(Monkey-Thon Logo) Monkey-Thon Guide to Movies

YEAR 2001 UPDATE:  This is my old web page; if you're looking for much more current reviews, surf on over to the new Monkey-Plex page, part of The Colin Campbell Network!

Movie Title
Gr.
Best Part
Worst Part
Other Comments
The Avengers
D
It's only 82 minutes long. I snuck in for free after seeing another movie. Too much to describe here, but apparently every problem The Avengers face can be solved with repeated trips to Sean Connery's mansion. The whole movie, that's all they do, back and forth, London to Sean Connery's house. Gah. This movie is a crime against humanity. Never, ever do this type of thing again, please!
54
D+
Mike Myers can do drama, even if his role here is a teensy bit broad. The disco era looked boring. Nothing happened of note in this movie. I never cared about the main characters. Ever. Not one whit. Not to be a total "guy," but I would have liked to have seen "more" of Neve Campbell and Salma Hayek, if you know what I mean. These are simply two beautiful women who were shamefully overclothed.
The Parent Trap
B+
This is, without a doubt, the most precious movie of 1998. Cute and fun, Disney's got a winner. Remaking a beloved film isn't easy, but this one works. Thanks, Lindsay Lohan, you did a great job! Dennis Quaid, Natasha Richardson, and the whole supporting cast are perfect, too. Strangely, long stretches with no Zorro. Did I mention this movie is so cute, it's impossible not to like? It truly is precious.
The Negotiator
B
I'll watch Kevin Spacey and Samuel L. Jackson act in anything, any time. And here, they're a lot of fun. About fifteen to twenty minutes too long. Needed to get down under two hours, and it takes a while to get going. I thought this had the potential to become this summer's The Fugitive, what with the Chicago setting, wrongly accused theme, and supporting cast drawn heavily from that movie and others like it. I was wrong; it's a pretty good film, but not great. Definitely check it out on video.
The Mask of Zorro
B+
Sir Anthony Hopkins makes a perfect Zorro. Catherine Zeta-Jones is fantastic -- beautiful and spunky. Antonio Banderas is very, very good, but Hopkins' Zorro is better. Sorry! Long stretches with, surprise, no Zorro. Long stretches, in general, where not much happens. Very fun. This is the rare movie that could have even been a bit funnier. It stayed true to itself during the few humorous breaks, and that's better than trying too hard and failing.
The Truman Show
B
Yes, Jim, you can act. While the movie was truly fantastic, visually, I thought the script could have been kicked up another notch. The performances and the look made this movie seem better than it was. This review is based on a screening of what was likely the final cut of the movie. Someday, I'll have to see it again, and compare notes. As opposed to ...
Jane Austen's Mafia
C-
Some very funny gags. You've seen every single one of them in the preview. This review is based on a screening of a rough-cut of the film. I will not, however, be going back to find out how the finished product looked. Feh.
Doctor Dolittle
B-
Norm MacDonald's funny movie of the year. Albert Brooks, Gary Shandling, and Julie Kavner also are outstanding in supporting roles. Unfortunately, all we get are their voices. Eddie Murphy sleepwalks through much of the film. I blame the writers for not letting Eddie play to his strengths. Could have been fantastic; instead, I have to call it a disappointment.
Saving Private Ryan
A-
The most vivid portrayal of war I ever hope to see. Tom Hanks can do anything. Steven Spielberg's direction only falters a couple of times, and I think his instinct was off concerning a framing sequence which could have worked better. Please check out my @LA.COM column The Lost Holiday for more thoughts on the courageous sacrifice of World War II soldiers.
There's Something About Mary
A
Don't talk to your friends, don't watch the ads, to see the trailer. Just get your butt in to the theater before they ruin it all for you. It's a tad long. Plus, some of the dialogue you can't hear ... due to excessive audience laughter. (Some problem!) Boy, I sure do like that Cameron Diaz. Ben Stiller remains the full out bomb. Great cast, unbelievably funny movie. I can't believe they went for some of the gags they did. And almost all of them work.
Lethal Weapon 4
C-
If you like people "fighting" in the movies (and does anyone fight like that in real life?), then you'll dig this. "Hey, I've got an idea. Let's stop all action in the movie so Chris Rock can do one of his wacky comedy monologues!" That pathetic device gets a workout here. (Note: I like Chris Rock. I can't imagine what he was thinking.) Blech feh yuck. Mel, Danny, please stop. Please?
Armageddon
B-
I'm not in favor of the government getting involved in the arts, but I would support a law requiring Steve Buscemi to appear in all films like this. He is the bomb. Has the camera stopped shaking? I mean, the shuttle launch sequence was a full hour ago, and still, the dang camera is jerking around like crazy. Oh, that's director Michael Bay's "style?" Never mind. There are enough "big summer movie" moments to keep you interested. The overall effect is a little numbing, though.
Out of Sight
B
Jennifer Lopez gets a lot to do. George Clooney finally starts to fulfill his big-screen promise. Ving! And Albert Brooks ... wow. I was hoping for more light moments, a la Get Shorty. This was a false expectation on my part. A funnier, snappier version would have worked better, I think, but still, there are interesting characters doing interesting things. That's a lot more than you can say for most movies these days.
