Tag Archives: 1997

The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997) Review

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The Lost World - Jurassic Park

Time: 129 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] contains violence & coarse language
Cast:
Jeff Goldblum as Dr. Ian Malcolm
Julianne Moore as Dr. Sarah Harding:
Pete Postlethwaite as Roland Tembo
Arliss Howard as Peter Ludlow
Richard Attenborough as Dr. John Hammond
Vince Vaughn as Nick Van Owen
Director: Steven Spielberg

John Hammond along with few other members try to explore the Jurassic Park’s second site. However, things get complicated when the dinosaurs go wild and everyone is forced to run for their lives.

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Jurassic Park became an instant classic when it released in 1993, becoming both a critical and box office success. However, all the sequels following did not seem to have been received favourably. The follow up was again directed by Spielberg, and some people viewed it as a disappointment. However I ended up really liking it, even if its not quite as good as the first movie.

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The Lost World is distinctly different from the Jurassic Park, but in a good way. The movie is larger in scope, and the concept and set up of having a different island where dinosaurs roam free was exciting. It’s a nice way to make it stand apart from having yet another dinosaur outbreak like the first Jurassic Park was. Storywise, it definitely has more flaws than the first movie, its certainly not as memorable. It also seems to have a stronger focus on excitement and thrills over its story, and leans more into being a rollar coaster ride. With that said, it succeeds as such, with some entertaining and thrilling moments. The Lost World is a darker movie than Jurassic Park, yet also manages to be sillier and on the more absurd side, so it can be tonally inconsistent at points. Characters in monster movies making bad decisions isn’t exactly an anomaly, however The Lost World has a lot more of it than Jurassic Park, and for whatever reason its more frustrating. Its probably because these people really should know better, especially Julianne Moore’s character. There’s also some moments where the plot gets a little far fetched and doesn’t make sense. There are some very silly moments that are over the top, including one involving a dinosaur being taken out by gymnastics of all things. Finally, the third act has a notable setting change that’s out of place from the rest of the movie, even though I enjoyed it.

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The cast of characters aren’t as good as the characters in the first movie, they weren’t as memorable or as interesting, and I say this even though I don’t even think the collection of characters of the first movie were all that great. However, the characters of The Lost World still work in their parts and are performed well. Jeff Goldblum was a scene stealer as Ian Malcolm in the first Jurassic Park and he returns here in a larger part, taking the lead role this time. While I do feel like he works better as a side character than a protagonist, he is still good, fun to watch and has some memorable lines. Julianne Moore, Richard Attenborough, Pete Postlethwaite, Vince Vaughn and others are good, though I will say that Moore does feel a bit underutilised, and Vaughn randomly disappears from the final act.

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Unsurprisingly, Steven Spielberg’s direction was one of the strongest parts of this movie, with strong technical elements. The cinematography is polished and energetic, it is a visually stunning movie. The majority of The Lost World is set at night, and is darker and rainier than even the first movie. The sets are grand and spectacular with some stellar production design. The visual effects and sound design are on top form too. Some of the CGI aren’t quite as strong compared to the first movie, but its nonetheless impressive, and the animatronics still hold up. The set pieces are riveting, entertaining, and very tense. Once again, Spielberg exceeds at the tension and suspense. One moment which stands out particularly is a scene where the main characters are on the edge of a cliff, it is incredibly well crafted. The deaths in The Lost World are interestingly more violent and brutal than the last movie’s, as if Spielberg was carrying over his mean streak from Temple of Doom. The score by John Williams is great as to be expected, and this time has a comparatively darker tone, fitting for this movie.

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The Lost World was a decent follow up to the first Jurassic Park. Once again, it has problems with the characters, and the writing is a bit of a mixed bag. Otherwise, the cast are pretty good, and the direction from Steven Spielberg really made it something worth watching. At the very least, The Lost World is the best of the Jurassic Park sequels.

Boogie Nights (1997) Review

BOOGIE NIGHTS, Burt Reynolds, Mark Wahlberg, 1997

Boogie Nights

Time:  155 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Violence, offensive language and sex scenes
Cast:
Mark Wahlberg as Eddie Adams/”Dirk Diggler”
Julianne Moore as Maggie/”Amber Waves”
Burt Reynolds as Jack Horner
Don Cheadle as Buck Swope
John C. Reilly as Reed Rothchild
William H. Macy as “Little” Bill Thompson
Heather Graham as Brandy/”Rollergirl”
Nicole Ari Parker as Becky Barnett
Philip Seymour Hoffman as Scotty J.
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

In the San Fernando Valley in 1977, teenage busboy Eddie Adams (Mark Wahlberg) gets discovered by porn director Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds), who transforms him into adult-film sensation Dirk Diggler. Brought into a supportive circle of friends, including fellow actors Amber Waves (Julianne Moore), Rollergirl (Heather Graham) and Reed Rothchild (John C. Reilly), Dirk fulfills all his ambitions, but a toxic combination of drugs and egotism threatens to take him back down.

