Monthly Archives: July 1999

Dick (1999)

What should have been a biting satire on the whole Watergate mess and Nixon’s resignation comes off as hackneyed and clumsily written. The jokes are stale and moronic, the script is sophomoric, and the satire is not even close to biting. It all appears like it was written by a freshman that got the Cliff Notes on Watergate then decided to watch an episode of Charlie’s Angels.

Kirsten Dunst once again manages to make me question when I will ever enjoy her in a performance. The ditzy girls idea grows thin by the opening sequence let alone stretched to the rest of the movie. There are some bright spots like Dan Hedaya playing Nixon uncannily, and some former SNL and Kids in the Hall alums having fun with the material and parodying their characters. So why didn’t they feature more of them?! Please tell me! The movie is lame and  unfunny, and even more so when you account all the double entendres using the name “Dick.” I could very easily use the title of the movie in some sexually inuendous reference to how bad this movie sucks, but I’m above that. For now.

Nate’s Grade: C

Go (1999)

The sophomore outing of director Doug Liman, the man who put the swinger in Swingers baby, is far from any slump – no it’s more like an achievement. Liman is a man that knows what he wants and an excellent visual artist. Go is a spinning tour-de-force joyride of energetic fun. The movie is down right infectious. It stays in your system for many days, no weeks, after viewing. Consult your physician for proper treatment.

Born in the shadow of Pulp Fiction with the disjointed narrative structure, interlocking plots, retelling of events through different perspectives, and out-of-place editing, Go is the first movie to deserve having the comparisons to Tarantino’s masterpiece of blood and violence. It’s like a child of Fiction, with teens as the main stars and doing some awfully idiotic things mainly because… they’re teenagers. The story of Go is bursting to the seams with clever and embraceable characters, witty and hilarious dialogue, and enough plot twists to keep any viewer frothing at the mouth for more. Again, consult your physician.

The movie reminds me in a way as a American Graffitti or Fast Times at Ridgemont High for the fresh stable load of young talent displayed. Everyone fits nicely and performs excellently, like Timothy Olyphant’s devilishly charming and dangerous turn as a drug dealer, and Taye Diggs who helped get Stella’s groove back and is now the too cool for words friend of a grocery clerk on their trip to Vegas which turns into a comedy of errors. But the standout amongst all the talent is that little delectable Canadian bundle of joy known as Sarah Polley. Playing one of the chief protagonists, she is fascinating and compelling. She takes the role and shines the brightest in a movie filled with equally bright stars. I look forward to seeing what she does in the future.

Set against the L.A. rave scene Go tells the story circling around a 24-hour period of tantric sex, drug deals, a police sting, a lap dance, gay soap stars, and good ole’ chew-able aspirin. The movie is driven by an awesome soundtrack of techno and rock that seems to act like the narrator of our little tale. Go is brisk, breathless, rigorously hip and smart. Finally an INTELLIGENT teen movie. Too bad not too many teens went to see it at the theaters judging from box office scores. I guess they all wanted to see Ryan Phillipe’s ass one more time in Cruel Intentions. But Go is a fascinating trip you’ll want to take over and over and wish the sun would never come back up. Do not pass Go.

Nate’s Grade: A

This movie also revisited and analyzed in the article, “1999: The Greatest Year in Film? A Review Re-View.”

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

Who’s afraid of the big bad witch? Well apparently a nation of audiences and studio heads. I’ve heard all kinds of horror stories from people lying in the corners of theaters until the movie was over, to people running out screaming, to the distribution of barf bags by theaters (of course it might be due to the hand held camera and motion sickness). Well after all the hype I finally ventured out to see it after some failed attempts at evening shows that managed to be sold out. I’ll say right now that I was never very afraid. Of course there may have been some effect being that I saw it around three in the afternoon.

But I did come away with a great appreciation for what these kids have done. They themselves with a mere $100,000 budget have practically reinvented horror and given it a complete turn from where the Kevin Williamson post-irony pseudo hip teen slasher films were leading us. And I for one couldn’t be happier. The anticipation of the unknown is far more frightening than being slowly chased by a man in a rain slicker. That’s exactly what Blair Witch offers. It’s no typical horror flick. It lets you create the fear in your head and let you drive yourself mad with it. The tension is slowly building and building as the trio get even more lost, paranoid, and frightened. It really is a truly innovative effort and done so realistically that people still swear to their hearts it’s all true. I think more credit should go to the actors then the directors for how effectively real the movie was. When they’re not yelling profanity all the time they do manage to come off as very believable and we see how they are all slowly breaking down internally like a case study. Just remember people, money doesn’t equal scares.

Nate’s Grade: B

This movie also revisited and analyzed in the article, “1999: The Greatest Year in Film? A Review Re-View.”

Blade (1998)

You know when you’re watching a flick and you see former porn actress Traci Lords sucking someone’s fluids… well you’re in for a treat. Enter Blade, the latest installment into the vampire chronicles of celluloid. But this one is such an energetic rush that even author Anne Rice hawked up on crank couldn’t churn this one out.

