Ever hit the DVD store and see all these movie titles you’ve heard of but have never seen, but wonder if you might like them for the collection? Here’s some thumbnail reviews, highly subjective, that can give you ideas for some movies you might like. Most of them list the major stars, the director, other movies by both, and comparisons to other movies you may have seen. These tend toward the more over-looked movies and classic and well-known movies that you’ve heard of but may not have seen. No LOTR or Matrix-type blockbusters. Compiled by an avid, but completely uneducated movie fan. A different take than your usual elitist movie critic. Roger Ebert, feel the pain.
Being John Malkovich If you haven’t seen it or heard of it, its one of the strangest concepts for a movie you’ve ever seen. It keeps getting weirder and weirder as it goes. I actually like Carmen Diaz in this. And Malkovich was a great sport to do this movie, he’s hilarious parodying his own public persona. One of those “what do you think happened?” endings.
Crooklyn Spike Lee’s semi-autobiographical movie about 4 black brothers and their sister growing up in NYC. Anyone can relate to this movie though, because its not about being black or about living in NYC really. Its about fighting with your sibs, shoplifting from the corner store, visiting weird relatives, dealing with weird neighbors, getting your butt whupped by the parents. No PC pap about worshipping MLK and Malcolm X, these kids are big fans of the Partridge Family and the Brady Bunch. Plus it has Alfre Woodard and Delroy Lindo. Buy this and watch it, even if you don’t like Spike’s other joints.
Mean Streets Early Martin Scorsese film with a very young DeNiro and Harvey Keitel. Kind of rambling story in Scorsese-style. For completists only, not really one of Martin’s best. Most famous for the fact QT directly lifted some scenes and situations from MS for Pulp Fiction.
The Big Picture A Chris Guest pic that is not a mockumentary, his directorial debut in fact. One of those ‘inside-Hollywood’ movies about how shitty the movie industry is and how it sucks the life out of you. Average film but entertaining and worth the cash used. Kevin Bacon, J. T. Walsh, Teri Hatcher and Michael McKean head a cameo-filled cast. Martin Short is hilarious playing one of his stock hilarious characters as the agent. I was really struck by Emily Longstreth when I first saw it, really beautiful and a good little actress, but she never really did anything after that and apparently quit acting in ’94.
Nixon Until I listened to the commentary I had no idea of Stone’s nearly psychotic venom toward Nixon. It comes off as basically pretty sympathetic. Anthony Hopkins just isn’t hatable enough to work Stone’s propaganda machine. It actually made me like Nixon better than before I saw it. Most of it is as fictional as JFK but entertaining none the less.
Identity Pretty good, a lot of great actors: John Cusack, Alfred Molina, Ray Liotta. Amanda Peet is not bad in it too, and it has the counter guy from From Dusk to Dawn, plus it mentions Mulberry, a white trash community (about 5 miles from Brandon, a Tampa suburb where I live). Plus it has John McGinley who was in Nixon.
Little Man Tate Nice little movie, very tight script and story, Jodie Foster and Diane Wiest, plus Harry Connick Jr. in his first role basically playing a character like himself. David Hyde White is in it (he was John Dean in Nixon). The kid isn’t your typical Hollywood brat actor, which is refreshing.
Man in the Moon I saw this years ago and never put together until seeing it again recently that it was Reese Witherspoon in the lead role. Entertaining, sad, nice little movie from the director of To Kill A Mockingbird. Sam Waterson is in this one too (he was in Nixon)
Dead Alive Low budget sci fi gross out classic. When I saw this years ago I never would have guessed it’s director would eventually direct a huge project like LOTR, but the acting is just as over the top and corny, so you can see the resemblence. The zombie baby body double running around is as hokey looking as the kids doubling for hobbits in LOTR too. Used its well worth $5. Noone in Dead Again was in Nixon, as far as I know.
Rainmaker Matt Damon, Danny DeVito, Claire Danes and Jon Voight in a typical John Grisholm lawyer flick, kind of like The Verdict lite. Entertaining but cliched. DeVito is great playing the role of a sleazy legal aid with gusto.
The Killing Fields Sam Waterson, John Malkovich, Julian Sands, Spaulding Gray and Dr. Haing S. Ngor, who won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in his first acting gig ever, not bad. This movie is more horrific than any horror movie. The hackneyed phrases “tense and gripping” really apply here. Its a hard movie to watch, and the worst thing is its a true story, based on Waterson’s character’s book on his experiences in Cambodia during the collapse and take-over by the murderous Khmer Rouge, who killed 3 million Cambodians in a genocidal purge. Truly harrowing, but a great movie.
