OnVideo NOVEMBER Video Reviews
Action-director Joel Schumacher takes a very serious actor (Anthony Hopkins), a comic whiz (Chris Rock) and lots of special effects, combines them with a CIA thriller involving identical twins and switched identities, mixes well and comes up with a dud. Hopkins plays CIA agent Gaylord Oakes who, along with partner Kevin Pope (Rock), is about to finish a deal to buy a nuke and capture some bad guys when Pope is killed. Fortunately for the CIA, Pope has an identical twin -- separated at birth, of course. But unlucky for them, that twin is one Jake Hayes, a New York neer-do-well who jumps at the opportunity (for money, of course) to impersonate his dead brother and complete the deal. Now Hopkins and the CIA have just nine days to turn Hayes into a gleaming member of the secret agency. The laughs mostly come from the fish-out-water Hayes trying to become the suave Pope. For the most part, though, the film failed to tickle any funnybones.
Director: Joel Schumacher. Stars: Anthony Hopkins, Chris Rock, Gabriel Macht, Matthew Marsh, Kerry Washington, Adoni Maropis, Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon, Brooke Smith. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 116 min.), Comedy, 2002, Box office gross: $29.682 million, (Buena Vista), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 11/12, DVD: Day & Date.
DANGEROUS LIVES OF ALTAR BOYS, THE
Offbeat coming of age saga. An official entry at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival, "The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys" is a dark comedy about a rebellious group of eighth grade boys at a Savannah Catholic school. When the boys get caught drawing an obscene comic book featuring priests and nuns having sex, they avenge with daring prank on their ultra-strict teacher, nasty peg-legged nun Sister Assumpta (Jodie Foster), in hopes of becoming local legends. Also features comic book art by Thomas Fleming and imagination animation segments art directed by Spawn creator Todd McFarlane.
Director: Peter Care. Stars: Jodie Foster, Kieram Culkin, Jena Malone, Emile Hirsch, Vincent D'Onofrio. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 105 min.), Drama, 2002, Box office gross: $11.743 million, (Columbia TriStar), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 11/5, DVD: Day & Date.
DIVINE SECRETS OF THE YA-YA SISTERHOOD
Sidda Lee Walker (Sandra Bullock), a prominent young playwright living in New York City, is a long way from her Louisiana hometown and a nice safe distance from her loving, but highly dramatic and eccentric mother, Vivi (Ellen Burstyn). And that's just fine with her. When a Time magazine profile on Sidda implies that Vivi was not a good mother, Vivi is outraged and mother and daughter begin a fight that threatens to destroy not only their relationship but Sidda's tenuous wedding plans. Enter the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (Fionnula Flanagan, Shirley Knight, Maggie Smith) -- Vivi's intrepid gang of lifelong friends, eager to restore peace, no matter what it takes.
Director: Callie Khouri. Stars: Sandra Bullock, Ashley Judd, Ellen Burstyn, Maggie Smith, James Garner, Shirley Knight, Fionnula Flanagan, Angus Macfadyen. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 116 min.), Comedy-Drama, 2002, Box office gross: $68.684 million, (Warner), $22.98 VHS SRP, Available: 11/5, DVD: Day & Date.
From the very first opening seconds you know that this animated adventure is going to be a snow-covered sled ride of fun and hilarity. The film opens with Scrat (a prehistoric squirrel/rat) hyperactively trying to bury an acorn into the ice of a giant glacier, causing a monumental avalanche from which the little critter runs -- barely one step ahead of disaster. From there the story segues to the main characters -- though Scrat makes occasional appearances throughout, and at the end of, the film -- Manfred, a wooly mammoth migrating South, and Sid, an obnoxious sloth who tags along with Manfred on the journey. The main plot line involves a group of saber-toothed tigers who want to get even with humans by kidnapping a human child. Unfortunately for the big cats, the child falls into the hands of Manfred and Sid, who vow to take care of it and return it to its family. So the sneaky Sabers send one of their own -- Diego -- to join the pair to lead them into an ambush. Much of the film revolves around the trek to return the child to its human "herd" -- while Diego plots to lead the group astray. There's plenty of stand-up comic patter, wild rides and adventures, and slapstick humor for kids of all ages. And there's even a moral of friendship, trust and love at the end.