The X-Files
B
Fantastic looking. Really fills up the screen nicely. Duchovney and Anderson make the transition from TV look easy. I can honestly say I liked this movie more than I understood it. I liked it a lot. I understood it a little. Actually, there's only a couple of things that stuck out. (What was the whole thing with the corn?) As a person who has watched exactly one episode of "The X-Files" my entire life, I was able to keep up with and enjoy this film. I don't know whether hardcore fans will like it more, because of the small touches I missed, or be more disappointed.
Mulan
A-
A great cast of characters, beautifully rendered and brought to life. You don't once think "animation" during this film. It has a very different "look" than previous Disney classics, and that sets it apart nicely. As funny as he is, as appealing as he is, Eddie Murphy as Mushu, the Dragon, is appearing in an entirely different movie. His "Genie"-like character seemed a bit out of place. The songs were not especially memorable, but they didn't stick out like a sore thumb, either. Someday soon, Disney or Dreamworks, or Warner Bros., will go for a straight animated adventure movie with no songs. That's the movie I'm really looking forward to.
Dirty Work
D
There are some Norm MacDonald one-liners which are pretty funny. Some. Not many. Chris Farley is horribly used. How many different jokes about crack and whores are there? Norm recycles the unfunny "Note to self" bit from SNL. Blech. Be funnier.
The Last Days of Disco
B+
The art of on-screen conversation is not dead, as writer/director Whit Stillman proves once again. The soundtrack, as expected, kicks majorly. Just on the verge of having too many things going on with too many characters. I think I lost track of a character halfway through the film, and never saw him again. That's not to say he didn't appear; it's just that I "remembered" a character from the first half whom I'm not really sure was there. Does that make sense? A very appealing cast, and a cool "cross-over," with characters from Stillman's Metropolitan and Barceona making quick cameos. (At least, that's what the credits said. I missed 'em.) I love that sort of stuff.
The Opposite of Sex
B
Christina Ricci is getting tons of praise for her breakout work, but let me continue my "Friends" fascination and say Lisa Kudrow deserves her own share of kudos. When one of your main characters (Ricci) is so damn manipulative and unappealing, it's tough to develop any sympathy for them. That's the point, however, as a self-aware voice over (think Ferris Bueller gone horribly awry) makes clear. It's a gimmick that just barely works. Reviewing the "'Friends' who are most likely to be movie stars" list, we see Lisa Kudrow making a strong bid to overtake Jennifer Aniston. The ranking so far: Aniston, Kudrow, Courtney Cox, David Schwimmer, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry. Come on, guys, get with the program!
Godzilla
C-
It often appeared as though Jean Reno was appearing in a much better film. He's that good. Matthew Broderick, action hero! Maria Patillo drifted way too close to Carol Kane territory for my liking. The head of Godzilla just didn't look right (but the body was cool). Some effects shots were direct swipes from Jurassic Park and The Lost World. This is from the guys who made Independence Day? This movie was so unfunny, it wasn't funny! (So to speak.) The "comedy" bits were lame, lame, lame, and the stretches where there was no Godzilla around (and there were a few) seemed to last an eternity.
Deep Impact
B-
Pretty good effects work, although it's tough to make mass destruction by a thousand-foot high tidal waves look realistic. Only one of the many subplots carried any emotional weight. Unfortunately, that meant there were about five that you didn't really care about. Plenty of interesting moments, and it did make me think. This billed itself as the "philosophical" end of the world movie, and it'll be interesting to see how the more action-oriented Armageddon tackles this topic.
City of Angels
C
Nicholas Cage is almost always great, and this performance is no exception. Loved Andre Braugher, getting ready for life after "Homicide." Never really lives up to its potential. It has a great "look," and interesting characters, but the emotional core is off-kilter, and so we end up not caring too much about the relationship between Cage and Meg Ryan. Still, a good date movie. Catch it on video.
Grease
B+
Young John Travolta, strutting his stuff on the big screen. Classic songs. Oliva Newton-John. Yum. It drags a little in places, but so what? Another toe-tapping number is just around the corner. I'm a big fan of the re-release trend (Star Wars, Dirty Dancing, etc.) and hope it continues. Movies deserve to be shown on the big screen, where they belong.
He Got Game
B
Ray Allen, the real-life pro basketball player who stars as Jesus Shuttlesworth, does a fine job. Denzel Washington is great, as always. A bit repetitive on the "message" - Yes, prized high-school recruits face temptation. But do they have to face the same things over and over and over again? (Maybe they do, but do we as an audience have to?) I've missed the last couple of Spike Lee films. It's good to see that he still "got game."
Major League Three: Back to the Minors
D
It's a movie about baseball. Everything else. Some of the original cast members return in embarrassing contrivances. Why? A strike-out. Looking.
The Object of My Affection
B-
Jennifer Aniston continues to live up to my prediction of being the only "Friend" to have a real movie career. She's pretty great. The movie asks us to believe that the best Aniston's character can do for a boyfriend is John Pankow, cousin Ira from "Mad About You." That seems pretty unlikely. We know that Aniston and Paul Rudd are doomed from the start, and yet, we keep watching and, like Aniston's character, hoping that things will turn out differently. They don't. It's a bit of a bummer.
