1990s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol. 3)

An ongoing survey of the Criterion Forum membership to create lists of the best films of each decade and genre.
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knives
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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol

#426 Post by knives » Fri May 19, 2017 10:26 pm

I was thinking more Steven Segal's America though that one is great too.

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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol

#427 Post by knives » Fri May 19, 2017 10:31 pm

Mr Sausage wrote:
domino harvey wrote:I'm less enamored with Under Siege than you, but hopefully you'll be skipping the ludicrous Under Siege 2: Dark Territory, which I will forever remember for having the single dumbest villain plan in action film history.
I saw Under Siege 2 a bunch of times on tv growing up. It and On Deadly Ground always seemed to be on somewhere. I'm not keen on a revisit. I might watch The Glimmer Man, tho', unless someone (anyone) feels like talking me down.
knives wrote:I actually quite like can Damme, at least in the right or so films I've seen him in. He's able to be quite funny and when necessary exploit the sexuality of the genre. I would take him over most other action stars of the era and certainly over the rest of the B and C level ones. As for Segal, all I can think of when I hear about his movies is MadTV's parody which I remember being quite good.
I like Van Damme, too, actually. Indeed, I like him a lot more than I like Stallone, Snipes, or, I don't know, Lundren. He showed a gift for comedy in Sudden Death I didn't expect. My crack at him was more a crack about his poor ability to choose movies. Aside from Hard Target, Sudden Death, and maybe Double Impact, I'm hard pressed to think of a Van Damme I actually like. I'll all for some recommendations, tho'.
His recent Enemy Mine where he plays the villain is good, dumb fun. I also liked him in Expendables 2 though the rest of the movie is awful.

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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol

#428 Post by Mr Sausage » Fri May 19, 2017 10:34 pm

I was so disappointed with his fight scene with Stallone in Expendables 2. He just did a couple of split kicks and then got beat up in short order. What a waste. Mel goddamn Gibson got a better showing in number 3.

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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol

#429 Post by Black Hat » Sat May 20, 2017 2:41 am

Whichever one had Erika Eleniak popping out of the birthday cake gets my vote.

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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol

#430 Post by domino harvey » Sat May 20, 2017 2:43 am

Black Hat wrote:Whichever one had Erika Eleniak popping out of the birthday cake gets my vote.
That was the Remains of the Day

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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol

#431 Post by Mr Sausage » Sun May 21, 2017 2:38 pm

In the Line of Fire (Wolfgang Peterson, 1995): A third of the way in, I realized I had in fact seen this on tv many years ago. I’m not sure why I chose it to watch, actually, as what I really wanted was something short, silly, and over-the-top, all things this movie plainly isn’t. More of a prestige picture than the other films I’ve been seeing, so there are earnest stabs at character and thematic development in that skillful but simplistic and schematic way top-shelf 90’s thrillers have. Here, Eastwood’s secret service agent gets a shot at redemption after having failed to take a bullet for a previous president. The kind of movie you catch on tv, enjoy, then forget all about.

Hard Target (John Woo, 1993): John Woo’s first American movie, a sort of Most Dangerous Game set in New Orleans. It’s absurdly over-stylized as you might expect, inappropriately so given the material is straight-forward action rather than lush melodrama. Still, there is some novelty in having Van Damme realize dog tags always come in pairs by having a dove fly into the room in slow motion and settle near a pair of them, setting off the realization. Most movies would settle for cutting back and forth between a close-up and an insert a few times. Considering he’d just come off Hard Boiled, the action scenes are disappointing and neutered for Woo. Compared to every other action film of the decade, however, they are amazing, full of kinetic energy and a dance-like rhythm. Though Lance Henriksen is the main baddie, Arnold Vosloo and his South African accent steals the show.

