eXistenZ (1999)

Directed by: David Cronenberg. Starring: Jude Law, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Ian Holm. Runtime: 1h 37 min. Released: April 23, 1999.

I’ll start off by saying I did not fully understand “eXistenZ.Basically, Allegra Geller (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is premiering this virtual reality video game called eXistenZ (roll credits) that’s a huge deal but then the goth-looking guy (Kris Lemche) from “Final Destination 3” attempts to assassinate her and she goes on the run with Ted Pikul (Jude Law). He’s a marketing trainee but also her protection. Then, they must play her own game to make sure it’s not damaged.

I think my main problem with this film is the fact that the world’s rules aren’t well established. There aren’t rules to the game and it’s all so ambiguous. We’re not even given the premise of this new game, either, as it seems just the fact that Geller is releasing a new game is reason enough to buy it. She’s like a god in this world.

The world itself that David Cronenberg creates is just strange. The way they play Allegra’s virtual reality game is through these game pods that are made out of recycled animal and amphibian organs. They look like little stomach’s and they’re rather unsettling.

What’s stranger is where these little creepy pods have to be plugged in for the user to play the game. They’re plugged into a hole in your spinal cord called a bio-port (the film shows this can be an oddly erotic thing). No one’s born with this bio-port, it’s done surgically so these characters can play video games. And we’re supposed to believe people do this willingly. If that’s what it took to play video games in the real world, man. I’ll say goodbye to all video games and just stick with movies. That’s a hard pass.

That’s the kind-of the stance Ted Pikul takes as well, because he has a phobia of being penetrated surgically. Honestly, he’s the only normal one in this world because of that. Law and Jason Leigh carry the film well as their characters. Other supporting players like Ian Holm, Christopher Eccleston, Willem Dafoe and Don McKellar are good.

eXistenZ (in article).jpg

Jude Law in “eXistenZ.” (IMDb)

The story itself and plot structure feels very fluid and moves at a fast pace. There’s a lot of action and it’s a really bizarre sci-fi thriller than anything horror in the traditional sense. The outline of important events feel compact in this admittedly thin plot, and there’s not a lot of dead space in the film. Some of it isn’t always interesting and some stuff doesn’t make a lot of sense, either.

I think that’s my problem. When I don’t understand something fully it hinders my enjoyment and I didn’t understand a lot of stuff here. It’s not that it’s a bad movie. It’s very well-made and well-directed by David Cronenberg, this just isn’t a world I’d want to immerse myself in again.

It’s a fine ride for one watch as it consistently keeps you guessing if they’re really in the real world or in the game world. And I was usually intrigued even if I didn’t love what was going on. The end of the film is the most memorable part in this. and there was a lot of stuff that I found interesting – especially the gun made out of flesh and bone that shoots human teeth. Just that sentence alone should tell you how creative “eXistenZ” truly is. I also never thought I’d see video game consoles that look like living, breathing organisms. Honestly, I wish I didn’t see them, because the noises they make and the way they look are hella creepy.

Score: 60/100

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Detroit Rock City (1999)

Detroit Rock CityRelease Date: August 13, 1999Director: Adam RifkinStars: Edward Furlong, James DeBello, Sam HuntingtonRuntime: 95 min.

Music isn’t one of my passions. I love the idea of it – but since I don’t have an iPod, or even a decent pair of headphones, I find it hard to sit down and actually listen to some good music. I do love the industry and see how it enhances everything. (When I was at a screening of “Monsters University”, and the sound cut out right at the end credits, I couldn’t help but think how bloody boring the end credits was without music.) I’d love to get into it more. (So feel free to leave any suggestions for good songs in the comment section…) All that being said, I am no rocker, so I really don’t know what I’m doing watching “Detroit Rock City”, a movie about four pals doing just about anything to get to see their idols, KISS.

That goal keeps being sidetracked by bullies, a lack of money, and a crazed religious mother and a society who thinks KISS is devil’s music.

