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Reviews Written by
David Robson (Wilmington, DE)

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4 used & new from CDN$ 4.57

3.0 out of 5 stars King of Crude, May 20 2000
This review is from: Kingpin (VHS Tape)
Kingpin may be the best prosthetic comedy you'll see this or any year. You've heard of man and his dog stories? Well how's about man and his rubber hand.
It's 1979 and Ocelet Iowa is Roy Munson (Woody Harrelson) territory. When it comes to knocking down the pins, Roy-boy moves like a leisure-suited Fred Astaire and throws the strikes when they count. He bowls the pro circuit until Ernie "Big Ern" McCracken (Bill Murray)--the skunk of the tournies, the guy with the worst hair since Shatner--leaves Roy to get his hand lopped off by a bunch of pinheads.
Downtrodden, drunk, and sinking low (and I mean it literally) to pay the rent, Roy discovers a naive forty-year old Amish farmer named Ishmael (Randy Quaid) and figures he can make him into a bowling thoroughbred. On the road to Reno and a million dollar payday, the odd couple picks up well-proportioned Claudia (Vanessa Angel) and proceeds to pack their trip with enough gross-out humor to keep you gassed-up for life.
Made by the Farrelly Brothers, Kingpin hits a few of its marks on the bull's eye. Roy's time among the simple people provides some of the nastiest/goofiest moments. But then, too much crude and rude and not enough fun and ny wreck the gross-out get-down. Even by its own low standards, Kingpin throws too many gutter balls to make a trip to the alley worthwhile.

Supercop [Import]
Supercop [Import]
Offered by hiddenlily
Price: CDN$ 29.95
5 used & new from CDN$ 5.88

4.0 out of 5 stars Super Duper!, May 20 2000
This review is from: Supercop [Import] (VHS Tape)
Supercop was meant to secure an American audience for reigning kung-fu king Jackie Chan. What they're not telling you is that Cop is actually a re-release. Originally titled Crime Story III (a sequel) and filmed in 1993, the present version has a new, rap-oriented soundtrack and some exquisitely lame dubbing.
The story is utter nonsense. Stanley Tong is one of Hong Kong's finest directors because he does everything he can to drop his star into the danger zone with a minimum of distractions. Follow the superfluous plot and you might figure out that Chan is undercover in a Chinese labor camp, aiding the escape of a thug who deserves to be there. After that it's the requisite night boat to Hong Kong where we meet the evil supercreep who makes the godfather look like a postal clerk.
The action whizzes by so fast that keeping track of all the Tangs, Chang's, and Wangs would take a rhyming dictionary. What I went for, what you should go, for is Master Chan and his bursting bag of bad guys, blow ups, and swift kicks to the groin.
And you can't beat the final surface to air mega-chase. It's a car, it's a train, it's a helipcopter--it's all three. Yow! that looks dangerous.
The art of Chan is about his Buster Keaton-like deadpan, his confident modesty in a stadium full of rocket launchers and hand-grenades. And as for those big, bad aliens?--he'll kick their intergalactic ( ) too.

