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Movie Renter's Guide
Current Movies - Part 8 - June, 1996


By John E. Johnson, Jr.

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

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To Wong Foo"To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar", MCA Universal, 1995, Color, Filmed spherically and matted to measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 1.68:1, Surround Sound, THX, 1 Hr 49 min, Rated PG-13; Wesley Snipes, Patrick Swayze, John Leguizamo; Three "drag queens" rent an old Cadillac and start out on a drive from New York to Los Angeles. The car breaks down in a small mid-western town (Snydersville), and the "girls" try their best to maintain their womanhood in the face of a nave townsfolk. I had thought this was going to be a comedy, and it starts out looking as though it is a failure at doing this. Suddenly, I realized that it is serious (although the LD jacket calls it hilarious)! While the car is being repaired, they spend their time mending broken hearts and touching the souls of the inhabitants quite deeply. If you can watch this film with the attitude that it is not a slapstick stereotyping, but a story with a happy ending, you will probably enjoy it.

Entertainment: starstarstar
Video Quality: starstarstar
Audio: starstar
Photography: starstarstar
Violence: an abusive husband
Sex: no
Language: the "S" word

Fair Game"Fair Game", Warner Brothers, 1995, Color, Filmed spherically and matted to measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 1.90:1, Surround Sound, 1 Hr 31 min, Rated R; William Baldwin, Cindy Crawford; Miami attorney Kate McQuean (Crawford) suddenly becomes a target of assassination, and Detective Max Kirkpatrick (Baldwin) tries not only to protect her, but to find out why a civil courts lawyer is marked for death. All right, Crawford isn't much at acting, but this is only her first movie, and there is so much action (Producer Joel Silver - "Diehard", "Lethal Weapon"), that you don't have time to criticize. Besides, she is backed up by one of the experienced Baldwin brothers, and veteran bad guy Steven Berkoff. He's the ringleader of an ex-KGB splinter group that does not like the idea of Kate trying to get their spy boat away from her opponent in a divorce case. Ahh . . . there's the connection. Boom, goes her house, and cars, and trucks, and everything else the pyrotechnic division can get their hands on. This is also the first film for director Andrew Sipes. I think we are going to see more from this talented fellow.

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

Dangerous Minds"Dangerous Minds", Hollywood Pictures, 1995, Color, Filmed spherically and matted to measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 1.81:1, Surround Sound, 1 Hr 39 min, Rated R; Michelle Pfeiffer; True stories usually make good movies, and this is no exception. LouAnne Johnson (Pfeiffer) is an ex-marine who takes a job teaching incorrigible students in a special high school class, called the academy. She can't get through to them using the regular school curriculum, so she makes up her own, using popular culture. And the results are astonishing. I think this is Pfeiffer's best work ever (from her films that I have seen). Although the young actors and actresses who play the students are not listed on the jacket, they do a fine job. As much as anything else, the film is a condemnation of the present high school educational system in the US. The young human mind is like a fresh sponge, waiting to absorb anything and everything that life has to offer, and if we don't provide it, so very much potential is wasted. The movie spells this out very clearly.

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

Moonlight and Valentino"Moonlight and Valentino", PolyGram, 1995, Color, Filmed in Panavision and presented at measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 2.27:1, Surround Sound, 1 Hr 44 Min, Rated R; Elizabeth Perkins, Whoopi Goldberg, Kathleen Turner, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jon Bon Jovi; When tragedy strikes a young woman's family, her best friend, sister, and stepmother try and help her through the trauma. Rebecca's (Perkins) husband is killed while jogging. Although her sorrow is the focus of the movie, it is just the pivot upon which entanglements spin. Sylvie (Goldberg) has her own marital problems, Alberta (Turner) is sympathetic in between cellular phone calls, and Lucy (Paltrow) is a neurotic chain smoker. So, the big question is, "Who is helping out whom, here?" The script is based on the real life tragedy of Ellen Simon (Neil Simon's daughter), whose husband also passed away, and one can feel the pain coming through in the movie. Jon Bon Jovi provides the key to the title; he is a house painter who apparently likes to do his work in the moonlight and becomes romantically involved with one of the characters. Valentino is his dog. Not a great film, but very sentimental, and a nice change of pace. Turn off the subwoofer.

