OnVideo FEBRUARY Video Reviews
BRIGHT YOUNG THINGS
An adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's novel "Vile Bodies," director Stephen Fry's drama is a look into the lives of a young novelist, his would-be lover, and a host of young people who beautified London in the 1930s. Adam (Stephen Campbell Moore) needs to get enough money to marry the beautiful Nina (Emily Mortimer). His friends -- eccentric, wild, loud and entirely shocking to the older generation, seem one by one to self-destruct, to crash and burn in their endless search for newer and faster sensations. Their world is that of the very young, wild, party-loving creatures new to gramophone records and the telephone -- a self-consciously modern generation that cannot keep still for a second. They are known to the press, who follow their every move, as the Bright Young Things.
Director: Stephen Fry. Stars: Emily Mortimer, Stephen Campbell Moore, James McAvoy, Michael Sheen, David Tennant, Fenella Woolgar, Dan Aykroyd, Jim Broadbent, Simon Callow, Jim Carter, Stockard Channing, Richard E. Grant. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 106 min.), Drama, 2004, Box office gross: $0.915 million, (New Line), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 2/8, DVD: Day & Date.
In this powerful horror-thriller, based on the Japanese blockbuster "Ju-on: The Grudge," the normal facade of a modest house in Tokyo belies the hidden terror within. It is possessed by a violent plague that destroys the lives of everyone who enters. Known as "The Grudge," this curse causes its victims to die in the grip of a powerful rage. After those who are fatally afflicted die, new curse is born -- passed like a virus to all those who enter the house in an endless, growing chain of horror. Karen (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is an exchange student studying social work in Japan who innocently agrees to cover for a nurse who didn't show up for work. When she enters the assigned home, she discovers an elderly American woman, Emma (Grace Zabriskie), who is lost in a catatonic state while the rest of the house appears deserted and disheveled. As she is tending to the stricken old woman, Karen hears scratching sounds from upstairs. When she investigates, she is faced with a supernatural horror more frightening than she could ever imagine. Within this house, a chain of terror has been set in motion resulting from a terrifying evil that was born years before. As more people die, Karen is pulled into the cycle of horror and learns the secret of the vengeful curse that has taken root in the house. Now she must stop it before it's too late. Chilling.
Director: Takashi Shimizu. Stars: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jason Behr, William Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jason Behr, William. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 91 min.), Horror thriller, 2004, Box office gross: $104.411 million, (Sony), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 2/1, DVD: Day & Date.
I HEART HUCKABEES
The fourth film from writer-director David O. Russell ("Three Kings," "Flirting With Disaster," Spanking the Monkey") is a comedy that's all about what it's all about. Convinced that a series of coincidences involving a doorman hold some secret to life's largest riddles, Albert Markovski (Jason Schwartzman) seeks the help of a detective agency unlike any other ... which leads him down a path that questions the essence of existence itself. In an attempt to ferret out the meaning of these flukes he has seen, he consults Bernard and Vivian Jaffe (Dustin Hoffman, Lily Tomlin), AKA the Existential Detectives, married metaphysicians who fearlessly investigate the mysteries at the core of their clients' secret innermost lives. When on a case, these two follow their clients around closely, observe their daily activities, query their friends and employers and intently examine the lives they lead. The difference is that the Existential Detectives seek the solutions to the most persistent mystery of all -- the one that lies at the core of reality and existence itself ... which means their investigations can get a little tricky. Bernard and Vivian kick off their existential exploration of Albert by probing his past and present reality. Along the way, they uncover his festering conflict with Brad Stand (Jude Law), a golden boy executive climbing the corporate ladder at Huckabees, a popular chain of retail superstores that wants to sponsor Albert's Open Spaces Coalition for the PR value. The Existential Detectives are convinced that Brad -- seemingly Albert's opposite -- is the key to cracking Albert's case, but then Brad turns the tables on their investigation, by hiring the detectives himself. As Bernard and Vivian begin to dig deeper into Brad's ambition and his relationship with Huckabees' hot blonde spokesmodel Dawn (Naomi Watts), Albert begins to lose faith and rebels against their conclusions. Pairing up with another of the duo's clients -- firefighter, tough guy and uncompromising soul searcher Tommy (Mark Wahlberg) -- he joins forces with the Jaffe's arch nemesis, the sexy French philosopher Caterine Vauban (Isabelle Huppert), who valiantly battles for the contrasting point of view. Now, as Being chases Nothingness, Albert, Tommy, Brad, Dawn, Bernard, Vivian and Caterine chase one another in a wild romp through life's biggest questions to find the true answer to existence.
