Monday, December 31, 2012

Movie – Immortal Beloved (1994)

Immortal Beloved is the final film from 1994 that I will be reviewing for this A Great Year for Movies category.  It is also the one I saw most recently – about one year ago.  I believe I had heard of this film back when it came out, but it didn’t sound like anything I would be interested in.  And I can’t tell you why I decided to finally watch it after all these years.  I put it in my Netflix queue at one point and I received it a few months later when it came to the top.  After watching this film I kicked myself for not seeing it sooner.  I also went out and bought it so I could watch it again when I wanted, especially a few key scenes from it. 

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Movie – Serial Mom (1994)

Serial Mom might be the first John Waters film I ever saw.  If you’ve never seen any movies from him let’s just say that they are out of the ordinary.  This film, for instance, is a dark comedy about a seemingly perfect mom that is a serial killer of people who do not observe all the standards of a polite society.  And this may be the most mainstream of the John Waters’ films that I have seen.  Reactions to this film vary widely, as they do with most of his movies.  Some people think this film is an outrage; I thought it was funny as hell.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Movie – The Last Seduction (1994)

The first time I heard about the movie The Last Seduction was in relation to the controversy over lead actress Linda Fiorentino being declared ineligible for being nominated for an Oscar.  (More on that below.)  I learned that the film was a modern noir, and even though I like that genre, for whatever reason I never got around to seeing it.  I’d always put it on the “maybe later” mental list of movies to watch.  Flash forward to just a few years ago and I decided that enough was enough and I should see this.  I’m glad I did because I really enjoyed the movie and Fiorentino’s performance was ferocious in it.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Movie – Forrest Gump (1994)

Every once and a while a movie that is very popular with audiences will also win the Best Picture Oscar.  This happened in 1994 with Forrest Gump.  In fact, the film received 13 Oscar nominations and won six, including four of the “big five” – Picture, Director, Actor, and Screenplay.  It only missed out for Best Actress (there was no nomination for the film in that category.)  It also provided Tom Hanks with his second consecutive Best Actor Oscar – something only Spencer Tracy had accomplished before him.  Forrest Gump is a bittersweet look at the extraordinary life of one man who touched many other lives around him.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Movie – The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

When I first discovered in April of 1997 I noticed it had a “Top 250” list and that the movie that was ranked number one was The Shawshank Redemption.  While I remembered that it was a prison film, I had not seen it and knew nothing else about it, this despite the fact that it received seven Oscar nominations, including one for Best Picture, just two years prior.  A movie about a man falsely imprisoned didn’t sound like something I would want to see, so I didn’t seek it out.  It wasn’t until several years later that I finally did see it and only then did I realize that I had misjudged it.  Yes, the basic plot about an innocent man being sent to prison is correct, but rather than being depressing, the film is ultimately an uplifting one about the power of the human spirit.

Sunday, December 23, 2012


This post is just to let you know that I’m going to be taking a short break for Christmas.  After that I will be finishing up my Great Year for Movies – 1994 category with five more films to recommend.  Two are probably expected, while three may not be.

In the meantime, for those of you who were not around these parts at this time last year, here are some Christmas related posts you may want to check out.

For my first Christmas as a blogger I did a category of the Five Best Non-Traditional Christmas Movies.  I also shared some humorous pictures of Christmas Lights and Christmas Jammies.  And even though I will be back before then this year, I also wanted to share a cute video Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt did for New Year's Eve.

I’d like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Good Winter Solstice, Happy Holidays, Merry Festivus (not so obscure TV reference) and a Good Gurnenthar’s Ascendance (really obscure TV reference).

Friday, December 21, 2012

Movie – The Ref (1994)

I was originally going to do my post on The Ref some time after Christmas, but I was reminded recently by another blogger that The Ref takes place at Christmastime.  I figured it would make more sense to post my recommendation for this film prior to the holiday, rather than after.  It might provide a change of pace for those folks who have overdosed on too many sweet, wholesome Christmas movies.  You see, The Ref is a caustically funny dark comedy that brings together three very different leads and succeeds brilliantly at making it work.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Movie – Widows’ Peak (1994)

At first glance Widows’ Peak would be easy to disregard.  On the surface it looks like just another in a long line of quaint, harmless British/Irish films about quaint, harmless British/Irish people.  Well, in the case of Widows’ Peak anyone who thinks either the film, or the women in it, are harmless would be very wrong.  This film is filled with delightfully nasty bits of both humor and drama that added up to a very unexpected pleasure for me.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Movie – True Lies (1994)

After his 1993 movie Last Action Hero did not do well with audiences (it was ahead of its time with its meta premise and self-referential humor – you can read my positive review of it here), Arnold Schwarzenegger came roaring back with True Lies, a good old fashioned, over the top action movie.  It was directed by his Terminator partner James Cameron.  Reportedly it was Schwarzenegger that got Cameron interested in the project.  The result was a very fun movie that provided people with a good combination of action and comedy.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Hobbit, or A Pox on People Who Bring Babies to Theaters

This isn’t a regular movie review of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.  I will do that post as part of my Oscar nominees posts in January and February, since it will likely get at least a nomination for visual effects or sound.

