OnVideo AUGUST Video Reviews
A LOT LIKE LOVE
A romantic comedy about romantic obstacles is moderately romantic. Ashton Kutcher and Amanda Peet star as a pair of dynamic, diametrically opposed twentysomethings -- Oliver and Emily -- whose initial fateful meeting sets off sparks -- then seems to go nowhere. Over the next seven years, they continue to meet. But is their relationship simply a good friendship? Is it destined to be yet another romantic disaster? It all begins as a young man and woman meet on a cross-country flight. Oliver (Kutcher) is a brand new college graduate with an airtight timeline for attaining his dreams of both business success and finding true love. Emily (Peet) is a bold, free spirit drawn to spontaneity and wild extremes. Two different choices, two incompatible views on life. They may have hooked up for a brief moment, but Oliver and Emily clearly don't belong together. Or do they? Though they both move on, Oliver and Emily nevertheless can't quite seem to completely let go. As the two bump into each other, year after year, in city after city, through changing careers and different relationships, there always seems to be plenty keeping them apart. So what keeps getting in the way of what could be romantic destiny -- the lack of an engaging plotline and characterization -- nothing ever really happens to or engages these people, or develops them as characters. But the kids seem to love it.
Director: Nigel Cole. Stars: Amanda Peet, Ashton Kutcher, Taryn Manning, Aimee Garcia. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 107 min.), Romantic-comedy, 2005, Box office gross: $21.317 million, (Buena Vista), $29.99 VHS SRP, Available: 8/23.
Oliver Stone's historical saga charts the life and legend of one of the greatest figures in world history: Alexander the Great, a relentless conqueror who by the age of 32 had amassed the greatest empire the world had ever seen. Past and present collide to form the puzzle of the protagonist, a tapestry of triumphs and tragedies in which childhood memories and Alexander's rise to power unfold side by side with the later day expansion of his empire, and its ultimate downfall. From his youth, fueled by dreams of glory and adventure, to his lonely and mysterious death as a ruler of a vast state, from the tumultuous relationship with his parents -- a powerful king and a queen determined to put her child on the throne at any cost -- to the rousing brotherly bonds with his closest companions and vast army, as they fought from the sun-scorched battlefields of the Persian Empire across the snow-peaked mountains of India, the film chronicles Alexander's journey to become a living legend, a man who embraced the ideal that power has a destiny. His extraordinary journey begins when Alexander launches his invasion from Macedonia, first leading his armies to wrest Western Asia from Persian control, then driving his enormously outnumbered troops to an impossible victory over the mighty Persian army itself. Alexander expands his empire into the unknown lands of modern day Central Asia before venturing across the Hindu Kush, further than any Westerner had ever gone, continuing his conquests into the exotic world of India. Incredibly, and possibly unique in the annals of military history, Alexander was never defeated in battle. He relentlessly pushes his army across the sands, mountains and jungles of strange and mysterious lands, conquering every enemy who dares oppose him and weathering near-mutiny by his own men. While the film -- with its bloody wild battle scenes -- impresses on the big screen, brought down to living room size "Alexander" appears bloated and overblown. Director Stone's shortcomings come to the fore on the little screen -- not only is he trying to create a greater myth for Alexander, he's trying to take on the general's ego as his own. Stone as conqueror?
Director: Oliver Stone. Stars: Colin Farrell, Anthony Hopkins, David Bedella, Jessie Kamm, Angelina Jolie, Val Kilmer, Christopher Plummer, Rosario Dawson. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 175 min.), Adventure, 2004, Box office gross: $13.687 million, (Warner), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 8/2.
Gina Norris (Queen Latifah) is a long way from the Chicago barbershop (in the film "Barbershop") where she got her start -- she now lives in Atlanta and is making a name for herself and her cutting-edge hairstyles at a posh Southern salon. But when her flamboyant, egotistical boss, Jorge (Kevin Bacon), takes it one criticism too far, she storms out of his salon to open a shop of her own, taking the shampoo girl (Alicia Silverstone) and a few key clients (Andie MacDowell, Mena Suvari) with her. Gina risks it all to buy a rundown beauty shop and gets to work making it her own, inheriting an opinionated group of headstrong stylists (including Alfre Woodard, Golden Brooks, and Sherri Shepherd), a colorful clientele, and a sexy upstairs electrician (Djimon Hounsou). It's a rocky road to fulfilling her dreams -- and Jorge does his best to ruin her plans -- but you can't keep a good woman down. Slight comedy that pushes urban humor to the R-rated edge -- with predictable, pat ending.
Director: Bille Woodruff. Stars: Queen Latifah, Alicia Silverstone, Andie MacDowell, Alfre Woodard, Mena Suvari, Della Reese, Kevin Bacon, Djimon Hounsou, Golden Brooks, Sherri Shepherd. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 105 min.), Comedy, 2005, Box office gross: $36.310 million, (MGM), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 8/23.
BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE
Based on the perennial best seller, "Because of Winn-Dixie" tells the story of a lonely young girl (Opal) who adopts an orphaned dog she names Winn-Dixie (for the supermarket where she found him). The bond between the girl and her special companion brings together the people in a small Florida town and heals her own troubled relationship with her father. Sleepy Naomi, Florida is a place where people have forgotten how to share their sadness and their joy. But Opal (AnnaSophia Robb) and Winn-Dixie might have something to say about that. Winn-Dixie guides Opal into places where magic dozes under a coat of dusty disappointment and awakens the people hiding there. Things begin to change day by day under the summer sun -- in a funky pet store, a musty library, a drab mobile home, a ramshackle house and a convenience store-turned temple of worship. Because of Winn-Dixie, Opal meets an eclectic group of townspeople and rekindles an almost lost relationship with her father.
Director: Wayne Wang. Stars: Jeff Daniels, Cicely Tyson, Dave Matthews, Eva Marie Saint, Annnasophia Robb. CC, (MPAA rating: PG, 106 min.), Family, 2005, Box office gross: $32.556 million, (Fox), $15.95 VHS SRP, Available: 8/9.
When Theresa (Zoe Saldana) brings fiance Simon Green (Ashton Kutcher) home for her parents' 25th wedding anniversary, she's neglected to mention one tiny detail -- he's white. Determined to break his daughter's engagement, Percy Jones (Bernie Mac) does everything he can to make Simon feel "apart" of the family, from running his credit report to locking him in the basement at night. But when Percy gleefully exposes Simon's most embarrassing secret, it leads to an outrageous series of comic complications that only goes to prove that with a dad like Percy Jones, father doesn't always know best.Gentle bi-racial humor offers no comedy surprises.
Director: Kevin Rodney Sullivan. Stars: Bernie Mac, Ashton Kutcher, Zoe Saldana, Judith Scott, Hal Williams, Kellee Stewart, Robert Curtis-Brown. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 105 min.), Comedy, 2005, Box office gross: $67.671 million, (Sony), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 8/2.
KUNG FU HUSTLE
Wonderful kung fu comedy shows off the directing and acting talents of Stephen Chow as well as some spectacular martial arts chops. Set amid the chaos of pre-revolutionary China, small time thief Sing aspires to be one of the sophisticated and ruthless Axe Gang whose underworld activities overshadow the city. Stumbling across a crowded apartment complex aptly known as "Pig Sty Alley," Sing attempts to extort money from one of the ordinary locals, but the neighbors are not what they appear. Sing's comical attempts at intimidation inadvertently attract the Axe Gang into the fray, setting off a chain of events that brings the two disparate worlds face-to-face. As the inhabitants of the Pig Sty fight for their lives, the ensuing clash of kung fu titans unearths some legendary martial arts Masters. Sing, despite his futile attempts, lacks the soul of a killer, and must face his own mortality in order to discover the true nature of the kung fu master. Other characters include an obnoxious landlady and her apparently frail husband who exhibit extraordinary powers in defending their turf, a gay tailor with fists of iron, a "coolie" with the moves of Bruce Lee, and a baker who knows how to use bamboo. Great spoof of flying-martial arts epic "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" as well as "The Godfather." And can that Axe Gang dance. In Cantonese with English subtitles.
Director: Stephen Chow. Stars: Stephen Chow, Wah Yuen, Qiu Yuen, Kwok Kuen Chan, Siu Lung Leung. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 95 min.), Martial arts comedy, 2005, Box office gross: $16.173 million, (Sony), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 8/9.
Unlucky in love, beautiful Charlotte "Charlie" Cantilini (Jennifer Lopez) has finally met the man of her dreams, Dr. Kevin Fields (Michael Vartan). There's just one problem -- his mother! Overbearing and controlling, not to mention volatile, Viola Fields (Jane Fonda) has recently been canned from her job as a star news anchor. Fearing she will lose her son's affections as she has her career, Viola decides to break up the happy couple by becoming the world's worst mother-in-law. Helping her with her crazy schemes is Viola's long- time assistant, Ruby (Wanda Sykes). The gloves come off when Charlie finally decides to fight back and it looks like Viola has finally met her match. Marks Fonda's return to the big screen after a 14-year absence.
Director: Robert Luketic. Stars: Jennifer Lopez, Jane Fonda, Michael Vartan, Wanda Sykes, Adam Scott, Annie Parisse, Monet Mazur, Elaine Stritch. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 102 min.), Comedy, 2005, Box office gross: $83.000 million, (New Line), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 8/30.
RING 2, THE
Naomi Watts reprises the role of investigative reporter Rachel Keller in this sequel to the 2002 horror hit "The Ring." Hideo Nakata, the director of the original Japanese blockbuster "Ringu," upon which "The Ring" was based, directed this version, which marks his American film debut. The story picks up six months after the horrifying events that terrorized Rachel Keller and her son Aidan (David Dorfman) in Seattle. To escape her haunting memories, Rachel takes Aidan and moves to the small coastal community of Astoria, Oregon, to start fresh. However, Rachel's resolve quickly turns to dread when evidence at a local crime scene -- including an unmarked videotape -- seems eerily familiar. Rachel realizes that the vengeful Samara is back and more determined than ever to continue her relentless cycle of terror and death: this time by taking over her son's life.