Director: David O. Russell. Stars: Jason Schwartzman, Isabelle Huppert, Dustin Hoffman, Lily Tomlin, Jude Law, Mark Wahlberg, Naomi Watts. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 106 min.), Comedy, 2004, Box office gross: $12.247 million, (Fox), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 2/20, DVD: Day & Date.
MOTORCYCLE DIARIES, THE
Based on the inspiring real-life story of a brave trip across a continent on a motorcycle, the film follows the thrilling and life-changing journey of two young men, Ernesto Guevara de la Serna and Alberto Granado, all across the rich and complex human and social topography of Latin America, tracing the youthful origins of a revolutionary heart. The continent is unveiled in all its glory as two friends experience life at its fullest. The film was adapted by Jose Rivera from the journals of two real-life young Argentines, Alberto Granado and Ernesto Guevara de la Serna -- the latter of whom would become "El Che." In January 1952, Ernesto (Gael Garcia Bernal) is a 23-year-old medical student specializing in leprology. Alberto (Rodrigo de la Serna), age 29, is a biochemist. The two men bid goodbye to their families and to Ernesto's girlfriend Chichina Ferreyra (Mia Maestro). Flush with a romantic sense of adventure, they pile onto Alberto's 1939 Norton 500 motorcycle (nicknamed "La Poderosa" ["The Mighty One"]). The aging bike carries them farther and farther away from familiar and comfortable Buenos Aires surroundings, to surprising and exciting destinations. The two friends become as close as brothers. Over the course of eight months and 8,000 miles, what starts out as a lark becomes a profound journey of discovery, not only of themselves but of a continent filled with infinite sorrow -- and infinite hope. From homeless miners to riverboat prostitutes, from lepers to prosperous gentry, Ernesto and Alberto discover an affinity for humanity within themselves, and a determination to change the world.
Director: Walter Salles. Stars: Gael Garcia Bernal, Rodrigo de la Serna, Mia Maestro. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 127 min.), Bio-drama, 2004, Box office gross: $14.730 million, (Universal), $23.99 VHS SRP, Available: 2/15, DVD: Day & Date.
A mediocre comedy about a retired baseball player who tries to regain his former big-league swing and make it into the hall of fame. Stan Ross (Bernie Mac) has been trading on his 3000 major league hits for years, parlaying the title Mr. 3000 into a sports bar and a larger-than-life ego. But on the eve of Stan's induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame, his world comes crashing down when a fact check reveals that he's still a few hits short -- he's merely Mr. 2,997. In order to score his remaining three hits, the 47-year-old Stan has to get back in shape and back to the big leagues. Stan's trip back to the baseball diamond, however, turns out to be anything but easy.
Director: Charles Stone III. Stars: Bernie Mac, Angela Bassett, Chris Noth, Paul Sorvino, Michael Rispoli. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 103 min.), Comedy, 2004, Box office gross: $21.572 million, (Buena Vista), $24.99 VHS SRP, Available: 2/1, DVD: Day & Date.
Based on the best-selling romance by Nicholas Sparks, a tale of true love and destiny. As teenagers, Allie (Rachel McAdams) and Noah (Ryan Gosling) begin a whirlwind courtship that soon blossoms into tender intimacy. The young couple is quickly separated by Allie's upper-class parents who insist that Noah isn't right for her. Several years pass, and, when they meet again, their passion is rekindled, forcing Allie to choose between her soulmate and class order. This beautiful tale has a particularly special meaning to an older gentleman (James Garner) who regularly reads the timeless love story to his aging companion (Gena Rowlands).
Director: Nick Cassavetes. Stars: Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams, James Garner, Gena Rowlands, Sam Shepherd, Joan Allen. CC, (MPAA rating: Pg-13, 124 min.), Romantic drama, 2004, Box office gross: $80.313 million, (New Line), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 2/8, DVD: Day & Date.
