Posts Tagged ‘1990 movies’

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Revisiting 1990: Misery

September 26, 2010

“I am your number one fan.”

Considered For: Top 5, Top Horror Film

Plot: Successful author Paul Sheldon (James Caan) traps himself in his car after getting in an accident during a blizzard. He is saved when Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates) pulls him out and lets him recover in her home. As Sheldon lies crippled in a bed, Annie slowly starts to unravel and show her true colors, especially after she discovers that Paul plans to kill off his famed heroine Misery in his latest novel, and the author realizes that his life might be in danger.

I can’t think of a Stephen King adaptation I like more than Misery, but that is because none of those films had a performance as strong as Kathy Bates was in this movie. Kathy Bates is this movie. Outside of James Caan, who is pretty limited considering he’s confined to a bed for most of the film, and the sheriff and his wife, there aren’t many characters in Misery to speak of, so Bates really had a lot riding on her performance and she carries that burden like a badge of honor. Deserving of an easy Oscar win, Bates channels her inner psychopath as her character Annie Wilkes goes from happy-go-lucky hick to deranged, violent batterer in sheer seconds. I saw this movie when I was a kid and the only thing I remembered about it was Wilkes taking a sledgehammer to Sheldon’s legs, a testament to how iconic and powerful that scene was. This movie is the epitome of suspense and will have you on edge the whole time. I’m considering it for my top horror movie of 1990, but I’m not really sure if fits my definition of a horror movie. I’d place Misery in the suspense/thriller category and it’s a top notch effort. Highly recommended and a must see for Kathy Bates going completely insane.

Grade: B+
Viewings: 2
Replay Value: Worth revisiting every several years or so.
Sequel Potential: None
Oscars?: A win for Bates
Nudity?: None

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Revisiting 1990: Darkman

September 26, 2010

“Don’t look at me.”

Considered For: Guilty Pleasure

Plot: Scientist Peyton Westlake (Liam Neeson) is in the midst of developing technology to duplicate healthy skin for burn victims when he is brutally scarred and left for dead by a crime lord (Larry Drake) looking for an incriminating memo in possession of Westlake’s girlfriend (Frances McDormand). Westlake uses his skin process to return as Darkman and seek revenge against those that ruined him.

I imagine in my quest to find the best guilty pleasure in various years I’m going to run across some true stinkers. Despite a solid crew that features respected actors (Neeson and Oscar nominee McDormand) and the director that brought us the Evil Dead trilogy and Spider-Man, Darkman still manages to suck. Even if you can look past the ridiculous plot, the number of holes in the script are enormous and laughable. In the beginning of the film, Westlake discovers that his created skin will only hold for 99 minutes in the light, but can maintain its composure infinitely in the dark. You’d think this discovery, combined with a film title of Darkman would indicate our vigilante would do most of his work at night, but Darkman operates during the day time. In fact, rather than using this knowledge to his advantage, our brilliant scientist finds himself wearing a mask, sitting on a bench in broad daylight, and acting shocked when he realizes his 99 minutes are up any second. Seriously? How stupid is this character? If you have a mission you can only carry out in the daylight, plan ahead! If you know it’s going to take more than 99 minutes, bring a second mask (that’s all it is anyways, right?), store it in a bag that keeps out the sunlight, and switch faces at a convenient time that doesn’t jeopardize your task. But seriously, you can be whoever you want, however long you want at night, so why are you even fucking with daylight hours? Also, did anyone ever notice how fucked up Darkman’s hands are? We see that the faces Darkman wears are simply masks, so I’d have to assume the hands he wears are merely gloves and there is no way he’s fitting his mutilated paws into those things without getting some double takes.

Darkman has some solid actors and is mildly entertaining at times, but the writing in this movie is terrible. Definitely the worst movie I’ve watched in a while.

Grade: D
Viewings: 2+
Replay Value: Very limited
Sequel Potential: Spawned two sequels that I imagine are equally as bad, and probably worse.
Oscars?: None
Nudity?: None

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Revisiting 1990: Jacob’s Ladder

September 10, 2010

Considered For: Top 5

“Mr. Singer. What an appropriate name for a man that can’t shut up.”

Plot: Jacob Singer (Tim Robbins) is a traumatized Vietnam war vet that finds himself experiencing hallucinations when he returns to “normal” life in New York City.

I think Roger Ebert said it best when he stated that Jacob’s Ladder “was not a pleasant experience, but it was exhilarating in the sense that I was able to observe filmmakers working at the edge of their abilities and inspirations.” This was a tough movie to sit through. Between the swift editing that jumps from one point in time to another with no explanation and Jacob’s increasingly bizarre hallucinations throughout the film, it’s hard to get a grasp on what’s going on. It’s not an easy film to follow and as a result, it’s certainly not for everyone. There’s some good, scary imagery in this movie and Tim Robbins gives a decent performance. There’s a big twist in this movie, but the pay off isn’t that great if you have an idea what it is already before you start watching the movie. I admittedly struggled to get through this one and was thankful when it was over. It’s not a bad movie by any means, but it’s not an easy watch and I wouldn’t go out of my way to recommend it.

Grade: C
Viewings: 1
Replay Value: I’ll probably never watch it again, but I can see the appeal of multiple viewings.
Sequel Potential: None.
Oscars?: No nominations.
Nudity?: Elizabeth Pena plays one of Jacob’s love interests and spends the vast majority of her scenes naked. Probably the best thing about the movie.

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Revisiting 1990: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

August 24, 2010

Considered For: Guilty Pleasure

“You’re a claustrophobic!” — “You want a fist in the mouth? I’ve never even looked at another guy.”

