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Movie Renter's Guide

Current Movies - # 86 - May, 2002

Staff

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Ratings:
Extraordinary
Good
Acceptable
Mediocre
Poor

 

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"From Hell", Twentieth Century Fox, 2001, Color, Presented at Measured Aspect Ratio 2.35:1, DD, 2 Hr 1 min, rated R; Johnny Depp, Heather Graham, Ian Holm, Robbie Coltrane; In late 1800's London, Jack the Ripper became perhaps the most famous serial murderer ever known. Detective Fred Abberline (Depp) searches for the killer who is butchering prostitutes, using his visionary powers. One of the prostitutes, Mary Kelly- (Graham) cooperates with Fred to help find the killer before she becomes a victim herself. All sorts of suspects emerge, including Prince Albert, although the Royal Physician Sir William Gull (Holm) says that Albert is too weak to be the murderer, because he has a serious disease. Of course, we all know this story, and there are plenty of theories as to who the culprit was, but you have never seen it told like this. "From Hell" is the most brutal film I have ever seen. My wife had to leave the room. Under no circumstances should you let your children rent this movie, or let them watch it with you.  - JEJ -

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

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"Ghost World", MGM/UA, 2001, Color, Presented at measured aspect ratio 1.85:1, DD, 1 Hr 51 min, Rated R; Thora Birch, Scarlett Johansson, Steve Buscemi, Brad Renfro, Illeana Douglas, Bob Balaban; While most high school graduates have goals centered around college, careers, and beyond, others set their sights set much lower. Enid (Birch) and Rebecca (Johansson) are a pair of self-proclaimed disillusioned and disenfranchised suburban teenagers with no long-term goals in mind, other than finding their own place to live. To make matters worse, Enid is forced to take a summer art course to fulfill her graduation requirement. When not at school, Enid spends her days doing little but complaining about her place in life, while Rebecca has found a makeshift job and has been on the lookout for a place for them to live. Enid’s lack of effort and proclivity to simply drift through life is clashing with Rebecca’s new effort toward goal-oriented living. Things take an interesting turn when these two play a joke on a lonely man who sparks Enid’s interest. Although not a hit with the ladies, Seymour (Buscemi) proves to be a peculiar man who has a particular interest in vinyl records. Through her new friendship with Seymour, her summer class, and her failing friendship with Rebecca, Enid starts to realize that she may want more out of life that was she has been getting. In a video store filled with movies centered on the happy-go-lucky teenager, "Ghost World" is a nice change of pace, but feeling out of place on planet earth is nothing we haven’t seen before. - JB -

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

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"The Smokers", MGM/UA, 2000, Color, Presented at measured aspect ratio 1.85:1, DD, 1 Hr 90 min, Rated R; Dominique Swain, Keri Lynn Pratt, Busy Phillips, Nicholas M. Loeb, Ryan Browning, Oliver Hudson, Thora Birch; Jefferson (Swain), Lisa (Pratt), and Karen (Phillips) are three private high school teens who share a common scorn delivered from the opposite sex. Karen, the leader of the group, convinces Lisa and Jefferson to be part of her plan to even up the score and teach all the boys at their school a violent lesson in dating. As fate would have it, their collective actions are making it impossible for them have the normal dating life they thought they would be creating. With each added victim, their bond for each other’s secrecy breaks down and the scorn that brought these girls together is now splitting them apart. It’s hard to tell which came first in this movie, the bad acting or poor writing (or an unfortunate combination of both). Thora Birch should fire her agent who found her the role of Jefferson’s drug addled sister. - JB -

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

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"Series 7: The Contenders", USA Entertainment, 2001, Color, Presented at measured aspect ratio 1.85:1, DD, 1 Hr 27 min, Rated R;  Brooke Smith, Marylouise Burke, Glenn Fitzgerald, Michael Kaycheck, Richard Venture, Merritt Wever, Donna Hanover, Angela Phillips, Nada Despotovich;  Dawn Lagarto (Smith) is the reigning champion of The Contenders, a reality based TV show where the losers don’t go home empty-handed. In fact, they don’t go home at all.  The good news for Dawn is that she knows she has what it takes to be champion and literally take no prisoners.  The bad news is that she is pregnant this time around and to make matters worse, one of her competitors is Jeffrey Norman (Fitzgerald), an old flame from high school (who just happens to have a terminal illness anyway).  The rest of the contenders trying to endure this round are Nurse Connie Trabucco (Burke), who prefers less violent means of advancing her position, Lindsay Burns (Wever), an eighteen year old who’s parents will not stand for her losing, Franklin James (Venture), a retired conspiracy theorist who is not surprised by his selection for this game, and Tony Reilly (Kaycheck) the baddest of them all and the early favorite to mow down the field.  Before this round ends, the combatants will form alliances, break trusts, and do whatever it requires to take out the five other competitors.  In this winner take all game the rules are simple, eliminate the competition before they eliminate you.  The obvious intent of this movie was to ridicule and criticize the juggernaut that is reality TV in America. However, it doesn’t focus tightly enough on the point it is trying to put forward.   The mixed genre of this movie would definitely make it hard to shelve appropriately in the video store, but still shouldn’t keep you from seeking it out. - JB -



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

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"Rat Race", Paramount Pictures, 2001, Color, Presented at measured aspect ratio 1.85:1, DD, 1 Hr 42 min, Rated PG-13; John Cleese, Cuba Gooding Jr., Jon Lovitz, Rowan Atkinson, Breckin Meyer, Whoopi Goldberg, Seth Green, Kathy Najimy, Amy Smart;  A group of Las Vegas tourists is about to be lead on the chase of their lives when Donald P. Sinclair (Cleese) and his millionaire pals create their own high stakes game to find out who, of a pre-selected group, can retrieve a bag holding two million dollars first.  Starting out, the different contestants deal with their selections in different ways, with some immediately bolting for the prize and others shrugging it off as a hoax.  However, as time passes by, even those not interested in the money realize they could really use a cool $2 million and quickly stop at nothing to collect this most valuable prize.  With this wacky race to get to a select town in New Mexico in full stride, all is fair in war and transportation.  Jon Lovitz gives his usual excellent comic performance and is a standout among the plethora of star-power.  This film was definitely better than what you see in the trailers, but could have done without the Hollywood/Smash Mouth ending. - JB -


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

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"Spy Game", Universal Studios, 2001, Color, Presented at measured aspect ratio 2.35:1, DD, 2 Hr 7 min, Rated R; Robert Redford, Brad Pitt, Catherine McCormack, Stephen Dillane, Larry Bryggman, Marianne Jean-Baptiste; For CIA agent Nathan Muir (Redford) the last day on the job will involve reliving the past 20 years of international operations and assignments. When Muir’s protégé and longtime friend Tom Bishop (Pitt) is captured in China while trying to rescue a common ally, a special U.S. task force calls in Muir to collect every fact possible regarding Bishop’s mission. With trade talks with China coming up in only days, U.S. officials want to make Bishop’s capture a non-issue, even at his expense. Already one step ahead, Muir plays the game of cat and mouse to utter perfection, revealing only what he must and leaving plenty of bullets left in his own gun, ones that he uses to call in a few favors to try to ensure the safety of his top student. Whatever the outcome, a focused Agent Muir and this antagonistic task force have less than 24 hours to determine Bishop’s fate. Robert Redford is a great contrast as the chiseled CIA veteran, compared to the rogue attitude of Brad Pitt as Tom Bishop. This is an excellent film and should prove to be a standout in the midst of similar films. - JB -


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

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