Film Review: Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Also known as: Traumnovelle, Rhapsody (working titles), EWS (promotional abbreviation)
Release Date: July 13th, 1999 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Stanley Kubrick
Written by: Stanley Kubrick, Frederic Raphael
Based on: Traumnovelle by Arthur Schnitzler
Music by: Jocelyn Pook
Cast: Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Sydney Pollack, Marie Richardson, Todd Field, Sky du Mont, Rade Šerbedžija, Thomas Gibson, Vinessa Shaw, Fay Masterson, Alan Cumming, Leelee Sobieski, Leon Vitali, Julienne Davis, Madison Eginton, Abigail Good, Cate Blanchett (voice, uncredited)

Hobby Films, Stanley Kubrick Productions, Warner Bros., 159 Minutes

Review:

“Bill, I don’t think you realize how much trouble you got yourself into last night just by going over there. Who do you think those people were? Those were not just some ordinary people. If I told you their names… no, I’m not going to tell you their names… but if I did, I don’t think you’d sleep so well at night.” – Victor Ziegler

Stanley Kubrick has multiple films that I consider masterpieces and this is one of them. In fact, while re-watching this, I tried to look for things to pick out as negatives and I didn’t find any.

While this motion picture has a long running time, it’s one of those special films that has a real mystique about it and it just lures you in and holds your attention from scene-to-scene.

It stars then-married Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman and as good as both of them have proven to be at their best, this is possibly both of them at their absolute best.

The scenes between Cruise and Kidman are intense and magnetic. While they were divorced a few years after this movie’s release, their love transcends the screen, as does their pain and then their shared truths potentially strengthening their bond by the end of the film. If they were no longer in love in real life, their performances just solidified how great both of them are at their craft. I also think Kubrick saw this in them and that’s why he cast both of them as a married couple.

The bulk of the story deals with Cruise having discovered that his wife nearly had an affair and it makes him question their marriage and sets him off on a quest of sexual exploration. While he is confronted by a lot of things, he never really cheats on her either. However, along the journey, he uncovers a billionaire sex cult in a mansion outside of New York City. He is immediately discovered and then ousted from this secret meeting but it creates an obsession within him, where he needs to uncover the truth behind it. He then finds himself in a cat and mouse game as the reach of this group is much larger than he could’ve imagined. Eventually, a very rich, close friend has to give him his final warning to stop pursuing this mystery.

The end of the film, sees Cruise breaking down and confessing to his wife in a similar manner that she confessed her near affair to him.

The sex cult stuff is the highlight of the film, really. And no, not because it’s a sequence with a sex cult but because of how opulent the setting was and how mysterious and unsettling the whole thing was despite the affluent atmosphere. This sequence was one of Kubrick’s best in his long career and it’s neat that it came in his final film, as so many auteurs tend to lose “it” towards the end of their careers.

The sex cult sequence, like the rest of the film, is hypnotic and enchanting. This is not just due to the acting, the pacing of the film, the score and the mysterious, disturbing circumstances but also the tone and atmosphere, which came courtesy of Kubrick’s wonderful eye for shot-framing, as well as the stellar cinematography of Larry Smith. Shockingly, this was Smith’s first film and he also did double duty, serving as the lighting cameraman, as well. He’d eventually go on to work with Nicolas Winding Refn on Fear X, Bronson and Only God Forgives, three films that also look amazing.

Eyes Wide Shut is a picture that isn’t for everybody. It actually asks a lot of its audience, as there are a lot of deep things to ponder. While Cruise’s obsession with the cult might seem like a large distraction from the real point of the plot, it’s actually just what he latches onto to simultaneously ignore and process his feelings of sadness, anger, growing guilt over his own actions and the overbearing thoughts of marital betrayal. 

Rating: 10/10

Film Review: Go (1999)

Also known as: Go! – Sex, Drugs & Rave’n’Roll (German VHS title), Life with Ronna (Welsh title)
Release Date: February 20th, 1999 (Miami International Film Festival)
Directed by: Doug Liman
Written by: John August
Music by: BT
Cast: Sarah Polley, Katie Holmes, Timothy Olyphant, Desmond Askew, Taye Diggs, William Fichtner, J. E. Freeman, Jane Krakowski, Breckin Meyer, Jay Mohr, Scott Wolf, Manu Intiraymi, James Duvall, Melissa McCarthy

Saratoga Entertainment, Banner Entertainment, Columbia Pictures, 102 Minutes

Review:

“You come here, out of the blue, asking for 20 hits. Just so happens 20 is the magic number where intent to sell becomes trafficking!” – Todd

When this came out, I had a lot of friends that talked about it and liked it quite a bit. I never got around to seeing it and it has been in my Starz queue since I first got Starz, years back.

