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Movie Renter's Guide

Current Movies - Part 21 - May, 1997

Staff

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Ratings:    
  Extraordinary
  Good
  Acceptable
  Mediocre
  Poor

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The Long Kiss Goodnight"The Long Kiss Goodnight", New Line Cinema, 1996, Color, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 2.32:1, Surround Sound, AC-3, DTS, 2 Hr, Rated R; Geena Davis, Samuel L. Jackson; Samantha Caine (Davis) teaches school in a small New England town, but has amnesia about her life before eight years ago. An automobile accident brings part of her memory back, and she slowly discovers that she was an assassin, Charley Baltimore, for a CIA black bag operation called "Chapter". Now that the cold war is over, and the president has other priorities (health care), money is a problem for undercover activities. "Chapter" is now an illegal program, whose members plan to blow up a truck full of explosives in the middle of town, and implicate the Middle East. Charley is a loose cannon, so "Chapter" must find and kill her. Charley hires a private detective, Mitch Henessey (Jackson) to help uncover her past, and together, they put some nasties on the bad guys. The film has all the necessary components of a 1990s production: One good actor (Jackson), lots of special effects to hide a pathetic script, a good director (Renny Harlin) who has to make do with the pathetic script, and whose wife (Davis) is the star. Say goodnight, Gracie. - JEJ -

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

The Glimmer Man"The Glimmer Man", Warner Brothers, 1996, Color, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio (DVD) 1.73:1, Surround Sound, AC-3, 1 Hr 32 min, Rated R; Steven Seagal, Keenan Wayans, Bob Gunton; Jack Cole (Seagal) is an ex-New York cop who has turned to Buddhism and prayer beads (along with the omnipresent ponytail). He is called in by the L.A. Police to help Jim Campbell (Wayans) track down a serial killer. After apprehending the son of Frank Devrell (Gunton), Cole discovers a connection between some of the murders and Devrell. The Russian Mafia appears to be importing chemical weapons for sale to terrorists, and a traitor in the CIA is involved. I generally like action movies, but the problem with Seagal is that his characters never have any flaws, any weaknesses, so there is no empathy. He goes through this film beating the heck out of everyone from gangsters to restaurant clerks. It comes off too pretentious, and I find myself wanting to kick Seagal's butt myself. - JEJ -

Entertainment: **
Video Quality: ****
Audio: ** (the foley is too obvious)
Photography: ***
Violence: yes
Sex: nudity (in the morgue)
Language: the "F" and "S" words

The Chamber"The Chamber", MCA Universal, 1996, Color, Filmed in Panavision and presented at measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 2.32:1, Surround Sound, 1 Hr 53 min, Rated R; Gene Hackman, Faye Dunaway, Chris O'Donnell; In 1960s Mississippi, a bomb goes off in an office, killing a Jewish family. The Klan is blamed, and Sam Cayhall (Hackman) is convicted of the crime. He is sentenced to die, and in 1996, his grandson, Adam Hall (O'Donnell) a young lawyer from Chicago, decides to appeal his death sentence before it is carried out in 28 days. Hall's aunt (Dunaway) is a socialite now, and does not want the story to come back and haunt her, especially since no one else knows that Cayhall is her father. Hackman and Dunaway are terrific, but O'Donnell should stick to playing Robin. "A Time to Kill" sets a tough act to follow, and "The Chamber" misses the mark. - JEJ -

Entertainment: ***
Video Quality: ***** (I wish my entire LD collection were this good.)
Audio: **
Photography: ***
Violence: yes
Sex: no
Language: the "F" and "S" words

The First Wives Club"The First Wives Club", Paramount Pictures, 1996, Color, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 1:35:1, Surround Sound, AC-3, 1 Hr 44 min, Rated PG; Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn, Diane Keaton; When one of their 1960s school chums commits suicide, Annie (Keaton), Elise (Hawn), and Brenda (Midler) get together at the funeral and discover that each has a husband who is running off with a younger woman. They decide to get even and plot schemes. The film is a plethora of one-liners and sight gags. When my wife and daughter saw this at the theater, they said all the women were laughing and none of the men. Pretty much the same thing happened when we viewed it at home. I guess we guys will never understand women, but actually, I don't know why anyone would want to leave these three fantastic ladies. There, do I get my bagel now, Susie? - JEJ -

