OnVideo JULY Video Reviews
"Ararat" is director Atom Egoyan's most provocative film to date, dealing as it does with the meaning of life, the search for identity, parent-children relationships, and the horrors and meaning of the Turkish genocide of millions of Armenians in 1915, which still haunts generations of Armenians. It is a story about truth and denial -- on both an intimate and a grand scale. The estranged members of a contemporary Armenian family are faced both with Turkey's denial of their catastrophic past and with their own complicated present: A mother who only wants peace, a young woman who wants nothing but retribution, and a young man whose journey to uncover his roots is jeopardizing his future. Told in Egoyan's trademark elliptical style -- much of the story revolves around a film within a film, also called "Ararat," by a respected Armenian director (Charles Aznavour), some of it kicked off by a Canadian customs agent (Christopher Plummer) detaining 18-year-old Raffi (David Alpay) at the airport and listening to his problems about his mother and his French girlfriend -- "Ararat" is at once a mysterious and powerful story about determining truth.
Director: Atom Egoyan. Stars: Christopher Plummer, Charles Aznavour, Elias Koteas, Arsinee Khanjian, Bruce Greenwood, Eric Bogosian. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 115 min.), Drama, 2002, Box office gross: $1.554 million, (Miramax), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 8/22, DVD: Day & Date.
A riveting, multi-layered suspense thriller that will keep you guessing until the end. John Travolta plays Tom Hardy, a former Army Ranger and discredited DEA agent who is drawn into an ever-widening mystery surrounding the disappearance of the feared and often hated U.S. Army drill instructor Sgt. Nathan West (Samuel L. Jackson), as well as several of his elite Special Forces trainees, on a routine training exercise during a hurricane in the jungles of Panama. With only two survivors found, both soldiers provide conflicting stories during the investigation as to what really happened. As the story unfolds, each layer reveals more lies and greater deceptions, until they finally inch towards the horrible facts about the fate of the missing Rangers. The film repeats past incidents from the different points of view of the survivors as Hardy and an Army investigator (Connie Nielsen) attempt to uncover the truth.
Director: John McTiernan. Stars: John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Connie Nielsen, Taye Diggs, Harry Connick Jr., Giovanni Ribisi, Brian Van Holt, Roselyn Sanchez. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 98 min.), Thriller, 2003, Box office gross: $26.403 million, (Columbia TriStar), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 19030708, DVD: Day & Date.
For Daredevil, justice is blind, and for the guilty, there's hell to pay! By day, blind attorney Matt Murdock (Ben Affleck) toils for justice in Hell's Kitchen. By night, he's Daredevil, The Man Without Fear, a powerful, masked vigilante stalking the dark streets and bringing justice to the downtrodden with an uncanny "radar sense" that allows him to "see" with superhuman capabilities. A freak accident has given Murdock his signature "radar sense " but doesn't give him super powers, which makes him all the more human. Following the accident, Murdock embarks on a rigorous training regimen to build his mind and body. He learns that he can "see" by the vibrations made by sound -- he can even hear a man's heart beating -- and he possesses extraordinary senses of touch and smell. Spurred on by his father's murder, Murdock devotes his life to justice. With longtime friend Franklin "Foggy" Nelson (Jon Favreau) he opens a storefront law office. When criminals beat the system, Murdock becomes the daredevil to bring street-style justice to the neighborhood. But when the love of his life, fiery Elektra Natchios (Jennifer Garner), is targeted by New York City's ruthless Kingpin of Crime (Michael Clarke Duncan) and his deadly assassin Bullseye (Colin Farrell), Daredevil may be about to meet his match. Unlike "Spider-Man's" Tobey Maguire -- who grows into his character before your very eyes and becomes a comic book human superhero -- Ben Affleck's "Daredevil" is never more than a comic book hero, the humanness left behind in the search for onscreen justice. Still, it's an all-out assault on the senses and special effects.
