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Movie Renter's Guide

Current Movies - # 73 - April, 2001

Staff

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Ratings:
Extraordinary
Good
Acceptable
Mediocre
Poor

 

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"Girl Fight", Screen Gems and Independent Film Channel Productions, 2000, Color, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio 1.33:1 (DVD), DD, 1 Hr 51 min, Rated R; Michelle Rodriguez, Jaime Terelli, Paul Calderon, Santiago Douglas; At a high school in the New York Bronx, Diana Guzman (Rodriguez) would rather get into fights than wear makeup. One day, she asks her brother's trainer, Hector (Tirelli), at a local boxing gym, to help her become a boxer. At first, Hector is resistant, but when she proves her metal in the ring with sparring partners, Hector sees her potential. Complicating things is that one of her boxing opponents is a young fellow named Adrian (Douglas), with whom she falls in love. The film had a modest budget, with first time director and actors, but as an independent film, it excels with intensity. All teenage girls with low self esteem, for whatever reason, should see this movie. You don't need anyone's permission to realize your dreams. - JEJ -

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

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"Almost Famous", DreamWorks, 2000, Color, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio 1.85:1 (DVD), DTS, 2 Hr 3 min, Rated R; Patrick Fugit, Kate Hudson, Billy Crudup, Frances McDormand, Anna Paquin, Philip Seymour Hoffman; William Miller's (Fugit) dream is not to be famous, but to write about those who are. At the impressionable age of fifteen, William gets a break doing a small piece for a local magazine. He is sent to get an interview with Black Sabbath when they come to town. Two important things happen to him while unsuccessfully trying to get inside to get his interview. First off, he meets Penny Lane (Hudson), a rock and roll groupie who has eloquently coined the substitute phrase "band-aid" to describe her role on the road. Secondly, instead of getting his interview with Black Sabbath, William lucks out when Stillwater, their opening act, shows up late. Right away, Russell Hammond (Crudup), the lead guitarist for Stillwater, takes a liking to William, whom he sees as a potential voice of exposure and gives him a firsthand look of an amazing night of behind the scenes rock and roll. From here he is given the opportunity to go on the road to write about what it's like to be in a rising band during the 1970's. Soon after, William gets the call of a lifetime from Rolling Stone Magazine who wants him to put together a piece for their upcoming issue. William, who receives his spiritual guidance from his mom back home and his professional guidance from Lester Bangs (Hoffman), stands a chance to be published in the greatest rock and roll magazine at the time. However, to do this he needs to sit down individually with the members of the band to fully explore their experiences in the article. Life on the road has allowed him almost no time to get his interviews, but it does allow him to get the insiders' story on the entire band. As a semi-autobiographical work, Cameron Crowe created a fantastic movie in every way possible that is very deserving of the highest praise. - JB -

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

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"Highlander: Endgame", Disney/Buena Vista, 2000, Color, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio 1.85:1 (DVD), DD, 1 Hr 41 min, Rated R; Christopher Lambert, Adrian Paul, Lisa Barbuscia, Damon Dash, Shelia Gish, Bruce Payne, Donnie Yen; In the end there can only be one, but for this movie, there can be two stars. Duncan MacLeod (Paul), star of TV's Highlander, and Connor MacLeod (Lambert), star of the film versions of Highlander, co-exist in their battle to survive the game of the immortals. With centuries passed and with only a handful of immortals remaining in the game, the MacLeod's are looking to put history to rest. However, old grudges die-hard and those looking to rule the underworld are being lead by Jacob Kell (Payne), an old rival of Connor's, whom he had many bloody encounters with during their storied past. Also under the spell of Jacob is Duncan's former wife, Kate (Barbuscia), who has a personal score to settle with Duncan. As the final battle draws closer, Connor decides he is going to end the game his own way by disappearing to a safe place where no one can find him and, more importantly, where no one can behead him (that's the only way immortals can die). With Jacob's goons on the lookout for him, Connor's whereabouts are discovered, only for him to be released. But why? Jacob's plan is to prolong the suffering of anyone Connor has ever cared about to even the score of a mistake Connor made many, many years before. With Connor's wisdom, a younger Duncan will fight an epic battle with Jacob that will determine the fate of all mortals and immortals alike. The quickenings (energy boosts when an immortal gets beheaded by another immortal) are very high-energy scenes with a great surround effect that will make you appreciate your home theater all over again. Although this is the supposed final movie in the Highlander series, there is a possibility (or two) left to keep it going. - JB -

