1997 Film Journal[Return to Film Reviews Main]
Liar, Liar(Sony Cineon at 34th and 2nd Ave) 4/6/97 (***) This is definitely a high-concept Jim Carrey film, but it works so long as I don't think about it too much. I walked out of the original Ace Ventura because it made my brain hurt, but this is a fun film even for people who don't really like Jim Carrey. Sometimes you go into a film knowing you're going to be manipulated, and this is one of those films.
Vampire Hunter D (Video) 4/12/97 (*) Tanya's brother-in-law Gary recommended this film because we're working on the effects for Blade. I don't despise Anime' per se, and I actually liked Akira, but this movie was lousy. Why did I watch it all the way through to the end? Because I like weird things! One note: this movie proves that it is possible to create a feature-length film based primarily on animated cycles.
Seven (Video) 4/12/97 (***1/2) I still can't believe Tanya likes this movie as much as she does. I can't exactly say why I like this film enough to give it 3 1/2 stars, but I do. Maybe it's because it steps outside its own boundaries in a surprising way. I think Morgan Freeman is pretty damn cool to make a movie like this. I still love the title sequence (done at R/GA, I think.)
Donnie Brasco (Murray Hill Cinema, 34th and 3rd Ave) 4/13/97 (**1/2) I went to this film by myself at 2:30 on a Sunday afternoon because I didn't want to wait until 4PM to see Sling Blade. It was weird watching Al Pacino in this film and then watching The Godfather the next day.
Taxi Driver (Video) 4/13/97 (***) The last time I watched this film was about 10 years ago with Paul Graves. I actually appreciate it a little more now, mostly because of living in
New York. I can't believe Tanya watched this movie with me without getting bored.
The Godfather (Video) 4/14/97 (****) Every time I watch this film I love it more and more. I really wish Francis Ford Copolla could direct another film as well as the first two Godfather
movies. What is wrong with that guy anyhow?
Teacher's Pet (Video) 4/15/97 (***) This is a cute movie. It's definitely not a heavy-hitting flick, but I enjoyed watching an aging Clark Gable make a fool out of himself. Although the film itself is pretty lightweight, the main premise of the movie -- the relative importance of both experience and education -- hits kinda close to home in some ways. (NOTE: This is definitely a movie for the Atomic Bachelor collection! Gotta love that scene with Clark Gable playing the bongos!)
The Godfather Part III (Video) 4/18/97 (***) Francis Ford Copolla's #1 cardinal sin in this film has to be casting his daughter, who is completely unbelievable playing opposite Al Pacino or Andy Garcia. The second oscar-costing sin was, in my opinion, Al Pacino's hair. The storyline with the Vatican is not very interesting and is so convoluted that by the final bloodbath, it's not completely clear who is being killed and why. For all my complaints, it's still an impressive movie, and this is about the 4th time I've watched it.
French Kiss (Video) 4/19/97 (***) A nice romantic movie, primarily a Meg Ryan vehicle that doesn't quite work as such. Kevin Kline is pretty good as the unwashed French anti-love interest, but nowhere near his acting peak in A Fish Called Wanda. I always enjoy watching Timothy Hutton, and he looks more like his father with every film.
Volcano (North Grand 5) 4/25/97 (*1/2) Make no mistake, I went to this film for the effects and because Digiscope worked on the compositing.
Ground Hog Day (Video) 4/25/97 (***1/2) I'm a sentimental sap, but the message of Ground Hog Day really gets me. I wonder if Bill Murray is ever going to make another good movie?
Shine (Mall 2) 4/26/97 (**1/2) This film is a little on the overrated side and a bit too overdramatic for me. The current hype over this film worries me.
The Saint (Century 3) 4/27/97 (**) Val Kilmer is always interesting to watch, and after Leaving Las Vegas I was interested in seeing Elizabeth Shue again, but the film, although adequately directed and quirky, was ultimately weak.
The Fifth Element (North Grand Five) 5/11/97 (***) I went to this movie mainly for the effects. I fully expected a movie that would be dumb on the same level as Independence Day. I was pleasantly surprised. This film reminded me somewhat of Terry Gilliam's Brazil. It had its faults, but the film as a whole was unique enough to make it interesting and entertaining. The final scene, however, seemed out of place and tacked on.