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

Crime of the Century"Crime of the Century", HBO Pictures, 1996, Color, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 1.35:1, Stereo, 1 Hr 56 min, Rated PG-13; Stephen Rea, Isabella Rossellini, J.T. Walsh, Michael Moriarty, David Paymer; On March 1, 1932, Col. Charles Lindbergh's baby was kidnapped and murdered, even though ransom of $50,000 was paid. Col. Norman Schwarzkopf (Walsh) heads up a team to find the killers. When Bruno Richard Hauptmann (Rea) is caught with some of the ransom money, there is great pressure to convict him because of the public outrage that resulted from the murder. Hauptmann claims that a man named Fish had cheated him on a business deal, and had left a package with him to keep before leaving for Germany. Fish had died, and Hauptmann opened the package to find thousands of dollars which he kept. Unfortunately, he did not tell his wife Anna (Rossellini) about the money, and she must decide whether to lie to protect him. The D.A. (Paymer) and Scwarzkopf bend the rules to get enough evidence for conviction, and on April 3, 1936, Hauptmann is executed in the electric chair, in spite of New Jersey Governor Harold Hoffman's (Moriarty) belief that Hauptmann is innocent. This is a very different look at the infamous crime, and if the story is true, even Lindbergh may have stretched the truth to get closure on the case. The story is riveting, and the acting excellent. Better than most theater films I have seen lately. - JEJ -

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

Courage Under Fire"Courage Under Fire", Twentieth Century Fox, 1996, Color, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 1.78:1, Surround Sound, AC-3, THX, 1 Hr 56 min, Rated R; Denzel Washington, Meg Ryan, Lou Diamond Phillips, Michael Moriarty; During the Gulf War, Col. Nate Serling (Washington) accidentally fires on one of his own tanks ("friendly fire"), and is reassigned to a desk job in Washington. His first task is to investigate the background of Captain Karen Walden (Ryan), who has been nominated for the Medal of Honor, posthumously. None of the men under her command tells the same story of how she died. Meanwhile, he must deal with a coverup of the friendly fire incident, in that the Government has told the family that the soldiers died in battle (that the enemy killed them). Serling's own alcoholism does not help the situation. Spectacular visual effects, a good story, and fine acting make this a film well worth watching. - JEJ -

Entertainment: *****
Video Quality: *****
Audio: ***
Photography: ****
Violence: soldiers killed in battle
Sex: no
Language: the "F" and "S" words

Maximum Risk"Maximum Risk", Columbia Pictures, 1996, Color, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 2.32:1, Surround Sound, 1 Hr 41 min, Rated R; Jean Claude Van Damme, Natasha Henstridge; Alain Moreau (Van Damme) is a police detective in France, and one day, pulls back the sheet covering a dead body to see an identical twin brother he never knew he had. Alain travels to New York to find out how the brother (Mikhail) had become involved in the Russian Mafia. A young woman (Hensdtridge) thinks Alain is Mikhail, and gives him a very warm welcome! The Russian Mafia, in "Little Odessa" try to kill Alain, because they too think he is Mikhail, and apparently Mikhail was in deep trouble. The movie jacket says that this is Van Damme's best picture yet, but I disagree. The directing is choppy, and the story thin. Lots of fast trips through alleys and seedy nightclubs, but they don't carry movies any more. Henstridge doesn't do much of anything except take off her clothes. Both she and Van Damme deserve better. - JEJ -

Entertainment: ***
Video Quality: ***
Audio: ** (the ADR is lousy, doesn't match with the lip movements)
Photography: ** (you can see the camera mounted in the back of the chase car)
Violence: yes
Sex: yes
Language: the "F" and "S" words

That Thing You Do"That Thing You Do", Twentieth Century Fox, 1996, Color, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 1.76:1, Surround Sound, AC-3, THX, 1 Hr 48 min, Rated PG; Tom Hanks, Liv Tyler, Tom Scott; In Erie, Pennsylvania, 1964, a garage rock band comes up with a song that is a big hit. Mr. White (Hanks) signs them up as "The Wonders" and takes them on a road tour. Included is a spot in a beach blanket movie. Although the direction is mediocre (good actors should stick to acting), the title song is terrific, even if they play it over and over and over again throughout the movie. The early stages of the band's life remind me of my own rock group in Seattle, 1965 - 1968. One weekend we had to use Friday's' pay to bail the rhythm guitarist out of jail (several delinquent parking tickets) so we could play on Saturday. On Saturday night, the drums fell off the stage on top of the lead guitarist. Ahh . . . those were the days. If you have ever been in a garage band, you will empathize with some of the events in this film. - JEJ -

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

The Ghost and the Darkness"The Ghost and the Darkness", Constellation Films, 1996, Color, Filmed in Panavision and presented at measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 2.05:1, Surround Sound, AC-3, THX, 1 Hr 50 min, Rated R; Michael Douglas, Val Kilmer; In 1896, Colonel John Patterson (Kilmer) is assigned the task of building a bridge across a river in Tsavo, East Africa. Shortly after he arrives, a pair of man-eating lions begin terrorizing the workers. Patterson sets out to kill them, and failing this, renowned hunter Charles Remington (Douglas) shows up to help. The movie is white knuckles all the way to the end. Scariest film I have seen since "Jaws". Douglas should have skipped the Texas accent though. - JEJ -

Entertainment: *****
Video Quality: ****
Audio: *****
Photography: ****
Violence: lions eating the natives
Sex: no
Language: the "S" word

