OnVideo SEPTEMBER Video Reviews
BIG FAT LIAR
Revenge flick for the Nick crowd. Frankie Muniz plays 14-year-old compulsive fibber Jason whose latest fabrication gets him in trouble with his teacher, who gives him just three hours to come up with an overdue term paper. In a hurry to get the report -- which he has titled "Big Fat Liar" -- to school, he has a run in with a limo carrying a sleazy Hollywood producer (Paul Giamatti) and leaves the paper in the car. No one believes him, of course and, later, when he sees a segment on "Access Hollywood" in which the producer announces his next project -- "Big Fat Liar" -- Jason has cried wolf one time too many. So it's off to Hollywood -- with friend Kaylee (Amanda Bynes) -- to make, at all costs, the producer fess up. Which sets the stage for all sorts of adolescent revenge pranks. It's an uninspired romp for the short-attention span audience.
Director: Shawn Levy. Stars: Frankie Muniz, Paul Giamatti, Amanda Bynes, Amanda Detmer, Donald Faison, Lee Majors, Sandra Oh, Jaleel White. CC, (MPAA rating: PG, 104 min.), Kids Comedy, 2002, Box office gross: $47.811 million, (Universal), $22.98 VHS SRP, Available: 9/24, DVD: Day & Date.
Blade (Wesley Snipes) is back, and he's out to kill more vampires. If you thought that killing vampires in the original Blade was tough, then listen up: It just got tougher. Blade, as you'll recall, is the original Daywalker -- half-human, half vampire, able to live during daylight -- and his mission in life is to put an end to the Vampire Nation. But hold on -- it turns out that there's something worse out there than vampires -- Reapers, vampires who have been supercharged by a virus to become supervamps. So the Vampire Nation and Blade make a truce, and team up to go after the Reapers. Naturally the gore and bloodshed -- which was pretty stupendous in Blade -- is multiplied tenfold here. Fortunately for us, "Blade II" is directed by the talented master of the macabre, Guillermo del Toro, whose "The Devil's Backbone," released to video this June, is a spooky work of art, and Blade II benefits from his deft hand behind the camera.
Director: Guillermo del Toro. Stars: Wesley Snipes, Kris Kristofferson, Norman Reedus, Leonor Varela, Luke Goss, Ron Perlman, Matt Schulze. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 117 min.), Horror, 2002, Box office gross: $81.645 million, (New Line), $22.94 VHS SRP, Available: 9/3, DVD: Day & Date.
An at-times-spoof of late 1970s films and filmmaking, this first effort by Roman Coppola, son of Francis, shows the sparks of a budding filmmaker ready to make his mark on the film world. Unfortunately, the sparks have yet to burst into a strong flame, and we're left with a smoldering attempt -- all too self-conscious -- at auteurism. The film revolves around American-in-Paris Paul Ballard (Jeremy Davies), the young film editor on "Codename Dragonfly," a cheesy sci-fi extravaganza (along the lines of "Barbarella") about a futuristic female super-spy sent to the moon to thwart a revolution (one of the pleasures of "CQ" is in its accurate portrayal of the sights and sounds of 1969-1970 pop culture and styles, with its sly references to that era of anything goes filmmaking, with tips o' the hat to Dino De Laurentiss, Roman Polanski, Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard. The homage extends to the casting of "Barbarella" male lead John Philip Law as one of "Dragonfly's" stars). The film's director (Gerard Depardieu), who wants to make a post-1968 revolutionary statement, is pulled from the film after he can't come up with an ending, and Paul is conscripted to take over directing duties. In the meantime, Paul is working on his very own b&w personal statement about the images in his life, struggling to find meaning in his everyday existence with his live-in French girlfriend ... without much success. As his distance from his girlfriend grows, Paul's thoughts about the attractive lead of "Dragonfly" take on their own existence and, at times, he merges into the film he's working on. Though fraught with possibilities, "CQ" is dragged down by all-too-much self- consciousness, slow-pacing, stilted situations and stereotypical acting. As Depardieu's director says toward the end of the film, "film can change the future, invent the future by making ideas concrete." Unfortunately, this outing fails to meet up to those lofty ideals. Next time, Roman.
Director: Roman Coppola. Stars: Jeremy Davies, Angela Lindvall, Elodie Bouchez, Giancarlo Giannini, Billy Zane, Gerard Depardieu, Dean Stockwell, Jason Schwartzman. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 88 min.), Comedy-Drama, 2002, Box office gross: $0.301 million, (MGM), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 9/10, DVD: Day & Date.
