OnVideo JUNE Video Reviews
Warren Schmidt (Jack Nicholson) has arrived at several of life's crossroads all at the same time. To begin with, he is retiring from a lifetime of service as an actuary for Woodmen of the World Insurance Company, and he feels utterly adrift. Furthermore, his only daughter Jeannie (Hope Davis) is about to marry a boob. And his wife Helen (June Squibb) dies suddenly after 42 years of marriage. With no job, no wife, and no family, Warren is desperate to find something meaningful in his thoroughly unimpressive life. He sets out on a journey of self-discovery, exploring his roots across Nebraska in the 35-foot motor home in which he had planned to drive around the country with his late wife. His ultimate destination is Denver, where he hopes to bridge the gulf between himself and his somewhat estranged daughter by arriving early to help with her wedding preparations. Unfortunately, he hates the groom-to-be Randall (Dermot Mulroney), a profoundly mediocre, underachieving waterbed salesman. To make matters worse, Warren is appalled by the free-spirited nature and boorish behavior of his soon-to-be in-laws (Kathy Bates and Howard Hesseman). Warren grows swiftly convinced that his new purpose in life is to stop his daughter's marriage. During this darkly comic and painful odyssey, Warren details his adventures and shares his observations with an unexpected new friend and confessor -- Ndugu Umbo, a six-year-old Tanzanian orphan whom he sponsors for $22 a month through an organization that advertises on TV. From these long letters filled with a lifetime of things unsaid, Warren begins -- perhaps for the first time -- to glimpse himself and the life he has lived. It's definitely a tour-de-force for Nicholson, who shows off his wry comedy turns just on the other side of his seriousness -- he holds the film together and proves that he, indeed, is one of the grand "old" men of American film.
Director: Alexander Payne. Stars: Jack Nicholson, Kathy Bates, Dermot Mulroney, Hope Davis, Howard Hesseman. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 124 min.), Comedy Drama, 2002, Box office gross: $63.676 million, (New Line), $22.98 VHS SRP, Available: 6/3, DVD: Day & Date.
A fusion of CG-animation and Japanese anime, "The Animatrix" is a collection of nine original short films conceived by the Wachowski Brothers, the creators of "The Matrix" trilogy. Inspired by the visionary action and innovative storytelling that power the trilogy, this spectacularly visual short film series delves deeper into the mind-bending world of The Matrix and the characters who inhabit it. Created in the anime style pioneered by Japanese animation artists and helmed by world-renowned anime directors, The Animatrix also features the voices of actors Keanu Reeves (Neo) and Carrie-Anne Moss (Trinity) in two of the shorts. "The Animatrix" debuts worldwide on DVD and videocassette between the release of the next two films in "The Matrix" trilogy - "The Matrix Reloaded," which opens theatrically on May 15, followed by "The Matrix Revolutions," which debuts in theaters in November.
"The Animatrix" features an eclectic techno soundtrack supervised by renowned DJ/producer/remixer Jason Bentley with some of today's hottest electronica artists such as Juno Reactor, Death in Vegas, Massive Attack, Meat Beat Manifesto and others. The original score for the project is provided by Don Davis, who crafted the music for all three films in "The Matrix" trilogy.
The short anime films are directed by some of the world's premiere anime filmmakers, including: Yoshiaki Kawajiri (writer/director of the anime classics "Ninja Scroll" and "Vampire Hunter D"), Shinchiro Watanabe (writer/director of the anime feature "Cowboy Bebop"), Koji Morimoto (animation supervisor of the seminal anime film "Akira"), Mahiro Maeda (director of the sci-fi anime series "Blue Submarine No. 6"), Takeshi Koike (lead animator on several of director Yoshiaki Kawajiri's films including "Wicked City"), Peter Chung (creator and director of the popular MTV series "Aeon Flux"), Andy Jones (animation director for the "Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within").
Exciting, action-packed contemporary Western on wheels with desperados who live every day on the edge. Lawyers and city workers by day, they take to the streets in their leathers to race by night. In the world of underground motorcycle clubs, the undefeated racer known as Smoke (Laurence Fishburne) is the undisputed "King of Cali." But Smoke's dominance of the set is about to be threatened by a young motorcycle racing prodigy called Kid (Derek Luke), who is determined to win Smoke's helmet and earn the coveted title. Based on a New Times Magazine article.
