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SLEEPLESS/GODZILLA/MASK OF Z/GHOSTBUS - DVD Movie
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Sleepless in Seattle
The director and stars of 1998's You've Got Mail scored a breakthrough hit with this hugely popular romantic comedy from 1993, about a recently engaged woman (Meg Ryan) who hears the sad story of a grieving widower (Tom Hanks) on the radio and believes that they're destined to be together. She's single in New York, he lives in Seattle with a young son, but the cross-country attraction proves irresistible, and pretty soon Meg's on a westbound flight. What happens from there is ... well, you must have been living in a cave to have let this sweet-hearted comedy slip below your pop-cultural radar. There's little complexity or depth to writer-director Nora Ephron's cheesy tale of a romantic fait accompli, and more than a little contrivance to the subplots that threaten to keep Hanks and Ryan from actually meeting. But the purity of star chemistry here is hard to deny, and this may be the first film to indicate the more serious and sympathetic side of Hanks that is revealed in later roles. With its clever jokes about "chick movies" and repeated homage to the classic weeper An Affair to Remember, this may not be everybody's brand of amorous entertainment, but it's got an old-Hollywood charm that appeals to many a movie fan. --Jeff Shannon
As "gigantic monster reptile attacks New York" movies go, you've got to admit that Godzilla delivers the goods, although its critical drubbing and box-office disappointment were arguably deserved. It's a shameless, uninspired crowd pleaser that's content to serve up familiar action with the advantage of really fantastic special effects, and if you expect nothing more you'll be one among millions of satisfied customers. There's really no other way to approach it--you just have to accept the fact that Independence Day creators Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin are unapologetic plagiarists, incapable of anything more than mindless spectacle that can play in any cinema in the world without dubbing or subtitles. The whole movie plays out like a series of highlights stolen from previous blockbusters of the 1990s; it's little more than a rehash of the Jurassic Park movies. The derivative script is so trivial that it's unworthy of comment, apart from a few choice laughs and the casting of Michael Lerner as New York's mayor, whose name is Ebert and who closely resembles a certain well-known movie critic. Perhaps that's a clever hint that this movie's essentially critic-proof. It's stupid but it's fun, and for most audiences that's a fitting definition of mainstream Hollywood entertainment. --Jeff Shannon
The Mask of Zorro
A lusty and rousing adventure, this calls to mind those glorious costume dramas produced so capably by the old Hollywood studio system--hardly surprising, in that its title character, a de facto Robin Hood in Old California, provided starring vehicles for Douglas Fairbanks and Tyrone Power, the '50s TV hit, and dozens of serials and features. Zorro, a pop-fiction creation invented by Johnston McCulley in 1918, is given new blood in this fast-moving and engaging version, which actually works as a sequel to the story line in the Fairbanks-Power saga, The Mark of Zorro. A self-assured Anthony Hopkins is Don Diego de la Vega, a Mexican freedom fighter captured and imprisoned just as Spain concedes California to Santa Ana. Twenty years later, he escapes from prison to face down his mortal enemy, a land grabbing governor played with slimy spitefulness by Stuart Wilson. Too old to save the local peasants on his own, he trains bandito Antonio Banderas to take his place. Much swashbuckling ensues as Banderas woos Catherine Zeta-Jones, becomes a better human being, and saves the disenfranchised rabble. Director Martin Campbell wisely instills a measure of frivolity into the deftly choreographed action sequences, while letting a serious tone creep in when appropriate. This covers much ground under the banner of romantic-action-adventure, and it does so most excellently. --Rochelle O'Gorman
Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis wrote the script, but Bill Murray gets all the best lines and moments in this 1984 comedy directed by Ivan Reitman (Meatballs). The three comics, plus Ernie Hudson, play the New York City-based team that provides supernatural pest control, and Sigourney Weaver is the love interest possessed by an ancient demon. Reitman and company are full of original ideas about hobgoblins--who knew they could "slime" people with green plasma goo?--but hovering above the plot is Murray's patented ironic view of all the action. Still a lot of fun, and an obvious model for sci-fi comedies such as Men in Black. --Tom Keogh
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