OnVideo APRIL Video Reviews
In this heartwarming film, director Tim Burton brings his inimitable imagination on a journey that delves deep into a fabled relationship between a father and his son. Edward Bloom (Albert Finney) has always been a teller of tall-tales about his oversized life as a young man (played by Ewan McGregor), when his wanderlust led him on an unlikely journey from a small-town in Alabama, around the world, and back again. His mythic exploits dart from the delightful to the delirious as he weaves epic tales about giants, blizzards, a witch and conjoined-twin lounge singers. Bloom's fabled stories charm everyone he encounters except his son Will (Billy Crudup), who has also left home but in this case to get out from under his father's considerable shadow. When Edward becomes ill and his wife, Sandra (Jessica Lange), tries to reconcile them, Will embarks on his own personal journey trying to separate the myth from the reality of his father's life. Will must learn how to separate fact from fiction as he comes to terms with his father's great feats and great failings. The other travelers on this wondrous and moving voyage include Helena Bonham Carter as a woman who appears in different forms -- including an enchanted witch. Alison Lohman portrays the young Sandra, the one true love of Edward's life, and newcomer Marion Cotillard plays Will's wife, Josephine. Steve Buscemi is the rueful poet turned bank robber turned Wall Street baron Norther Winslow and Danny DeVito plays Amos Calloway, the bamboozling owner and ringmaster of a traveling circus. The tales are wonderful, whimsical takes on life, and the relationship between Bloom and his son will tug at your heart. An incredible departure -- and enormous success -- for Burton, who's last outing was "Planet of the Apes."
Director: Tim Burton. Stars: Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney, Billy Crudup, Jessica Lange, Alison Lohman, Helena Bonham Carter, Robert Guillaume, Danny DeVito, Steve Buscemi. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 125 min.), Fantasy drama, 2003, Box office gross: $60.000 million, (Columbia TriStar), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 4/27, DVD: Day & Date.
CASA DE LOS BABYS
Director John Sayles' latest captures six American women at one of the most emotionally charged moments in their lives -- each one on the verge of adopting a baby. Trapped together in an exotic South American motel run by the colorful Senora Munoz (Rita Moreno), they anxiously wait for the local bureaucracy to process their adoption of newborns from the nearby orphanage. Over the weeks, they share hope and desperation surrounding their overwhelming desires to have a child. A poignant, sharp, insightful look at clashing cultures, modern maternity and the mystery of fate.
Director: John Sayles. Stars: Maggie Gyllenhaal, Daryl Hannah, Marcia Gay Harden, Susan Lynch, Mary Steenburgen, Lili Taylor, Rita Moreno. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 95 min.), Drama, 2003, Box office gross: $0.475 million, (MGM), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 4/13, DVD: Day & Date.
CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN
Loose remake of the 1950 Clifton Webb-Myrna Loy classic comedy. In modern America, where the average family has 1.87 children, Tom Baker (Steve Martin) and wife Kate (Bonnie Hunt) have decided that life is better -- if not cheaper -- by the dozen. The Bakers live in a small Illinois town where Tom coaches the local college football team. The family's day-to-day life is marked by equal parts love and chaos. When Tom is offered his dream job -- coaching a squad at a large university -- he and Kate uproot the family, much to the displeasure of all 12 children. At the same time, Kate learns that her memoirs are about to be published. Her agent whisks her away to New York to promote the book, leaving Tom home alone to handle the increasingly unhappy and hectic household, as well as his demanding new job. With all hell breaking loose at home, Kate on the road, and Tom's job on the line, the Baker family ultimately chooses not to have it all, but to love what they do have.
Director: Shawn Levy. Stars: Steve Martin, Bonnie Hunt, Tom Welling, Hilary Duff, Piper Perabo, Ashton Kutcher, Wayne Knight, Shane and Brent Kinsman. CC, (MPAA rating: PG, 106 min.), Comedy, 2003, Box office gross: $130.000 million, (Fox), $22.98 VHS SRP, Available: 4/6, DVD: Day & Date.
