Lethal Weapon, The Little Mermaid, Little Miss Sunshine, and many more on this list.
We’re still waiting to get back to reality, so I’ve got another list of movies for you to see. Most of them have the kind of positivity we need right now, others have depth of humanity. Most of these films you’ve heard of, others you’re learning for the first time; and this quarantine should allow you to see them.
“Little Miss Sunshine”
This was the 2006 movie that changed my life, and made me a film critic, who shares his love for blockbusters and artisan films. You must meet the Hoover family, because they’re wonderfully portrayed by a terrific cast featuring Greg Kinnear as the struggling motivational speaker Richard; Toni Collette as his wife Sheryl; Steve Carell as her suicidal homosexual brother Frank; Paul Dano as her mute son Dwayne; Abigail Breslin as Richard and Sheryl’s daughter Olive; and Alan Arkin as Richard’s heroin addict father Edwin.
The story has the family driving in their shabby VW van from Albuquerque to Redondo Beach, California to enter Olive in the Little Miss Sunshine pageant. En route, they deal with a number of problems, including pushing the van to get it moving, Richard and Sheryl’s financial crisis, and some tragedies that change the family’s lives.
Directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris have both delivered a masterpiece with honest laughs, sincere drama, and fantastic performances from the A-list cast. And to be honest with you, this movie introduced me to Bryan Cranston as Richard’s business partner. But really, the movie made me appreciate the realties the characters live in, and the themes that help represent them.
“Forrest Gump” may be the best movie Robert Zemeckis has ever made, even better than “Back to the Future” or “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.” This movie introduces us to a character we will always cherish. That character is none other than Forrest Gump. Tom Hanks plays that character in many iconic and memorable ways.
Gump is a mentally disabled man, who, in his life, has fallen love with the girl Jenny (Robin Wright), how he took his mother’s (Sally Field) lessons in life, how he fought in the Vietnam War, how he met the US Presidents (with the miracle of special effects), how he became the greatest runner and ping-pong player, and how he created “Bubba Gump Shrimp,” which has become the famous chain restaurant we know and love.
“Forrest Gump,” based on the novel by Winston Groom, is a movie makes me smile, makes me sad, and then makes me smile again. It’s a movie in which I find a difficult time believing that anyone could be critical of this movie. Lots of credit goes to Hanks, Wright, Mykelti Williamson (as his partner Bubba Blue), Gary Sinise (as the soldier he rescues), Field, Groom, Eric Roth (who wrote screenplay), and Zemeckis. All of these people are part of a landmark of a movie, a movie that deserves to be seen by everyone, young and old.
“A Few Good Men”
In Rob Reiner’s 1992 hit, two soldiers are accused of murdering a marine, after they were told to set him straight for breaking a chain of command to get out of Guantanamo Bay. Tom Cruise is the inexperienced lawyer who must defend them, and both Demi Moore and Kevin Pollack are this team players, who must shake him up.
You also get Kevin Bacon as the opposing lawyer; Keifer Sutherland as the victim’s commanding officer; Wolfgang Bodison and James Marshall as the accused men; the late J.T. Walsh as the lieutenant colonel, who believes he failed his men; and Jack Nicholson as the colonel who must take the stand. That’s when he says the iconic line: “You can’t handle the truth!”
Aaron Sorkin wrote the screenplay based on his own play, and under Reiner’s guidance, he really brings out the best of the characters with their truth and justice. It shows us the honor or dishonor in the accused men, as well as the perspectives of the lawyers. The cast-led by Cruise, Nicholson, and Moore-all deliver some top-notch performances, bold dialogue, and strong will. Nominated for Oscars, it’s a court drama for the ages.
“When Harry Met Sally”
Ever since I saw Rob Reiner’s 1989 romantic comedy, I’ve had the urge to say: “I’ll have what she’s having” at restaurants. I know it’s an ordinary saying, but Idina Menzel said the same thing about “Let It Go.”