9 used & new from CDN$ 7.10

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Oh Nelly!, May 12 2000
This review is from: Nell (VHS Tape)
Nell is an earnest and slightly soporific drama about a doctor's inadvertant discovery of a wild child in the remote hills of North Carolina. Jerry Lovell (Liam Neeson), a rural MD is dispatched to confirm the death of a hermit-like mountain lady and is quick to discover a cantankerous, violent, and unintelligible young woman, obviously the old woman's unacknowledged daughter,hiding in the cabin rafters. Lovell is immediately captivated by Nell (Jodie Foster) and is soon joined by career-climbing psychologist Paula Olsen (Natasha Richardson) in attempting to decode the mysterious woman's gibberish-filled rages. Before you can say "Wapner at 5:30," this hillbilly rain woman's past becomes brutally clear: her mother, a victim of rape in her youth, had given birth to the child but kept her a secret from the the world for thirty years; Nell has been taught that men and daylight are harmful, and her language is the product of imitation after her mother's stroke.
The sentiment here is laid on thick. Nell is harrassed by those stereotypical movie rejects, scientists and red necks. The scientists want her brought in for study; the red necks want to play a little doctor (Can you say Deliverance?) There are a number of nice scenes portraying the bonding between the three leads, and the direction by the talented Michael Apted is sensitive and well-intentioned, but Nell suffers by asking us to shed too many unearned tears. In this regard, most damaging is the lack of key exposition. We never really get to know Nell. Her mystery, while at first quite interesting, loses its novelty by the time they take the wide-eyed country girl to the big bad city.
The biggest roadblock has to be Jodie Foster. Her pagan-like emoting as she dances naked through the woods is two stations short of hamville. It's like she wants us to believe so desperately in Nell's tragic story that she has to use a few neon signs to show us the way. Thanks, but I think we can handle it ourselves. Neeson is more effective, and he and real-life wife Richardson do a nice job of counterbalancing Foster's excess in the role of Nell's surrogate ma and pa.

No Title Available

4.0 out of 5 stars Everyone, Including Me, May 12 2000
In Woody Allen's film Everyone Says I Love You, one of the century's great filmmakers gets to make his own dream come true. Just take a listen to the soundtracks for Manhattan or Radio Days and you realize that all the Woodman's ever wanted to do was make a musical.
He's finally found a way. And by taking those timeless songs of Gershwin and Porter and placing them in the context of modern family life, Allen has created one of his most innovative comedies ever.
By its very nature, musicals showcase fabulous singers who are able to stop the world and belt out a tune. Not exactly in the realm of the possible. But by filling his scenery with non-singers, or actors who aren't known for their singing, Allen creates the possibility of song in everyday real life.
Take Holden (Edward Norton), for example. What he lacks in fashion sense, he makes up for in heart. When he goes to buy a rock for his lady love Skylar (Drew Barrymore), the jewelry store becomes a Gene Kelly musical, except Holden's no hoofer. He stumbles awkwardly through the dance number while the jewelry store employees play to the camera.
If it sounds fun, it is. But the two young lovebirds are but a minor diversion. Skylar's mom Steffi and husband Bob (Goldie Hawn and Alan Alda) are trying to keep their family together. Grandpa's gone daffy, their teenage son has up and joined the young Republican's (ick!), and Goldie's ex, Joe (Allen), is living in Paris and wooing an art historian (Julia Roberts).
Even the worst singing, that of Allen (a mouse squeak) and Roberts (can you say tone deaf?), works somehow. In Everyone Says I Love You the commonplace collides with the extraordinary in an alternate universe that's just this side of heaven.

2 used & new from CDN$ 39.95

4.0 out of 5 stars Hammin' It Up, May 12 2000
This review is from: Hamlet (VHS Tape)
Hamlet just won't go away. Who's the wise guy who thought it up? Shakessomething. I don't know. If you ask me, all that fancy language is just too hard to figure out. Now there's this new version. Four--count 'em--four hours long. Ever been to a movie with an intermission? Weird.
I didn't know what to expect, really. Men in tights. Stuffy accents. But hey, I'm a renaissance man who enjoys all the meats of our cultural stew. I gave it a try.
Hamlet (Kenneth Branagh) is the prince of Denmark, and he's pretty broken up through the whole thing. His pop, the former king, has just bought the farm, and now Hamlet's uncle Claudius (Derek Jacobi) has grabbed the throne and married Hamlet's mom, Gertrude (Julie Christie). Ain't that a kick in the pants? Then one night, the ghost of Hamlet's old man tells him that Claudius, his own brother, greased him. Whoa! the plot thickens. On top of all that, Ham's got a honey named Ophelia (Kate Winslet), but her dad Polonius thinks the prince is nuts and tries to protect the sweet young thing.
Look, I can't keep this up. When it comes to the bard, I'm a lifer. So too is Branagh, who, as usual, stuffs his Shakespeare production with familiar faces--in this case Robin Williams, Charlton Heston, Billy Crystal, Jack Lemmon, and Gerard Depardieu. In the mouths of all the actor's the tricky iambs and formal diction are exceedingly accesible.
The panoramic scope of the picture will remind you of other filmatic forays into marathon territory. Think Lawrence of Arabia or Dr. Zhivago. This new Hamlet doesn't quite scale these lofty peaks but it's not far off. If Branagh's work can be faulted, it's in the sometimes overzealous action scenes, particularly the tragic finale. Swinging chandeliers and hurled swords could work, but in this movie their inclusion appears ovedone. Maybe, too, the grand-scale and gorgeous sets distract us too much from the heart-breaking soul of the story.
The best moments are the smaller, more human ones: To be or not to be in front of a full-length mirror; the ingenious nunnery scene with Ophelia that follows. How Branagh will be compared to Hamlet's of the past remains to be seen. The last screen Hamlet--Mel Gibson in a noble effort--was all fire. Branagh's take on the melancholy Dane is more complex, resourceful and full-bodied. Like Hamlet the movie, his portrayal is large, generous, and worth remembering.