As I’ve been trying to clear out the things in all my queues that have just been sitting there for eons, I was pretty excited to finally check this film out. And I guess I never knew that Doug Liman directed it, early in his career.

Overall, this is a pretty energetic picture. It’s also got several cool and likable characters, even if nearly all of them are committing crimes in the effort to pay back rent and have a good time.

There are three stories in this film that intertwine and they’re each broken out into roughly half hour segments with a bookend to introduce multiple characters and another bookend to closeout the story.

Out of the three stories, I was most engaged by the first one, which saw Sarah Polley basically become a one-time drug dealer because she needs money. Also, there is a rave later that night where she can go and try to make a hefty profit. However, when she accidentally fucks over the drug dealer, he comes for her, but not before she is hit by a speeding car and knocked down a hill.

The second story follows the kid that normally deals drugs. However, he isn’t around town because he’s headed to Vegas for an adventure with his buds. However, this also goes sideways and the friends have to escape a vengeful strip club bouncer and owner, after a debaucherous mishap that ended in a non-lethal shooting.

The third story deals with two gay actors who are secretly in love and how they get busted by a narcotics detective that decides to use them to entrap someone else in exchange for their freedom. This crosses over with the first plot thread, as Sarah Polley’s character is who they approach for drugs and it’s the event that sets her off on her path. What we find out here, though, is that these were the people in the car that hit her. So now they’ve got to try and clean up their mess.

I don’t want to spoil too much of the plot and I won’t reveal the ending or how this all comes together in a big way. But it’s a movie with a lot of layers and solid actors playing these great, interesting characters.

Go is a better motion picture than I thought it would be, even with years of praise from friends in the back of my mind. Frankly, I should’ve watched it much sooner. Had I seen this back when it was current, it probably would’ve been a movie I watched a lot back in my youth.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other late ’90s dark teen dramas/comedies.

Film Review: Audition (1999)

Release Date: October 2nd, 1999 (Vancouver International Film Festival)
Directed by: Takashi Miike
Written by: Daisuke Tengan
Based on: Audition by Ryu Murakami
Music by: Kōji Endō
Cast: Ryo Ishibashi, Eihi Shiina

Basara Pictures, Creators Company Connection, Omega Project, 115 Minutes (original), 113 Minutes (R-rated)

Review:

“Only pain and suffering will make you realize who you are.” – Asami Yamazaki

I was somewhat late to the Takashi Miike party, as this was the first film of his that I had ever seen. He had a lot of pictures under his belt by the time Audition hit the United States but this was still my introduction to the director, who many people love but I simply don’t.

That’s not to say that I don’t appreciate the man’s work rate and his effort, as he’s always working on something. But his movies typically don’t connect with me. And that’s certainly not the gore or a cultural issue, as I love lots of film with gore and if you’ve followed Talking Pulp for awhile, my love for Japanese cinema should be pretty apparent.

That being said, Audition is probably my favorite film of Takashi Miike’s after Ichi the Killer. That doesn’t mean that it’s great but I do think that it’s terrifying as fuck and damn effective.

The story is about a single father who has his friend hold fake acting auditions in an effort to screen women for the real life role of his new girlfriend. He does find what he’s looking for. However, the girl he selects is pretty much psychotic and ends up torturing and disfiguring him after she feels slighted.

The movie moves at a snail’s pace but the high points are damn good and will probably give most men nightmares.

It’s well acted, well shot and well directed. It’s much more grounded than Miike’s more surreal stuff and that’s probably why I connect to it more than most of his work.

In the end, though, many view this as a classic and I just view it as just a fucked up flick that took me two decades to revisit.

For those that think its over the top, it really isn’t when compared to some of Miike’s other pictures.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other Takashi Miike films.

