July 2024



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

Good Will Hunting (1997)

Classic American films: Good Will Hunting – the 10 best quotes from 1997  education drama | South China Morning Post

DIRECTOR: Gus Van Sant

CAST: Matt Damon, Robin Williams, Minnie Driver, Stellan Skarsgard, Ben Affleck, Casey Affleck, Cole Hauser


Good Will Hunting could be summed up as an ordinary story well-told, but that verges on an oversimplification of what a difference a strong script, strong direction, and a strong cast can make. On its most basic level, it’s a formulaic coming-of-age narrative about a self-destructive young man and the friends he makes along the way who pull him back from the edge and help him recognize his own potential, and could have easily become mawkish and saccharine. But Good Will Hunting uses an edge to avoid excessive sappiness (even if it’s ultimately a “feel good” experience) and an intelligently-written script (by co-stars Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, who took home Oscar gold for Best Screenplay), Gus Van Sant’s direction which culls genuine emotion from his actors, and a surfeit of strong performances (including one that gained Robin Williams an Oscar, and nominations for Damon and Minnie Driver) turns what could have been generic and formulaic into a powerful and affecting drama.

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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

Gattaca (1997)

Affiches, posters et images de Bienvenue à Gattaca (1997)

DIRECTOR: Andrew Niccol

CAST: Ethan Hawke, Jude Law, Uma Thurman, Loren Dean, Alan Arkin, Gore Vidal, Ernest Borgnine, Xander Berkeley, Tony Shalhoub, Elias Koteas


Gattaca, an impressive debut from first-time writer-director Andrew Niccol, is that rarest and most laudable of entries in the “sci-fi” genre: one that is actually seriously interested in exploring themes of societal inequality and the indomitability of the human spirit, wrapped up in an unconventional suspense thriller.

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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 Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)

Retrospective] Why 'The Lost World: Jurassic Park' Is a Better Sequel Than  It Gets Credit For - Bloody Disgusting

DIRECTOR: Steven Spielberg

CAST: Jeff Goldblum, Julianne Moore, Vince Vaughn, Richard Schiff, Vanessa Lee Chester, Arliss Howard, Pete Postlethwaite, Peter Stormare, Richard Attenborough


When Jurassic Park debuted in 1993, it ushered in a special effects landmark, bringing dinosaurs to the screen that looked so astonishingly real that audiences were effectively ooed and ahhed into being easily forgiving of a generic narrative and thinly-drawn characters. Alas, four years later, the “wow” factor has worn off to the point that the special effects don’t quite compensate for the limitations this time. Steven Spielberg and Industrial Light & Magic are back, but while The Lost World has its highlights, it’s missing some of the magic.

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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 that it’s at least not boring, but it helps to shut your brain off in the interim. Continue reading

Anaconda (1997)

DIRECTOR: Luis Llosa

CAST: Jennifer Lopez, Ice Cube, Jon Voight, Eric Stoltz, Jonathan Hyde, Owen Wilson, Kari Wuhrer, Vincent Castellanos, Danny Trejo


Much like 1995’s The Ghost and the Darkness, Anaconda is another hokey ’90s creature feature that tries to do for its designated “monster” what Jaws, the grand daddy of them all, did for sharks. With The Ghost and the Darkness, it was a pair of man-eating lions. With the simply-titled Anaconda (recalling the B-movie Piranha), its giant people-swallowing snakes in the depths of the Amazonian jungle. And much like the previous Jaws wannabe, Anaconda just can’t get the hang of this sort of thing. But unlike the lion movie, that was self-serious to a sometimes unintentionally comical extent, Anaconda at least has a goofy, campy element, and its level of intentional tongue-in-cheek humor, while not going all-out with it on as fun of a level as Tremors, has led to it becoming a “so bad it’s good” cult classic that can be enjoyed on a silly level as long as you’re not trying to take it too seriously.

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