RAISE YOUR VOICE
Terri Fletcher (Hilary Duff) is a small town girl with big time dreams. Blessed with a naturally joyful singing voice, Terri has her sights set on attending the Bristol-Hillman Conservatory in Los Angeles -- the most celebrated summer music program in the country. Although she has plenty of raw talent, her lofty aspirations are quickly dashed by her overbearing father, Simon (David Keith), and the tragic loss of her beloved brother, who had secretly submitted a demo video of Terri that ultimately results in an acceptance letter to join the prestigious program. A despondent Terri resigns herself to staying home for the summer when her mother Frances (Rita Wilson) and Aunt Nina (Rebecca De Mornay) intervene and covertly devise a plan to keep her from missing out on the opportunity of a lifetime. Upon her arrival in Los Angeles, Terri is quickly introduced to the ultra-competitive, high-stakes environment of the big city. Lacking any formal training, she struggles to make friends and to find her voice amongst the highly-gifted group of musical students. Terri pushes herself to master the intricate musical arrangements, and partners with a fellow student, Jay (Oliver James), resulting in a romantic bond with the rough-and-tumble musician. Leaving her fears and anxiety behind, Terri must learn to step into the spotlight and rediscover the artistic musical passion that burns inside of her.
Director: Sean McNamara. Stars: Hilary Duff, Oliver James, David Keith, Dana Davis, Rita Wilson, Rebecca De Mornay, John Corbett. CC, (MPAA rating: PG, 103 min.), Romantic drama, 2004, Box office gross: $10.363 million, (New Line), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 2/15, DVD: Day & Date.
Academy Award nominated"Ray" is the never-before-told, musical biodrama of American legend Ray Charles. Born in a poor town in Georgia, Charles went blind at the age of seven shortly after witnessing his younger brother's accidental death. Inspired by a fiercely independent mother who insisted he make his own in the world, Charles found his calling and his gift behind a piano keyboard. Touring across the Southern music circuit, the soulful singer gained a reputation and then exploded with worldwide fame when he pioneered music that incorporated gospel, country, jazz and orchestral influences into an inimitable style. As he revolutionized the way people appreciated music, he simultaneously fought segregation in the very clubs that launched him and championed artists' rights within the corporate music business. "Ray" provides an unflinching portrait of Charles' musical genius as he overcomes drug addiction while he transformed himself into one of this country's greatest performers.
Director: Taylor Hackford. Stars: Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington, Regina King, Clifton Powell, Harry J. Lennix, Bokeem Woodbine. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 152 min.), Biodrama, 2994, Box office gross: $67.792 million, (Universal), $23.98 VHS SRP, Available: 2/1, DVD: Day & Date.
Creepy low-budget ($2 million) horror-thriller. How far would you go to save your own life? Prepare yourself for a gut-wrenching trip into the heart of terror with in this gripping psychological thriller starring Cary Elwes, Danny Glover, Monica Potter and Leigh Whannell. Obsessed with teaching his victims the value of life, a deranged, sadistic serial killer is abducting morally wayward people and forcing them to play horrific games for their own survival. Faced with impossible choices, each victim must struggle to win back his/her life, or else die trying. A young man named Adam (Leigh Whannell) wakes to find himself chained to a rusty pipe inside a decrepit subterranean chamber. Chained to the opposite side of the room is another bewildered captive, Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes). Between them is a dead man lying in a pool of blood, holding a .38 in his hand. Neither man knows why he has been abducted; but instructions left on a microcassette order Dr. Gordon to kill Adam within eight hours. If he fails to do so, then both men will die, and Dr. Gordon's wife, Alison (Monica Potter), and his daughter will be killed. Recalling a recent murder investigation by a police detective named Tapp (Danny Glover), Dr. Gordon realizes he and Adam are the next victims of a psychopathic genius known only as "Jigsaw." With only a few hours left to spare, they must unravel the elaborate puzzle of their fate in the midst of mounting terror. The killer has provided them with only a few clues and two handsaws -- too weak to break their steel shackles, but strong enough to cut through flesh and bone. And we'll leave it at that.
Director: James Wan. Stars: Leigh Whannell, Cary Elwes, Danny Glover, Ken Leung, Dina Meyer, Shawnee Smith, Monica Potter. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 100 min.), Horror thriller, 2004, Box office gross: $50.355 million, (Lions Gate), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 2/15, DVD: Day & Date.
SHALL WE DANCE?
