Category Archives: 1996 Films

Waiting for Guffman-1996

Waiting for Guffman-1996

Director Christopher Guest

Starring Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara

Scott’s Review #1,145

Reviewed May 24, 2021

Grade: B+

Somehow mocking local community theater troupes with questionable talent couldn’t be funnier with the right premise and an outstanding cast.

The added fun of midwestern traditions like barbeques good manners and spot-on imitations put on display for humor works well.

They should be celebrated and appreciated in Waiting for Guffman (1996).

The hysterical Best in Show (2000) is probably my favorite Christopher Guest film but Waiting for Guffman is a hoot and hollering good time.

The ‘B+’ rating comes largely because Guffman is an opening act to the fab Best in Show. They can easily be watched back to back and perhaps should for further cherishing.

When the town of Blaine, Missouri approaches its sesquicentennial, the residents decide to celebrate by performing a musical revue called “Red, White, and Blaine.”

Flamboyant director Corky St. Clair (Christopher Guest) is determined to return to Broadway success by casting untalented but passionate individuals to perform.

Eugene Levy, Fred Willard, and Catherine O’Hara play the main cast members.

When Corky reveals that influential theater agent Mort Guffman will attend the opening, the cast is convinced that they will be rewarded with accolades and appearances on the Broadway stage if they perform successfully.

They become titillated, flustered, and manic as the pressure of opening night approaches.

I daresay, some folks from the midwest United States or those faithful to the local theater may not enjoy Wating for Guffman but I sure did. Most of the characters are written as buffoons and lacking any talent.

The hysterics come because they think that they possess what they lack.

The aforementioned Guest, Levy, Willard, and O’Hara work so well together they are the reason Waiting for Guffman is so damned funny! The comic timing between the actors is flawless and timed perfectly.

Levy and O’Hara appeared together in the Canadian television sketch comedy series SCTV in the 1970s and 1980s before hitting the jackpot with the television series Schitt’s Creek in later years so a fun thing to do is watch them in whatever they appear in together.

They are that good!

There abound many stereotypes in Waiting for Guffman since Corky is written as a walking gay stereotype with mascara and flamboyancy. The irony is that he reportedly has a wife who is never seen so the audience can draw their conclusions.

Given the casting and the director, Christopher Guest takes on acting and directing duties, the experience is largely improvisational and witty result.

Guest treats his actors, and himself, to famous Director Robert Altman’s mantra of letting his actors release and act on their terms, presumably knowing the characters better than anyone else.

The tactic works. Too often comedies are stagey and situations forced in an attempt to make the viewer laugh because he or she thinks they are supposed to laugh.

My favorite characters unsurprisingly are Ron and Sheila Albertson (Willard and O’Hara) as travel agents/amateur performers. They are zany and unpredictable and their antics cannot be superseded by anyone else.

Recommended mostly for the artistic and the improv comedy crowd. The spoofs are all over the place and fans of documentaries and talent shows can appreciate the gags.

Waiting for Guffman (1996) targets an intelligent audience craving fresh and original comedy. Being a cinema fan largely immersed in drama and horror, I was won over nonetheless.

The only drawback is the film pales in comparison to the brilliant Best in Show (2000) with largely the same cast and tone, but still should be watched.

101 Dalmatians-1996

101 Dalmatians-1996

Director Stephen Herek

Starring Glenn Close, Jeff Daniels, Joely Richardson

Scott’s Review #989

Reviewed February 13, 2020

Grade: C+

The classic animated Disney film 101 Dalmatians (1961) is brought to life in a live-action format thirty-five years later to create a fresh spin on the revered original film.

Unfortunately, the result is nothing special save for Glenn Close’s brilliant performance as the dastardly Cruella De Vil. Otherwise, the reworking is too amateurish and largely unnecessary, especially as compared to the brilliance and charm of the original.

Thankfully not modifying the London setting, American video game designer Roger Dearly (Jeff Daniels) lives with his pet dalmatian, Pong.

Lonely, Roger trudges along through life without a love interest. During a walk, Pongo sets his eyes on a beautiful female dalmatian named Perdy. After a chase through the streets of London that ends in St. James’s Park, Roger discovers that Pongo likes Perdy.

Her owner, Anita Campbell-Green (Joely Richardson) immediately falls in love with Roger and the duo are inseparable.

They get married along with Perdy and Pongo. Anita works as a fashion designer at the House of de Vil. Her boss, the pampered and glamorous Cruella de Vil (Close), has a passion for fur.

