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The Insider (1999)
ok ok i am not a big fan of reality-based/news-worthy/current event type movies especially those inspired by or brought to you by headline news especially in my life time. and i mean movies like ( and not to be compared with) larry flynt, and howard stern---i've grown up with these people/this news and have read and seen televised coverage of these people/this news over and over and over again. why make a movie about it? ok--in the case of "the insider" i can see getting the underlying message out ( and a powerful message made even more powerful), one that is advertised and discarded with the subtlest ease every time you open a pack of cigarettes. and i can see the exposing of the tobacco companies---this is strong stuff. but this movie was more about the relationship between the 2 main characters, pacino and crowe, and the psychology and ramifications of getting a news story in front of the public, of getting the RIGHT news story---the RIGHT context---the RIGHT message---as seen by the two leads. don't get me wrong---i liked this movie in that regard but i felt the underlying theme of the movie ( david vs goliath/hazards of smoking) was stronger and should have been more center-stage. the acting was superb---crowe was magnificent, and it was so refreshing to see pacino in a strong, good-guy role instead of a stereo-typed pacino role, and the supporting cast was terrific, cudos to plummer as wallace. would liked to have seen a stronger female presence from mazar, gershon, or crouse or someone but hey--i can't have everything. and micheal mann's direction was outstanding---the camera work, choreography, technique was right on cue. the editing towards the end of the movie was a little shakey as far as time lapses go but again, hey . i do have to mention i loved the soundtrack to this movie so much i actually felt a rush to more emotions than were displayed by the actors, i felt lead from scene to scene moreso than needed. but killer background tracks. all in all i give this movie a 7/10. watch it if you haven't seen it on the nightly news.
Very Bad Things (1998)
peter berg gets a big A for effort ...
ok ok i really wanted to like this movie. i tried so hard ... i mean i like dark humor which this is supposed to be, and i like writer/director peter berg aka dr. kronk on "chicago hope" (although i do like mandy patinkin aka dr. jeffrey geiger better), i like christian slater, cameron diaz---"there's something about mary". the cast was alright, the characters were interesting enough, the comradery was fine--- so what's wrong with the movie? it just doesn't work ----for me anyways. how many stag-party-murder movies do we have to see before we ask "does the hooker always die at these things?" it's been done before, far too many times for my liking. and from there things only got crazier and more bizarre each passing scene. it was like a comedy of errors where the acting deteriorated to befit the script. it's no wonder cameron diaz was tortured and twirlin g around the neighborhood, collapsing in the middle of the road. i half-expected one more scene of her getting run over by a garbage truck. after all---all she wanted was the right cushions for the chairs and to walk down that aisle. i did enjoy her role though and thought she did a fine job. loved her bludgeoning scene--hysterical !! she is a talent---but---just has to be pushed over the top. i give peter berg a big A for effort in his first feature length writing/directing endeavor but this film only gets a 5 out of 10 from me for stealing (?) the same ideas that weren't funny in "there's ......mary" (dead dog, crutches, disadvantaged )
not great like you might expect
ok ok i'm not a big fan of julia roberts formula movies and yet i did succumb to another 2 hours and 4 minutes of one. i don't know why---maybe just because it's $20 million/movie julia roberts. i do like her--- i think she is very talented and rightfully commands an audience but the scripts she's been reading recently are definatily second-class. case in point--- "stepmom" was an alright film. not great like you might expect from a fine director, chris columbus, ( "mrs. doubtfire", the "home alone" movies and my favorite, "adventures in babysitting"), and a great cast with roberts, susan sarandon, ed harris. it's wonderfully directed---i loved the way dad (harris) plays a minor role and shows up only when needed (after all ---the movie is "stepMOM" ) and allows the "moms" to figure things out themselves. that's a lot of leeway for the direction and the relationship of the principal characters. the acting is superb with both roberts and sarandon shining on cue, semi-reminiscent of "thelma and louise" with sarandon and geena davis only in a more adversarial way. their scenes together are a real treat. and you do even get to hate anna (jena malone)---the little brat !! the scene stealer in the movie, however, is ben (liam aiken)----the biggest smile this side of julia roberts herself. there's nothing really to harsh in this movie to bash too much except possibly the script itself. in a day and age when the extended family governs over half the population--there really wasn't anything most haven't seen or lived through themselves. the cliches, stereotypes, routine range of family situations and levels of acceptances. i give this movie a strong 6.5 based on great performances by roberts and sarandon and that worldly smile by aiken.