Bar Girls (Video) 5/15/97 (**) This is a lesbian relationship comedy with substandard writing and direction. It looks like it was filmed by somebody who just graduated from film school. There's still something oddly appealing about the film, but I don't really want to go into it without a trained counselor present. If you're in the mood for a homosexual relationship comedy, I suggest renting Jeffrey instead.
Father's Day (Mall 2) 5/16/97 (***) I was afraid that this movie would be a big disappointment. The expectations of a film starring Billy Crystal and Robin Williams are just too high. It was a pretty lightweight but overall funny comedy, and I found myself laughing out loud several times, which is rare for me. Mel Gibson appears in one of the greatest cameos of all time.
Austin Powers (Century 3) 5/17/97 (**) I knew going in that there was going to be a high likelihood of disappointment, and disappointed I was. I thought the premise was clever and quirky enough for my tastes. Some of it worked but a lot of it didn't. I'm not a big fan of toilet humor in general and unfortunately I still have "That sounded pretty nasty! How about a courtesy flush over there, huh?" stuck in my head.
The Preacher's Wife (Video) 5/22/97 (**1/2) Once you get past the fact that this is an unabashed Whitney Houston vehicle, it's an enjoyable movie. Me, I like Whitney Houston's voice enough not to mind. Penny Marshall's directorial style is so subtle it's virtually non-existant. However, I think her previous A League of Their Own was a much better movie.
High Society (Video) 5/23/97 (**1/2) This 1950's semi-musical remake of The Philidelphia Story is probably an acquired taste. The highlight of the film is Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby singing Cole Porter's "Well Did you Ever?" even better than Debbie Harry and Iggy Pop. Much of the humor of the film is based on the main characters (with the exception of Bing Crosby) being drunk most of the time. I wonder how this movie will play in a future society that frowns upon alcoholic excess?
Emma (Video) 5/24/97 (***) This is a film adaptation of Jane Austen's book. It somehow seemed a little fresher than Pride and Prejudice. Between the lively directing and acting they somehow managed to make 100-year-old-plus jokes seem funny.
Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion (Varsity Theater) 5/26/97 (**1/2) There are those among you who would say that I ought to be shot for even thinking about seeing this movie. Let's just say that I saw it at popular matinee prices. My expectation was that this would be a pretty dumb film and I wasn't wrong, but there's just something about Mira Sorvino that makes it all seem worthwhile. If you haven't seen her in Woody Allen's Mighty Aphrodite, run -- don't walk -- to your nearest video store.
Rocky (Video) 5/27/97 (****) Don't ask me why, but I was really in the mood to watch this movie. Would you like a tip that will massively increase your enjoyment of the film? As you watch it, pretend that Sylvestor Stallone never made another movie after this one. That allows you to enjoy Rocky for what it is without the influence of all the sequel mediocrity that has followed it.
The Lost World (Century 3) 5/31/97 (***) Luckily, I didn't have much in the way of expectations. I still remember going to see Jurassic Park and being completely knocked out by the effects. In only a couple of years the CG Dinosaurs lose their power of amazement. I thought that most of the effects were really well done. ILM managed to acheive an interaction between the CG dinosaurs and the actors that they never had before.
Clueless (Video) 5/31/97 (***1/2) It took me about 45 minutes before I made the connection that Clueless was based on Jane Austen's Emma, the film version of which I had coincidentally watched only a week before. (It's still a bit of a mystery that there's no reference to Emma anywhere in the film's credits.) I thought Clueless was pretty well done, and the characters managed to be both stylized and real at the same time. It struck me as a movie not unlike Ferris Bueller's Day Off from 10 years ago.
The Terminator (USA Network) 6/1/97 (***1/2) It's pretty rare that I'll watch a movie on TV with commercials, but I had a cold and wasn't thinking too clearly. It's been years since I'd watched The Terminator all the way through. It's amazing how dated the film looks now. It's weird to look at a shot in a movie and think, "that looks so 80's!"