Chicago lawyer John Clark (Richard Gere) knows his life is almost perfect. He loves his beautiful wife (Susan Sarandon), he's built a successful career and raised two wonderful kids. And yet ... the workday is always the same routine, the commute is a grind and the family is usually too busy to spend time together. Sometimes John wonders if this is all there is. But one night he catches a glimpse of a beautiful dance instructor (Jennifer Lopez) in the window of a shabby ball room dancing school. Without telling a soul, he secretly begins taking dance lessons at the studio, but he's assigned to an eccentric group class taught by an older woman. Nevertheless, the seemingly predictable man sticks with his new hobby hoping to catch the attention of the young beauty, while avoiding the ridicule of his co-workers and family. Suddenly, John is thrust into a whole new world -- of motion, music, camaraderie and passion. As this very serious man becomes literally light on his feet, his whole life, and marriage, transforms. Drab U.S. remake of the runaway Japanese hit, which Miramax is also releasing this week on DVD.
Director: Peter Chelsom. Stars: Richard Gere, Jennifer Lopez, Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 106 min.), Romance, 2004, Box office gross: $42.144 million, (Miramax), $24.99 VHS SRP, Available: 2/1, DVD: Day & Date.
Oscar is a fast-talking tongue-scrubber at the local whale wash whose big dreams have a habit of landing him in hot water. Lenny is a great white shark with a sensitive side and a secret -- he's a vegetarian. When a great white lie turns Oscar into an improbable hero and the truth about Lenny makes him an outcast, these two become the most unlikely of friends. "Shark Tale" stars the voices of Will Smith as Oscar, a hustler who has always been able to fin-agle his way out of trouble, until now; Robert De Niro as Don Lino, a great white shark at the top of the Reef's food chain; Renee Zellweger as Angie, the beautiful angelfish who harbors a secret crush on Oscar; Angelina Jolie as the femme fatale, Lola, a cross between a lion fish and a dragonfish, who uses her feminine wiles to get what she wants; Jack Black as Don Lino's son Lenny, a great white shark who is a closet vegetarian; and Martin Scorsese as Sykes, a puffer fish who is full of hot air and never misses an opportunity to make a few extra clams. Rounding out the main cast are: Doug E. Doug and Ziggy Marley as Bernie and Ernie, two Rastafarian jellyfish with a stinging sense of humor; Michael Imperioli as Don Lino's oldest son, Frankie, a chip off the old shark; Vincent Pastore as Luca, an oily octopus, which makes him the perfect right-hand, left-hand, right-hand, left-hand man; Peter Falk as Don Ira Feinberg, a shark who is long in the tooth, but still has plenty of bite left; and Katie Couric as the Reef's top anchorfish, Katie Current.
Director: Bibo Bergeron, Vicky Jenson. Stars: Will Smith, Robert De Niro, Renee Zellweger, Angelina Jolie, Jack Black, Martin Scorsese, Ziggy Marley, Doug E. Doug, Michael Imperioli, Vincent Pastore, Peter Falk, Katie Couric, David Soren. CC, (MPAA rating: PG, 90 min.), Animated, 2004, Box office gross: $160.000 million, (DreamWorks), $15.95 VHS SRP, Available: 2/8, DVD: Day & Date.
SHE HATE ME
Wharton-educated biotech executive John Henry "Jack" Armstrong (Anthony Mackie) gets fired when he informs on his bosses, launching an investigation into their business dealings by the Securities & Exchange Commission. Branded a whistle-blower and therefore unemployable, Jack desperately needs to make a living. When his former girlfriend Fatima (Kerry Washington), a high powered businesswoman and now a lesbian, offers him cash to impregnate her and her new girlfriend Alex (Dania Ramirez), Jack is persuaded by the chance to make "easy" money. Word spreads and soon Jack is in the baby-making business at $10,000 a try. Lesbians with a desire for motherhood and the cash to spare are lining up to seek his services. But, between the attempts by his former employers to frame him for security fraud and his dubious fathering activities, Jack finds his life, all at once, becoming very complicated.
Director: Spike Lee. Stars: Anthony Mackie, Kerry Washington, Ellen Barkin, Monica Bellucci, Jim Brown, Ossie Davis, Jamel Debbouze, Brian Dennehy, Woody Harrelson, Ling Bai, Lonette McKee, Paula Jai Parker, Dania Ramirez, Q-Tip. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 138 min.), Comedy, 2004, Box office gross: $0.363 million, (Sony), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 2/1, DVD: Day & Date.
TAE GUK GI: THE BROTHERHOOD OF WAR
No. 1 boxoffice film of all time in Korea. Sweeping historical war epic that vividly portrays the horrors of the Korean War from the perspective of two devoted brothers whose loyalties to their country and each other are divided by the civil conflict. After independence, Korea is full of hope for the future. Jin-tae, a shoemaker, has worked tirelessly to provide money for his younger brother Jin-seok to go to college. But each of their hopes and dreams are shattered when both are forced to join the army against their will. Torn away from home and family, Jin-tae vows to protect Jin-seok despite the dangers -- and the cost. In the searing crucible of battle, fate intervenes, forcing their bonds of faith, love and trust to be tested time and again in this suspense-filled, action-packed war drama. In Korean with English subtitles.