Universal Soldier (Roland Emmerich, 1992): Considering Arnold Schwarzenegger could walk around with that accent of his for ten years not only without it being remarked on, but sporting names like Joseph P. Brenner and Ben Richards, I don’t get why so many Van Damme movies feel the need to give him a French name and explain his accent. He’s Cajun in this one and Hard Target (we meet his Cajun families in both) and French Canadian in Sudden Death, where he banters in French with Mario Lemieux. Anyway, Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren kill each other in Vietnam only to be resurrected decades later as super soldiers wielded by a secret organization. Naturally, their memories return and havoc ensues. Lundgren is the best part of this movie, going way over the top in a departure from his usual stone-faced action hero persona. Van Damme rises slowly from the bottom of the screen in front of a background of fire twice in five minutes--so, a Roland Emmerich film.

Passenger 57 (Kevin Hooks, 1992): It’s hard to say anything good or bad about this movie. It’s just kind of there. Wesley Snipes finds himself on a plane when hijackers take control. Stuff happens, people die, the British villain chews the scenery. The usual.

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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol

#432 Post by knives » Sun May 21, 2017 3:05 pm

I think Universal Soldier works best as a piece of homoerotic sensualism like a more simplistic Le samurai. It's not great, but fun.

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1990s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol. 3)

#433 Post by Mr Sausage » Sun May 21, 2017 4:34 pm

knives wrote:I think Universal Soldier works best as a piece of homoerotic sensualism...
That's probably true of all 80's and 90's action movies, really.

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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol

#434 Post by domino harvey » Mon May 22, 2017 12:37 am

I wanted to be part of this but I only had one unwatched 90s action film at my disposal and it ended up literally being disposed of in the recycling after realizing it wasn't worth anything on the second-hand market (for good cause): Chain Reaction (Andrew Davis 1996). I wasn't a big fan of the Fugitive but I'm even less of a fan of this fifth-rate wrong man shit, with Keanu Reeves and Rachel Weisz getting framed by Morgan Freeman after he blows up a water-conduction machine in Chicago, leveling eight city blocks. This is one of those dumb conspiracy movies where the government is so powerful and nefarious that they can operate on a large private contractor scale, including snazzy Government Evil Lair. As ever in these kind of movies, my mind goes where it's not supposed to since the actual plot is so dull: Who cleans these secret Government Evil Lairs? Where are the break-rooms with multiple fridges, since there doesn't appear to be anywhere to eat down in the lair? I didn't see any bathrooms either. Classic Evil Government. You can tell how this one was probably a bit more fun on paper, with set pieces at the Natural History Museum, a frozen lake in Wisconsin, and a moving bridge, but the actual action sequences are dopey and like everything else here just not interesting. For fans of Brian Cox thinking about doing a southern accent but forgetting to actually do one only.

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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol

#435 Post by Mr Sausage » Mon May 22, 2017 8:09 am

Well, if Brian Cox keeping up a southern accent the whole way through a movie is your thing, have I got the film for you: The Glimmer Man. It is prime Brian Cox using a southern accent consistently. I can also recommend The Glimmer Man if you are into: 1. fat, immobile Steven Seagal. 2. action scenes cut all to hell. 3. Keenan Ivory Wayans shouting at old Asian ladies and eating powdered deer penis. 4. Seagal commenting on how nice a corpse's breasts are before cutting out one of her implants. 5. a gratuitous misuse of Casablanca.

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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol

#436 Post by domino harvey » Mon May 22, 2017 10:32 am

As tempting as your Cox pullquote is, I think I'll pass. Reading the premise, I'm already confused: Does the film explain why someone as talented as Seagal would take a pay cut to move backwards from being a special operative to police detective? Wikipedia also drops this bon mot
SpoilerShow
According to Stephen Tobolowsky, Steven Seagal wanted to change the scene in which Cole (Seagal) kills Maynard (Tobolowsky). Due to his spiritual beliefs, Seagal did not want to kill villains in his movies anymore. Tobolowsky convinced Seagal that Maynard would be able to be reincarnated and redeemed by being killed. Seagal agreed and the scene was filmed as written.

