Double Feature: Southpaw (2015) & Miss Sloane (2016)

Welcome to the next double feature. I rented Southpaw and Miss Sloane on discount on Play Store last month. Two very different films and two very different feelings about it however both heavily reliant on their main character.

Southpaw (2015)

Southpaw

Director: Antoine Fuqua

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Forest Whitaker, Rachel McAdams, Oona Lawrence, 50 Cent, Naomie Harris

Boxer Billy Hope turns to trainer Tick Wills to help him get his life back on track after losing his wife in a tragic accident and his daughter to child protection services. – IMDB

If there is one word to describe Southpaw, it would be disappointing. It isn’t particularly a bad film as the performances were great. Rachel McAdams did great for what it was. Jake Gyllenhaal was fantastic and I absolutely love Forest Whitaker who is an underrated actor. The girl who played the daughter was Oona Lawrence and that arc was decent.

However, the flaw lies in the fact that Southpaw is pretty much another Rocky story in many instances and we already had Creed recently that was much more engaging. It didn’t help that Southpaw was a little too dramatic at parts but never made it feel very exciting to watch. Seeing the stellar cast being in this uninspired script truly was a lackluster experience.

Miss Sloane (2016)

miss sloane

Director: John Madden

Cast: Jessica Chastain, Mark Strong, Alison Pill, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Michael Stuhlbarg, John Lithgow, Jake Lacy

In the high-stakes world of political power-brokers, Elizabeth Sloane is the most sought after and formidable lobbyist in D.C. But when taking on the most powerful opponent of her career, she finds winning may come at too high a price. – IMDB

Miss Sloane was a movie that I went in with no idea of what the premise is. I have heard good things about it and I have enjoyed Jessica Chastain. Miss Sloane is such a vibrant character wrapped up in a tough and ruthless shell. She is strong and strategic in all her plans and for all the reasons, it makes us wonder on what she has under her sleeve even in the most desperate of situations but it is what makes her compelling to watch.

Miss Sloane, just as the title implies, is truly based on Jessica Chastain and how she takes on the role and she did an outstanding job. As we navigate through her way of life and the little things, while she isn’t exactly a character you would cheer for because of her lack of ethics and morals in some of her decisions, every part whether planned or not comes into play and that gives full credit for the screenwriters doing a fine job at giving it a good pacing that keeps everything moving and finding a balance to learn just enough about Miss Sloane and keeping enough to make everything make sense and surprise when it falls into place.

While Miss Sloane isn’t typically the movie that I would watch, I’m glad that I did because it was absolutely awesome. Gripping, compelling and full of twists and turns around every corner. This one is a must see.

Have you seen Southpaw and/or Miss Sloane?

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Medicine in the Movies Blogathon: My Sister’s Keeper (2009)

Medicine in the Movies Blogathon

Medicine in the Movies Blogathon by Charlene over at Charlene’s (Mostly) Classic Movie Reviews was this past weekend and sneaking in my almost kind of late entry is for My Sister’s Keeper. Over ambitious post drafting will eventually backfire one day on me and it did this time. Before I start, I’d like to say sorry to Charlene for the tardiness. Trust me, it was not intentional. As the name indicates, this blogathon is all about medicine in the movies and my thought right away went to this movie adapted from Jodi Piccoult’s book with the same name.

My Sister’s Keeper (2009)

My Sister's Keeper

Director: Nick Cassavetes

Cast: Abigail Breslin, Cameron Diaz, Sofia Vassileva, Alec Baldwin, Jason Patric, Evan Ellingson, Heather Walquist

Anna Fitzgerald looks to earn medical emancipation from her parents who until now have relied on their youngest child to help their leukemia-stricken daughter Kate remain alive. – IMDB

