OnVideo MAY Video Reviews
A bizarre, witty, black comedy from the director and creator of "Being John Malkovitch." This unconventional outing stars Nicolas Cage as Charlie Kaufman, a confused and cynical L.A. screenwriter (and real life screenwriter of the film) overwhelmed by feelings of inadequacy, sexual frustration, self-loathing and by the screen-writing ambitions of his freeloading twin brother Donald (also played by Cage). While struggling to adapt the non-fiction book "The Orchid Thief" by author Susan Orlean (Meryl Streep), which is the story of an exotic orchid collector/poacher John Laroche (Chris Cooper), Kaufman's life spins from pathetic to bizarre. Facing major writer's block (this story is set during the filming of "Malkovitch," which Kaufman wrote), Donald -- who, unlike his brother, has great success with women -- takes over the screenplay and turns it into a thriller about a serial killer. Charlie flies to New York to enlist the aid of Orlean but is afraid to approach her. There he takes a seminar with his brother's writing guru, Robert McKee (Brian Cox), and is persuaded that all he really needs is a great ending. Donald now comes to New York to work with Charlie, and the screenplay goes totally out of control with sex, drugs and violence in the Florida Everglades. It's definitely over the top. The film made over 150 critics' Best Films of 2002 lists and became one of the best-reviewed films of the year. It was the winner of two Golden Globe Awards: for Best Supporting Actress (Streep) and Best Supporting Actor (Cooper).The screenplay has been honored with Best Screenplay Awards from the National Board of Review, the New York Film Critics Circle, the Broadcast Film Critics Association, and the Writers Guild.
Director: Spike Jonze. Stars: Nicolas Cage, Merly Streep, Chris Cooper, Tilda Swinton, Cara Seymour, Brian Cox, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Ron Livingston. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 111 min.), Black Comedy, 2002, Box office gross: $21.800 million, (Columbia TriStar), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 5/20, DVD: Day & Date.
Mob comedy sequel to the 1999 blockbuster "Analyze This." Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal re-team as the funny gangster patient and therapist. Infamous Mafioso Paul Vitti (De Niro) is suffering a nervous breakdown while serving time in prison. As a result, he is granted a conditional release into the custody and care of his psychotherapist, Ben Sobel (Crystal). As therapy continues and Sobel tries to get to the bottom of Vitti's psychosis, Sobel realizes his patient might not be as crazy as he claims to be. Vitti's apparent "breakdown" may merely be a carefully orchestrated act to get out of prison so he can resume his duties as a mob boss. Lisa Kudrow returns as Crystal's beleaguered wife, who is less than thrilled when her husband's psychotic mobster patient becomes their uninvited houseguest. Plenty of mob and shrink related gags.
Director: Harold Ramis. Stars: Billy Crystal, Robert De Niro, Lisa Kudrow, Joe Viterelli, Cathy Moriarty, John Finn, Kyle Sabihy. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 95 min.), Comedy, 2002, Box office gross: $31.953 million, (Warner), $22.99 VHS SRP, Available: 5/13, DVD: Day & Date.
Inspired by the true life experiences of its titular character, this first time directorial outing by Denzel Washington pushes all the right buttons in its exploration of the troubled life of a young Navy man whose anger constantly gets him in trouble. Sent to a naval psychiatrist (played by Washington), Fisher learns to cope with his past -- a childhood that included abandonment and abuse -- and move on into the prese
Director: Denzel Washington. Stars: Derek Luke, Joy Bryant, Denzel Washington, Novella Nelson, Earl Billings. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 120 min.), Drama, 2002, Box office gross: $21.000 million, (Fox), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 5/20, DVD: Day & Date.
