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"RPM" on DVD

RPM is a really bad movie, full of really nice cars. European-produced and shot in the South of France, it follows the fortunes of master car thief and high tech wizard Luke (David Arquette), who's hired to steal the RPM Supercar. Also hired to help, or compete with, him is Claudia (Famke Janssen).

Despite the billion dollar tag for stealing the innovative RPM, which uses a new "gas-free" engine (they don't charge for the gas?), it's not the money that motivates Luke and Claudia: it's the rush.

There's "intrigue," sex, a little "cartoon" violence, larger than life villains, and some high speed action, but with little point to it all.

The movie appears to be an excuse to photograph a bunch of beautiful classic and ultra-high-end modern cars against a beautiful backdrop, and on that level it works. The script, however, is really, really bad, with lame situations and banal dialog. It's so bad we were tempted to turn down the sound and just look at the beautiful wheels - but we had a job to do, dammit!

The DVD is in full screen video, with Dolby Digital 2 channel stereo audio. Picture quality is great, but the sound leaves a lot to be desired (another reason to just turn it down and be done with it!).

Extras include cast and crew bios/filmographies, the trailer, a trivia game (unfortunately, they ask you questions about the movie; we were looking forward to some classic car trivia).

Too bad. The movie had promise, but it didn't come close to living up to it.

"The Three Stooges - All the World's a Stooge" on DVD

"Stooges" fans will undoubtedly love Columbia Tristar Home Video's "All the World's a Stooge." The DVD gathers together seven of the trio's shorts made between 1937 and 1946, making them available in one 124 minute collection.

This is the "Larry, Moe, and Curly" incarnation of the Stooges, probably the most famous version. The collection itself is childish, violent, labored and obvious - which means it's a Stooges fan's heaven!

The seven shorts are:

  • Grips, grunts and Groands (1937). The lads face disaster when guarding a drunken wrestler;
  • All the World's a Stooge (1941). The Stooges are disguised as kids to frighten a woman out of adopting children
  • 3 Dumb Clucks (1937). The trio tries to prevent their dad from marrying a floozy.
  • Three Little Pirates (1946). Shipwrecked, the Stooges must escape an evil governor and survive pirates.
  • Uncivil War Birds (1946). Larry and Moe enlist in the Union army; Curly goes South.
  • Back to the Woods (1937). Cowboys, well, Stooges, up against the Indians.
  • Violent is the Word for Curly (1938). They start at a gas station, but end up being mistaken for luminaries at a nearby college.

The DVD is presented in fullscreen, naturally, and though the box says the audio and video have been digitally remastered it certainly isn't up to the standards of some other old flicks Columbia Tristar has redone. Still, the source material was low budget and the production values, like the scripts, were a joke, so it probably doesn't matter that much.

Extras are confined to a short but decent liner essay inside the box and the usual audio and subtitle choices.

Watching the Stooges again after all these years was like visiting an old friend. The only problem was that these old friends just don't seem as funny as they once did - before this reviewer also had the opportunity to become familiar with the likes of Abbott and Costello and the Marx Brothers.

But, hey, beauty is a finger in the eye socket of the beholder, nyack nyack!

"Superstar" on DVD

Superstar, another film based on "Saturday Night LIve" schticks, is a truly dumb movie. It isn't particularly funny, either.

Molly Shannon stars as Mary Katherine Gallagher, who has two main desires in life: to get a boy to give her a whopping, heart-stopping kiss, and to become a "Superstar."

She's a student at a Roman Catholic school, an ugly duckling who's only popular with other so-called misfits.

Along comes a magazine-sponsored talent contest, and Mary Katherine decides (much to her mother's chagrin) to enter so she can start moving down her road to superstardom and, hopefully, get that all-important kiss.

The movie's predictable and the humor is fairly non-existent, but at least you'll only waste 82 minutes of your life sitting through "Superstar."