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I remembered going into Boogie Nights for the first time only knowing it as “that one movie about 70s porn” and being quite surprised at how great it actually turned out to be. Having watched it a second time, I can very much say that it is one of director Paul Thomas Anderson’s best movies.

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First of all, the script from PTA is fantastic. The story is set against the backdrop of the low-rent machinery of the adult film industry, and it was quite interesting to watch. Boogie Nights is known as that one movie about porn, and while porn that plays a notable part in the plot and the characters are involved with it, it’s not essentially at the core what the film is about. Essentially it is a story about fame, its highlights but also the downsides of fame, and how it doesn’t last. The story starts off in the 70s, in which you see the more extravagant and outlandish side of the business. However halfway through, it moves to the 80s, and there’s a distinct tonal shift. Everyone’s depressed and drugged up, and it’s a much darker look at life. The characters are trying to make normal livings for themselves, but their pasts are lingering over them and makes things difficult for them. The transition from the light hearted high on life and fast paced comedy to the emotional, serious and dark drama is done greatly, and doesn’t feel tonally inconsistent, you can tell it is still very much the same movie. Something that benefits this movie is the memorable and well-developed characters, who really shine. It’s also a very entertaining movie, there’s some good humour throughout much of it, there’s a lot of quotable dialogue, and it’s quite fun to watch. Despite the very long length of 2 hours and 30 minutes long, the script is very tight and not a single scene is wasted.

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This movie contains a strong ensemble cast, and each of them deliver masterful performances. First of all, Mark Wahlberg gives a career best performance as the lead character of Eddie Adams/Dirk Diggler. Wahlberg did great at portraying the up and coming star in this movie, over the top when he needed to be, and also grounded in the more serious moments. The supporting cast are fantastic too, with the standouts being Julianne Moore, Burt Reynolds, John C. Reilly, Don Cheadle and Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Even some of the actors who are only in a few scenes make an impression, Alfred Molina for example is very memorable in his scene later in the movie. All the actors had great and believable chemistry together, with Wahlberg and Reynolds really sticking out for me.

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Paul Thomas Anderson already showed himself a confident director with his debut film Hard Eight, and his work here is even stronger, it is astonishing on a technical level. The cinematography is amazing, the camera movement is quick and feels alive in this movie, especially during its numerous long tracking shots. Every scene is shot to perfection, feeling so electric it was hard to not be engaged. That paired with the exceptional editing really made it quite an experience to watch. The 70s and 80s were captured perfectly in this film from the environments and costumes to the music. Speaking of which, the soundtrack was phenomenal and the songs were utilised very well in the scenes.

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Boogie Nights is an incredibly well made movie on just about every level. The story was engaging and entertaining, the characters were memorable and well acted, and the direction was phenomenal. If you haven’t seen it already, it’s definitely worth checking out.

Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) Review

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Tomorrow Never Dies

Time: 138 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Low level violence
Cast:
Pierce Brosnan as James Bond
Jonathan Pryce as Elliot Carver
Michelle Yeoh as Colonel Wai Lin
Teri Hatcher as Paris Carver
Joe Don Baker as Jack Wade
Judi Dench as M
Director: Roger Spottiswoode

James Bond (Pierce Brosnan), an undercover agent, sets out to prevent a media baron, Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce), from waging a war between China and the United Kingdom after he is summoned by the Secret Intelligence Service.

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Of the pre-Craig James Bond movies, I remember watching Tomorrow Never Dies the most when I was younger. So during my rewatches of the Bond films, I was interested to see if it would hold up today. I know that Pierce Brosnan’s Bond movies not titled GoldenEye get a bad wrap, but I had a good feeling about this one, and I actually enjoyed TND quite a lot despite its faults.

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A big benefit to Tomorrow Never Dies is that for me, its entertaining consistently throughout, from its thrilling opening pre-title sequence to the climax. It’s all helped by swift pacing and an overall fun story. I actually found the plot more engaging than GoldenEye’s. It amps up the cheesiness for sure, it does play like a 90s action flick, but it stayed mostly consistent. It does have a campy and ridiculous script, but I enjoyed it for that. I also liked the main concept of the film and found it interesting, with the focus being the media. Despite the silly script, some of the ideas presented about the media are still relevant today, especially with the concept of fake news. In some ways, Tomorrow Never Dies has aged pretty well despite being firmly in the 90s. I do feel like they could’ve done more with this concept however. In some ways the weakest part is the third act, I still had fun with it but it’s a little overstuffed. It’s also where Tomorrow Never Dies reaches pure 90s action, and its for better and for worse.

