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Movie Renter's Guide

Current Movies - Part 76 - July, 2001

Staff

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Ratings:
Extraordinary
Good
Acceptable
Mediocre
Poor

 

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"O Brother, Where Art Thou?", Touchstone Pictures, 2000, Color, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio (DVD) 2.30:1, DD, DTS, 1 Hr 43 min, Rated PG-13; George Clooney, John Turturro, Tim Blake Nelson, John Goodman; Everett (Clooney), Pete (Turtorro), and Delmar (Nelson) escape from a Georgia chain gang, and set out to retrieve the million dollars that Everett buried before he was captured and put in prison. On their way, they meet a one-eyed Bible salesman (Goodman), and cut a record as the Soggy Bottom Boys. While their record soars to the top of the charts, and the blind radio station jockey who cut their record searches for them, they have a run in with the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and the state Governor. Pete is captured, returned to prison, and Everett gets him back out again. The movie had two Academy Award Nominations, and is a silly romp through a yellow tinted hot summertime in the south, during the Great Depression. - JEJ -

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

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"Thirteen Days", New Line Cinema, 2000, Color, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio 1.76:1 (DVD), DD, 2 Hr 27 min; Kevin Costner, Bruce Greenwood, Steven Culp, Dylan Baker; In 1962, when John Kennedy was President, there arose a crisis that the public is just now discovering how close we came to a thermonuclear war with the Soviet Union. The CIA's spy plane photos showed that Russia had placed missiles armed with nuclear warheads in Cuba. President Kennedy (played by Greenwood) and his advisors, including Kenneth O'Donnell (played by Costner), as well as his brother Bobby Kennedy (played by Culp), now had to face the possibility of war unless they could get the missiles disarmed and dismantled. Of course, we know the outcome since it is a true story having taken place almost half a century ago. However, it is still riveting, even though you will have to put up with Costner's ridiculous attempt at a Martha's Vinyard accent (he did not use an English accent when he portrayed Robin Hood, so why try one here when portraying a much less historically prominent figure?) I do find it insulting that his picture is in front of both of the Kennedy's on the DVD jacket, and his picture is the primary one on the back cover. This is not a story about Special Assistant to the President Kenneth O'Donnell in spite of Costner's attempt to make it look that way. - JEJ -

Entertainment: ****
Video Quality: ** (too much edge enhancement)
Audio: ***
Photography: ***
Violence: no
Sex: no
Language: the "S" and "F" words

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"The Family Man", Universal Pictures, 2001, Color, Filmed in Panavision and presented at measured aspect ratio 2.35:1 (DVD), DD, DTS, 2 Hr 6 min, Rated PG-13; Nicolas Cage, Tea Leoni; In 1987, Jack Campbell (Cage) leaves for London to study banking for one year, in spite of his fianceč Kate (Leoni) asking that he not go. Many years later, we find that Jack has become a Wall Street tycoon and never married. One morning, he wakes up to discover himself with wife Kate and two kids, and a job as a tire salesman. An angel tells him he is getting a glimpse of how his life might have been if he had returned from London and married his fianceč. At first, he misses all the perks that he had as a successful trader, and then decides he wants to stay as part of the family he never had. Although this is no Frank Capra film ("It's a Wonderful Life", 1946, with Jimmy Stewart), it is still entertaining and very funny. The ending is a little too simple though. - JEJ - If you have seen the movie, take our poll as to which life you would like to lead (see below). If you rent it, then come back after you watch it and take the poll.

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

 

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"Save the Last Dance", Paramount Pictures, 2001, Color, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio 1.85:1 (DVD), DD, 1 Hr 52 min, Rated PG-13; Julia Stiles, Sean Patrick Thomas, Kerry Washington, Fredo Starr, Terry Kinney, Bianca Lawson, Vince Green; Sara Johnson (Stiles) has based her whole life on being a dancer . . . that is until her mother is tragically killed in a car accident trying not to miss Sarah's biggest dance audition. From here, Sarah moves to Chicago to live with her dad to finish out high school, putting dancing and her life in New York behind her. Her new life in Chicago will require adjusting to a new school and living with a dad she hasn't known for years. At school she meets Chenille (Washington), a street-wise teenage mother, and her brother, Derek (Thomas), a hard-working senior poised to be admitted into medical school. Sarah's relationship with Derek builds after Chenille invites her to a hotspot dance club for a night out with her new friends. Their relationship eventually is the kick-start that Sarah needs to get back out on the dance floor and do what she loves best. The mini-messages in this film are positive, but many of the derived situations simply would not happen in real life. This film does introduce a talented young actor in Sean Patrick Thomas and showcases the fabulous smile of Julia Stiles. - JB -

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

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"All the Pretty Horses", Columbia/Tri-Star, 2000, Color, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio 2.35:1 (DVD), DD, 1 Hr 57 min, Rated PG-13; Matt Damon, Henry Thomas, Penelope Cruz, Lucas Black, Ruben Blades, Bruce Dern, Robert Patrick, Sam Shepard; Deep in the heart of Texas, John Grady Cole (Damon) and best friend Lacey Rawlins (Thomas) have run out of luck, and now have nothing left to keep them home any longer. So they head south into Old Mexico in search of new opportunities. Right away, they meet Jimmy Blevins (Black), a troubled young man with the burden of men twice his age. However, just as quickly as they crossed paths with Jimmy, he is gone, after he steals back his lost horse. Soon afterward, John and Lacey find honest work on a cattle ranch. Here John meets Alejandra (Cruz), the daughter of the cattle ranch owner. After disregarding several cues to not pursue Alejandra, John's behavior earns the disapproval of the wrong people. This lands John and Lacey in a Mexican prison after they are linked back to Jimmy Blevins, who continued to find even bigger trouble after he rode away on his horse. This film turned out to be a very nice effort from actor-turned-producer Billy Bob Thorton, although at times it seemed to lose focus of the main story. - JB -