One thing worthy of note is the casting of Glynis Johns, a good actress of whom we haven't seen much lately. We remember her chiefly as Jane and Michael Banks' mother in the Disney classic "Mary Poppins."

She must have needed the money.

The DVD is presented in widescreen, enhanced for 16x9 TV's, and the audio is Dolby Digital. Extras are confined to chapter stops, subtitles, and the theatrical trailer.

"Boys Don't Cry" on DVD

Boys Don't Cry is an ugly movie about a screwed up kid who chooses to hang out on the wrong side of the tracks and pays heavily for her bad decisions.

Hilary Swank won the Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of Teena Brandon, a girl who won't admit to being a lesbian but who dreams of a sex change operation so she can pursue women in a more "normal" manner. She does a fine job in her role and it's hard not to feel sorry for her character, but "Brandon" (who spends the movie pretending to be a boy) is at his/her core a loser who uses her "sexual identity crisis" as a crutch to justify not facing her main problem - which is a penchant for making poor choices.

"Brandon" gets involved in the lowlife crowd of a small Nebraska town, a gang of boozing and brawling hicks whose lives are going nowhere, and who seem to like it that way. This blows up in her face repeatedly during the film, but she refuses to learn from experience.

The closest thing to a sympathetic character is the confused girl "Brandon" befriends and beds, convincing her that she's having a heterosexual relationship.

The widescreen image quality is great, as is the sound quality, but this reviewer has to admit that sitting through "Boys Don't Cry" was a real ordeal.

The filmmakers try to make us feel sorry for "Brandon," who after all (in typical liberal Hollywood tradition) is an innocent victim of her confused sexuality.

Except that she isn't an innocent victim, and rather than using her challenges as a springboard to greater things she wallows in them, never faces up to them, and chooses to continue a self-destructive life.

Perhaps the movie's really a lesbian recruiting film, but more likely it's a typically Hollywood exercise in artsy fartsiness.

"The Best of the Chris Rock Show" on DVD

"Black" Comedy

If you like Chris Rock's HBO TV series, you'll probably like this "Best of" collection culled from the broadcasts.

Rock is a likeable guy with a good and irreverent sense of humor. The first couple of minutes of the disc are pretty funny, too. In fact, they're the best part of this disc - though to be fair it has its moments later on as well.

Rock lampoons everything in his sights, including the black community. One of the funnier bits is when a black activist comes on stage to complain about discrimination he's suffered because of his color; then it becomes obvious that the discrimination he allegedly faces is for something else entirely. Or is it? The bit has a nice twist at the end.

It's a good comedy moment.

Likewise, visiting Harlem to poll on the residents' opinions on Princess Diana and the sport of golf also bring about some good yuks.

Most of it's pretty standard stuff, though, and not as funny as we'd expect from a "best of" collection. This made us feel that the average episode must, on the whole, be pretty lame if the 59 minutes of this disc only contain 15 or 20 of really funny stuff.

Then again, humor is in the mind of the beholder.

If you're worried about profanity and sexual content, you'll want to give this disc a pass. Its language is street level, as are its situations. It doesn't seem gratuitous or meant to shock; it's just the way the people in the show talk.

The DVD is in fullscreen (1.33:1), recorded for TV, and the picture quality is excellent. Audio is 2 channel stereo and the quality is also very good. There aren't really any extras.

"Four Weddings and a Funeral" on DVD

Tales of Love and Death

This MGM release could be described as a "British Screwball comedy" about a couple that really should be together but which never seems able to get together for more than a brief tryst.

Hugh Grant and Andie MacDowell star as the "circumstance-crossed lovers" who meet at the first and second wedding, are separated by MacDowell's participation in the third wedding. The fourth wedding? You'll have to watch for yourself.

Then, of course, there's the funeral, which as it turns out one of Grant's closest friends is dying to attend.

Grant is a commitment-challenged man determined never to get near the altar except perhaps as best man, but MacDowell - and the happiness he sees around him - changes all that. Unfortunately, by the time he realizes he wants to settle down he can't settle down with the now-married MacDowell. So he settles for "second best." Or does he?