You get Billy Crystal as the political consultant Harry and Meg Ryan as the journalist Sally, both of whom meet, go their separate ways, and even after a few reunions, they still can’t form a relationship. That is until they begin an unusual relationship. They weren’t dating per se, they were actually good friends. I apologize if I am confusing you, but love stories come in all shapes and sizes. If this is writer Nora Ephron and director Reiner’s idea of romance, then they are both geniuses.
I love the very idea of “When Harry Met Sally,” and I am astonished at how unorthodox of a romantic comedy this is. Credit doesn’t just go to Ephron and Reiner; it also goes to Crystal and Ryan in a charming chemistry, as well as the late Bruno Kirby and Carrie Fisher as their friends. The film is funny, smart, and charming, all together.
“Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children”
During the quarantine, a friend of mine invited me to her Twitch streaming service to watch her play the new “Final Fantasy VII Remake” game,” and she also suggested that I dish on a 2005 Japanese CGI film version called “Advent Children.” It has its strengths and weaknesses, but it’s meant to be an anime video game movie with impressive visuals and high-power energy.
The story takes place in a desolate wasteland, where the main hero Cloud (voiced by Steve Burton) yields his sword in the battle for humanity. He also comes face-to-face with Kadji (voiced by Steve Staley), a manifestation of the evil spirit Sephiroth (voiced by George Newbern), who has found a way to be resurrected into another vessel to destroy the Earth.
“Advent Children” has its hits and misses. It’s difficult for the American voices (also with Rachael Leigh Cook and Mena Suvari) to match the lips of the characters (given that it was originally in Japanese), but their characters all sound energetic. And I’d be lying if I knew what the story was all about, but I managed to catch on to a few things. But mostly, I was impressed with the animation and visuals of this video game world, particular the eyeballs, hair, buildings, and color tones. It looks like a video game movie, because it is a video game movie. Besides streaming video games is another way to keep yourself safe indoors from the virus.
“Saturday Night Fever”
Watching “Saturday Night Fever” for the first time is something to behold. It has a number of great music, mostly from the Bee Gees, outrageous humor, and such a fantastic performance from John Travolta. When I attended the 40th anniversary screening of it, there were claps and cheers in the audience. Every dance sequence, I was dancing in my seat.
Travolta’s performance ranks with “Grease” and “Pulp Fiction” as Tony, a young man in Brooklyn, who works at a hardware store in order to help support his family, and every Saturday night, he hits the local disco club 2001 Odyssey. He’s got all the moves at that club, and he ends up entering a dance contest with Annette (Donna Pescow), a girl who has a crush on him. He ends up dumping her, when he falls for a beautiful dancer named Stephanie (Karen Lynn Gorney), whom he shows his moves to.
Based on a New York Magazine article called “Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night,” “Saturday Night Fever” keeps you dancing, laughing, gasping, and amazed at the ingenuity of the writing by Norman Wexler and direction by John Badham. The movie shows us a young dancer, who is labeled the black sheep of his family, and yet, manage to be the best dancer at 2001 Odyssey. It’s a wise, mellow, and colorful portrait. You love to see Travolta’s moves, and you love the ways he gets with Gorney, and she is also amazing. This is one of the greatest dance movies of all time.
“Rebel Without a Cause”
From 1955, comes “Rebel Without a Cause,” the kind of adolescent movie, which works wonders, unlike most teen movies these days. It features a troubled kid, who wants to do better, but always places himself in predicaments. This movie came out a month right after the star Jimmy Dean died in a car accident, but he does things you wouldn’t believe in “Rebel Without a Cause.” This movie is unbelievable in every way possible.
The movie features three main characters with family problems of their own. Jim Stark (Dean) comes from a bickering family, his dream girl Judy (Natalie Wood) feels her father doesn’t show her the love he gave to her as a little girl, and his friend Plato (Sal Mineo) has absent parents.
