OnVideo JULY Video Reviews
Delightful fantasy-romance about a young Parisian woman -- Amelie (Audrey Tautou) -- raised by her father after her mother is killed and who, as a lonely child, uses her imagination to explore the world around her. Working in a Paris cafe, she pretty much keeps to herself until one day, fatefully, she discovers a box of mementos belonging to a boy who used to live in her apartment. She decides to track down the owner of the box and return his possessions, and this simple act of giving changes her life. She now discovers the immense joy of bringing happiness to others through random, anonymous and secret acts of kindness. Now opened up to the world around her, she meets an intriguing young man and decides to win his heart, hoping that she can find happiness for herself. A charming, feel-good tale by the director of "The City of Lost Children" and "Alien 4." In French with English subtitles.
Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Stars: Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Kassovitz, Rufus, Yolande Moreau, Artus de Penguern. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 122 min.), Romance, 2001, Box office gross: $32.000 million, (Miramax), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 7/16, DVD: Day & Date.
By-the-book Schwarzenegger actioner notable only because it was the first major studio film pulled from last fall's release schedule because of September 11. Schwarzenegger stars as Gordy Brewer, a Los Angeles firefighter whose wife and son are killed in a terrorist bombing masterminded by a South American bad guy. Against the advice of friends, as well as the CIA and FBI, Brewer heads down to Columbia to get even. He infiltrates rebel strongholds, destroys cocaine cash crops and generally wreaks havoc with the guerrillas. Numbing.
Director: Andrew Davis. Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Francesca Neri, Elias Koteas, Cliff Currtis, John Leguizamo, John Turturro. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 109 min.), Action, 2002, Box office gross: $40.048 million, (Warner), $19.95 VHS SRP, Available: 7/30, DVD: Day & Date.
A road trip movie for the Z-generation, this Britney Spears vehicle (no pun intended) falls flat on all accounts -- in particular any resemblance to the real world. Yes, the writers throw in such real-world concerns as rape, miscarriages, abandonment by parents, and a hint of sex (no, Britney is no longer a virgin) but it's played out as the soap opera adventures of three high-school grads traveling cross-country in a convertible driven by a hunk, seeking to reconstruct their past. And, yes, there are Britney songs, and fun-loving dancing, but the film is mostly a downer that must have spouted from someone who has watched just one too many MTV reality shows.
Director: Tamra Davis. Stars: Britney Spears, Zoe Saldana, Anson Mount, Taryn Manning, Justin Long, Dan Aykroyd, Kim Cattrall. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 90 min.), Drama, 2002, Box office gross: $37.188 million, (Paramount), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 7/23, DVD: Day & Date.
Weak supernatural thriller has Kevin Costner starring as a Chicago ER doctor who loses his beloved wife in a bus accident in Venezuela while on a mercy mission. The grieving doctor throws himself into his work and wears himself out. It's then that he begins to believe that his wife -- whose body was never recovered -- is trying to communicate with him from the dead. There's the prevalence of a dragonfly icon (his wife's birthmark) all over the place, a parrot that only talked when the wife was nearby (and who talks now on creepy, windy nights), a patient who dies and comes back to life saying he saw the wife in a "rainbow" and many, many more strange occurrences that, unfortunately don't add up to any chill factor: There just aren't enough goosebumps to sustain the plodding and by-the-rote story line. Is the wife communicating from the hereafter? Is Kevin crazy? Who cares.
Director: Tom Shadyac. Stars: Kevin Costner, Susanna Thompson, Joe Morton, Ron Rifkin, Kathy Bates, Robert Bailey Jr., Linda Hunt, Jacob Vargas. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 104 min.), Horror, 2002, Box office gross: $30.000 million, (Universal), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 7/30, DVD: Day & Date.
Prisoner of war drama set in a Nazi camp. Bruce Willis plays Col. William McNamara, the leader of the American prisoners and Colin Farrell plays Lt. Hart. The film starts off with Hart being captured and sent off to Stalig VI in Belgium, where he bumps up against Willis -- Willis doesn't quite trust Hart. Into this mix comes two black American pilots -- don't forget that this was a time when America, and its Army, was still segregated. A racist sergeant (Cole Hauser) is not two pleased with the men joining the barracks, and he sets one of them up to be killed by the Germans. Later the sergeant is murdered, and the second black pilot is pegged for the crime. Hart persuades the German commandant to hold a court martial, with Hart as the defense attorney. The only problem is, in order to mount his defense, Hart may have to reveal a secret escape route that would endanger all the Americans. Of course there's a lot going on under the action -- McNamara has his own agenda, and by the film's end he turns out to be the hero. A straight-ahead war drama.
Director: Gregory Hoblit. Stars: Bruce Willis, Colin Farrell, Terrence Howard, Vicellous Shannon, Cole Hauser, Rick Ravanello, Marcel Iures, Sam Worthington. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 125 min.), War, 2002, Box office gross: $19.036 million, (MGM), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 7/9, DVD: Day & Date.
