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Movie Renter's Guide
Current Movies - Part 4 - December, 1995


By John E. Johnson, Jr.

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Ratings:    
  ***** Extraordinary
  **** Good
  *** Acceptable
  ** Mediocre
  * Poor

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Rob Roy", United Artists, 1995, Color, Filmed anamorphically, Measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 2.32:1, Surround Sound, AC-3, 2 Hr 19 min, Rated R; Liam Neeson, Jessica Lange, John Hurt, Tim Roth; The setting - 18th Century Scotland, and the clan system is going strong. Robert Roy McGregor is the head of a clan, and the winter is severe. He decides to borrow money to help his people through the cold months ahead, but unfortunately, he borrows it from the unsavory Marquis of Montrose (John Hurt) whose weasel of a ward, Archie Cunningham (Tim Roth) promptly steals the purse of coins being carried back to the clan. The story centers around honor and courage, with the contrast between Rob Roy and the Marquis's entourage very striking. The first 20 minutes or so are rather boring, but the pace becomes brisk, and for those viewers who like a satisfying ending (i.e., the bad guy gets it in the kazoo), you will find it here.

 

Entertainment: starstarstarstar
Video Quality: starstar A number of video glitches are quite obvious.
Audio: starstarstar There are lots of bagpipes in this one - nice soundtrack.
Photography: starstarstarstar
Violence: graphic swordplay
Sex: yes and some rather lewd behavior
Language: no problem

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"Batman Forever", Warner Brothers, 1995, Color, Filmed spherically and matted to measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 1.87:1, Surround Sound, AC-3, 2 Hr 2 min, Rated PG-13; Val Kilmer, Jim Carrey, Nicole Kidman, Tommy Lee Jones, Chris O'Donnell; Gotham City is on its way to having the brain power sucked from its populace by Edward Nygma (Jim Carrey) who, along with Harvey Two Face (Jones), form a slimy twosome that keeps the wardrobe department in stitches (whoops!). The Dynamic Duo (Bruce Wayne - Kilmer; Robin - O'Donnell) have other plans though, and the film spends its energy in a marvel of special effects and miniature work to weave the threads to part 3 in the tales of the Caped Crusader saving yet another beautiful damsel, Chase Meridian (Kidman) from the clutches of evil. There is really not much of a storyline here, but the color, suitable for test patterns, and sound, are awesome. The cars are modified remnants of 1940s Republic Serials, but all else is up to date, including the wide screen TV.

Entertainment: starstarstar
Video Quality: starstarstarstar
Audio: starstarstarstar Surround sound is outrageously good; however, occasional center voices are steered to front left/right channels because of phasing problems.
Photography: starstarstarstarstar Great angled shots. Holy deja vu, Batman!
Violence: comic book style
Sex: no
Language: no

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"While You Were Sleeping", Hollywood Pictures, 1995, Filmed spherically and matted to measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 1.78:1, Color, Surround Sound, THX, 1 Hr 43 min, Rated PG; Sandra Bullock, Bill Pullman; A attractive lonely young woman (Bullock) works at the toll booth in Chicago, and Christmas is approaching. Every day she sees a dashing young fellow passing through the booth, and she dreams of meeting him. One day, he is mugged and falls onto the train tracks. She saves his life, but he is in a coma. His family thinks she is his fiancee, and she is so taken with their friendliness, she lets the charade continue, but she tries to figure out a way to tell them without hurting their feelings. The brother of the comatose man falls in love with her, and she with him, and the resulting complications fill out the storyline. Veterans of the screen, Jack Warden, Peter Boyle, and Glynis Johns help to make this a very nice film . . . very warm and humorous.

