Category Archives: 1995 Movie reviews

12 Monkeys-1995

12 Monkeys-1995

Director-Terry Gilliam

Starring-Bruce Willis, Madeline Stowe, Brad Pitt

Scott’s Review #804

Reviewed August 21, 2018

Grade: B+

Bruce Willis stars in a 1995 science-fiction thriller named 12 Monkeys that is sure to confuse even the keenest of viewers. Containing a plot that is impossible to follow (at least with only one watch), the film is quite novel and filled with edge nonetheless. With this film Willis came into his own and proved to some naysayers that he is more versatile than a one-note action hero. He would even develop more as the years passed- think Sixth Sense (1999).

If I may begin to summarize the complex plot, 12 Monkeys is a film about time-travel (confusing enough), that traverses from the year 2035, to the year 1990, to the year 1996, with a bevy of dreams or memories thrown in, but I am still not crystal clear on that. The time periods involved threw me for a loop and I was not able to comprehend where things shifted to……or was part of it a memory possessed by Willis’s character as a little boy?

Nonetheless, in 2035 James Cole (Willis) is a prisoner who is selected by “the powers that be” to go back in time in order to find a cure for a deadly virus that has wiped out a large part of the world. He is transported to the year 1990 instead of 1996 and lands in a psychiatric hospital, where he meets fanatical Jeffrey Goines (Brad Pitt). Dr. Kathryn Railly (Madeleine Stowe) appears in both the 1990 and 1996 stories as a respected psychiatrist and author. Both she and Goines become central to the main plot and story twists and turns as events move along.

The intention to make Willis and Stowe a romantic couple did not seem to quite work at first, but their chemistry grew on me. The duo never received a “happily ever after” finale as they deserved nor was their troubled romance ever fully realized to say nothing of consummated.  The flirtation and bond they shared felt more like a tease than anything else, or rather, having two Hollywood heavyweights forge some sort of romance. Regardless, “romance” did not seem the point of this film.

Brad Pitt was nominated for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar award for the film. While he provides a quirky, showy style role (actually multiple roles or personalities), complete with tics resembling a Tourette syndrome patient, the role is not one of his best. At this time (1995), Pitt was a rising star and the recognition helped him tremendously. But he seems slightly to over act and make the character too over-the-top. I much preferred his more subdued work in Seven (released the same year), or future roles in Babel (2006) and Moneyball (2011).

Appealing in parts are the frequent exterior shots of the cities of Philadelphia and Baltimore, where the film is set. Treats include the Baltimore-Washington International Airport, Pennsylvania Convention Center, and Eastern State Penitentiary filming locations as well as numerous highway and bridge shots, which adds tons of authenticity.

A major score for the film, and for Alfred Hitchcock fans everywhere, is the incorporation of classic film clips, specifically the mysterious Vertigo (1958) into the story. As Kathryn and James camp out in a rustic movie theater and disguise themselves as different people, they watch a marathon of Hitchcock films (as evidenced by the many titles on the marquee). Clever is that the characters of James and Kathryn begin to mirror the actions of Vertigo characters Scottie and Judy. Blondes anyone?

12 Monkeys (1995) does sort of come together at the conclusion of the film as the dreams/memories are laid out pretty clearly. As we have witnessed these sequences throughout, it leads to a semi-satisfying conclusion. A bit of a beautiful mess, the film has clever tidbits and is well-acted, and the baring of both Willis’s and Pitt’s butts might get some additional viewers. I think I need to watch the film again to perhaps understand and connect all of the dots better.

Seven-1995

Seven-1995

Director-David Fincher

Starring-Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman

Scott’s Review #780

Reviewed June 29, 2018

Grade: A-

Many films containing a similar theme as Seven (1995) does have come along over the years- some good, most mediocre. The mixture of homicidal detectives tracking crazed killers has been done ad nauseam and more often than not, done with either poor writing or a predictable outcome- or both. Instead of being a run of the mill film, Seven serves as a representative blueprint of the tautness and unpredictability that can be achieved by using a familiar yet compelling concept, provided there is good writing and good direction. The film is incredibly brutal and riveting.

