Summer 1998

Reviews are listed alphabetically.

Armageddon -- [C-]
If you can sit through 2 1/2 hours just to watch a collection of special effects, maybe Armageddon is an okay movie to go see. Other than the computer graphic spectacle revealed in its trailers, Armageddon isn't worth much even as an action/disaster movie. The writers of Armageddon seemed to try to replace character development with (not so) comic relief and its unbelievable zero-dimensional characters could have all died in the last scene and I wouldn't care. Even the action sequences are uninteresting and unsuspenseful.

Buffalo '66 -- [B+]
Directed and starring Vincent Gallo as a pathetic man just released from jail, Buffalo 66 follows the present and the past of a miserable life, comically and tragically. Christina Ricci plays the needy girl he kidnaps to use as to play the role of his wife when he visits his parents. Buffalo 66 is well-directed, well-written and is intelligently performed. Gallo and Ricci are a low-key riot.

HavPlenty -- [B+]
Promising new star Christopher Scott Cherot wrote, directed, and performed in this creative new comedy. As Lee Plenty, Cherot is a witty and loveable homeless writer who every woman seems to adore, including his close friend Hav. Cherot uses Lee's experiences explore the humorous side of the human's need to search for true love in the same perfection Woody Allen does. Its story and dialogue deserve a screenplay nomination come Oscar time. Watch for cameos by Lauryn Hill and by Babyface, who provided the movie with a great soundtrack.

Henry Fool -- [B]

High Art -- [B+]

Lethal Weapon 4 -- [D]
I'll the first to admit that I am not exactly an expert on the Lethal Weapon series, but after seeing this one, I am glad that I am not. Full of amusing but ridiculous explosions and the incredibly horrible, bumbly humor of the aging Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, Lethal Weapon at times was painful to sit through. Joe Pesci and even Chris Rock weren't very funny either. The quick kicking moves of Jet Li are the only entertaining parts of the movie.

Love and Death on Long Island -- [B+]

The Mask of Zorro -- [B]
The purely enjoyable experience of a good ol' adventure flick makes you feel like a kid as the masked heroic teacher-student team of Anthony Hopkins and Antonio Banderas fights for the rights and the justice of peasants in old California. Director Martin Campbell gives you what anyone wants out of a mindless adventure movie--non-stop excitement. Chan-like action sequences with swords and their raw passion helped keep this one above mediocrity.

Mulan -- [A-]
The lastest Disney film is the story of Mulan, a Chinese girl who feels a need to honor her family by fighting in a war in place of her father. It explores the values of Chinese culture and the role of women within it. Visually stunning with an effective score, Disney proves that they really do do it best. Mulan is one of the most real and complex characters in all of Disney's animated film history, with Eddie Murphy as the voice of her hilarious miniature dragon sidekick.

The Negotiator -- [B]
Hostage negotiator Samuel L. Jackson is framed for killing his own partner and in a final act of desperation holds the chief of Internal Affairs hostage and others in attempt to reveal the truth. He demands that he only talk to Chicago's other undefeated negotiator Kevin Spacey. The Negotiator is an action-thriller of the minds, in which you are forced to study every character's words and actions for their true intention (which is difficult with actors like Jackson and Spacey). The conclusion is intensely clever.

The Opposite of Sex -- [A-]
Christina Ricci narrates and stars as a likely unlikeable bad girl in Don Roos' hilarious and complicated new film. With her gay brother, his lover Matt, and his friend Lucia played by Lisa Kudrow, a tale of sex and blackmail is told through the cynical eyes of Christina Ricci's character. She constantly makes us aware that what you are watching is just a movie, but not to the point here you no longer care what's going on. Kudrow's spotlight performance as her hard-nosed opposite is terrific.