My Sister’s Keeper is an interesting one to talk about. On the surface, its about a family dealing with their older daughter’s fight to live as their younger daughter fights for her freedom of use of her body that she’s lost. What sounds like a heartless thing to do as this decision abandons her sister from her chance of survival and surprising as a top attorney will do it almost pro bono for her cause because he believes in what she is fighting for. However, behind all the medical battle, its also a highlight on how the family has broken apart in pieces. As everyone focuses on one person in the family, everyone else has needs and desires that are overseen or neglected and the only person that sees this is Kate, while ill still sees clearly what her sickness has caused over the years. What helps with this is that there are narratives of each of the characters to see how they are reacting and their thoughts on what is going on: whether it is about Kate or Anna’s decision to earn medical emancipation. My Sister’s Keeper uses sickness in a family to not only highlight each of their characters but also takes the approach to show us how it can break each other apart or keep them together more and also brings up many questions about who to side for and is there a side in this cause? Of course, nothing is that simple. My Sister’s Keeper, while not delivered quite as effective as the book in my opinion, still manages to bring some decent performances to showcase the story and dilemmas in this situation while letting us learn more about each of these characters.

My Sister's Keeper

Perhaps the best way to look at My Sister’s Keeper is to take a look at the performances. Dramas are usually pretty clear cut and the story and message is here and it all relies on these performances. First of all, the parents are played by Cameron Diaz and Jason Patric. Cameron Diaz has had her ups and downs (also my opinion) in her movie roles however she does capture the overprotective mom very well. She is focused and committed to keep Kate alive, however she also does play the mother who is much stronger that she does seem to have forgotten about her other children. She defends this by saying that she takes care of the family but Kate is the one that is most in need right now. On the other hand, while not exactly rejecting his wife’s choices, Jason Patric plays the father who is much softer. Being a firefighter and the only person still bringing money to the family, he also isn’t home as much but he somehow  notices a little more of Anna’s life and sees her charm just as much as her older daughter however he does neglect his son who in this mess is the one that gets lost in the mix the most. Jason Patric’s role isn’t very big in this and his father role only appears in glances and observations of the situation. Cameron Diaz does deliver quite a believable performance as the mom here that you can dislike for her neglecting the need of both of her daughters or playing favorites with Kate but then in the situation, the question her character brings is: where is the balance? When is the time to let go? Will you ever want to let go of any chance to save your children?

My Sister's Keeper

My Sister’s Keeper came on my radar because of Abigail Breslin. I’ve expressed on multiple occassions how I think she is a brilliant young actress with a ton of potential. As a child actor, she’s done many great performances and as Anna, she is no different. The script writes her character as a young girl who understands what she is asking for and wants to be able to live her life. The stance she brings is that while she was conceived to help her sister, she also has the right to be acknowledged and to be able to live freely and not have to be careful and limit herself. Does that make her selfish for choosing to do that? Should she feel guilt for not helping? Why is she suddenly doing all this? Helping her in this cause is another not very big in terms of screen time but important character nonetheless played by  Alec Baldwin, the attorney that decides to help her because he is saddened by her reports and with a little personal cause that makes him want to fight for Anna’s fight for the freedom of her own body. He helps bring to the table the questions that matter in this family whether everyone has been taken care of. In fact, perhaps this also brings a highlight on the judge in this movie, Joan Cusack who feels like a character that could have been developed more however she brings the angle of someone who has already suffered loss looking into the Fitzgerald family.

My Sister's Keeper

While the family and the whole case of medical emancipation plays a great deal of part here, there is no doubt that the main person in focus is the narration of Kate. The timeline of My Sister’s Keeper hops by and forth quite a bit and the first time watching this, its easy to get lost in it a little. However, Kate, played by Sofia Vassileva is quite a powerful one. Perhaps playing a sick child automatically gives some pity points however we can sense the true despair of her pain as she deals with leukemia and how she can’t express or connect with others even the ones that love her the most. However, she does find someone who sees her for who she needs in Taylor (played by Thomas Dekker), another young patient dealing with cancer who eventually becomes her boyfriend and makes her see the world in a much more colorful way despite it not in reality.

Overall, The Sister’s Keeper is full of decent to powerful performances and that comes in building and developing characters well. However, there are many story lines and tangents here and this is where we lose a little focus as some characters don’t get the development they need and at times the timeline can be a little confusing to follow. But, it does deliver a lot of questions to truly ponder. There is perhaps no right answer to any of this but the true double edged sword in this whole affair is learning when to let go no matter how hard it is. My Sister’s Keeper is a powerful book and did a decent job at adapting it into the movie. The ending particularly as everything comes to light is a bittersweet sort of ending that did make me tear up a little. I like movies that make us question these hard decisions and the right and wrong of any situation to see that there is really no clear cut answer.

