Category Archives: 1990s

If You Liked… Independence Day

As we prepare for the sequel that has been 20 years in the making, lets take a look back at this alien invasion film. Independence Day is a 1996 American epic science-fiction disaster film co-written and directed by Roland Emmerich. The film stars Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Judd Hirsch, Randy Quaid, Robert Loggia, Vivica A. Fox, and Harry Connick, Jr. The film focuses on a diverse and interesting group of people who converge in the Nevada desert in the aftermath of a destructive alien attack and, along with the rest of the human population, participate in a last-chance counterattack on July 4th.

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Has anyone not seen Independence Day? Seriously? I want to meet you if you’ve never seen it. I would be highly surprised if you could find anyone between the ages of 30 and 50 in the United States who hasn’t seen Independence Day.

That doesn’t mean everyone loves it. In fact, according to icheckmovies.com, only 2.6% of those that have seen the the movie listed it as one of their favorites, and 1.1% disliked it. This is one of those guilty pleasure movies for me. I saw this film in the theater on opening weekend during the summer between 7th and 8th grade. If you can find a more formative time in a kid’s life I don’t know what it is. It was then that I decided I really liked Jeff Goldblum’s stilted speech and acting style and found out that the Fresh Prince could do more than dance.

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If you are like me and like Independence Day you might be looking for some other movies to watch while you wait for Independence Day: Resurgence to be released next weekend. I told my oldest son (12) that he could only see the sequel if he watched the original with me, so he obliged his old man and we sat down and watched this movie a few nights ago. Time has not been great to the effects on this film. Director Roland Emmerich loves to destroy New York City and threaten the annihilation of all mankind (Day After Tomorrow, Godzilla, 2012), it will be nice to see what he can do with the technology that 20 years has given him. In keeping with the guilty pleasure nature of Independence Day, all of my selections will also be selections that I might not often openly admit to loving.

Continue reading If You Liked… Independence Day

Not New Review – Jurassic Park (1993)

Back in 1993, this little movie called Jurassic Park roared into theaters. What Steven Spielberg did with a shark 20 years earlier, he did again here with dinosaurs. I can’t recall whether I saw this film in theaters or not. I was only 10, so I doubt it, but I definitely remember watching it at home on VHS. This movie was right up my alley, I’m not only a geek over movies. I also really love science and although the science here is a bit of a stretch, I was only 10 and didn’t know better yet, so I ate it up. I could just imagine this actually happening in a few years time like the filmmakers were revealing this new scientific technique to the world and the archaeologists and biologists were watching saying, “why didn’t we think of that?”

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Adapted from a Michael Crichton novel of the same name, Jurassic Park was a great success both critically and commercially. It was the highest grossing film of 1993 bringing in nearly $1 billion dollars worldwide. That number was unheard of in 1993. Not until Titanic floated along in 1997 did anyone even come close to that number. It won 3 Oscars for its visual and sound effects and is currently sitting at an 8.1 of 10 on IMDb which places it as the 203rd best film of all time according to their top 250. Continue reading Not New Review – Jurassic Park (1993)

If You Liked… Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Who doesn’t like Shawshank Redemption? This is always my go to answer when someone asks me for my favorite movie. I love it because it blends a gritty realism with an ethereal storytelling and a epic twist ending. If you have not seen it, shame on you. It used to be on TBS at least twice a week, but you need to buy it because once you watch it, you will have a new favorite as well. Just in case you haven’t seen it, I will try not to spoil the ending, but here is a quick summary. Click here if you’ve already seen the film and just want to see my recommendations.

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The Shawshank Redemption (directed by Frank Darabont of The Walking Dead fame) is one of those movies whose estimation has only grown with time. It wasn’t a box office hit in 1994, but it was a critical success and received 7 Academy Award nominations but LOST in every category, being beat out for best picture by Forrest Gump. However, in 2008 (14 years after its original release) it took over the #1 slot as greatest film on the IMDb’s Top 250 from The Godfather and it still holds that place to this day.

Ellis ‘Red’ Redding (Morgan Freeman) is our co-pilot and narrator for our long stay in Shawshank State Penitentiary. He admits that he belongs there for murder, calling himself the only guilty man in Shawshank. The year is 1947 and our central character is banker Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) who has been convicted of murdering his wife and her lover. We see him entering Shawshank to begin serving his two consecutive life sentences. The movie is based on the Stephen King novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption. Through the story, we experience a 20 year friendship between these two men.

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You’d be hard pressed to find a more genuine ode to male bonding than this drama spanning two decades from 1946 to 1967. When Andy arrives, he is subject to beatings, humiliation and all manner of horrors within the prison system. He endures the harassment seemingly unfazed. Slowly he learns to adapt, utilizing his talents as an auditor to garner favor from the powers that be. In time he inspires his fellow inmates, making friends with them, in particular Red who originally bet that Andy would be the first new inmate to crack.