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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol

#437 Post by Forrest Taft » Mon May 22, 2017 10:56 am


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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol

#438 Post by domino harvey » Mon May 22, 2017 12:30 pm

I think the thirty seconds of the Glimmer Man I saw in that clip are more than sufficient for the rest of my life and then some. Tobolowsky seems like a fun guy, no wonder everyone loves him-- I've heard his podcast is good but never got around to it

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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol

#439 Post by cdnchris » Mon May 22, 2017 12:39 pm

It's a terrible film so you aren't missing much.

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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol

#440 Post by Mr Sausage » Mon May 22, 2017 2:38 pm

domino harvey wrote:As tempting as your Cox pullquote is, I think I'll pass. Reading the premise, I'm already confused: Does the film explain why someone as talented as Seagal would take a pay cut to move backwards from being a special operative to police detective?
There's an explanation of sorts. Apparently Seagal went rogue, disappeared into the jungle, and started making up his own missions. When his handlers finally caught up with him, they found him in a Buddhist temple learning from some old monk. I think it's meant to imply he found spirituality and left the service for something less murderous. That said, Seagal spends the movie preaching non-violence in one scene and torturing and killing people in the next. There's even a bonkers Surviving Edged Weapons moment where he pulls out his credit card only for a blade to pop out of the edge, allowing him slits three people's throats in one swipe, as you do when you're a follower of the Dalai Lama.

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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol

#441 Post by theflirtydozen » Tue May 23, 2017 9:07 pm

domino harvey wrote:I wanted to be part of this but I only had one unwatched 90s action film at my disposal and it ended up literally being disposed of in the recycling after realizing it wasn't worth anything on the second-hand market (for good cause): Chain Reaction (Andrew Davis 1996).
This is probably the most opportune time for me to share this anecdote! My office is right next to the sonoluminescence chemist that "advised" on the laboratory set design for this and instead of me trying to recount the conversation I've had with him about it before, I just found this entertaining post on his website with the same details. It's pretty clear he dislikes the final product as much as you do!

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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol

#442 Post by zedz » Tue May 23, 2017 11:57 pm

theflirtydozen wrote:
domino harvey wrote:I wanted to be part of this but I only had one unwatched 90s action film at my disposal and it ended up literally being disposed of in the recycling after realizing it wasn't worth anything on the second-hand market (for good cause): Chain Reaction (Andrew Davis 1996).
This is probably the most opportune time for me to share this anecdote! My office is right next to the sonoluminescence chemist that "advised" on the laboratory set design for this and instead of me trying to recount the conversation I've had with him about it before, I just found this entertaining post on his website with the same details. It's pretty clear he dislikes the final product as much as you do!
I have a similar story, and it also happens to relate to a 1990s film. A friend of mine attended the world premiere of Bruce Beresford's Black Robe in 1991, and he was seated next to somebody who had served as a consultant on the film (piecing things together, I'm guessing it was the author Joe C.W. Armstrong), a historian who specialized in the early exploration of North America. He'd been commissioned to provide historical research and accurate maps for the production, and was excited to see what use had been made of all his information. At the end of the screening, the guy said the only trace of his research in the finished film was one of his maps, which was used as a background for the credits.

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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol

#443 Post by knives » Wed May 24, 2017 12:16 am

I've also got one for a different '90s film. The main professor for one of my sister's major was a consultant on The Prince of Egypt and apparently would take regular moments out of the class to complain that nothing he worked on to show them was actually in the film and the few things that seemed traced to his work were presented in a very different context. It's really more amusing than I am now to here her talk about it.