The movie starts promisingly enough, and the first wedding and a half are pretty funny, but after that it almost seems a rehash. Still, the movie has its moments and, in typical British tradition, relies on its writing, situation, and performances for its humor.

A great supporting cast includes Kristen Scott Thomas, Simon Callow, James Fleet, John Hannah, and there's even a short appearance by Mr. Bean himself, Rowan Atkinson.

The DVD is in widescreen (1.85:1) on one side and pan and scan on the other, so you get the best of both worlds. Audio is Dolby Digital "stereo surround" though there isn't much surround. Audio and video quality are very good. Extras include chapter stops, a decent liner essay inside the package, and the original theatrical trailer.

"Tommy Boy" on DVD

The Boss's Kid Grows Up

Paramount's "Tommy Boy" stars the late Chris Farley as the son of an Ohio auto parts manufacturer (Brian Dennehy) who, after seven years, graduates from college and returns home to the family business.

Naturally, he's totally unsuited for the job his daddy gives him, but after his father dies suddenly on his wedding day he's forced to produce big time lest his company fall to a takeover bid. Making matters worse, it turns out that Tommy's new step mother (Bo Derek) is really out to cash in on her late husband's shares, which is the only reason she married him in the first place.

So Tommy heads out onto the road to drum up sales for this company's new brake pad division. With him, as mentor, is David Spade, and together they have a series of misadventures that not only bring them together as friends, but which showcase Tommy's growth and culminates in the saving of the company.

Most of the film takes place with Farley and Spade on the road, learning the ropes of the sales business, and this is where most of the laughs come. The situations are outrageous and for the most part they work well. You even start to like Farley and Spade, the latter of whom plays a far more sympathetic character than the oily one he's made famous on the sitcom "Just Shoot Me."

The DVD is in widescreen (2.35:1), enhanced for 16x9 TV's, with Dolby Digital audio. Not surprisingly, picture and sound quality are first rate. Extras are few and far between, limited to the trailer, subtitles, chapter stops, and a liner blurb on the back of the box.

This Lorne (Saturday Night Live) Michaels production follows the same kind of formula that works so well for Adam Sandler, though Sandler generally comes across as a more likable character. Still, "Tommy Boy" succeeds for the most part and gives its audience what it wants: an unpretentious and entertaining series of bellylaughs.


"Dirty Work" on DVD

Vengeance is Theirs

MGM's "Dirty Work," like Adam Sandler's best films, is the tale of a social misfit who finally finds something at which to excel, and then excels at it.

This time around, Norm Macdonald (like Sandler, an ex-Saturday Night Live team member), needs to make a quick fifty grand to pay for his father's heart transplant. Unfortunately, he isn't good at holding a job - nor is he really good at anything except "not taking crap from anyone."

In a blinding flash of inspiration, he and his brother decide to exploit that "talent" by opening up a "revenge for hire" business that does people's dirty work for them. It's a way for ordinary people to get payback for wrongs done to them by bullies, big corporations, etc.

It's pretty standard stuff, but that doesn't mean it isn't funny - and in fact it has quite a few good laughs. We would have liked to see more "revenge for hire" jobs than are offered, but the ones that are there are pretty inventive.

Along for the ride are Jack Warden as Macdonald's ex-boxer dad, Artie Lange, Traylor Howard, Chevy Chase, Don Rickles, Christopher McDonald and assorted cameos. The film is directed by Bob (America's Funniest Home Videos) Saget, and he does a good job.

The 82 minute DVD is in widescreen, enhanced for widescreen TV's, Dolby Digital 5.1, and looks and sounds great. The disc comes with the usual trailer, chapter stops, and even a surprisingly generous set of liner notes.


"Ferris Bueller's Day Off" on DVD

Teenage Wasteland?

