The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999) – Movie Review

Talented Mr. Ripley

Written and Directed by Anthony Minghella, based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith
Starring Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Cate Blanchett

My Advice: Wait and rent it.

Tom Ripley (Damon) is a nobody living in a sub-basement apartment, until the day he’s mistaken for a schoolmate of Dickie Greenleaf’s (Law) by Dickie’s father (James Rebhorn). Dickie apparently is living the bohemian life over in Italy, playing at being a musician, and also playing at being a boyfriend to the lovely Marge Sherwood (Paltrow). Tom’s well-paid assignment is to go to Europe and convince Dickie to come home and presumably take up the family steel business. But Dickie has no intention of doing so, and contrives with his newfound chameleon friend Tom to wring more money from his father. In the meantime, Tom has found that he really likes Dickie’s lifestyle, not to mention Dickie himself, to an obsessive perhaps unhealthy degree.

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The Green Mile (1999) – Movie Review

The Green Mile movie poster

Written and Directed by: Frank Darabont, based on the novel by Stephen King
Starring: Tom Hanks, David Morse, Michael Clarke Duncan, James Cromwell, Michael Jeter

My Advice: Matinee

Paul Edgecomb (Dabbs Greer) is an old man with a strange past, which gives him plenty of sleepless nights. When he finally begins to crack a bit about the edges, his friend Elaine (Eve Brent) becomes concerned, so he finally unburdens his tale upon her. It so happens that during the Depression, when Paul was younger (Hanks), he was a prison guard on death row. This particular row was known as The Green Mile. His life, and the life of his co-workers, is changed forever when a hulking giant of a man, John Coffey (Duncan), is brought in for execution.

Add another title to the list of good King cinematic adaptations. In fact, were it not for the attention the novel garnered when it was first published in serialized form, this would surprise the same cinemagoers who could not believe King brought us the basis for Stand By Me and Shawshank Redemption. It’s so unlike him, they would say… not an undead shambling thing to be found. Well, surprise and get over it. King is a masterful storyteller, and when his game is on… it is on with a vengeance, no matter the subject.

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Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo (1999) – Movie Review

Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo movie poster

Written by: Harris Goldberg & Rob Schneider
Directed by: Mike Mitchell
Starring: Rob Schneider, Arija Bareikis, Oded Fehr, Richard Riehle, Eddie Griffin

My Advice: Wait for MST3K.

Deuce Bigalow (Schneider) is a loser. He gets fired from his job cleaning fish tanks at the aquarium because for some reason he enjoys removing algae from tanks while he’s nude. The young lady at his local fish shoppe won’t go out with him. And if he didn’t have enough cards stacked against him, he’s played by Rob Schneider. He gets a chance at something different though when he falls in with a gigolo (Fehr), who gets paid to give pleasure to women. When said gigolo goes out of town, Deuce takes over his life and proceeds to try to give out some pleasure of his own.

He certainly gives no pleasure to his audience. Let me ask you something. If you were at a family reunion or something, and suddenly somebody walked in and said, “Look, everyone! Feces!”, would you roar with laughter or wonder where Uncle Frank left his medication? The reason I ask is that, as Spinal Tap so aptly put it, there’s a fine line between stupid and clever. Clever lowbrow humor is, for example, the South Park flick. Stupid lowbrow humor is this film, where it seems they merely made a list of every possible bit regarding human waste, nipples, sex, and fat women – and strung them together without bothering to ask, “Is this funny?” No, it’s not funny. I remember chuckling to myself about three times. The rest of the time I was thinking, “This got financing?”

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End of Days (1999) – Movie Review

End of Days movie poster

Written by: Andrew W. Marlowe
Directed by: Peter Hyams
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gabriel Byrne, Robin Tunney, Kevin Pollak, Rod Steiger

My Advice: Wait for cable.

Jericho Cane (Schwarzenegger) is a man with a problem. Not only is he depressed and suicidal, but he really wishes he could pull off the scene where he wants to kill himself as good as Mel Gibson did in Lethal Weapon, but he can’t–which makes him even more depressed. He only thought he was having a bad day, because his buddy and partner is Kevin Pollak, who immediately upstages him and continues to do so in pretty much every scene. To make matters worse, Satan comes to New York City looking for not only a good lay (Tunney) but also an actor worthy of playing him (Byrne), whom he promptly possesses. Then, for no particular reason, Cane and partner go to work protecting Byrne-Satan, and then leave their client and job to chase after a would-be assassin, again for no particular reason. And of course, this leads them into a world that they never knew existed—action movie hell.

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Sleepy Hollow (1999) – Movie Review

Sleepy Hollow movie poster

Written by Andrew Kevin Walker, based on a story by Andrew Kevin Walker & Kevin Yagher, which was based on the story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving
Directed by Tim Burton
Starring Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Miranda Richardson, Michael Gambon, Christopher Walken

My Advice: Matinee.

Ichabod Crane (Depp) is a constable with roots in science and logic. He really isn’t fond of his peers and supervisors with their inquisitional ways and toys. The Burgomaster (Christopher Lee), sick of Crane’s whining, sends him upstate to the town of Sleepy Hollow. Apparently, this little burg has a bit of a problem. You see, a headless Hessian soldier (Walken) appears to be still walking (and riding) around—and taking the heads of others. Crane is certain it’s all superstition, and resolves to find the earthly hand that’s causing the murders.

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The Insider (1999) – Movie Review

The Insider movie poster

Written by: Michael Mann & Eric Roth, based on the Vanity Fair article “The Man Who Knew Too Much”
Directed by: Michael Mann
Starring: Al Pacino, Russell Crowe, Christopher Plummer, Diane Venora, Philip Baker Hall

My Advice: Don’t miss it.

