Tag Archive for '1990s'

Contact

Contact (8/22/15) HBO (1997 ***) Directed by Robert Zemeckis, based on the novel by Carl Sagan, starring Jodie Foster, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Skerritt, David Morse and William Fichtner. When young astrophysicist isn’t busy boning rugged-looking men of the cloth, she spends every waking minute listening for extra-terrestrial voices. I hadn’t watched this film since it was originally released. I remember being fairly disappointed by it, actually, having expected much more from Robert Zemeckis, the director behind Back to the Future (1985) and Best Picture winner Forrest Gump (1994). My expectations were clearly higher than they should have been. It’s interesting that this film shares something in common with another film I watched lately, one that also stars Matthew McConaughey: Interstellar (2014). Both films begin on fairly grounded reality, then progress into a second act related to the execution of a large-scale space project / mission, before reaching a dramatic climax that is (no spoilers here) somewhat abstract in nature. I gotta say that McConaughey’s acting chops had improved substantially in the interim.

Schindler’s List

Schindler’s List (8/21/15) TMC (1993 ****) Directed by Steven Spielberg, based on the book by Thomas Keneally, starring Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley and Embeth Davidtz. A German industrialist and profiteer rubs elbows with the director of a concentration camp and manages to save more than a thousand Jews from Hitler’s “final solution.” It’s hard to believe more than twenty years have passed since this film was released, a film that would go on to win Best Picture and Best Director awards. It truly is an amazing film and one that is worthy of the awards it won. At the time, it was seen as somewhat of a departure for Spielberg, one that couldn’t be any more different from the other film he directed that was released in 1993, Jurassic Park. Still, it has many moments that feel absolutely Spielbergian. And yes, even in the most dire circumstances, there were moments of humor. Highly recommended.

Evita

Evita (6/21/15) SHO (1996 ***1/2) Directed by Alan Parker, based on the musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, starring Madonna, Antonio Banderas and Jonathan Pryce. When Eva Duarte marries Argentina President Juan Peron, she finds a level of adoration few women ever dream of. It had been years since I’d watched this film, and it remains a distinct pleasure. I think Alan Parker, who had directed Pink Floyd The Wall (1982) and The Commitments (1991) was a perfect choice to helm this film based on the musical by the team behind Jesus Christ Superstar. It could be argued whether Madonna was the best choice as the film’s lead, but I thought she brought a voice and real gravitas to the role. Ultimately, however, I think the real star of Evita is the music, and it has a soundtrack that will continue playing in your head long after you’ve watched the film.

JFK

JFK (6/21/15) MAX (1991 ****) Directed by Oliver Stone, based on the books On the Trail of the Assassins by Jim Garrison and Crossfire: The Plot that Killed Kennedy by Jim Marrs, starring Kevin Costner, Sissy Spacek, Ed Asner, Jack Lemmon and Gary Oldman as Lee Harvey Oswald. New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison decides to expand his purview to include the assassination of the 35th President of the United States. I had not watched JFK for more than a decade. I saw it when it was first released and its visual style blew me away, immediately becoming my favorite of Oliver Stone’s films. It’s still hard for me to believe that JFK is nearly 25 years old. Of course, because of its subject matter, the film was controversial when it was released, but it seems like that aspect of it has softened somewhat over the years. The question of whether there was or was not a conspiracy to assassinate John Kennedy doesn’t seem to be as poignant in a post-9/11 world. (Favorite)

Multiplicity

Multiplicity (6/20/15) Encore (1996 **1/2) Directed by Harold Ramis, starring Michael Keaton, Andie MacDowell and Michael Keaton. A stressed-out contractor meets a crazy scientist with the answer to his time-management woes: Cloning. Back in the mid-1990s, the late Harold Ramis’ looked for a concept worthy of following up his beloved Groundhog Day (1993). His solution was to use the relatively new motion control technology pioneered in the Back to the Future sequel in 1989 to give the world multiple (I won’t reveal how many) Michael Keatons. Plus, at its heart was a theme nearly everybody living in the busy modern world could identify with. Yeah, on paper it must have seemed like a good enough idea, but somehow the execution left something to be desired. Possibly the problem was that not enough was done to exploit the premise, with too much relying on Michael Keaton’s various performance(s) and the gimmick itself.

