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Discussion Starter #1
Using an informal survey, I discovered that many people think of an "old movie" as one made before they were five years old. Which makes some sense.

Meaning that for someone who was 20 years old in 2015, all of the films of the 1990s are now "old movies".

This thread is a place where we can remember and reflect on those titles, just as we do in these previous threads:


Our emphasis is meant to be on just the reviews, without making "Best, Worst, Top-10" lists, etc, or arguing over the merits of any title. I'm just going to post my thoughts and move on, and hope others will do the same.

-Bill
 

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Discussion Starter #2
Out of Sight (1998), directed by Steven Soderbergh.

A quirky bank robber escaped from prison and a lovely US Marshal pursuing him: you think they have a chance at love? Maybe, with difficulty. Briefly.

This has a lot going for it, starting with the beautiful leads. George Clooney fully employs his clever and masculine star-power wattage, and Jennifer Lopez is gorgeous, witty and appealing.

She may actually be too pretty to be a working Marshal, but says she doesn't mind being a girl and can obviously handle herself. I'm surprised she doesn't mess up Jack and Buddy a bit more during her kidnapping. And I can't imagine a Marshal surrendering her weapon in real life, for any reason.

Great talent in the rest of the cast. Don Cheadle is scary and clever. Isaiah Washington is nothing but scary until we see him grieving for his dog and the end of his boxing career. He could have been a contender.

Dennis Farina, Luis Guzmán and Steve Zahn are hilarious. Zahn's "Glenn" is a harmless soul among sharks who is broken by the violence he sees. More of this in the deleted scenes: I'm glad they cut it.

Fine color and composition, hip bouncy score.

And finally, all made possible by Elmore Leonard's plot and stylish mix of cops and crooks, humor and grimness.

Misc notes:


  • The flashback structure is a bit confusing: we have several scenes of two different prison stints, both introduced just the first time.
  • In reviewing Three Days of the Condor (1975) I wrote that the quick love affair between Redford and Dunaway was implausible. When locked in the car trunk Foley and Sisco talk about the film for just that reason: he hopes the fantasy can be true, she's more skeptical.
  • Both Sisco and Foley have their goofy sides -- especially him -- but in the hotel bar and her room they turn entirely serious.
  • The director says the editing of the love scene was stolen from Don't Look Now (1973).
  • He sometimes color-codes his locations, as in Traffic (2000) where Mexico was yellow-brown, the US east coast cool blue, etc. I found it distracting there but more acceptable here. Florida is bright and sunny, Detroit dirty blue-steel.
  • There was a short-lived Karen Sisco TV series which I hear was pretty good (which must be why they killed it).
  • Folks: if you shot a gun while locked in a car trunk your ears would be bleeding.
  • Did the home invaders really think they could open a safe by shooting at it? What did they think a safe was for?
From a book by Elmore Leonard. He continues the adventures of Jack Foley in Road Dogs, wrapping up the Sisco plot-line right away: at his hearing she slants her testimony to help him. "No, I did not feel I was being kidnapped. He was moving me away from the gunfire for my safety, etc". And that's the end of their affair. Jack gets early parole and goes to California.

Available on Blu-ray with an excellent image. Chatty commentary track with the director and screenwriter. Deleted scenes (where we learn that gum Sisco chews must be Nicorette) and a making-of feature.



-Bill
 

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Thank you Billy for yet another g00d thread buddy :)

Im sure before long you will have this one loaded also..
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Emma (1996), directed by Douglas McGrath.

A rich single young woman who fancies herself a matchmaker: how much damage can she do? Lots: she's a society wrecking ball. Luckily this is a comedy: in Persuasion she'd be the villain.

All of Jane Austen's novels share a common theme: a young woman makes her way from her father's house into the world to achieve love and respectable marriage. Each ends with a wedding.

