Movie reviews written for movies released theatrically in 1992, when I turned 11 years of age.
1. The Player, directed by Robert Altman (10/10)
I may not be able to be objective about this film because of its incredible opening Touch of Evil reference, which still blows my mind. But even if this is not the greatest Altman movie ever, I still feel like it’s one of his best. I don’t really get the criticism that he is slumming by satirizing Hollywood. Satirizing Hollywood may be relatively easy for someone like Altman, but he still does it very well. And I really don’t know why people hold it against him and this film.
2. Bob Roberts, directed by Tim Robbins (10/10)
Yes it’s left wing, but it’s funny. And prescient.
2. Unforgiven, directed by Clint Eastwood (10/10)
This was definitely the greatest western to come along in a few decades but it is not the greatest western of all time, as some claim. It is an excellent film and very well acted but it stays far too close to genre conventions to rank as the greatest western ever.
4. Dead Alive aka Brain Dead, directed by Peter Jackson (10/10)
This was the goriest movie I had ever seen when I first saw it (having yet to see any Italian cannibal movies or more than a few Japanese horror films) and also the greatest horror comedy I had seen. Despite it’s budget and muggy acting, it’s gross and hysterical. I think it has dated rather poorly but that’s only because effects have gotten so much better and because Jackson had such a bad cast at his disposal. Essential viewing for all horror fans.
5. Reservoir Dogs, directed by Quentin Tarantino (9/10)
For years I maintained this was the best Tarantino film, until I re-watched Pulp Fiction and saw Kill Bill. I actually have trouble seeing everything I initially loved about it when I re-watch it. Tarantino has become smarter and sillier since. I prefer later Tarantino. That being said, this is still pretty well constructed (whether or not it is a remake of an obscure film).
6. Brother’s Keeper, directed by Joe Berlinger, Bruce Sinofsky (9/10)
This is a fascinating film that is likely one of the great documentaries of the decade. It prompts some very interesting questions and doesn’t really offer any satisfying answers.
6. Man Bites Dog, directed by Remy Belvaux, Andre Bonzel (9/10)
The original “reality” satire is one of the most effective and is scary in how prescient it is.
8. Glengarry Glen Ross, directed by James Foley (9/10)
Mamet’s play is even more timely now than it was when it was written. Should be absolutely required viewing for everyone.
9. The Crying Game, directed by Neil Jordan (9/10)
Somehow I managed to avoid having this ruined for me for more than a decade. It’s probably Jordan’s best film.
9. Leolo, directed by Jean-Claude Lauzon (9/10)
This is a pretty great movie. It’s combination of fantasy and reality presages Pan’s Labyrinth. It’s that kind of story, only set in Quebec, so the villains aren’t as obvious / violent. It is expertly executed. Particularly effective is the soundtrack, which veers from what sounds like plainchant to Tom Waits (“Cold, Cold Ground” in particular). Such a combination might sound jarring but it actually seems wholly appropriate. This is a great movie, and certainly one of the better Canadian films I’ve ever seen.
11. The Last of the Mohicans, directed by Michael Mann (9/10)
I think this is Mann’s best film and one of the great adventure films. It modernizes the source material but stays close enough – in my memory anyway – that it doesn’t destroy the essence of the original story.
12. Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer, directed by Nick Broomfield (9/10)
This is a fascinating and outrage-inducing film about the exploitation of Aileen Wuornos after her arrest and conviction by the police, by her adopted mother and her lawyer. The film doesn’t seek to prove that Aileen didn’t do it – like most films of this type – but rather raises questions about the severity of her sentences and about the conduct of both the police investigating her and the lawyer and adopter mother supposedly on her side.
Regardless of the crimes she committed, she was not treated fairly or properly by the system. And this film – like many great true crime documentaries – raises huge questions about the people supposedly fairly administering justice on behalf of the State of Florida.
PS Aileen’s lawyer re-recorded a Pink Floyd song and listened to his own recording in the car on the way to the prison.