CATCH ME IF YOU CAN
Based on the autobiography of a brilliant young master of deception and the FBI agent hot on his trail, "Catch Me If You Can" stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks in the extraordinary true story of Frank W. Abagnale Jr. (DiCaprio), a runaway teenager who passed millions of dollars of fraudulent checks and who successfully passed himself off as a pilot, a lawyer and a doctor -- all before his 21st birthday. Set in and -- and delightfully evoking -- the swingin' 60s (Abagnale definitely had a way with the women). The pleasant suburban life of the Abagnale family is destroyed when the IRS relentlessly stalks Frank Sr. for tax evasion; when Frank Sr. and his French-born wife divorce, Frank Jr. is devastated -- and runs away to New York City, where he becomes adept at check-kiting: opening checking accounts and bilking the banks of thousands of dollars. Frank Jr. raises the stakes on his deception, passing more and more bad checks in all 50 States as he "becomes," first, an airline co-pilot, a doctor and, finally, a lawyer -- all the while staying one step ahead of Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks), the tight-lipped and straight-laced FBI agent who makes Frank Jr.'s capture his number one priority. Unlike Steven Spielberg's last two (science fiction) outings, the director has a firm hand on these proceedings, moving the characters and storyline forward in a delightfully wry and at-times comedic fashion. And the opening title sequence (which is also used for the DVD's menus) has to be one of the niftiest since the heyday of Saul Bass.
Director: Steven Spielberg. Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Christopher Walken, Nathalie Baye, Martin Sheen, Amy Adams, Jennifer Garner, James Brolin. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 141 min.), Thriller, 2002, Box office gross: $170.000 million, (DreamWorks), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 5/6, DVD: Day & Date.
Comic genius and award-winning performer Jerry Seinfeld stars in this behind-the-scenes look at the backstage life of stand-up comics. Seinfeld is revealed as you've never seen him before, as the movie follows Jerry and such famous as Chris Rock to see how they deal with performance anxiety, jokes that fall flat, finding material and fame.
EMPEROR'S CLUB, THE
Extraordinary story about the true meaning of personal honor and integrity stars Kevin Kline as a passionate and principled professor who finds his tightly-controlled world inexorably shaken by a new student. Based on the short story "The Palace Thief" by Ethan Canin, the film stars Kevin Kline as William Hundert, a passionate and principled Classics professor who finds his universe altered when a new student, Sedgewick Bell (Emile Hirsch), walks into his classroom. What begins as a fierce battle of wills gives way to a close student-teacher relationship, but results in a life lesson for Hundert that will still haunt him a quarter of a century later.
Director: Michael Hoffman. Stars: Kevin Kline, Emile Hirsch, Embeth Davidtz, Rob Morrow, Edward Herrmann. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 109 min.), Drama, 2002, Box office gross: $14.060 million, (Universal), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 5/6, DVD: Day & Date.
In the not-too-distant future, humankind has outlawed all things that can cause strong emotions -- literature, art, music -- in an attempt to end wars and keep the peace. A special breed of police -- martial-arts trained "Clerics" with high-powered weapons -- are assigned to eliminate all who break this law. When the top emotions enforcer (Christian Bale) misses a dose of an emotion-blocking drug, he discovers that things are not as they seem. Discovering a new world of sensation, he gains a passion to fight for freedom and overthrow the system. A slow-moving story line punctuated with high-paced "Matrix"-like fight and action scenes. And the opening sequence is definitely an homage to "Fahrenheit 451," a film to which this outing owes much debt.
Director: Kurt Wimmer. Stars: Christian Bale, Taye Diggs, Emily Watson, Sean Bean. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 107 min.), Science Fiction, 2002, Box office gross: $1.190 million, (Dimension), No VHS SRP, Priced for rentalx, Available: 5/13, DVD: Day & Date.
GUY THING, A
Lame comedy about a bachelor who unknowingly falls for his fiance's cousin at his bachelor party. Waking up next to Becky (Julia Stiles), the hot tiki dancer from his bachelor party, Paul (Jason Lee) has to come up with a quick set of lies to protect his bride-to-be Karen (Selma Blair). But then Becky's underwear turns up in Paul's couch and Becky's ex turns in some incriminating photos of Paul. Worse, Becky turns out to be Karen's cousin. This leads to a host of white lies and dumb situations. But there's no magnetism between any of the characters to justify the set-ups, and the film spirals downhill to a screwball wedding scene in which Paul must choose the woman of his life.
Director: Chris Koch. Stars: Jason Lee, Julia Stiles, Selma Blair, James Brolin, Shawn Hatosy, Lochlyn Munro, Diana Scarwid. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 101 min.), Comedy, 2002, Box office gross: $15.408 million, (MGM), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 5/27, DVD: Day & Date.