The Josephine Baker Story (Video) 6/2/97 (**) Tanya rented this primarily because she was looking for visual references for 1920's interior design and also because she loves the Josephine Baker song "I have two Loves" from the Henry and June soundtrack. I only partially paid attention to the movie, but it seemed pretty well done for an HBO film. The film is primarily marred by the gratuitous slow-motion topless shots from her early career as a dancer in Paris.
American Graffiti (Video) 6/6/97 (****) This is not a perfect film by any stretch of the imagination, and the personal yardstick used to judge this movie differs from the one used to judge, say, The Godfather. Even though the writing gets clunky at times, there is still a gritty reality that is captured in a truly unique way. This is a watershed movie in a lot of ways, and certainly falls into the "must see" category. Even though I was born after 1962, I'm just barely old enough that I can relate to and be affected by the nostalgia aspect of this film.
Surviving Picasso (Video) (6/13/97) (***) This film focuses on Picasso's manipulative relationships with women. Tanya said that the film was pretty sterilized compared to a biography she read. It's interesting to note that the film foreshadowed but didn't explicitly show the suicidal deaths of many of the people portrayed in the film.
Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure (Video) 6/13/97 (**1/2) I was just kind of in the mood to watch this film, certainly a strange movie to watch directly after Surviving Picasso, I admit. I watched this film with close-captioning on, and it's amazing how seriously stupid the soundtrack lyrics are.
Airport (Video) 6/15/97 (*1/2) It's hard to believe this film made so much money and inspired (if that's the right word) so many sequels. Airport, made in the early seventies was produced in an uncomfortable period of transition in film history. Imagine an amalgam of Valley of the Dolls and What's New Pussycat. If I ever teach a film class, I'm going to show this movie to demonstrate what you shouldn't do in terms of writing, directing, lighting, and sound. The soundtrack is especially good for a laugh.
Beavis and Butt-Head Do America (Video) 6/17/97 (***1/2) It's rare that a movie on video can make me laugh out loud, but I just about lost it a couple of times in the middle of Beavis and Butt-head. "Are you threatening me? I am Cornholio!" The title sequence and the desert hallucination sequence (some of the best animation I've ever seen!) are special treats.
Michael (Video) 6/19/97 (**1/2) Boy, that Nora Ephron just makes me so mad sometimes! She's definitely a hit-and-miss director and writer. I thought Michael was okay but not great. One question: is John Travolta contractually obligated to dance in every movie he makes?
My Best Friend's Wedding (Century 3) 7/3/97 (***) I never thought that much of Pretty Woman, but I am rapidly becoming a Julia Robert's fan. Last year I thought she was really good in the underrated Something to Talk About, and she did a terrific job once again. There were some great moments in My Best Friend's Wedding, but there was one really annoying subtextual message: It's okay for a woman to give up her career and follow her husband around, but it's not okay for a man to give up a job he loves and settle down. This is a pretty reactionary message, and one that is pretty darn dangerous.
Harvey Video) 7/3/97 (****) I took the news of Jimmy Stewart's death a little hard. I think he embodied something that is found all too rarely these days. Harvey isn't a perfect movie, but I think it's definitely a must-see. There's a surprising amount of subtlety to the character relationships.
Mister Smith Goes to Washington (Video) 7/4/97 (***1/2) I guess this is just about the most patriotic film you could possibly watch on the fourth of July, huh? Frank Capra was certainly a great director, but there were a couple of pretty clumsy moments when he strayed too far from cinematic convention, such as when Jefferson Smith (Jimmy Stewart) exhibits his nervousness by fiddling with his hat.
Men in Black (North Grand 5) 7/5/97 (***1/2) I got a real kick out of this film. It is definitely a Ghostbusters for the 1990's. Even though the plot wouldn't stand up to close scrutiny, the film on the whole worked great. The special effects were terrific and *gasp* did a good job of advancing the story!
Out To Sea (Mall 2) 7/6/97 (**1/2) As much as I hate to admit it, I really get a kick out of watching Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau on the silver screen. Out to Sea isn't as good as the two Grumpy Old Men movies, but there is definitely a chemistry between Misters Lemmon and Matthau that cannot be denied.
Scream (Video) 7/6/97 (***) I don't normally watch splatter films, but this one was very enjoyable. The best part was that the entire movie took on a fourth-wall quality, with constant self-reflection. It was a gimmick, but a fun one.