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

Braveheart"Braveheart", Paramount Pictures, 1995, Color, Filmed in Panavision and presented at measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 2.27:1, Surround Sound, AC-3, THX, 2 Hr 53 min, Rated R; Mel Gibson, Sophie Marceau, Patrick McGoohan, Catherine McCormack; At the turn of the 14th century (1290 - 1314), King Edward of England assassinates the heads of the Scottish clans in order to usurp the throne of Scotland after its own king dies. The vision of slain compatriots emblazons a thirst for freedom in the young Scot William Wallace, who grows up to become a painful thorn in the side of King Edward. Edward tries all sorts of devious means to entrap Wallace, but is defeated at all turns except one: betrayal by William's own countrymen. The film is an extraordinary saga, rich with history and spectacle. It is easily, IMHO, the best film of the last 10 years in its category (historical drama), and it is no wonder that it was nominated for so many academy awards. Often, when an actor decides to try the other side of the camera, the results are a disaster, but not in this case. Gibson is brilliant as a director.

Entertainment: starstarstarstarstar
Video Quality: starstarstar (Some noticeable glitches)
Audio: starstarstarstarstar (Marvelous score, played by the London Symphony, excellent surround)
Photography: starstarstarstarstar
Violence: graphic
Sex: nudity
Language: the "F" word

Beyond Rangoon"Beyond Rangoon", Castle Rock, 1995, Color, Filmed in Panavision and presented at measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 2.32:1, Surround Sound, 1 Hr 39 min, Rated R; Patricia Arquette; In the late 1980s, Dr. Laura Bowman (Arquette), who is a young American physician visiting Burma, loses her passport in Rangoon and is caught in the middle of a military attempt to suppress an uprising. A professor, who had been removed from the university and imprisoned for supporting the democratic movement, helps Laura try to escape by eventually crossing a river into Thailand. Much of the movie takes place on the river, just as it did in a previous John Boorman film, "Deliverance". The movie was shot in Malaysia under extreme conditions (105 degrees heat), as well as pressure from the Burmese Military Junta to try and stop it. It starts out slow but gathers rapid momentum from the point where Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the democratic movement, leads a protest march.

Entertainment: starstarstarstar
Video Quality: starstarstar (Several video glitches)
Audio: star (The laserdisc suffers from phasing problems that bounce the center channel to the front left/right throughout the movie.)
Photography: starstarstarstar
Violence: yes
Sex: no
Language: no

The Usual Suspects"The Usual Suspects", Polygram, 1995, Color, Filmed spherically and matted to measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 2.27:1, Surround Sound, 1 Hr 46 min, Rated R; Stephen Baldwin, Gabriel Byrne, Benico Del Toro, Chazz Palminteri, Kevin Pollak, Kevin Spacey; A boat is burned in Long Beach Harbor, and several dozen charred bodies need to be explained. U.S. Customs Agent David Kujan (Palminteri) interrogates suspect Verbal Kint (Spacey) who recounts a strange story. He says that five men, including himself, were involved in a plot to sabotage a 91 million dollar cocaine deal. They were working for a Hungarian named Keyser Sose, whose name struck fear in all who knew him. The film centers around backflashes of Kint's description of what happened, but also about "Who is Keyser Sose?" Although the concept is a good one, the thread that ties the movie together is tenuous and wispy. Perhaps it would be best to watch the last 15 minutes first, then go back and view the entire movie so it will be easier to follow.

 

Entertainment: starstar
Video Quality: starstarstar
Audio: starstarstar
Photography: starstarstarstar
Violence: extreme
Sex: no
Language: the "F" and "S" words, and then some

Other laserdiscs viewed but not formally reviewed:

"Clockers" starstar
"Assassins" starstar
"Desperado" starstarstar A south of the border "Pulp Fiction", with fantastic surround sound
"Seven" star I don't consider a bloated dead body with its face in a bowl of pasta, and a bucket of vomit underneath the table, entertainment.
"Boys on the Side" starstarstar
"Babe" starstarstar


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