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

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"Urban Legends: Final Cut", Columbia/Tristar, 2000, Color, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio 2.35:1 (DVD), DD, 1 Hr 39 min, Rated R; Jennifer Morrison, Mathew Davis, Hart Bochner, Loretta Devine, Eva Mendes, Joey Lawrence, Anson Mount; Amy Mayfield (Morrison) has been looking for her niche as a filmmaker at Alpine Film School and thinks she has finally found it in the horror flick. However, Amy was unaware of how stiff the competition would be for the nearing of the coveted Hitchcock award, an award dedicated to this genre of filmmaking. Fellow classmate, Travis Stark (Davis), has put all of his hope into his ability to make a film that will win this prestigious award. So much, in fact, that he is found dead after receiving a low score from Professor Solomon (Bochner) on his self-assured masterpiece. However, even such a tragedy such as this does not deter Graham (Lawrence), Reese (Devine), or other competing students from turning cutthroat with the golden ticket to Hollywood that the Hitchcock award has to offer. To complicate matters further, Trevor (Davis), Travis' brother, shows up to investigate the death of his sibling, which he feels was not a suicide as reported. Trevor, who looks strikingly like his brother, finds a common ally in Amy, who was also investigating the death of her good friend. This is just another one of those films that gives no clues, subtleties, or hints as to who the real killer is and instead introduces them in an "Oh by the way, I'm the killer and this is why" sort of way at the very end. Even more disappointing was the fact the former "Blossom" TV star Joey Lawrence doesn't give us what we really want, a big "Whoa" for old times sake. - JB -

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

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"Toy Story 2", Disney/Buena Vista, 1999, Color, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio 1.77:1 (DVD), DD, 1 Hr 32 min, Rated G; Voices of Tim Allen, Tom Hanks, Joan Cusack, Don Rickles, Jim Varney, Joe Rafnt, Wallace Shawn, Annie Potts, Kelsey Grammer;  "Toy Story 2", the sequel to "Toy Story", is a tale about the lives of a group of living toys that goes beyond the expansive imagination of Andy, the boy who owns them, and instead focuses on their own small world.  Trouble begins when a broken-down and forgotten toy, Weezy (Rafnt), is picked to be part of a garage sale.  Woody (Hanks), usually not known for his heroic feats, attempts a daring rescue of the ill-fated Weezy, only to become part of the garage sale himself.  Woody almost escapes when Andyís mom tells an interested Al McWhiggin (Knight), a well-known toyshop owner, that the toy is not for sale.  Unfortunately, Al decides that he needs Woody more than Andy and simply steals him.  The hero of the original Toy Story, Buzz Light-year (Allen), and the rest of the gang see it all go down from Andyís bedroom window.  This leaves only one plan of action for Buzz and his friends to take, rescue the rescuer.  Meanwhile, at Alís toyshop, Woody learns why he was stolen by Al McWhiggin in the first place when he is reintroduced to Jessie (Cusack), Stinky Pete (Grammer), and Bullseye the horse, co-stars of a long lost kids television show that they were all part of.  When Buzz and the gang arrive, Woody now has to make the choice of going back to live out his dwindling time with a growing Andy or to be a part of a permanent toy display in a Japanese gallery.  "Toy Story 2" is one of the most successful box office movies of all-time, ranking number 17 on the highest grossing list, and it is very easy to see why.  The 2 DVD set, that also includes a copy of "Toy Story", is a treasure that kids and parents alike can enjoy for a long time to come.  - JB -

