OnVideo SEPTEMBER Video Reviews
Action-packed but ultimately boring film that tells the dramatic true story of one of the most momentous battles in American history. A handful of men stand up for what they passionately believed in, and fought for their country against overwhelming odds. In the spring of 1836, in the face of insurmountable odds, fewer than 200 ordinary men who believed in the future of Texas held the fort for 13 days against thousands of Mexican soldiers led by dictator General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, ruler of Mexico. Commanded by three men -- the young, brash Lt. Col. William Travis (Patrick Wilson); the zealous, passionate James Bowie (Jason Patric); and the living legend David Crockett (Billy Bob Thornton) -- the Texans would die for their beliefs, but their deeds at the Alamo would make history as General Sam Houston's (Dennis Quaid) emotional rallying call for Texas independence.
Director: John Lee Hancock. Stars: Billy Bob Thornton, Dennis Quaid, Jason Patric, Patrick Wilson, Emilio Echevarria. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 136 min.), Western, 2004, Box office gross: $22.172 million, (Buena Vista), $24.99 VHS SRP, Available: 9/28, DVD: Day & Date.
The year was 1971 and the hot ticket at the box office was "The French Connection." Little did audiences and the film industry know that in the same year the birth of a new era was about to explode --Independent Black Cinema. The city was Detroit, and a weathered Melvin Van Peebles sat alone in the Grand Circus theatre watching only a few ticket buyers enter where his new film, "Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song," -- his follow up to the successful comedy "Watermelon Man" -- was about to play. After months of clawing, scheming and fighting to finish the film he wanted to make, the moment had arrived, and in a virtually empty theatre, Melvin sat with just a few curious onlookers. By the end of the screening, Melvin was alone. No one could have predicted what happened after that momentous end would be the beginning of history. More than 30 years later, history is being fashioned again. Mario Van Peebles, Melvin's son, directs an honest and revealing portrait of his pioneering father. Following in his dad's footsteps, and documenting his exceptional journey towards political defiance through cinema, Mario directs and stars as Melvin, based on the book "Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song," written by his father right after making "Sweetback." Mario sharply observes Melvin's struggles to raise money to fund "Sweetback" under the guise of creating a black porno film. Melvin ducked creditors, the unions and had to bail out his camera crew after they were arrested because a white cop decided "a bunch of Negroes and hippies couldn't have come by that camera equipment honestly." Despite death threats and temporarily losing sight in one eye, Melvin managed to whip into shape a rag-tag, multi-racial crew and finish the film. The film had a winning formula -- a hip, empowered black lead and a driving, energetic soundtrack with music from the then up-and-coming band Earth Wind and Fire. Despite the fact that initially only two theatres in the whole United States would play his film, "Sweetback" became the top grossing independent hit of 1971 spawning a decade of similar studio fair -- "Shaft," "Superfly" and "Foxy Brown." Melvin had brought the hood to Hollywood.
Director: Mario Van Peebles. Stars: Mario Van Peebles, Joy Bryant, T.K. Carter, Terry Crews, Ossie Davis, David Alan Grier, Nia Long, Paul Rodriguez, Saul Rubinek. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 109 min.), Biopic, 2004, Box office gross: $0.315 million, (Columbia TriStar), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 9/14, DVD: Day & Date.
COFFEE AND CIGARETTES
A comic series of 11 short vignettes -- created and directed by Jim Jarmusch beginning in 1986 and continuing through the present -- that build on one another to create a cumulative effect as the characters discuss things as diverse as caffeine popsicles, Paris in the '20s, and the use of nicotine as an insecticide -- all the while sitting around sipping coffee and smoking cigarettes. As Jarmusch delves into the normal pace of our world from an extraordinary angle, he shows just how absorbing the obsessions, joys and addictions of life can be. Filmed in black and white.
Director: Jim Jarmusch. Stars: Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, Steve Buscemi, Roberto Benigni, Alfred Molina, Steven Wright, Iggy Pop, Tom Waits, Meg and Jack White of the White Stripes, RZA and GZA of Wu-Tang Clan. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 96 min.), Comic vignettes, 2004, Box office gross: $1.711 million, (MGM), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 9/21, DVD: Day & Date.
Ben Stiller and Jack Black star as Tim and Nick, best friends, neighbors and co-workers, whose equal footing is suddenly tripped up when one of Nick's harebrained get-rich-quick schemes actually succeeds: Vapoorizer, a spray that literally makes dog poop evaporate into thin air -- to where exactly is anyone's guess. Tim, who had scoffed at Nick's idea and passed on an opportunity to get in on the deal, can only watch as Nick's fortune -- and Tim's own envy -- grow to equally outrageous proportions. When the flames of jealousy are fanned by an oddball drifter (Christopher Walken) who imposes himself into the situation, Tim's life careens wildly out of control ... taking Nick's with it.