The film is highlighted by several amazing performances. Morgan Freeman embodies his character with reverence, heart, and warmth. Tim Robbins is every bit his equal in a role that is more difficult to warm up to. If the actor appears a bit of an enigma, that is only because the character is meant to be that way. There is a quiet way about him that makes the other inmates uneasy and tells us and them that he does not belong there. Actor Bob Gunton is a villain for the ages as Warden Samuel Norton. A stern man that exploits the prison for his own gain as low-cost labor. He presents himself as a god-fearing man, although his true nature is gradually disclosed. The depth of his evil seems to know no bounds.

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Like a flower growing up through a crack in the sidewalk, the narrative is uplifting even though we are presented with the most oppressive of surroundings. My personal favorite scene features Andy locking himself in the warden’s office and using the central microphone to blast an opera record through the grounds. As Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro echoes through the penitentiary, Roger Deakins cinematography captures the emotion as the inmates look upwards, embracing the audible gift. It is hard to describe the feeling, but the scene always brings me to tears. Shawshank is brimming with moments like this where the hope of the human soul triumphs over adversity in the most inspiring way.

So, assuming you love Shawshank like I do then you may be struggling to find movies that give you a similar sense of awe and inspiration. I hope to help with that by giving you a handful of recommendations based upon different aspects of Shawshank Redemption.

The Green Mile

Maybe you are looking for another film based on a Stephen King story, set in a prison, featuring a wrongly convicted protagonist, and directed by Frank Darabont. That is a lot of similarities. Add in the great acting of Tom Hanks and Michael Clark Duncan and you have The Green Mile.
Maybe you are looking for another film based on a Stephen King story, set in a prison, featuring a wrongly convicted protagonist, and directed by Frank Darabont. That is a lot of similarities. Add in the great acting of Tom Hanks and Michael Clark Duncan and you have The Green Mile.

Good Will Hunting

Perhaps you don't care about similar actors or settings. Maybe you just want to recreate some of those feelings of confliction and see a character make some amazing changes and eventually embrace hope. I think you will find few movies as uplifting and powerful as Good Will Hunting, the debut effort of now Hollywood superstars Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. Throw in the humor and heart of Robin Williams and this is a movie you shouldn't miss.
Perhaps you don’t care about similar actors or settings. Maybe you just want to recreate some of those feelings of confliction and see a character make some amazing changes and eventually embrace hope. I think you will find few movies as uplifting and powerful as Good Will Hunting, the debut effort of now Hollywood superstars Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. Throw in the humor and heart of Robin Williams and this is a movie you shouldn’t miss.

The Shining

Lets take that Stephen King influence and go even darker than the Shawshank penitentiary. The Shining catalogs the disturbing mental collapse of Jack Torrance as he works as the caretaker of the Overlook Hotel which holds onto some of the tragedies from its past. Directed by legendary Stanley Kubrick this is the kind of suspense/horror film that nightmares are made of.
Lets take that Stephen King influence and go even darker than the Shawshank penitentiary. The Shining catalogs the disturbing mental collapse of Jack Torrance as he works as the caretaker of the Overlook Hotel which holds onto some of the tragedies from its past. Directed by legendary Stanley Kubrick this is the kind of suspense/horror film that nightmares are made of.

Se7en

Shawshank is the best of Morgan Freeman's filmography. Which is saying a lot for a guy that has been nominated 8 times and won Best Supporting Actor for Million Dollar Baby. But I would go to the gripping crime drama Se7en if I wanted to see a great Morgan Freeman performance along with a young Brad Pitt, a disturbing Kevin Spacey, and the deft directoral touch of David Fincher.
Shawshank is the best of Morgan Freeman’s filmography. Which is saying a lot for a guy that has been nominated 8 times and won Best Supporting Actor for Million Dollar Baby. But I would go to the gripping crime drama Se7en if I wanted to see a great Morgan Freeman performance along with a young Brad Pitt, a disturbing Kevin Spacey, and the deft directorial touch of David Fincher.

I.Q.

Perhaps you are craving something of a lighter fare. A film that was also released in 1994 and stars our everyman Tim Robbins. I.Q. is an entertaining romantic comedy in which Walter Matthau plays legendary physicist Albert Einstein and helps a mechanic woo his niece played by Meg Ryan.
Perhaps you are craving something of a lighter fare. A film that was also released in 1994 and stars our everyman Tim Robbins. I.Q. is an entertaining romantic comedy in which Walter Matthau plays legendary physicist Albert Einstein and helps a mechanic woo his niece played by Meg Ryan.

