1996 in Movies

Movie reviews written about movies released theatrically in 1996. I turned 15 years of age in 1996.

1. Fargo, directed by Joel Coen (10/10)

In their career, the Coens have made a few films that feel, to me, as though they could be used to teach directing in film school. This is the first one. It is rare to find such a strong sense of place and characters with such great camera work and such great pacing. A truly great film.

Also, watch the TV show. Seriously.

2. Paradise Lost: the Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills, directed by Joe Berlinger, Bruce Sinofsky (9/10)

Not so with Paradise Lost: the Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills, which details the trial of the so-called “West Memphis Three.” This case is such an egregiousness miscarriage of justice that it would be unbelievable had it been put in a fictitious film. It’s insane! I can’t understand how two different groups of 12 people could do what they did to those three teenagers. Those teenagers are all still in jail 11 years later and one of them is still awaiting his death sentence. This kind of thing makes you despair…how can the justice system in a country much like ours be so bad? I guess a lot of people (especially blacks) are all too familiar with that…Being a privileged white person, I’m not. I guess it’s movies like the above two (that feature accused whites) make this hit home harder. I don’t mean to sound racist, but I think there is some truth in that statement.

Three 8 year olds were brutally murdered in 1993.

The evidence connecting the three teenagers to the murder: the confession of one of them, who’s mentally handicapped and was interrogated for hours and hours without a lawyer and without most of the conversation being recorded; witnesses who claim one teenager confessed to the crime at a softball game; a knife that cannot be linked to the crime scene; a couple of “secondary transfer” fibres from some clothing; heavy metal; black clothing; “satanism” and Wicca. I’ve probably left a little bit out but that’s the gist of it. The only proof that one of the three was involved was that he was friends with the person the prosecution claimed orchestrated the whole thing. Well, and he supposedly confessed to a drug addict/thief who knew the details of the crime already.

I don’t know how these people can sleep at night. All anyone seemed to care about was that someone, didn’t matter who, was punished for what was done to those boys. The real killer got away. Who knows if he or they has/have ever done anything again…

Fuck, that makes me angry.

3. Waiting for Guffman, directed by Christopher Guest (8/10)

In retrospect, I feel that I may have criminally underrated this film, which sort of re-started the improvised ensemble comedy thing Guest does so well (or did, until recently).

4. Citizen Ruth, directed by Alexander Payne (8/10)

Though Dern’s performance has dated, this is still a very funny abortion comedy. Read the review of Citizen Ruth.

5. Hamlet, directed by Kenneth Branaugh (8/10)

Though it certainly has its odd choices in terms of the setting and in terms of stunt casting, I actually really enjoy this version.

6. Hard Core Logo, directed by Bruce McDonald (8/10)

I have lost my review for this.

7. When We Were Kings, directed by Leon Gast (8/10)

I have no interest in boxing, but this a really engrossing film. I would highly recommend watching it.

8. Trainspotting, directed by Danny Boyle (8/10)

Seen multiple times during my late teens, but never since. I suspect that I might like it even more now.

9. Scream, directed by Wes Craven (8/10)

I watched this for the second time as an adult and it was much better than I remembered it being. I think it was just over-hyped for me.

10. From Dusk till Dawn, directed by Robert Rodriguez (8/10)

I don’t care what people say, this movie is awesome. I think it would have been a lot more impressive to people if the ads had left out the twist. By advertising it they totally ruined it. They should have just advertised the cast and said, “Did you like Desperado? Well Rodriguez made this. See this.”

11. Bottle Rocket, directed by Wes Anderson (8/10)

Of the Anderson movies I have seen, this is the only one I haven’t seen more than once. So my appreciation of it isn’t as developed, I guess. And unfortunately I haven’t seen it in long time and I have lost my review.

12. Freeway, directed by Matthew Bright (8/10)

Unfortunately I lost my review for this great version of Little Red Riding Hood.

13. Flirting with Disaster, directed by David O. Russell (7/10)

It has been years since I saw this but I thoroughly enjoyed it and I can’t remember why I didn’t rate it higher.