“Rebel Without a Cause” is the kind of teen drama that I often fail to find these days. This one features a screw-up, yet well-meaning figure, and Dean gives an outstanding performance as that screw-up. Wood is delightful and open-minded, and this movie features her in the right place. And Mineo is a natural as Plato, and his final conclusion is promising. Written and directed by Nicholas Ray, there is nothing condescending or boring about this movie.
“Beavis & Butthead Do America”
The first time I ever became familiar with the premise of Mike Judge’s “Beavis & Butthead” was their 1996 comedy hit “Beavis and Butthead Do America.” I found it to be a comedy so brilliant, that I decided to watch their classic MTV cartoons.
Beavis & Butthead (both voiced by Judge) both wake up to find that their television has been stolen. While searching for it, they stumble upon a motel, where a smuggler named Muddy (voiced by Bruce Willis) offers them $10,000 to do his wife Dallas (voiced by Demi Moore). Thinking they are finally going to score, they head over to Las Vegas, which leads them on a cross-country adventure involving terrorism and federal manhunts.
“Beavis & Butthead Do America” kept me entertained from start to finish. I think that Mike Judge is one of the most influential animators of all time. He gives these two boys a certain depth, which makes them think they are smarter than the world, and it’s obvious that they are not. This is my favorite MTV comedy, so even if you have never seen their classic shorts, you still will be surprised at how they view life in this movie.
“Natural Born Killers”
Written by Quentin Tarantino and directed by Oliver Stone, here’s a film that splices the dangers of violence and the media. Ergo, it’s one of the most controversial films in recorded history, and an entertaining one for that matter.
Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis are Mickey and Mallory Knox, world famous killers and lovers, who both come from sexually abusive lives. By “world famous,” I mean they are loved by fans around the globe. They don’t hesitate to kill anyone, but the only thing they fear more than the law, is their dark pasts. And after every attack, they leave one person alive to spread the word about themselves.
“Natural Born Killers” is the kind of hallucination you never want to end. It’s a violent world we live in, and Stone does a fabulous job representing that and the media. He also gives Harrelson, Lewis, Robert Downey, Jr (as an Australian Geraldo Rivera), Tommy Lee Jones (as a warden), Tom Sizemore (as a detective), and Rodney Dangerfield (as Mallory’s abusive father) with dangerous intentions. And I admired all the forms of camera angles, lighting, and special effects to represent the insanity her. This is an instant classic, and an underrated one at best.
“The Longest Yard” (1974)
If today’s generation has only seen the Adam Sandler one from 2005, then they should also see the one from 1974 with the late Burt Reynolds as the main convict and football coach Paul Crewe. And as I recall, both versions have Reynolds in them. This Crewe lands himself in jail for stealing his ex-girlfriend’s car under the influence of alcohol. And during his sentence, he must train a team of misfits in a football game against the guards.
The cast also features Eddie Albert as the prison warden, Ed Lauter as the head guard, James Hampton as Crewe’s assistant Caretaker, Michael Conrad as a former player, Little Caesar as an African-American convict, Richard Kiel as the giant con Samson, and Bernadette Peters as an office secretary.
The opening car chase sequence is one the best and funniest Ive seen on film, because of all the risks it takes. And then it continues with some good laughs and sincere drama involving threats, and character studies, and racism. Burt Reynolds said this to the warden, and now I’m saying this to you: “Stick this in your trophy case.”
“Lethal Weapon 1, 2, and 3”
I didn’t care for the fourth film, which is why I didn’t add it here, but these three action comedies, directed by Richard Donner and starring Mel Gibson as Martin Riggs and Danny Glover as Roger Murtaugh, are entertaining. Riggs is reckless, not crazy for the record, while Murtaugh tries to keep him in check. What a duo!