Sense & Sensibility [Import]
Sense & Sensibility [Import]
Offered by Media_Mom_Canada
Price: CDN$ 16.99
14 used & new from CDN$ 2.43

4.0 out of 5 stars Be Sensible, May 12 2000
Now if you're going to have man-trouble, what better kind than that of the bright and beauteous Dashwood sisters in Sense and Sensibility. The guys are rich, their estates are all thriving, and there's no pressure to have sex until after marriage.
But contrary to what you might thinks, these poor young debs are in a bind. Dad has died and left his vast holdings to his son John. And although the womens' half-brother promises to take-care of the Dashwoods, his snooty wife Fanny is not the most generous of women. To make ends meet, the family, complete with mum and littlest sibling, moves to a relative's small cottage.
Elinor (Emma Thompson) is the more rational of the sisters but in time finds herself smitten with Fanny's brother Edward, played with little wit and less panache by Hugh Grant. Marianne (Kate Winslet), never one to hide her emotions, promptly falls in lust with Willoughby (Greg Wise). Will the girls' love be requited? Eventually. In one way or another, all the character's in Jane Austen's novels get what's coming. But it's not the destination but the journey that brings such delight.
Emma Thompson's script is a frolic. It refuses to take itself too seriously and is never self-conscious like so many modern tales of romance.

Blood & Wine
Blood & Wine
Offered by HS Wholesale
Price: CDN$ 32.98
6 used & new from CDN$ 12.87

3.0 out of 5 stars Bloody Hell, May 10 2000
This review is from: Blood & Wine (VHS Tape)
Jack's back in Blood and Wine, but I'm not sure the results will have you drunk with joy. The script does call for the great grinner to be a snake in the grass wine dealer who's looking to score some major jewels. Fine. But there's no zing, no pop, no nothing.
Alex Gates (Nicholson) can't make anybody happy anymore. He's cash-poor and his wine business hasn't aged all that well. His had-it-up-to-here wife Suzanne (Judy Davis) ends up doing more whining then her hubby. He's never home, and when he is, he usually goes at it with Suzanne's son Jason (Stephen Dorff).
The point of all this is theft. Alex calls on old friend Victor Spansky (Michael Caine in the best role he's had in years) to help him pull it off. The two aren't exactly Bonnie and Clyde but they do good work before Suzanne gets wise to Alex and his mistress (the hot, hot, hot Jennifer Lopez).
I find it admirable that Nicholson's been taking pay cuts to star in low budget films like this one and Sean Penn's underrated The Crossing Guard, but what happened to the man's taste in scripts.
The silver lining is when Jack goes toe-to-toe with Davis, who matches him scowl for scowl and wields a golf club like a psycho Tiger Woods. Also, Caine's hacking sleazoid is beautiful, but the two old dragons never get enough room to breathe the fire that's in them.
The problem here has to be director Bob Rafelson who, for whatever reason, can't build the suspense. Under the tutelage of Captain Bob, the stakes are never high enough. What we're left with is a second rate thriller with glimmers of brilliance. It's not enough. Remember friends, Blood and Wine don't mix.

