OnVideo FEBRUARY Video Reviews
Charming romance with a hip-hop beat. Dre (Taye Diggs), a hip A&R executive at a New York record label, and Sidney (Sanaa Lathan), a music magazine editor, have known each other since they were kids and discovered hip-hop on a New York street corner. Now Dre is on his way to marrying materialistic Reese (Nicole Ari) even though it's clear to all his friends that he doesn't really LOVE her. Meanwhile, Sidney has a boyfriend who worships her, but her heart is not in it. As both struggle with their jobs -- Dre starts his own label with financial assistance from Sidney -- the pair have more and more reasons to get back to that street corner 15 years earlier.
Director: Rick Famuyiwa. Stars: Taye Diggs, Sanaa Lathan, Mos Def, Nicole Ari Parker, Boris Kodjoe, Queen Latifah. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 109 min.), Comedy, 2002, Box office gross: $24.592 million, (Fox), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 2/11, DVD: Day & Date.
City by the Sea
When a respected New York homicide detective (Robert De Niro) discovers the prime suspect in a murder case is his estranged son (James Franco), he is forced to return home to the decaying boardwalks of Long Beach, Long Island to confront the darkness of his past. During the course of the investigation, he realizes that his failures as a father -- and his unresolved anguish about the painful estrangement -- have deeply influenced his son's life, and he must put his own life on the line in order to do right by both his family and his profession. Average outing for all concerned.
Director: Michael Caton-Jones. Stars: Robert De Niro, Frances McDormand, James Franco, Eliza Dushku, William Forsythe, George Dzundza, Patti LuPone. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 108 min.), Thriller, 2002, Box office gross: $22.433 million, (Warner), $22.98 VHS SRP, Available: 2/18, DVD: Day & Date.
Some of France's finest actresses team up in this ensemble Agatha Christie-style murder-comedy. When the master is found with a knife in his back, the eight women in his life come together to solve the crime: wife Catherine Deneuve; her sexually frustrated sister Isabelle Huppert; his lesbian sister Fanny Ardant; his maid and lover Emmanuelle Beart; the wheelchair bound grandmother Danielle Darrieux; family friend Firmine Richard; and daughters Virginie Ledoyen and Ludivine Sagnier.
Director: Francois Ozon. Stars: Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Huppert, Emmanuelle Beart, Fanny Ardant, Virginie Ledoyen, Danielle Darrieux, Ludivine Sagnier, Firmine Richard. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 111 min.), Comedy, 2002, Box office gross: $2.951 million, (Universal), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 2/11, DVD: Day & Date.
Fast Runner, The
One of the most acclaimed films of the 2002, an extraordinary, triumphant experience. Set amongst the Inuit people of the arctic, the film is a passionate story exploring the universal themes of love, revenge and survival. When a small, nomadic community is cursed by an unknown shaman, the curse is still felt years later. Atanarjuat falls in love with Atuat, a woman already promised to the son of the clan's leader. In a fight, she is won by Atanarjuat causing vengeful clan leader Oki to plot to attack Atanarjuat and his brother in their sleep. Atanarjuat manages to escape and sets off running across the ice, embarking on a harrowing adventure to survive in the brutal wilderness. His journey ends when he returns, stronger and wiser, to reclaim his life and stop the curse that has divided his people. In Inuktitut with English subtitles.
Director: Zacharias Kunuk. Stars: Natar Ungalaad, Sylvia Ivalu, Peter Henry Arnatsiaq. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 161 min.), Drama, 2002, Box office gross: $3.773 million, (Columbia TriStar), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 2/11, DVD: Day & Date.
Four Feathers, The
Disappointing actioner set in Africa during the height of British imperialism in the late 19th century. Harry Feversham (Heath Ledger) is called to active duty in the British army against the forces of the Mahdi, a Muslim religious leader in Sudan. Reluctant to leave his fiancee Ethne (Kate Hudson), and never having been a soldier at heart, Harry resigns his commission. Now, confronted by three of his friends and a disappointed Ethne, Harry is bestowed with four feathers -- a sign of his cowardice. In an attempt to regain some dignity, Harry embarks on a solo reconnaissance journey to Sudan, where he dons a beard and disguises himself as an Arab. Harry investigates the enemy's plans and discovers that they are set for a sneak attack on his old regiment, and sends a message to his friends via friendly Arab Abou Fatma (Djimon Hounsou) who is not welcomed by the soldiers. Harry's message is ignored and an epic battle seals the fate of his friends. Now it's up to Harry -- with the aid of Abou -- to rescue the last of his comrades.
Director: Shekhar Kapur. Stars: Heath Ledger, Wes Bentley, Kate Hudson, Dijmon Hounsou, Michael Sheen. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 130 min.), Action, 2002, Box office gross: $18.295 million, (Paramount), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 2/18, DVD: Day & Date.
