Daddy-O's 1999 Movie Reviews


The Hudsucker Proxy
When Waring Hudsucker, founder of the incredibly successful Hudsucker Industries, unexpectedly merges with the Infinite, a mail room flunky and would-be Idea Man is suddenly made president of the company. Can his idea for an extruded plastic dingus ("You know, for kids!") save the suddenly foundering Blue Chip giant? Set on New Year's Eve in 1958 (and made in 1994), this surreal tale of turmoil at a major corporation is my favorite of the many fine films by Joel and Ethan Coen.

Edward Scissorhands
I'm a guy who's not afraid to cry during a movie. In fact, I've cried at many a film, and I consider it a sign of good storytelling when a movie makes me weep. And for some reason, this odd Tim Burton film from 1990 moved me to tears like few others have. I know it sounds implausible, that a surreal Christmas tale about an artificial man with scissors instead of hands could provide a such a moving experience, but for me at least, it did. I get choked up just thinking about the ending, when the origin of snow is revealed.

The Doors
I've never been much of a Doors fan, but I thought perhaps seeing this film would help me get into their music. Now I'm even less of a Doors fan. Jim Morrison was a jerk.

Toy Story 2
Another rare example of a sequel that's actually better than the original. It's great stuff: hilarious, exciting, and even bittersweet. Plus it has a subliminal advertisment for one of our products... at one point, the toys are seen playing cards with what appears to be a 53 Spades deck. But Alison raised a very good question: if Woody is actually a rare collectible toy from 1957, why doesn't he have any memories of his previous owners?

Being John Malkovich
This is an outstanding piece of surreal storytelling, set in exactly the sort of slightly-twisted alter-reality that I really dig. It's so wonderfully weird that I don't even want to try summarizing the plot - I couldn't do it justice. I just wish this brilliant story hadn't been wasted on such an unpleasant and unlikeable bunch of characters... most everybody in this film is dishonest, manipulative, mean, or rude. Nevertheless, this is the most thought-provoking film I've seen in ages; I'm still reeling from the mental punch it delivered.

Young Frankenstein
This classic send-up of the classic monster movie is quite possibly Mel Brooks' best film (even though - or perhaps because - he stayed behind the camera on this one). Gene Wilder plays Frankenstein's grandson, who inherits the castle and picks up where grandpa left off. It's a quote-master's must-see, and is required viewing for all Teri Garr fans as well.

Fahrenheit 451
Ever since the night many years ago, when I stayed up to watch this classic on the late late show with my brother Rash, one of my standard interview questions has been this: If book prohibition ever became a reality, what book would you want to memorize for the benefit of future generations? A new version of this Ray Bradbury masterpiece is currently in production (with Mel Gibson), so I recommend seeing the undoubtedly superior 1966 version (directed by François Truffaut) right now, before images from the new release taint your impression of the forerunner.

This visual effects-laden thrill-ride about an African safari board game with real-world consequences is loosely based on a children's book, by Chris Van Allsburg. As usual, the book is better than the film, but in this case, not by much.

The Nightmare Before Xmas
This stunningly animated tale of the hostile takeover of Christmas by the folks who bring us Halloween is best watched in early November, when the Halloween spirit hasn't quite faded and the Christmas spirit is just starting to emerge from hibernation. I just wish it didn't have quite so many sappy songs.

12 Angry Men
Henry Fonda stands alone against 11 fellow jurors when he feels there's reasonable doubt in the murder trial of an 18 year old inner city youth. It's a fine example of how one man, arguing with sense, logic, and cool persistance, can win an argument even in the face of overwhelming odds.

Fantastic Planet
The best way I can think of to describe this amazing animated science fiction story (a French-Czech film from 1973) is as a combination of Battlefield Earth and the Codex Seraphinianus. It tells the story of Ter, a human orphan who grows up as little girl's pet on the incredibly strange planet where gigantic blue aliens are dominant and humans live in the wild.

Rapa Nui
Ever wonder what became of the people who built the giant stone heads on Easter Island, and how and why they did it? This historical drama from 1994 takes place 300 years ago, on the isolated tropical isle of Rapa Nui, long before it was discovered and renamed by the western world. Not only does it provides answers to these questions, but it also has a lot to say about the futility of religious zeal, the dangers of overpopulation, and the folly of reckless consumption (messages our own culture should probably be paying more attention to).