Writer/director John Hughes spent much of the 1980's making a variety of teen flicks, from "The Breakfast Club" to "Sixteen Candles." "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" is kind of a departure, in that rather than featuring an ensemble cast telling a variety of stories, it follows the fortunes of Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick), a popular kid who decides that life's too short to spend a particularly beautiful Spring slaving over the books at school.

So he decides to cut class, with an involved and well-planned "sickness" alibi. Ferris is quite bright and very inventive, and uses all the tools at hand to make his story work.

He drags his girlfriend (Mia Sara) and best friend (Alan Ruck) along with him, brazenly springing his love right out of the classroom and the trio head for adventure in the heart of Chicago snuggled into Ruck's Dad's classic 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California, one of the most beautiful sports cars ever built. These cars are extremely rare and valuable, so we can only assume the one they used in this movie - considering what happens to it - was a ringer. We certainly hope so!

Suffice it to say they have a wonderful time on their day off.

"Ferris" features the unique touch of having Broderick spend a good part of the film talking to the audience, and the tactic works for the most part. The casting is inspired; Broderick plays the role of the likable Ferris with just the right twinkle in his eye, Ruck is appropriately put upon but loyal, and Sarah is warm and pretty. Jeffery Jones plays the "villain," Ferris' school principal who knows a rat when he smells one and spends most of the movie's 102 minutes trying to trap it.

Naturally, he's no match for Ferris, and his misadventures foreshadow those of the bad guys in Hughes' later "Home Alone" movies.

"Ferris Bueller's Day Off" is a likable movie, lighthearted and free spirited, and has some good laughs and funny situations. It'll never go down in Hollywood's history as a true classic, but it's an enjoyable bit of fluff nonetheless.

The DVD is presented in widescreen, 2.35:1 (enhanced for 16x9 TV's), Dolby Digital (unfortunately, the audio defaults to regular Dolby surround and you have to access AC-3 from the setup menu) and the audio and video quality are superb. There aren't a lot of extras, but you do get a second audio track commentary by writer/director/co-producer John Hughes, and it's an engaging reminiscence on his part.


"Forces of Nature" on DVD

Like a Bullock in a China Shop

"Forces of Nature" is a bit buddy flick, a bit "fish out of water" flick a bit "romantic/screwball comedy" and a bit "road movie." The fact that it tries to be all of these things perhaps is why it never really succeeds at being any of them. And that's a shame, 'cause the premise is good.

The story follows the misfortunes of rock-solid citizen Ben (Ben Affleck) who's on his way from New York to Savannah, Georgia for his wedding. When his plane has an "incident" on the runway in New York, he's left to his own devices to find his way South for the nuptials. He ends up teamed with the "free spirit" Sarah (Sandra Bullock) and they go through all kinds of misadventures on the road to Savannah.

To no one's surprise, adversity brings Ben and Sarah close, so close that Ben's ready to chuck his fiance to run off with Sarah by the time they actually get to Savannah. It seems that Sarah has a might influence on Ben, despite the fact that he never really gets a straight answer from her about who she is and what she's all about.

There are some nice scenes in "Forces," and some beautiful cinematography and nice weather effects. The performances are also journeymen, including Affleck, Bullock, and Maura Tierney, Blythe Danner and Ronny Cox. You really do like Ben and Sarah, but you never really root for them to get together that much and a lot of their misfortunes could have been avoided with a couple of well-timed phone calls or the judicious use of an ATM or credit card, but I guess we're not supposed to figure that part out.

The story's been done a million times before (probably best by Peter Bogdanovitch with "What's Up Doc?") and there isn't a lot that's new here, though in a final plot twist Ben makes an interesting decision when he shows up at the wedding to break off his relationship with Tierney.

The 106 minute DVD feature is in widescreen, Dolby Digital and both picture and sound are terrific - including some nice use of Dolby Digital Surround for some weather effects. Extras include a decent set of liner notes about the production, cast/filmmaker bios, a behind the scenes featurette and some deleted scenes. You also get the trailer and chapter access.


