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Rush Hour

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OK, I love Jackie Chan, and I have yet to be disappointed by Chris Tucker (I definitely prefer him to his casting competition, Martin Lawrence and Will Smith and Chris Rock) – but how will they work as a team? They work great! They have absolutely opposite approaches to comedy and police work, and the combination works to a T. The inexplicably titled Rush Hour is naturally a lot more Hollywood than your traditional Hong Kong Jackie Chan movie, but it is not an American world with one lone bad ass Asian in it either, like Rumble in the Bronx.

The actual plot devices are not huge surprises – even the Jackie Chan virgin with whom I saw the movie recognized a room full of Jackie fight props when she saw one – but the enjoyable parts aren’t the action movie conventions, but the interaction between Tucker and Chan. While they won’t win any screenwriting Oscars, they will get a round of applause from the audience. The Chan virgin says the script sometimes reads like a fortune cookie. But less cryptic and definitely more funny.

You want an additional bit of cool pedigree? Lalo Schifrin composed the music (not the obligatory pop soundtrack, of course, but the extra fun adventuresome score)! Let me tell you – it’s a wacky mix of Deep Rising’s music and Chinese music. If you don’t know what I mean with the Deep Rising stuff, well, you’re missing out. But, you can make it up to me by catching Rush Hour.

I don’t say full price because of the predictability and because there’s just not enough Jackie. Like Nothing to Lose, however, the preview gives a lot of joke lines away, but it’s edited together so the lines are heard and enjoyed as a preview, but they are out of context from the film, so it doesn’t ruin the movie as you watch it. Also, the traditional bloopers at the end during the credits are a big, fat, sweet cherry on the sundae.

What else, what else? Oh, it’s like Chinese food (no, seriously) – immensely satisfying and then it’s gone. We got Chinese food afterward and settled into Rumble in the Bronx, and that showed the contrast between Jackie’s solo films and being partnered with an American. The wanton (ha ha wonton) destruction is split between the two stars, but Jackie’s gift for humor is not mined as completely as it could be. In the dialogue arena, it’s Tucker’s movie, and action is all Jackie. A woman behind me was wowed by stunts I am sure Jackie does on his lunch break, but he didn’t ohmygodholycraplookoutwow like he has in the past. Maybe he was hamstrung by American insurance people or maybe he is starting to show his 43 years of rough and tumble living. Nahhhh!!!!!! It’s us Yanks, just the Man holding him down.

I for one am looking forward to a sequel/franchise, or else just a perma-pairing, like Tracy and Bacall or Douglas and Turner…or Gibson and Glover. But without any lameness – bring me Stanley Tong!!! Catch it. Considering that it’s a Hollywood cop buddy movie and a Jackie Chan vehicle, it has a lot of character development and a lack of lame obvious humor. Maybe it’s the stars’ charm, maybe it’s the script – but who cares!

MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 9/18/98
Time in minutes 97
Director Brett Ratner
Studio New Line Cinema

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For those of you who might have lost sight of the original purpose of my financially-angled reviews, this is the kind of movie that would rate higher on my scale than say, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences would rate it. So the reason this movie rates so high is because * for what it is * this is a great movie. It is everything you would want from a wacky, comic book come to life action vampire movie. Lots of ass-kickin’, lots of bloody spectacle, a Star Gate-esque mythos and a bunch of cool set pieces and did I mention the ass kicking? Now, mind you, I never read the comic book – for all I know this is an embarrassing bastardization of a great work along the lines of Batman and Robin; but Blade is a totally fun ride.

Without giving anything away, really, that isn’t covered by the preview, there is a whole hidden world (it would have to be well hidden – their activities are very obvious!) of vampires and they are an ancient race of superior beings, yadda yadda yadda. There’s hierarchy amongst them and racial purity blah blah blah, a legend with a Chosen One, the whole bit. This all has been done to death a million times. Blade (the movie) deals with the serious issues like, why * hasn’t * anyone ever called in a hematologist to study them before? But more importantly, the movie really does try to add new life to the genre and to the species of vampire. Sure, they’re still sexy shoppers at Contempo Casuals and they still refuse to shower or shave, yet still manage to be more appealing than humans, but hey!