Out of Sight -- [B+]
Out of Sight takes the idea of an FBI agent falling in lust with an escaped bank robber and creates a hip and humorous film with excellent mood inducing visuals. Brimful of flashbacks, its direction is its most important strength, intricately weaving through the violent and sensual plot. You may not understand why Clooney and Lopez feel the way they do about each other, but the film does an amazing job of portraying how they feel that it doesn't matter.

Pi -- [B+]
One number is the key to everything in the universe and it is one man's goal to discover what it is. Filmed in high-contrast black-and-white, Pi explores how a single 216-digit number can hold so much power that it drives a man into insane obsession and for the religious and money motivated individuals to stalk him. Its Sundance-winning direction is choppy and chaotic and succeeds in portraying an intense breakdown and, for 90 minutes, making math seem like the most interesting thing in the world.

Return to Paradise -- [B]
Question: Would you voluntarily serve time for three years in a third world prison to save the life of another man? That's the question lawyer Anne Heche presents to Malaysian vacation acquaintances Sheriff (Vince Vaughn) and Tony (David Conrad) and their are told their old buddy Lewis (Joaquin Phoenix) is going to be hanged if they don't take the wrap for the share of a brick of hash he was caught with. Fabulous and moving performances all around strengthen the suspenseful plot as the 8 days wind down to his scheduled death.

Saving Private Ryan -- [A]
Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan depicts war more realistically than any movie has ever before. Following D-day, Hanks and crew are assigned to find Private James Ryan, the only remaining survivor of his family's four military brothers. Although the film is scattered with several cliches and the majority of the characters were flat, the film's focus on detail was virtually flawless.

Six Days, Seven Nights -- [B-]
The formula idea of a man and a woman stranded together and falling in love is pulled of in Six Days, Seven Nights by the great performances of Harrison Ford and Anne Heche. On an uninhabited island in the Caribbean, their plane crashes during a nasty storm. Like the classic African Queen, the seemingly incompatable pair comically avoid the dangers of the wild and even run from "pirates". Its comedy is what makes the film worth watching.

Small Soldiers -- [D+]
When I go see a kid's movie like this I don't exactly expect a Citizen Kane but I do expect it to be at least somewhat good for children to watch. A toy company creates a new line of war-minded action figures that can talk and think and move on their own. Small Soldiers is full of dangerous action and violence. For instance, in the last scene a kid saves the day by climbing up an electrical pole and banging on the wires. There are also a lot of weapons created from household items and from daddy's tool box.

Smoke Signals -- [B+]

Snake Eyes -- [D+]
Brian de Palma directs a movie about finding out what really happened when the U.S. secretary of defense is shot and killed in the middle of an Atlantic City heavyweight boxing night in the middle of the worst hurricane in years. A handful of mysterious characters helps to convince the annoying Rick Santoro (Nicolas Cage) to believe there's a conspiracy going on. Meanwhile it is hard for the audience to believe any of its ridiculous and unsuspensful plot.

The Spanish Prisoner -- [B]

There's Something About Mary -- [B]
Cameron Diaz plays Mary, a gorgeous, intelligent humanitarian stalked by her unpopular high school prom date Ted (Ben Stiller). Directed by the Farrelly Brothers (Dumb and Dumber, Kingpin), Mary is well-crafted toilet humor carried out through a twisted love story. The awkward likeableness of Ben Stiller and the something about Cameron Diaz continually help you to forget that tasteless shock humor is right around the corner.

The Truman Show -- [A] -- The Shrubbery review.

X-Files: Fight the Future -- [C+]
Whether you are a fan of the show or not, their big screen blockbuster is nothing to get excited about. Now, with a huge film studio budget, the X-Files is two hours full of mediocre action sequences and cheap plot where Mulder and Scully don't really discover anything. They are just handed all the information they need to get to its not so spectacular ending. There were many things that I didn't find too great about the movie? What would I have liked to have seen? Something less flashy or geared for the box office draw, especially since the tv show does such an excellent job being low-key. Imagine what the Truman Show would have been like if it still relied on what they knew audiences liked about Jim Carrey just because they thought they needed to make money.