Director: Barry Levinson. Stars: Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Rachel Weisz, Amy Poehler, Christopher Walken. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 99 min.), Comedy, 2004, Box office gross: $12.181 million, (DreamWorks), $15.95 VHS SRP, Available: 9/28, DVD: Day & Date.
ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND
Wild comedy in which a man, Joel (Jim Carrey), discovers that his girlfriend Clementine (Kate Winslet) has had her memories of their tumultuous relationship erased by a new psycho-technological process. Out of desperation, he contacts the inventor of the process, Dr. Howard Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkinson), to have Clementine removed from his own memory. But as Joel's memories progressively disappear, he begins to rediscover his love for Clementine. From deep within the recesses of his brain, Joel attempts to escape the procedure. As Dr. Mierzwiak and his crew (Kirsten Dunst, Mark Ruffalo, Elijah Wood) chase him through the maze of his memories, it's clear that Joel just can't get Clementine out of his head. Wonderfully disjointed screenplay has the relationship between Joel and Clementine unfold backwards, as his memories slowly are eliminated. But can the destruction of our memories of experiences change what those experiences have made us become? Change-of-pace performances for both Carrey -- who here is quiet and withdrawn -- and Winslet -- who plays a wild, outrageous, impulsive American. All the memory sequences -- with bits and pieces of Joel's past disappearing on the screen -- were done sans special effects. A delightful outing for all involved.
Director: Michael Gondry. Stars: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Gerry Robert Byrne, Elijah Wood, Mark Ruffalo, Jane Adams, Kirsten Dunst, Tom Wilkinson.. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 108 min.), Comedy, 2004, Box office gross: $34.126 million, (Universal), $22.98 VHS SRP, Available: 9/28, DVD: Day & Date.
HOME ON THE RANGE
Delightful animated adventure follows the exploits of three cows, a karate-kicking stallion and a colorful corral of critters as they try to save their "Patch of Heaven" dairy farm from the meanest, no-good rascal in the wild west. This rootin-tootin adventure features all-new songs from eight-time Academy Award-winner Alan Menken, who's penned the songs from "The Little Mermaid," "Pocahontas" and "Beauty and the Beast." Also features songs by Tim McGraw, k.d. lang, Bonnie Raitt and the Beu Sisters. Greedy outlaw Alameda Slim (Randy Quaid), schemes to take possession of the "Patch of Heaven" dairy farm. Three lovable cows -- Grace (Jennifer Tilly), Mrs. Caloway (Judi Dench) and wisecracking Maggie (Rosanne Barr) -- join forces with a karate kicking stallion named Buck (Cuba Gooding Jr.) and a colorful corral of critters to save the farm. Braving bad men and the rugged Western landscape, the bovine beauties and their wacky team of fellow animals risk their hides and match wits with a mysterious bounty hunter named Rico in a high stakes race to capture Slim and collect the reward money, saving the farm. Great fun for kids of all ages -- and it uses old-fashioned cell animation, too.
Director: Will Finn and John Sanford. Stars: Voices of Randy Quaid, Jennifer Tilly, Judi Dench, Rosanne Barr, Cuba Gooding Jr., Steve Buscemi, Estelle Harris. CC, (MPAA rating: PG, 76 min.), Animated, 2004, Box office gross: $48.884 million, (Disney), $24.99 VHS SRP, Available: 9/14, DVD: Day & Date.
HUNTING OF THE PRESIDENT, THE
There can be no doubt that we live in one of the most tumultuous political climates of the nation's history, a climate where politicians can be toppled on a whim, election results disputed in the country's highest courts, and governors unceremoniously recalled. It's enough to leave even the most cynical voter asking, how did this happen? Harry Thomason and Nickolas Perry's incendiary documentary, based on the best-selling book by Gene Lyons and Joe Conason, offers a glimpse at the genesis of these partisan vendettas and explores the myths and truths behind the nearly 10-year campaign to systematically destroy the political legacy of the Clintons. Using previously unreleased materials, interviews, and shocking revelations from both sides of the beltway, this probing work focuses on the smear campaign against Clinton from his gubernatorial days in Arkansas leading up to and including his impeachment trial. Kenneth Starr fans, beware. Less of an advocacy film and more of an alarming treatise on the political power of the media and personal interests, "The Hunting of the President" offers us a gallery of defeated politicians, disappointed office seekers, right-wing pamphleteers, wealthy eccentrics, zany private detectives, religious fanatics, and die-hard segregationists, all chiming in discord from the tops of their soapboxes.