Evil evil evil! Gotta love evil. Especially when it’s as transparent as Stephen “SFW” Dorff with electronica blaring through his headphones, squatting disdainfully in clubwear and planning world domination. Wesley Snipes plays Blade utterly straight, growling every line without a trace of irony – but it’s this straight man approach that has defined nudge nudge style comedy for centuries. It’s a hoot. And the ass kicking! Swordplay, strobe lit homicidal rage, and the sexy undertone that vampires have over any other supernatural bad guys make this a fun ride. So I recommend the movie at Matinee plus snacks because for the genre of comic book movies and vampire modern movies, this is as good as it gets, kids. Cool effects, great sets, clever little filmic conceits, you name it. It was a blast.

But my god, I mean, it’s no Saving Private Ryan, OK? But go at night, bring some friends, have a ball. Chomp some popcorn!

MPAA Rating R-violence and gore, language, and brief sexuality.
Release date 9/4/98
Time in minutes 115
Director Stephen Norrington
Studio New Line Cinema

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Your Friends and Neighbors

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This is not a date movie. Anyone who sees Ben Stiller in a comedy of relationship errors and thinks, ahh, I’ll bring my girlfriend, should prepare for some can of worms to pop open. Despite the post-film hook-up of a couple of friends of mine, I would not recommend taking anyone you have designs on. You should recognize something of yourself or your partners in these characters.

From the man who wrote and directed the unapologetic In The Company of Men, Neil LaBute, comes another brutal slice of the unfortunate side of life. This movie is slicker and more professional looking than ITCOM but with the same discomforting honesty and incredible writing. Six people and a smattering of extras, a very few locations (some only seen from one camera angle repeatedly and in an incredibly narrow way) and an emphasis on character & dialogue stirred with frank talk of sex and irritation makes a hearty film. None of the characters ever refer to each other by name, which I didn’t actually notice myself, it was pointed out to me – but it’s the type of detail that contributes to the intimate web of tension among these six people.

Neighbors is graphic without showing anything, incredible yet credible. It’s a testament to the actors in the movie that the whole thing doesn’t come off as some heinous angsty anti-fantasy, but instead is totally
engaging and morbidly fascinating. One speech, shot in one take, late in the film, is just amazing, and the actor in question sells it unreservedly. I don’t want to tell you but one friend who saw it said the audience was utterly vocal in its awe.

The casting is great – and Jason Patric (Cary) (Lost Boys) has totally redeemed not just his own performance in Speed 2 but almost the whole movie (for paying for his acting lessons I guess). The under-famous always excellent Catherine Keener (Terri) is subtle and wonderful. Nastassja Kinski (Cheri) has not aged a MINUTE since Cat People and she’s marvelous. I love Ben Stiller (Jerry) and he’s totally against type and totally perfect here. NYPD Blue’s Amy Brenneman (Mary) is layered and impressive. Aaron Eckhart (Barry) was in In The Company Of Men and he is utterly different in this movie – but, as in the first, he completely inhabits his character so you don’t even get a sense of acting.

It’s really good, OK? Just trust me on this.

MPAA Rating R -sexual dialogue, strong sexuality and language.
Release date 9/4/98
Time in minutes 97
Director Neil LaBute
Studio Gramercy Pictures

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The Avengers

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I don’t know what my friend saw in this movie. Really. My three companions and I all had the same perception of the movie, despite one Avengers fan, three Avengers virgins, and one dozing reviewer. It sucked. It was incoherent, slow paced, and it didn’t even delivery style in spades – it was devoid of pleasure except for seeing Ralph Fiennes naked, sort of. Uma didn’t inhabit her body half the time, and nothing seemed to happen, and then somehow the good guys won, and it was over. Sean Connery turned in a shameful performance as the bad guy.

