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(this page's movie titles link to www.imdb.com)

Not-So-Recent Releases:
Stolen Summer (2002)  1
Project Greenlight's first-time director Pete Jones said "Anytime you make a movie with kids, religion, and death, it is a recipe for an After School Special." Mr. Jones is right, except that as the cook he made a really fucking bad After School Special. If not for the backing of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck (both of whom correctly pegged "Stolen Summer" as potential After School Special material before the shooting even started, yet inexplicably chose Jones's script as the winner) and their compelling HBO series, this movie would never have seen the light of day, except as, um, afternoon programming on a religious cable station.

Far From Heaven (2002)  1
Far from watchable, this predictable cornball melodrama is a bad made-for-tv movie gussied up with a beautiful '50s set and the lovely Julianne Moore. It's astonishing how so many critics be so totally wrong about a film. Avoid like the plague.

Igby Goes Down (2002)  .5
Oh, if only the smug, whiny, self-pitying twit Igby (Kieran Culkin) would stay down after "D.H." (Jeff Goldblum) kicks the shit out of him, now that would be a movie worth seeing.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)  2.5
Cool fight scenes and unique special effects can only take a movie so far. When the charm of midair swordfights inevitably wears off, there better be a compelling story to keep our attention. "Crouching Tiger" tries a lot of things — a sacred sword, good vs. evil, a young couple in love, an old couple in love — but none are developed well enough to carry the movie alone, and as a whole they feel like an unsatisfying collection of loose ends. For a far more poignant Ang Lee-directed movie (with less kung fu), check out The Wedding Banquet.

Snatch (2000)  2
A more stylish and faster-moving version of "Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels" is writer/director Guy Ritchie's latest derivative work. Quentin Tarantino made this movie six years earlier with a better story, a better script, a better cast, and better acting, which begs the question to Ritchie: "Why bother?" Brad Pitt is the highlight of this movie, and that's never a good thing.

Croupier (1998)  2.5
Critics are spraining their ankles jumping on the "Croupier" bandwagon, calling it one of the best sleepers in years. It's not. Remember how you felt at the end of "Body Heat," "Spanish Prisoner," or even "The Usual Suspects?" The chills, the goosebumps, the tingling? (I don't think I'll ever forget Kathleen Turner sipping a fancy drink on the beach while William Hurt rotted in jail.) "Croupier" provides none of that. Like its lead character (the Bond-esque Clive Owen) the movie is too cool for its own good, and doesn't deliver any suspense or "zing" viewers expect from a good noir.

High Fidelity (2000)  2
Ahhh ... so many intriguing themes here: loneliness, heartbreak, self-loathing, self-destructive behavior; it's a shame "High Fidelity" doesn't do much with 'em. Besides too much Jack Black and too little Tim Robbins, the film suffers from the "talk-into-the-camera" style of narration that serves to (a.) disrupt any drama director Stephen Frears occasionally creates, and/or (b.) explain the story to those too thick to figure it out for themselves.

The Big Tease (1999)  .5
Uniformly terrible comedy about a homespun Scottish hairdresser who crashes an elite LA style competition. There isn't a laugh, smile, or even a grin to be found anywhere in the whole damn movie. It's a picture like "Big Tease" that fills film schools with kids who said, "I can do something better than this!"

Rear Window (1954)  4
Hitchcock beautifully threads the witnessing of a murder with the witnessing of his neighbors' weird and desperate lives. And then there's Grace Kelly, who is practically the definition of style, grace, and beauty. Especially beauty. About the closest thing we have to her these days is Gwyneth Paltrow, who couldn't hold Grace Kelly's bra strap.

The Cider House Rules (1999)  2
Predictable and overly sentimental message-drama featuring Tobey Maquire as Homer Wells, a scratchy-voiced cross between Doogie Howser and Forrest Gump. The film's not without some merit: there's a high production value, exceptional cinematography, and plenty of screen time for Charlize Theron, the South African super-babe who's one of Hollywood's current faves, starring in six films in 2000.

