Film Review: The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)

Also known as: Jurassic Park 2, The Lost World (working titles)
Release Date: May 19th, 1997 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Written by: David Koepp
Based on: The Lost World by Michael Crichton
Music by: John Williams
Cast: Jeff Goldblum, Julianne Moore, Pete Postlethwaite, Arliss Howard, Richard Attenborough, Vince Vaughn, Vanessa Lee Chester, Peter Stormare, Harvey Jason, Ariana Richards, Joseph Mazzello, Camilla Belle

Digital Image Associates, Amblin Entertainment, Universal Pictures, 129 Minutes

Review:

“Oh, yeah. Oooh, ahhh, that’s how it always starts. Then later there’s running and um, screaming.” – Dr. Ian Malcolm

I barely remembered this film, as I hadn’t seen it in its entirety since the theater in 1997. Although, I have seen bits and pieces on television over the years. However, I usually catch the movie at the end, once the T-Rex is running around San Diego looking for its baby.

So I wasn’t sure what to expect in revisiting this but I always remembered not enjoying it as much as the original. However, it has a lot more Goldblum, so that is kind of a selling point, regardless of the overall quality.

Staring with what I liked about the movie, I thought it was immensely cooler simply for the fact that it was darker and pushed the envelope a bit further. It felt much closer to Jaws than the first film and it actually showed a good amount of dino on human violence. A lot of people get eaten, as well as a dog. We even see a girl get savagely attacked and are left with the impression that she was eaten to death. But we are told, several minutes later, that she survived the attack and was doing okay.

The tone in this movie, for the most part, was just right. It comes undone in the third act during the San Diego sequence but the movie did pretty good up to that point.

As mentioned in the second paragraph, this movie is heavy on the Goldblum, which I liked a lot, as even though he’s one of the three stars of the first movie, by the mid-point of that film, he’s kind of just hanging out in the techies’ office.

Looking beyond just Jeff Goldblum, this film had a great cast between Julianne Moore, Vince Vaughn, as well as cameos by Richard Attenborough and his character’s grandchildren. This also featured Pete Postlethwaite in what I would call one of his greatest roles. His character was complex, interesting and he really shined in this role, despite not having the screen time that the bigger stars had.

I also liked the sequence where the raptors are hiding in the tall grass and picking people off, as everyone is running away from the danger. It’s superbly shot and it’s a chilling scene that has held up remarkably well, especially when other scenes don’t look like they’re on the same level as the first movie.

Moving on to the negatives, the CGI and special effects, overall, look worse than the first film. I found that baffling, considering that this came out four years later in an era where CGI effects were moving forward by leaps and bounds.

However, the scene where you see the first dinosaurs greatly pales in comparison to the dino reveal scene in the first picture.

Also, the movie doesn’t feel like a Steven Spielberg movie. It’s a hard thing to explain and his magical cinematic touch is difficult to quantify but this just doesn’t have that “touch” that other Spielberg adventure films have.

Something that made me scratch my head and go “huh?” was the scene where Goldblum’s daughter uses gymnastics to kill a raptor. I remember people bitching about this back in the day but the whole thing slipped away from my memory over the last twenty-three years. It doesn’t break the movie but it makes you question whether or not Spielberg was off that day and left the film in the hands of a stoner baked out of his mind.

While I liked most of the action, the sequence with the research trailers hanging off the cliff ran on for too long. It was stretched out for suspense and to set up the curveball that was the arrival of two T-Rexes but it was poorly crafted with bad pacing and it disrupted the suspense it tried to build towards.

Lastly, I didn’t like the San Diego shit. I get why they did it, as they had to try and up the ante with this film and taking a T-Rex to a major American city seemed like the next logical step. It just feels out of place and strange. Although, I did like the film’s token asshole getting eaten alive by the baby T-Rex.