Sliding Doors
B
Gwyneth Paltrow is great playing two versions of the same character in this challenging alternate timeline flick. I hated the end. You might too. Is this a new genre - the romantic comedy alternate universe film? It works, thanks to Paltrow and John Hannah. 
Two Girls and a Guy
D
Gah. None, really. This is Robert Downey Jr.'s breakthrough work? No, not to my way of thinking. As much fun as a bad break-up. If you like that sort of thing, you'll love this film.
Lost in Space
C
The end credits kick major butt. A great techno re-working of the old "Lost in Space" theme. There's a reason these credits (there are no front credits) are at the end of the movie - otherwise, the movie would look pretty dumb in comparison. Gary Oldman is pretty good as the devious Doctor Smith. The movie doesn't look as good as the end credits, as noted. William Hurt as John Robinson is terrible - we don't ever care about him one bit, so we don't care that his family is crumbling. Akiva Goldsman (the genius behind the Batman and Robin script) wrote this thing, and produced it as well. His attempts at humor are moronic at best, and go against his stated goal of making a dark, exciting, "real" sci-fi movie. The effects are very exciting, but all sense of character and motivation is lost here. Anyone who understands the temporal mechanics of the end sequence, please send me a note. The movie doesn't ever really make sense, even on its own terms! There are two big set pieces, they might be related (the script doesn't ever really tie the two together), they might not. Danger, Will Robinson! (At least the original voice of the robot, Dick Tufeld, is put to good use, reprising his role.)
James Ellroy
B+
A fascinating, first-person documentary look at the man best known as the author of such L.A. crime classics as "The Black Dahlia" and "L.A. Confidential." Like all documentaries (okay, most) there are parts that make you go "huh?" That may be due in part to this film's Austrian roots. (Go figure.) It was also shot in 1992, so don't look for Ellroy to comment on how the movie version of L.A. Confidential turned out. As much fun as I've had at an art-house flick in recent memory. I don't know if this is making the circuit now, but if it is, and you like learning about L.A.'s colorful crime history from the 40's and 50's, you have to check this movie out.
Primary Colors
C-
The first hour is smart, fast, funny and fun. The second hour and a half slows way the hell down, loses the sense of humor, becomes (ack) preachy and confusing (ask yourself, why did Maura Tierny's character leave the campaign?) ... blech. Travolta as Clint ... Stanton is quite believable, as is Emma Thompson's take on the candidate's wife. Love Emma!
U.S. Marshals
B-
Tommy Lee Jones as Marshal Sam Gerard is always fun ... although here, he's not given enough to play with. The "rooting interests" for the audience are all screwed up. Who's good? Who's bad? Hell, I know they want to "surprise" us, but if you're going to make it easy to tell, at least let us root for the good guys all along. Don't try to build up false sympathy for characters we know we don't like. (The reverse is true, too.) Answers the question, "Can they make a sequel to The Fugitive that's as good as the orignal?" with a resounding, "No!" There are some nice moments in this movie, but the heart is gone.
Krippendorf's Tribe
D
None to speak of. Offensive. No chemistry between leads Richard Dreyfus and Jenna Elfman. Elfman's character motivations are totally false, as is Dreyfus' attraction to her. No thank you.
I Love You, Don't Touch Me
B
As indie love stories go, this one's okay. A bit repetitive in parts - we get it! This movie is certainly a much more realistic take on modern romance than just about any other recent movie. A strong effort from first-time writer/director Julie Davis.
Kissing a Fool
B-
Bonnie Hunt will one day be revered as the goddess she is. She almost makes this movie watchable. The films tries hard to capture the 20-something romantic angst all the "kids" are feeling these days, and fails. David Schwimmer isn't a totally disaster, but his character's not nearly likable enough to carry this film. We don't care about him, we don't care too much about the Jason Lee character ... we don't care about the film. No threat Schwimmer will replace Jennifer Aniston at the top of my personal list of "Friend" Most Likely To Have A Successful Movie Career.
The Wedding Singer
B-
Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore have a natural chemistry. For some unknown reason, it takes them almost all of the movie to figure out what the audience already knows - that they belong together. Certainly not as funny as the subversive Billy Madison, but with a lot more substance than Happy Gilmore. I rank this movie in-between those two previous Sandler efforts.
Zero Effect
B
Ben Stiller remains a personal god to me. The writing is quirky and funny, with a very unique point of view. Bill Pullman (who in real life, gave me the impression that he wasn't acting too much in this role) has a lot of fun with the role of the modern world's greatest detective. Some gags fall a little flat. Fortunately, there are only a couple of times the movie goes for "gags," instead opting for clever writing and interesting characters to carry the day. This is probably out of theaters by now, so make a note to check it out on home video. It'll be well worth your while.
Good Will Hunting
B+
Well, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck have a passion for this material, and it shows. The movie also resists the temptation to become too "commercial." I mean, we could have had several more Rain Man-like scenes from Matt's Will, but they would have been out of place in this story. A lot of the movie is not about Will. That got a little trying at times, but overall, wasn't too big a deal. Is this the greatest movie ever made? No. Is it an exceptional effort from its writer/stars? You betcha. Well worth your time.
