Galaxy Quest (1999)
How could anyone not have a blast with this movie?
OK, I can see how "American Beauty" wasn't for everybody even though I loved it, but this? What's not to love?
I was skeptical at first about seeing this, as I am not a big sci-fi, Trek, or Tim Allen fan, but then I read several reviews that I trusted and decided what the heck. One said it was "critic proof" and they were right! Someone else compared it to "Ghostbusters" (as far as people's reactions to it, and sort of the genre) and I agree with that too...as I said, all I know about Trek is what I read in some Harlan Ellison books and Nichelle Nichol's autobiography. I never really was a fan of this show-didn't hate it, but not my thing. And I still absolutely loved this movie! I can only imagine how much a fan of the show would have loved it-and got all the in jokes (I got some, but I'm sure I missed plenty).
I have more respect for Allen now as a performer, he did a great job (and a great Shatner!). Sigourney Weaver looked gorgeous, the best I've ever seen her look in fact. I especially respect a movie that casts a female love interest opposite the lead male WHO IS ACTUALLY THE SAME AGE AS HIM. In fact, instead of being 20+ years younger as the norm is, I think at 52 she's even OLDER than he is. Too bad that's so rare these days. Alan Rickman was great, as the classically trainer Actor who will puke if he has to say his trademark line one more time. I knew there would be a moment where he would say it and mean it, and I was right. The line made the audience cheer (and some of them also get a little choked up, including me, which is sort of embarassing).
If you've ever been obsessively devoted to any TV show, (I have, though I'm not gonna tell you which one because you would probably laugh so hard you'll pee your pants) like the fans in the movie are, then this movie will definitely hit home. You'll know just how the fans feel when they can easily bring up trivia that even the actors on the show don't know or have forgotten, or when Allen's character needs a fan's help and tells him the show is real, and his reaction-well-I'm starting to sound like Harry Knowles here, but the fan's ecstatic reaction made ever single person in the audience go nuts . The audience, which included more adults than kids, actually stood up and clapped when the movie was over-haven't seen that for a while.
If you're a Trekkie-uh, I mean Trekker- don't worry about this movie jeering at or making fun of you. GQ treats the fans with humor but also lovingly and with respect. It's not super-deep, it doesn't have a message other than the obvious one, it's probably not something that will be nominated for an award ( which is too bad). But it's great, mindless, fun entertainment for pretty much any and all. If you want to "escape" for 90 minutes or so this is the movie for you, one of those movies that transports you and is so entertaining that you get so caught up you forget about everything else other than the flick. Bottom line is you can't go wrong.
House on Haunted Hill (1999)
You know, I wanted to like this movie so bad, but the thing that I kept saying afterwards was "it just didn't do it for me." I didn't go see it opening weekend, because it was supposed to be really, really bad, and there were no advance reviews. Not a good sign. Then I read some reviews that actually said it was fun, EW gave it a B- (and unfortunately, gave away a couple big shocks in their damn review),
I decided to go see a matinee. It started out great. What Geoffrey Rush does for a living is such a great gimmick, and I just wish I hadn't known what would happen (Arrrgh, why must you torment me, EW?). Famke Jansen is nice and nasty as his shrewish wife. Jeffrey Combs plays (YEAH!) a mad doctor again. Rush also is dressed exactly like Vincent Price, looks like him, and acts like James Woods (seriously, EW said that too -- I wonder if they didn't have him in mind. Rush looks the part much more, though).
For some reason, it just didn't scare me that much. Lots of cool gory parts, neat, trippy imagery, not too predictable. But I don't think I jumped once, and I really wanted to. Probably, if reviews I read hadn't given a few great moments away, I would have had more fun -- also if the audience was having more fun. There was only one part where people in the theater jumped, and it was a "fake" jump (you know, like "AAAAAGH! Oh, it's you. You scared the crap outta me" type of cheap jump).
I wish I could put my finger on what went haywire.
I don't know what I would have done differently, and usually after a movie I don't like, I have very specific ideas and opinions about the various places the filmmakers went wrong, and what they should have done instead. Other than the ending being kind of anticlimactic, I don't know. I will say this: it beat the hell out of "The Haunting" remake. The first 5 minutes alone were 20 times better and scarier than the whole Haunting POS put together. Definitely superior.
At the time the movie opened, there was a big contest they were hying, even featuring it prominently on the posters. I felt kind of ripped off. The theater -- a big, chain one-- didn't seem to be taking part. When we got our tickets torn, the guy said, "Be sure to stay for the scene at the end of the credits" recited like it was what they had told him to say. I figured that would have something to do with it, but it was just a typical "after the credits" scene, kind of cool, but a let down after they make it gimmicky to go out of their way to tell you to stay. What the hell? If anyone can explain this, let me know. If they're going to go out of their way to promote the contest, and go so far as to have it on the posters (which in turn drives people away rather than brings them in, since it smacks of desperation) at least have it better organized.
Oh well, you could do worse. Better than most of the crappy horror movies put out in the 'teen slasher horror boom', and like I said, MUCH better than the Haunting.