Have you seen My  Sister’s Keeper or read the book?

Double Feature: Wait Till Helen Comes (2016) & Final Girl (2015)

Another double feature has arrived.

We have a mix of horror and thriller (?). The first one is one that I rented on Google Play store and the other was on Netflix, a new addition of sorts. Two more obscure titles, I would imagine. And no, this is Final Girl and not Final Girls.

Lets check it out!

Wait Till Helen Comes (2016)

Wait Till Helen Comes

Director: Dominic James

Cast: Sophie Nelisse, Maria Bello, Isabelle Nelisse, Callum Keith Rennie, Abigail Pniowsky, William Dickinson

When a reconstructed family moves to a converted church in the country, 14-year-old Molly, must save her new troubled step-sister from a dangerous relationship with the desperate ghost of a young girl. –IMDB

Wait Till Helen Comes is an indie horror. There are quite a few charms to it such as some scenes are directed really well and the set was suitable and worked to give an isolated/secluded perhaps abandoned area. That is always good for horror. Moving to a new home and families coming together also gives a lot of mystery to the characters and gives them a chance to develop. In concept, Wait Till Helen Comes has all the typical ingredients to make it work fine as a horror however perhaps because it uses such normally seen pieces that it becomes slightly more predictable. For the record, this is based on a novel however I have not read it so for myself this is a standalone piece with nothing to compare to.

Wait Till Helen Comes

Wait Till Helen Comes has some decent performances. Maria Bello is there as the mother and an artist. Her character works hard to create a balance in the new family put together because of her marriage. In many ways, she fits a mold also because while she starts off thinking her daughter is making up things and suspecting she went off her medication, she does come around. As for her teenage daughter Molly, a young actress Sophie Nelisse, does a convincing job of learning how to be a bigger sister. Although subtle, the change in her character happens gradually throughout the story as she tries to protect (in her own way) her younger sister Heather , who is the daughter of her stepfather recently picked up from a home to hopefully rehabilitate her after her mother’s death. Heather, played by Isabelle Nelisse, is rather unsettling to watch as well.

While the story does have a decent turn of events in the final act and some well-executed scenes to build up the atmosphere, it is hard to not completely feel involved because it lacks a bit of originality as it falls into a lot of horror troupes from moving into a run-down home to a rather typical ghost story. However, this one is still alright.

Final Girl (2015)

Final Girl

Director: Tyler Shields

Cast: Abigail Breslin, Wes Bentley, Logan Huffman, Cameron Bright, Alexander Ludwig, Reece Thompson

A man teaches a young woman how to become a complete weapon. Later she is approached by a group of sadistic teens who kill blonde women for unknown reasons. The hunting season begins. – IMDB

I like Abigail Breslin a lot. I probably talked about it when I wrote up my TV Binge for Scream Queens Season 1 and probably for The Call recently. I love a ton of her movies when she was younger: Nim’s Island, Zombieland, Little Miss Sunshine, etc. Then she makes these really odd choices in movies now. Final Girl is a thriller that falls apart so fast that it never really creates any fun. Its tacky and pretty stupid. It tries really hard to be stylish with these cool scenes as they present each of the guys in the rich kids that have secret killing fetish in the woods to hunt down defenseless girls, particularly blondes. Abigail Breslin for some odd reason is trained as a child by a man who lost his daughter tragically on a journey to revenge. What does these two things have in common: nothing much from what I saw. I can’t say that the performances are bad because I feel that the story is the main problem. Its just so poorly constructed. Its disjointed and pointless and in the end, we really don’t care too much about any of these characters.

There’s some stylish shots and perhaps in a biased way, Abigail Breslin does okay. But seriously, nothing saves a movie with a story that takes itself far too seriously in light of some bad dialogue and poor story. Unfortunately, this one didn’t have any thrills.