We are definitely in the women's universe when reading or watching her stories, and they illustrate facts of life of which most men are oblivious. That the social world is not just about rules, but that we swim in a thick ocean of manners and pretense, with uncounted tiny gestures of both kindness and snobbery creating the currents around us. Magically, Austen makes these things visible.

Gwyneth Paltrow is very fine here. She has Audrey Hepburn's elegance and that swan-like neck. Also a talent for refined comic mugging.

Great concentration of talent in the cast (Greta Scacchi fanclub!). Just as things are starting to slow down Ewan McGregor, Juliet Stevenson and Polly Walker arrive to set the pot boiling again. Compare McGregor's gossiping dandy with his Trainspotting junkie the same year!

Must have dancing in Austen! Beautiful sets, locations and costumes. Emma is rich, but she lives in a small farming village and we see a lot of the countryside.

Rachel Portman's score won an Oscar and we often used it for our Sunday morning brunch music.

This title has been poorly treated on home media. I recall the DVD was 4:3 letterboxed and there is no North American Blu-ray. I see the Weinsteins were the original producers and I tend to blame the financial struggles of their companies for home media failures, but don't know if they still control the title. It's too much for me to puzzle out.

My thumbnails are from an all-region Australian Blu-ray import, now out of print and expensive on the used market. Germany has another, not seen by me.

Quality is just fair, with blacks often crushed. The image has been drastically brightened compared to the film, which gave a more realistic impression of dark candle-lit interiors.

Cropped to 1.77 from 1.85. The subtitles use variable color-coding for multiple speakers, which is kind of distracting.



-Bill
 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
The Peacemaker (1997), directed by Mimi Leder.

Hijacked nuclear warheads and a backpack nuke headed for New York. It's going to take some action-hero scrambling to stop it.

This doesn't seem well-liked and I'm not sure why. It's a bit late to start worrying about action film improbabilities. You don't think the two lead national security advisers would go into the field and be present at every exciting event? Has the big race to defuse the ticking bomb become a worn-out scene?

George Clooney again, doing that testosterone and competence stuff he does, a throwback to earlier eras before men were sensitive and conflicted.

Nicole Kidman is not very believable as a nuke expert and crisis boss; her main purpose seems to be as a sort of comic response to Clooney's intense studliness.

That's probably a reason this gets a low rating: the terrorist machinations serve as a meet-cute for a barely concealed romantic comedy road trip. That actually might make it a good date film.

It's slickly done with many exciting segments: hijacking the nukes from a moving train, a nuclear detonation, car chase and shootout, hunting the truck and the helicopter assault on the bridge, and the final act in New York.

This is four years before 9/11. You can see the World Trade Center from the terrorist's window as he flies into NYC.

The villain wants to punish the world for a private grief. This gives him a human face but it's hard to integrate into this type of film.

The more things change: they have to stop the nukes from getting to Iran.

Hans Zimmer score. I hear Pirates of the Caribbean in the action scenes. Films featuring the Russian military always have great men's choirs.

Available on Blu-ray.



-Bill
 

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Danke Billy :)
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Firelight (1997), written and directed by William Nicholson.

I can't review this without giving away much of the plot.

The first fifteen minutes are deceptive: a secretive Englishman contracts and pays well for three nights of sex with a poor young woman. This is the gorgeous Sophie Marceau, luminous in her Gallic beauty, intelligence and scarcely controlled passion.

She has no pleasure the first night. The second she cries, and by the last night her passion fully emerges and she is in love. Then they part and we realize the truth: this wasn't about sex -- well, not just sex -- but about making a baby. (Making love and making babies: try as we might, are they ever entirely separated in the subconscious?)

Seven years later she has hunted him down and appears at his country house as the new governess for his wild, fey daughter. Who is hers, too. For him, this means quiet hell breaks loose.

We come to see that it's much like Jane Eyre, hotted up quite a bit. In the original story the mad wife burns down the house and dies in the fire. This time -- well, in stories fierce passion means fierce guilt and tragedy. Happy ending, though.