Girl Next Door, The (1999/II)
Why NOT to work in the porn industry
This movie really (forgive the pun) got under my skin. The Girl Next Door is an excellent, intelligent documentary about Stacey Valentine, a porn star in her mid-20's and how she ended up doing what she does, but more importantly, what it has done to her.
Any female (especially the younger ones) who is even remotely tempted to go into the industry should see this movie. I respected the fact that it doesn't have an obvious agenda, other than to entertain and give you a 90 minute glimpse of what a porn star's life is really like. It manages to show the unglamourous (at best) day-to-day realities of the business, how it can ruin lives and destroy self-esteem, without being the least bit preachy.
If there was any voice-over, I don't remember it. Most of the story is told by Stacey herself, in interviews with the filmmakers, or through her interactions with other people including her parents, boyfriend, directors, fans, and friends. My husband said that when it started out, SV "seemed happy and pretty much OK for a while", but from almost the first shot of SV talking about how this is a great job for her because she loves sex and how the porn industry "is the only job where she would get people telling her she's sexy and beautiful", it was obvious that even though she is smiling and sounding positive, she is really just trying deep down to convince herself that she's happy.
In the first few minutes of the movie she reveals that there is only one thing she has any sort of talent for that she could make a living from-sex. She tries to sound proud, but that's a tip off right there that her self-esteem is in the dumpster and this story probably ain't gonna have a happy ending.
This movie is just incredible on so many levels, there's not enough room for me to go into it. It was so riveting, I didn't want it to end. Let's face it-most people (whether they will admit to it or not) would love to be behind the scenes for the filming of a porno movie, just to see what really happens behind the camera (and when the camera is off) and I was no exception. OK, I wasn't DYING to see it, since I'd read a couple non-fiction books by people in the industry, but I was definitely curious. You get to see several scenes of that, and I think anyone who sits through the movie will agree that $1000-$2000 a day (the performers get paid more for the "kinky"-or, more realistically, the extremely uncomfortable, unpleasant stuff that most performers prefer not to do) doesn't even BEGIN to approach the amount of money that women in the industry deserve to make. For one thing, it is not as easy as it looks, to say the least-an image that stuck with me was the ants swarming in a puddle of...( well, you can imagine what liquid needs to be cleaned up on a porn shoot), some of them crawling on SV and even biting her. Keep in mind, these are the high-end, high profile porn films she works in.
There's actually some pretty funny scenes, too, such as SV talking pleasantly and she drives and then suddenly cursing when someone cuts her off. It is not an easy movie to watch, though. The film shows in extremely graphic detail what breast implant, collagen injection and liposuction surgery looks like-I would not recommend hitting the concession stand beforehand. For anyone who regards porn stars as less than human, you see that they go to the drycleaners, have trouble meeting decent men, feel insecure about their bodies, get jealous, and visit with their friends just like anyone else.
Some of the most poignant scenes involve SV visiting her mother and having an honest talk about her settling down (both of them end up teary), visiting a hypnotist to try to improve her self-esteem, talking about her on-again, off-again relationship with her boyfriend (also in the industry), leaving an Adult Entertainment Awards ceremony by herself, with no award, in the dress she was so excitied about wearing earlier that day, and petting her cat, saying since she doesn't have a special man in her life, but there's always her cat for affection. In one of the saddest, she tearily talks about how nice it would be to have someone in her life who would touch her out of love and companionship, instead of for sex. In another, she's shooting some scenes for a movie with her boyfriend, and you can see the hurt on both their faces as he starts to slowly pull farther and farther away -especially after he's 3 feet away from watching the woman he loves perform oral sex on another man, even if it's "just acting".
It sounds cliche (it would to me, reading about it) but when you actually see the movie and watch her talking, looking young enough to get carded with her fresh clean-scrubbed face and baggy casual clothes, you can't help but feel for her. I doubt that any woman, after seeing the movie, would trade places with SV for any amount of money. God, I just wanted to go up and give her a hug or something.
Having done plenty of research on the 'adult entertainment industry' (for a thesis in college-really!) and also talking and being friends with a few women in the industry, I can say the movie presents a very realistic portrait. Her life isn't a complete living hell- you do see her happy at times, talking about what she wants to do when she retires, laughing with her co-stars, looking like she's having fun doing a photo shoot dressed as Marilyn Monroe and even seeming to genuinely enjoy a scene with a female actress interacted on a live porn web-cam. But the sadness on her face and in her words speaks for itself.
What's even sadder to consider is the subject of the film is one of the rarer, more "together" women in the business- SV is mentally and physically healthy, doesn't do drugs, didn't get molested as a child, is reasonably intelligent and has a good sense of humor, and her parents even approve (as much as a parent could, anyway) of her career. Imagine what happens to women who don't have it together as well.
I was happy, however, to read that SV has retired and started her own business-hopefully she'll be one of the lucky ones.
One side note:not a good date movie if you are hoping to, er, get lucky afterwards, because after watching it, having sex will be the absolute last thing you feel like doing. Trust me, you will NOT be in the mood and end up just playing Monopoly or something. About as un-erotic as you can get.
Unless you're easily offended, I can't recommend this fascinating, haunting documentary enough. Just be ready for it...if that's possible.