Bernie Lootz (William H. Macy) is the unluckiest man in Las Vegas. From a failed marriage to an estranged son to a lost cat, everything Bernie touches turns bad ... he's so unlucky, it's contagious. Deep in debt to the mob, Bernie works for the Shangri-La Hotel and Casino (one of the last mob-run casinos in town and a dinosaur in the shadow of the new Strip and its theme-park attractions) and its director of operations Shelly Kaplow (Alec Baldwin), to knock out high rollers. He's a "cooler" -- all it takes is Bernie's mere presence at a hot table to kill a winning streak. Bernie is just days away from fulfilling his debt to Shelly when he meets Natalie (Maria Bello), a new cocktail waitress at the Shangri-La. Natalie sweeps Bernie off his feet, and after a night of much-needed raucous sex, Bernie is in love. When Natalie starts to love him back, Bernie's luck starts to change. Feeling good for the first time in years, Bernie can't wait to leave Las Vegas, with the woman of his dreams and move on with his life. Unfortunately for Bernie, Shelly can't afford to lose him, especially since the mob partners of the Shangri-La have sent in Larry Sokolov (Ron Livingston) to shake up the place. Just itching to take over, Sokolov sees the hidden potential in the Shangri-La. He envisions a new, slick palace with three floors of gaming, an entertainment center and a roller coaster -- everything Shelly's beloved "old school" casino is not. Under increasing pressure from Sokolov and fearful that his beloved hotel and his old ways are about to be history, Shelly becomes very desperate, willing to do anything to hang on to Bernie and his cooling abilities, which have recently become shaky, ever since Natalie opened her heart to him. Due to Bernie's new change of luck, the Shangri-La loses close to a million dollars in one night. Everything comes to a head when Bernie's estranged son, Mikey, comes to town, borrows money from Bernie, and proceeds to hit the dice tables. A perennial loser like his dad, Mickey cheats at the tables -- and is caught by Shelly. With Mikey in his grip, Shelly knows he has Bernie right back where he wants him, under his control. With the stakes raised to life or death odds, Bernie and Natalie find themselves in an impossible dilemma, one that can only be solved with love, commitment and a little bit of luck. A critically acclaimed (and rightly so) romantic thriller, with great performances by Macy, Bello and Baldwin.
Director: Wayne Kramer. Stars: William H. Macy, Alec Baldwin, Maria Bello, Shawn Hatosy, Ron Livingston, Paul Sorvino, Estella Warren, Joey Fatone. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 101 min.), Romantic thriller, 2003, Box office gross: $8.000 million, (Lions Gate), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 4/27, DVD: Day & Date.
HAUNTED MANSION, THE
Eddie Murphy stars as hapless real estate agent Jim Evers, who gets a call late one night from mansion owner Edward Gracey (Nathanial Parker). Gracey is looking to sell his property and Jim, smelling the biggest deal of his career, takes his wife Sara (Marsha Thomason) and their two children to the mansion, located on a remote bayou. A torrential thunderstorm of mysterious origin strands the Evers family in the old mansion with the brooding, eccentric Gracey, his mysterious butler Ramsley (Terence Stamp), and a variety of residents both seen and unseen. At first, Jim scoffs at Gracey's stories about ghosts and haunting, until he unearths the mystery of the mansion and finds that his wife Sara has unexpected connections to its haunted past. Shrouded in fog and mystery, the mansion was once a stately antebellum palace that hosted New Orleans' wealthiest. Now it's the creepy and crumbling home to a love struck 19th century gentleman, 999 ghosts, and a hilarious and hair-raising battle for "home rule." Based on the famous Disneyland attraction.
