1998 Film Journal[Return to Film Reviews Main]
Once Around(Video) 1/1/98 (***) Another case of a drama to be found in the comedy section of the video store because of "funny" cover art. Holly Hunter and Richard Dreyfuss are pretty good but not great. This film was directed by the same man who directed My Life as a Dog (which I loved) and works well as a family relationship movie.
Ridicule (Video) 1/1/98 (***) An interesting movie about an interesting period in which "wit was king" in France just a few years before the French revolution.
As Good as it Gets (Century 3) 1/3/98 (***1/2) I really enjoyed this movie. I've liked most of what James L Brooks has done over the years (Terms of Endearment, Broadcast News). I thought everybody in this well-cast movie was really terrific. One cool note: I actually saw them filming part of this movie (the scene at night after they return from Baltimore) last year when we were living in New York. We were just walking around after dinner and I saw the lights up the street and I said, "Hey, they're filming a movie! You wanna go watch?" When we got there and recognized Jack Nicholson, we hung around and watched for 45 minutes or so. (Note 4/10/98: Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt won best actor and actress awards for their work! I saw them shooting an Oscar-winning film!)
Marvin's Room (Video) 1/5/98 (***) This was a nice relationship movie about two estranged sisters, played by Meryl Streep and Diane Keaton. The movie tried a little too hard at times to be quirky.
Singles (Video) 1/10/98 (***) This film was directed (and written, I think) by Cameron Crowe, the man responsible for Jerry McGuire, which I enjoyed immensely. In the future Singles is bound to be categorized with other similar Gen-X movies like Reality Bites. I liked it well enough and could identify with a lot of the characters, but only on a superficial (situational) level.
Good Will Hunting (Varsity 2) 1/11/98 (***) I really wanted to like this movie a lot more, but ultimately I can only give it a mild recommendation. I thought the premise (A tough, troubled kid from South Boston is a Mozart-level mathematical genius) was engaging, but the character relationships lacked a richness that could have been. Robin Williams played a variation on the same character he always plays. (Note 4/10/98: In spite of my criticisms Robin Williams still managed to win the academy award for best supporting actor and the movie as a whole won for best original screenplay! Several people have told me that my review of this film was too critical.)
When the Wind Blows (Video) 1/14/98 (**1/2) The last time I watched this movie was about 10 years ago. The end of the cold war makes it much harder to relate to.
Amistad (North Grand 5) 1/17/98 (***) Make no mistake, this is a good movie and well worth watching. However, it felt like the movie was less powerful than it might have been. Spielberg never managed to capture the emotional power of Shindler's List. I think it had more to do with the basic story than any racial differences between the two films. Morgan Freeman was absolutely wasted in this movie.
Wag the Dog (North Grand 5) 1/18/98 (***) It is so hard to make a good black comedy these days! The key is establishing a true suspension of disbelief, which Wag the Dog never really does. It was really 70% satire, 20% black comedy and 10% drama. It is, however, a pretty darn funny movie, and I found myself laughing out loud a lot. I love smartly-written humor that has a real edge to it, and there's plenty of that to be found in this film.
Chasing Amy (Video) 1/20/98 (***) I'm not the biggest fan of Kevin White. A lot of his directing and writing seems forced. I'm also less than enthusiastic about the performances he was able to get from his actors. However, the premise and general content of this film is interesting enough that I would recommend it.
Jackie Brown (Century 3) 1/24/98 (***) I'm not really sure what to say about this movie. I liked it somewhat less than Pulp Fiction. I'm not terribly anxious to see it again, but I would still recommend it.
Godspell (Video) 1/30/98 (****) I have to admit that this is kind of a sentimental favorite, but I just love this movie. It's literally the kind of movie that after I finish watching it I want to watch it again. I have fond memories of going to see this film when it first came out (the same summer as Jesus Christ Superstar, I think). To me this film represents the best qualities of the early 70's. The attitude can best be described as this: With a little bit of tempera paint and a good heart you can make the world a better place.
Blues Brothers 2000 (North Grand 5) 2/8/98 (**) There's absolutely no plot, and the movie occasionally doesn't make any sense. The music was good, though. This film proves an important point: many musicians can't act and it's very likely that if they couldn't act 18 years ago that they still can't act.
Sphere (Mall 2) 2/15/98 (*1/2) I got soooo bored in this movie. I would have left (and I should have left) but the film had an unsettling tranquilizing effect on me. What exactly is Dustin Hoffman doing with his career?
Air Force One (Video) 2/16/98 (**1/2) Harrison Ford is starting to take on a creepy Anthony Perkins quality as he gets older. Glenn Close never blinks, not once in the entire movie. There's a throw-away subplot with Dean Stockwell that I never did understand.
All the President's Men (Cable) 2/16/98 (***) This was playing on Encore and I found myself getting sucked into it. Most of the movie is based on the process that Woodward and Bernstein ("Woodstein") went through to confirm their Watergate sources. The movie reaches its climax and then just kind of ends.
Waiting for Guffman (Video) 2/17/98 (**) I'd heard good things about this movie, but I found it to be little more than a feature-length Christopher Guest SNL piece. I don't think I ever want to see another film that features Fred Willard -- he just bothers me.
Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie (Video) 2/18/98 (***) I know it's little more than just another episode of the series, but it's still funny and worth watching.
Mighty Aphrodite (Video) 2/18/98 (***1/2) In my opinion this is easily the best of Woody Allen's most recent movies. Mira Sorvino is just terrific in her Oscar-winning performance.
Forrest Gump (Video) 2/21/98 (****) An ex-girlfriend once described this movie as "the right-wing's reaction to the concept of free thought." As you can see by my rating I don't agree with that sentiment.
The Ice Storm (North Grand 5) 2/21/98 AND 2/22/98 (****) I can't think of a time when I've liked a movie so much that I went to see it again the next day. I love this movie and it's earned a place in my list of "movies I wish I'd made." This film to me represents small-budget character/relationship-based movies the way they ought to be.
Fanny and Alexander (Video) 2/24/98 (***) I don't know if this movie is for everybody. It's Ingmar Bergman's last film, and it sure is a mind-bending trip. It starts out as a straight-ahead family relationship movie and becomes something much, much stranger.