Anita, inspired by her Dalmatian, designs a coat made with spotted fur, and Cruella is intrigued by the idea of wearing Anita’s dog. She hatches a plot to steal and kill the puppies for her lavish gain.

The scenes between the dogs are cute and work better than the intended romance relationship between the humans. A darling pursuit in the animated feature that does not shine through with real actors.

Either the chemistry between Daniels and Richardson does not exist or the scene is too forced, or perhaps both. I did not buy the love, at first sight, stars aligning moments.

I bet most audiences didn’t either. The result is a banal and stale connection between Roger and Anita, meant to be the core of the story.

Enough cannot be said for what Close brings to the role. The actress gives a tremendous performance and sinks her teeth into the most prominent and interesting part of the film.

With a sinister sneer, a flowing red and white coat, and a token cigarette holder, she infuses Cruella with dazzling menace.

Careful not to overact and result in a juvenile character, she relishes the role, providing just enough comedy without being too scary. The performance is perfect.

A negative is that, unlike the animated version, none of the animals have speaking voices. This detracts from the earnest quality of expressive, talking animals.

What pet owner does not imagine what their cat or dog would sound like if they talked?

Instead, the puppies sniff and look cute, making themselves distracted and unclear about what feelings they have. One wonders why the decision was made in this way, but it does little to provide texture.

101 Dalmatians are too cute for their good, limiting any sophistication. The original had British intelligence and a cultural voice, with small, yet important details, like falling rain, that live-action cannot mimic.

The 1996 version is kid-friendly, but brings little to the table, lacking interesting flair. Why not teach a lesson about the dalmatian dog breed rather than settle for simply an adorable slant?

Rumors abound that parents adopted dalmatians for their children after seeing the film and were forced to return them, rather than invest time in study, realizing that raising a dalmatian is hard work.

The idea to remake an adorable and cozy Walt Disney classic from the 1960s with a fresh approach is admirable. The live-action detail could add a new twist or an inventive spin that could appeal to a new generation of youngsters.

Unfortunately, 101 Dalmatians (1996) works unwell, barely rising above mediocrity, with an aura of fluff and gimmicks that feel forced and trite. The saving grace is Glenn Close, a tremendous talent who gives it her all despite sub-par material.

Stick to the original 1961 version.



Director Jan de Bont

Starring Bill Pullman, Helen Hunt

Scott’s Review #763

Reviewed May 25, 2018

Grade: B+

Twister (1996) is a film that contains amazing and groundbreaking special effects- that blew people away (pun intended!) when released to the masses over twenty years ago.

Moviegoers flocked to theaters everywhere to partake in the escapist summer feel-good hit starring popular movie stars of the time.

The film spawned amusement park rides and lots of other fun things during its run.

The visuals are what truly are to be enjoyed here and not the generic, tried, and true subplots of romance, childhood trauma, and corporate greed that are mixed in.

The film does not hold up well in present times as the dazzling effects now look rather dated when lined up against modern blockbusters. This results in Twister being reduced to “one of those 1990’s films”.

Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt star as American storm chasers, Bill and Jo, obsessed with their craft of tracking tornadoes throughout the United States mid-western region. Adding drama to the plot is that Bill and Jo are an estranged married couple amid a divorce.

Bill brings his new fiancee Melissa (Jami Gertz) along as numerous meteorologists converge to track storms using newly invented devices.

Predictably, a series of vicious storms commence while Bill, Jo, and Melissa play out a love triangle.

Twister gets off to a fantastic start as a wicked storm kills the five-year-old Jo’s father, prompting her to pursue her career of choice. Jo has never gotten over her father’s death becoming fascinated by deadly storms.

The effects of this initial storm are very well done as Jo’s father’s death scene is riveting- the poor man being sucked into the deadly cyclone is memorable. Regardless, this scene sets the tone for the ample effects to follow- most notably the terrifying sound of the swirling storm as farm tools and animals fly around onscreen.

After the initial introduction, the rest of the film is mainly of the group driving around and encountering storms, with Bill and Jo taking center stage.

As a child having spent many summers in the mid-west, sans tornadoes thankfully, I felt a sense of nostalgia watching the film.

Assumptions are being made that Twister was indeed filmed on location (with studio help), but the authenticity is apparent. From the vastness of the plains to the dusty roads, cornfields, and the small-town U.S.A. I enjoyed the down-home, slice-of-life feel.

The action and effects are lightning-quick and quite realistic. As mentioned the sound effects are as strong as the visual effects and I never doubted for a second that the twisters had a realism to them.

This successfully merges into the summer blockbuster that Twister’s producers undoubtedly were going for. Making a ton of money, the result was successful and inspired by Hollywood.