HOT CHICK, THE
Rob Schneider stars in this body-switch comedy in which a teenage girl finds herself stuck in the body of a petty criminal -- and vice versa. Body-switch-or-reincarnation-in-another's-body-themed films have always been a hoot, epitomized in modern times by 1978's "Heaven Can Wait," 1991's "Switch," 1992's "Prelude to a Kiss," 1998's "Big" and 2001's "Down to Earth" (have I missed any recent ones?). This version ups the ante by going to extremes -- Jessica (Rachel McAdams) is a pretty high school cheerleader with an attitude and Clive (Schneider) is a raunchy crook. Just before a major cheerleading competition, Jessica steals a set of magic earrings but drops one at the scene of one of Clive's robberies. Naturally Clive picks up the earring and puts it on; the next morning Jessica and Clive have switched bodies. There's some wonderful gender-switch jokes and very strange situations: the first time Jessica-in-Clive enters the men's locker room at school; Jessica's love-starved mom hitting on Clive/Jessica, who poses as a Latino gardener to get back to her house; Jessica's best friend (Anna Faris) falling for Clive/Jessica; and much more. At the other extreme, we have nasty Clive in a teenage girl's body -- which he uses to his advantage to make money. And, like "Tootsie," Clive/Jessica finds an epiphany by taking on the role of the opposite sex, and it changes her -- and the world around her -- for the better. But you have to suspend a lot of disbelief. The main thrust of the film is Schneider, who has a great time playing a teenage girl, and we enjoy him for it.
Director: Tom Brady. Stars: Rob Schneider, Anna Faris, Matthew Lawrence, Rachel McAdams, Eric Christian Olsen, Robert Davi, Melora Hardin. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 102 min.), Comedy, 2002, Box office gross: $34.314 million, (Buena Vista), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 5/13, DVD: Day & Date
Weird "humanizing" of Adolf Hitler via a fictional friendship set in post-WWI Germany between the future monster (Noah Taylor) and Jewish art dealer Max Rothman (John Cusack) who takes the struggling artist (Hitler was a painter before a dictator) under his wing. Rothman is in love with modernism and exhibits the "new" art in his gallery; he urges Hitler to put his anger and passion into his art. Unfortunately, Hitler takes his art and puts it into his politics, relying on modernism (which he later declared "decadent") to help him design the trappings of his Third Reich. A definite art-house outing -- and very fascinating.
Director: Menno Meyjes. Stars: John Cusack, Noah Taylor, Leelee Sobieski, Molly Parker. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 110 min.), Drama, 2002, Box office gross: $0.527 million, (Lions gate), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 5/20, DVD: Day & Date.
Run of the mill action comedy for Martin Lawrence fans only. LAPD reject and major troublemaker Earl (Martin Lawrence) got L.A. cop Hank (Steve Zahn) kicked off the force for being falsely accused of brutality. Naturally they hate each other but, by a twist of fate, they become mismatched partners working as lowly security guards. And they're playing cops to bring down a smuggling operation -- which may or may not involve high-ranking members of the LAPD. Now they have to battle each other and stay one step ahead of the real cops.
Director: Dennis Dugan. Stars: Martin Lawrence, Steve Zahn, Eric Roberts, Bill Duke, Colm Feore. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 88 min.), Action comedy, 2003, Box office gross: $35.764 million, (Columbia TriStar), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 5/27, DVD: Day & Date.
Testimony to the power of music, the will to live, and the courage to stand against evil. Remarkable, real-life tale of celebrated composer and pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman (Adrien Brody), a Polish Jew who eluded the Nazis and managed to survive in the war-torn Warsaw Ghetto. Szpilman was the most acclaimed young musician of his time, until his promising career was interrupted by the onset of World War II. This powerful, ultimately triumphant film follows Szpilman's heroic and inspirational journey of survival with the unlikely help of a sympathetic German officer (Thomas Kretschmann). For director Roman Polanski, "The Pianist" is his most personal statement. At the age of seven, he escaped the Cracow Ghetto through a hole in a barbed-wire fence. "The Pianist" marks the first time the director had made a movie in Poland in 40 years. The film won Oscars for Best Director (Polanski), Best Actor (Adrien Brody) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Ronald Harwood).