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I remember feeling a bit mixed on Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in GoldenEye, I thought he was very charismatic and good in the action scenes, but I never really connected with him beyond that, and he felt like he was missing something. I actually do like Brosnan more in this movie however, he does feel more comfortable in the role here. Bond unfortunately at this point in the Brosnan movies still doesn’t feel like a fully realised character. However compared to GoldenEye I think he’s getting closer to it, and it does help that he has something of an emotional drive in this film. Michelle Yeoh was also a great addition as Mai Lin, a Chinese spy and the main Bond girl of Tomorrow Never Dies. Her character isn’t given a lot of depth, but Yeoh does a lot here. She’s very capable and does a lot of action, overshadowing Brosnan many times. There’s also the media mogul Elliot Carver played by Jonathan Pryce, the main villain of the film. I know not everyone really likes him, but I really enjoyed this character. He’s certainly one of the most memorable and unique Bond villains, and one of the most realistic at least in concept. It’s like if Rupert Murdoch was a Bond villain. It certainly helps the Pryce looks like he’s having an absolute blast playing this, he’s gleefully enjoyable and over the top, and it just wouldn’t have worked this well without him.

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Roger Spottiswoode directs Tomorrow Never Dies, and on the whole I thought his work was good. It’s sleek, stylish and it has some entertaining action. The cinematography from Robert Elswitt was solid, it’s a very well shot movie. The action sequences are well crafted and shot, it’s easy to tell what’s going on and its consistently fun to watch. Most of the action is something you’d see in a typical 90s action movie but as that it works. The action in the climax could’ve been toned down a little and been less by the numbers but even that was enjoyable. I really enjoyed the gadgets, especially with an action scene involving a BMW with remote control capabilities. I don’t think the action doesn’t reach some of the heights of GoldenEye but is nonetheless impressive. Instead of the divisive synth score from GoldenEye, there is a more traditional score from David Arnold, which I think fits the film very well.

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Tomorrow Never Dies is one of the more underrated Bond movies. The action is entertaining, I liked the cast in their roles, and the story works is enjoyable. I do have issues with it but on a pure entertainment level it does the job. I can see why I watched this movie a lot when I was younger. I know it is definitely a minority opinion, but it is my favourite movie from Brosnan as Bond. GoldenEye had higher highs especially with the action, but I felt mixed on the moments between the action scenes, especially with the plot. However, I was consistently entertained by Tomorrow Never Dies, and as far as the Bond films go, it’s on the better half for me.

Funny Games (1997) Review

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Funny Games 1997

Time: 108 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] 
Cast:
Susanne Lothar as Anna
Ulrich Mühe as Georg
Stefan Clapczynski as Georg Jr. (Georgie)
Arno Frisch as Paul
Frank Giering as Peter
Director: Michael Haneke

An idyllic lakeside vacation home is terrorized by Paul (Arno Frisch) and Peter (Frank Giering), a pair of deeply disturbed young men. When the fearful Anna (Susanne Lothar) is home alone, the two men drop by for a visit that quickly turns violent and terrifying. Husband Georg (Ulrich Mühe) comes to her rescue, but Paul and Peter take the family hostage and subject them to nightmarish abuse and humiliation.

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I heard about both Funny Games movies (original and remake), and had been meaning to watch them for some time. All I knew was the main plot of both movies, and that they were both home invasion movies. I checked out the original and while I can’t say that I loved it, it’s certainly an impactful and well-made movie.

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The plot is simple enough, family of three is held hostage by two young men and tormented. Funny Games is a pretty dark home invasion horror thriller that is certainly more on the psychological side and doesn’t rely on a lot of graphic violence. While the movie can contain some realistic and hard hitting violence, those moments are deliberately shown offscreen. It’s more awkward than violent if anything. The movie is meant to be a commentary on violence, especially violence in the media. There’s some notable fourth wall breaking scenes, especially involving Arno Frisch’s character, which I guess are done to really involve the viewer in what’s happening. It asks about whether the viewers play a role in the violence that occurs. The atmosphere is quite tense and there’s a real sense of dread throughout. It’s a very cold movie, which is intentional and meant to be that way, however that did end up affecting the movie in a negative way somewhat. The movie is 109 minutes long and admittedly it did lose me 2 thirds of the way through. It became a bit tiring to watch, and while I think that might’ve been the intention, it’s not in the “super disturbed and wanting the movie to end” way. That coldness mentioned earlier played a part too, I just wondered what the point of watching was, no doubt the intention. Not to mention the movie did feel dragged out. And also to just put it bluntly, it’s not a movie that you enjoy watching, even before the movie sort of lost me. I can’t exactly say that this is a criticism since it was no doubt its goal, but I thought I should mention that.