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

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"Dungeons and Dragons", New Line Cinema, 2000, Color, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio 1.85:1 (DVD), DD, 1 Hr 47 min, Rated PG-13; Justin Whalin, Jeremy Irons, Marlon Wayans, Zoe McLennan, Thora Birch, Richard O'Brien; In the world of Dungeons and Dragons, only two types of people exist, the lowly commoners and the entitled mages. Ridley (Whalin) and Snails (Wayans) are two lowly commoners who have made their way by stealing from the hand of the rich. Their latest plan has them set for a big score courtesy of the richest in the land inside the castle of mages. This plan is halted accidentally by a young mage, Marina Pretensa (McLellan), who has yet to learn about the power she possesses. However, Marina realizes that Ridley and Snail's minor thievery is the least of her worries when she steps in the way of the plan of Profion (Irons), an evil mage looking to dethrone the ruler of the land, Empress Savina (Birch). By claiming the power of Empress Savina's mighty dragon scepter, he will gain control of the yellow dragons and thus the most powerful entity in the land. Marina, Ridley, and Snails, mage and humans alike, must work together to capture a different scepter with the power to control the mightiest of dragons - the red dragons - to combat Profion's evil plan. There are some cool visuals featuring dragons and magic attacks. However, the acting in this movie is awful. I'm not sure whether or not the script is supposed to follow the classic board game or the short-lived cartoon, but one thing's for sure: it does neither well. - JB -

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

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"The Yards", Disney/Buena Vista, 2000, Color, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio 2.35:1 (DVD), DD, 1 Hr 55 min, Rated R; Mark Wahlberg, Joaquin Phoenix, Charlize Theron, James Caan, Ellen Burstyn, Faye Dunaway, Chad Aaron, Andrew Davoli; Twenty-four year old Leo Handler (Wahlberg) has just been released from prison and is ready to return home to try leading a normal life. When Leo goes in to apply for a job with Willie (Phoenix), his future brother in law, and his Rail Yard Company, he is very disappointed after the boss tells him he is going to need two years of schooling first. So instead, he decides to take a position in Willie's department that doesn't require any formal schooling. At first this job seems easy enough, simply involving keeping key political figures in regards to the rail industry and business CEO's in good spirits. Of course this easy enough job comes with its down side as well, which involves sabotage of the competition's rail cars among other illegal things. On Leo's first night of rendering the competition's rail cars useless, he, along with Willie and the rest of the gang, run into a little trouble when the rail yard attendant decides he isn't going to turn his back anymore to the mischief because he just got a better offer from a stealthy rival. In a panic, Willie reacts the only way he sees to try and defend his company. This leaves the rail yard attendant with a fatal stab wound, and Leo face to face with a nightstick-wielding police officer. In the aftermath, Leo, with his tainted past, is forced to go on the run, while Willie works to clear himself of any wrongdoing. The acting in this lesser-known film is certainly deserving of high praise. Ellen Burstyn has a great role as Leo's mom as does Faye Dunaway as Kitty Olchin, the wife of Frank Olchin, who just happens to be Willie's employer and uncle to Leo. - JB -

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

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"The Gift", Lakeshore Entertainment, 2000, Color, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio 1.78:1 (DVD), DD, 1 Hr 51 min, Rated R; Cate Blanchett, Giovanni Ribisi, Keanu Reeves, Katie Holmes, Kim Dickens, Greg Kinnear, Hilary Swank; Annie Wilson (Blanchett) is a widow living in a small southern town, making a living by reading cards for the locals. Her days are not the most pleasant, helping a young woman, Valerie Barksdale (Swank), who suffers extreme physical abuse from her husband Donnie (Reeves), along with a young man Buddy Cole (Ribisi), who was abused by his father. When fianceé Jessica King (Holmes) of school teacher Wayne Collins (Kinnear) disappears, Annie uses her powers to help the police find the body, and it turns up in Donnie Barksdale's pond. He is arrested, charged with murder, tried, and found guilty. But Annie sees visions that indicate he is not the murderer. Now, her life is in danger as the real killer stalks her, to prevent the truth from being uncovered. The movie is very scary, and filled with superb acting, particularly Blanchett and Ribisi.  - JEJ -

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

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"Pollock", Sony Pictures Classics, 2000, Color, Filmed spherically and presented at measured aspect ratio 1.86:1 (DVD), DD, 2 Hr 2 min, Rated R; Ed Harris, Marcia Gay Harden, Tom Bower, John Heard, Val Kilmer, Amy Madigan; In the 1950s, Jackson Pollack (played by Ed Harris) became an icon of American Art, but it is not generally known how much he suffered to get there. In the 1940s, he lived with his mother and brother in a small apartment. He drank heavily. Another artist, Lee Krasner (played by Harden) has an art studio of her own down the street, and she literally keeps him out of the gutter. They become friends and lovers, and suddenly, his career takes off when he begins his famous run of artwork involving just splattering the paint onto the canvas. For awhile, he is on the wagon, but severe depression sets in again, and he takes up the bottle, finally dying in an automobile accident. Ed Harris produces, directs, and stars in this tragic story about an amazing artist.  - JEJ -

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

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© Copyright 2001 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
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