IMPOSTOR: THE DIRECTOR'S CUT
Dimension Films missed the boat with its January release of director Gary Fleder's "Impostor." The film, based on the short story by Philip K. Dick, was unceremoniously dumped into the marketplace with little or no fanfare or marketing push. And that was a shame, for the film, to be released to video as "Impostor: The Director's Cut," is visually stunning, with an imaginative story line, workmanlike performances (by Gary Sinise, Madeleine Stowe, Vincent D'Onofrio and Mekhi Phifer) and special-effects that rival the best that George Lucas and Steven Spielberg can come up with (the work was done, in fact, by Lucas' Industrial Light & Magic). Originally designed as the centerpiece of a three-short anthology film, "Impostor" was retooled into a feature, and shot two years ago -- but the company lost faith, which is a pity as this is the kind of film that sci-fi fans slaver over.
It's the near future -- 2079 -- and the Earth is in a losing war with beings from Alpha Centauri. There's destruction -- and police states -- everywhere, but the heart of major cities -- where the elite live -- are domed and protected. One elite pair is made up of scientist Spencer (Sinise) and his wife Maya (Stowe), a well-respected doctor. But Spencer's calm life is shattered when, abruptly, he's arrested by a ruthless security agent (D'Onofrio in a particularly nasty turn) and informed that he is not really Spencer but an alien clone with a time bomb implanted in his heart, set to blow up key government figures. But Spencer knows he's human and the agent is wrong (though the agent claims that when the aliens killed the real Spencer, they ported his memories and feelings into the clone, making him think that he's the real Spencer). Spencer escapes, and a chase ensues through the dark underworld of the city outside the dome -- where the poor live in sickness and misery. It's out there that Spencer meets Cale (Phifer), a hardened criminal who offers to get him back into the city -- undetected -- and back to his wife, to prove his innocence -- in exchange for needed medical supplies. But is Spencer really Spencer? There's moments when even he has his doubts. His quest to prove his humanness will keep you totally enthralled.
In sheer straight ahead action and effects, this is one of the top adult sci-fiers to come down the pike in a long time. And the dystopia of this future world comes close to that -- in rendering and effect -- of Ridley Scott's great vision (based on Dick's, of course) in "Blade Runner." The production and art design is top-notch, creating a realistic world that is "futuristic" but still plausible (the designers spent many, many hours talking to architects and scientists to extrapolate what the world will be like -- and how technology will function -- 75 years hence). Right down to the great twist ending, Dick would be proud.
The DVD edition of the film has few frills: there's a very short behind-the-scenes featurette that gives viewers insights into the design of the film, and the original 30-minute short from which the feature was extrapolated. The sound is all that one would expect from a masterful DVD 5.1 soundtrack, with tasteful rolling subwoofer rumbles, and surrounds that are almost always in play, enveloping the viewer in this futuristic universe.
Director: Gary Fleder. Stars: Gary Sinise, Madeleine Stowe, Vincent D'Onofrio, Tony Shalhoub, Mekhi Phifer, Gary Dourdan. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 95 min.), Science Fiction, 2002, Box office gross: $6.110 million, (Buena Vista), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 7/9, DVD: Day & Date.
JIMMY NEUTRON: BOY GENIUS
Delightful animated adventure of Nick's Jimmy Neutron, a whiz-kid of a boy who has created all sorts of robots (including a dog named Goddard) and convenience saving devices (some of which backfire) but has difficulty getting the attention of the cute girl in school. One of his projects -- a space ship -- back fires when an invading alien army, the Yokians (weird egg creatures), notices the little human, follows him back to Earth, and discover a planet of adults just ripe for the picking. So one night the malevolent creatures land, kidnap all the parents, and whisk them away to their home planet. Now it's up to Jimmy and his friends to save the day by creating spaceships from amusement park rides and flying off to rescue all the city's moms and dads. An innocuous, nonthreatening, highly entertaining outing for the kids.
Director: John A. Davis. Stars: Voices of Debi Derryberry, Megan Cavanagh, Mark DeCarlo, Patrick Stewart, Martin Short, Carolyn Lawrence, Rob Paulsen, Jeff Garcia, Candi Milo. CC, (MPAA rating: G, 82 min.), Family, 2001, Box office gross: $81.000 million, (Paramount), $14.95 VHS SRP, Available: 7/2, DVD: Day & Date.
This hostage-taking, get-even melodrama has Denzel Washington starring as John Q. Archibald, an ordinary man whose life revolves around his son, Michael, and his wife, Denise. When Michael falls seriously ill and needs an emergency heart transplant operation that John Q. can't afford and his health insurance won't cover, he vows to do whatever it will take to keep his son alive. With time and options running out, a desperate gamble becomes his only hope -- he takes the hospital emergency room hostage. For anyone who has felt oppressed by the "powers-that-be" -- in particular the faceless, nameless HMO bureaucrats -- this film gets the adrenalin and blood boiling. It's a one-sided, heavy-handed affair as the villains -- a cold-hearted hospital administrator (Anne Heche), a by-the-book hostage negotiator (Robert Duvall) and a trigger-happy cop (Ray Liotta) -- are all painted in black-and-white and John Q. comes off as the ordinary Joe whose emotions make him human -- and the hero. The bureaucrats never had a chance.