14. The Ogre, directed by Volker Schlondorff  (7/10)

I remember this being somewhat overrated for me, but I haven’t seen it in a really long time.

15. Lone Star, directed by John Sayles (7/10)

I am not really a huge fan of Sayles – and I am not a fan of what he does with one of my favourite genres here – but I do have to admit that this is effectively told and more compelling than I wanted it to be.

16. American Buffalo, directed by Michael Corrente (7/10)

I was perhaps too young to appreciate this.

17. I Shot Andy Warhol, directed by Mary Harron (7/10)

I have lost my review for this.

18. Hard Eight aka Sydney, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (7/10)

It is unfortunate that I barely remember this film, as PTA has become one of my favourite filmmakers.

19. The Battle Over Citizen Kane, directed by Michael Epstein, Thomas Lennon (7/10)

Note: This rating is relative to the ones above it, not all the asterisked entries below it.

This is an interesting documentary about Orson Welles and his rise to fame, and what happened when he took on one of the most powerful men in America. It’s pretty standard PBS-style but, beyond that, there’s lots of interesting information about both Hearst and Welles, their lives and how they were eerily similar personalities.

If you’re into movie history – or, frankly, the history of the United States in general – then this is worth seeking out.

20. James and the Giant Peach, directed by Henry Selick (7*/10)

Seen at 15.

21. Primal Fear, directed by Gregory Hoblit (7*/10)

Aside from the fact that “Richard Gere – Primal Fear” rhymes and could be turned into a sing-song thing, this movie captivated my friends and I enough that we used to talk about Edward Norton’s performance in this all the time. But I haven’t seen it since. And I really doubt that I would think much of it now.

22. Mission: Impossible, directed by Brian De Palma (7*/10)

I really liked this – or I really wanted to like it, I’m not sure – when I was 15. Over the years I have come to be somewhat disappointed with how it failed to really represent my memory of the series, but I know that’s nostalgia. I haven’t watched it as an adult to re-rate it.

23. Mars Attacks!, directed by Tim Burton (7*/10)

Seen in theatres when I was fairly in love with Tim Burton.

24. The Secret Agent, directed by Christopher Hampton (7*/10)

I don’t remember this movie for a second.

25. Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy, directed by Kelly Makin (6*/10)

I haven’t seen this in years, but I just rated it in 2014 because I realized I forgot to. I should watch it again so I can properly place it in the canon, between the series and Death Comes to Town.

26. Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood, directed by Paris Barclay (6*/10)

I haven’t seen this in years so I have no idea if it’s as funny as I remember.

27. Breaking the Waves, directed by Lars Von Trier (6/10)

Boomer nostalgia posing as an art film.

28. Ransom, directed by Ron Howard (6/10)

Seen in theatres. I.e. I was 14 or 15. (Thanks for treating me like an adult, mom!)

29. The Cable Guy, directed by Ben Stiller (6/10)

I have long felt this movie underrated. It’s uneven, but it’s definitely not appreciated enough.

30. Sleepers, directed by Barry Levinson (6*/10)

Seen in theatres when I was 15.

31. Bound, directed by Andy Wachowski and Larry Wachowski (6/10)

At the time I obviously watched this for one reason.

32. Crash, directed by David Cronenberg (6*/10)

We thought this was porn!

33. Beavis and Butt-Head do America, directed by Mike Judge, Mike DeSeve (6/10)

A little long, but if you like the series, you’ll like the movie.

34. Puddle Cruiser, directed by Jay Chandrasekhar (6/10)

I had a brief a comment here which I accidentally deleted. I think I wanted to like it more.

35. Swingers, directed by Doug Liman (6*/10)

Watched when I was too young, perhaps.

36. Mulholland Falls, directed by Lee Tamahori (6/10)

Unfortunately this film was rather over-hyped for me. I thoroughly enjoyed it until the ending, which I found highly implausible.

37. Star Trek: First Contact, directed by Jonathan Frakes (6*/10)

Seen in theatres.

38. Romeo + Juliet, directed by Baz Luhran (6*/10)

Seen at a time when I didn’t really understand romantic extremes. I would in a couple of years but I never re-watched it.

