Category Archives: 1990

Movies released in 1990.

Review: Joe Versus the Volcano

Director: John Patrick Shanley
Year: 1990
Score: 4/10

Hmmm if this prototype was available in 1990, do you reckon the final version is available for sale by now? Asking for a friend...

Hmmm if this prototype was available in 1990, do you reckon the final version is available for sale by now? Asking for a friend…

Strange romantic comedy that has inexplicably become a cult film. In the first act there’s an appealing quirkiness that reminded me of the parts of Tim Burton’s movies that I actually like. Unfortunately it quickly devolves into an unfunny, uninteresting sequence of predictable (if bizarre) events. Tom Hanks is his usual reliable self and Meg Ryan (in – for no particular reason – three roles) doesn’t grate as much as she sometimes can, but they can’t salvage the material. Poor Ossie Davis and Nathan Lane are completely wasted; Davis’ scenes seem like they’re going somewhere but don’t, instead basically conforming to the ‘Magical Negro’ stereotype for no purpose I could discern. The moment with the oversized moon is quite nice.

Advertisements

Review: The Hunt for Red October

Director: John McTiernan
Year: 1990
Score: 7/10

Some brilliant green screen work here.

Some brilliant green screen work here.

Decent submarine movie has some good action and thrills, presuming you’re able to suspend your disbelief far enough. Sean Connery, Alec Baldwin and Scott Glenn are all fairly solid. There’s a lot going on but it never feels overwhelming and always serves the story. However, nothing about it feels particularly grounded or authentic; instead there’s a heightened sense of reality – the sort I should have expected from a movie based on a Tom Clancy novel – that, in my view, detracts somewhat. The switch from Russian to English is neat, though it’s the kind of gimmick that will only work once so it hasn’t been repeated in other movies (as far as I know). For some reason Sam Neill’s Russian character is obsessed with Montana; quite fitting, since three years later he’d end up there as a paleontologist in Jurassic Park. The final moment of the film is a gag, which seems an odd choice.

Review: Ghost

Director: Jerry Zucker
Year: 1990
Score: 7/10

Overlong but satisfying mix of romantic drama and ghostly hijinks. The stuff with Whoopi Goldberg is shaky at first but eventually works. The romance is the heart of this and if you go along with it it’s quite lovely. The aspects of the plot involving Carl, Willy, the money and the reasons for the murder are predictable and lame, but everything else is pretty good. Great use of Unchained Melody of course. Patrick Swayze is appealing and Demi Moore is adequate. There’s some comedy in there but no sense of irony, which I think is a strength.

Review: Arachnophobia

Director: Frank Marshall
Year: 1990
Score: 5.5/10

Spider boobs!

Spider boobs!

This felt like one big missed opportunity. Had it been a straight horror movie, starting with the same premise and using the same great special effects, it could have been thrilling and scary and wonderful; but instead it’s one of those ‘comedy horror’ movies – a genre that, in my experience, apart from the first two Evil Dead movies, can result in good comedy (e.g. Shaun of the Dead) but not good horror. Fear of spiders seems such fertile ground for proper horror treatment, and occasionally we get some, but it’s inevitably immediately undercut by something less serious: a visual gag, or a pesky quirky resident of the town, or John Goodman in comic relief mode. Nonetheless, Jeff Daniels is fine as our heroic doctor who – wouldn’t you know it – happens to suffer from arachnophobia owing to a traumatic childhood experience, and there are a few good parts (such as the opening sequence, which is somehow reminiscent of Jurassic Park, and a scene toward the end in which Daniels and his family flee their spider-infested house).

Review: Gremlins 2: The New Batch

Director: Joe Dante
Year: 1990
Score: 5.5/10

Gremlins 2

RIP, Leonard Maltin.

Gremlins 2

Best acid label ever.

A rare sequel that’s better than its predecessor in every way. It’s far more clear and consistent in its tone and genre: it’s a satirical comedy through and through, with some light horror elements that actually support the comedy (rather than running counter to them as was the case with the first movie). The self-referential approach works quite well, and the subtext about the dangers of reliance on technology is handled far better this time around. The antics of the gremlins are at times genuinely funny, and the pop culture parodies seem to have more of a purpose. Still, even with all these improvements, it doesn’t rise above mediocre; much of the humour doesn’t work, the characters remain fairly bland, the use of Gizmo often seems forced solely as a way of recapturing parts of the original, and the plot is barely serviceable. The cameo from Leonard Maltin – torn apart by gremlins while reciting his negative review of Gremlins – is both a highlight and a sobering warning to all film critics. The other highlight, and the only thing that made me belly laugh, was Phoebe Cates’ character attempting to recount her Lincoln-related childhood trauma, a delicious parody of the misguided Santa story her character had told in the first movie.

Review: The King of New York

Director: Abel Ferrara
Year: 1990
Score: 3/10

Very disappointing Abel Ferrara gangster movie featuring Christopher Walken as the titular character, a drug lord in New York who’s released from jail and has soon killed off all of his competitors – and, bizarrely, wants to save New York’s ailing hospital system (?!). Most of his gang members are black and there’s a certain racism to it all (particularly the blue-lit scenes of black characters partying) I found uncomfortable. I also found it hard to suspend disbelief through quite a few of the plot developments. Still, interesting to see some actors (e.g. Steve Buscemi and Giancarlo Esposito) in minor roles.