But in other ways it does seem like a while back. Many of the people I know now weren't even born then. It was my first job. No one I knew had cell phones. We didn't spend much time thinking about the Internet.
If I had to pick a best movie out of all the movies released during that year it'd be Forrest Gump. A lot of other people would probably pick Pulp Fiction, but I think Forrest Gump has aged a lot better. The Ref, The Paper, and Quiz Show were also pretty good.
Some Good Ones
1. The River Wild
Meryl Streep, her estranged husband, her son, and two shady characters take a Deliverance-style rafting trip towards a suitably dramatic conclusion. It's not bad, though all of the actors involved have appeared in better films.
Tommy Lee Jones delivers one of his best performances, with Robert Wuhl (whatever happened to Robert Whul?) costarring as a reporter interviewing the baseball legend. If you can get past the fact that the protagonist is extremely unlikable it's a great movie.
3. Blown Away
Hey look there's Tommy Lee Jones again - this time with a terrible Irish accent. Jeff Bridges stars as a bomb expert facing off against Jones' IRA terrorist, with predictably explosive results. Unlike Cobb it's NOT a great movie, but it's watchable and most of the scenes involving bombs are well done. (well done, get it?)
4. True Lies
I think I was too hard on this movie the first time I saw it. I can remember seeing it in the local multiplex, and back then I was both tired of Arnold Schwarzenegger and taking this film way, way too seriously. After watching it for the second time 24 years later, I'd have to say that it's a solidly put together movie.
And whatever happened to Tom Arnold? He had his share of screen presence. And Tia Carrere? She was beautiful.
Sad to say, however, that this movie's been in the news fairly recently. The actress who played Schwarzenegger's daughter, Eliza Dushku, claimed that she was sexually abused on the set.
Not-So-Fun Fact: A True Lies sequel was put on indefinite hold after the 9/11 attacks, due to director James Cameron's subsequent distaste for "terrorism-themed" movies.
Much More Fun Fact: Tia Carrere posed for Playboy, though the results are surprisingly unsexy.
Edward Furlong - that most early 90s of young actors - and Frank Langella star in this low-budget horror movie about virtual reality. The "Trickster" character makes it feel more 80s than 90s, but this movie's still better than it has any right to be.
6. Death and the Maiden
As anyone who's been reading this blog for a while knows, I'm a big fan of Roman Polanski. Yes, I'm aware of his personal history. But I think that you have to separate the art from the artist, and what someone's done in their personal life shouldn't always color appraisals of their films.
Sigourney Weaver should have won the Academy Award for this movie, but instead it went to Jessica Lange for Blue Sky. And while I haven't seen Blue Sky (yet), I'd have to say that Weaver was robbed. That scene where she talks about how she was tortured. Damn. I almost had to turn the movie off.
Ben Kingsley, for that matter, is in fine form in this story of past crimes and retribution. The scenes in which he "confesses" are among the best that he's ever done - or (I assume) that anyone will ever do. Death and the Maiden is a great movie, and even though it's hard to watch I highly recommend it.
7. The Client
How many movies have they made of John Grisham's books? I don't know, and I'm lazy to look into it now, but it seems like a lot.
Susan Sarandon stars as a lawyer representing a young boy whose life has been threatened. Tommy Lee Jones appears in this one too, this time as opposing counsel. I've seen a lot of courtroom dramas recently, but this one kept me interested all the way through.
8. Guarding Tess
1994 was a strange year for Nicholas Cage. Not only did he star in the disastrously bad Trapped in Paradise (see below), but the same year he also starred in the MUCH better Guarding Tess. In Guarding Tess he plays a secret service agent assigned to former first lady Shirley Maclaine. A very good movie that reminds you that Nick Cage really can act when he wants to.
Fun Fact: Nick Cage named his second son Kal-El. No one knows if this is because of the aborted Tim Burton Superman movie he almost starred in or just because he really loves comic books.
9. The Crow
The ill-fated Brandon Lee stars as the Goth superhero par excellance. Some of the effects look dated, but it's still an entertaining movie. Director Alex Proyas probably longs for the days in which he could still capture this level of zeitgeist.