The ultimate revenge thriller for city dwellers. Ben Affleck plays Wall Street lawyer Gavin and Samuel L. Jackson plays insurance agent Doyle, both of whom get involved in a minor traffic accident in the morning rush hour on the FDR Drive in New York. Gavin is on his way to a court appearance as is Doyle, but for very different reasons: Gavin is arguing a case and Doyle needs to make an appearance to face his estranged wife over child custody. Gavin, so full of himself that the needs of others fall by the wayside, leaves Doyle at the scene of the accident -- but he also leaves behind an important file. Doyle misses his court appearance and loses custody; Gavin makes his but can't proceed without the file. Now things get out of hand: Doyle won't give up the file, Gavin has a friend hack Doyle's credit rating, Doyle loosens the lugnuts on Gavin's car's tires, and on and on. Both men eventually have to face the consequences of their actions -- and their shortcomings as human beings. An adrenalin pumper.
Director: Roger Michell. Stars: Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Affleck, Kim Staunton, Toni Collette, Sydney Pollack, Tina Sloan, Richard Jenkins. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 99 min.), Thriller, 2002, Box office gross: $66.745 million, (Paramount), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 9/10, DVD: Day & Date.
COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO, THE
Alexandre Dumas' classic comes to the big screen again, with Jim Caviezel as the novel's hero, Dantes, betrayed by his best friend, Mondego (Guy Pearce) and sentenced to the island prison of Chateau D'If. There he meets up with Abbe Faria (Richard Harris), who helps him escape and points him in the direction of a treasure. After 13 years in prison, Dantes reinvents himself as the Count of Monte Cristo, joins up with the French nobility, and plots his revenge. An adequate version of the epic.
Director: Kevin Reynolds. Stars: Jim Caviezel, Guy Pearce, Dagmara Dominczyk, Richard Harris, Luis Guzman. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 131 min.), Swashbuckler, 2002, Box office gross: $53.600 million, (Buena Vista), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 9/10, DVD: Day & Date.
DEATH TO SMOOCHY
Misbegotten comedy about a disgraced kids show host out for revenge against his replacement. Robin Williams plays Rainbow Randolph, a kiddie show host involved with a variety of mob-related endeavors who gets busted for taking payola from parents to get their children on his show. He's replaced by goody-goody schmo Sheldon Mopes (Edward Norton), whose righteous hot-pink costumed character Smoochy the Rhino goes on to rule the airwaves. Rainbow goes insanely jealous and tries his best to destroy Smoochy. Throw in a shady agent, a vicious gangster, a former kids show host-turned-hit man, a former boxer and a crooked philanthropist and you have the makings of a wild comedy -- which, unfortunately, "Smoochy" isn't. There's just too many caricatures that never come to life and too many situations that never transcend their vulgarity.
Director: Danny DeVito. Stars: Robin Williams, Edward Norton, Catherine Keener, Jon Stewart, Danny DeVito, Harvey Fierstein, Pam Ferris, Michael Rispoli. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 109 min.), Comedy, 2002, Box office gross: $8.355 million, (Warner), $22 VHS SRP, Available: 9/17, DVD: Day & Date.
An exciting tale of love, espionage, patriotism and betrayal set during World War II. Still reeling from the devastating disappearance of his lover Claire (Saffron Burrows), brilliant code-breaker Tom Jericho (Dougray Scott) is summoned to Britain's top-secret intelligence campus. There he faces his toughest assignment -- crack the Nazis' infamous Enigma code. With the help of Claire's roommate Hester (Kate Winslet), and with a ruthless secret agent (Jeremy Northam) in hot pursuit, the two must piece together the puzzle that links Claire's disappearance to U-boats closing in on Allied cargo ships, and a mass grave in Poland.
Director: Michael Apted. Stars: Dougray Scott, Saffron Burrows, Kate Winslet, Jeremy Northam. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 119 min.), War thriller, 2002, Box office gross: $3.800 million, (Columbia TriStar), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 9/24, DVD: Day & Date'.
40 DAYS AND 40 NIGHTS
Typical teen sex comedy, here with hot young star Josh Hartnett playing a sexual athlete dumped by his girlfriend for a yuppie businessman. When other bedmates fail to mend his heart, he decides to give up sex for 40 straight days for Lent. Well, faster than a T1 Internet connection, Hartnett meets a sexy smart woman who tests his mettle, a Web site springs up to take bets on his chastity, and his ex comes around. Will his willpower hold out? Will we learn the truth about love and existence? Should we wait for the TV reality game version? No.
