Reviews written by registered user
|15 reviews in total|
I take perverse pride in the fact that I saw 'Cutthroat Island' on the big
screen (it's not really that bad, by the way) and soon I'm sure I'll have
the same feelings about having seen 'Battlefield Earth' in a theatre. Bad
films are released every week, but this one sinks beneath ordinary badness
to become a genuine so-bad-it's-good movie.
Barry Pepper gets to make lots a big, faux-'Braveheart' speeches as Johnny, a cave-dweller who leads his people in a fight against the voracious aliens who have taken over Earth. He is aided in his fight by the aliens themselves, who helpfully teach Johnny their language and all the basics of science, leave him in an abandoned library so he can be inspired by the Declaration of Independence, and send him off unmonitored so he can take his people to a huge cache of US weapons left in a bunker, still working after 1000 years of neglect.
(By the way, it appears these weapons were never used...no wonder the aliens only needed 9 minutes to conquer the planet.)
John Travolta, who labored long and hard to bring this story to the screen (it's based on a book by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard), seems to be having a great time as Terl, the alien chief of security. (Forrest Whittaker, playing his sidekick, looks like he can't believe he's in this thing.) But the truly big laughs come from Pepper, who actually seems to be taking this seriously. And the swelling, "stirring" music. And the stunning plot holes. And the stupidity of the aliens. And the schockingly lame action sequences by director Roger Christian. And the laughably fake matte paintings meant to evoke post-invastion Denver and Washington. Mark my words: 15 years from now, this movie will be a staple to midnight showings, complete with people coming dressed as Terl and shouting things at the screen. It's such a fascinating guilty pleasure that, God help me, I'm giving it 6 out of 10.
"The Kentucky Fried Movie" has some genuinely funny scenes, but I have the feeling this movie was a lot funnier in 1977 than it is today. Many of the targets - blaxploitation films, Bruce Lee movies, the oil crisis - are hardly relevant today...the result is like watching a mediocre mid-1970s episode of "Saturday Night Live". That said, Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker's distinctive sense of humor is evident throughout, and there are some truly inspired moments (especially a public service announcement for America's number-one killer: death).
There have been many films which argue that war is hell, but only a handful which argue that war is sheer lunacy. This short list includes Apocolypse Now, Three Kings and Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket, one of the best movies of the 1980s. In the first half of the film, Matthew Modine's character can only look on helplessly as one of his fellow recruits, an overweight misfit, is slowly driven crazy by military life. The second half is made up of a series of short vingettes showing the dehumanizing effects of war but also the bizarre reasoning people use to justfy it. In one scene, a military journalist orders his men to use a more mundane phrase instead of "search and destroy"...without getting into a debate over whether the Gulf War was justified, it certainly shows that some things never change.
I had high hopes for "Pushing Tin" because of its wonderful cast, proven
director (Mike Newell, who made "Four Weddings and a Funeral" and "Donnie
Brasco") and fascinating premise. I have never seen a film centred on the
lives of air-traffic controllers, and the scenes in this film actually set
in the control center are excellent; we get a real sense of the stressful,
fast-paced world of air-traffic control, and the cynicism which helps the
controllers survive the job.
Had "Pushing Tin" actually been about a day in the control tower it could have really been something, especially with John Cusack and Billy Bob Thornton on board. Unfortunately, after a promising start, the film bogs down in the complicated love lives of these two characters, who clash on sight and spend the rest of the film trying to one-up each other (at least until an unsatisfying happy ending). Thornton and Cusack ultimately drag their wives into the picture, leading to a series of romantic complications I really did not care about, since the exciting air-traffic control scenes whetted my appetite for more.
Why? Why would Hollywood feel we would be more interested in a sluggishly paced romantic dramedy than a film about this fascinating profession? Formula filmmaking strikes again, and "Pushing Tin" is the latest casualty. (5/10)
While the moviegoing public - and the Academy - swooned for "The Sixth Sense", I think the similarly-themed "Stir of Echoes" is a far better film. Where the former film is slow and dull right up to its trick ending, "Stir of Echoes" is briskly paced and genuinely haunting; I knew what Kevin Bacon's character would find buried beneath his property, yet the result of his search is still shocking. Kevin Bacon, normally a solid actor, is the film's key weakness (for most of the movie, he seems to be channelling Matt LeBlanc), but all the other performers are fine, and without giving too much away, I will say the last shot paints a very disturbing picture of what the young boy goes through. "Stir of Echoes" did not deserve any Oscar nominations, but it deserved some nominations more than "The Sixth Sense" did.