Brazil"Brazil", MCA/Universal/Voyager Criterion Collection, 1985/1996, Color, (laserdisc), original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, Dolby Surround, Both CAV & CLV, 5 discs, 142 minutes not incl. single-framing "notebooks," unrated; dir. by Terry Gilliam, with Jonathan Pryce, Robert de Niro, Katherine Helmond, Ian Holm, Bob Hoskins, Michael Palin, Kim Friest; This ten-sided CAV special edition will have staunch fans of the near-cult film flying up in the clouds with Sam, the hapless hero of the epic. Some critics called it the best film of the 80s and CineBooks deems Brazil one of the most audacious fantasies ever made. It has absolutely no connection with the country of Brazil. Often wrongly characterized as portraying a future world, it is rather an alternative retro society controlled by a bureaucratic fascist government. Clerk Sam pursues his ideals and the woman of his flying dreams amidst an oppressive (but also big-budget impressive) environment full of labyrinthine ductwork. Gilliam's satire and black comedy plus the often confusing plot may not be for everybody, but those it reaches consider Brazil a masterpiece. There is good reason for the huge package, not likely to be stocked in this form by many laserdisc rental outlets. Not only is Gilliam's final cut here in CAV (still-framing) form, but also the 94-minute "Love Conquers All" version which Universal unilaterally re-edited after holding up the film's release for nearly a year (eliminating the nine wonderful dream sequences), plus a fascinating half-hour documentary "What is Brazil?" filmed on the set, plus many hours of additional supplements using still-framing with occasional motion segments. These include The Production Notebook (with a detailed chronology of the script development) and "The Battle of Brazil," about Gilliam's warfare with the studio over the original release. A running commentary by Gilliam is on one of the analog tracks through the entire film. Besides all the extras in the package, the primary reason for owning the complete Brazil (or even the standard 113-minute version on VHS) is that it is a dauntingly dense production that absolutely requires more than a single viewing to understand fully and appreciate. - John Sunier -

Entertainment: ****
Video Quality: *****
Audio: ****
Photography: *****
Violence: yes
Sex: partial nudity
Language: no

Extreme Measures"Extreme Measures", Castle Rock, 1996, Color, Filmed in Panavision and presented at measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 2.32:1, Surround Sound, 1 Hr 58 min, Rated R; Hugh Grant, Gene Hackman, Sarah Jessica Parker; Dr. Guy Luthan (Grant) is going about his job as an ER (Emergency Room) chief, when a patient arrives in convulsions and dies, in spite of his efforts. When the body disappears from the morgue, he becomes suspicious and tries to find out what happened. Attempts are made on his life, and he realizes that a conspiracy is afoot. He discovers that Dr. Lawrence Myrick (Hackman) is the head of Tri Phase Laboratories, where experimentation is being done on humans, and they don't particularly care for Guy meddling in their work. One of the main problems with this film is that you don't know what the heck is going on until well into the second half. Hackman does well, but Grant is miscast. On the other hand, Elizabeth Hurley (Grant's girlfriend) is the producer, so what do you expect? - JEJ -

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

Lone Star"Lone Star", Castle Rock, 1995, Color, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 2.32:1, Surround Sound, 2 Hr 15 min, Rated R; Kris Kristofferson, Matthew McConaughey; In a small Texas town, Sheriff Sam Deeds investigates the remains of a body discovered in the desert, where along with the skeleton, a Sheriff's badge was found. His father, Sheriff Buddy Deeds (McConaughey), had been involved in a serious disagreement with another officer, Charlie Wade (Kristofferson) many years ago, and Wade had disappeared. The evidence points to the skeleton being that of Wade, and Sam's father might have killed him. There are several plots going on all at the same time, and the film suffers. Too many long conversations, and not enough of McConaughey, who is a fine new actor ("A Time to Kill"). - JEJ -

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

The Spitfire Grill"The Spitfire Grill", Castle Rock, 1996, Color, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 1.81:1, Surround Sound, 1 Hr 57 min, Rated PG-13; Ellen Burstyn, Marcia Gay Harden, Alison Elliott, Will Patton; Percy Talbot (Elliott) gets out of prison for having murdered her abusive stepfather, and decides to start a new life in Gilead, Maine. She gets a job in The Spitfire Grill, a small restaurant owned by Hannah Ferguson (Burstyn). The townspeople are suspicious of any newcomer, and Percy is no exception. However, she changes the lives of everyone there, especially a reclusive man who lives in the hills and comes down only at night to chop wood for the Grill. Advertisements compare this film to "Fried Green Tomatoes", and I can see the similarities, but Grill doesn't have as many laughs. It is quite sad, so bring your hankies. - JEJ -

Entertainment: ****
Video Quality: ***
Audio: ***
Photography: ****
Violence: no
Sex: no
Language: the "S" word

Other rental movies viewed but not formally reviewed:

"Scorpion Spring": * (garbage)


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