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ONLINE VIDEO REVIEW
WRITTEN AND EDITED BY: BETH A. SPOTTS
ISSUE #1 MAY 1992
————————————————————————- A WORD FROM THE EDITOR…………
Welcome to the premiere issue of "ONLINE VIDEO REVIEW," "OLIVER" for short. This online publication will be dedicated to the subject of movies on videocassette. Each issue will first list the major theatrical releases that will be available on video tape in the next few months. Then, I will provide a brief review or synopsis of some of the films which are new in stores or will be there shortly. Some other sections in this and coming issues include an "oldie but goodie" selection, whereby I review/synopsize a movie which has been out on video for awhile, but that you may have missed. I plan to add additional sections to this publication based upon reader response and suggestions.
This magazine is, as of now, FREE. However, I would greatly appreciate your registering your copy just for my information. Reader response and comments will determine the fate of future issues. A registration form will accompany this text file. Thank you, and enjoy.
NEW MAJOR RELEASES ON VIDEO TAPE FOR THE COMING MONTHS:
! = reviewed in this issue
"JFK" Directed by: Oliver Stone Kevin Costner, Diane Keaton, Kevin Bacon No release date available.
"STAR TREK VI: THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY" Directed by: Nicholas Meyer William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, Michelle Nichols, George Takei, Kim Cattral, David Warner, and Christopher Plummer Tentative Release Date: July 1, 1992
!"FOR THE BOYS" Directed by: Mark Rydell Bette Midler, James Caan Tentative Release Date: May 28, 1992
!"FATHER OF THE BRIDE" Steve Martin, Diane Keaton, Martin Short Tentative Release Date: May 27, 1992
"THE MAN IN THE MOON" Directed by: Robert Mulligan Sam Waterston, Tess Harper Tentative Release Date: July 1, 1992
"SEEDPEOPLE" Directed by: Peter Manoogian Sam Hennings, Andrea Roth, Dane Witherspoon Tentative Release Date: May 28, 1992
"THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE" (animated) Tentative Release Date: July 17, 1992
"FOR RICHER, FOR POORER" Directed by: Jay Sandrich Jack Lemmon, Talia Shire, Jonathan Silverman Tentative Release Date: July 1, 1992
"COLD JUSTICE" Directed by: Terry Green Roger Daltrey, Dennis Waterman Tentative Release Date: June 24, 1992
"EVERYBODY'S FINE" (Italian with English Subtitles) Directed by: Giuseppe Tornatore Marcello Mastroianni, Salvatore Cascio Tentative Release Date: July 1, 1992
"EXPOSURE" Directed by: Walter Salles Jr. Amanda Pays, Peter Coyote Tentative Release Date: May 20, 1992
!"THIS IS SPINAL TAP" (re-release, includes new music video "Break Like the Wind") Directed by: Rob Reiner Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer Tentative Release Date: May 6, 1992
!"ANASTASIA: THE MYSTERY OF ANNA" (made for TV) Amy Irving, Olivia de Havilland, Omar Sharif, Rex Harrison, Claire Bloom, Susan Lucci, Elke Sommer Tentative Release Date: May 14, 1992
"DIARY OF A HITMAN" Forest Whitaker, Sharon Stone, James Belushi, Sherilyn Fenn Tentative Release Date: May 27, 1992
"THE BUTCHER'S WIFE" Directed by: Terry Hughes Demi Moore, Jeff Daniels Tentative Release Date: May 13, 1992
"24 HOURS TO MIDNIGHT" Cynthia Rothrock Tentative Release Date: May 6, 1992
ALSO REVIEWED IN THIS ISSUE:
"THE SUPER" starring Joe Pesci "OTHER PEOPLE'S MONEY" starring Danny DeVito "DEAD AGAIN" "BILLY BATHGATE" starring Dustin Hoffman and Nicole Kidman
"ANASTASIA: THE MYSTERY OF ANNA" * * * 1/2
In this made-for-TV drama, winner of two Emmy Awards and two Golden Globe Awards, Amy Irving stunningly portrays Anna Anderson, a woman whose claim to be the sole surviving daughter of Czar Nicholas II of Russia remains one of the greatest mysteries of the 20th century.
The film alternates between the present day, when Anna realizes who she is and tries to convince the world of her identity, and flashbacks to the past, when the Czar's family (supposedly including Anastasia) were brutally murdered by revolutionists.
Because nobody knows to this day if Anastasia really did survive the massacre to surface years later in the form of Anna Anderson, there is no ending to give away here–only to say that this is a powerful, sweeping saga, rich in historical lessons and filled with triumph and tragedy. This is the epic's only real fault: the ending is unfulfilling because there is no ending. The question asked at the beginning is asked again at the conclusion: who is this woman?
On the one hand, she has memories of Anastasia's childhood that, according to some people who knew her, including her governess, only the real Anastasia could know. There is also no reason, other than fame, for her to lie about her identity–there is no fortune involved, but bitterness still abounds in Russia for the overthrown Czar's family. Also, scars in keeping with a brutal mauling in childhood mar Anna's body.
