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Movie Renter's Guide

Current Movies - Part 75 - June, 2001

Staff

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Ratings:
Extraordinary
Good
Acceptable
Mediocre
Poor

 

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"Traffic", USA Films, 2000, Color, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio (DVD) 1.851, DD 2 Hr 27 min, Rated R; Michael Douglas, Don Cheadle, Benicio Del Toro, Dennis Quaid, Catherine Zeta-Jones; The new US Drug Czar Michael Wakefield (Douglas) finds that his battles with a drug addicted US public hit his own home, with his daughter Caroline (Erika Christensen). In San Diego, California, the problems of drugs coming across the border from Tijuana, Mexico, are severe. Two Mexican policemen, Javier Rodriguez (Del Toro) and Manolo Sanchez (Jacob Vargas) try to help the local Police Chief, Arturo Salazar (Tomas Milian) destroy the Tijuana drug cartel, and US DEA officers Montel Gordon (Cheadle) and Ray Castro (Luis Guzman) work the US side of the border, in San Diego. When drug dealer David Ayala (Alec Roberts) is captured and charged, one of his partners, Eduardo Ruiz (Miguel Ferrer), is given immunity if he will testify. So, Ayala's wife Helena (Zeta-Jones) contracts with an assassin to kill Ruiz before the trial. The movie won 4 Academy Awards. It is a very smartly directed film, and is a cynical, fatalistic, and depressing condemnation of our "War on Drugs" as having been a total failure. - JEJ -

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

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"Shadow of the Vampire", Lions Gate Films, 2000, Color, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio 2.34:1 (DVD), DD, DTS, 1 Hr 33 min, Rated R; John Malkovich, Willem Dafoe, Cary Elwes, Catherine McCormack; In the early 1900's, when movie making was very young, and silent, German master director Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau (Malkovich) wants to make a film about Dracula, but Bram Stoker's widow won't let him. So, he changes the name to Nosferatu (the unclean), and hires Max Schreck (Dafoe), a reclusive strange actor who won't let anyone see him without makeup, to play the part of Count Orlock. As the story unfolds, we find that Murnau has made a pact with Schreck, who is extremely attracted to the heroine in the story played by a German actress (McCormack), to not bother the actors before the end of the filming. One by one, the actors become ill with strange maladies, and then everybody realizes that Max is much more than just an intense method actor (an actor who lives the role he is playing). The film received two Academy Award nominations, but be forewarned, it is psychotic in its presentation. This is one the kids should not see, even if they are accompanied by an adult. - JEJ -

Entertainment: ****
Video Quality: ****
Audio: ***
Photography: ** (the focus puller must have been asleep)
Violence: yes
Sex: yes
Language: the "F" and "S" words

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"Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon", Sony Pictures Classics & Columbia Pictures, 2000, Color, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio 2.33:1 (DVD), DD, 2 Hr, Rated PG-13; Chow Yun Fat, Michelle Yeoh, Zhang Ziyi, Chang Chen, Lung Shung, Cheng Pei Pei; In 19th century Beijing, China, retiring warrior Li Mu Bai (Fat) decides to give his sword, The Green Destiny, to the Governor for safekeeping. It is stolen by a young woman, Jen (Zhang Ziyi), and both Li Mu and his friend Yu Shu Lien (Yeoh) try to get it back. On a caravan, Jen is kidnapped. She uses her skills and The Green Destiny to make her way back to Beijing, where she is confronted by Li Mu and Yu Shu. Li Mu must now face the warrior The Jade Fox (Pei Pei) who murdered his teacher. Nominated for 10 Academy Awards, and winning 4, the film is a masterpiece. It is as entertaining as anything American and British film makers have ever done, and indicates China's emergence as a real power in movie production. - JEJ -

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

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"Cast Away", Twentieth Century Fox, 2000, Color, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio 1.82:1 (DVD), DD, DTS-ES, 2 Hr 23 min, Rated PG-13; Tom Hanks, Helen Hunt, Nick Searcy; Chuck Noland (Hanks) is a Federal Express engineer in Memphis, Tennessee. He is called away on business overseas just as he proposes to his girlfriend Kelly Frears (Hunt). On the flight, an accident occurs, and the jet crashes into the sea, with Chuck as the only survivor. Making his way to the nearest land, he finds himself marooned on a very small island, and there he stays for 4 years, with his only companion a volley ball. Making a raft, he sets back out to sea, and is rescued by a passing ship. Kelly, who thought him dead, is now married, and Chuck is lost again. The movie has spectacular digital effects, but Hanks and Hunt just don't have the emotional depth as actors to carry this story off to the heights it really deserves. Thankfully, Robert Zemeckis directed it, so it is certainly worth the rental. - JEJ -

