1990 in Movies

Movie reviews I’ve written for movies released in 1990, the year I turned 9.

1. Goodfellas, directed by Martin Scorsese (10/10)

I think there is certainly some limited truth to the criticism that many American films “glorify” violence; certainly numerous films (American or otherwise) focus on how human beings have found redemption through violence. Some directors handle that better than others. But I think too often that criticism is a crutch when someone is offended but has nothing substantial to back up their feeling of offense.

I don’t believe this movie glorifies mob life, and its violence, though I can see how some might believe that – and I can see how teenage boys who have not been given strong moral compasses could be confused by this film, though that’s hardly Scorsese’s fault. But this is one of a couple films that is on Scorsese’s resume where you just point to it and say, “Here is a real director. Watch this movie to see how movies should be made.” Scorsese’s ability with the camera, with music and in the editing room is on full display in this movie.

It’s near-perfect.

2. Hidden Agenda, directed by Ken Loach (10/10)

This is definitely one of the great conspiracy movies of all time. Loach is more subtle than many directors in portraying the surveillance and the viewer isn’t totally sure it’s more than a murder mystery for the first little while. Though the conspiracy itself is perhaps a little far fetched (though clearly inspired by Watergate), the ending is so amazing that it doesn’t matter.

3. After Dark, My Sweet, directed by James Foley (9/10)

After Dark, My Sweet is definitely one of the best modern noir films I’ve seen made in the last 15 years. Firstly, it suggests that the reason why these guys always fall for these women may be do to something other than stupidity…mental illness! Then, the woman is not your typical femme fatale at all, she’s way more believable. The guy is way more responsible for his end this time around. Oh yeah, and you know how all the old films have everyone drinking? Well, this takes it further…they’re all blatantly alcoholic. So, there’s a great mood, the inevitable sex takes forever to happen, and they have fun with conventions in a way few films do (not as blatantly as a parody but much more fun than most noirs I’ve seen that were made in the last while). And slowly, oh so slowly, the film turns into a noir / western quest for redemption. It was awesome. You should see it if you like noir.

4. Miller’s Crossing, directed by Joel Coen (8/10*)

The first Coen Bros. film I ever saw, it got me started on my obsession. But that also means I saw it ages ago, i.e. when I was still perhaps too young to judge it effectively.

5. Rosencrantz and Gildenstern are Dead, directed by Tom Stoppard (8/10)

No, I have never seen the play. but I absolutely loved this. I think I maybe hesitated on rating it higher only because everyone who’s seen the play doesn’t like the film version.

6. White Hunter, Black Heart, directed by Clint Eastwood (8/10)

I have lost my review for this fascinating film about John Huston, one of the more interesting “major” Hollywood directors of the “golden age”, and the making of The African Queen, a film I need to re-watch.

7. Presumed Innocent, directed by Alan J. Pakula (8/10)

In retrospect this film has perhaps a little too much Lady MacBeth for my tastes, but otherwise is pretty stellar. It also features the worst haircut of Harrison Ford’s career.

8. Wild at Heart, directed by David Lynch (8/10*)

Seen during the heart, excuse me, the height of my Lynch phase, I have not seen in since. A crazy, nearly-terrible film? I don’t know in retrospect.

9. Gremlins 2: the New Batch, directed by Joe Dante (8/10)

Immature men who have yet to realize great art isn’t really found in blockbusterdom regularly ask “What is the best sequel of all time?” I think that’s a pretty stupid question, given that most sequels exist simply to try and capitalize on the financial success of the first movie. That being said, I like this better than the first one. And if one of these men put a gun to my head, this movie would be on my list (though hardly #1). I am not kidding. I want to be a part of it.

10. Total Recall, directed by Paul Verhoeven (7/10)

It is unfortunate that this very entertaining film got remade.

11. Edward Scissorhands, directed by Tim Burton (7/10*)

I was likely too young to truly decide whether or not the sentimentality is too much.

12. Dances with Wolves, directed by Kevin Costner (7/10*)

Seen – in theatres – when I was 8 or 9 – thanks Mom! – and impressionable enough to think it was a masterpiece or some shit. Seen in pieces over again, throughout the years, enough to realize my initial, child’s opinion was not valid.

By the way I would just like to say that my parents were clearly awesome. My dad took me to see Glory. My mom took me to see this. And neither of them were worried that I would be corrupted by these movies. Both trusted me enough to let me see adult films before I was even ten.