Respected director David Fincher gathers an all-star cast of Hollywood heavies including Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Spacey and Gwyneth Paltrow, all of whom add to the well-crafted script. It also brings the talent level to respectability and, as great as the story is, with lesser actors the stakes would not have been as high and the film may have even been ruined.

A serial killer is on the loose in Los Angeles- detective duo William Somerset (a very good Freeman) is set to retire and is tasked with finding the killer. He is partnered with David Mills (Pitt), a young, hot-tempered man who has just moved to the city with his wife Tracy (Paltrow). Unbeknownst to David, Tracy is pregnant and unsure whether to keep the child- this point factors in heavily as events unfold. The killer is using the seven deadly sins: greed, gluttony, sloth, lust, pride, envy, and wrath, as his motivation for the creative slayings.

In retrospect Seven is very similar to the still to come Fincher work, 2007’s Zodiac, so much so that both films could be watched in sequence- one being a true story, the other pure fiction. Both focus on the serial killer element with a message, they each have marvelous psychological intrigue and purpose. There are cat and mouse scenes aplenty for fans to enjoy.

At the risk of this point being a total stretch, I’d also argue that 1971’s Dirty Harry influenced Zodiac, Seven, and The Silence of the Lambs (1991). A heinous killer shrouded in intelligence, danger, and motivation is a commonality of all of the aforementioned films, and numerous studies of each of the killers could be dissected if time permitted. Each killer is calculating and manipulative.

On that note, Kevin Spacey gives a tremendous performance as the cold and villainous John Doe. Clever and inventive, his victims are intended to suffer and suffer greatly. Some of the kills could be included in the best of the torture-horror franchise, Saw, as they are very twisted and carved in brutality.

A supermodel is disfigured after being given a choice to call for help or overdose on pills, representing pride. A man is forced to consume food until his stomach ruptures, representing gluttony. Spacey portrays his role with calm, cool, and collective, eliciting a terrifying response from audiences, especially as he toys with the detectives.

Still coming into his own as an actor in 1995, Pitt proves he can almost measure up (though not quite) with big-boy acting talents Spacey and Freeman. Playing an ambitious man eager to prove himself in “the big city” with his pretty wife in tow, Pitt’s David is wholesome and family-oriented, yet has an edge. All around the likable hero, Pitt is perfectly cast in the role and a large part of its success.

The frightening final sequence still resonates with me after all of these years since Seven was released. In a classic standoff between Doe and the detectives, as is typically the case in these types of films, the ultimate climax is twisted, psychological, and gruesome. I did not see this shocker coming as it culminates in lives being forever changed. The expressions and actions by Freeman, Pitt, and Spacey are superlative.

Seven (1995) is a film basking with riches. On par with the best of the best in serial killer films, it is powerfully directed by Fincher. The film is fraught with grisly symbolism and its share of suspenseful sequences. With powerful acting, it is a film relevant and watchable decades after the original release. Perhaps not quite on the level as Dirty Harry or The Silence of the Lambs, but pretty darn close and that is impressive in itself.

 

The Brady Bunch Movie-1995

The Brady Bunch Movie-1995

Director-Betty Thomas

Starring-Gary Cole, Shelley Long

Scott’s Review #750

Reviewed April 30, 2018

Grade: B

Capitalizing on nostalgia created from the popular 1960’s-1970’s television comedy “The Brady Bunch”, 1995’s The Brady Bunch Movie offers a nice treat for fans of the series- fondly reminiscing back to their youth or hours spent enjoying subsequent reruns after the show had ended. Certainly the case with this reviewer, the film version is cute and silly, but exactly as would be expected, and the attention to detail using facets from the original series makes the film wonderful enjoyment and a job well done by director Betty Thomas.