"Election" on DVD

Reese's Latest Piece...

As with Rushmore, "Election" is the story of a driven high school student - but that's about where the similarities end.

Where the kid in Rushmore wasn't a great student, he was a good person under trying circumstances. Election, however, tells the tale of Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon), who's a straight "A" student determined to add "student president" to the list of her achievements. At virtually any cost.

Now, Tracy isn't really a bad person; she's just fixed on her goals and not about to let anything get in her way. In fact, there isn't a really bad person in this movie, though many are pretty messed up. Unfortunately there isn't really anyone for whom you can root, either - except for the injured football star who's a very sympathetic character.

Everyone else in this movie gets a series of comeuppances, most of which are deserved in one way or another.

On the whole, Election is a nasty little flick - though it does have a few decent laughs in it. Perhaps because it's an "MTV Production," and therefore undoubtedly aimed at youth, the movie sees virtually all the major adult characters end up chewed up and spat out, while the teens come out smelling like roses.

Matthew Broderick and Witherspoon both turn in good performances in their respective roles as popular teacher and popular student. Witherspoon is particularly good, and despite how nasty the movie gets you can't really bring yourself to hate her. In fact, she doesn't really deserve to be hated, which makes one wonder why Broderick's character is so intent on scuttling her student president bid.

Chris Klein, as the good-hearted jock, is also very likable. His role is the only one, especially among the kids, that isn't completely self absorbed, and he's a refreshing change from his peer group in "Election."

Perhaps that's why the movie itself isn't particularly likable. The concept is fine, the performances are good - but besides Klein there's really no one for whom you can root. And while Broderick's life ending up in a shambles is deserved to a certain extent, his punishment doesn't appear to fit the crime, given the actions of other people in the movie.

Still, Election is at heart a teen flick, so perhaps it's understandable that the teens come out on top here.

If only they had deserved it.

The 103 minute DVD is in a 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio (enhanced for 16x9 TV's), Dolby Digital and audio/video quality are excellent. Extras are limited to closed captioning, chapter stops, and an audio commentary by director/co-writer Alexander Payne.


"The Stand" on DVD

Armageddon, King Style

Artisan Home Video's release of the Stephen King miniseries really pulls out all the stops to make a great presentation of this feature - and in the process is a good demo for the DVD medium as well.

Starring Gary Sinise, Molly Ringwald, Jamey Sheridan, Laura San Giacomo, Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis, Miguel Ferrer, Corin Nemec, Matt Frewer, Adam Storke, Ray Walston, and Rob Lowe, "The Stand" opens with the end of the world. After that, things get progressively worse...

Part one of four (each part ran on TV in a two hour time slot, with commercials) sees most of the human race wiped out by the accidental release of a "superflu" virus - and the setting up of the overall "good versus evil" plot. From there, parts two through four show us the formation of the two camps, adds a lot of supernatural spirituality, and builds steadily to the final confrontation in the devil's playground also known as Las Vegas, Nevada.

Naturally, there's a lot more to the plot than this - after all, it's an eight hour miniseries! The scope is broad, the casting and screenplay first rate, and while the series may not really cause one to jump out of one's seat, it's definitely creepy - and entertaining throughout.

Movies made from Stephen King novels are generally pale imitations of their literary sires, but both "The Stand" and "'Salem's Lot" have translated very well into TV miniseries. In the case of "The Stand," King himself penned the screenplay (and plays a small part in the cast), and while it's many a year since I read the original novel, his script seems to have done the book justice.

The DVD puts two episodes onto each side of the disc (the series runs 360 minutes in all, or about 90 minutes per "two hour" episode - which shows just how many commercials and promos one sits through when watching TV), as well as bundling extras like an audio commentary featuring King, director Mick Garris, cast members, and editor Pat McMahon.

There's also a "making of" featurette, though it's very short and looks like it was originally a TV promo for the broadcast (not that there's anything wrong with that, of course). Other extras include "storyboard comparisons," a section on "The Stand's" makeup effects (which are fine, but not really groundbreaking), and of course chapter stops, production notes, and cast/crew info.

