OnVideo APRIL Video Reviews
Dramatization of the fateful day of January 30, 1972, when British soldiers shot and killed 13 unarmed citizens taking part in an anti-internment civil rights march in Derry, Northern Ireland. The event, which has come to be known as Bloody Sunday, was a major turning point in the history of modern Irish troubles, catapulting the conflict to a new level and driving many young men into the IRA. The film encapsulates the events from all perspectives of the "battlefield" in just one day, from the arrival of thousands of troops on the streets of the besieged city to the violent collision between soldiers and the crowds of civilian demonstrators. A powerful and, considering the end result, depressing filmic statement.
Director: Paul Greengrass. Stars: James Nesbitt, Tim Pigott-Smith, Nicholas Farrell, Gerald McSorley, Kiera Clarke. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 110 min.), Drama, 2002, Box office gross: $0.765 million, (Paramount), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 4/22, DVD: Day & Date.
CASTLE IN THE SKY
By the creator of such extraordinary Japanese animated films as "My Neighbor Totoro," "Kiki's Delivery Service," "Princess Mononoke" and "Spirited Away." "Castle in the Sky" takes viewers on a fantastic voyage to a mythical retro-future full of amazing landscapes and wonderful flying machines. Pazu, a young boy, finds the beautiful girl Sheeta descending from the sky wearing a mysterious crystal, one that allows her to float in the air. Sheeta can't remember the crystal's secrets, but it becomes the target of a band of rabble-rousing sky pirates and their hilarious leader. Soon sinister agents are after them as well, along with a treacherous man named Muska. The chase leads them all to an astonishing castle in the sky, where a long slumbering civilization waits with incredible surprises. The DVD version, on two discs, includes the original Japanese language track, plus other goodies.
Director: Hayao Miyazaki. English-language voices by James van der Beek, Anna Paquin, Cloris Leachman, Mandy Patinkin, Mark Hamill, Andy Dick. CC, (MPAA rating: NR, 125 min.), Animated, 1986, (Disney), $19.99 VHS SRP, Available: 4/15, DVD: Day & Date.
In their never-ending-quest to come up with horror film scenarios, filmmakers seem willing to tap any and all benign characters to turn them into avenging bogeymen (remember the killer Santa Claus?). For this outing, the filmmakers have come up with a monstrous tooth fairy who wrecks havoc on the town of Darkness Falls. The film starts with a prologue of a woman -- a lighthouse keeper with a badly burned face -- unjustly accused of a heinous crime. In the ensuing 150 years since the miscarriage of justice, whenever local kids lose their last baby tooth, the evil spirit of the woman appears, scarring the kids forever. The movie quickly moves to the present, where Kyle, safely away from Darkness Falls, must return home to confront his troubled past (he was accused of murdering his mother when we all know it was the tooth fairy) to save his childhood sweetheart and her younger brother (on his was to losing his last baby tooth) from the monster. See your dentist instead.
Director: Jonathan Liebesman. Stars: Chaney Kley, Emma Caulfield, Lee Cormie, Grant Piro, Sullivan Stapleton. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 85 min.), Horror, 2003, Box office gross: $29.877 million, (Columbia TriStar), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 4/29, DVD: Day & Date.
Upbeat kids film about a hot-shot drummer from Harlem who quickly learns that talent, passion, discipline and teamwork are required to cut it on the drumline of a College marching band. Nickelodeon's Nick Cannon stars as Devon Miles, a gifted street drummer who snares the top spot in a Southern university marching band. But when his hotshot attitude gets a lukewarm reception from the school's straight-laced band leader (Orlando Jones), Devon quickly discovers that it takes more than rim shots to make it on the drumline. There's plenty of syncopated steps (with a squad of bandmembers 300 strong) and a hot hip-hop soundtrack.
Director: Charles Stone III. Stars: Nick Cannon, Zoe Saldana, Orlando Jones, Leonard Roberts, GQ, Jason Weaver, Earl C. Poitier, J. Anthony Brown. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 118 min.), Musical Drama, 2002, Box office gross: $55.489 million, (Fox), $14.95 VHS SRP, Available: 4/15, DVD: Day & Date.
