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New on Video for the weekend of
December 24 - 26, 1999

Summer of Sam

It's Christmas week, so why is Buena Vista releasing this film, a story about New York during the summer of 1977 when the Son of Sam terrorized New York with a string of murders? Because they want to remind Academy Award voters about the film, but I think the campaign will be counterproductive.

I usually like Spike Lee's work, but this film seems to have no plot, no purpose, no suspense and no insight into the wild summer or the killer. Lee tries to show the fear of New Yorkers and their irrational reactions that drove them to suspect everyone. It is a portrait of the city recounting the '77 blackout, Studio 54, the burgeoning punk scene at CBGB's, the mob and everything else that New York was famous for at the time. During most of the film, I felt like I was watching a cheap porno due to Lee's obsession with showing most characters having sex. What is this supposed to be? Lee's answer to Caligula?

If you lived through it or you're familiar with the story, there is nothing new here. I hope Mira Sorvino can start getting better roles.
Grade: D+

Run Lola Run

This wild German film features three alternate scenarios as Lola (Franka Potente) has only 20-minutes to save her boyfriend from a gangster. The film has been heralded as part of a new wave of film making.

Potente puts in a fantastic performance as the rebel outcast who tries to save the person who cares about her and don't be surprised if Tom Tykwer is nominated for Best Director at this year's Academy Awards ceremony. A must see for art house film lovers and an interesting movie for those who want to see something different. German with subtitles. Grade: B

American Pie

How many times do we have to hear about the pie scene? Whereas Run Lola Run is an example of a new daring film-making style less reliant on traditional structure, American Pie is an example of how every studio wants to make a film like last summer's hit. In this case, Hollywood is trying to find the next Farrelly Brothers teenage boy appealing gross out film a la There's Something About Mary.

New on Video for the weekend of
December 17 - 19, 1999

The Red Violin

A beautifully told set of short stories centering around the history of one unique and legendary instrument, the Red Violin. In this fictional tale, the Red Violin, so named due to its fiery reddish colored varnish, was the created by a master violinmaker, Niccolo Busotti of Italy. In 1681, he made the violin for his unborn child, but the child and mother pass away during birth, cursing the violin forever. Brokenhearted, Busotti never makes another.

The audience then follows the violin as it changes hands over time to an orphan prodigy, a band of gypsies, a British virtuoso, Communist China in the middle of the cultural revolution and, finally, to an auction house where several collectors and people associated with its past want to purchase it.

Wonderful performances by Samuel L. Jackson, a violin expert who has been searching for the elusive treasure and wants it to be owned by one who can appreciate it; Greta Scacchi and Jonathan Flemyng as separated lovers; and Cristoph Koncz as a young violin prodigy. Much of the film is subtitled, but the compelling stories draw you in, especially the suspenseful ending. Fantastic storytelling by Director Francois Girard. If you want to see something a little different this weekend, try this one out. Grade: A-

The Very Thought of You

What's more important in life - the lover of your dreams or your best friends? Director Nick Hamm tackles this quandary when three life long friends fall for the same woman, Martha (Monica Potter), over the course of three eventful days. Daniel (Tom Hollander) is a big shot record company executive who meets Martha on a plane to London and tries to wine and dine her. Frank (Rufus Sewell) meets Martha and wants to take her away from Daniel out of revenge. Lawrence (Joseph Fiennes) meets Martha at the airport and they seem to be a match made in heaven. However, Lawrence feels loyal to Daniel and doesn't want to take her away from him. Will Lawrence's misplaced nobility and guilt ruin the best chance he has ever had at true love?

The film is an entertaining romantic comedy that is well worth the rental price. Joseph Fiennes is good as the guilt ridden friend who wants to do "the right thing", but realizes that he has made a series of mistakes in life and this might be his last chance to make it right. If you liked him in Shakespeare in Love, you will enjoy him in this role. Monica Potter steals the show by demonstrating a strength and vulnerability that reminds the audience of Julia Roberts. She plays the most complex character, a woman coming out of a bad relationship, who is so fed up with life that she decides to hop on the first plane to anywhere else. If you have ever been in Lawrence's shoes, you will appreciate this funny tale. Grade: B


No, it's not that kind of movie you filthy minded readers. Kirsten Dunst (Interview with the Vampire, E/R) and Michelle Williamson (Dawson's Creek, Halloween H2O) play two young ladies who are employed as the official Presidential dog walkers, but end up uncovering the Watergate scandal.

The General's Daughter

John Travolta must investigate the grisly murder of a prominent General's daughter. Soon, he is knee deep in a shocking scandal.

New on Video for the weekend of
December 10 - 12, 1999


Inspector Gadget

When I tell people about the web site, they often think it must be fun to sit around and watch movies all day long. A week like this proves them wrong.