I walked into the theatre never having seen (or heard of, prior to the movie’s announcement) the Avengers TV show, but sometimes that’s a good thing. I was assured afterward that it was just like the1968 series, in that it was slow, veddy veddy British, and weird and random. However, the reason shows like that aren’t made any more is because they are boring. Fine. I hoped for some slick costumes, some witty repartee if I was lucky, and some cool visuals, like the ones hinted at in the preview. “I’ll bet the scene where they are walking in those big clear balls will be cool – what bad asses they must be!” No such luck! Have you ever watched a movie and dozed off and then awoken just to feel like you missed something * really * important? I felt like that long before the painful old BBC pacing drove me to slumber – and the three people watching with me said they felt the same way – BUT THEY NEVER FELL ASLEEP. I realized about 30 minutes in that I had glazed over, as if I were at a staff meeting (er, at another company of course). The stimulus being processed by my brain was so devoid of content or interest, that it was more diverting to see how far I could reduce my heart and respiration rate without actually dying than to watch the movie.

Oh, I am so angry I paid full price! Don’t make the same mistake I did! I can save you the trouble and pain and bitterness. Listen to me. Don’t go see it! The lone Avenger viewer also assured me that there should be no hookup between Mrs. Peel and Mr. Steed. I didn’t care about them before entering the theatre nor did I care when the inevitable hookup occurred.

Ecch. Fellow detractor Ben Combee says : “This film will be a cult classic. Not all cults are good. Neither is this film.”

MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 8/24/1998
Time in minutes 90
Director Jeremiah S. Chechik
Studio Warner Brothers

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Dead Man on Campus

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Definitely watch on cable with beers. I did sneak in, but I would have paid for it. I am wild about Tom Everett Scott but he has himself one terrible agent. However, as Dead Man got started, I settled in to some delightfully amusing opening credits (set up is like a standardized test but about death and suicide). From then, I was totally caught up in the tone, and I had a great time. I’m not comparing Dead Man on Campus to Young Frankenstein, OK, but I chuckled the whole time, and when it comes on HBO in a month because it tanked at the box office, I’ll watch it again.

Mark Paul Gosselar (Saved By The Bell?!?) is Scott’s party boy roommate, and the two of them embark to take advantage of the urban legend that if your roommate commits suicide, you get a 4.0 for the semester. For the record, they do find that rule on the books at school. The movie takes a while to get around to this inciting incident, but all the supporting actors (the other roommate, potential roommates, girlfriends’ roommates, dorm occupants) are interesting and totally funny. New roommate candidate number one in particular is very funny.

The stereotypes are nothing new, but they are funny. The dialogue is funny, even Josh’s descent into probationary scholastics is not as trite as it could have been. Maybe it was my low expectations, but I actually think that people will not appreciate how much suckage was avoided in the making of this film. I can easily see a Police Academy 7 sensibility taking hold of a movie like this and making it more painful than a new ABC sitcom.

Seriously, I had a great time watching this movie – my companions were dozing and neutral, respectively. So I want people who will appreciate it to see it, because I had fun, but I don’t want people getting mad at me for telling them to blow their money on it. So, watch it on cable when it gets there, and you’ll like it, and you can’t resent anyone if you don’t. But you HAVE to like the opening credits – I cracked up the whole time! But again, I think death humor (read: Weekend at Bernies, not The Seventh Sign) is a hoot. When it’s silly and morbid, that is. I know I am alone liking the Bernie movies (please look at them like classic vaudeville – the physical humor alone should be reason to see it – anyway!) but don’t let that taint your opinion of my opinion.

Tom Everett Scott, if you’re out there, save yourself! This is a good start and the Zellweger/Streep vehicle will help maybe, but get back to smart fare like That Thing You Do! before you get pigeonholed into playing my ideal man forever….on second thought…Well, I’ll see this again, next opportunity. Check it out.