FAR FROM HEAVEN
It's 1957 in the bedroom community of Hartford, Connecticut. Cathy Whitaker (Julianne Moore) has it all -- a lovely home, two wonderful children, and a handsome husband, Frank (Dennis Quaid), who is successfully climbing the corporate ladder at a television company. But Cathy's idyllic existence is just an illusion, and as forbidden desires threaten to tear her world apart, she is faced with choices that spur gossip within the community and change several lives forever. Cathy is the perfect, smiling wife, doting on her kids, her community and her husband. Frank, hard-working and dedicated, has been staying late at his office to work on a new campaign. One night Cathy decides to surprise Frank with a tupperware container of the evening's meal, and instead of finding him hard at work, she finds him in the arms of another man. Frank agrees to undergo medical attention for his "problem," along the way taking solace in booze. As his life spins more and more out of control, Cathy turns to another man for emotional support -- her educated, soft-spoken gardener. In the eyes of her community and friends, Cathy has violated the rules of upper-middle class etiquette -- she's not only befriending a man below her station in life, she's befriending a black man (Dennis Haysbert). And that, of course, changes everyone's lives forever. An homage, as everyone knows by now, to the melodramas of Douglas Sirk and, in particular, "All That Heaven Allows." But it's more than that of course: Todd Haynes' brilliant screenplay and direction looks at forbidden feelings of love, desire and yearning and places them onto a middle-class 1950s backdrop -- a time when thinking and speaking about homosexuality and integration were taboo subjects among the middle class. He weaves together layers of insights and understandings that transcend the romantic melodrama genre -- he has successfully sewn a modern sensibility on a 1950s tapestry. The power of the film comes from that juxtaposition -- and, of course, from Moore's and Quaid's bravura performances.
Director: Todd Haynes. Stars: Julianne Moore, Dennis Quaid, Dennis Haysbert, Patricia Clarkson, Viola Davis, James Rebhorn, Celia Weston. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 107 min.), Melodrama, 2002, Box office gross: $15.000 million, (Universal), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 4/1, DVD: Day & Date.
HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS
Cars fly, trees fight back and a mysterious elf comes to warn Harry Potter of danger -- all at the start of the second year of his amazing journey into the world of wizardry. This year at Hogwarts, spiders talk, letters scold and Harry's own unsettling ability to speak to snakes turns his friends against him. From dueling clubs to rogue Bludgers, it's a year of adventure and danger when bloody writing on a wall announces: The Chamber of Secrets has been opened. To save Hogwarts will require all of Harry, Ron and Hermione's magical abilities and courage in this spellbinding adaptation of J.K. Rowling's second book. Get ready to be amused and petrified as Harry Potter shows he's more than a wizard, he's a hero. Fast moving, involving story and action for kids of all ages -- the 161 minutes goes by faster than you can imagine.
Director: Chris Columbus. Stars: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Kenneth Branagh, John Cleese, Robbie Coltrane, Warwick Davis, Richard Griffiths, Richard Harris, Alan Rickman, Fiona Shaw, Maggie Smith, Julie Walters. CC, (MPAA rating: PG, 161 min.), Family adventure, 2002, Box office gross: $261.000 million, (Warner), $24.98 VHS SRP, Available: 4/11, DVD: Day & Date.
Director Phillip Noyce has made a disturbing yet uplifting film that examines the plight of Australia's Aborigines during the 1930s when the government saw fit to wrench Aboriginal children from their families "for their own good" to be assimilated i to white society -- typically as domestic servants. The film follows the lives of three such girls who chafe at the repression they encounter when sent to a mission to be trained to serve the upper class, and subsequently escape to the outback on a 1,500 mile journey home, hotly pursued by the authorities. The film gets its title from the enormous rabbit-proof fence built by the government (to stop a rabbit plague) that crossed the country and which the girls follow to get home. Political film that touches the emotions.
Director: Phillip Noyce. Stars: Evelyn Sampi, Tianna Sansbury, Laura Monaghan, Kenneth Branagh, David Gulpilil, Ningali Lawford, Deborah Mailman, Jason Clarke. CC, (MPAA rating: PG, 94 min.), Drama, 2002, Box office gross: $5.772 million, (Miramax), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 4/15, DVD: Day & Date.
Remake of Michael Mann's splendid 1986 "Manhunter," keying in more on the delightful Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) who played second fiddle in the original version. Here Edward Norton plays a retired FBI agent called back to action to consult with the incarcerated Lecter to solve a baffling serial killer case in which the murderer -- dubbed The Tooth Fairy by the press -- bites, maims and kills entire families. Its grisly, scary and wonderfully chilling.