Director: Mark Steven Johnson. Stars: Ben Affleck, Michael Clarke Duncan, Jennifer Garner, Colin Farrell, Jon Favreau, Scott Terra, Ellen Pompeo, Joe Pantoliano, Coolio. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 103 min.), Action, 2003, Box office gross: $100.329 million, (Fox), $22.98 VHS SRP, Available: 19030729, DVD: Day & Date.
FINAL DESTINATION 2
You can't fool father death -- but you sure can try. This sequel to the 2000 sleeper horror hit picks up one year after the events of the first film -- in which a group of teens cheat death by leaving a doomed airliner but, one-by-one, are claimed by Death -- and follows nine people who, thanks to a premonition by teenager Kimberly (A.J. Cook), avoid a massive freeway pileup. But Death comes a'knockin and starts to get its due. Kimberly seeks out Clear Rivers (Ali Larter), one of the survivors of the first film, and the pair attempt to save the victims. As in the first go-round, Death strikes in unusual and outlandish ways, titillating the horror-lovers in the audience.
Director: David Ellis. Stars: Ali Larter, A.J. Cook, Michael Landes, David Paetkau, James Kirk. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 91 min.), Horror, 2003, Box office gross: $46.455 million, (New Line), $22.99 VHS SRP, Available: 7/22, DVD: Day & Date.
GANGS OF NEW YORK
Martin Scorsese's epic take on the rise of gangs in mid-19th century America. The film takes place in New York circa 1863, and chronicles the violence and brutality in an obscure corner of Lower Manhattan, the Five Points. Ruled by Bill the Butcher ( Daniel Day-Lewis) -- who has an unholy alliance with the infamous Boss Tweed (Jim Broadbent), who ruled New York -- the neighborhood is a hellhole of thieves, prostitutes, gamblers, drugs and murderers. It's also the new American melting pot in which a wave of immigrants enter a world ruled by the bigoted Nativists. Into this mix comes Amsterdam (Leonardo DiCaprio), an American-born Irish orphan out to avenge his father's (Liam Neeson) death at the hands of the Butcher. Amsterdam worms his way into the Butcher's gang and gets involved with a headstrong pickpocket (Cameron Diaz). The incredibly violent scenes -- and the film's climax -- are played out against the Civil War and the Draft Riots that almost destroyed the city. A sweeping look at an American Dream shaped as much by hatred and crime as by the desire for liberty and freedom.
Director: Martin Scorsese. Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Daniel Day-Lewis, Cameron Diaz, Jim Broadbent, John C. Reilly, Henry Thomas, Brendan Gleeson, Liam Neeson. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 168 min.), Drama, 2002, Box office gross: $78.000 million, (Miramax), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 7/1, DVD: Day & Date.
HOW TO LOSE A GUY IN 10 DAYS
Dippy comedy that struck a funny bone at the nation's boxoffice. Basically a two-person comedy about beautiful people who find love with each other despite their initial attempts to dissuade any such possibility. Matthew McConaughey plays an advertising man who -- to win an account -- bets that he can get any woman to fall in love with him in 10 days. Kate Hudson plays a writer for a woman's magazine who persuades her editor to let her write a story on what not to do in a relationship -- i.e. how to lose a guy in 10 days. Naturally the pair meet at a bar and -- well, let the battle begin.
Director: Donald Petrie. Stars: Kate Hudson, Matthew McConaughey, Bebe Neuwirth, Robert Klein, Kathryn Hahn. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 116 min.), Romantic comedy, 2003, Box office gross: $103.890 million, (Paramount), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 7/1, DVD:Day & Date .
LIFE OF DAVID GALE, THE
Kevin Spacey stars with Kate Winslet in this weak thriller. Spacey is a respected philosophy professor who advocates abolition of the death penalty. But a conspiracy and murderous deception begins when he's charged with rape and murder and it appears likely that -- only in the irony of melodrama -- he's be executed on Texas' death row. With four days left before his execution, he summons a newsmagazine reporter (Winslet) to tell his story to and declare his innocence. And naturally she tries to prove his innocence, even as the professor takes his last steps. Heavy footed and heavy handed.
