OnVideo JANUARY Video Reviews
ABOUT A BOY
Based on Nick Hornby's best-selling book. Hugh Grant is a hip Londoner who finds himself alone in bachelorhood when all his friends are tied up with their married lives. He latches on to the idea of passing himself off as a single father in order to meet single moms and all goes well until he meets an odd 12-year-old boy who brings out Grant's true paternal instincts. A witty, gentle comedy.
Director: Chris and Paul Weitz. Stars: Hugh Grant, Nicholas Hoult, Sharon Small, Madison Cook, Jordan Cook. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 101 min.), Comedy, 2002, Box office gross: $40.163 million, (Universal), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 1/7, DVD: Day & Date.
BANGER SISTERS, THE
Generally boring comedy has Goldie Hawn and Susan Sarandon starring as ex-rock groupies from the 60s whose lives have taken very different paths since their glory days. Hawn plays Suzette, a bit of a middle-aged hussy who has never settled down and still slings drinks at the Whiskey a Go Go on L.A.'s Sunset Strip. She wears her illustrious past -- sleeping with such rock stars as Jim Morrison and Jimmy Page -- on her sleeve, but it doesn't help her when she gets fired from her job. Moneyless, she decides to take off for Phoenix, where she hopes she can met up with ex-groupie partner Lavinia (Sarandon) -- whom she hasn't talked to in more than 20 years -- to borrow money and start life anew. Naturally Suzette is in for a surprise -- Lavinia is now a straitlaced society mom who has disavowed her past and wants nothing to do with her ex-friend. We're set up for a comedy battle between the forces of conformity and rebellion that never really comes off: Suzette is too stuck in her past to garner our sympathy, and Lavinia is too easy a target for our contempt. Along the way Suzette teams up with a suicidal writer, played brilliantly by Geoffrey Rush, and their interactions add some spice to the otherwise rather dull and predictable proceedings. Although -- through Suzette's presence -- Lavinia eventually throws off her middle-class shackles and learns to accept her past, and Suzette -- with the aid of her writer -- learns to accept her present life -- there's not much here to care for.
Director: Bob Dolman. Stars: Goldie Hawn, Susan Sarandon, Geoffrey Rush, Erika Christensen, Eva Amurri, Robin Thomas, Matthew Carey. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 108 min.), Comedy, 2002, Box office gross: $29.676 million, (Fox), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 1/28, DVD: Day & Date.
Entertaining hip comedy about one day in the life of an urban barbershop. Calvin (Ice Cube) is the proprietor of the family barbershop, which his late father ran for 40 years. But with dreams of running a recording studio, a child on the way, and strapped for cash, Calvin sells out to a local loan shark (Keith David). But Calvin soon learns that the shop will make way for a strip club and, appalled, he wants the store back. But the loan shark now wants double his money, and Calvin must figure out how to finesse the deal. Much of the film revolves around the barbershop employees and their riffs on life and love, which are actually the highlights of the comedy fare. There's also a silly subplot involving a pair of hapless crooks having trouble heisting an ATM machine.
Director: Tim Story. Stars: Ice Cube, Anthony Anderson, Cedric the Entertainer, Sean Patrick Thomas, Eve, Troy Garity, Michael Ealy, Earl Howze, Keith David, Jazsmin Lewis. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 102 min.), Comedy, 2002, Box office gross: $65.440 million, (MGM), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 1/1, DVD: Day & Date.
Female surfing flick (shot entirely on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii) about trio of young women who work as maids at one of the island's posh resorts while spending their free time shooting the curls. The main character is Anne (Kate Bosworth), who dreams of a career as a professional surfer and readies her moves for the upcoming Pipe Masters surf contest but is haunted by a previous, nasty wipeout. To complicate matters is a touring group of pro football players who hire the girls to give them private surfing lessons. Naturally Anne falls for the team's quarterback. Will she go on to become a champion surfer or give it all up to become a "Barbie" wife? Great surfing sequences, lots of bikini-clad women, OK melodrama that rises above the genre.
Director: John Stockwell. Stars: Kate Bosworth, Matthew Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Sanoe Lake, Mika Boorem, Chris Taloa, Kala Alexander. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 109 min.), Action, 2002, Box office gross: $40.118 million, (Universal), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 1/14, DVD: Day & Date.
