Movie Renter's Guide
Current Movies - Part 2 - October, 1995

By John E. Johnson, Jr.


  ***** Extraordinary
  **** Good
  *** Acceptable
  ** Mediocre
  * Poor


"This Boy's Life", Warner Brothers, 1993, Color, Filmed in Panavision, Measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 2.42:1, Surround Sound, 1 Hr 55 min, Rated R; Robert De Niro, Ellen Barkin, Leonardo diCaprio; A compelling story of a young boy, named Tobias Wolff, growing up in the 1950s. His mother (Barkin), wanting her son to have a father, marries an apparently nice fellow (De Niro), who has a home in the Northwest. He turns out not to be what they expected, in a very unpleasant way. De Niro and Barkin are very fine actors, but the real star is diCaprio. Domestic violence has become an epidemic in this country, and the film depicts it at its worst. Although the topic is sickening, De Niro's portrayal of a borderline psychopath is brilliant.

Entertainment: starstarstarstar
Video Quality: starstarstarstar
Audio: starstarstar (Not much need for a subwoofer or rear surround speakers)
Photography: starstarstarstar
Violence: domestic, brutally verbal and physical
Sex: yes
Language: the "f" and "s" words and other vulgarities


"Legends of the Fall", Columbia TriStar, 1994, Color, Filmed spherical and matted to measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 1.73:1, Surround Sound, 2 Hr 14 min, Rated R; Brad Pitt, Anthony Hopkins, Aidan Quinn; What do you get when you cross "Gettysburg", "Bonanza", and "The Untouchables"? This movie. It would have made a good TV miniseries. An old Indian tells the saga, over an appropriately smoky campfire, of a family he lived with in the late 1800s and early 1900s. We hear about the Indian Wars, WW-I, the bootlegging years, and Brad Pitt's hair is only short for 10 minutes. It has a very satisfying ending, if you are into revenge and that sort of thing. Anthony Hopkins is absolutely incredible in this film. The spectacular scenery helps when it comes time for the Academy Awards, of which one was received for cinematography.

Entertainment: starstarstarstar
Video Quality: starstarstarstar
Audio: starstarstarstar (Superb surround sound; good subwoofer workout; here and there, a little bleed of the center channel to the front left/right)
Photography: starstarstarstarstar
Violence: the horrors of trench warfare, gangsters, Tommy guns, and "scatter guns" keep the red dye makeup artist busy
Sex: yes, partial nudity
Language: the "f" and "s" words


"The Hunted", Universal Pictures, 1995, Color, Filmed spherical and matted to measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 1.78:1, Matrixed Surround Sound, 1 Hr 51 min, Rated R; Christopher Lambert, John Lone, Joan Chen; An unwitting American businessman (Lambert) on a trip to Nagoya, Japan, picks up a woman (Chen) in a bar, has a little fun in a big bathtub, and then finds himself caught in the middle of an execution by a Ninja cult called the Makato. A Samurai warrior uses the fact that the American has seen Kinjo's face (the cult leader) to bring the Ninjas out of their part of the hills and into the Samurai's training grounds for a battle to the finish. No guns are allowed in this system of honor. Although I have only visited Japan once, the film seems very authentic in its presentation of the people there (the regular natives I mean - I don't know about Ninjas and Samurai).

Entertainment: starstarstar
Video Quality: starstarstarstar
Audio: starstarstarstar (Occasional use of surround, in spite of many opportunities provided by the marvelous percussion soundtrack)
Photography: starstarstar (Nothing spectacular, but good lighting like the old CinemaScope films)
Violence: Samurai and Ninjas - are you kidding?
Sex: frontal nudity
Language: no


"Nobody's Fool", Paramount, 1995, Color, Filmed spherical and matted to measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 1.78:1, Surround Sound, 1 Hr 50 min, Rated R; Paul Newman, Jessica Tandy, Melanie Griffith, Bruce Willis; A New York town in the throes of Thanksgiving and Christmas provide the setting of this touching film about a sometimes working handyman named Sully (Newman) down on his luck and with a bum knee to boot. The snow and old homes brought back a few memories of my East Coast years, where Santa doesn't wear seer sucker like he does here in California. The good times and sad times of wintry Northeastern family life are in full display through fine acting. No special computer generated effects here, nor are they necessary. Newman is his usual underplayed tough guy and is great as he always is. Tandy makes a prophetic statement in the opening scenes, having to do with her real life.

Entertainment: starstarstarstar
Video Quality: starstarstar
Audio: starstarstarstar (Good sound track provided by the London Philharmonic Orchestra; surround sound is not obvious, but not really important, because this film is one of script)
Photography: starstarstarstar
Violence: no
Sex: partial nudity
Language: "f" and "s" words


"The Quick and the Dead", Columbia TriStar, 1995, Color, Filmed spherical and matted to aspect ratio (laserdisc) 1.73:1, Surround Sound, 1 Hr 45 min, Rated R; Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman; Sharon Stone looks great even in a big floppy western hat and baggy clothes, and if you think Hackman was nasty in "The Unforgiven", you should see him in this film. The storyline goes as follows: Cowgirl (Stone) comes to town and signs up for a quickdraw contest to the death with all challengers, including the town bully (Hackman) who just happens to be the man who was responsible for her father's death. A reformed gunslinger-turned-preacher is the potential love interest that never quite goes the full mile. There is really not much substance to this film, but it has very creative photography and some of the best surround sound I have heard in a long time. Almost surrealistic in places, this movie reminds me of some of the decades old Clint Eastwood Westerns.

Entertainment: starstarstar
Video Quality: starstarstarstar
Audio: starstarstarstarstar (Your subwoofer will throb to the sound of a heartbeat.)
Photography: starstarstarstarstar
Violence: plenty
Sex: no
Language: the "s" word

Copyright 1995, 1996, 1997 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
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