This film is a mixed bag. It’s mostly good and it’s a better-than-decent popcorn movie to escape into for a few hours. However, it kind of shows that maybe this concept should have been kept to one film.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Jurassic Park/World films.

Film Review: Starship Troopers (1997)

Also known as: Bug Hunt at Outpost Nine (original script title), Invasion (some Spanish speaking countries)
Release Date: November 4th, 1997 (Westwood premiere)
Directed by: Paul Verhoeven
Written by: Edward Neumeier
Based on: Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein
Music by: Basil Poledouris
Cast: Casper Van Dien, Dina Meyer, Denise Richards, Jake Busey, Neil Patrick Harris, Patrick Muldoon, Michael Ironside, Clancy Brown, Seth Gilliam, Bruce Gray, Marshall Bell, Amy Smart, Dean Norris, Rue McClanahan

Big Bug Pictures, Touchstone Pictures, TriStar Pictures, 129 Minutes

Review:

“[to Rico] I need a corporal. You’re it, until you’re dead or I find someone better.” – Jean Rasczak

I shouldn’t have slept on this movie in 1997 but I missed it in the theater, as the marketing for it made it hard to peg what it was. As it picked up a cult following, however, I eventually got intrigued enough to check it out and I was really surprised by it.

I also didn’t know that it was directed by Paul Verhoeven. Had I been aware of that, I probably would’ve seen it on the big screen, as RoboCop is one of my top films of all-time and I also really liked his interpretation/loose adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s story that became Total Recall.

Now I hadn’t seen this in a really long time, so I wasn’t sure how well it would hold up. While it does feel very ’90s, it’s still fun as fuck and I had a great time revisiting it and honestly, it made me wonder why I didn’t revisit it more often.

This is over the top and pretty damn nutty, at times, and in fact, it almost plays like a comedy while also being a much smarter, layered commentary film than one might expect. But Verhoeven has proved, with his sci-fi pictures, that he can take what could be easily written off as hokey bullshit and turn it into something with real merit that sticks with you, makes you think but also checks all the boxes under the cool, badass and entertaining categories.

Starship Troopers is unique and cool but it’s also so unique and cool that it’s a really hard formula to replicate, which is probably why the sequels are looked at, by most, with disdain. It’s kind of similar to RoboCop in that the formula only seems to be really effective once.

Beyond just Verhoeven’s work, the film is carried by its characters and their stories. You care about these people in this batshit universe and you want to see them succeed and crush the invading insects that want to conquer mankind and use Earth as just another one of their many hives.

People for years have debated the meaning of the movie and while some might take issue with the fact that it’s not made abundantly clear, I think that it’s a lot more effective and interesting that its kind of left open for interpretation and I think that its message isn’t made clear because Verhoeven was really just exploring his own thoughts on the subjects presented in the film.

Besides, that shit isn’t even that important, as this is just a fun movie about space marines blowing up giant bugs and it can be enjoyed as simple, mindless entertainment without trying to over-analyze the fuck out of it.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other releases from the Starship Troopers franchise, as well as other sci-fi films by Paul Verhoeven.

Film Review: Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves (1997)

Release Date: March 18th, 1997
Directed by: Dean Cundey
Written by: Karey Kirkpatrick, Nell Scovell, Joel Hodgson
Based on: characters by Stuart Gordon, Brian Yuzna, Ed Naha
Music by: Michael Tavera
Cast: Rick Moranis, Eve Gordon, Bug Hall, Robin Bartlett, Stuart Pankin, Allison Mack, Jake Richardson, Mila Kunis

Walt Disney Pictures, 74 Minutes

Review:

“Baseball’s just a phase, it’ll pass. But science is always cool.” – Wayne Szalinski

As bad as Honey, I Blew Up the Kid was, I assumed that this would be absolutely terrible. However, I was kind of surprised by it.

No, it’s not as good as the original film but it was still amusing and kind of charming.