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One of the strongest parts of the movie was the acting, which was great from everyone involved. The family are played by Susanne Lothar, Ulric Muhe and Stefan Clapczynski, and the two young men who are invading them are played by Arno Frisch and Frank Giering. They do feel very natural and so that made the performances feel all the more real. We really don’t get any character development or learn about these characters, though I’m assuming that was another deliberate choice from Haneke.

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Funny Games is directed well by Michael Haneke, a lot of the decisions made were definitely very deliberate and purposeful, the previously mentioned decision of not showing the violence on screen being an example. The technical aspects are great, giving an uneasy atmosphere throughout. There are a lot of long single-take shots to bring in an unsettling vibe, and there are some images which really stick with you. The isolated location also helps to make it more unnerving and also feel more real.

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Funny Games is not for everyone, it’s a bit cold and tough to sit through. I’ll say that it’s worth a watch for those interested in it though, with the great direction and acting, and it was somewhat fascinating to watch if nothing else. I heard the American remake by Haneke is pretty much a shot by shot remake of this film, so it’ll be interesting to see if there are any differences at all between the two versions outside of one being in English.

Perfect Blue (1997) Review

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Perfect Blue

Time: 81 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Contains violence.
Voice Cast:
Junko Iwao as Mima Kirigoe
Rica Matsumoto as Rumi 
Shiho Niiyama as Rei
Masaaki Okura as Mamoru Uchida
Shinpachi Tsuji as Tadokoro
Emiko Furukawa as Yukiko
Director: Satoshi Kon

A pop singer gives up her career to become an actress, but she slowly goes insane when she starts being stalked by an obsessed fan and what seems to be a ghost of her past.

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I had heard about Perfect Blue for a while. I knew of it as an anime psychological horror, and I had also heard that Black Swan seemed to have taken a lot of influence from it. It ended up being one of the first animes I had saw, and it was pretty great. I went in with high expectations, but Perfect Blue managed to exceed them and then some. It’s a stunning film across the board, so incredibly well made.

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I won’t go into too much detail about the plot as its better to go into it blind. Perfect Blue is pretty short as a movie, at around an hour and 20 minutes long. There’s a lot going on in this story despite its simplistic plot and length, while not feeling rushed at all. It felt like 2 hours for all the tension it managed to build in such a quick time, and there is hardly any filler in the plot, always making the right twists and turns at the exact right time. Perfect Blue has a highly engaging and gripping story, and it’s difficult to guess where it will go next. It’s paced incredibly well, and there’s tension throughout, which only grows as the movie progresses. As time goes, on the story becomes more fascinating, and even scary at times. I have to say that this is probably one of the most terrifying and haunting films I’ve seen. There are disturbing scenes for sure, and some scenes are graphic and hard to watch. But it’s especially the psychological narrative and how it messes with the viewer’s perception that really got to me. It really is a multi-layered descent into madness, and the POV leaves the audience just as lost as the main character as she tries to get a grasp of reality. Delusions and reality become one and the same, and so many scenes felt like it’s they’re a dream with a dream. There are plenty of times where you aren’t certain that what you’re watching is actually reality or not. It completely messes with your mind and it’s not what you expect. With that, Perfect Blue no doubt probably benefits from further viewings when you actually know what’s happening, but the first viewing is one unforgettable experience. It’s not only just a movie aiming to mess with the audience and be disturbing however, it’s layered and complex and really packs a lot into it (again surprising considering the runtime). It’s an unsettling, horrific and thought provoking story about stardom and fame, and the prices that come with that. There’s plenty of social commentary on the media, celebrity obsession, and even the internet. Yes, it was made in the late 90s but much of it is still relevant to this day. It’s also a look at the sacrifice one has to make for a performance, which leads the protagonist into a psychological downward spiral.

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I really liked the direction from Satoshi Kon, his work here is fantastic. The animation is flawless and I can’t imagine this film working nearly as well as a live action movie, which really does speak to how well made it is. All the details within the drawings are as beautiful as ever. Usually, anime is used to exaggerate detail and actions, but the world of Perfect Blue is seemingly mundane and realistic, with some anime style aspects appearing in subtle ways. Additionally, it does such a flawless job at blurring the lines between delusion and reality without ever becoming incohesive or messy or breaking you out of your engagement.

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Perfect Blue is a really great, complex and disturbing psychological thriller, incredibly made on all fronts. I do want to revisit it sometime, because I think I can probably get more out of it from repeat viewings. Honestly even if you don’t think you like anime, I still highly recommend watching it as soon as you can, it really is an example of an anime that transcends its medium.