13. Lessons of Darkness, directed by Werner Herzog (9/10)
If I believed in Hell, I guess this is what it would look like.
Leave it to Werner to take a totally different approach to a war / environmental disaster documentary. Basically, Werner and his crew are aliens witnessing the aftermath of the (1st) Gulf War. Truth is stretched (places are misrepresented) and the concept doesn’t always hold up (like when you see the shadow of the helicopter) but that doesn’t matter. This film is incredible. I have never seen anything like it. It certainly makes me feel more for Kuwait than a conventional documentary ever would have.
14. Pole to Pole [TV], directed by Roger Mills, Clem Vallance (9/10)
This remains the definitive Michael Palin travel documentary and probably the best series of its type at least until the Long Way Round. [Note: I don’t think I ever finished The Long Way Round.]
Palin seems more honest and human here than he does in later series; less like a host and more like a traveler. It’s an incredible journey that is not without its problems; he takes some pretty incredible risks by the end. And his reflections are, though hardly philosophical, at least thought-provoking and universal.
Watching this, I feel like Palin is the Paul Theroux of TV. (Well, with a much better sense of humour.)
15. Incident at Oglala, directed by Michael Apted (8/10)
This is an important, if biased, film. I think we can excuse the bias simply because most of us who have grown up in this society do not know what it is like to grow up as second- or third-class citizens in our traditional lands or what fear or paranoia that might bring.
16. A Midnight Clear, directed by Keith Gordon (8/10)
Years ago I thought this was one of the great unappreciated war films. I’m not sure if it is or not, but it is still worth seeing.
17. Wayne’s World, directed by Penelope Spheeris (8/10*)
I cannot be objective about a film that was such a major part of my adolescence.
18. Baraka, directed by Ron Fricke (8/10)
This is one of those non-narrative “documentaries” in the grand tradition of Koyaanisqatsi, which are really just beautiful film sequences compellingly edited together and scored. It should come as no surprise that the director of this film was a cinematographer on Koyaanisqatsi.
And like that film, this one appears to be making a similar point about how certain forms of human life are destroying the planet. The thesis appears to be that our spiritual traditions are better at caring for the earth than modern ideas, but I could be projecting. If that’s true, it’s a simplistic idea and this film is better appreciated for its stunning photography of places most of us have never been to and may never go to.
19. Howard’s End, directed by James Ivory (8/10*)
I saw this when I was likely too young to appreciate it, though I thought I could, it seems.
20. Malcolm X, directed by Spike Lee (8/10)
Yes, it’s extraordinarily long. But I feel like there is a lot to like here. It certainly does a far better job than all those “biopics” that focus on one specific aspect of a person’s life, as if it defined them. I haven’t seen it in years, but I remember being impressed.
21. Raising Cain, directed by Brian De Palma (8/10*)
I loved this movie as a young teen, in the height of my De Palma phase.
22. Army of Darkness, directed by Sam Raimi (7/10)
23. El Mariachi, directed by Robert Rodriguez (7/10)
This is an enjoyable action movie.
24. The Panama Deception, directed by Barbara Trent (7/10)
This film is interesting. It’s far from great. It’s not fully coherent and somewhat awkward. But it is revealing in terms of what happened in Panama, and it’s interesting to watch in light of later US foreign policy decisions.
25. Sneakers, directed by Phil Alden Robinson (7/10*)
I have seen this movie way too many times to be objective about it.
26. Death and the Compass, directed by Alex Cox 7/10)
This interesting idea suffers from a low budget. I have never read the source material.
27. Army of Darkness, directed by Sam Raimi (7/10*)
I have seen this too many times to be remotely objective about it.
28. Batman Returns, directed by Tim Burton (7/10*)
I feel like I should re-watch this as I only saw it a couple times as a teen / tween.
29. Citizen Cohn, directed by Frank Pierson (6/10)
Perhaps the best performance of Woods’ career – or one of them – but obviously a TV movie.