What can I say about this film? It is a constant stream of product placements and a showcase for all the toys Disney wants your kids to buy. The best family films can be enjoyed by kids and adults, but Inspector Gadget does not strive for this goal. It just wants to sell you stuff and show what cool special effects they can generate.

Broderick plays a security guard who dreams of Dr. Brenda Bradford (Joely Fisher) and becoming a police officer. After he is injured in a heroic attempt to catch the killer of Brenda's father (Parents shouldn't worry, no blood and guts, all implied), she makes him the test subject for a new robotics experiment. He becomes Inspector Gadget, a part human/robot who fights crime in the GadgetMobile (voice by D.L. Hughley).

In light of their recent performances, Rupert Everett and Matthew Broderick seem to be slumming it to make a few bucks. No character development, no compelling stories, very predictable. God help us, Disney even threatens us with a sequel. Just put this tape in the VCR and let the kids watch it while you wrap Christmas presents.
Grade: C-

Deep Blue Sea

It's Jaws meets Jurassic Park. I swear the makers of this movie stole scenes from Jaws, a little plot from the movie Alive and some Blair Witch Project.

Dr. Susan McAllister (Saffron Burrows) is desperately seeking a cure for Alzheimer's disease. She has come up with a method to increase the size of shark brains to harvest proteins necessary for the procedure. However, she has created superintelligent sharks that have revenge on their minds. When the sharks decide to attack the lab, everyone must flee for their lives.

I think this would have been more impressive on the big screen. Some of the special effects are very good, although the computer generated sharks sometimes look phony. Steven Spielberg explained it best when he expressed in an interview that Jaws would have been a horrible failure had the audience laughed when they first saw the shark. I kinda laughed at Deep Blue Sea's sharks. Also, in one scene, where a person is grabbed by a shark, you can obviously tell it was a doll or CGI.

There are too many characters. LL Cool J is unnecessary, many of his scenes could have been cut to give us more time to learn about the other characters. Instead of jumping right into the action, Director Renny Harlan should have spent more time exploring the background of our heroes. Samuel L. Jackson and Burrows do a good job, but the plot is fairly predictable and most of the characters share no chemistry together.Grade: D+

New on Video for the weekend of
December 3 - 5, 1999


Wild Wild West

How about the Dull Dull West? Bad Bad West? Give me my money back back West? My friend, Brian, and I have been looking forward to this film for months. The trailers were exciting. It comes from the classic sixties television show that we like. We are fans of Will Smith, Kevin Kline, Kenneth Branagh and (especially) Salma Hayak. What could go wrong? How about a terrible script, major plot holes, lack of chemistry between the actors, no motivation for the villain, lack of backstory for all the characters, lack of wit in the script, and stupid plot twists that are unnecessary and pointless.

Set in America after the Civil War, U.S. agents James West (Smith) and Artemus Gordon (Kline) have been asked by President Grant to find a former Confederate General who is kidnapping the premier scientists of the day. Our two heroes soon discover that the scientists are being forced to build a weapon of mass destruction to takeover the United States.

Kenneth Branagh is great, but his character needs some backstory. Why does he want to beat the United States? How did he lose his legs? Did he lose his mind, too? A nice little segment showing his history would have helped immensely. Same with Will Smith's character. West explains why he is pursuing General McGrath, but it would have been more powerful to actually have a scene early in the movie rather than have him recount a story later. The movie was only 105 minutes and had a huge budget, so there was ample time and money to do both additional scenes. Also, Hayak's character obviously is only in the movie for T & A. Why not give her something to do that is relevant to the plot? Good job by Smith and Branagh, but not enough to save this clunker. Grade: D-

A Midsummer Night's Dream

I am not a big Shakespeare fan, so I was pleasantly surprised when I enjoyed this 1999 adaptation of the classic Shakespeare comedy. There are a few big names, including Michelle Pfeiffer and Kevin Kline, but it is the lesser-known members of the cast that make this film enjoyable. Kudos to Stanley Tucci as Puck, who plays the part with a lively cockiness, and Dominic West as Lysander. If you like silly comedy, you will howl while watching the final scenes where Kevin Kline and crew stage a small play. Like many, I have trouble following Shakespeare's style of writing, but I picked up on it after about 20 minutes. I also watched Al Pacino's Looking for Richard, which teaches an average viewer like myself how to understand the Bard. Grade: B

Simon Sez

Dennis Rodman stars in this action flick. Armageddon can't be far away.

The Black Mask

Jet Li, a very famous action film star in Japan, brings his talents across the Pacific for this Kung fu picture.