MPAA Rating R for drug use, language and crude sexual humor.
Release date 8/21/98
Time in minutes 94
Director Alan Cohn
Studio MTV

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Snake Eyes (1998)

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Not to be confused with the cyberpunk story of the same name, Snake Eyes is a technical tour de force. That said, it is also sadly lacking in one important element – surprise and tension. Two important elements, surprise, tension, and full characters. Besides lacking three elements, surprise, tension, interesting characters, and more distracting MacGuffins, Snake Eyes sure looked great. Seriously great. I was on the edge of my seat not waiting for the plot to unfold but eagerly drinking in Stephen H. Burums kick ass camera work. Walking out of the theatre I felt satisfied, like I had eaten a good meal. I forgot all about the movie as I continued with my day, and then when recounting what movie I had seen, could not quite recall. This gave me pause.

Burum on camera would be nothing without editor Bill Pankow; they joined forces to create what appears to be a long (nearly 20 minutes) unedited tracking shot (but my friend and I counted at least 3 hidden cuts) – this is the best part of the movie without a doubt – that and the fact that the showmanly shot is revisited from different points of view later in the film. This also is way interesting. The credits roll over seemingly innocuous construction work, also unedited (but only like, 5-8 minutes) but stick around – there’s a payoff! The opening tracking shot does little to introduce the plot, but it is excellent in introducing Nicolas Cage’s character and the intricate arena/casino setting. One theory presented by my crowd is that it’s all a constructed soundstage, in which case my hat is off to the art department too. It’s all very underplayed, though – if you’re not looking for it and trying to get caught up in the story, you will not enjoy this movie as much as I did.

As it stands, just as a film, it starts out with a bang and seems to be very intricate and interesting, but (and you know how I hate to give away things) it sort of plays its trump card and then sits there. It’s like the movie starts at 11 and there’s nowhere to go from there. OK, it starts at 10, goes to 11 within say, 30 minutes, and then we are left with the simple pleasure of watching Nicolas Cage and Gary Sinise try and save the film by the sheer force of their charisma and talent. And who is that very pretty girl who looks like she is being shot through a soft focus all the time, like William Shatner’s Star Trek closeups? She’s “all that and a bag of chips,” but they’re Olestra chips. Voom! All gone.

So if you want to study camera technique and the art of a long shot, watch this instead of the execrable Anaconda because if nothing else, Cage makes anything more watchable than Jon Voigt. But if you want to see a movie that will thrill you and blow your mind, save your money. But if you find it available for rental and it’s pan and scan, don’t bother – the best part of the film will be lost to you.

MPAA Rating R for some violence
Release date 8/7/98
Time in minutes 98
Director Brian de Palma
Studio Paramount Pictures

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Halloween H20

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If you loved Halloween, the first one, like I did, you will have a great time at this movie. If you couldn’t care less about Michael Myers or if you don’t find him remotely scary, don’t even bother. The body count is low, the personal drama with the inestimable Jamie Lee Curtis (I mean, the Baroness Haden-Guest!) is thick, and Michael just keeps coming.

The movie has some nice little horror movie nods in it, such as a cameo by Janet Leigh and her car from Psycho, the creepy Mr. Sandman opener, stuff like that. I have always been scared to death of Michael and he is very bold in this movie, coming right up to people and everything. There’s some good creep out, a surprisingly high percentage of off-camera killings, and a bunch of comely teens to draw out the baddie. Who is that girl with no eyebrows, and how did that Jumanji kid get * that * girlfriend? Sure, it seems silly, but it’s a horror movie!

It’s not trying to be all hip and smart and self referential, but it ties up a lot of loose ends that were either poorly dealt with or not at all dealt with by the sequels. It kind of pretends Halloween 3-6 didn’t exist, much like the movie-going public did. This was a wise choice on the part of the filmmakers. I was yelping “Oh my god!” through most of the film and I was generally kept in suspense, but I have to say the ending is kind of not the huge finale Myers deserves. It’s not a small tasteful affair like Kirk’s funeral in Star Trek: Generations either – it just seemed tacked on to the rest of the movie, which was obviously created by someone deeply in love with the original story.

