At a rundown way station in a nondenominational afterlife, the recently deceased are told by a small group of case workers that each has three days to choose precisely one memory from his or her life to take into eternity. The staff then works with them to re-create those memories using rickety low-budget props on a shabby soundstage, and then the memories… read more!
Movies Released in 1999 (in alphabetical order)
All About My Mother
Though I disagree with reports that this is the best foreign film of the year, it is still quite a treat. A warning to sniggering hipsters: this is 100% pure, unironic melodrama. You get your shocking plot twists, your wild coincidences, your emotional outbursts. However, Almodóvar's tastes being what they are, it is a melodrama peopled by the likes of… read more!
American Beauty is one of those annoying movies that purports to tell its audiences about All the Big Truths About Life, when actually there's not an honest bone in its body. Take, for starters, the setting. The story is about a so-called "ordinary suburban family", where the husband (Kevin Spacey) is an underpaid magazine writer who hates his cubicle job… read more!
Evocative adaptation of Frank McCourt's Pulitzer-prize winning memoir of growing up dirt-poor in 1930s Limerick, Ireland. Uniformly fine acting, a beautiful score by John Williams (his best since Schindler's List and a far cry better than his unforgivably mediocre score for Phantom Menace), and Alan Parker's typical attention to (obsession with?) gritty, grimy detail add to the film's distinctive atmosphere.… read more!
The Blair Witch Project
I almost feel sorry for The Blair Witch Project. As the most buzzed-about independent film in history, there's no way it could have lived up to its hype. Perhaps if it remained a small, little-seen film, relying solely on word of mouth rather than mountains of publicity, then it could have been judged based on its own merits. But with… read more!
Boys Don’t Cry
Based on the real-life case of Brandon Teena, a young Nebraska man who was born a girl named Teena Brandon, changed her sexual identity, fell in love with a local girl, and was raped and murdered by two friends when her real sex was discovered, this film is a thoughtful, honest look at a true American tragedy. There's no way… read more!
The Cider House Rules
Well-intentioned 1940s-era tear jerker about a young orphan (Tobey Maguire, voice cracking as always) who has been trained as a doctor at the New England orphanage where he's lived all his 20 years, and what happens when he decides to finally split and explore the world – which in this case means picking apples at an orchard near the coast,… read more!
Kevin Smith is full of himself. I came to this conclusion after seeing Chasing Amy a couple years ago. I had avoided his first two films and caught Amy shortly before filming Foreign Correspondents in order to see what other filmmakers were doing with budgets similar to mine. I walked out of Amy thinking, "I just watched some so-so actors… read more!
Razor sharp satire about a high school in Omaha, Nebraska – director Payne's hometown – where a monstrously ambitious high school student (Reese Witherspoon, who couldn't be more perfect in the role) decides to run for student body president, and a much-loved but self-righteous government teacher (Matthew Broderick) does everything he can to keep her from winning. The two stars… read more!
Every once in a while, I'll see a pretty good movie spoiled by one really bad scene. Fight Club is such a movie. Edward Norton stars as an anonymous narrator who hates his job, his life, and the world around him. He is, in particular, profoundly angry and depressed by the rampant consumerism that surrounds him. Then he bumps into… read more!
The cast members of a tacky '80s sci fi TV show (somewhere between the '80s Buck Rogers and the original Star Trek series, in terms of both cheese factor and cult appeal) have found their careers floundering in the '90s, relying on embarrassing appearances at fan conventions just to pay the rent. Then a particularly odd collection of fans turns… read more!
The Green Mile
Faithful, intelligent adaptation of the Stephen King story, with Tom Hanks as a guard on death row in a Southern prison during the 1930s and Michael Clarke Duncan as a new inmate who seems to possess healing powers. Adept combination of typical King elements: light humor, dark deeds, cute secondary stories (in this case, a mouse named Mr. Jingles), likeable,… read more!
Kate Winslet is an Australian girl caught up in a mystical Indian cult. Harvey Keitel is an American "cult deprogrammer" who takes her into the Outback for 3 days to get her un-brainwashed. Though Holy Smoke's first act is excellent - Winslet's dreamy vision of India, compared with her desperate mother's impressions of filth and poverty when she arrives to… read more!
Surprisingly tense morality tale, based on recent events, about tobacco industry insider Jeffrey Wigand (a terrific Russell Crowe), who blew the whistle on his employer Brown & Williamson – and by extension the entire tobacco industry – by exposing their unethical practices of increasing nicotine levels in their tobacco blends. Goaded by 60 Minutes producer Lowell Bergman (a fine Al… read more!
The Iron Giant
Back in the '80s, Steven Spielberg produced a short-lived "anthology" TV series called Amazing Stories, which were mostly sci fi or fantasy shorts, often with interesting directors. It's ironic, but I thought the best Amazing Stories episode was one that had nothing to do with sci fi or fantasy, and was in fact the series' lone animated episode. It was… read more!
I'm one of the 10% who found Korine's first feature Gummo a masterpiece. The other 90% of those who watched it thought it was utter garbage. If you fall into the latter category, bypass this review. julien donkey-boy is Korine's riff on the strict Danish "Dogme 95" rules of filmmaking: handheld camera, only available lighting, no post production sound effects,… read more!
Magnolia is about a bunch of messed-up LA residents whose unhappy lives interconnect, sort of. Sound like Robert Altman's Short Cuts? Sure, but Anderson is after some other idea – something about the sins of the fathers being visited on the sons, I guess, since nearly every character in the film is either a father who has treated his children… read more!
Brand new science fiction, written for the screen, and made by a pair of comparatively unknown writer/directors (the Wachowskis' only previous effort was the decent, but hardly revelatory, low budget crime thriller Bound), starring Keanu Reeves of all people - yet it works. It works because the Wachowskis have such a confident vision, with special effects that stretch the limits… read more!
My Best Fiend
Werner Herzog, the acclaimed director of several notorious German films during the '70s, takes a documentary look back at his love-hate relationship with the late actor Klaus Kinski, who starred in Herzog's best-known films, Aguirre, the Wrath of God, Fitzcarraldo, and Nosferatu. Through archival behind-the-scenes footage, as well as clips from the films themselves, Herzog (who re-dubs his own German… read more!
Intermittently funny comedy that takes place in an anonymous suburb where several rank and file employees of a soul-sucking software company watch their lives tick away. Eventually a story emerges: our protagonist Peter (Ron Livingston), fed up with his worthless existence, bonds with two coworkers (played with dry wit by David Herman and Ajay Naidu) and they start quietly laying… read more!