OnVideo FEBRUARY Video Reviews
Run-of-the-mill horror outing stars Snoop Dogg as a legendary protector of his urban neighborhood who is betrayed and murdered in 1979 by those close to him. Flash forward to the present day. The once elegant brownstone Bones lived in is abandoned and spooky. Not knowing the house's history, the sons of one of the men who betrayed Bones move in with the idea of turning the place into a club. Once there, though, they find that old Bones has come back to get even. Too much suspension of disbelief for this one to really click.
Director: Ernest Dickerson. Stars: Snoop Dogg, Pam Grier, Khalil Kain, Merwin Mondesir, Sean Amsing, Katharine Isabelle. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 92 min.), Horror, 2001, Box office gross: $7.300 million, (New Line), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 2/26, DVD: Day & Date.
CAPTAIN CORELLI'S MANDOLIN
Disappointing adaptation of Louis de Bernieres' novel strands some good talent in a bogged-down WWII romance that just doesn't click. Nicolas Cage stars as mandolin-playing Italian officer Antonio Corelli whose company of soldiers is sent to the beautiful (and as-yet untouched by war) Greek isle of Cephallonia. He instantly falls for Pelagia (Penelope Cruz), the proud daughter of the island's doctor. She's engaged to a local fisherman but becomes weakened by Corelli's advances. Soon they're in an impassioned affair -- but the war comes crashing down on them forcing each to make dangerous sacrifices for country and home -- at the risk of losing each other forever.
Director: John Madden. Stars: Nicolas Cage, Penelope Cruz, John Hurt, Christian Bale, David Morrissey, Irene Papas, Piero Maggio. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 124 min.), Romantic war drama, 2001, Box office gross: $25.528 million, (Universal), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 2/5, DVD: Day & Date.
DON'T SAY A WORD
By the books thriller that stretches one's suspension of disbelief but still comes off as an edge-of-the-seat suspenser. Michael Douglas plays an Upper West Side N.Y. psychiatrist who's summoned by a colleague (Oliver Platt) to a psychiatric hospital to help a crazy teenage girl (Brittany Murphy) with viscous tendencies who's spent the past 10 years in mental institutions. Douglas is intrigued by the girl, who doesn't speak, and gets drawn into her case even further when his daughter is kidnapped by a nasty Englishman (Sean Bean) and he is forced to try to pry from the disturbed girl's mind a six-digit number that is somehow connected to a bank robbery 10 years earlier. Shades of Alfred Hitchcock show up here and there (in particular when the shrink's wife, Famke Janssen, bedbound with a broken leg, spies on the bad guys spying on her, ala "Rear Window"): It's kind of "The Man Who Knew Too Much" on steroids.
Director: Gary Fleder. Stars: Michael Douglas, Sean Bean, Brittany Murphy, Skye McCole Bartusiak, Guy Torry, Jennifer Esposito, Famke Janssen, Oliver Platt. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 115 min.), Thriller, 2001, Box office gross: $55.000 million, (Fox), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 2/19, DVD: Day & Date.
Based on co-screenwriter Daniel Clowes' comic book of the same name, this offbeat black comedy follows the less-than-ideal lives of two girls, friends from high school and recent grads Enid (Thora Birch) and Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson). Though the two try to make ends meet to get an apartment together, Enid can't hold down a job and instead lives her eclectic life (with tastes that include 1960s musicals from India) in the home of her laid-back father. On a lark, the pair respond to a personals ad placed by a lonely man (Steve Buscemi), make a date, and then watch from a distance to see him become humiliated. But Enid becomes intrigued with the man (who collects vintage 78s) and begins to drift from Rebecca and toward the loner, eventually sleeping with him and entering a world that she discovers is more like hers than she would have ever admitted. One of the small unheralded treasures and pleasures of 2001.
Director: Terry Zwigoff. Stars: Thora Birch, Scarlett Johansson, Steve Buscemi, Brad Renfro, Bob Balaban, Illeana Douglas. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 111 min.), Black Comedy, 2001, Box office gross: $6.000 million, (MGM), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 2/5, DVD: Day & Date.
Keanu Reeves vehicle and for his fans only. Reeves plays a gambler deep in debt who decides to take a $500-a-week job coaching a group of trash-talking ghetto kids in a little league baseball league. There's all the typical plot-strings: the snotty coach of the league's best team, a teacher who urges the kids to "learn" their way out of the ghetto, the obligatory love interest (Diane Lane), the team that turns itself around and becomes a winner when Reeves finds his soul. Spare us.
Director: Brian Robbins. Stars: Keanu Reeves, Diane Lane, John Hawkes, Michael Perkins, Julian Griffith, DeWayne Warren, A. Delon Ellis Jr., Michael Jordan, D.B. Sweeney. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 102 min.), Drama, 2001, Box office gross: $40.000 million, (Paramout), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 2/19, DVD: Day & Date.
HEARTS IN ATLANTIS
Anthony Hopkins turns in another one of his classy performances as a strange man who enters the life of an 11-year-old boy in the summer of 1962. Young Bobby (Anton Yelchin) lives with his widowed mother (Hope Davis) in a boarding house in a small Connecticut town when Ted Brautigan (Hopkins) rents a room upstairs. Ted has psychic powers, of sorts, and also claims that nasty men are after him because of it. He pays Bobby a dollar a week to keep an eye out for the men, and to read the daily newspaper to him. In short order Ted becomes a hero to Bobby as the older man teaches him how to look at the world in new and exciting ways. But trouble brews: there's bigotry, betrayal and nastiness in the town, and the only one who can offer any help is the strange man upstairs. Told in flashbacks by a grown-up Bobby (David Morse). Based on a pair of Stephen King stories.