The Big Sleep (Video) 2/25/98 (****) Wow! I just loved this movie! The dialogue and performances were so damn snappy. I wish I could talk like Bogart and get away with it! This movie is as sharp today as the day it was made. Lauren Bacall is just so damn sultry....
Twelve O'Clock High (Video) 2/27/98 (***1/2) I think this movie would work well in a management training seminar. Gregory Peck plays a hard-ass general who takes over command of a hard-luck group of flyers in WWII.
Dolores Claiborne (Video) 2/27/98 (***) I cringe every time I rent a movie based on anything by Stephen King. Before Dolores Claiborne, the only King-based movie I liked was The Shining. I definitely recommend it.
Alice Adams (Video) 2/28/98 (***) This is was one of Katherine Hepburn's first movies. It suffers somewhat in the writing if not the acting. It's still an enjoyable film to watch.
Dark City (North Grand 5) 3/1/98 (***) This was a pretty good, highly-stylized movie. I guess it was kind of Terry Gilliam meets Kafka (again) kind of thing. It started right out at a quick pace and slowed down only slightly. Keiffer Sutherland was suitably creepy as the syringe-carrying, identity-stealing doctor.
G.I. Jane (Video) 3/2/98 (***) I liked this movie more than I expected to. Demi Moore is certainly positioning herself as the queen of the high-concept hollywood film. The only thing that got on my nerves was the synthetic camera-shake/zoom during the action sequence at the end of the movie.
Bordello of Blood (Video) 3/2/98 (***) I don't think this movie is for everybody, but I'm a big enough fan of Dennis Miller and cheesy vampire movies to have enjoyed it. There's plenty of toplessness and grotesque makeup for the Starlog-reading 14-year-old in all of us. The story credit went to Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Used Cars, 1941), so expect it to be weird.
I Want to Live! (Video) 3/13/98 (**1/2) The best thing about this movie is the jazz soundtrack. This is the story of a party girl who gets mixed up with the wrong people and ends up framed for a murder she didn't commit. The question is: Will she go to the gas chamber or not? The filmmakers obviously had a morbid fascination with the step-by-step process of death by poison gas. If you're into that kind of thing I recommend picking up a copy of The Big Book of Death instead.
Separate Tables (Video) 3/14/98 (**1/2) If you want to see a film in which David Niven plays a pervert, this is the movie for you. If not, you should pass.
Deconstructing Harry (North Grand 5) 3/21/98 (**1/2) I'm as big a Woody Allen fan as they come, but I found this movie to be downright unpleasant at times. I've heard it said that Woody intentionally plays against his standard nice-guy type, but I didn't enjoy seeing him as a pill-popping alcoholic whore monger. I left this film pretty damned depressed.
Strictly Ballroom (Video) 4/5/98 (***1/2) This is a wonderfully romantic movie about a young man who wants to dance "his way." Produced in Australia, this is a pretty quirky movie with an occasionally bizarre sense of humor.
Fools Rush In (Video) 4/6/98 (***) A surprisingly romantic and real romantic comedy, this is a film about a night of passion that turns into a lifetime of passion, or does it? Matthew Perry of TV's Friends turns in a very good and funny performance.
Basquiat (Video) 4/8/98 (***1/2) Directed by artist Julian Schnabel, this is a fantastic film (and not just because it's set in New York City!) about the rise of Jean-Michel Basquiat in the New York and worldwide art scene. The whole cast is incredible, led by Jeffrey Wright as Jean-Michel, and David Bowie is brilliant as Andy Warhol. (Q: How long does it take to get famous? A: 4 years, 6 to get rich.)
Lost in Space (Des Moines) 4/11/98 (***) I went in not expecting too much story-wise, and that was the best attitude to take, I think. I consider this to be my first "mindless summer movie" of 1998. Gee, but it had a lot of special effects!
To Kill a Mockingbird (Video) 4/12/98 (****) What can I say about this wonderful movie that hasn't already been said? Remember, you can kill all the jays you want to but it's a sin to kill a mockingbird!
Anna Christie (Video) 4/16/98 (**) Hey, Garbo talks! The historical importance of Anna Christie is that it's Greta Garbo's first "talkie." I don't think I can really recommend it though. Based on a stage play by Eugene O'Neil, it's kind of hard to tell what people are saying at times and the whole movie was far too melodramatic for my tastes.
Now, Voyager (Video) 4/14/98 (***1/2) Bette Davis plays a woman who was emotionally crippled by her controlling mother. She recovers from her nervous breakdown and becomes romantically involved with a married man, played by Paul Heinreid. The way the two of them eventually resolve their relationship is satisfyingly complex, even by today's standards.
Sex, Lies, and Videotape (Video) 4/16/98 (***) I'm still knocked out that Steven Soderberg wrote this movie (in a hotel room) in 8 days, directed it at the age of 26 and made the whole thing for under a million bucks. It definitely represents a good, solid example of independent filmmaking.
Now and Then (Video) 4/20/98 (**1/2) This was a cute, lightweight, movie. The gimmick -- four women seen in the summer of 1970 (then) and in the present day (now) -- would have worked better if we'd really gotten a better sense of who they were as adults.
The People Versus Larry Flynt (Video) 4/20/98 (**) Given all the hoopla surrounding this movie, I was expecting more, somehow. I guess the take home message is this: even though you may not like Larry Flynt and the things he represents, aren't you glad you live in a free society? Well, maybe.
Dead Poets Society (Video) 4/28/98 (****) Hell, I just think this is a great movie! Maybe I'm just a sucker for coming-of-age films, but Dead Poets Society is one of my favorites. If you haven't seen it you should. I think Robin Williams should have won an Oscar for his wonderfully understated performance in this film, not Good Will Hunting. Peter Weir deserves a lot of credit for a masterful direction style that never seems to call attention to itself.
Song of Bernadette (Video) 5/1/98 (**1/2) Bernadette is a young girl in Lourdes, France. One day at the city dump she has a vision of the Virgin Mary. This basically screws up her life.
