OnVideo APRIL Video Reviews
ASSASSINATION OF RICHARD NIXON, THE
In the winter of 1974, a time of great political unrest, Samuel J. Bicke (Sean Penn) is a 44-year-old man who wants to believe in something -- anything. But at every turn, his faith -- in himself and in the world around him -- is undermined. He is separated from his wife, Marie (Naomi Watts), who refuses to consider the reconciliation he wants so desperately. With his personal life in such disarray, he is also struggling to hold onto yet another job for which he is fundamentally unfit. An idealist who detests lying in any form, Bicke is miserable working as a salesman in an office supply company. The only bright spot in Bicke's life is his dream of opening a door-to-door tire repair service with his auto mechanic friend, Bonny (Don Cheadle). Their business proposal requires a modest bank loan. Bicke applies and nervously waits the requisite period for the loan application to be processed. As his anxiety mounts, Bicke begins to fall apart, and in his vulnerable state, sees injustice and hypocrisy everywhere. Bicke would like to strike out at all the offenders, but there are too many dragons to slay. However, there is one villain who looms large. For Bicke, Richard Nixon, described by Bicke's boss (Jack Thompson) as the greatest salesman in history because he swindled the American people twice, becomes the embodiment of everything that is wrong with the world. When Bicke experiences a series of ill-fated events -- his loan is rejected, his ex-wife and his brother abandon him, and his dreams of starting his own business die unrealized -- he decides the only way to reclaim his insignificant life is to carry out a grand, historic gesture that will make his presence felt. At this point, dreams give way to delusions. A new Samuel Bicke, uncharacteristically resolute and resourceful, sets out on a chilling crusade to right the world's wrongs. He has an appointment with history. A chilling drama that explores and exposes the dark side of the American dream: the true story of the man who plotted an abortive attempt on the life of the 37th President.
Director: Niels Mueller. Stars: Sean Penn, Naomi Watts, Don Cheadle, Mykelti Williamson. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 95 min.), Drama, 2004, Box office gross: $0.697 million, (New Line), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 4/26, DVD: Only.
A filmmaker gets a visit from an actor claiming to be an old school friend, drawing him into a twisted web of desire, revenge and murder. Filmmaker Enrique (Fele Martinez) gets a visit from an aspiring actor claiming to be his old school friend Ignacio (Gael Garcia Bernal), who has written a story about their traumatic childhood spent at Catholic school. In the story, a drag performer known as Zahara (also played by Bernal) attempts to blackmail a predatory priest by exposing their scandalous past. The tale provides the inspiration for Enrique's next film. But when the villainous priest from their school days arrives to tell his own version of the events, the truth is wilder than anything anyone could have imagined. In Spanish with English subtitles.
Director: Pedro Almodovar. Stars: Gael Garcia Bernal, Fele Martinez, Daniel Gimenez Cacho, Lluis Homar, Francisco Boira, Javier Camara. CC, (MPAA rating: NC-17, 105 min.), Drama, 2004, Box office gross: $3.078 million, (Sony), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 4/12, DVD: Day & Date.
Nicole Kidman stars as Anna, a delicate young widow who is on the verge of a new life when a solemn little boy appears, claiming to be the reincarnation of her dead husband. Ten years after the sudden death of her beloved husband Sean, Anna is finally ready to emerge from the shadow of grief and begin a new chapter in her life. She has agreed to marry Joseph (Danny Huston), a good-humored, cultured man who has patiently courted the lovely young widow for three years. Anna's decision pleases her mother Eleanor (Lauren Bacall), an elegant and commanding woman who has welcomed Joseph into the family's spacious apartment on New York's aristocratic Upper East Side. But at a birthday celebration for Eleanor an uninvited guest appears as if out of nowhere. It's a young boy, and he wants to speak privately with Anna: He declares that he is her dead husband Sean and warns her not to marry Joseph. A stunned and angry Anna takes the boy downstairs, and discovers that the doorman knows the child: His name is Sean. Sean begins to write to Anna and regularly visits her building with his father, a tutor who has clients there. Sean's surreal intrusion on Anna's life is met with varying reactions in Anna's family. At the boy's own suggestion, he's quizzed about details of the dead Sean's life, and the child's knowledge is uncanny. More unnerving still is the intensity and certainty of his love for Anna. Though she cannot deny the strangeness of it all, Anna is increasingly drawn to the little boy and willing to flout the wishes of her fiance and family to see him. Could this child truly be Anna's husband, returned to her? How can she refuse the chance to experience again the love she felt for him?
