1999 Reviews

GALAXYQUEST
(PG) - December 26

        

    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: Has been TV stars must save an alien species from certain doom.

REVIEW: This is a very funny movie even if you don't know a thing about sci-fi or Star Trek. But, if you are a Trekker, this film is a laugh riot. GALAXYQUEST manages to have some good natured fun with the dynamics of the Star Trek universe without ever demeaning its source material. Many elements of this film will be familiar to Star Trek fans, from the egotistical, self involved captain, to the actors hopelessly trapped in their TV roles and finally to the fans obsessed with a cancelled TV show. In one scene, a rabid GALAXYQUEST fan reluctantly admits that the show was never real. But, when one of the actors tells him that it is real the fan enthusiastically exclaims, "I knew it!" If you're not a sci-fi fan this movie is still a good time but, if you are a sci-fi fan... set phasers on stun, boldly go down to your local cineplex and have a great time. Never give up and never surrender!


BICENTENNIAL MAN
(PG) - December 18

        

    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: Android wants to become human.

REVIEW: If you go to this movie expecting a comedy, as the commercials lead you to believe, you will be disappointed. Most of the funny scenes are in the commercials. Robin Williams plays Andrew, an android who evolves over the course of two centuries to become human. Along the way, his flesh and blood companions grow old and die... repeatedly. This movie pulls out all the stops to be a tear-jerker so be sure to bring along a couple of hankies. Overall, this movie isn't a bad sci-fi drama but, it's a miserable comedy.


DEUCE BIGALOW: MALE GIGALO
(R) - December 10

        

    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: Fish tank cleaner becomes "manwhore".

REVIEW: This movie had a few good moments but it wasn't the laugh riot I was expecting. Rob Schneider is fine when playing small roles but he seemed to have difficulty carrying his first leading role. The best moments for me were the Matrix-inspired fight scenes and Deuce's pimp, TJ. His way of describing their profession was quite amusing. Adam Sandler, Rob Schneider's Saturday Night Live pal, executive produced this film. Having friends in high places is a good thing.


THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH
(PG-13) - December 3

        

    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: Bond, babes, bombs... boring.

REVIEW: An ailing James Bond must foil a plot that will put control of most of the world's oil in the hands of one person. Along the way there are the expected chases, explosions and beautiful women, but it seemed to be mising something. The movie felt as if it were built on an assembly line or fashioned with the same old cookie cutter process as all the other Bond films. Maybe, just maybe, its time to shakeup the 007 series. First, develop a story that does not follow the typical Bond formula. Second, hire an over-the-top action director like John Woo or possibly the Wachowski brothers from The Matrix. But, this time around... the world was definitely not enough.


END OF DAYS
(R) - November 27

        

    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: The devil comes to New York to find a date but "Ah-nuld" disagrees.

REVIEW: Arnold Schwarznegger's first film in over two years could have been better. Although his performance is above average, Gabriel Byrne seems to have a lot more fun being bad in this movie. The first three quarters of this film were very promising, outstanding special effects, genuinely tense moments and some interesting characters. As long as you could overlook the numerous plot gaps and lapses in intelligence End of Days was an exciting film. The major problem was the ending... I hear it was reshot after religous groups previewed the film and thought that a battle with Satan could not be fought with ordinary weapons. So, the ending was changed... maybe for the better, but it left me feeling cheated out of an even more spectacular struggle of good vs. evil.


TOY STORY 2
(G) - November 26

        

    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: Woody is kidnapped so it's Buzz and the other toys to the rescue.

REVIEW: If you liked the original Toy Story... you will LOVE Toy Story 2. The animation is flawless as well as the story. Adults will enjoy this film as much as their children do. This movie spoofs Star Wars, Jurassic Park and at the same time deals with the subject of mortality. Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Kelsey Grammer, Wayne Knight and the other voice actors are all outstanding. My hope for the Toy Story series is much like Buzz Lightyear's catchphrase, "To infinity and beyond!"


