This is... my third favorite Trek movie? Pretty remarkable for a movie that has very few ship-fetish shots and plays like a 3-part episode of the TV series. But, man, it just works.
I believe it was advertised as the final movie for the original crew from Star Trek before The Next Generation gang took over, but as an excitable 16 year old, I thought "nah, they just got their mojo back on this one. They'll make more."*
So, yeah, shocker, I am into a tight murder mystery set in space with the fate of the galaxy in the balance. Throw in ship-to-ship combat, several rad supporting cast members beyond the usual crew, plus Sulu as Captain of his own ship (and, my god, had they just given Takei a spin-off series back then...), \more wildly over-the-top Klingons in the form of Plummer's Shakespeare spouting warrior, Chang (love everything about this character) - and it's like Trek was just punching "Ryan will like this" buttons.
Back in the merry old days of first arriving at college, living on campus at UT Austin was a perfect sort of thing to do if you were a movie nut - or turn you into one. I could walk to Dobie Theater and catch international and art film, Hogg Auditorium was basically rented by a student society of some sort who brought in Hong Kong films.* The Memorial Union Theater was open at the time and programmed by some serious film nerds, so that's where, my first night on campus, I wandered down to see Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down with kids I had never met before but who lived a few doors down.
Anyway, I was not unaware of The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (1989) in high school. I was known to drive into town to go catch a movie at the River Oaks or wherever some interesting stuff was showing - and I may have seen the poster of Helen Mirren in lingerie and given the poster a longer than necessary look. Or maybe a cover in the video store. Anyhoo, early Freshman year at some point (I really think in the first weeks of school), we headed down to the Memorial Union and caught the film. And my brain kind of melted.
Wait wait wait... Fran Drescher plays a sassy Jewish girl from working class New York who a well-meaning functionary mistakes as a great candidate for a child-rearing role for a powerful and wealthy handsome widower? What an entirely novel concept!
Look, you couldn't not be aware of Fran Drescher circa 1997. I remember my grandmother praising The Nanny at the time, and my own hip 20-something skepticism. But a couple of years ago I found myself watching re-runs of the show, and I was like "oh, I get it. She wants to be Lucille Ball, but in mini-skirts and leaning into Jewish stereotypes that I, as a WASP from Texas, can neither confirm nor deny." Frankly, for what it is, it works. I won't say the show is "smart" exactly, but it does what it does well, and I get how it lasted 6 seasons.
But... even in 1997 I was confused by The Beautician and the Beast. It's the same thing as what she was doing on TV. Like, pretty much exactly. The movie is even PG from an era where comedies were PG-13, but Drescher's comedy was always flirty, not going for overt sex comedy or working blue, and so felt sanitized for network censors of the time. So there's not even "we could never do this on TV" to separate the two. Drescher is quoted as saying she didn't want to challenge the audience too much as she moved to movies, but I'd argue - don't just ask them to pay for what they can see every week for free.*
It's fair to say, that when I saw this at age 16 or whatever it was (I would have been 15 upon the film's release, and didn't see it in the theater) I followed the plot, but I didn't "get" the film. Recently I was discussing this film with some folks who said it was a good neo-noir, and I should give it a shot, so I did. What the hell else am I doing?
I'd literally forgotten I'd seen the film until reading the synopsis on wikipedia, and realized I had, in fact, seen it, but didn't remember which of the circa 1990-era adult court mystery dramas I was thinking of when and if details from the movie crossed my mind. Firstly "Presumed Innocent" is as untelling a title as what often gets applied to noir. Second, until about 1997, I think every fifth movie coming out was an actor in a suit going to court for some reason or other.
So, yeah, seeing a film about betrayal in a marriage and the fallout wrapped up in a mystery, semi-erotic thriller works far better at age 46 and with 21 years of marriage under your belt. Also, realizing how *good* everyone is in this movie was a delight. And goddamn the early passing of Raul Julia, who was amazing here.