The Brady Bunch Movie is not highbrow nor complex,  nor should it be. The work is just peppered with great jokes and a solid ode to the fun past. Film fans looking for a good comedy and not having seen the series might miss out on some of the fun as a multitude of references only fans will appreciate  abound throughout the length of the film.

The plot is not the strongest quality, but liberties must be taken since the intention is of a throwback and not much more- the story is one that might have existed during the series, but lengthened for film purposes. Larry Dittmeyer (what a name!), played by Michael McKean, schemes to coax all of his southern Californian neighborhood to sell their houses at a good price, in order to develop a lucrative shopping mall, presumably so they will all get rich.

When earnest Mike and Carol Brady (Gary Cole and Shelley Long) refuse the business deal, Larry embarks on a plot to use a foreclosing notice issued to the Brady’s as leverage in his deal. The Brady’s, owing $20,000 in back taxes due within a week’s time scramble to raise the money. Predictably, the Brady kids rush to the rescue with a plan to secure the funds via a singing contest.

The film immediately gets off to a familiar start as we view the comfortable Brady house and all of the cozy qualities nestled inside- unchanged from the late 1960’s- the groovy orange colors, the tie dye and the plaid outfits are all in tow. Lovable Alice, in her blue and white housekeeper outfit, Mike, Carol, and all six Brady kids are back at the helm, having never missed a beat. In short, they still live as if it 1969 instead of 1995 and are oblivious to the outside world.

A tremendous treat for fans are the cameo appearances of a few of the original cast: Florence Henderson (Carol) and Ann B. Davis (Alice) have the more interesting parts, that of the Brady grandmother and truck driver, respectively.  Oddly, Maureen McCormick’s (Marcia), Susan Olsen’s (Cindy), and Mike Lookinland’s (Bobby’s) scenes were shot, but all cut- a major fail of the film whose fans undoubtedly would have liked to have seen all cast members. Wouldn’t a group scene versus individual scenes have been a wonderful touch? Missing are Robert Reed (Mike) who was deceased and Eve Plumb (Jan) who refused to appear.

The plot is silly, trivial, and completely predictable, but yet, so was the television series! As each episode was wrapped up in a nice bow with a defined conclusion and perhaps a lesson or two learned along the way, the film plays similarly. McKean’s Larry and man hungry wife Dina (Jean Smart) are perfect foils and play their roles with relish only adding to the zany fun. A wonderful and timely point is how a Japanese businessman saves the day for the Brady’s as a nice cultural inclusiveness touch is added- still relevant today.

An observation made while watching the film in present time (2018), is the intended point of the film. In 1995, the point was to show how out of touch the Brady’s were with “modern times”. But in 2018 the tide has turned and 1995 now seems dated in relation to the Brady years- sadly this gives the film itself more of a dated quality. This is always a risk taken when a film uses its current time period as part of the plot. The cool and hip cellular phone used by one character seems garish and uncool by today’s advanced standards.

Still, from Marcia’s flattened nose, The Monkees Davy Jones resurfacing, Cindy’s tattling, Jan’s insecurities, Greg’s cool suave manner, Peter’s breaking voice, and Bobby’s hall monitor job, the familiar stories and antics all resurface in a fun filled hour and a half of comic nostalgia. The Brady Bunch Movie is a light achievement and a nice trip down memory lane for many folks.

GoldenEye-1995

GoldenEye-1995

Director-Martin Campbell

Starring-Pierce Brosnan, Sean Bean, Izabella Scorupco

Scott’s Review #717

Reviewed January 19, 2018

Grade: B

By 1995, after a record six years between films, the James Bond franchise re-emerged in an energetic manner with Pierce Brosnan assuming the role of the MI6 agent-, and breathing some fresh life into the character. The charming and suave Irish actor gave a new direction to the role last played by Timothy Dalton-an actor who gave Bond more of a brooding quality. The resulting GoldenEye offers mixed results, though the casting is a vast improvement over its predecessor.

