Ultimate 90’s Blogathon: Movie Year: The 90’s by From the Depths of DVD Hell

Ultimate 90's Blogathon

Welcome all to the next entry! We’re in for a complete 1990’s decade visit with our next participant and my awesome Game Warp co-host, Elwood Jones who also runs In the Depths of DVD Hell and runs the podcast MBDS Showcase. Elwood is a man of many projects. He also co-hosts another podcast called TV Good Sleep Bad and recently starting hosting the Lamb Tracks which is currently doing commentary on the Jurassic Park franchise. All incredibly fun and awesome podcasts and site that you need to check out! Hopefully I’ve linked them all so you won’t miss out!

Now let’s pass it on to him!

My Movie Year: The 90’s

What better excuse to look at my favourite movies of the decade, if only to help highlight some of the great and frequently overlooked films which came out during this era, which would also see with 1999 one of the most exciting years of film making in years, as I looked at previously.

1990

Essential Film: La Femme Nikita

Le Femme Nikita

Luc Besson’s  tale of teenage junkie Nikita (Anne Parillaud) who after killing a cop during a bungled pharmacy robbery, finds herself convicted of murder and sentenced to a life in prison, only to soon find herself recruited by a shadowy government agent known as the Centre to be trained as an assassin under the watchful eye of her handler Bob (Tcheky Karyo).

Besson here brings to what would be the usual action / adventure yarn with fist fights and explosions and instead gives us something quite special as while there is certainly an element of action here, what he also gives us is an actual insight into the psychology of this character as she is slowly broken down and rebuilt into the perfect assassin by the Company, with scenes of her being taught to apply lipstick by Amande (Jeanne Moreau) being just as gripping as any of the action scenes which include a pulse pounding restaurant escape.

Although it was remade for an American audience as “Assassin” with Bridget Fonda, this is the definitive version

Further Viewing: King of New York, Darkman

1991

Essential Film: Delicatessen

delicatessen

One of the first films by the highly original French directing duo of Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet this surreal Post-apocalyptic black comedy about the residents of an apartment block, owned by the butcher Clapet (Jean-Caude Dreyfus) above whose shop the residents live and who has taken to killing the handymen he employs to keep the residents supplied in meat, which is bad news really for Ex clown Louison (Dominique Pinon) who has just been employed as the new handyman, unaware of what happened to his predecessors.

A strange film to say the least, but not so out there that it leaves the audience wondering what the hell is going on, as it constantly maintains a playful tone as it switches between genres, to give the sort of original film that only Caro and Jeunet are capable of doing, as this is once again very much in their fairytales for grown ups style.

Further Viewing: Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, Rikki-Oh: The Story of Ricky

1992

Essential Film: Hard Boiled

hard boiled

One of if not the best of John Woo’s movies and if you ever needed an example of why he is seen as the king of action movies, this would be a great start, as we are barely minutes into the film before he throws us head first into the first of the films many jaw dropping action sequences, as Insp Tequila (Chow Yun-Fat) unleashes his own dual pistol welding brand of justice.

Featuring a cast of Hong Kong greats which includes Tony Leung and Anthony Wong, John Woo here sets a benchmark for Heroic Gunplay movies, while featuring a hospital shootout, which clocks in at over thirty minutes without reputation. This is one infectious mix of gunplay, explosions and jazz!

Further Viewing: Braindead, Man Bites Dog, Porco Rosso

1993

Essential Film: Cronos

cronos

The debut film by Guillermo del Toro, here sees him reworking the vampire mythos, with this tale of an mechanical scarab-shaped device which grants the wearer the gift of eternal life aswell as a thirst for blood. This in many ways marking the start of things to come, while establishing del Toro as a the visionary director he is recognised as today, while for one reason of another this film has outside of genre fans been left largely unseen.

Here he shows a clear love for the genre, while as with the films which followed it also showed that he was not afriad to break the rules and breathe new life into a much over worked horror sub-genre with this truly unique film which is as visually stunning as it as it times horrifying.

Further Viewing: Army of Darkness, Falling Down, Iron Monkey, Ninja Scroll, True Romance

1994

Essential Film: The Crow

The Crow

It would be a sad case of history repeating itself that Brandon Lee’s breakout film would sadly be his last, as he died during filming and much like his father Bruce Lee, who also never got to enjoy the success of his own breakout film “Enter The Dragon”. The first of two films to be directed by Alex Proyas on this list, with this certainly the better known of the two no doubt thanks to the cult following it has built up since it’s release, aswell as the controversy of Lee’s death during the last eight days of filming.