However, some people see things differently. Witnesses to the massacre of the Czar's family claim that there is no way Anastasia could have escaped or survived. The family was, according to witnesses, beaten to death, their appendages cut off and burned in acid. And, Anastasia was among them.
Two-time Academy Award winner Olivia de Havilland adds shine to an already sensational cast. If you can tolerate never knowing the solution to a mystery, by all means rent this engrossing film to enjoy.
"THIS IS SPINAL TAP" (re-release) * * * 1/2
This hilarious romp around the world in a faux rock tour looks so much like the real thing that you'll begin to wonder, until the band tells you that their drummers keep exploding onstage.
The stars here (portrayed by "LaVerne and Shirley"'s Michael McKean and former "Saturday Night Live" castmembers Harry Shearer and Christopher Guest), look so little like themselves that you won't recognize them. The British rock star accents are realistic, as are their long hair and tight pants.
The wit is tight and off-the-cuff; no laugh track. There is no evidence here that Spinal Tap is anything but a washed out rock band trying to make it on the comeback trail. The songs that they perform onstage with such seriousness and uproar provide some of the best chuckles– "Big Bottoms," for one. Another's lyrics announce, "I wanna get you with my big pink torpedo."
Now that Spinal Tap has a new album out (Break Like the Wind), I guess they are real, though the performers are still actors, and nobody who saw their movie will forget their roots.
"FOR THE BOYS" * * *
Bette Midler and James Caan hate each other in this film, but they can't seem to stay away from one another for their entire lives. And the chemistry they share onstage keeps the "boys" (soldiers at war overseas) coming back for more.
In her Oscar nominated role as a flirty singer given a chance to perform with Caan's already famous entertainer overseas, Midler is terrific. This is the type of film her talent was meant to produce: singing, dancing, telling off-color jokes.
Bitter over the wars themselves after the death of her soldier husband, Midler continues to be famous with Caan back in the states on their own TV show. But wars keep coming, and the stars are always called into the middle of them.
Midler's son, portrayed by director Mark Rydell's son Christopher, also becomes a serviceman, only to be cut down in the prime of life in Vietnam.
Although the story here is not as strong as it could be, the song and dance numbers are solid foot-tappers, and the two stars have a definite chemistry together. The movie is also a tad long, illustrating as it does Midler's entire life from a young woman to an disillusioned, lonely old lady. "For The Boys" received its best reviews from adults; children and teenagers will not appreciate the atmosphere, the message, or the classic songs.
"FATHER OF THE BRIDE" * * * 1/2
In this remake of the Elizabeth Taylor classic in which she portrayed the blushing bride, styles have changed and expenses have skyrocketed, but dear old Dad is still as bewildered by it all as ever.
Steve Martin is stunned when his daughter comes home from Europe with a BIG announcement: she's getting married. Her fiance is wonderful, she gushes lovingly, and "he's just like you dad, except he's brilliant."
And so begins a hilarious and often touching jaunt through a long, money hungry, exhausting process that culminates in a few hours that will join a man and a woman in matrimony. Those sometimes painful steps leading up to a foregone conclusion look familiar to some and just plain funny to most. The meeting of the bride's and groom's parents for the first time. The eccentric wedding consultant. The spat between the engaged couple that almost calls the whole thing off. The viewer is bound to be as relieved as Martin's character when everything comes off, although, of course, not exactly as planned.
Entertainment for the whole family, with adults identifying with the characters and children enjoying both Martin's slapstick antics and Martin Short's portrayal of the goofy wedding consultant.
"THE SUPER" * * 1/2
Joe Pesci's first banner role is an admirable effort taking on a problem that is definitely real and brandishing a blatant message without lecturing.
Pesci's character is a would-be slumlord. His father owns a whole slew of run-down, inner city apartment buildings, which Pesci stands to inherit. However, before the old man will bequeath his holdings to his only child, said child must prove himself by successfully managing one building. Pesci takes on the challenge, but soon is thwarted by the friendly neighborhood building inspectors, landing his butt in court. His sentence? To live for three months in his building, amidst rodents the size of poodles, the lack of adequate heat and water, and, oh, yes, the tenants who don't like him one bit.
As he slowly acclimates himself to the new surroundings and tries to think of ways to make himself more comfortable without giving in to the orders to fix up the building, he comes to realize that his tenants are more than just rent-payers; they are people, living in delapidated accomodations not fit for dogs.
Although the ending is kind of obvious and the moral of the story is clear from the start, this is a must-see for Pesci fans (he can be seen on other videos such as "Good Fellas" and "Home Alone") and a decent picture in its own right.
"OTHER PEOPLE'S MONEY" * * 1/2
Danny DeVito is king of the slimeball roles, and this one is prime. As a big-city executive who loves only doughnuts and his laptop computer (and money, of course), DeVito is not even a likeable lug in "Other People's Money."