Animal Farm
With modern special effects technology, it's now possible to depict virtually anything, including Orwell's classic novel of animal revolution. TNT's new adaptation seemed very authentic to me (although it's been almost a decade since I read the original). But where were the cats?

Yellow Submarine
The newly remastered version looks great and sounds even better, and the restoration of missing scenes was particularly exciting to someone who's seen this film as many times as I have. What's more, we had the rare privilege of seeing it at the Senator, a classic movie palace in Baltimore, one of just seven theaters around the country that was showing the re-release in a special limited engagement. It was really great seeing it on the big screen again, particularly with the enthusiastic crowd that attended.

Back to the Future Part 3
Like Return of the Jedi, the closer is the weakest of the 3 films, but unlike RotJ, BttF3 is quite satisfying. And it co-stars Mary Steenburgen, who last traveled through time with Malcolm McDowell in Time after Time. Oddly enough, both of these adventures involved the destination date of November 5th, which just happens to be my birthday. Perhaps this is why I'm so time travel obsessed.

Back to the Future Part 2
Rare indeed is the sequel that's half as good as the original, but this is a case where Part 2 was actually the best in the series. (It may even be the best time travel movie ever made.) The intricate plot features a dazzling trip into the future, a return to a present day (i.e. 1985) made radically different by timestream meddling, and a timeline repair mission that takes place during the events of the first movie. Great stuff! And it's the only film I've ever seen that included a preview for its own sequel at the end: a true glimpse of the future.

Planet of the Apes
I used to think I'd seen this film, even though I never actually had. I'd seen clips and sequels aplenty, but never the original. Now I wish I'd seen nothing else, and that I could have seen this film with no prior knowledge of its content. The numerous sequels it has spawned have served only to cheapen, weaken, and distract from the brilliance of the original.

After Hours
This surreal tale of a hapless word processor who staggers from one bizarre mishap to the next through the course a single night in New York City was an inspiration for me during my early writing efforts. Later, I found out that parts of the storyline were stolen from a radio show entitled "Work In Progress," by another of my major influences, Joe Frank. Oddly enough, the material in question came from "Lies", the same episode that ends with the bit about the Nightwatchman that first piqued my interest in Joe's work.

The Sixth Sense
This Bruce Willis thriller about a kid who sees ghosts was kind of like a really good episode of the Twilight Zone (from, say, the first season, when they were always really good), right down to an excellent surprise ending that I totally didn't see coming.

This Peter Weir film starring Jeff Bridges as an airplane crash survivor changed forever my own flying experiences. Now, whenever I fly, I find myself unable to get certain moments from this film out of my mind, particularly during landings. It kind of makes me wish I'd never seen this film. But only kinda.

Mystery Men
I loved this film, for the same reasons I liked the old Adam West Batman series more than those big budget movies, which took themselves way too seriously. This film is extremely funny, not to mention visually stunning. It's great fun, go see it.

The Visitors
This French comedy tells the story of an 11th century knight (and his squire) who travel through time to the modern world (accomplished not through technology but with a wizard's magic potion). What makes it great is the fully-realized character of the knight... he confronts the distant future with logic and determination, and sets about developing a plan for getting home, just as any stranded time traveler worth his salt would do. There are many laughs along the way as the visitors misuse and misunderstand the details of 20th century life. [Warning: subtitled.]

The Spirit of St. Louis
Jimmy Stewart fills the tedium of his historic non-stop 33 hour transatlantic flight by talking to a fly and reminiscing about his life (via flashback). Nonetheless, this '57 classic makes for a very engaging prequel to the Right Stuff. Charles Lindbergh sure did have it.

Kevin Kline appears in "Wild Wild West" as both the President of the USA and his identical stand-in, but I liked him better when he played those roles in this presidential tale from 1993.

Wild Wild West
Being something of a fan of the vintage series on which this was rather too-loosely based, I was prepared to suspend a lot of disbelief... but I still had trouble getting my brain around a lot of what was depicted in this movie. It's like a live action cartoon, in which the impossible occurs every few minutes. Great special effects, though, and laughs aplenty.