The first movie takes place during the holidays with a young hooker jumping to her death, Gary Busey as the main baddie, and Riggs struggling to overcome his grief after the death of his wife. The second one introduced Joe Pesci’s hilarious supporting role as Leo Getz, and the new villain (Joss Ackland) has diplomatic immunity (“It’s just been revoked,” says Murtaugh). And the third one has Rene Russo as the Internal Affairs agent Lorna Cole and a bunch of dirty cops whose bullets can kill anyone even wearing a bulletproof vest.
The “Lethal Weapon” movies are thoroughly entertaining, mainly because of the comical connection between Glover and Gibson, and how their adventures feature one challenge after another. Donner guides those two with enough action and personalities to make them both iconic and fun. Even Pesci is funnier as the annoying shortie than Kevin Hart’s in “Ride Along 2.”
“Lethal Weapon” ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“Lethal Weapon 2” ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“Lethal Weapon 3” ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2
“The Graduate” from 1967 is one of the most risqué and innovating coming-of-age movies I have ever seen. It is something to behold, something to process, and something to talk about. It’s the kind of movie I’d like to call plain and simple. If most movies nowadays could be like “The Graduate” without all those cliches, then that would be swell, but apparently most of them can’t.
Dustin Hoffman plays a 21-year-old graduate, who becomes seduced by his parents’ friend Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft), and falls for her daughter (Katharine Ross) comes home from Berkeley. Get ready for the last half of the film, which must be seen to be believed.
Directed by Mike Nicholas and based on the book by Charles Webb, “The Graduate” doesn’t go too far like most sappy love stories are these days. It breaks form, by making dramatic situations both comical and easy. Not only that, but the music of Simon & Garfunkel helps liven the scenes up or keep them on a mellow pace. The best songs to represent those moments are “Mrs. Robinson,” “The Sounds of Silence,” and “Scarborough Fair/Canticle.” The performances from Hoffman, Bancroft, and Ross are riveting. This coming-of-age genre goes to great lengths to keep the audience involved, and long after the movie was over, I was smiling.
“The Fifth Element”
Luc Besson’s 1997 Sci-Fi action hit takes place 300 years in the future, when an evil force threatens to destroy the human race, unless five elements can stop it. The fifth element has to be in the center of four elements in order for Mankind of prevail. Scientists have only found the hand of the fifth element, and they transform it in the form of Mila Jovovich. And when she escapes from the lab, she ends up in the hands of a former special forces major now-turned New York taxi driver named Korban Dallas (Bruce Willis), who takes fancy of her.
There are a few villains who want to retrieve the missing four elements. One is a mad industrialist named Zorg (Gary Oldman with a goofy southern accent), and the other is an alien race called “Mangalores.” They didn’t give me the kind of persona I needed, but Oldman has some nice dialogue, and the aliens are good looking.
“The Fifth Element” is a very funny, visually stunning, and entertaining space opera that keeps you going, no matter how silly it gets. Willis is fun, Jovovich is sexy, and Chris Tucker is hilarious as a talk show host with a bizarre hairdo. The alien make-up is breathtaking-the kind of stuff you used to see before CGI went wall-to-wall. I couldn’t get with the full story and villains, but I did eat up the pure fantasy Luc Besson has offered.
This is hands down one of the greatest silent movies of all time with one of the most influencing performers Harold Lloyd. It’s crucial that every film critic should see this 1923 movie, not just for the iconic clock hanging scene, but because of its flexibility and comical behavior that resonates with any generation of movie-goers.
Lloyd heads over to the big city, promising his girlfriend (Mildred Davis) a better life, so he works at a department store, which seeks popularity. And so, when the boss offers $1000 to anyone with a brilliant idea to attract customers, the young man decides to have his buddy (Bill Strother) climb the tall building. But things get complicated, and he must take his place on the building.
Lloyd did most of his own stunts with some help from Strother and a circus performer, and he really delivers a goofball with a lot of heart and charm. It lasts for over an hour, but that’s not why you should see it. You need something whimsical, something silly, and something inventive. And you don’t always need dialogue to save your skin.
