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Movie Renter's Guide

Current Movies - Part 61 - April, 2000

Staff

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Ratings:
Extraordinary
Good
Acceptable
Mediocre
Poor

 

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"Storm Catcher", Phoenician Entertainment, 1999, Color, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio 1.73:1, DD, 1 Hr 35 min, Rated R; Dolph Lundgren, Mystro Clark; In a Nevada desert test site, a Stealth Air Force Fighter, nicknamed the Storm Catcher, is stolen, and Air Force Major Jack Holloway (Lundgren) is framed for the crime. On the way to prison, he escapes, and setting out to prove his innocence, he is caught up in a terrorist plot to assassinate the President of the United States. Although the film has some good action sequences, you can tell who the bad guys are right from the beginning. - JEJ -

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

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The Messenger"The Messenger, Columbia Pictures, 1999, Color, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio 2.32:1 , DD, 2 Hr 38 min, Rated R; Milla Jovovich, John Malkovich, Faye Dunaway, Dustin Hoffman; In 1429, France is in turmoil, with various factions in the Royal Families fighting to gain power. Orleans is under siege by the English, and Charles (Malkovich) of France has no plans to avert a takeover, until a 17 year old girl, Joan of Arc (Jovovich) comes to him, representing herself as a messenger from God. She tells him that if he will supply her with an army, she will lead them to victory. Her charisma wins her the army she wants, and she routs the English from Orleans. In Reims, Charles is crowned King of France, and Joan wants to proceed to Paris and beyond. Charles is satisfied with what he has now, and betrays her by denying further military support. She is captured, and because Charles is not interested in paying ransom, she is sold to the English, where she is put on trial, and the Church burns her as a heretic in part because the English King is infuriated that a young girl defeated his armies and insists that she be burned. The story puts such an ugly light on French, English, and Church leaders, they probably would like to forget it ever happened. Joan was finally Canonized by the Catholic Church, 500 years after her death, when they finally were able to come to grips with their complicity in the murder of this heroic child. The film itself is easily a masterpiece - notwithstanding the varied spoken accents - and one of the great movies of the 1990s. - JEJ -

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

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"Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace", LucasFilm Ltd, 1999, Color, Filmed in Panavision and presented at measured aspect ratio 2.32:1, Stereo Pro Logic,  2 Hr 13 min, Rated PG; Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd; Well, we all know the story (is there anyone on planet earth who didn't see the movie at the theater?) Because of a dispute, the Trade Federation has placed a blockade on the Naboo Planetary System. In fact, the Federation wants to take control of Naboo, and Queen Amidala (Portman) resists signing any treaty. The Republic sends two Jedi Masters, Qui-Gon Jinn (Neeson) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (McGregor) to settle the dispute, but the Federation attempts to kill them, and they escape to Naboo where they meet Queen Amidala and rescue her from the invading Federation. On their way to Corusant to apprise the Senate of the Republic that Naboo has been invaded, they stop on Tatooine to get repair parts for their ship. There, they meet the young Anakin Skywalker (Lloyd) who helps them get the parts for their ship by winning a pod race. On Corusant, they find the Republic not very responsive to their request for condemnation of the invasion, so they must return to Naboo to destroy the invasionary forces themselves. In order to accomplish this, they must capture the Federation Viceroy. While Amidala and her troops look for the Viceroy, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan face the formidable Darth Maul, the evil Emperor's apprentice. Although I was disappointed at the theater with this movie last year, I enjoyed it much more at home. The reason? It was only available on VHS tape. So, instead of worrying about sitting in just the right place, or looking to see how many pixels I could notice, or wondering if I was missing anything by not having the rear center EX speaker, I simply watched the movie. Yes, it was fuzzy compared to DVD, yes the color was faded compared to DVD, yes the mono in the rear was not so great, but I could concentrate on the story. And, you know what? It is a very good movie. Forget about all the negative comments you see in the newspapers about the VHS tape. It is no worse than previous VHS tapes before we had DVD. Just be sure to rent the widescreen version, so you can get the full impact of the pod race and the fight sequence with Darth Maul. The computer generated characters don't have a soul, but they are astonishing none-the-less. I think a major part of the public's difficulty with the movie is that we are all used to action movies having graphic violence, nudity, and foul language. So, somehow, we felt The Phantom Menace was lacking in something. Yes, it is lacking all the nasty stuff. You can imagine, then, how difficult it was for George Lucas to produce a movie that is a tremendous adventure, and have it rated PG. He has succeeded admirably, and this one can be enjoyed by the whole family.  - JEJ -

