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Deep Blue Sea (1999)
Can't even measure up to "guilty pleasure" status
Leading up to the release of this underwater shark thriller, a friend of mine had been jokingly referring to it as "Jaws 2000". And, although, it really doesn't have much in common with those pictures...it may have well been included as one, it's just as ridiculous and lame as the last two "Jaws" sequels.
An ecclectic cast has CHUM written all over them as scientists/engineers/blah blah aboard an underwater research facility that is quickly flooding; stalked by genetically enhanced 'smart sharks'.
I was really rooting for Renny Harlin's film to be a guilty pleasure...but I'm afraid it can't even measure up to that status. And we know for a fact that Harlin can take an action sequence as ridiculous as they come and make them work cinematically--look at the underrated "Long Kiss Goodnight" or "Die Hard 2". But, "Deep Blue Sea" asks too much from me. It's so unimaginatively preposterous; and characters barely register a pulse, much less develop (with the exception of LL Cool J- at least he puts a smile on your face).
I'll admit that when the sharks attack in this film; it's visceral, grisly and exciting on the most purile level. But, that's not enough to save this misguided, just plain silly monstrosity. Also, ask yourselves how much money you think the great Samuel L. Jackson had to be payed to utter the line : "all right people, these sharks are thinking...HARD AND FAST!!"
Mystery Men (1999)
very clever, funny, and immensely likable
I've seen a few 'superhero' parodies in my day...but "Mystery Men" gets it right, from start to finish. What would have, no doubt, been an odd little picture with a cult following; will now find a larger audience thanks to Ben Stiller's exposure in the huge "There's Something About Mary". I'm not sure about how a mass audience will feel about "Mystery Men", but I found it to be very clever, funny and immensely likable.
What a cast, too. Along with a very funny Stiller; we get the marvelous talent and radiant presense of Janeane Garafalo, the as-yet underappreciated Hank Azaria, the always perfectly subdued William H. Macy, a returning-to-form Paul Reubens (nice to see him again), a cute and winning performance from Kel Mitchell, and (honest surprise here) Wes Studi funnier than we knew he could be. They are a group of inept crimefighting superhero wannabes who get they're shot at the big time when Champion City's famous crimefighter Captain Amazing (Greg Kinnear, playing an arrogant jerk with slimy glee) is kidnapped. Our villain, Casanova Frankenstein, is played by Oscar winner Geoffrey Rush, who vamps it up appropriately. The cast rocks..and best of all, no one person steals the spotlight--every single character has their fair share of memorable moments.
"Mystery Men" both pays homage to, and pokes fun at, the conventions and cliches of comic book and movie superheroes past and present. It's also stylish--adapting to the kooky-futuristic look that your average 90's superhero movie is supposed to have. We even get the expected over-the-top, visual efx-laden finale.
It's all in fun...and I found it impossible not to like.
Runaway Bride (1999)
Julia in a romantic comedy...need I say more ?
The eagerly anticipated re-teaming of Julia Roberts and Richard Gere with their "Pretty Woman" director Garry Marshall turns out just about exactly as you would expect. "Runaway Bride" isn't quite "Pretty Woman", but it does contain that certain something that makes it undeniably breezily cute and pleasant.
The material would, essentially, never float if it were not for it's cast. Gere is charming; and Roberts continues to light up the screen (sunshine-y radiance such as hers almost makes this world bearable). Joan Cusack steals scenes, as has become her trademark. And Hector Elizondo, who was also in "Pretty Woman" (and every other Garry Marshall film for that matter), is that rare movie commodity: an actor whose very presence adds the element of class-- it's about time we all noticed.
The characters are written with honest romantic disfunction and neurosis--altering what could have easily been another superficial Hollywood love story. There's nothing in "Runaway Bride that you haven't seen before; but romantic comedy fans (and Julia fans) won't even have to lift a finger to enjoy it. "Run
The Haunting (1999)
Subtle chills....what's that???
Well, my goodness, am I disappointed. When I first heard news of a remake of Robert Wise's 1963 film, "The Haunting", I had a fear that it would be ruined by an abundance of summer-movie sized visual effects. But, deep down, I had faith. Surely, with such a talented cast intact...De Bont and company will not ruin a film, who's original was a fantastic and frightening movie that understood the delicate art of subtlety. Well, subtlety, where are you now!!?? My fears have manifested...a promising movie has gone wrong. Yes, Eugenio Zannetti's production design is jaw-dropping; the movie is wonderfully photographed; and composer Jerry Goldsmith can never EVER do wrong. But, the script puts it's fine actors to the test..asking them to deliver the kind of stilted dialogue that is only spoken in movies. In the end, the always wonderful Lili Taylor is the only performer to escape with some dignity...and that's just barely. But, the crime of all crimes is that the horror is shown to us. We can no longer use our imaginations, feel that horrible dread of fear of the unknown. No, we get some visual effects to SHOW US what we're supposed to be afraid of...and you know what? As wonderfully realized as they are...the visual effects come off as sort of silly. And the climax is a phantasmogoric mess...but things had gone terribly wrong long before that.
Everything in The Haunting is overdone and overblown. I'm afraid there are no real thrills or creaks in this old haunted house monstrosity...only groans. Check out the original instead.