Despite the superlative special effects, though, this is the only reason to watch Twister, and seeing the film once is enough excitement.

The writers (Michael Crichton and Anne-Marie Martin) attempt to incorporate a romance into the story and this does nobody any good. This negative aspect is even more apparent since the chemistry between Paxton and Hunt is non-existent and Gertz’s Melissa is meant to be the odd woman out all along.

A large amount of suspension of disbelief is necessary to “buy” various scenes. Ludicrous are countless scenes where characters either outrun the monstrous twisters or somehow the storms encircle them, but miraculously never touch them.

When Jo, Bill, and Melissa’s truck are captured inside the funnel cloud the vehicle and its passengers somehow remain unharmed.  Tornadoes do not simply come out of nowhere to attack without any indication on the radar.

But alas this is a disaster film and liberties must be taken.

The famous “cow scene”, notoriously used twice in the film seemed groundbreaking and cutting edge in 1996, but in 2018 now seems hokey and unnecessary.

Times sure do change in cinema, especially with technical effects and CGI growing each year.

Admittedly, the film does contain a good, all-American rockin’ summer tune by Van Halen named “Humans Being”, which always makes me think of summertime when I hear it. The entire Twister soundtrack was an enormous success with radio airplay given and led to further successes for the film.

Perhaps now watched as a blast from the past or a revisit to some sort of nostalgic time for folks, Twister (1996) is a great example of a once-popular popcorn movie falling into semi-obscurity. Given another twenty years, the film will undoubtedly fall all the way.

A nice film for the time it was, but not much more.

Oscar Nominations: Best Sound, Best Visual Effects



Director Wes Craven

Starring Drew Barrymore, Neve Campbell, David Arquette

Scott’s Review #710

Reviewed January 5, 2018

Grade: A-

Wes Craven’s 1996 film Scream is a piece that greatly assisted in bringing the horror genre back into relevance after a long drought throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s when horror films suffered from both over-saturation and cliche-riddled messes.

Thanks to Scream, creativity and plot twists and turns returned to the forefront of good horror films, and a clever film was birthed.

Fast-forward to 2018, the film does suffer a bit from a dated 1990s look but is still great fun to watch and a treat for all classic horror buffs as the references to classic greats are endless.

The film is sectioned off nicely and gets underway quickly  (in the best sequence of the film) as Casey Becker (Drew Barrymore)  receives a flirtatious phone call while making popcorn, from a man asking her to name her favorite horror film.

The friendly game quickly turns vicious as the caller threatens to kill her boyfriend should she answer a question incorrectly.

In a clever twist (think 1960s Psycho!) Casey and her boyfriend meet deadly fates and the opening credits begin to roll.

Given the huge star, Barrymore was in 1996, this twist was all the more shocking and attention-grabbing.

The remainder of the film centers around Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), a popular California high school student, as she is pursued by an attacker known only as “Ghostface”, who dons a creepy costume and terrorizes victims via phone calls.

The small town, led by police officer Dewey Riley (David Arquette) and bitchy newswoman Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox), is determined to unmask the killer and figure out his or her motivations.

Sidney’s boyfriend, Billy (Skeet Ulrich), and other friends are along for the ride as a possible connected sub-plot involving Sidney’s deceased mother is introduced.

A romance between Dewey and Gale is also broached.

Scream is an enormous treat for fans of the horror genre as numerous references (and film clips!) of classics such as 1978’s Halloween abound throughout the film.

Other references to Friday the 13th, Prom Night, and A Nightmare On Elm Street appear during the film.

Writer, Kevin Williamson, a horror enthusiast, must have had a ball writing the screenplay that would become Scream.

In 1996, the mega-success of the film successfully not only jump-started the entire genre but also introduced younger fans of Scream to classics that were perhaps their parent’s generation and got them interested in the films.

Classic horror films are not only referenced during the film but also explained, mostly by the supporting character of Jamie, the nerdy kid who works at the video store and adores horror films.

A sequence in which he explains several “rules” of the horror genre is superlative, creative, and just great fun. He tells the teenagers at a party that anyone who drinks, has sex, or says “I will be right back”, is doomed to suffer a violent fate.

This clever writing makes Scream enormous fun to watch.

The climax of Scream is quite surprising in itself and the “great reveal” of the murderer (s) is also intelligent writing and quite the surprise. Several red herrings are produced along the way, casting suspicion on other characters who may or may not be the killers.