13. Quick Change, directed by Howard Franklin, Bill Murray (7/10)

I have a bizarre and sentimental attachment to this film. This is how I would rob a bank.

14. Arachnophobia, directed by Frank Marshall (7/10)

It’s really dated and a lot of feels sort of stereotypical in terms of ’80s-style Spielberg-esque storytelling, but I still think this is entertaining enough for what it is. It definitely has its moments that hold up. Liked it much more the first time I saw it, though.

15. Joe Vs. the Volcano, directed by John Patrick Shanley (7/10)

This is a strange one, especially given the cast and producers. It’s pretty endearing though. The problem is that some of the scenes really don’t work very well (especially the montages). The opening implies this is some kind of science fiction movie, and that’s not very accurate. A better actress than Ryan would have been able to handle multiple roles a lot better; however she is totally gorgeous so you forget about that. The ending is preposterous but then so is the movie, so I don’t see how we can hold that against it.

16. Central Park, directed by Frederick Wiseman (7/10)

Interesting. Read the review of Central Park.

17. The Hunt for Red October, directed by John McTiernan (7/10)

30 years later this remains the best Tom Clancy adaptation, the only one where Ryan really is an analyst (mostly) rather than a super spy. Most of the effects still work – aside from the torpedoes – and the pacing is excellent for such a long film.

It’s ridiculous that Ryan drives a sub and briefly turns into John McClane but, otherwise, this movie is truer to the character than later films.

18. Ski School, directed by Damian Lee (7/10*)

There is no defending this rating. I was on crack. Or really tired and prone to laughing at Cameron’s not particularly funny shtick. I have no words for this rating.

19. Hamlet, directed by Franco Zeffirelli (6/10)

I feel like maybe I need to watch this as a full blown adult. I believe I was already under the influence of Branagh’s version when I saw it. I also did not enjoy Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet. So I might have been judging things too harshly.

20. Alice, directed by Woody Allen (6/10)

The thing that I most disliked about this film has vanished from my memory right now. But so hast most of the film. Lesser Allen.

21. Pump Up the Volume, directed by Allan Moyle (6/10)

I liked this way too much the first time I saw it. And then I was sort of horrified with myself the second time.

22. Misery, directed by Rob Reiner (6/10)

I seem to remember this was decent.

23. Postcards from the Edge, directed by Mike Nichols (6/10*)

Watched late at night as a teen. I was likely too young for it.

24. Le chateau de ma mere, directed by Yves Robert (6/10)

It’s okay. I’m not sure there’s a lot to recommend it but there’s not a whole lot to criticize. The only thing is the family seems a little too happy for me, but whatever. It’s just not that remarkable. It’s nice to look at. It’s a little boring. It doesn’t really draw out strong opinions from me either way. Sorry.

25. La gloire de mon pere, directed by Yves Robert (6/10)

Like My Mother’s Castle, this is nice to look at but is only mildly amusing and hardly engrossing. I guess its appeal is for those people who look fondly back on their childhoods as idyllic times. It’s certainly well made and, as I said, beautiful, but it’s pretty boring. I wouldn’t bother with it unless you like your stories clean and inoffensive.

26. Back to the Future Part III, directed by Robert Zemeckis (6/10*)

As a kid, this seemed like a great idea.

27. The Memphis Belle, directed by Michael Caton-Jones (6/10*)

As a tween / young teen, I was convinced this was one of the best war movies ever made for some reason or other. I know its flaws intimately now, as I have seen it at least 10 times.

28. The Witches, directed by Nicholas Roeg (6/10*)

Seen, multiple times, as a child and tween.

29. The Sheltering Sky, directed by Bernardo Bertolucci (5/10*)

Seen late at a night, and having never read the book. I have no idea.

30. Havana, directed by Sydney Pollack (5/10*)

Seen when I was too young to appreciate it. But at the same time, I am still not a Pollack fan.

31. Mo’ Better Blues, directed by Spike Lee (5/10*)

Seen when I was likely too young to appreciate it.

32. Die Hard 2: Die Harder, directed by Renny Harlin (5/10)

Everyone’s least favourite in the series until they revived the series. For years I was sort of unaware why the middle one didn’t fit the series until I saw who made it. Check out Harlin’s resume if you’re curious.