30. Candyman, directed by Bernard Rose (6/10)
Candyman starts off well but then sucks big time quite quickly. I remember not being able to watch it as a kid because it was so scary. But then I thought The Birds was scary. In any case, it went from trying to be scary to trying to be gory. Not a good move, if you’re trying to make a serious film.
31. Basic Instinct, directed by Paul Verhoeven (6/10)
I am of two minds about this movie: it is extraordinarily trashy and yet very well done for the fact that it is extraordinarily trashy.
32. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, directed by Fran Rubel Kuzui (6/10)
I remember this being reasonably entertaining.
33. Boomerang, directed by Reginald Hudlin (6/10*)
I haven’t seen this in a very long time.
34. A League of their Own, directed by Penny Marshall (6/10)
I think I really liked this as a tween and then later I wondered why I felt that way.
35. The Muppet Christmas Carol, directed by Brian Henson (6/10*)
Seen multiple times as a tween and teen.
36. Aladdin, directed by Ron Clements, John Musker (6/10*)
Seen multiple times as a tween.
37. A Few Good Men, directed by Rob Reiner (5/10)
I have always felt that this film’s reputation among my generation was kind of out-sized. It has always seemed very overwrought to me.
38. Dracula, directed by Francis Ford Coppola (5/10)
The cast is half-wrong, but the atmosphere is often very well done.
39. Scent of a Woman, directed by Martin Brest (5/10)
40. Lethal Weapon 3, directed by Richard Donner (5/10*)
Isn’t this where the sidekick stuff starts?
41. Alien3, directed by David Fincher (5/10)
It’s interesting that one of the most notable American directors of his era got his start in an unnecessary Alien sequel.
42. Rapid Fire, directed by Brandon Little (5/10*)
I don’t remember this.
43. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, directed by David Lynch (5/10)
I actually saw this before I saw the show. Apparently I was going to say something else, but I did not.
44. Single White Female, directed by Barbet Schroeder (4/10)
Women, don’t move out on your own and be independent. The crazy women who have already moved out on their own will get you.
45. Cool World, directed by Ralph Bakshi (4/10*)
I saw this when I was too young to appreciate it.
46. 1492: Conquest of Paradise, directed by Ridley Scott (4/10*)
I’m pretty sure I watched this late at night.
47. Shining Through, directed by David Seltzer (4/10)
I call bullshit.
48. Far and Away, directed by Ron Howard (3/10)
I saw this on a ferry traveling form Happy Valley-Goose Bay to Cartwright. I wrote down what I thought in my diary but I don’t know where it is right now. I do remember this has one of the most preposterous horse rides in movie history in it as well as Cruise’s atrocious accent.
49. The Hand that Rocks the Cradle, directed by Curtis Hanson (3/10)
Women, you shouldn’t work because the psychotic widowed wife of the man who sexually assaulted you could be your nanny!
50. Universal Soldier, directed by Roland Emmerich (3/10)
I wish I had known this guy’s pedigree before I got suckered into his blockbusters.
51. Captain Ron, directed by Thom Eberhardt (3/10)
52. Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, directed by Chris Columbus (3/10)
I have seen this more than the first one. I feel like maybe it’s more inventive even though it makes no sense, since it is not set “at home.”
53. Freejack, directed by Geoff Murphy (3/10*)
I don’t really remember this, which is a good thing.
54. Sister Act, directed by Emile Ardolino (3/10)
At age 11 I chose to see this in theatres over Batman Returns or something like that. Oops.
55. Trespass, directed by Walter Hill (3/10)
I don’t know what my problem is with Walter Hill but I clearly have one. I guess it’s a script thing. When he has a good script – say when he is directing a Deadwood episode – he is better than competent. But when he doesn’t have a script, he seems hackish.
56. Beethoven, directed by Brian Levant (3/10)
3 feels kind.
57. Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot, directed by Roger Spottiswoode (2/10*)
I haven’t seen this in years but I can’t imagine it’s any good.
58. The Lost World, directed by Timothy Bond (2/10*)
It’s debatable that I watched this all the way through.
59. Talons of the Eagle, directed by Michael Kennedy (2/10)
2 seems charitable.