SLEEPY HOLLOW
(R) - November 19

        

    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: Big city constable travels to small town to investigate beheadings.

REVIEW: Tim Burton's reinterpretation of Washington Irving's classic is a visual masterpiece. The spooky atmosphere, sets, costumes, props all have that trademark Tim Burton style. Jonny Depp and Christini Ricci are the main protagonists, but the scene stealer, of course, is the headless horseman. The horsemen is actually played by two people... Chistopher Walken, when the horseman was... taller and Ray Park when he was shorter. You may remember Ray Park from Star Wars... as the evil Darth Maul. I just wish there was more of the horseman in the movie. And I don't just mean his head...


THE MESSENGER - THE JOAN OF ARC STORY
(R) - November 12

        

    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: Crazy girl saves France from England then burns at the stake.

REVIEW: Director and screenwriter, Luc Besson, has made several movies I have liked; La Femme Nikita, The Professional and The Fifth Element. His latest effort, The Messenger does not fall into that category. And I'm not sure why... the cinematography, costuming and most of the performances were adequate to outstanding. But the movie seemed to drag a great deal and I was getting very tired of the numerous dramatic pauses. A character would begin to speak, pause, then just when you think they were going to say something profound, or at least interesting, the scene changes. After seeing this film all I can say is that Joan of Arc was either inspired or insane. I'm not sure which. Either way, this movie had good intentions but just never delivers the message.


THE BONE COLLECTOR
(R) - November 5

        

    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: Psycho kills people as paralyzed forensic cop and female rookie try to stop him.

REVIEW: Bone Collector starts with Denzel Washington's character, a forensic police officer, at the top of his game... until an accident leaves him almost completely paralyzed. Several years pass and he's lost all hope and has scheduled his own assisted suicide. Enter a young female officer, played by Angelina Jolie, that discovers and documents a crime scene. The two join forces to discover the identity of the killer. This was your average thriller... and if you pay close attention early you can probably guess who the madman is. Some scenes may make squemish individuals squirm but, I was expecting more in the shock department. All in all, this movie could have used a little more meat on the bone... pun intended.


DEEP BLUE SEA
(R) - October 22

        

    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: Sharks get smart and eat people.

REVIEW: Deep Blue Sea has been out for some time but, my wife has a serious aversion to shark films. So, I had to wait until she went on a little vacation to catch this Renny Harlin flick. It's your standard "Who's going to live?" movie with a few surprises. The computer-generated sharks look very good... so do the computer-generated body parts. Eeeewwww! This film is a no-brainer but enjoyable nonetheless.


AMERICAN BEAUTY
(R) - October 15

        

    PLOT: A year in the life of a dysfunctional family.

REVIEW: The movie's opening narration introduces Lester Burnham... and the fact that he will be dead in one year. Kevin Spacey plays Lester Burnham a sexually frustrated man, on the verge of losing his job, whose daughter hates him and whose wife (played by Annette Bening) is having an affair. There are some very funny moments in this film with some unexpected twists and turns. American Beauty is being hailed as a classic... which, although this film was better than I expected, it doesn't reach classic status in my book. Dramas, as a rule, tend to bore me a little. I like escapist fantasy when I go to the theater... not films about relatively ordinary life. Been there... done that.


RANDOM HEARTS
(R) - October 8

        

    PLOT: Harrison Ford plays a happily-married police officer whose wife is killed in a plane crash. On the same plane was the husband of Kristin Scott Thomas' character, a congresswoman facing re-election. Through some detective work, the two discover that their spouses were having an affair. What follows is the two of them trying to get past their anger, their loss and finally being able to get on with their lives.