Director: Jonathan Glazer. Stars: Nicole Kidman, Cameron Bright, Danny Huston, Lauren Bacall, Alison Elliott, Arliss Howard, Michael Desautels, Anne Heche, Peter Stormare, Ted Levine. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 100 min.), Psychological thrill, 2004, Box office gross: $5.005 million, (New Line), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 4/19, DVD: Day & Date.
Wesley Snipes returns as the day-walking vampire hunter in the final film in the Blade franchise. For years, Blade has fought against the vampires in the cover of night, with the world above unaware of the brutal ongoing war. But now, after falling into the crosshairs of the FBI, he is forced out into the daylight, where he is driven to join forces with a clan of human vampire hunters he never knew existed -- The Nightstalkers. Together with Abigail (Jessica Biel) and Hannibal (Ryan Reynolds), two deftly trained Nightstalkers, Blade follows a trail of blood to the an ancient creature that is also hunting him -- the original vampire, Dracula.
Director: David S. Goyer. Stars: Wesley Snipes, Kris Kristofferson, Dominic Purcell, Jessica Biel, Ryan Reynolds, Parker Posey, Mark Berry, Paul Anthony, James Remar, Natasha Lyonne. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 113 min.), Horror thriller, 2004, Box office gross: $52.397 million, (New Line), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 4/26, DVD: Day & Date.
Another comic book hero making the transition to the big screen -- from the pages of Marvel Comics, creator of "X-Men" and "Spider-Man." Jennifer Garner stars in the title role as a strong, mysterious and sexy action heroine -- a lethal synthesis of grace and power. Not long after recovering from seemingly mortal wounds, Elektra has severed all ties with the world, living only for her next assignment. But in an unexpected turn of events, she is forced to make a decision that can take her life in a new direction -- or destroy her. Key players in Elektra's journey are Stick, a blind martial arts master responsible for Elektra's "resurrection," and Mark and Abby Miller, a father and daughter on the run from The Hand, a powerful syndicate whose members practice the dark martial art of ninjitsu. Unlike most comic book heroes, Elektra possesses no super-human physical powers. Instead, she makes maximum use of her incredible physical prowess and martial arts skills. In addition, she has the ability to see into the future, a skill known as Kimagure, which she has honed through countless hours of deep meditation.
Director: Rob Bowman. Stars: Jennifer Garner, Goran Visnjic, Kirsten Prout, Will Yun Lee, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Terence Stamp. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 96 min.), Action, 2005, Box office gross: $24.326 million, (Fox), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 4/5, DVD: Day & Date.
Ten years ago, some of the worst atrocities of the 20th century took place in the central African nation of Rwanda -- yet in an era of high-speed communication and round-the-clock news, the events went almost unnoticed by the rest of the world. Over 100 days, almost 1 million Tutsis were brutally murdered by their own countrymen -- the Hutu militia. In the midst of this genocide, one ordinary man, a hotel manager named Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle ) -- inspired by his love for his family and his humanity -- summoned extraordinary courage and saved the lives of 1,268 Tutsis refugees by hiding them inside the Milles Collines hotel in Kigali. Hotel Rwanda is Paul's remarkable story.
Director: Terry George. Stars: Don Cheadle, Sophie Okonedo, Nick Nolte, Joaquin Phoenix, Desmond Dube, David O'Hara. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 121 min.), MGM, 2004, Box office gross: $17.085 million, (MGM), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 4/12, DVD: Day & Date.
HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS
An exotic, beautiful blind dancer is associated with a dangerous revolutionary gang, known as the House of Flying Daggers. Captured by officers of the decadent Tang Dynasty, the woman finds herself both threatened -- and attracted -- to the most unusual circumstances. Here, her heart and loyalties battle each other, amid warriors in the treetops and dazzling combat -- the likes of which have never before been seen. In Mandarin with English subtitles.
Director: Yimou Zhang. Stars: Ziyi Zhang, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Andy Lau. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 124 min.), Martial Arts, 2004, Box office gross: $10.159 million, (Sony), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 4/19, DVD: Day & Date.
LEMONY SNICKET'S A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS
Based on books by Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket), "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events" tells the story of the three young Baudelaire children who receive terrible news that their parents have died in a fire and have left them an enormous fortune not to be used until the eldest child is of age. Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire are placed in the care of their uncle, Count Olaf (Jim Carrey), an evil fiend who is plotting to kill them and seize their fortune. Once they escape his clutches, the orphans travel from guardian to guardian, including herpetologist Montgomery Montgomery (Billy Connolly) and grammar-wise Aunt Josephine Anwhistle (Streep). But the children can't escape the evil plans of Olaf, who keeps disguising himself and keeps popping up in the strangest places. Just when the Baudelaires think things are getting better, something unfortunate happens.