Director: Brett Ratner. Stars: Anthony Hopkins, Edward Norton, Ralph Fiennes, Harvey Keitel, Emily Watson, Mary-Louise Parker, Philip Seymour Hoffman. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 124 min.), Thriller, 2002, Box office gross: $92.790 million, (Universal), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 4/1, DVD: Day & Date.
Demented, weird and offbeat are words to best describe this delight of a film about a young woman, Lee (Maggie Gyllenhaal), just released from a mental hospital to the bosom of her dysfunctional family, who gets a job as a legal secretary to sexually repressed Mr. Grey (James Spader). In short order Grey takes charge of Lee's sexual yearnings (she wants to be bossed around), resulting in Lee wearing a dog collar and engaging in spanking and other S&M practices with her boss. But this is not a sleazy erotic offering. Instead, it's a wonderful exploration of who is the master and who is the slave in interpersonal relations, with Lee coming out on top in more ways than one. This could have been a dreary outing in most hands, but director Steven Shainberg plays it like a comedy, with an amusing but ambiguous ending.
Director: Steven Shainberg. Stars: Maggie Gyllenhaal, James Spader, Leslie Ann Warren, Jeremy Davies. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 111 min.), Drama, 2002, Box office gross: $4.046 million, (Lions Gate), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 4/1, DVD: Day & Date.
A wonderfully imaginative animated story by Hayao Miyazaki, the creator of "My Neighbor Totoro" and "Princess Mononoke." And, like those previous outings, "Spirited Away" is a heady mix of realism and fabulism, sure to please adults and youngsters alike. Here a 10-year-old girl and her family wander into what first appears to be an abandoned theme park but turns out to be a spirit world. When her parents eat some food and are turned into pigs, it's up to Chihiro to rescue them by dealing with weird spirits and unearthly -- yet not scary -- situations. That includes a six-armed bathhouse furnace tender, adorable "soot balls," a witchy spirit world boss and a River God, among others. "Spirited Away" is the all-time boxoffice champ in Japan, surpassing "Titanic."
Director: Hayao Miyazaki. Voices of Daveigh Chase, Suzanne Pleshette, Jason Marsden, Susan Egan, David Ogden Stiers, Lauren Holly, Michael Chiklis. CC, (MPAA rating: PG, 125 min.), Animated, 2002, Box office gross: $7.400 million, (Disney), $19.99 VHS SRP, Available: 4/15, DVD: Day & Date.
STANDING IN THE SHADOW OF MOTOWN
This is the untold story of the soul behind the soul: The Motown house band known as The Funk Brothers who backed some of the top singers and groups of the fabulous Motown years from 1959-1973. In '59, Motown founder Berry Gordy gathered the best musicians from Detroit's thriving jazz and blues scene for his new record company. For the next 14 years, these players were the heartbeat on "My Girl," "Baby Love," "Bernadette," "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," "Dancing in the Streets" and every hit from the label's Detroit era. This unheralded group of musicians played on more No. 1 hits than the Beach Boys, the Stones, Elvis Presley, and the Beatles combined. They called (and still call) themselves The Funk Brothers, and this is their story.
Director: Paul Justman. Stars: The Funk Brothers, Bootsy Collins, Ben Harper, Montell Jordan, Chaka Khan, Tom Scott. CC, (MPAA rating: PG, 110 min.), Music biodoc, 2002, Box office gross: $1.574 million, (Artisan), $19.98 VHS SRP, Available: 4/22, DVD: Day & Date
Fast-paced actioner set against the breathtaking backdrop of the French Mediterranean. Frank Martin (Jason Starham) is the best at what he does: Transporting dangerous or illegal goods with no questions asked. But his latest shipment, a beautiful young woman kidnapped by international slave traders, brings deadly complications to his delivery plans: he breaks the rules and must kick into overdrive to fight to save his cargo, and his life. Whip-lashing car chases and edgy thrills.
Director: Louis Leterrier and Corey Yuen. Stars: Jason Statham, Qi Shu, Matt Schulze, Francois Berleand, Ric Young. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 92 min.), Thriller, 2003, Box office gross: $25.296 million, (Fox), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 4/15, DVD: Day & Date.
Animated futuristic take on Robert Louis Stevenson's "Treasure Island" has young Jim Hawkins, in possession of a secret map, join up with a cosmic space crew headed by daring Captain Amelia on a treasure hunt across the universe. Aboard the glittering solar galleon, Jim meets the ship's cyborg cook, John Silver, who teaches him the value of friendship and the power of dreams. Jim soon teams up with crazy new robot pal B.E.N., and the shape-shifting Morph to discover a treasure greater than he ever imagined. Disappointing critical and boxoffice response for Disney.