BOURNE IDENTITY, THE
Fast-paced, slick and exciting spy thriller is a definite change of pace for Doug ("Swingers," "Go") Liman, but the young director handles himself admirably, using his talents to give this film the look and feel of the great spy actioners of the 1960s. Matt Damon plays a man -- with no memory, a bullet in his back, and a Swiss bank account number on his skin -- who is pulled from the Mediterranean. He travels to Zurich, where he finds a bank deposit box with assorted passports, cash and a gun, and he picks one passport at random: that of Jason Bourne of Paris. Almost immediately he's marked by the CIA and the splendid chase is on, as Bourne has to try to discover who he is before he's assassinated. Along the way he meets up with a young woman, Marie (Franka Potente), who helps him on his merry voyage. A fast, likeable, old-fashioned two-hour escape ride. Filmed in Paris, Prague, Italy and Greece. Based on a Robert Ludlum novel.
Director: Doug Liman. Stars: Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Chris Cooper, Clive Owen, Brian Cox, Adewale Akinnouye-Agbaje, Julia Stiles. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 115 min.), Thriller, 2002, Box office gross: $120.740 million, (Universal), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 1/21, DVD: Day & Date.
An inept, derivative horror outing. New York police detective Stephen Dorff and Dept. of Health researcher Natascha McElhone investigate the deaths of four people who died -- horribly -- after logging on to Internet site Feardotcom.com. Unfortunately for the duo, they've logged on to the site and now only have two days in which to solve the mystery. Plenty of gruesomeness is no mystery here -- it's the exploitation, baby.
Director: William Malone. Stars: Stephen Dorff, Natascha McElhone, Stephen Rea, Udo Kier, Amelia Curtis, Jeffrey Combs. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 101 min.), Horror, 2002, Box office gross: $13.208 million, (Warner), $22.98 VHS SRP, Available: 1/14, DVD: Day & Date.
GOOD GIRL, THE
Jennifer Aniston turns in wonderful performance in this quirky comedy about first encounters and second chances. Thirty-year-old Justine Last (Aniston) longs for a life more fulfilling than the one she leads with her boring husband (John C. Reilly) and dead-end job at the Retail Rodeo. But when a passionate young co-worker (Jake Gyllenhaal) catches her eye and steals her heart, Justine's good-girl existences takes a turn for the worse- with unexpected results.
Director: Miguel Arteta. Stars: Jennifer Aniston, Jake Gyllenhaal. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 94 min.), Comedy, 2002, Box office gross: $13.585 million, (Fox), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 1/7, DVD: Day & Date.
MASTER OF DISGUISE, THE
Dana Carvey plays Pistachio Disguisey, a sweet-natured Italian waiter who works at his father Fabbrizio's (James Brolin) restaurant. Pistachio can't figure out why he compulsively mimics his customers and wants to change his appearance. What he doesn't know yet is the Disguisey family secret: a long legacy of masters of disguise who can become almost anyone or anything by harnessing the great power known through the ages as "Energico." This talent gets Fabbrizio and Pistachio's mother kidnapped by his former arch-enemy Devlin Bowman, a criminal mastermind. Now Pistachio must learn to make the most of his inherited gift, track down Devlin and save his parents. Lame as can be.
Director: Perry Andelin Blake. Stars: Dana Carvey, Brent Spiner, Jennifer Esposito, Harold Gould, James Brolin, Maria Canals. CC, (MPAA rating: PG, 80 min.), Comedy, 2002, Box office gross: $40.143 million, (Columbia TriStar), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 1/28, DVD: Day & Date.
Although underrated and drubbed by critics and movie audiences alike, "Simone" is actually a quite enjoyable fantasy comedy that -- once one suspends disbelief -- grabs your attention and holds your sympathy throughout its at-times unbelievable progress. Al Pacino plays washed-up film director Viktor Taransky, whose only claim to fame are Oscar nominations for short films. His latest feature is on a disastrous path -- his leading lady walks off the set -- and his ex-wife, now a studio head, pulls the plug on the production. To his rescue comes a slightly wacky computer nerd who, just before dying, bequeaths Viktor a software program that will create the perfect virtual actress -- Simone -- that the director can mold to his own needs (no tantrums, no fighting over lines, no walking off the set). Viktor sets out to finish his film with Simone, and makes a smash hit -- and a new, rising star. Soon Viktor -- and Simone -- are the darlings of Hollywood and the world, making one hit after another. But Simone soon becomes too big for Viktor to handle -- the public wants Simone, not the man who created her -- leading Viktor to understand the true meaning of success (hint: it's all in your head). In a wild effort to reconcile with his ex and their daughter, Viktor decides to shut Simone down -- with disastrous results. Pacino, as always, takes command of the screen, keeping the film's disparate elements tied together. Well worth a look and an evening's investment.
Director: Andrew Niccol. Stars: Al Pacino, Catherine Keener, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Jay Mohr, Jason Schwartzman, Rachel Roberts, Evan Rachel Wood. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 117 min.), Comedy, 2002, Box office gross: $9.680 million, (New Line), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 1/21, DVD: Day & Date.
