Sneak Reviews
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I'm sorry to say that I'm no longer updating this site. Time commitments at work and home have limited the number of screenings I attend, so there probably won't be new reviews anytime soon. Sorry!
last updated April 8, 1999 - brought to you by

Hideous Kinky - (1/10)
     Oh my gawd, was this awful. Kate Winslet's first movie after Titanic is absolutely terrible. It's a story of a woman with two young daughters, living in Morocco in the late 60's. Their lives are chaos from day to day, just as the script feels to viewers. There's very little plot development, the characters are all weak, and there's basically little, if any, story holding it all together. Avoid this film at all costs, it's that bad. They should have chopped the word "Kinky" off the title, since the remainder would be much more fitting.
(Previewed March 24 1999, released April 26 1999)

A Walk on the Moon - (7/10)
     This was a nice little tale set in 1969, a woman is trapped in her boring life, she meets a hippie and has a brief affair with him. While she's involved in this liberating relationship, she forgets about her husband and teenage daughter, which results in family problems. It's a little better than Bridges of Madison County, because the main character realizes how much her family means to her and how important they are, the affair isn't some high point in her life, but an opportunity for reflection and growth for the entire family.
(Previewed March 17 1999, released March 26 1999)

The Corruptor - (2/10)
     Ugh. This was another forgettable action film with lots of explosions and gunshots, but a weak plot and no characters. I'm also surprised that Chow Yun Fat wasted his talent on something as lame as this. Except for one cool car chase sequence, it's mostly clumsy action formula. Also, a big beef I have with this film is the portrayal of women in it. There is a single female on the police force who has maybe two lines in the entire movie, and every other female plays a prostitute! If you check the credits, the only woman listed plays Chow Yun Fat's favorite hooker, and says maybe all of five words. It's annoying really, that in 1999, movies with no female roles are still made. Sheesh.
Movie interview bonus: The director talked about his craft and how some of the elaborate stunts sequences were done. When questions approached criticism though, he sort of freaked out and talked about how much of an artisté he was. In other words, he was too wrapped up in himself to see that he's just another hack making cheesy action movies.
(Previewed March 10 1999, released March 12 1999)

Cruel Intentions - (7/10)
     Another update of the classic Dangerous Liaisons tale. Nicely acted by all the young actors, the male lead is just likeable enough that you feel bad for him at the end. It's a fairly hip movie, but the story has been told so many times before that it's pretty predictable. On the other hand, the audience this was geared towards hasn't probably ever heard of the other versions of this story.
Movie interview bonus: The costume designer said the females in this movie were all size 2(!!!) which sent gasps through the crowd. She designed the clothes to reflect some of the 17th century wear of the original story, but with 90's flash and flair. The Line Producer talked about how much work it was to keep the budget down, as this movie was made for only 9 million (which is impressive after seeing it, it's very slick and expensive looking).
(previewed March 3 1999, released March 5 1999)

Deep End of the Ocean - (6/10)
     A fairly forgettable film about a missing child being found ten years later. It's interesting in the problems it brings up (how to reunite the boy to his natural parents, what should you do, etc.), but blows it on the execution. After the boy is reunited, we never see any psychologists helping anyone, as they are going through emotional turmoil day by day. The worst part about this film is the ending. It's a typical "happily ever after" ending that seems tacked on, as none of the characters' problems have apparently worked out before the resolution.
Movie interview bonus: The producer and a supporting actor spoke about various aspects of the film. The ending in the film is true to the book, much to everyone's surprise. Many aspects of the book did not make it into the film, which would have made the movie much different, and probably better. Apparently Michelle Pfeiffer was great to work with on the set, but one weird thing she did was insist that an alternate ending be shot. It tested poorly and was scrapped. Also, we found out that several other pivotal scenes were shot but not in the film.
(Previewed February 24 1999, released March 12 1999)