Director: Rob Minkoff. Stars: Eddie Murphy, Wallace Shawn, Marsha Thomason, Nathanial Parker, Jennifer Tilly, Dina Walters, Marc John Jeffries, Aree Davis. CC, (MPAA rating: PG, 88 min.), Comedy, 2003, Box office gross: $72.824 million, (Buena Vista), $24.99 VHS SRP, Available: 4/20, DVD: Day & Date.
KILL BILL -- VOL. 1
The fourth movie by Quentin Tarantino is an epic tale of one woman's quest for justice presented in two installments. Ultra- violent, ultra-slick, and ultra-hip, this outing -- though not as sophisticated as Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction" but never-the-less awash in visceral thrills -- leaves no stone unturned in its washing of the screen with blood. But the bloodshed and bodily dismemberments are so cartoonish that viewers soon realize that this is just a movie, after all. Kids, don't try this at home!
In "Kill Bill -- Vol. 1" the title character, played by David Carradine, is a mostly unseen sinister figure looming over the story who has organized an elite group called the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad (or DiVAS). All of the vipers are code-named after poisonous serpents and the deadliest of them all is Black Mamba (Uma Thurman), who is also Bill's former lover. Early in "Vol. 1" (though the film is told in a Tarantino-non- linear storyline) a Texas Ranger surveys a grisly scene: an entire wedding party slaughtered during a dress rehearsal in a rural chapel. The pregnant woman in the blood-splattered wedding dress is Black Mamba, better known as The Bride. Bill and The Vipers left The Bride for dead, but unluckily for them she was merely comatose. Four years later, The Bride suddenly awakens and realizes what has been done to her. She disposes of the hospital orderly who has been auctioning off her (immobile) sexual favors, confiscates his garish truck, and sets off on a ferociously focused mission.
Her first target among the wedding massacre participants is the Viper known as Cottonmouth, O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu) -- the boss-of-all-bosses of the Japanese yakuza underworld. In Okinawa, The Bride acquires a legendary bladed weapon from the last of the world's great samurai sword-smiths, the legendary ninjitsu master Hattori Honzo (Sonny Chiba). In Tokyo, O-Ren Ishii is surrounded by her lethal henchmen and holds court in a massive nightclub/restaurant complex, the House of Blue Leaves. The Bride's assault upon this stronghold is a pitched martial arts battle with hundreds of black clad soldiers of O-Ren's personal shock squad, The Crazy 88s. The assault also includes personal showdowns with two of O-Ren's top aides, her personal assistant, Sophie Fatale (Julie Dreyfus), and her private bodyguard Go Go Yubari (Chiaki Kuriyama). The assault culminates in a classic, tragic snowy standoff between these two formidable warriors, O-Ren Ishii and The Bride. A few days later, in Pasadena, California, The Bride has moved on to her second knockdown-drag-out battle with a Viper target, Copperhead, a.k.a. Vernita Green (Vivica A. Fox).
In "Kill Bill -- Vol. 2" the emotional momentum that builds throughout "Vol. 1" will achieve its cathartic resolution, as The Bride goes through the remaining Vipers (including Michael Madsen's Sidewinder) to reach Bill and make a deeply poignant discovery.
Tarantino throws in hordes of popular culture, comic book and martial arts allusions, and one we're extra fond of is the Japanese all-girl pop band the "5-6-7-8s". Gotta love this guy.
Director: Quentin Tarantino. Stars: Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu, Daryl Hannah, Vivica A. Fox, Michael Parks, Sonny Chiba, Chiaki Kuriyama, Julie Dreyfus, Gordon Liu, Michael Madsen, David Carradine. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 112 min.), Martial arts thrille, 2003, Box office gross: $70.000 million, (Miramax), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 4/13, DVD: Day & Date.