Moon is Blue, The (Video) 5/1/98 (***) This movie features shocking words like "virgin" and "pregnant" which made it quite risqué' in its day (Early to mid 1950's). The story goes that producer/director Otto Preminger refused to change a word of dialogue from the original play and the film was consequently released without "code" approval.
Indiscreet (Video) 5/2/98 (**1/2) This film stars Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman. It's about a woman who falls in love with a married man. Or is he? It started out sweet, but there was an element of ugliness that reared its head late in the film.
Event Horizon (Pay-Per-View) 5/3/98 (**) "Most movies scare ya and then make you laugh. In this movie we scare ya and then thrill ya." This movie didn't suck quite as badly as I expected, but I frequently lost track of the plot completely. I still can't believe that nobody ended up impaled by the big spiky things in the gyroscope room! (I hope that's not a spoiler!)
Stairway to Heaven (Video) 5/4/98 (***1/2) Made in England in the 1940's, this movie is also known as A Matter of Life and Death. (It doesn't have anything to do with the Zepplin song, by the way.) It's about a British WWII pilot (David Niven) who bails out of a burning airplane without a parachute. By rights he should be dead, but someone has made a mistake. The use of black and white and color throughout the film is interesting. There's a strange subtext about US/British relations which doesn't have a lot of bearing today. I think I love this movie mostly for sentimental reasons.
Deep Impact (North Grand 5) 5/8/98 (**) There are a lot of things wrong with this movie. The real question is: What should you expect from a movie about a comet hitting the earth? There are a handful of effects shots that I'd personally like to see 2 or 3 times, but I'm not going to if it means watching the entire movie over again.
City of Angels (Mall 2) 5/9/98 (***) Nicolas Cage plays an angel who falls in love with a heart surgeon played by Meg Ryan. This is a nice, sweet, small film that touches on some big themes. It's one of those films where you can imagine it being made in France or Belgium, starring people you've never heard of.
The Devil's Advocate (Video) 5/16/98 (***) I was pleasantly surprised by how good this movie is. I found it to be compelling throughout.
Tampopo (Video) 5/17/98 (***) This is a very interesting Japanese movie about noodles. It would play well on a triple-bill with other food-related films such as Like Water for Chocolate or The Big Night. Short vignettes are peppered throughout the main plot, which revolves around making a small noodle restaurant a success.
Midnight Cowboy (Video) 5/20/98 (***) It had been a while since I'd last watched Midnight Cowboy. Many people would consider it a must-see, but I don't know if I like it quite that much. The cool thing about this movie is what it doesn't tell you explicitly: Jon Voight's character is primarily explored with unexplained flashbacks.
Easy Rider (Des Moines Art Center) 5/21/98 (***) I'll tell you one thing: The Des Moines Art Center is NOT the place to see a movie. The sound was just awful.
Long Day's Journey into Night (Video) 5/22/98 (**1/2) Maybe I just wasn't in the mood to watch such a heavy, heavy film. Based (verbatim) on the play by Eugene O'Neil, Katherine Hepburn turns in a chilling performance.
The Pawnbroker (Video) 5/23/98 (***) Rod Steiger is incredible as a Jewish pawnbroker in New York City who has increasingly vivid memories of the concentration camp.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (North Grand 5) 5/23/98 (**1/2) After watching this movie I left the theater feeling like I was coming off of something. More than anything it made me want to read the book on which the movie is based.
The Americanization of Emily (Video) 5/24/98 (**1/2) James Garner and Julie Andrews star in this interestingly anti-war movie about the D-Day invasion.
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (Video) 5/24/98 (***1/2) What can I say? This movie is somewhat of a sentimental favorite. (You're turning violet, Violet!)
Charade (Video) 5/25/98 (**1/2) This movie made me kind of edgy for some reason. Produced and directed by Stanley Donen, there was a "sloppiness" that I can't really put my finger on. It's almost as if they didn't really care.
Bulworth (Varsity 2) 5/26/98 (***1/2) With the exception of The Ice Storm, this is probably the best movie I've seen this year. Warren Beatty co-wrote and directed a terrific movie about politics in the dawn of a new millennium. As a friend pointed out, it has a razor-sharp edge that was sorely missing in Wag the Dog.
Mars Attacks (Video) 5/27/98 (***) A true greasy cheeseburger of a movie, it's probably not for everyone. I'd seen it in the theater and got an unexplainable craving to watch it again. There's a sense of humor that is definitely pretty twisted, which I enjoy occasionally.
Hercules (Video) 5/27/98 (***) Stylistically, this is a fun film, and I admire Disney for taking the risk it took. Unfortunately the end result is less than totally satisfying.
Murder on the Orient Express (Video) 5/28/98 (**) I found this movie to be pretty tiresome. This is another film I watched as a result of reading Sydney Lumet's book, On Making Movies.
Almost Heroes (Century 3) 6/5/98 (*) I have no excuse for seeing this movie. I have no excuse for seeing this movie. I have no excuse for seeing this movie. Why did I see this movie?
Con Air (Video) 6/7/98 (***) Suffering from a terrible title, this film was definitely better than I expected it to be. I was in the mood for a mindless film with a lot of things blowing up and I wasn't disappointed.
Dog Day Afternoon (Video) 6/7/98 (***1/2) This is really a pretty damn great movie. Al Pacino was a hell of an actor at one time, not to say that he isn't now. It's a very engaging film with a strangely quirky sense of humor.
Bob Roberts (Video) 6/17/98 (***) Seeing Bulworth made me want to watch this movie again. I think Tim Robbins did a pretty good job overall. I'd still like to see somebody do a double feature of Don't Look Back and Bob Roberts.
The Brothers McMullen (Video) 6/20/98 (***) Made for (I'm told) $26,000, this is a pretty good little independent film. Some of the writing and acting leaves just a little bit to be desired, but the constraints of the independent film really need to be taken into account. At least Ben Affleck isn't in it.
The X-Files (Mall 2) 6/21/98 (**1/2) Somehow they managed to make a big-budget big-screen version that is somehow less involving than the TV show. I was a little disappointed.