His computer never fails to tell him of the likely candidates for takeover, and the latest victim is to be a wire and cable company in New England that is on the verge of bankruptcy. Only problem is, the buy-out isn't going to be easy, what with the family-like closeness of the employees to the boss, and the boss's daughter who just happens to be a corporate lawyer.
Although this film has many laughs, much of the material is highly unrealistic, and the budding romantic relationship between DeVito and the beautiful young attorney is just TOO unlikely. "Other People's Money" is definitely worth renting if you like DeVito, but if you have trouble identifying with a main character who has not a shred of decency, you might want to look elsewhere.
"DEAD AGAIN" * * *
In this gripping tale of a man and a woman and the web of mystery and intrigue that binds them together, a murder followed by a death sentence about to be carried out grabs the viewer at the onset. A famous maestro is about to be executed for murdering his wife. The year is 1949.
Then, we catapult to the present day, when an amnestic woman is plagued with nightmares and mute with apparent fear. Enter the hero, a ne'er do well private investigator hired to find her family and identity. But an ad in the local paper turns up only a seemingly kindly hypnotherapist, whose sessions with the dazed woman send them all back through time.
"Dead Again," a suspenseful tale of reincarnation, entertains well with its good acting performances and superb plot twists. A cameo appearance by Robin Williams also adds to the movie's value. It's a movie that makes you think that perhaps an unhappy ending may not be the end.
"BILLY BATHGATE" * * 1/2
Taking place in the 1940's when mafiosos were in their heyday, "Billy Bathgate" is an entertaining but only run-of-the-mill gangster movie.
Bathgate gets mixed up with one of the more infamous mobsters of the time, Dutch Shultz (Dustin Hoffman). First, he performs odd jobs just to get the boss's attention. Then, Shultz begins giving him bigger and better chores, culminating with the job of babysitting his girlfriend.
You can guess what happens here–Bathgate falls for the lovely, glamorous character portrayed by Nicole Kidman. Actually, there is a lot more to the story than this, but it's hard to recall amid the frequent acts of violence. Shultz's former right-hand man, played by Bruce Willis, for instance, is tortured and then given "cement shoes" and thrown off a boat. Many acting performances here shine, however, and partially make up for a predictable, sometimes lackluster script. The ending satisfies; Billy Bathgate has some memories he will likely remember for the rest of his life.
THIS MONTH'S "OLDIE BUT GOODIE" PICK–
"EL NORTE" (1983) * * * * Spanish with English Subtitles Directed by: Gregory Nava Zaide Sylvia Gutierrez, David Villalpando
From the first moments of "El Norte," we know that we are in the hands of a great movie. It handles itself in such a romantic and poetic way that we are deeply touched by its story.
The movie tells the story of Rosa and Enrique, two young Guatemalans, brother and sister, and their long trek up through Mexico to el norte, the United States.
They begin in a small village and end up in Los Angeles to pursue the American Dream. Their father, Arturo, goes to a meeting to protest working conditions and is killed. Their mother disappears. The hero and heroine, who are in their late teens, decide to leave the village and go to America.
They go by bus and foot up through Mexico, which is as hard on immigrants from the South as America is. However, after making it to the border, are met with roadblocks again and again until finally they crawl to the promised land through a rodent-infested drainage tunnel.
The two quickly manage to find jobs in the illegal job market and succeed for a time, until the sad, heartbreaking ending. Though they initially live in squalor and work for slave wages, they somehow hold on to their optimism and belief in their dream.
The movie, with its stunning visual power, steadfastly avoids becoming a political film despite its portrayal of L.A.'s undocumented workers. It does so by telling the story solely through the characters' eyes, and living through them.
The violent beginning to the film may not be suitable for young children, but the grandness is something that even teenagers may appreciate.
CHILDREN'S PICK OF THE MONTH:
"101 DALMATIONS" * * * 1/2 (animated)
Recently released on video is this Disney classic, which tells first a love story (between two dalmations) and then an adventure story when the offspring of said dogs (over a dozen puppies) is kidnapped by the evil human, Cruella DeVille, who wants to make a bundle by selling them.
Pongo is the hero, who, along with his wife, is heartbroken over the loss of the pups. They embark on a journey across England to find and rescue their babies, but end up rescuing a whole slew of puppies alone with them, thus making a grand total of 101 dalmations.
Kids and adults alike won't be able to help but adore Pongo and his gang. The screenplay is easy enough to follow, yet clever enough to keep the attention of all but the most finicky viewers. Rent, watch, and enjoy.
To be reviewed in the next issue:
Oliver Stone's longwinded, controversial "JFK," starring Kevin Costner in a fact-based role as a southern attorney who refuses to accept the government's conclusions regarding the assasination and death of John F. Kennedy.
"Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country," the supposed last journey of the Enterprise into theaters, at least with Kirk and Company, brings back the original cast members for one last horrah. This time their mission is peace.