Director: Brad Silberling. Stars: Jim Carrey, Meryl Streep, Liam Aiken, Emily Browning, Jude Law, Kara Hoffman, Shelby Hoffman, Timothy Spall, Billy Connolly, Catherine O'Hara, Cedric the Entertainer, Luis Guzman, Jennifer Coolidge.. CC, (MPAA rating: PG, 107 min.), Family, 2004, Box office gross: $116.956 million, (Paramount), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 4/26, DVD: Day & Date.
A LOVE SONG FOR BOBBY LONG
An estranged teenage girl returns to her family home only to discover she has an unexpected roommate: her late mother's lover, a boozy academic who's slowly drinking himself to death. Upon hearing of her mother's death, jaded teenage loner Purslane Hominy Will (Scarlett Johansson) returns to New Orleans for the first time in years, ready to reclaim her childhood home. Expecting to find her late mother's house abandoned, Pursy is shocked to discover that it is inhabited by two of her mother's friends: Bobby Long (John Travolta), a former literature professor, and his young protege, Lawson Pines (Gabriel Macht). These broken men, whose lives took a wrong turn years before, have been firmly rooted in the dilapidated house for years, encouraged only by Lawson's faltering ambitions to write a novel about Bobby Long's life. Having no intention of leaving, Pursy, Bobby Long and Lawson are all forced to live together. Yet as time passes, their tenuous, makeshift arrangement unearths a series of buried personal secrets that challenges their bonds, and reveals just how inextricably their lives are intertwined.
Director: Shainee Gabel. Stars: John Travolta, Scarlett Johansson, Gabriel Mach. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 120 min.), Drama, 2004, Box office gross: $0.143 million, (Sony), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 4/19, DVD: Day & Date.
MEET THE FOCKERS
The makers and stars behind the runaway 2000 hit "Meet the Parents" are reunited -- and joined by some formidable future in-laws -- in this follow-up comedy. Returning to the roles they originated in Meet the Parents are Robert De Niro as Byrnes clan patriarch, Jack; Ben Stiller, as the soon-to-be son-in-law, Greg Focker; Blythe Danner as Jack's wife, Dina; and Teri Polo as Greg's intended, Pam Byrnes. It's been four years since Greg's trial of initiation into the Byrnes family by ex-CIA operative Jack. Greg has managed to earn his way inside the Circle of Trust and things are going great. He and fiancee Pam are excitedly planning their wedding and there's only one tiny, itsy-bitsy little thing left to smooth the way to the altar: the future in-laws need to spend a weekend together. So, Greg and Pam climb aboard Jack's new state-of-the-art RV (with Kevlar-reinforced hull and two-inch Plexiglas windows) for a trip to Focker Isle, the Cocoanut Grove domicile of Bernie and Roz Focker (Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand). The next 48 hours will provide the parents of the intended bride and groom a little time to get to know each other, but more importantly, give Jack the opportunity to study Greg's parents. Things start off well enough, but that's before Jack discovers that the lawyer and doctor Greg presented are, in fact, a liberal stay-at-home dad and a senior citizens' sex therapist. Then there's an RV toilet episode, an overly zealous game of touch football, a saucy Cuban caterer, an incident with the toddler and glue. Is this any way to start a family?
Director: Jay Roach. Stars: Robert De Niro. Ben Stiller, Dustin Hoffman, Barbra Streisand, Blythe Danner, Teri Polo, Owen Wilson, Tim Blake Nelson. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 115 min.), Comedy, 2004, Box office gross: $276.573 million, (Universal), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 4/19, DVD: Day & Date.
It's been three years since Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and his crew -- fronted by detail man Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt), up-and-coming pickpocket Linus Caldwell (Matt Damon), explosives expert Basher Tarr (Don Cheadle) and safecracker Frank Catton (Bernie Mac) -- pulled off one of the most audacious and lucrative heists in history, robbing ruthless entrepreneur Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) of every dime stored in his impenetrable Las Vegas vault. After splitting the $160 million take, each of the infamous Ocean's crew have tried to go straight, lay low and live a legit life ... but that's proven to be a challenge, much to the chagrin of Danny's wife Tess (Julia Roberts). When someone breaks Rule Number One and rats the gang out to Benedict, going straight is no longer an option. Benedict wants his $160 million back -- with interest -- or else. And, as the gang quickly discovers, Benedict isn't the only powerful person in the world looking for Ocean's Eleven. So now it's time to pull off another stunner of a plan-or plans -- in Amsterdam, Paris and Rome.