39. A Time to Kill, directed by Joel Schumacher (5/10)

This is a competently made, well-acted paint-by-numbers (i.e. the legal system is righteous) that is more memorable for the MadTV parody than it is for anything that actually happens in the film.

40. Courage Under Fire, directed by (5/10)

At 15, this was certainly a good movie. But I am not much more cynical and I don’t buy this army-glorification for a second.

41. Kingpin, directed by Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly (5*/10)

I went through a phase where I really didn’t like this film. I’m not sure why. I have caught bits and pieces of this on TV and laughed my ass off. It deserves a reappraisal.

42. Gonin 2, directed by Takashi Ishii (5/10)

I cannot access my review for this right now as it is on another site and that site is experiencing technical issues. But I seem to remember this being a big step down from the first one.

43. Tin Cup, directed by Ron Shelton (5*/10)

Way too enjoyable for what it is; I must have been feeling really guilty about that when I rated it.

44. Beautiful Girls, directed by Ted Demme (5/10)

I think I understand why some people look back fondly on this film. For a ’90s film, it’s got a huge dose of (relative) feminism. The men are awful but at least the women realize (sometimes) that they are. So that’s something.

But this is one of any number of these films where the protagonist goes back to their small town and learns something. This is more of an ensemble, and so I guess it should work better. But it doesn’t connect with me, like it should. And I guess that’s because I’m not from a small town.

Instead, I find virtually all of the male characters utterly obnoxious. And I find the speechifying artificial and unsuccessful.

And this film makes me feel for Natalie Portman. What was wrong with these filmmakers that kept writing parts for young girls to be the object of older men? And why did they consistently cast Natalie Portman? What did she ever do to them?

45. She’s the One, directed by Edward Burns (5*/10)

Do not remember it. Not sure I even made it through the whole thing.

46. The Birdcage, directed by Mike Nichols (5/10)

Whether or not I have seen the original – I honestly can’t remember right now – doesn’t really matter; this is not my type of comedy: as an adult I have never found the heterosexuals-being-awkward-around-homosexuals thing to be particularly funny, I guess because I don’t find it very provocative.

47. DragonHeart, directed by Rob Cohen (5/10)

Sean Connery is…a dragon.

48. Feeling Minnesota, directed by Steven Baigelman (5*/10)

I feel like this is charitable. I don’t remember it at all, but I also know I hate this kind of shit.

49. High School High, directed by Hart Bochner (5*/10)

Seen as a new release, back when I apparently had no standards.

50. The Long Kiss Goodnight, directed by Renny Harlin (4*/10)

Watched again recently and 4 seems charitable. The effects have dated pretty horribly and the stunts are kind of silly.

51. City Hall, directed by Harold Becker (4*/10)

Don’t really remember it.

52. Diabolique, directed by Jeremiah Chechik (4/10)

My opinion of this has dropped since I saw the awesome original film.

53. Portrait of a Lady, directed by Jane Campion (4*/10)

I’m pretty sure I watched this specifically to see Nicole Kidman in various states of undress.

54. That Thing You Do!, directed by Tom Hanks (4/10)

I was probably too young to appreciate this, if there is anything to appreciate in it.

55. The Disappearance of Garcia Lorca, directed by Marcos Zurinaga (4/10)

I lost my review but I feel like a) this was a mess and b) it never convinced me that Garcia Lorca was a great poet.

56. Last Man Standing, directed by Walter Hill (4*/10)

With the exception of his work on Deadwood and a few of his movies, I have always found Walter Hill to be severely overrated as a filmmaker. That being said, I think I was extremely unkind to this remake of a remake, simply because I had just discovered Sergio Leone and was all “Leone did it first and better” which was not entirely true.

57. Jerry McGuire, directed by Cameron Crowe (4/10)

I don’t do well with hype. I especially don’t do well with hype when a film really doesn’t satisfy any of the reasons I watch movies. I still have no idea why anybody likes this. Ugh.

58. The Rich Man’s Wife, directed by Amy Holden Jones (4/10)

Do not remember it at all. At all.

59. Broken Arrow, directed by John Woo (4/10)

A silly, silly movie.