Matthew Perry plays a down-and-dirty process server with ingenious methods of laying legal documents on everyone from mobsters to millionaires. Sara (Elizabeth Hurley) is his next victim. Her conniving husband, Gordon (Bruce Campbell), a wealthy Texas rancher, has hired Joe to serve Sara with divorce papers that -- because she is served first -- threaten to cut her off from the fortune they amassed together. When Sara is tipped off by a rival process server, Joe has to work overtime before he nails her. But Sara has other plans -- she persuades Joe to "forget" he ever served her and go after the husband, thus preventing her from being cut out of the money due her. Now Joe and Sara travel all over Texas, trying to track down the wayward husband through streets marked by rusted-out cars, boot-shaped swimming pools and all the corny jokes one could conjure up about Texas. Cedric the Entertainer is wonderful as the head of the process-serving company and Hurley is as delicious as ever. But otherwise this film serves up a weak comedy effort.
Director: Reginald Hudlin. Stars: Matthew Perry, Elizabeth Hurley, Vincent Pastore, Bruce Campbell, Cedric the Entertainer, Amy Adams, Terry Crews. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 99 min.), Comedy, 2002, Box office gross: $16.813 million, (Paramount), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 1/28, DVD: Day & Date.
Darn that M. Night Shyamalan. He scared the heck out of us (again and again and again) with "The Sixth Sense" and now the writer-director has gone and done it -- again -- with "Signs." It's not the bleached-out bone white ghostly fear of "The Sixth Sense," but a creepy, kind of familiar-sound-that-all-of-a-sudden-doesn't-quite ring-true fear that puts the hair on the back of your neck on notice. Here we have Mel Gibson as an ex-minister (who soured on God when his wife was killed in an accident) living with his brother (Joaquin Phoenix) and two kids (Rory Culkin and Abigail Breslin) in rural Bucks County, Pa. One morning the family wakes up to find crop circles in their corn field, and discover that the strange formations have appeared all over the planet. Is this the prelude to an alien invasion? Listen to the creepy sounds. Hear the Hitchcockian music. See the religious icons. Watch the plot unfold. Laugh to relieve the pressure. Be scared.
Director: M. Night Shyamalan. Stars: Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, Cherry Jones, Rory Culkin, Abigail Breslin, Patricia Kalember. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 106 min.), Thriller, 2002, Box office gross: $223.400 million, (Buena Vista), $22.99 VHS SRP, Available: 1/7, DVD: 4.
Hip urban spoof of 1970s spy films, based on an animated featurette on Urbanentertainment.com. This Austin Powers-style comedy follows the exploits of Undercover Brother (Eddie Griffin), a justice-seeking operative who goes undercover to stop a sinister conspirator from disseminating a mind-numbing drug to the populace. Trading in his Afro, shades and platforms for khakis and horn-rims, Undercover Brother exposes the scheme of his evil nemesis Mr. Feather (Chris Kattan). Ultimately, Undercover Brother prevails over his foes utilizing Bruce Lee-inspired fight moves, triumphantly proclaiming, "Mess with the 'fro, you got to go." Undercover Brother's diametrically opposed love interests, Sistah Girl (Aunjanue Ellis) and White She Devil (Denise Richards), fight for his love, but eventually lay down arms for a good cause. A good-natured skewering of mainstream culture.
Director: Malcolm D. Lee. Stars: Eddie Griffin, Chris Kattan, Denise Richards, Dave Chappelle, Neil Patrick Harris, Aunjanue Ellis, Chi McBride, Gary Anthony Williams, Jack Noseworthy, Billy Dee Williams, Robert Trumbull. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 86 min.), Comedy, 2002, Box office gross: $38.230 million, (Universal), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 1/14, DVD: Day & Date.
WHO IS CLETIS TOUT?
A "we've seen this all before" comedy caper film about two cons -- Finch (Christian Slater), a forger and frauder, and Micah (Richard Dreyfuss), a magician and jewel thief, who break out of prison to recover a stash of stolen diamonds. Both men are provided with new identities by a sleazy coroner but Finch's identity, Cletis Tout, is that of a recently rubbed-out journalist who tried to blackmail the mob. When Finch starts parading around as Tout, the mob figures their original hit went sour and go after him again. This mistaken identity leads to all sorts of unfortunate -- and occasionally funny -- events, including his capture by a movie-crazy hit man (Tim Allen). Fine performances all around can't buoy up the weak story line.
Director: Chris Ver Wiel. Stars: Christian Slater, Tim Allen, Portia de Rossi, Richard Dreyfuss, Billy Connolly, Peter MacNeill, Bill MacDonald. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 93 min.), Comedy thriller, 2002, Box office gross: $0.252 million, (Paramount), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 1/7, 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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December 31, 2002