Director: John Musker and Ron Clements. Voices of Joseph-Gordon Levitt, Emma Thompson, Brian Murray, Martin Short. CC, (MPAA rating: PG, 95 min.), Family, 2002, Box office gross: $37.486 million, (Disney), $24.99 VHS SRP, Available: 4/29, DVD: Day & Date.
TRUTH ABOUT CHARLIE, THE
An homage to and remake of Stanley Donen's 1963 "Charade" starring Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant. In the original, Grant played a government agent who comes to the aid of Hepburn, who is being bullied by three baddies who think she knows the whereabouts of ill-gotten gains stolen by her now-dead husband. There was plenty of double-dealing and false identities (hence the title "Charade"). In this version, Thandie Newton admirably takes on the Hepburn role as the damsel in distress, and Mark Wahlberg is her knight in shining armor (he plays a modern Cary Grant, more streetwise than sophisticated but never-the-less appealing). The film, with Jonathan Demme embellishments, takes the story into the new millennium but still retains much of the excitement and intrigue of the original. "Charade" and "Charlie" will make a great double bill in your home theater.
Director: Jonathan Demme. Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Thandie Newton, Tim Robbins, Joong Hoon Park, Ted Levine, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Christine Boisson, Stephen Dillane. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 104 min.), Thriller, 2002, Box office gross: $5.293 million, (Universal), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 4/1, DVD: Day & Date.
TWO WEEKS NOTICE
Sexy comedy about an eccentric attorney and her client who discover it's never too late to arbitrate an "I love you." Lucy Kelson (Sandra Bullock) -- a brilliant but neurotic, liberal attorney with a strategic mind who's more interested in saving her Coney Island neighborhood than in earning a big paycheck -- is presented with the opportunity to do both when she accepts a position as chief counsel for real estate tycoon George Wade (Hugh Grant). However, the handsome, charming but totally self-absorbed Wade pushes Lucy to the limit by treating her more like a nanny and a personal assistant than the Harvard Law School grad she is. When Lucy decides to quit, her two weeks notice makes them realize they have fallen in love. There's a definite magnetism between Grant and Bullock and they play off each other with wonderful timing energy. A well-wrought outing.
Director: Marc Lawrence. Stars: Sandra Bullock, Hugh Grant, David Haig, Alicia Witt, Dana Ivey, Robert Klein, Heather Burns, Dorian Missick. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 110 min.), Romantic Comedy, 2002, Box office gross: $95.000 million, (Warner), $22.99 VHS SRP, Available: 4/29, DVD: Day & Date.
WILD THORNBERRYS MOVIE, THE
Kid-savvy producers Arlene Klasky and Gabor Csupo bring "The Wild Thornberrys" to the big screen in a big, satisfying way. In their first movie, the venerable Thornberrys take on important issues involving the evils of animal poaching that are nevertheless carefully tempered with humor and optimism to keep them manageable for young audiences. Nigel Thornberry and wife Marianne produce a television nature show from the wilds of Africa, traveling around that continent with two daughters, the bratty teenager Debbie and the younger, sweet-natured Eliza. The family comes to the aid of endangered animals and generally takes up an array of other good causes. The hook, of course, is that Eliza has a secret only the audience shares: She can converse with animals. One day, as Eliza plays with cheetah cubs, one is snatched by two poachers. Eliza believes she is to blame and vows to rescue the cub, no matter what it takes. From here the movie turns into her official rite of passage as she confronts not only the poachers but also a crucial decision involving her magical powers with the animals. The film's optimism and intelligence are heightened by its buoyant animation, an uplifting score by Drew Neumann and especially by Paul Simon's touching song "Father and Daughter."
Director: Jeff McGrath, Cathy Malkasian. Voices of Lacey Chabert, Tom Kane, Tim Curry, Jodi Carlisle, Michael Balzary (aka Flea), Danielle Harris, Lynn Redgrave, Rupert Everett, Marisa Tomei, Brenda Blethyn. CC, (MPAA rating: PG, 88 min.), Animated, 2002, Box office gross: $40.000 million, (Paramount), $24.95 VHS SRP, Available: 4/1, 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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March 15, 2003