This wraps up the Double Feature!
Have you seen these two movies? What did you think of them?

Double Feature: Violet & Daisy (2011) & The Gift (2015)

Welcome to another Double Feature!

Before we start, I’d like to apologize if things are and will be sporadic, they probably will still be for the next week. Real life work that pays the bills is taking a front seat right now and I foresee lots of overtime this week. However, if all goes as planned, there should be an unboxing this week some time and probably some reviews or TV Binge. The material is there, its just finding time and energy to write it up.

Today’s double feature is for Violet and Daisy & The Gift. Thrillers and a little odd. Probably The Gift deserves its own post but its a thriller and I don’t want to spoil it so just keeping it to myself although I’m fairly certain at this point, a ton of you have already seen it since a ton of people praised it when it was first released. Anyways, I finally got around to watching it. Violet and Daisy however is way overdue as I watched that on the train to Toronto for ComiCon so its over a month that I’ve seen it at this point.

Let’s check it out! 🙂

Violet & Daisy (2011)

violet & daisy

Director (and writer): Geoffrey Fletcher

Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Alexis Bledel, James Gandolfini, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Danny Trejo

Two teenage assassins accept what they think will be a quick-and-easy job, until an unexpected target throws them off their plan. – IMDB

Violet & Daisy is one odd and quirky movie. The reason for my choosing this movie is completely because I love Alexis Bledel (because of The Sisterhood of Travelling Pants and recently Gilmore Girls) and even more so, Saoirse Ronan who has never disappointed me even if the movie itself is not fascinating. Violet & Daisy may seem disjointed and way too weird for its own good but somehow it works and it has to do with the small but charming cast. Violet & Daisy are young teenage assassins out on a mission. They are each other’s best friends and have each other’s back especially as they fangirl and look forward to the newest fashion line by their favorite designer. It feels like they are everyday teenage girls except when a mission is given, they can also be incredibly brutal and efficient to get rid of their target. Their next mission is sent to kill a man who surprisingly seems like he wants to die and has someone else on his tail. This man who we never learn the name of is played by James Gandolfini and he delivered a wonderful performance as he changes what typically happens in these assassinations situation and in turn, open up Violet & Daisy and as we learn more about his story, we also learn more about Violet and Daisy’s which also puts their friendship or partnership in a dilemma.

Surprises and a pretty clever script gives these characters a lot of life. Even if it is weird and odd at times, there are some great moments and character development here that work really well. Not to mention, some really convincing performances in general. I liked this one a lot.

The Gift (2015)

the gift

Director (and writer): Joel Edgerton

Cast: Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall, Joel Edgerton, Allison Tolman

A young married couple’s lives are thrown into a harrowing tailspin when an acquaintance from the husband’s past brings mysterious gifts and a horrifying secret to light after more than 20 years. – IMDB

The Gift is a tense thriller however, perhaps the best part of it is the way it builds its characters up and fleshes them through with their secrets as the finale unfolds and leaves us cleverly wondering what it all means. The Gift is smart. And yet, because it is best seen with the least amount of knowledge possible, it is very hard to write about.

I can say that The Gift is pretty great. Its a little slow at parts and really dives into building the tension with a lot of quiet moments as we suspect about this suspicious high school friend and re-enters their life and slowly reveals the true nature of these characters and why they are there and how certain things happen for whatever reason. Jason Bateman pulls off a fantastic performance, probably one of my faves. Joel Edgerton does a great role as well.

Its well-planned and executed effectively with some great character development and a finale that will kind of blow your mind and make you think about what it all means.

That’s it for the double feature!
Sorry for the delay!
I’d say to expect this for this week mostly because I don’t have the time I usually would to put these together. 
Things will be back to normal next week!

Have you seen these two movies before?

Toronto Comicon Weekend Haul!

This past weekend was a fantasticLly awesome one as I headed out to Toronto for Comicon (just like last year). Its been a crazy process getting back and having everything cleaned and put away and getting back on routine so today, I am doing a simple one to talk about my haul.