Set in contemporary London in the weeks before Christmas, this light-hearted comedy weaves together 10 love stories -- sometimes romantic, sometimes sad, sometimes stupid. Everywhere you look, love is causing chaos. From the new bachelor Prime Minister who falls in love with a young tea girl 30 seconds after entering Downing Street to a loser sandwich delivery man who doesn't have a hope with the girls in the U.K. so heads for Wisconsin; from a jilted writer who escapes to the south of France to nurse his broken heart to an aging rock star trying to make a comeback at any price; from a bride having problems with her husband's best man to a married woman having trouble with her husband; from a schoolboy with a crush on the prettiest girl in the school to his architect step-father with a crush on Claudia Schiffer. These London lives and loves collide, mingle and finally climax on Christmas Eve -- with romantic and pat endings for all.
Director: Richard Curtis. Stars: Hugh Grant, Bill Nighy, Emma Thompson, Colin Firth, Liam Neeson, Gregor Fisher, Rory MacGregor, Sienna Guillory. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 135 min.), Romantic comedy, 2003, Box office gross: $59.000 million, (Universal), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 4/27, DVD: Day & Date.
LOVE DON'T COST A THING
Romantic teen comedy is an update of the 1987 teen comedy "Can't Buy Me Love." High-school senior Alvin Johnson (Nick Cannon) is a brilliant, likable outcast who has come to regret the years of intellectual endeavors that prevented him and his un-hip friends from socializing, getting girlfriends and hanging out with the super-cool "Elite" kids. When queen of the Elites, Paris Morgan (Christina Milian) wrecks her mother's car, Alvin steps in and mortgages his future to help her out. The catch: In exchange for $1,500 in car parts and Alvin's automotive expertise, Paris agrees to "fake a front" with him to convince the school that they're dating. The question is: Can Alvin rein in his newfound ego before he loses his true friends, his chance for a scholarship and a shot at a real relationship with Paris?
Director: Troy Beyer. Stars: Kenan Thompson, Kevin Christy, Al Thompson, Kal Penn, Melissa Schuman, Reagen Gomez-Preston, Christina Milian, Nichole Robinson, Nick Cannon, Steve Harvey, Vanessa Bell Calloway. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 101 min.), Comedy, 2003, Box office gross: $21.534 million, (Warner), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 4/27, DVD: Day & Date.
MASTER AND COMMANDER: THE FAR SIDE OF THE WORLD
Based on author Patrick O'Brian's series of Aubrey/Maturin novels, the movie is set during the Napoleonic Wars. Crowe is Captain "Lucky" Jack Aubrey, renowned as a fighting captain in the British Navy, and Paul Bettany is ship's doctor Stephen Maturin. Their ship, the H.M.S. Surprise, is suddenly attacked by a superior enemy. With the Surprise badly damaged and much of his crew injured, Aubrey is torn between duty and friendship as he pursues a high-stakes chase across two oceans, to intercept and capture his foe. It's a mission that can make his reputation -- or destroy Lucky Jack and his crew. In the course of the epic journey, the movie travels the world -- from the coast of Brazil to the storm-tossed waters of Cape Horn, south through ice and snow, to the far side of the world. A well-crafted -- and exciting -- swashbuckler that cares as much for its characters as it does its action.
Director: Peter Weir. Stars: Russell Crowe, Paul Bettany, James D'Arcy, Edward Woodall, Chris Larkin. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 138 min.), Action adventure, 2003, Box office gross: $86.000 million, (Fox), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 4/20, DVD: Day & Date.
MATRIX REVOLUTIONS, THE
In the final chapter of the Matrix trilogy, Neo (Keanu Reeves) takes another step forward in the quest for truth that began with his journey into the real world at the outset of "The Matrix" -- but that transformation has left him drained of his power, adrift in a no-man's land between the Matrix and the Machine World. While Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) holds vigil over Neo's comatose body, Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) grapples with the revelation that the One in which he has invested a life's worth of faith is merely another system of control invented by the architects of the Matrix. During the stunning conclusion, the rebel's long quest for freedom culminates in an explosive battle. As the Machine Army wages devastation on Zion, its citizens mount an aggressive defense -- hoping to stave off the relentless swarm of Sentinels long enough for Neo to harness the full extent of his powers and end the war. A weak ending for a series that began so stupendously in "The Matrix" and wavered slightly in "The Matrix Reloaded." The special effects that were so spectacular on the first two outings are by now old hat and -- since the story line is fairly weak -- can't carry the film. A disappointment.