Copland (Video) 6/22/98 (***) This movie was surprisingly good. Sylvestor Stallone put on about 50 pounds to play the sheriff of a town in New Jersey where most of the citizens are NYPD cops.
Mulan (Cinemark 12) 6/27/98 (***) I thought this was a pretty good movie. Only one thing puzzled me: why exactly did all the soldiers dress up in drag at the end? I especially loved the character animation of the little red dragon Mushu (voice by Eddie Murphy). One critical (anal) note: There were 3 different styles of animation direction that were used in Mulan. (The credits confirmed this.) I don't think much effort at all was made toward integrating the animation styles together into a unified film. The scenes with the immortals looked and felt like they came from a completely different movie. When the history books are written, this will probably be the major criticism of this film.
Armaggedon (North Grand 5) 7/4/98 (**1/2) As far as I could tell, Ben Affleck's role in the movie was essentially to play the part of Lois Lane. Why most of those roughnecks went into space in the first place is beyond me. Steve Buscemi in space? Who's idea was that? My favorite part of the movie was the meteor shower f/x in New York City. That city has sure taken a beating this summer, hasn't it?
Mallrats (Video) 7/5/98 (**1/2) This movie was better than I expected. Kevin Smith's annoyingly stylized dialogue seems to work best when being delivered in a mall.
Lethal Weapon (Video) 7/12/98 (***) I was having a conversation with a friend and I didn't know if I'd ever watched any of the Lethal Weapon movies all the way through. Now I have. (How's that for a non-review?)
Small Soldiers (Cinemark 12) 7/12/98 (**1/2) This movie shares more in common with Gremlins than just a director (Joe Dante). On the whole I liked Gremlins better.
Predator (Video) 7/17/98 (**1/2) I was in the mood for something really, really mindless and this movie delivered.
Predator 2 (Video) 7/18/98 (**) While I was renting the first I figured, "what the hell?"
Hustler, The (Video) 7/18/98 (***1/2) "No bar, no pinball machines, no bowling alley! This is Ames, mister! A classic, The Hustler is a terrific movie about what it means to be a born loser. Thanks for loaning me the tape, Tim!
Doctor Doolittle (Cinemark 12) 7/19/98 (**) I'm not sure exactly why I went to see this movie. I guess I must have been pretty bored.
Heaven Can Wait (Video) 7/21/98 (***) All in all a pretty good, somewhat lightweight, movie.
Gone with the Wind (Varsity Theater, DSM) 7/26/98 (****) Arguably one of the best movies ever made, there's not much I can say about this epic that hasn't been said far better by persons far more articulate than myself. The big deal here, of course, is that this is the first time I was able to see the restored classic on the big screen. I imagined it would be sharper than what I saw, and I was a little disappointed. I expected to be blown away by the visual clarity of seeing it on the big screen and I wasn't.
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (Video) 7/26/98 (**1/2) I preferred seeing this musical live on Broadway with the role of Pseudolous played by Nathan Lane or Whoopie Goldberg. This would be a good movie to watch if: A) You're a Zero Mostel fan, or B) You're in the mood for a silly 1960's movie. Phil Silvers looks weird without glasses.
Saving Private Ryan (Cinemark 12) 8/1/98 (***1/2) An incredibly intense WWII film that's very hard to take at times. This is Steven Spielberg at his bloodiest. One question: why the hell was Ted Danson cast in this movie?
Fargo (Video) 8/1/98 (***1/2) This is certainly a terrific film, both quirky and masterfully shot. It's a film that leaves you asking: How stupid can people be?" Maybe that's a question we should ask a little more often.
The Wedding Singer (Video) 8/8/98 (***) I didn't expect too much from this movie, but I got more than I expected. It's not a great movie, but it certainly does the job.
Doctor Zhivago (Video) 8/15/98 (***) This was one of the few AFI 100-best movies that I couldn't remember seeing all the way through. I think I watched it when I was a kid, but I didn't remember much about it. I have to say that I didn't find it especially stirring. However there were definitely times when I felt cold just watching all that snow!
Emma (Video) 8/16/98 (***1/2) I think my review this time around went up a half a star. I really enjoyed this movie. Gwyneth Paltrow (SP?) did a great job!
Some Like it Hot (Video) 8/16/98 (***1/2) The classic sexually ambiguous screwball comedy with Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, and Marilyn Monroe. If you haven't seen it, you really should.
The Wings of a Dove (Video) 8/29/98 (***)This is a Euro-tear-fest about a man and woman in love but with no money. They find a rich woman who's dying and he seduces her. Morally ambiguous at times, this film made me want to move to Venice (Italy, not California).
Back to the Future II (Video) 9/10/98 (***1/2)
Back to the Future III (Video) 9/10/98 (***1/2)
Color of Money, The (Video) 9/10/98 (***)
Absolute Power (Video) 9/10/98 (**1/2)
Craft, The (Video) 9/10/98 (**1/2)
Lethal Weapon III (Video) 9/10/98 (**1/2)
Scent of a Woman (Video) 9/10/98 (***)
Primary Colors (Video) 9/23/98 (***)
Peacemaker, The (Video) 9/24/98 (**1/2)
Simon Birch (Cinemark 12) 9/24/98 (**1/2)
Key Largo (Video) 9/25/98 (***1/2)
Dreams (Ingmar Bergman version) (Video) 9/25/98 (**1/2)
M*A*S*H (Video) 9/26/98 (****)
Manhattan (Video) 9/26/98 (****)
Patriot Games (Video) 10/5/98 (**1/2)
Clear and Present Danger, A (Video) 10/5/98 (**1/2)
Invaders From Mars (Video) 10/7/98 (*1/2) Bad, bad, bad. Directed by Tobe Hooper, this film had a lot of bad things going for it from the very beginning. The little kid who played (unfortunately) the main character couldnít act his way out of a paper bag. Karen Black was hideously inept as the poorly-written school nurse who let herself play sidekick to a 10-year-old kid. Timothy Bottoms and Loraine Newman were abysmal as the creeped-out parents. I think Iím going to try to rent and watch the original 1950ís version to contrast and compare.