Sophie Marceau contributes some passion scenes and boobage, for which many thanks.

Stephen Dillane is always very fine. The little girl only made three films, all costume works in that same year. One of the others was Jane Eyre.

Sets and costumes are believably realistic without being lavish. Pleasant score.

This is the director's only film and he does a respectable job. He's written other screenplays.

My wife likes this one, which makes me reflect on elements of the successful romance movie:

  • How much nudity and passion? It would seem that a little is plenty. Bare chests pressing together are ok, as are gentle body motions and gasps of pleasure, but explicit full-on banging is not required. Or desirable.
  • Beautiful, sexy women in film do not inspire jealousy or contempt as long as they have admirable characters, as in Jane Austen novels. ("Firmest breasts in film" says my wife of Marceau, and I pretend indifference).
  • In romance fantasies, a woman feels reluctant to say "yes" because she may be giving up her treasure without the just compensation of being loved by a man good enough for her. In this film, Marceau first has sex not because she wants to, but because she needs the money for her bankrupt father. It gives her an excuse for sex.
  • Having done that and known pleasure, the oxytocin kicks in and she falls in love.
  • Fortuitously, the gentleman actually turns out to be decent and unstuffy, and was not having sex for his own pleasure, but rather to produce a child to be his heir. This makes him more acceptable than your average landed lecher.
  • He doesn't want her when she first reappears, but of course cannot resist in the end.
  • Our heroine also has motherhood power: taming the wild child and saving her life.
  • Finally, the Jane Eyre moment. A governess is meant to be genteel and accomplished, but she is also poor and a servant. Watching from outside the ballroom in her plain dress, she sees the man she loves dancing with rich society women, and yearning, thinks: "It ought to be me. It ought to be me."
The North American DVD is cropped to 1.33, a terrible abuse of a scope ratio film. This is the one Netflix has. My thumbnails are from a PAL DVD import.

For those less wedded to discs than me, I see Amazon has this for streaming in high definition.



-Bill
 

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Never mind...

My initial comment was to say that it wasn't available on Netflix streaming then I reread that it was on Amazon.

Not free though - as in Amazon Prime viewing. Then I checked VUDU. Both have it for $3.99 for HD.

Which is fine except for the fact that both sites fail to list the aspect ratio of their versions. I hate pan and scan...
 

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Not free though - as in Amazon Prime viewing. Then I checked VUDU. Both have it for $3.99 for HD.

Which is fine except for the fact that both sites fail to list the aspect ratio of their versions. I hate pan and scan...
VUDU offers a free 2-minute preview of all titles. Looks like 2.35:1 to me.
 

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VUDU offers a free 2-minute preview of all titles. Looks like 2.35:1 to me.
Thanks. I did ask VUDU support about the aspect ratio, they replied they didn't have that information. :rolleyes:
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Shakespeare in Love (1998), directed by John Madden.

My heart belongs to older films and I don't find many recent ones that reward repeat viewings. This is one of those from recent decades that I love as much as the classics. It's both literary and light, which is an accomplishment in itself.

One wonders what the first performance of each of the plays was like. I wanted them to bring everyone back for a series, doing a new play each time. Really.

We know that music and dance can have sexual meaning, but here are examples where verse, recited with the proper rhythm and cadence, can accomplish the same thing. We also have a link between artistic creation and sexual potency, which is something to think about.

Favorite line: (Boatman) "I've seen you in something. That one about a king."