Director: The Wachowski brothers. Stars: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, Jada Pinkett Smith. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 129 min.), Science Fiction, 2003, Box office gross: $138.000 million, (Warner), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 4/6, DVD: Day & Date.
The first film made in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban regime. The film takes place during the height of the Taliban's powers. After the regime bans women from working and forbids them to leave their homes without a male escort, a 12-year-old girl and her mother find themselves on the brink of starvation. With no where left to turn, the mother disguises her daughter as a boy. Now called Osama, the young girl embarks on a terrifying and confusing journey as she tries to keep the Taliban from discovering her true identity. Winner of the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film and three Festival de Cannes awards.
Director: Siddiq Barmak. Stars: Marina Golbahari, Arif Herati, Zubaida Sahar. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 83 min.), Drama, 2003, Box office gross: $0.139 million, (MGM), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 4/27, DVD: Day & Date.
Inspired by actual events, director Norman Jewison has crafted a tightly-wound thriller about vital political and moral issues. Michael Caine plays Pierre Brossard who, as a young French officer during World War II, ordered the execution of seven Jews. Over the course of more than 40 years, Brossard has never been brought to trial and has lived a peaceful and anonymous life sheltered by right-wing elements of the French government and the Catholic Church. A new investigation into his crimes is launched by an ambitious judge (Tilda Swinton) and a scrupulous army officer (Jeremy Northam). Even though Brossard manages to outwit the state investigation, he is simultaneously tracked by mysterious hit men. With two hunters on his heels, this wily old fox must try to stay alive and find out who is after him.
Director: Norman Jewison. Stars: Michael Caine, Tilda Swinton, Jeremy Northam, Charlotte Rampling, Alan Bates, Ciaran Hinds, John Neville, Matt Craven. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 120 min.), Thriller, 2003, Box office gross: $0.662 million, (Columbia TriStar), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 4/27, DVD: Day & Date.
STUCK ON YOU
Another dumb comedy from the Farrelly brothers. Bob (Matt Damon) and Walt (Greg Kinnear) Tenor are conjoined "Siamese" twins who are winners at everything -- from flipping burgers at the diner they own to performing miraculous feats on ice for their local hockey team. They never leave each other's side ... and wouldn't have it any other way. That is, until Walt decides he wants to follow his dreams of making it as an actor, and persuades his reluctant sibling to go along for the ride. So they head west for the bright lights of Hollywood, where they meet and become fast friends with sexy neighbor Eva Mendes, who helps Walt find an agent (Seymour Cassel). But the agent's idea of a prime gig is a porn film -- until the brothers meet Cher. The diva is looking to sabotage a new TV show she really wants no part of, and she casts Walt as her co-star. But instead of dooming the show, Walt propels it to the top of the ratings, and the brothers become instant celebrities. When Bob finds romance with a longtime cyber pal, a new perspective on their inseparable bond opens up, and they must make a decision that will change their lives.
Director: Bobby and Peter Farrelly. Stars: Matt Damon, Greg Kinnear, Eva Mendes, Cher, Seymour Cassel. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 118 min.), Comedy, 2003, Box office gross: $33.500 million, (Fox), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 4/27, DVD: Day & Date.
