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Movie Renter's Guide

Current Movies - Part 45 - December, 1998

Staff

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Ratings:
Extraordinary
Good
Acceptable
Mediocre
Poor

 

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The Horse Whisperer"The Horse Whisperer", Touchstone Pictures, 1998, Color, Filmed in Panavision and presented at measured aspect ratio (DVD) 2.27:1, Surround Sound, DD, 2 Hr 49 min, Rated PG-13; Robert Redford, Kristin Scott Thomas, Sam Neill, Dianne Wiest, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Cooper; When a young girl - Grace MacLean (Johansson) -and her horse Pilgrim are seriously injured in a fall, her mother Annie (Thomas) decides to take them both to see a cowboy in Montana, known as the "horse whisperer". Tom Booker (Redford) is surprised to see the truck in his ranch driveway, having been driven all the way from New York City with Pilgrim in tow. He decides to help Grace and Pilgrim recover from the psychological trauma that still plagues them, even though their physical wounds have healed. Over time, Grace, Annie, and Pilgrim give in to the beauty of Montana, and the unusual sense that Tom has about people and animals. Superb photography and editing really make this film. A little girl and her horse turn it into an adventure for the whole family. - JEJ -

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

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Deep Impact"Deep Impact", Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks, 1998, Color, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 2.32:1, Surround Sound, DD, 2 Hr 1 min; Rated PG-13; Robert Duvall, Tea Leoni, Elijah Wood, Vanessa Redgravef, Maximilian Schell, Morgan Freeman; In Richmond, Virginia, some stargazers find a new heavenly body and send a report to government officials. They discover that a comet, named Wolf-Biederman for the discoverers, is headed for collision with earth. They keep it a secret until they have a way of destroying it, with nuclear weapons set by space shuttle astronauts who land on the comet. Unfortunately, the nuclear weapons only split the comet, and now there are two in line with planet earth instead of one. Correspondent Jenny Lerner (Leoni) finds out about the secret plan and forces President Tom Beck (Freeman) to hold a news conference sooner than he wanted. Earth must plan for ELE, an extinction level event, and mass hysteria takes hold. The film is reasonably well done, and in spite of a mediocre box office performance, it makes good home theater viewing, with spectacular visual effects and subwoofer workout. - JEJ -

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

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When Trumpets Fade"When Trumpets Fade", Home Box Office, 1998, Color, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio (DVD) 1.33:1, Surround Sound, DD (2 Channels), 1 Hr 32 min, Rated R; Ron Eldard, Frank Whaley, Martin Donovan, Dwight Yoakam; In November, 1944, Allied Troops attempt to take command of an area that borders Germany and Belgium. Although this battle was fierce and bloody, the subsequent Battle of the Bulge is the one history remembers. This film chronicles the Battle of Hurtgen Forest. Private David Manning (Eldard) is the sole survivor of his platoon, and the officer in charge makes him a platoon leader for incoming recruits, in spite of Manning's complaints that he is no leader. Manning succeeds, in spite of himself, finding leadership abilities deep inside. He is made Lieutenant and he takes his platoon behind enemy lines to destroy a large number of cannons before dawn, when the Allies will be launching a major offensive. The movie was made for TV (HBO), and is extremely graphic, even more so than the movie "Platoon" of a decade ago. It is interesting to see how TV has matured in the arena of war stories. This one certainly does not hold anything in reserve. - JEJ -

Entertainment: ****
Video Quality: *****
Audio: ***
Photography: ****
Violence: graphic (body parts)
Sex: no
Language: the "F" and "S" words

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The Big Lebowski"The Big Lebowski", Paramount Pictures, 1998, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio (DVD) 1.73:1, Surround Sound, DD, 1 Hr 38 min, Rated R; Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Julianne Moore, David Huddleston; Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski (Bridges) is a '70s kind of guy, shopping for beer in his shorts and thongs, and settles down for an evening of relaxation, when in come two thugs who not only want him to pay money that he does not owe, but urinate on his rug. He finds the real Lebowski (Huddleston), whose wife has run up some credit card expenses, and who is the Lebowski that the "creditors" were really looking for, and he demands that his rug be replaced. Nothwithstaning a refusal, Jeff takes an expensive Persian carpet. Later, the butler calls and says Jeff can keep the rug, and can he give the real Lebowski some assistance. Turns out Lebowski's wife Bunny (Tara Reid) has been kidnapped, and the kidnappers want ransom. Since Lebowski is in a wheelchair, he needs Jeff to carry the ransom to the dropoff point. In the meantime, Jeff's bowling buddies Walter (Goodman) and Donny (Steve Buscemi) get in on the act. The movie is vulgar, coarse, and a complete waste of time unless your IQ is 47 or lower. - JEJ -

