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Movie Renter's Guide
Current Movies - Part 15 - November, 1996


By John E. Johnson, Jr.

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Ratings:    
  * Extraordinary
  Good
  Acceptable
  Mediocre
  Poor

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Primal Fear"Primal Fear", Paramount Pictures, 1996, Color, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 1.81:1, Surround Sound, AC-3, 2 Hr 10 min, Rated R; Richard Gere, Laura Linney, Edward Norton; Arch Bishop Richard Rushman is one of Chicago's most respected citizens, and when he is brutally murdered, the police quickly charge altar boy Aaron Stampler (Norton) who was found covered with Rushman's blood. Criminal Defense Attorney Martin Vale (Gere) grabs the opportunity to defend the boy, mostly because he loves the limelight. His former lover, Criminal Prosecutor Janet Venable (Linney) is assigned to the case. A psychologist discovers that Norton has multiple personality disorder, but the trial has already started, and a new plead of insanity cannot be entered. In trying to figure out how to get the young man from being convicted, Vale discovers a secret about the Arch Bishop so horrific, not even the prosecutor knows how to deal with it. Gere is a fine actor, but Norton is overwhelming as the alleged killer.

Entertainment: ****
Video Quality: *****
Audio: ** (very poor use of surround potential as psychotic episodes erupt)
Photography: ***
Violence: graphic mutilation
Sex: pornographic
Language: "F" and "S" and then some

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The Arrival"The Arrival", Steelwork Films, 1996, Color, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 1.76:1, Surround Sound, AC-3, 1 Hr 49 min, Rated PG-13; Charlie Sheen, Lindsay Crouse, Ron Silver; The day after astronomer Zane Zaminsky (Sheen) picks up what he believes is a cosmic radio message, and plays it for his boss (Silver), he is laid off. Then his lab partner is murdered, his girlfriend is transferred to San Diego, and some very strange fellows in a gardening service truck empty his computer lab at home. He travels to Mexico looking for the source of a mysterious transmission that coincided with the frequency of the message from outer space, and finds the employees there to be rather unusual in their anatomical structure, to say the least. This is one of those "Aliens Impersonating Humans While They Take Over Earth" kind of movies, and it is moderately engrossing. Not much different than a good X-Files episode, except that, here, there is an AC-3 digital surround track.

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

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Eraser"Eraser", Warner Brothers, 1996, Color, Filmed in Panavision and presented at measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 2.37:1, Surround Sound, 1 Hr 55 min, Rated R; Arnold Schwarzenegger, Vanessa Williams, James Caan, James Coburn; John Kruger (Schwarzenegger) is a U.S. Marshal who "erases" participants in the Witness Protection Program so their enemies think they are dead. Lee Cullen (Williams) goes to the FBI with information that the company she works for . . . CYREZ . . . is selling a new tactical weapon that uses electromagnetic pulses to overseas terrorists. So, John is assigned to protect her. Trouble is, the Undersecretary of Defense, as well as John's boss (Caan) are involved in the sale, and they have to convince the head of the agency (Coburn) that John is the traitor. If you liked "True Lies", you will like this one. Lots of action and superb special effects (courtesy of Cray Computers). I just hope the Electromagnetic Pulse Weapon never comes to really exist.

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

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Mission: Impossible"Mission: Impossible", Paramount, 1996, Color, Filmed in Panavision and presented at measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 2.32:1, Surround Sound, Dolby Digital AC-3, 1 Hr 50 min, Rated PG-13; Tom Cruise, Jon Voight, Emmanuelle Beart, Vanessa Redgrave; The only theme song in 5/4 time brings the classic TV show to the big screen. The mission . . . and he decides to accept it . . . is to recover the NOC list, which has the names of CIA operatives, before it can be sold on the open market. On the first try, the entire IMF team, except Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and Jim Phelps' wife, are killed, or so it seems. Now the IMF leadership thinks Hunt is the mole, since the entire mission was actually designed to discover who was leaking inside information. Ethan decides to obtain the actual NOC list from CIA Headquarters at Langley and sell it to the deliciously evil Max (Redgrave) so he can discover the real mole and do him irrevocable harm. The main, and best, action is at the end, on top of a high speed train. This would have been a great movie if it were not for the ending, which is a disgrace to every die hard IMF fan. I know it is trendy these days to portray the leaders of government agencies as corrupt, but, please, don't do it to our heroes. One of the original TV series stars said it best, "It's an abomination."

Entertainment: ***
Video Quality: ****
Audio: *** (not nearly enough use of the rear AC-3 capability)
Photography: ****
Violence: yes, but no exit wounds
Sex: no
Language: mild

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Heaven's Prisoners"Heaven's Prisoners", Savoy Pictures, 1996, Color, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 1.78:1, Surround Sound, 2 Hr 12 min, Rated R; Alec Baldwin, Kelly Lynch, Teri Hatcher, Eric Roberts; Reformed drunk, ex-New Orleans cop (pronounced "nooawlins" in the Big Easy) Dave Robicheaux would like to live peacefully with his wife in the bayou, renting boats. After witnessing a plane crash, he rescues the only survivor, a little girl from El Salvador and decides to keep her. A visit from the DEA is a bad omen about his knowledge of the crash, and things get worse from there on . . . much worse when Dave tries to find out why the DEA is asking questions. Apparently, an informant working for the DEA was in the downed plane, and drug dealers in New Orleans don't want Robicheaux to stick his nose into their business, so they threaten his family, including the little girl. Robicheaux decides not only to stick his nose, but his fist, into the entire matter, and fireworks erupt. Actually, this is quite an engrossing story, but perhaps a bit too long.

Entertainment: ****
Video Quality: ****
Audio: **** (very good Pro Logic mix)
Photography: ****
Violence: graphic
Sex: nudity
Language: the "F" and "S" words

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The Nutty Professor"The Nutty Professor", Universal Studios, 1996, Color, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 1.78:1, Surround Sound, 1 Hr 36 min, Rated PG-13; Eddie Murphy, Jada Pinkett, James Coburn; This is a remake of the film in the mid-1960s by the same title, which starred Jerry Lewis. In fact, Lewis is Executive Producer on this version. Professor Sherman Klump (Murphy) is working on a research project to discover a drug that will shed pounds from overweight people. When he meets new faculty member Carla Purty (Pinkett), he decides to take the drug himself so that he can vie for her affections. Unfortunately, the drug not only reduces his weight, but turns him into a jerk. Although Murphy is astonishing as members of his own family (he plays his father, mother, grandmother, brother, etc.), the movie is just a vulgar plethora of bathroom jokes, and does not have the comedic impact of the original.

Entertainment: **
Video Quality: ****
Audio: ***
Photography: ****
Violence: no
Sex: no
Language: typical Murphy, toned down to PG-13

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Rental videos viewed but not formally reviewed:

"Toy Story": **** (This is a must-see for your kids)
"Home for the Holidays": *** (but not as enjoyable as I had hoped)
"Homeward Bound II": *** (The adolescents in your house will like it)


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