There's also a six page set of liner notes, which is most welcome.

The picture (fullscreen) and sound quality are fine, though the made-for-TV picture isn't as sharp as many movies on DVD. The audio is Dolby 2.0 Surround.

The DVD medium is really the best showcase in which to enjoy "The Stand." Not only do you get to avoid all the mind-numbing commercials (in fact, they've done a nice job of editing the miniseries so that you don't even notice where the breaks were), but you can choose to watch an episode at a time, via chapter stops, or you can sit through the whole thing at once, with no breaks between episodes (merely a momentary fadeout/fade in) - not counting the side change, of course.

But better wear a catheter if you're going to do it all in one sitting...


"Twin Dragons" on DVD

Jackie Chan's Beside Himself

Jackie Chan fans will undoubtedly enjoy "Twin Dragons," which the filmmakers believe will double their pleasure.

The action flick casts Chan as identical twins separated at birth, one of whom grows up in the US to be a classical musician and conductor while the other stays in Hong Kong and becomes a "streetwise martial arts expert."

The two come face to face (talk about being two faced!) in Hong Kong when the classical Chan arrives for a concert. Naturally, they're complete opposites in personality (adding to the eternal question of "is it nature or nurture that makes us who we are?") and, naturally, their identities and their lives get confused and switched around until after the action packed finale.

Jackie Chan movies are all pretty much the same, and are tongue in cheek adventure outings that never take themselves particularly seriously. And Twin Dragons in no different except that it also gives the action star a chance to play a more cerebral character than usual while still letting him kick and chop his way into your heart.

The dubbing into English is atrocious, but that's part of the fun. The stunts and chases are enjoyable and it looks like everyone in the cast is having a lot of fun making the movie.

So while it hardly breaks any new ground, that isn't what Jackie Chan movies are about.

And that's okay with us.

The DVD is widescreen (2.35:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio (well, there isn't a lot of surround, let alone stereo surround). Extras are limited to chapter stops.


"Stargate" on DVD

Not a Special Edition

This review was supposed to be of the "Special Edition" of Stargate, but Live Home Video sent us the original release instead.

Now we know where they're releasing a special edition.

Stargate was the movie that catapulted Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich to fame - the duo who subsequently unleashed "Independence Day" and "Godzilla" onto unsuspecting audiences around the world. It tells the story of a scientific/military (or vice versa) mission through the title device to what turns out to be an ancient civilization far, far away (but in the same galaxy).

Led by Kurt Russell and James Spader, the expedition runs into - and afoul of - the Sun God RA (played by Jaye Davidson) - a not very nice deity who keeps humans around as slave labor.

The movie is at best derivative, but it looks neat and as with ID4 and Godzilla, is reasonably enjoyable if all you're looking for is a popcorn movie.

The DVD release commits a couple of unforgivable sins, however, ones that make us unable to recommend it for anyone's collection. Hopefully the Special Edition will atone...

Sin Number One is that the movie, which only runs 119 minutes (or 122, depending upon which part of the liner notes you read), is broken up into two sections. This means that, as with laserdiscs (perhaps this DVD is merely a reissue of the laserdisc version), you have to turn the damn thing over half way through! We cannot forgive this from a medium that gets all 194 minutes of James Cameron's "Titanic" onto a single side of its DVD.

Give us a break!

Sin Number Two is the video transfer, which isn't up to the standards of most DVD's these days. The picture is good, but we've come to expect GREAT!

At least it's widescreen and Dolby Digital...

Extras are limited to teaser/trailer, with some production notes, chapter stops, cast/crew bios and the usual languages/captions.

Better luck next time.


"The Blair Witch Project" on DVD

Innovative, but is it scary?

After all the hype surrounding this movie, the fact that it came to video so quickly should tell you a lot about how good it is.

