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Movie Renter's Guide
Current Movies - Part 9 - May, 1996


By John E. Johnson, Jr.

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

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Vampire in Brooklyn"Vampire in Brooklyn", Paramount, 1995, Color, Filmed spherically and matted to measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 1.78:1, Surround Sound, AC-3, THX, 1 Hr 42 min, Rated R; Eddie Murphy, Angela Bassett; It takes great skill to produce a movie that is scary and funny at the same time. Usually the blend does not work, but in this case it does. Murphy is a vampire, Maxmillian, who arrives on the classic boat full of blood drained corpses, looking for the single remaining offspring of an ancient clan of vampires. Angela Bassett is the one, but she does not know it. She is a tough New York cop, and Maximillian tries to seduce her into the world of the undead. The film is laden with violence . . . very graphic, but the hilarious punchlines come so unexpectedly, I found myself quickly looking past all of that and enjoying it as a parody.

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

Never Talk to Strangers"Never Talk to Strangers", TriStar, 1995, Color, Filmed spherically and matted to measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 1.78:1, Surround Sound, 1 Hr 26 min, Unrated (but IMHO it is R); Rebecca De Mornay, Antonio Banderas; Dr. Sarah Taylor (De Mornay) is a Psychologist evaluating an alleged rapist for the possibility of his having multiple personality disorder or schizophrenia before he goes to trial. Meanwhile, she meets a stranger named Tony (Banderas) at the supermarket, and after he talks her into a date or two, falls in love with him. But something is amiss. Something not quite right about Mr. Right (Tony). This film tries to be mysterious in its presentation of the plot, to keep you guessing, but it is TOO mysterious . . . and confusing. The ending is a big surprise, and of course all is understood at that point, but there should be more hints in the body of the story. The result is a lack of interest for most of the picture.

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

The Prophecy"The Prophecy", First Look Pictures, 1995, Color, Filmed spherically and matted to measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 2.32:1, Surround Sound, 1 Hr 37 min, Rated R; Christopher Walken, Virginia Madsen; There will always be someone that praises any movie, and such comments are printed on the jackets. But IMHO, this film stinks to high heaven (pun intended). Gabriel the Archangel comes down to earth searching for the soul of a psychotic Korean war officer who had butchered mucho people. Gabe apparently wants this guy to show the other angels how to fight in heaven. Fight what? Well, the story goes that some of the angels did not particularly care for God having placed His favor upon humans as well as giving them a soul. So, mutiny on the altar I guess. Anyway, it is an interesting idea, but the movie just does not have fluidity to it. Satan's part is played with aplomb and is the only notable item (except for one scene where Gabe lets a little boy toot his horn, blowing out one of the windows). Other than this, it isn't worth renting, even on the "all videos 99 cents" night.

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

Kicking and Screaming"Kicking and Screaming", Trimark, 1995, Color, Filmed spherically and presented unmatted at measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 1.35:1, Surround Sound, 1 Hr 36 min, Rated R; Eric Stoltz, Josh Hamilton, Olivia d'Abo; College angst is presented in all its glory. Graduating seniors discuss life after university, over beer, pin ball machines, and freshmen co-eds. Age 22 is "Old Man River", and potatoes are considered entrees at the dormitory lunch counter. Ah, those were the days when our brains were 686s, a terabyte hard drive, endless RAM, and nothing was floppy. I think Nature takes a strong hand here, because as we reach middle age, if we still had the energy of those early days, we would all try to conquer the world. But alas, the memory chips start to go, and the clock speed drops to 10 MHz. A mildly interesting look back into a long while ago for us old timers. It's nice to know that things haven't changed.

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

Amadeus"Amadeus", The Saul Zaentz Company, 1984, Color, Filmed in Panavision and presented at measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 2.32:1, Surround Sound, THX, AC-3, 2 Hr 38 min, Not rated; F. Murray Abraham, Tom Hulce, Elizabeth Berridge; I know, this is not a current film, but many of us have been waiting for the "affordable" ($70) wide screen laserdisc release, and it is finally here. Having won 8 Academy Awards (tm), this motion picture masterpiece should have been on wide screen disc a long time ago. The movie is based on the extremely successful play, written by Peter Shaffer, which premiered on November 2, 1979 at The National Theatre. For those who were not familiar with the music of Antonio Salieri, the film was a revelation as to why he behaved the way he did (allegedly). Pushkin had written a small play on the same subject ("Mozart & Salieri") in 1830, because of Salieri's mea culpas as an old man, so the accusation is not new by any means. Abraham's portrayal of Salieri is astounding, and if the story is true, we see a clear example of how a non-conformist, creative genius can be stifled by those who do not wish their own mediocrity to be exposed (practically a proverb in human nature, ergo, never make the boss look bad). This disc utilizes a new type of transfer process, and the image is spectacular, in spite of glitches as noted below. It looks like it was filmed in 1996!