Any hack (almost inevitably produced by Jerry Bruckheimer) can make a bad
movie, but "Wild Wild West" is that special kind of disaster that only
talented people could have made. Barry Sonnenfeld is a talented director -
he made the truly inventive "Men in Black" in 1997 - and the stars have been
appealing in the past. But when you become too successful in Hollywood,
eventually people don't question your judgment when they really should.
That's what happened here.
The film stars Will Smith and Kevin Kline (who disowned the film before it was released) as mid-19th century Treasury agents out to stop a mad villain - Kenneth Brahagh, who I assume really needed the money to make another Shakespeare film - from destroying America with his giant mechanical spider. I'm not leaving much out by way of plot here, but never have I seen so many jokes fall flat - Smith's constant jibes about recently-abolished slavery are especially appalling. (Mel Brooks could have made 'em funny, but that's about it - and now I'm reminded of how great "Blazing Saddles" was, but that's another story.)
The sad part is that there are a few flashes of inspiration throughout "Wild Wild West", such as a dazzling shot of 1860s Washington with the Capitol Dome under construction in the background. But the whole production gives the aura of successful people assuming everything they touch turns to gold. This movie definitely did not.
Fight Club was a box office disappointment perhaps because no one really
knew what to make of it. A lot of people went in to see Brad Pitt and
Edward Norton pounding each other, and instead got a subversive satire of
consumerism and the cult mentality.
The movie may not have been appreciated in 1999, but I'll bet it will quickly become a classic. The recent protests at the WTO meetings in Seattle showed that a backlash is brewing against rampant consumerism, and while I don't necessarily agree with what many of the anti-WTO demonstrators were saying, I get a feeling this movement is going to build up steam as this new decade proceeds.
And Fight Club speaks to that mentality. Edward Norton plays a recall investigator for a major car company (he decides whether it makes financial sense to announce a recall) who has turned to a life of conspicuous consumption to fill his spiritual void. (In one astonishing sequence, he literally walks into an IKEA catalog.) Then he meets Tyler Durden, who introduces him to the underground world of "Fight Clubs" - where men who feel emasculated gather to get back to their roots by pounding the tar out of each other. But as Norton's character is sucked into this exciting new world, his new compatriots decide to expand into society at large - with potentially disastrous consequences.
Many have called Fight Club a fascist movie (the debate was eerily similar to what surrounded "Starship Troopers" in 1997) and I think this is way off the mark. Instead, the message is that if society trys to reduce a man to a simple consumer, aimlessly following trends, he will inevitably lash out. This one will be watched, studied and debated long after, say, "The General's Daughter" has been forgotten.
There are underappreciated films, underrated films, unfairly maligned films...and then there's Last Action Hero, perhaps one of the most hated movies of the 1990s. Well, I thought it was hilarious from beginning to end, a great send-up of Arnie's image. The movie takes dead aim at all the action-movie cliches, from a non-stop parade of gorgeous women to every phone number beginning with "555" ("That's why we have area codes," says Arnold's character.) My hunch is that people expected another Terminator or Total Recall, and were completely caught off guard by this offbeat film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Sling Blade" is an emotionally exhausting picture which establishes Billy
Bob Thornton as one of our very best actors, writers, and directors. This
story of a mentally handicapped man committed to a mental hospital for a
childhood double murder, and his attempt to make it in the outside world,
avoids the usual stereotypes about the closed-minded townsfolk and their
prejudice against someone like Karl Childers, Thornton's character.
Indeed, upon his release Childers is given a mechanic's job and befriends a young boy, his widowed mother, and her gay best friend (played by an unrecognizable John Ritter). Unfortunately, the mother's drunken, violent boyfriend - Dwight Yoakam in a dark, effective performance - cannot accept Karl getting in the way of his relationship, and Childers must ultimately defend his new "family" the only way he knows how.
The tragedy of "Sling Blade" is that Childers is a basically gentle soul whose abusive childhood - his father (Robert Duvall in a cameo) and mother made him live in a shed behind the house - and marginal intelligence have made him unable to function without violence. More importantly, deep down Childers knows this; he knows he cannot function as a free man, and simply cannot protect the ones he loves without violence. The result is one of the most sympathetic characters I have ever seen in a movie. This film is one of the great movies of the decade. (9/10)
"The Hurricane" contains a truly great performance from Denzel Washington,
and a genuinely touching relationship between the title character -
wrongfully-imprisoned boxer Rubin Carter - and a young Brooklyn boy being
raised by a commune in Toronto. Unfortunately, by the last hour, it
develops into no more than a standard legal thriller, with Carter's
supporters - all crusading white liberals, as the heroes always seem to be
in Hollywood films about racism - trying to find the critical evidence which
will prove his innocence. I was hoping for more. (7/10)
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