(On TV, November 1999) Just when you thought that Steven Seagal couldn’t do a worse movie than On Deadly Ground if he tried, here comes this astonishingly boring “action” film. It’s not that I don’t like the guy (hey; Executive Decision, Under Siege) but anyone who picks a script like Fire Down Below to be his next film really has no other option except quitting show-business. Come to think of it, wasn’t this Seagal’s last film in theatres before straight-to-video? Hmmm…
(In theaters, November 1999) Watching this film is a lot like watching a festival of missed opportunities, botched execution and amateur moviemaking with occasional flashes of interest. Arnold Schwarzenegger is back in a more vulnerable role (the scene where he throws away his gun was a nice bit) and Gabriel Byrne rises above the material, but everyone else just got their paycheck and left running. The script is awful, with predictable dialogue and contrived plotting (eg; how they figure out the girl’s name) Peter Hyams’ direction is a step backward from his previous efforts, throwing everything haywire in a flurry of MTV editing that barely makes sense. The action scenes are so incoherent that they actually lessen the film’s impact. Robin Tunney looks like a crack addict escaped from the set of Rosemary’s Baby. Not a major disappointment -after all, there are a few good *intentions*- but nothing near even a marginal success either. Best line: “Eastern time?”
(In theaters, November 1999) As a good little (lapsed) catholic boy, I got a kick out of this film, maybe more than it actually deserves from an objective point of view. Kevin Smith’s script oscillates between the sharply clever and the drawn-out obvious, but gets the job done. The casting is spectacular, though unequal: even though I generally worship Salma Hayek, she wasn’t the best choice for Serendipity. Steadily funny, with an irreverent questioning streak, Dogma is actually respectful to both theist and atheist crowds, encouraging everyone to question their beliefs… and that’s respectable enough for any film.
(On TV, November 1999) Yet again, Sylvester Stallone plays the role of a supremely competent man with a past trauma suddenly thrown into a dangerous situation. Unfortunately, this is no Cliffhanger and though Daylight is an adequately competent disaster film, it’s nothing special. The traditional cast of diverse characters populate the script, none being especially interesting. (Well, none beyond the millionaire adventurer, who’s killed too early) The initial tunnel disaster is impressive from a visual effects point of view, but the rest of the film is rather more pedestrian. You won’t believe some of the Stupid Mistakes made by the screenwriter.
(On TV, November 1999) A triumphant revision of noir thrillers, with the assorted background of mafia, greed, smouldering sexual tension and pervasive gritty atmosphere. This is the Wachowski Brothers’ first feature (their second would be The Matrix) and it already shows the mixture of mesmerizing direction, borrowed influences and comic-book plotting that made their follow-up features so successful. This is a film that isn’t really complex, but looks so damn polished that it’s impossible to avoid being favorably impressed. Cool scenes, cooler visuals, focused script and femmes fatales (Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon! Woo-hoo!)… I don’t need much more to recommend this one.
(In theaters, November 1999) This might be one of the most original film of the year, but that in no way implies that it’s a supremely entertaining one. It’s always a personal wonder that from time to time, film critics will be bowled over by “originality”, as if that excused everything. You’ve got to wonder about frames of reference. I’ve read far too many SF and Fantasy tales that were far weirder that Being John Malkovich, so allow me to be unimpressed at how “startlingly fresh” it seems. I didn’t like the characters, I didn’t like the easy “explanation”, I didn’t like pedestrian direction and I didn’t like the “oh-it’s-a” monkey either. I did like a few sight gags (eg; the 7.5th floor, Malkovich being Malkovich) and Malkovich’s performance, but beyond that… why don’t you grab a modern fantasy anthology and start reading?
(In theaters, November 1999) An exploration of marriage relatively more successful than Forces Of Nature, but not by much. As a comedy, it has a few scattered chuckles, but nothing much beyond the striking visual gags of a man being chased by a thousand women in bridal outfits. (the production costs, my, the production costs!) As a romance, it’s bland; we never ever doubt that the two leads are going to end together, and the structure of the film does not allow for that down-low moment where everything seems irrevocably lost. Renée Zellweger is cuter than ever and James Cromwell is suitably sympathetic as a pastor.