Spiceworld
B+/F
Do you love the Spice Girls? This is probably the best movie you could ever hope for! B+! Do you hate the Spice Girls? This insipid pap won't change your mind. F! I gave myself over to the goofy charm of the Girls, thereby earning the eternal wrath of my close circle of friends. I don't care. This movie was so bad, it was good for me. Others (read: the rest of the civilized world) don't think so.
Her Majesty, Mrs. Brown
B
Billy Connolly can act! Let's here it for Scottish comedians. Dame Judi Dench makes an imposing Queen Victoria, and she won a Golden Globe for this performance. I found it a bit monotonous. Glorious scenery, and a beautiful recreation of 1860's England. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this look at the mores of Victorian England.
Wag The Dog
B+
Now this is what I want to see out of Hoffman and DeNiro! Energy! This is about a thousand times better a performance for Hoffman than in the despicable Mad City. Anne Heche was pretty dang cool too. I laughed a lot. It helps to see this movie at a theater in Southern California with an "industry" crowd. Only then is Hoffman's true brilliance revealed. More movies like this, please! It's funny, with great actors and a wildly entertaining story. Oh, and studio suits - it was relatively cheap to make. Are you paying attention?
As Good As It Gets
B+
Jack, Jack, Jack. Helen Hunt is getting deserved kudos for this role. And guess what? That smarmy Greg Kinnear can actually act. Jack's a bastard ... for medical reasons! See, he can't just be a bastard. Gah. Have some guts - forget about the medical angle! This may be the movie that cancels Mad About You. Given this season so far, that may not be a bad thing.
Anastasia
B-
Love John Cusack, and Meg Ryan didn't annoy me as the main characters' voices. Songs that came from nowhere. And I'm not a big fan of roto-scoped (is that the right term?) animation - that is, animation traced directly over film footage of actors walking, dancing, etc., and this film uses a lot of it. CGI looks tacked on to scenes, not integrated. Not really groundbreaking, but well told and well crafted. How about exploring some non-Disney-formula (lots of songs!) areas, other animation companies?
Jackie Brown
C
There are times when the already-legendary Tarantino dialogue carries the day ... but they are few and far between. Long sections where not much was going on. This was a relatively talky, static movie. It needed to be about 30 minutes shorter (it was a bloated 2:20+). I didn't see Pulp Fiction, so I still don't get what all the fuss is about. I promise, I'll rent it soon.
Mousehunt
B-
Not as bad as you think it will be, not as good as you hope it will be. There are times when Nathan Lane just gets off on a funny riff, and we needed more of those. No real rooting interest in seeing either the humans or the mouse succeed. Shameful under-utilization of Christopher Walken. There were moments of subversive brilliance here. I suspect they were washed out by DreamWorks in an attempt to make it more of a "family" film. Some of this movie's odd heart does show through on occasion, and that's always welcome.
Titanic
A
I can think of no greater compliment than to say there were times I thought I was watching a documentary - and times that I thought I was going down with the ship. Good job, everyone. Janeane Garofalo could have been in this film. She wasn't. (NOTE: This is a joke. Really. Thanks for all your cards and letters about my mentions of her in these reviews. Your comments do make a difference here at the Monkey-Thon!) Director James Cameron succeeds brilliantly on all counts here. Simply, a great film.
Tomorrow Never Dies
B
Pierce Brosnan is such a cool James Bond. The "pith" factor of the trademark Bond pithy one-liners needs to be higher. Teri Hatcher is used in just the right amount here. Lots of cool Bond gadgets, lots of cool Bond babes, lots of cool Bond action. A solid entry in the series.
Alien Resurrection
C+
It looks neat and spooky. The Aliens are still scary. How can you make an Alien movie where the audience ends up feeling very little empathy or sympathy toward Sigourney Weaver's Ripley character? Did Winona Ryder really belong in this film? (And I'm a big Winona fan!) Takes the worst, most predictable elements from the previous films, and tries to pass off the resulting mish-mosh as a "brave new direction" for the franchise. Yuck. Must have a better plot next time!
Flubber
C-
Some scenes are a bit funny. Most of it is not. John Hughes still thinks getting hit in the head is a great visual gag. Robin Williams is coasting. Why does every "comedy" today have to have a subplot involving lost love or someone closing down the college? We don't care about these "serious" plot points; the movie is supposed to be a comedy, and you're wasting Robin Williams!
Mortal Kombat: Annihilation
D
Feh. Needed to be much, much better. The original felt fresh, this felt computer-generated. Feel free to mix in some semblance of story next time. The original Mortal Kombat looks like Citizen Kane compared to this one.
The Little Mermaid
B+
I'd never seen this movie, so to check it out in a theater was a real treat. So was going with the Miracle Baby, Allison Warren, and her family. Allison slept through the whole thing, then pronounced it "a very good movie." Even in dreamland, the kid knows quality. I wish she'd stayed awake -- that's about the only bad thing I can think of. Better hurry, it's only in theaters for a few weeks. Just enough to steal Anastasia's thunder, then back on to home video. Ah, Disney!