Director: Michael Lehmann. Stars: Josh Hartnett, Shannyn Sossamon, Paulo Costanzo, Adam Trese, Griffin Dunne, Monet Mazur, Emmanuelle Vaugier. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 95 min.), Comedy, 2002, Box office gross: $37.621 million, (Miramax), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 9/17, DVD: Day & Date.
Set in present day Texas, "Frailty," opens with the entrance of a stranger who walks into an FBI office looking for the detective investigating a serial killer known as the "God's Hand Killer." Matthew McConaughey plays Fenton Meeks, the young man who approaches the lead investigator (Powers Boothe) claiming he knows the identity of the killer. The FBI agent is mildly intrigued but unimpressed until Fenton reveals that the killer is his younger brother Adam. Fenton continues by recounting -- in a series of flashbacks -- how he and his brother grew up in a very loving family, raised by their widowed father (Bill Paxton) in Thurman, Texas. But then one night, something happened: Dad woke his kids in the middle of the night to inform them that he has had a vision ... that the Meeks family must act as God's hands to purge the world of the demons among them. As their father's visions become more frequent and disturbing, the paths of the brothers begin to diverge as the younger, more impression-able Adam aligns himself with their father and Fenton's questioning of God's will, as interpreted by his father, throws the family off on a wrenching course that will test their faith, challenge a son's courage and end a child's innocence.
Director: Bill Paxton. Stars: Bill Paxton, Matthew McConaughey, Powers Boothe, Matthew O'Leary, Luke Askew, Jeremy Sumpter, Derk Cheetwood, Melissa Crider. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 100 min.), Thriller, 2002, Box office gross: $13.103 million, (Lions Gate), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 9/17, DVD: Day & Date.
HARD DAY'S NIGHT, A
Two-disc DVD set with the film and "Give Me Everything" bonus disc. Extras: Three commentaries; "Things They Said Today" original documentary; extra footage; the famous "Running, Jumping & Standing Still" short; behind-the-scenes footage; "A Hard Day's Night Scrapbook"; interviews with cast, crew and friends; more. $29.99. The VHS will contain the "Things They Said Today" documentary.
Latest Woody Allen outing has Allen starring as a washed-up director reduced to filming deodorant commercials in Canada. Along comes his ex-wife, a high-flying movie exec (Tea Leoni), who persuades him to make a comeback with a remake of an old film-noir movie. Allen flies to New York to get the job but, just before shooting is to begin, he develops hysterical blindness and has to direct the movie blind, setting him up for all sorts of physical gags. This is Allen's all-out assault on the quirks and foibles of Hollywood and tinseltown's movers and shakers. And, as in most other Allen film's, he pokes fun at himself (either intended or not) as he displays his trademarked neuroses and penchant for much-younger women (here he's living with Debra Messing). Oh Woody.
Director: Woody Allen. Stars: Woody Allen, Tea Leoni, Mark Rydell, George Hamilton, Debra Messing, Tiffani Thiessen, Treat Williams. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 112 min.), Comedy, 2002, Box office gross: $4.839 million, (DreamWorks), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 9/17, DVD: Day & Date.
KISSING JESSICA STEIN
A smart, funny, fresh look at sex and the single girl finds a New York woman negotiating the complex world of dating in the new millennium, with unexpected results. Jessica Stein is a sensitive and neurotic single woman fed up with the rat race dating game. Though a success in her workday life as a New York editor, she just can't seem to click with the, admittedly, unusual men she's dating. Finally, in desperation, she turns to the singles' classifieds and comes upon an intriguing ad -- in the "women seeking women" section. On a whim, she answers the ad and meets funky downtown hipster Helen Cooper and, to her surprise, they click instantly. Their evening ends with a kiss that confounds and intrigues them. With conventional gender roles absent, the two muddle through an earnest -- and at times funny -- courtship, making up the rules as they go on, blurring the lines between friendship and romantic love. Wonderful outing for all concerned.
Director: Charles Herman-Wurmfeld. Stars: Jennifer Westfeldt, Heather Juergensen, Scott Cohen, Jackie Hoffman, Michael Mastro, Carson Elrod, Tovah Feldshuh. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 97 min.), Romantic Comedy, 2002, Box office gross: $6.781 million, (Fox), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 9/17, DVD: Day & Date.