Yeah, I went there. Not all the movies I’m going to be revisiting are because of Top 5 potential. Each year, I also want to take a look at my the top sequels, animated films, comedies, horror flicks, sports movies and guilty pleasures. I would define a guilty pleasure, in this case, as a movie that isn’t particularly great in the grand scheme of things, but either holds a special place in my heart because it’s a childhood favorite or has qualities that make it fantastic that don’t normally coincide with top film-making. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles certainly fits the bill. I grew up on The Turtles, so there’s an obvious sense of nostalgia here and while I didn’t particularly love the original TMNT movie as a youngster, when I was scrolling through the 1990 film list, I immediately wanted to see it again.

It’s silly to say this now, as an adult, but I actually think the first Turtles movie was a little dark. You have Raphael saying “damn” and “bitchin'” throughout the movie, which isn’t shocking today, but in 1990 I was eight, and I never heard any of the Turtles use that kind of language on the cartoon show. I remember as a child that it struck me and I remember thinking the film was a little boring. Even though I can see it’s clearly a campy movie now, it didn’t seem that way when I was young. I always preferred the sequel Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret Of The Ooze as a kid, something I now recognize as the inferior film.

Another thing I remember being disappointed about was the lack of any recognizable bad guys outside of Shredder and the Foot Clan. Seriously, no Rocksteady and Bebop? Three movies later and these guys still haven’t made an appearance. It’s an unforgivable exclusion. No Baxter Stockman? Come on! These are not only easy, but essential villains in the TMNT universe. I can understand why The Rat King, Leatherhead, and even Krang weren’t included, but I still can’t get over the fact that in four TMNT movies total, only Shredder and the Foot Clan have been used from a pool of a pretty solid rogues gallery. Snoooooooooze.

Thankfully, I’ve had twenty years to get over all of this and revisiting this movie in 2010 was actually fun. It’s rare that I like a movie I watched frequently as a kid more as an adult. Usually in this situation, I can barely stomach getting through one of my childhood favorites. While this TMNT movie is often corny, it’s actually a fairly decent origin story. As much as I want to ridicule a caged rat mimicking his master’s martial arts moves, I have to remember that I’m willingly and knowingly watching a movie about fully grown, Ninjutsu-performing, TALKING turtles. I forgive you scriptwriters!

The story here is pretty simple. Our heroes have been secretly living and training in the sewers of New York for over a decade. On the surface, the city has become overrun with organized crime and the Turtles rise above to start cleaning things up. This ruffles the armor of Shredder, the leader of The Foot Clan, and mastermind behind the majority of crime taking place in New York. He has taken in the rejected and morally challenged youth of the city and has created an army of ninjas. We come to discover that the Turtles mutated rat of a sensei, Splinter, has a history with this Shredder and the beef between the two camps becomes personal, especially after Splinter is kidnapped. Meanwhile, April O’Niell (Judith Hoag), the only news reporter that suspects the truth behind the crime rise, becomes the Turtles first human friend. Together, along with vigilante Casey Jones (Elias Koteas), they all set out to stop the Foot Clan from further damaging the city.

It’s pretty easy to nitpick this movie to death. My favorite scene in the movie is when Raphael puts on a trench coat and a hat to roam the city. Granted, he looks like a freak in a costume, but if we’re supposed to look at these characters as realistic, I’d have to assume that Raph’s disguise isn’t really cutting it amongst civilized people. It’d be one thing if he was completely devoid of human interaction, but Raphael has several encounters while costumed and somehow, no one is the wiser. I also like the fact that once kidnapped, Splinter is chained to a wall looking like Jesus on the cross, but is completely unsupervised and readily accessible to even the lowest of Shredder’s henchmen. It’s the type of nonsense that Austin Powers pokes fun at whenever Dr. Evil manages to imprison an enemy.

The costumes in this movie are also ridiculous. Yeah, it was twenty years ago, but it’s quite an embarrassing effort considering a movie as advanced as Terminator 2: Judgement Day came out less than a year later, followed by Jurassic Park in 1993. Those movies make TMNT look like it was made in 1980. I actually paused the movie last night during a scene where Michaelangelo pulls out a container of turtle wax and turns to Donatello to say something… you can see the separation between the head and torso sections of the stuntman’s costume! What part of the film editing game is that?

It seems like I’m griping, but in some way, it’s these flaws that make TMNT so endearing. I don’t think anyone involved with this movie thought they were going to be getting Oscar attention or critical raves. They set out to make a movie that kids that grew up on the cartoon could enjoy and I think they did a fairly decent job. With the exception of Donatello, the personalities of the Turtles were accurately depicted in the adaptation. I also like the fact that Shredder is a menacing and formidable foe, unlike his mostly hapless TV series counterpart. The casting of Elias Koteas was spot on for Casey Jones. In a film filled with laughable acting, he put in a laudable effort, despite some terrible dialogue.

It’s certainly easy to laugh at this movie twenty years later, but last time I checked laughing is an enjoyable activity, so TMNT is alright in my book, regardless of whether some of the humor is intended or not. In no way is this a good film, but in a lot of ways it is a fun one. We all know a better Turtles movie could have been made–and it was with 2007’s TMNT–but the original can still be viewed fondly, and I think the best Turtles movie is still ahead of us. I’m not going to offer any stern recommendations here, but revisiting the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles isn’t the worst way to spend a couple hours of a day.

Grade: B-
Viewings: 5-7
Replay Value: Surprisingly decent
Sequel Potential: 3 sequels have been made and I doubt we’re done yet.
Oscars?: No Best Costumes nomination?! What does the Academy want?!
Nudity?: We get plenty of turtles in a half shell, but the highlight is seeing April O’Niel’s nipples poking through her blouse.