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

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"The Pledge", Morgan Creek Productions, 2001, Color, Filmed in Panavision and presented at measured aspect ratio 2.32:1 (DVD), DD, 2 Hr 4 min, Rated R; Jack Nicholson, Benicio Del Toro, Vanessa Redgrave, Robin Wright Penn; Jerry Black (Nicholson) is retiring from the Reno, Nevada Police Force when a little girl is found murdered. He comes out of retirement in time to see the main suspect Toby Wadenah (Del Toro) shoot himself in jail. The case is considered closed, but Jerry doesn't see it that way, finding evidence of a serial killer over the past several years, including one murder when Toby was in prison. He moves to a small Nevada town, hoping that the murderer will surface. There, he meets Lori (Penn) who works in a local restaurant. She has a little girl about the same age as all the murder victims. One day Lori's daughter tells Jerry that a tall man driving a black station wagon wants her to meet him at the local picnic grounds so he can give her something. This is the same description of the serial killer, so Jerry decides to use her as bait and wait for the suspect to show up. The movie is very tight, but the storyline does not flow smoothly, and it takes some time to get into it. Couple that with an unpleasant ending, and it may not be a rental price well spent. - JEJ -

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

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"Proof of Life", Warner Brothers, 2000, Color, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio 2.33:1 (DVD), 2 Hr 15 min, Rated R; Meg Ryan, Russell Crowe, David Morse, Pamela Reed, David Caruso; In a volatile South American country, Peter Bowman (Morse) is building a dam in return for oil pipeline rights. When he is kidnapped and held for ransom by a rebel group trying to take over the cocaine trade, his wife Alice (Ryan) is faced with raising the money. A London-based hostage negotiator, Terry Thorne (Crowe), volunteers his services to help out, when no one else will. Soon, they are caught between their attraction to one another and sticking to the mission. It is nice to see an action film that stands up to all the hype, and then some. In spite of Equador's breathtaking landscape, director Taylor Hackford has managed to make it look like a very nasty place when you are a political hostage. - JEJ -

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

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"Unbreakable", Touchstone Pictures, 2000, Color, Filmed in Panavision and presented at measured aspect ratio 2.35:1 (DVD), DD, DTS, 1 Hr 47 min, Rated PG-13; Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Robin Wright Penn, Spencer Treat Clark; In Philadelphia, Stadium Security Guard David Dunn (Willis) is in a train accident, and is the only person to survive. After finding a strange message on his car, asking him if he has ever been sick, he goes to meet the man who left the message, Elijah Price (Jackson). Elijah tells him that he (David) may be a very special person whose purpose in the world is to protect others who are weak, such as himself (Elijah). David's wife Audrey (Penn) is reluctant to believe, but his son Joe (Clark) easily can see how his father might be that special person. The story is very strange, and is probably just a vehicle to cash in on Willis' success with "The Sixth Sense", but it seems to work, and holds the viewer spellbound. - JEJ -

Entertainment: ****
Video Quality: ** (too much edge enhancement)
Audio: ****
Photography: ****
Violence: mild
Sex: no
Language: no

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"Little Nicky", New Line Cinema, 2000, Color, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio 1.85:1 (DVD), DD, 1 Hr 24 min, Rated PG-13; Adam Sandler, Patricia Arquette, Harvey Keitel, Rhys Ifans, Tom Lister Jr., Rodney Dangerfield, Allen Covert, Peter Dante, Robert Smigel; Ten thousand years have passed, and it is once again time to pass on the reigns of darkness to the next ruler of the Hell. Satan (Keitel) must decide which of his sons is fit to rule for the next ten thousand years, Adrian (Ifans), Cassius (Lister, Jr.), or Nicky (Sandler). Adrian and Cassius have been eagerly awaiting this appointment, certain that one of them will be named the subsequent ruler of darkness. When Satan reveals that he feels neither of them are suited to rule, they rebel by busting out of Hell to wreak havoc on Earth. Nicky, who had very little interest in becoming ruler himself, is sent to the physical world to return his brothers to Hell to maintain the balance of good and evil. However, he only has a few days to learn the ways of the over-world and succeed in bringing them both back, or Satan's form will have completely disintegrated leaving the throne open to whichever brother claims it first. While up above, Nicky is aided by Mr. Beefy (Smigel), a talking dog sent by Satan to help guide him along his way, and Valerie (Arquette), a kind-hearted girl who takes a liking to Nicky's unusual nature. Too often movies starring Adam Sandler seemingly feature only Adam Sandler. However, this film has several likeable characters with equal screen time and presence, including some funny roles played by SNL alumni. - JB -

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

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Copyright 2001 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
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