Apt Pupil (1998)
Ok ok I'm not a big fan of Stephen King adaptations which this film is. (Although the movie "Carrie" has one of the most frightening scenes ever for first time viewers). Something is lost between the mediums, and it's a shame. His track record in the written word speaks for itself. It's the carry-over to film where things get muddled and condensed and subsequently lose perspective. Bryan Singer directs as he did in "The Usual Suspects" (an excellent movie--by the way----who will ever forget Keyser Soze as every bit evil as "Silence of the Lambs" Hannibal Lecter) and does a very good job handling the two main characters.
Relative new-comer Brad Renfro and Shakespearean Ian McKellen give stellar performances as the leads and are actually, the only part of the movie worth watching. Don't get me wrong on this movie----this is a psychological thriller brought to the suburbs, if you think about it. It's slice-of-life scary as pi**ed-off postal workers or kids with guns. It's relevant and haunting how a little knowledge and mean-spirited manipulation can be used to beguile anyone. Particularly engrossing was the uniform scene and the march back in time. It sent shivers down my spine.
This film definitely has a message but lacks outside the two leads. A weak supporting cast---aside from "Friends" co-star David Schwimmer who was alright as the wimpy guidance counselor, and a lack of reasoning for this kid's dark side to surface like it has----makes me give this movie a good 6.5 out of 10. I think I'd like to see the sequel to this movie more.
a very enjoyable experience
ok ok---- so what if i'm the last person on the face of the planet to see this movie. and so what if i didn't see it in the theater with the double-wrap-around-wide screen, the floatation device seats, the automatic-action-splash-in-your-face sequencer, the multi-quadra-super-enhanced-digitally-remastered xyz stereo sound design. so what !! i can still have an opinion--can't i? i knew from the beginning that i was watching the best movie ever----according to some--if not most. so i knew this movie---like the vessel---could only go down from there. but not too far to still make this a very enjoyable experience. all the accolades, all the awards are richly deserving and then some. james cameron has added another masterpiece to an already impressive portfolio---terminator, terminator 2, abyss, aliens, true lies, strange days----these are good movies !! he has a knack of making movies we like to watch. and he's succeeded again. everything about the movie---the look, the splendor, the glamour and glitze are simply outstanding. the fictional story---about a man in search of a diamond but finding the truth so much more rewarding and a woman eager to tell her story and revisit her fondest memories. the acting is top-notch. kate winslet sells this movie and deserves the oscar---god bless helen hunt---portraying the rebel family savior through a prearranged marriage to an aristocratic twit (billy zane). the passion is in her eyes throughout the gambit of emotions she endures and her delivery is superb. there are so many memorable scenes to make her performance classic. dicaprio as the youthful exuberant love interest was also quite good as was frances fisher playing rose's mother. particularly enjoyed the courtship scenes with cal hockley (zane) and rose's mother---and the overall look of rose with the quasi-90's hair style. only a self-righteous nit-picking critic might contemplate the casting of oscar winner kathy bates in such an insignificant role, wishing there were more she could have contributed. i liked this movie as the period piece that it is--- the costumes, the customs, the caste system, all tempered with the back drop of a historical naval disaster. strictly as a love story---yes---we've seen it all before and it does have some problems (dialogue, scene stealing) but overall--- this is a very good movie and i give it a strong 7.5 out of 10. at a time when premium leading women's roles are few and far between ----watch this movie for kate winslet's performance.
There's Something About Mary (1998)
there IS something about mary
ok ok i am not a big fan of comedies in general---if that is what this is supposed to be. it just didn't make me laugh---smile?----maybe once. it just wasn't funny !! the plot was very loose-- about everybody falling in love with mary. that's it !! the rest of the movie is an endless subjection of dumb, idiotic, and just plain stupid sight gags, jokes, and belittlements. as a viewer i felt paraded from one such episode to the next, all under the context of a shrug-my-shoulders-so-what? plot. the characters were drab, the dialogue was stuffy, and the editing was horrendous. why this movie did so well in the theaters---and i'm being modest at best when i say that-----and does so well on video----again modest----is solely the one redeeming quality of the movie and that's the star appeal of cameron diaz. the title is true----there IS something about mary----albeit a physical something---but she carries the movie and i predict--- if offered better scripts--- she can carry most movies she's in a la julia roberts or demi moore. she says she likes comedy but i think she should set her sights higher. she --herself---isn't so funny and might be more suited to dark humor like jim carrey in the cable guy or the tv show st. elsewhere. or, again, an excellent script or great direction from someone like oliver stone. her co-star in ....mary, ben stiller, directed carrey in the cable guy. i give the movie a 4 out of 10 solely on the strength of the star--- not enough to carry it to far but with the hope of seeing her in bigger and better projects.