A change of pace for director Kevin Smith, who revels in weird, outrageous comedies about social outcasts: "Jersey Girl" is a mild-mannered and at times amusing dramatic comedy about learning to accept the at-times horrific changes that life throws at you -- and making the best of what may seem to be a bad situation. Ollie Trinke (Ben Affleck) is a smooth and successful Manhattan music publicist who seems to have it all. When his perfect life is suddenly, tragically upended -- his wife (Jennifer Lopez in a thankfully brief role) dies during child birth -- Trinke is left as a single father totally unqualified for the role. Trinke snaps during a press conference and insults members of the press as well as up-and-coming star Will Smith and finds his big city life a memory. Out of a job and out of luck, he reluctantly moves in with his father (George Carlin) back home to the New Jersey suburb where he was raised. It is the lowest point in his life. The years pass and with them Ollie's plans for his future. Stuck in a run-of-the-mill job as a city public works employee, he sees no way out and no way back to the life he used to love. But he adores his young daughter Gertie (Raquel Castro), and she loves their life in the 'burbs. To her, Jersey is paradise. While renting Gertie's favorite movie for the zillionth time one day, Ollie meets Maya (Liv Tyler), who challenges his priorities and perspective. He regains some confidence and attempts to re-enter publicity in Manhattan, but realizes he has to choose between the old and the new, and learn that sometimes you have to forget about who you thought you were, accept who you are and acknowledge what makes you happy. There's some nifty explorations of human feelings and yearnings here, but for the most part the pat -- and predictable -- story line had us pushing the fast-forward on the remote. A disappointment for true Smith fans.
Director: Kevin Smith. Stars: Ben Affleck, Liv Tyler, Jason Biggs, George Carlin, Jennifer Lopez, Raquel Castro. CC, (MPAA rating: Pg-13, 102 min.), Comedy, 2004, Box office gross: $25.083 million, (Miramax), $24.99 VHS SRP, Available: 9/14, DVD: Day & Date.
Tom Hanks returns to his comedic roots and teams up for the first time with Academy Award-winning filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen for his first comedy in more than a decade. Unfortunately, this is a disappointing remake of 1955's great "The Ladykillers," starring Alec Guinness. Hanks stars as Goldthwait Higginson Dorr, Ph.D., a charlatan professor who's assembled a gang of so-called "experts" for the heist of the century. The thieves: experts in explosions, tunneling, and muscle, and the critical "inside man." The base of operations: the root cellar of an unsuspecting, church-going little old lady named Mrs. Munson (Irma P. Hall). The ruse: the five need a place to practice their church music. The problem: it quickly becomes evident that Dorr's thieves lack the mental capacity to do the job. The bigger problem: they have all seriously underestimated their upstairs host. When Mrs. Munson stumbles onto their plot and threatens to notify the authorities, the felonious five decide to do her in. After all, how hard can it be to knock off one old lady?
Director: Joel and Ethan Coen. Stars: Tom Hanks, Irma P. Hall, Marlon Wayans, J.K. Simmons, Tzi Ma, Ryan Hurst. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 104 min.), Comedy, 2004, Box office gross: $38.894 million, (Buena Vista), $24.99 VHS SRP, Available: 9/14, DVD: Day & Date.
MAN ON FIRE
A wave of kidnappings has swept through Mexico, feeding a growing sense of panic among its wealthier citizens, especially parents. In one six-day period, there are 24 abductions, leading many to hire bodyguards for their children. Into this world enters John Creasy (Denzel Washington), a burned-out ex-CIA operative/assassin who has given up on life. Creasy's friend Rayburn (Christopher Walken) brings him to Mexico City to be a bodyguard to nine-year-old Pita Ramos (Dakota Fanning), daughter of industrialist Samuel Ramos (Marc Anthony) and his wife Lisa (Radha Mitchell). Creasy is not interested in being a bodyguard, especially to a youngster, but for lack of something better to do, he accepts the assignment. Creasy barely tolerates the precocious child and her pestering questions about him and his life. But slowly, she chips away at his seemingly impenetrable exterior, his defenses drop, and he opens up to her. Creasy's new-found purpose in life is shattered when Pita is kidnapped. Despite being mortally wounded during the kidnapping, Creasy is "a man on fire," as he vows to kill anyone involved in or profiting from the kidnapping. And no one can stop him. A straight-ahead actioner that grabs you by the throat and sucks you into its revenge scenario, then twists and turns you around with a variety of plot surprises. Washington plays his avenging-angel role with a thankfully heroic stoicism (no smirking retribution here). The gorgeously hued images of Mexico combined with hyper-realistic editing and jerky camera movements convincingly convey a once beautiful and exotic world horribly contaminated by the evil of money. A visual tour-de-force for Scott.