The Big Night (Video) 7/11/97 (***1/2) For me this was a nearly perfect movie, featuring strong but straightforward direction, solid acting, and intelligently written characters. I don't care what Steve Norrington (director of Blade) says, this was a great movie!
Contact (Century 3) 7/12/97 (**) This was a big disappointment. I expected a lot more from Bob Zemeckis. There was no payoff to the 90+ minutes of set-up. The main character (Jodie Foster) undergoes an unsatisfying transformation that takes place seemingly between scenes. I think it's admirable that a mainstream movie would even attempt to take on a theme as significant as the relationship between science and religion, but it certainly could have been done more effectively.
Exit to Eden (Video) 7/13/97 (**) This is a pretty damn strange movie, directed by Gary Marshall, the mind behind Pretty Woman. I enjoyed Rosie O'Donnel's lively character more than anything, I guess. The sexually frank premise still seemed a little "Americanized." Sometimes I think it would be nice to live in a country that was more comfortable with its collective sexuality.
A Night to Remember (Video) 7/15/97 (***1/2) I can't imagine that James Cameron's Titannic (if it's ever released) is going to be any more entertaining than this film, no matter how many digital stuntmen they have.
Face-Off (Varsity 2) 7/16/97 (***1/2) Wow! Two-fisted John Woo excitement! This is probably one of the most fun movies I've seen this year, and it makes up for last year's disappointing Broken Arrow (also directed by John Woo). The most incredible thing about this movie is that the far out premise still managed to seem believable. Nicolas Cage was terrific in a challenging role and John Travolta did a pretty good job too.
My Fellow Americans (Video) 7/19/97 (**1/2) Probably not for everyone, this film is light on plot and all character development feels forced. However, it does feature James Garner and Jack Lemmon, and the basic premise of a buddy picture with two ex-presidents is moderately novel. My favorite line (James Garner): "I'll wake up screaming every day until I die!"
The Maltese Falcon (Video) 7/21/97 (****) Humphrey Bogart was never creepier than when he was smiling. In watching this film it's tough at times to filter out what appear to be hard boiled cliche's, considering this film is the source of so many.
Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf? (Video) 7/22/97 (***) This is a very interesting movie to watch, but very heavy. The characters are intelligently-written, but annoyingly stylized and way over-the-top at times. It definitely falls into the "I can tell it was originally based on a play without anyone telling me" category. I have to admit that after awhile I just got bored watching neurotic drunk people. The "shocking" character revelations must have had much more impact when the film was originally released. Elizabeth Taylor is absolutely frightening to watch.
The Horse's Mouth (Video) 7/25/97 (***1/2) Based on the novel by Joyce Cary, this is a great British movie from the 1960's stars Alec Guiness as an eccentric, destitute painter who's also a national treasure. It's probably not for everyone, but it stands out as one of the few movies about what it means to be an artist.
Secrets and Lies (Video) 7/26/97 (***1/2) Nominated last year for the best picture Oscar, this film was well deserving of the honor. This film is all about how family relationships can deteriorate if everyone involved doesn't work hard to keep it from happening. The main theme of the movie is summed up in the following line: "The three people I love most in this world hate each other's guts! I'm caught in the middle and it's tearing me apart!"
Spawn (Varsity 2) 8/97 (*1/2) This is it, the film that caused Steve Norrington to freak out. This is really close to one of the worst movies I've ever seen. The acting was absolutely abominable. The incredible effects by ILM are followed by some really terrible effects by a set of other companies.
The Paradine Case (Video) 8/22/97 (***) This is a strange, strange movie, directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Gregory Peck as a barrister who becomes obsessed with his client. It definitely doesn't end the way you would expect.
Straw Dogs (Video) 8/23/97 (*1/2) This is a really gut-wrenching film, one that I'll probably never watch again. It's a psychologically complex drama set in Ireland, directed by Sam Peckinpaw. Dustin Hoffman stars as a mathematician pushed to his most primal state.