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

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"Double Impact"MGM/UA, 1991, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio 1.85:1 (DVD), DD, 1 Hr 50 min, Rated R;  Jean-Claude Van Damme, Geoffrey Lewis (I), Alonna Shaw, Alan Scarfe, Bolo Yeung Moon;  Twenty-five years ago, the parents of twin babies Chad and Alex were brutally murdered by Chinese thugs.  In the battle for survival, these two were separated for good.  Twenty-five years later, living half a world apart, Alex and Chad have no idea that the other one exists.  Chad is living in L.A. working as a fitness instructor, while Alex is still living the hard life in Hong Kong.  Frank Avery (Lewis), an old friend of the twin's parents, reunites the twins so that they can exact revenge on those responsible for their parent's murder.  The last remaining question is can a pretty boy from California get along with a hardened soul from one of the toughest cities in the world?  If that question wasn't enough, can Alex's girlfriend Danielle (Shaw) tell the two brothers apart when it hmmm . . . counts?  Although this movie is full of gratuitous violence and nudity, it was par for the course for the action films of its day.  Those familiar with this genre will recognize Bolo Yeung Moon as one of the best villains ever!  Regardless of his recent box office disasters, Van Damme has made some pretty decent actions films in the past, and this is one of them - with twice the Van Dammage!  - JB -

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

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"Lucky Numbers", Paramount Pictures, 2000, Color, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio 1.78:1 (DVD), DD, 1 Hr 45 min, Rated R; John Travolta, Lisa Kudrow, Tim Roth, Ed O'Neill, Michael Rapaport, Bill Pullman; In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, TV weatherman Russ Richards (Travolta) enjoys his tremendous popularity. He even has his own parking spot and table at Denny's Restaurant (:->). When his business interests head south (a snowmobile store), he is desperate for money. So, Russ' friend Gig (Roth) suggests that he will have a friend burn burglarize his store so that he can collect the insurance. That results in a disaster, and now Russ needs even more money. So, he and the Lotto Ball Girl, Crystal (Kudrow) defraud the Lotto game, with her cousin Walter (Michael Moore) helping. Walter dies before they can cash in the winning lotto card, and Gig's friend who was supposed to burglarize the snowmobile store now wants part of the action. This movie is a mediocre attempt to copy the success of "Fargo". - JEJ -

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

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"Nurse Betty", Gramercy Pictures, 2000, Color, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio 2.34:1 (DVD), DD, 1 Hr 50 min, Rated R; Morgan Freeman, Renee Zellweger, Chris Rock, Greg Kinnear, Aaron Eckhart; Betty Sizemore (Zellweger) keeps herself occupied dreaming about her soap opera hero, Dr. David Ravell (Kinnear), while her husband Del (Eckhart) sells cars, messes around with his secretary, and sells drugs too. When a couple of hitmen, Charlie (Freeman) and Wesley (Rock) come around to see Dell because he was stealing their drugs to sell to other customers, Betty witnesses her husband's execution. Going into shock, she tells the police that the stars of the soap opera are responsible for her husband's murder, and she sets off for Los Angeles to meet Ravell. Her friends become frantic, but Ravell becomes infatuated with Betty. In the meantime, Charlie and Wesley discover that their drugs are hidden in the car that Betty drove to Los Angeles, so they chase after her. I found the story ridiculous, but it may appeal to some. - JEJ -