When Jamie and I started dating, I recall one of the things we agreed upon was Babe (1995), the movie about a polite little pig who unwittingly dodges the carving knife over and over while a quiet farmer recognizes his potential and figures him for an excellent sheep dog pig.
I don't recall exactly why I saw Babe, but for a streak from 1995- 1999 or so, I was at the movies 3 times per week or so, watching a good chunk of mainstream cineplex content, but also hitting Austin's Dobie and Village theaters to catch the "college rock" options when it came to movies. What I can remember is my utter shock at how *good* the film was. I hadn't read any reviews, I really expected it to be a goofy little kids movie, and I kind of stumbled out into the sun afterwards unsure of what I'd seen.
And, believe me, sitting around drinking beers with your pals fresh back from summer and saying "you know what was really good that I saw this summer? Babe, the movie about the talking pig." This is early-days film school where everyone's trying to prove they've seen the coolest, artiest stuff and where people rolled their eyes at you for talking about techniques from Star Wars, so - to suggest that a movie was something that they had decided it was not - was taken about as well as the idea of a pig herding sheep.
In ye olde yesteryear of my first year of college, sometimes movie companies would bring films to campus before they were released and we'd see them for free. I assume it was "word of mouth" programming, and/ or gave the marketing people some idea of how everything was about to go down, based on reaction.
My memory is that we all went apeshit for this movie. It was new John Waters! It had KATHLEEN TURNER! It was sending up America's serial killer craze and the way things were covered in the media.*
Jamie also tells me we watched it together, and I think I vaguely remember that from our early days of dating.
Anyway, revisiting the movie 27 years later, it's aged oddly. Not everything feels as sharp as it did at the time in the satire of suburban culture, but other parts feel just as fresh as they ever did. Maybe not the least is the very end (SPOILERS) where, oh, shit, it turns out that person who skated through the real courts and the court of public opinion really is the nutjob they were accused of being. (END SPOILERS).
Turner is *fantastic* in this movie. She doesn't have to carry it - everyone is doing their part - but she's very funny, until she turns it up about halfway through, and then she's hysterical. Turner was about 40 when this movie arrived (hair done to give her just the right slightly older look), and I have no doubt lots of "mom" roles were piling up for her as options. If she was going to play a mom, this seems like the way to go.
The movie also features Sam Waterston as her husband, an unknown Matt Lillard as their son and Ricki Lake doing the most to make this feel like a John Waters movie as the daughter. Justin Whalin (one of the Jimmy's from Lois & Clark) plays a pal, and Mink Stole appears as a neighbor. And, famously, both Suzanne Somers and Patricia Hearts appear, as well as "I've gone legit" Traci Lords.
The movie is rated-R for some gore, violence, language and nudity. It's John Waters - I don't know what you expected. Anyway - it's still very funny. And, it's why, to this day, under my breath I still mutter "fuckin' Don Knotts... he's the coolest" under my breath whenever Knotts appears on screen.
*I'm pretty sure the Tanya Harding thing was happening around the same time, so, really, between that and Jon Benet Ramsey, this feels soft on the media of the mid-90's.
When I was 17 years old, and a curious kid, and back when movies had all sorts of content in them - I saw all sorts of stuff on the big screen. In general, I think it was actually a good thing. I learned about the adult world, how sex looked under professional lighting, and that my ex-girlfriend was right about that nice lady in the Crying Game the second she showed up in the film.
And since the video for Lucky Star, I'd also thought that nice lady rolling around on the floor seemed like a pretty good idea. By early 1993, the videos for Vogue and Express Yourself had done nothing to dissuade me of this opinion, let alone when my pal, Phil, taped the HBO concert special of Blonde Ambition for me.
In 1992, Rob, Scott and I had gone to see a sold-out showing of Basic Instinct on opening night (I thought it was "meh" - and I have 10,000 words on what this did to the notion of noir for a decade), and at the time we did not anticipate that Hollywood would see gold in them thar hills and spend the early 90's trying to recapture the magic in a series of erotic thrillers.
