Movie reviews written about movies released theatrically in 1994, when I turned 13.
1. Hoop Dreams, directed by Steve James (10/10)
It has been said more eloquently elsewhere, but there is nothing like this incredible documentary that follows two players who take markedly different paths. In many ways it is like the film equivalent of The Breaks of the Game. An absolute must-see.
1. Pulp Fiction, directed by Quentin Tarantino (10/10)
The first time I saw this film – at 18 or something like that – I found it severely overrated. But I can honestly say that I was wrong. This is not only extraordinarily well made but also hugely influential on so many films and on multiple genres that it’s hard to calculate it. I just acquired it so hopefully when I re-watch it again I will have more to say.
1. Three Colours: Red, directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski (10/10)
Blue was an interesting movie, but Red is just astounding. I don’t know if I’ve been reading too much Nietzsche and Camus lately but it really seemed to me like that’s what the writers had been into when they wrote this stuff. It’s just incredible. I don’t know how to describe it. It’s just something that needs to be watched. I really can’t put it into words right now…
Also, Red features the most acrobatic camera movement I have ever seen. It’s like they dropped it. But they didn’t. Crazy! Someone lowering it on a rope at just the right speed…it’s nuts, seriously. And the movie…well, like I said: I don’t really know what to say. It was just spellbinding. Not only do I have to see White but I also have to see The Decalogue now, which should be an experience unto itself (10 hour long movies about the 10 commandments, or something to that effect). This director (I can’t spell his last name) is just nuts. When he finished Red he retired, at age 54. Two years later, he died.
4. The Shawshank Redemption, directed by Frank Darabont (9/10)
Like so many children of the ’80s, I went through a phase where I thought this was the best movie I had ever seen (and like so many of us, I also saw it for the first time a year or two after it came out). It is an excellent film, and easily Darabont’s best by a mile – a green mile, yuk, yuk, yuk – but it didn’t exactly alter film-making and it doesn’t really have as much to say as it thinks it does.
5. Ed Wood, directed by Tim Burton (9/10)
I haven’t seen it in years but this is a great film. At this remove I have a hard time remembering why I don’t think it’s flawless.
6. Once We Were Warriors, directed by Lee Tamahori (9/10)
This is a very, very good movie. It’s one of the most vivid portraits of domestic violence I’ve ever seen. It’s also an intelligent comment about the problems of aboriginals adapting to modern western society. It features fantastic acting (the lead male is amazing… because he’s so likable even as he is clearly the meanest person you’ve ever met). The one thing I would say it doesn’t have going for it is the soundtrack. The found songs work fine, but the little bit of music (mostly 1980s blues-guitar) that appears to be the only stuff written for the movie just doesn’t work. But aside from that minor problem, everyone should see this movie…It’s a great thing that it made more money in New Zealand than Jurassic Park…now if only that kind of thing could happen in NA.
7. Crumb, directed by Terry Zwigoff (9/10)
This is a fascinating film and well worth watching even if you know absolutely nothing about Robert Crumb (I didn’t). Really, really good.
8. Lekce Faust, directed by Jan Svankmajer (8/10)
Unfortunately, I’ve lost the review this really interesting and inventive re-interpretation of the various versions of Faust.
9. Shallow Grave, directed by Danny Boyle (8/10)
Danny Boyle’s certainly got some interesting movies out there. This is one to check out. I liked how it was so claustrophobic. That is to say, a movie like A Simple Plan of right now focuses on the same kind of story, moral degradation following doing something bad for the money, but it’s almost totally set in one place. The crazy behaviour makes more sense. Also, I like how the characters don’t go the ways you’d usually expect. I guess if I said more that might ruin it.
So SPOILER ALERT.
The morally ambiguous one is not the one who goes to far, but you expect that he is indeed the one that will. Instead it’s the more moral one who has the break, which makes sense when you think about it, but isn’t typical of these films. As always, his angles were interesting too. Wow, this is illiterate.
10. Quiz Show, directed by Robert Redford (8/10)
An excellent film which I should probably watch again just to properly appreciate it.
11. Trois Couleurs: Blanc, directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski (8/10)
I have lost my review for this, but basically it is the only movie in the trilogy that doesn’t really fit with the other films. That being said, it is still pretty entertaining and thought-provoking. Just not on the level of the other two, which are two of the best movies of the decade.
12. Bullets Over Broadway, directed by Woody Allen (8/10)
13. Four Weddings and a Funeral, directed by Mike Newell (8/10)
14. L’Enfer, directed by Claude Chabrol (7/10)
I can’t help thinking “somebody call the psychiatrist.” Maybe the French are more okay with crazy, but I think it’s probably that this was less “crazy” in ’64 when Clouzot wrote the script. In the ’90s (at least in Canada), it’s hard to believe an entire hotel would ignore this guy’s obvious insanity for this long. It’s well made though. And it’s darkly funny (or I’m crazy).