Director: Alan Parker. Stars: Kevin Spacey, Kate Winslet, Laura Linney, Gabriel Mann, Rhona Mitra, Matt Craven. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 130 min.), Thriller, 2003, Box office gross: $19.593 million, (Universal), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 7/22, DVD: Day & Date.
An exciting thriller that takes place almost entirely in a phone booth. Colin Farrell plays Stu, a sleazy, fast-talking jerk who enters a phone booth in Manhattan to call what he hopes will be his new girlfriend (Katie Holmes) -- he doesn't use his cell phone cause his wife might find out. When he's done with his call, the phone rings, and on the other end is the voice of a man who informs Stu that if he hangs up he'll be killed -- the caller has a high-powered rifle aimed at him. To prove his point, the sniper kills a pimp who hassles Stu over his prolonged stay in the booth. When the NYPD show up -- headed by Forrest Whitaker -- Stu is not allowed to explain what's going on and the police have to figure things out before someone else gets killed. The motive -- the sniper (voiced by Kiefer Sutherland) is a vigilante who knocks off bad guys (greedy CEOs and pedophiles). Stu's crime -- he's a publicist. An offbeat and at-times thrilling outing by director Joel Schumacher and screenwriter Larry Cohen.
Director: Joel Schumacher. Stars: Colin Farrell, Kiefer Sutherland, Forest Whitaker, Radha Mitchell, Katie Holmes, Paula Jai Parker. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 80 min.), Thriller, 2003, Box office gross: $45.000 million, (Fox), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 7/8, DVD: Day & Date.
QUIET AMERICAN, THE
Faithful adaptation of Graham Greene's novel about pre-Vietnam War Indo-China. Michael Caine is superb as a drugged, boozed and sexed out British reporter grown accustomed to living the good colonial life in the tropical clime of Southeast Asia. It was a decadent time for the elite, but the cozy life was soon to be upset by more global concerns. Into the complacent life of Thomas Fowler (Caine) comes bright-eyed and bushy tailed American aid worker Alden Pyle (Brendan Fraser), whose idealism and desire to help the people of the third world also extends to Fowler's mistress. When the Times of London threatens to recall Fowler, he gets energized and starts an investigation into corruption and massacres, uncovering the fact that Pyle is not what he has professed to be.
Director: Phillip Noyce. Stars: Michael Caine, Brendan Fraser, Hai Yen Do, Rade Serbedzija, Tzi Ma. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 101 min.), Drama, 2002, Box office gross: $11.000 million, (Miramax), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 7/29, DVD: Day & Date.
READ MY LIPS
She teaches him good manners. He teaches her bad ones. Sexy French actors Emmanuelle Devos and Vincent Cassel star in this award-winning film noir thriller. Winner of three Cesar Awards including Best Actress and Best Original Writing, the film was also an Official Selection at the Toronto International Film Festival, Berlin International Film Festival, San Francisco International Film Festival and Opening Night at Rendezvous with New French Cinema at the Lincoln Center. Young secretary Carla (Devos) is a long-time employee of a property development company. Loyal and hardworking, first to arrive and last to leave, Carla is beginning to chafe at the limitations of her career and is looking to move up. But as a 35-year-old woman with a hearing deficiency, she is not sure how to climb out of her humdrum life, though she is confident in her own abilities. Carla has one skill that sets her above others: she can read lips and tell what people are saying across a crowded room. Into her life comes Paul Angeli (Cassel), a new trainee she decides to hire. Paul is 25 years old and completely unskilled -- he's a thief, fresh out of jail and very good looking. It's a symbiotic case of good meeting bad: he helps her steal office documents that allow her to rise the corporate ladder; she finds him a place to crash. When Paul has to quit to work off an IOU to sleazy nightclub owner Marchand (Olivier Gourmet), he decides that the two should join forces to rob Marchand using her excellent lip-reading abilities. A tense crime thriller. French with English subtitles.