I will take a few days this week (probably two) to share the Toronto experience because just like last year, as something of a reward or whatnot, I met up with Drew to hangout and visit Toronto and Comicon together. And just like true movie bloggers, we got in a movie as well amd even made it to a party (comicon related) as well as a sightseeing location. Lots of fun and a packed schedule but I think it turned out pretty great. Look for those posts while I get those new segments finalized (something I ran out of time last week for).

Lets check out what I picked up both before and at the Toronto Comicon.

Before the Comicon, I had a little bit of time before Drew arrived so I went out for a little shopping. I had a few stores on my list to hit and they were:

HMV
(because they are closing out of Canada so lots of discounts)

HMV

Disney Store
(never been to the one at Eaton Centre)

Disney Store Eaton Centre

David’s Tea
(spontaneously remembered  was running out at home)

David's Tea

Toronto Comicon was a weekend thing and we bought the weekend pass so we went on Friday to scout out the show and then did most of our shopping on Saturday after all the Q&A panels. Here’s what I picked up:

Movies & Video Games

I got a super sweet deal for Uncharted 4 at Iceman Video Games which was also there last year. I’m pretty happy about it. They had some awesome choices and selection.

However, I really want to talk about Raven Banner where we stopped by to look at horror movies. They were fantastic and we had a great talk about horror indie films in general. Not sure they’ll read this post but that chat was a highlight of the ComiCon for myself. It really defines why we do this movie blogging thing and meeting people who are equally passionate about this. It was a fun and enlightening chat.

Novel and Comics

Toronto Comicon

Let’s look at this from left to right.

  • Toronto Comics‘ Yonge at Heart is a Canadian comic author that sets in Toronto. This is a free preview to get a snippet of their comic for their Kickstarter campaign running right now till beginning of April, I believe. I saw them on Twitter before the trip and really liked the art style and the idea of using a Canadian setting. You can check out the Kickstarter here.
  • Remy’s Dilemma by Andrew Snook is a novel with this plot below from their website. A part of selling your work is being passionate about it. And Andrew does a great job at it. To be honest, his enthusiasm as he told his story and the joy he had recounting the story was so genuine that I could feel the awesomeness in the story. I haven’t started reading it yet but this looks like a fun journey with Remy especially when its set in two provinces in Canada that I’ve visited numerously  and live in.

The world is coming to an end. That’s what Remy believes, anyways. While double-checking his lifelong to-do list to ensure he has led a rich life, he realizes he hasn’t come close to completing his goals. Panicked and short on time, Remy embarks on a chaotic road trip to complete the most important item on his bucket list… – Snook Books

  • Moonshot & Titan from AH Comics: Moonshot is an Indigenous Comics Collection (Volume 1) with various stories from different artists. With the purchase of this one (inspired by my peaked curiosity after my playthrough of Never Alone a few weeks ago), they also gave the gift of their graphic novel Titan: An Alternate History, which is great because then they saved me having to decide on which one to get with my purchase.

Artwork

Foiled Art

Foiled Art makes this beautiful little pop culture pieces. They do a lot with gold or silver (or both for limited edition) but I honestly thought that this galaxy one looks superb. It really brings out the art and pops. This is going right over my work station at home because its so fantastically awesome!

Chasing Artwork

Howl’s Moving Castle by Chasing Artwork

I love love love Miyazaki art and Chasing Artwork is a great artist. There are two comics out currently which I passed up on but these pieces are so atmospheric and creative. I actually stood there pondering which to get. He also has one for Nausicaa which just took my breath away. I’m personally a huge fan of Howl’s Moving Castle so this one is great.

Archie Dan Parent

Betty and Veronica by Dan Parent (with autograph)

For those of you who don’t know (which you might not because I don’t review comics), I love Archie comics and really I haven’t looked much at the newer ones although they do look cool but these traditional ones. I know I have a few volumes sitting in a box after we moved. I just can’t remember where so I couldn’t take it with me but Dan Parent was there who does a ton of these illustrations. I particularly loved this print and look he signed it also. Consider me a little star strucked when I saw him because I wanted to say a ton and just couldn’t.

The haul could have been so much more. There was so many great writers and artists that the choice was hard to make. However, I retain the idea of picking up stuff from the ones that I skipped but has an Etsy shop or other form of online retail. I have to say this was a pretty successful weekend!