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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol

#444 Post by Mr Sausage » Wed May 24, 2017 8:03 pm

The Glimmer Man (John Gray, 1996): By this point, Seagal had resorted to wearing large bulky coats to hide his paunch. The fight scenes are cut into fragments to disguise the fact (unsuccessfully) that Seagal isn’t moving much. This leads to bizarre and hilarious moments like the exact same footage of Segal blocking a kick being shown five times in a row. Was the bad guy just spamming his key move like he’s playing Mortal Kombat for the first time? Was Seagal’s block so masterful that we just have to see it four more times so we can appreciate its skill? Jesus Christ, this movie is bad. It’s so bad there are four, four separate villains, and the most interesting one is both introduced the latest and killed off the earliest. Did I mention Keenan Ivory Wayans cries at Casablanca screenings, eats powdered deer penis, and tells everyone he meets that he’s black? No, seriously, he is black. If you were under any confusion, he is here to tell you, he is black.

Trespass (Walter Hill, 1992): I’m not a big Hill fan, but this might well be his best, a kind of claustrophobic Treasure of the Sierra Madre, where the restrictions in space allow for a tight focus on character. The movie does a superb job tracking all the individual characters (each of whom, down to the minor rolls, have their own distinguishable personalities) and their shifting motivations and loyalties. A tense and exciting film that never breaks the logic its setting and characters establish.

The Crow (Alex Proyas, 1994): the sequel was always on tv as a kid. I remember it being an odd movie with a visual texture best described as nicotine-stained dry wall that’s sat so long in water it's turned to paste. The original (which I’ve just now seen) is either a gothic nightmare or a 90’s emo cliché, depending on your mood. It’s all brooding, black leather, and alternative rock. It’s surprisingly light on action, favouring set-design and moody atmospherics. I had the same problem with this as with Proyas’ later Dark City: the editing and pace are too frenetic for a mood piece; you’re always hurtling along, even when nothing much is happening. There’s no space to linger and appreciate the atmosphere. It feels like the filmmakers are afraid the viewers are going to get bored at any moment. I don’t see why: despite being a straight-forward revenge story, the style and performances are engaging and the melancholy tone works for the material.

Cliffhanger (Renny Harlin, 1993): Another one seen on tv in childhood. This recent viewing broke my long-held indifference. It’s an engaging film, mostly due to the constantly impressive location photography and blasted, snowy atmosphere. Stallone is too much a superhero for there to be any real tension, but the despicableness of the villains and the ever-shifting complications presented by the environment keeps the cat-and-mouse game entertaining. The only annoying thing (besides John Lithgow’s disappearing British accent) is that, once again, a woman gets dragged along to point at things, scream, and get kidnapped when appropriate. It’s particularly egregious here because she’s supposed to be an experienced search-and-rescue operative and mountain climber. Why couldn’t the movie have made use of her skills? Why does she have to just lie on the ground screaming and doing nothing when disposable bad guy #4 is beating Stallone to a pulp? How much more interesting and unexpected if Stallone were the one being held hostage and two women had to use their intelligence and experience to out-maneuver the bad guys, with the mountain giving them a physical advantage where anywhere else they’d be at a disadvantage. Might’ve made this a superior 90’s actioner instead of a pretty good one.

Double Impact (Sheldon Lettich, 1991): Running theme: saw this on tv as a kid. It’s still a pretty good Van Damme vanity project, with Van Damme (introduced wearing pastel spandex and teaching a group of 90’s models how to do the splits, replete with endless shot of his glutes) playing two twins, one a playboy and the other a crook, who plan to take revenge and reclaim their birthright. To judge by the evidence, their plan to do this involves nothing beyond showing up in Hong Kong and milling about, acting all aggrieved. The old guy helping them out seems to think you don’t need documents or birth certificates or anything to establish legal rights of ownership, just 25-year-old memories of a murder and two brothers who look the same. Whatever, we’re just here to watch Van Damme kick people, and he does, endlessly and to good effect. There are some novel fight scenes, including one where a white-suited baddie melts in and out of the darkness like a phantom. The location shooting in Hong Kong gives the movie some novelty over a lot of action films from the decade. Bolo’s here, too, not having aged a bit in two decades. Van Damme does a reasonably good job playing two different guys (granted, a lot of that is down to the stubble and slicked-back hair for the angrier one). Good, cheesy, inconsequential fun.