The Wings of the Dove
C
Finally answers the question, "What does Helena Bonham Carter look like naked?" It ain't that exciting. It's "British" nudity. Blech. Two words: Chick flick.
Mad City
D+
Uh ... not much. They got most of the technical stuff right, thanks to my friend (and technical consultant on the movie) Kris Smith. Way to go, Kris! Travolta's character wins over the sympathies of the fictious public in the movie, but doens't accomplish the same task with the real movie audience. Has Hoffman always mumbled like this? Is this his "acting?" A little too black and white, "media is bad" message. Could have used a lot of shading, and about 20 fewer minutes.
Bean
B-
Rowan Atkinson is just dang fun to watch. The story is painfully thin, and Bean is too unsympathetic to support the movie's attempts to bring real emotional resonance to the character. This movie needed to make what I call the "Comedy Committment," an all-out drive to get laughs at any cost. Too many "serious" moments ruin the fun. Still, there are a couple of guaranteed belly laughs.
Starship Troopers
B+
The special effects, as you might imagine, carry the day. Very, very graphic and gory. Sometimes, "less is more," but Paul Verhoven has rarely exercised restraint on the screen, and I suppose this is no time to start. A good war film. Only in L.A.: After the Friday night, 10:30 show at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood, Johnny Rico himself, Casper Van Dien, Mr. Star of the Movie, was in the lobby, handing out books and autographed 8x10's. It's nearly 1:00 a.m., and this kid is in the lobby signing autographs, shaking hands, talking with people. Now that was cool!
L.A. Confidential
A
This is what a good drama should be: involving, epic, with well-defined interesting characters and surprising plot twists. The ending is very different from the book; I hate when movies do that! A minor quibble. Kevin Spacey is the man. L.A. looks great, if a little too modern in some scenes. James Cromwell gives a great performance, proving he's definitely more than just "the farmer from Babe." Oscar-caliber work all around.
The Matchmaker
B
Janeane. Funny, smart, beautiful, glorious, and (surprise) vulnerable Janeane Garofalo. Some of the Irish accents are a bit thick -- a common complaint in my recent reviews. Ah, hell, it gives the movie character. There is a scene in this movie that surprised me with how moved I was by it. Emotional involvement with the characters is a rare treat at the movies these days, and it shouldn't be. Still, I was quite surprised by how affected I was. The movie overall is not as funny/good as The Truth About Cats and Dogs, but that's okay.
In and Out
D
After never liking Joan Cusack before this year, I have enjoyed her in both Grosse Pointe Blank (did you hear they're talking about a sequel?) and this movie. Gah. Not funny. Not funny at all. Safe when it should be daring, sweet when it should be sharp. "America" loves this movie; I can't stand it. I liked the performances (Klein, Selleck, et. al. do a fine job) but overall, this movie couldn't decide whether to go full out and be funny, or stay safe and "meaningful." It does neither, and for me, is a real disappointment compared to this movie's fantastic trailer. Maybe the concept just worked better in two and a half minutes than in two hours.
The Full Monty
A-
There are very few movies that have comedy which makes me laugh uncontrollably. This is one of them. "Heavy" describes both the accents, and just a little bit of the not so fun content. Seek it out, and dare to go ... The Full Monty!
Kull The Conqueror
B
Kevin Sorbo is just plain likeable. Litefoot does some nice work with the traditional sidekick role. And Karina Lombard is beautiful! Kinda' (well, okay, very) cheesy plot; still, what did you expect? Tia Carrere is also very, how do you say, "fun" to watch. And all in all, this is about the best movie you could expect out of this source material. Sure, the humor is intentionally campy, but at least this movie knows it's trying to have fun.
Money Talks
B+
This is by no means a great comedy, but there are plenty of laughs to be had, and Chris Tucker is a heck of a lot of fun. Charlie Sheen appears. A friend of a friend who works for "The Tonight Show" tells a great story about sending a car to pick up Sheen for an appearance to plug this film. When the driver got there, Sheen stepped out on to the porch, and waved the driver on, indicating he had apparently changed his mind, and wasn't coming. Awesome. Trivia note -- the TV station scenes in the movie were filmed at my very own KCAL. And if you look closely, you can see some of the desk stuff left by my co-workers, including a photo of our great former Executive Producer Bob Long.
Cop Land
C
Robert DeNiro is always fun to watch, as is Harvey Keitel. But this is awfully familiar territory. Any movie with a little bit of Janeane Garofalo would almost always be improved by using more Janeane Garofalo, and this is no exception. Also, Sylvester Stallone's is acting within suck a low-key range, he seems strangely lacking in energy for much of the film. Nice try, though. At the end, I felt like I'd seen this movie before. Nothing shocking, nothing special, just good actors going through their paces.
Conspiracy Theory
B-
Julia Roberts is very cool, and a lot of the "throwaway" lines work very well. Mel Gibson is just a bit too crazy for him to really be appealing, and I thought bringing him a step or ten closer to reality would have helped this movie a lot. The musical score is all over the place, sticking out because it's so out of step with the movie. It starts "50's/cool," then goes "modern chase movie." Lame. The conspiracy stuff works well when it's dealing with big issues we all know about (J.F.K., Vietnam, etc.). It's less effective when trying to explain the "conspiracy" at the heart of this movie. I don't mind a movie where you don't know who the bad guys are until the end, but afterwards, there should be little question. This movie also has one of those tacked on, "test audience approved" endings. Very, very lame! Stick with the original ending! Have some guts!