I found it kind of weird that Marcia Strassman wasn’t in this but after the second film, I can’t blame her. But Eve Gordon, who takes over the role of Wayne’s wife, did a better than decent job and had okay chemistry with Moranis.

I also found the other two adults in the story, Stuart Pankin and Robin Bartlett, to be pretty good. I’ve always liked Pankin and I’ll always have a soft spot for Bartlett, who I most remember for that Richard Grieco starring spy spoof If Looks Could Kill. Man, that film’s been lost to the sands of time. I’d like to review it but I’ve never seen it streaming anywhere.

Getting back to this movie, I’m glad that they shrunk characters down again and got back to what made the first film cool and unique. I also like that they shrunk the adults this time, as it at least doesn’t give us a lazy rehash of the original.

My only real complaint about the film is that the adults never go outside. One of the things that made the first film so cool was seeing a normal backyard from the perspective of an insect. In this film, everything happens within the house but considering that this was a movie made specifically to be released on home video, they didn’t have the budget to replicate the oversized outside world.

That doesn’t mean that the shrunken characters don’t have threats to deal with, they certainly do. The worst of them being a cockroach that is about the size of a large horse when compared to the scaled down protagonists.

For the majority of the film, the parents are trying to get their kids’ attention. However, the kids are busy having a house party and are just happy that their parents are nowhere to be found.

For what this is, the special effects and overall production were pretty well done. Sure, some things look dated and it’s obvious that this wasn’t intended for the big screen but you still get lost in the oversized world and buy into the premise.

In the end, this isn’t half bad and it’s better than other straight-to-video releases of the time.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: the other two films in this series.

Documentary Review: The History of Pinball (1997)

Release Date: 1997
Directed by: Mark Helms
Written by: Mark Helms
Music by: Michael Moss
Cast: Mark Helms (narrator), Joe Perry, Roger Sharpe, Slash, Frank Thomas

New Video Images, 59 Minutes

Review:

After revisiting the great pinball documentary Special When Lit, I wanted to know more about the history of pinball in its earliest days. While that film was good, it really just starts in the ’70s and talks about pinball in more recent years.

This made-for-TV documentary covers all that stuff that Special When Lit jumped over.

I really liked this a lot, as a fan of pinball, arcade games and historical Americana in general.

It goes way back and talks about the earliest European games that were predecessors to what pinball would become. It then brings the viewer through time, showing how these games evolved into modern pinball.

This also features a lot of interviews with experts on the subject and just about every talking head blurp was informative and helped paint a unique and cool story about the subject.

I also liked that there was so much footage of pinball machines from all eras.

For just 59 minutes, this is really comprehensive.

It’s well edited, covers a lot of ground and it’s pretty compelling for those who have a love for the game and for history.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries about pinball and arcade games, many have been reviewed here already.

Film Review: Jack Frost (1997)

Release Date: November 18th, 1997
Directed by: Michael Cooney
Written by: Michael Cooney, Jeremy Paige
Music by: Chris Anderson, Carl Schurtz
Cast: Christopher Allport, Stephen Mendel, F. William Parker, Rob LaBelle, Shannon Elizabeth, Jack Lindine, Zack Egniton, Brian Leckner, Marsha Clark, Eileen Seeley, Kelly Jean Peters, Scott MacDonald

Frost Bite Films Ltd., Moonstone Entertainment, Storyteller Films Ltd., A-Pix Entertainment, 89 Minutes

Review:

“Gosh. I only axed you for a smoke.” – Jack Frost

I’ve heard people refer to this as the movie that made Shannon Elizabeth famous. Actually, I think this is the movie that Shannon Elizabeth made famous after she blew up from her part in the original American Pie and rumors that she was also nude in this flick.

Apart from Shannon Elizabeth, there really isn’t anything in this film worth looking at.

It’s a horror comedy about a killer that has his body turned into shapeshifting sentient snow. So basically, he’s a killer snowman with some nonsensical snow-based powers and lots of really bad one-liners.