20 Dates - (8/10)
     This film has a great premise: film yourself going on twenty dates with twenty different women, trying to find love. It's pretty funny, as Myles, the main guy, acts like a complete idiot on most of the dates. He intended to make a pessimistic movie about how impossible it is to find love in LA, but eventually finds someone about halfway through the dates. They're even getting married soon. Pretty funny overall, the best laughs come from the problems that pop up on the dates Myles is on, and the secretly taped conversations between him and his producer. I also liked this movie because it was made for $60,000, and looks like anyone can still make a funny film on the cheap.
Movie interview bonus: Myles Berkowitz, the guy behind this entire project talked about how long it took to film (about six months) and how long it took to edit (about 18 months). He said nothing in the movie was scripted except for the narration. The interviews with his producer in the movie were real, other sources have backed that up as well.
(previewed February 4 1999, released February 26 1999)

Message in a Bottle - (4/10)
     I probably would have liked this better (or hated it less) if the associate producer didn't say something like this after the screening: "We struck a balance between formula romance and real life. I don't think it ever went over the top." Dictionaries printed after this year can use the movie poster as an illustration for the word "trite." More specifically, the first hour and 50 minutes (the film is 2hrs 6min total) is filled with mindless dribble passing for dialogue that's more at home in a romance novel than a film. The music score was overpowering in almost every scene, turning all the emotional moments into transparent attempts to squeeze tears from the audience. Costner turned in a non-performance, overacting a "quiet, introvert" with all the subtlety of a jackhammer. The only highlights of the picture were the small dose of "real-life" near the end (they could have carried the romance novel shtick all the way out), and seeing Paul Newman turn in a great performance. It was the first time I've seen him act like an elderly gentleman, and he reminded me so much of my grandfather it amazed me.
Movie interview bonus: We got to hear some hilarious movie info: the film location was originally planned for a small island off the Maryland coast. The community supported it until they read the screenplay and refused it on moral grounds (3 weeks before shooting was to begin AND the crew had already built some pre-production sets). The city council even went so far as to put little yellow sticky notes in the screenplay wherever beer or wine was mentioned, and they hated the sex scene. If you see this film, you'll realize how short-sighted these folks were, as most grandmothers would approve of the picture. I think anyone will agree this movie isn't an attack on the "moral fiber of this country."
(previewed February 1 1999, released February 12 1999)

October Sky - (9/10)
     I was assuming I'd be seeing the standard coming of age film, but it turned out to be a whole lot more. It's about a 17 year old guy growing up in a coal mining town that becomes fascinated with rocketry after seeing Sputnik streak across the night sky. It's an underdog-overcomes-it-all story with plenty of schmaltz thrown in, but for some reason I got totally sucked in, crying more than I have in years. It's a well written emotional rollercoaster too, and has characters everyone can identify with. It should be a big hit when it comes out, it's great storytelling.
Movie interview bonus: The crew had trouble coming up with a title for this film. They tried some test screenings using the title of the book that this is based on (Rocket Boys), but the audiences ended up being almost all male, so they scrapped it. After racking their brains for weeks, the director got an anagram creating program for his computer and plugged in "Rocket Boys." The only words that can come out of those letters are "October Sky," and that's the title they stuck with. The director also talked about how he got started in the biz, being a special effects guy with George Lucas, working on the Star Wars movies.
(previewed January 27 1999, released February 19 1999)

Still Crazy - (9/10)
     It's This is Spinal Tap meets The Full Monty, a hilarious look at a 70's rock band reuniting to cash in on the nostalgia trend. Stephen Rea plays a former rock star trying to get his old band back together after being recognized by a fan. We find out that everyone's lives are pretty much shit after their careers finished, and they readily agree to regroup. After some rehearsing, they start playing small show and eventually work up to a 70's festival tour. It's a great combination of comedy and more touching moments. The lead singer, played by Bill Nighy, was amazing, he deserves to get a supporting actor nomination.
Movie interview bonus: The writers based the band's characters on a variety of members from the Who, Rolling Stones, and Fleetwood Mac. Although Bill Nighy does a great job, he wasn't the first choice as the lead singer. Origianlly, they auditioned and almost chose the former lead singer from Whitesnake, David Coverdale (probably would have made the movie more like Spinal Tap). In order for the actors to look like rock stars on stage, they hired the old lead singer from Spandau Ballet to be the consultant. He apparently taught the guys how to hold guitars and microphones as well as dance on stage.
(previewed January 20 1999, released January 22 1999)

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