Director: Scott Hicks. Stars: Anthony Hopkins, Anton Yelchin, Hope Davis, Mika Boorem, David Morse, Will Rothhaar. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 101 min.), Drama, 2001, Box office gross: $24.185 million, (Warner), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 2/12, DVD: Day & Date.
JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK
Kevin Smith's final film in his New Jersey series ("Clerks," "Mallrats," "Chasing Amy," "Dogma") is one for his fans -- only. There's so many inside jokes and self-referential asides that most audiences unfamiliar with Smith's work will be left in the cold. That said, if you're a Smith fan, you'll love this. Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith), who heretofore have pretty much kept to the background of Smith's previous outings (except for the crucial "Chasing Amy" explication in that film) now take center stage. It turns out that big, bad movie company Miramax (which bankrolled this real film through their Dimension label) has usurped the comic book characters Bluntman and Chronic, which are based on Jay and Silent Bob, and are about to make a motion picture of their antics. Well, the boys will have none of this, so they take off for Hollywood to shut down the production. And that's where the fun comes in, as Smith and company get every opportunity to poke fun at themselves and tinseltown. There's plenty of misunderstandings, slapstick, offbeat sexual jokes, snide attacks at Miramax films (particularly those that star Matt Damon and Ben Affleck (stars, as it were, of Smith's "Dogma"), homages to a variety of other films ("Star Wars," for one) and twisted realities (with Ben Affleck playing both himself and the character Holden from "Chasing Amy") as the boys make an abortive trek out West. It's a melange of shticks in search of a plot -- kinda reminds us of Olsen and Johnson's great "Hellzapoppin'" -- that you gotta love.
Director: Kevin Smith. Stars: Kevin Smith, Jason Mewes, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Shannon Elizabeth, Will Ferrell, Mark Hamill, Eliza Dushku, Judd Nelson, George Carlin, Carrie Fisher. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 104 min.), Comedy, 2001, Box office gross: $29.885 million, (Dimension), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 2/26, DVD: Day & Date.
Revisionist reworking of Alexandre Dumas' classic set in 17th century France pitting the King's musketeers against the evil Cardinal Richelieu and his henchmen. Here the three musketeers take a back seat to D'Artagnan (Justin Chambers) as the young man -- with the aid of martial arts choreographer Xin-Xin Xiong -- takes on the bad guys single-handedly. Oh, there's some minor love interest (Mena Suvari) and a nasty villain (Tim Roth's Febre) but the story is merely a setup for the high-flying martial arts stunts.
Director: Peter Hyams. Stars: Justin Chambers, Jean-Pierre Castaldi, Mena Suvari, Tim Roth, Catherine Deneuve, Stephen Rea, Nick Moran, Steve Speirs, Jan Gregor Fremp. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 104 min.), Swashbuckler, 2001, Box office gross: $27.053 million, (Universal), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 2/26, DVD: Day & Date.
Modern, urban retelling of Shakespeare's "Othello," set on the basketball court instead of the battle field and involving interracial sex, drug abuse and school violence. Mekhi Phifer plays Odin James, the only black student at a private Southern school -- he's there on a basketball scholarship. O, as he's called, is extremely popular, even dating Desi, the daughter (Julia Stiles) of the dean. But then the Shakespearian tragedy starts in -- the son (Josh Hartnett) of the team's coach starts insinuating that Desi is having an affair with another student. It's an insidious plot, you know, and we watch with trepidation as rumors and jealousy tear the lovers apart.
Director: Tim Blake Nelson. Stars: Mekhi Phifer, Josh Hartnett, Julia Stiles, Andrew Keegan, Martin Sheen, Elden Henson, Rain Phoenix, John Heard. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 94 min.), Drama, 2001, Box office gross: $15.900 million, (Trimark), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 2/19, DVD: Day & Date.
VA SAVOIR (WHO KNOWS?)
Any film by the great director Jacques Rivette (one of the lynchpins of the New Wave) is a cause for celebration. One of Rivette's motifs has been the exploration of life and love as theater (many of his films have lovers embroiled in relationships that parallel plays they're performing in) and "Va Savoir" is no exception. Taking place in contemporary Paris, the film bounces back and forth between six character's whose lives become entwined around performances of Pirandello's "As You Desire Me." French actress Camille, living in Italy, returns to paris with her Italian director-lover to star in the play. While there, she tracks down her ex-lover, Ugo, who's still working on his philosophy thesis and is married to a dancer. In his spare time, Ugo searches for an obscure play, aided by a beautiful blonde, Dominique. Add in Dominique's half-brother, Arthur, who shows up and tries to seduce all the women. Rivette sets up several coincidences to get these oddballs moving into each other's paths, and, all the while, the play goes on, with the principals inhabiting the stage at the end for a happy ending. It's playful, stagy, funny, tender and, coming from the 73-year-old Rivette, downright fresh compared to most of what passes today for romantic comedies.
Director: Jacques Rivette. Stars: Jeanne Balibar, Sergio Castelitto, Marianne Basler, Jacques Bonnaffe, Helene De Fougerolles, Bruno Todeschini. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 154 min.), Romantic Comedy, 2001, Box office gross: $0.751 million, (Columbia TriStar), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 2/26, DVD: Day & Date.
All DVDs are screened on a reference system consisting of a Rotel RDV-1080 DVD Audio/Video Player, 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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January 15, 2002