In fact, GoldenEye sees other monumental roles recast- that of Judi Dench as M, and Samantha Bond as Miss Moneypenney. The film has a slick look, a compelling story, but at times is tough to follow, and overall- despite containing all the elements- something seems missing. Or maybe I just prefer the other Bonds more? Still, the offering is far from a bad watch.

GoldenEye kicks off with, in hindsight, a major clue to the story as Bond  (Brosnan) and fellow 00 agent, Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean), infiltrate a Soviet facility in northern Russia during 1986, searching for chemical weapons. Alec is tragically killed by sinister Soviet General Ourumov and Bond mourns the loss of his friend.

The action resumes in present times (1995) as , now in gorgeous Monte Carlo, Bond follows the beautiful and sadistic Xenia Onatopp, a  crime syndicate member known for crushing men with her thighs. Xenia and Ourumov travel to Siberia where they destroy a bunker holding GoldenEye satellites and kill everyone except computer programmer, Boris (Alan Cumming), and lone survivor, Natalya  (Izabella Scorupco). In a clever twist, it is revealed that Alec has betrayed the British Intelligence and is, in fact, himself leading the crime syndicate.

In one of the quietest, and best scenes, Bond and M have an interesting exchange in her office as M (a woman) calls Bond out on his arrogance and chauvinism, and states that it is a new day. Dench adds a ton of female modernism into the role (about time in 1995) as Bond now reports to a woman. The scene is important as it leads the two characters to achieve a mutual respect and arguably parlays the franchise into a new, more female-empowering direction.

A great positive to GoldenEye is the setting, which I think does wonders for the film as a whole- the bitter, blustery, Siberian set gives a soothing feeling, especially while watching the film during the ravages of winter, snug with a warm blanket and heaters. Regardless, the sets are realistic, never cheesy, and loaded with atmosphere- so the film itself looks wonderful.

Issues abound with the frenetic pacing of the film- at times I found myself losing track of the action or the sequence of events. Understandably, as in many Bond films, events circle the globe and, surely London, Russia, and Monte Carlo are great locations, but especially within the film’s final climax, I suffered from sensory overload.

Furthermore, Brosnan is not one of my favorite Bonds. Sure, he has the charisma, the looks, and the charm to pull off the role, but something about him does not measure up to Sean Connery, Roger Moore, George Lazanby, or Daniel Craig- certainly he supersedes Timothy Dalton.  Don’t get me wrong- I do not despise him as Bond, but nothing stands him out against the others either.

The villains in GoldenEye are perfectly adequate if not spectacular. Sean Bean gives Alec a sly, aww shucks appeal and defines good-looking, but his motivations for switching sides is not very exciting- something about Nazis in World War II, the Cossacks, and revenge are quickly mentioned, but it doesn’t much matter.  General  Ourumov is effective- with his sinister look he is the perfect Bond villain. Xenia is little more than a cartoon character 9with the name to boot) and her gimmick quickly wears thin. Finally, Cummings as the programmer is played only for laughs and his final chant of “I am invincible!” as he freezes into solid ice is mildly humorous.

The title theme song, “GoldenEye”, performed by Tina Turner is forgettable at best and one of the most lackluster in the illustrious musical catalog.

GoldenEye has many of the standard Bond elements within its frames and is a decent entry in the franchise. With the debut of a new Bond, the film has a fresh and very modern and technical feel to it that, along with a fantastic setting, overlooks some flaws in the storytelling.  Filled with bombast and a crowd-pleasing method, GoldenEye is hardly the best Bond film, but certainly not the worst.

Babe-1995

Babe-1995

Director-Chris Noonan

Starring-James Cromwell

Scott’s Review #475

268776-1

Reviewed September 9, 2016

Grade: B

Babe is a cute, charming family film about a pig who becomes a hero while living on a farm with a family of other animals and a farmer and his wife. It is not a risky film from a story perspective- any doubts about a happy ending?- though here’s props for some visual creativity. And let’s face it- the film is sweet and heartwarming with not a mean bone in its body.