“Detroit Rock City” is interesting in the way that it shows the social ideals of the 90’s. The movie isn’t really for me. I’m not the target audience, but I can see how it’s a favourite for some. There is some entertainment to be had under the overall poor writing. Seeing these kids stand up for their beliefs is rousing. I liked seeing Natasha Lyonne and Melanie Lynskey in here. For me, this is just a load of mediocrity.

It’s mainly a comedy, but I only remember laughing out loud once at a priest who ate some pizza with magic mushrooms on it. And I did find my suspension of disbelief being stretched too much when a MILF wanted to screw Edward Furlong’s character…There are decent chuckles throughout this flick, as the things these kids are willing to do to get into the concert are mildly amusing.

Score58/100

The Green Mile (1999)

The Green MileThe Green Mile

Release Date: December 10, 1999

Director: Frank Darabont

Stars: Tom Hanks, Michael Clarke Duncan, David Morse

Runtime: 189 min

Tagline: Miracles do happen

Did you knowOriginally set in 1932, the timeframe was bumped to 1935 so the movie Top Hat could be featured.

The lives of guards on Death Row are affected by one of their charges: a black man accused of child murder and rape, yet who has a mysterious gift.

The Green Mile follows one of the most miraculous stories of fantasy and mystery to ever be told. It’s filled with fantastic performances, awesome characters, a great story, great direction and superb writing.

This film is based on the Stephen King novel of the same name. It combines crime, drama, mystery and fantasy and makes it one of the best features I’ve ever seen. The good majority of the characters are Death Row inmates, so there is a good helping of crime in this, as each of those inmates did a horrendous crime to get in there. However, a good percentage of the inmates’ fatal sins are never exposed. The purpose of this is for when the inmates take a seat in Old Sparky, the Green Mile’s infamous electric chair, we must get emotional. We wouldn’t get as emotional as we do with a select few characters if we actually knew they were convicted rapists, like one character is revealed as in the source novel. One of the primary characters, John Coffey (“like the drink, only not spelled the same”), is actually accused of child murder and rape. There’s great emotional depth in the feature, and it’s surprising how emotional an audience can get about a few inmates dying for their sins. Both the mystery and the fantasy interlap with each other, because the real mystery is what Coffey’s gift is exactly, and what his purpose is in the dark world.

Stephen King is the one to write the original novel, and he is a great person to analyze the darkness of the world, and the darkness that fill the hearts of some people. This brings in the concept of the world only being a dark home, with people who kill others for joy, or killers who use little girls’ love to kill each other with. This is a story of some inmates who can actually feel remorse, and die for others.

Michael Clarke Duncan is the best he has ever been as John Coffey. He may be a giant, but he is such a tender soul with a heart as big as a semi-truck. The fact that this brute of a man is afraid of the dark reminds me that the world is a scary place, and he is just as vulnerable to the dangers of the universe as much as Mr. Jingles may be. Even though Coffey is in no certain danger of being squashed by Percy Wetmore.

Percy is one of the most despicable characters of the feature, but he is really a fascinating character, who is well-performed by Doug Hutchison. Percy is established as a young, ignorant man who thinks he is the only one in the world with connections, and he doesn’t understand that there are consequences with every action, something he learns the hard way. He is also hungry for power, but power is earned and not given freely. He is a young person who really, for some reason or another, wants to see a death up close. This adds a disturbing aspect to the feature, but a very necessary one. It all goes in the expertly mended mix of genres and concepts.

One of the meanest cats around town, among the prisoners, is Wild Bill (played by Sam Rockwell, who seems like he had a hell of a time). He is a sort-of comic relief, but he is also a character that is critical to the story development. Much like Percy, he is the sort of character that you might hate, but you can’t help but appreciate.

Tom Hanks delivers a solid performance as Paul Edgecomb with the help of others in the cast: David Morse as Brutus, Bonnie Hunt as Paul’s wife, James Cromwell, Michael Jeter as Eduard Delacroix, Sam Rockwell and Doug Hutchison as the despicable Percy Wetmore. However, no one is better than Michael Clarke Duncan. Duncan is in his finest hour with his performance as the tender John Coffey, a giant, uneducated black man who has seen too much darkness in the world.

