List

A Little Princess, Candyman, Kingpin, The Hudsucker Proxy, Tremors, and Donnie Brasco

Kingpin

Some 90s Flicks You May or May Not Remember

Today, I have for you a listicle of some films from the 1990s. They would happen to feature “A Little Princess,” “Candyman,” “Kingpin,” “The Hudsucker Proxy,” “Tremors,” and “Donnie Brasco.” You may or may not remember them, depending on how popular they were, and how much cult status they’ve received during the past 3 decades. 

“A Little Princess”

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Before “Roma,” “Gravity,” “Children of Men,” and “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” Alfonso Cuaron made a family film from 1995 called “A Little Princess.” Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel were both right to criticize the movie-goers for letting this delightful piece of family entrainment get away on their “Worst of 1995” episode, because it holds a delicate balance between pure fantasy and brutal reality. 

The pure fantasy consists of a young girl named Sara Crewe (Liesel Pritzker Simmons, A.K.A. Liesel Matthews) who tells such fascinating stories about princes and princesses, based on her aristocratic homeland in India. Her father (Liam Cunningham) tells her that she must believe in magic in order for it to be reality, and that every girl, regardless of age, race, and finance, is a princess. The two of them share an everlasting love for each other.. 

But the brutal reality comes when she must stay at a girl’s boarding school in New York, while her father is fighting during World War I, and the head mistress (Eleanor Bron) is mean, cold-hearted, and abusive b*tch (sorry, just had to get that out of my system). She has enough strict rules to give you aneurysm, and when she learns that Sara’s father may have died in battle, she demotes her to a servant girl with an African-American servant girl named Becky (Vanessa Lee Chester) being her only friend at that point. 

The way these fantasies and realities come together is when Sara tells the other girls stories about an Indian Prince (Cunningham) rescuing his damsel in distress (Alison Moir), and when an Indian servant (Errol Sitahal) to their next-door neighbor (Arthur Malet) turning Sara and Becky’s pretend breakfast into a magical reality. 

Yes, the special effects for the monster in Sara’s stories look shabby, but outside of that, Alfonso Cuaron has delivered a magical, emotional, and challenging family story, based on Frances Hodgson Burnett’s book. “A Little Princess” is that movie, and it provides such  fantastic performances from Simmons, Bron, Cunningham, and Chester. All of them are filled with life and passion, based on their perspectives. 

It’s always difficult to watch such a happy fantasy get thwarted by harsh realities, but it’s also magical to see how the main heroine can keep her high hopes and imaginations alive. This is a family film for both kids and grownups, if you’ve haven’t heard of this 1995 film version. 

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“Candyman”

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Before the new “Candyman” hits theaters this June (that is if it doesn’t get pushed back because of the virus), I’ve decided to take a look at the original horror film from 1992. He’s the guy who lost his right hand, and got covered in honey so the bees could kill him by an angry mob. Now, he’s an apparition with a hook for a hand, who comes after you if you say his name five times through a mirror.

“Candyman.” “Candyman.” “Candyman.” “Candyman.” Oh, sh*t, I can’t do it. I can’t say it five times, but then again, who could? Just the crazy ones, who think they’re off Scott free. 

It has Tony Todd as the monster himself and Virginia Madsen as a semiotics graduate named Helen Lyle, who becomes interested in researching on the legend. She learns of the recent murders of his victims, and comes across the monster himself, which starts off  as a dream, and turns into a reality, when she’s wrongfully accused of murdering her friend (Kasi Lemmons) and kidnapping a woman’s (Vanessa Estelle Williams, not the Vanessa Williams you’re thinking off) baby. 

Based on the short story “The Forbidden,” “Candyman” is a horror film that introduces us to an iconic character, and delivers the goods with its main heroine fighting against him. Todd is riveting by giving his character a gravely voice, and creepy image, and Madsen is smart and emotional as his latest victim, who refuses to succumb to his persuasion of joining him in the immortal world. 

I do get tired of the innocent person always getting accused of being a murderer, when the real monster has to be invisible to other people, which is why I can’t give it a 4-star rating. But, I was fascinated by its intentions, characters, thrills, scares, and surprise ending. 

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“Kingpin”

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The Farrelly Brothers have made one of the funniest bowling comedies of the 90s called “Kingpin,” which stars Woody Harrelson, Randy Quaid (way before his f-ed up state), Vanessa Angel, and Bill Murray. For satirizing the Amish and disabled communities without being offensive, and for taking risks at its PG-13, the movie rolls a strike.

You get Harrelson as a once-successful bowler named Roy Munson, who loses his hand and career, courtesy of another rival Big Ern (Murray), and Quaid as Ishmael Boorg, an Amish man with the golden arm. He decides to use the man to help him win some big money, and he agrees, especially when his family is in financial debt. 

You also get Angel as the girlfriend of an abusive player (Rob Moran), who with the help of Roy and Ishmael, escapes from his clutches and join them on their trek to the big tournament in Las Vegas. And out of the blue, comes Big Ern, who apparently hasn’t lost his touch. 