Another 48 Hrs (Walter Hill, 1990): Much like The Crow, I saw the sequel on tv long before I saw the original. I think the original is just ok, and this one’s a more grating version of the same thing. I didn’t find the original all that funny, but there was at least some jocularity there. This one is just people screaming at each other. There are whole gunfights where the screaming is so loud and endless it drowns out the gunfire. The action scenes are stylish, tho’, and the movie is over quickly enough.

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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol

#445 Post by domino harvey » Wed May 24, 2017 9:25 pm

Trespass was the first Walter Hill movie I liked, but it was easily topped by the Driver (well outside of this decade's purview). If you liked Trespass' fully-fledged colorful criminal characters, I highly recommend from the 90s New Jack City (a flawed film, but a memorable one) and Thick as Thieves. And since you're watching a lot of junk, why not watch the best Trash As Art argument of the decade, Freeway?

Also, I haven't seen Cliffhanger since I was a kid, but that scene where he has to burn the suitcase full of money to survive still makes me so irrationally mad, even now

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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol

#446 Post by cdnchris » Wed May 24, 2017 10:01 pm

Mr Sausage wrote: ...tells everyone he meets that he’s black? No, seriously, he is black. If you were under any confusion, he is here to tell you, he is black.
I recall Segal, while promoting the film, constantly mentioning that Wayans' role was originally written for a white actor. So maybe they just really wanted to stress how progressive the film was.

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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol

#447 Post by thirtyframesasecond » Thu May 25, 2017 9:04 am

Cliffhanger was slightly amusing for Craig Fairbrass, who plays the English henchman, turning up in Eastenders. I did say slightly amusing. He makes a soccer/football gag if I recall.

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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol

#448 Post by Mr Sausage » Tue May 30, 2017 10:58 pm

Daylight (Rob Cohen, 1996): Ridiculous and not half bad, really. Buries its clichés under endless effects and thrill sequences. Stallone plays an interesting note: conciliatory, quiet, and conflict-avoidant in situations where other action stars would respond belligerently or dismissively, asserting their own expertise. This is a problem-solving film: isolate the characters in a situation (trapped inside the collapsed tunnel between New York and New Jersey), add a problem, force them to find a solution, repeat as needed. The problems eventually escalate into absurdity and there’s plenty of sentimentalism and cookie-cutter screen writing along the way. But Cohen marshals his resources so effectively that the film works in spite of its unoriginality.

Freeway (Matthew Bright, 1996): This was a wild movie. I’m not sure I know what to say about it or that I even want to say anything about it. I almost want to call it a black-hearted movie with its heart in the right place, or some similar combination of contradictory idioms. Whether or not its satire is ultimately coherent is far less interesting than the sudden bizarre turns of the narrative that confound expectation, not least of which is how the movie drops the bottom out from under our assumptions of its heroine not just once, but twice. Complicating her rather dark slide is how the film carefully sets up not just the ugly reality of her homelife, but some of the deeper emotional repercussions that our heroine hardly realizes. The movie invites extreme and complicated reactions to itself. It’s willfully provoking and tasteless. It’s quite a bit of sick fun. I liked it(?)