The Hurricane (1999)  1
Excruciatingly slow-moving and sappy film based loosely on the story of wronged boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter. Director Norman Jewison's exploration of the relationship between Carter (Denzel Washington) and young Lesra (Vicellous Reon Shannon) is one of the most shameless and cheap appeals to viewers' emotions in recent memory. Even the fight scenes sucked. You know a movie blows when a 9 minute NPR interview with the real Hurricane is infinitely more interesting than a 129 minute film of the same subject.

American Movie (1999)  3.5
A very funny and sometimes touching flick about a charismatic but dirt-poor filmmaker trying to make a feature-length film.

The Talented Mr. Ripley. (1999)  2
"Fight Club" has some strong competition for title of most overrated movie of 1999: "The Talented Mr. Ripley." There are only a handful of good things to come out of this psychological thriller that is boring, not thrilling:
1. Cool '50s clothes.
2. Cool '50s Italian cars.
3. Cool '50s Vespas. Lots and lots of Vespas.

The talented Mr. Cranky puts it best when he states that "Mr. Ripley's main talent is being an imbecile." Thanks, Mr. Cranky. You rock.

Summer of Sam (1999)  1
Meandering, pointless, mess of a movie that's quite possibly Spike Lee's worst. The film's less about the Summer of Sam killer than it is about a group of uninteresting, dumb, foul-mouthed Italian-Americans who say "fuck" just about every other fucking word, and it gets to be really fucking tiresome ... especially when the movie's 2½ fucking hours long.

The Limey (1999)  2
Terrance Stamp cannot save the half-baked and occassionally dim-witted plot, and this "thriller's" thrilling moments are spread too thinly between overly artistic shots of Stamp flying on a plane, Stamp smoking cigarettes, Stamp riding in cars, and Stamp staring off into space. To make matters worse, Peter Fonda plays a lead role.

Being John Malkovich (1999)  2.5
"Being John Malkovich" is at once funny, disturbing, creative ... and disappointing. Director Spike Jonze's comedy/drama fails to create any emotional connection between its characters and audience, so viewers are left with an empty "So what?" feeling after each of the film's head-scratching plot turns. On the bright side, the cast is strong and does a super job, especially Catherine Keener, who, after this picture and last year's Your Friends and Neighbors, has the lesbian ice queen role down pat.

[Full disclosure: I'd happily pay lots of money to watch Catherine Keener read the White Pages.]

Fight Club (1999)  1.5
Over two hours of ultra-violent and utterly pointless fight scenes seasoned with lame attempts at social criticism and philosophy make for a painful filmgoing experience. Somehow, criticism of consumer culture, lamenting the marginalization of the modern-day male, and philosophical musings ("It's only after we've lost everything that we're free to do anything") coming from Brad Pitt just don't work.

Three Kings (1999)  3.5
"Three Kings'" plot has holes big enough to drive an Iraqi tank through, but it delivers some delicious dark comedy that's become standard fare from director/writer David O. Russell's wonderfully twisted mind. I'm hoping he's not directly responsible for the movie's hokey ending, which will leave many filmgoers with that icky, syrupy-sweet, Hollywood-induced taste in their mouths.

American Beauty (1999)  4"
The flick's third act is a tad disappointing, but the heavy dose of dry, dark humor and occasional astute social commentary more than make up for it. Annette Bening's not only a babe, but a darn good actress too, and there's a great chemistry between her and always-excellent Kevin Spacey, who gets to act out every man's dream by quitting his job, drinking a lot of beer, getting high, and lusting after cute teenage girls.

The Muse (1999)  .5"
Horrible "comedy" from Albert Brooks, the guy who gave us Modern Romance and the priceless Lost in America.

Run Lola Run (1998)  3.5"
Suspend your disbelief over the implausible plot, and you'll be treated to a wild, fun, and short (79 minute) ride ... with cool techno playing in the background.

Pleasantville (1998)  2"
The cinematography and special effects are both unique, but the film's clumsy preaching about the evils of racism is a huge turn-off.

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