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

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"The 6th Day", Columbia Pictures, 2000, Color, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio 2.35:1 (DVD), DD, 2 Hr 4 min, Rated PG-13; Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Rapaport, Tony Goldwyn, Michael Rooker, Wendy Crewson, Robert Duvall, Sarah Wynter; Fast forward a few decades. Adam Gibson (Schwarzenegger) is a helicopter pilot. His daughter's dog dies, and his wife Natalie (Crewson) asks him to stop by the local "Repet" outlet to have the dog cloned. He resists, because he does not believe in cloning, but finally stops by. When he arrives home, he is shocked to discover that he himself has been cloned, and his alter ego is inside with his family, celebrating his birthday. Some shady characters show up too, telling him that a 6th day violation has occurred, and that his cloning was a mistake. The try to kill Adam, but he escapes, and finds that a company called Replacement Technologies, headed by a Michael Drucker (Goldwyn) and a Dr. Griffin Weir (Duvall) are cloning humans, which is illegal. So, the chase is on. Adam must be killed before anyone, including his family, discover the clone. The film is typical Schwarzenegger, without all the exit wounds of his R rated movies. - JEJ -

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

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"The Legend of Bagger Vance"DreamWorks, Color, 2000, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio 1.85:1 (DVD), Surround Sound, DTS, 2 Hr 7 min, Rated PG-13; Matt Damon, Charlize Theron, Will Smith, Bruce McGill, Joel Gretsch, Michael OíNeill (I), J. Michael Moncrief, Thomas Jay Ryan, Trip Hamilton;  The story takes place during the midst of the Great Depression (circa 1930).  In the Southern town of Savannah, Georgia, the economy has run so thin that Mr. Invergordon, who had just sank every last penny he had into building the perfect golf resort, commits suicide.  His daughter Adele (Theron) decides she isnít going to sell off her fatherís dream to pay their outstanding debts and instead opts to put on the largest golf exhibition the people of the South have ever seen.  Bobby Jones (Gretsch) and Walter Hagen (McGill), two of the greatest golfers ever to step on the green, are invited to draw crowds from around the country.  However, to the locals this isnít enough, and they insist that she put in a hometown hero to compete against these champions.  Their hometown hero of choice is Rannulph Junuh (Damon), a former amateur champion in the South whose career was cut short after serving in the First World War.  However, he hasnít golfed for a very long time and has all but lost his swing.  That is until a stranger, Bagger Vance (Smith), shows up from nowhere to help Rannulph find his swing and passion for the game once again.  If it seems funny that I mention so little of Bagger Vance in this review, it is because he appears in the movie with about the same frequency.  The movie probably should have been called The True Story of Hardy Greaves (Moncrief), who as a young boy had more to do with Rannulphís renewed success than anyone. - JB -

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

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"Men of Honor"Fox 2000 Pictures, Color, 2001, Color, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio 2.32:1 (DVD), DD, 2 Hr 6 min, Rated R; Robert De Niro, Cuba Goodings, Jr., Hal Holbrook, Michael Rapaport, Powers Boothe, Charlize Theron; Back in the 1950s, although the US Navy has begun integration practices, it is still a very difficult issue. Seaman Carl Brashear (Goodings) is assigned the job that other African-Americans get, namely working in the galley. But he wants to be a Master Diver, something no other black man has ever achieved. So, the road is rough, including prejudicial behavior by the other team members, and especially from his instructor, Navy Master Chief Billy Sunday (De Niro). Fortunately, Carl has so much talent, he cannot be ignored, and in spite of a terrible accident, he achieves his goal, becoming the first African-American Navy Master Diver in history. De Niro is spectacular as the racist and alcoholic Billy Sunday. This is a must-see movie. - JEJ -

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

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"Bounce", Miramax Films, Color, 2000, Color, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio 1.81:1 (DVD), DD, 1 Hr 46 min, Rated PG-13; Ben Affleck, Gwyneth Paltrow, Natasha Henstridge, Tony Goldwyn; Buddy Amaral (Affleck) is on a layover at the Chicago airport, and in a bar, he meets fellow travelers Mimi (Henstridge) and Greg Janello (Goldwyn). Although Buddy's flight to LA is ready to board, Greg, who is also on his way to LA, is delayed. He gives his ticket to Greg, so that he can spend more time talking to Mimi. The plane crashes, killing Greg and the rest of the passengers. Buddy feels very guilty and becomes an alcoholic. A year later, he goes to visit Greg's wife Abby (Paltrow), and seeing that she is a struggling real estate broker, helps her out by hiring her to find a new office space for his advertising company. They fall in love, but it is a very anxious relationship for Buddy, because at some point, he must tell her that he was supposed to be on that tragic flight out of Chicago instead of her husband. Two very fine actors make the story interesting, but it moves a little slow, and the outcome is too predictable. - JEJ -