15. Clerks, directed by Kevin Smith (7/10)
Smith’s first movie is, in my opinion, his best. This time around the dialogue is fresh and unique and doesn’t feel as contrived as it does in practically every other film he ever made.
16. Natural Born Killers, directed by Oliver Stone (7/10*)
As a teen, I was impressed. I was also in the middle of my Oliver Stone phase.
17. The Paper, directed by Ron Howard (7/10)
I suspect the cynic in me would like this less now.
18. The Hudsucker Proxy, directed by Joel Coen (7/10)
Seen at the dawn of my Coens infatuation and then seen again during the height of it.
19. Death and the Maiden, directed by Roman Polanski (7/10)
I have unfortunately lost my review for this. But I would like to say that I love the quartet.
20. True Lies, directed by James Cameron (7/10)
A relatively subversive action/spy film with lots of decent gags and an over-the-top climax that manages to mostly work despite how utterly ridiculous it is.
21. The Legend of Drunken Master, directed by (7/10)
I clearly didn’t write a review.
22. Serial Mom, directed by John Waters (7/10*)
Seen multiple times as a teen. My favourite Waters movie back then.
23. Speed, directed by Jan de Bont (7/10)
As a teenage boy, this movie is amazing. It’s a lot sillier as an adult, but it’s still a pretty effectively made film.
24. Stargate, directed by Roland Emmerich (7/10*)
Thoroughly enjoyed it at 13…
25. Theremin: an Electronic Odyssey, directed by Steven M. Martin (7/10*)
Seen when I was way too young to appreciate it.
26. Cemetery Man aka Dellamorte Dellamore, directed by Michele Soavi (6/10)
I have lost my review of this film which alternates between awesomeness and terribleness. I’d recommend it anyway, but it’s a love / hate thing.
27. Before the Rain, directed by Milcho Manchevski (6/10)
There are definitely some great moments in this movie, and the cinematography is great to look at. However, there are some major problems. The biggest is that some pictures appear when there is no possibility that they could have been taken yet. I don’t understand why anyone could miss this in the editing room. There is no conceivable way they could actually exist when they are shown. Oops. Another problem is that two of the three climaxes seem contrived in that they are overly tragic. They are affecting, but I wonder if people would really kill these people in these situations and I wonder if people would be so unaware of the consequences of violence in a violence-torn place. I don’t know. It just seemed a little wrong. The title doesn’t work that well, either. Otherwise, it’s decent.
28. Nadja, directed by Michael Almereyda (6/10)
This is an overly stylized vampire flick that would probably work better with a little more plot and a little less camera noodling. It’s certainly an interesting idea, having Dracula’s twin children in New York city. The characters aren’t all that well developed and some of the acting (particularly the title actor) is pretty bad. But the concept and some of the filmic elements keep it interesting. It’s hardly a real success but it is at least more worth watching than many vampire films.
29. Blue Sky, directed by Tony Richardson (6/10)
This film means well – it features a powerful performance by Jessica Lange (playing mentally ill as only she can) and, I think, it attempts to tell a strong story of love overcoming mental illness. But the story is just too “Hollywood;” by that I mean that there’s too much of a desperate attempt to impose a plot on what should just be a family drama.
Having Lange’s character rush to save Jones’ character at the end is both too easy and too contrived. It makes mockery of the rest of the film – which, though flawed, felt much more real – and raps things up way too easily.
It’s unfortunate, because this is a film that feels ahead of its time in other ways. Still, sort of worth watching.
30. The Jodorowsky Constellation, directed by Louis Mouchet (6/10)
Unfortunately this documentary about one of the more impenetrable filmmakers of his era doesn’t really reveal enough about him to make it worthwhile.
31. New Nightmare, directed by Wes Craven (6/10)
This is the best film in the series since the original. It really is pretty decent beyond the “Freddie is more funny than scary” problem I have had since I grew up. But definitely way better than any of the other sequels.
32. Dumb and Dumber, directed by Peter Farrelly (6/10)
Really fucking stupid, but also pretty funny.
33. Forrest Gump, directed by Robert Zemeckis (6/10)
When I saw this at 13 I was smitten, like so many other people. I have now seen it probably 5 or 6 times all the way through, and parts of it many times more. I think it’s manipulative and overly-sentimental, but those things are very well done.
34. The Ref, directed by Ted Demme (6/10*)
Seen before I was probably able to appreciate it.