Now, a movie's rapid conversion to video doesn't necessarily mean it's no good - just that it didn't find its theatrical audience - but in "The Blair Witch Project's" case what you think may be true is: this movie is a failure.

And that's shame.

The concept (perhaps "gimmick" is a better word) is terrific: make the film appear to be a documentary shot by student filmmakers experiencing events as they unfold. This follows the grand tradition of Orson Welles' radio "War of the Worlds" that used fake radio news reports to give realism to the sci fi story. But in Welles' case, he had a story to back up the gimmick - and that's why his works and "Blair Witch" doesn't.

It's the writing, stupid - as opposed to the stupid writing.

The trio of young filmmakers in "Blair Witch" are idiots. Despite being well equipped with map, compass, and even landmarks like small rivers by which to navigate (let alone the sun!), they manage to get lost in relatively thin woods while off to find out about the legend of the Blair Witch (which apparently killed some kids years before).

These kids aren't stupid, but they fall apart at the drop of a hat - with finger pointing and self recrimination.

But the worst thing is that nothing happens in this movie - least of all anything truly scary.

Almost the only things out of the ordinary that do happen are a few bumps in the night. These are indeed spooky, but nothing ever comes of them. One cast member is lost in the night, but it happens off camera, between one scene and another.

The cast does happen upon a strange area in the woods, a place in which weird stick formations hang from the trees. But then they leave again. And they come across some small rock cairns - and some small rock cairns appear outside their tent - but who or what put them there and for what reason is never found out.

It's too bad. Such an innovative and promising concept deserved a better fate.

Extras include "newly discovered footage," director/producer commentary, cast/crew info, "The Curse of the Blair Witch" (no, it isn't the movie itself). DVD ROM features include web links and some excerpts from "the dossier" and "the comic book."

Unfortunately, it isn't enough.


The Associate on DVD

Tootsie meets Whoopi

Hollywood Pictures' "The Associate" shoves Whoopi Goldberg through the glass ceiling of Wall Street.

Goldberg plays an extremely competent executive who can't get ahead because she's a woman - so she quits and founds her own company, only to find that she can't get noticed there because (surprise!) she's a woman.

She dreams up a male partner, Robert Cutty (named after the Scotch) who, though unseen and never heard from because he's really Goldberg, becomes the toast of Wall Street almost overnight.

Circumstances force Whoopi to appear in public as Robert Cutty, which she accomplishes through a makeup job as was done to Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie and Robin Williams in Mrs. Doubtfire. In the end, everything falls apart and the only way to put it right (and make a feminist statement at the same time) is for Goldberg to "out" herself.

The cast is terrific. Goldberg gives a fine performance, though she may be playing herself to a certain extent. She's joined by the usually-likable Tim Daly as a sleazy "associate," Dianne Wiest as another downtrodden woman who rises to the top with Whoopi (and who also deserves to), and Eli Wallach as the Big Wheel around whom most of the wheelings and dealings revolve. Bebe Neuwirth also turns in a hot performance as the stereotypical woman who represents everything about which the movie is complaining.

The 1.85:1 widescreen, Dolby Digital DVD looks and sounds typically great. Extras are very sparse, however. There's a French language track, chapter stops, the theatrical trailer, and that's about it. We wish Buena Vista (who distributes Hollywood and Touchstone Pictures as well as Disney) would

Directed by Donald Petrie, "The Associate" isn't a particularly funny comedy, but it's a decent film nontheless - and even if you're a crusty old male chauvinist pig (like some would accuse this writer of being) you really do end up rooting for the (dare we say it?) chicks.


A Civil Action on DVD

Lawyers as heroes?

Touchstone Pictures' version of the Jonathan Harr's book casts John Travolta in the real life role of Jan Schlictmann, an ambulance chaser turned personal injury lawyer with a conscience.

Travolta leads an all-star cast that also includes Robert Duvall, William H. Macy, Kathleen Quinlan, and John Lithgow, and the performances are what one would expect from such talent. The story stands up well, too: high priced lawyer comes across a case that has millions of dollars written all over it, then finds himself in the legal fight of his life against high powered opponents with far deeper pockets than his with which to drag things out.