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

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"Billy Elliot", Working Title Films, 2000, Color, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio 1.84:1 (DVD), DD, 1 Hr 51 min, Rated R; Julie Walters, Gary Lewis, Jamie Bell, Jean Heywood;  In an Irish coal mining family, young Billy Elliot (Bell) discovers that he would rather dance ballet than learn to box. Of course, his father (Lewis) is dead set against it. Only for girls, he says. Grandma (Heywood), who is senile, says she could have been a big ballet star herself. At school, the Ballet Instructor, Mrs. Wilkinson (Walters) thinks that Billy has enough talent to apply for the Royal Ballet. So, they have to convince dad that not only should his son forget about boxing and head off to ballet school, but he has to pay for it too. The film surprised everyone with its accolades, and is the other end of the stick for "Girl Fight". - JEJ -

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

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"Space Cowboys", Warner Brothers, 2000, Color, Filmed in Panavision and presented at measured aspect ratio 2.27:1 (DVD), DD, 2 Hr 10 min, Rated PG-13; Clint Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland, James Garner, Marcia Gay Harden, William Devane, James Cromwell; A Russian space satellite, called Icon, is suffering a degradation of its orbit and will plunge into earth's atmosphere in one month. It is an old satellite, and an old astronaut, Dr. Frank Corvin (Eastwood) is the only one who knows how to fix the navigation electronics. NASA calls him out of retirement, and he not only demands that he be the one sent into space for the repair job, but he wants his old Air Force team members to go along too. These include Bill Hawkins (Jones) who is a crop duster, Jerry O'Neill who engineers roller coasters, and Tank Sullivan (Garner) who is a minister. The NASA Director, Bob Gerson (Cromwell) is an old nemesis of Corvin's, and reluctantly agrees. They go through training and are launched. Upon docking with Icon, Frank discovers a secret that the Russians have been hiding, about the exact nature of the satellite. The movie is filled with geezer humor which is extremely funny, and this is followed by the very serious nature of the satellite sequences. It is one of the most engaging films I have seen this year. Note: The black and white sequence at the beginning is blue in color on the DVD, because the release print is tinted that way to come out black and white when projected at a commercial theater. - JEJ -

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

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"Finding Forrester", Columbia Pictures, 2000, Color, Filmed in Panavision and presented at measured aspect ratio 2.32:1 (DVD), DD, 2 Hr 16 min, Rated PG-13; Sean Connery, F. Murray Abraham, Anna Paquin, Busta Rhymes, Rob Brown;  In The Bronx, New York, Jamal Wallace (Brown) is just getting by in school, and yet he reads constantly. His SAT test scores are brought to the attention of a prestigious local prep school, and he is admitted, but not because he has writing talent. It is for his basketball skills. Jamal meets a reclusive old man (Connery) who lives in one of the nearby tenement buildings, and asks him to help improve his writing. When Dr. Crawford (Abraham) tells the writing class to read a book by William Forrester, Jamal discovers that the old man in the tenement is Forrester, who has been hiding since the publication of his first and only book. At school, Jamal becomes romantically involved with Claire (Paquin), who is the daughter of one of the school's principal benefactors and board members. When Dr. Crawford becomes jealous of Jamal's obvious talents as a writer, he tries to have Jamal expelled. Claire's father now has to deal with his need for Jamal to play in the state basketball championship game, and yet worries about his daughter's involvement along with Dr. Crawford's charges that Jamal has plagiarized others' essays. The plot sounds workable, but it just moves so slowly that I kept looking at the clock. Also, the photography is dreadful. The apartment scenes are very muddy, and the camera is not protected from glare when near windows.  - JEJ -

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

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