Mimic: Director’s Cut (1997) Review

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Mimic

Time: 112 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Mira Sorvino as Dr. Susan Tyler
Jeremy Northam as Dr. Peter Mann
Josh Brolin as Josh Maslow
Charles S. Dutton as Officer Leonard Norton
Giancarlo Giannini as Manny Gavoila
F. Murray Abraham as Dr. Gates
Director: Guillermo del Toro

A disease carried by common cockroaches is killing Manhattan children. In an effort to stop the epidemic, an entomologist, Susan Tyler (Mira Sorvino), creates a mutant breed of insect that secrets a fluid to kill the roaches. This mutant breed was engineered to die after one generation, but three years later Susan finds out that the species has survived and evolved into a large, gruesome monster that can mimic human form.

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I was watching Mimic to complete Guillermo Del Toro’s filmography, which from what I had heard prior to seeing it, it’s been generally known as his worst movie, mostly because of studio interference from the Weinsteins. With that said, I heard that the director’s cut was a pretty good movie, and having seen it now, I agree with this (at least with that version). It is definitely a step below most of Del Toro’s other movies, but as a 90s B movie monster flick, with his direction, and some of the acting, it was quite a lot of fun.

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I watched the director’s cut of Mimic, and if you are going to watch this movie, this is the version that you should watch. The script isn’t anything special, it’s not exactly unpredictable, and is pretty by the numbers and typical of a monster horror movie with giant bugs. At its core, Mimic feels like a studio film, more so than a Guillermo Del Toro film (despite it being a horror movie with creatures and monsters). However, the movie moves at a fast enough pace, and works at its length of over an hour and 45 minutes long. It was entertaining and thrilling for its runtime, and I enjoyed watching it quite a bit.

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The cast do work reasonably well in their roles, even if those characters aren’t particularly well written or developed. Mira Sorvino is in the lead role and she’s pretty great on her part. Other actors in the movie including Jeremy Northam, Charles S. Dutton, Giancarlo Giannini, F. Murray Abraham and even a younger Josh Brolin in one of his earlier film appearances also give some good performances.

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This being his second feature film (after Cronos), Guillermo Del Toro does pretty well for his first English language movie. Again, this is in the director’s cut and no doubt it is much different in the theatrical cut. In the version I saw however, it was directed quite well, and in fact that added a lot to the film. I love the dark and grimy look that it has throughout, it’s got such an effective and creepy atmosphere, and the production designs and locations are great for the film. The biggest problem with the direction is that there are some pretty cheap and basic jumpscares, and I’m willing to bet that a large amount of the forced scares were because of the Weinsteins. The bug creatures are pretty effective and threatening, mainly with their designs and how they act. With this movie being over 2 decades old, some of the effects don’t really hold up so well, but for a movie from the late 90s, it is serviceable for its time.

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Mimic is an entertaining creature feature, that’s not particularly original or great, and it had its issues, but it was actually pretty decent, and was particularly elevated by the direction by Guillermo Del Toro. This is by far Del Toro’s worst movie, but that says quite a lot for the quality of his filmography, given that I thought that the director’s cut was pretty good. It’s definitely worth checking out.

Kundun (1997) Review

Time: 134 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast:
Tenzin Thuthob Tsarong as the Dalai Lama (Adult)
Gyurme Tethong as the Dalai Lama (Age 12)
Tulku Jamyang Kunga Tenzin as the Dalai Lama (Age 5)
Tenzin Yeshi Paichang as the Dalai Lama (Age 2)
Director: Martin Scorsese

In 1937, a two-and-a-half year old boy from a simple family in Tibet was recognized as the 14th reincarnation of the Buddha of Compassion, and destined to become the spiritual and political leader of his people. Director Martin Scorsese brings to the screen the true story of the Dalai Lama. Told through the eyes of His Holiness, “Kundun” brings to life the account of the Dalai Lama’s early life, from childhood through the Chinese invasion of Tibet and his journey into exile.

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Kundun was the remaining Martin Scorsese movie that I hadn’t seen yet (with the exception of The Irishman), and I didn’t really know what to expect from it. All I knew about the movie was that it was about the Dalai Lama and that it caused Scorsese and some other people who worked on the movie to get banned from China. When it comes to his filmography, Kundun isn’t really brought up often, and it’s a shame because it should be talked about more, it’s really good.

As someone who doesn’t know anything about the Dalai Lama, I found the movie to be quite interesting throughout. It’s also worth noting is that screenwriter Melissa Mathison wrote this movie with her interviews with the real Dalai Lama becoming the basis of the script. So if you’re wondering about accuracy, there you go. I will admit that I wasn’t totally on board with the movie from the beginning, but it got better after the first half an hour or so and I was reasonably invested throughout. It’s a long movie at 2 hours and 15 minutes, and while you do feel that length, after the early section of the movie I didn’t find it to drag often. Someone described this movie as being made of episodes, not a plot, and that’s an apt description. It’s a little loose with the plot and is basically telling about the Dalai Lama’s real life without much of a structure, but it’s not a problem if you’re invested or interested in what’s going on.

