Category Archives: 1994 Films

Serial Mom-1994

Serial Mom-1994

Director John Waters

Starring Kathleen Turner, Sam Waterston, Ricki Lake

Scott’s Review #1,432

Reviewed July 8, 2024

Grade: A-

Serial Mom (1994) is led by an uproarious performance by Kathleen Turner, in the 1990s still in her cinematic heyday, the latter-day John Waters comedy fires on all cylinders. She wickedly goes full steam ahead in a pulsating performance deliciously deserving of an Oscar nomination.

The film is directed by Waters, known for perverse and gross-out fare like Pink Flamingos (1972) and Female Trouble (1975) so any chance for an Academy Award is laughable.

Though, Serial Mom is much safer than those films choosing slick 1990s mainstream camerawork over raw shots of dogshit on the sidewalk.

Still, Turner hits it out of the park playing a ‘June Cleaver’ character with a murderous dark side.

Beverly Sutphin (Turner) appears to be an unassuming upper-middle-class housewife living with her dentist husband Eugene (Sam Waterston) and their teenage children, Misty (Ricki Lake) and Chip (Matthew Lillard), in suburban Maryland.

She is secretly a serial killer who kills people over trivial slights or offenses like insulting her son or blowing off her daughter. The dastardly mom uses creative weapons like her station wagon and a fire poker to kill her prey.

Serial Mom is strictly for ravenous fans of Waters and I’m not sure it will win any new fans over. But I’ll stress how much of a mainstream affair it is compared to his more dangerous 1970s films.

It pairs well in look and feel with Hairspray from 1988 and both films star Ricki Lake.

Some have referred to it as a slasher film but that would steer it in the horror vein or knife-wielding maniac territory. Beverly isn’t Freddie, Jason, or Michael Meyers. She is fun and does as much damage with a sneer or a smirk as with a weapon.

Beverly is also the type of woman you’d like to be friends with but are terrified of crossing. After all, she kills in the defense of her kids so she’s a good mother with a wicked sense of humor.

When she delights in crank-calling her neighbor Dottie Hinkle (deliciously played by Waters’s regular Mink Stole) to get a rise out of her, we cheer her on.

Later, when charged and sent to trial for her dirty deeds, she fires her attorney and takes over her case amid rabid fan response. Beverly becomes a local hero.

She’s a cinema villain to remember.

Waters is great because he finds the perfect balance of camp and wit to make a smart film not merely a slapstick one. Many cinema comedies don’t work because the laughs feel canned instead of fresh.

The writing and the cast make Serial Mom a winner.

The ridiculous antics and situations Beverly gets involved in make the audience want to know what she does next. Who doesn’t love a well-to-do character who turns sinister? It’s fun to watch a rich suburban town turn into a shit show of high entertainment.

Besides Stole, my favorite supporting actors are Mary Jo Catlett and Matthew Lillard. Catlett has brilliant comic timing as a neighbor, Rosemary, while Lillard was on the cusp of becoming a horror/comedy star with 1996’s Scream.

Regarding cameos, I could have done without the Suzanne Somers cameo playing herself which didn’t land all that funny but Patty Hearst as juror #8 is a winner.

The ‘white shoes after Labor Day’ sequence is hysterical.

Serial Mom (1994) is a cult classic for the ages and on par with most of John Waters earlier, classic raunchy comedies.

Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult-1994

Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult-1994

Director Peter Segal

Starring Leslie Nielsen, George Kennedy

Scott’s Review #1,104

Reviewed January 26, 2021

Grade: B-

Despite being the third and final installment in the popular Naked Gun (1988-1994) franchise, Naked Gun 33 1/3 The Final Insult (1994) is my favorite of the trio despite having a silly title.

The title of “33 1/3” is a reference to the resolutions per minute of an LP playing on a phonograph, a point that has nothing to do with the actual film.

It was also inexplicably decided to leave off the “The” in the title, leaving Naked Gun instead of The Naked Gun.

Why is anyone’s guess? Nor does it matter.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not a great film but it’s better than the other two, which is shocking in a spoof/screwball comedy going for the standard gags. But, as dumb as the film is, it’s also kind of fun and lightweight.

It’s like a needed chuckle requiring little thought following a rough day at the office.

A familiar formula is followed and this time the events culminate at the glorious Hollywood Oscar celebration, the apple in the eye of all Los Angeles, undoubtedly the main reason this effort is marginally enjoyable.

For unfamiliar viewers, the Naked Gun films are a combination of the Airplane! (1980-1982) and the over-exhausted Police Academy (1984-1994) franchises. The films were out of gas by 1994.

The franchise is based on the short-lived television series Police Squad! (1982), a procedural comedy about bumbling police personnel and the situations they get themselves into to showcase their ineptness.

The Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult was O.J. Simpson’s final role before he was damned for all eternity for his presumed role in the murder of his wife and her friend in a ritzy area of California.