Simultaneously, Madonna had found she quite enjoyed freaking out America's moms via the Like A Prayer controversy (which seems both inappropriate and stupid rewatching the video now), and decided she would now say the word "sex" a lot, very much upsetting Tipper Gore. She liked it so much, she made a picture book about how much she liked the word, and in a field trip to the Houston Public Library downtown, we got one of the people who was already 18 to get it for us to all look at at the reference desk. And, man, were the librarians cheesed.
This movie held up better than I expected. It's still the same mess of wanting to be too many things that it was when I saw it in the theater, but it's still charming and still works.
Something about the movie feels like a studio editor, who didn't care, came at it super hard, or there were just too many competing things occurring in the script to make it really gel.* But the two stars, John Cusack and Minnie Driver, are charming and, frankly, non-standard enough in their approaches that they do a lot of heavy lifting just by being the leads.
I picked this movie as a Watch Party because it looked like exactly what it was - a 1990's sci-fi Rated-R actioner that wasn't taking itself very seriously, but mostly because it co-starred Kim Cattrall, and after last week's Mannequin 2 viewing, I was like "we should have watched the one with Cattrall", so here we are.
Split Second (1992) is not a good movie. A quick check after the film finished confirmed what I suspected - the movie had multiple voices seemingly at battle with one another, including star Rutger Hauer having input as they went along. So, because the story is all over the place - and the story is basically them trying to figure out who (and then what) is killing people, nothing makes sense and nothing matters.
The answer is: it's a big, Giger-Alien knock off that is maybe invisible, or moves very fast, or something. They never really say. I do know they hide the monster till the very end of the movie, but it's featured on the poster?
We have an odd-ball pairing of the bookworm cop who has credentials that make him seem like maybe the police is a weird place for him to wind up, and Rutget Hauer, who is a loose cannon cop with self-destructive tendencies who clearly needs to be on leave, but they keep him on the streets because... well, in 2021 it'd be because the police unions will be damned before they suggest maybe someone isn't fit for duty. Here we get a police sergeant just yelling at Hauer and telling him he's dangerous and whatnot, and then handing him back his badge.
When V.I. Warshaswki was advertised in 1991, I remember thinking "but... what is the hook?" Like, I wasn't all that much into detective movies, and by 1991 already, the notion of a woman in an ostensibly male-oriented job wasn't... all that novel. Especially when you had a big-ticket actor like Kathleen Turner showing up. If she wanted to be a lady sous chef or neurosurgeon, okay.
By hook I mean: I couldn't tell you much about the actual crimes or mysteries of the Lethal Weapon franchise, but I could talk about the cast and the character interactions. I didn't pay money to see Mel Gibson solve a crime - I had detective and cop shows on every night of the week. I paid money to see Mel Gibson and Danny Glover be pals and do their thing. I hate to say it, but in 1991 and 2021, "but she's a lady!" is not much of a hook. Maybe in 1981?
These days, if a movie does well, studios understand that if they're going to make a sequel to a popular-ish film, the *best* thing to do is to try to go bigger and better. Give the audience a reason to get them to come back. However, Mannequin 2: On the Move (1991) is very much of the era where the reason for a sequel to exist was so that as many pilot fish left over from the first film can gorge themselves on the good will of the first movie and not care at all if the sequel will be worth the film it's printed on.
Pretty much nobody is back from the first movie - and I don't just mean Andrew McCarthy and Kim Cattrall. The actual producers, up and down, aren't the same. The director is new. You have the same store as the location, and you have Meshach Taylor back as "Hollywood". That's it. So no one cares, no one is trying, and the end product may be less than ideal.
