Movie Renter's Guide
Current Movies - Part 5 - January, 1996

By John E. Johnson, Jr.


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


"Dolores Claiborne", Castle Rock Entertainment, 1995, Color, Filmed in Panavision, Measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 2.32:1, Surround Sound, 2 Hr 12 min, Rated R; Kathy Bates, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Christopher Plummer; This film opens with someone going down the stairs in a wheelchair. No, it's not The Kiss of Death, as there is no question that a brutal murder took place there. The big question: did Dolores Claiborne (Kathy Bates) push Vera Donovan down the staircase, killing her? Dredging up the past we find that Dolores' husband died very strangely some years before, and now there is some doubt as to who caused it . . . perhaps Dolores. A witness to the staircase event thinks it was not accidental, so she is in deep trouble. Her hard drinking, hard smoking, tranquilizer popping estranged daughter (Leigh) shows up in between journalistic assignments. She now wonders if her mom killed her father. Bates is marvelous in this psychological thriller about murder(?) and repressed memories. Could be an academy award nomination here.

Entertainment: starstarstarstar
Video Quality: starstarstar Obvious video glitches.
Audio: starstarstar
Photography: starstarstar starstar Wait until you see the Maine countryside (actually Nova Scotia) and harbor during an eclipse.
Violence: domestic abuse
Sex: implied
Language: the "f" and "s" words

"Judge Dredd", Hollywood Pictures, 1995, Color, Filmed in Panavision, Measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 2.32:1, Surround Sound, AC-3, THX, 1 Hr 36 min, Rated R; Sylvester Stallone, Armand Assante, Max Von Sydow, Diane Lane; During the third millenium, humans live on "The Cursed Earth" where a new order has arisen, ruled by an elite force of police, jury, and executioners, all rolled into one. They were the judges. Joseph Dredd (Stallone) is one of the judges, and he judges rather harshly in the opening sequences. This could have been a pretty good film, except that the script turns it into a joke with lines like, "There is a citizen riot in progress. Have a nice day", and, "You can't eat me. I've got ecxema." Anyway, Dredd is framed for murder of a news reporter, convicted, and sent to the Aspen Penal Colony (Aspen? As in the ski resort? Give me a break!) Dredd escapes enroute and trys to hunt down the man who framed him (Assante). "You two look alike," says someone. Yeah, right! The usual 42nd street carnage, lights, steam, and wild costumery attempt to hide the lack of a good script. Sorry, but there is no amount of subwoofer buffoonery (the surround sound is awesome though) that can paint over this bomb without bleedthrough.

Entertainment: starstar
Video Quality: starstarstarstar
Audio: starstarstarstarstar
Photography: starstarstar
Violence: sufficient exit wounds to satisfy the most demanding aficionado.
Sex: no
Language: the "f" word

"Johnny Mnemonic", TriStar Pictures, 1995, Color, Filmed spherically and matted to measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 1.76:1, Surround Sound, 1 Hr 38 min, Rated R; Keanu Reeves, Dolph Lundgren; The year is Internet 2021 and the world is threatened by a strange virus which causes Nerve Attenuation Syndrome (NAS), the symptoms of which are the black shakes. Corporations rule but are opposed by the LoTeks, a resistance movement living in the city ruins. They are the hackers, data pirates, and guerilla fighters in the info-wars. Johnny (Reeves) is a mnemonic who is wet-wired with a brain implant for carrying stolen data. The corporate giant Pharmakon is raided for 320 gigabytes of priceless information, and Johnny is hired to carry it. He is capable of carrying only 80 GB, but doubles his capacity to 160 and carries the overload in spite of warnings about synaptic seepage. The corporations hire the Yakuza to find Johnny, cryoprotect his head (after separating it from his body), and bring in the data. The chase begins, and Johnny winds his way through the rest of this movie, with the help of a lady bodyguard and the LoTeks, in between shots of a maniacal minister (Lundgren) doing his thing in rather violent ways. Sorry guys, no sale. Instead of wasting millions on computer graphics that just stun the senses, how about a decent story to go with them?

Entertainment: starstar
Video Quality: starstarstar
Audio: starstarstarstar Very well balanced surround sound.
Photography: starstarstar
Violence: ever see someone sliced in half or decapitated with a laser knife?
Sex: no
Language: the "f" and "s" words

"My Family", New Line Cinema, 1995, Color, Filmed spherically and matted to measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 1.80:1, Surround Sound, AC-3, 2 Hr 6 min, Rated R; Jimmy Smits, Esai Morales, James Olmos; Jose Sanchez migrates from a small town in Mexico to Los Angeles in the 1920's. This is the beginning of the Sanchez family saga. In LA, Jose starts work as a gardener for a wealthy family, meets and marries a young woman named Maria who also works there. They have several children, but Maria is accidentally deported back to Mexico in 1933 during the Depression, when Mexican workers were blamed for part of the job problem. She makes her way back to LA, and to Jose. The time frame moves to 1958, and focus is shifted to the Sanchez children. Paco (Olmos, who also narrates the film) is in the Navy, and Chucho is a rebellious teenager. Chucho is picked up for selling marijuana and leaves home. He is soon involved in a knife fight where someone is killed. This part of the movie is sort of West Side Story a la Francis Ford Coppola (executive producer). Little brother Jimmy grows up angry at what happened to brother Chucho, and the remaining story chronicles his life beginning in the late 1970s. A nicely done movie. Authentic locales, language (subtitled when appropriate). Very Coppola even though he did not direct.


Entertainment: starstarstarstar
Video Quality: starstarstarstar
Audio: starstarstar
Photography: starstarstar
Violence: yes
Sex: partial nudity
Language: the "f" and "s" words

"Diehard With a Vengeance", Twentieth Century Fox, 1995, Color, Filmed in Panavision, Measured aspect ratio (laserdisc) 2.27:1, Surround Sound, AC-3, THX, 2 Hr 10 min, Rated R; Bruce Willis, Jeremy Irons, Samuel Jackson; Part III of the Diehard series brings John McClane back to deal with terrorists again, but there is no snow, no Christmas music, and no kisses and making up with Holly. Between pyrotechnics, we have racial slurs to listen to, with the intent of being funny. It's not funny, and I miss Holly. Although we are fortunate to have the director of Diehard I return to duty, the script and characters (Hans' brother? . . . yeah, right.), are not enough for even McTiernan's skills to bring this together into something more than subwoofer fodder.

Entertainment: starstar
Video Quality: starstarstarstar
Audio: starstarstar
Photography: starstarstarstar Direction is tight, even in widescreen, so action scenes in pan and scan version will be hard to follow.
Violence: I heard they even used real blood
Sex: one silly attempt in a stock room
Language: "F" and "S" words

Other home videos (laserdiscs) viewed but not reviewed formally:

Trial by Jury: starstarstar
Milk Money: starstarstarstar
Decoy: star
Fatherland: starstarstar
French Kiss: starstarstar

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