Entertainment: starstarstarstarstar
Video Quality: starstarstar (numerous horizontal white lines, and a bad glitch at 46:47 on side 2)
Audio: starstarstarstar (wonderful surround sound, but some phasing problems with the center channel on sides 1 & 3)
Photography: starstarstarstarstar
Violence: no
Sex: no
Language: the "S" word

To Die For"To Die For", Columbia Pictures, 1995, Color, Filmed spherically and matted to measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 1.76:1, Surround Sound, 1 Hr 46 min, Rated R; Nicole Kidman, Matt Dillon; Getting into television is not easy, and Suzanne Stone (Kidman) is willing to do anything to get there. A small New Hampshire town is not the best place to start, but she makes a go at it by being a weather girl for the local TV station. Although she marries a nice fellow (Larry Maretto - Matt Dillon), he is more concerned about running his restaurant than understanding her hard driving career goals. The story is told in flashback, with a dead body in the opening sequence. Based on a true incident, the film is mesmerizing, and this is undoubtedly Kidman's best film to date. It is not so much a "who dunnit?" as much as it is a "why?"

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

The Bridges of Madison County"The Bridges of Madison County", Warner Brothers, 1995, Color, Filmed spherically and matted to measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 1.90:1, Surround Sound, 2 Hr 15 min, Rated PG-13; Clint Eastwood, Meryl Streep; In Winterset, Iowa, following a woman's death, her children are shocked to find that she has requested to be cremated and her ashes thrown off a bridge. Then, they open her safety deposit box to discover a diary in which she describes a four day affair she had with a photographer many years before. In reading the diary, they learn that their mother, Francesca Johnson (Streep) had unfulfilled dreams that only surfaced when she met Robert Kincaid (Eastwood) during his trip to Winterset on an assignment to photograph the covered bridges located there. The diary not only explains why she wants her ashes to be tossed off the bridge, but helps the children find themselves. It is a wonderful story, but as a middle aged person myself, I feel a bit insulted that a red hot love affair between these two mid-life people is rated PG-13. I mean the talking-before-sex part takes up the entire first side of disc 1! I know our college readers are laughing, but wait, you'll see when you get older.

Entertainment: starstarstarstar
Video Quality: starstarstarstar
Audio: starstarstarstarstar (Incredible surround effects of Iowa summer insect sounds)
Photography: starstarstarstar
Violence: no
Sex: yes, and tastefully done
Language: the "F" word

Cutthroat Island"Cutthroat Island", Cutthroat Productions, 1995, Color, Filmed in Panavision and presented at measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 2.32:1, Surround Sound, THX, AC-3, 2 Hr 4 min, Rated PG-13; Geena Davis, Matthew Modine, Frank Langella; Avast ye swabs. It's the Cap'n! Morgan Adams (Davis), daughter of a murdered pirate, becomes a pirate herself and sets out to find buried treasure, as well as avenge the murderer ("Dog" - Langella). Along the way, she acquires a slave (Modine) from the auction block. Three maps need to be pieced together to find the way to Cutthroat Island, where the treasure is hidden. This is no Errol Flynn movie, but the action sequences are first rate, and the lack of explicit exit wounds gives it the PG-13 rating. Why is there always a cute little monkey in these swashbucklers? The opening AC-3 logo helicopter sound practically sent us through the roof. I wish they would keep the sound level of the logo the same as the program material.

Entertainment: starstarstar
Video Quality: starstarstarstar
Audio: starstarstarstar (fantastic surround)
Photography: starstarstarstar (wonderful digital special effects)
Violence: yes
Sex: innuendoes
Language: no

Other laserdiscs viewed but not formally reviewed:

True Crime: starstar
Copycat: starstarstarstar
Waiting to Exhale: starstar


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