Very funny film about a powerful New York crime lord (Robert De Niro) who's having trouble with emotional outbursts, and the hapless psychiatrist (Billy Crystal) recruited to turn him back into a happy-go-lucky gangster. A New York Mafia Don, having problems keeping his empire together, turns to the shrink to make him strong again, bringing him into the family, so to speak, ruining his marriage plans and complicating his practice. Great chemistry between De Niro and Crystal; some wonderful sight gags. Any film that skewers both the Mafia and psychiatry gets our nod. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 103 min.), Comedy, 1999, Box office gross: $104.000 million, (Warner), No SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 8/17, DVD: Day & Date.
Director: Harold Ramis. Stars: Robert De Niro, Billy Crystal, Lisa Kudrow, Chazz Palminteri. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 103 min.), Comedy, 1999, Box office gross: $104.000 million, (Warner), No SRP, Priced for rental Available: 8/17, DVD: Day & Date.
Woody Allen's latest, a black and white diatribe that attacks our culture's fascination with fame and infamy, starring Kenneth Branagh as a writer (Allen's alter ego) going through a mid-life crisis, leaving his wife (Judy Davis) to pursue greener pastures among the cultural elite, including aborted trysts with assorted stars and models. If you can stand another Woody Allen mid-life crisis film -- it seems that he's had the longest-running mid- life crisis in the history of film and man -- then this is for you. Co-stars Melanie Griffith, Winona Ryder, Joe Mantegna.
Director: Woody Allen. Stars: Kenneth Branagh, Judy Davis, Melanie Griffith, Michael Lerner, Winona Ryder, Joe Mantegna. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 112 min.), Comedy, 1998, Box office gross: $5.032 million, (Miramax), No SRP, Priced for rental Available: 8/10, DVD: Day & Date.
A modern updating of the classic novel of sexual deception and betrayal, "Les Liaisons Dangereuses," here with a hip young cast featuring Sarah Michelle Gellar and Ryan Phillippe as bored rich siblings-by-marriage who get their kicks manipulating others. The plot turns on a challenge to the stepbrother: that he deflower the daughter (Reese Witherspoon) of their school's headmaster. The prize -- his stepsister. Money and snobbery come to the fore here but, as in any moral fable, love conquers all. Sexy and wicked.
Director: Roger Kumble. Stars: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, Reese Witherspoon, Selma Blair. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 97 min.), Drama, 1999, Box office gross: $37.623 million, (Columbia TriStar), No SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 8/3, DVD: Day & Date.
In order to offset a ratings slide, a local cable channel comes up with the idea of putting one ordinary person's life -- a thirtysomething video store clerk (Matthew McConuaghey) -- on TV 24 hours a day. Dubbed EDtv, the show becomes a hit. But what at first seems like a good idea -- Ed enjoys the celebrityhood -- soon turns sour as the young man's family life begins to deteriorate. Directed by Ron Howard and co-starring Jenna Elfman, Woody Harrelson, Dennis Hopper, Ellen Degeneres and Sally Kirkland.
Director: Ron Howard. Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Jenna Elfman, Woody Harrelson, Ellen Degeneres, Sally Kirkland. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 123 min.), Comedy, 1999, Box office gross: $22.362 million, (Universal), No SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 8/17, DVD: Day & Date.
Edgy comedy about a group of young Los Angelenos whose lives collide in one 24-hour period surrounding a botched drug deal; misadventures involve sex, partying, Las Vegas antics, multi-level marketing, with four separate -- but related -- stories told using overlapping time frames. The Rashomon-like gimmick actually works here as you follow these kids' descend into a labyrinth of wrong turns and bad choices. Somehow it all works out in the end. Director Doug Liman ("Swingers") needs a little seasoning -- his immaturity still shows. Overall, though, it's a very interesting black comedy. Stars Scott Wolf, Katie Holmes, Sarah Polley, Jay Mohr, Desmond Askew and Taye Diggs.
Director: Doug Liman. Stars: Scott Wolf, Katie Holmes, Sarah Polley, Jay Mohr, Desmond Askew, Taye Diggs. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 102 min.), Comedy, 1999, Box office gross: $16.551 million, (Columbia TriStar), No SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 8/24, DVD: Day & Date.
MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE
Lackluster romance about a lovelorn journalist (Robin Wright Penn) who tracks down the writer (Kevin Costner) of a romantic note she finds in a bottle washed up on the beach, setting off a long-distance romance. Costner grieves over his departed wife and writes love letters to her, putting them into the sea in empty bottles. Wright swoons for Costner, and the pair eventually get to know each other -- and fill in the voids of their lives. A love story for the fortysomething set.
Director: Luis Mandoki. Stars: Kevin Costner, Robin Wright Penn, Paul Newman, John Savage, Illeana Douglas, Robbie Coltrane. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 126 min.), Romance, 1999, Box office gross: $52.799 million, (Warner), No SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 8/3, DVD: Day & Date.
MOD SQUAD, THE
Updating of the 1960s-70s TV cop drama about a group of hip teens (Claire Danes, Giovanni Ribisi and Omar Epps) in trouble with the law who are given the opportunity to escape their sentences by working as undercover cops. The trio track down dopers for their mentor, Captain Greer (Dennis Farina), until he's suspiciously murdered, then go on their own, running from both the cops and the bad guys. Unbelievable story line is exacerbated by off-the wall, overly theatrical acting by the youngsters. Wasn't very cool then and certainly isn't cool now.