This classic tale of revenge  based on the graphic novel by James O’Barr, about rock musician Eric Draven (Lee) rising from the grave to avenge his own murder aswell as that of his fiancée via the mystical powers of the crow, which now makes him immune from physical harm. The film is drenched in gothic styling while also containing many nods in its style to both “Blade Runner” and Tim Burtons “Batman”. Needless to say this film looks stunning and would make for a design test run for the lesser seen “Dark City. Lee meanwhile embodies the character of Draven, while equally showing himself to be just as capable as both a dramatic actor as he is as an actor star, while this film just leaves us to wonder what could have been,

Further Viewing: Fist of Legend, Hoop Dreams, The Hudsucker Proxy, Wing Chun

1995

Essential Film: Empire Records

Empire records

Back when this film was released it considered to be pretty cool job to work in a record shop, though I’m not sure that this still stands with nearly every record store having long since closed down and kids today more keen to work for I dunno Amazon or something, but still this film still has a lot of charm, especially for those of us who belonged to the MTV generation, which essentially this film is the embodiment of.

Following the employees of a Empire Records over the course of one truly exceptional day, when one of the employees Lucas (Rory Cochrane) discovers that the store is to be turned into a franchise store called music town, leading the employees to band together to save the store.

Staring many future stars including Renee Zellweger, Liv Tyler and Anthony LaPaglia as the long suffering store owner and father figure Joe, this coming of age comedy never seems to get the attention it really deserves, especially when it combines teenage angst with shameless AC/DC worship and even a pot brownie trip which sees Mark (Ethan Embry) rocking out with GWAR before being eaten by their giant worm thing, which honestly for that one scene alone makes it a must see.

Also Noteworthy: The Basketball Diaries, The City of Lost Children, The DoomGeneration , La Haine, Ghost In The Shell, Godzilla vs. Destoroyah, Living In Oblivion. Mortal Kombat, Welcome To The Dollhouse

1996

Essential Film: Joe’s Apartment

Joe's Apartment

When picking this year’s selection, I went back and forth so much between this one and “From Dusk Till Dawn”, both of which could be considered essential, but eventually it would be this film which won out on the grounds of “Dusk Till Dawn” already being pretty well known and secondly because this is a film about a man who lives with talking cockroaches and who wouldn’t want to see that movie?

An expansion on the original 1992 short film, while also inspired by “Twilight of the Cockroaches” and the 1987 short “Those Damn Roaches” this tale of penniless Joe (Jerry O’Connell), who having moved to New York soon finds himself sharing his apartment with around 20 to 30 thousand roommates, in the form of a bunch of all singing and dancing cockroaches, who having recognised Joe as being one of their own, soon set out to lend him a helping hand.

Using a mixture of stop motion animation and the slightly cheaper effect of just making parts of the apartment rattle, this is a random film to say the least and while it might not work in places, when the roaches are in screen, it usually guarantees fun times, with the standout moment being their attempts to help Joe on a date, which unsurprisingly ends in chaos. A strange curiosity from the MTV generation and a reminder of the kind of projects that MTV used to be involved with before they changed their focus to the likes of “The Hills” and “Jersey Shore”.

Further Viewing: From Dusk Till Dawn, Trees Lounge, Swingers

1997

Essential Film: Princess Mononoke

princess mononoke

One of my all time favourite Studio Ghibli movies, this epic tale of industry versus nature as Ashitaka finds himself caught in the battle lines drawn by Lady Eboshi of Iron Town, who is destroying the forest merely for her people’s own good and the guardians of the forest.

Visually stunning with highly intelligent scripting, this is another perfect example of the genius of Hayao Miyazaki, while also being commisioned by Disney who clearly did not know what they were getting with this film, which not only has burst of violence, bloodshed and gore but also is far from thier usual fluffy plotting and styling, as Miyazaki combines fantasy and mythology in his gripping and fast paced tale.

Further Viewing: Breakdown, Boogie Nights, Cube, Chasing Amy, Funny Games, The Game, Junk Mail, Life Is Beautiful, Mimic, Nowhere, Orgazmo, Rainy Dog, Starship Troopers

1998

Essential Film: Dark City

Dark City

The second Alex Proyas on this list and sadly the most overlooked, as this Kafka esq tale opens with John (Refus Sewell) waking up naked in a hotel bathtub, his memories erased and a mutilated prostitute on the bed. Soon John finds himself framed for a string of brutal and bizarre murders and on the run from not only the police, but also the strange trench coat clad men known only as “The Strangers” as he tries to piece together his missing memories.