(On TV, November 1999) As far as pure B-movie adventures go, you really can’t find better than Anaconda. Directed with some skill and scripted according to the most basic standards of the genre, this film knows exactly what it is, and makes no apologies for it. Jennifer Lopez has never looked so good (spending most of her considerable screen time sweaty in a tight shirt) and John Voight redefines over-the-top villainy. Some special effects look fake, making a shocking contrast with the remainder of the CGI-intensive visuel effects. A great unassuming video choice.
(In theaters, November 1999) Where did this movie come from? How is it we didn’t hear more of it? A quasi-hallucinatory mixture of genres finally ending in pure science-fiction, Open Your Eyes is the kind of reality-bending film that Hollywood often aims for but never quite achieves. While longish in the beginning, and not always consistent, this is a film to hunt for at you local video store. To say more would be to spoil the film.
(In theaters, October 1999) An uneven but mostly good-to-great film about the Gulf War and its aftermath. George Clooney is as solid as in his previous films and Mark Wahlberg continues to turn in decent performances. Director Russell makes a few disputable choices (his usage of a grainy Ecktachrome film stock wasn’t a good idea; the film will look better on TV) and can’t manage a consistent tone from one scene to another, but these are mild concerns compared to the guts of making an unflinching film about recent American failings. Some scenes are very very good, though one would almost wish for the black comedy of the film to be carried through all of it, not only the first hour.
(On TV, October 1999) This manages to be a good film despite a couple of Stupid Screenwriting Mistakes (eg; not turning in the corpse, not disposing of the body more efficiently, not splitting up the loot, not transferring the content of the briefcase), mostly due to effective direction, good acting and adequate pacing. Ewan MacGregor has a good role. Suspicious psychology, but it works. Shallow Grave attains a level of competence that should be the norm for the genre.
(On TV, October 1999) Not quite the ultimate horror-movie post-modern deconstruction I had been led to believe, but it works relatively well as a psycho movie, and does contain a few precious lines (“It’s the millennium; motives are irrelevant.”) Unfortunately, writer Williamson falls in love with his own wit (which isn’t all that witty) and the film does have a few looong stretches and unexplainable events. (Witness the amazingly contrived reaction of the students upon learning what happened to the principal) As demonstrated in his latter The Faculty, Williamson doesn’t allow audiences to play fair, mostly because otherwise his tricks are too transparent: in the case of Scream, the fair part of the whodunit is too easy to guess, so he throws some kind of where-did-that-come-from twist. Neve Campbell contributes significantly to the film’s babe factor. Worth seeing—if only for the copycat impact it had on the subgenre.
(In theaters, October 1999) This shows how difficult it is to talk about a competent romantic comedy. Yes, Richard Gere and Julia Roberts make a beautiful couple. Yes, the script follows the boy-hates-girl, boy-likes-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-marries-girl scenario. Yes, the romance and the laughs are there. Beyond that… not much to add. A pleasant, but otherwise empty film. Not that you’d feel cheated.
(On TV, October 1999) In retrospect, it’s easy to see why this film has become the cult classic film of all cult classic films. Despite the (intentionally?) awful dialogue and overall silliness, the film manages to be weirdly appealing. “The Time Warp” is still a great dance track. Tim Curry makes a strong impression despite running around in drag for most of his screen-time. Who would have thought that Susan Sarandon would win an Oscar twenty years after first starring in this film? No way to ignore it, The Rocky Horror Picture Show remains delightfully weird and packs in more than curio value: a must-see.
(On TV, October 1999) There is a bit more to this film than fat jokes and juvenile gross-out humour, but not that much more. Some of the screenwriting is so obvious that it’s painful. The romance between the two leads isn’t exactly believable. On the other hand, there are a few cute visual gags (the hamster invasion, the Fatzilla dream sequence) and the remainder of the film flows relatively well. Not worth bothering yourself, but a good past-time if ever it plays on TV while you’re washing dishes.