Just to give you a quick idea of what I thought of the film: it’s a notch below The Lord of the Rings, and quite a bit sillier, but this is fitting since this is also the relationship of The Hobbit book to the LOTR books.  I did not see the movie at the higher frame rate, so I can’t give you an opinion on that.  Overall, I’d give this film a high 3 out of 5 stars.  For comparison, I would give the three Lord of the Rings movies 5, 4, and 5 stars out of 5, in that order.

No, I am doing this post in the hopes that maybe I have some latent voodoo ability that has as yet not manifested itself and by writing this I will be able to curse two sorry excuses for movie goers. 

I was sitting there in the theater just starting to watch the first trailer when all of a sudden I could hear this screaming coming from the short hallway that separates the entrance from the seats.  I turned to look and a man and woman walked in pushing a stroller.  The screams were coming from the kid in the stroller.

They didn’t just sit in the front.  No, they had to take the stroller up over the stairs, bump, bump, bump, which made the kid scream more.  Once they settled down the kid continued to scream until his mother took him out of the stroller and held him.  Soon she was texting away with one hand while bouncing the kid in the other.  The few people that were sitting by them found seats much further away.

Either the kid was smart for his age or they’d had him in the stroller long past the time he should have been walking on his own because he soon showed the rest of us in the theater that he could talk.  Sure, he didn’t have the largest vocabulary, but he did make up for that lack with an overabundance of volume.

It turns out his favorite word was “Mommy”.  He said it approximately 5,000 times.  Okay, admittedly it probably wasn’t that much.  I lost count somewhere in the 3,000s.

What possesses these people who do this?  I only go to the theater a few times a year and I bet that close to half the movies I have seen in the last three years have included a young child who doesn’t know to shut up.  Yes, I understand babysitters are either hard to find or expensive, but so what?  Maybe, just maybe, becoming a parent involves making some sacrifices like, I don’t know, not going to the movies together when you can’t leave the child with someone else?

Oh well, at least when I eventually watch this movie on Blu-ray I will be able to do it in the peace and quiet of my own home.

By the way, notice how quiet that young gentleman over in the right hand column looks?  I bet you could take him to the movies and he wouldn’t cry.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Movie – Clerks (1994)

For all the talk about Cinemax being “Skin-emax” because of playing a softcore movie on Friday nights back in the 80s and 90s, they also had a great selection of smaller movies that sister channel HBO wouldn’t run.  I saw a number of foreign films, documentaries, and independent films for the first time on Cinemax back then.  One series they had was the first movies from independent filmmakers.  Among those films was Clerks, a laugh-so-hard-your-sides-hurt comedy.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Movie – Hoop Dreams (1994)

I was watching TV at the end of 1994 when Siskel and Ebert had their year end awards show.  In prior years the two would often have a number one movie that the other didn’t even have in their entire Top Ten.  In 1994, though, both of them named Hoop Dreams the best film of the year; not Pulp Fiction, not Forrest Gump, but Hoop Dreams.  Years later Ebert would name the film the best of the entire 1990s.  As for myself, I feel that you can keep your blue lines that are thin, your truths that are inconvenient, and your jobs that are inside; Hoop Dreams is the best documentary film ever made.  Period.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Movie – Once Were Warriors (1994)

Once Were Warriors is a powerful drama from New Zealand that takes a look at a Maori family living in Auckland.  If the 2002 film Whale Rider was the rural, hopeful look at the Maori culture, Once Were Warriors is the much grittier city cousin.  I can’t remember why I picked this tape off the rental shelf back in 1994 or 1995, but I am glad I did.  It disappeared not long after and it was impossible to find a copy for many years.  Almost ten years passed before it was finally released on DVD in the U.S.  I bought it and watched it again.  I was a little worried that my memories of this film had been built up over the years and that when I saw it again I would end up disappointed.  As it turns out, my fears were unfounded.  Not only did this film’s impact on me stand up to my memories, if anything it grew in stature.  As great a year as 1994 was for movies I consider this film to be the best of the best.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

A Great Year for Movies - 1994

“That's why when somebody say, ‘When you get to the NBA, don't forget about me’ […] I should've said to them, ‘If I don't make it, don't you forget about me.’"  - William Gates, Hoop Dreams

If you stop to think about it, the movies that came out in 1994 were released a generation ago.  (Anyone feel old?)  Many of them have already been forgotten, some justly so, some unjustly.  I am going to be recommending the best films of 1994; ones I’ve given at least a four star rating to.  You will find some of the usual suspects among these films (but not The Usual Suspects – that’s a 1995 film).  However, I can almost guarantee that there will be some movies that you have either forgotten about, or maybe never even heard of in the first place.  In fact, the two films that I consider the best of the year – ones I have given five star ratings to – are not the most well known.  The important thing is, you will know about them after I am done.