The look and design of “Edward Scissorhands” is just fascinating. It’s the 1970s: the houses are either blue, pink, yellow, or green; the cars are old fashioned; the lawns are freshly cut; and everything about the neighborhood is colorful. And yet, high on the mountains, lives a dark and lonely mansion with tin figures making cookies, and a lonely man with scissors for hands. This indicates how bright and yet dreary Tim Burton’s movie is.
As the film begins, we meet a saleswoman named Peg Boggs (Diane Wiest), who drives up to the lonely castle, and finds a man with scissors, named Edward (Johnny Depp). His hands are scissors, because his inventor (Vincent Price) has died before he can finish him up. Nonetheless, Peg decides to let him live with her and her family. They consist of her husband Bill (Alan Arkin), their son Kevin (Robert Oliveri), and their teenage daughter Kim (Winona Ryder), whom Edward falls for, despite her having a boyfriend (Anthony Michael Hall). Edward becomes a hit with the neighborhood, but of course, the movie ends up showing us the dangers of Edward having the scissorhands.
Written by Caroline Thompson, “Edward Scissorhands” is a beautiful and emotional picture, filled with the kind of humor and darkness that Burton specializes. Depp gives a deep, passionate performance as Edward, Ryder is charming as Kim, and it’s always refreshing to see Price as the inventor. So, we have a great cast in a lovely Burton movie. Once we cross to the point of no return, I do find myself a bit negative at times, but I suppose that’s how these kind of stories work. It’s a colorful, yet dark movie that ranks with one of Burton’s most dazzling, yet underrated achievements.
At the time of “Hello Dolly’s” release, it was neither commercially or critically successful, compared to the original Carol Channing Broadway show, but it won 3 Oscars: Best Art Direction, Best Score of a Musical Picture, and Best Sound. I hardly see any problem with this movie adaptation, directed by Gene Kelly, because it’s quite memorable, delightful, and colorful if you read between the lines.
The year is 1890, and you get Barbara Streisand as matchmaker Dolly Levi, who is everyone’s favorite person; Walter Matthau as the wealthy and pigheaded Horace Vandergelder (Walter Matthau); and Michael Crawford and Danny Lockin as two clerks posing as rich guys on the town. She basically inspires people to go to New York to make their dreams come true.
“Hello Dolly” have a few flaws in various places, but it should be given another chance in life. It offers colorful characters, brought to life here by wonderful actors. Streisand is jolly, Matthau is charming, and Crawford and Lockin are both goofy fun. And I just love, love, love those Louis Armstrong cameos. “What a Wonderful World.” Leave it to Kelly to lead the actors on the right dance path with his direction and Micael Kidd’s choreography. This movie deserves more credit than it’s been given.
“The Little Mermaid”
I went to New York Comic Con for the first time last October, and I told Jodi Benson that both she and her iconic Disney character Ariel were beautiful people. She was one of the nicest actresses I’ve ever met, and the 1989 animated classic has restarted the Disney Renaissance at the time.
Ariel is the mermaid, who dreams of living on land as a human, and wants to mingle with the handsome Prince Eric (voiced by Christopher Daniel Barnes). She falls under the machinations of the evil octopus Ursula (voiced by Pat Carroll), who gives her a potion that will make her human for three days. The catch is Ariel has to give Ursula her voice, and if she doesn’t get Eric to kiss her, she becomes her prisoner.
Director Ron Clements and John Musker have both delivered a wonderful Disney classic with fantastic songs (by Alan Menkin and the late Howard Ashman), helpful supporting characters-including Sebastian the crab (voiced by Samuel E. Wright), Flounder the guppie (voiced by Jason Marin), and the seagull Scuttle (voiced by the late Buddy Hackett)-and a heroine with the courage, brains, and love she deserves. Beautifully drawn and whimsically delightful, it’s impossible to hate “The Little Mermaid.”