Star Trek: Insurrection

Star Trek: Insurrection (6/17/15) TMC (1998 **) Directed by Jonathan Frakes, starring Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden and F. Murray Abraham as Ru’afo. Starship Captain Jean-Luc Picard breaks the rules and disobeys the Federation’s plan to relocate the inhabitants of a special planet. This film was barely watchable, begging the question: Was this the film that killed the franchise? No, as it turns out, it was not: Star Trek: Nemesis was released in 2002. With all deference to Jonathan Frakes’ directing talents, it was probably not the wisest decision to let him helm a big-budget theatrical release, let alone two. This was actually his second Star Trek feature, having directed Star Trek: First Contact two years previously. While I haven’t watched that 1996 film since around the time it was released, Star Trek: Insurrection definitely resembled a slightly bigger-budget episode of the TV series, making it perfectly watchable, but with very little to recommend it. According to Frakes’ Imdb.com filmography, this was the last feature film he directed, but he has been quite active as a TV director in the past decade and a half.

The Brady Bunch Movie

The Brady Bunch Movie (6/6/15) Starz (1995 ***1/2) Directed by Betty Thomas, starring Shelley Long, Gary Cole and Michael McKean. When the Brady’s home is threatened with a foreclosure orchestrated by an evil real estate developer, the kids of the world’s most famous blended family of the 1970s do their darnedest to raise money to pay a $20,000 delinquent tax bill. I don’t believe I’ve watched this movie since it was originally released, back in the mid 1990s. Watching it again after all these years, I was struck by just how tonally perfect it was, was start to finish. Of course the film’s only real joke was the comedic contrast between the idealized world of the 1970s and (1990s) contemporary society. It was also remarkable how great the casting was, not only finding amazing lookalikes for everybody up to and including Alice, but comically skilled as well. The movie featured a nice collection of cameos as well, including Davy Jones, Mickey Dolenz, Peter Tork, Barry Williams, Florence Henderson and Ann B. Davis.

Grosse Pointe Blank

Grosse Pointe Blank (4/13/15) TMC (1997 ***) Directed by George Armitage, starring John Cusack, Minnie Driver, Dan Aykroyd, Jeremy Piven and Joan Cusack. A neurotic hit man returns to his home town for his 10-year high school reunion. I had watched this film on video within a few years of its initial release, and I remember being mildly disappointed by it but couldn’t remember why. It’s not a bad film, and the soundtrack is quite good, which may have something to do with the fact that The Clash’s Joe Strummer was the film’s composer. So what’s the problem? Ultimately it comes down to the fact that the film asks its audience to identify with and sympathize with a paid assassin, and not in an anti-hero way either. No amount of “pet the dog” or “save the cat” moments can undo that fundamental flaw, even if the highly likeable John Cusak does his very best.

Private Parts

Private Parts (4/11/15) MAX (1997 ***) Directed by Betty Thomas, starring Howard Stern, Mary McCormack, Robin Quivers, Fred Norris and Paul Giamatti. The self-anointed “King of All Media” tells the story of his early days and attempts to explain why lesbians were the key to his success. I often find myself re-watching films from a certain period in my life, ones that I had good memories of but hadn’t watched for a decade or more. Such is the case with Private Parts, the film that gave me (and a lot of people) a much greater understanding of the phenomenon that was (and still is) Howard Stern. This time around I found myself enjoying the film but also far more aware of how self-serving it was throughout. It doesn’t help that the core message of Private Parts was a rationalization of Stern’s on-air persona and behavior as not indicating a lack of love and respect for his real-life wife Allison (played in the film by McCormack). However, according to my own wife (and fact-verified via web search), it was only a couple of years after this film was released that Stern and Allison divorced.

What About Bob?

What About Bob? (4/11/15) SHO (1991 ***) Diected by Alvin Sargent, starring Bill Murray, Richard Dreyfuss, Julie Hagerty, Charlie Korsmo and Kathryn Erbe. An extremely neurotic patient invades his new doctor’s summer vacation, and in the process wins a place in the hearts of everyone… except his doctor. I had a recollection of being mildly disappointed by this film when it was first released, but couldn’t remember exactly why. Watching it again after nearly 25 years, I think it’s because there comes a certain point in the third act when What About Bob? turns into the live-action equivalent of a Wile E. Coyote cartoon. As a weird aside, I was curious about the actor who played Dreyfuss’ son in the film, so I looked up Charlie Korsmo’s filmography on Imdb.com, where I was greeted with a bit of a surprise that tickled me for some reason. His bio begins: “Charles R. Korsmo is an Assistant Professor of Law and the U.S. director of the Canada-U.S. Law Institute at the Case Western Reserve University School of Law, where he teaches courses in corporate law, corporate finance, and torts. Korsmo’s articles have appeared in the William & Mary Law Review and Brooklyn Law Review, among others.” He also appeared in Dick Tracy (1990), Hook (1991) and Can’t Hardly Wait (1998), just in case you were interested.