Sharing the same gothic styling as his previous film “The Crow” this film only built upon those designs as here Proyas gives us a city of perminant midnight,with definite shades of Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil” and Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis”while skillfully combining elements of sci-fi and noir to create a potent mix, while drip feeding the audience infomation as to the truth about Dark City.

Further Viewing: American History X, BASEketball, The Big Lebowski, Ringu, Run Lola Run, Rushmore

1999

Essential Film: Cruel Intentions

cruel intentions

An MTV style reworking of the classic novel “Les Liaisons Dangereuses” by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, which has over the years has been adapted no less than thirteen times, with certainly the most well known being the 1988 version released as “Dangerous Liaisons” while this version would be by far the most original as the story is relocated to modern day New York, as step siblings Kathryn (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and Sebastian (Ryan Phillippe) play games of seduction, with their latest target being the virginal Annette (Reese Witherspoon) with the challenge being set by Kathryn that Sebastian cannot bed her before the start of the school year, while Kathryn sets about also corrupting the naïve Cecile (Selma Blair) as part of a plan of revenge against her ex boyfriend who left her for Cecile.

While it may have been released in the same year as “American Pie” this film proved to be a much smarter drama and with a sharper sense of humour, but none the less sex crazed which came as something of a surprise to Geller’s fans who were more used to her playing Buffy on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” so for her to be reeling off such lines as “In English? I’ll fuck your brains out” all of course greeted with whoops of joy from most of the male audience, much like the much talked about experimental kissing scene between Geller and Blair, all from a film bizarrely marketed in some places as a chick flick, when it contains plenty to appeal to most audiences.

The cast at the time were largely B-list or unknowns, yet all embody their various characters, while for some the film marking a rare high point in their careers, still even years after it’s initial shocking dialogue has since been beaten in terms of filth, it still remains a solid drama and a nice twist on a classic novel.

Further Viewing: eXistenz, Dogma

Thanks to Elwood for an awesome 1990’s look at the decade!
Remember to head over to Drew’s Movie Reviews for tomorrow’s entry! 🙂

Advertisements

Double Feature: Cruel Intentions (1999) & Dangerous Liaisons (2012)

Next up on my little double features are two films that are incredibly similar to each other.  From what I’ve read in some research, Dangerous Liaisons is the Chinese remake from a Hollywood movie with the same name adapted from a French novel.  I think I’ve heard of it but I’ve never seen (or read) it so I don’t know.  If you know more about it, do enlighten me 🙂 Cruel Intentions was another one of those remakes but with a different name.  Point is, these two movies may be 13 years apart and in different languages and historical period but they are quite similar plot.  I’m starting to shape these double features with a little more thought so here we go!

Let’s check it out! 🙂

Cruel Intentions (1999)

cruel intentions

Director: Roger Kumble

Cast: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, Reese Witherspoon, Selma Blair, Joshua Jackson, Eric Mabius, Sean Patrick Thomas

Kathryn (Sarah Michelle Gellar) makes a bet that her step-brother, Sebastian (Ryan Phillippe), won’t be able to bed Annette (Reese Witherspoon) -a virgin, who wants to wait until love. If he loses, Kathryn gets his Jaguar, if he wins, he gets Kathryn. – IMDB

cruel intentions

Cruel Intentions is an okay drama.  The cast is good for this sort of movie because it needs some sort of attractive beings to really carry this sort of plot.  The idea of it is set in an upscale snobby setting and it explores the themes of sexuality and innocence and of course, abstinence in that whole world of love and feelings as well.  The only issue with this one is that the dialogue is kind of funny even when its trying to be all teasing and whatnot and that matches up with some below average acting going on here.  It seems like everyone is aware that its a game and everyone is adding that extra bit to make sure its like the audience knows that they are all acting and its not the character’s real feelings. Everyone has something to hide and I guess that’s true.

cruel intentions

I’m not saying I hated the movie because it was okay.  I was pretty indifferent to it. I’m not a huge fan of Reese Witherspoon especially the earlier films that she did.  This is a young cast so they aren’t exactly at the prime of their acting but the story is set around these young rich high school kids.  Still, the connection and chemistry is there and that’s where I feel that this movie did good on.  There were some passionate scenes which the dialogue kind of made me laugh a little which destroyed the mood a little.

