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Movie Renter's Guide
 

Number 134 - May, 2006

Staff

 


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Good Night, and Good Luck A Sound of Thunder
The Aristocrats Aeon Flux
End Game The Detonator
The Last Drop Mrs. Henderson Presents
Munich An Unfinished Life

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Warner Brothers

2005, Color, Rated PG, 1 Hr 33 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by George Clooney


Starring  David Strathairn, Robert Downey Jr., Patricia Clarkson, Ray Wise, Frank Langella

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

No

Sex

No

Language

Bad

"Good Night, and Good Luck"

Synopsis

In the 1950s, the Cold War inspired paranoia about Communism in the United States.

Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy (played by himself in film archives) started a witch hunt against anyone in influential positions that he felt might have Communism sympathies. In particular, government employees in the State Department were singled out. McCarthy never had any evidence to support his allegations.

So many lives were disrupted, CBS News Reporter Edward R. Murrow (Strathairn), supported by Producer Fred Friendly (Clooney), went on a hunt of their own, against McCarthy for his tactics.

William Paley (Langella) President of CBS, was extremely nervous about Murrow going after McCarthy, and so were the sponsors of the show, See it Now, which Murrow hosted. So, Murrow and Friendly said they would pay for the commercial spots out of their own pockets.

Murrow broadcast a program on March 9, 1954, showing clips of McCarthy accusing the Democratic Party, Franklin Roosevelt, the ACLU, and other people, of Communistic tendencies. Murrow, who was the most brilliant news reporter of the twentieth century, destroyed the Republican Senator from Wisconsin with his responses.

Congress, emboldened by Murrow's success, censured McCarthy, and that was the end of his career.

Commentary

The film was shot in high contrast black & white, much like TV appeared at the time. I think it would have been better to have only the TV segments in black & white, with the rest of the story in color.

Murrow's incredible voice, and the way he spoke, with inflections carefully managed, is something I remember from my childhood in the 1950s.

During World War II, he reported from England, and would say, "This . . . is London." The way he said it became so famous, CBS for many years, would say, "This . . . is CBS.", and more recently, James Earl Jones would say, "This . . . is CNN."

Extras

These include Director's Commentary, Companion, and other things.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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Warner Brothers

2004, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 43 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Peter Hyams


Starring Edward Burns, Ben Kingsley, Catherine McCormack

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

Mild

Language

Bad

"A Sound of Thunder"

Synopsis

In this Ray Bradbury story, in the year 2055, Time Safaris are offered by Charles Hatton (Kingsley), whereby customers pay lots and lots of money to be taken back in time to the days of dinosaurs, where they can shoot a T-Rex.

Travis Ryer (Burns) heads up all the safaris, making sure that everyone remains safe during the time journey, and that the same T-Rex is shot on each safari, at exactly the same time, using only "bullets" of frozen nitrogen, which will dissipate into the atmosphere.

The idea is that this particular T-Rex was about to sink into a tar pit anyway, and so, the time travelers do not change history by their actions.

Unfortunately, on one of the trips, a safari member steps on a butterfly.

Once everyone is back home, the cityscape changes to that of a primitive jungle, with all sorts of creatures that never existed otherwise, including huge bats that look like monkeys.

So, now, Travis and the time machine designer, Sonia Rand (McCormack), have to figure out what happened, go back in time to that same exact spot, and prevent the traveler from stepping on that butterfly.

Commentary

Well, of course, Ray Bradbury was a wonderful storyteller, but the execution here is mediocre. In particular, some of the green screen shots (people filmed with green background and then superimposed on top of a different scene) are terrible.

As to the theme - that the fate of animal and plant life could be affected by a single, tiny event - I suppose it's possible, but I think evolutionary pressure was generally controlled by large climate and geological events rather than miniscule things. However, I could certainly use a third hand these days. How about an extra set of ears on the back of my head, for more precise localization of surround sound?

