2018年4月5日 星期四

Some Other Movies From 1998

1998 was my last year at the University of Washington, and also the year before I moved to Taiwan.  I remember it being a good, if uncertain, time in my life.

The big movie that year was Saving Private Ryan, which remains one of Spielberg's best movies.  Rush Hour, There's Something About Mary, The Big Lebowski, and Mulan were other big movies from that year.  

It's funny to look back at the box office hits from that time.  Despite coming in third at the cinemas that year, how many people have seen 1998's Godzilla recently?  Deep ImpactShakespeare in Love?  I can't help but think that in subsequent years other films have overshadowed their earnings - smaller efforts like Wild Things, The X-Files, and Pi.

Some Good Ones

1. A Civil Action

Robert Duvall all but steals the show from John Travolta - but it's a great movie regardless of this fact.  The best thing about this courtroom drama is its sense of moral ambiguity.

2. BASEketball

Dodgeball it ain't, but it's still much funnier than Half Baked (see below).  Trey Parker and Matt Stone star as two regular guys who invent a new national pastime.

3. Wild Things

The preview would lead you to the conclusion that this movie's just another excuse in tits and ass, but Denise Richards' enormous breasts aside, it's an excellent noir thriller.  Matt Dillon stars as a high school guidance counselor who may or may not be a rapist, Kevin Bacon plays the vice cop investigating him, and Denise Richards and Neve Campbell play two high school students under Dillon's "guidance."

And you know what?  This movie would have only been half as good in the absence of Bill Murray.  I don't know how they talked him into playing the lawyer, but however much money they paid him probably wasn't enough.

4. Rushmore

Bill Murray again, this time with his director of choice Wes Anderson.  I didn't like it as much as Bottle Rocket, but this story about a self-important private school student is well worth your time.

5. Primary Colors

1998 was a good year for Travolta.  Not only did he star in the oft-forgotten A Civil Action, but also co-starred* in the far more likable Primary Colors.  This stab at Bill Clinton is still entertaining, though modern viewers might find more resonance in Emma Thompson's portrayal of "Stanton's" wife "Susan" (read: "Hillary").  It won several awards, and is one of the better political movies.

Fun... Fact?: Various sources have alleged that Travolta has, on several occasions, attempted to leave the "Church" of Scientology, but threats of blackmail concerning previous "homosexual acts" have kept Travolta in the fold... thus far.

6. Pi

Director Darren Aronofsky's first movie.  It's about a mathematician obsessed with a secret code, and bears strong similarities to A Beautiful Mind, which came out three years later.  Pi is of course a lot lower-budget and more abstract, but it's still an excellent movie.  While I haven't enjoyed more recent efforts like Noah and mother!, I'd have to say that everything Aronofsky directed from Pi to Black Swan is great.

7. Savior

Dennis Quaid joins the French Foreign Legion, and visits the scenic Balkans.  It's a surprisingly visceral film, and one of Quaid's best performances.

8. Bulworth

Warren Beatty stars as a senator on the verge of a nervous breakdown.  Hearing Beatty rap is truly cringeworthy, but that cringeworthiness is largely intentional, and I think this movie's heart is in the right place.

Some Bad Ones

1. Half Baked

Dave Chappelle before anyone knew what to do with him.  Oh, and some white dudes too.  This is one unfunny comedy about weed.  If you liked Chappelle's Show (as I did), you might get something out of it, but those moments of "almost funny" aren't worth sitting through an hour and a half of people trying (and failing) to act stoned.

2. The Faculty

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (or is it The Thing?) meets Lucas.  There are a ton of people in this movie that were much better known later on.  Elijah Wood spends most of the movie getting bullied, and do you know what that big, scary monster is a metaphor for?  CONFORMITY, my friends!  And conformity's NOT cool.  ...or something.

And Elijah Wood's parents even take away his masturbation privileges.  That's just some weird parenting right there.

3. I Still Know What You Did Last Summer

Worst Caribbean vacation EVER.  Jennifer Love Hewitt spends about 70% of this movie walking around empty rooms, failing to find the killer, AND IT'S SO F*&KING BORING.  This movie's only redeeming features are 1) the guy from Re-Animator, who plays the hotel manager, 2) Jack Black, who plays a Rastafarian drug dealer, and 3) Brandy, who is (was?) FINE.

I still haven't seen the first one, so I have no idea whether this installment is better or worse than that.  I'm guessing the first one was slightly... better?

4. The Avengers

No, not THOSE Avengers!  The other, British ones!  You know, from that old TV show you can barely remember?

Except in this instance we get Ralph Fiennes as the man in the bowler hat, and Uma Thurman as his female counterpart.  Oh, and Sean Connery plays the villain.  Sounds not bad in theory, but the movie fails in the execution.  Whereas the REAL Avengers have varied superpowers, THESE Avengers' only power is boring anyone within earshot to death.

Fun Fact: As I'm sure you know, Sean Connery played James Bond many times, but did you know that there are other connections between The (British) Avengers and 007?  Ralph Fiennes would later appear opposite Daniel Craig in both Skyfall and Spectre, Patrick Macnee (the original John Steed) appeared opposite Roger Moore in A View to a Kill, and Diana Rigg (the original Emma Peel) played George Lazenby's love interest in On Her Majesty's Secret Service.

5. Lost in Space

For those complaining about Uma Thurman and Ralph Fiennes' lack of chemistry in The Avengers, I give you Matt LeBlanc and Heather Graham in Lost in Space.  Leblanc was woefully miscast in this movie, and he also has some of the worst lines.

In 1998 this movie somehow upstaged Titanic, ending its reign as #1 at the box office.  Just the same it's pretty bad, and one wonders if it wasn't an attempt to cash in on the success of the previous year's Starship Troopers.

And what the f*&k is with that cgi-alien-monkey thing?  Who thought that was a good idea?

6. Mighty Joe Young

In the same year that Roland Emmerich directed the very forgettable Godzilla, Disney released this movie featuring King Kong - er - Mighty Joe Young.  Bill Paxton is in it, and I'll watch any movie with Bill Paxton at least once, and Charlize Theron is also in it, her status in Hollywood much improved since the previously reviewed 2 Days in the Valley.

This movie starts out ok, but it goes from boring to nonsensical fairly quickly.  Theron's character is very irritating, and by the end of the movie I found myself hoping that some sort of fatal accident would befall her while running around that amusement park.

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*Co-starred?  The star of this movie is actually Adrian Lester, who plays Travolta's (Clinton's) campaign manager.  Lester's filmography is very short.  He starred in Primary Colors, and only appeared briefly in a few later movies.