"Antwone Fisher" -- Denzel Washington makes his directorial debut and Derek Luke his feature film acting bow, both rewarding performances, in this fact-based, heartwarming story of a troubled young man who, with caring help, doggedly finds a way out of his problems. As written by the real Antwone Fisher, the film introduces us to Fisher as an angry Navy seaman (Luke) whose volatile temper keeps him in hot water and close to being booted out of the service. As a last resort, he's sent to a Navy psychiatrist, played by Washington, to whom eventually, reluctantly he tells his story of emotion-crippling childhood abuse and neglect, of abandonment by his mother and life in a cruel foster home. At last, in sessions that benefit greatly both doctor and patient, Fisher is convinced that the only way out of his rage is to confront his past, to find his real family, setting the stage for a powerful conclusion. 2002. 120 minutes. Fox Home Entertainment. Rated PG-13 (violence, language, mature thematic material involving child abuse).
"Adaptation" -- A weird but clever black comedy about oddballs and orchids that blends fiction and fact with the daunting task of turning a thoughtful book into a lively movie. Nicolas Cage, at his hangdog best, plays screenwriter Charlie Kaufman who's hired to adapt "The Orchid Thief," a non-fiction book by Susan Orlean (Meryl Streep) about a colorful backwoods poacher named Laroche (Oscar-winner Chris Cooper). Charlie is so consumed by self-doubt and writer's block that he simply can't get started, eventually writing himself into the story and enlisting his outgoing twin brother Donald (also Cage) to help him out. In one of the more intriguing aspects of the movie, the real Charlie Kaufman, who teamed with director Spike Jonze on 1999's "Being John Malkovich," actually wrote the "Adaptation" screenplay and there is no twin Donald, though he got co-credit for the script. Sometimes bewildering and chaotic but well done, off-the-wall entertainment. 2002. 114 minutes. Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment. Rated R (language, sexuality, some drug use and violent images).
"25th Hour" -- On his last day of freedom before starting a seven-year prison term, upscale drug dealer Monty Brogan (Edward Norton) is tying up some loose ends of his life and wondering whether he should begin his sentence or just make a run for it. Or, maybe just end it all. A nice guy, even if he did run with the Russian mafia, Monty spends time with two old friends, Jakob (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), an insecure high school teacher, and Frank (Barry Pepper), a fiery Wall Street broker; his girlfriend Naturelle (Rosario Dawson), who may have turned him in, and his father (Brian Cox) before deciding what path he will take. Spike Lee's absorbing drama starts slowly and talky but picks up speed as it goes along and is worth staying with. The ensemble cast, also including Anna Paquin as Jakob's slutty student, is a good one. 2002. 134 minutes. Touchstone Home Entertainment. Rated R (strong language, some violence).
"Star Trek: Nemesis" -- Still boldly daring to tread where few have trod, the venerable starship Enterprise and its sterling crew, in the 10th and perhaps final "Star Trek" movie voyage, take on a powerful rogue planet bent on attacking Earth. Battle scenes and special effects are the strong points in a rather familiar setting. The gang's all here --Capt. Picard Patrick Stewart), First Officer Riker (Jonathan Frakes), Cmdr. Data (Brent Spinner), et al -- ready to do battle with the new, sinister Romulus ruler (Tom Hardy), actually a Picard clone with a burning hatred for humans, and his menacing viceroy (Ron Perlman). 2002. 116 minutes. Paramount Home Entertainment. Rated PG-13 (sci-fi action violence and peril and a scene of sexual content).
"Atlantis: Milo's Return" -- Explorer Milo Thatch, who helped save the fabled underwater city Atlantis in this animated movie's predecessor, gets together with his team again in a series of new adventures, this time above the ocean surface. Their journey takes them, along with Atlantis Princess Kida, from the desert floor to icy mountain heights and a confrontation with a gigantic sea monster. A good, direct-to-video family-friendly follow-up to the original. 2003. 70 minutes. Animated. Walt Disney Home Entertainment. Rated G.
Coming up: "The Pianist" starring Oscar-winner Adrien Brody, the Al Pacino actioner "The Recruit" and the romantic comedy "A Guy Thing"... "Two weeks Notice," the Sandra Bullock-Hugh Grant fling, holds the No. 1 slot among movie video rentals this week... The Civil War epic "Gods and Generals" has a July 15 video date... The thriller "Phone Booth," still doing well at the box office, is due on video July 8...
New on DVD: Kevin Costner's massive 1990 outdoor epic "Dances With Wolves" made more massive with a special edition, two-disc version that now runs four hours plus a gang of extras, from MGM... Disney's splendid 1954 take on Jules Verne's "20,000 Leagues Under The Sea" with a strong cast headed by Kirk Douglas and James Mason and Oscar-winning special effects...
Paramount is releasing two sets of TV favorites on DVD, namely "Cheers: The Complete First Season," (1982-83) and "Frasier: The Complete First Season" (1993-94)... Nine years before "Stagecoach" there was 1930's "The Big Trail," a bit creaky now but still an impressive early talkie starring a newly discovered John Wayne... "The Battle of Britain" (1969, MGM) boasts outstanding aerial combat footage... and "Zulu" (1964, MGM), is a superior battle film featuring a young Michael Caine...
UPI Almanac for Friday, Oct. 31, 2014
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