Dr. Jeffrey Wigand (Crowe) has information that the tobacco companies don’t want shared. Lowell Bergman (Pacino) is a 60 Minutes producer who runs across Wigand almost by accident when trying to get some scientific cigarette jargon translated into English. But Wigand is itching to tell somebody what he knows. And Bergman wants it on 60 Minutes. And the tobacco companies want Wigand to shut the hell up. Conflict ensues? You betcha.

It’s refreshing to see a film that shows as heroes people who don’t have noserings, don’t have children with seventeen women, and don’t blow things up. Those things have their place in the cinematic spectrum, but they’re workaday now. It’s just nice to see a movie about real people. And “heroes” is perhaps too strong a word, when you consider that it carries with it connotations of being better than others. The two protagonists of this film aren’t necessarily better than anyone else; they just try to do what they think is the right thing. Even the character of Mike Wallace (a fantastic Christopher Plummer), who some thought would be portrayed in a bad light, is simply portrayed in a realistic light. The flaws are all there, for everyone involved, and to see all of their motivations running rampant over one another makes for an extremely engaging film.

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Being John Malkovich (1999) – Movie Review

Being John Malkovich

Directed by Spike Jonze
Written by Charlie Kaufman
Starring John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, Catherine Keener, John Malkovich, Orson Bean

My Advice: Don’t Miss It.

Craig (Cusack) is a puppeteer in a market that won’t support his artwork. Convinced by his wife, Lotte (Diaz), a Doctor Dolittle wannabe, to go get a job, he encounters Maxine (Keener). He finds himself inexplicably drawn to Maxine, but she won’t have anything to do with him. At least, until he finds a small door in their office building that leads into…John Malkovich.

When I first wrote up a page draft on Corona for this film back in December of last year, I figured it would make a nice little art house weirdie if it ever really honestly got made. Even then, production was probably finished, but I couldn’t believe it. What I got, almost a year later, is nothing short of the strangest film I have seen, easily in a decade, possibly ever. And here’s the best part–it’s also a masterpiece. Kaufman and Jonze have managed to craft a film that throws pretty much everything up in the air: psychology, personal and sexual identity, artistic satisfaction. You name it, it’s probably in there somewhere. With plenty to offer in the way of bizarrerie–such as the offices on a building’s 7 1/2th floor to the question of what the New Jersey turnpike really means in a metaphysical sense–it’s got plenty to please those of us who are fans of the surreal yet while keeping enough farcical humor on hand to keep the “normals” in their seats.

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Fight Club (1999) – Movie Review

Fight Club movie poster

Written by: Jim Uhls, based on the novel by Chuck Palahniuk
Directed by: David Fincher
Starring: Edward Norton, Brad Pitt, Helena Bonham Carter, Meat Loaf, Jared Leto

My Advice: Don’t miss it.

The narrator (Norton) of our story has a bit of a problem. He seems to be caught in a sleepless life-crippling malaise that threatens his spiritual well-being. In other words, he can’t get no satisfaction. Out of the drab void that surrounds him steps Tyler Durden (Pitt), a very strange man who sells soap. After even stranger circumstances leave the two rooming together, Durden suggests that they, just for a lark, try pounding the shit out of each other. And they actually like it. It makes them feel alive. This thing they’ve started doing for kicks strikes a chord in other men, too, because by the time the narrator turns around they’ve got spectators, then more participants, and then Tyler starts to draw up the rules…

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Three Kings (1999) – Movie Review

Three Kings

Written and Directed by David O. Russell, based on a story by John Ridley
Starring George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube, Spike Jonze, Nora Dunn

My Advice: Matinee.

It’s Iraq, 1991, and the war is over. Soldiers cavort about, drinking and having a good time. When they are faced with an enemy soldier, they ask confusedly if they’re supposed to be shooting people at that moment. None of them have any idea why they were there to begin with, much less why they have to mollycoddle the press to try and keep them happy. However, when three soldiers find a map in an Iraqi soldier’s… ah… nethereye… they become convinced by a disgruntled Captain (Clooney) that it might be directions to a cache of stolen Kuwaiti gold. So they set out on a mission to fake their way into the bunkers, steal the gold, and get back before anybody notices. Easy, right? Right.

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American Beauty (1999) – Movie Review

American Beauty poster

Written by: Alan Ball
Directed by: Sam Mendes
Starring: Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening, Thora Birch, Wes Bentley, Mena Suvari

My Advice: Don’t miss it.

Lester (Spacey) is a man with a problem. His life sucks. He’s forty-two, he’s stuck in a marriage that is the opposite of bliss with his polyurethane wife (Bening), his daughter (Birch) thinks he is an utter loser, and his job is going absolutely nowhere. Then, he meets his daughter’s cheerleader friend Angela (Suvari), an escapee from a Nabokov novel, and the poor man becomes quite smitten. This rekindles Lester’s ambition and galvanizes him to try and find his lost youth–but the question is to what consequence?

Why didn’t I trust my legs to carry me out of the cinema when this film ended? Well, let’s start with the cast. Spacey is outstanding as the epicenter of change, and unless the running gets really crowded really quick, he’s at least got an Oscar nom nailed down–or there’s no justice in the world. Bening is forgiven for In Dreams. The supporting cast is marvelous as well, with the teens Birch, Suvari and relative newcomer Bentley holding their own support beams quite nicely. Also worth noting are Scott Bakula and Sam Robards as Team Jim from next door providing an amusing subplot, which of course leads to a damn serious subplot.

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