To Die For (Video) 10/8/98 (***) Kind of a neat little movie. It was written by Buck Henry and Iíve always enjoyed his writing. Nicole Kidman was certainly a sultry little vixen. They last name of the guy who played Russell (one of the kids) was Affleck. I wonder if heís related to Ben Affleck. Probably.
Ghost and Mrs. Muir, The (Video) 10/8/98 (***1/2) They really donít make them like this anymore. I know Iím probably just a romantic sap for liking this movie so much, but so what?
Antz (Cinemark 12) 10/9/98 (***) Okay, I went to this movie prepared to not like it, but I really did. I was really amazed by the work that PDI/Dreamworks was able to do. I especially enjoyed the facial animation. I wonder what kind of system they used?
My Sex Life (Or: How I Got Into an Argument) (Video) 10/11/98 (**) This 3-hour-long French film was pretty slow most of the time. Still, there was something about it that kept me watching. I donít think Iíd recommend it to anyone unless I really didnít like that person. Sometimes I could relate to the characters but a lot of the time I couldnít. I had a hard time keeping some of the characters straight. The actor who played the main character reminded me of Rossi from the Lou Grant Show.
What Dreams May Come (Cinemark 12) 10/13/98 (***) I went to see this movie on my 34th birthday. I really wanted it to be a great movie. I was kind of let down. Hard to follow most of the time, there was a definite alternative sensibility at work. Visually stunning at times, there were also times where it all became a little too heavy handed.
Opposite of Sex, The (Video) 10/20/98 (**1/2) After The Ice Storm Iím kind of a Christina Ricci fan, so I was looking forward to this movie because sheís in it. The film started strong but then fizzled out. Thereís a line at the beginning that goes something like this: "If you think Iíve got a heart of gold or Iím going to grow one by the end of the film, youíre sadly mistaken. Also, this isnít one of those films where the narrator says, ĎAnd I was never the same after that summer.í"
The Trial (Video) 10/21/98 (**) Iím in kind of a funny position here because I actually ended up fast-forwarding through the last 15 minutes or so of this movie. This film was written and directed by Orson Welles based on the novel by Franz Kafka. It starred Anthony Perkins as K. It was interesting to watch but I just couldnít watch more than a half hour or so at a time. Eventually I gave up. The highly stylized dialogue and acting was really getting to me. It reminded me of a David Lynch film in a lot of ways, including the paranoid dream logic on which the narrative was based.
Pi (Paramount theater, Ankeny) 10/22/98 (***) This was an independent film that was at times brilliant and at other times boring. I was knocked out by it at the very beginning but as time went on I became less and less interested. I just thought it was kind of cool to see a film based on mathematics. The mathematics themselves werenít particularly high mathematics and because I was aware of that it maintained a level of superficiality that most people wouldnít have to deal with. Max Allan Collins was in the audience and in the discussion period afterwards he made the comment that most films are either adaptations of short stories or novels and this one was definitely a short story. It would have played better at about 60 minutes in length, but there was no way it could have been marketed.
Pleasantville (North Grand 5) 10/23/98 (***1/2) I really didnít know what to expect from this movie when I went to it, although the plot is readily apparent from its trailers. I really, really enjoyed it though. Iím embarrassed to say that I really bought into the basic sentiment. I think for me it was all about becoming aware of beauty in your life. I thought it was an incredibly well done film. I suppose the only part I had a little trouble with was Don Knotts as the mysterious TV repairman.
Doc Hollywood (Video) 10/24/98 (***1/2) I guess I wouldnít be too surprised if there were folks who would wonder why Iíd give Doc Hollywood such a high recommendation. I guess itís because I did more than just like it. I occasionally delighted in it. It could be the message that got me but I think itís the light, gentle touch of the writing. The writing and execution was just superb. In what could have been an ordinary movie there were a handful of little surprises sprinkled throughout.
The Star Chamber (Video) 10/25/98 (**1/2) This movie could be studied in a classroom as an example of hack film writing at its finest. It was certainly professionally written and directed but there just wasnít anything else there. It was as if the entire script was nothing more than just an academic exercise.
Hope Floats (Video) 10/28/98 (**1/2) Directed by Forest Whitaker, written by Steven Rogers. A cute little movie. It did more things right than it did wrong, I suppose. I would definitely have preferred seeing Julia Roberts in the main role instead of Sandra Bullock.
A Thousand Acres (Video) 10/28/98 (***) Directed by Jocelyn Moorhouse, written by Laura Jones. This is a very powerful, Pulitzer prize-winning story, based on the novel by Jane Smiley, formerly a professor at Iowa State. As I was watching this I kept thinking about the story and how much there was in it. Having not read the book I canít help but wonder what the book is like.
The Bachelor and the Bobbie-Soxer (Video) 11/1/98 (***) Directed by Irving Reis, written by Sidney Sheldon. This is a cute little lightweight movie starring Cary Grant, Myrna Loy and Shirley Temple. The plot dances around the issue of jailbait and statutory rape in a way that is somehow interesting to contemporary audiences. I have to say that Iím not sure who was cuter: Myrna Loy or Shirley Temple.
Inherit the Wind (Video) 11/1/98 (***) Somewhat dated now, itís always wonderful to watch Spencer Tracy, even though he was getting on in years when this film was made. It was a little distracting seeing TVís Bewitched star Darrin (Dick York) as the teacher arrested for teaching evolution. Itís always important to remind ourselves that the right to free thought is always worth fighting for.
Godzilla (Video) 11/3/98 (**1/2) Iíd been warned, and managed to avoid seeing it on the big screen. Godzilla was just a wee bit better than I expected. Iím glad I only paid $1.99 for it, though. Yes, there certainly were a lot of plot holes and Matthew Broderick was kind of a strange choice for the lead. Still, there are effects aíplenty, and thatís really what I was interested in. I woke up this morning and wanted to see New York trashed.
Deja Vu (North Grand 5) 11/4/98 (***) This is a small, flawed film. Iím still going to recommend it because of the occasional peaks that went along with its valleys. Henry Jaglom has directed a few other films, including Always (not to be confused with the Spielberg version) and Eating. The camerawork was occasionally bad enough to be annoying. I donít think it was particularly well directed either, and the acting is often less than convincing. So why do I recommend it? Itís because it deals with a theme thatís near and dear to my heart Ė true love Ė and it does it in a way thatís surprisingly intelligent at times.