Heavy Metal
When this early '80s animated adult's comic book was finally released to video a couple of years ago, a scene lost to the cutting room floor was restored. The sequence, entitled "Neverwhere Land" is wondrous... I can't comprehend why those 3 minutes were axed. I just wish the segment was in its correct place in the film... it's clumsily tacked on at the end, but it's clear from the intro and outro where it really belongs.

Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me
This is one of those rare sequels that's actually better than the original. But then, how can I not love a film that features the coolest time machine since Dr. Emmet Brown's Delorean, namely a psychedelic new Beetle convertible? I hope they make a die-cast metal toy version.

A Hard Day's Night
Paul McCartney's grandfather (who's very clean) is my favorite example of the kind of wacky character I hope/plan to be someday, when I'm an old guy.

Tucker: The Man and His Dream
This Hollywoodized version of the true story of Preston Tucker, who started a car company in 1947 that produced exactly 50 cars, is at once an inspiration to anyone with the entrepreneurial spirit and a cautionary tale about the dangers of yielding power to politicians who are beholden to the interests of large corporations.

The 13th Floor
The ads made this look like a mad slasher / horror movie of the sort I would never willingly sit through; but actually, it's a well crafted murder mystery / suspense-thriller, centered around a highly detailed virtual reality simulation of Los Angeles, circa 1937. It's kind of a Blade Runner/Dark City/The Matrix sort of hybrid. I particularly liked the way the 1937 scenes were all in washed-out sepiatone color, like a faded vintage postcard come to life.

Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion
I think it's clear that Romy and Michelle's dance with Sandy Frinck near the end was meant to suggest/symbolize a deeper relationship between the trio; however, bisexuality and three person romances are concepts that neither Romy and Michelle nor mainstream America seem able to deal with at this time. So all we see is dancing. Even so, this farce about two airheads who masquerade as successful businesswomen at their ten year high school reunion is both funny and entertaining.

Star Wars: The Phantom Menace
I found the origins of both 3PO and Anikin Skywalker rather difficult to accept, but otherwise I thoroughly enjoyed this new Star Wars movie. It's the best one since The Empire Strikes Back.

From the Earth to the Moon
If you liked Apollo 13, you owe it to yourself to find a way of seeing this HBO-produced mini-series. If you don't get HBO, look for it at das rentalplatz or order it from Columbia House. It's simply fabulous. Each episode covers one mission, and each is a little self contained movie about that mission, each seen from a different perspective.
  The Apollo 7 story is told through the eyes of a team making a documentary about it; the Apollo 9 mission focuses on the team that built the Lunar Module; the Apollo 16 episode is really about the astronaut's wives; and the Apollo 8 story is as much about the turbulent year 1968 as it is about mankind's first journey to the moon. It's all lovingly made and riveting to watch. My only real complaint was the lack of extra-serial continuity. The production included many of the folks who worked on Apollo 13; it seems like this series was meant to simply pick up where that film left off, to tell the entire story, instead of just the most hair-raising chapter. They use an interesting slant on the Apollo 13 mission, focusing on the journalists covering the events and barely doing justice to the story itself; it works great if you've already seen Apollo 13 (and better still if you pause to watch it at the correct point in the series) but it kind of demands that the movie be considered part of the follow-on series. So I was disappointed that Tom Hanks didn't reprise his role as Jim Lovell, and instead was simply the host (plus a minor role in the final episode). He was a good host, but it would have been so much better if Jim Lovell had looked like himself. Similarly, they've got the guy who played Deke Slayton in Apollo 13 playing a minor console jockey near the end of this series, and it was very jarring. Why didn't they let him be Deke again? But I'm just nit-picking... From the Earth to the Moon is a fantastic ride.

The Right Stuff
When I first saw this epic about the early years of the space program back in 1985, I immediately wished that Hollywood would continue with the story, right on through the moon landings and Apollo 13. Tom Hanks has finally done this for me with "From the Earth to the Moon", but I regard "The Right Stuff" as pre-requisite for that series. (And you'll still have to read the book if you want to find out about Scott Carpenter's fun flight...)