Spawn
C
John Leguizamo brings the energy, as the evilest clown you've even seen. Michael Jai White (as Al Simmons/Spawn) isn't exactly a commanding presence. Martin Sheen overacts a bit. The front and end credits are the most annoying things ever deliberately included in a film. While it's not as bad as the repellant Batman and Robin, Spawn isn't quite the movie it hopes to be either. But the story moves along, and the characters are somewhat interesting. Too much CGI for my taste, but the filmmakers do a good job of bringing Spawn's world to life. Spawn's cape is especially well done, if a bit too CGI-ish for my taste.
Air Force One
C+
Harrison Ford is a great action star, and here he gets plenty of great action scenes. Too many of the "good guys" die in this film. It drags on and on, suffering from the dreaded "too many endings" scenario. Gary Oldman's character is dealt with -- bam! There's your ending. But it doesn't work that way here, much to the film's detriment. It's a big success at the box office, but don't look for Air Force Two anytime soon. I liked it while I was watching it, but there are too many unanswered questions for this to rate as a truly great film. (Why didn't the first rescue guy on the rope bring parachutes? What is the motivation for a key traitor? All ignored in favor of big explosions and big stunt scenes.
Picture Perfect
C
This website has long held the opinion that Jennifer Aniston could be the big breakout "Friend" in the movies. (Matt LeBlanc doesn't look too bad in the Lost in Space trailer, but the jury's still out on that whole project.) Aniston is pleasant, fun, funny and cool. See My Best Friend's Wedding review below. Aniston's character is given dumb things to do, and makes dumb and actively unsympathetic choices. Why can't movie heroines be cool, smart, and make the right choices from the start? I'd love to see a movie about the female Ferris Bueller, or a female action hero, or something where the female lead is smart. Movies like this are why I found Contact so refreshing. Jodie Foster deserves an Academy Award for playing a smart woman who makes smart choices. Also, it's good to see Saturday Night Live alumni Jay Mohr getting good work.
My Best Friend's Wedding
C
Julia, when she's being "nice Julia," is great. Rupert Everett shamelessly steals every scene he's in. Evil Julia is no fun at all, and actually commits a few felonies. This is a character we're supposed to like? Uneven at best. There are moments of true humor, followed by moments of true uncomfortablness (Is that a word?) Cameron Diaz is effective as the perfect bride-to-be for Dermot Mulroney, but frankly, he doesn't look like that big a "prize," so Roberts machinations ring hollow ... as does the film.
George of the Jungle
B
John Cleese voicing an ape named Ape is dang cool. Brendan Fraser is cool as George, too ... although a bit too "moderny" in some parts. The theme song has been "updated" by gag-rockers The Presidents of the United States of America. Lame. Funnier than I expected, but nowhere near as cool as the 60's cartoon series. Still, it's good to see the filmmakers at least make some sort of effort toward Jay Ward-ish zaniness.
Contact
A-
Jodie Foster inhabits the role of Ellie Arroway. She is mondo-believable, and a true hero. Note: I have not liked one of her movies, ever, and I loved her in this. Matthew McConaghey seems a bit miscast. And the movie (more than 2:30) definitely has its own pace -- slow and thoughtful. That didn't bother me much ... but it could have been trimmed in some places. This movie will make you think, will make you challenge your own beliefs. It's not as important as it wants to be, but under director Bob Zemekis, it has something to say. And that is a true rarity in movies these days.
Men in Black
A
Will Smith is the MF bomb. Tommy Lee Jones is classic. Rip Torn supports both nicely. Linda Fiorentino is great ... when she's on screen! More of her was needed! Ah, that's why they invented sequels. Finally, a summer movie that brings back the FUN! Way to go, guys.
Face/Off
B
I liked Nicolas Cage here a whole lot more than in Con Air. Gives me hope for his upcoming role as Superman in the new movie to be directed by Tim Burton. Body count approaches triple digits. Comedienne Margaret Cho appears as a special agent ... and makes you want to see her character get more screen time. John Woo! My best buddy Frank pointed out this film sounds fantastic; definitely a "must-listen" in THX or DTS or Dolby Digital, or whatever.
Hercules
A
Can James Woods get an Academy Award nomination for making Hades the best Disney "villain" in a long time? The directors of Aladdin and The Little Mermaid make this whole production outstandingly fun. The songs are not memorable. Michael Bolton is on the soundtrack. Hey, I liked Pocahontas and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, but it sure is good to see Disney's animators stretch their "fun" muscles again.
Batman and Robin
F
The movie does have an ending. Eventually, the film runs out, and you can go home. Pick any of several moments: Alicia Silverstone "acting," Joel Schumaker's incomprehensible action scene direction, a Robin characterization that makes the character look like a big jerk, stupid fights between the heroes, Arnold acting ... the list goes on. Please, for the love of God, make someone else direct the next film. It's time for another "interpretation" of the franchise. Joel's had his chance, and done his damage.