Director: Nick Cassavetes. Stars: Denzel Washington, Robert Duvall, James Woods, Anne Heche, Ray Liotta, Kimberly Elise, Eddie Griffin, Dhawn Hatosy, Daniel E. Smith. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 118 min.), Thriller, 2002, Box office gross: $71.000 million, (New Line), $22.94 VHS SRP, Available: 7/16, DVD: Day & Date.
Muddled but exciting sci-fi horror actioner based on a computer game series. In a mysterious underground research center called the Hive a group of scientists are working on bioweapons and genetic experimentation but something has gone awry. The facility is being wiped out by a deadly virus and locked down, allowing no one to leave. Into this horrific scene comes Milla Jovovich as part of a rescue operation -- but she has amnesia after being gassed with a memory loss drug. She doesn't know exactly why she's there (apparently there are people both within and without the operation trying to either undermine the center or undermine those trying to undermine the center) but that doesn't prevent her from battling a host of flesh-eating zombies that have overrun the facility. She also has to fight off the computer system, which defends itself with some rather awesome weapons. As in most computer games, the gist of the story isn't in the plot but in the action -- kick butt and ask questions later. There's some great action scenes and special effects here and director Paul W.S. Anderson keeps everything moving briskly along. The scare quotient is high and most viewers will be on the edge of their seats. The DVD offers crisp images and the sound -- with the surrounds engaged almost the entire time -- envelops you with high-tech effects and zombie moans and groans. It's a pleasing, all-consuming experience for fans of this genre.
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson. Stars: Milla Jovovich, Eric Mabius, Michelle Rodriguez, James Purefoy, Martin Crewes, Colin Salmon. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 100 min.), Sci-Fi Horror Thrill, 2002, Box office gross: $40.000 million, (Columbia TriStar), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 7/30, DVD: Day & Date.
ROYAL TENENBAUMS, THE
A wild and romp-filled black comedy about the ultimate dysfunctional New York family. Although starting out two decades earlier as a promising upper-class family, the eccentric Tenenbaums have fallen on hard times. The three children all earned success early in life but when their parents Royal (Gene Hackman) and Etheline (Anjelica Huston) split up the family went to pot. Chas (Ben Stiller) began as a financial whiz but has turned paranoid, fearful that some disaster will strike and take his life, so he wears red just to be safe; Richie (Luke Wilson) started out as a tennis pro but choked in his final tennis matches; Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow) was an award-winning playwright but has left her neurologist husband (Bill Murray) and is messing around with a family friend. And, after 17 years, Royal, broke and with no place to live, decides to come home and worm his way back into the family, to "make amends" and "set things right." And, to do so, he fakes having stomach cancer. Now, together under one roof, the family deals with their convoluted past and complicated present. An absurdist wonder from the director of "Bottle Rocket" and "Rushmore," with delightfully understated acting by all involved. The DVD release was created by the folks at The Criterion Collection, which means a clean, crisp image and superb sound, The DVD comes in a case designed to resemble a book, and includes two booklets about the film that give background information on the production. There's plenty of extras, including a surprise Easter egg. And the soundtrack -- which features the Beatles, the Ramones, Bob Dylan and vintage Stones -- fits the mood of the film like a tight leather glove. Highly recommended.
Director: Wes Anderson. Stars: Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston, Ben Stiller, Luke Wilson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Danny Glover, Owen Wilson, Bill Murray. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 109 min.), Comedy, 2001, Box office gross: $52.000 million, (Buena Vista), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 7/9, DVD: Day & Date.
TIME MACHINE, THE
Imaginative reworking of H.G. Wells' classic novella by the author's great-grandson, director Simon Wells. Though the original story and the 1960 film of the same name (directed by George Pal and starring Rod Taylor) focused on political and social matters, this version is more down to earth -- the time traveler (Guy Pearce) builds his time machine not so much to explore the future (in hopes of finding a better world) but to go into the past to prevent the murder of his fiance. When his attempts at stopping fate fail, he jumps into the future to find out if there is any way to change the past. After traveling 800,000 years into the future, he comes upon an Earth devastated by the breakup of the moon and populated by two races: the peaceful Eloi and the underground dwelling Morlocks (and here, finally, this "Time Machine" catches up with H.G.'s version). The Morlocks prey on the Eloi and when an Eloi woman he has befriended (Samantha Mumba) is kidnapped, the time traveler hits the underworld, meeting up with the Morlock leader (Jeremy Irons in white, reptile-like makeup) and battles to the death for his past and future. Great special effects.
Director: Simon Wells. Stars: Guy Pearce, Samantha Mumba, Jeremy Irons, Orlando Jones, Mark Addy, Phyllida law, Sienna Gregory, Omero Mumba. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 96 min.), Science Fiction, 2002, Box office gross: $55.761 million, (DreamWorks), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 7/23, 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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June 15, 2002