1930s, Carl Denham (Black), based in New York, makes movies - adventure films that he hopes will sell lots and lots of tickets which will make his financers happy.

The latest one is a flop, so he looks for something big. Something that no one has done before. He decides to take his crew to Skull Island, a place that has never been filmed.

He needs a heroine, and looks around New York for someone that fits the character. Someone delicate. Someone who can be a damsel in distress. Someone who is desperate.

Times are bad for everyone. The crash of 1929 has left many people penniless. Carl chances upon Ann Darrow (Watts), an actress fresh out of a job. The moment he sees her, he knows she is the one for his big movie.

Of course she accepts, although a bit afraid he might just be a dirty old man wanting her for his casting couch.

So, Denham and crew, including the script writer Jack Driscoll (Brody), take a boat to Skull Island, where they meet a very scary tribe of natives, and of course, the big guy himself . . . Kong.

Although the crew is helpless against the massive creature, Kong is helpless against the beauteous miss Darrow, and his attraction to her is what causes his capture and boat trip back to New York, where Denham puts Kong on display.

Kong is just a bit too strong for the chains, and he escapes, only to find solace at the top of the Empire State Building, where some biplanes are used to bring him down with machine guns.

"No, it was beauty that killed the beast", Denham exclaims. Down comes the curtain, and we rub our tails as we get up to exit from this three hour movie.

Commentary

In spite of all the hype and the astounding computer graphics, King Kong 2005 just barely made its production cost (200 million and change) back at the US ticket offices. It has taken overseas tickets to deliver any profits. Shock and surprise? No. As I have said many times before, the novelty of CG is over. It takes more than that to get us to pay ten bucks at the theater these days. However, it would have made a zillion dollars if the story had not been told so many times before. You would think that for a 200 million dollar budget, the production company might be able to find an original screen play. OK, so how about just a surprise ending? Nope.

An amusing side note: When Denham and his producer are trying to find an actress to play the leading role, they mention that "Fay" is busy with RKO making a picture. Well, that was Fay Wray, the original Ann Darrow in the first King Kong, released in 1933. Although the studio was reluctant to make that film way back then, it was a good thing that they did, because it saved them from bankruptcy. It is now number 43 on the American Film Institute's list of 100 all time greatest American films.

Extras

These include Post-Production Diaries, Kong's New York, and other things.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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Universal Pictures

2005, Color, Rated R, 2 Hr 14 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

French Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Ang Lee


Starring Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Randy Quaid, Anne Hathaway, Kate Mara, Michelle Williams

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

Yes

Language

Bad

"Brokeback Mountain"

Synopsis

In a small Wyoming town, in 1963, Joe Aguirre (Quaid) signs up cowboys Jack Twist (Gyllenhaal) and Ennis Del Mar (Ledger) to take sheep up to graze on Brokeback Mountain.

They are to stay up there for several months, and food as well as other supplies will be brought to them each week.

It gets lonesome in those remote pastures, and it is so cold, they decide to sleep in the same tent.

They discover that they like being close, and in fact, almost by accident, they become intimate.

Joe discovers what they are up to, and won't hire them again.

So, the two go off on their own, Jack to Texas, and Ennis stays in Wyoming.

They both get married, and Ennis has children.

All this time, they meet every couple of months and go fishing, or at least, that is what they tell their wives.

Then, Ennis' wife Alma discovers that Ennis has been lying to her about his relationship with Jack, and asks for a divorce.

Jack's marriage to Lureen (Hathaway) is not going so well either.

The two still have their fishing trips, but Ennis decides to change things if he is going to get on with his life, and the relationship comes to a crisis.

Commentary

The film won three Academy Awards, but not Best Picture, even though many critics thought it was destined for that honor. Since it did not win - but still got Best Director - everyone seems to think that it was due to the world not being ready for a story about two bisexual cowboys to receive that award.

Frankly, I thought it was just not that interesting a story, although I must say, Heath Ledger's acting was simply incredible. His accent was very realistic, and being from Texas myself, I know when an accent sounds manufactured.

Extras

These include Directing from the Heart, Sharing the Story, From Script to Screen, and other things.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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Walt Disney

2005, Color, Rated PG, 2 Hr 14 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

English DTS 5.1

 

Directed by Andrew Adamson


Starring Tilda Swinton, Jim Broadbent, Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, James McAvoy, Liam Neeson

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

No

"The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe"

Synopsis

During World War II, a London family, the Pevensies, send their children, Lucy (Henley), Edmund (Keynes), Susan (Popplewell), and Peter (Moseley) to a country home for safety from the bombing.

The home is owned by Professor Kirke (Broadbent) and is filled with mysterious things.

While playing hide and seek, Lucy discovers that a wardrobe has a back door into another world, cold and icy. There, she meets a Faun, Mr. Tumnus (McAvoy), who takes her to his cabin for warmth and a cup of tea.

She returns to the real world, but her brothers and sister do not believe her story.

But, before long, Edmund finds the door, and meets the White Witch Jadis (Swinton), who charms him with sweets. Her real intention is to capture any humans who invade her world, called Narnia, because it has been foretold that humans will come there and help Aslan (voice of Liam Neeson) recapture it from the Witch who rules it now.

Now the other children join Lucy in visiting Narnia, but the Witch has put Edmund into a dungeon. He is so frightened, he tells the Witch where he thinks his siblings might be.

Meanwhile, Susan, Peter, and Lucy have met some beavers, who befriend them, and help them stay one step ahead of the Witch.

Finally, they meet Aslan, and together, they set out to rescue Edmund, and do final battle with the White Witch.

Commentary

C.S. Lewis wrote the story, which is similar to that of Jesus, symbolized by Aslan, who sacrifices himself for the sake of his friends. Edmund symbolizes Judas, who betrays his siblings to Jadis, the Witch, who symbolizes Satan. In fact, C.S. Lewis was considered to be an unofficial spokesperson for Christianity.

I simply enjoyed it as a very entertaining fantasy, similar to Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll, another British storyteller.

Extras

These include Narnia Fun Facts, Bloopers, Director's Commentary, and other things.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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