Batman (Video) 8/23/97 (**1/2) When this movie first came out I hated it with a passion. Director Tim Burton had taken one of my childhood heroes and turned him into a plastic-armored joke! Well, my hatred of this movie has lessened substantially over the years. I can now appreciate Jack Nicholson's over-the-top antics as the Joker.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Video) 8/24/97 (****) This is really the movie that made Steven Spielberg a household name. It has all the Spielberg trademarks, but seems pretty fresh. Richard Dreyfus is a joy to watch.
ET: The Extra-Terrestrial (Video) 8/24/97 (****) Hooray! I'm not embittered or jaded yet! (I still get a little mushy when ET is dying.)
Delta of Venus (Video) 8/26/97 (**) Loosely based on the collection of erotic short stories by Anais Nin, this film is little more than soft porn. This is the kind of movie that Cinemax or Showtime plays late at night, if you get my drift.
Walking and Talking (Video) 8/29/97 (**) This is a lightweight woman's romantic comedy/drama with little to recommend it.
Conspiracy Theory (North Grand 5) 8/30/97 (**1/2) Mel Gibson's character got on my nerves after awhile. It was an okay movie, but probably better seen on video. There were a couple of funny moments ("Are you faking, or what?"). The last 2 minutes looked like they were written and filmed after negative advance preview reactions to the real ending of the film.
The Game (Century 3) 9/20/97 (**1/2) I went to this movie partly because Kevin Haug was the visual effects supervisor, and partly because the premise interested me. This film was intended to be a roller coaster of a movie, but it never quite seemed to be able to get up to speed. It was enjoyable but ultimately forgettable.
In and Out (North Grand 5) 9/21/97 (***) This is a nice, lightweight, funny mainstream comedy about homosexuality, directed by Frank Oz and starring Kevin Kline. This is one of those movies where it doesn't pay to think about it too much. It definitely had its moments.
Angels in the Outfield (Video) 9/22/97 (**1/2) I watched this because a potential client made several references to the angel effects when we were talking about creating animated ghosts. This is definitely a 90's Disney kid's movie, and it looked like Christopher Lloyd must have been on the set for about two days. I thought the angel effects (created by PDI) were really creepy and not very effective.
On the Waterfront (Video) 9/27/97 )(****) Anybody who thinks of Marlon Brando as an overweight, living joke should watch this movie. Good Lord but that man could act!
Trees Lounge (Video) 9/27/97 (***1/2) I really enjoyed this film, although I think it's probably not suited to everyone's tastes. Written and directed by Steve Buscemi, this is a quiet little quirky film, the kind I would like to make if I were in the business of filmmaking.
The Full Monty (North Grand 5) 9/28/97 (***1/2) This is a great movie, funny as hell. We laughed all the way through. The relationship between the main character and his son came off as completely believable. This can be pretty hard to pull off effectively, and a particularly bad example can be found in Angels in the Outfield.
Sling Blade (Video) 10/4/97 (**1/2) This film was somewhat overrated. I'm genuinely surprised that this film received the best writing Oscar this year. I thought the screenplay was more that a little manipulative, deliberately stylized, and obvious. One plus for the morbidly curious: John Ritter turns in a pathetically substandard (TV-level) performance as an overweight gay store manager.
LA Confidential (Varsity 2) 10/11/97 (***) I think the hoopla over this movie is a little overdone. I thought it was a good solid period detective piece that had enough plot twists to keep the film interesting and managed to capture the flavor of the city of angels in the late 1940's.
Sylvia and the Phantom (Video) 10/11/97 (**) A French film made in the late 40's or early 50's (my guess), this is one of those films that makes you wonder, "Is the writing at fault or is it just cultural?" I was intrigued by the premise, but disappointed by the execution. I think someone could probably write a pretty terrfic remake of this film.
Shoot the Piano Player (Video) 10/11/97 (**1/2) This was Francois Trouffaut's second film. It featured an interesting combination of drama and comedy, as well as a drifting plot. The end of the movie didn't really have much in the way of emotional impact for me. Tame by today's standards, I can see why it would have had an impact back in the 1960's.
The Old Man and the Sea (Video) 10/12/97 (**1/2) This is the first time I've seen this movie. I really should read the book sometime. The bluescreen effects were pretty distracting, and extremely crude by today's digital standards. The unrelenting voice-over throughout the movie was also pretty distracting, especially when there were redundancies between the narrator and Spencer Tracy's character talking to himself.