REVIEW: A rather long, depressing film that I did not find entertaining. Harrison Ford's character becomes obsessed with finding out the hows and whys of his wife's affair while Kristin Scott Thomas' character would rather leave the entire situation at the bottom of the river where the plane crashed. Their spouses were dead... what the hell did Harrison Ford's character hope to find out that would make a bit of difference?! I didn't buy his motivation. Kristin Scott Thomas' performance was fine as the grieving widow but, Harrison Ford's strong, silent facade grew tiresome. Also... Harrison's earring and haircut seemed out of place. And the brief love affair the two have seemed somewhat contrived but, not totally unbelievable. Now, if you want to see a good Harrison Ford love story, watch either Witness or Regarding Henry... and run screaming from the theater if Random Hearts is playing.


THREE KINGS
(R) - October 1

        

    PLOT: At the end of the Gulf War, four soldiers discover a map showing the location of Saddam's secret bunkers. These bunkers contain gold, and other items, stolen from Kuwait. They decide to liberate the gold for themselves until Iraqi citizens, fighting against Saddam's rule, get caught in the middle.

REVIEW: This isn't your typical war movie. It's an amalgam of numerous movie genre's. Dark comedy, action, drama, war, thriller and tying them all together... the great caper. The overexposed, grainy quality of the film, along with the frantic camera work heightens the tension. There are also numerous slow-motion action sequences which work very well. George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg and Ice Cube do outstanding jobs in what must have been a very difficult picture to shoot. Ultimately, you could probably guess how the movie ends but, how they reach that conclusion is easily worth the price of admission.

DID YOU KNOW?: There's a bit of controversy surrounding THREE KINGS. When George Clooney's character describes the damage a bullet inflicts on a body, it was rumored that a human cadaver was used for filming that sequence. The director says it's true but other people say it wasn't. Either way... there's got to be an easier way to get into movies.


DOUBLE JEOPARDY
(R) - September 24

        

    PLOT: Ashley Judd's character is accused and convicted of murdering her husband... although his body was never found. Her best friend adopts her son while she begins her prison sentence. By chance, she finds out that her husband isn't dead. Not only that, he's shacking up with her ex-best friend that has custody of her son. That's when a former lawyer, turned inmate, tells Ashley Judd's character about double jopardy. Simply put... you can't be convicted of the same crime twice. Since she was previously convicted of murdering her husband she could kill him now and not be charged with a crime.

REVIEW: Tommy Lee Jones plays a parole officer and is onscreen for only a third of the movie. His performance was good although a little subdued. Ashley Judd's performance was convincing... plus it doesn't hurt that she is very easy on the eyes. Aside from creative interpretation of the law and convenient coincidences, Double Jeopardy was an entertaining action thriller. Even though everyone in the theater knew the eventual outcome... it was still a satisfying conclusion.


BLUE STREAK
(PG-13) - September 17

        

    Martin Lawrence plays Logan, a thief whose partner in crime betrays him during a jewel heist. Logan hides the jewel in a building under construction before being arrested. Two years later he's a free man and promptly returns to the building to retrieve his ill-gotten gain. Unfortunately for Logan, that building is now a police station. The only way to get in... pretend to be a cop.

Blue Streak is Martin Lawrence at his best, unlike the recent film Life, where he was merely Eddie Murphy's straight man. Martin's various disguises, especially the pizza delivery guy, are hilarious without without having to use extreme profanities or sick humor. Don't get me wrong... I like extreme profanities and sick humor... I just think that proves how funny Martin Lawrence is by not resorting to those tactics. This film may not be a comedy classic but, for some good clean laughs... Blue Streak is likely to be among America's Most Wanted.


STIR OF ECHOES
(R) - September 10

        

    Kevin Bacon plays an ordinary man that discovers he has extraordinary abilities. During a party, his sister-in-law hypnotizes him and when he awakens, he's suddenly a "receiver." He has visions, precognitions and encounters with ghosts... abilities that his young son already possesses. While this film shares certain similarities with The Sixth Sense, Stir of Echoes is a more intense film that focuses less on the child and more on the adult. The story builds momentum as Kevin Bacon's character slowly loses his sanity trying to figure out what his visions are trying to tell him. Overall, Stir of Echoes is a solid film with above average special effects and a few scenes that make you jump. Kevin Bacon's performance as the average guy is convincing. The story may be somewhat predictable but, for people that like scarey thrillers... Stir of Echoes is a spooky diversion.


