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Review of the day for the week of December 7, 1998.

Monday:
Elizabeth

Elizabeth
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Amazingly, I found Elizabeth greatly entertaining. Not being a history buff, I'd previously walked out of the based-on-historical-fact film Her Majesty, Mrs. Brown - and I expected Elizabeth to be just as boring. Elizabeth, however, grabbed my attention, and it certainly didn't seem like a three-hour movie.

Cate Blanchett stars as Elizabeth, the young Protestant girl who succeeded her Catholic half-sister, Queen Mary to the throne of England. After becoming Queen, Elizabeth inherited a weak kingdom with little money and a small army. Many disapproved of her religion and her plans to create a Church of England. Advisors indicated that her best bet would be to marry someone from another kingdom, (France or Spain were suggested) although she is deeply in love with an Englishman named Lord Robert. (She has quite a few disagreements with him as the story develops.)

The acting is marvelous in Elizabeth, although many of the characters seem to be back-stabbers.

(Although Elizabeth's life is in danger many times, you'll never guess who attempted to have Elizabeth murdered near the end of the movie.) Also, an element of humor is added by one of Elizabeth's suitors, (a prince from Spain) who turns out to be a fifteenth century drag queen (or whatever they called them back then).

Now that I think about it, I might have paid a lot more attention to history class if it was presented in such a captivating manner as this film. "Elizabeth" is anything but boring!

My Rating = Three Stars

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Tuesday:
Outbreak

Outbreak
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Outbreak is an outstanding movie, and my only regret is that I watched it on TV, rather than renting the video. I should have shelled out the two bucks so I wouldn't have to watch all those commercials that were distracting.

Still, Outbreak was captivating. Dustin Hoffman stars as a medical researcher (personally, I don't think Hoffman is nerdy enough to play a doctor, but then a nerdy actor probably wouldn't have been fun to watch, so I think he was well cast.) His ex-wife (Rene Russo, who isn't nerdy either but is an excellent actress), is also a medical researcher who is forced to work with him when a super-bug type virus pops up in the United States. (In spite of the two generals who wanted to cover up their germ warfare - and keep the anti-serum for it secret, the super bug virus left Africa and traveled to America.)

Obviously, Hoffman hopes to win Russo back, but she doesn't seem quite as interested in him. They end up fighting about whether or not to warn people of the virus (some divorced couples will fight about anything).

Every time it became exciting, the movie stopped short and three different stores tried to convince me to do my holiday shopping with them. Uninterrupted, Outbreak might have been a bit more suspenseful. However, I lovedOutbreak, even if it was rather evident that Russo and Hoffman would be back together by the end of the movie. The cast was top-notch, and the plot intriguing.

My Rating = Three Stars

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Wednesday:
I Still Know What You Did Last Summer

I Still Know What You Did Last Summer
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I Still Know What You Did Last Summer wasn't any better than I Know What You Did Last Summer which was lousy.

Jennifer Love Hewitt stars as Julie James, the college student who, in the first movie, accidentally killed a guy in a car wreck, and later covered it up with the help of her friends. A summer later, a killer used a hook to kill two of her friends, leaving only Julie and her boyfriend Ray with the secret (they never 'fessed up to the cops, apparently).

Now, the killer is back. When Julie and three friends win a trip to the Bahamas, they discover that everyone else is already gone because it's storm season. So, they're all alone with a staff of five on this big, scary island...and the guy with the hook is out to kill Julie again!

Sorry, I'm all out of screams. This is just plain stupid. And, just in case the original slasher movie formula wasn't moronic enough, they even mixed in a little voodoo for a supernatural effect. That's right, one of the staff members is a certified witch doctor, complete with bones and skulls and scary-sounding things to say. (One question: Where are the all the little dolls they stick pins in?)

Yuck. The whole thing was a waste of time. Only see I Still Know What You Did Last Summer if you're one of those many idiots who liked the first one.

My Rating = One Star

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Thursday:
Psycho - 1998

Psycho - 1998
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The remake of Psycho will be more thrilling to moviegoers who haven't seen the original. All the remarkable shocking parts weren't shocking to me (I'd previously viewed the original Psycho) because this remake was done exactly like the first, scene for scene, and I knew just what was coming.

Anne Heche plays the secretary who steals a large sum of money from her boss - so her boyfriend can pay off a debt and they can live happily ever after- then she drives away with it. And, she just happens to stop at the Bates Motel, where she meets the classic nutcase, Norman Bates (Vince Vaughn). That's where the famous shower scene, even gorier than the first one I think, comes in.

But what scared the wimps sitting in front of me into screams was the scene where private eye Arberghast (William H. Macy) meets a bad end in Norman's happy home.

Vince Vaughn makes a better Norman Bates than Anthony Perkins - he just seems creepier and more quietly deranged. As for which movie I preferred, they were about equally entertaining. I suggest renting the old one after seeing the new Psycho, and you can decide for yourself. Both films are definitely worth watching.

My Rating = Four Stars

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Friday:
Fargo

Fargo
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Fargo is a surprisingly entertaining drama without special effects or such outrageous plotting that it's unbelievable. (Maybe that's because it was based on a true story.)

William H. Macy - whom I liked much better in this film than in the recent Pleasantville - plays a crooked car salesman. He's also a wimp who can't stand up to his domineering, know-it-all father-in-law, who looks down his nose at Macy. In one scene, Macy tries to convince his father-in-law to lend him money for a deal that he feels would "turn out real well" for himself, his wife Jean, and their son, Scott. "Jean and Scott never have to worry," his father-in-law says smugly - and coldly.

At this point Macy is left with no choice but to have his wife kidnapped - her dear old dad will pay the ransom - a large portion going to Macy, smaller amounts going to the kidnappers. Unfortunately, things don't go exactly as planned, and soon the cops are involved.

That's where Margie (Frances McDormand who won an Oscar for this role) comes in. As the Chief of Police in Bemidji, Minnesota, (where there are apparently few crimes to investigate - what this movie has to do with Fargo, which is in North Dakota, isn't entirely clear) Margie is seven months pregnant when several bodies are discovered. (That was the work of two very clumsy criminals Macy hired. One of them, played by Steve Buscemi, provides good comic relief until his partner in crime kills him. Okay, I'll stop giving away the plot now!)

Macy's character was intriguing, but I thought he should have been a little less timid, and there should have been at least one scene where he showed some anger toward his nearly intolerable father-in-law. (He almost seems to think he deserves his father-in-law's contempt!) I guess the moral of this story is that gutless wimps shouldn't seek a life of crime.

Still, along with the wonderful acting and surprises in the plot, Fargo remains a most enjoyable movie.

My Rating = Three Stars

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