Old Yeller (Video) 10/13/97 (***) Believe it or not, I'd never seen this movie in my entire life. Watching it I kept thinking how simple movies once were. Aimed primarily at kids, the messages are just a touch questionable. There were also a few sexist undertones as well.
The Last Supper (Video) 10/17/97 (***) Hey, ever since I first saw Harold and Maude when I was sixteen I've been a sucker for black comedies. A group of liberal grad students killing people they don't agree with is a cute premise, and the movie takes place in Iowa City of all places ("Go Hawks!"). I liked the little twist at the end with Ron Perlman's character exhibiting more philosophical depth than the other characters were prepared for.
To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday (Video) 10/19/97 (***) I actually liked this movie more than I expected. I thought the relationship between the main character and his dead wife was pretty interesting. Plus, there was a female character named "Kevin," believe it or not!
Hope (Made for TV, TNT) 10/19/97 (***) This is Goldie Hawn's directorial debut, and my guess is that she'll get a shot at the big screen soon. It's usually a challenge to judge limited-budget TV movies against their big-budget theatrical relatives, but in this case it's not too hard. Of special note is the performance by the young female lead (whose name I do not know). Her emotional range makes it a certainty that she'll soon find herself on the big screen as well.
Grosse Pointe Blank (Video) 10/23/97 (***) I liked this more than I expected to. For some reason I was under the impression that this film was John Cusack's directorial debut, but his only non-starring credit was as one of four screenwriters. I thought it was a tight, funny black comedy.
Mary Reilly (Video) 10/23/97 (**1/2) I liked the premise, essentially a re-telling of the Jeckyl/Hyde story from the point of view of one of the Dr. Jeckyl's servants. With her long red hair, Julia Roberts at times looked almost exactly like a young Mia Farrow, which was kind of creepy.
Seven Days in May (Video) 10/24/97 (**1/2) I was about ten minutes into this film before I realized that I'd seen it before. Rod Serling wrote the screenplay, and sometimes the dialogue seemed to be something out of The Twilight Zone. This would be a good film to show in a film class to demonstrate how not to edit a film.
Flirting (Video) 10/24/97 (***1/2) This was a really well-done small film, set in Australia in the early sixties. It's one of those "coming of age" movies that I'm definitely a sucker for.
The Omen (Video) 10/25/97 (**) Don't ask me why, but I've been wanting to watch this movie for awhile. It was playing on the Superstation so I figured "what the hell?" One highlight of the film is watching Gregory Peck and David Warner getting attacked by wild dogs. Having watched this I have a morbid desire to rent and watch the sequels.
Smoke (Video) 10/25/97 (***1/2) This was a terrific film, and definitely goes into the category of "films I would have liked to have written and directed." I'm looking forward to watching the sequel, Blue in the Face.
Batman and Robin (Video) 10/29/97 (*1/2) Good God but this was an awful mess. There's so much to say, and I don't know where to begin. I could tell from the beginning that it was going to be terrible, yet I kept watching. Uma Thurman's Poison Ivy was atrocious, and Arnold Swarzenneger's Mr. Freeze just kept on saying really stupid things. After awhile the effect of things turning to ice just became irritating.
A Life Less Ordinary (Mall 2) 10/31/97 (***) I thought this was a fun roller-coaster of a little film. The blurring between fantasy and reality is probably not for everyone. I thought Holly Hunter's portrayal as the oversexed angel was one of her best roles in a long time.
Blue in the Face (Video) 10/31/97 (**1/2) This movie was a real disappointment after Smoke. A big part of the disappointment comes from the fact that the movie consists primarily of improvised scenes based on written premises. The main thing I liked about Smoke was how tight the writing seemed. The (necessary) technique of a single master shot got on my nerves.
The Front (Video) 11/16/97 (***1/2) There are only a few movies in which Woody Allen stars but does not direct. This is a terrific film about the blacklisting in the early 1950's. Woody Allen does a wonderful job as a character who tries to live his life "dancing in the middle."
Jingle All the Way (Video) 11/16/97 (**1/2) High-concept filmmaking (with ancilliary toy market tie-in) at its most mundane.
