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Movie Renter's Guide
Current Movies - Part 11 - July, 1996


By John E. Johnson, Jr.

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

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"Leaving Las Vegas", United Artists, 1995, Color, Filmed spherically and matted to measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 1.78:1, Surround Sound, 1 Hr 52 min, Unrated; Nicholas Cage, Elisabeth Shue; Ben Sanderson (Cage) is an alcoholic and loses his job as a screen writer in Los Angeles. He decides to go to Las Vegas to drink himself to death. Upon arriving, Ben meets a prostitute named Sera (Shue) who feels sorry for him, and she talks him into moving to her apartment. They fall in love, but he is still intent on killing himself, and she does not know how to get medical attention for him. This is a very sad, depressing story, with a terrible beginning, a poignant middle, and a disastrous end. When I watch a movie, I like to experience a variety of emotions. If there is sadness, there should be joy . . . somewhere, and this film does not have any. The language used is beyond any that I could imagine for a professional film production, and although this version is unrated, it is, in my opinion, NC-17, and I would be embarrassed to see it in mixed company.

Entertainment: **
Video Quality: ***
Audio: ***
Photography: ***
Violence: drunken behavior and abuse
Sex: explicit
Language: pushing the limits

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"Grumpier Old Men", Warner Brothers, 1995, Filmed spherically and matted to measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 1.89:1, Surround Sound, 1 Hr 41 min, Rated PG-13; Jack Lemmon, Ann-Margret, Walter Matthau, Sophia Loren; Max "Moron" Goldman (Matthau) and John "Putz" Gustavsson (Lemmon) are still grumpy and calling each other names, in spite of their obvious affection for one another. John is now married to Ariel (Margret), and Max is lonesome. The old Ragetti Bate Shop down by the lake . . . you know, the one where Catfish Hunter still waits to be caught . . . is being turned into a Ristorante by Maria (Loren), a newcomer in Wabasha, Minnesota. The fellows don't want their lake disturbed by cars, restaurant noise, belching, and whatever, so they make things tough for the new owner while it is under construction. Of course, we all know what is going to happen, since Max can't be without female companionship in his dotage. Although the film had mixed reviews, I found it to be really funny. Very fine actors and actresses make it so. The Odd Couple still have what it takes.

Entertainment: ****
Video Quality: ***
Audio: ****
Photography: ****
Violence: no
Sex: John's dad (Burgess Meredith) chases Maria's mother around, offering to give her a free medical examination.
Language: the kind that grumpy old men use

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"Sudden Death", Universal Pictures, 1995, Color, Filmed in Panavision and presented at measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 2.32:1, Surround Sound, 1 Hr 51 min, Rated R; Jean-Claude Van Damme, Powers Boothe, Dorian Harewood; Darren McCord (Van Damme) is a Fire Marshall at the Stanley Cup (Hockey) Playoffs in Pittsburgh. Terrorists (what else?), headed up by a CIA traitor (Boothe), take over a VIP room which contains the US Vice President and guests. They demand 1.5 Billion dollars to be transferred to various off shore bank accounts, and if sufficient funds are not moved by the end of each game quarter, they will shoot hostages. Darren's daughter is kidnapped by one of the terrorists, and what do you know, what do you say, violence ensues, much to the terrorists' chagrin. This is a Diehard kind of movie, and the interplay between violence on the hockey ice rink, and the violence in the bowels of the arena, is a great twist. The action is essentially non-stop and well filmed. Not excessive . . . just the right amount to keep us fellows happy, and not gross out the ladies. The only irrational aspect of the film is all the explosions going on in the parking lot, and the spectators not noticing a thing. Are you hockey fans really that compulsive about the game?

Entertainment: ****
Video Quality: ****
Audio: ** (not much surround effects, not much for the subwoofer to do)
Photography: ***
Violence: the right level for any good R rated action film
Sex: no
Language: the "F" and "S" words

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"Sabrina", Paramount, 1995, Color, Surround Sound, AC-3, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 1.76.1, 2 Hr 7 min, Rated PG; Harrison Ford, Julia Ormond, Greg Kinnear; Linus Larrabee (Ford) is the head of a billion dollar family business and finds that his brother David (Kinnear), in becoming engaged to the daughter of an electronics firm tycoon, provides a very convenient bind for completing a valuable business merger with that firm. Meanwhile, the family chaffeur's daughter Sabrina Fairchild (Ormond) who has been in love with David since childhood, blossoms after a long visit to Paris, and David becomes interested in her, threatening the engagement, and more importantly to Linus, the business merger. Linus intervenes, making a play for her himself, meaning to disrupt the potential financial disaster, and finds that he was only lying to himself. This is a delightful romantic comedy, filled with extremely funny lines (typical Sydney Pollack), but you have to stay on your toes to catch them.

Entertainment: ****
Video Quality: *****
Audio: *** (not much surround, but the film IS scored by John Williams)
Photography: ****
Violence: no
Sex: no
Language: no

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"Dead Man Walking", Polygram, 1995, Color, Surround Sound, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 1.76:1, 2 Hr 2 min, Rated R; Susan Sarandon, Sean Penn, Matthew Poncelet (Penn) has been tried and convicted of the brutal murder of two teenagers, and waits on death row for execution by lethal injection. He writes to Sister Helen Prejean (Sarandon) asking for her help. She goes to see him and agrees to be his religious council, the first woman to do so for a death row inmate. He says that he did not commit the crime, although he was there. The story which follows is gripping and compelling, as she tries to get his death sentence changed to life in prison. She meets the families of the victims, and wonders if she is doing the right thing. All you have to do is look at the movie jacket to know how it turns out. Depending on your views about capital punishment, you will either cry or not shed a tear at all. I did not run for the Kleenex. Sarandon won the Oscar for her portrayal, but there is superb acting from all in this motion picture. Based on a true story, production was on location in New Orleans and the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola.

Entertainment: ****
Video Quality: * (horizontal color glitches throughout side 2; could be just this disc)
Audio: ** (almost no use of surround)
Photography: ***
Violence: yes, flashbacks of the crime, including rape and murder
Sex: see above
Language: the "F" and "S" words

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Other laserdiscs viewed but not formally reviewed:

"Wild Bill": ***

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