The film is an inspirational one, nice for kids no doubt, and the visual effects, i.e. how they edited the animal movements with voices successfully is well done and not tacky.

The film is certainly predictable and harmless and I’m not sure I agree with the Best Picture or Best Supporting Actor (for James Cromwell) nominations it garnered, but it was enjoyable and fun all the same.

Showgirls-1995

Showgirls-1995

Director-Paul Verhoeven

Starring-Elizabeth Berkley, Kyle MacLachlan

Scott’s Review #372

962109

Reviewed January 31, 2016

Grade: D

Having heard much about the infamously bad reviewed Showgirls, and its ranking as one of the worst films ever made, I finally got around to watching this (twenty years after its release). Now considered something of a camp classic, I am glad I did. While I recognize the dubious distinction it holds and do not disagree with it, I also found something slightly entertaining about the film, and my thought process throughout was “this film is so bad that it might be good”, but in the end it is pretty much just a bad film.

Nomi Malone (Elizabeth Berkley) hitchhikes to Las Vegas intending to find success as a showgirl. Having her belongings stolen, she is then befriended by a kind-hearted woman named Molly, who works as a seamstress at the topless dance revue, Goddess. Molly takes her in and introduces her to the star of the show-Cristal (Gina Gershon). A rivalry immediately develops between the women as Cristal mocks Nomi’s job at another topless club. The main story centers on this rivalry, as Nomi attempts to climb the ranks and achieve success in the shady world of adult entertainment.  Along the way she becomes involved with various men, specifically entertainment director (and Cristal’s boyfriend), Zack, played by Kyle MacLachlan, leading to further tensions.

Let me be honest here- Showgirls is a bad film in every way. I observed three major flaws in the film- poor acting, poor writing, and the film being over-the-top on every level. Let’s break it down.

Within minutes, I knew the acting was sub-par, and I wonder if that is the fault of the director’s (Paul Verhoeven) directing or the actors themselves- or a combination. Known for directing Basic Instinct (a sexy, smoldering film), one wonders if he had the same success in mind for Showgirls. Berkeley gets the blunt of the mention since she is the lead character, but, wow what a bad performance. From the over dramatic delivery to the phony earnestness, I did not buy the performance for a minute and fantasized on more than one occasion on how a different actress might have tackled the role (Nicole Kidman and Julia Roberts came to mind). Gershon was almost worse as her sexiness and vixen-like character was fraught with an irritating brooding pout.

The writing was clearly one-dimensional- poor girl tries to achieve success in a bad, bad world and meets challenge after challenge. Nothing new here.  The predictability was apparent almost immediately and most of the characters unlikable. When Nomi garners interest in a man, he turns into a player with another aspiring female star on the side, feeding her the same lines as he did Nomi. Even the one sympathetic character (Molly), really exists only to make Nomi more likable as is the case when Molly is attacked and Nomi races to her bedside. Forced and formulaic, this scene is a prime example of the poor and contrived writing.

Most scenes played over-the-top. Brimming with nudity and sexual excitement, the film was bawdy and party friendly. In one scene, dancers take a line of coke before hitting the stage and a feud between two of the dancers results in one sabotaging the production so that the other dancer will break her hip. The larger than life (in more than one way) x-rated, well endowed, mama dancer, while entertaining, was also silly and baffoon-like. Chaotic and pointless, each scene was hard to believe and take seriously.

You may be wondering what positives can be found in Showgirls- the answer is not many, but there is a certain charm I found to the film, but perhaps I am glutenous for punishment.  I think the film “feels” like it wants to have fun and a certain level of entertainment can be found in viewing it, but this is like trying to find a needle in the haystack to see any good in Showgirls.

I do not disagree with the distinction that Showgirls is one of the worst films ever made, but I found a sliver of charm, interest, and  fun mixed in with the more prevalent drivel, poor quality, and painfully bad acting. But perhaps that is because it is so bad.