A small gripe of the writing is the motivations of the murderers- when the explanation is given for their killing spree, the reasoning is a bit convoluted and hard to fathom, but this is horror, and suspension of disbelief is always a necessity.

Scream is best remembered for giving the horror genre a good, hard kick in the seat of the pants and shaking all of the elements up a bit while preserving the core ideals of a good slasher film (suspense, a whodunit, and good solid kills).

Scream (1996) was followed by several sequels, some achieving better successes than others. In 2018 the film may not be quite as fresh as it once was, but is still a solid watch and memorable for relaunching a genre.

Beautiful Thing-1996

Beautiful Thing-1996

Director Hettie MacDonald

Starring Glen Berry, Scott Neal

Scott’s Review #675

Reviewed August 20, 2017

Grade: B

Based on the play of the same name, Beautiful Thing is a heartwarming 1996 British LGBT film written by Jonathan Harvey and directed by Hettie MacDonald.

Incorporating music from the Mamas and the Papas, and specifically Mama Cass, the film undoubtedly was groundbreaking upon release in the 1990s due to its taboo (at that time) gay romance, but in the year 2017, this film suffers a bit from both a dated feeling and a play it safe vibe.

The action, just like a play would, takes place almost entirely within a working-class London apartment building in the present times.

The lead character is Jamie (Glen Berry), a high school student, intrigued by his male classmate and neighbor, Ste (Scott Neal). He also must keep an eye on his flighty mother, Sandra, who changes boyfriends like the weather, and aspires to open her pub- she is currently dating neighbor and understanding hippie, Tony.

Ste is the other central character. Shyer than Jamie, he has a difficult upbringing, living next door to Jamie with an abusive father and brother. Ste and Jamie eventually bond and a secret love story begins as the young men conceal their relationship from everyone else.

In the mix is a vivacious black teenage neighbor girl, Leah, who is obsessed with Mama Cass’s records, which her grandmother owns and frequently plays. Leah and Sandra are engaged in a lightweight feud, in large part because Sandra believes Leah is a bad influence on Jamie.

Keeping in close mind when Beautiful Thing (1996) was made, the film deserves an enormous amount of praise for, at the time, simply existing when LGBT films were hardly the norm.

Watching in 2017, though, the film loses a bit when compared with subsequent LGBT releases that broke more barriers with their mainstream viewership and much darker themes (LGBT masterpieces like 2006’s Brokeback Mountain and 2016’s Moonlight immediately come to mind).

Beautiful Thing also contains a safer, lightweight touch than the aforementioned films, making it now seem too much like fluff.

Director, MacDonald, mixes in humor so that while the message of a same-sex relationship is important, it is softened a bit by the comedy.

Specifically, the sidekick character of Leah lightens the message. The supporting characters may get a bit too much screen time. Sandra’s giggle-worthy job interview attempting to do “respectable work” in an office environment, or her man-hungry escapades, take away from the main story.

I also never felt any real threats or danger to the same-sex relationship. Sure, there is some brief disapproval, and a quick mention of Jamie not liking football (a negative gay stereotype that is unnecessary) combined with Ste’s abuse at the hands of his family, but even that is not perceived as a major obstacle to their, at that time anyway, shocking relationship.

On the other hand, the chemistry between the two leads (Berry and Neal) is wonderful and the best aspect of the film. Both actors convey the emotions of the characters perfectly- both coming into their sexuality, Berry’s Jamie is the more confident one, asking Neal’s Ste, in a sweet scene, whether he has ever been kissed.

This leads to a sleepover that is innocent and tender rather than steamy or sexual. I completely buy the characters as young lovers, coming to terms with their own identities while supporting the needs of the other, and becoming a good team.

The final scene, naturally accompanied by a Cass Elliot song “Dream A Little Dream Of Me”, is a touching, wonderful scene. Jamie and Ste dance together in broad daylight, for their entire complex to see, and subsequently are circled by both supporters and the curious.

As their show of support, Sandra and Leah join the boys and end their dispute.

Beautiful Thing (1996) offers a heartwarming conclusion to a fine, yet lightweight by modern standards, LGBT romantic film.



Director Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

Starring Frances McDormand, William H. Macy

Top 100 Films #79

Scott’s Review #366


Reviewed January 9, 2016

Grade: A

Fargo (1996) is a treasure as far as I’m concerned and the role that deservedly propelled Frances McDormand to the forefront of the film audience’s minds- not to mention a gold statue for Best Actress.

The film epitomizes dark humor, and zany freshness, during a time in cinema when originality was emerging, and independent films were growing in popularity.

Fargo led the pack.