The players:


  • Joseph Fiennes sometimes looks much like the singer Prince. Those close-set beady eyes.
  • Gwyneth Paltrow shines as a theater super-fan: as a woman, a woman playing a man, and a woman playing a man playing a woman. Some light, creamy white nudity from her. In her other movies I always check for that slight catch in her breath she uses here.
  • Colin Firth had made a big splash as a romantic lead in the Pride and Prejudice (1995) miniseries. Here he gets to be a comic villain. A note on his title: "Wessex" became extinct in 1066 when the last Saxon king got a arrow in the eye. It was revived for a current royal who saw the movie and thought the name sounded cool.
  • Judy Dench is suitably imposing as the Queen, although as usual I find her interpretation too "heavy" for her roles.
  • Geoffrey Rush has expert comic timing.
  • I have a hard time taking Ben Affleck seriously, but maybe he fits as a dominating ham-actor.
Exhilarating score by Stephen Warbeck, but the Queen's fireworks music is about 100 years too early.

"Rated R for sexuality", partly from two scenes with Mistress Rosaline.

Available on Blu-ray. The movie looks better to me with every viewing.



-Bill
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Richard III (1995), directed by Richard Loncraine.

This alternative history is an inspired approach to modern-dress Shakespeare: 1930s British Fascism as installed by the warring royal family. The spectacle is mesmerizing: you think, yes, that's just how it happens and that's what it looks like.

The core of this sort of production has to be the actors, their ability to make the old text intelligible and applicable to their story. Everyone here is wonderful at this and they are supported by lovely period sets and clothes.

It is true to Shakespeare's theme: the long descent into national nightmare. In his time the conceit was that the Wars of the Roses were collective punishment for the murder of King Richard II in prison (180 years before the events of this story). Shakespeare wrote four plays beginning with that death, and another four culminating in the death of Richard III. (The earlier history was written later).

This -- battling it out with Hamlet -- is Shakespeare's longest play, so much has to be trimmed. It's his first "good" play, still clunky in some aspects, but his imagination is beginning to run.

The film could have been longer without stressing the viewer. It moves well.

I hadn't noticed before, but Ian McKellen is made up so one side of his face is slack, as if from congenital nerve damage or a stroke.

Using Annette Bening and Robert Downey Jr. as the Queen and her brother is a nice touch: American outsiders, barely trusted. It almost happened in the 1930s.

Trevor Jones score.

Twilight Time Blu-ray.

Sensitive content, not recommended for those under 18 Show Content


-Bill
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Heavenly Creatures (1994), directed by Peter Jackson.

After a brief travelogue of 1952 idyllic (dull) Christchurch, New Zealand, it opens at the end: two hysterical, screaming girls, covered in blood, witness to some terrible violence. A true story.

How it happened: Pauline, introverted and sullen, is from a working class New Zealand family. Arriving at her school from England is Juliet, posh and brilliantly unconventional, the terror of her teachers. Both were ill as children (bone disease, TB) and perhaps this makes them rebellious and detached from normal life.

They hit it off immediately and develop the sort of Grand Passion for each other you find in novels set in girls schools. Beyond that, they have a shared fantasy life much more encompassing than physical intimacy. They have invented and will be going to the "Fourth World", a paradise for artists: "like Heaven but without Christians".

Their parents try to split them up. Here's weepy Juliet, bursting into her mother's room and finding her in bed with a strange man:

The balloon has gone up. Don't try and fob me off. It's going to cost you a hundred pounds, or else I'm blabbing to Daddy.
...and when being told that Daddy already knows:

I don't care what you do. Pauline and I are going to Hollywood. They're desperately keen to sign us up. We're going to be film stars. It's all arranged. We don't need your bloody hundred pounds anyway so stick it up your bottom!
The girls decide -- their logic is hard to follow here -- that they will be able to stay together if Pauline's mother is dead. The buildup to the climax is unsettling, watching love and a rich fantasy life become deranged and murderous. Are they really going to go through with it? It's just a game, right?

They kill her with a brick wrapped in a stocking, which is a bloody event, bringing us back to the beginning. Of course, the murder is what will keep them apart forever.

It sounds grim, but before that the movie has many funny bits. Peter Jackson has a goofy sense of humor and uses a witty visual style to illustrate the shared fantasy space.

(Aside: I wish he would do small films again).