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

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"Three Kings", Warner Brothers, 1999, Color, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio 2.30:1, DD, 1 Hr 55 min, Rated R; George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube; In March, 1991, after a cease fire in the war of the Persian Gulf (Desert Storm), four American Army soldiers, Major Archie Gates (Clooney), Troy Barlow (Wahlberg), Chief Elgin (Ice Cube), and Conrad Vig, discover a map hidden on the body of an Iraqi soldier. The map leads to a gold cache stolen from Kuwait, and the foursome go AWOL to find it. Because of the cease fire, they have a free hand in getting the gold, and in fact, Iraqi soldiers help them pack it up and carry it to their truck. However, the Americans see that the Iraqi soldiers are brutalizing the local populace in an attempt to squash the rebellion against Saddam Hussein. The cease fire suddenly comes to an end as the Americans do a little squashing of their own and assist the rebels in reaching the Iranian border. The movie follows an old technique started with "The Dirty Dozen", where the first half of the movie has comedy, but the second half is deadly serious. - JEJ -

Entertainment: ****
Video Quality: *****
Audio: ****
Photography: *** cropping too tight
Violence: graphic
Sex: no
Language: the "F" and "S" words

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"The Insider", Touchstone Pictures, 1999, Color, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio 2.27:1, DD, 2 Hr 38 min; Al Pacino, Christopher Plummer, Russell Crowe; Dr. Jeffrey Wigand (Crowe) is fired as Head of R&D at Brown and Williamson Tobacco Corporation because he does not like the chemical used in cigarettes to enhance them. Feeling guilty, he contacts 60 Minutes producer Lowell Bergman (Pacino), who is very enthusiastic about getting a huge story. However, Wigand is tied to a confidentiality agreement that he had at work, and now must decide whether the truth is more important than family security. CBS must also decide whether the gamble of broadcasting Wigand's interview is worth the risk of a billion dollar lawsuit. The story makes not only big tobacco look bad, but the media, and even the FBI. So, after the success of state and federal lawsuits in showing the tobacco companies have known the dangers of their product for a long time, why are people still smoking? Why are people still starting to smoke? Nothing seems to have changed. - JEJ -

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

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"The Omega Code", TBN Films, 1999, Color, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio 1.81:1, DD, 1 Hr 40 min, Rated PG-13; Casper Van Dien, Michael York, Catherine Oxenberg, Michael Ironside; This story is based on the idea that the Bible contains a secret code which can predict the future of the universe. In Israel, computer experts begin to discover the code, part of which is the key to controlling Jerusalem, and those who control Jerusalem will control the world. Stone Alexander (York), a rich businessman, aided by his evil sidekick Dominic (Ironside) wants the code for his own selfish use. Dr. Gillan Lane (Van Dien) interrupts this acquisition, and the possibility that he will come to great harm increases substantially. Murder, apocalyptic visions, mass destruction, and other mayhem are the miasma that pervade the film from beginning to end. Unfortunately, the acting and the script are atrocious. Putting the mud on the cake is the "Coming Attractions" at the beginning which cannot be paused or skipped. This makes the disc totally unacceptable. - JEJ -

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

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"The Limey", Artisan Entertainment, 1999, Color, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio 1.71:1, DD, 1 Hr 29 min, Rated R; Terence Stamp, Lesley Ann Warren, Luis Guzman, Barry Newman, Peter Fonda; When British convict Wilson (Stamp) gets out of prison, he finds that his daughter Jenny has been killed in an automobile accident in California. He does not believe it was accidental, so he goes to L.A. and discovers that a sleazy music producer, Terry Valentine (Fonda) was involved in her death. Wilson and a friend (Guzman) let Valentine know that they are coming after him, and not for the purpose of selling him some Tupperware. Valentine's bodyguards, led by a man named Avery (Newman), try to prevent an assassination, while Valentine cowers. The movie has sort of a "Death Wish" theme about it, except that the bad guy is a wimp. - JEJ -

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

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"For Love of the Game", Universal Studios, 1999, Color, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio 2.27:1, Surround Sound, DD, 2 Hr 17min, Rated PG-13; Kevin Costner, Kelly Preston, John C. Reilly, Jena Malone, Brian Cox, J.K. Simmons;  It's the morning of the final game of the season for the Detroit Tigers, and veteran pitcher Billy Chapel (Costner) is ready to go out one more time to prove his critics wrong.  This game, however, has much more on the line for Chapel than playing the spoiler for New York (one game from a pennant), because it could mean the end of his career.  That same morning Billy finds out the Tiger's owner is selling the team and that his girlfriend of five years, Jane (Preston), is leaving him. With nothing left to lose, Billy goes to the mound and decides to do it one more time, for the love of the game, while his life, the choices he has made, and his future flash before him during what may be his finest hour.  When it comes to baseball movies, few do it better than Kevin Costner.  Artistically, Yankee Stadium was the perfect setting for the story to unfold. - Jared Baldwin -

 

Entertainment: ****
Video Quality: ****
Audio: *****
Photography: ****
Violence: mild
Sex: mild
Language: the "S" word