The film suffers from some derision by locals in and around the upper mid-west U.S.A. for its depiction of accents- perhaps overdone, but hysterical all the same.

Mixed with the snowy and icy locales, the film perfectly presents a harsh and small-town feeling.

The introduction of a crime- initially done innocently, escalates out of control.

Fargo is a part caper, part thriller, and part adventure and is a layered, cool film.

The fact that the time is 1987 is great. The cars, the Oldsmobile dealership, all work particularly.

McDormand plays a local Police Chief- Marge Gunderson, very pregnant, who stumbles upon the crime and slowly unravels the mystery.

All the while, the character keeps her cool, cracks jokes, and emits witty one-liner after another, presenting a slightly dim-witted image, but brilliantly deducing the aspects of the crime.

William H. Macy, in 1996 largely unknown, is perfectly cast as a car salesman, Jerry Lundegaard. Nervous, and shaky, yet with down-home respectability, he hatches a plot to have his wife kidnapped, the ransom to be paid by her wealthy father, enabling Jerry to pay off an enormous embezzling debt, and splitting the money with the kidnappers.

Predictably, things go awry and spiral out of control.

I love how the film crosses genres and is tough to label- is it a crime drama, a thriller, or a comedy? A bit of each which is the brilliance of it.

Fargo (1996) is an odd, little piece of art, and is remembered as one of the best films of the 1990s, making a star out of Frances McDormand.

Oscar Nominations: 2 wins-Best Picture, Best Director-Joel Coen, Best Actress-Frances McDormand (won), Best Supporting Actor-William H. Macy, Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen (won), Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: 6 wins-Best Feature (won), Best Director-Joel Coen (won), Best Male Lead-William H. Macy (won), Best Female Lead-Frances McDormand (won), Best Screenplay (won), Best Cinematography (won)

Big Night-1996

Big Night-1996

Director Stanley Tucci, Campbell Scott

Starring Stanley Tucci, Tony Shalhoub

Scott’s Review #300


Reviewed December 16, 2015

Grade: B+

Big Night (1996) is a sweet, whimsical little film that is a food lover’s dream come true since that is the focal point of the story with more than one dish being prepared on-screen giving it realism.

It centers on the restaurant business and, specifically, how two brothers struggle to keep their failing restaurant afloat through their love and passion for food.

The story tells of two Italian immigrant brothers, Primo and Secondo, played by Tony Shalhoub and Stanley Tucci, respectively.

The time is the 1950s and they reside in blue-collar New Jersey. Times are tough for them as they try to succeed in the difficult restaurant business- they specialize in Italian food of course.

Secondo is a playboy of sorts- suave and handsome, he dates Phyllis (Minnie Driver) while galavanting with a sophisticated older woman named Gabriela, the wife of a competitor.

Primo, on the other hand, is quiet, and serious, yet an all-star chef. The food he prepares is wonderful and his talent is evident.

But how can they market themselves to be successful?

At this point, their restaurant is dying and they risk being reduced to returning to Italy or eke out a meager existence working for someone else.

An idea is announced to have a celebrity singer (Louis Prima) perform for a one-night extravaganza at their restaurant, where they will make the meal of their lives and impress the town, thus achieving success.

The film is charming and my favorite parts are on the “big night”. As the duo prepared the liquor order and shopped for flowers and other decorations in preparation, the mood and spirit left me with a warm feeling.

What a sense of togetherness Primo and Secondo, along with friends, felt to achieve this challenging goal. Inevitably, there is tension between the brothers, and between Secondo and Phyllis, but truthfully, these are merely sub-plots, and the heart of the film is in the food.

The scenes that take place in the kitchen left my mouth watering. As Secondo prepares a baked pasta dish (Timpano), the meal oozes with love and tastiness. The entire story arc is grand and magnificent.

The group of diners revels in the dining room of the restaurant enjoying spirits and dancing the night away. By morning everyone is full and drunk, both with love and alcohol, but most are happy. They get merry as they eat the night away.

I could almost taste the main course!

A subplot that works for me is the burgeoning romance between reserved Primo and equally reserved flower shop owner, Ann. Both very timid, they finally muster the courage to admit their feelings for each other while enjoying (what else?) wine and food- what better way to begin a romance?

The tenderness and chemistry between these two are very innocent and captivated me while watching the film.

The final scene of the brothers making an omelet is also wonderful and a fitting way to stress togetherness and perseverance, which is what the small film is really about.

For lovers of food, Big Night (1996) is a shining moment.

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: 1 win-Best Male Lead-Tony Shalhoub, Stanley Tucci, Best First Screenplay (won), Best First Feature