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1995

Heat (1995)

DIRECTOR: Michael Mann

CAST: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Val Kilmer, Tom Sizemore, Diane Venora, Ashley Judd, Amy Brenneman, Jon Voight, Mykelti Williamson, Dennis Haysbert, Wes Studi, Ted Levine, William Fichtner, Danny Trejo, Kevin Gage, Natalie Portman

REVIEW:

Heat is writer-director Michael Mann’s (Manhunter, The Last of the Mohicans) magnum opus ode to the crime thriller genre, what could have been a generic tale of cops and robbers elevated to crime epic by a level of depth and nuance one doesn’t often find in the genre, assured direction, and a smart screenplay that has something to say beyond hard-boiled crimebusters cliches.  This is just as masterful filmmaking as Mann’s 1992 adventure The Last of the Mohicans, and in a completely different genre and setting.   Continue reading

Strange Days (1995)

DIRECTOR: Kathryn Bigelow

CAST:

Ralph Fiennes, Angela Bassett, Juliette Lewis, Tom Sizemore, Michael Wincott, Vincent D’Onofrio, William Fichtner, Brigitte Bako, Josef Sommer, Glenn Plummer

REVIEW:

A murder-mystery with the backdrop of a vivid and fascinating slightly futuristic sci-fi visionary thriller, Strange Days is entirely worthy of anything with James Cameron’s name attached, and director Kathryn Bigelow (Cameron’s ex-wife) is entirely up to the task of helming Cameron’s story. Strange Days is the whole package: thinking man’s entertainment while appealing equally to the brain and the visceral. Continue reading

The Scarlet Letter (1995)

DIRECTOR: Roland Joffe

CAST: Demi Moore, Gary Oldman, Robert Duvall, Joan Plowright, Robert Prosky, Dana Ivey, Edward Hardwicke

REVIEW:

That Roland Joffe’s film is “freely adapted”, as it puts it, from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1850 novel isn’t necessarily an inherent problem. Book purists would grumble, for sure, but a movie adaptation of a book taking significant liberties is nothing new. The problem isn’t necessarily that The Scarlet Letter has been freely adapted into a movie, it’s that it’s been freely adapted into this movie, which cheerfully throws Hawthorne’s themes to the wind and turns his Puritan morality play into a feminist treatsie on sexual and religious liberation. Those themes are all well and good, but they’re not The Scarlet Letter, and what’s worse, it’s all wrapped up in a sudsy, overwrought romantic soap opera.

Continue reading

Assassins (1995)

DIRECTOR: Richard Donner

CAST: Sylvester Stallone, Antonio Banderas, Julianne Moore

REVIEW:

If not for the involvement of action star Sylvester Stallone, one senses Assassins would be straight-to-video fare, and that’s where the quality level lies.  For helmer Richard Donner, this is a disappointing step down from the Lethal Weapon series, and doesn’t represent anything more than a mindless diversion for any but the most undemanding of action fans. Continue reading

Desperado (1995)

DIRECTOR: Robert Rodriguez

CAST:

Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Joaquim de Almeida, Steve Buscemi, Cheech Marin, Quentin Tarantino, Danny Trejo, Carlos Gomez

REVIEW:

In 1992, film student Robert Rodriguez took a group of complete unknowns (his personal friends) and $7,000 to Mexico and filmed El Mariachi. The so-called ‘$7,000 Wonder’ was successful enough for Columbia Pictures to give Rodriguez a Hollywood-scale budget to essentially remake the unpolished indie (although it’s technically a sequel). The concessions to Hollywood influence over indie freedoms are obvious. Continue reading

Apollo 13 (1995)

DIRECTOR: Ron Howard

CAST: Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, Kevin Bacon, Gary Sinise, Ed Harris, Kathleen Quinlan

For those old enough to have watched the April 1970 Apollo 13 crisis unfold live on television, Ron Howard’s Apollo 13 may bring back strong memories.  For those who did not experience it at the time, it may serve as a fascinating history lesson.  For everyone else, it’s a well-constructed docudrama, and a tribute to what one character refers to as NASA’s finest hour.   Continue reading

Braveheart (1995)

DIRECTOR: Mel Gibson

CAST: Mel Gibson, Sophie Marceau, Catherine McCormack, Patrick McGoohan, Angus Macfadyen, Brendan Gleeson

REVIEW:

WARNING: THIS REVIEW WILL CONTAIN “SPOILERS”

For only his second outing behind the camera, Mel Gibson (who made his directorial debut in 1993’s The Man Without a Face, in which he also starred) has tackled the kind of ambitious undertaking Hollywood rarely mounts anymore, a grand epic throwback to the likes of Spartacus and Lawrence of Arabia.  What might be more surprising is that he’s pulled it off in impressive fashion, showing he can handle a lavish production with large-scale battle scenes.  In fact, among the directorial debuts or near-debuts of actors-turned-directors, it’s the most impressive entry since Kevin Costner’s Dances With Wolves five years earlier.  Braveheart isn’t perfect, but it’s a rollicking, crowd-pleasing adventure painted on an epic scale with the kind of grandeur that might appeal to fans of Spartacus or The Last of the Mohicans. Continue reading

Die Hard With A Vengeance (1995)

DIRECTOR: John McTiernan

CAST:

Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Jeremy Irons, Graham Greene, Colleen Camp, Larry Bryggman

REVIEW:

I don’t know if it’s because John McTiernan is back in the director’s seat, or the inclusion of the always high-octane Samuel L. Jackson, or the script, or a combination, but Die Hard With A Vengeance has a higher energy level than Die Hard 2, even if it’s not as tightly-plotted and well-crafted as the original film. Continue reading

Rob Roy (1995)

DIRECTOR: Michael Caton-Jones

CAST:

Liam Neeson, Jessica Lange, Tim Roth, John Hurt, Brian Cox, Eric Stoltz, Brian McCardie, Andrew Keir

REVIEW:

There actually was a Robert Roy MacGregor, a Scottish cattleman whose battles against wealthy landowners made him a folk hero in 1700s Scotland, but the film by Michael Caton-Jones is only inspired by MacGregor’s story, and ultimately how much or little of it is based on fact is irrelevant to one’s enjoyment of the movie. Continue reading

Priest (1995)

DIRECTOR: Antonia Bird

CAST:

Linus Roache, Tom Wilkinson, Robert Carlyle, Robert Pugh, Christine Tremarco, Lesley Sharp, Cathy Tyson

REVIEW:

It is a not uncommon experience for me to happen across some older independent film I had only fleetingly heard of or not heard of at all, that turns out to be underrated and worthy of more recognition than it received.  Priest is not a “great” movie, but it is an intelligent and thoughtful drama that provides some food for thought and a serious examination of themes involving homosexuality (and to a lesser extent sexuality in general), celibacy, incest, and religion, and how they relate to and conflict with each other. Continue reading

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