TV Review: Spaced (1999-2001)

Original Run: September 24th, 1999 – April 13th, 2001
Created by: Simon Pegg, Jessica Stevenson
Directed by: Edgar Wright
Written by: Simon Pegg, Jessica Stevenson
Music by: various
Cast: Simon Pegg, Jessica Stevenson, Nick Frost, Mark Heap, Julia Deakin, Katy Carmichael, Lucy Akhurst, Anna Wilson-Jones, Bill Bailey, James Lance, Peter Serafinowicz, Michael Smiley

Big Talk, London Weekend Television, Channel 4, 14 Episodes, 25 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

“Marsha, they say that the family of the twenty-first century is made up of friends, and not relatives, and if that’s true, then you’re the best aunty I’ve ever had!” – Tim

I’m not from the UK so I didn’t know about this show until about a year after it aired. I discovered it when a friend from the UK sent me the first season to check out because he thought I’d like it. I did and it actually became one of my favorite shows of all-time and still is. But since I haven’t watched it in nearly a decade, I wanted to dust it off and revisit it. Especially, after I just revisited and reviewed the Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy.

The show is directed by Edgar Wright and stars two of his long-time collaborators Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. It also stars Jessica Stevenson, who co-wrote the show with Pegg. The two of them had previously worked together in a short-lived show called Asylum, which Wright also created and directed.

Seeing this now, it’s very ’90s but at the same time, it’s absolutely timeless. This isn’t something I would’ve picked up on in the past but the struggles of these twentysomethings is pretty damn real and I think it’s still relatable. In fact, I guess I didn’t realize how much I related to it in my mid-to-late 20s.

While I’m younger than the cast and the age they represented when I first watched this, it was only a few years later before my experiences lined up with theirs. Also, being someone in a creative field that is both an artist and a writer, I think I relate to both of them even more, looking back at where I started and where my career and hobbies led me over the last two decades.

All that being said, I almost love this show even more now, as I realize how much heart and soul went into it and how genuine and authentic it truly is. And I think it comes from the fact that these people are also creatives and were probably going through similar struggles as the characters they wrote and played.

Beyond that, this was a unique show in how Wright didn’t shoot it like a standard sitcom but he used techniques typical to horror and sci-fi films. He went for extreme angles and quick motion, as opposed to fixed, static cameras focused on a set. Quite a bit of the show was also shot outside and Wright employed the same techniques outdoors, giving the Spaced world more energy than that of a typical show. 

Also, everyone in this is perfect. It’s just really well cast and that’s not just the six core characters but also the reoccurring ones that pop in and out.

The show also goes for pretty surreal situations and humor but it works well, fits the style and isn’t overdone to where this becomes a bizarre “brainy” show that dolts pretend they like because they don’t want to appear as if they don’t “get it”.

Unfortunately, the show ended at least a season too early, as you kind of pick up on the fact that the two leads are going to fall in love, as the story rolls on. By season two, it’s regularly hinted at and even though the ending to that season was satisfying to that season’s arc, I feel like the show and its fans deserved at least one more seven episode helping before everyone moved on to things like Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.

Man, I knew I loved this show but I guess I forgot how much. And now, that love has grown even more, as I appreciate Spaced on new and deeper levels thanks to how well it has held up and how technically savvy it is. Plus, the experiences and issues these characters face are timeless and they’re presented in a way that’s kind of pure, which transcends generations and cultural changes.

Spaced, to me, is a near perfect show. I can’t call every episode a classic but they all have something really worthwhile and they all do a superb job of building up these characters, their lives together and the audience’s love for each of them.

In the end, even after two decades and a dozen watch throughs, it’s hard to say goodbye to them in that final episode.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy, as well as Pegg’s other comedy series before he became a film star.

Film Review: Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris (1999)

Also known as: Gamera 3: Jashin kakusei (original Japanese title), Gamera 3: The Awakening of Iris (alternative title), Gamera 1999: The Absolute Guardian of the Universe (UK closing credits title), Gamera 3 (unofficial title)
Release Date: March 6th, 1999 (Japan)
Directed by: Shusuke Kaneko
Written by: Kazunori Ito, Shusuke Kaneko
Music by: Kow Otani
Cast: Shinobu Nakayama, Ai Maeda, Yukijiro Hotaru

Daiei Studios, Hakuhodo, Nippon Shuppan Hanbai K.K., Toho Co. Ltd., 108 Minutes

Review:

“Every creature, however unappealing, fights to the last to survive. Humanity as well.” – Mayumi Nagamine

This is the last of the awesome trilogy of Gamera films directed by Shusuke Kaneko. With that, this also concludes the storyline of his reoccurring characters and brings to a close this version of Gamera canon.

I’ve got to say, though, Kaneko went out with a bang and this isn’t just my favorite Gamera film of his trilogy but it is my favorite Gamera film of them all!

This one took a longer break from its predecessor and with that, I think they had more time to fine tune it and refine it from a story and script standpoint to working out some of the special effects kinks.