A vast majority of the film is set in the prison, with only ones’ home life expressed are Paul’s and the warden, Hal Moores’. It actually works for it. There are amazing characters all-around, even Percy, one of the most despicable characters in all of cinema. With fine pacing as well as characters you’ll find yourself so enveloped with, this film is equal parts beautiful, emotional, and extremely engaging.

The direction is great, Darabont wonderfully brings King’s novel to life. He may have left a few things out, but he stayed faithful to the key elements. And, often enough, the reason Darabont left a few things out was to allow us to feel emotional if anything happened to them. Darabont writes in all sorts of hidden elements, even adding onto King’s novel. These changes aren’t nearly as severe as Kubrick’s to King’s The Shining, so it’s great he stayed so faithful to such a mesmerising and spell-binding story.

In a nutshell: The Green Mile is my favourite film. It is profound, disturbing, charming, engaging, sad, and funny. These amazing performers bring the characters of King’s novel to life; characters as small as the little circus mouse, Mr. Jingles, to as big as John Coffey himself.

Oh, my favourite part of my favourite film is very, very hard to choose, but that scene where John is watching his first “flicka show”, Top Hat, is up there because it’s just so charming.

100/100

Also, check out this “brief discussion” of the film I had with Joe over at his blog, Two Dude Review. This discussion really does prove it’s a movie that’s difficult to stop talking about!

House on Haunted Hill (1999)

house on haunted hillHouse on Haunted Hill

Release Date: October 29, 1999

Director: William Malone

Stars: Geoffrey Rush, Famke Janssen, Taye Diggs

Runtime: 93 min

Tagline: Evil loves to party

Read this review to the tune of ‘White Christmas’. Enjoy!

I’m dreaming of a good horror movie
Just like the ones I used to know
Where the screenplay shines
and audiences scream in fear
at the scary things on the screen

I’m dreaming of a good horror movie
With at least one released each year (this isn’t it)
May your scares be scary and fresh
And may all your horror movies be fun

I’m dreaming of a good horror movie
With at least one released each year (this isn’t it)
May your scares be scary and fresh
And may all your horror movies be fun

Yeah, so, House on Haunted Hill is a really sloppy remake of an apparently entertaining campy 1959 horror classic. The concept is great, and it really wasted any potential it had. The twists are lame and the dialogue is crappy, and really everything about this isn’t exciting or particularly terrifying. It’s really just strange and irritating. Geoffrey Rush couldn’t even make the best of the rough source material offered to him. In an age where horror movie remakes rule the genre, this isn’t anything special.

40/100

The Blair Witch Project – A film review by Daniel Prinn – Not as scary as I thought it’d be..

The Blair Witch Project

Release Date: July 30, 1999

Director(s): Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sánchez

Stars: Heather Donahue, Michael C. Williams, Joshua Leonard

Runtime: 81 min

Tagline: Scary as hell.

 

 A low-budget horror flick penned by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez, which isn’t as scary as it seemed to present itself as.

Three film students (Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard and Michael Williams) go on an adventure into the woods to make a documentary of the local urban legend, The Blair Witch. Once there, and once lost, they experience odd ritualistic set-ups and feel as if something is watching their every move. One year later, their footage is recovered and their story has reached the surface.

The whole thing seems like it would be set up to be a true story, and I wasn’t really sure while watching if it was or not, so when information verified for me that it wasn’t, sort of just tainted my general view of the film. The film is quite original, though, considering that the urban mythology was made up. It isn’t “scary as hell,” but some scenes can be intense and suspenseful.