Anyway, there MUST have been a script, because there are costumes and whatnot, so someone knew what they'd need for shooting. But it sure doesn't feel like there's a script - it feels like people dicking around in front of the camera. Except for Kristi Swanson, who is actually at least trying here (despite a bizarre wig that seems inspired by a Rick James groupie's hair). And, yeah, Meshach Taylor, but he was kind of dicking around in the first movie, too.
But there's only small bits in the 90 minute run time that actually reach the level of "funny bit" or "joke that might make one crack a smile". The rest is weird mugging no one asked for and maybe one of the lest charismatic leads I can remember in anything that wasn't one of those movies with people fighting in a sci-fi wasteland. And the weird thing is: normally that guy is fine. He's been in lots of stuff - stuff you've seen. But here - he's working with nothing, and I guess that was a problem.
I don't regret making other people watch the movie. At least we all suffered together.
I had mostly blocked out my prior viewing of Star Trek: Insurrection (1998), remembering it as "the one that felt like a very long episode of the show". And, indeed, minus the movie suggesting Picard has found the love of his life (who is immediately never again discussed), the movie is more or less a stand-alone episode with some effects that are okay but never amazing.
Mostly, it feels like the cast of Trek screwing around for 45 minutes before the movie remembers it needs to get its act together and do a movie. And even then, Gates McFadden looks like she's visibly smiling while going pew-pew-pew with a phaser rifle, like "ha ha! They're letting me do stuff!"
So, things I liked:
Frakes directing himself in a sequence with Troi in a bathtub, irritated that Starfleet is calling
Worf does not need to be there, but is, and goes through Klingon puberty for some reason
The Enterprise E is a pretty sweet ride
The cast insisting on finding a way to fit in Gilbert & Sullivan during a space battle
Hiring F. Murray Abraham at the height of his fame and then making him unrecognizable under layers of make-up
Gates McFadden generally just looking pleased to be there even if she has *nothing* to do
But mostly the movie itself doesn't make much sense and goes to some extraordinary script-lengths to create their scenario that is wildly hand-wavy. But Trek fans should check the set up that leads to the titular "insurrection" as a reminder of how horribly run Starfleet is during Next Generation episodes. It was a weird staple of ST:TNG that Starfleet was consistently making horrible decisions that Picard would need to rebel against like a cool teen showing up the stuffy principal that of course it made it into a movie.* I understand a Star Fleet is a tough thing to run, but maybe by the 10th tribunal where Picard is having to do his best Perry Mason, check the man's service record, remember he has no particular reason to be a Romulan agent, and stop threatening to disassemble Troi or whatever they're doing that week.
Anyway - this is a very weird, very obviously inexpensively made era of Trek-movie, and while I am thrilled the cast is having fun, this whole movie needed a lot more workshopping at the script level than anything else.
One day they will make a Trek-show where the Captain is not constantly the point man on every dangerous operation, but this movie is not that. And Ryker flies the Enterpise by joystick AGAIN.
A final note - the movie casts Broadway darling Donna Murphy as Picard's love interest, a 300-year-old alien living on a planet that seemingly will keep her young and rejuvenated forever (she has an action figure and everything!). Doesn't let her sing or anything. She has a lot of TV credits, and was coming off doing a stint on the briefly popular Murder One. But she is actually very solid on a show that I usually just take for granted "look, the lines are nonsense, so if we get 'wooden' as a performance, that's a win sometimes."
But I strongly suspect I'll immediately forget this movie again, because it makes very little sense.
*So, yeah, next time you're complaining about Picard and saying "Picard would never quit the Federation! I don't like New Trek", remember the approximately 52 episodes of the show where someone in a bathrobe showed up and Starfleet decided the Enterpise needed to be shutdown or whatever. Sooner or later, you take your pension and go drink in France.
I saw this movie in 1995, and it was pretty terrible then. It's really hard to put your finger on, but the closest comparison I can make is what happened/ happens with superhero movies when someone comes along and decides to use pieces of what's there, but doesn't really get it is about the thing that makes it work.