Igby Goes Down
Surrounded by a schizophrenic father, a self-absorbed, distant mother and a shark-like young Republican brother, Igby Slocumb (Kieran Culkin) is alienated from his family and his class. Seventeen-year-old Igby is a rebel with a cause -- to break free from his pill-popping mother (Susan Sarandon), his schizophrenic dad (Bill Pullman) and his fascist brother (Ryan Phillippe). But what does Igby want? He's been kicked out of every prep school on the East Coast and has skipped out on his stint at a military academy to hide out in New York in an artist loft owned by his godfather (Jeff Goldblum). There he stays with his godfather's dancer mistress (Amanda Peet) and enters into an affair with her friend Sookie (Claire Danes), a sexually promiscuous Bennington student. It's a quirky, kicky kind of film that spotlights disillusioned youth, but here with a social conscience, not violence. It's been called "The Graduate" meets "Five Easy Pieces" ala "The Catcher in the Rye." A fine, "small," film.
Director: Burr Steers. Stars: Kieran Culkin, Claire Danes, Jeff Goldblum, Jared Harris, Amanda Peet, Ryan Phillippe, Bill Pullman, Sysan Sarandon. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 98 min.), Comedy, 2002, Box office gross: $4.559 million, (MGM), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 2/4, DVD: Day & Date.
Mostly Martha (Bella Martha)
A love story of sorts -- about food and relationships -- revolving around Martha, the perfectionist head chef for a chic restaurant in a small, charming city in Hamburg. Martha relies on her culinary skills as her primary means of communication -- she lives for work and presides with obsessive care over her spotless, precise kitchen. When a car accident kills Martha's sister, she is thrust into unwanted motherhood -- she has to now care for her 8-year-old headstrong niece, and her life begins to become undone ... particularly since young Lina won't eat Martha's cooking. The owner of the restaurant decides to bring in help and hires a charming and carefree Italian chef, and the two cooks are immediately at odds. Yet as time goes by, with her whole world turned upside down and her personal space more crowded than she could ever have imagined, Martha finds love and the beginnings of a recipe for a new life -- it doesn't hurt, of course, that Italian cook Mario finally gets Lina to eat. As in cooking, life can be a bit sloppy. In German with English subtitles.
Director: Sandra Nettelbeck. Stars: Martina Gedeck, Maxine Foerste, Sergio Castellitto, Sibylle Canonnica, Ulrich Thomsen. CC, (MPAA rating: PG, 106 min.), Drama, 2002, Box office gross: $3.787 million, (Paramount), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 2/18, DVD: Day & Date.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding
Sleeper foreign film hit that has taken America by storm, this pleasant comedy takes an old conceit -- mismatched matrimonial partners and their worrisome parents -- and transfers it to the Greek enclave of modern Chicago. Nia Vardalos (who also wrote the play the film is based on) plays 30-year-old Toula who, in her own words, is "past my expiration date" for marriage to a nice Greek boy. She's a bit of an ugly duckling, but decides to change things: better clothes, makeup, hair, contacts, and a computer class to better her life. And, sure enough, she meets an eligible man -- not the Greek hero her family had hoped for but a WASP schoolteacher (John Corbett). The set-up is clear: romantic interludes away from the family settings, sneaking around, an engagement the families are not all that thrilled about, leading, finally, to "My Big Fat Greek Wedding." Enjoy.
Director: Joel Zwick. Stars: Nia Vardalos, John Corbett, Micahel Constantine, Lainie Kazan, Andrea Martin, Joey Fatone, Gia Carides, Louis Mandylor. CC, (MPAA rating: PG, 95 min.), Comedy, 2002, Box office gross: $250.000 million, (HBO), No VHS SRP, $22.98 VHS SRP, Available: 2/11, DVD: Day & Date.
One Hour Photo
Robin Williams delivers an eerie performance in this creepy thriller. Sy "the photo guy" Parrish (Williams) is a loner, hiding from the world in his one-hour photo kiosk. Without a life of his won, he turns to his customers to fill his void. For years he has lovingly and painstakingly developed photographs for the Yorkin family since their son was a baby. But as the Yorkins' lives become fuller, Sy's only seems lonelier, until he eventually convinces himself he's part of their family ... and tries to insinuate himself into their lives. When "Uncle Sy's" picture-perfect fantasy collides with an ugly dose of reality, what happens next is evil and frightening.
Director: Mark Romanek. Stars: Robin Williams, Connie Nielsen, Michael Vartan, Gary Cole, Eriq La Salle. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 96 min.), Thriller, 2002, Box office gross: $28.780 million, (Fox), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 2/18, DVD: Day & Date.
Based on A.S. Byatt's 1990 novel of the same name, and filmed on location in the U.K., this romantic mystery tracks a pair of literary scholars who unearth the amorous secret of two Victorian poets -- only to find themselves falling under a passionate spell. Maud Bailey, a brilliant English academic given to doing things by the book, is researching the life and work of poet Christabel La Motte. Roland Michell is an upstart American scholar in London on a fellowship to study the great Randolph Henry Ash, now best-known for a collection of rapturous, late-life poems dedicated to his wife. When Maud and Roland discover a cache of love letters that appear to be from Ash to La Motte, they follow a trail of clues across England to the Continent, echoing the journey of the impassioned couple over a century earlier. The film bounces back and forth over the centuries to follow each couple's trajectory. Interesting outing.