Speed 2: Cruise Control
B
It is impossible to dislike Sandra Bullock. The action scenes are staged so that you can follow what's going on. Overall sense of malaise. Jan DeBont does his best to make a cruise ship exciting ... but really, what can you do? Not as bad as you've heard; not as good as the original Speed.
Con Air
B-
John Cusack is great, but underused. Colm Meany is pretty damn cool, too.Steve Buscemi and John Malkovich are in prime form, although Buscemi's character does go through some moments mid-film that will creep you out. No energy from star Nicolas Cage. Things blow up nicely. More from Cusack, more energy from Cage would have helped a lot.
Trial and Error
B
Michael Richards is just damn funny. Charlize Theron is funny, smart, and hell-o good looking. Jeff Daniels seems like he's been in about five of these wacky movies. Not a knock; just an observation. This is a safe, sometimes funny, well-written comedy. Good for relief if you're tired of dinosaurs, or things blowing up.
The Lost World: Jurassic Park
B
Really, what did we expect? There are dinos, there is danger, there is a complete disregard for logic, and it's all a lot of fun. It's really two movies -- a remake of Jurassic Park for the first hour and a half, followed by a much more fun new movie tagged on to the end. Guest review: "The whole movie was stupid, because, "Hello? Didn't you learn your lesson the first time?"" -- My buddy Gloria
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery
A-
Mike Myers is in prime form. Elizabeth Hurley is funny, appealing, and damn sexy, too. The joke quality varies wildly, from obscure references to lame potty humor. I wanted more of the former, and a lot less of the latter. You will laugh, often. And I defy you not to come out of the movie talking like Austin. Let's shag, baby!
Volcano
B-
Tommy Lee Jones is always da' man. Ellen's love thang Anne Heche works well with Jones. They're a cool team. Well, we could have used more of a menacing lava flow. Plenty of spooky/startling parts, but in the end, the "villain" is just a glowing river. Not quite as cool as Dante's Peak, but there are nice L.A. touches for those of us who call this town home.
Romy and Michele's High School Reunion
A-
Non-stop laughs. Sorvino and Kudrow make you care about their characters. They go beyond "ditz" in the best way. By definition, any movie with just a little bit of Janeane Garofalo could use MORE Janeane Garofalo. Still, she's best here as a spice. After all, the movie is called Romy and Michele. Hip, funky, fun without being patronizing. Highly recommended. Here's the complete Monkey-Thon review.
Grosse Pointe Blank
A
John Cusack is the man. Dan Aykroyd is used to great effect as a rival hitman. His best role in a while. Not long enough. I could spend a lot more time with this character. Looks like Cusack is entering a "work" period. Look for him in Con Air later this summer. Here's the complete Monkey-Thon review.
The Saint
B+/D-
If you give yourself over to how bad this movie is (as I did) you will will have a great time. Otherwise (like my friend Camie) you'll hate it. Val Kilmer's series of fey accents and fake faces. But in strange way, that's the best part, too. A disaster ... and I loved it. The Russian mob has their own techno music theme that plays whenever they come on screen. That is awesome!
Chasing Amy
B-
Great dialogue, frank talk, laugh-out-loud, true character-based humor. Boy, just once, I'd like to see a Gen X'er (in this case, the otherwise likeable Ben Affleck) make the RIGHT decision in one of these movies. Also, the lead actress, Joey Lauren Adams, has one of those really annoying "little girl voices." It's okay for a while, but doesn't translate well when she really has to scream out emotional lines. For all I liked about this movie (and there was a lot!), I'm still not sure why I ended up not liking it a whole lot more.
Liar Liar
A-
Jim Carrey is an incredibly gifted physical comedian. (No duh.) It's great to see NewsRadio's Maura Tierny on the big screen. Some of the slow moments to pull your heartstrings are a bit awkward. Carrey is worth the money. Director Tom Shadyac continues a welcome trend -- hilarious outtakes during the credits. He did the same for his Nutty Professor remake.
Selena
B
Jennifer Lopez becomes Selena. The movie captures the vibe and energy that pushed Selena to the top. So much of the dialogue is so natural and real, some of the "actory" moments stick out, hurting the film's otherwise documentary-like realism. Okay, now I understand all the fuss about her death. This movie moved me.
Star Wars: Special Edition
A
The best of the trilogy, back on the big screen where it belongs ... always. Greedo shoots first? For the love of Yoda, no! Thanks for the memories, George. Now get to work on the new trilogy.
The Empire Strikes Back: Special Edition
A-
Dodging asteroids with a TIE Fighter on his tail, Han Solo is the man for navigating that damn asteroid field. Some of the scenes are very, very slow. Is it me, or does the new CG Millennium Falcon look to "flat" when compared with the model shots?
Return of the Jedi: Special Edition
A-
A fitting finale to the first Trilogy. Fun. New celebration scenes are cool. Ewoks. New Jabba's Palace singing and dancing scenes don't really add anything. And those celebration scenes still look too "computery" for me. New finale music only a slight improvement over Ewok chant stuff. I want the new Trilogy now! Please?