Crucible [Import]
Crucible [Import]
6 used & new from CDN$ 18.69

4.0 out of 5 stars It's About Time, May 10 2000
This review is from: Crucible [Import] (VHS Tape)
You'd be hard pressed to find a story more compelling than the one that inspired Arthur Miller's 1953 drama The Crucible. Except the one about how it became a movie. It's taken all these years to bring a full version to the screen, and the only thing that explains it is Hollywood's perpetual cluelessness. The Salem witch trials of 1692 destroyed nineteen lives and countless reputations. Hoodwinked by a bunch of flighty teenage girls who wished to escape a whipping for their frolics in the woods, the town brought in the colony magistrates to sort out the devils from the angels.
Miller, who also wrote the screenplay, expresses his blatant contempt for hypocrisy in all forms through the character of John Proctor (Daniel Day-Lewis), a humble but once-adulterous farmer. Proctor's sexual escapades with the town's main accuser Abigail Williams (Winona Ryder) could, through the girl's treachery, end in his wife's hanging. He can either save himself with a lie or free Elizabeth (Joan Allen) with the truth about himself and Abigail.
It's potent stuff any way you slice it, and the actors here aren't afraid to take big bites of their meaty roles. The film's pacing is fast and furious, hysterical like the history of the event it interprets. If it lacks the McCarthyist subtext it once had, so what. This here's a tragedy--a good old American one.
The movie's inevitable ending won't satisfy those who want only fluff and feathers at the cinema, but the hard lesson won by those who refuse to compromise their principles can't be denied. The Crucible is a faithful testament to their sacrifice.

Ghost & the Darkness
Ghost & the Darkness
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4.0 out of 5 stars Dark and Dangerous, May 7 2000
This review is from: Ghost & the Darkness (VHS Tape)
This big fella's got some teeth. Hand it to history (albeit questionable Tinseltown history) to turn up a succulent tale of two ferocious African lions and what they had for dinner.
Even stoical Val Kilmer breaks a sweat. His stiff-lipped Patterson is a bridge builder and he's just landed a plum assignment to hoist the lumber on the dark continent. But once railway workers started getting graphically greased by the kings of the beasts, there's little choice but to call in a pro. Michael Douglas plays Remington like a wild-eyed hombre who's quite a few steaks short of a barbecue.
By the looks of it everyone had a good time. I know I did. G&D is an explosive bloodfest of snaggle-toothed suspense. Eat your heart out Lion King.

Secrets & Lies [Import]
Secrets & Lies [Import]
3 used & new from CDN$ 21.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Keep This Secret, May 7 2000
This review is from: Secrets & Lies [Import] (VHS Tape)
Imagine Buffy and Jodie as foul-mouthed, spiteful white trash and you get the picture of this family affair from hell.
If you want someone to blame, see Mike Leigh. The British writer and director has been making ugly, challenging, and consistently winning dramas for twenty-five years, and it's about time he gained some popular attention. Here it's Hortense (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) who gets Leigh's star treatment. She's a black optometrist in search of her biological mommy who, it turns out, is a comical cockney white woman named Cynthia (Brenda Blethyn).
With more courage than I have, Hortense shares coffee with the poor, disheveled woman. This scene is a gem of slow-burning recognition and pain, as Cynthia realizes that the successful black woman before her is indeed her child. The two then meet again and develop a fast friendship.
Meanwhile Cyn's chubby brother--a gentle soul named Maurice (Timothy Spall)--is busy keeping his photography studio solvent. Too bad he can't do the same for his family (Do these people belong on Jerry Springer, or what?).
Leigh makes the ordinary transcendent. The picture-perfect moments Maurice captures on film is the metaphor Leigh splendidly uses to make us aware of the life lived between the camera clicks--life that often forces us to hide the Secrets and Lies buried within our own hearts.

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