The Hotel New Hampshire (Video) 11/17/97 (***) I watched this film within days of reading the book. I'm not sure if the film (a deliberately literal translation of the written version) makes any sense without reading its source, written by John Irving.
Same Time Next Year (Video) 11/18/97 (***1/2) This is a good, solid, funny, sentimental film about how people change as they grow older.
Unhook the Stars (Video) 11/19/97 (***) Gena Roland does a terrific job playing a fairly complex character.
The Shaggy Dog (Video) 11/21/97 (**1/2) Tommy Kirk did an okay job, I guess. Whatever happened to him anyhow? I thought Fred MacMurray's character (ineffectual mailman dad) was just pathetic. My question: When Wilby and Moochie were in trouble, how come they never thought of running to their mom? More evidence of Disney sexism at its finest, I suppose.
The Absent-Minded Professor (Video) 11/21/97 (***1/2) I watched this partly because the new Flubber movie is coming out soon. The original really holds up and Fred MacMurray did a terrific job.
Hopscotch (Video) 11/21/97 (**1/2) This was largely a Walter Matthau vehicle, and he manages to pull it off.
Mad City (North Grand 5) 11/22/97 (**1/2) I thought this film was just a little obvious to me. Here's a question: How many more loved-by-the-public-he-distains assholes does Alan Alda intend to play in his career?
Starship Troopers (Century 3) 11/23/97 (**1/2) The effects (granted, there were only two real effects: spaceships and bugs) were superb. I had absolutely no luck relating to the too-good-looking-to-live idiotic 20-nothing characters. I also had a real problem with the overtly fascist political subtext. I suppose it was meant as a joke, but watching the pendulum swinging that far to the right in a mainstream movie aimed at teenagers and imbeciles makes me downright nervous.
Jacob's Ladder (Video) 11/23/97 (***1/2) This is mindf**k cinema the way it was meant to be! Word has it that the script for Jacob's Ladder sat around for a long time before someone had the guts to make it. I'm glad they did. Tim Robbins was perfect for this role.
Sirens (Video) 11/24/97 (***) This is an entertaining movie about the sexual discovery that takes place when a preacher (played by Hugh Grant) and his wife enter the the Bohemian world of a painter (played by Sam Neil). My major complaint about this movie was Grant's acting. He didn't really seem like he was even trying.
A Woman Under the Influence (Video) 11/24/97 (**) This was a really hard movie to watch. The descent of Gena Rowland's character into madness was especially troubling, as was the (very honest) reaction of Peter Falk's character. I don't know that I would ever want to watch it again, kind of like the way I feel about Straw Dogs.
The Silence of the Lambs (Video) 11/24/97 (***) An engaging movie with a stellar performance by Anthony Hopkins, but I still don't think it deserved to win the Oscar for best picture.
Husbands and Wives (Video) 12/1/97 (***1/2) Certainly one of Woody Allen's best films in recent years, the cinema verite' / shaky-cam is a little disconcerting at first, but hey, my slogan has always been, "jump cuts are okay!"
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (Mall 2) 12/6/97 (***) This movie started out great and the first 15 minutes are terrific. The film was at its best capturing the succulent flavor of 1981 Savannah, GA and worked well as a costume drama with incredibly rich environments, both outside and in. Ultimately the story was a little less than satisfying, however.
Boogie Nights (Varsity 2) 12/7/97 (**) I thought the premise was interesting and Burt Reynolds did a surprisingly good job, but I got pretty bored and started looking at my watch about halfway through the film.
White (Video) 12/12/97 (***) This is one of the films of the Red-Blue-White trilogy by that Polish director Kzbignew Ksomethingorother. I was intrigued by the premise and it had a couple of standout scenes. I didn't personally care much for the final resolution, which seemed more metaphoric than something that would happen in any kind of reality.
The Robe (Video) 12/14/97 (**1/2) This film (the first shown in Cinemascope, I believe) is a biblical epic about the Roman officer responsible for crucifying Jesus Christ. I found it somewhat overdone and obvious, with over-the-top performances and a very apparent pro-Christianity subtext. I would say the ideal audience for this film would be fourth, fifth and sixth grade parochial students.