Director: Carlos Saldanha, Chris Wedge. Stars: Voices of Ray Romano, John Leguizano, Denis Leary, Goran Visnjic, Jack Black, Tara Strong, Cedric the Entertainer. CC, (MPAA rating: PG, 80 min.), Animated, 2002, Box office gross: $177.000 million, (Fox), $24.98 VHS SRP, Available: 11/26, DVD: Day & Date.
MEN IN BLACK II
It's been five years since the alien-seeking agents averted an intergalactic disaster of epic proportions, and agent Kay (Tommy Lee Jones) has since returned to the comforts of civilian life while agent Jay (Will Smith) continues to work for the Men in Black, the highly funded yet unofficial government agency that regulates all things alien on Earth. Kay and Jay reunite to provide the last and only line of defense against a sinister seductress who levels the toughest challenge yet to the MIB's untarnished mission statement: Protecting the earth from the scum of the universe. Lara Flynn Boyle plays Serleena, an intergalactic blob that morphs into a curvaceous woman and who threatens the world if she doesn't get what she wants -- and only Kay knows where it's hidden. Again, the best part of MiBII (after you discount the oozing special effects that are by now old hat) is the repartee between Jones and Smith, which carried the original to new heights.
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld. Stars: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Rip Torn, Lara Flynn Boyle, Johnny Knoxville, Rosario Dawson, Ton Shalhoub, Patrick Warburton. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 88 min.), Science Fiction, 2002, Box office gross: $187.000 million, (Columbia TriStar), $24.96 VHS SRP, Available: 11/26, DVD: Day & Date.
POWERPUFF GIRLS MOVIE, THE
Kids will get down to crime-busting action with the world's (or at least Cartoon Network's) favorite pint-sized heroes, the Powerpuff Girls, as Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup serve a knockout punch in their feature film debut. Created by a perfectly powerful experiment, Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup explode into action as the new kids in Townsville. But, after one enthusiastic game of tag, they nearly destroy their beloved city. Now called social freaks, they turn to the mysterious Mojo Jojo for help ... but this sinister simian has other plans -- big plans -- like leading an army of evil monkeys to destroy the world! Will the Powerpuff Girls save Townsville and the world -- for the first time -- before bedtime? Unfortunately for the Girls, their antics couldn't save themselves at the boxoffice, and the film was a minor flop.
Director: Craig McCracken. Stars: Voices of Tara Strong, Cathy Cavadini, Elizabeth Daily, Robert L. Jackson, Tom Kenny. CC, (MPAA rating: PG, 87 min.), Animated, 2002, Box office gross: $11.411 million, (Warner), $22.95 VHS SRP, Available: 11/5, DVD: Day & Date.
Offbeat comedy about sexy college girl Carolyn (Christina Ricci) who has it all: great looks, a wealthy family, a hot boyfriend and one wicked hula step. But when she meets wheelchair-bound Pumpkin (Hank Harris) through her sorority's charity work, Carolyn suddenly realizes that her "have-it-all" existence doesn't have all she wants. Embracing the imperfection around her -- and within her -- she embarks on an unlikely romance that creeps out her glossy sorority sisters, appalls her jock boyfriend and draws them all kicking and screaming into a culture clash that leaves no one unchanged. Though rough in spots -- and almost falling all over itself with its message of the need to look into oneself to find meaning in life -- the film scores points for its generous spirit. Carolyn must transform herself from a preppy snob to a humanist -- and find pain in order to find deep feelings and ultimate happiness -- and Ricci, with her almost smoothly perfect exterior, does the job quite well. Bubbling below that calm exterior is a warmth and depth that finally comes to the surface. It's as if we were suddenly transported back to the 1960s, when the "search for the meaning of life" consumed a generation of middle-class kids fighting off the repression of conformity: Carolyn -- and Ricci -- is a 21st century flower child. The DVD of the film is sans any extras, which is too bad because a backgrounder on the filmmakers would have been illuminating. Best line in the film: "The pain inside feels like a shattered mirror." And the soundtrack is great, highlighted by Emillana Torrini's English version of Jacques Brel's "Ne Me Quitte Pas" (If You Go Away).
Director: Anthony Abrams, Adam Larson Broder. Stars: Christina Ricci, Hank Harris, Brenda Blethyn, Dominique Swain, Marisa Coughlan. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 117 min.), Comedy, 2002, Box office gross: $0.250 million, (MGM), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 11/5, DVD: Day & Date.