Director: Jacques Audiard. Stars: Vincent Cassel, Emmanuelle Devos, Olivier Gourmet, Olivier Perrier, Olivia Bonamy, Bernard Alane. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 119 min.), Drama, 2002, Box office gross: $1.359 million, (Columbia TriStar), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 7/22, DVD: Day & Date.
Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson return in this entertaining follow-up to their 2000 kung fu Western "Shanghai Noon." There's plenty of slapstick, martial arts and bold anachronistic gags (supplied by Wilson). Chan plays Chon Wang, the wayward son of a traditional Chinese father, while Wilson is the cowardly sagebrush scalawag Roy O'Bannon. The film begins in China with the killing of Wang's father, who was the keeper of the imperial seal. Wang's sister, Chon Lin (Fann Wong) -- who also plays the romantic lead for Wilson -- vows to track down the murderer, Lord Rathbone, and retrieve the stolen seal. This leads her to London, where she contacts Wang, who is sheriff of Carson City. He's immediately on the road to join her. Traveling to turn-of-the-century New York, Wang picks up O'Bannon -- a born (but lovable) liar with a devious, woman-hungry nature. The pair travel to London, where they encounter fights, chases, arrests and escapes, with all sorts of allies and villains, including a thieving orphan, a Scotland Yard detective, Queen Victoria, the bastard son of the Chinese emperor, and a posse of sword-wielding Boxers from China.
Director: David Dobkin. Stars: Jackie Chan, Owen Wilson, Aaron Johnson, Thomas Fisher, Aidan Gillen, Fann Wong, Donnie Yen, Gemma Jones. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 114 min.), Western comedy, 2003, Box office gross: $58.460 million, (Buena Vista), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 7/15, DVD: Day & Date.
George Clooney turns in a stellar performance in this sci-fi movie from Steven Soderbergh. Based on Polish writer Stanislaw Lem's classic 1961 science fiction novel and the 1972 Andrei Tarkovsky Soviet film. Aboard a lonely space station orbiting the planet Solaris, terrified crew members are experiencing a host of strange phenomena, including eerie visitors who seem all too human. When psychologist Chris Kelvin (George Clooney) arrives to investigate, he confronts a power beyond imagining that could hold the key to mankind's deepest dreams or darkest nightmares. Somewhere on the planet below an alien lifeform seeps into Kelvin's mind and recreates for him his long-dead wife Rheya (Natascha McElhone). Is she really his wife? Kelvin is not sure, so he lures her into a pod and sends her into space. Did he make a mistake? Solaris gives him another chance. It's a creepy, claustrophobic adventure and speculation on reality and humanness highlighted by fine performances all around.
Director: Steven Soderbergh. Stars: George Clooney, Natascha McElhone, Jeremy Davies, Viola Davis, Ulrich Tukur. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 99 min.), Science Fiction, 2002, Box office gross: $14.970 million, (Fox), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 7/29, DVD: Day & Date.
Winner at the Toronto International Film Festival for Best Canadian Feature Film and Best Director (David Cronenberg) at the Genie Awards, "Spider" was also honored with nominations at the Cannes Film Festival, the European Film Awards and the Golden Satellite Awards. Set in East End London, this riveting psychological thriller tells the intense story of a deeply disturbed young boy nicknamed Spider who sees his father brutally murder his mother and replace her with a prostitute, Yvonne (Miranda Richardson). Convinced they plan to murder him next, Spider hatches an insane plan, which he carries through to tragic effect. Years later, Spider (Ralph Fiennes) is admitted to a halfway house for the mentally ill, where he receives little care or attention from the landlady, Mrs. Wilkinson (Lynn Redgrave). Unsupervised, Spider stops taking his medication for acute schizophrenia and starts revisiting his childhood haunts. His attempts to sustain his delusional account of his past begin to unravel and he spirals into fresh madness and loses his fragile grip on reality.
Director: David Cronenberg. Stars: Ralph Fiennes, Miranda Richardson, Ganriel Byrnes, Lynn Redgrave, John Neville. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 98 min.), Thriller, 2002, Box office gross: $1.490 million, (Columbia TriStar), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 7/29, 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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July 1, 2003