The original black British comedy from 1996 was directed by Danny Boyle, and based on Irvine Welsh’s novel. To me, it’s not always understandable, but it is a fresh portrait of heroin addicts with its performances, hit songs (including some from Iggy Pop and Lou Reed), and unusual images.
Set in Scotland, Ewan McGregor stars as heroin addict Mark Renton, who decides to give up heroin, and introduces his friends: heroin addicts Spud (Ewan Bremner) and Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller), fight picker Francis (Robert Carlyle), and athletic Tommy MacKenzie (Kevin McKidd); and their ambitions. Mark ends up sleeping with a young woman named Diana (Kelly MacDonald), who turns out to be a 15-year-old school girl, and threatens to call the police if he doesn’t see her again. And at one point, he decides to take a hit, and ends up seeing hallucinations, including a dead baby walking one his bedroom ceiling.
I didn’t likes some loud screams and I couldn’t get fully involved with all the supporting characters because of some of the dialogue, but I have found refreshing moments from them. The best come from Mark, when he goes through a repulsive toilet and into the sea in order to get pills, Spud, when he accidentally spoils his girlfriend’s bed and Francis, when he carelessly throws a glass at a woman’s face, causing her to bleed. The rest is all music, hallucinations, and drugs, lots of drugs. Director Danny Boyle adds a style all of his own to “Trainspotting,” and the casting is spot on.
“The Shawshank Redemption”
This is one of my all-time favorite movies, based on the novel (“Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption”) by Stephen King. It stars Tim Robbins as Andy Dufresne and Morgan Freeman as Red, both of him are convicts at the corrupted Shawshank prison. They become good friends overtime, while dealing with the cruelty of Warden Norton (Bob Gunton) and prison guard Captain Hadley (Clancy Brown).
To me, the very best sequence in the movie takes place near the end, when we see Andy escape from prison, and shock the warden and guards. And the most memorable line from Norton would be “I want him found…..not tomorrow, not after breakfast, NOW!” I just can’t stop saying those quotes, they’re so iconic.
“The Shawshank Redemption” has a powerful script and memorable performances from Robbins, Freeman, Gunton, Brown, Gil Bellows (as the thieving Tommy Williams), and James Whitmore (as the prison librarian Brooks Hatlin). This film is on par with “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” which had realistic performances, a demonic villain, and the right potential. This masterpiece will leave you gasping for breathe, and you would pretty surprised by it.
“Once Upon a Time in America”
I’ve been warned that the shorter version of Sergio Leone’s 1984 epic deteriorated the timing, narrative, and character development. So, to save myself the time and headache, I just had to see the original longer version (running for 3 hours and 50 minutes). It takes its time to show us the different generations of life in the Lower East Side of Manhattan during the Prohibition era.
You get Robert De Niro as Noodles and James Woods and Max, bootleggers and best buddies struggling to survive in the 1930s. It also shows them as kids (Scott Tiler as Noodles and Rusty Jacobs as Max) in their humble beginnings when they get themselves involved with organized crime, and in their adulthood, we see where their business will lead them. The movie is more focused on Noodles, and his choices and regrets in life.
With a strong supporting cast (also featuring Elizabeth McGovern, Joe Pesci, Burt Young, Treat Williams, the late Danny Aiello, and a 14-year-old Jennifer Connolly), beautiful cinematography (Tonino Delli Colli), a powerful score (composed by Ennio Morricone), and dangerous intentions, “Once Upon a Time in America” deserves to be seen for its original, long format. It delivers the characters, and where they head in life in the 20s, 30s, and 60s. Leone gives us a gangster epic that reels you in when you least expect it, and guides De Niro and Woods with fresh personalities.
Made in 1985 by Richard Donner, this family adventure was inspired by a “Little Rascals” short called “Mama’s Little Pirate.” Both these films have a sense of humor and adventure that kids in all generations could relate to. I was laughing at the adult humor found in a PG film, and I was delighted by the colorful variety of kids.