Leslie Nielsen returns as Frank Drebin, retired and living with his wife Jane (Priscilla Presley). Bored with life, they experience marital problems and seek counseling. Six months after Frank’s retirement, he is visited by Captain Ed Hocken (George Kennedy) and Officer Nordberg (Simpson), who ask for Frank’s help with an investigation.

Police Squad has caught wind that mischievous bomber Rocco Dillon (Fred Ward), who is currently incarcerated, has been hired by terrorists to conduct a major bombing against the United States.

As Frank tries to keep Jane from finding out that he is dabbling in detective work again, he jokes that he is having an affair to throw her off the track. When she begins to suspect he is having an affair this leads to a silly series of misunderstandings and gags which naturally are wrapped up as is always the case in films like this.

Nielsen is the main draw and he does what he does best and what makes him the king of spoof films. A serious actor before Airplane! he became a typecast but had lots of successes ahead of him.

He embraces his role which adds freshness. He doesn’t take himself so seriously so audiences can sit back and relax, enjoying the entertainment.

The lavish awards ceremony and the ingenious idea to plant the bomb within the coveted Best Picture Oscar sealed envelope is delicious, especially when the bomb is set to detonate when the card is pulled from the envelope and the winner is crowned.

This creates a good measure of suspense as the award show carries on toward the big finale.

George Kennedy has little to do but it’s the inclusion of stars like Vanna White, Weird Al Yankovic, and Pia Zadora that add zest to the production.

Director, Peter Segal, famous for lightweight comedies with heart, is wise to keep the running time at a quick one hour and twenty-two minutes. If longer, any momentum the film musters would have disintegrated.

This was his feature-length directorial debut.

The Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult (1994) may be the best in the trio but that says quite little considering it’s based on funnier and fresher endeavors.

I champion the early Police Academy films for a needed dose of police incompetence and hilarity done up in a fun way. If one must watch a Naked Gun film and is partial to the Academy Awards, this one is begrudgingly suggested.

Forrest Gump-1994

Forrest Gump-1994

Director Robert Zemeckis

Starring Tom Hanks, Robin Wright, Gary Sinise

Top 100 Films #94

Scott’s Review #362

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Reviewed January 9, 2016

Grade: A

Awarded a bevy of Academy Awards in the year 1994, Forrest Gump is a film that is engrained in many people’s memories since the film was a monster hit in the mid-1990s.

Some complained that the unrealistic nature of the film was silly, and the story too saccharine, but the film is an innocent, sweet piece about a simple-minded man’s journey through life and the insurmountable success that he achieves.

I adore the film largely from a sentimental standpoint and the memories that watching the film years later conjures up.

I find the film to be a comfort.

Zemeckis, a feel-good film director (Back to the Future-1985, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? -1988), carves a whimsical tale of a fellow, Forrest Gump (played brilliantly by Tom Hanks), a slow-witted, but gentle soul, from Alabama, and his decades-long journey through life.

His lifelong love is Jenny (played by Robin Wright), who is a troubled girl and relies on Forrest over their friendship spanning decades.

Forrest is always in the right place at the right time and influences the events of history in his innocent way.

Forrest Gump is unique in its clever use of editing to incorporate Forrest into real-life historical events, which is a big part of the appeal of the film.

In one instance, Forrest meets with Richard Nixon and reveals the Watergate scandal. He also met President John F. Kennedy after winning a football scholarship.

And who can ever forget the numerous lines made famous from the film- “Stupid is as stupid does”, and “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get.”, to name just two.

What I love most about the film is that it has heart and the relationships that Forrest shares with the central characters in his life are rich. Forrest’s haggard, but kind mother (Sally Field) loves her son and they share a tender, emotional relationship.

When Forrest enlists in the Army during the Vietnam War, his grizzled commanding officer, Lt. Dan Taylor (an Oscar-nominated performance by Gary Sinise), surprisingly becomes one of Forrest’s closest friends.

The film takes a darker turn when we begin to see a more human side to Taylor after a horrible accident, which leaves him without legs. To counterbalance this tragedy, Forrest is comically wounded in the buttocks.

I am not sure if I love or loathe the character of Jenny. Wright is perfect at giving her some vulnerability and her terrible upbringing can excuse some of her actions and take advantage of Forrest for arguably her gain.

Still, she has Forrest’s heart so she cannot be all that bad.

A favorite scene occurs in Washington as Forrest speaks at an anti-war rally. Jenny, in the crowd, recognizes Forrest and their reunion is sweet. Jenny, now a hippie and expelled from school, returns to Forrest’s life.

The fate of both Jenny and Mrs. Gump are scenes that will undoubtedly require tissues to get through as they are tender and emotional as can be.

Zemeckis’s Forrest Gump (1994) has emotion, sweetness, and heart, and those are nice qualities for a film to have.

It is not too sappy overwrought or manipulative, instead provides an honest story.

