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Movie Renter's Guide
Current Movies - Part 13 - September, 1996


By John E. Johnson, Jr.

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

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Nixon"Nixon", Hollywood Pictures, 1995, Color, Filmed in Panavision and presented at measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 2.32:1, Surround Sound, AC-3, 3 Hr 11 min, Rated R; Anthony Hopkins, Joan Allen, Paul Sorvino; This is an astonishing film, but if you are not familiar with the historical events upon which it is based, you should look them up in the library copies of newspapers from those times before you watch it. Richard Nixon held greatness in his hands, and was undone by a political burglary (the Watergate incident). Although he was the only U.S. President ever to resign office, that does not disguise the fact that he was also one of our most brilliant politicians, as evidenced by his oratory and books. If he had simply confessed and said, "I'm sorry," the country would probably have forgiven him for getting caught at the type of covert inter-party spying that all political groups have done in one form or another. The movie is powerful, moving, and frankly scary (just look at the names of the people who are being portrayed). Oliver Stone did a wonderful job of directing, and Hopkins' interpretation of Nixon is fantastic. The music is great, thanks to John Williams, the editing superb, the photography . . . everything came together to make this what is destined to become a legendary motion picture.

Entertainment: *****
Video Quality: ****
Audio: *****
Photography: *****
Violence: film clips of war
Sex: no
Language: bad... the expletives were not deleted

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The Juror"The Juror", Columbia Pictures, 1996, Color, Filmed in Panavision and presented at measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 2.32:1, Surround Sound, 1 Hr 58 min, Rated R; Demi Moore, Alec Baldwin; Annie Laird (Moore) accepts jury duty for the trial of a mobster in a contract killing. One of the mob, "The Teacher" (Baldwin) tells her that she has to convince the jury to acquit; otherwise her son will be killed. She tries to tell the judge, and there is an implication the judge is in on the jury tampering. She tries getting her best friend to help. The friend "commits suicide", and Annie then takes matters into her own hands. The ending is quick, explosive, satisfying.

Entertainment: ****
Video Quality: ****
Audio: ***
Photography: ***
Violence: mob execution style
Sex: yes, nudity
Language: "F" and "S" +

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Dracula: Dead and Loving It"Dracula: Dead and Loving It", Castle Rock, 1995, Color, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 1.78:1, Surround Sound, 1 Hr 30 min, Rated PG-13; Leslie Nielsen, Amy Yasbeck, Mel Brooks; Well, all the characters are here: Count Dracula, Renfield, Jonathan Harker, Lucy, Professor Van Helsing, and the setting is appropriate: foggy London in the late 1800s. It is supposed to be a comedy but fails in my opinion, because there are too many scenes that could be spliced directly into some of the classic Hammer Films of the 1960s. One scene will be funny, then the next is serious, then the next one funny, then serious, etc. A little too intense here and there for PG-13, I think, but not enough for R. For example, Lucy is killed by Dracula (comedy?) and is buried, becoming one of the undead herself. Harker is assigned the task of pounding a stake through her heart. He is repelled and asks Van Helsing if there isn't any other way of destroying her. Instead of saying something really funny, that I would expected of Brooks, like, "Well, some of my mother-in-law's pot roast would do it, but she lives in Trenton, and there's no time", he says something to the effect of cutting off her head. That is not funny. It's ghastly, and so is the fountain of blood that gushes into Harker's face when he finally does the deed. Nope . . . the movie is a bummer.

Entertainment: **
Video Quality: ****
Audio: ***
Photography: ***
Violence: neck biting, blood gushing
Sex: sensuality
Language: no

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Sense and Sensibility"Sense and Sensibility", Columbia Pictures, 1995, Color, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 1.76:1, Surround Sound, 2 Hr 16 min, Rated PG; Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Kate Winslet, Hugh Grant; Another Jane Austen story is brought to the silver screen. In 19th century England, the Ferrars family patriarch dies, leaving the estate to his first son. Even though the father requests that his in-laws be taken care of, a greedy sister talks the son out of it, and this puts the in-laws (the Dashwood family) out in the cold and essentially penniless. As was, is, and will be, rich families like their sons to marry into wealthy families, and therein lays the story. Edward Ferrar (Grant) falls in love with Elinor Dashwood (Thompson) - remember, now, these are in-laws, not blood relatives - and Colonel Christopher Brandon (Rickman) falls for Marianne Dashwood (Winslet). Brandon doesn't have a problem with his family, because he is in control of the estate, but unfortunately, Marianne is in love with dashing Mr. Willoughby, who is threatened to be disinherited if he pursues. On the other hand, Elinor returns Edward's affections, but he has given promise to marry another some five years before. This is a movie for the ladies, so rent it for her, and it will be good for two Stallones and one Van Damme, including 63 exit wounds.

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

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Heat"Heat", 1995, Warner Brothers, Color, Filmed in Panavision and presented at measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 2.32:1, Surround Sound, AC-3, 2 Hr 51 min, Rated R; Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Val Kilmer; Neil McCauley (De Niro) is a brilliant bank robber, and Vincent Hanna (Pacino) . . . just as smart . . . is trying to catch him at it. The film opens with McCauley's gang stealing several million dollars worth of negotiable bonds from an armored truck, and then for the next two and a half hours, we see the plans develop for a sophisticated bank heist. Along the way, the personalities of these two individuals, who we know will ultimately clash, are evolved in full detail. The film is much too long. It should have been edited down to 1 Hr 51 mins. However, as the movie jacket exclaims, the bank robbery does indeed contain some of the best action scenes ever filmed. The AC-3 track, in particular, adds a great deal to the overall effect.

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

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Other rental videos viewed but not formally reviewed:

"The Substitute": ** (the principal is selling cocaine; that's a new twist)
"The Crossing Guard": * (the director should stick to acting)
"Down Periscope": **** (much funnier than I expected)
"City Hall": *** (crooked mayor, crooked judge, honest assistant, but no surprises)
"Diabolique": ** (needed more introductory footage to the characters)


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