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"Brokedown Palace", 20th Century Fox, 1999, Color, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio 1.85:1, Surround Sound, DD, 1 Hr 40 min, Rated PG-13;  Claire Danes, Bill Pullman, Kate Beckinsale, Jacqui Kim, Daniel Lapaine, Tom Amandes;  Fresh out of high school, Alice Marano (Danes) and Darlene Davis (Beckinsale) are eager to exercise their personal freedom.  What else would friends for life do together to celebrate than to take a trip to an exotic location?  The locale of choice, Thailand.  While this trip provides new experiences and endless fun, it also offers ample opportunity to get into serious trouble.  This trouble comes knocking in the form of name a small time drug dealer, who arrives just in time to cover for some mischievous fun the girls are having, who also just happens to be looking for some unsuspecting girls to deliver drugs.  After their savior of the moment asks them to come to Hong Kong with them they quickly realize that they weren't asked on this trip for pleasure, only his sleazy drug business.  In that part of the world, the law doesn't give second chances to drug dealers. With no where to go and no one to turn to, the girls are facing a lifetime sentence for a crime they didn't commit.  Their fate now lies in the hands of Hank Green (Pullman), an American lawyer turned local immigrant willing to take on a system of government set on making examples of two innocent girls.  I'm sure this movie did wonders for American tourism in Thailand. - Jared Baldwin -

 

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

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"House on Haunted Hill", Warner Bros., 1999, Color, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio 1.85:1, Surround Sound, DD, 1 Hr 36 min, Rated R; Bridgette Wilson, Famke Janssen, Geoffrey Rush, Taye Diggs, Peter Gallagher, Chris Kattan, Ali Larter;  Having already been crowned king of the amusement park, Steven B. Price (Rush) has decided he needs to expand his creative horizons a bit.  To celebrate his wife Evelyn's (Janssen) birthday, he arranges for a party that she and her guests will never forget.  With the guest list set and the site of the party located, Steven continues on with his idea of widening his resume by transforming what used to be a refuge for the insane into his own personal amusement center.  Just to make things interesting, Price offers up the guests a cool $1 million each if they can withstand the staged horror he has set up for them.  Nothing is what it seems when the party takes on a life of its own while the line between illusion and reality is blurred.  When twisted greed and a house full of tortured souls are combined, it makes for a deadly combination.  Although on the surface this movie may just seem like another "Haunting", it goes a little deeper with better acting and a better script. - Jared Baldwin -

 

Entertainment: ****
Video Quality: ****
Audio: *****
Photography: ****
Violence: yes
Sex: nudity
Language: the "F" word

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"End of Days", Universal Studios, 1999, Color, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio 2.35:1, Surround Sound, DD, 2 Hr 3 min, Rated R;  Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rod Steiger, Gabriel Byrne, Kevin Pollak, Robin Tunney, CCH Pounder;  The coming of the year 2000 has been surrounded with weighty predictions, from impending chaos to the ultimate demise of civilization.  For many, this includes the return of the Prince of Darkness himself.  A sign from the heavens has predicted the coming of the one to bear his child and, until now, the highest church officials have been unable to find her.  Special Agent Jericho Cane (Schwarzenegger) gets caught in the middle of the renewed battle of good versus evil when he unknowingly thwarts an attempted assassination of man that is to become the host body for Satan.  As Jericho dives deeper into the investigation, he learns of Christine York (Tunney) and the role Satan has picked for her to play in his plan to establish a Hell on earth.  With the help of the church, Jericho is willing to do whatever it takes to keep Christine undercover and out of sight of those who serve evil.  A recent number of movies have dealt with church-related subject matter.  Some have done it better than others.  The trend has been to put the church in an unkind light. Hey, guess what, itís the year 2000 and all is well . . . for another thousand years that is. - Jared Baldwin -

 

Entertainment: ***
Video Quality: ****
Audio: ****
Photography: ****
Violence: graphic
Sex: explicit, debauchery, abusive
Language: the "F" and "S" words

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"Stuart Little", Columbia Pictures, 1999, Color, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio 1.76:1, Surround Sound, DD, 1 Hr 25 min, Rated PG; Geena Davis, Hugh Laurie, Jonathan Lipnicki, voices of Michael J. Fox and Nathan Lane; The Little family decides to adopt a brother for George (Lipnicki), but it turns out to be a mouse named Stuart (Fox) instead of a human. At first, George is disappointed, but he soon learns to love his little brother, especially after Stuart helps win a model boat race. However, the family cat, Snowbell (Lane) wants Stuart out of the house, so he makes a bargain with some of the local alley cats. But, in the end, as all such movies do, everything turns out OK. Although it did alright at the box office, I found the movie to be somewhat sterile and without a soul. But, the little guy sure was cute. - JEJ -

 

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

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