Nowhere to Run (Robert Harmon, 1993): It’s not obvious how strange this movie is until you realize that this movie starring Van Damme is not a Van Damme movie. Let’s start first with the visual style: even the most competently and professionally directed B-level 90’s action film tends to have a certain aesthetic we can probably all identify. It’s not about what’s there so much as what isn’t. There’s a lot that isn’t important to an action movie, and time and effort aren’t wasted on those things. You won’t find a lot of camera movement or lengthy establishing shots given to secondary characters or quiet moments, because that eats up time and budget better spent on the action. So imagine my surprise to see a few crane-assisted establishing shots in this movie, and spent on things like Rosanna Arquette hanging out the laundry on her country home—ie. the visual grammar of a drama. (There’s a certain visual imagination in the action scenes, too, like smash forward camera moves, which you don’t tend to see in these films.) So the style takes more visual beats from drama films than is usual. Then there’s the villains. Ok, Joss Ackland leans slightly towards the cartoonish, but Ted Levine underplays his baddie really effectively and in a way that’s atypical for even underplayed 90’s action villains. He uses the effect of an absence of menace in menacing situations to project evil. Finally, Van Damme doesn’t kick anyone. He punches and knees and shows basic competence in fighting—but not a single kick. If you’ve ever seen a Van Damme film, you’ll know how shocking that is. It’s like this movie not only wasn’t written for Van Damme, but wasn’t even tailored to him when he signed on. This movie actually makes a lot more sense for Clint Eastwood in sensitive mode, or a more dramatically-oriented actor with a bit of a tough guy persona. It’s light on action, with a greater focus on character-driven drama. Van Damme, an escaped prisoner, finds himself on single mom Rosanna Arquette’s farm just as real estate developers are trying to muscle her off her property. Along the way, Van Damme becomes her lover and a father figure to her kids. The kids, in fact, are surprisingly well written and acted, often feeling like real kids in their matter-of-fact reactions to issues adults tip-toe around but unexpected sensitivity to things that wouldn’t bother adults. The movie is never really satisfying as either an action or drama film, as there’s too little Van Damme in the former and too much in the latter. But it is really peculiar and interesting just contextually, and for that I enjoyed watching it.

Point Break (Kathryn Bigelow, 1991): Classic homoerotic cop movie. At two hours and full of stylish slow motion shots of the sun, the water, and people surfing, you’re plainly in the realm of serious, ambitious, self-important actioners. And yet it’s about bank-robbing surfers and stars Keanu Reeves at his most awkward. It’s hard to reconcile the ridiculousness with the intensity and seriousness of the style. I sort of admired the movie, and yet would’ve far preferred something shorter and more self-consciously goofy.

Showdown in Little Tokyo (Mark L. Lester, 1991): There’s some nutty one-liners in here, like “You have the right to be dead.” Or, following sex with a Dolph Lundgren who likes to brag about his stealth: “Hey, this time I heard you coming!” But even those don’t compare to what has to be the most bonkers one-liner anyone’s ever said in an action film, when Brandon Lee turns to Lundgren and says: “In case we don’t make it out of this, there’s just something I’ve got to tell you: You have the biggest dick I’ve ever seen on a man.” It’s almost worth sitting through this piece of shit just to hear it.

Lionheart (Sheldon Lettich, 1990): The editing in the first half of the movie is strangely lax. Every beat in the action scenes is followed by half a second or so of dead time before the next cut, making it all seem oddly lethargic. Van Damme becomes an underground bare-knuckle fighter to support his brother’s widow and son. There’s so much schmaltzy, unearned drama and bizarre character motivations that I could hardly bother to pay attention.

True Lies (James Cameron, 1994): James Cameron is just so excellent at directing action. Too bad so much of this movie is given to aggressively juvenile sitcom scenarios. I spent a lot of the second act half watching, half looking at stuff on the internet.

Rising Sun (Philip Kaufman, 1993): I was in the mood for a crisp, exciting thriller with plenty of twists, a good mystery, and no lawyers. This...wasn’t quite it. I suppose the mystery seemed more urgent back when Japanese-American business relations had some political relevance. Without that (or a general dislike of the Japanese on behalf of the viewer, I guess), the stakes behind the conspiracy lack weight. Add to that the fact that Sean Connery’s detective seems to have the answer to everything before it even happens and you get a mystery that’s solved too easily and with too sure a hand. The two main bad guys from Showdown in Little Tokyo show up here as well, and Tia Carrere plays another Japanese woman (well, mixed race American-Japanese, presumably to explain why she looks, you know, Hawaiian). Also, what a shame to go out of your way to have Toru Takemitsu to do your score only to get him to write cliched “Japanese” music cues right out of something like Enter the Ninja.