You get Sean Astin, Josh Brolin, and Corey Feldman, among others, as Oregon youngsters who must find the lost treasure of the famous pirate One-Eyed Willie to keep their homes. And you also have Joe Pantoliano, Robert Davi, and the late Anne Ramsey as the Fratellis, a crime family out to steal the treasure.
To me, the funniest character in “The Goonies” would be Chunk (Jeff Cohen), a chubby kid, who gets kidnapped by the Fratellis, and befriends their disfigured brother Sloth (the late football player John Matuszak). And the best sets would be a water slide, which leads the young adventurers down to the pirate ship, where the treasure is discovered. When you watch this movie, you’ll find a lot of heart, comedy, charm, and adventure.
The “Austin Powers” trilogy
Mike Myers is hilarious as the various James Bond spoofed characters, and director Jay Roach guided him very well in all three movies. Yeah, baby. He plays Austin Powers, the British agent from the 60s; Dr. Evil, the criminal mastermind also from the 60s; Fat Bastard, the morbidly obese assassin; and Goldmember, the Dutch villain, again from the 60s. All these movies are funny with Roach’s abilities to try to make the PG-13 rating go extreme, and for allowing Myers to deliver the goods in all roles.
In “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery,” Dr. Evil freezes himself into 1997, and so Austin Powers must be frozen to battle him with some help from Elizabeth Hurley. In “The Spy Who Shagged Me,” Dr. Evil and his evil clone Mini Me (the late Verne Troyer) both travel to 1969 to steal Austin’s Mojo (his sexy essence), and so Austin must team up with Heather Locklear to stop him. And finally, “Goldmember” introduces us to the evil Goldmember, and Michael Caine (as Austin’s father) and Beyonce (as a Pam Grier spoof) join in.
The best joke in the series is when Dr. Evil has a penis-shaped spaceship, and people have various says of saying the names. That killed me the most out of all the jokes in the series. Let’s not forget his and Austin’s abilities to try to survive in the 90s. And Troyer will truly be missed. There will never be another Mini Me like him. These movies deserve more mojo.
“Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery” ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2
“Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me” ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2
“Austin Powers in Goldmember” ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2
This is an underrated 90s favorite of mine. Of course, when I was six, I used to call Michael Jordan “Michael Gordon.” But when I got older, I was able to see the levity inside the set-up of this former Bulls player teaming up with the Looney Tunes to battle some alines, who have stolen the abilities of other basketball legends (like Charles Barkley and Patrick Ewing).
What makes this movie fun is when Jordan has fun with the notion of a retired basketball star who reluctantly agrees to shoot some hoops with Bugs and Daffy. You also have to appreciate the famous Warner Bros. cartoon characters for their abilities to adapt to the 90s without being labored or lame. And celebrities from the likes of Bill Murray, Wayne Knight, Larry Bird, and Danny DeVito (voicing an evil alien mogul) help keep things rolling along.
Yes, there are some unnecessary gags, but they become the least of problems. Because the combination of animation and live-action (close to “Who Framed Roger Rabbit’s” potential), hot soundtrack (featuring Seal, R. Kelly, and Monica), and splicing of basketball with the Looney Tunes makes “Space Jam” a slam dunk hit.
To be completely honest with you, I’ve enjoyed this Peter Bogdanovich hit from 1985 more than “Wonder” with Jacob Tremblay and Julia Roberts, and I liked that one. This one, however, is more high-spirited, and gives Eric Stolz, Cher, Sam Elliott, and Laura Dern their character studies and vulnerabilities. It also delivers on a real-life character, who suffered from the craniodiaphyseal dysplasia disease, and lived his best years as a teenager.
Based on a true story and set in the late 70s, we meet Rocky Dennis (Stoltz), a disfigured teen, who must begin a “normal” life in high school, while his mother Rusty (Cher) consumes drugs. You also get Elliott as her biker friend, who helps her get off of drugs and has nothing but the utmost respect for her boy; and Dern has a sweetness as a blind girl Rocky falls for.