Extras

These include only trailers.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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Velocity/Think Films

2005, Color, Not Rated, 1 Hr 26 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Stereo

 

Directed by Penn Jillette and Paul Provenza


Starring George Carlin, Whoopie Goldberg, Drew Cary, Bob Saget, Gilbert Gottfried

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

No

Sex

Filthy

Language

Filthy

"The Aristocrats"

Synopsis

Penn Jillette and Paul Provenza produced an hour and a half program, going around the country, and interviewing numerous comedians, asking them to tell their version of "The Aristocrats".

This joke is basically about two "entertainers" who visit the office of a talent agent, and tell him that they have a great new act.

This is the part where the various comedians then tell their own version, by improvisation, which entails a number of horrifically filthy sex and excretion acts, usually with their spouse and children.

At the end of the description, the agent asks the name of the act.

The answer is, "The Aristocrats". The idea is that the act is in the sewer, but the name is elegant. That's the joke. Excrete and have sex with your children, but the name of the act is something on a high order.

Commentary

The reviews that I read all say that this thing is vile, obscene, but hilarious. Even the cover art says, " . . . might be the funniest movie you'll ever see."

Well, I did not laugh. I like scatological jokes now and then, just like most guys, but this movie is the most filthy and disgusting product I have ever seen. It is so rotten to the core of the disc, I can't imagine anyone thinking it is entertaining.

In fact, I believe the people who participated and told their versions, have hurt their reputations. Interestingly, a few declined to say anything disgusting. They knew it would be an infected pimple on their resumes.

Extras

These include further jokes by the participants.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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Paramount Pictures

2005, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 33 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

French Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Karyn Kusama


Starring Charlize Theron, Frances McDormand, Marton Csokas, Jonny Lee Miller, Sophie Okonedo

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

Mild

Language

No

"Aeon Flux"

Synopsis

400 years into the future, humanity has dwindled, and the remaining population lives in one city called Bregna, which is tightly controlled by scientists.

A revolutionary group, the Monicans, led by The Handler (McDormand), sends Aeon Flux (Theron) to the central government building to assassinate The Chairman, Trevor Goodchild (Csokas).

When she infiltrates the main building and has a chance to assassinate Trevor, she hesitates, and he gets away.

The Handler sends Sithandra (Okonedo) to find out why Aeon did not complete her mission.

In the meantime, Trevor tells Aeon that she was once his wife, and that everyone in Bregna is actually a clone of themselves that have been repeated over and over to keep the last vestiges of humans alive, since they can no longer reproduce naturally.

When Trevor's brother Oren (Miller) realizes that Trevor has linked up with a Monican, he and his colleagues decide to kill Trevor and take over the research facility.

One of the humans has a child by normal means, and Trevor and Aeon feel it is now time for the ruling party to be done away with, so Oren, as the new Chairman, along with the government officials, try to kill them before they can turn Bregna back over to the human population.

Commentary

The film, based on a TV show on MTV, did poorly at the box office. There is no telling why this happened because the story is actually rather entertaining. Perhaps movie goers are just getting bored with action heroes going from the television to the big screen.

Extras

These include Creating a World, Location, The Craft of the Set Photographer, Costume Design Workshop, and other things.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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Sony Pictures

2006, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 33 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

French Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Andy Cheng


Starring Cuba Gooding Jr., James Woods, Angie Harmon, Anne Archer, Jack Scalia, Burt Reynolds, Peter Greene

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

Bad

"End Game"

Synopsis

Alex Thomas (Gooding) is a Secret Service Agent, protecting the President of the United States.

A lone gunman assassinates the President, and Alex feels that he did not do his job properly.

Investigative reporter Kate Crawford (Harmon) thinks there is a conspiracy, and tries to convince Alex to help her.

At first, Alex is preoccupied with his guilt, but soon comes to realize that Kate might be right.

They consult General Montgomery (Reynolds), a feisty maverick, who gives them some hints.

Who can they trust? Maybe not even the First Lady (Archer).

Even FBI Agents Jack Baldwin (Green) and Vaughn Stevens (Woods) behave suspiciously.