It was fun and scary and definitely cool to have Curtis back again, to deal with the situation properly. I also appreciated the fact that all the harsh language used in the film really felt organic – it felt like genuine, situationally inspired cursing, rather than f@*k for f@*k’s sake. In other words, the dialogue was surprisingly good for a horror movie. And Curtis is truly the rightful heir to the scream queen throne held by her mother.

MPAA Rating R for terror, violence, gore, and language
Release date 8/5/98
Time in minutes 85
Director Steve Milner
Studio Dimension Films

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Ever After: A Cinderella Story

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If you are a girl, you will like this movie. If you are a guy (and I mean a guy’s guy, not a sensitive guy), you will be forced to see this movie and secretly kind of enjoy it but not really. This is just how it is with movies with strong women characters, I am sorry to say. It has a dollop of magic (not like Disney’s Cinderella but more general magic) and a lot of beautiful 16th century France pageantry and beauty, and a boatload of reversals of traditional gender roles. Ooh – and Richard O’Brien! This movie really spoke to me personally, so I am sure I liked it more than some of you might – but a male friend of mine was nutso loving it to so, who knows.

Drew Barrymore gives a layered performance as Danielle, aka Cinderella. Drew has that perfect blend of cherubic charm, sexual confidence, and scarred strength from childhood adversity to pull off this role. Dougray Scott is foxy and sensitive and two dimensional, just like any movie heroine, but at least we actually get a glimpse as to why Danielle would love him so. The story is presented 6 generations hence, as an aged queen corrects the fairy tale storytellers as to how the story really went. No pumpkins and mice here, but certainly a wicked, wicked stepmother, two differently unpleasant stepsisters, and an absent loving father. Anjelica Huston is perfect – her stern, cold face has been woefully miscast in the past but here is a conniving matriarch to counterbalance Danielle’s determination. And the costumes! Oh my god!!! 16th century France may have smelled like ass but it looked beautiful! Jenny Beavan does some amazing work.

Audiences will be relieved to know that the MTV pop music stylings seen in the preview are not present in the film (though there is a jarring pop song over the credits) – the rest of the time it’s nice traditional forgettable score. Some of the dialogue used in the preview also is taken out of context so it’s not as goofy hokey as it seems like it would be either. Enough of that – more about why I loved it and why women will love it and men, well….

The issues addressed in this movie are about womanhood and finding a mate and the nature/nurture aspects of parenting, about love and respect and being a hero to oneself and all kinds of great pop psychology stuff that just happened to strike a number of chords for me personally. Having said that, I am sure everyone has experienced literally or metaphorically some of what our Danielle goes through in this film, and for all of you out there who also feel a thrum within your chest when your inner life is projected so nicely on screen, pay full price. I would pay full price again. As for you men, if you can get past the testosterone haze and appreciate hearty women characters (because, like it or not, *those* are the women you want to be with, not these fluttering anorexic victims in high heels running and screaming), you will also like this movie. Barrymore really is the perfect actress for this part, even if her dialect isn’t perfect (of course, it’s Hollywood, so French people have British accents). Dougray might make you feel inadequate but you may actually secretly identify with his issues, if not his basket.

Cinderella is a classic story for a reason, but this modern interpretation somehow feels more true. How could this have become a legend unless it had some strength and moxie- Disney discredited the feisty forgotten daughter with her weak, helpless hopes that the prince will rescue her. Parents who remember how the story traditionally goes will appreciate that no one cuts off their heel to fit into the shoe, or any other such random fate nonsense. It’s not grrrrl power, nor is it the marriage-is-the-only-way-out model of girlhodd – it’s what we all should recognize in each other – merit, passion, character, and caring. Guys, bring your gals and just see it.

MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 7/31/98
Time in minutes 100
Director Andy Tennant
Studio 20th Century Fox

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Saving Private Ryan

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I saw Saving Private Ryan nearly 3 weeks ago and I have been unable to write any reviews since. Mayhap that says more than my review will. By now you have all heard stories of special phone hotlines springing up for veterans experiencing shell shock flashbacks after seeing this movie. You’ve witnessed grave theatre managers in the pre-show announcement offering the expectation-blasting disclaimer that “whatever you’ve heard about this movie is not enough to describe this cinematic experience.” With this more “legitimate” wave of hype than say, Godzilla’s, Saving Private Ryan is bound to make you expect the most important movie ever made – and if you don’t feel that way, you will surely go to hell or something. I tried unsuccessfully to ignore all the press about the movie. I went expecting a punch in the stomach sob drama and came out more thoughtful, reverent, and horrified by warfare, but with no emotional catharsis. This is not to say the movie fails in any way, it is just not what They are leading you to expect.

From a technical standpoint, Saving Private Ryan is pure art. Wallowing in surround sound, we have whizzing bullets and loudly crumbling destruction, colors fading as men focus on combat, alternative film speed and handheld action thrusting you into a shocking world that just doesn’t come across the same in a John Wayne movie. During the credits, my eye randomly caught the credit for the clapper loader, and I was struck by how very much not-movie SPR felt. I could not imagine a 2 dozen-person-plus team of regular people with chairs and film boxes and grip stands and sound carts and makeup bags and Polaroid cameras anywhere near what I was watching on screen. It was trying to picture a faceless man snapping shut the clapper “B Camera!” and walking off screen in jeans and a gore-tex windbreaker before watching the actors scrabble in the grey mud for their lives that truly drove home the “reality” of he movie for me. It’s like they just waged a real war and threw a 2 man crew in there. All the actors are familiar faces, be they Tom “the envelope please” Hanks or the plethora of people who have been on Friends, but at no point do you think of them as anyone but the men they are portraying. OK, that’s not true – Matt Damon’s preternaturally white teeth make him look like a Hollywood frat boy next to the men assembled to save him.

The story is based loosely on actual events (I mean, besides WW2 of course), otherwise it would ring jingoistic and improbable. As with Schindler’s List, Spielberg demonstrates that this is an important life-changing war without infusing it with personal, Oliver-Stonesque melodrama. I actually prefer Schindler’s List from an emotional standpoint, but this movie gave me new food for thought. In the weeks since seeing this movie, I have had more conversations about patriotism and bravery than I or anyone else I know have had ever. Generally, my generation (you know, the X one) agrees that by and large, if we were thrown into this situation as these men were, not really trained military personnel but folks from regular life handed a gun and told, “Get the bad guys,” we would all be crying on the staircase and die in a moment. I am not denigrating any of my contemporaries presently enrolled in the armed forces – I mean, like, the rest of us, the couch potatoes who would have been conscripted for that bloody mess. We’d be whining about how the water tastes and “I want my PowerBook!” Basically what I am saying is, I now have a million times more respect for veterans, particularly the older veterans of those wars back before the big red button, when there was a palpable enemy (as opposed to economic security being threatened) to fight and conquer.

Patriotism is almost an embarrassingly quaint, backwoods emotion to exhibit these days – we seem to associate it more with either sheep-like adherence to things only partially understood, or movies like Armageddon. Our soft, selfish minds consider getting shot for our country foolhardy and lame. Our executive branch is the target of tasteless jokes formerly targeting The Enemy. SPR has short framing segments at the beginning and end set in the present, and a well-cast older gentleman is at the veteran’s cemetery. All I could think at the end was, “That old guy I’m honking at while I am driving pell mell to my swing dance lessons went through all that? For me? So I can drive my Honda and speak English and watch cable TV?” Wow….so instead of the emotional punch in the stomach that I was expecting, I instead have a quiet, respectful reflection…oh, and did I mention the graphic depiction of the horrors of war? Do I need to? Most of the movie was spent agape in amazement at the hellacious conditions these boys were in, and the incredibly real-looking carnage and palpable pain and fear and tension. Forget Lt. Dan’s missing legs – watch Pvt. Smith’s disappear *before your very eyes!*

People ask me, “Have you seen Saving Private Ryan yet?” and I say yes, and they say, “So is it good?” I can’t answer that question with a yes like I can other movies. It is well done, it is vivid and thought-provoking, and it is three hours of….I can’t say entertainment or diversion, it’s genuine transportation into the world of the movie. And for a director to completely absorb me is worth every penny of admission. It’s not like other movies. Go see it.