I hope this gave you some ideas for your next movie night. Please let me know your thoughts below on Shawshank Redemption as well as any of my recommendations. This is a place for sharing.

Pulp Fiction (1994)

Ebert – Original Review 1994

Ebert – Great Movies Review 2001

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Writer/Director/Actor Quentin Tarantino with the stellar Harvey Keitel as the Wolf.

Continuing on the idea of watching the best movies that you can find on Netflix, I come to Pulp Fiction. Of course, Pulp Fiction is the film that simultaneously shot Quentin Tarantino into elite directorial status and cemented his place as one of the most innovative auteurs of all time.

His screenplay is divided into three stories, each introduced with a title card. First, there’s the story of the hit man who has to take his boss’s wife out for the evening while her husband is away. There’s the story of the aging boxer paid to throw a fight and the quest to retrieve a uniquely special family heirloom. Finally, there’s two hit men in a messy situation that needs a quick solution. These three separate stories are intertwined and not told linearly. Each story could easily stand on its own as a short film, but told as they are, each adds a further dimension to the others. The non-linear progression is not simply a gimmick, but rather an essential aspect of the film’s narrative.  Continue reading Pulp Fiction (1994)

In Memorium: Alan Rickman (1946-2016)

I don’t really feel like blathering on about Alan Rickman’s acting achievements. I feel like all of you know how amazing he was, and he will live forever in his many, varied roles. Please take a few moments to look through the pictures below. Think about your favorite of his roles. Leave a comment to tell me how you remember him best.

You can tell by the banner image that my favorite of his roles is actually in Kevin Smith’s Dogma. He appropriately plays the Metatron, the voice of God. I love that deep, gravelly voice. That is why I posted this from Family Guy:

Rest in Peace Alan. You will be missed.

Denzel Washington – Top 5 Performances

If you are a fan of the awards scene like I am you probably saw that Denzel Washington took home the Cecil B. DeMille Award for Lifetime Achievement at the Golden Globes on Sunday. I think he is very deserving of this honor and so I have narrowed down what I consider to be his top 5 performances. In each case, the title of the film is a link to Roger Ebert’s Original review of the film.

If you missed it, you can watch a great montage of his films and his acceptance speech (warning: His speech is endearing, but he is mostly rambling because he forgot his glasses).

5. Glory (1989)

4. Remember the Titans (2000)

3. Malcolm X (1992)

2. American Gangster (20007)

1. Training Day (2001)

Let me know if you agree with my Top 5 in the comments below. Maybe you are a big fan of Man on Fire, John Q, Philadelphia, or The Book of Eli, or maybe you think Denzel is overrated and you don’t like him at all. That is fine, you are entitled to your opinion, but I dare you to tell him to his face.

Contact (1997)

Roger Ebert – First Review – 1997:
Roger Ebert – Great Movies Review – 2011:

mv5bmjeymdqxmtmxmf5bml5banbnxkftztcwntu0odcymg-_v1_sx214_al_I watched the 1997 film, Contact, again last night and I, like Ebert, was struck with its boldness as it seeks to weave together politics, faith, and science. As an HR Manager, I have advised employees that they would be better off not discussing those topics in the workplace because they are too controversial. I spent years speaking about faith as a pastor and I am unashamedly and evangelically Christian.

However, many people don’t know that before I was called into ministry, my desire was to be a scientist. I was vacillating between organic chemistry and theoretical physics particularly quantum mechanics. I have always had a deep love for science. I seek to observe our world much like I observe movies, to look beyond the visuals to mine deeper. I seek to find truth and beauty wherever it may be found and in whatever way it may be conveyed.

As a scientist, I must concede that there is a possibility that our universe and everything in it is not the production of an Intelligent Designer. But I have experienced something so magnificent and awe-inspiring that it continually reminds me of both my insignificance and my value. I cannot deny this and it will forever shape the way that I look at the world.

I think it is important to say that I don’t agree with Roger Ebert on everything. But I believe that he would agree with me on this. Whether you are an atheist, an agnostic, or a person of faith, I encourage you to watch this film. It is beautiful, heartbreaking, majestic, and rich. If you let it speak to you, I don’t think you will walk away unchanged. And what more can we ask of a film than that?