Wild Wild West (1999)
great looking production design is not all a movie needs
The high expectations for "Wild Wild West" will lead to somewhat of a letdown. After the successful special effects comedy "Men In Black"; star Will Smith and talented director Barry Sonnenfeld have delivered a great looking mess. Smith and Kevin Kline always deliver the goods; but I don't feel much chemistry there. Also, all women in "Wild Wild West" have been asked to do little more than look pretty; leaving the lovely Salma Hayek reduced to the role of eye candy. Only Kenneth Branagh, as the villain Loveless, really stands out. He's a joy to watch, playing oh-so over the top, working well out of his element and obviously having a bit of fun. (and is it ever not great to see ol' M.Emmet Walsh anytime possible?) Visually, there are lot of inventive things about "WWW", particularly those cool gadgets and it's villain's unusual disability. If only it's story had been so inventive...there really isn't much of a story. What we're left staring at is a wonderfully designed, but noisy, soulless, and cumbersome contraption (much like that incredible spider weapon).
I was never all that familiar with the original TV series, so I don't know if this film's saturday matinee spirit was fitting-but I appreciated it. Don't get me wrong, "WWW" has it's positives--but it's not what we had hoped.
exciting stuff for the little people
"Tarzan" is a very energetic and colorful Disney flick that takes Burroughs' classic character and follows ol' Walt formula tried and true.
Not among the very best Disney ("Lion King", "Beauty & The Beast", etc.); because it values it's breathtaking excitement over it's story...and a bit too heavy on the hip, but out of place contemporary pop culture references. Nontheless, perfect for it's little people target audience.
A Cool, Dry Place (1998)
shamefully overlooked, just lovely
I'm sure you haven't even heard of "A Cool, Dry Place". I'm sure you've wandered into this page looking up the films of Vince Vaughn or Joey Lauren Adams. So, now you can do yourself a favor and RENT THIS MOVIE.
Released (if you can call it that) in a very, very limited manner theatrically...thank goodness it can now be found on video. Shamefully underestimated by it's studio 20th Century Fox (incidentally, the same studio that DID see fit recently give wide releases to the thoroughly rotten "Firestorm", and waste of time "Wing Commander"); "A Cool, Dry Place" is just lovely. Not only a startlingly bright and honest look at a single father and his relations BUT also quite a charming entertainment. Vince Vaughn, always impressive, eases right into this role; and little Bobby Moat, as the kid, is simply adorable. If you're not going to release a fine little film like this, why greenlight it in the first place ? Congratulations to all involved; and to anyone with the courage and time to pick up this vastly overlooked little gem...in fact, the movie itself will be congratulations enough.
The General's Daughter (1999)
compelling mystery....until the last reel
"The General's Daughter" is one of those whodunit mysteries that you can immediately tell worked better as a book. Where it's implausibilities and inconsistencies probably didn't feel so implausible. It's mystery IS compelling for the majority of the film, which is nicely photographed and well-made. However, it's resolution leaves a bad aftertaste. Let's just say when the mystery is solved it's two parts sharp and ironic, and one part preposterous. But, some of the fine work beforehand ALMOST makes up for it's bumpy ending. Smoothing over most of the rough times is it's cast : particularly James Woods and John Travolta. Woods continues to be a gift from cinematic heaven (when will this man be given his due?); and Travolta really shines in a role that not every actor could shine in--a role I wasn't even expecting him to shine in--and it's a welcome surprise. He's a joy to watch; and the best thing about the otherwise spotty "General's Daughter".
The Love Letter (1999)
low-key romantic comedy (heavy on the romance, not the comedy)
"The Love Letter" is a somewhat pleasant, very very low-key romantic comedy in which the use of just the right few words in a mysterious love letter unlocks the secret passions and longings of a sleepy sea-side town's inhabitants.
It's not for all audiences. "The Love Letter", I feel, benefits from it's simple and quiet tone. Never intentionally wacky and phony like most romantic comedies it's quaint, picturesque, and comfy. However, for these exact same reasons, many viewers will be bored and disinterested.
The cast is nice. It's great to see Tom Selleck again, and is such an underplayed role. And it's hard to believe this is the same Kate Capshaw we met 15 years ago in "Indiana Jones and the Temple Of Doom". She's quite naturally good here; improving in every role I've seen her in since grating on Indy's nerves. And is it possible Capshaw is just getting lovelier and lovelier with age ? ( What is it about that Spielberg!?)
It doesn't amount to much; but after another noisy summer movie season I'll probably look back with brief fondness for this light-as-a-feather romance.
Notting Hill (1999)
sparkling romantic comedy & hilarious crowd-pleaser
"Notting Hill" is that rarest of animals...not only is it a sparkling romantic comedy, but also a hilarious crowd-pleaser. Very similar in tone to Hugh Grant's own "Four Weddings And A Funeral" (written and produced by the very same people) & even Julia Roberts' "My Best Friends Wedding"; which ought to assure you that the stars are once again at their best.
Besides the occasional cliche, necessary to move it's story along I suppose, the screenplay is smart, sexy, and witty. Hugh Grant has never been better. Julia is becoming more and more luminous at a somewhat alarming rate.
All in all...a completely charming must see.