The Truman Show
I saw this mindblower last summer and liked it so much I made myself a pin like the one in the film, reading "How's it Going to End?" Now I finally have it on video and I'm half-watching it over and over again. (Alison said recently, "You watch movies like other people listen to albums.") But I see I didn't get the button design quite right; the real one used a non-serifed font, with the text in all caps.

Never Been Kissed
This credulity-straining date movie reminded me once again that, just once, I'd like to go to a costume party where the guests are all as well-costumed as they are in Hollywood versions of costume parties.

12 Monkeys
This is one of those intricate time travel stories that is so tightly woven you have to see it twice (or even three times) in order to fully understand it all. It's amazing. It's also got a delightful homage to the Hitchcock classic Vertigo.

I've made quite a study of the various cinematic depictions of the sinking of the Titanic, and while James Cameron's '97 version is unquestionably the best, I must deplore his omission of the role of the SS Californian. [But even without that plotline, it's too long; nowadays it's a half-watch favorite, but I usually start at the nude modeling sequence, just prior to the iceberg's appearance. (I wish that this was where they'd split the movie on the video release, instead of just after the collision occurs...)]

The Matrix
It's great science fiction with awesome special effects.... but unfortunately, it also has a really excessive amount of gunfire and kung foo fighting. [My favorite thing about it was the way the Matrix appears on external monitors: as a computer screen covered with columns of strange green symbols, cascading downwards like digital rain. It would make for great Neutral Television... I'm thinking about recreating it on my 3DO development station.]

Analyze This
There were some very good laughs but I found it ultimately unsatisfying. It just had too many gangsters and therapists for my tastes. (Normally, I would never have even gone to this film, but we were playing Final Showtime Roulette and there just wasn't anything else.)

That Thing You Do!
This Tom Hanks production about a rock 'n roll band's rise to stardom in 1964 currently tops my all-time favorites list. It's funny and upbeat, the music rocks, and it's an inspiration to anyone with dreams of fame and success, whether in the music industry or otherwise.

The Terminator
The body count is higher than what my violence meter can usually handle (more than 30 if I recall from the time when the crowd I was with did this literally), but being as I am a fan of time travel stories, I do have to admire this film.

2001: A Space Odyssey
I remember being excited about seeing this sci-fi epic as a kid, and then falling asleep in the middle. Now it's a half-watch favorite, because its theme of solitude sets the perfect mood for working late into the night, while its casual pace keeps it from being too absorbing.

Men in Black
This sci-fi comedy hit from 1997 is currently on my Top Ten list and has a climax (set in Flushing Meadows park) that is sure to delight any and all New York World's Fair enthusiasts. You can tell that the Unisphere has finally attained true landmark status when Hollywood destroys it on the big screen. (However: the New York State pavilion has 3 saucer towers, not just 2. But who's counting.)

October Sky
One part Coal Miner's Daughter and one part The Right Stuff, this film is the coolest nerd-hero movie since Apollo 13. It's set in October 1957, when everyone in America was looking into the night sky for a glimpse of Sputnik as it passed overhead. The film tells the true story of the "Rocket Boys", four lads so inspired by Sputnik that they build and launch a bunch of small rockets of their own.

Dances With Wolves
Watching again this classic Best Picture winner from 1990 inspired Dawn to ask, "What do you think your Indian name would have been?" I said I'd have probably ended up with something like Speaks With Loud Voice.

The '60s
This week's film is a two-part Made-For-TV "movie event", which was surprisingly good. It's kind of like Forrest Gump, except without all that phony crap about a moron with all the luck.

A Bug's Life
As with the asteroid movie showdown last summer, the second one to open was the better of the two. It's a laugh riot. But at least in ANTZ, the ants had an extra set of arms between their arms and legs; Disney's ants are 4-appendaged mutants. What a cop-out!

North by Northwest
It's always a treat to see this Hitchcock classic in a crowded big screen theater. Watch for the little kid who puts his fingers in his ears just before an unexpected shooting in a famous cafeteria.

You've Got Mail
A sweet little date movie about internet romance; I found it more interesting than Sleepless in Seattle, but my favorite Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan vehicle remains Joe Versus the Volcano.

Wild Things
This is one of those films that has so many plot twists and things that are not what they appear to be at first, that you'll want to see it twice. Like Hitchcock's masterpiece "Vertigo", it's a completely different film the second time around.

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