The characters are really annoying, holy crap. Heather’s the most irritating, she’s always talking and nagging and whining, which made me think, “You’re one of the most annoying characters in the history of cinema and I really hope you get killed off first, but I know that won’t happen because you’re the main protagonist.” The idea of going out into the woods to film the documentary was hers, and she’s calling all of the shots. Joshua is Heather’s friend, and then Mike is just a guy in their class and he wanted to help make the documentary. When they get lost and all of the odd stuff starts occurring, they really just turn on each other and start nagging which makes the film have way too much conflict and often just really irritating.

The film isn’t really all that terrifying but can be pretty eerie. There aren’t any pop-out scares or anything, but the filmmakers know how to give instill intensity in its viewers. It also does a great job of striking fear into us by using three common fears: the unknown, things that go bump in the night (so eerie noises) and the dark.

It is quite spooky when the sun goes down; because you know at night something is going to happen. Each night, whatever is stalking these film students , increases in danger and severity.

The Blair Witch Project is a very profitable endeavor, having a small budget of $22,000 (if my research is correct) and making about $240.5 million. It is one of the finest films shot in the found footage format, but is quite overrated by critics alike. This isn’t my favourite flick in the ‘found footage’ subgenre, but it isn’t my least favourite, either.

It isn’t a huge waste of time because of its 81-minute running time, but didn’t offer me many redeeming qualities for me to totally love it. I didn’t despise it but I didn’t like it on a high level, and it’s highly disappointing. The characters aren’t very good, but the actors do pretty well considering the majority of their lines were improvised, and shoot most of the film themselves.

The camerawork is fairly poor, with all of their running around and whole shaky cam crap. The film knows how to be suspenseful, but it also can be extremely boring and irritating. The characters are extremely poor, but the actors do a fairly good job for as little as the crew told them to do.

T.B.W.P. offers a home-made mockumentary experience, that can be suspenseful, eerie and boring; offers poor camerawork and annoying characters, but fairly good [genuine] acting; has memorable sequences and builds up quite well to an unrewarding ending (but it very, very expected) and is pretty well-structured, but isn’t an experience I’ll want to try to endure again.

55/100

[I couldn’t find it in myself to give it a 60, but it isn’t a 50 bad]

American Beauty – A film review by Daniel Prinn

American Beauty

Release Date: October 1, 1999

Director: Sam Mendes

Stars: Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening, Thora Birch

Runtime: 122 min

Tagline: … look closer.

 American Beauty is a depressing, but beautiful, insightful and profound look at the life of a dysfunctional suburban family; making it one of the greatest films of the 90s and 1999 (It’s hard to pick my favourite for 1999, I mean it was such a great year for films – this, The Sixth SenseFight Club, The Green Mile, etc.).

Lester (Kevin Spacey) and Carolyn Burnham (Annette Bening) have it all: they’re a perfect husband and wife, have perfect jobs, have a perfect family, a perfect home, all in a perfect little suburban neighbourhood; that is, on the outside. On the inside, Lester is a depressed man who reaches a breaking point in that middle-age crisis when he becomes attracted to his daughter’s friend, Angela (Mena Suvari), and vows to change his life – in a way to woo the heart of this young woman. All the while, the daughter, Jane (Thora Birch), is trying to find out who she really is, and she is going through those usual adolescent phases. She also strikes up a kind friendship with a shy boy who documents his everyday life, Ricky (Wes Bentley) next door who lives with his headstrong homophobic military father, Colonel Frank Fitts (Chris Cooper).

American Beauty is a sophisticated, entertaining and profound analysis of the so-called American dream gone sour.

I really like this one because it has a great sense of realism, because many families try to present themselves as perfect and beautiful, but they are really rotting and extremely dysfunctional in some ways on the inside.

