Monthly Archives: December 1999

Galaxy Quest (1999)

Hey imagine if the acting troupe of our Star Trek pantheon were to be transported into space to helm a real spacecraft and duel with real aliens-who-look-exactly-like-us-except-for-a-bigger-forehead! Where do I enlist? Then why does ‘Galaxy Quest’ have so much dead space and sentimentality? Bones, answer me that! Galaxy Quest runs hot-and-cold for its duration of time. It’s like bath water you aren’t sure to jump into yet because it could change in an instant… so you wait. The inspired moments of Quest all revolve around the inanities of the television show when brought to life. But the creative moments are shortly overcome with the stomping of fanboy tropes. The jokes often run the gamut and you’d be best to wildly guess which ones will make you crack up and which ones will just make you shake your head. Not even spiffy effects and creature features can squeeze more zest from this uneven sci-fi comedy.

Nate’s Grade: B-

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The Green Mile (1999)

A prison in the heart of the deep South during the era of the Great Depression is not usually the locale you’d find a somber tale of earnest discovery and passionate awareness to the follies of life. Yet here arrives the long anticipated The Green Mile, the second in tag-team efforts from director Frank Darabont and novelist Stephen King in their own genre creation of nostalgic feel-good prison flicks. All the swelling hype could manage to make the movie seem overbearing, but if you’ve got a free afternoon and a butt made of steel then try The Green Mile.

Darabont seems like the perfect visual interpreter to King’s epic narrative spinning of good, evil, and all that fall between. The movie moves at the pace of molasses and clocks in at over three hours in length. Not exactly audience friendly fodder but one and all will be grateful for the decisions taken to build character development and tension instead of blindly rushing through.

Tom Hanks plays a prison guard on the Death Row block of a Southern penitentiary. Despite the bleak and grim surroundings his humanity still shines through. He escorts and oversees the final moments of many men’s remaining breaths along the final walk of green linoleum tile to the electric chair. Enter one mysterious morn John Coffey (Michael Clark Duncan), a towering giant that seems to break all the rules each of the guards on cell block E has come to realize through their years. Coffey has been convicted of the rape and murder of two little girls, but as Hanks soon learns things aren’t always what they seem. The 7-foot miracle worker displays scenes of empathetic healing like to Christ himself. Hanks views are turned and his eyes open, and that’s just the beginning of the heartstrings being pulled. To release anymore of the plot would be a crime punishable by Ole’ Sparky himself in the Green Mile.

The pacing is smooth and wrings out every droplet of mystery and drama needed. The Green Mile‘s comprehensive fable quality transcends the period just like The Shawshank Redemption did as well prior. ‘Mile’ should be expected to be a front-runner for Oscars when balloting begins.

The ensemble acting is magnificently eclectic and truly inspiring. Hanks’ name is so synonymous with Oscar that he might as well shave his head and paint his body gold because come nomination time this man’s name is going straight to the ballot. Other stars give thoughtfully deep and refreshing performances guaranteed to turn a few heads. Duncan’s gentle child-like giant is serene and a benevolently touching figure of innocence and warmth. But one can not forget the presence of a very special rodent by the name of Mr. jingles that deserves billing above the credits itself for the quality performance it puts on.

The Green Mile is a sad, touching ,and rather powerful movie that speaks to the viewer’s emotions and gladly earns every one of them. In the end The Green Mile is nothing beyond a long yarn of a fairy tale; but one told so exceptionally, one performed so extraordinarily, and one directed so deftly that you’ll gladly journey down that mile with ease.

Nate’s Grade: B

Any Given Sunday (1999)

Oliver Stone is a seamstress of visuals and visceral noise. Any Given Sunday is perfect as he delves into the professional world of football and how it becomes a dance of testosterone and fury. But after awhile all the audience feels is a pounding and a ringing in its ears.

The biggest stumbling block may actually be its focal point – there’s too much football! The games last as long as actual games and there are multiple games through out. Though Stone captures the essence nicely that these spandex-clad athletes are the gladiators of today playing in a ballet of chaos, he just throws too many jangled cuts, quick shots, and extreme angles flashing around to hyper-decibel soundtrack fodder. After a while the viewer becomes dizzied by the rush of noise and flash of lights buzzing around their precious skull. It’s enough to cause a concussion simply from watching.

]Most of the action in Any Given Sunday actually happens off the field with some meaty drama delivered by multiple players. Stone focuses in on the people behind the catches and blocks and how the game can control or transform their lives. Finally a drawn-out story that covers football with respect. Diaz and Pacino get into screaming matches for roughly most of the movie, but it’s exciting to see two great actors throw the acting medicine ball back and forth trying to out-duel the one before. The supporting characters all have stories suitable to the game and interesting enough to warrant attention. Jaime Foxx has a nonchalant magnetism that keeps the audience pulling for him even after he vomits for the third time on camera.