Why am I doing this category?  Why this year?  It is because I consider 1994 to be the second best year for quality, enjoyable movies in all of cinema history.  1939 would be number one, in case you are curious.  1954 and 1974 are also standouts.  1994 had so many good movies that I wouldn’t have time to review them all here even if I spent a month on it.  That’s why I am going to limit this category to only 4 and 5 star films (fifteen in all – four of them I have already reviewed for other categories.)

So that these good films at least get some notice, here are the 1994 movies that I would give three stars to.  Check them out if they sound interesting:  The Legend of Drunken Master; Eat Drink Man Woman; SFW; The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert; Four Weddings and a Funeral; Chungking Express; Pulp Fiction; The Hudsucker Proxy; Nell; Nobody’s Fool; The Lion King; The Crow; Stargate; The Mask; Heavenly Creatures; Ed Wood; Il Postino; Interview with the Vampire; Quiz Show; Sister My Sister; Maverick; Barcelona; Farinelli; The Road to Wellville; Three Colors: Red; Three Colors: White; and Star Trek: Generations. 

Here are the “shut your brain off and have fun” three star movies: With Honors; Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult; Only You; It Could Happen to You; The Santa Clause; PCU; Wolf; I.Q.; Airheads; Speechless; Timecop; Terminal Velocity; My Father the Hero; Milk Money; Major League II; Color of Night; Junior; and Dumb and Dumber.

Here are the 1994 movies I have seen that I would not recommend: Satantango; Legends of the Fall; Cemetery Man; Natural Born Killers; Wild Reeds; Exotica; Muriel’s Wedding; Clear and Present Danger; Ace Ventura: Pet Detective; The Client; Reality Bites; The Paper; Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; The River Wild; Corrina, Corrina; Greedy; Blown Away; Disclosure; Blue Chips; Love and a .45; Trapped in Paradise; The Shadow; Princess Caraboo; The Chase; Drop Zone; City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly’s Gold; The Air Up There; Beverly Hills Cop III; The Scout; The Favor; I Love Trouble; The Specialist; Chasers; On Deadly Ground; The Next Karate Kid; Exit to Eden; and Police Academy 7: Mission to Moscow.

There are some notable 1994 movies that I have not seen.  If you have a particular favorite among them, please let me know:  To Live; Crumb; Through the Olive Trees; Shallow Grave; The Madness of King George; Little Women; Wyatt Earp; Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle; and Angels in the Outfield.

As I post the reviews, I will come back and add links here for those posts:

Five star films:

Once Were Warriors
Hoop Dreams

Four Star films:

Leon: The Professional - (reviewed January 11, 2011)
Speed - (reviewed June 2, 2011)
Don Juan Demarco - (reviewed August 15, 2011)

On to the reviews…

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Humor – Honest Trailers

Most of us have at some point watched a movie because the trailer made it look interesting, or funny, or scary, or whatever it was we wanted to see, but when we paid our money we found out that the film wasn’t at all what the trailer made it out to be. 

In fact, there was even a contest a few years ago to craft a trailer of a well-known film, using only footage from the film, but making it look completely different from the truth.  Here is my favorite – a trailer for Mary Poppins that makes it look like a horror film (Scary Mary):

Well, some people have decided to fight back.  They’ve started doing what they call “honest trailers”.  They humorously point out all the stupid parts of movies, even ones they like.  I’ve embedded my favorites below.  Be aware that there are spoilers for these movies in them, so if you haven’t seen one, you may want to skip it.  Also be aware that you need a sense of humor about movies that you may have liked.  Just yesterday another blogger made a post about how she is sick and tired of people making fun of the stupid parts of movies and it was apparently triggered by the “honest trailer” for Prometheus, which you will find below.  For the record, I liked Prometheus, Avatar, and The Dark Knight, but I still think these "trailers" are funny.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Movie – Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)

If you have never seen the film Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure then allow me to introduce you to Bill S. Preston, Esquire and Ted “Theodore” Logan, two most excellent dudes who have a great future ahead of them – if they can only pass History.  What their future is, and how they try to achieve it, make up the fun that is this film.  It features an early, comedic role from Keanu Reeves, as well as a ton of catchphrases that entered everyday language, some of them still with us today.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Movie – The Butterfly Effect (2004)

The Butterfly Effect might be the number one example of how a studio can destroy a movie by taking control of it away from its creators.  Co-writers/co-directors Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber crafted a movie that scared the studio.  They forced them to completely change the entire tone and events of the ending.  The result was that the film went from “damn, they actually went there” to “wait a minute, that doesn’t resolve anything.”  The movie “underperformed” at the box office and didn’t get a lot of good reviews.  Thankfully, when it was released on DVD the original version of the film was finally available to be seen.  People couldn’t believe how much better it was over the theatrical version.  If you have not seen this film, avoid the theatrical version and watch the “directors’ cut”.  That is the version I am recommending.