Looking back at 1995, explaining what was going on in science-fiction, the rapid development of the internet, and how those two things intermingled - as well as who from the world of music, film and art and basically "got it" is mostly long since forgotten. But, yeah, there was a time when we honestly thought people would basically use the internet like a great big VR simulation with avatars, "physical" items to look at using our headsets and manipulate haptic gloves.
And by "we" I mean * everyone* was excited about the internet and the cool toys until you actually tried to use the internet and it all fell apart upon first contact, and you realized a mouse, keyboard and a decent monitor were terrific and cheap and got you where you needed to go.
Stuart and Ryan talk the Dickens out of a movie featuring a bunch of felt animals and a CBE for the arts of England. It's got ghosts, a weirdo pretending to be a great author, great sets and a missing song. Maybe not a huge hit when it showed up, it's now a staple of holiday viewing and both very much a Muppet movie and very much a Christmas movie - so it fits the theme for this year.
I rented this one in high school, but I have no idea why. I'm pretty sure the first time I watched it, I watched it by myself. But I know I watched it the next day before I had to return it, with someone. Probably my brother or a friend. And maybe I watched it once in college, but the movie doesn't get discussed much and I'm not sure what sort of footprint it had or has.
TCM has been on a tear promoting women in film - behind the lens, mostly. I'm afraid I've done a very bad job of keeping up with their terrific efforts. Dogfight (1991) was shown as part of an evening's programming some time ago, and I hadn't had a chance to watch it, but finally did. I'm surprised how much of the movie I remembered (there are movies I'll watch, and look at the blog in the same year and have to piece together what it was as I have almost no memory of the film already), but also what an impact the movie had on me at the time as a young dude.
For a run of about five movies, Christopher Guest managed to borrow the "mockumentary" format pioneered with Spinal Tap (in which he famously costars), and managed to create some Gen-X favorites. The run began with Waiting for Guffman (1996), a "doc" following the production of a pageant/ play intended to celebrate the sesquicentennial of a small, Missouri town, Blaine, the participants of which believe will be seen by an agent of a Broadway producer - elevating their joy at just participating in a local stage show to the chance for something beyond their wildest dreams.
Guest's ensemble would continue on with him through all five films, into his HBO show Family Tree, and into the attempt to recapture the magic with Mascots in 2016. This film includes talent that was breaking at the time, established talent, and helped to establish some of the cast.
We already watched the classic Universal Frankenstein and the Hammer Frankenstein for the podcast, but I always watch Frankenstein and Bride as my final movie or so of Halloween. So, I swapped in this version, which I hadn't seen in forever. And I know I hadn't seen it in forever, because Jamie had never seen it.
My memory was "that sure felt like it thought it was much better than it was". It was directed by already-respected Shakespearean actor/director Kenneth Branagh, borrowed indie cred by casting Helena Bonham Carter (who was the indie-fan's sex symbol of the time), borrowed established cred with Robert DeNiro as the Monster, Tom Hulce of Amadeus fame, Ian Holm, John Cleese and others. The sets are lavish, the score: sweeping.
When does animation become become more than popular entertainment? What are the boundaries of art that separate Beethoven and cartoon alligators? What is high-brow entertainment and funny business for the whole family? Walt Disney had a vision to elevate the form of animation and create an entirely new experience. Today, we know the result as "Fantasia", which returned in 1999 with a sequel of sorts in "Fantasia 2000". NathanC and Ryan return to talk all about a pair of Disney classics!
SimonUK and Ryan explore the 1991 film that brought Dolph Lundgren to the mean streets of LA's Little Tokyo as the ultimate Japanese man. It's action, mayhem, adventure and lots of nudity as Lundgren teams with the son of Bruce to take down the Yakuza before they something something protection racket/ sell pills in beer bottles. It's hard to say, but Tia Carrere is wrapped up in this mess, so you do have that going for you.