Director: Reggie Rock Bythewood. Stars: Laurence Fishburne, Derek Luke, Kid Rock, Orlando Jones, Djimon Hounsou, Lisa Bonet, Larenz Tate, Meagan Goode, Brendan Fehr, Rick Gonzalez, Terence Howard, Eriq La Salle, Kadeem Hardison. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 110 min.), Thriller, 2003, Box office gross: $21.701 million, (DreamWorks), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 6/10, DVD: Day & Date.
Corrupt cop thriller set against the backdrop of the infamous 1992 L.A. riots. Trigger-happy LAPD Special Investigations Squad detective Eldon Perry (Kurt Russell) tutors his rookie partner (Scott Speedman) on the realities of police intimidation and corruption as they investigate a high-profile quadruple homicide case in South Central Los Angeles. But there's more than meets the eye here, and assistant chief Arthur Holland (Ving Rhames) threatens to end Perry's boundary-crossing brand of justice ... if Perry's own demons don't destroy him first. Russell turns in a strong performance as the compromised cop and Lolita Davidovich is excellent, as always, as Perry's long-suffering wife. The film is highlighted by a wonderfully moody jazz score by Terence Blanchard.
Director: Ron Shelton. Stars: Kurt Russell, Ving Rhames, Scott Speedman, Brendan Gleeson, Michael Michele, Lolita Davidovich. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 118 min.), Thriller, 2002, Box office gross: $9.059 million, (MGM), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 6/24, DVD: Day & Date.
DELIVER US FROM EVA
In this appealing romantic comedy, a trio of men plot to free themselves of their mates' unattached and seemingly omnipresent older sister Eva (Gabrielle Union). Eva has a sweet face but a steely disposition: a few choice words from her, and a once-confident man becomes a virtual basket case. Eva has been in charge of her younger sisters -- and the family money -- ever since their parents died. But the cost of putting family first has been the deferral of her own dreams -- and the assumption of a harder-than-nails personality that no man has yet been able to crack. Eva's uncanny ability to interfere in her sisters' affairs has not endeared her to their spouses and partners. So they concoct a simple plan: compensate cash-strapped ladies' man Ray Adams (LL Cool J) to romance and distract Eva from her familial duties. Introductions are made, sparks fly between Ray and Eva. But the plan goes awry when they fall in love, leading to surprising consequences and hilarious complications.
Director: Gary Hardwick. Stars: LL Cool J, Gabrielle Union, Duane Martin, Essence Atkins, Robinne Lee, Meagan Lee, Mel Jackson, Dartanyan Edmonds. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 105 min.), Comedy, 2003, Box office gross: $17.334 million, (Universal), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 6/17, DVD: Day & Date.
DIE ANOTHER DAY
In this 20th installment of the 40-year-old James Bond franchise, agent 007 (Pierce Brosnan) becomes somewhat of a British Secret Service pariah when he's captured, tortured and finally released by North Koreans. Stigmatized by M (Judi Dench) and held incommunicado on a Yankee ship in Hong Kong, Bond escapes and begins to track down the evil Korean killer Zao (Rick Yune). He makes his way to Cuba and there meets up with Jinx (Halle Berry) and the pair destroy an illegal health clinic that specializes in DNA transplants that allow killers like Zao to change their identity. From there the pair travel to London, Iceland and North Korea, along the way engaging in sword fights, a hand-to-hand battle in a laser lab, a chase across a frozen lake in Bond's well-equipped Aston Martin, and much much more. Throw in a falling glacier, fierce battles on Korea's DMZ, fights on a disintegrating Russian cargo plane, and a doomsday weapon called Icarus, and you have one of the more exiting, action-oriented Bond outings (aided and abetted by digital effects) in quite a long time. This is a hipper, edgy, more professional Bond, and Brosnan is up to the task at hand; Berry is the latest Bond girl and partner-in-action (viewers are introduced to her when she rises out of the sea in an homage to the first Bond girl, Ursula Andress, in "Dr. No" -- and, like Andress, Berry is more show than acting go) and the villains are, well, Bond villains. And theater audiences loved this outing -- to the tune of $400 million worldwide. And you will too. The DVD of "Die Another Day" is stunning, both visually and aurally -- the lengthy opening sequence gives your surround sound speakers a hearty workout and immediately sucks you into the action. Definitely a demonstration disc to show off your system.
