OnVideo MARCH Video Reviews
AFTER THE SUNSET
This high-stakes action comedy begins where most heist movies end -- with a pair of master thieves escaping to a tropical paradise to enjoy the spoils of their labor. But when an FBI agent, who has pursued them for seven years, becomes convinced that they are actually plotting to pull off a million-dollar theft from a nearby "diamond cruise," a riveting game of cat and mouse begins. Max "The King of Alibis" Burdett (Pierce Brosnan) and his beautiful accomplice Lola (Salma Hayek) have come to Paradise Island in the Bahamas, fresh off their final big score in which they lifted the second of the three famous Napoleon diamonds. With their financial future set, the couple is ready to relax and enjoy their hard-earned riches. But Stan (Woody Harrelson), the FBI agent who has spent years in dogged but failed pursuit of Max, refuses to believe that his nemesis is actually calling it quits. He thinks that Max and Lola are actually plotting to steal the third Napoleon diamond -- one of the three largest non-flawed diamonds in the world -- which is coincidentally scheduled to arrive on Paradise Island as part of a touring cruise ship exhibition. Since he has no jurisdiction in the Caribbean country, Stan teams with a local cop (Naomie Harris) and sets out to catch the sly Max and Lola in the act, while at the same time a local gangster (Don Cheadle) has his own plans for the diamond. When the longtime adversaries meet up in paradise, Max quickly turns the tables and befriends the frustrated detective, showing him that Paradise Island has no shortage of pleasures to offer. But in order for Stan to figure out exactly what Max and Lola are up to, he will have to navigate all the twists and double-crosses of friendship, suspicion and thievery.
Director: Brett Ratner. Stars: Pierce Brosnan, Salma Hayek, Woody Harrelson, Don Cheadle, Naomie Harris, Chris Penn, Mykelti Williamson, Obba Babatunde. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 97 min.), Caper comedy, 2004, Box office gross: $28.287 million, (New Line), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 3/29, DVD: Day & Date.
Alfie Elkins (Jude Law) works as a limousine driver, chauffeuring the wealthy through the streets of Manhattan, and occasionally making love to his lonely female clients in the backseat. He's a philosophical womanizer who is forced to question his seemingly carefree existence. Though he has his ambitions, he wants only enough to get by, his primary focus being the pleasures of life -- without any of the responsibilities. Ultimately, his freewheeling lifestyle begins to slowly unravel. The original "Alfie" captured a blend of romp and reality that was shocking and innovative in its time, and introduced a young Michael Caine to the world. In this contemporary re-invention, Alfie is now an irresistible Londoner who has taken up residence in Manhattan, where he hopes to make his fortune -- and make love to as many beautiful women as possible. Check out the original first.
Director: Charles Shyer. Stars: Jude Law, Jane Krakowski, Marisa Tomei, Omar Epps, Susan Sarandon, Sienna Miller, Nia Long, Gedde Watanabe. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 103 min.), Comedy drama, 2004, Box office gross: $13.386 million, (Paramount), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 3/15, DVD: Day & Date.
Annette Bening plays a beautiful and beguiling actress who finds herself bored with her role as the toast of the town in 1930s London. Julia Lambert (Bening) is a true diva: beautiful, talented, wealthy and famous. She has it all -- including a devoted husband (Jeremy Irons) who has masterminded her brilliant career -- but after years of shining in the spotlight she begins to suffer from a severe case of boredom and longs for something new and exciting to put the twinkle back in her eye. Julia finds exactly what she's looking for in a handsome young American fan, but it isn't long before the novelty fling adds a few more sparks than she was hoping for. Fortunately for her, this surprise twist in the plot will thrust her back into the greatest role of her life -- being Julia.
Director: Istvan Szabo. Stars: Annette Bening, Jeremy Irons, Bruce Greenwood, Miriam Margolyes, Juliet Stevenson, Shaun Evans, Lucy Punch, Maury Chaykin, Sheila McCarthy, Michael Gambon. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 103 min.), Drama, 2004, Box office gross: $3.555 million, (Sony), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 3/22, DVD: Day & Date.