None of the cast here are professional or known actors, but they definitely played their roles well. They all fit in very well into their roles with no one really seeming out of place (though some of the much younger actors struggle a little but you can look past them). The only thing that’s a little distracting is that everyone here mainly speaks English and I wasn’t really expecting that, nonetheless you get used to it after a while.

This is one of Martin Scorsese’s most different movie, and he did well at changing his filmmaking style, his work here is excellent and underappreciated. The production design, costumes and everything in that area was just right for the movie. Thelma Schoonmaker’s editing here is among her best work, and that’s really saying a lot. Roger Deakins’s cinematography as usual is fantastic, this is such a gorgeous looking movie, with the entire film looking like a painting. In the opening credits I recognised Philip Glass’s name for his work on the Candyman score, and that score is amongst the most distinct horror themes I’ve heard. So I knew that he’d deliver something spectacular with Kundun’s score and he definitely does. It’s really large and epic, and really complements the cinematography perfectly. These 4 aspects work perfectly towards the finale in such a tremendous way, probably the highlight moment of the film, and that’s saying a lot.

Kundun is probably one of Scorsese’s lesser known movies, but it should be seen just like the rest of them. The actors play their parts well and it’s an interesting story for sure, but it’s even worth seeing just for the technical masterclass that’s on display, with Scorsese, Schoonmaker, Deakins and Glass really creating something special. Definitely a movie worth checking out.

Jackie Brown (1997) Review

Time: 154 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Violence, offensive language and sex scenes
Cast:
Pam Grier as Jackie Brown
Samuel L. Jackson as Ordell Robbie
Robert Forster as Max Cherry
Bridget Fonda as Melanie Ralston
Michael Keaton as Ray Nicolette
Robert De Niro as Louis Gara
Director: Quentin Tarantino

When flight attendant Jackie Brown (Pam Grier) is busted smuggling money for her arms dealer boss, Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson), agent Ray Nicolette (Michael Keaton) and detective Mark Dargus (Michael Bowen) want her help to bring down Robbie. Facing jail time for her silence or death for her cooperation, Brown decides instead to double-cross both parties and make off with the smuggled money. Meanwhile, she enlists the help of bondsman Max Cherry (Robert Forster), a man who loves her.

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Jackie Brown is typically known by most as one of the weaker Quentin Tarantino movies. It’s such an odd movie for him to make, but after the unbelievable success of Pulp Fiction, he wanted to try something very different. When I saw it for the first time, I didn’t know what to think, it was fine and I didn’t dislike it by any means, it’s just that compared to his other movies, it just wasn’t on that same level. I wanted to watch it again to be sure of how I felt about it, and thankfully I liked it a lot more than I did before.

Jackie Brown is the only script by Tarantino that’s not completely original, as he’s adapting an Elmore Leonard’s book titled Rum Punch. I’ve never read the book myself or looked up the similarities and differences between the two, but Quentin no doubt made the movie its own thing. Jackie Brown is a much more lowkey and subtle movie compared to his others. While his movies are generally better experienced when you are actually fully focussed on it, you actually really need to pay attention to everything that’s going on with this movie, it’s very much story driven. It’s surprisingly a noir movie, with the characters, the slow pacing, and the way a lot of the plot points are set up. The dialogue is pure Tarantino, making most of the main characters as 3 dimensional as possible. As far as writing for characters go, this is one of his best. There are a lot of details and subtleties that make the movie one that you have to be fully paying attention to. The movie is 2 hours and a half long and it can drag a little bit towards the middle, but not enough to make the experience tedious (unless you’re expecting a much more flashy and fast paced movie).

There’s a pretty talented cast in Jackie Brown, and they all do a good job with it. Pam Grier is in the lead role of the titular character and she was really great at really brining this character to life, seemed to be a perfect casting choice considering how Jackie Brown is definitely paying homage to a lot of Blaxploitation movies. Robert Forster was one of the standouts, with him and Grier sharing some great chemistry, among the highlights of the film. This is probably one of Samuel L. Jackson’s most overlooked roles as an arms dealer, looking at the dialogue it really seemed like a role that Tarantino specifically wrote for Jackson (in fact at certain points I think he went overboard). While you get the feeling that Tarantino didn’t really take advantage of Robert de Niro as much as he could’ve, he acts here like he hasn’t before, it’s such a lowkey and different performance from him. Other supporting players like Michael Keaton and Bridget Fonda also work well in their roles.

Quentin Tarantino’s direction is also quite lowkey, yet from his style and cinematography you can still tell that it’s his movie, it’s just not as flashy as you’d expect it to be. Some people might accuse him of often having ‘style over substance’ (a very flawed criticism in general I find), but I’m not quite sure how you’d be able to say that about Jackie Brown. Unlike most of his movies, there really isn’t much violence, and when it is present it’s about as graphic as those typically seen in a PG-13/M rated movie. The music is also great, Tarantino typically finds a solid line-up of songs for the movie, Jackie Brown’s is among his best soundtracks for his films, and that’s saying a lot.