The end result is a film that looks better and plays better than any of its predecessors.

I enjoy the story in this a lot and even if it doesn’t come across as wholly original (it feels like something lifted from an Ultraman episode), it still works for this film series and provides Gamera fans with a neat, energetic conclusion to possibly the best version of the property.

Furthermore, the enemy monster in this is really damn cool and it’s an unfortunate creature with a personal grudge against Gamera. Basically, the monster Gamera fights isn’t simply evil and its reason for fighting Gamera is pretty damn justified.

That being said, the third act of this movie is really f’n good. If you’re already a kaiju or tokusatsu fan, you should really dig it. The final battle is the best in the series and the final moments of the film are pretty heavy and emotional.

If Daiei really wanted to take Gamera seriously and give fans something great, this is where they truly succeeded. The two films before this one really set the ground work and built a solid foundation but this shows that their efforts paid off and the studio and director delivered.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the other Gamera films of the Heisei era.

Film Review: Bowfinger (1999)

Also known as: Bowfinger’s Big Thing (working title)
Release Date: August 13th, 1999
Directed by: Frank Oz
Written by: Steve Martin
Music by: David Newman
Cast: Eddie Murphy, Steve Martin, Heather Graham, Christine Baranski, Terence Stamp, Robert Downey Jr., Jamie Kennedy, Adam Alexi-Malle, John Cho, Marisol Nichols

Imagine Entertainment, Universal Pictures, 97 Minutes, 85 Minutes (TV cut)

Review:

“Would you be willing to cut your hair?” – Robert K. Bowfinger, “Well, yeah, but it would probably be better if someone else did it. I’ve had a few… accidents.” – Jiff Ramsey

It’s hard to believe that Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy had never been in a film together until 1999. They crossed paths on Saturday Night Live, as Martin was a frequent host in the early ’80s and Murphy was there for a few seasons. However, the world had to wait a long time to see them on the big screen and man, what a treat this film was.

The plot is about a really driven film director that will stop at nothing to finally make a motion picture. He actually has similar tendencies to Steve Martin’s character from Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, which is fitting as both films shared Frank Oz as director.

Martin’s Bowfinger tries to convince the world’s biggest action star to be the lead in his film but it doesn’t work out. Martin then comes up with a plan to film the actor without the actor knowing. Eventually, he needs a look-a-like and hires a man that suspiciously looks too much like the actor. We later find out that the impostor is actually the actor’s brother.

While the plot may sound overly complicated, it all works really well and the film moves at such a brisk pace that the plot’s layers and twists still happen pretty organically.

Steve Martin wrote this picture and it’s pretty damn funny and reflects his style of humor and reminds me of his earlier work, as opposed to his more subdued mid-to-late ’90s output.

Also, this showed that Eddie Murphy still had the it factor when put into the right project. The late ’90s started to get rough for Murphy after several missteps. Unfortunately, it was those missteps that probably prevented this movie from being a theatrical hit.

However, I’m glad that its fanbase has grown over the years and people have more love for Bowfinger nowadays than they did in 1999. It’s a solid, goofy comedy that features two legends doing some of their best work. Plus, the rest of the cast is pretty perfect.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other comedies starring either Steve Martin or Eddie Murphy.

Film Review: Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999)

Also known as: Austin Powers 2, It’s Shagging Time (working titles)
Release Date: June 11th, 1999
Directed by: Jay Roach
Written by: Michael McCullers, Mike Myers
Music by: George S. Clinton
Cast: Mike Myers, Heather Graham, Elizabeth Hurley, Michael York, Robert Wagner, Seth Green, Mindy Sterling, Verne Troyer, Will Ferrell, Clint Howard, Burt Bacharach, Michael McDonald, Rob Lowe, Jeff Garlin, Elvis Costello, Jerry Springer, Rebecca Romijn, Woody Harrelson, Charles Napier, Tim Robbins, Willie Nelson, Fred Willard, David Koechner, Tony Jay (narrator)

Moving Pictures, Gratitude, New Line Cinema, 95 Minutes

Review:

“I can’t believe Vanessa, my bride, my one true love, the woman who taught me the beauty of monogamy, was a fembot all along. Wait a tick, that means I’m single again! Oh behave!” – Austin Powers

Out of the three movies in the Austin Powers trilogy, this one is my favorite, even though all the films are really close in overall quality.

There are a few reasons why I like this one slightly better.