While this isn’t a movie made by Full Moon, it has a similar vibe in its cheapness, its terribly bad humor and its lack of anything that will make you want to sit still for 89 minutes. Well, except the infamous Shannon Elizabeth scene but that only takes up about three percent of the film’s run time.

The special effects are bad, the acting is bad, the jokes are even worse and the film is pretty boring, even though it features one of the strangest horror monsters of its time.

There’s not much else to say about the movie, as there isn’t much worth talking about other than Shannon Elizabeth. But you can just watch her important scene online and skip the other 97 percent of the movie.

Rating: 2.25/10
Pairs well with: it’s sequel and other terrible, terrible horror movies.

Film Review: L.A. Confidential (1997)

Release Date: May 14th, 1997 (Cannes)
Directed by: Curtis Hanson
Written by: Brian Helgeland, Curtis Hanson
Based on: L.A. Confidential by James Ellroy
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Cast: Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, James Cromwell, David Strathairn, Kim Basinger, Danny DeVito, Ron Rifkin, Graham Beckel, Matt McCoy, Simon Baker

Regency Enterprises, The Wolper Organization, Warner Bros., 138 Minutes

Review:

“Go back to Jersey, sonny. This is the City of the Angels, and you haven’t got any wings.” – Capt. Dudley Smith

I’ve seen parts of L.A. Confidential over the years and I knew enough about the story before even watching it but yes, this is my first viewing of the film in its entirety.

While that may seem odd for a fan of film-noir, I didn’t become a true lover of noir fiction until I got past my teen years. Sure, I always liked crime movies but the noir aesthetic didn’t truly penetrate my psyche until my late 20s and really didn’t make me do a deep dive into the cinematic style until my mid-30s.

Now L.A. Confidential is a modern neo-noir that takes its narrative and stylistic cues from classic film-noir but it has this pristine razzle dazzle about it and that’s not simply because of the star power. It’s visual allure is just breathtaking and while other films in the ’90s tried to encapsulate the noir look, albeit in color, there is just something fantastical about how this comes off on screen.

On one hand, the movie feels like a dark fairytale of a time long gone and a world that doesn’t exist in the same way. On the other hand, there is a gritty realness to it that makes the darker parts of humanity come across as genuine and frightening.

That being said, this is still great because of its star power on top of the film’s visual look. You really have a solid cast between Guy Pearce, Russell Crowe, Kevin Spacey, James Cromwell, Kim Basinger and Danny DeVito. Everyone does a perfect job with the script and the story.

However, I think the glue that holds everything together so well is director Curtis Hanson. While not having a prolific name like Scorsese, Coppola or De Palma, he takes the crime fiction material and makes it work, incredibly well. He got the most out of his cast while having a great eye for mise-en-scène. The film boasts stupendous cinematography and shot framing.

The score by Jerry Goldsmith is also pretty close to perfect.

My only real complaint about the film comes in regards to its pacing. While mostly energetic, there are a few points in the film that drag a bit more than they need to. I didn’t find it to wreck the movie or even be much of a distraction, though.

The ’90s produced a lot of neo-noir motion pictures but L.A. Confidential certainly deserves its place in the upper echelon.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: other ’90s neo-noir films: Heat, The Two Jakes, The Usual Suspects, Mulholland Falls, Seven, Red Rock West, Devil In a Blue Dress, Dick Tracy, etc.

Film Review: Neon Genesis Evangelion: The End of Evangelion (1997)

Also known as: The End of Evangelion (shortened title)
Release Date: July 19th, 1997 (Japan premiere)
Directed by: Hideaki Anno, Kazuya Tsurumaki
Written by: Hideaki Anno
Based on: Shin Seiki Evangerion by Hideaki Anno
Music by: Shirō Sagisu

Gainax, Kadokawa Shoten Publishing Co., Movic, Production I.G/ING, Toei, 90 Minutes

Review:

“I’m so fucked up.” – Shinji Ikari

Yes, Shinji… you are fucked up.