It's a good story, one that uses the real names of the corporations involved, and you end up rooting for Travolta and his associates - who put everything on the line for their clients (mostly, though they're also concerned with their own fiscal rewards as well).

In the end it kind of peters out, though, which is a shame. We won't spoil the ending by telling you what happens, but we expected to see more of a conclusion to the film. Instead, we're given a couple of paragraphs of on screen text that tell us what happens after the film ends (almost as if the producers didn't want the film to go any longer than its 115 minute running time). It was a technique used best in George Lucas' American Grafitti.

The widescreen (1.85:1 aspect ratio), Dolby Digital DVD looks and sounds great, but it's nearly bereft of extras. There's a brief production featurette included on the disc. Liner notes are limited to the jacket blurb, and you get chapter stops, the theatrical trailer, and a French language track.

Doctor Doolittle on DVD

Eddie Murphy Talks to Animals

20th Century Fox's remake of the children's classic Doctor Doolittle dispenses with the music and most of everything else from the 1960's Rex Harrison offering, updating the plot and twisting it into a vehicle for Eddie Murphy's comedic talents.

The result is not a particularly satisfying Doctor Doolittle, but it is a surprisingly satisfying Eddie Murphy movie.

Rather than learning to talk to animals, Murphy - a "human" medical doctor - has this strange, built in talent. Everyone else thinks he's nuts, of course, and at one point he's committed to the looney bin.

All's well that ends well, of course, and in the end Murphy's Dr. Doolittle wins over the hearts and minds of those around him - and saves some multi- legged lives in the process.

Murphy's role is a more adult one than most; he's a family man who takes those responsibilities seriously - and his performance is gentle and real.

The 1.85:1 aspect ratio widescreen DVD is in Dolby Digital, though you have to access the AC-3 soundtrack from the language menu; the disc defaults to Dolby Pro Logic. Picture and sound quality are excellent, but the only extras you get are the chapter list and theatrical trailer.

The DVD we reviewed was a prerelease "screener," so it had no packaging and we therefore can't comment on liner notes and/or lack of same.

Directed by Betty Thomas, Dr. Doolittle is one of those "heartwarming" family films of which there aren't enough these days. It has a little bit of coarse language, but nothing too coarse; ditto for its situations. And you may enjoy playing "guess the celebrity voice" when you hear all those furry and feathery friends start talking to the Doctor.


Spy Hard on DVD

Bond Spoof a la Airplane!

Leslie Nielsen is back in Hollywood Pictures' "Spy Hard," the latest in the seemingly never ending line of genre spoofs that date back to "Airplane!" in the early 1980's.

Nielsen plays agent WD40, who's lured back into action by the return of his arch nemesis General Rancor (Andy Griffith, in a good change of pace role). The film is full of the usual stunts, sight gags, puns, etc. as it parodies the James Bond movie franchise - and as usual the supporting cast seems to be there just to make Nielsen's bumbling oaf look super competent.

The cast includes Nicolette Sheridan, Charles Durning, Marcia Gay Harden, and Barry Bostwick. Sheridan and Bostwick are the best of the bunch.

We've seen most of this stuff before, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, and there are some laughs here. The best part of the film, however, is "Weird Al" Yankovic's opening credits scene, which does a great parody of the sexy imagery that Maurice Binder made famous in the Bond movies. We had to go back and watch it again after the movie was over.

The 1.85:1 aspect ratio widescreen DVD is recorded in Dolby Digital and picture/sound quality are up to the usual DVD standards (terrific!). Extras are limited to the trailer, chapter list, French language track - and there's a short "production featurette" that, while little more than an extended trailer, is a welcome addition nonetheless.

If you like these screwball comedies, you'll probably enjoy Spy Hard. It breaks no new ground, but nor is it meant to.


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