The storyline has a huge potential.  A little side fact (if you don’t know) is that the novel was originally published in 1782 so that gives this one a thousand chances for adaptations and remakes and so, little bits and pieces might even make it a little predictable.  Cruel Intentions felt like that though.  Maybe its taking the angle of high school students that make it hard but if I remember correctly, this might be the time when Ryan Phillippe and Sarah Michelle Gellar (maybe even Reese Witherspoon) was really popular.  At least I remember Buffy the Vampire Slayer being in that time frame. I guess what I’m saying is that with a stronger script and better acting, Cruel Intentions could’ve been a better movie.

Dangerous Liaisons (2012)

dangerous liaisons

Director: Jin-ho Hur

Cast: Cecilia Cheung, Dong-gun Jang, Ziyi Zhang, Shawn Dou, Lisa Lu

In Shanghai, an aging socialite’s infatuation with her ex-boyfriend manifests itself as a risky game, where her former lover agrees to seduce, then abandon a naive young woman. – IMDB

Dangerous Liaisons, 2012 version, Chinese/Korean collaboration set in 1930s Shanghai is really quite good.  If the book was anything like this one, I’d definitely pick it up.  I’m going to go up front here and confess that while I know a few of you are fans of Zhang Ziyi, I don’t really think much of her.  She’s not a great actress and I never really enjoyed the movies she’s been in.  I don’t even think of her as being attractive or pretty so no girl/lady crushes for me.  I have to admit that it put me off a little on this but this did expire at the same time as Cruel Intentions so I wanted to give this a watch.  For one, I like Cecilia Cheung well enough.  One of her earlier movie called Fly Me to Polaris was all levels of awesome and while she does a lot of really silly comedic movies now and does really well in those and even dated/married my absolute idol in real life, I still like her a good bit even during her crazy rebellious days.  She’s unique and she can definitely pull off that aging socialite/pretty, charming, attractive, seductive lady sort of vibe.  As for Dong-gun Jang, I’ve never seen him in any movies because I don’t watch a whole lot of Korean movies because they really are too slow for my taste but I spent a good bit of the movie debating if I thought he was attractive.  There’s definitely something there but hmm..I wonder.

You tell me, what do you think? Good-looking dude, or no?

dangerous liaisons 2012

While I was a little skeptical and having watched Cruel Intentions just before this one (the night before) without knowing it was based on the same material, I started feeling a little unsure about it.  But, this one is miles better than Cruel Intentions and there are strong performances across the board plus, Shanghai in that time frame had a lot of elegance and class even if the characters themselves, especially those two up there doing this bet that aren’t really asking the audience to respect them a whole lot either.  But that is what their characters are asked of and the way the act and the style they have match up well to their characters.  While I don’t quite like Zhang Ziyi, she was pretty good in this one also.  Maybe its the fact that she’s not doing a touch chick and in this one, she’s a lot more vulnerable as a character, playing something I haven’t seen her do before.

dangerous liaisons 2012

What else did I like about this one? The story was set good.  The atmosphere and tone was really engaging for the premise.  The pacing was also quite good. Really, I think that the sum of all its good factors elevates this movie to be pretty intriguing even if I knew all along where it was headed. I was still willing to buy into the story and the characters. The dialogue added a little bit more seductiveness in a believable way.

Dangerous Liaisons may not be a perfect movie and I couldn’t even decide if Dong-jun Jang is an attractive man but the chemistry and the convincing performance along with the setting in 1930s Shanghai makes this a really enjoyable watch.  Would I watch it again? Maybe I would.  Its a really fun movie and also makes me want to go find that source material and see what its all about.

Overall…

Without knowing much about the source material, I’d definitely recommend to see Dangerous Liaisons if you wanted to see one of these two adaptations.  It may be foreign but it adds a little extra touch to it especially with some pretty outstanding performances that make it all the better.  Something about that Shanghai setting and the beautiful clothes makes it really appealing to me. Cruel Intentions suffers from exactly what makes Dangerous Liaisons good. But then, how do you compare two movies that seem to be targeting a different audience? Maybe the teenage me would have enjoyed Cruel Intentions more.  Who knows, right?

Have you seen Cruel Intentions or Dangerous Liaisons? How about other adaptations? Are you familiar with the source material?