Money Train (Doug Richardson, 1995): I normally find the forced jocular banter of buddy action films grating, or at best unfunny in a tolerable way. Somehow, Money Train is the exception. Snipes and Harrelson have such chemistry and are so good natured that I enjoyed all the time they spent bantering. I didn’t even care that their character beats were out of a playbook and that the ending is kind of delusional and troubling. I didn’t even care that there is no reason for Jennifer Lopez to be here, let alone romance anyone. This was just great fun with some wonderful, technically outstanding action scenes. Nothing else needed.

Demolition Man (Marco Brambilla, 1993): Archenemies Stallone and Snipes wake up in a rightwing/libertarian parody of leftwing political correctness run amok, where all vices including swearing are illegal and the population has been reduced to a cheery helplessness unable to deal with 20th century violence. It’s all annoying, dumb, and boring. This is one time where my adult and adolescent opinions are entirely unchanged.

The Pelican Brief (Alan Pakula, 1993): Well, it has lawyers, but it also has Alan Pakula, so everything balances. Had to wash out the taste of Rising Sun somehow, and how better than a Pakula thriller. Quiet, tense, appropriately earnest—it’s a pitch perfect 90’s thriller.

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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol

#449 Post by thirtyframesasecond » Thu Jun 01, 2017 8:42 am

Pelican Brief is particularly interesting for its classic Ray Parker Jr theme song (which wasn't used)!

I remember liking Demolition Man. Weird mix of smart and dumb ideas. And Brambilla's a serious artist too, so a strange one-off Hollywood film for him - he also did the amazing video for Kanye West's 'Power'.

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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol

#450 Post by Mr Sausage » Wed Jun 07, 2017 10:56 pm

The Firm (Sydney Pollack, 1993): Ok, yes, it has lawyers, but I felt obligated to see this one after seeing The Pelican Brief. It’s a pretty good thriller, even if it is too long. Hard to know what to say about this one. I was expecting more chases and paranoia, but it was all rather low-key, more a slow build-up of information and stressful situations. And I know I’m not playing the game by saying this, but this has got to be the worst way for the mob to run a law firm.

Copycat (Jon Amiel, 1995): I saw this on tv a few times growing up, and yet I never managed to see the ending any of those times. Maybe it was always on just late enough that I had to go to bed before it ended? Now that I’ve seen the ending, it went down exactly how I (and I'm sure everyone else) expected. No surprises here, plot-wise. It’s the performances that make this movie so interesting, Holly Hunter especially. It’s nice to see a thriller driven by interesting female characters who aren’t reduced to types and who aren't pushed by the screenwriters into some convenient romance they can be defined by (the Sigourney Weaver character in particular gets a more complicated attitude to relationships). A worthy Silence of the Lambs follow up.

Jade (William Friedkin, 1995): This was a mistake (My decision to watch it? The decision to make it? Both!). David Caruso plays a police detective who, in a fit of fancy, tells everyone he’s an Assistant District Attorney. He’s really not, tho’, because he chases down suspects, assists in arrests, gets called to murder scenes so he can gather evidence and discuss the crime, and other things an ADA wouldn't do. If giallos of the 70’s an 80’s suffered from a ‘who the hell is that?’ problem in their reveals, 90’s thrillers suffer from a ‘it could just as well be anyone else’ problem, because everything is so equivocal that it’s arbitrary who the culprit finally is. This is one of those films that’s supposed to be sexy, lurid, and propulsive, with people’s baser motives being drawn out into a palpable psychosexual atmosphere. As it is, there’s nothing sexy, lurid, or atmospheric; it feels contrived and too controlled, with plenty of clichés and boring, poorly acted characters.