The Hunt for Red October (Video) 11/6/98 (***) Iím very, very tempted to give this movie a ***1/2 rating, but it doesnít quite make it there. I wonder what the hell Alec Baldwin was thinking when he turned down the opportunity to continue on in the Jack Ryan series. Certainly action-packed and terrifically cast, this is a good example of blockbuster movie making at its best.
Universal Soldier (Video) 11/6/98 (*1/2) Directed by Roland Emmerich. This is one of those movies I watch that make people wonder about me. It certainly makes me wonder about me. Sometimes Iím just in the mood for a really bad movie, and this one more or less fit the bill.
A Letter to Three Wives (Video) 11/6/98 (***) Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. I saw this one in the "classics" section at the video store. Upon reading the premise (A woman sends a letter to three wives telling them that sheís run off with one of their husbands) I was intrigued. I also noted that it won the best screenplay Oscar. Itís not a bad little movie, although "sophisticated" modern audiences are going to see the synthetic story structure for what it is.
The Next Voice You Hear (Video) 11/7/98 (**1/2) Directed by William A. Wellman, written by Charles Schnee I donít know what made me pick this one out of the "classics" section. I donít really recall seeing it there before. I read the back of the box and the premise really interested me: God speaks in a series of evening radio broadcasts. It stars a young Nancy Davis (Nancy Reagan). She played a pregnant middle-class wife and she had the biggest bags under her eyes.
Dr. No (Video) 11/7/98 (***) Directed by Terence Young. I hadnít seen any of the original James Bond movies in a long time, so this one was fairly new to me. I think that if you were searching for the prototype of the modern blockbuster movie, this might just be it. It even has a couple of the now-overused tag lines, although not very good ones: "Where were they going?" "They were on their way to a funeral." I found the casual morality exhibited by James Bond in his first film to be quite interesting. For example, he has sex with an attractive oriental female spy for no other reason than that he can, then later Mr. Bond gets information from another spy and then shoots him in cold blood.
From Russia With Love (Video) 11/8/98 (**) Directed by Terence Young. I found this second movie in the James Bond series to be surprisingly dull and slow-moving.
Wild Man Blues (Video) 11/10/98 (**1/2) This movie is a documentary about Woody Allen and a musical tour of Europe. Iím a big Woody Allen fan and so Iím not particularly impartial. I enjoyed it for the most part but often found myself bored.
The Razorís Edge (Video) 11/10/98 (**1/2) (1946 version) Directed by Edmund Goulding, screenplay by Lamar Trotti. This is the story of a man who wants to take the path least chosen, to pursue a life of knowledge and searching instead of normal work and security. Unfortunately the movie ended up being composed mostly of melodrama with a little spiritual enlightenment thrown in for good measure.
Love Me or Leave Me (Video) 11/12/98 (**) Directed by Charles Vidor, screenplay by Daniel Fuchs and Isobel Lennart. I just plain couldnít get into this movie, really. I actually watched it a little bit at a time over several days. There was something a little odd and ugly about the story of a dance hall girl turned singer (Doris Day) who becomes "obligated" to a thug (James Cagney).
Living Out Loud (Cinemark 12) 11/12/98 (***) This was a pretty good although less than perfect movie. Holly Hunter plays a divorced woman who struggles with learning how to live her life again after 16 years of marriage. Danny DeVito plays her love interest, kind of.
Heaven (Video) 11/15/98 (***1/2) Directed by Diane Keaton. This is the first time Iíve watched this movie in a long time. I was worried that it wouldnít hold up, but it did. I really like the concept of making a documentary based on interviews with various people about the nature of heaven. "Are you afraid to die?"
A Perfect Murder (Video) 11/17/98 (***) I didnít expect this film to be as good as it was. When I rented it I was looking for a movie that I wouldnít have to think too much about that would be moderately entertaining. The main thing that stands out in my mind about the script was that there were a lot of plot twists, which really kept things going.
Meet Joe Black (North Grand 5) 11/21/98 (***) Directed (and produced) by Martin Brest. This was a pretty entertaining movie about Death (in the form of Brad Pitt) taking a holiday of sorts. It had plenty going for it but my feeling was that 3 hours was more time than it needed. Brad Pittís quirky performance was also a little wearing on my nerves. However, Anthony Hopkins was really at his best. There was a special effect early on in the film that was incredible effective, but I donít want to spoil what it is!
The Birth of a Nation (Video) 11/21/98 (**) Directed by D.W. Griffth. I have a confession to make: I rented this movie to a large degree because itís one of a handful of movies from the recent AFI list of 100 greatest movies of all time that I had never seen. Well, now I can say Iíve seen it. Itís really hard to know what to say about this 1916 film that ends with the KKK as the "savior of the South." Racist in its depiction of blacks, certainly. Disturbing because of itís ideology, of course. By what measure can one judge such a film? I have to admit that at times I did find myself getting caught up in the story, partially because it represented a point of view that Iíve never really been exposed toÖ nor especially want to ever again.
Heavy (Video) 11/22/98 (***1/2) Written and directed by James Mangold. I loved this film a lot. This is the kind of small, character-driven movie I want to make. This was a nice, intelligently written movie about characters that for me rang very true, and I know I place a heavy emphasis on that. I think itís also true that Iím partial to movies about underdog characters, but whatís wrong with that? I truly enjoyed Pruitt Taylor Vince in the central role. Heís always been visually captivating in everything Iíve ever seen him in. That thing he does with his eyes is just so damn cool!
Apollo 13 (Video) 11/23/98 (***1/2) Directed by Ron Howard. I rented this movie shortly after watching (becoming engrossed in) the HBO miniseries From the Earth to the Moon. Dammit, I hope we go back to the moon again in my lifetime. Itís a damn shame that only 12 men have ever walked on the moon. I think we should go to the moon at least once a generation. I myself donít remember the Apollo missions and I want to know what itís like to look up at the moon and know there are men on its surface. Thereís a real lesson to be learned about the importance of a culture to share a sense of the accomplishment of exploration. One minor note: Iíd completely forgotten that Roger Corman appears early in the film as a U.S. Senator!
