March 2024



Hamlet (1996)

DIRECTOR: Kenneth Branagh


Kenneth Branagh, Sir Derek Jacobi, Julie Christie, Kate Winslet, Nicholas Farrell, Michael Maloney, Richard Briers, Charlton Heston, Billy Crystal, Robin Williams, Brian Blessed, Jack Lemmon, Rosemary Harris, Rufus Sewell, Timothy Spall, Reece Dinsdale, Gerard Depardieu, Sir John Gielgud, Judi Dench, Sir Richard Attenborough


WARNING: This review mentions specific details of the plot

In the world of Shakespearean film, few figures loom larger than Kenneth Branagh. William Shakespeare is something of an obsession for Branagh, who directed Henry V and Much Ado About Nothing, co-starred in Othello, and here wears three hats as writer, director, and star of this lavish, star-studded adaptation of Hamlet, the only version to include every single line from the play intact and as such running approximately four hours. Continue reading

Ransom (1996)

DIRECTOR: Ron Howard

CAST: Mel Gibson, Gary Sinise, Rene Russo, Delroy Lindo, Lili Taylor, Liev Schreiber, Donnie Wahlberg, Evan Handler, Brawley Nolte


Ron Howard is on a roll, and for his latest venture, coming on the heels of last year’s docudrama Apollo 13, he’s turned to the thriller genre, with this loose remake of the 1956 Glenn Ford film of the same name.  Ransom isn’t flawless, but Howard’s taut direction, a twisty-turny script by Richard Price and Alexander Ignon, and a capable cast add up to a slick thriller that provides a mostly solid couple hours of diversion. Continue reading

The Ghost and the Darkness (1996)

DIRECTOR: Stephen Hopkins

CAST: Michael Douglas, Val Kilmer, John Kani, Brian McCardie, Bernard Hill, Om Puri, Tom Wilkinson, Emily Mortimer


The Ghost and the Darkness is obviously an attempt to do for the African tall grass what Jaws did for the water, with two lions in place of a great white shark, but it falls far short of Jaws’ classic status for a few reasons.  One, director Stephen Hopkins is no Steven Spielberg.  Two, Michael Douglas and Val Kilmer are not playing characters nearly as well-delineated as those played by Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, and Robert Shaw.  Prolific author and screenwriter William Goldman (who’s written titles as diverse as The Princess Bride, Marathon Man, All the President’s Men, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) does not churn out one of his stronger works.  As an example of the general level of subtlety, the big game hunter is named Remington, and it’s the kind of movie where people say painfully earnest wannabe profundities like “you build bridges.  You have to go where the rivers are”. Continue reading

The Rock (1996)

DIRECTOR: Michael Bay

CAST: Nicolas Cage, Sean Connery, Ed Harris, Michael Biehn, William Forsythe, David Morse, John Spencer, Stuart Wilson, Philip Baker Hall, Vanessa Marcil, Claire Forlani, John C. McGinley, Tony Todd, Bokeem Woodbine, Danny Nucci


Among the dime a dozen action flicks on the filmographies of director Michael Bay and producer Jerry Bruckheimer, The Rock is one of the stronger (comparatively speaking) entries. It’s still firmly in the “check your brain at the door” category, but a buddy movie element and the charisma of stars Nicolas Cage and Sean Connery helps give a needed bump to the proceedings.

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Eye for an Eye (1996)

Eye for an Eye (1996) - Photo Gallery - IMDb

DIRECTOR: John Schlesinger

CAST: Sally Field, Ed Harris, Kiefer Sutherland, Joe Mantegna, Beverly D’Angelo, Charlyane Woodard, Philip Baker Hall, Keith David


Eye for an Eye is a particularly nasty piece of audience emotional manipulation that plays on primal fears, served up courtesy of luridly disturbing scenes of sexual violence, to guide us into accepting the filmmakers’ case for vigilante justice. In truth, I’m less offended by the filmmakers’ views than I am by the cheap and exploitative route they take to try to get us in their corner.

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