Jackie Brown may not rank among Quentin Tarantino’s all time best movies, but is still very solid. The performances from the large cast are good, and Tarantino’s direction and more story-driven script make it all work. Even if you generally don’t like Tarantino’s movies, I’d recommend checking it out, for some it’s even considered to be his best film.

Men in Black (1997) Review

Time: 98 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence and offensive language
Cast:
Tommy Lee Jones as Kevin Brown/Agent K
Will Smith as James Darrell Edwards III/Agent J
Linda Fiorentino as Dr. Laurel Weaver/Agent L
Vincent D’Onofrio as a giant alien insect
Rip Torn as Chief Zed
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld

They are the best-kept secret in the universe. Working for a highly funded yet unofficial government agency, Kay (Tommy Lee Jones) and Jay (Will Smith) are the Men in Black, providers of immigration services and regulators of all things alien on Earth. While investigating a series of unregistered close encounters, the MIB agents uncover the deadly plot of an intergalactic terrorist who is on a mission to assassinate two ambassadors from opposing galaxies currently in residence in New York City.

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With Men in Black International coming soon, I wanted to check out the original trilogy at the very least. I know for sure that I watched the trilogy at least once, but it was many years ago, and so I wanted to see how I felt about it nowadays. I’m surprised at how good it still is, it was pretty entertaining and you can definitely see why it was such a surprise hit when it came out.

You can even tell in some aspects of the writing that Men in Black is a little dated but nonetheless is still quite fun. It’s under an hour and 40 minutes which is really the perfect length for the movie. Not only that, but they keep the movie moving at a pretty good pace, never allowing for a dull moment. Some of the movie sounds insane and weird on paper but they managed to pull it off well. The plot itself isn’t anything special despite this, with it being about aliens trying to take over the world and a secret organisation trying to prevent this. However, you can consider that in the late 90s, this was such an strange yet original idea, and plenty of other films would proceed to take inspiration from and copy it.

Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones lead the movie and they do it well. As decent as the rest of the movie is, it wouldn’t have worked as well without the two of them, undeniably the highlight of the movie. Probably the biggest surprise was how good Tommy Lee Jones was here. It’s very rare to see him in a comedy but he plays the role very well and his deadpan delivery works perfectly. Will Smith is in his prime in this movie and as you can expect is just great, stealing the show. Both of them played off each other really well and their dynamic is really the driving force of the movie. As great as the cast of Men in Black International is, I can already tell that it’s going to be missing that very entertaining duo. Vincent D’Onofrio is the villain and it certainly isn’t a performance you’ve seen him give outside of this role. He does really well at playing an alien loosely wearing human skin and trying to pass off as a human (which he is). It’s a bizarre performance for sure, but it somehow works amongst the movie’s occasionally strange tone. Not much to say about the rest of the cast, they play their roles fine but don’t particularly stand out.

I’m not too familiar with director Barry Sonnenfeld’s work, I’ve seen Get Shorty and the other two Men in Black movies but that’s it. His work on this first Men in Black movie was good though. Some of the effects still work today, some of the other effects really haven’t held up well but even those work in a 90s blockbuster way. You can tell that even some of the worse effects were probably impressive in the late 90s. The practical effects and makeup was good and the alien designs were very creative and great overall.

Men in Black is by no means one of the best sci-fi films, not even when it comes to just those released in the 90s. However, I had a lot of fun with it, even the dated aspects have some enjoyment to them, and Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones are great. If you haven’t checked it out, I do recommend giving it a go, it’s definitely worth a watch.

Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997) Review

Time: 95 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Robin Shou as Liu Kang
Talisa Soto as Kitana
Chris Conrad as Johnny Cage
Brian Thompson as Shao Kahn
Sandra Hess as Sonya Blade
Irina Pantaeva as Jade
James Remar as Raiden
Lynn “Red” Williams as Jax
Musetta Vander as Sindel
Marjean Holden as Sheeva
Reiner Schöne as Shinnok
Litefoot as Nightwolf
Deron McBee as Motaro
Director: John R. Leonetti

Every generation, a portal opens up between the Outerworld and Earth. Emperor Shao-Kahn (Brian Thompson), ruler of the mythical Outerworld, pounces the moment the portal reopens and slips through with his mighty warriors, intent on total domination and uniting the two worlds. However, he has only seven days to complete his task. In the meantime, opposition grows and warriors Sonya Blade (Sandra Hess), Jax (Lynn “Red” Williams), Kitana (Talisa Soto) and Liu Kang (Robin Shou) get ready for war.