First, I like the plot better than the first movie. It’s more complex, more interesting and doesn’t simply try to rehash the beats of the first picture. There’s also a time travel element that works for me, even though it quickly breaks the fourth wall dismissing the paradoxes and narrative problems it creates. Because, honestly, this is a mindless, fun Austin Powers movie and you shouldn’t be thinking that hard anyway.

Second, I loved all the new characters from Mini-Me, Fat Bastard and especially Rob Lowe, as the younger version of Number 2.

Third, this has Heather Graham in it as the main “Powers Girl” and she’s always been a favorite of mine and certainly my favorite babe in a film series packed full of incredible, badass babes.

Apart from those three things, this film is just as fun and entertaining as the first movie. Additionally, the cast seems much more at-home in their roles and they’re even better than they were in the previous film.

I also like this chapter because it shows you which jokes sort of become reoccurring gags. Many of these bits became staples of the series while also becoming one of the more endearing things about this goofy, amusing franchise.

It’s also obvious that this movie had more money to play around with. There are bigger, better sets and more of them. Dr. Evil gets multiple lairs and each of them are much grander than the previous film’s underground bunker.

All in all, this is still solid, fun escapism and it made me smile in a young decade that hasn’t been very kind to most of us.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Austin Powers films and other ’60s styled spy spoofs like the Dean Martin Matt Helm movies and the original Casino Royale.

Film Review: Election (1999)

Release Date: April 23rd, 1999 (limited)
Directed by: Alexander Payne
Written by: Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor
Based on: Election by Tom Perrotta
Music by: Rolfe Kent
Cast: Matthew Broderick, Reese Witherspoon, Chris Klein, Jessica Campbell, Phil Reeves, Molly Hagan, Colleen Camp, Nicholas D’Agosto, Holmes Osborne, Matt Malloy, Frankie Ingrassia

Bona Fide Productions, MTV Films, Paramount Pictures, 103 Minutes

Review:

“Larry, we’re not electing the fucking Pope here. Just tell me who won.” – Jim McAllister

I didn’t know much about this movie the first time I saw it but I liked it quite a bit.

Back in 1999, it didn’t come out with a lot of fanfare or really much promotion and sort of just came and went in the theaters quickly. I saw it once it came out on VHS and thought it deserved more recognition than it initially got. Luckily, it did become a bit of a cult classic fairly quickly.

When I see this now, my brain can’t help but to think of this as the origin story of Hillary Clinton. I don’t mean that to be an asshole but there are a lot of similarities between what we know about her now and how the character of Tracy Flick was played in the film by Reese Witherspoon in one of her best early performances.

The film also stars Matthew Broderick and at the time, this was the first time I saw him and thought of him as old. He really wasn’t but he had matured quite a bit since his most iconic roles in Ferris Bueller and WarGames. Regardless of that, this is my favorite performance of his career, as he plays a good guy that becomes corrupted by the power he wields and his burning desire to stop a future political monster before she really has the chance to effect the real world. He’s also approaching his midlife crisis point and makes some poor life decisions because of that.

You also have Chris Klein in this as the third main character. While I’m not a big fan of Klein’s, he’s really good in this and it’s almost like the role was tailor made for him. He’s good as a popular but nice, optimistic jock that genuinely cares about all the people around him. This is my favorite thing that he’s done, as well.

The film’s plot is really good and well constructed. There are a lot of layers and several characters to balance but the movie does that rather well while also making you care about the lives of the core people involved.

This isn’t a predictable film and it takes some interesting turns with some of the smaller subplots. The main story is pretty straightforward and while you can guess where it’s going, it’s still got a few surprises.

The film’s director, Alexander Payne, would go on to have a pretty impressive career. He followed this film up with the Jack Nicholson starring About Schmidt and then one of the Academy Awards’ darlings of 2004, Sideways.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: other quirky ’90s comedies, as well as other films by Alexander Payne.

Film Review: Rogue Trader (1999)

Also known as: Trader (France), Money Trader (Japanese English title)
Release Date: June 25th, 1999 (UK, Ireland, US TV premiere)
Directed by: James Dearden
Written by: James Dearden
Based on: Rogue Trader: How I Brought Down Barings Bank and Shook the Financial World by Nick Leeson, Edward Whitley
Music by: Richard Hartley
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Anna Friel, Pip Torrens

Granada Film Productions, Newmarket, 101 Minutes

Review:

“Oh, fuck the rules, Tony. It’s barrow boys like Nick who are turning the City of London around. You can’t run a modern financial centre with a bunch of Hooray Henries.” – Ron Baker

I saw this movie back in 1999 and generally liked it but I hadn’t seen it since then and after recently revisiting the Wall Street movies, I wondered how well this one would hold up over two decades later.