New on Video for the weekend of
November 25 - 28, 1999


South Park

Based on Comedy Central's big hit television show/cartoon, South Park. When Kyle, Cartman, Stan and Kenny sneak into a profanity-laced movie starring their favorite cartoon characters, Terrence and Phillip, the four scamps learn some new dirty words that have their mothers in an uproar. The parents decide to blame Terrence and Phillip, which, through some very funny plot twists, leads to a war with Canada. I think this film is one of the most intelligent and funniest films I have seen in a long time. It is a sharp social satire and a wonderful send up of 1930's and 40's musicals. If profanity and bathroom humor offend you, stay away from this one, but don't discount it. Grade: A


Catherine Zeta-Jones chases after an infamous jewel thief, played by Sean Connery. The May-December pairing was panned when the film debuted back in April, but now that Zeta-Jones is romantically linked with Michael Douglas, it doesn't seem as implausible.

The Haunting

You can stage your own Catherine Zeta-Jones double feature by renting Entrapment and this film, which finds this Scottish beauty trapped overnight in a haunted house with Liam Neeson.

The Love Letter

Most people have never heard of this film because it opened the same weekend as Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. Kate Capshaw (AKA Mrs. Steven Spielberg) stars as Helen, a bookshop owner who finds a mysterious and passionate love letter nestled in the cushions of a couch in her store. She thinks it is from a young hunk, Johnny (Tom Everett Scott), who works for her. When Johnny finds it accidentally, he thinks it is from her to him, so they embark on a daring May-December romance that threatens Helen's long estranged love affair with local firefighter and high school sweetheart George (Tom Selleck).

Who really wrote the love letter? Who is the intended recipient?

I felt like there is a great movie in here somewhere, but the plot suffers from too many unnecessary distractions caused by too many characters. Ellen DeGeneres is hilarious as Capshaw's pal, but isn't given enough to do even though the plot could have taken an interesting turn with her character. Capshaw is good, but by the end of the movie you want to strangle her for not being able to figure out which guy she wants. Also, are we supposed to believe that Blythe Danner is old enough to be Capshaw's mother?!? They are almost the same age! Grade: C

The Iron Giant

If your house is full of school children during Thanksgiving weekend, rent this beauty from Warner Brothers. Like all great animated features, even adults will like it. Set in 1957, right at the time the Soviets launched Sputnik, the town of Rockwell, Maine is besieged with reports of a strange 50-foot robot that seems to have shot out of the sky and landed in their small community. No one believes those who claim to have seen this mysterious giant, but the trail of evidence is unmistakable. When Young Hogarth Hughes finds the robot, he makes a new friend who needs to be protected from a secret government agency that wants to destroy him. Voices provided by Jennifer Aniston, Harry Connick, Jr., Christopher MacDonald and John Mahoney. Some scenes are very intense, so take the PG rating to heart. May not be suitable for some younger kids due to some violence and the climatic scenes. Grade: A

New on Video for the weekend of
November 19 - 21, 1999

The Castle

Michael Caton stars as Darryl Kerrigan in this funny, Australian tribute to the power of the common man. Darryl and his family live in a modest home under powerlines and next to the runway of a major airport. It is a location most of us would dread, but Darryl cherishes his castle. When the airport wants to expand, it seizes Darryl home under compulsory acquisition laws. He chooses not to accept the offer of $70,000, rallies his neighbors and fights all the way to Australia's supreme court. Caton shines in this funny and touching comedy that will have you rooting for the underdog. Grade: B

Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me

It's a groovy week at your local video store as the shagadelic man of mystery returns in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. Saturday Night Live alumnus Mike Myers returns to his role of British secret agent Austin Powers, whose mojo has been stolen by his dastardly nemesis Dr. Evil, also played by Myers. Rounding out the cast are Heather Graham as Powers' American counterpart Felicity Shagwell (Shag very well by reputation), who tries to help Powers return to his swinging ways and Verne Troyer as Dr. Evil's partner in crime, Mini Me. Very funny, but not as intelligent as the first film. Since he lost his mojo, I thought Powers should have been more like Inspector Cousteau. Grade: B-

Tea with Mussolini

If Austin Powers isn't your cup of tea, maybe you want to check out Tea with Mussolini starring Cher, Judith Dench, Joan Plowright and Lily Tomlin as a group of British and American women drawn to World War II-era Florence, Italy for its beauty and art. They take in a young boy whose Mother has died and raise him to love the arts. A few years later, as World War II heats up, the women become political prisoners, and the young boy joins the Italian resistance to fight for their freedom.