Director: Lee Tamahori. Stars: Pierce Brosnan, Halle Berry, Toby Stephens, Rosamund Pike, Rick Yune, Judi Dench, John Cleese, Michael madsen, Will Yun Lee, Samantha Bond. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 132 min.), Thriller, 2002, Box office gross: $160.200 million, (MGM), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 6/3, DVD: Day & Date.
Biography of celebrated Mexican artist Frida Kahlo (played by Salma Hayek), told in flashback on the day of her one-and-only exhibit in Mexico in the spring of 1953. Her life was tumultuous. A trolley accident in 1923 impaled her on a metal rod and put her in bed for months where she miraculously recovered, taking up painting to ease her boredom. She drank, smoked and took drugs to excess -- to dull inner and outer pain. She met and fell in love with the famous muralist Diego Rivera (Alfred Molina) and they shared lovers in their open marriage -- she was bisexual. Her paintings are amazing, and fortunately don't take too much of a back seat in this opulent biography that will certainly tantalize viewers with it lust for life.
Director: Julie Taymor. Stars: Salma Hayek, Alfred Molina, Geoffrey Rush, Edward Norton, Antonio Banderas, Mia Maestro, Ashley Judd, Roger Rees, Valeria Golino. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 119 min.), Bio-Drama, 2002, Box office gross: $25.000 million, (Miramax), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 6/10, DVD: Day & Date.
Loose attempt to spoof Hollywood -- and Bollywood -- rags-to-riches fantasies and musicals. Jimi Mistry plays Ramu, a budding Indian actor enthralled as a child by a Hindu-dubbed version of "Grease" who eventually makes his way to New York to make his mark as the Indian John Travolta. Instead he gets cast in a porno film (opposite Heather Graham) and eventually substitutes for a "guru" hired to entertain at socialite Marisa Tomei's birthday party. His haphazard philosophical ramblings (which he picked up on the porno sets) endears him to the wealthy, and he embarks on a new career, performing as a guru to packed houses on Broadway. There's plenty of goofiness along the way, including some kooky dream sequence production numbers. Fine performances by Tomei, Graham, Mistry and Michael McKean (as an adult filmmaker).
Director: Daisy von Scherler Mayer. Stars: Jimi Mistry, Heather Graham, Marisa Tomei, Christine Baranski, Michael McKean. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 91 min.), Comedy, 2003, Box office gross: $3.000 million, (Universal), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 6/3, DVD: Day & Date.
Directed by Tom Tykwer ("Run Lola Run") and written by Krzysztof Kieslowski ("Blue," "White," "Red") -- who was originally set to direct until his death -- and Krzysztof Piesiewicz. A lonely young police officer (Giovanni Ribisi) and a guilt-ridden crime suspect (Cate Blanchett) set off on a desperate and thrilling quest not so much for survival as to explore whether the possibility for justice, redemption and love can be found on earth. The result is part thriller about a woman forced to take the law into her hands, part stirring romance about the search for a higher form of rectitude. The setting is Turin, Italy where Philippa (Blanchett), an English teacher at her wits end after watching several people she cares about die from drug overdoses, and fed up with a police force that will do nothing to help, plants a bomb in a trashcan inside the office of one of Italy's most despicable yet free dealers. Tragically, fate intervenes, and the trashcan is moved, allowing the bomb to kill several innocent people, and the dealer to escape yet again. Philippa is quickly arrested and taken in for interrogation, where she learns for the first time what she has done and discovers she is suspected of being part of a terrorist organization. No one is willing to listen to the truth of Philippa's story, but then there is another twist of fate. One of her police captors, the quiet Filippo (Ribisi), falls inexplicably in love with her, and decides to help her in her quest to finish the process of meting out justice that she began. Their journey together takes them from simple retribution to a search for true redemption, a journey that traverses through a moral and physical maze from which there appears to be no obvious escape. A beautifully executed meditation on fate and chance -- one of the best (underrated) films of the year).
Director: Tom Tykwer. Stars: Cate Blanchett, Giovanni Ribisi, Reme Girone, Stefania Rocca, Alessandro Sperduti. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 97 min.), Drama, 2002, Box office gross: $0.774 million, (Miramax), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 6/17, DVD: Day & Date.