REIGN OF FIRE
At times thrilling apocalyptic sci-fier set in the near future in which fire-breathing dragons -- spawned from a single giant reptile awakened from a centuries-long slumber -- have overrun the Earth, leaving rag-tag survivors to defend themselves the best they can -- mostly hiding in medieval castles in England. Along come some gung-ho Americans, led by Matthew McConaughey, who mobilizes the remnants of humanity to track down the big daddy dragon of them all. Not very exciting visually -- or aurally ... and keep your finger on the fast-forward button to get past all the silly exposition.
Director: Rob Bowman. Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Christian Bale, Izabella Scorupco, Gerald Butler, Scott James Moutter, Ben Thornton, Alice Kriege. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 100 min.), Science Fiction, 2002, Box office gross: $41.628 million, (Buena Vista), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 11/19, DVD: Day & Date.
Director Sam ("Evil Dead," "Army of Darkness," "Darkman") Raimi has taken the famous Stan Lee comic book hero and turned him into a big-screen star. The outing is perfect: Tobey Maguire is impeccable as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, a young man not so much a superhero as a bewildered youth with super powers; Kirsten Dunst is, well, the beautiful Kirsten Dunst; the settings, production design, visual effects and direction all mesh to create a comic book world that is easily normal -- and believable.
The story: Orphaned at an early age, Peter Parker lives in Queens, N.Y., with his beloved Aunt May and Uncle Ben. Peter leads the life of a normal student, working as a photographer at the school paper and pining away after the beautiful Mary Jane Watson (a glowing Kirsten Dunst) and hanging out with buddy Harry Osborn (James Franco). But on a school trip, during which Peter and his classmates are given a science demonstration on arachnids, Peter is bitten by a genetically altered spider and soon after discovers that he has unusual powers: he is endowed with the strength and agility of a spider along with a keen, ESP-like "spider sense."
Peter first uses his powers to try to make money, but in the face of a tragedy that hits close to home, he vows to dedicate his life to fighting crime, taking to heart the words of his beloved Uncle Ben: "With great power comes great responsibility." Meanwhile, megalomaniacal businessman Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe), Harry's father, is undergoing some changes of his own. An experimental formula has gone awry, increasing his intelligence and strength but also driving him insane. He is now the Green Goblin, Spider-Man's arch-enemy, who will put young Peter Parker's vow to fight crime and help innocent people to the ultimate test.
Director: Sam Raimi. Stars: Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Cliff Robertson, Rosemary Harris, J.K. Simmons, Gerry Becker, Bill Nunn, Jack Betts, Stanley Anderson, Ron Perkins. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 121 min.), Action, 2002, Box office gross: $404.000 million, (Columbia TriStar), $24.96 VHS SRP, Available: 11/1, DVD: Day & Date.
SPIRIT: STALLION OF THE CIMARRON
Who would have thought that a full-length animated feature whose main character was a horse could be so absorbing. DreamWorks -- whose experience with animation runs the gamut from "Prince of Egypt" to "Shrek" -- has here created a delightfully heartfelt tale about the spirit of freedom in the form of a mustang stallion born into the wilds of the old West. Spirit is born into an untamed land and grows to become the leader of his herd. Unfortunately, he's captured by scouts for the U.S. Cavalry but attempts at breaking him prove futile, and he escapes -- with an Indian brave -- to live among the Lakota tribe. When the army attacks the Indian encampment, Spirit is captured again, and sent to a railroad work camp. But his spirit remains strong, and the horse bolts again, wreaking havoc on the railroad during the course of his escape. What's amazing about the film is its lack of dialogue -- Spirit and companions utter nary a word, but communicate in whinnies and neighs and the language of the heart. And the messages for kids -- the need, at times, to fight for freedom, and to have trust in your true, strong heart -- are miles ahead of much of what, today, passes for children's entertainment.
Director: Kelly Asbury, Lorna Cook. Stars: Voices of Matt Damon (narrator), James Cromwell, Daniel Studi. CC, (MPAA rating: G, 83 min.), Animated, 2002, Box office gross: $72.929 million, (DreamWorks), $24.99 VHS SRP, Available: 11/19, DVD: Day & Date.
