CAPSULE FILM REVIEWS OF 1999 FILMS   - (a) some of the best, but not in any particular order. Franklin Scale of 1-10, 10 being best:

TOPSY TURVY: About Mssrs. Gilbert & Sullivan and how "The Mikado" came into being. Wonderful study of the theater's creative process. Lots of laughs, great music and unusual people. 10-plus.

CIDER HOUSE RULES: A   brilliant film, set during WW2, tackling abortion, child abuse, incest, race relations, adultery, military sacrifice, charitable organizations, medicine ... and the making of apple cider. 9-plus.

MANSFIELD PARK: 19th Century Britain; young woman from poor side of family is taken in - and taken advantage of - by the rich part of the mishpoche, living in a Mansfield Park mansion. An 8.

THE GREEN MILE: A prison's death row, the 1930's. One of the inmates, a man apparently capable of performing minor miracles before he's due to be fried in the electric chair. Some tough frying scenes. A 7.

SWEET AND LOWDOWN: Woodie Allen's latest, with Sean Penn as a self-centered, egoistic, immoral jazz guitarist. Wonderful music track. A 9-plus.

CRADLE WILL ROCK: Theater story, based on fact, about social-conscience theater on the Broadway of depression years. Great Kurt Weill-type music (actually, Marc Blitzstein's). Forerunner to the McCarthy era. 10-plus.

END OF THE AFFAIR: Love and/or adultery in wartime London. Good dialogue and performances. An 8.

TOY STORY 2: You know what it is, no need to go on. A 10-plus/plus.

LIBERTY HEIGHTS: The 1950's, middle-class Jewish kids venturing into the forbidden enclaves of the gentile rich of Baltimore; also a bitter-sweet, semi-humorous romance between white and black youngsters . A bit slow. A 7.

THE MESSENGER: a superbly filmed version of the Joan of Arc epic. Leave the movie glad you don't have to live among 15th Century murderers, filthy peasants and religious nut cases, instead of such gems as Howard Stern, Don Imus, O.J. Simpson, Mike Tyson and Uzi-wielding high school kids. A 10-plus.

THE INSIDER: About the tobacco industry whistle blower, vs CBS and 60 MINUTES (including Mike Wallace). A gripping, semi-documentary with lots of creative license. A 10-plus.

THE LEGEND OF 1900: A strange but compelling fantasy about a baby abandoned on a trans-Atlantic liner, who never leaves the ship and grows up aboard the vessel and becomes a great jazz pianist. Weird & interesting. A 9.

PRINCESS MONONOKE: Excellent, hand-drawn animation from Japan, about gods and demons in an ancient forest. A 9.

GUINEVERE: Rich, bright San Francisco girl, instead of heading off for Harvard, takes up with an alcoholic photographer, an prick who seduces and discards a whole string of bright young women. An 8.

THE LIMEY: A British career criminal flies to LA to avenge the death of his model/daughter. An 8.

MYSTERY, ALASKA: One of the better sports movies. A small town, way up north, which spawns super hockey players, gets hyped into an all-out, no holds barred game with the New York Rangers. An 8.

MUMFORD: Delightful film by writer/director/producer, Larry Kasdan. A masquerading impostor psychotherapist, straightens out some bent people in a town dominated by a young billionaire cyber mogul who "sees" an older black woman. A 9-plus

DOUBLE JEOPARDY: A "Fugitive"-type movie - this time with a woman as the hunted. A generous 7.

ELMO IN GROUCHLAND: A nice muppet movie. An 8.

AMERICAN BEAUTY: Fascinating film about a dysfunctional suburban family. A 10.

FOR LOVE OF THE GAME: Kevin Costner as an over-the-hill pitcher for the Detroits in his last game. Good, but spoiled by a sappy and over-long love story. A 7.

6th SENSE: About a boy who can see and talk with the dead. About a psychologist with a serious problem of his own. Excellent surprise ending. A 10.

THE MUSE: Albert Brooks comedy about the weirdness of behind-the-scenes Hollywood, and some of the crazies that inhabit the company town. An 8.

THE RED VIOLIN: One of my favorite movies of 1999. About a violin, from its Italian birth several hundred years ago, and the people who handle the instrument over the years,  ending with a tense NYC auction. A 10.

TARZAN: Good Disney hand animation, Familiar story. Forgettable music track. A 7.

STUART LITTLE: Live and animation about a white mouse adopted by a New York family. Great for little people and their guardians who can tolerate cute kid movies.


(b) THE NOT-SO-GREAT MOVIES OF 1999:

ANY GIVEN SUNDAY: Oliver Stone entertains with new brutality, violence and vomit in a football movie. A 2.

ANNA AND THE KING: Simplistic story, which justifiably outrages the Thais, about the King of Siam and the Brit school teacher. It was a lot better with the music. A 6.

THE BONE COLLECTOR: Gruesome New York murders, being investigated by crippled, bedridden NYPD super-dick, who works through a rookie female cop via most modern electronics. Movie stinks because of cruel insensitivity. A 4.

END OF DAYS: Schwarzenegger comeback effort, as an ex-cop inducing erectile dysfunction in the devil, who's trying to impregnate a young maiden on Dec.31st. As stupid as it sound, as well as vile, anti-Catholic, putrid and vomit-arousing. MINUS 5.

THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH: Old-fashioned, uninvolving Bond stuff. A point-007.

BEING JOHN MALKOVICH: Something about people entering Malkovich's mind on floor 7-1/2 of an office building. Didn't understand it.  Doesn't register on the F-scale.

BRINGING OUT THE DEAD: Stupefying two hours watching ambulance attendants deal with a flood of blood, vomit, pain, insanity, illness, drugs, suicide and pain. A 3.

THE BEST MAN: A sort of black BIG CHILL. Matured college students at a reunion. This reviewer walked out before the end, because he was bored. A 2.

RANDOM HEARTS: Harrison Ford mumbling his way through his role as a police detective whose wife has been shtupping the husband of a Congresswoman. Both die in a plane crash. The Congresswoman sez good riddance, but the betrayed dick turns into an obsessive nutcase. A 4.

THREE KINGS: Mindless action movie set in the Gulf War, which gets sentimental/sappy about Iraq rebels. Great for audiences who believe that Iraq, Iran, Idaho and India are all the same place. A 4.

MICKEY BLUE EYES: New York art auctioneer marries daughter if a crime boss. Ugh. A 4.

BOWFINGER: Down-on-luck film maker makes movie on a shoestring. Eddie Murphy and Steve Martin. A 5.

THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR: lousy remake with a new, schmucky Hollywood ending. A 6.

EYES WIDE SHUT: Stanley Kubrick's final joke on Hollywood. Tom Cruise as a horny orgy-bound MD, Mrs. Cruise (Nicole Kidman) in a series of panty-ads. Two top Warner studio executives resigned one day before film opened. A 4.

RUNAWAY BRIDE: Julia Roberts as a nutcase who leaves men at the alter, ruining their lives. A 3.

SUMMER OF SAM: About a bunch of Italian-American street thugs during the 1970's, when a serial killer was running amok in NYC. Pointless and badly written. A 2.


BOOK REVIEW: "TIMELINE", Michael Crichton's latest. Time travel that is not time travel - as a group of modern archaeologists travel back into the brutal 1400's. Makes for excellent, thought-provoking reading. A 9.


 

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