Director: Roman Polanski. Stars: Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann, Frank Finlay, Maureen Lipman, Emilia Fox, Jessica Kate Meyer. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 149 min.), Drama, 2002, Box office gross: $14.814 million, (Universal), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 5/27, DVD: Day & Date.
Above average spy thriller that revolves around the recruiting and training of CIA agents. Al Pacino plays Walter Burke, a high-powered CIA veteran who recruits Colin Farrell's computer whiz, James Clayton, by asserting that Clayton's father, who died mysteriously a decade earlier in a plane crash in South America, was also a "spook." It's off to the CIA training camp, the "Farm," where agents are trained to be liars and cheats, and where Pacino keeps pounding into the heads of the new recruits: "Trust no one" and "Nothing is what it seems" (also words of wisdom to the audience). At the Farm the recruits are taught to master the fine lethal arts, and its here that Clayton develops a sexual attraction to fellow agent Layla (Bridget Moynahan) and an animosity to agent Zack (Gabriel Macht). From here its back to CIA headquarters, where missions are assigned and double-crossing and betrayals come to the fore. Most of the best action takes place at the Farm, where explosions and violence abound. Highly watchable outing.
Director: Roger Donaldson. Stars: Al Pacino, Colin Farrell, Bridget Moynahan, Gabriel Macht, Mike Realba. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 115 min.), Thriller, 2003, Box office gross: $52.154 million, (Buena Vista), $15.95 VHS SRP, Available: 5/27, DVD: Day & Date.
STAR TREK NEMESIS
Weakest of the Star Trek Next Generation outings. Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) and the Enterprise crew find themselves on a diplomatic mission to initiate peace with the Romulans. Learning that the Romulans have undergone a political upheaval, and their new leader, a Praetor, wants to discuss a peace treaty with the Federation, Picard and crew must investigate the situation and determine their sincerity. But Picard and crew learn that not only is the new Praetor not a Romulan at all, they also find that he is a human replica of Picard, originally bio-engineered by the Romulans to be substituted for the captain as a weapon against the federation. Now Picard and crew must determine if the Romulans truly desire a peace treaty or if they have other plans in mind.
Director: Stuart Baird. Stars: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, Gates McFadden, LaVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Marina Sirtis. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 116 min.), Science Fiction, 2002, Box office gross: $42.976 million, (Paramount), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 5/20, DVD: Day & Date.
TALK TO HER
Powerfully moving story of exceptional compassion, loneliness and generosity between two friends, and the long convalescence of wounds provoked by passion. After a chance encounter at a theater, two men, Benigno (Javier Camara) and Marco (Dario Grandinetti), develop an intense friendship developed by tragedies they both share. Lydia (Rosario Flores), Marco's girlfriend and a bullfighter by profession, has been gored by a bull and is in a coma. It so happens that Benigno is looking after another woman, a young ballet dancer named Alicia (Leonor Watling) rendered comatose after a traffic accident. The parallel lives of the four characters flows in all directions -- past, present and future -- dragging all of them towards an unsuspected destiny. Nominated for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay Oscars and winner of Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Film, in addition to being honored by the National Board of Review, the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn., the European Film Awards.
Director: Pedro Almodovar. Stars: Javier Camara, Dario Grandinetti, Rosario Flores, Leonor Watling. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 114 min.), Drama, 2002, Box office gross: $8.380 million, (Columbia TriStar), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 5/13, DVD: Day & Date.
Edward Norton turns in a fine performance as a middle-class drug dealer who experiences his last 24 hours of freedom before turning himself in for a seven-year prison sentence, hooking up with people from his past (best pals and a teacher from high school days, his dad, his live-in girlfriend, and other assorted denizens of New York City). There's several subplots revolving around these people, but the gist of the film is Norton's Monty Brogan and the way his view of the world around him changes now that he faces prison walls. A very downbeat outing.
Director: Spike Lee. Stars: Edward Norton, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Brittany Murphy, Rosario Dawson, Barry Pepper, Anna Paquin, Brian Cox, Tony Siragusa. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 135 min.), Drama, 2002, Box office gross: $13.000 million, (Buena Vista), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 5/20, 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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April 30, 2003