I will confess right now that I am most partial to vampire movies. It’s a guilty pleasure I’m not embarrassed of. What other genres out there could you expect to find titles from Abbot and Costello meet Dracula to Blackula? Not in any period piece I’ll tell you that. So I’m strangely drawn to vampire flicks, and this one quenches your thirst.

Wesley Snipes surmises the role of Blade, the half-human, half-vampire, all ass-kicker with great enthusiasm. Most of his lines are either snarled or more snarled, but what are you gonna’ do when you work the midnight shift? The story is pretty hokey but provides just enough moments for some intense action sequences. And that’s what keeps this movie together. The glue of this foundation are the adrenaline pumping action sequences with Snipes just flying around and turning anxiously aggressive vampires into annoying CGI particles. At times the movie can drag because you’re waiting for another action sequence in between the spillings of blood and gore.

The biggest problem in Blade is the wimpy villain. I have nothing against Stephen Dorff but he’s the most non-frightening and ineffectual villain since Colonel Clink tried halting Hogan’s Heroes. He comes off as a skinny kid trying to push around the big guys. I never bought anything from him. I can’t see how he’s an adversary to Snipes’ brooding and stoic hero. Wesley could push the kid down with one arm and twist it around his back ’til he cried “mercy.”

The best comic book transition to movie since 1989’s Batman. Thank God New Line didn’t try and hound a franchise out of this like they did to ruin Spawn and Lost in Space, of course the hellaciously bad writing might have to do with their failures as well. But Blade gets the most from every drop of blood and every electronic beat on the techno enriched soundtrack. A hip and entertaining vampire action flick.

Nate’s Grade: B

Run Lola Run (1999)

There is a certain vibe some movies resonate while watching. With some it’s the mood of pure nausea, some the feel of being derivative and meandering, but there are those few that seem to leap from the screen, slap you in the face, and scream cool. It happened with Pulp Fiction, it was there with Trainspotting and The Matrix, and you better believe every precious frame of Run Lola Run drips with a feeling of absolute cool.

Since the movie is foreign, German, and subtitled, I’m sure most out there don’t know about it. It’s the tale of Lola’s desperate quest to save her boyfriend Manni. See Manni runs money for a very shady character and has accidentally lost a bag of money earlier. Lola has twenty minutes to retrieve 100,000 Deutschmarks somehow or else he will in an act of desperation rob a corner grocery store which inevitably means his doom. So Lola dashes out the door and she runs. And does she ever!

Born in an age of avant garde MTV videos and a declining attention span nationwide, Lola is a dizzyingly kinetic concoction of energy ]and excitement.The movie is a colorful fireworks display of multiple outcomes and the varying degree minute choices and details can have on our lives. The movie is a living video game telling Lola’s trek three different ways and showing the possibilities of chance and fate.

With each run the audience’s heart beats to the thumping presence of the blistering electronica soundtrack pulsing along Lola’ runs. It simulates her racing heart and that of the audience watching. Within an hour of seeing the flick I had to run out and get the soundtrack, and after a brief listen it made me want to run myself.

The movie has more energy than the Energizer bunny, and our carrot-topped heroine could run circles around his fluffy ass. The narrative structure poses the question to audiences how our lives could be different with any of the small choices that occur day-to-day in our lives. The idea was seen in last year’s Sliding Doors but is much better played out here. All I can say is that Run Lola Run will go down as one of the coolest movies of the millennium and ushers in a new time and genre for the world of cinema. I want my Lola running shoes.

Author’s note: I was so enamored with this film I went as Lola for two Halloweens in a row.

Nate’s Grade: A

The Haunting (1999)

Is this what passes for horror these days? Get an Irish Jedi, a Spanish sword fighting hot tamale, an indie queen, and the co-writer of Rushmore and Bottle Rocket in a creepy home and have curtains blow in the shapes of faces? Is there anyone out there truly terrified of curtains?

From Jan de Bont, the director most known for making cows fly, comes possibly the weakest horror pic ever assembled on two legs. This is no different than the weekend drive-in where they showed all the wretchedly corny movies of people in giant plastic costumes slowly walking and terrorizing young teenagers in love. Except now the costumes are far more expensive. Beyond that nothing has changed.

The story is a bit of a mystery. It’s light when there needs to be more meat, and heavy when it needs to explain itself. It even goes a step further into fulfilling the dreams of many by making Catherine Zeta-Jones bisexual. And of course then there’s the contrived happy ending that seems like something they tacked on from the outcome of a test screening.

The best asset The Haunting has is the utterly beautiful and breath-taking house and sets. You’ll hear it’s name around Oscar time for set designs, and most likely on the winner’s ballot as well. I was wrapped up in the scenery and fell in love with it. Maybe this is a trick by the movie so you don’t notice how bad it really is, well it almost worked. But this isn’t an episode of This Old House, though that might have been scarier.

