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Movie Renter's Guide
Current Movies - Part 10 - June, 1996


By John E. Johnson, Jr.

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

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"The Scarlet Letter", Hollywood Pictures, 1995, Color, Filmed with both anamorphic lenses and spherical lenses, and presented at measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 2.32:1, Surround Sound, AC-3, 2 Hr 15 min, Rated R; Demi Moore, Gary Oldman, Robert Duvall; Hawthorne's classic is "freely" adapted to film in this story of illicit love during a time when such things were severely punished. Hester Prynne (Moore) arrives in the Massachusetts Bay Colony ahead of her physician husband Roger (Duvall) to find a home and set up house keeping. The boat on which her husband is supposed to be traveling is attacked by Indians, and he is presumed dead, but in fact, he is taken captive. She falls in love with the town minister Arthur Dimmesdale (Oldman) with whom she has a roll in the hay and becomes pregnant. She refuses to name the father and is forced to wear the Scarlet Letter "A" for adultery wherever she goes. Now the husband shows up, and he is vendictive. The film is well done, and is probably Moores best work. Duvall is terrific as a complete jackass.

Entertainment: ****
Video Quality: ****
Audio: ****
Photography: ***
Violence: yes
Sex: yes
Language: no

"Devil in a Blue Dress", Columbia TriStar, 1995, Color, Filmed spherically and matted to measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 1.76:1, Surround Sound, 1 Hr 41 min, Rated R; Denzel Washington, Jennifer Beals; Los Angeles, Summer, 1948, and Ezekiel "Easy" Rawlins (Washington) is out of work. A thug offers him a job finding a socialite, Daphne Monet (Beals), who has run away from a politician. Rawlins has to cross racial barriers to find her, with dead bodies strewn along the way. Although the author, Walter Mosley, won awards for his novel that was adapted for this film, the movie is just too slow. Denzel Washington is, as always, wonderful, but this is a poor vehicle for his talents.

Entertainment: starstar
Video Quality: starstarstarstar
Audio: starstarstar
Photography: starstarstarstar
Violence: yes
Sex: yes
Language: the "F" and "S" words

The Brothers McMullen"The Brothers McMullen", Fox Searchlight Pictures, 1995, Color, Mono, Filmed spherically and matted to measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 1.76:1, 1 Hr 38 min, Rated R; Jack Mulcahy, Mike McGlone, Edward Burns, Connie Britton, Elizabeth McKay; Three Irish brothers live together in the same house owned by Jack McMullen (Mulcahy) and his wife Molly (Britton). Brother Barry (Burns) is a writer who thinks love and commitment are two different worlds, and Patrick (McGlone) battles his Catholic guilt and bedroom antics with his girlfriend. Meanwhile, Jack is getting the seven year itch, two years early. This is basically an interesting film, once you get into it, and well done on a modest budget (the actors brought their own lunch to the set, and Burns used his parents' home to shoot the domestic scenes).

Entertainment: starstarstar
Video Quality: starstarstarstar
Audio: starstar
Photography: starstarstar
Violence: no
Sex: sort of
Language: the "F" and "S" words

Unstrung Heroes"Unstrung Heroes", Hollywood Pictures, 1995, Color, Filmed spherically and matted to measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 1.81:1, Surround Sound, AC-3, 1 Hr 33 min, Rated PG; Andie MacDowell, John Turturro, Michael Richards, Maury Chaykin; The Lidz family has one genius, Sid (Turturro), whose two brothers, Danny (Richards) and Arthur (Chaykin), are paranoid. Young Steven Lidz becomes influenced by the two zany brothers (his uncles) as a result of moving in with them when his mother Selma (MacDowell) becomes severely ill. They talk him into wearing a disguise and changing his name to Franz. There are no special effects here, just a family story, with lots of reminders of our own family get togethers, and how deeply tragedy can affect us. I would guess that there is some fact to the script, which is based on a novel by Franz Lidz.

Entertainment: starstarstar
Video Quality: starstarstarstar
Audio: starstarstarstar
Photography: starstarstar
Violence: no
Sex: no
Language: the "S" word

Strange Days"Strange Days", Twentieth Century Fox, 1995, Color, Filmed spherically and matted to measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 2.32:1, Surround Sound, AC-3, THX, 2 Hr 25 min, Rated R; Ralph Fiennes, Angela Bassett, Juliette Lewis, Tom Sizemore; It is late December, 1999, Los Angeles, and the last days of the twentieth century (what will Twentieth Century Fox call their studios after that?) Lenny Nero (Fiennes) records and sells "clips", which are audio/visual/tactile experiences recorded digitally by placing a "SQUID" (Super Quantum Interference Device) on the heads of those originally having the experiences. A user places a similar device on his or her head, and plays the clip from a small disc. He stumbles onto a disc that has a rape and murder stored on it, and is then marked for death, along with his girlfriend Faith (Lewis) because they know too much. Lenny's confidant Mace (Bassett) helps him out of trouble, and he turns to his friend Max (Sizemore) for additional assistance. This is another in a recent series of doomsday films, with street freaks, pyrotechnics, the police riot squad, and heavy metal music to keep you perpetually stunned in your seats. Mediocre plot, reasonable acting, and great sound.