STAR WARS: EPISODE II -- ATTACK OF THE CLONES
So here we here, in the next-to-last installment in the longest running sci-fi soap opera in the history of cinema. And what do we have to show for it? A an interesting (but not great) story line, some incredibly weak acting, and some great special effects. Oh, those special effects. Your eyeballs just want to pop out of your head and merge with the screen-candy Lucas and his CG friends have created here. Though not as exciting as "Star Wars" or "The Empire Strikes Back," "Clones" is a heap better than its predecessor, "The Phantom Menace." And it might just augur well for the last installment, due in 2004.
The story so far: Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) has grown up and is now an apprentice Jedi, under the tutelage of master Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor). Padme (Natalie Portman), former Queen of Naboo and now a Senator for the Republic, is on her way to cast a key vote in the contentious issue of how to handle the separatist movement that threatens the universe. Two assassination attempts on her life forces the Senate to send her back home to Naboo, under the protection of Skywalker. In the meantime, Kenobi is sent to the outer edges of the galaxy to find out who has masterminded the foul plot. On a strange planet he comes across an army of clones that had once been ordered by a member of the Senate. But no one seems to recall who placed the order. Are these good clones or bad clones? Worse, he ends up getting captured by the evil Count Dooku (Christopher Lee), an extremely powerful Jedi Knight who has been romanced by the Dark Side of the Force. Off to Kenobi's rescue come Skywalker and Padme, who have become lovebirds during their stay on Naboo; they, too, are captured by Dooku. Thrown into a gladiator arena, the trio must fight off some wild CG creatures before being rescued by Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson), Yoda (Frank Oz), the Jedi Knights and the clone army.
Lucas certainly hasn't lost his "Star Wars" action touch with this outing; he has the formula down pat (Count Dooku escapes in almost the same way that ol' Darth Vader did in the original). But his handling of the Skywalker/Padme romance is so sickly sweet that we thought we were watching "American Graffiti" in a galaxy far, far away and, blasphemously, we had a finger pushing the fast-forward button a couple of times during their encounters. But man, can Lucas crank out that action. Now, if George can just CG all his actors ...
Director: George Lucas. Stars: Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen, Christopher Lee, Samuel Jackson, Frank Oz, Ian McDiarmid. CC, (MPAA rating: PG, 135 min.), Science Fiction, 2002, Box office gross: $300.000 million, (Fox), $24.98 VHS SRP, Available: 11/12, DVD: Day & Date.
Set in Plantation Island Florida, this John Sayles' comedy-drama unfolds during the weeklong Buccaneer Days Festival, a new "tradition" created by the local Chamber of Commerce. But local real estate developers are changing the modest beachside community into an upscale, manicured resort for winter-weary Northerners. The long-time locals are divided on whether to cash in or stand their ground. Plantation Island, like its residents, is in transition. There's Marly, running her father's motel and hating every minute of it. Lester and Greg will stop at nothing to buy the motel, and Dad will never sell. Mom is living in her own dream world down at the Community Theater when she's not off to the Audubon meetings, saving what's left of the natural habitat. Marly is wasting away in Margaritaville, dodging her ex-husband, losing her golf pro and tempted by the new guy in town -- even though he is definitely working for the other side. Then we have Desiree, back for her first real visit home since she left under a cloud 25 years ago. She doesn't trust her mother Eunice and won't be drawn into staying in the black enclave of Lincoln Beach, even though family friend Dr. Lloyd works her pretty hard. Her trophy husband, Dr. Reginald Perry, does his best to fit in, but he's worried about the old boyfriend Flash Phillips. And nobody's comfortable with the boy Eunice has taken in, a young arsonist named Terrell. Chamber of Commerce stalwart Francine Pinckney keeps a smile on her face and pom poms high, championing Buccaneer Days through its course. She's too busy to see much of her husband, banker Earl, whose gambling debts are giving him problems of his own. Welcome to Florida! and America. Another biting Sayles outing.
Director: John Sayles. Stars: Angela Bassett, Edie Falco, Timothy Hutton, Jane Alexander, Mary Alice, Gordon Clapp, Miguel Ferrer, James McDaniel. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 141 min.), Drama, 2002, Box office gross: $2.767 million, (Columbia TriStar), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 11/19, 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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October 20, 2002