May 2020



Titanic (1997)

DIRECTOR: James Cameron

CAST: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Billy Zane, Gloria Stuart, David Warner, Bill Paxton, Kathy Bates, Frances Fisher, Victor Garber, Bernard Hill, Danny Nucci, Jonathan Hyde, Suzy Amis, Eric Braeden, Jenette Goldstein, Ioan Gruffudd


With sci-fi thrillers like The Terminator, Terminator 2, Aliens, and The Abyss, and the action-comedy True Lies under his belt, James Cameron turned his sights in a totally different direction for his next project….a romance set onboard the notorious ill-fated luxury ship the RMS Titanic. Nearly anyone knows the basics of the story of the 1912 disaster, with more than 1,500 of the 2,200-plus passengers, including many rich and famous of the day, perishing at sea when the “unsinkable” ship struck an iceberg on its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York City, but none among the many, many films to deal with Titanic had the means to bring the massive ship and its end to the screen with such visual splendor.  To draw crowds, Cameron centered his script around a star struck love story, cast with primed-to-explode heartthrob Leonardo DiCaprio and soon-to-be Oscar nominee Kate Winslet.  Titanic clearly struck a chord with audiences, standing for twelve years as the highest-grossing film of all time, surpassed only by Cameron’s next film, 2009’s Avatar.  Unfortunately, it’s also overrated, and the story doesn’t equal the spectacular visuals surrounding it. Continue reading

Alien Resurrection (1997)

DIRECTOR: Jean-Pierre Jeunet


Sigourney Weaver, Winona Ryder, Ron Perlman, Michael Wincott, Dominique Pinon, Gary Dourdan, Dan Hedaya, J.E. Freeman, Brad Dourif, Leland Orser, Kim Flowers


Like many a film franchise, the Alien series started out strong, then didn’t know when to quit. Greed to make more money overrode the artistic integrity of stopping when the series was ahead and had fresh, original places to take the story. Alien Resurrection is at least not the dreary, depressing experience of the morbid Alien 3, but that’s damning with faint praise. Continue reading

Kiss the Girls (1997)

DIRECTOR: Gary Fleder


Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd, Cary Elwes, Tony Goldwyn, Alex McArthur, Bill Nunn, Jay O. Sanders, William Converse-Roberts, Brian Cox, Jeremy Piven, Gina Ravera, Richard T. Jones, Roma Maffia



Crime author James Patterson is a bit like the dime novels you might snatch up at the airport; he doesn’t churn out the stuff of Shakespeare, but it’s a quick, easy read, brisk and compulsively page-turning.  Likewise, Kiss the Girls is such a film, a decent little mystery thriller that provides a brisk couple of hours when looking for something reasonably diverting.  It’s bolstered by a couple of strong lead performances, but one feels a more stylish, atmospheric director like David Fincher (who helmed the darker and more disturbing Se7en, also starring Morgan Freeman) could have done more with the material than the TV-movie look and feel of the comparatively nondescript Gary Fleder. Continue reading

Conspiracy Theory (1997)

DIRECTOR: Richard Donner

CAST: Mel Gibson, Julia Roberts, Patrick Stewart, Cylk Cozart, Steve Kahan


There’s a tantalizing glimpse of an edgier indie thriller/dark comedy somewhere within the genesis of Conspiracy Theory, but it’s buried within a “safe” thriller/mystery/romance potboiler. The result is watchable, and mildly entertaining, but it’s no more than mediocre as an action thriller, with a love story that somewhat strains credibility. It’s the kind of movie where one can see the cliched thriller/action/romance beats ticking themselves off.

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Air Force One (1997)

air force oneDIRECTOR: Wolfgang Petersen

CAST: Harrison Ford, Gary Oldman, Glenn Close, Wendy Crewson, Liesel Matthews, Dean Stockwell, William H. Macy, Paul Guilfoyle, Xander Berkeley, Philip Baker Hall, Jurgen Prochnow


Air Force One, the third major American action thriller from German director Wolfgang Petersen (following In the Line of Fire and Outbreak), proves that an accomplished action director can turn a flimsy premise into an entertaining ride, smoothly distracting from some plot holes and implausibiliites to turn Air Force One into one of the better of the myriad Die Hard-esque action flicks that have come out in the years since 1988’s Die Hard popularized the basic premise.  It’s not as good as the original Die Hard, but it’s an entertaining ride if you don’t scrutinize everything too closely. Continue reading

The Fifth Element (1997)

DIRECTOR: Luc Besson

CAST: Bruce Willis, Gary Oldman, Milla Jovovich, Ian Holm, Chris Tucker, Brion James, Luke Perry, Tommy Lister


It’s unsurprising that Luc Besson wrote The Fifth Element when he was a teenager, even if it took him decades to bring it to the screen.  Put simply, The Fifth Element is a hot mess of a movie, a scatterbrained, scattershot hodgepodge of colorful scenes thrown slapdash into the mix, with a borderline incoherent plot to string it all together, served up with $100 million worth of visual razzle dazzle, relying on a sensory overload to compensate for a muddled narrative.  The result still has its entertainment quota, and is a colorful, lively, and vibrant enough ride to be worth giving at least a look, but it helps to shut your brain off in the interim. Continue reading

The Saint (1997)

DIRECTOR: Philip Noyce

CAST: Val Kilmer, Elisabeth Shue, Rade Sherbedgia, Valery Nikolaev, Michael Byrne, Henry Goodman, Alun Armstrong, Charlotte Cornwell


An adaptation of the 1960s television series, which was itself an adaptation of Leslie Charteris’ series of novels, The Saint is a fairly lightweight and insubstantial international spy caper that comes off a bit like second-rate James Bond (an irony on multiple levels, as Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels were in part inspired by Charteris’ Saint novels, and the television series starred future 007 Roger Moore).  The Saint is an enjoyable enough diversion, but doesn’t make much of an impression alongside higher-level spy thrillers. Continue reading