Each of these characters has problems, and most are played quite beautifully. Lester Burnham is very depressed, unmotivated, but often comedic, middle-aged man who learns to change his life around and start to stand up for himself more, and try to be happier with himself despite his utter lack of care for the world. He is also wonderfully and flawlessly played by Kevin Spacey who brings his great dramatic acting and sarcastic comedic delivery to his character. Carolyn Burnham is really the dictator in the Burnham family, when she’s actually home, because she is so dedicated to her career. She’s a needed character but she’s very, very irritating. She’s the most irritating when she just randomly screams to the heavens. It’s cringe-worthy. She is one of my least favourite female characters, ever. She just offers a ridiculous amount of conflict to every single situation. Annette Bening plays a really good bitch. Jane Burnham is a pretty good character. She is trying to find herself in this mixed up world and just doesn’t understand how sometimes the world of high school works. She is played fairly well by Thora Birch. Angela is an okay character. She’s extremely inappropriate and immature, and she struts her little stuff all around town and brags about all of the guys she gets together with. Mena Suvari portrays the character fairly well, not great but not too bad. Ricky Fitts is (played well by Wes Bentley) is a good character. He’s just trying to understand the world, too. He is an interesting character that has a unique view of the world. Colonel Frank Fitts is played very well by Chris Cooper, and he is a very dictatorial and homophobic character that is ultimately very interesting.

While you’re watching it, even if you’re not thoroughly enjoying it, you can tell that it’s a well- made film with a beautiful message and a great story. It is just flawlessly and originally penned by Alan Ball (creator of TV’s True Blood).

There’s one great thing about this film, even if you didn’t like it – you can say, “Hey, my life isn’t all that bad compared to these guys; my life’s gravy if I stood next to these dysfunctional people.” It’s a depressing experience, but in the end it is thought-provoking and it is a pick-me-up because you’ll probably see that your life isn’t all that horrible. Though, don’t run to this film if you’re the happiest you’ve ever been – because a lot of it is really quite poignant, not really feel-good, and often darkly humorous.

American Beauty has it all, a great cast, extremely memorable scenes; it’s sometimes funny and it has a great and sophisticated story. It is well-structured and it takes great turns and has a great narrative by Kevin Spacey when he often adds his insight in voice-over. Looking back, I can hardly think of any flaws. It’s inappropriate and very sexually suggestive, but I can’t take points off for that. While the film may not be for everyone, it is great for those of you who can appreciate it. I think it’s a film everyone should see. You may not like it by the end of it all, but it’s quite worth the check.

100/100

Film review: American Pie. The great comedy that launched a pretty decent teen comedy franchise in 1999.

Image

 American Pie

Release Date: July 9, 1999

Director: Paul Weitz

Stars: Jason Biggs, Chris Klein, Alyson Hannigan

Runtime: 95 min

Tagline: Boy gets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy gets pie.

 It’s a pretty funny coming of age comedy.

Four high school boys enter a pact to lose their virginity by the end of prom night. Jim is the main guy in the group, doing things like trying to get with a hot foreign girl Nadia, doing a nasty deed with an apple pie, and eventually finding something great in an unexpected girl. Oz is on the lacrosse team, and has his eye on the beautiful choir girl, Heather. Kevin has been dating Victoria for a while and hasn’t had the most luck in the department of pleasuring her and is focused solely on losing his virginity to her. Finch is the sophisticated nice guy who has an infamous love interest by the end of the film. And Stifler is the the immature and hilarious jerk friend, who is the funniest in the film.

The whole story seems a little shallow for a coming-of-age comedy film, but it really can be funny. It has a great bunch of funny and memorable scenes, and very memorable characters.

It’s a movie that can be watched many times, as it’s always funny, and the comedic tension between Finch and Stifler is always funny. Going to Band Camp would be a funny experience.

The film stars Jason Biggs, Seann William Scott, Chris Klein, Alyson Hannigan, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Shannon Elizabeth, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Tara Reid, Mena Suvari, Chris Owen as The Shermanator, Jennifer Coolidge as Stifler’s Mom, and Eugene Levy as Jim’s Dad.

It’s a great start to a pretty awesome comedy franchise (with the exception of the pretty bad straight to DVD crap). It’s the best slice of Pie in the series.

             75/100

Review written on: August 9, 2012, by Daniel Prinn.