What’s Eating Gilbert Grape Most people have heard of this. Pretty good movie because Depp is just good in whatever he does. The rest of the cast is pretty bland, except Leonardo DiCaprio doing his impression of a retard, and he’s not bad at it. Mary Steenbergen does her usual good job and the great big fat Mom is not bad seeing as it was her first acting job. Juliette Lewis plays Juliette Lewis as the free-spirit girlfriend, but in this one she doesn’t take her boyfriend on a nationwide killing spree. Worth it just for Johnny D, he’s the man.
Parenthood One of Ron Howard’s decent movies with a shitload of great actors doing a great job- Steve Martin, Mary Steenbergen, Diane Weist, Jason Robards, Tom (Amadeus) Hulce, Rick Moranis etc. all funny and believable. All these people obviously really have kids. Martha Plimpton, Keanu Reeves and Leaf Pheonix are good as some of the kids. Actually the funniest part is Ron’s brother Clint (Gentle Ben) Howard, who appears in all Ron’s movies, as a Little League Dad. Hilarious, great, valid story. Good mainstream movie.
Narc Ray Liotta and Jason Patric (who played a narc in Rush, a great movie) team up as rogue cops who are in trouble with the department but are put on the case of a cop shooting because they are just the only cops in the universe who can solve it. Cliche plot, but its well done and these 2 guys are great. The commentary with first time director Joe Carnahan is hilarious. Apparently this indie film had a hard time getting made, but if finally did and it doesn’t do a bad job with some pretty a pretty well-used story line.
Re-Animator Classic horror-spoof movie that is hopelessly dated now, but is still funny and worth the watch. Has only decapitated head head-job in cinematic history. 3 1/2 hours of extras on the low priced 2 disk set, the producer/director take it a bit seriously but the 2nd commentary track with the 4 main actors is hilarious. Worth the rent/buy.
A Mighty Wind Another of Christopher Guest’s mockumentaries along the line of Spinal Tap, Waiting for Guffman and Best in Show. It’s good, I love this stuff and his tock group of actors, but I have to say there isn’t all that much parody in it. He actually comes dangerously close to just doing a straight piece about 3 old folk bands. The musicianship and singing is as good or better than a real reunion tour would be and there just aren’t a lot of outright laughs. Co-writer Eugene Levy creates a nice character and the other cast members are solid as ever. Guest does a riff on Peter Yarrow, with a Larry Stooge haircut and tremolo vocals while McKean plays straight man again. Harry Shearer actually has a little bigger part than usual in this one. If you liked Guffman or Show, you’ll like this. If not, avoid it.
The Paper Really well done ensemble with Michael Keaton, Marisa Tomei, Randy Quaid, Robert Duvall, Glenn Close and Jason Alexander, directed in happy style by Ron Howard. Good plot, moves right along, funny and satisfying ending. What more do you want.
Breaker Morant Edward Woodward and Bryan Brown in an Australian movie about Aussie soldiers courtmartialed during the Boer War for executing prisoners, supposedly under orders. Great story and performances, especially by Jack Thompson as the defense attorney.
Inventing the Abbotts If you enjoy Billy Crudup, Joachim Phoenix, Jennifer Connelly and Liv Tyler walking and talking, delivering lines, acting in scenes etc, then you will probably enjoy this. Because that’s about all it is. It’s like one of those 50’s Peyton Place movies like A Summer Place or Picnic. Nothing really happens, 2 brothers interact with 3 sisters in various ways. I give it a thumbs ‘eh’.
Casualties of War Not as intense or believable as Platoon, but right in that vein. Sean Penn is excellent, as always, and Mike J. Fox is likable, as always. Plus it has John C. Reilly, one of my fav actors and an early performance by John Leguizamo.
Impromptu Artsy fartsy types being self-indulgent and taking themselves and their art way too seriously. I don’t know if was intentional, but really draws a nice analogy with the celeb “artistes” of today and how full of themselves they are. Features Judy Davis at her dykiest and Hugh Grant at his wimpiest.
Midnight Cowboy Gritty and a little dated, still a classic movie with a fantastic soundtrack featuring the Nilsson rendition of “Everybody’s Talkin'”. Amazing performance by Dustin Hoffman. If you call yourself a movie fan you should see this, at least once.
Bad Influence Rob Lowe and James Spader in a sort of Fight Club meets Cable Guy- wimpy guy getting pushed around at work and in his relationship meets tough guy who shows him the way… until things get out of hand!!!! Oh my! Nice shots of Rob Lowe in bed with 2 women, a little teaser for his video adventures about a year later.
more reviews soon