Director: Scott Silver. Stars: Claire Danes, Giovanni Ribisi, Omar Epps, Denis Farina. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 92 min.), Action, 1999, Box office gross: $13.249 million, (MGM), No SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 8/10, DVD: Day & Date.
A stressed out office worker goes in for therapy and comes out with a new philosophy: work sucks. Intent on becoming an unemployed slacker, he shows up to work late (if at all), plays computer games, destroys property, tells off his boss -- and promptly gets a promotion for his efforts. He finally gets involved in a high-tech embezzling scheme as a one-way ticket to easy street. Sheer fantasy starring Ron Livingston and Jennifer Aniston.
Director: Mike Judge. Stars: Ron Livingston, Jennifer Aniston. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 90 min.), Comedy, 1999, Box office gross: $10.824 million, (Fox), No SRP, Priced for rentalx Available: 8/17, DVD: Day & Date.
SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE
What a wonderful idea: take the greatest writer in the English language, give him writer's block, have him fall in love with an aspiring actress, and viola, he writes "Romeo and Juliet." With great direction and acting, this light-hearted revision of history -- with wonderful literary allusions and asides and a ribald rivalry between acting companies of the Elizabethan stage -- is a delightful viewing experience. Winner of seven Academy Awards including Best Picture. Stars Gwyneth Paltrow, Joseph Fiennes, Geoffrey Rush, Colin Firth, Judi Dench and Ben Affleck.
Director: John Madden. Stars: Gwyneth Paltrow, Joseph Fiennes, Geoffrey Rush, Colin Firth, Judi Dench, Ben Affleck. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 122 min.), Comedy, 1998, Box office gross: $100.000 million, (Miramax), No SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 8/10, DVD: Day & Date.
A beautiful restaurant owner (Sarah Michelle Gellar of TV's "Buffy the Vampire Slayer") whose establishment is on the skids goes after Mr. Right, a hard-working executive (Sean Patrick Flanery), also in the restaurant business, who doesn't know she exists until he falls under her tantalizing spell, thanks to a mysterious fairy-godfather and some sensuous cooking. Despite pleasant stars, there's very little momentum -- nor magic -- in the story.
Director: Mark Tarlov. Stars: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Sean Patrick Flanery. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 100 min.), Romantic Comedy, 1999, Box office gross: $4.394 million, (Fox), No SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 8/17, DVD: Day & Date.
SIX WAYS TO SUNDAY
Inventive, clever, stylish indie film about an 18-year-old man (Norman Reedus) who discovers his true calling in life: as a small-time hood unafraid to bash some heads and spill some blood for his job. Based on the 1962 novel "Portrait of a Young Man Drowning," the story begins with confused Harry (Norman Reedus) joining his boyhood pal Arnie (Adrien Brody) on a shakedown. Harry ends up pummelling the mark, and gets a job with the local mob. Harry exalts in his new found status as a shakedown artist supreme, along the way falling for the boss' maid (Elina Lowensohn). Unfortunately the boy-man has a strong Oedipal Complex, and his mother will do anything to keep him by her side. This is a notch above most other examples of this genre ("Pulp Fiction"--"GoodFellas" clones), with well-rounded performances by Reedus, Brody and Lowensohn. Throw in the Jewish mob in Youngstown, Ohio, and the wildly way-too-possessive mom (Debbie Harry) and you have one cockeyed black comedy -- with a real surprise ending.
Director: Adam Bernstein. Stars: Debbie Harry, Adrien Brody, Norman Reedus, Isaac Hayes, Jerry Adler, Elina Lowensohn. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 95 min.), Thriller, 1999, (A-Pix), No SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 8/24, DVD: Day & Date.
Clint Eastwood directed and stars in this thriller about a down-and-out journalist who must prove that a man on death row is innocent -- with only hours to go before his lethal injection. Eastwood plays his typical antihero -- a boozing womanizer -- to perfection, though he's getting a bit too old for some of his conquests. Although the story is full of holes and silly plot contrivances -- Eastwood outsmarts the cops, the DA and the defense attorneys in uncovering the truth -- the direction has enough momentum to keep you excited until the end.
Director: Clint Eastwood. Stars: Clint Eastwood, Isaiah Washington, Lisa Gay Hamilton, James Woods, Denis Leary, Diane Venora. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 127 min.), Drama, 1999, Box office gross: $16.635 million, (Warner), No SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 8/10, DVD: Day and Date.
Ensemble comedy set on New Year's Eve 1981, about the planning and events leading up to a big party in Manhattan (held by Martha Plimpton). The story focuses on Christina Ricci, Courtney Love, Gaby Hoffman, Kate Hudson, Janeane Garofalo, Ben Affleck, Casey Affleck, Jay Mohr and others and their adventures on the way to the blow out. There's the requisite jousting for bed partners, party crashers from Long island, yuppies, artists and more. Despite the talented cast, the dialogue and script smother the actors, forcing viewers to wander as aimlessly as the story line. There's not enough strength afoot to care about the various treks -- and problems -- leading up to the party.
Director: Risa Bramon Garcia. Stars: Martha Plimpton, Christina Ricci, Courtney Love, Kate Hudson, Dave Chappelle, Janeane Garofalo. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 101 min.), Comedy, 1999, Box office gross: $6.851 million, (Paramount), No SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 8/17, DVD: Day & Date.
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