Jurassic Park (1993)

Jurassic-Park_Logo-2-Back in 1993 (That’s 20 years ago!), this little movie called Jurassic Park came out in theaters. What Steven Spielberg did with a shark 20 years earlier, he did again here with dinosaurs. I can’t recall whether I saw this film in theaters or not. I would have been 10 and this movie was right up my alley, but we didn’t see a lot of movies in the theater. Regardless of where I saw it, I do remember watching the movie and loving the science and the visuals. It is probably one of the movies that I watched most frequently. I loved the movie and it has become a classic. Following the success of the the first movie, they decided to make 2 more and they even have a 4th planned for 2014. This summer, either to promote the new movie or just to make some more money, they released the original in 3D. I was very tempted to take my son who is now 9 to see this action-adventure popcorn flick on the big screen. Alas, that opportunity came and went. So, I settled for a Sunday afternoon viewing in house. So, I can;t speak to the quality of the post-processing 3D, but this movie was filmed before HD was even an acronym. I’m afraid if I did see it on the big screen I would have spent the entire time critiquing the technical side of the movie instead of just enjoying it with my boys, which is what I did.

Jurassic Park 2So just in case you been hiding under a rock for the past 20 years and haven’t seen or heard about Jurassic Park, here is a brief synopsis. On Isla Nublar, a small island 120 miles off the coast of Costa Rica, John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) a billionaire decides to  create a new type of theme park; there are no giant mice or cartoon characters here (except for a very informative Mr. DNA). Instead of illusion, the attractions at this theme park are all too real. If you’re thinking about a zoo, it’s like that but much more flashy and the featured attractions of this zoo aren’t your run-of-the-mill animals; this park is full of real dinosaurs. The park has had some issues, so John invites a group of people to come and experience the park and hopefully give their endorsement. They include, Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill), a paleontologist and Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), a paleobotonist. They make their living digging up dinosaur bones and studying them, they don’t know that they are about to witness a scientific discovery that will put them out of a job. I mean, who wants to look at the bones of a creature that you can see alive? They are joined by an irritating lawyer of little consequence and Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), a chaos theory mathematician, and the final two members of the group are John’s grand kids Lex and Tim.

2013-Jurassic-Park_612x380One of my favorite scenes is in the opening 40 minutes which runs dramatically slower in pace than the rest of the film. I was a bit afraid my boys would begin to nod off as some of the less entertaining plot points were lined up. The group of eager explorers arrive on the island, ushered in by John Williams amazing score. They take jeeps from the helipad to the welcome center and along the way they run into a group of dinosaurs, they are completely taken by surprised and in awe.  Once they arrive at the visitor center, they take a tour explaining how all of this had been made possible. During which they get to observe a baby raptor being born. This series features some really great dialogue about the ethical underpinnings of cloning and the pride of man.

t rex jurassic parkAs the group takes their safari type tour to see the live dinosaurs, the excitement ramps up. Due to a combination of an impending tropical storm and sabotage by Newman (I mean the greedy computer programmer), the power to all of the electrical fences goes offline. The T-Rex breaks through the fence and attempts to eat the kids in the car. To summarize the movie, there’s a chase scene with a jeep and the T-Rex,  the raptors escape from their enclosure, and finally they are able to get the power back on and meet up at the visitor center. However, before they can escape the island, there’s a scene involving two raptors and the two grand kids. This is probably the scariest scene in the movie, it certainly caused some gasps and eye-hiding from the boys. However, spoiler alert, they escape the raptors and everyone (well almost…) makes it to the helicopter and lives until the sequel.

picture-of-jeff-goldblum-and-laura-dern-in-jurassic-park-large-pictureMy favorite character, even as a kid, was Dr. Ian Malcolm. Besides the humor he adds to the movie, he also brings up some great moral points. During a discussion about the park, Dr. Malcolm states, “Don’t you see the danger, John, inherent in what you’re doing here? Genetic power is the most awesome force the planet’s ever seen, but you wield it like a kid that’s found his dad’s gun.” After some more discussion he concludes by saying, “Yeah, yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

This brings to mind the story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11. The people wanted to build a tower to the heavens and they thought they could do it. But God didn’t approve of their purpose/intent in building the tower, so he confused their language. We have made an incredible amount of discoveries and technological advances in the last century.  As our civilization continues to advance, we need to make sure we don’t let it get to our heads or abuse the power we have been granted.

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In the words of Uncle Ben, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Just because we have the power to do something doesn’t mean that we should. Another main point that he brings up is the chaos theory. While very interesting to nerds like me, I’m not going to go into detail about it. But the gist of it is that even if we think we are in control, we really aren’t. John Hammond believed that the park was perfectly safe and under his control, but in the end Malcolm was right. Often times we want to be in control of what happens in our lives, but all to often we find out that we have no control. God is the only one who is truly in control and we must trust in Him.

So in conclusion, I think this is a great action movie. It has a little bit of everything in it: humor, suspense  a chase scene, and best of all giant dinosaurs! The music, which was written by John Williams,  is great throughout the movie. And despite being an action movie, Jurassic Park brings up some thought provoking ideas. Just because you have the power to do something doesn’t mean you should and who is really in control? Now go out and watch this movie!!!