60. Bulletproof, directed by Ernest Dickerson (4/10)

Totally unmemorable.

61. Phenomenon, directed by John Turteltaub (4/10)

I hate this kind of stuff.

62. Jack, directed by Francis Ford Coppola (4*/10)

Seen once, in theatres no less. All I can say, that FFC was at a nadir when he made this. I don’t even need to watch it again. What the fuck happened? I should read a biography.

63. Twister, directed by Jan de Bont (4/10)

At 15, I thought this was a pretty good movie. At 15, I thought a lot of bad movies were pretty good.

64. Escape from L.A., directed by John Carpenter (3/10)

I thought I had seen this but it turns out I had seen pieces of it late at night and never really watched the whole thing.

This is an action movie that attempts to elevate itself with extremely clunky satire of what it’s like to live in Hollywood. I’m not sure why they decided to make a sequel 15 years later and that in itself is very questionable.

But the whole thing is just bad: the script, the not funny and not clever satire, the horribly dated effects: honestly, this has to be one of the worst looking ’90s movies out there – I mean good on Carpenter for trying to keep up with the latest technology, but CGI and green screens were terrible in the mid ’90s and it really shows.

Nothing about this is any good.

65. Fear, directed by James Foley (3/10)

Oh how the mighty have fallen. I have no idea how Foley got involved in this mess.

66. The Chamber, directed by James Foley (3/10)

Part of the insane John Grisham onslaught. Foley became a hired gun and just started pumping out shit.

67. Executive Decision, directed by Stuart Baird (3/10)

A plane that cannot fit people in it (beyond the pilot) transports a bunch of commandos to un-hijack a plane in mid-air. I believe that.

68. Daylight, directed by Rob Cohen (3/10)

Perhaps this is a little harsh but for some reason I absolutely hated this.

69. The Preacher’s Wife, directed by Penny Marshall (3*/10)

I would be lying if I said I made it all the way through this while it was on TV one night. Still, anything Penny Marshall made can’t be that good.

70. Independence Day, directed by Roland Emmerich (3/10)

At 15, this was really enjoyable – though I do remember being barely able to contain my snark when others my age expressed enthusiasm about the trailer. As an adult, I think this is a huge stinking piece of shit. 3/10 is really kind.

71. Bordello of Blood, directed by Gilbert Adler (3/10)

I have never been a big fan of Dennis Miller, even before he went bat-shit crazy and became a card-carrying Republican because of 9/11. (And that makes no sense, by the way. No fucking sense. Bush handled 9/11 about as incompetently as anyone possibly could have. And how does deciding security is a more important value then mean you have to agree with everything else Republicans believe as well? Bat-shit crazy.)

72. Celtic Pride, directed by Tom DeCerchio (3/10)

I doubt this movie makes sense any more. Did it at the time?

73. Barb Wire, directed by David Hogan (3*/10)

Huge asterisk. How I gave this a 3 I have no idea. Terrible.

74. The Rock, directed by Michael Bay (2*/10)

I have watched this move more times than I can count. I do not believe I can give it a fair assessment any more. This rating is probably way too low – as the film is certainly a competent action movie despite the ridiculousness of the premise – but when your brother watches a movie 38 times, and there is only 1 TV in the house, you get to hate it.

75. Maximum Risk, directed by Ringo Lam (2/10)

Watched solely to see Henstridge get almost naked.

76. The Island of Dr. Moreau, directed by John Frankenheimer (2*/10)

Throughout my life I have, at times, been overly influenced by critical reputations of films. I think that was the case here. I don’t remember it being legendarily bad, just bad.

77. On Dangerous Ground, directed by Lawrence Gordon-Clark (2/10)

Not to be confused with On Deadly Ground.

78. Subliminal Seduction, directed by Andrew Stevens (2/10)

Watched for the boobs.

79. Space Truckers, directed by Stuart Gordon (1/10)

This film is shockingly bad, given how famous the cast is and Gordon’s reputation for visual effects. Read the review of Space Truckers.

80. Repligator, directed by Brett McCormick (1/10)

Don’t remember it but this rating means I felt it was legendarily awful.