Director: Tony Scott. Stars: Denzel Washington, Dakota Fanning, Marc Anthony, Radha Mitchell, Christopher Walken, Giancarlo Giannini, Rachel Ticotin, Mickey Rourke. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 146 min.), Thriller, 2004, Box office gross: $77.001 million, (Fox), No VHS SRP, Available: 9/14, DVD: Day & Date.
Fifteen-year-old Cady's (Lindsay Lohan) life changes as she goes from being home-schooled in Africa by her zoologist parents to entering public high school in the States. The law of the jungle takes on a whole new meaning as she falls prey to the psychological warfare and unwritten social rules of teenagers. Forming a friendship with two outcasts, Cady soon finds herself invited to join the "in-crowd," which consists of three girls called the "Plastics." Once Cady discovers that the Plastics are out to get her, she decides to turn the entire school against them, only to find that she has become a mean girl herself. It's an at-times mean and nasty film that may gives young girls some bad ideas.
Director: Mark Waters. Stars: Lindsay Lohan, Tina Fey, Rachel McAdams, Tim Meadows. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 96 min.), Teen comedy, 2004, Box office gross: $83.820 million, (Paramount), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 9/21, DVD: Day & Date.
Run-of-the-mill revenge flick based on the best-selling Marvel Comics' title. Tom Jane stars as FBI undercover agent Frank Castle, an agent on the edge who always has beat considerable odds. A former Special Forces operative, he is finally moving out of the field and into a desk job -- and a normal life with his wife and son. But when the son of nasty crime lord Howard Saint (John Travolta) is killed during his last undercover assignment, all hell breaks loose for Castle: his entire family is executed in retribution. Left for dead, Castle recuperates and goes on a mission to punish the murderers and destroy Saint's world. Along the way he meets a new, surrogate family, and finds the one thing he least expected: redemption. There's plenty of comic book violence and lapses in reason and continuity here. Stiff performances by all as most of the cast simply "walk" through their roles. By way of background, Marvel's "The Punisher" made his first appearance more than 25 years ago as a supporting character, but proved so popular with readers that he by the 1990's he was starring in as many as three titles a month. In 2000, "The Punisher" reemerged as one of Marvel's highest selling solo books and remains a top seller for the company.
Director: Jonathan Hensleigh. Stars: Tom Jane, John Travolta, Will Patton, Roy Scheider, Laura Harring, Ben Foster, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 124 min.), Action thriller, 2004, Box office gross: $33.682 million, (Lions Gate), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 9/7, DVD: Day & Date.
SCOOBY-DOO 2: MONSTERS UNLEASHED
Scooby and the gang lose their cool -- and their stellar reputation -- when an anonymous masked villain wreaks mayhem on the city of Coolsville with a monster machine that re-creates classic Mystery Inc. foes like The Pterodactyl Ghost, The Black Knight Ghost, Captain Cutler's Ghost and The 10,000 Volt Ghost. Under pressure from relentless reporter Heather Jasper-Howe (Alicia Silverstone) and the terrified citizens of Coolsville, the gang launches an investigation into the mysterious monster outbreak that leaves Shaggy (Matthew Lillard) and Scooby questioning their roles in Mystery Inc. The ever-ravenous duo, determined to prove they're great detectives, don a series of far-out disguises in their search for clues. All signs point to Jeremiah "Old Man" Wickles (Peter Boyle), the former Black Knight Ghost who was once unmasked by the gang and thrown in jail. Did the creepy wannabe launch the monstrous attack on Coolsville in a diabolical quest for revenge? Meanwhile, brainy Velma (Linda Cardellini) becomes smitten with another key suspect, Coolsonian Criminology Museum curator Patrick Wisely (Seth Green), as macho leader Fred (Freddie Prinze Jr.) and image-conscious Daphne (Sarah Michelle Gellar) attempt to determine the identity of the Evil Masked Figure whose monster army is wreaking havoc on Coolsville.
Director: Raja Gosnell. Stars: Freddie Prinze Jr., Sarah Michelle Gellar, Matthew Lillard, Linda Cardellini, Seth Green, Peter Boyle, Tim Blake Nelson, Alicia Silverstone. CC, (MPAA rating: PG, 88 min.), Comedy, 2004, Box office gross: $82.247 million, (Warner), $22.99 VHS SRP, Available: 9/14, DVD: Day & Date.