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

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The Spanish Prisoner"The Spanish Prisoner", Sony Pictures, 1998, Color, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio (DVD) 1.73:1, Surround Sound, DD (2 channels), 1 Hr 50 min, Rated PG ; Ben Gazzara, Steve Martin, Campbell Scott; Joe Ross (Scott) designs a formula that will allow complete control of the global market. The company that employs him wants to renegotiate his contract, and Joe refuses, walking away with the notebook containing the only copy of the formula. A recent acquaintance, Jimmy Dell (Martin) offers an attorney friend who might be able to help. He asks Joe to bring the formula. Joe discovers that a very sophisticated con game is being played, and that he is the pawn. Now, mild mannered, shy Joe Ross is being hunted by the police . . . for murder. Although the story is tightly woven, it does not have enough emotional ups and downs to make it a really great film. - JEJ -

Entertainment: ***
Video Quality: *****
Audio: **
Photography: ***
Violence: a dead body with a knife in it
Sex: no
Language: no

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The Mask of Zorro "The Mask of Zorro", TriStar Pictures, 1998, Color, Filmed in Panavision and presented at measured aspect ratio (DVD) 2.32:1, Surround Sound, DD, 2 Hr 17 min, Rated PG-13; Anthony Hopkins, Antonio Banderas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Stuart Wilson, Matt Letscher; In 1821, Californians rebel against Spain, wanting their independence, and Governor Don Rafael Montero (Wilson) refuses to relinquish power. Instead, he gives the state to his Dons, before going into exile. Upon his return, and California belonging to Mexico, he urges Californians to declare their independence from Mexico, and he will lead them. Unfortunately, this entails slave labor in the gold mines, the spoils of which he plans to pay General Santa Ana in exchange for independence. Zorro (Hopkins) has been unmasked 20 years before as Don Diego de la Vega, and imprisoned. He escapes to find cruelty all around, but he is now too old to do anything about it. He takes a young bandit, Alejandro Murrieta (Banderas) into his confidence, and trains him to do as he would if he were younger. The plan is complicated by the presence of Don Diego's daughter Elena (Zeta-Jones) who was stolen by Montero when Diego was imprisoned. Both Alejandro and Montero's henchman, Captain Harrison Love (Letscher) vie for Elena's affections, and the story comes to a ripping climax as Zorro et al. try to save the peasants at the gold mine when Montero et al. decide to blow it up so that evidence will be destroyed. The movie is great fun, and, IMHO, one of the best Zorro films ever made. - JEJ -

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

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Six Days Seven Nights"Six Days Seven Nights", Touchstone Pictures, 1998, Color, Filmed in Panavision and presented at measured aspect ratio (DVD) 2.27:1, Surround Sound, DD, 1 Hr 42 min, Rated PG-13; Harrison Ford, Anne Heche, David Schwimmer, Jacqueline Obradors; Robin Monroe (Heche) is a busy New York magazine editor, and her boyfriend takes her on a tropical vacation. She thinks that it will be a relaxing time for her, but gets nervous when the charter pilot, Quinn Harris (Ford), is still working on the engine right before they are scheduled to leave. Once they arrive on the island, Robin is called by her office in New York, and they want her to fly to Tahiti for an interview. Quinn and Robin fly into a storm and are forced to land on a remote island. They make do with the island's delights while waiting for the rescue plane to show up. Meanwhile, Robin's boyfriend Frank (Schwimmer), and Quinn's girlfriend Angelica (Obradors), find something entertaining to do back at the hotel. The story is predictable, and yet delightful, due to the interaction between borderline geezer Harrison Ford and vivacious Anne Heche. One of the main reasons Ford is so good in films is that he doesn't waste time trying to be a producer, director, or running extracurricular restaurant chains. He sticks to being an actor, and he is one of the best there is. - JEJ -

Entertainment: ***
Video Quality: *****
Audio: ***
Photography: *****
Violence: Pirates shooting at them
Sex: mild
Language: the "S" word

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The Peacemaker"The Peacemaker", Dreamworks Pictures, 1998, Color, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio (DVD) 2.37:1, Surround Sound, DD, 2 Hr 4 min, Rated R; George Clooney, Nicole Kidman, Armin Mueller-Stahl; In Russia, nuclear missles are being shipped by train for dismantling. On the way, the train has a disastrous accident, and one of the warheads explodes. Agents in the west discover that the accident was actually a ruse to hide the fact that the missles had been removed en route and are now on their way to the Middle East for sale to the highest bidder. Dr. Julia Kelly (Kidman), a nuclear arms specialist, and Special Forces Colonel Tom Devoe (Clooney) are assigned the task of tracking them down before they reach their destination. The chase begins in Vienna, with a German trucking company suspected of transporting the stolen weapons, and it quickly escalates to helicopter assault on the trucks as they are approaching the Middle East. The Russian military is not happy with U.S. invasion of their airspace, so now, Colonel Devoe has to dodge missles shot at his team, while still trying to take out the trucks with the weapons on board. Sounds like a good storyline doesn't it? Unfortunately, it is very hard to follow, and an almost constantly moving camera, along with tight cropping, distracts from what the characters are doing. - JEJ -

Entertainment: ***
Video Quality: **** (bad glitch at 53' 30" on the DVD I had)
Audio: ***
Photography: ***
Violence: graphic
Sex: no
Language: the "F" and "S" words

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