Astutely directed by Stephen Daldry, the film cross-cuts between the stories of three women in different eras, all who are profoundly affected by Virginia Woolf: Laura Brown (Julianne Moore), a suicidal 1951 Los Angeles housewife who can't stop reading Woolf's novel "Mrs. Dalloway"; Clarissa Vaughn (Meryl Streep), a literary editor in 2001 New York throwing a party for her friend Richard, a famous author dying of AIDS; and Woolf herself (Nicole Kidman, who won an Oscar for her role) in 1923 England writing "Mrs. Dalloway." The film is haunted by the specter of Woolf's suicide in 1941 Sussex and explores each woman's moment of crisis: Brown plots an overdose by sleeping pills to end her stifled and unfulfilled life as a housewife; Vaughn (whose first name is the same as Mrs. Dalloway's) is unhappy with her current life with live-in lover Sally (Allison Janney), feeling like she has never attained the happiness she was meant to have; and Woolf, working on her fourth novel in the "stagnant" English countryside, plots to escape (back to London) from her misguided but loving husband. It's a wonderful literary outing for all concerned.
Director: Stephen Daldry. Stars: Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, Meryl Streep, Ed harris, Toni Collette, Claire Danes, Jeff Daniels, Stephen Dillane, Allison Janney, John C. Reilly, Miranda Richardson. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 115 min.), Drama, 2002, Box office gross: $40.000 million, (Paramount), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 6/24, DVD: Day & Date.
JUNGLE BOOK 2, THE
Picking up where the 1967 original left off -- when Mowgli's love for a young girl brings him out of the jungle and into civilization -- this mellow sequel has Mowgli living with his adopted parents, his little stepbrother, and Shanti, the little girl who stole his heart. But Mowgli (Haley Joel Osment) still feels the call of the wild and soon finds himself disobeying his father's orders and crossing the river into the jungle to recreate "happier" freer times with Baloo the bear (John Goodman). Naturally there's evil lurking there, in the form of nasty tiger Shere Khan, who's still on the hunt for Mowgli. Mowgli must outwit the tiger, and decide if he wants a life of laid back hilarity with Baloo in the jungle or a simpler existence in the man-village with Shanti.
Director: Steve Trenbirth. Stars: Voices of John Goodman, Haley Joel Osment, Mae Whitman, Connor Funk, Tony Jay Kaa, Jim Cummings. Bob Joles, Phil Collins, John Rhys-Davies. CC, (MPAA rating: G, 72 min.), Animated, 2003, Box office gross: $46.253 million, (Disney), $24.99 VHS SRP, Available: 6/10, DVD: Day & Date.
Lame comedy about mis-matched lovers who return from their disastrous European honeymoon ready to hit the divorce court. Ashton Kutcher plays Tom, a decidedly blue-collar late-night radio traffic reporter who falls for and marries Sarah (Brittany Murphy), a decidedly Beverly Hills princess. The film is told in flashbacks: Tom's football hitting Sarah's head, Tom killing Sarah's pooch, Sarah's family's loathing of Tom, their "opposites attract" romance, marriage and -- horrific vacation in France and Italy where the word Ugly American (in Tom's boorish case) comes to the fore. Will they recover from their honeymoon? Contrived and silly.
Director: Shawn Levy. Stars: Ashton Kutcher, Brittany Murphy, Christian Kane, David Mooscow, Monet Mazur, David Rashe, Veronica Cartwright. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 95 min.), Comedy, 2003, Box office gross: $55.285 million, (Fox), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 6/17, DVD: Day & Date.
Weak Down Under family comedy that may be a little harsh for its PG rating. Charlie and Louis (Jerry O'Connell, Anthony Anderson) are inept Brooklyn mobsters who mess up a job for godfather Christopher Walken, and as a "reward" are sent to deliver $50,000 to Australia. Unfortunately, they keep the money in Louis' lucky jacket and when they jokingly put the jacket on a supposedly dead kangaroo to take a "tourist" photo, trouble starts again: The kangaroo pops back to life and jumps off with the jacket and the money. Now the out-of-luck boys have to outsmart the marsupial. The much-touted talking kangaroo bits offered up in trailers, alas, only come in a dream sequence. Rough around the edges.
Director: David McNally. Stars: Jerry O'Connell, Anthony Anderson, Estella Warren, Christopher Walken, Marton Csokas, Michael Shannon, Bill Hunter. CC, (MPAA rating: PG, 89 min.), Family, 2003, Box office gross: $65.478 million, (Warner), $22.99 VHS SRP, Available: 6/24, DVD: Day & Date.