With the aid of some cheap jump scares and splashy effects, The Haunting registers nothing in the world of frights and fear. It’s really unintentionally funny at many many parts. In fact the audience I saw this with was laughing far more than they were screaming. So you could label The Haunting as the funniest movie of the summer if you wanted. Some movies are just born bad.

Nate’s Grade: D+

Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

There’s a certain awe one has to this film. It’s Stanley Kubrick’s last movie, took over two years in development, has the big name star couple, and no one knows ANYTHING about it. All I can say Eyes Wide Shut the movie is a challenging and engaging work from a titan of a director that will sorely be missed.

The first movie from Kubrick in over a decade comes sweeping in and I couldn’t take my eyes off it. The steady cinematography is gorgeous, coupled with the dream like lighting that seem glowing about on the frames. The story captured my attention and drew me in quickly as I was enthralled. It’s all about the tale of a husband and wife with sexual inadequacies, fantasies, delusions, and jealousy. It’s about the trust in a marriage, and how sex can be used not only as an intimate showing of feelings but as a weapon and as a tool. Journey with Tommy Cruise as he ventures through the city exploring all the different characters and how sex has influenced, controlled, or manipulated their lives.

The movie is adult, yes, but not pornographic. Those who argue it’s expensive porn don’t know what they’re saying. Though there are probably more butt shots of Kidman then necessary the movie never becomes exploitative or gratuitous. The sex here is portrayed more like a Victorian era arrangement instead of the hard-core stuff of today. In fact the sex is far more creepy than erotic. The actors all contribute nicely to the ensemble, even though Nicole Kidman is the slowest talker in the world here. But I couldn’t wait to see what she’d say next; she had me. The movie as well had me mostly.

The movie will certainly not go over well with audiences planning to see a Basic Instinct sequel in this. I blame the poor marketing that made it into something it was far from: a sexy and steamy adult thriller with TONS o’ nudity. So when people file in and find out it’s a two and a half hour art movie with depth, symbolism, and layers they are no doubt disappointed. Especially those who show up in raincoats. The movie is a fitting final work to Kubrick’s collection. Rest in peace Stanley.

Nate’s Grade: B

This movie also revisited and analyzed in the article, “1999: The Greatest Year in Film? A Review Re-View.”

Deep Blue Sea (1999)

So what if the movie is crammed with one-note cardboard characters that double as stereotypes and other reliable characters in the action world? So what if the script was most likely written on the back of a bar napkin in between showings of Jaws on TNT? So what if the movie is helmed by Mr. ex-Geena Davis with a track record of box office losses always following him? So what? And so what if the best acting in the movie is from animatronic sharks? Because despite all these things the movie is pure fun.

The movie actually offers some genuine thrills and suspense. It’s easy to just pigeonhole the movie as another Jaws rip-off, but it’s more of a sweet homage than any blatant rip-off. Deep Blue Sea never seems to take itself seriously and actually seems to revel in the cheese it wallows in.

Despite the fact that the sharks still look like they were created out of Jim Henson’s Muppet workshop, they do come off as believable. The story isn’t even worth printing because it’s all one giant excuse to somehow pose dangerous situations to our crew. It’s all purely corny but it’s just too much fun.

Deep Blue Sea shouldn’t be thought heavily upon because all the movie is at it’s heart is big dumb fun. Don’t try and analyze it above the thrills you get in your seat, you might hurt yourself. At least there’s one movie that’s out that you can just sit and have fun with.

Nate’s Grade: B

Arlington Road (1999)

Psychological thrillers are always much harder to pull off than the standard Hollywood action flicks. Bullets and explosions are replaced with taut mental games and psychological grips played with reluctant victims. Though harder to pull off, the spoils can be fruitful. Arlington Road tries to bridge the gap since the last great psychological movie (a little something called Silence of the Lambs) and has lofty intentions. But its efforts fall short.

The movie moves at a snail’s pace and has the feel of a novel instead of a screenplay. Mark Pellington, the director most known for the Pearl Jam video “Jeremy,” is completely wrong for this picture. His blurs, camera swirls, exaggerated close-ups and poor lighting makes you wonder if they forgot to take off the lens cap and seem entirely out of place. Scenes go on forever with no real connection to one other.

Sure, the movie has a boatload of stars. Tim Robbins wondrously pulls off the menacing feel that his creepy neighbor character needs to seem dangerous. Joan Cusack is the standout with her devilish take on suburban motherhood and her never-ending evil grin. But while the acting is good, the movie is devoid of suspense and tension for the most part.

The movie does pack suspense into the last ten minutes. The ending is haunting and will linger with you for some time after you exit the theater. But even a terrific ending doesn’t make up for what the audience has been made to suffer through to get to that point.

Arlington Road tries to reach for the sky with its idea that terror doesn’t come from overseas, but from our own backyards. The idea is ripe with potential, but Arlington Road never lives up to it. I guess the public will have to wait for the next great psychological thriller. But Arlington Road gives me hope for what the future may bring.

Nate’s Grade: C+

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