BRIDGET JONES: THE EDGE OF REASON
Bridget Jones (Renee Zellweger) -- the 30-something, self-doubting, self-analyzing, career-minded, calorie-counting London singleton of "Bridget Jones's Diary -- has found romantic bliss. For six glorious weeks she has been the girlfriend of the exquisitely flawless human rights lawyer Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) and nothing could be better. Or --- could it? Despite Darcy's apparent devotion, Bridget still finds herself asking questions about life, love and the proper way to put away underwear. Having finally found her man, Bridget is faced with the equally flummoxing challenge of keeping him. She can't help but wonder: what exactly is it that comes after the happily ever after? And just as she's starting to figure it all out, enter the competition: Darcy's drop-dead, legs-up-to-there, never-says-the-wrong-thing new colleague. Suddenly jealousy, uncertainty and temptation -- in the form of Bridget's former boss and womanizing heart-throb Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant) -- threaten to upend Bridget's dream in a comic maze of bad advice, silly mix-ups and total disasters that could only happen to her.
Director: Beeban Kidron. Stars: Renee Zellweger, Colin Firth, Hugh Grant, Gemma Jones, Jim Broadbent, James Faulkner, Celia Imrie, Dominic McHale, Donald Douglas, Shirley Dixon. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 108 min.), Comedy, 2004, Box office gross: $39.877 million, (Universal), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 3/22, DVD: Day & Date.
EXORCIST, THE: THE BEGINNING
Prequel to William Friedkin's "The Exorcist." Father Lankester Merrin thinks that he has glimpsed the face of Evil. In the years following World War II, Merrin (Stellan Skarsgard) is relentlessly haunted by memories of the unspeakable brutality perpetrated against the innocent people of his parish. In the wake of all he has seen, both his faith in his fellow man and his faith in the Almighty have deserted him. He can no longer honestly call himself a man of God. Merrin has traveled far from his native Holland in a desperate attempt to escape the horrors that he witnessed there. While drifting through Cairo, he is approached by a collector of rare antiquities to join a British archeological excavation in the remote Turkana region of Kenya. They have unearthed a Christian Byzantine church in inexplicably pristine condition -- as if it had been buried on the day it was completed. The collector wants Merrin, an Oxford-educated archeologist, to find an ancient relic hidden within the church before the British discover it. But beneath the church, something much older sleeps, waiting to be awakened. Madness descends upon the local villagers and the contingent of British soldiers sent to guard the excavation. Merrin watches helplessly as the atrocities of war are repeated against another innocent village -- atrocities he had prayed never to see again. The blood of innocents flows freely on the East African plain, and the horror has only just begun. In the place where Evil was born, Merrin will finally see its true face.
Director: Renny Harlin. Stars: Stellan Skarsgard, Izabella Scorupco, James D'Arcy, Remy Sweeney, Julian Wadham, Andrew French, Ralph Brown, Ben Cross. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 114 min.), Horror thriller, 2004, Box office gross: $41.814 million, (Warner), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 3/1, DVD: Day & Date.
The magical true story of J.M. Barrie, the author of "Peter Pan." Johnny Depp stars as Barrie, a respected playwright who finds both his career and his marriage crumbling around him. After writing a complete flop, Barrie struggles with his producer (Dustin Hoffman) to create a hit. Upon meeting the beautiful widow Sylvia Llewelyn Davies (Kate Winslet) and her four boys, Barrie discovers inspiration and a happiness he has not previously known. Barrie bonds with the family, especially young Peter (Freddie Highmore), and through their adventures together he forms the magical stories that would become his world-famous play "Peter Pan." Barrie's friendship with the Davies family, however, is endangered by Sylvia's jealous mother (Julie Christie) and Barrie's own complicated marriage to his wife Mary (Radha Mitchell).
Director: Marc Forster. Stars: Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, Julie Christie, Radha Mitchell, Dustin Hoffman, Freddie Highmore, Joe Prospero, Nick Roud, Luke Spill, Ian Hart. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 106 min.), Family, 2004, Box office gross: $24.676 million, (Miramax), $24.99 VHS SRP, Available: 3/22, DVD: Day & Date.
FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX
Remake of the 1965 Robert Aldrich film with James Stewart, Richard Attenborough, Peter Finch, Hardy Kruger and Ernest Borgnine. A retelling that keeps all the excitement of the original with extra added dollops of suspense, intrigue, realism and special effects. When cargo plane pilot Frank Towns (Dennis Quaid) and co-pilot AJ are sent to the Tansag Basin in Mongolia to evacuate the staff of an oil exploration operation that has been shut down, they have no idea that this routine operation will result in a life-and-death struggle. Shortly after take-off, while flying across the Gobi Desert, the plane encounters a massive sandstorm and they're forced to crash land in the middle of the world's most foreboding desert -- in the middle of July. The plane is damaged beyond repair, and the surviving 11 passengers and crew are stranded with little food and water. An eccentric, mysterious man named Elliott (Giovanni Ribisi) -- a last-minute addition to the passenger list who claims to be a flight engineer -- offers hope by suggesting that they build a new plane, to be named the Phoenix, from the undamaged components of the wrecked C-119 cargo plane. Towns and the others dismiss Elliott's plan as being impractical, if not absurd. But as their numbers dwindle and all chance of being rescued fades, and facing the brutal environment, dwindling resources, and an attack by desert smugglers, they realize that Elliott's plan is their only chance. The survivors put aside their differences and, under Elliott's guidance, begin construction of the Phoenix.
Director: John Moore. Stars: Dennis Quaid, Tyrese, Giovanni Ribisi, Miranda Otto, Tony Curran, Sticky Fingaz, Jacob Vargas, Hugh Laurie. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 105 min.), Action-adventure, 2004, Box office gross: $20.479 million, (Fox), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 3/1, DVD: Day & Date.
The incredible "The Incredibles" follows the adventures of a family of former superheroes rediscovering the true source of their powers -- one another. Once one of the world's top masked crime fighters, Bob Parr (AKA Mr. Incredible) fought evil and saved lives on a daily basis. But 15 years later, he and his wife Helen (the former Elastigirl) have been forced to take on civilian identities and retreat to the suburbs. Today they, and all superheroes, live as mere mortals. Bob and Helen lead all-too-ordinary lives with their children, Violet and Dashiell "Dash" Parr, who go out of their way to appear "normal." As a clock-punching insurance man, the only thing Bob fights these days is boredom and a bulging waistline. Itching for action, the sidelined superhero gets his chance when a mysterious communication summons him to a remote island for a top-secret assignment. Now, with the fate of the world hanging in the balance, the family must come together and once again find the fantastic in their family life. The most complex computer-animated entertainment ever created, "The Incredibles" nevertheless relies on the same traditional elements as all compelling motion picture stories -- character development, production design, cinematography, costumes, effects, music and overall vision -- pushing each of these to new levels within the genre.
Director: Brad Bird. Stars: Voices of Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L. Jackson, Jason Lee, Dominique Louis, Teddy Newton, Jean Sincere, Eli Fucile, Maeve Andrews, Wallace Shawn, Spencer Fox, Lou Romano, Wayne Canney, Sar. CC, (MPAA rating: PG, 115 min.), Animated, 2004, Box office gross: $256.739 million, (Disney), $24.99 VHS SRP, Available: 3/15, DVD: Day & Date.
Action drama that celebrates the ordinary men who put everything on the line to become heroes. Baltimore firefighter Jack Morrison (Joaquin Phoenix) grows from inexperienced rookie to seasoned veteran as he copes with a risky, dangerous job that often shortchanges his wife (Jacinda Barrett) and kids. He relies on the support of his second family -- Captain Mike Kennedy (John Travolta) and the men of the firehouse. When Jack becomes trapped in the worst blaze of his career, the firefighters of Ladder 49 learn that the greatest fight they face will be saving one of their own.
Director: Jay Russell. Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, John Travolta, Robert Patrick, Morris Chestnut, Jacinda Barrett. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 115 min.), Action, 2004, Box office gross: $72.039 million, (Buena Vista), $24.99 VHS SRP, Available: 3/8, DVD: Day & Date.