CHILL FACTOR
(PG-13) - September 3

        

    As far as action/buddy flix go, this one wasn't bad... but it wasn't great either. Basically, a chemical weapon is developed that detonates when it reaches 50 degrees. The Colonel in charge of the chemical's first test, which goes horribly wrong, is imprisoned as a scapegoat. Over the next ten years he plots his revenge. Steal the compound and sell it to the highest bidder. Skeet Ulrich is a drifter that just happens to befriend the scientist that developed the weapon. Cuba Gooding Jr.'s character has stolen a refrigerated truck. This comes in handy when they need to transport the temperature sensitive chemical to a nearby fort with the ex-Colonel hot on their heels. This is NOTa must-see movie but, it's a good way to waste a couple of hours.


THE 13TH WARRIOR
(R) - August 27

        

    One thing's for sure, Antonio Banderas makes a better Zorro than he does an Arab. In the 13th Warrior, Antonio's character is banished from his country for having a supposed affair with a dignitaries' wife. He soon comes upon a band of Norsemen that have been recruited to assist a neighboring kingdom from attack by the "eaters of the dead." It's then up to these 12 warriors, Antonio makes 13, to save the day. Sounds exciting. Unfortunately, the film makers spend little time with character development... or plot development for that matter. So, whether these character's live or die... seems unimportant. Most of the action sequences seemed to be lacking much... action or at least any you could see. And finally, any film that was completed almost 2 years before it's release was probably held back for a reason. If you're an Antonio Banderas fan or maybe you really dig vikings, see this film. Otherwise...rent the first Conan movie for real barbarians.


THE SIXTH SENSE
(PG-13) - August 20

        

    The Sixth Sense, simply put, is the story of a man trying to help a boy. And by doing so, he hopes to help himself. Bruce Willis plays Malcolm Crowe, a prominent child psychologist who is attacked in his home by a former patient. The story picks up almost a year later when the doctor sees similarities between Cole Sears, played by young Haley Joel Osment and the patient that attacked him then commited suicide. "I see dead people," reveals Cole after Malcolm eventually gains his trust. It's nearly halfway through the film before we see these "dead people," which are a little gruesome at times. Bruce Willis isn't his usual over-the-top self in this film. His acting is more subdued and thoughtful but, Haley Joel Osment steals the show. Best known for his role as the son of Forest Gump, Haley has a screen presence that most actors never achieve after a lifetime of work. This film is not fast paced but, it is never boring. The story builds to a surprise conclusion that, even though I knew there was going to be a twist ending, I didn't figure it out until the very end. I won't spoil the movie by giving away the ending... unless, of course, you're the type of person that reads the last page of a novel first. Then maybe I'd tell you... maybe.


THE IRON GIANT
(PG) - August 16

        

    Warner Brothers new animated feature, The Iron Giant, is set during the "Red Scare" of the 1950's. The mentality of that time... if it was unknown or un-American it should probably be destroyed. Enter a 100-foot tall extra-terrestrial battle robot with a voracious appetite for scrap metal and no memory of what it is or where it came from. Our young hero, Hogarth Hughes, finds and befriends the giant and teaches it about life. This film is destined to become an animated classic. It's a wonderful story with incredible computer and hand-drawn animation. I think that parents may like this film more than their children. Even, if you don't have kids you should still see this movie. It's that good.


BOWFINGER
(PG-13) - August 13

        

    Steve Martin plays Bobby Bowfinger, a struggling filmmaker who thinks he's found the greatest script of all time... from his accountant, no less. Eddie Murphy has dual roles as Kit Ramsey, a very paranoid action star and Jiff Jefferson, a braces-wearing simpleton that bears a striking similarity to Kit Ramsey. This film, which was written by Steve Martin and directed by Frank Oz, pokes fun at the trappings of Hollywood and the trials of filmmaking. Bowfinger ranges from mildly amusing to extremely funny. The scenes with Kit Ramsey being secretly filmed are the funniest moments in the movie. The final scene is also a riot. Overall, I liked Bowfinger but, it probably won't end up in my DVD collection.