A team of students and their professor diligently work to uncover the ruins of a 14th century castle, the site of a famous battle between the French and the English. For Professor Johnston (Billy Connelly), the project is the culmination of a lifelong dream. Suspicious of the dig's benefactor, International Technology Corporation and the man who runs it, Professor Johnston heads to the ITC headquarters in New Mexico for some answers. Meanwhile, his students discover a chamber that has been sealed for more than 600 years, along with a handwritten plea for help ... from Professor Johnston, dated April 2, 1357. Determined to solve the mystery, the students head for the ITC headquarters, where they are stunned to learn of a new invention -- a machine that can actually transmit three-dimensional objects through space. Professor Johnston, who had insisted on experiencing the discovery himself, is now trapped in the bloody war between the French and the English. ITC and the students quickly form a rescue team and travel back in time in the hopes of rescuing the professor -- but they can last only six hours in the past. Based on the novel by Michael Crichton, this adept actioner may be full of (worm)holes in the script and lapses in logic but is nevertheless enjoyable to watch.
Director: Richard Donner. Stars: Paul Walker, Gerard Butler, Billy Connolly, Frances O'Connor, David Thewlis, Anna Friel, Neal McDonough, Matt Craven, Ethan Embry. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 115 min.), Science Fiction, 2003, Box office gross: $19.469 million, (Paramount), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 4/27, DVD: Day & Date.
From the highly acclaimed anime director Satoshi Kon ("Perfect Blue," "Millennium Actress") comes the visually and emotionally stunning urban fable about human decency among the down-and-out, a meticulously drawn, Capraesque tale of adventure, love and redemption. It's Christmas Eve in Tokyo. Three homeless people -- alcoholic Gin, drag queen Hana, and teenage runaway Miyuki -- discover an abandoned baby in a pile of garbage. Rather than turn the infant over to the police, the trio decide instead to find the baby's parents themselves. Following the only clue they have -- a locker key -- the three "godfathers" embark on a surprising journey of danger, humor and excitement. And in the process, they revisit their own haunted pasts and learn to face their future. Produced by the world-renowned animation studio Mad House ("X," "Vampire Hunter D," "Ninja Scroll"). In Japanese with English subtitles.
Director: Satoshi Kon. Stars: Toru Emori, Yoshiaki Umegaki, Aya Okamoto. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 91 min.), Animi, 2003, Box office gross: $0.116 million, (Columbia TriStar), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 4/13, DVD: Day & Date.
WIN A DATE WITH TAD HAMILTON!
Shallow comedy that went after teen female audience and succeeded mildly. Rosalee Futch (Kate Bosworth) is a grocery clerk living in rural West Virginia. But even a small-town girl can have big dreams, and Rosalee's is to someday -- somehow -- meet her big-screen idol, Tad Hamilton (Josh Duhamel). The "somehow" arrives in the form of a contest -- the grand prize: a date with Tad Hamilton -- and the "someday" is now. Rosalee wins, much to the chagrin of her best friend and co-worker Pete (Topher Grace), who is deeply, hopelessly -- and secretly -- in love with Rosalee. The "Win a Date" contest was cooked up by Tad's agent, Richard Levy (Nathan Lane), and his manager, also named Richard Levy (Sean Hayes), to clean up Tad's bad-boy image. Rosalee jets off to Los Angeles, where her adoration of Tad further blinds her to how shallow he truly is. When Tad meets Rosalee and gets a taste of what he's been missing in the "real world," he decides he wants more and moves to West Virginia, turning Rosalee's "dream-come-true" into a nightmare for Richard Levy, Richard Levy and, most of all, Pete, creating a romantic triangle played for minor laughs.
Director: Robert Luketic. Stars: Kate Bosworth, Topher Grace, Josh Duhamel, Nathan Lane, Sean Hayes, Gary Cole. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 96 min.), Comedy, 2004, Box office gross: $16.964 million, (DreamWorks), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 4/20, DVD: Day & Date.
All DVDs are screened on a reference system consisting of a Oppo BDP-83 Blu-ray Disc Player w/SACD & DVD-Audio, a Rotel RSX-972 Surround Sound Receiver, and Phase Technology 1.1 (front), 33.1 (center), and 50 (rear) speakers and Power 10 subwoofer.
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March 31, 2004