Other than some unnecessary quotes, “Mask” is a human movie about a human being, whom some people think is a kid in a mask. The make-up artists have done a fabulous job of making Stoltz looking disfigured, and he also adds courage and positive energy as him. The supporting roles from Cher, Elliott, and Dern all have their moments of sincerity, the drama warms your heart up, and the music (with hits by Steely Dan, Bruce Springsteen, and Bob Seger) keeps things spiced up. There’s no such thing as normal, and that’s what Bogdanovich conveys.
“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”
This is a martial arts movie with one of the most dazzling stunts and special effects I’ve ever seen. There’ no CGI intended, but computers are able to remove the safety wires of the flying fighters. Each flying moment has left my mouth opened with awe and excitement. And I’m pondering on why Ang Lee can’t go back to his roots.
We meet Jen Yu (Zhang Ziyi), the daughter of the rich Governor Wu (Li Fazeng), who’s set to be married, but secretly studies the Wudang fighting skills to be a warrior. And we also meet Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh), the head of a security company, and Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun-fat), the devoted Wudang swordsman.
What I really adore about “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” is its breathtaking ability to combine martial arts with independence. The women here refuse to be treated like dolls, and Wang Hui-ling, James Schamus, and Tsai Kuo Jung all write them with courage. Yeoh and Ziyi are both radiant in their own respective ways, while Yun-fat has poignant skills, and Cheng Pei-Pei’s villain is persistently riveting. And I just love the special effects and martial arts skills to bring the fighting to life. This is an epic martial arts movie that needs to be seen by any Bruce Lee fan or anyone who loves to see something new.
“James and the Giant Peach”
This 1996 Disney stop-motion tour-de-force was created by director Henry Selick and producer Tim Burton, coming on the success of “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” And while it wasn’t as financially successful as that film, it still is an absolute delight for kids and adults.
Based on Roald Dahl’s book, we meet a young boy named James (Paul Terry) who suffers from his sadistic aunts (Miriam Margolyes and Joanna Lumley), and finds himself in inside a giant peach, grown because of magic bugs. He climbs inside, becomes animated in stop-motion, and meets a variety of colorful characters from a French spider (voiced by Susan Sarandon) to a wisecracking centipede (voiced by Richard Dreyfus). They all must venture for a better life in New York City.
Forget the humiliating aunts, “James and the Giant Peach” is a visual wonder with fantasy, comedy, and heart. Again, it was made in the 90s, a time when stop-motion animated features were better appreciated, unlike today, when people have lost their love for them and made them box office bombs. But best of all, it has a dazzling ability to combine the animation with live-action. And with delightful work from Terry and the voice actors, and terrific teamwork from Selick and Burton, you must never miss this adventure.
The “Indiana Jones” trilogy
It’s impossible to imagine anyone replacing Harrison Ford as the archeologist adventurer Indiana Jones, and if you even so much as try to reboot this Steven Spielberg-directed franchise, I will smack you harder than a fly. These three movies are full of adventure, fun, danger, ingenuous writing, and non-stop thrills.
In “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” he must battle Nazis, who covet an ancient power. In “The Temple of Doom,” a prequel, he teams up with an Asian kid named Short Round (Jonathan Ke Quan), and a spoiled nightclub singer named Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw) to save a bunch of kids from an evil cult. And “The Last Crusade” teams him up with his father (Sean Connery) to find a Holy Grail before the Nazis take control of it.
We also had “The Kingdom of the Crystal,” and that was a guilty pleasure of mine, but id’ rather dish on the original movies from the 80s. Let the special effects, props, and sets place Indiana Jones in one treacherous situation after the next, and allow the puzzles and clues to guide him on the right place. And let Spielberg and Ford have the chemistry to bring these films to life.
“Raiders of the Lost Ark” ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2