The Longest Day (Video) 12/19/97 (***) To say it's the grand-pappy of WWII films would do this film an injustice. This 3-hour depiction of the invasion of Normandy is so star-studded it's scary. There's a strange discontinuity between the stylized character tableaux and the very realistic battle sequences that's very odd indeed. In many ways there's a kooky similarity between this film and The Poseiden Adventure, both of which featured Red Buttons and Roddy McDowell.
Red (Video) 12/19/97 (***) The third film in the Blue-White-Red trilogy, I believe I liked this film just a shade less than White. I have yet to see Blue. The very final sequence (saying more would be saying too much) was cute in a "maybe a little too clever" kind of way.
The Last Detail (Video) 12/21/97 (***) This film, directed by Harold and Maude's Hal Ashby, is certainly worth watching, and Jack Nicholson is definitely at his best. The film for me falls into that subgenre of somewhat downbeat early 70's cinema in which there's never any real resolution and the world as a whole is a pretty depressing place in which to live.
The Boston Strangler (Video) 12/21/97 (**1/2) This is a psychologically interesting film (starring Henry Fonda and Tony Curtis) which attempts to use simultaneous (split-screen) depiction to varying degrees of success. In my opinion the visual pyrotechnics could have been left out completely: Their net effect is to cheapen (and date) the film as a whole.
The Thin Man (Video) 12/21/97 (***) The first film in a six-film series made in the 1930's and 1940's, the drunken lifestyle of Nick and Nora Charles is a little hard to take given our perspective from the 90's. There were also about five or six too many references to casual spousal abuse for my liking. 50 years of cultural evolution aside, William Powell and Myrna Loy are (were) terrific and this film serves as a wonderful merging of the hard-boiled detective and screwball comedy genres.
After the Thin Man (Video) 12/22/97 (**) This film is quite a bit weaker than the original, I'm afraid, even if there are fewer incidents of alcohol abuse and wife-beating. (SPOILER) I know it's giving the end away a little, but what the hell: If you rent this movie you'll get to see Jimmy Stewart play a raging, homicidal, gun-wielding maniac. (Well, maybe that's giving away the end a lot.)
Blue (Video) 12/22/97 (***) Okay, so now I've seen all three of the "three colors" films. I think I liked this one best of all. Juliette Binoche plays a character who's recovering from an automobile accident that kills her husband and daughter. If this isn't your kind of movie, maybe you just shouldn't rent it.
Titanic (North Grand 5) 12/27/97 (***1/2) Well, it was a much better movie than I thought it might be. Jim Cameron managed to pull off a convincing love story that was actually pretty touching. I never thought a James Cameron movie would ever make me cry. The effects were superb and I'm looking forward to reading the new issue of Cinefex, which came in the mail the same day I went to the movie.
The Sunshine Boys (TV) 12/28/97 (***) It's positively bizarre to see Woody Allen acting in a made-for-TV remake of Neil Simon's original play/movie, updated with references like, "I have to go. I have a Nintendo lesson at 3 o'clock." Woody was terrific as Al Lewis (playing against Peter Falk), although every time I heard the name I thought of Grandpa Munster. Peter Falk was way over the top, and a little hard to take.
84 Charring Cross Road (Video) 12/29/97 (***1/2) I've probably watched this movie 3 or 4 times since it first came out, and I still love it. I love non-conventional love stories. Some day I really should read the book on which this movie is based, but I haven't yet. By the way, I have actually been to Charring Cross Road in London and loved going through all the old book stores. The story is also a love story about the love of books too, which I can certainly identify with.
Toto the Hero (Video) 12/29/97 (***) This was a pretty good movie, although I didn't quite get into the characters or conflicts very much. It's got to be a hallmark of French (versus American films) where it's perfectly okay (although drama-rich) for a brother and sister to fall in love with each other. This would never be acceptable in an American film. The only American film I can think of where that was a story element was Hotel New Hampshire.
Pelle the Conqueror (Video) 12/30/97 (**1/2) I found this to be a pretty depressing movie and very slow at times.
Tomorrow Never Dies (North Grand 5) 12/31/97 (**) The last time I went to a James Bond movie was Octopussy (2 James Bond's ago). There's not much to say here. There were moments when reality simply flew out the window and no one much seemed to care.