THE SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS MOVIE
Ah, the simple, quiet life of Bikini Bottom, where home is a pineapple and a Krabby Patty is always served hot and fresh just around the corner at the Krusty Krab. But things get wild in the underwater paradise that SpongeBob SquarePants calls home. When he and his dimwitted best friend Patrick set out on an epic quest, SpongeBob finds himself driving a sandwich on a road trip where he'll discover new worlds, dangerous monsters, and that being a kid isn't such a bad thing after all.
Director: Stephen Hillenburg. Stars: Voices of Tom Kenny, Clancy Brown, Rodger Bumpass, Bill Fagerbakke, Carolyn Lawrence. CC, (MPAA rating: PG, 90 min.), Animated, 2004, Box office gross: $81.900 million, (Paramount), $14.99 VHS SRP, Available: 3/1, DVD: Day & Date.
Vera Drake (Imelda Staunton) is a beloved wife and mother who is completely devoted to, and loved by, her working class family. Vera spends her days cleaning houses for money and caring for her sick neighbor and elderly mother. But Vera also performs another duty that her family doesn't know about -- she secretly visits women and helps them induce miscarriages for unwanted pregnancies. While the practice itself was illegal in 1950s England, Vera sees herself as simply helping women in need and always does so with a smile and kind words of encouragement. When tragedy befalls a young client of Vera's, the truth comes out, and Vera's world and family life rapidly unravel.
Director: Mike Leigh. Stars: Imelda Staunton, Phil Davis, Peter Wight, Adrian Scarborough, Heather Craney, Richard Graham, Eddie Marsan. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 125 min.), Drama, 2004, Box office gross: $2.842 million, (New Line), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 3/29, DVD: Only.
WHAT THE 'BLEEP' DO WE KNOW?
Part documentary, part story, and part elaborate and inspiring visual effects and animations. The drama part involves Amanda, played by Marlee Matlin, who finds herself in a fantastic Alice in Wonderland experience when her daily, uninspired life literally begins to unravel, revealing the uncertain world of the quantum field hidden behind what we consider to be our normal, waking reality. Amanda is literally plunged into a swirl of chaotic occurrences, while the characters she encounters on this odyssey reveal the deeper, hidden knowledge she doesn't even realize she has asked for. Like every hero, Amanda is thrown into crisis, questioning the fundamental premises of her life -- that the reality she has believed in about how men are, how relationships with others should be, and how her emotions are affecting her work isn't reality at all. As Amanda learns to relax into the experience, she conquers her fears, gains wisdom, and wins the keys to the great secrets of the ages, all in the most entertaining way. She is then no longer the victim of circumstances, but she is on the way to being the creative force in her life. Her life will never be the same. The 14 top scientists and mystics interviewed in documentary style serve as a modern day Greek Chorus. In an artful filmic dance, their ideas are woven together as a tapestry of truth. The thoughts and words of one member of the chorus blend into those of the next, adding further emphasis to the film's underlying concept of the interconnectedness of all things. The chorus members act as hosts who live outside of the story, and from this Olympian view, comment on the actions of the characters below. They are also there to introduce the Great Questions framed by both science and religion, which divides the film into a series of acts. Through the course of the film, the distinction between science and religion becomes increasingly blurred, since we realize that, in essence, both science and religion describe the same phenomena. The film employs animation to realize the radical knowledge that modern science has unearthed in recent years. Powerful cinematic sequences explore the inner-workings of the human brain. Quirky animation introduces us to the smallest form of consciousness in the body -- the cell. An astounding outing.
Director: William Arntz, Betsy Chasse. Stars: Marlee Matlin, Elaine Hendrix, Barry Newman, Robert Bailey Jr., John Ross Bowie, Armin Shimerman, Robert Blanche. CC, (MPAA rating: NR, 90 min.), Mockumentary, 2004, Box office gross: $10.478 million, (Fox), $24.98 VHS SRP, Available: 3/15, 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 28, 2005