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The following videos have been reviewed by ArtsForge film critic
Mark Zastrow

Zastrow's Reviews

Z = Don't even rent this trash
ZZ = Worth Renting but....
ZZZ = Really good. If you have a chance....
ZZZZ = Don't Miss This Film

The Spanish Prisoner
Wow. I will not divulge a lot of information about the movie plot here. You wouldn't want me to. If you like movies like, "The Usual Suspects," "House of Games," and "The Crying Game" this is a movie for you. David Mamet, award winning playwright, writes and directs this twisted little film. The only readily recognizable actor in the piece is Steve Martin and he is superb. The plot twists and turns and soon as you think you've figured it all out Mamet changes the stakes. The most brilliant writing tool Mamet uses is this; about three quarters of the way through the film Mamet lets the viewers make a discovery that gives away the final bit of mystery. However, his lead character doesn't get the information. Only the viewer. So the last quarter of the movie you're yelling at the TV praying you can make him realize his folly. As I said earlier, I don't want to give you any plot hints, you need to discover this movie on your own.
Wild Man Blues
"Wild Man Blues" is a documentary tale of Woody Allen European tour with his Dixie Land Band and their special brand of New Orleans Jazz. First off, it's the first truly public appearance of Woody and Soon Yi together. I would have given this film a ZZZZ rating were I a fan of New Orleans Jazz, I'm not. But the documentary sections of the film are very good. The aspect of the film I found the most fun is listening to Woody talk. You marvel at the fact, he talks like he writes. For some reason I'd never realized how effortless his films must be for him. He comes off as intelligent, insecure, talented, neurotic, all those things you'd expect of Woody Allen. If you are a fan of New Orleans Jazz I think you'll love this film. Woody and his band are quite talented. He plays the Clarinet and is an accomplished musician. He has been playing for 40 years and it shows. Also evident is his adoration for the music. This is really fun for Woody. The crowds are phenomenal, and he doesn't have any illusions as to his talent or why the crowds have come to see him. He states in the movie that he's no Coltrain and movie fans are the ones who come to listen to him play. Perhaps hoping for a dissertation from the director/writer/actor. Knowing this Woody makes sure he has some "talk breaks" during the concerts. He even comments at one point that he's said no to nothing on the trip. He is gracious with all the fans, and seems to appreciate their admiration for him. Bottom line, this is a very interesting and entertaining insight into Woody Allen's life. A must rent for Allen's fans and a good watch for anyone else. And I know the next time I go to New York I'll go to Michael's Pub on Monday to catch of glimpse of one of the finest writer/directors of my generation. Go ahead rent this film.
Lethal Weapon IV
The fourth, and hopefully last, Donner directed installment in the Lethal Weapon series. If your Beavis or Butthead this is a great movie ("Stuff blowin' up is cool") if not, pass it up. First of all, here's my perspective: No Weapon movie can compare with the first. Though it wasn't as funny, the fact that you never knew if Mel Gibson's character was going to off himself in the line of duty, kept you involved in the movie. His catharsis at the end was fulfilling. Since the first movie that has been taken away.

Back to LW4. Bad guys come in and threaten the way of life for Glover and Gibson. Gibson's significant other, portrayed by Rene Russo, is pregnant. (First dramatic question: will Gibson marry her?) Glovers daughter is pregnant (and also married, her father doesn't know) by Chris Rock's character, a wise guy detective working with Glover on the case. (Second question: how will Glover react when faced with the truth?) And of course, the third question: Will they get the bad guy?

Answers: yes / yes / yes! What a shock. If you can't tell, I was very disappointed with this film. Donner uses unrealistic, almost cartoon like, stunts and special effects. Rene Russo is wasted (except one fun fight scene) and Joe Pesci is wasted completely. Gibson and Glover do their usual good job. Chris Rock is a let down. The funniest things he does are based on situation and not line delivery. Donner tries to make him integral to the movie, but in doing so takes away from Russo and Pesci. Mistake, stick with what works.

There is a bright spot, very bright. Jet Li as the bad guy. Li is outstanding. Not a lot of lines but great facial expressions and remarkable martial arts demonstrations. Move over Jackie Chan, Richard Donner may have created a monster!

Oh, what the heck, rent the video, you'll have fun. But don't say I didn't warn you.