In fact, Shinji makes this thing damn near unwatchable. If you thought he freaked out and had emo storms in the television series, it’s like he rolls all of them up, wedges them into just 90 minutes and then turns the volume way up.

I absolutely hate Shinji. I don’t care that he’s young and has had a troubled childhood. So did I at one point, I didn’t act anything like this.

It also doesn’t help that Asuka is having freak outs the whole damn time either.

So what this film is, is it is an alternate ending to the shitty ending that the television series gave us. This makes things real and not just some Patrick Duffy shower dream. And I wanted the events of the show to be real within the show. But this was not really an improvement when all is said and done.

This was damn hard to get through with all the emotional meltdowns and screaming.

The only saving grace was that the animation was a step up from the series but then it should be, as this was a film released theatrically.

But whatever.

Honestly, this film made me actually like the show less, as it exposed some of its flaws and made me never want to see Shinji’s bitch tantrums ever again.

While fans will debate for eons which ending was the true ending, I’ll debate with myself whether this was more shrill or less shrill than a cat orgy.

But I guess I’ll watch the movie after this one too, as it’s on Netflix and I might as well complete all that’s offered there.

Let me order some new earplugs off of Amazon first.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: all things Evangelion, as well as all things Robotech or Macross and Knights of Sidonia.

Film Review: Event Horizon (1997)

Also known as: The Stars My Destination (working title)
Release Date: August 15th, 1997
Directed by: Paul W. S. Anderson
Written by: Philip Eisner
Music by: Michael Kamen
Cast: Laurence Fishburne, Sam Neill, Kathleen Quinlan, Joely Richardson, Richard T. Jones, Jason Issacs, Sean Pertwee, Jack Noseworthy, Noah Huntley, Peter Marinker

Golar Productions, Impact Pictures, Paramount Pictures, 96 Minutes, 130 Minutes (rough cut)

Review:

“I’m telling you it was his voice I heard, he was calling to me. A young bosun named Eddie Corrick. We served on the Goliath together. When the O2 tanks ruptured, four of us made it to the lifeboat but Corrick was still on board the Goliath when the fire broke out.” – Miller

This is hands down my favorite film directed by Paul W. S. Anderson.

In fact, I love it so much that it bothers me that there was once a 130 minute rough cut of the film that none of us will ever be able to see because they didn’t really archive deleted scenes and alternate takes like they started to do a few years later when DVD extras became a thing.

What’s really sad about that is that this was a film that was whittled down by the producers into a quick, palatable 96 minutes because I guess horror or sci-fi movies can’t be longer than that. I feel cheated not being able to see Anderson’s full vision.

However, this is still a solid, sci-fi thriller with sick and disturbing twists that made this the most frightening space movie of its time. I can’t say that it’s as good as the first two Alien movies but it exceeds all of the sequels after the first two pictures.

This is also imaginative and just fucking cool.

The story follows a space crew as they travel to the orbit of Neptune to see what happened to another crew that went missing. Once there, they discover a pretty horrific truth. The missing crew’s ship jumped through a different dimension and thus, brought back what can only be described as Hell in space.

For those who have never seen this movie but are familiar with the Dead Space video game series, you’ll see a lot of stylistic similarities. Funny enough, every time I watch this movie, I want to go back and play those games.

In lots of ways, this is a terrifying film. It’s visuals are intense and it’s some of the best work Anderson has ever done. The movie is a total mindfuck but what does kind of suck is that you’re left with so many questions and you want to know more. Unfortunately, there will probably never be a sequel. I mean, it’s been 22 years since this came out.

Apart from Anderson being on his A game, this movie is truly carried by the performances of its great cast. There are ton of people in this, most of whom have gone on to have bigger careers after this picture. But they were all very capable and convincing actors in this film. I’ve always loved Sean Pertwee, Jason Issacs and Jack Noteworthy and seeing them get to work alongside Laurence Fishburne and Sam Neill is excellent.

