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Movie Renter's Guide
Current Movies - Part 14 - October, 1996


By John E. Johnson, Jr.

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

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White SquallWhite Squall", Hollywood Pictures, 1996, Color, Filmed in Panavision and presented at measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 2.32:1, Surround Sound, Dolby Digital (AC-3), 2 Hr 9 min, Rated PG-13; Jeff Bridges, Caroline Goodall; Twelve teenage boys sign up, or rather their parents sign them up, to spend several months on a sailing vessel, as the crew. Their parents want them to learn discipline and build character. What they end up with is the adventure of their lives as Captain Christopher Sheldon (Bridges) takes them on a 12,000 mile voyage half way around the world. Some of the youngsters have emotional problems and are loners, but the open sea, with its dangers and thrills, bonds them, and it takes all their skill to battle the final storm . . . the white squall. The film is based on a true story, and like most movies based on real life adventures, it is quite entertaining. I get the feeling that all kids would benefit from being in a group that is faced with challenge that they have to deal with as a unit, perhaps not as dangerous as this one, but something with slight risk, and having a strong leader to identify with.

Entertainment: ****
Video Quality: ****
Audio: **** (the AC-3 has lots of rear effects)
Photography: ****
Violence: what nature provides
Sex: no
Language: mild

Mulholland Falls"Mulholland Falls", MGM, 1995, Color, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 1.76:1, Surround Sound, Dolby Digital (AC-3). 1 Hr 47 min, Rated R; Nick Nolte, Melanie Griffith, Chazz Palminteri, John Malkovich; In 1950's Los Angeles, Max Hoover (Nolte) heads a special police squad that operates outside the norm, that is, they throw undesirables (gangsters) over the edge of Mulholland Drive (calling it the falls). A young woman is murdered, and films exist . . . films of General Thomas Timms, the Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission and the girl, in compromising positions. Hoover sets out to prove that the General has complicity in the crime, and to find the rest of the films which show his own involvement. The story takes us to the Nevada proving grounds, and to another secret that the Air Force and the FBI will do anything to protect (it is not very flattering to either of these agencies). There is sort of a "Film Noire" look to this movie, except that it is filmed in color, and the transfer is soft, taking into account the natural lighting.

Entertainment: ***
Video Quality: ****
Audio: ***
Photography: ***
Violence: shootings, beatings
Sex: yes, nudity
Language: the "F" word and other vulgarities

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"The Birdcage""The Birdcage", United Artists, 1996, Color, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 1.76:1, Surround Sound, Dolby Digital (AC-3), 1 Hr 59 min, Rated R; Robin Williams, Gene Hackman, Dianne Wiest, Nathan Lane; This is Mike Nichols' (and Elaine May) interpretation of Jean Poiret's stage play "La Cage Aux Follies". Armand Goldman (Williams) and Albert (Lane) are a twosome, directing and starring, respectively, in crossdressers musical numbers at The Birdcage, a nightclub. Armand's son Val, decides to get married to the daughter of the vice president for the Coalition for Moral Order, Senator Kevin Keeley (Hackman). Following the death of the president of this coalition, who was found in bed with an underage girl, the senator decides that he wants to meet Val's parents, and then announce the marriage plans in order to assuage the press. Since Keeley does not know that Armand and Albert are a gay couple, Val asks them to play it straight for one night. Another Nichols masterpiece results, and Lane's portrayal, as a straight actor, of a gay man attempting to appear straight, is priceless.

Entertainment: **** (however, be forewarned, the movie wallows in stereotypes)
Video Quality: ****
Audio: ** (the AC-3 track is not very good; better to use Pro Logic on this one)
Photography: ****
Violence: no
Sex: no
Language: the "F" and "S" words

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"Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead""Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead", Mirmax Films, 1996, Color, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 1.78:1, Surround Sound, Dolby Digital (AC-3), 1 Hr 55 min, Rated R; Andy Garcia, Christopher Lloyd, Gabrielle Anwar; Where do they get these movie titles?! Andy Garcia plays Jimmy the Saint, a retired gangster who is hired for one final job, to scare the wits out of a young man who is about to propose to the same girl that a mob boss' child-molesting, nut-case son wants to marry too. Jimmy contracts with four friends, one of whom is a nut-case himself and ate fecal matter in prison on a bet (isn't this a nice story?). Things go very wrong, and now the five must run for their lives. This is one of the most disgusting films I have ever had the misfortune to watch, so, dead or alive, one thing NOT to do in Denver is see this movie. Perhaps there should be a new movie rating category: "Z" - no one is admitted.