Father Goose (Video) 11/24/98 (***) Directed by Ralph Nelson, written by Peter Stone and Frank Tarloff. This was a pleasant enough film. I rented it in part because it said on the box that it won the academy award for best screenplay. Iíve been making it a point to pay more attention to writing lately. I think I have a vague sense of having seen this movie as the third or fourth feature at a drive-in when I was a little kid. The movie came out (coincidentally) the year I was born, 1964.
Man of a Thousand Faces (Video) 11/29/98 (**1/2) Directed by Joseph Pevney. This was kind of an uneven film. It was on its best when it focused on Lon Chaneyís career as an actor. Unfortunately the level of melodrama was uncomfortably high at times. James Cagney was really the best thing about the movie.
The Jazz Singer (1927 Version) (Video) 11/30/98 (***1/2) Directed by Alan Crosland. This is a strange film to watch. As the first "talkie" its place in history is assured. Oddly enough there was a reference to this film in Man of a Thousand Faces where Irving Thalberg goes into Lon Chaneyís dressing room to tell him about this incredible movie heíd just seen. Because of the fact that itís a silent film with some synched sound during its musical numbers makes it an oddity. Thereís still a greatness to it that shines through the years. I think thereís a real beauty to its story about Jakie Rabinowicz AKA Jack Robin, whoís torn between his love for the theater and his love for his family.
Designing Woman (Video) 12/1/98 (***) Directed by Vincente Minnelli, written by George Wells. Designing Woman stars Gregory Peck and Lauren Bacall as mis-matched newlyweds who fall madly in love and then realize that they come from two different worlds. Lightweight, certainly, it still shows a certain stylized charm and George Wells won the academy award for best story and screenplay. I couldnít help but like the interesting cast of characters, all painted (written) in mighty broad strokes. Designing Woman would be a good movie to watch late at night as a "late, late movie." One fun note: in addition to all the other soon-to-be well-knowns in the cast (Ed Platt, Chuck Conners), I was surprised to see a very young (pre-Herbie) Dean Jones in a minor role as an assistant stage director.
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Video) 12/1/98 (***) Directed by Alfred Werker, written by Edwin Blum and William Drake. I think this was the second in a series of 14 Sherlock Holmes movies starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce. It had been a long time since Iíd watched one of these movies, which Iíd loved so much as a child. I have to say that it held up pretty well and I thought it was pretty entertaining and well done. It was especially fun to watch Sherlock Holmes match wits with his arch nemesis, Professor Moriarty.
A Bugs Life (Cinemark 12) 12/2/98 (***1/2) Directed by John Lassetter. Of course itís hard for me to be impartial about this movie, after having lived day-in, day-out with all the characters during EAIís production of the Disney Interactive CD-ROM project. Itís interesting to compare the character animation in A Bugís Life with that in Antz. In some ways I thought the animation in Antz was just a little better, especially in terms of facial animation. However, as far as the movie as a whole goes, I enjoyed Bugís Life just a little more. I especially enjoyed the "out-takes" segment at the end, although it was hard for me to know whether to watch that or the credits. It was a kick seeing my friends Dirk Van Gelder and Brad Winemiller in the credits.
Klute (Video) 12/4/98 (***) Directed by Alan J. Pakula, written by Andy and Dave Lewis. This psychological suspense movie about a call girl, played by Jane Fonda, and a private investigator, played by Donald Sutherland is pretty intense at times, especially considering the period in which it was made. The main flaw with the film as I see it are more than a few plot holes that are kind of annoying. Detective story aside, this film is really a character study, focusing on the psychology of Bree, the hooker whoís addicted to the power (and control) of prostitution. Jane Fonda won the academy award for best actress for her solid performance.
The Ghost and the Darkness (Video) 12/4/98 (***) Directed by Stephen Hopkins. My friend and cohort Dan Mundt loaned me this movie, and I donít think that it would normally be the kind of movie Iíd be interested in. It takes place in Africa and stars Val Kilmer and Michael Douglas. The story revolves around the building of a bridge and two Satanic lions who decide to feast on the workers. The natives call them "The Ghost and the Darkness." It was certainly gripping in a Jaws-like way throughout.
Body and Soul (Video) 12/6/98 (***) Directed by Robert Rossen, screenplay by Abraham Polonsky. John Garfield stars as Charley Davis, a prize fighter struggling to tell the difference between right and wrong. For me, I think the filmís singular point was made pretty early on. Yes, itís a tough, bloody world out there and I think somebodyís gonna get hurt! One thing that struck me in terms of screenwriting was the large number of questions that were asked of the audience early almost immediately. "Whoís this guy? Whatís his problem? Who the hell is Peg? Whoís Ben and how did he die? Who was Shorty and how did he die?"
To Have and Have Not (Video) 12/7/98 (***1/2) Directed by Howard Hawks, screenplay by Jules Furthman and William Faulkner. Bogie and Bacall team up for the very first time. Itís a great film, based on a story by Hemingway. It had to be, what with all the references to fishing and drinking. "Just put your lips togetherÖ" and blow me away! Wow!
A Streetcar Named Desire (Video) 12/8/98 (****) Directed by Elia Kazan, screenplay by Tennessee Williams. Holy cow! What an incredible movie! I canít believe Iíd never seen it before. Vivien Leigh! Wow! Marlon Brando! Wow! Itís simply amazing how well that man could act at one time! The writing was simply fantastic! The dialogue packed a real punch! Simply a must-see movie all the way around!
Giant (Video) 12/10/98 (***1/2) Directed by George Steves, screenplay by Fred Guiol and Ivan Moffat. Not a perfect film by any stretch of the imagination, but it sure is a powerful one. Epic in scope, this film tackles the topic of racial discrimination. I must admit that as much as I liked it that the powerhouse I watched just before it, A Streetcar Named Desire, made such an indelible impression on my brain that it was hard not to watch James Dean and Rock Hudson and not compare their acting abilities to Marlon Brandoís. I know thatís unfair, but who says that my movie journal reviews have to be fair?