Event Horizon is such an underrated film. It came and went in theaters pretty quickly and it did okay on video but I feel like it came out in the wrong era and was lost in the shuffle of all the other horror movies from its time.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: Danny Boyle’s Sunshine, as well as Pandorum and 2017’s Life.

Documentary Review: Funhouse (1997)

Release Date: 1997

Discovery Channel, 44 Minutes

Review:

I remember seeing this on the Discovery Channel when it was new. It always stuck with me and after becoming a fan of the YouTube channels Defunctland and Yesterworld, I wanted to try and track this down to revisit.

Sadly, there is no information about it online. There isn’t even an IMDb page. As I like to list the credits for everything I review, it sucks that I can’t give the proper people the credit they deserve for this cool little documentary that has stuck with me for 22 years.

Seeing it now, it was still a lot of fun and the real high point is where it showcases local, lesser known theme parks throughout the country. The two main ones that we get a peek at here are Bushkill Park and Kennywood, both from Pennsylvania.

What’s extra special about seeing this now, is that since this documentary, Bushkill Park has fallen into disrepair and doesn’t function as a full park anymore. There have been attempts at fixing it but the iconic rides of the past no longer function and have been wrecked by flooding and vandalism. But at the time of this documentary’s production, we got to see a lot of the old attractions in their mostly full glory.

This also goes into the technological advances that Universal Studios and Disney World were bringing into the theme park industry at the time. Some of the “new” rides featured here no longer exist or have evolved but this was a cool time capsule that looks into what was cutting edge in the ’90s.

If you like theme parks and their history, this is a fun watch. I put the whole documentary below and it even has the commercials left in, so its like a real ’90s TV time capsule.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: the YouTube channels Defunctland and Yesterworld.

Film Review: Kull the Conqueror (1997)

Also known as: Conan the Conqueror (working title)
Release Date: August 29th, 1997
Directed by: John Nicolella
Written by: Charles Edward Pogue
Based on: Kull of Atlantis by Robert E. Howard
Music by: Joel Goldsmith
Cast: Kevin Sorbo, Thomas Ian Griffith, Tia Carrere, Litefoot, Harvey Fierstein, Karina Lombard, Roy Brocksmith, Pat Roach

Universal Pictures, 96 Minutes

Review:

“[with corpses around the throne] My heirs challenged me for the throne. So I’ve spared all my children any future disappointment!” – King Borna

This was originally written to be the third Conan film but the De Laurentiis family couldn’t get Arnold Schwarzenegger to commit to it. So after several years, they locked up Kevin Sorbo, star of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. However, Sorbo didn’t want to play a character that was already made famous by another actor, so the filmmakers retooled the Conan script and decided to use a different but similar Robert E. Howard barbarian character, Kull of Atlantis.

To be frank, I was really excited to see Kull get his own movie. While I love Conan, when I was a kid I read a few of the Kull stories and loved him as well. He was definitely a character worth exploring. Plus, his comics from Marvel were also in abundance in my collection.

For the most part, this is just an okay movie. It’s lighthearted, fun but it’s cheap and it shows. The story also isn’t very good but I guess it’s as good as the plot of Conan the Destroyer or other mid-tier sword and sorcery pictures.

What makes this film more enjoyable than it would otherwise be is the charisma of Kevin Sorbo and the vastly underappreciated Thomas Ian Griffith, who I have been a fan of since first seeing him in The Karate Kid, Part III. These two guys absolutely carry this movie on their backs. The opening scene between them is fantastic, as is every other scene that they share.

But in the end, I really wanted more from a Kull movie. Hopefully, someday, we can get a resurgence in sword and sorcery films and actually see Kull return to the big screen, preferably with a decent budget and stronger script.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: other movies based on Robert E. Howard creations: the Conan films, Red Sonja and Solomon Kane, as well as the Beastmaster film series.