General's Daughter, The (1999)
Not too shabby
Seriously, from all the reviews I read, they made this movie sound really sick, perverted, exploitative, kinky, and sleazy. I went to see it sort of hoping to be really offended. I was pleasantly surprised. It was even sicker than I heard! No, seriously, it was much tamer than they made it sound.
Though not a masterpiece, the movie had interesting subject matter (NO, not kinky sex, women in the military and how they are treated), was beautifully shot, and had lots of great acting performances. I would never have figured out the ending if my friend hadn't told me. When I saw previews and read reviews I was sure it would turn out that James Woods did it (or did something horrible) but his character turned out not at all like I expected. The interactions between him and Travolta's character were the most entertaining parts of the movie, and worth the price of admission. I'm just sorry he didn't get more screen time. His character was just getting really interesting when he was abruptly taken out of the picture. Too bad.
Most reviews complain that that the movie's rape and nudity are gratuitous, but I don't think the camera lingered any more than it had to, and it definitely was not glamorized, it all was necessary to the plot of the film. I have seen films before where it is obvious that someone involved in the making of the picture gets off on that kind of thing, but this was not one of those movies. The only thing that I thought was thrown in for cheap thrills was that she was a dominatrix--I don't understand how this fit in with her character, and it really didn't have much to do with the plot.
I didn't think the movie was sexist or misogynistic, Stowe's character was great and kicked butt. The film did lose momentum in the last reel, things seem to get wrapped up too neatly, and also sort of overexplained to the audience. Still though, not a bad flick to see for a matinee. Both Cromwell and Woods deserved Supporting Actor nominations.
A little trivia: Stephen King writes in "On Writing" that he and his family had planned an evening out to see this specific movie in June of 1999. Unfortunately, that was the same day he was halfway through his daily walk and then struck by a van in an accident that he was lucky to have survived. So, he didn't make it to the movie that night.
Haunting, The (1999)
Beware this remake
The original was better, and that's a serious understatement. I already had a lot of respect for the original as a neat little 60's horror flick but this movie made it look even better in comparison. Why didn't they leave it alone? It didn't help that the original was a classic. But they messed up here.
I hardly ever say this, but the effects were overdone--they didn't make up for the putrid script or lack of scares. There was only one moment when I jumped and that was because everyone else in the theater screamed and startled me. Plenty of people were laughing at parts that were not supposed to be funny--not a good sign. There was just no excuse for the amazingly stupid line, "It's about family!" which would make you wince under any circumstances but came at what was supposed to be the climax of the film. The house is supposed to look old, but it is so obvious that it was just created by a set designer or is CGI, or a combination of both.
Really not very scary. The sound was good, I'll give it that, but that was about it. The writers obviously just threw in Theo's character being bisexual because they knew the guys who think Zeta-Jones is hot would get off on it--unlike the novel, where there is a point to it.
All the so called 'scares' and CGI in this film put together and multiplied 45 times do not even measure up to be 10% as scary as the scene in the original where Nell thinks Theo is holding her hand in bed but turns on the light to see her friend across the room, who had been asleep in her own bed.
I had a bad feeling about this movie when I saw the trailer months before it opened that featured the tagline "Some Houses Are Born Bad". Should have stuck with my original instincts on this one and saved my time and my 7+ bucks. Do yourself a favor and rent the original instead.
Grade: A generous D-
Ghost World (2001)
Words fail me (for once)
This is almost hard to review, because theres just too many good things to say about it. In fact, I might have to keep it short for once. Keep in mind that at the time I wrote this, I had seen it the night before, with about 3 dozen people about our age who were "gen-x" (though I hated the term) and were in their 20's when the comic came out. I actually didn't read it much, because it was way, way too much like me and the people I knew. Anyway, you can bet it was a live crowd who clapped when "the end" came up on the screen.
What can I say? There's people who probably won't 'get' this movie; either they just were completely into another culture in their teens or 20's (the type the movie made fun of), or are too young to really identify (though I doubt most teenage girls will have a problem).
Absolutely perfect casting, needless to say, Buscemi steals the movie, which is saying a lot. The first time his character shows up- he just walked by in the background- everyone lost their f****** minds. Miss him playing sarcastic losers? See it. This is the funniest hes been since Fargo. And stay till the end credits are over for a real treat. Best 'after the credits' scene I can ever remember seeing, period.
Im gonna have to buy the screenplay, because I can't even tell you the number of times we couldn't even hear dialogue because everyone around us (and us, of course) were laughing or cheering at the top of their lungs. Some characters didn't even have to *say* anything, they'd just show up and look so much like a Clowes cartoon, or someone you see in town, that
people roared with laughter.
Ileana Douglas is perfect, as always,as the art teacher from hell. Doug, the guy from the mini-mart, -well, again, we couldn't hear anything he even said, because every time he so much as walked on-screen, the audience just ROARED through the whole scene (and after the scene ended). It was pretty touching in parts, and about as realistic as a script gets. Oh, why the hell am I even trying to put into words how incredible this movie is? I'm not that good of a reviewer. Best movie of 2001.