Entertainment: starstarstarstar
Video Quality: starstarstarstar
Audio: starstarstar
Photography: starstarstar
Violence: no
Sex: no
Language: no

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"Apollo 13", Universal Studios, 1995, Color, Filmed spherically and matted to measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 2.32:1, Surround Sound, THX, 2 Hr 20 min, Rated PG; Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton; The true story of Apollo 13, launched April 11, 1970 is dramatized, based on a book by Jim Lovell, one of the crewmembers. Although the US Space Program had landed men on the moon only a short time before that, the public was not interested in the Apollo 13 flight, but when an accident occurred during execution of the mission, suddenly everyone was glued to their TVs. Jim Lovell (Hanks), Fred Haise (Paxton), and Jack Swigert (Bacon) were stranded 200,000 miles from earth on their flight to the moon when an oxygen tank caused a short circuit. They had to abandon the LM (Lunar Module) and huddle together in freezing conditions with little oxygen and battery power, but too much carbon dioxide. Mission Control in Houston devised a clever method of reducing the CO2, and they return home not knowing if the ceramic shield would protect them from the blazing temperatures caused by friction when their spacecraft entered the earth's atmosphere. I feel that this movie dwells a bit too much on the technical knobs and switches routines, and not enough on the men themselves. On the other hand, flying to the moon was an extraordinary technical accomplishment. I worked for NASA in the mid-1970s and had a proposal for an experiment to be conducted in space, so I know how precise these people are. There are so many parts involved, the odds catch up inevitably, and something goes wrong. This film illustrates how one can never plan for absolutely every contingency.

Entertainment: starstarstar
Video Quality: starstarstarstar
Audio: starstarstarstarstar Absolutely thunderous bass, and terrific surround sound effects.
Photography: starstarstar The unmatted version will probably look better, allowing more of the interior of the spacecraft to be visible.
Violence: no
Sex: no
Language: the "s"word (I would imagine so!)

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"Species", MGM, 1995, Color, Filmed in Panavision, Measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 2.32:1, Surround Sound, AC-3, THX, 1 Hr 48 min, Rated R; Ben Kingsley, Natasha Henstridge; An organization called S.E.T.I sends a message into space, 1/4 kilobyte in size, containing the human DNA sequence, a map of our solar system, and the human population (now that's what I call a good data reduction scheme!) Lo . . . they get an answer. It has a formula for a methane catalyst and a "friendly" instruction on how to insert their own DNA sequence into human DNA. So, 100 human fertilized eggs get the insertion, and the earth lab allows an egg to grow in vitro (code named "Sil"). The egg divides rapidly and a 10 year old girl develops in only a few months. The researchers (Kingsley is the chief honcho) try to terminate her because of her lethal powers, but she escapes. A team of scientists is assembled, consisting of a biologist, a sociologist, a psychic, and a hit man (how nice) who are sent on a search and destroy mission to find her. By this time, the girl is a stunningly beautiful woman (Henstridge), and her mission is to reproduce her species so that they (the aliens) can destroy humankind, which they consider a galactic weed. Therein lies the story, and I don't think they did a very good job of telling it. After "Aliens", we are all expecting a certain standard in alien splatter films, and this one just does not cut it.

Entertainment: starstar
Video Quality: starstarstarstar
Audio: starstarstarstar
Photography: starstarstar
Violence: yes, brutal and graphic
Sex: yes, nudity
Language: the "f" word

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"The Santa Clause", Walt Disney Pictures, 1994, Color, Filmed spherically and matted to measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 1.81:1, Surround Sound, 1 Hr 37 min, Rated PG; Tim Allen, Judge Reinhold; A toy company executive (Allen) named Scott Calvin (note the initials) and his son Charlie go on a merry adventure when Santa falls off the roof and needs a replacement. When Scott awakens from his "dream" he finds that it is all too real. He begins to take on the physical characteristics of Santa, and his son loves it. This is one of the first films I have seen in a long time where the director and script writers take every advantage of the scenario. There are some really great laughs, and I found the movie to be very enjoyable. It is definitely a feel good story. If you are wondering why there is an "e" in the word "Clause" for the title, take a look at the movie jacket.

Entertainment: starstarstarstar
Video Quality: starstarstarstar
Audio: starstarstar
Photography: starstarstarstar
Violence: are you kidding?
Sex: are you kidding?
Language: are you kidding?

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Other home videos viewed but not formally reviewed:

Congo star
Crimson Tide starstarstar
Shining Through starstarstarstar (This one is a few years old, but it is a great WW-II espionage film.)


Copyright 1995, 1996, 1997 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
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