Director: Kang Je-Gyu. Stars: Jang Dong-Gun, Won Bin, Lee Eun-Joo.. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 140 min.), War drama, 2004, Box office gross: $1.107 million, (Sony), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 2/15, DVD: Day & Date.
Queen Latifah and Jimmy Fallon team up in the buddy comedy, based on the 1998 international smash "Taxi," written and directed by Luc Besson, which became the largest grossing film in the history of French cinema and has since spawned two sequels. Belle Williams (Latifah) is a speed demon. Flying through the streets of New York in her tricked-out taxi, she's earned a rep as New York's fastest cabbie. But driving a hack is only a pit stop for her real dream: Belle wants to be a race car champion. And she's well on her way -- until she's derailed by overeager cop Andy Washburn (Fallon), whose undercover skills are matched only by his total ineptitude behind the wheel. Washburn, whose lack of vehicular skills has landed him in the precinct doghouse, is hot on the heels of a gang of beautiful Brazilian bank robbers, led by Vanessa (Gisele Bundchen), their cold, calculating -- and leggy -- leader. To nab the evasive crooks, drivers license-less Washburn convinces Belle to team up with him to pursue Vanessa and crew. Belle has carte blanche to drive at any speed and break any law. The car-less cop and speed-demon cabbie -- New York's unlikeliest partners -- begin a high-speed game of cat and mouse with the robbers. That is, if Belle and Washburn don't end up killing each other first.
Director: Tim Story. Stars: Queen Latifah, Jimmy Fallon, Henry Simmons, Jennifer Esposito, Ann-Margret, Gisele Bundchen. CC, (MPAA rating: Pg-13, 97 min.), Comedy, 2004, Box office gross: $35.678 million, (Fox), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 2/15, DVD: Day & Date.
Director Mira Nair brings to the screen one of the greatest female characters ever created, Rebecca (Becky) Sharp, in a new film version of the classic novel by William Makepeace Thackeray. The daughter of a starving English artist and a French chorus girl, Becky (Reese Witherspoon) is orphaned at a young age. Even as a child, she yearns for a more glamorous life than her birthright promises. As she leaves Miss Pinkerton's Academy at Chiswick, Becky resolves to conquer English society by any means possible. She deploys all of her wit, guile, and sexuality as she makes her way up into high society during the first quarter of the 19th century. Becky's ascension to the heights of society commences when she gains employment as governess to the daughters of eccentric Sir Pitt Crawley (Bob Hoskins). Becky wins over the children, and the Crawley family's rich spinster aunt Matilda (Eileen Atkins) as well. The rural Hampshire household comes to find her indispensable, and Matilda comes to confide in the bright young woman. But Becky knows that she cannot be a true part of English society until she moves to the city. When Matilda invites her to come live in London, Becky eagerly accepts. There, Becky is reunited with her best friend Amelia Sedley (Romola Garai), who -- having grown up comfortably -- does not share Becky's more brazen ambitions. Hewing close to the family she already knows so well, Becky secretly marries dashing heir Rawdon Crawley (James Purefoy) -- but when Matilda discovers their union, she casts the newlyweds out. When Napoleon invades Europe, Rawdon bravely reports to the front lines. Pregnant Becky stands by distraught newlywed Amelia, whose own husband George Osborne (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) is also called to fight. When George does not survive the Battle of Waterloo, Becky's friendship with Amelia is strained beyond repair. Becky is reunited with Rawdon and gives birth to a boy, but post-war money and comforts are sparse for the trio. More intent than ever on gaining acceptance into London society and living well, Becky finds a patron in the powerful Marquess of Steyne (Gabriel Byrne). Steyne's whims enable Becky to realize her dreams, but the ultimate cost may be too high for her.
Director: Mira Nair. Stars: Reese Witherspoon, Gabriel Byrne, Angelica Mandy, Romola Garai, Rhys Ifans, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Bob Hoskins, Eileen Atkins, James Purefoy. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 137 min.), Drama, 2004, Box office gross: $16.088 million, (Universal), $23.98 VHS SRP, Available: 2/1, 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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February 1, 2005