Fabulous Disney/Pixar production that takes computer animation up to a new level as well as creating a world of adventure that titillates and excites kids of all ages. Monsters, Inc., is the world's largest scare factory -- a company town that derives its energy by nightly sending monsters through the closet doors of kids' bedrooms to collect their screams. The top scarer is Sully (voiced by John Goodman), a huge blue-green and purple spotted hairball with horns. His sidekick is a one eyed green monster named Mike (Billy Crystal). But one night, by accident, Sully admits Boo, a young human girl into the monster world and -- because the monsters believe that human children are toxic -- her presence threatens Sully's career and the monster world's existence. So Sully and Mike must figure out a way to return Boo to the human world, setting up all kinds of delightful mishaps and comic (and animatingly "frightening") scenarios. Throw in a nasty rival and a monster company conspiracy and you have a smash hit for both the big and small screen.
Director: Pete Docter. Stars: Voices of Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Mary Gibbs, Steve Buscemi, James Coburn, Jennifer Tilly, Bob Peterson, John Ratzenberger. CC, (MPAA rating: G, 92 min.), Animated, 2001, Box office gross: $253.000 million, (Buena Vista), $24.99 VHS SRP, Available: 9/17, DVD: Day & Date.
MURDER BY NUMBERS
Sandra Bullock plays a role made just for her: a smart, sassy, intense cop who doggedly fights for justice. And she's good looking, to boot. Here she's Detective May weather, assigned to solve a murder that's been planned as the perfect crime by two spoiled rich kids: an innocent victim is murdered and the smart young men -- well-versed in police procedure and forensics -- plant evidence and point clues toward a drug-dealing school custodian (Chris Penn). While the cops run in circles, these two punks congratulate each other. But Bullock's tough Mayweather isn't buying the all-too-perfect evidence, and her investigation leads to the rich side of town. Throw in a new cop partner (Ben Chaplin), a past incident that comes to haunt Mayweather, and straight-ahead direction, and you have a first-rate evening of entertainment.
Director: Barbet Schroeder. Stars: Sandra Bullock, Ben Chaplin, Ryan Gosling, Michael Pitt, Agnes Bruckner, Chris Penn, R.D. Call. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 120 min.), Police thriller, 2002, Box office gross: $31.798 million, (Warner), $22.98 VHS SRP, Available: 9/24, DVD: Day & Date.
A first-rate thriller from David ("Seven," "Fight Club") Fincher stars Jodie Foster as a single mother home shopping in New York who falls in love with a multi-story townhouse that has all the amenities one could want -- plus more: a panic room that has its own electricity, security cameras, and thick steel doors. Unfortunately for Foster and daughter (played by Kristen Stewart) the original owner left behind a fortune in a secret safe and, lo and behold on their first night there, the pair are forced into the panic room by three invading bad guys. The chills and thrills escalate as the three hoods can't get into the room and Jodie and Kristen are stuck inside, unable to summon help. The first non-catalog (not a re-issue) release by Columbia TriStar featuring their Superbit technology, which encodes DVDs at double the standard bit rate for better picture and sound resolution, but lacks extras and frills.
Director: David Fincher. Stars: Jodie Foster, Kristen Stewart, Forest Whitaker, Dwight Yoakam, Jared Leto, Patrick Bauchau, Ann Magnuson. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 112 min.), Thriller, 2002, Box office gross: $95.328 million, (Columbia TriStar), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 9/17, DVD: Day & Date.
SALTON SEA, THE
Offbeat crime thriller has Val Kilmer starring as a drug-induced ex-jazz musician haunted by the death of his wife at the hands of a masked gunman, a crime he witnessed but couldn't prevent. He whiles away his time doing crystal -- methamphetamine -- on the outskirts of Los Angeles -- the Salton Sea lies in the Imperial Valley -- and ensnaring drug dealers for a pair of narcs. Kilmer is trying to trap the murderer -- who may or may not be Pooh-Bear, a powerful drug lord (Vincent D'Onofrio) with a plastic nose who re-enacts the JFK assassination with birds. There's plenty of other off-kilter characters and situations (slightly reminiscent of "Pulp Fiction") in this delightfully wicked film that fared poorly at the box-office but should do well on video.
Director: D.J. Caruso. Stars: Val Kilmer, Vincent D'Onofrio, Peter Sarsgaard, Anthony LaPaglia, Doug Hutchison, Deborah Kara Unger, Luis Guzman, B.D. Wong, Meat Loaf. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 104 min.), Thriller, 2002, Box office gross: $0.676 million, (Warner), $22.98 VHS SRP, Available: 9/10, 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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August 15, 2002