For the most part, it’s pretty good and I thought that Ewan McGregor did well with the material, bringing a real energy to the film, which on it’s own, would’ve been really mundane without him.

Point being, McGregor is so good that it makes this a better picture than it should have been and he carries the rest of the cast in every scene. But honestly, that’s okay, as the end result worked and you cared enough about him and his situation that you wanted to see this all play out.

From a production standpoint, the cinematography, camera work and overall look of the picture feels cheap. If I’m being honest, this feels like more of a TV movie than a theatrical one, which is probably why it debuted on television in the US market where it saw theatrical releases overseas.

When compared to films like Wall Street 1 and 2The Wolf of Wall Street and the grossly underrated Boiler Room, this doesn’t hold a candle to them.

Like The Wolf of Wall Street, though, this one is a true story and it’s an interesting enough story deserving of being told in the motion picture medium. However, the story probably deserves a better movie than what this turned out to be. The real story is fascinating and I don’t think that it really came through, here.

Still, this is good and it’s certainly worth checking out for Ewan McGregor and the part that he played quite greatly.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other finance industry thrillers like Boiler Room and the Wall Street movies.

Film Review: Sleepy Hollow (1999)

Release Date: November 17th, 1999 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Tim Burton
Written by: Andrew Kevin Walker, Kevin Yagher
Based on: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
Music by: Danny Elfman
Cast: Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Miranda Richardson, Michael Gambon, Casper Van Dien, Jeffrey Jones, Christopher Lee, Richard Griffiths, Ian McDiarmid, Michael Gough, Marc Pickering, Christopher Walken, Ray Park, Lisa Marie, Peter Guinness, Martin Landau (uncredited)

Mandalay Pictures, American Zoetrope, Paramount Pictures, 105 Minutes

Review:

“Villainy wears many masks, none so dangerous as the mask of virtue.” – Ichabod Crane

This is one of my favorite Tim Burton movies and every time I watch it, it just makes me wish that he did more straight up fantasy horror films.

This is Burton’s take on the famous story by Washington Irving but it takes the Sleepy Hollow legend and makes it a lot darker and more badass than other adaptations. For many, the classic Disney animated version is probably the one they’re most familiar with. This Sleepy Hollow is very different.

I love that this is gothic horror at its core and you can see the influences of Hammer Films, as well as those Edgar Allan Poe movies with Vincent Price. In fact, Burton does more than homage Hammer, here, as he also includes some Hammer legends in the film: Michael Gough and Christopher Lee, to be specific.

This also features Ian McDiarmid and a visually obscured Ray Park, making it the only movie to feature Emperor Palpatine, Count Dooku and Darth Maul: Star Wars can’t even claim that.

Anyway, the film is led by Johnny Depp and I love him in this. He plays a sort of whimsical, awkward character and his version of Ichabod Crane shows early signs of what Depp would later create as his most famous character, Captain Jack Sparrow.

I love the humor in this movie and I don’t think that it would’ve worked quite the same way without Depp. Here we have a great investigator that has to get down and dirty… and often times bloody. The humorous bit is that he’s a germaphobe and winces every time he has to do something unsettling or gross. It’s a reoccurring gag throughout the film but it works every time and it isn’t overused.

Depp also has Christina Ricci to play off of and I always like when these two are together. I honestly wish that they worked together more often, as they have real chemistry and always tend to accentuate each other’s performance.

The rest of the cast is padded out with some immense talent between Christopher Walken, Michael Gambon, Miranda Richardson, Martin Landau, Jeffrey Jones, Richard Griffiths, Lisa Marie and Casper Van Dien, who had just come off of the cult classic Starship Troopers.

I enjoy the look and tone of the film and my only real complaint about it is that it seems a bit too drawn out. The story is too complex and should have been refined and tweaked to bring the film down to around 90 minutes. It doesn’t really need more than that but at the same time it could’ve also used a bit more head chopping and action.

Apart from that, the only other negative is that the CGI looks cheesy in two parts but both of those moments happen really quick and it doesn’t wreck the film. I just found it a little bit jarring in those split seconds and it does pull you out of this period piece setting.

In the end, this is still pretty solid and it’s one of the highpoints of ’90s horror, as the decade came to a close and gave us a new millennium full of subpar, mostly shitty horror.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other gothic horror films around 2000, as well as other Tim Burton films with Johnny Depp.