Director: Neal LaBute. Stars: Gwyneth Paltrow, Aaaron Eckhart, Jeremy Northam, Jennifer Ehle, Lena Headley. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 102 min.), Drama, 2002, Box office gross: $10.103 million, (Universal), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 2/11, DVD: Day & Date.
Road to Perdition
Two fathers: Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks), a hit man for the Irish mob in Depression-era Chicago; and Mr. John Rooney (Paul Newman), Sullivan's boss and the man who raised him as a son. Two sons: Michael Sullivan, Jr. (Tyler Hoechlin) and Connor Rooney (Daniel Craig), each desperate to earn his father's favor. Jealousy and competition put them all on a collision course, ultimately bringing Sullivan's work into his private life and leading to the death of his wife and youngest son. Now Michael Sullivan and his surviving son are set on a journey instigated by tragedy and fueled by revenge.
Director: Sam Mendes. Stars: Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Jude Law, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Stanley Tucci, Daniel Craig, Tyler Hoechlin. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 111 min.), Drama, 2002, Box office gross: $104.054 million, (DreamWorks), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 2/25, DVD: Day & Date.
Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams
How do you top "Spy Kids," the original sleeper family hit of 2001? By making "Spy Kids 2" bigger, noisier, and, yes, better. Returning for another go-round in America's "Ozzie & Harriet" of spydom is the entire cast of the original, under the watchful eye of director-screenwriter-designer-editor-cinematographer-producer-visual effects supervisor and composer Robert Rodriguez. This time around the spy kids Carmen (Alexa Vega) and Juni (Daryl Sabara) have joined the family business, but mom and dad's (Antonio Banderas, Carla Gugino) role in the spy agency has been reduced by political maneuvering. So when an evil villain on a mysterious island gets his hands on the transmooker device (which can shut down all electricity on Earth), a pair of rival spy kids gets sent on the mission. Always up for a fight, Carmen and Juni head out to the island, where they encounter weird creatures, nasty villains, and their rivals, and have to be rescued by their entire family, including mom, dad, uncle Machjete (Danny Trejo) and even Grandpa (Ricardo Montalban) and Grandma (Holland Taylor). Oh, there's fun for everyone here -- and gadgets, thrills and spills galore.
Director: Robert Rodriguez. Stars: Antonio Banderas, Carla Gugino, Alexa Vega, Daryl Sabara, Steve Buscemi, Mike Judge, Danny Trejo, Cheech Marin, Matt O'Leary, Emily Osment, Ricardo Montalban, Holland Taylor, Alan Cumming, Tony Shalhoub. CC, (MPAA rating: PG, 100 min.), Family action, 2002, Box office gross: $83.042 million, (Miramax), $22.99 VHS SRP, Available: 2/11, DVD: Day & Date.
Sweet Home Alabama
Surprise romantic comedy hit starring Reese Witherspoon as Melanie, an ex-small-town Alabama girl who's left her husband and moved to New York to start a new life, sans Southern accent, as a fashion designer. All goes well for her -- she's remade herself to such an extent that she's due to marry the town's bachelor catch -- the mayor's son (Patrick Dempsey). But there's one hitch -- she never divorced her high school sweetheart Jake (Josh Lucas). So Melanie treks back home to straighten things out and face the "hicks" that made her leave Alabama in the first place ("I need a passport to come down here," she moans at one point). It's the Yankee snob versus the Southern rednecks, and guess who wins out. That's a rhetorical question, cause the history of film comedies is littered with the predictability of the outcome of high-brow vs. low-brow battles. Witherspoon is a comedy gem, and carries the movie, which works over every pat joke known to the genre.
Director: Andy Tennant. Stars: Reese Witherspoon, Josh Lucas, Patrick Dempsey, Candice Bergen, Mary Kay Place, Fred Ward, Jean Smart, Ethan Embry. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 109 min.), Comedy, 2002, Box office gross: $127.000 million, (Touchstone), $22.99 VHS SRP, Available: 2/4, DVD: Day & Date.
Light action-comedy showcasing the talents of Jackie Chan. Here he plays a mild-mannered cabbie hired to chauffeur around a wealthy industrialist who moonlights as a spy for the U.S. The gimmick here is that the spy has certain powers -- martial arts wizardry, dancing and sexual prowess -- that are granted him by a magic tuxedo. When he's temporarily put out of action by an assassination attempt, guess who puts on the tuxedo and inadvertently becomes super powerful -- Jackie, of course! Now Jackie teams up with another espionage agent, played by Jennifer Love Hewitt, to battle a supervillain bent on cornering the world market in drinking water. Plenty of lapses in logic and story but fun for younger (much younger) fans of Chan.
Director: Kevin Donovan. Stars: Jackie Chan, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Jason Isaacs, Debi Mazar, Peter Stomare, James Brown. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 99 min.), Comedy, 2002, Box office gross: $49.741 million, (DreamWorks), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 2/25, 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, 2003