Fine performances with special mention to Melanie Lynskey and Kate Winslet, both in their film debuts and both spectacular.

* * *

It's a remarkable story, but what came after the events shown in the film is also notable. Because they were minors at the time of the murder, the girls were released after five years in prison, on condition that they never see each other again. Juliet -- the Kate Winslet character -- returned to England and worked as a flight attendant. She eventually became a prolific and rather successful mystery novelist under the name Anne Perry. My public library has a bunch of her books. I tried one. Maybe another someday.

She said the movie implies more of a lesbian relationship than actually happened. As I said above: sex was not the center of their mutual obsession.

Available on Blu-ray.



-Bill
 

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Thank you Billy for keeping this thread updated :)
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Ed Wood (1994), directed by Tim Burton.

A loving, mostly comic tribute to the "world's worst filmmaker". The key is that neither he nor his circle are ridiculed for their terrible product. No: everyone should have an Ed Wood in their lives and a chance to be part of such a community.

The darker segments come from Bela Lugosi's poverty and drug addiction toward the end of his life, and hints of Wood's future alcoholism -- when he's down we always see him in a bar. But Wood had friends, and he gave Lugosi work and friendship when he most needed it.

I have nothing against Tim Burton or Johnny Depp, but this is the only film from either that I enjoy unreservedly. It did not do well, and I'm not sure why. Cult topic with too much inside humor? Black and white? Main character a straight cross-dresser? (Well... Captain Jack Sparrow was well-liked and he hardly walked a narrow path).

Depp said he based the role on Casey Kasem (for the voice), Ronald Reagan (for that yes-and-no head wobble), and the Tin Man of Oz (for his bright, courteous optimism).

I always presumed this was a Tim Burton project from the outset, but it was actually developed by others. Burton was, of course, enthusiastic about it.

Inspired score by Howard Shore. I would have guessed it was Danny Elfman, frequent Burton collaborator who did many goofy SF soundtracks.

We have clever cross-reflections of scenes and tropes from Wood's life, his movies and this film, and we get to see the making-of three Wood/Lugosi pictures: Glen or Glenda (1953), Bride of the Monster (1955), and Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959). They reproduce several scenes more or less exactly:



"More or less" because the reproductions look better than the originals. The old films become more watchable after you've seen Ed Wood and know the backstory, but I can't say they become better movies. Glen or Glenda (1953) is "special" (ahem) because it is such a heart-felt plea from someone with a harmless kink that no one understands, and is still a matter of humor even in the newer film.

The Medved brothers brought Ed Wood to modern attention by calling him the "Worst Director of All Time". That their ridicule could become appreciation in this film is a very fine thing, but I suspect it's all been said by now.

The film is not a documentary and they skip over a lot of history to keep the portrayals mostly sympathetic. Some of this is mentioned in the commentary track:


  • Lugosi had family near him at the end of his life; it wasn't just the film crew.
  • Dolores Fuller was not the intolerant scold shown here. She's played by Sarah Jessica Parker and has a great line: "Does my face really look like a horse?" That's Fuller/Parker in the poster shot, handing the angora sweater to Wood/Depp.
  • Orson Welles did not complain about using Charlton Heston in Touch of Evil (1958).
  • I wonder about Lugosi's ranting hatred of Boris Karloff, who was very kind to him when they made The Body Snatcher (1945).
Trivia: three actors from Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959) appear in this film, two from Bride of the Monster (1955), and one from Glen or Glenda (1953). Conrad Brooks is in all four films.

Finally, this makes me think of M. Night Shyamalan, who I confess I admire for his unapologetic goofiness, his yearning to be a film director no matter what. He's like Wood in that regard, and a better director with, of course, vastly more resources.

Available on Blu-ray with an edited commentary track featuring the writers, director, crew and Martin Landau. They stress how much filmmakers love this story. Everyone in the business is delusional at times.



-Bill
 

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"Oh that queen...what does she know..."
 
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