Entertainment: *
Video Quality: ***
Audio: **** (incredible AC-3, but unfortunately, you have to listen to the foul language too)
Photography: ***
Violence: extreme
Sex: sights and sounds from a pornographic movie theater
Language: horrifying

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"Up Close and Personal""Up Close and Personal", Touchstone Pictures, 1996, Color, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 1.81:1, Surround Sound, 2 Hr 4 min, Rated PG-13; Robert Redford, Michelle Pfeiffer; Tally Atwater (Pfeiffer) wants to break into TV broadcasting, and Warren Justice (Redford) gives her a chance at a Miami station. He becomes not only her mentor, but her lover (gee, what a surprise), and as her talent moves her to another city, the two of them have to balance their affection with careers. The first half of the movie is pretty slow, but the action picks up on side 2 and 3 when Atwater is caught inside a prison during a riot, and Justice takes off for the Panama Canal. There were a lot of scenes where they have been away from each other for awhile, and I kept expecting the tired old slow motion run into each other's arms, but no, the film was a half hour too long as it was.

Entertainment: ***
Video Quality: ***
Audio: **
Photography: ***
Violence: prison riot
Sex: about as much as you see on network TV
Language: the "F" and "S" words

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Fargo"Fargo", Polygram, 1996, Color, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 1.78:1, Surround Sound, 1 Hr 38 min, Rated R; Frances McDormand, William Macy, Steve Buscemi; In 1987, car salesman Jerry Lundegaard, low on cash, decides to have his wife kidnapped, and the ransom to be paid by his rich father-in-law Wade Gustafson. He hires two thugs to pull it off, but a major problem occurs, and the body count, which was supposed to be zero, climbs to seven. It is a chilling tale (literally, since it takes place in North Dakota and Minnesota during the winter), and by all accounts, a true story except for the names. The police seem to take a much different attitude about the incident than you might find in a Die Hard type movie. The police chief, Marge Gunderson, is seven months pregnant and still working a full shift. This, plus a wry sense of humor that the director has thrown in, makes Fargo quite a unique film.

Entertainment: ****
Video Quality: ****
Audio: ***
Photography: ****
Violence: graphic
Sex: yes, bouncing up and down on motel beds
Language: the "F" and "S" words

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Twister"Twister", Warner Brothers and Universal Pictures, 1996, Color, Filmed in Panavision and presented at measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 2.32:1, Surround Sound, AC-3, 1 Hr 53 min, Rated PG-13; Helen Hunt, Bill Paxton, Jami Gertz, Cary Elwes; Jo (Hunt) is only a child when an F5 tornado rips through her Oklahoma farm and kills her father. Years later (current time), she has become a scientist, studying and tracking these horrific storms. Bill (Paxton) shows up at her outdoor lab, requesting that she sign the divorce papers, and has brought his new fiancee Melissa (Gertz) along. Tornadoes begin erupting, and the fun begins as everyone, including Bill and Melissa, chase the "Twisters" all over Oklahoma. Jo's team has constructed "Dorothy", which is a tank full of metal sensors that they hope to get into the twister for measurements. Dr. Jonas Miller (Elwes) is a competitor with his own device and chases the storms along with Jo. The storms, the scientific competition, and the eminent signing of the divorce papers, all make this one heck of a story. The digital twister special effects are stupendous, and after having nightmares about it, I realize Twister is a pretty scary movie.

Entertainment: ****
Video Quality: *****
Audio: *****
Photography: ****
Violence: nature at its worst
Sex: no
Language: the "S" word

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Other rental videos viewed but not formally reviewed:

"Georgia" ** (meanders too much)


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