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The first Mortal Kombat was one of the best video game movies, it was simple and goofy but entertaining enough. With that said, it wasn’t really that good of a movie. The ending of Mortal Kombat set up for a sequel and 2 years later, we got Mortal Kombat Annihilation. Somehow Annihilation dropped to a much lower level, and I mean absolutely embarrassingly bad, somehow they just made an okay movie based on Mortal Kombat and they couldn’t even just repeat what the first did. However, I’m glad that we have this movie because it is incredibly entertaining in how it gets literally everything wrong.

Mortal Kombat: Annihilation’s story is very generic and lazy, in fact it can barely be called a story. The first movie did vaguely have a story, even though it was really an excuse for fight scenes but it’s even less existent with Annihilation. It’s really not worth thinking about the story, its barely there and when you pay attention to what’s going on, it doesn’t make much sense. There are many scenes showing off Shao Khan’s (the villain) big army but by the end there’s like no one left except him. The dialogue is hilariously awful, now the first movie had some cheesy and bad dialogue but Annihilation takes it to a whole new level. From the point when you hear Sindel say “Too bad YOU….. WILL DIE!”, you know what kind of movie you’re in. There is so much exposition throughout the movie, there’s a fight scene, Raiden fills the characters in, then repeat. One of the criticisms of the first movie was that there were a bit too many characters. Annihilation decided to have even more characters, so you just lose track of the characters and their goals. Again, best not to think too much about what is going on. There is more fan service than in the first movie, with characters like Cyrax and Sheeva being here to serve no more than a minute doing things.

All the acting in this movie is bad. It’s worth noting that most of the cast from the first movie don’t reprise their roles, only Robin Shou (Liu Kang) and Talisa Soto (Kitana) return. Everyone else is replaced, Johnny Cage is played by Chris Conrad, Sonya Blade is played by Sandra Hess and Raiden is played by James Remar. You really feel the lack of Christopher Lambert in the role of Raiden, he was one of the best parts of the first movie, especially when it came to the acting. Raiden is also pretty useless in this movie, particularly in the third act. Other characters introduced are Irina Pantaeva as Jade, Lynn Williams as Jax, and Litefoot as Nightwolf who added nothing to the movie, unless you are die hard fans of these characters. The villains are also terrible. Shao Khan is a really over the top and goofy villain, who does pretty much all the generic villain things, killing his henchman, declaring that he will rule the world, the usual. At least he’s having a ton of fun hammy his role up. Also bad is Sindel played by Musetta Vander, also rather over the top. The casting of Sindel is really odd, considering that Vander is only like 4 years older than Talisa Soto who plays her daughter Kitana. Not that it’s one of the worst parts of the movie though, this is incredibly minor in comparison to everything else.

It’s not often that I would say this but this movie is missing Paul W.S. Anderson’s direction. At $30 million it has a higher budget than the first Mortal Kombat by $12 million and watching this movie I’m not sure where all that money went because this looks like one of the cheapest movies ever, it doesn’t even look like it has a budget of half a million. This movie looks so cheap that it straight up reused the opening animation of the first movie (and just added Annihilation to the title when it comes up). Saying that the CGI looks really fake would be underselling it, despite the budget being over twice that over the original, the visual effects have taken a complete downgrade and are just horrendous. The third act has quite possibly the worst CGI effects I have ever seen in a movie, its two monsters fighting and it’s absolutely abysmal, even if it was released in the 70s instead of the 90s it wouldn’t be acceptable. Even the green screen background parts are terrible, you can even see the white outlines around the actors. There are occasionally some actual practical backgrounds but they don’t last for long. So the effects are terrible but you’d think that maybe the action would be able to make up for it, nothing could be further from the truth. Not even the action is competent, it’s one of those action movies where the action always cuts at just the right moment when something dangerous or difficult could happen, so there are so many cuts in every fight scene. The camera work is terrible, there’s even one moment when a character wrestles with the camera to act like something is fighting him because they didn’t have the budget to actually show the other person. There’s also for some reason so many flips in this movie, and so many moments when the actors are clearly on wires, it’s like you’re watching a puppet show instead of an actual movie. With all that said, everything I just mentioned can still be very entertaining, for how incompetent and poorly made the movie is. However, if you’re trying to enjoy the movie the same way you might’ve enjoyed the first movie, you’re probably not going to have fun with it (at least in that same way).

Whereas the first Mortal Kombat is kind of enjoyable and (for lack of a better term) a guilty pleasure, this is a complete disasterpiece. Pretty much everything is awful in this movie, the lazy ‘story’, the acting, the poor action and the abysmal special effects. It’s so unintentionally incompetent and its hilarious and entertaining for it. If you can be entertained by some poorly done movies, I think you’ll have a lot of fun with it, especially if you had fun with the first Mortal Kombat movie.