In the end, it all comes down to a woman, or maybe I should say, two women.

Commentary

The film was Direct to Video, and although it is better than many such films, it is much too predictable.

Cuba Gooding is emerging as a fine young actor, so perhaps we will be seeing him at the theater instead of just at BlockBuster.

In fact, there were two Gooding DVDs (different movies) sitting next to each other at BlockBuster, when I picked up End Game. He seems to be an action movie guy, so how about adding him to the lineup of CSI or CSI-Miami?

Extras

There are none.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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Sony Pictures

2006, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 36 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Po-Chih Leong


Starring Wesley Snipes, Silvia Colloca, William Hope, Warren Derosa, Florian Ghimpu

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

Yes

Language

Bad

"The Detonator"

Synopsis

Sonni Griffith (Snipes), an undercover C.I.A. agent is in Poland, trying to stop the sale of nuclear weapons to enemies of the USA.

He is discovered and ends up in the hands of the police, who promptly turn him back over to the US Government officials there.

Instead of being sent home, he is told that he is being reassigned to protect a witness, Nadia Cominsky (Colloca), who is going back to the US to testify in a trial.

Sonni learns that there are people in Europe who want to kill Nadia before she gets to the US, in fact, the nuclear weapons dealers that he was chasing in the first place.

So, Sonni and Nadia make their way across Europe to escape the arms dealers.

There are lots of good chase scenes, as can be discerned from the cars and explosions on the cover art.

Commentary

This is another movie by Snipes made in Romania, and I suspect it was shot at the same time as The Marksman. Detonator is a little better than Marksman, but not much.

More and more action movies seem to be getting made in Eastern Europe. I think this is partly because it is certainly less expensive, but also because that part of the world is torn up so badly, it makes a good backdrop for extreme violence.

Extras

There are none.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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First Look Pictures

2005, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 38 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Colin Teague


Starring Billy Zane, Michael Madsen, Karel Roden, Alexander Skarsgård, Tommy Flanagan

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

Bad

"The Last Drop"

Synopsis

It's September, 1944. The Normandy Invasion of June, 1944, has been successful. The Allies are marching to Berlin.

Six days before the invasion of Holland, Allied airborne divisions are given a new assignment, code named Market Garden.

It was to be a daylight paratrooper jump, with the target being northeast of the Belgian port, Antwerp.

The idea was to assist the British Second Army in their ground attack of Holland. By that route, the British could then move east into Germany.

One airborne group has its own idea: find a mine shaft that is filled with Nazi gold.

Lt. Oates (Zane) and a crew of six other men search for the mine, and time is limited, because a German group of soldiers has the same idea.

The prize is millions of dollars worth of gold that has been looted from banks in countries through the German invasion.

Commentary

I enjoy WWII stories, but this one is a loser.

It's boring, miscast, and hard to follow. The idea of hidden Nazi gold is exciting, but the producers and director failed to execute the tale with any panache.

One of the dullest war movies I have ever seen.

Extras

There are none.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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Weinstein Company

2005, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 43 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Stephen Frears


Starring Judi Dench, Bob Hoskins, Christopher Guest, Will Young, Kelly Reilly

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

Nudity

Language

Bad

"Mrs. Henderson Presents"

Synopsis

It's London, 1937. WWII is on the horizon.

Mrs. Laura Henderson (Dench), having lost her husband, is looking for something to keep herself busy.

She finds the Windmill Theater that is run down and dilapidated, buys it, and fixes it up. She hires Vivian van Damm (Hoskins) to produce and direct plays there.

The first one, Revudeville, is a series of vaudeville skits, and is successful at first, but soon, it fails because other theaters do the same thing.

Now, it's 1939, and WWII has begun for the British.

Mrs. Henderson has an idea. Have the women be nude.

Since she lost her son in WWI, and many of the British soldiers are so young, why not let them see what a naked female looks like, just in case they don't come back from battle?

Lord Cromer (Guest) is appalled at the idea, but he agrees to approve the plan as long as the girls do not move while they are on stage.