10. Iron Will
A Disney movie about dog sledding! Featuring a handsome young man and... Kevin Spacey! Oh no! The presence of the current Antichrist aside, it's still a decent movie.
11. Renaissance Man
Quick! What's Mark Wahlberg's first movie? You guessed it - Renaissance Man. This movie is so OLD that there's even a song on the soundtrack where Marky Mark raps. And yes, it's somewhat painful to hear now.
Critics despised this movie in 1994, but I think it's alright. Danny Devito stars as a civilian teacher of below average military recruits, with Gregory Hines costarring as a hard-nosed army trainer. Not exactly suspenseful, but then again none of Penny Marshall's films are suspenseful. If you don't overanalyze it, you'll probably find it somewhat heartwarming.
12. No Escape
Ray Liotta stars as a convict consigned to life in a penal colony. Martin Campbell directed. Liotta did this one four years after Goodfellas, and three years before Copland. It's a good movie, though about as predictable as Renaissance Man.
Some Bad Ones
Quite possibly the most "early 90s" movie ever made, and also the movie that Brendan Fraser would prefer that you forget. Three would-be rock stars take over a radio station.
This movie really only has three things going for it: 1) Chris Farley, who needed more lines, 2) that moment where Beavis and Butthead call into the radio station, and 3) Nina Siemaszko in that sexy, sexy dress.
On the other hand the two great sins committed by this movie are that 1) it's just not funny, and 2) it totally misread its audience. By 1994 the L.A./Sunset Strip scene was decidedly uncool, and musical tastes had moved far away from the likes of Motley Crue and Poison. There's even a swipe at "Seattle bullshit" halfway through the film, despite the fact that Fraser and co. are flannel-clad for most of the movie.
2. The Next Karate Kid
Now wait a minute - if Mr. Miyagi's a naturalized citizen, and he's lived in the States since freaking World War II (50 years at the time of this film's release!) how is he still speaking with such a heavy accent, and referring to everyone as so-and-so san? Is he trying too hard to hold on to his cultural roots in Japan? Or is he conforming to a stereotype? I know one thing, that "so-and-so san" business would NOT have flown in the U.S. military at the end of World War II. No matter how enlightened his superiors might have been, they would NOT have been cool with that shit.
If you're wondering which one this is, it's the "girl Karate Kid" movie featuring Hillary Swank. And yes, once again, Pat Morita. Like Ralph Macchio before her, Swank is similarly "troubled," and - you guessed it - she learns to overcome her grief through the power of karate.
The biggest problem with this movie is that there's so little karate in it. For almost the entire first half - no karate. This, and Japanese monks dancing to The Cranberries. Super cringe. And Mr. Miyagi buying Swank's skimpy prom dress and then teaching her how to dance. Super duper cringe.
Swank is damn sexy in those jeans though. Oh, and Michael Ironside is somewhat amusing as the fascist school self-defense instructor. And who's that? Is that Walt(on) Goggins yet again? ...last glimpsed in 1992's Forever Young? Why yes, I believe it is!
Fun Fact: Despite starring in this disaster of a film, Hilary Swank went on to win two Academy Awards for Best Actress.
3. Trapped in Paradise
Nicholas Cage, Jon Lovitz, and Dana Carvey star as three criminally-minded brothers in this Christmas-themed comedy. It's PAINFUL. Carvey spends most of the movie doing this Robert De Diro-on-helium accent, Lovitz is annoying, and Cage is characteristically overwrought.
One So Bad It's Actually Kind of Good
1. Double Dragon
Man, I played the hell out of the arcade game back in the 80s. Trouble is that the movie came out in the 90s, and by that time even the NES and SMS versions were old hat.
It's funny how little fighting this movie based on a fighting game actually has, but the acting is terrifically bad, and the plot is nonsensical enough to be amusing. If they'd invested in a good fight choreographer (and people that could really act) it might have been halfway good in a good way, but instead it's BAD in a good way.
Fun Fact: Jean Claude Van Damme appeared in Street Fighter the same year.
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