Director: Hideo Nakata. Stars: Naomi Watts, Simon Baker, David Dorfman, Elizabeth Perkins, Gary Cole, Sissy Spacek. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 110 min.), Horror thriller, 2005, Box office gross: $75.888 million, (DreamWorks), $19.95 VHS SRP, Available: 8/23.
When master explorer Dirk Pitt (Matthew McConaughey) finds a fabled coin linked to a historical legend, he takes on the adventure of his life and embarks on a treasure hunt through some of the most dangerous regions of West Africa. As Pitt and his wisecracking sidekick Al Giordino (Steve Zahn) search for what the locals call the "Ship of Death" -- a long-lost Civil War battleship that protects a secret cargo -- they also thwart the attempted assassination of a beautiful U.N. scientist, Dr. Eva Rojas (Penelope Cruz), investigating a disease that is driving thousands of North Africans into madness and death. The suspected cause of the raging epidemic is a vast, unprecedented pollution that threatens to extinguish all life in the world's seas. Equipped with an extraordinary, state-of-the-art yacht, Pitt runs a gauntlet between a billionaire industrialist and a bloodthirsty West African tyrant. In the scorching desert, he finds a gold mine manned by slaves and uncovers the truth behind two enduring mysteries -- the fate of the Civil War ironclad and the last flight of a long-lost female pilot. Straight-ahead action-adventure with squeaky escapes, romance and fun. Though at times it bogs down under its own weight, still a worthwhile way to wile away an evening.
Director: Breck Eisner. Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Penelope Cruz, Steve Zahn, William H. Macy. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 123 min.), Action adventure, 2005, Box office gross: $65.571 million, (Paramount), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 8/30.
Based on the graphic novels by Frank Miller, "Sin City" is infested with criminals, crooked cops and sexy dames, some searching for vengeance, some for redemption. Visually stunning, the film has been translated from page to screen by remaining absolutely faithful to the look, feel and dialogue of the books. Sin City beckons to the tough, the corrupt, the brokenhearted. Some call it dark. Hard-boiled. Then there are those who call it home. A universe of unlikely and reluctant heroes still trying to do the right thing in a city that refuses to care. Miller and Rodriguez plucked the stories of Sin City right off the comic book page. Then, using cutting-edge digital filmmaking, they pasted these ultimate urban tales of louts, lugs, heroes and hussies to the screen without losing any of the comic's silhouetted look and staccato rhythms. The central story follows Marv (Mickey Rourke), a tougher-than-nails street-fighter who has always played it his way. When Marv takes home a Goddess-like beauty named Goldie (Jaime King), only to have her wind up dead in his bed -- he scours the city to avenge the loss of the only drop of love his heart has ever known. Then there's the tale of Dwight (Clive Owen), a private investigator perpetually trying to leave trouble behind, even though it won't quit chasing after him. After a cop is killed in Old Town, Dwight will stop at nothing to protect his friends among the ladies of the night. Finally, there's the tale of John Hartigan (Bruce Willis) -- the last honest cop in Sin City. With just one ticking hour left to his career, he's going out with a bang as he makes a final bid to save an 11 year-old girl from the sadistic son of a Senator ... with unexpected results.
Director: Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez. Stars: Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Clive Owen, Nick Stahl, Powers Boothe, Rutger Hauer, Elijah Wood, Rosario Dawson, Benicio Del Toro, Jaime King. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 124 min.), Thriller, 2005, Box office gross: $72.212 million, (Dimension), $29.99 VHS SRP, Available: 8/16.
WEDDING DATE, THE
Meager and predictable romantic comedy. Kat Ellis (Debra Messing) is determined to attend her younger half-sister's wedding with a date. Kat wouldn't be so urgently in need were it not for her spoiled, gets-everything-she-wants sister's wedding where the best man happens to be Kat's handsome ex-boyfriend. What's worse, the currently single Kat has to schlep all the way from New York -- where she's made her life -- to London, where her wildly dysfunctional family lives. That's one long, thankless trip to take solo. Rather than face the ridicule of her family and in order to show up her ex-fiance, she resorts to the Yellow Pages to find a last-minute escort, Nick (Dermot Mulroney). True to form -- and to Kat's delight -- his dashing good looks and quick-witted charm wins over her family. But for Kat, what begins as merely a face-saving ruse with a dashing guy-for-hire -- strictly a business arrangement -- quickly starts to become more than she ever expected. Love doesn't come cheap.
Director: Clare Kilner. Stars: Debra Messing, Dermot Mulroney, Amy Adams, Jack Davenport, Sarah Parish, Jeremy Sheffield, Peter Egan, Holland Taylor. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 90 min.), Romantic comedy, 2005, Box office gross: $31.585 million, (Universal), $29.98 VHS SRP, Available: 8/16.
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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August 1, 2005