The girls all develop a close relationship with each other, as well as with Laura and Vivian, especially when the German Blitz is blowing up buildings all around them during performances.

Commentary

The film is a delight, and is based on a true story. It appears this was the first Strip Club, ever.

Dench got her fifth Academy Award nomination for her portrayal of Laura Henderson, a real person, and van Damm's children helped with the historical facts.

Extras

These include Director's Commentary and Making of.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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Universal Studios

2005, Color, Rated R, 2 Hr 44 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

French Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Steven Spielberg


Starring Eric Bana, Geoffrey Rush, Daniel Craig, Mathieu Kassovitz, Ciarán Hinds, Hanns Zischler, Mathieu Amalric, Michael Lonsdale

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

(You have to get the Special Edition to see the extras.)

Violence

Yes

Sex

Nudity

Language

Bad

"Munich"

Synopsis

At the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Germany, a Palestinian organization called Black September broke into the hotel rooms where the eleven-member Israeli Olympic team was staying and took them hostage.

The terrorists wanted a plane to take them out of Munich, and kept the Israeli team nearby when getting into the helicopters. The police attacked, and all the hostages were killed. The terrorists were imprisoned, but eventually freed.

The Prime Minister of Israel, Golda Meir, recruits Mossad agents (the equivalent of the CIA in the USA) to hunt down the terrorists and execute them.

The men chosen for the job were Avner (Bana), Steve (Craig), Robert (Kassovitz), Carl (Hinds), and Hans (Zischler). Their contact throughout the mission was Ephraim (Rush). They are aided by Louis (Amalric) and Papa (Lonsdale), who seem to know where all the bad guys are living currently, and who charge $100,000 for the info on each one.

So, terrorist by terrorist, the Mossad agents find them, and do them considerable bodily harm, as in their mamas will puke when they see what's left. Eventually, seven of the nine terrorists are executed.

The film is not so much about the hunt, as a statement that the cycle of violence - you kill one of ours and we kill one of yours in revenge - does not solve the problem. It just goes on and on without end. Vendettas taking the lives of so many young men.

Commentary

The problem here is that revenge is an instinct that will never be ignored. It feels too good.

Secondly, the story has been told several times before, the first called 21 Hours at Munich (1976), with William Holden and Franco Nero, and Sword of Gideon (1986), with Rod Steiger and Michael York. The 21 Hours movie focuses on the Munich massacre, while Gideon covers the hunting of the terrorists. It has all the same characters as Munich, and even similar scenes, such as when some of the team find one of their members sitting on a park bench, dead. In other words, Munich is almost a remake. So, it is not all that exciting to watch.

Extras

The extras are all in the Special Edition

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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Miramax Studios

2004, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 48 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Lasse Hallstrom


Starring Robert Redford, Morgan Freeman, Jennifer Lopez, Josh Lucas, Becca Gardner, Damian Lewis

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

Bad

"An Unfinished Life"

Synopsis

Single mother Jean (Lopez) and her daughter Griff (Gardner), living in Iowa, decide that enough is enough when Jean's abusive boyfriend Gary (Lewis) hauls off and hits her yet one more time.

So, they take off for Colorado, where her father-in-law Einar (Redford) and his ranch hand Mitch (Freeman) live.

Einar does not want her there, because the reason she is a single mother is that her husband Griffin - Einar's son - was killed in a car accident that she caused.

Nevertheless, Jean and Griff stay on, with Jean working as a waitress in town.

Griff helps take care of Mitch, who is laid up in bed from an encounter with a grizzly bear.

Jean begins a relationship with Sheriff Crane (Lucas) in the small town.

Unfortunately, Gary shows up and wants Jean to go back to Iowa with him. Now it's time for Einar to decide if he wants Jean to stay or go.

Commentary

The movie is, of course, predictable for its happy ending, as a family unites in the face of tragedy, but the real story here is Mitch and how he came to be injured, and why Einar continues to take care of him.

Extras

These include Director's Commentary, Making of, and Training Bart.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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