Director: Steven Soderbergh. Stars: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Matt Damon, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Andy Garcia, Don Cheadle, Bernie Mac, Don Tiffany, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Jared Harris, Carl Reiner, Elliott Gould, Eddi. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 125 min.), Thriller, 2004, Box office gross: $122.389 million, (Warner), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 4/12, DVD: Day & Date.
Writer-director Alexander Payne's fourth feature film (following "Citizen Ruth," "Election" and "About Schmidt") starts with two old friends setting off on a wine-tasting road trip ... only to veer dizzily into a wry exploration of the vicissitudes of love and friendship, the damnable persistence of loneliness and dreams and the enduring war between Pinot and Cabernet. The misadventures begin when Miles (Paul Giamatti), an un-recovered divorce and would-be novelist with a wine fixation, decides to gift old college buddy and washed-up actor Jack (Thomas Haden Church) with a celebratory trip to the vineyards of the Santa Ynez Valley the week before Jack's wedding. The two couldn't be an odder couple. Jack is an over-sexed charmer; Miles is a sad-sack worrier. Jack is looking for his "last taste of freedom"; Miles just wants to taste perfection in a bottle. Jack is fine with cheap Merlot; Miles pines for the elusive, perfect Pinot. Indeed, the only thing they seem to share in common is the same heady mix of failed ambitions and fading youth. And yet, as they make their way up the coast, Miles and Jack soon find themselves drowning in wine and women. Jack falls head-over-heels for a local wine pourer (Sandra Oh) and threatens to call off his nuptials. Miles begins his own romantic encounter with a wine-savvy waitress (Virginia Madsen). Both men careen dangerously and comically toward mid-life crises. A lusty, poignant adventure into the deepest realms of human yearning, guaranteed to exhilarate you.
Director: Alexander Payne. Stars: Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Virginia Madsen, Sandra Oh, Marylouise Burke, Jessica Hecht. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 123 min.), Dramedy, 2004, Box office gross: $63.165 million, (Fox), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 4/5, DVD: Day & Date.
A look at cultures colliding as a beautiful native Mexican woman Flor (Paz Vega), the mother of an equally stunning 12-year-old girl, a golden child, becomes the housekeeper for an affluent Los Angeles family (Adam Sandler, Tea Leoni and Cloris Leachman). Of all the horrifying pitfalls she worried about in this new culture, Flor had never fathomed the peril of being truly embraced by an upscale American family. Fails as a comedy but becomes a bleak indictment on privilege and status (as Sandler's husband falls for Flor in response to the "sterility" of his controlling wife (Leoni).
Director: James L. Brooks. Stars: Adam Sandler, Tea Leoni, Paz Vega, Cloris Leachman, Shelbie Bruce, Sarah Steele, Ian Hyland, Victoria Luna, Cecilia Suarez. CC, (MPAA rating: Pg-13, 130 min.), Comedy, 2004, Box office gross: $41.655 million, (Sony), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 4/5, DVD: Day & Date.
FBI Agent Tom Mackelway (Aaron Eckhart) finds himself caught in a cat-and-mouse game with a brutal serial killer, and all clues point to a renegade agent "gone native." Trained by the government to use his psychic abilities to track and capture other serial killers, the renegade is killing other serial killers and claims to be in pursuit of the ultimate serial killer, a man he calls Suspect Zero. As Mackelway becomes increasingly obsessed with his suspect, he must decide what happens when pursuer and prey come face to face -- and if rational justice or primal revenge will prevail.
Director: E. Elias Merhige. Stars: Aaron Eckhart, Ben Kingsley, Carrie-Ann Moss, Nicole DeHuff. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 99 min.), Thriller, 2004, Box office gross: $8.712 million, (Paramount), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 4/12, DVD: Day & Date.
After 12 years in prison, Walter moves into a small apartment across the street from an elementary school, gets a job at a lumberyard, and mostly keeps to himself. He finds unexpected solace from Vicki (Kyra Sedgwick), a tough-talking woman who promises not to judge him for his history. But Walter cannot escape his past. Shunned by his sister and living in fear of being discovered at work, Walter struggles with re-entry into society and facing his demons.
Director: Nicole Kassell. Stars: Kevin Bacon, Kyra Sedgwick, David Alan Grier, Eve, Mos Def, Benjamin Bratt. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 87 min.), Drama, 2004, Box office gross: $1.359 million, (Sony), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 4/12, 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, 2005