33. Quigley Down Under, directed by Simon Wincer (5/10)

A bizarre attempt at reviving the western.

34. Pretty woman, directed by Garry Marshall (5/10*)

I don’t know if I’ve actually seen this all the way through. I “saw” it at some point when I was a teen. Anyway, Garry Marshall made it, so even if I gave up on it, or caught the middle, or whatever it was, it’s still not worth my time. Remember kids, Garry Marshall is a horrible human being. Too highly rated, for sure.

35. Darkman, directed by Sam Raimi (5/10*)

Seen before I could perhaps appreciate the path-breaking nature of this film.

36. Awakenings, directed by Penny Marshall (5/10)

This is one of those films that could have been quite powerful had a competent director been involved.

37. Shipwrecked, directed by Nils Gaup (5/10*)

Seen multiple times as a child and tween.

38. The Godfather Part III, directed by Francis Ford Coppola (4/10)

This film should not exist. But given that it does, it could have been far worse.

39. Flatliners, directed by Joel Schumacher (4/10)

Even with semi-compelling material, Schumacher cannot make a decent film.

I take it back, he has made a couple. This  is not one of them.

40. Dick Tracy, directed by Warren Beatty (4/10*)

Seen as a tween and teen. Judged as a twenty-something.

41. Ghost, directed by Jerry (4/10*)

I don’t believe in Patrick Swayze. That is my faux-witty retort to such a stupid concept. I think 4 is charitable. I don’t know what I was thinking.

42. Home Alone, directed by Chris Columbus (4/10*)

Seen too many times to judge fairly or accurately.

43. House Party, directed by Reginald Hudlin (4/10*)

Seen multiple times as a tween and perhaps even a child.

44. Predator 2, directed by Stephen Hopkins (3/10*)

Seen multiple times, mostly late at night. I guess this was bound to happen but something about setting it in a city feels like a betrayal.

45. Young Guns II, directed by Geoff Murphy (3/10)


46. Night of the Living Dead, directed by Tom Savini (3/10)

Why remake one of the five to ten greatest horror films of all-time? Moreover, why remake it after effective parodies have already been made? I really don’t know why this exists. It maybe isn’t as bad as I rated it, but it shouldn’t exist in the first place, so I docked it points for that.

47. Kindergarten Cop, directed by Ivan Reitman (3/10*)

The best part of this movie is that prank-callers have been using Schwarzenegger’s lines ever since. That’s the best part.

48. Death Warrant, directed by Deran Sarafian (3/10)

One of the innumerable JVD or Seagal films I have seen in the middle of the night, back when I never went to sleep before 1.

49. Rocky V, directed by John G. Avildsen (3/10)

I don’t know if this is fair or not but I do know that this is enough already.

50. Ski Patrol, directed by Richard Correll (2/10*)

Seen many times as a child and tween. Police Academy on skis. Am I being too harsh?

51. The Exorcist III, directed by William Peter Blatty (2/10*)

Haven’t seen this in forever but Blatty couldn’t direct his way out of a paper bag.

52. Robocop 2, directed by Irvin Kershner (2/10*)

I can’t make any claims about this. I saw this when I was young (before the first, I think) and I rated it much later.

53. Look Who’s Talking Too, directed by Amy Heckerling (2/10)

Leave me alone, talking babies! Is 2 too charitable?

54. Days of Thunder, directed by Tony Scott (1/10*)

Yes this movie is terrible. It might not be anywhere near the worst movie ever made but as often happens I feel like I have to rate it so low to account for the ridiculous amount of people who love it for no reason. Call it my Top Gun hangup. It is only because of curmudgeony people like me that movies like this stay out of the IMBD Top 250. Is that not fair on this film? Well, Tom Cruise being as successful as he is while being crazy isn’t fair either.

55. 3 Men and a Little Lady, directed by Emile Ardolino (1/10)

Aside from the sheer ridiculousness of a sequel to the ridiculous original, this film is also offensive in the way so many Hollywood movies are that make out career-oriented women as somehow bad.

56. Problem Child, directed by Dennis Dugan (1/10*)

Seen multiple times as a tween. At least the kid’s career is over.

57. Ernest Goes to Jail, directed by John Cherry (1/10*)

I actually think this is one of the least bad in the series – at least it’s one of the more creative films – but I still apparently decided it was worth a 1.