35. Swimming with Sharks, directed by George Huang (6/10*)
I was 14 or something when I saw this. Clearly not remotely old enough.
36. Star Trek: Generations, directed by David Carson (6/10*)
I am not sure if I have ever seen this since it first came out. I somewhat liked it at the time.
37. The Lion King, directed by Roger Allers, Rob Minkoff (6/10*)
38. Interview with a Vampire, directed by Neil Jordan (5/10)
I have always felt like this film is not only too long but requires the fascination some people have with vampires to be enjoyed.
39. Clear and Present Danger, directed by Phillip Noyce (5/10)
I liked it more before I read the book and learned how much they changed things.
40. Maverick, directed by Richard Donner (5/10)
I loved this as a teen. Found it a lot less entertaining as I got older.
41. Little Big League, directed by Andrew Scheimann (5/10)
Way, way funnier than it has any right to be.
42. The Santa Clause, directed by John Pasquin (5/10*)
Seen at 13 or 14.
43. The Jungle Book, directed by Stephen Sommers (5/10*)
Seen at 13. Rated significantly later.
44. Wyatt Earp, directed by Kevin Costner (5/10*)
I was probably too young to fully judge this at the time.
45. The Professional, directed by Luc Besson (5/10)
I have never been comfortable with this film and I’m not sure the film aimed to do that. Maybe it did. Maybe I should give it another chance, but I am pretty sure that it’s just too fucking creepy for me.
46. The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, directed by Stephan Elliott (5/10)
This would only offend homophobes who are afraid of gay men because they are worried they might be attracted to them. There’s a tiny little bit about bigotry but it’s barely addressed and mostly passed over/glossed over. I laughed maybe twice. But I know this is the kind of thing that people love. Most of these jokes are the kind of broad, inoffensive jokes that appeal to tons of people and offend few. This is why this movie is not what it could be. Watch Hedwig and the Angry Inch instead.
47. The Last Seduction, directed by John Dahl (4*/10)
Don’t remember it.
48. The Client, directed by Joel Schumacher (4/10)
I don’t really remember this.
49. Exotica, directed by Atom Egoyan (4/10*)
I was certainly too young to fully appreciate / get this when I saw it (was watching it for the sex…oops) but it’s Egoyan so I’m not too worried I was unfair.
50. The Specialist, directed by Luis Llosa 4/10)
Stone was really type-cast after Basic Instinct. I watched the shower scene in this film multiple times before I ever watched the movie all the way through. When I did, I was sorry.
51. Witch Hunt, directed by Paul Schrader (4/10)
This one goes in the pile of “Schrader needs to let other people direct his work.”
52. The Naked Gun 33 1/3: the Final Insult, directed by Peter Segal (4/10*)
Seen this too many times as a young’un. I can’t be objective about it.
53. Renaissance Man, directed by Penny Marshall (4/10)
Loved this as a teen. Hated it as an adult. Yet another one of these films.
54. The Air Up There, directed by Paul M. Glaser (3/10*)
Seen when I was younger, probably late at night.
55. The Cowboy Way, directed by Gregg Champion (3/10)
Never really got this.
56. Exit to Eden, directed by Garry Marshall (3/10)
I may have been too young to get all of this at the time, but Garry fucking Marshall made it, so I’m sure it can’t have been that adult. Garry Marshall doesn’t know the meaning of the word risque.
57. On Deadly Ground, directed by Steven Seagal (3/10)
There are some good actors in this film, somehow, but the movie is brutal.
58. Major League II, directed by David S. Ward (3/10*)
Haven’t seen it in forever.
59. Beverley Hills Cop III, directed by John Landis (3/10)
Far and away the weakest in the series.
60. Ski School 2, directed by David Mitchell (3/10)
Same movie the second time out.
61. The Chase, directed by Adam Rifkin (3/10*)
Seen multiple times as a teen.
62. The Getaway, directed by Roger Donaldson (3/10*)
A really poor remake of an underrated original.
63. Death Machine, directed by Stephen Norrington (2/10)
With a title like Death Machine and an actor like Dourif, one might expect this to be awesome. Unfortunately, the budget is way, way lower than it should be. Very disappointing.
64. Blankman, directed by Mike Binder (2/10)
As much as this is terrible, it’s also shockingly ahead of its time.
65. Avalanche, directed by Paul Shapiro (2/10)
66. Blank Check, directed by Rupert Wainwright (2/10)
Definitely a horrible idea for a film.
67. Street Fighter, directed by Steven E. de Souza (1/10)
An exhibit on why video games should never be made into movies. Wrong on so many levels: conception, plot, casting, etc.
68. Police Academy: Mission to Moscow, directed by Alan Metter (1/10)