MYSTERY MEN
(R) - August 6

        

    The new Mystery Men movie, inspired by Bob Burden's Dark Horse comic, is a satirical look at the world of superheroes... and those desperately wanting to be heroes. Comic book inspired movies are more often miss than hit. Rare exceptions like The Crow and the first Batman movie do come to mind. Mystery Men does deliver numerous funny moments but, it isn't as sharp as it should be. With an ensemble cast featuring the likes of Ben Stiller, Janeane Garofalo, Hank Azaria, William H. Macy, Gregg Kinnear and Paul Ruebens... I expected a little more. That doesn't mean that this movie isn't funny and entertaining... on the contrary. The pacing just seems a little too slow at times but, if you like comic books come to life... you'll like Mystery Men. The film's moral... no matter how small your contribution... you can make a difference. According to the movie... that includes flatulence!


THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT
(R) - July 30

        

    If you plan on seeing The Blair Witch Project... try not to learn too much behind the scenes stuff before you make it to the local cineplex. That may be easier said than done, what with all the media buzz and attention devoted to this little independent film. The big question. Is the film scary..? Yes. As scary as The Exorcist...? In my opinion, no. But, this is the kind of film that gets under your skin and makes you think about it long after it's over. Every other scary movie you've seen is just that... a scary movie. This movie tries to be something different. And, when taking into account the lack of budget, special effects, known actors, etc., this film is a great accomplishment. I will recommend that you catch Curse of the Blair Witch on the Sci-Fi Channel for background story on the Blair Witch legend and to be careful when camping in the wilderness near Burkittsville...


THE HAUNTING
(PG-13) - July 23

        

    With a name like "The Haunting" you would expect that when the lights go down in the theater you would have the wits scared out of you, right? Wrong. Aside from a few scenes where things jump out at you there wasn't any real tension or terror. The plot is predictable and the characters are one dimensional. Aside from a scene or two where the computer generated effects seemed "phoney" the visual effects were very good. But I think that was the main problem with the film. Everything was shown. Fear is usually generated by what isn't shown, what lurks in the shadows,,, the unknown. But, as a way to waste a Saturday afternoon, "The Haunting" is fine escapist entertainment but, if you want to be scared... go see "The Blair Witch Project."


AMERICAN PIE
(R) - July 16

        

    The basic premise of American Pie... four friends make a pact to lose their virginity before they graduate high school. Sounds like your typical teen sex comedy but, it's definitely a cut above the rest. The father and son facts of life talks are a riot as well as the "self satisfaction" scenes. The laughs slow down a little during the middle of the film, then pick up again as the deadline for losing their virginity gets closer. One thing is certain, after seeing this movie, you'll never look at apple pie the same way again.


ARLINGTON ROAD
(R) - July 9

        

    Arlington Road is NOT the feel good movie of the summer. It starts a little unnervingly then slows down to a snail's pace until the last 25 minutes. Arlington Road does make you think about how the media and the government put their own spin on acts of American terrorism but, that isn't enough to keep your interest. The acting is above par, but at times you just want to smack Jeff Bridges' character for being so incredibly dense. The bottomline, this movie doesn't offer enough bang for the buck.


WILD WILD WEST
(PG-13) - July 2

        

    I was quite disappointed with Wil Smith's latest would-be blockbuster, I refer to it as MILD MILD WEST. The jokes seemed to fall flat and several of the cast members seemed uncomfortable in their respective roles. Due to above average special effects and a few humorous moments this movie avoids the dreaded BLAND rating. Barely.