Basic Instinct (Paul Verhoeven, 1992): The first thirty minutes of this movie are so good. The delicious, mocking, brazen manner in which Sharon Stone openly manipulates everyone around her, daring them to catch her out, is wonderful. If the whole movie had been like that, it easily would’ve jumped into my top ten of the decade. Too bad everything after the interrogation falls flat, showing none of the energy or malicious fun of that first thirty minutes. It’s just a lame mystery with endless unerotic, made-for-cable sex scenes capped by one more arbitrary reveal. Why they traded up Stone vamping around for Stone playing sincere, I don’t know.

Sphere (Barry Levinson, 1998): I think I saw this on my birthday when it came out. I really liked it at the time. I shouldn’t like it now--it’s dumb, doesn’t utilize its premise, makes almost no sense, and has terrible special effects. And yet I still really like it. It’s fun; there's some good suspense sequences and the actors really sell the goofiness. What can I say?

Malice (Harold Becker, 1993): Aaron Sorkin really hates blended scotch. He gives two characters long speeches about how terrible blended scotch is next to single malts. I haven’t a clue why that would be—does carefully blending the different flavours of various single-malts really produce something undrinkable 100% of the time? (I’ve had only one kind of blended scotch in my life and it was mediocre, but that’s a bad sample size). What was I supposed to be talking about? Oh yeah, Malice. The set up takes forever and veers slightly into dullness. Then the twists come, and everything is redeemed.

Leon (Luc Besson, 1994): Natalie Portman is usually singled out (rightfully), but perhaps because I’d heard so much about her performance I chose to focus on Reno instead. His performance deserves equal praise; he has this upright, stiff, kind of pinned body language that’s so perfect and comic that the movie seems like it would hardly work without it. My only complaint with the movie is that perhaps Luc Besson was the wrong person to direct it; the movie might’ve been even better had it played things less fantastically and over-the-top, if it had been more grounded in reality, with a hitman who isn't so preternatural and a villain not a spittle-flecked maniac.

Broken Arrow (John Woo, 1996): I watched this solely because I had just seen The End of the Tour, and the lead characters, David Foster Wallace and David Lipsky, along with two women, go to see this movie and we get plenty of extended shots of the actual film that made me nostalgic for all those times I watched it as a kid. Wallace and Lipsky loved it; their companions hated it. I am with the Daves. This is great, stupid fun. I even liked how the filmmakers actually let Samantha Mathis help out and not just be an incompetent damsel in distress. I mean, yeah, there’s a bit of that, and she doesn’t do as much as the men; but she still takes out a few guys, makes some crucial decisions, and has a moment of real bravery. And, of course, this is John Woo, so the movie looks better and has action scenes staged with more energy and imagination than most 90’s actioners, including ones better than it. Great score, too.

One False Move (Carl Franklin, 1992): Uncomfortably violent and complicated thriller that derives a lot of energy from its stripped-down, character-driven style. I find I just want to pile on adjectives like excellent, troubling, energetic, and so on, because if I didn’t I’d have to really start digging into all the good, small character bits and the surprises and complications the screenplay works into its characterizations, and the resulting analysis would be well beyond the scale appropriate to a capsule review.

Armageddon (Michael Bay, 1998): Lord help me, this movie is terrible. The last time I saw it would’ve been when it came out, and the clearest memory I had of it was of the power going out half way through and of my friend and I pacing around the lobby wondering if we should get a voucher and leave or stay in case the power returned. Should’ve kept it that way. Like just about every Bay film, this is punishing: it has so, so much of everything, and that everything would be intolerable even at lesser quantities: bad humour, bad acting, sentimentality of such utter fakeness, MTV clichés in every scene, rampant anti-intellectualism of the ‘you eggheads in NASA couldn’t do x’ variety. Not the worst film Bay’s ever made only because Pearl Harbour exists. And Transformers 2. And Bad Boys 2 come to think of it. Fuck, that's depressing.

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