Stone lets the viewer into the game of football in a manner truthful yet exaggerated. But with all the whiz-bang he throws out in Any Given Sunday one can’t help but have wished for more constraint in the excess and more minutes for the drama in between.

Nate’s Grade: B-

Bicentennial Man (1999)

I shed a tear for what the great comedian Robin Williams has become. Once the quickest and sharpest of minds just cascading with outrageous and fanciful wit has been turned into the holiday gift-giver of schmaltzy pull-from-the-heartstrings sap.

The story of Bicentennial Man is set in the not-too-distant future, so not-too-distant that it looks like it’s just next week – with the addition of flying cars. The future seems to lack outbursts, crime, and even minorities. Seems like not everyone has a future I guess. In this world of marvels you can buy a shiny metal man for your home life and/or atrociously neglectful parenting needs. Enter walking trash receptical robo-Robin as Sam Niell’s family nanny and solution for not getting his children a dog. Through the 200 years robo-Robin learns to laugh, and love, and what the true meaning of humanity is and heart. Put some scrubs on him and this entire thing is basically Patch Adams in Space.

As the film lags on it grows increasingly more annoying until the point where it might cause audiences to bleed from the ears. If you thought a dentist appointment was painful just wait until the euthanasia comedy kicks in here.

Williams yet again throws on his usual holiday blubbery dough eyes and message of good will. But this time the pill is much harder to swallow, especially coming from an actor encased in silver foam rubber. The movie aims for a deep message of what makes us human, but comes away more likely with the message of “Wait an hour for Williams to get this crap off then do his schtick.” If you’re trying to find out what makes people human, it certainly ain’t this flick. Williams has such unparalleled comic ability that one wonders why he is wasting his time on sappy films like these when he needs to flee back to his zany comedic roots. Anyone could be a robot in this, judging from the acting for a start, but no one can do the things Williams does – and that’s why his uniqueness is being utterly wasted.

The real heart breaker isn’t in this movie, it’s seeing Robin Williams fade into mediocrity and seem content with it.

Nate’s Grade: D

The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)

Interesting and beautifully filmed and yet the complexities have a vacation-porn feel to them as the story churns further. Excellent acting with all involved as they display the top of their game. Matt Damon is magnetic as the socially murderous Mr. Ripley, and often times a bit frightful. He does what he feels needs to be done once he gets a taste of the good life and wants nothing from leaving it behind. Supporting players such as Jude Law and the oh so talented Phillip Seymour Hoffman contribute solidly and flawlessly. Ripley actually packs more suspense then you would think from the man responsible for one of my most boring theater experiences (I mean of course The English Patient) but wrings true tension and challenges the audience to pull for the bad guy. I must note that the ambiguous ending seems to detract from the impact of the movie. But for many reasons and despite seeing Damon eerily coddle up to a corpse, Ripley is a fine flick with some great characters presented. The more I watch this film the more I enjoy it.

Nate’s Grade: A-

Man on the Moon (1999)

After many years the big screen biopic of one of comedy’s greatest figures of recent finally emerges to the awaiting public. Many never knew what to make of Kaufman or what he was attempting to do, and the movie displays this attitude to its core.

First things first, there is no Jim Carrey in this picture, only Andy. Carrey’s performance is pitch-perfect and swarming and enthralling that he becomes the glue of an otherwise sticky movie. Carrey IS Andy Kaufman, it’s like seeing dear Andy alive and well back on screen still terrorizing the easily duped. It almost brought a tear to my eye. Carrey takes the sheep skin and pulls off an incredible career best performance that demands attention come award time.

But without Carrey’s masterful performance Man on the Moon is not worth venturing out of the home for. The movie never delves beneath the surface to discover who the true Andy Kaufman was or why he did the things he did. And if the point is that there was no true Kaufman but merely a stage character then fine, but did we need a movie? Without any inner depth the flick becomes a shapeless reassembling of TV stints and clips Andy pulled. If I wanted to see this I’d watch Comedy Central at odd hours of the night.

Courtney Love pops her head in late into the running time to establish herself as the love interest, but her character like everyone else, is never fleshed out. Love just becomes a hollow foil to Kaufman’s antics in some vain attempt to add heart to the madness. The most lingering problem is that of the relationship between Kaufman friend and co-conspirator Bob Zmuda never being shown beyond communal frat brothers. Man on the Moon gives the reigns of the picture to Carrey, and rightfully so, but then seems to believe Carrey as Kaufman is the only substantial character in the story.

Man on the Moon is for the most part an entertaining retelling of the rise and fall of Kaufman, and his indifference all the way. Director Milos Foreman and his two Larry Flint scribes try their hand at uncovering the man behind the curtain, but stumble along the way. Maybe this is the film Kaufman would have wished, one that doesn’t answer any questions or is forced to entertain its patrons. But me thinks that the Hollywood version of Andy stays true to his stubborn nature, but trips its feet towing the mystery that was one of comedy’s most peculiar influences.

Nate’s Grade: C+

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