After a humiliating and horrific experience on a commercial flight, Nashawn Wade (Kevin Hart) sues and is awarded a $100 million settlement. Determined to make good with his newfound wealth he decides to create the airline of his dreams. With the help of his cousin Muggsy (Method Man), Nashawn creates NWA Airlines, the first full-service carrier designed to cater to the urban traveler. A one-of-a-kind airliner, NWA's metallic purple and chrome-colored plane comes complete with a hot onboard dance club, live DJs and funky music, its own sassy security crew (including Mo'Nique), sexy flight attendants, a bathroom attendant named Johnny (D.L. Hughley), and a first class section where the Cristal flows like the flightpath -- "non-stop." Departing on its maiden voyage out of Los Angeles, NWA flight #O-69 leaves the ground en route to New York City with a full passenger roster and Capitan Mack (Snoop Dogg) behind the controls in the tricked-out cockpit. As the onboard party gets more outrageous, the customers get wilder, and chaos reigns throughout the aircraft, Nashawn is forced to land the plane himself and save his airline. With the help of Muggsy and his crew, Nashawn brings the plane down in a climax that gives "flying the friendly skies" a whole new meaning. In R-rated and unrated editions.
Director: Jessy Terrero. Stars: Tom Arnold, Kevin Hart, Mo'Nique, D.L. Hughley, Snoop Dogg, Method Man.. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 86 min.), Comedy, 2004, Box office gross: $13.922 million, (MGM), No VHS SRP, Available: 9/7, DVD: Day & Date.
SUPER SIZE ME
Why are Americans so fat? Find out in "Super Size Me," a tongue in-cheek -- and burger in hand -- look at the legal, financial and physical costs of America's hunger for fast food. Ominously, 37% of American children and adolescents are carrying too much fat and 2 out of every three adults are overweight or obese. Is it our fault for lacking self-control, or are the fast-food corporations to blame? Filmmaker Morgan Spurlock hit the road and interviewed experts in 20 U.S. cities, including Houston, the "Fattest City" in America. From Surgeon Generals to gym teachers, cooks to kids, lawmakers to legislators, these authorities shared their research, opinions and "gut feelings" on our ever-expanding girth. During the journey, Spurlock also put his own body on the line, living on nothing but McDonald's for an entire month with three simple rules: 1) No options: he could only eat what was available over the counter (water included!) 2) No supersizing unless offered 3) No excuses: he had to eat every item on the menu at least once. It all adds up to a fat food bill, harrowing visits to the doctor, and compelling viewing for anyone who's ever wondered if man could live on fast food alone. The film explores the horror of school lunch programs, declining health and physical education classes, food addictions and the extreme measures people take to lose weight and regain their health. "Super Size Me" is a satirical jab in the stomach, overstuffed with fat and facts about the billion-dollar industry besieged by doctors, lawyers and nutritionists alike. "Would you like fries with that?" will never sound the same!
Director: Morgan Spurlock. Stars: . CC, (MPAA rating: NR, 96 min.), Documentary, 2004, Box office gross: $10.042 million, (Columbia TriStar), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 9/28, DVD: Day & Date.
Retired U.S. Special Forces soldier Chris Vaughn (The Rock) has come home to renew old relationships and make a new life for himself. But while Chris was away, his boyhood town wasted away to a dilapidated, crime-ridden shell of itself. His wealthy high school rival, Jay Hamilton (Neal McDonough), has closed the once-prosperous lumber mill and has turned the town's resources towards criminal gains. The place Chris grew up is now overrun with crime, drugs, and violence. Enlisting the help of his old pal Ray Templeton (Johnny Knoxville), Chris gets elected sheriff and vows to shut down Hamilton's operations. His actions endanger his family and threaten his own life, but Chris refuses to back down until his hometown once again feels like home. With Ray as his deputy, Chris sets out to clean up the mess Hamilton has made: he wields a huge stick fashioned from lumber mill pine. The first big screen version of "Walking Tall," starring Joe Don Baker as real-life Tennessee Sheriff Buford Pusser, debuted in 1973 and was a huge grassroots hit. Its two sequels, "Walking Tall Part II" (1975) and "Final Chapter: Walking Tall" (1977), starred Bo Svenson as Sheriff Pusser and were also popular, memorable versions of the lawman's heroic stand against crime in his small, rural Southern town. The Rock here ably fills the shoes of his predecessors and cleans up on the bad guys. Vengeance is sweet ... at least on the big screen.
Director: Kevin Bray. Stars: The Rock, Neal McDonough, Johnny Knoxville, Ashley Scott. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 86 min.), Action, 2004, Box office gross: $45.138 million, (MGM), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 9/28, 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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August 30, 2004