Ben-Hur (1959 Version) (Video) 12/13/98 (***1/2) This is another one of those movies that fell into the "I canít believe Iíve never seen it" category. Iím certainly a little embarrassed by that. I canít honestly say that biblical epics are my favorite movie genre, all things considered, but Ben-Hur truly is a great movie.
Mutiny on the Bounty (1935 Version) (Video) 12/14/98 (***1/2) Directed by Frank Lloyd. Another great movie from the AFI list I finally got around to watching. It occurs to me that I havenít really seen many movies starring Charles Laughton.
Little Shop of Horrors, The (1960 Version) (Video) 12/15/98 (***) Directed by Roger Corman, Screenplay by Charles B. Griffith. The reason I rented this was that when I was working on my "Best Movies" list I was surprised to find that Maltin had given this movie a rating of ***1/2. I had heard that it was shot in two days, and so I was surprised that it was rated so highly. While I donít think itís a great movie, it was surprisingly well-done considering the constraints under which it was made.
Heaven Can Wait (1943 Version) (Video) 12/15/98 (***1/2) Directed by Ernst Lubitsch, screenplay by Samson Raphaelson. The first thing about this movie that surprised me was that I was expecting a storyline similar to the Warren Beatty version, which is based not on this movie but on Here Comes Mr. Jordan. It took me awhile before I realized I was watching a story different from the one I expected. Well written, this is an oddly amoral story of an amoral man, played by Don Ameche. The story begins in hell, with Amecheís character explaining to Satan that heís committed no one great sin but that his life has been a "continuous misdemeanor."
Spartacus (Video) 12/16/98 (****) Directed by Stanley Kubrick, screenplay by Dalton Trumbo. Another from the "I canít believe I never saw it" file, Spartacus is a truly great movie. Kirk Douglas was sensational and the gladiator action sequences were pretty terrific. Laurence Olivier plays Crassus, the Roman Senator who likes both Oysters and Clams, or whatever it was. I thought Peter Ustinov was especially good.
Talk of the Town, The (Video) 12/17/98 (***1/2) Directed by George Stevens, screenplay by Irwin Shaw and Sidney Buchman. I must admit that when this movie started I didnít expect much from it other than a good screwball comedy. Cary Grant plays a suspected arsonist on the run. Ronald Colman plays a law professor who just happens to move into the house where Cary Grantís character is hiding out. When you add Jean Arthur as the woman "between two men," the story really gets cooking.
Harold and Maude (Video) 12/19/98 (****) Directed by Hal Ashby, screenplay by Colin Higgins. Iíve felt for a long time that there are only two types of people in the world: those who can accept the story of Harold and Maude and those who canít. It has been a few years since I last watched Harold and Maude. I was wondering shortly before I watched it whether or not it would stand the test of time. Of course it did. One of my favorite movies of all time, I was only 16 when I saw it for the first time at the Dundee theater in Omaha. My friend Ron Pursley dragged me to it, telling me nothing other than that it was a movie I had to see. At first I didnít know what to make of it, but soon I came to love it. Watching it now, I was amazed by the elegant dance between image, editing, and music. The writing is simply incredible, with a great economy within each scene. I get the sense that not a single word could have been removed from the screenplay without diminishing the movie as a whole. The Cat Stevens music, some of my favorite music ever, is incredibly well integrated into the rest of the production. If you havenít done so already, please give yourself a treat and watch Harold and Maude.
Ten Commandments, The (Video) 12/20/98 (***1/2) Directed by Cecil B. DeMille. Ah, this is biblical epic month for me, I suppose. How better to follow Ben-Hur and Spartacus than with the biggest biblical drama I never watched all the way through before? As a kid it was on every Easter but somehow I always managed to avoid it. It sure is a long movie, but a pretty good one. Charlton Heston was certainly convincing as Moses. Will I go see the animated The Prince of Egypt? Iím not sure, but at least Iíve seen the historic precedent.
Youíve Got Mail (North Grand 5) 12/21/98 (***) Written and Directed by Nora Ephron. Cute, formulaic romantic comedy that mostly worked. Itís not When Harry Met Sally by a long shot, but I got choked up a few times, sure. You know these two characters are going to end up together at the end, but still the path between A and B is blocked with seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
Iím All Right Jack (Video) 12/21/98 (**1/2) Directed by John Boulting. This movie, made in 1959 in Britain is about the labor movement and definitely was hard for me to get into. The humor is also decidedly British. Because of all that, I donít know if I could really recommend it to my contemporaries. Historically, itís Peter Sellerís first major role, and he was certainly interesting to watch.
Shot in the Dark, A (Video) 12/23/98 (***) Directed by Blake Edwards. The first in the Clouseu films (even before The Pink Panther), this was an entertaining and funny movie. Iím not the biggest fan of physical humor, however, so I think a lot of it was lost on me. Sorry. I can imagine this playing on a triple bill along with Ace Ventura, Pet Detective and Boing, Boing.
Welcome to the Dollhouse (Video) 12/28/98 (**1/2) Interesting independent film. It definitely took a lot of chances, but ultimately I wasnít really able to get into it.
The Man Who Would Be King (Video-Widescreen) 12/29/98 (***1/2) Directed by John Huston. I canít believe I never watched it before. Based on the Kipling work, this movie tells the fascinating tale of Peachy and Danny (Michael Caine and Sean Connery), two British soldiers of fortune / con men who decide that the surest path to wealth and happiness is to take over the backwards country of Kafiristan. Thereís an interesting bit interwoven throughout the story about the Freemasons.
Deer Hunter, The (Video-widescreen) 12/30/98 (***1/2) Directed by Michael Cimino. It had been a long time since I last watched this movie. My friend Don was in town and he loaned me The Man Who Would Be King and The Deer Hunter, both in widescreen. This is a truly great movie, one that is told in images and expressions, rather than in dialogue. Itís something I could definitely learn a lot from. The composition of the images demands presentation in the wider aspect ratio.