Private Parts
B
Howard Stern can act! Really! Howard on the radio is twice as funny as in this movie. A nice debut, if a little too "please like me"-ish.
Dante's Peak
B
Pierce Brosnan is cool in any movie. Linda Hamilton is equally appealing. The volcano blows up real good. A bit hokey. A lot of people have to be really dumb for the plot to work. It'll lose something on the small screen, so try to catch it in theaters.
Jerry Maguire
B
Tom Cruise is solid. Cuba Gooding Jr. is fun. Renee Zellweger radiates. Bonnie Hunt appears! Cameron Crowe will do time in Hell for introducing America to "Show Me the Money!" Nice, fun, and good -- but Academy Award-worthy? Hardly.
Mars Attacks!
B-
Rod Steiger going nuts is always fun. Tim Burton is coasting here. He can do better with this galaxy of stars. Good moments, but wasted talent and money.
Waiting For Guffman
A
Eugene Levy is fall on the floor hilarious. Christopher Guest is a genius. Not quite as consistently funny as fellow mockumentary "Spinal Tap," but then again, what is? One of the funniest films of 1997. Make sure you track it down at your local art-house cinema!
Fools Rush In
B
Salma Hayek. Yum. Matthew Perry's character blasts past unsympathetic and becomes actively dumb and annoying. Perfect Valentine's viewing. That means it's too late now ...
Mother
A-
Dead-on Debbie Reynolds perf. as everyone's mother. This is not Albert Brooks' best. But it's still fine. More movies, Albert!
Touch
D-
Bridget Fonda is cute. Janeane Garofalo appears. Christopher Walken is Christopher Walken. A supposed satire with no laughs. Not one good laugh the whole damn movie. I have no idea what the people who made this were thinking. Must be funnier next time!
Fierce Creatures
B
John Cleese is nicely funny. Jamie Lee Curtis is funny AND sexy. Michael Palin is underused, but effective. I never saw A Fish Called Wanda, so I'm glad this wasn't a sequel.
Swingers
A
A great portrait of life in LA for anxious 20/30-something players. A little too phrase -based. A little "baby" and "money" goes a long way. Star Vince Vaughn will be in The Lost World this summer. Money!
101 Dalmatians
B
Joely Richardson is nicely appealing as the Brit-girl of Jeff Daniels' dreams. And Glenn Close is incredible. Too "John Hughes-y." This is not Home Alone Part 9. Makes me want to move to London and get a Dalmatian.
Space Jam
B-
Jordan can't act, but he is his affable self. Bill Murray is nice in a very small supporting role. No offense to the current voice artists of the Looney Tunes, but I really, really miss Mel Blanc. Do your duty as a consumer and see it. Parts are okay funny.
Star Trek: First Contact
B+
Borg, Borg, Borg. Data is back to a more normal self. Patrick Stewart gets plenty of chances to "act." Awesome effects. Big plot holes still keep this Trek movie series from really hitting stride. A Q movie next? How could it be better than "All Good Things?"
Fly Away Home
B
Geese, geese, geese. Anna Paquin is so shy, but the flying scenes are spectacular. Takes time to take off. Based on a true story? Find the book "Papa Goose" and ask yourself, where did Anna Paquin's character come from, anyway?
The Long Kiss Goodnight
B+
Geena Davis is an appealing action heroine. Great action stunts. Samuel L. Jackson rules. I'm no fan of "syringe-thru-the-eye" scenes. It blows up real good.
She's The One
C+
Jennifer Aniston will someday be an actual actress, not just "that girl from Friends." Ed Burns was a bit sullen. Cameron Diaz can be better. People tell me it was a Brothers McMullen clone. I didn't see that, so I didn't care.
A Very Brady Sequel
D
The cast has apparently been cloned from original Brady cell tissue. The plot reeked. And the subtle, subversive sexuality of the The Brady Bunch Movie has been blown way out of proportion here. A third trip to the Brady well is ill-advised. Look for it, coming soon.
Escape From L.A.
D
Radio-Head guy walking around post-apocalyptic LA. I've seen that guy in real life! Snake was an old man! The effects were not up to 1996 standards. Sequels we don't need, Part II
Chain Reaction
C-
Morgan Freeman was solid, as usual. Keanu Reeves ... is a scientist! Gah.
Kingpin
A-
Bill Murray again. Is he best only in these small doses? A little too gross in some parts. But still hilarious. You'll laugh, you'll cry. You'll laugh again.
The Nutty Professor
A
Eddie Murphy is funny. But comedian Dave Chappelle is funnier trading riffs with Murphy in two classic club scenes. None, really. Solid laughs throughout. Needed a Jerry Lewis cameo for true coolness.
Eraser
B-
Arnold is Arnold. Vanessa Williams is also comfortable on screen. A little "by-the-numbers"-ish. This is not Terminator 2 grade Arnold, but it'll do.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
B
Moving story, beautifully illustrated by Disney's crack animators. Probably not a real accurate portrayal of the book. Still, what did you expect? A solid entry in Disney's line of new animated classics.


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©1998
Colin Campbell - jenolen@earthlink.net
Last updated September 6, 1998