Oscar Nominations: 6 wins-Best Picture (won), Best Director-Robert Zemeckis (won), Best Actor-Tom Hanks (won), Best Supporting Actor-Gary Sinise, Best Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published (won), Best Original Score, Best Sound Effects Editing, Best Sound, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Makeup, Best Film Editing (won), Best Visual Effects (won)

Pulp Fiction-1994

Pulp Fiction-1994

Director Quentin Tarantino

Starring John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman

Top 100 Films #22

Scott’s Review #242

880640

Reviewed May 12, 2015

Grade: A

Pulp Fiction (1994) is one of the most influential films of the 1990s and single-handedly kicked the film industry in the ass. It led an entire generation of filmmakers, who were starved and determined to make more creative work after the largely dull decade of the 1980s.

The success of the film, both creatively and critically, helped ensure that edgier and more meaningful artistic expression would continue to occur.

The leader of the charge, of course, was director, Quentin Tarantino.

With Pulp Fiction, a black comedy crime film, Tarantino mixes violence, witty dialogue, and a 1970’s cartoonish feel to achieve a filmmaking masterpiece.

The plot is non-linear and the story contains three main focuses that intersect- a new style of filmmaking that has become commonplace in commonplace in modern cinema, but at the time was a novel adventure.

Set in Los Angeles, Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta portray hitmen named Jules and Vincent, who work for a powerful gangster, Marsellus Wallace, played by Ving Rhames. We get to know them as they interrogate four college-aged youths who double-crossed Marsellus, all the while discussing fast-food hamburgers and adventures in Europe.

On another front, Butch (Bruce Willis) is hired by Marsellus to lose a fight to another boxer. Later, Marcellus instructs Vincent to take his wife Mia (Uma Thurmon), a former unsuccessful television actress, out for dinner and a night on the town.

Finally, we meet Pumpkin and Honey Bunny (Tim Roth and Amanda Plumber), two small-town robbers plotting a heist at a local diner. As the film develops these plots relate to each other in unique ways.

The film is quite stylistic, resembling a 1970s film production in the way it looks, and the use of 1970s style sets- the diner, in particular, looks very of that time, and an automobile where a death occurs, is a 1970s, Chevy Nova.

The film, however, is set in present times.

The dialogue throughout Pulp Fiction is immensely impressive to me. Long dialogues occur between characters, usually sitting over a meal, discussing the meaning of life, religion, fast-food burgers, and other wonderfully real conversations.

I love the many food references- from Butch’s girlfriend salivating over an impending meal of blueberry pancakes to the French version of the Big Mac being discussed, to the price of a shake, these make the conversations between the characters rich and unique and oh so creative.

My favorite sequence is the one between Vincent and Mia, mostly taking place at a trendy 1950s-themed diner named Jack Rabbit Slim’s, where the staff dresses up in costume impersonating their favorite stars of the day, such as Marilyn Monroe.

After winning a dance contest (and a possible homage to Saturday Night Fever) the two go back to Mia’s place where she accidentally overdoses on heroin thought to be cocaine.

The song “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon” by Neil Diamond, is both integral and haunting to the scene.

An intense and shocking scene of male gay rape is extremely violent and the hillbillies involved could be straight out of Deliverance from 1972 despite being in Los Angeles.

This scene is disturbing yet mesmerizing at the same time, and might I say even comedic in a dark way?

Pulp Fiction is not a mainstream affair and has its share of detractors and plain old non-fans, but for film-goers seeking a fun, entertaining, cleverly delicious work of art, influential to Hollywood and Independent filmmakers alike, Pulp Fiction (1994) is a film to watch over and over again and admire its style and creativity.

Oscar Nominations: 1 win-Best Picture, Best Director-Quentin Tarantino, Best Actor-John Travolta, Best Supporting Actor-Samuel L. Jackson, Best Supporting Actress-Uma Thurman, Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen (won), Best Film Editing

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: 4 wins-Best Feature (won), Best Director-Quentin Tarantino (won), Best Male Lead-Samuel L. Jackson (won), Best Supporting Male-Eric Stoltz, Best Screenplay (won)

Ace Ventura: Pet Detective-1994

Ace Ventura: Pet Detective-1994

Director Tom Shadyac

Starring Jim Carrey, Courtney Cox, Sean Young

Scott’s Review #106

215309

Reviewed July 12, 2014

Grade: D-

Ace Ventura: Pet Detective is a silly comedy from 1994 starring Jim Carrey as a goofy private investigator specializing in pet rescue.

He is fairly inept but is hired by the Miami Dolphins to find their stolen mascot.

The film is ridiculous on almost every level- bad clichés, bad acting, mostly by the football players, and a dumb plot.

The saving grace of the film is Jim Carrey who defined the goofy, slapstick film star of the 1990s and, although over-the-top, is quite funny with his weird gestures and absurd mannerisms.

If the writing were only slightly better- think Dumb and Dumber (1994) or The Mask (1994), this film would have been almost enjoyable, but it pushes the definition of dumb fun just a little too far and sooner rather than later becomes convoluted and tedious.

A cameo appearance by Dan Marino, obviously a poor actor, just made this move seem sad and desperate.

Sean Young is appealing as the villain.