MPAA Rating R for intense graphic war violence, language
Release date 7/24/98
Time in minutes 170
Director Steven Spielberg
Studio Dreamworks

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The Mask of Zorro

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Two bits, four bits, six bits a peso! All for Zorro, stand up and say so!

I must preface this review by mentioning that after watching this movie, my friends and I rented Zorro: The Gay Blade, and I never dreamed I would ever complain of that film being too plot-heavy, but after the relentless swashbuckling, classically macho theatrics, and gore-free violence of this new Zorro movie, I forgot that there were greater issues at stake than just revenge – and I didn’t care! George Hamilton was Zorro then, but Banderas is Zorro for all time! But don’t think for a minute that the filmmakers intended to make a serious Zorro movie – this, like Desperado, is really a cheeky romp with some genuinely fine swashbuckling.

Antonio Banderas (who has recently been shedding his sex appeal in the films since Desperado faster than Melanie Griffith can lipo herself) returns to his full, glistening brown Hot Latin Lover (TM) self, complete with comedy, wit, and some bad-ass sword fighting. For those who prefer their Zorro cool as a cucumber and smart as a whip, there’s the crackling British (?) Anthony Hopkins, still buff even grey, speaking with that even Dr. Lecter coolness that makes him The Man. For the guys who brought their panting girlfriends with a change of underwear, to avoid feeling inadequate under the 20 foot brown eyes of Banderas, there is the creamily sensual Catherine Zeta-Jones, who is just as hot to watch as any of her co-stars. When all three are on screen, all I can think is “sequel!”

You know from the preview that Zeta-Jones and Banderas have a fencing scene together – but WOOF! When was the last time such animosity was such great foreplay? Holy mackerel! Everyone’s skin is candlelit and glowingly exfoliated by the warm California sun. There’s wit and passion, and humor out the wazoo in unexpected places. The joy of Zorro is that he’s not a superhero, he’s just a man, a clever man, doing a Robin Hood on the baddies and avenging the people – and he does it for fun. He’s as driven as Batman, as clever as the Fox, as elusive as The Saint, but he’s also into his own image – sexy black cape and rakish sombrero and all. And The Mask of Zorro does not pretend (as the Batman franchise was doing) to take itself too seriously. Because of this, Zorro the movie is a fun and rollicking joyride, as well as a genuinely exciting tale of heroism and good over evil.

Oh and did I mention it’s totally sexy? It’s almost embarrassing how sexy it is – like being at the movies with your parents the first time you see a nude scene together thinking, oh man, I hope no one can tell how HOT I think this is! The thought of Banderas being on set with all those beautiful people (despite that weird Hall and Oates reject he battles at the end) and then going home to Melanie Griffith – love is truly blind. Anyway, the plot is pretty simple, the mechanisms to carry it are not much more complicated than they need to be – but by gum, it’s a blast. Overall, a nice generic score by James “Titanic” Horner, but there are some great Latin rhythm sections in it that tempted my music-lovin’ dollar.

All I want to know is – did Hopkins personally teach Banderas to dance like he does with Zeta-Jones – because that adds a whole new dimension to their training. Yow! Director’s cut! Director’s cut! Go see it. It gets Full Price Feature not because it is brilliant filmmaking, but for pure bang for your buck expectation fulfillment. Ole!

MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 7/17/98
Time in minutes 137
Director Martin Campbell
Studio Tri Star Pictures