What do you think about the haul? Anything that catches your eye?

Ultimate 90’s Blogathon Wrap-up: Wild Wild West (1999) by Drew’s Movie Reviews

We have arrived, ladies and gents! We are at the final day of the Ultimate 90’s Blogathon and both my fantastically awesome co-host Drew from Drew’s Movie Reviews and I will be sharing our final wrap-up posts on each other’s sites. First to share is Drew with his review of 1999’s Wild Wild West. Will Smith, Kenneth Brannagh, humor and wild west…

Take it away, Drew!

Synopsis
Army Captain James West (Will Smith) is tasked by President Grant (Kevin Kline) to work together with US Marshal Artemus Gordon (Kevin Kline) to find the ex-Confederate scientist Dr. Arliss Loveless (Kenneth Branagh) before he can take over the United States government.

Review
Wild Wild West was a go-to movie for my friend and I back when we were growing up.  Between the two of us, we could (and still can!) quote the movie in its entirety.  Having watched this many times over the years, I acknowledge that the nostalgia factor might affect my enjoyment of the film, as I have found several flaws since watching it as a young lad. However, that doesn’t mean it still can’t be enjoyed on its own merits.

Right out the gate, this movie is goofy. Not funny, although it is that too, but goofy.  Artemis Gordon’s inventions feel a little too perfect for the situations they get Gordon and Jim West out of. Arliss Loveless’ beard rivals Crane’s beard from The Hunger Games for most intricate movie beard, acting as the proverbial “I’m the bad guy” sign.  Loveless’ invention to bring the “US government to its knees” is a giant, steam-punk tarantula.  Everything about this movie screams “Saturday morning cartoon.” Nevertheless, it has a sense of fun that many film miss, which is why it still works for even as I’ve grown older.  Wild Wild West never takes itself seriously, making it fun for both the actors and the audience.

The humor can be seen as a little juvenile, like the scene below, but that kind of humor is what I like.  Will Smith and John Kline are enjoyable to watch together.  This film came out relatively early in Smith’s film career. It is fun to see how he has brought the same energy and personality to his characters throughout all of his movies, whether they were in the 90s, when he started film acting, or today.  I’ll admit I haven’t seen many of Kline’s films to compare Artemis Gordon to his other roles but his comedy here is more subtle than Smith’s which works because having two boisterous comedians would be too much.

Besides the two leads, the other two big supporting actors, Salma Hayek and Kenneth Branagh are clearly having a good time too.  The often scantily clad Hayek is obviously there for the eye candy and to give West and Gordon someone to compete for, but it doesn’t appear to bother her and she gives a memorable performance.  Branagh gets fully into the maniacal villain role.  It’s cartoonish and over the top but he steals his every scene he’s in.

I thought Wild Wild West was GOOD 🙂 It isn’t afraid to be silly and have fun with itself, which might turn off other viewers but I really enjoyed that.  Everyone, from Will Smith and Kevin Kline to Salma Hayek and Kennith Branagh, feel like they are enjoying themselves.  I grew up watching this film regularly and although its imperfections have become more apparent over the years, it still is every bit the fun, adventurous romp I remember it to be.

Favorite Scene

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Barry Sonnenfeld – Director
Jim Thomas – Story
John Thomas – Story
SS Wilson – Screenplay
Brent Maddock – Screenplay
Jefferey Price – Screenplay
Peter S Seaman – Screenplay
Elmer Bernstein – Composer

Will Smith – James West
Kevin Kline – Artemis Gordon / President Ulysses S Grant
Kenneth Branagh – Dr. Arliss Loveless
Salma Hayek – Rita Escobar
M. Emmet Walsh – Coleman
Ted Levine – General “Bloodbath” McGrath
Frederique van der Wal – Amazonia
Musetta Vander – Munitia
Sofia Eng – Miss Lippenrieder
Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon – Belle
Bai Ling – Miss East

Remember to head over to Drew’s later today to see my wrap-up post!
Hint: Its also a triple feature (just like my kick-off)!

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! 🙂