Oscar Award winner Gooding, Jr. stars as an ambitious psychiatric resident studying the supposedly fascinating case of an anthropologist/mad man played by Oscar Award winner Anthony Hopkins. Soon, Hopkins has gained the upper hand as Gooding tries to uncover the truth about Hopkins' dark, mysterious past. What a waste of talent. Not only do you have two Oscar winners, but the cast also boasts the talents of Donald Sutherland, George Dzundza and Maura Tierney. Too bad the script is long and boring. Grade: D

Rogue Trader

You probably remember him as Obi Wan Kenobi from this summer's blockbuster, Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, but you can check him out this week in the true story of Nick Leeson, whose illegal trading and deceptive accounting led to Barings bank losing
$1.4 Billion. You may remember that this story grabbed headlines across the world when it broke in 1995. The movie is based on Leeson's own book and McGregor is great, but I found myself lost among all the financial institute jargon and intrusive soundtrack. Interesting tidbit: Leeson's wife reportedly left him after reading his book and discovering many exploits with other women. Unfortunately, none of that is in the movie. Film first ran on HBO after the director, James Dearden, spent a year trying to get a distributor. Grade: D+

New on Video for the weekend of
November 12 - 14, 1999

Notting Hill

Julia Roberts plays a famous actress. Hugh grant plays a flummoxed Englishman. Big stretch for both (that's sarcasm). Her fame and his shyness challenge their budding romance. Can they succeed when the press starts tracking them? Both Roberts and Grant are fairly likable in the film, but script suffers from many plot holes and giant leaps. Grade: C

Life is Beautiful

The critically acclaimed Academy Award winner comes to the small screen after a four-month delay. Robert Begnini has crafted a brilliant film that is like two movies in one. Known as the Italian Jerry Lewis, the first half of the film shows the Begnini sense of humor and comedic talent that international audiences know well. He is hilarious as the carefree, romantic waiter, Guido, who finds his true love, Dora (real life wife Nicoletta Braschi), but must win her away from her fiancée. The movie then flashes forward several years to World War II-era Italy, where fascism rules and Jews, like Guido, are taken to concentration camps. When Guido and his son are taken away, the father tells his young son that it is all a game and they will lose points if he asks for mommy, cries or asks for food. The contrasts between pre-war and wartime Italy are frightening. Begnini deserves every bit of praise he has received for creating such an enduring and lovable film. It is a testament to courage in the face of unspeakable horror. A version with English dubbed in is available, but check out the original with subtitles. Grade:A+

Winnie The Pooh: Seasons of Giving

Winnie and the crew aim to teach children that the holiday season is about more than presents.

Break Up

Bridget Fonda stars as the wife of an abusive man who wakes up in a hospital after one of their many fights to find herself the main suspect in her husband's murder. To prove her innocence, she escapes from the detective questioning her (Keifer Sutherland) to search for the truth.


Denise Crosby, who had a short lived tenure on Star Trek: the Next Generation, leads a documentary crew that travels from convention to convention learning about the rabid fans of Star Trek. The film includes interviews with several Star Trek stars including Leonard Nimoy, LeVar Burton and Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner.

Free Enterprise

Speaking of Shatner, he stars as himself in this comedy, where two struggling film makers approaching 30 decide to seek out Shatner for much needed career and life advice. They are shocked to find their hero starring in a pitiful one-man production of Julius Caesar.

Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas

A new Christmas adventure for Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy and the gang.

New on Video for the weekend of
November 5 - 7, 1999


Big Daddy

Adam Sandler raises a child? I wish child welfare had kept me away from this one. Sonny (Sandler) is a twentysomething who still acts like a college frat boy. While all of his friends have become doctors and lawyers, he has taken time out from life to lounge around all day and work at a toll booth once a week. When his roommate Kevin (Jon Stewart) is sent to China by his law firm, the son Kevin never knew he had is dropped on Sonny's doorstep. Sonny pretends to be Kevin, and thinks that raising a child will save his relationship with girlfriend Vanessa (Kristy Swanson). Things don't work out the way Sonny plans and he has to raise the child by himself. Could have been funny examination of one man's fear of growing up or need to stay away from the "all work no play" life his friends lead, but movie degenerates into typical 12-year old bathroom humor. Too bad. Sandler has some nice moments. Maybe he will learn to take a chance and show his tender adult side someday. Grade: D+

Jack Frost

Michael Keaton plays blues singer Jack Frost, an aspiring musician who spends too much time on his career and not enough with his family. Jack finally thinks that he gets his big break, but has to audition for a record company big wig on Christmas Day. He gets killed in a car accident on the way home to his family, but gets reincarnated as a snowman made by his son. This movie was supposed to star John Travolta, then George Clooney. Now I know why they both bailed out. Not very charming. Not very funny. Extremely predictable. If children are as violent and nasty as portrayed in this movie, our entire society is doomed. Grade: D-

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