Entertainment: starstarstar
Video Quality: starstarstarstar
Audio: starstarstarstarstar
Photography: starstarstar
Violence: mucho
Sex: raw and sadistic
Language: the "F" and "S" words

Money Train"Money Train", Columbia TriStar, 1995, Color, Filmed spherically and matted to measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 2.32:1, Surround Sound, THX, 1 Hr 40 min, Rated R; Wesley Snipes, Woody Harrelson, Robert Blake, Jennifer Lopez; John (Snipes) and Charlie (Harrelson) not only are transit (New York subway) police, but are "brothers". Seems John found Charlie as a orphaned baby and his family took him in. Between setups in the subway, with one of them acting as a "D" (decoy) to attract would be muggers, Charlie tries to talk John into heisting the money train. The money train is one of the subway cars filled with the cash from each day's take for subway tickets. Donald Patterson (Blake) is the chief of the transit police and has particular interest in seeing that the money train is not disturbed. He is an S.O.B. and a borderline racist. The major expense for this film is towards the end, when Charlie makes his decision about the heist. The rest of the movie is taken up with ad lib conversations between John and Charlie, discussing life, booze, and their mutual love interest, Grace Santiago (Lopez).

Entertainment: starstarstar
Video Quality: starstarstar
Audio: starstarstar
Photography: starstarstar
Violence: yes
Sex: yes
Language: the "F" and "S" words

The American President"The American President", Universal Pictures, 1995, Color, Filmed in Panavision and presented at measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 2.34:1, Surround Sound, 1 Hr 54 min, Rated PG-13; Michael Douglas, Annette Bening, Martin Sheen, Richard Dreyfuss, Michael J. Fox; Democrat President Andrew Shepherd is getting ready to campaign for re-election, wondering if the fact that his wife passed away immediately before the first election was the reason he won. He meets Sydney Ellen Wade (Bening), who is a lobbyist for the Global Defense Council (GDC), and falls in love with her. The film then centers on all the various funny routines that can be exploited as the President and his "girlfriend" go out on dates, some of which are state dinners with national figures from other countries. Republican hopeful Bob Rumsen (Dreyfuss) tries to use the family values approach to derail Shepherd's re-election. This movie is an absolute delight! The expressions on Wade's face as Shepherd pursues her, are priceless.

Entertainment: starstarstarstar
Video Quality: starstarstar
Audio: starstarstar
Photography: starstarstarstar
Violence: no
Sex: no
Language: the "F" and "S" words

Casino"Casino", Universal Pictures, 1995, Color, Filmed spherically and matted to measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 2.37:1, Surround Sound, 2 Hr 59 min, Rated R; Robert De Niro, Sharon Stone, Joe Pesci; The film opens with a bang, literally. Sam "Ace" Rothstein (De Niro) is hired by the mob to run the Tangiers Casino in Las Vegas, during the 1970s. Sam has a knack for details, and the casino doubles its take. Nicky Santoro (Pesci) is sent to make sure that nothing happens to Sam. Nicky is an extremely violent fellow, and he beats the devil out of anyone who even looks at Sam the wrong way. Now Sam meets a high priced call girl Ginger McKenna (Stone). He falls for her immediately, and the next thing we know, they are married, and have a little girl. Ginger has a drinking problem, a drug problem, and a fixation on her old pimp, played by veteran actor James Woods. Don Rickles and Alan King have cameo parts, but not as comedians. Casino is a superb motion picture, although graphically violent, and in my opinion, establishes Martin Scorsese as one of the finest directors in Hollywood, maybe not a Wyler or a Hitchcock, but certainly up there with Spielberg.

Entertainment: starstarstarstarstar
Video Quality: starstarstarstar
Audio: starstarstarstarstar
Photography: starstarstarstarstar
Violence: extreme
Sex: yes
Language: the "F" and "S" words, and worse

Goldeneye"Goldeneye", United Artists, 1995, Color, Filmed in Panavision and presented at measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 2.32:1, Surround Sound, AC-3, THX, 2 Hr 10 min, Rated PG-13; Pierce Brosnan, Sean Bean, Izabella Scorupco. Famke Janssen; "My name is Bond . . . James Bond." No one could say it like Connery, but Brosnan is a reasonable facsimile in this latest installment of the Bond film series that dates back through several decades ("My, you've aged well Jimbo.") This time, General Ourumov, a traitor to the Russian Federation, has stolen the Goldeneye, which is the access code to a Russian space weapons system that uses Electromagnetic Pulses to destroy the enemy's electrical circuits. His first target is Severnaya, a weapons control center in Siberia, but one person escapes, the newest Bond girl, Natalya Simonova (Scorupco). In order to keep his little secret, Ourumov must track her down. In the meantime, Bond gets involved with the girl, and discovers that an old friend is part of the conspiracy. The final target: London. The countdown begins, and the spectacular pyrotechnics give the subwoofers a run for their money. Oh, and the innuendoes are just as funny as they were in the good old days when they couldn't actually say what they really meant.

 

Entertainment: starstarstar
Video Quality: starstar (several bad digital glitches)
Audio: starstarstarstar
Photography: starstarstarstar
Violence: of course
Sex: as far as PG-13 will allow
Language: no

Other laserdiscs viewed but not formally reviewed:

Mute Witness: star
White Man's Burden: starstarstar
Nick of Time: starstarstarstar
Get Shorty: starstarstar


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