SOUTH PARK: BIGGER, LONGER & UNCUT
(R) - June 30

        

    I'd advise against drinking a soda during this film or you will likely shoot carbonated liquid violently through your nostrils. Quite painful I assure you. Now, this film isn't for everyone but, it was the funniest movie I've seen in years. Actually, I can't remember when I laughed as much. Nothing is sacred in this film as South Park creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, practically declare war on censorship and the MPAA. If you have an open mind - SEE THIS FILM otherwise Cartman will kick you square in the beanbag!


TARZAN
(G)- June 18

        

    I admit it. I'm a sucker for animated films. Especially ones from Disney. Although, I was apprehensive when I heard Phil Collins was doing the music for this film but, I was pleasantly surprised. The Rosie O'donnell character was a little annoying at times but the real star of the film wasn't the actors. It was Deep Canvas, software developed by Disney animators that allows the animated characters to interact with the backgrounds like never before. The software took two years to develop and is on the screen for maybe 15 minutes. Another Disney classic. Me like Tarzan.


AUSTIN POWERS: THE SPY WHO SHAGGED ME
(PG-13) - June 11

        

    To be honest, I didn't think the original Austin Powers movie was that funny. In my opinion, the funniest bit in the first film was Austin trying to turn a golf cart around. This time though, Austin Powers, delivers the laughs. I'll admit that there is lot of sick humor. Due mostly to Fat Bastard, one of the three characters that Mike Meyers portrays onscreen. Also, I never realized there were so many ways to describe a man's... manhood. Oh, behave.


NOTTING HILL
(PG-13) - May 28

        

    Okay, this isn't a typical Vince Stone movie but, I'm willing to compromise. Especially when the women beg... oh, yeah. First of all, I was surprised that I actually liked this film. It was cute, romantic and oftentimes humorous. Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts have a good rapport onscreen and the supporting cast had some very funny moments. Women will love this film and most guys will probably like it... even if they won't admit it.


TREKKIES
(PG) - May 21

        

    Local attendence for Trekkies' opening night was myself, my wife Jo Ann, Sarah, Sheila and someone I didn't know. A grand total of 5 people in the entire theater. The sad thing is... this is a good film. But, realistically, a documentary about Star Trek fans does have a limited audience. Denise Crosby, Tasha Yar from Next Generation, narrates this funny and sometimes bizarre look at fans, fandom and stars. The highlight of Trekkies, for us anyway, was the appearance of several of our friends... especially John Paladin. John belongs to the same philanthropic Star Trek club that we do and he has some good moments on camera. This film is fun and even if you're not a Star Trek fan you might find it interesting. Live long and prosper.


STAR WARS EPISODE 1: PHANTOM MENACE
(PG) - May 19

        

    It is difficult for most films to live up to the media and studio hype. Star Wars was no exception. Except that the level of hype for Episode 1 was unprecedented. Now, if you're a Star Wars fan, this is a must-see. If you're not, it's still a good old-fashioned Sci-Fi movie. The film did have some minor flaws. They dazzle you with lots of digital eye candy at the seeming expense of character developement. Some of the animated characters seem to be racial cliches - which really didn't bother me - I just wish that they were easier to understand. At least Star Trek has Universal Translators! Oh well, I'm sure that 90% of the people reading this have already seen the film... May the force be with you!


BLACK MASK
(R) - May 14

        

    The producers of this Hong Kong film are trying to capitalize on Jet Li's recent US popularity due to his role in Lethal Weapon 4. Unfortunately, this film is several years old, and it doesn't stand the test of time. Aside from a few nifty fight scenes, this film was forgettable. If you're a big Hong Kong action afficionado or maybe president of Jet Li's fan club, you could probably watch this... otherwise, wait til Jet makes another movie.


THE MUMMY
(PG-13) - May 7

        

    The Mummy is a fast-paced adventure, with lots of action, comedy and some very cool special effects. There are a few scenes that might make you jump but overall, this film is more like an Indiana Jones epic instead of a horror movie. The success of the Mummy will probably start a Universal Monster Movie revival. Frankenstein, Dracula... the Wolfman, oh my.