Taut and violent police thriller stars Jason Patric as suspended undercover narcotics officer Nick Tellis reluctantly drawn back into the force to find the truth behind the murder of a young police officer killed in the line of duty. He's teamed with Henry Oak (Ray Liotta), the slain officer's partner, a rogue cop who will stop at nothing to avenge his friend's death. As Tellis and Oak unravel the case, the dark underbelly of the narcotics world reveals itself in surprising ways that are more twisted than either officer has ever seen before -- and the mystery threatens to destroy them both.
Director: Joe Carnahan. Stars: Ray Liotta, Jason Patric, Chi McBride. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 105 min.), Thriller, 2002, Box office gross: $10.460 million, (Paramount), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 6/17, DVD: Day & Date.
21st century version of John Landis' classic "Animal House" as performed by a trio of men who want to relive their college days and take one last stab at irresponsibility. Lawyer Mitch (Luke Wilson) returns from a business trip to find his live-in girl friend (Juliette Lewis) having kinky sex with someone else and, crestfallen, he moves out and rents a house near a college campus. Joined by pals Beanie (Vince Vaughn) and Frank (Will Ferrell), he turns the place into a frat house, setting off all sorts of wild and wonderful times -- with lots of sexy gals and cool parties. Ahh, to be young again. In rated and unrated versions.
Director: Todd Phillips. Stars: Luke Wilson, Will Ferrell, Vince Vaugn, Ellen Pompeo, Juliette Lewis, Leah Remini, Perry Reeves, Craig Kilborn, Jeremy Piven. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 91 min.), Comedy, 2003, Box office gross: $73.000 million, (DreamWorks), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 6/10, DVD: Day & Date.
Socially impaired Barry Egan (Adam Sandler), the owner of a vanity plungers company, is a man with anger issues, perhaps stemming from being raised with seven abusive sisters. One evening he calls up a phone sex line, and gets verbally abused by the woman on the other end, who happens to be in cahoots with a lowlife carpet salesman bent on scamming Barry in an extortion scheme. In the meantime he begins to fall in love with Lena Leonard (Emily Watson), a woman one of his sister's tried to set him up with. Now Barry is being pursued by the four brothers of the sex phone operator, and realizes he has to leave town. So he decides to travel to Hawaii, using the frequent flier mile coupons clipped from cartons of pudding cups, where he hopes to change his life and again meet up with Lena. A crackpot comedy with fabulous performances by Sandler and Watson. Loosely suggested by an article in Time magazine about an civil engineer who found a loophole in a Healthy Choice/American Airlines promotion, allowing him to accumulate a million frequent flyer miles for coupons from $3,000 worth of pudding cups. The film was the darling of the 2002 Cannes Film Festival, with good reason: director Paul Thomas Anderson's ("Boogie Nights," "Magnolia") gorgeous pastel color schemes lulls the viewer into a romantic world contrapuntally broken apart by his jarring camerawork and soundtrack. The director's Yin/Yang approach -- aided and abetted by terrific performances by Sandler and Watson -- pushes and pulls you into Barry Egan's life and transformation.
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson. Stars: Emily Watson, Adam Sandler, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Luis Guzman, Mary Lynn Rajskub. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 91 min.), Comedy, 2002, Box office gross: $17.790 million, (Columbia TriStar), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 6/24, DVD: Day & Date.
TEARS OF THE SUN
Set against the exotic backdrop of Africa, this Bruce Willis-starrer is a gripping heroic drama that deals with the gritty realism of human conflict. When Navy S.E.A.L. veteran Lt. Waters (Willis) and his top-secret team arrives in war-torn Nigeria to rescue Dr. Lena Kendricks (Monica Bellucci), a U.S. citizen who runs a mission in the countryside, she refuses to abandon the refugees under her care and implores him to escort them on a dangerous trek through the dense jungle to the nearby Cameroon border. During their journey the S.E.A.L.s find themselves the unwitting guardians of a man sought by the rebel militia, but as Waters' resolve to protect Lena strengthens, he ultimately chooses to defy his military orders and fights to deliver her and the refugees safely across the border.
Director: Antoine Fuqua. Stars: Bruce Willis, Monica Bellucci, Cole Hauser, Fionnula Flanagan, Eamonn Walker, Johnny Messner, Nick Chinlund, Tom Skerritt. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 121 min.), Action Drama, 2003, Box office gross: $42.000 million, (Columbia TriStar), No VHS SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 6/10, 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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June 1, 2003