Like their previous film “Dumb and Dumber,” “Kingpin” allows the Farrelly Brothers to deliver the laughs and sweetness without being awkward or offensive. Remember, these comedies were way before Peter Farrelly got his Oscar for “Green Book.” It doesn’t follow all those typical sports movie cliches, and it brings out the best and goofiest of the main protagonists. Harrelson, Quaid, Angel, and Murray are all hilarious and smart, and writers Barry Fanaro and Mort Nathan both write them with good intentions.

This was also before The Coen Brothers made “The Big Lebowski,” and both these movies have their own unique ways of entertaining us. 

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“The Hudsucker Proxy”

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I already know why most of you haven’t heard of “The Hudsucker Proxy,” made by the Coen Brothers. Because it bombed at the box office in 1994, and it wasn’t given the nostalgia like most of their films like “The Big Lebowski,” “No Country for Old Men,” or “O’Brother Where Art Thou.” 

I admit the story gets complicated at times, but I still think it’s one of the most under-appreciated films I’ve ever seen. In fact, I think, in Roger Ebert’s words, “this is one of the best-looking movies I’ve ever seen.” The art direction and production design of its views of 1950s New York, which has a 1930s look and feel, is so fascinating, that’s it’s impossible not to gaze at the screen. And most of them were models. 

You get Tim Robbins as a goofball mail clerk, who gets promoted to the big chair, when he comes up with the hula hoop; the late Paul Newman as the big man, who plans to take over for the previous big man (the late Charles Durning) before the Fiscal year; and Jennifer Jason Leigh as a fast-talking reporter, who must investigate the company. Robbins is the puppet in Newman’s game of controlling the company’s stocks.

“The Hudsucker Proxy” is attractive with its images (painted by cinematographer Roger Deakins and production designer Dennis Gassner), whimsical with its humor and dialogue, and sharp with its characters. Robbins, Newman, and Leigh all provide memorable moments, Durning has a goofy charm to his mutt and gruff self; and you also get Bill Cobbs as the narrator and clock man, who gets some bouncy words.

I just can’t help myself with the New York models and art direction. And they’re given help with some amazing special effects, especially a scene later in the film when we see Robbins falling from the building, and then stopped by time. It’s no full-throttle Coen Brothers film, but it deserves a lot more credit. 

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“Tremors”

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This 1990 Sci-Fi comedy flick stars Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward as two Nevada handymen and Finn Carter as a college graduate and would-be seismologist, who all find themselves dealing with worm-like creatures from underground.

They call them “graboids,” because of the ways their worm tongues grab you from the dirt. Until, they kill all the graboids, they must stay on the roofs, or at least have Michael Gross (“Family Ties”) and Reba McEntire provide the bombs to blow them up. 

Directed by Ron Underwood and written by Brent Maddock and S. S. Wilson, “Tremors” has the “Jaws” nonstop thrills, and the “Gremlins” comedy to keep movie-goers entertained. The special effects for the graboids are incredible and scary, and I’m already terrified to stand on the dirt, because of that. This was back before CGI took over the cinema world, and it’s nice to look back at these props, models, and machines. 

Bacon and Ward both have chemistry, because of their characters’ teamwork and bickering, Carter adds a sweet, plucky to her character, and Gross and McEntire both deliver the goods. Yes, I did get tired of the movie trickster Melvin’s (Robert Jayne) “Boy Who Cried Wolf” antics, but at least, he doesn’t follow that horror movie cliche: that jokesters or pricks have to die. 

“Tremors” has a lot of damn good energy, and keeps you going from beginning to end. 

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“Donnie Brasco”

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Mike Newell’s 1997 hit is based on a true story set in 70s, and stars Johnny Depp as FBI informant Joseph D. Pistone, who goes undercover as jewel thief Donnie Brasco, and Al Pacino as Lefty Ruggiero, a mobster in Bonanno crime family, who gives him his respect and trust. Lefty gives Donnie all the rules and regulations of being in the mafia, even though he tends to bend them a bit.

You also get Michael Madsen as Sonny, who is now the boss of the crime family; Anne Heche as Joseph’s estranged wife, who wants him to make more of an effort with their daughters; Bruno Kirby as one of the made men; Zeljko Ivanek (before we saw him in “Seven Psychopaths” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”) as an agent; and cameos from Paul Giamatti and Tim Blake Nelson as FBI technicians. 

Depp has the dialogue, disposition, and attitude to represent the real-life character, while Pacino nails his role of Lefty. And seeing these two together on screen is exhilarating in the ways they’re guided by Newell and written by screenplay writer Paul Attanasio. Heche delivers some emotional weight as the main wife. And boy, does Madsen have some bad-ass moments as Sonny. 

“Donnie Brasco” has the gangster movie charm and attitude it needs in retelling the story, and the actors are able to use their roles wisely without hamming things up. It deals with choices, temptation, stress, family lives, trust, and lies; and all these elements trigger your senses. And the 70s vibe, cause this is when the real-life situations took place, really spices things up.

Don’t even think about missing this one!

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