Wednesday, March 26, 2014

My 15th Anniversary Home Video Suggestions

1999 was the year of Y2K, several Prince remixes of his famous party song, and several quality films where superstars like Natalie Portman (Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Anywhere But Here), Eddie Murphy (Life, Bowfinger), Angelina Jolie (The Bone Collector, Girl, Interrupted) and Julia Roberts (Runaway Bride, Notting Hill) soared and other films like End Of Days and Entrapment incorporated the arrival of 2000 directly into their storylines.

Since I see only two 15th anniversary editions currently on Amazon, I choose the following 15 films that I would offer on 15th anniversary home video version this year.

·         The Blair Witch Project - One roller coaster of a movie due to the dizzying, "home movie" style camerawork.  The content, an increasingly frightening experience with little gore, compliments the shooting style perfectly to make a lethal combination that's good for scares, but sometimes too much for the senses. The three characters try to make a documentary about a local curse, but soon they're cursing and screaming as they react to situations unknown. The actors themselves were only given small notes about their characters during filming which has a created a loose, non-script style of moviemaking that anyone who's made home movies can admire. This movie affects camping the way Jaws affected swimming in the ocean.

·         Election - One of the most underrated films of the 1999.  Director/writer Alexander Payne follows his 1996 Citizen Ruth with a great satire of the high school environment from the teachers to the students.  The school election offers modern students a choice among a popular jock, a likable outsider, or the overachieving "brain" Tracy Flick, brilliantly played by Reese Witherspoon.  Matthew Broderick plays the morale changing teacher, Mr. McAllister, who finds himself in many precarious situations.  Broderick and Witherspoon delight, especially in a great confrontational scene where he interrogates her about some campaign posters.  Witherspoon brings comedy from a character with obsessive behavior who rationalizes everything she does, but never pretends to be something she's not. 

·         Fight Club – David Fincher directs Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Helena Bonham Carter, and Meatloaf with a great fisticuffs plot full of twists and surprises all centering on a concept that easy for audiences to grasp. Go one. Recite some of the rules. You know you can.

·         The Green Mile – Tom Hanks, David Morse, and Michael Clarke Duncan headline a heartfelt adaptation of Stephen King’s serial book series.

·         The Hurricane – Denzel Washington’s boxing biopic was directed by Norman Jewison who I actually had the pleasure of meeting before this film.

·         The Insider ­– Masterful is the best way to describe Michael Mann’s journalistic thriller starring Al Pacino, Russell Crowe, Christopher Plummer, and Toledo-born Philip Baker Hall.

·         The Iron Giant ­– Amazing animated story supported by voice work from Jennifer Anniston, Harry Connick Jr., and Vin Diesel.

·         The Limey – Terence Stamp’s memorable performance makes this action thriller incredibly memorable. A perfect case for Oscar nominations in the action genre.

·         Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels – Director Guy Ritchie (Sherlock Holmes), Jason Statham (getting his action hero footing), Vinnie Jones, and my favorite musician Sting make this crime epic enthralling and even darkly funny.

·         Magnolia – Paul Thomas Anderson’s epic original showcases amazing talent and moments right until the ending dialogue. Tom Cruise should have won the Oscar for his supporting role. The film should have won for screenplay. Philip Baker Hall also co-stars.

·         The Matrix - Highly recommended for the excellent combination of cinematic technique and gradual buildup of events leading to a believable result.  A wonderful, rare experience resulting from great preparation and execution from great filmmakers and a solid cast.

This engaging film presents an amazing premise revolving around Thomas "Neo" Anderson, adequately played by Keanu Reeves, and his journey that eventually affects more in his life than he could ever imagine.  In the beginning, Neo doesn't really know what he's doing, but when he finally realizes the "truth"; his mind becomes his only tool.  These elaborate settings, mostly computer generated, have an urban atmosphere layered with dark layers and shades.  This environment perfectly complements the shocking, morbid truth about the fictionalized human existence presented in the film.  The character’s dialogue illustrates some powerful ideas that originate from biblical and historical concepts in our society.  The 60 million dollar budget was well spent to produce a theater worthy of the film's excellent plot.  All the effects in the environment have great purpose for the viewer and the plot.

The clichéd action film dialogue is wisely kept at a minimum (you're going to have some because Joel Silver is the producer) and the emotional impact of the story hits the audience as hard as the characters.  Near the end, an overelaborate and unnecessary "shoot 'em up" may entertain you at a high level, but luckily, these types of scenes do not make up the total drive of the film.  This well planned plot carries itself throughout a credible sequence of events into a mind-blowing revelation occurring in the middle then to an inevitable showdown between good and evil at the end.

·     Payback – Mel Gibson’s revenge epic still stands strong and even had a director’s cut (Brian Hegleland) released in 2006.

·         The Sixth Sense - A great story you can't forget easily mainly because of the subject matter and the haunting visual settings.

·         The Thomas Crown Affair - A movie should entertain people to become successful.  A film becomes forever loved when it entertains people with heart, reason, and originality.  The Thomas Crown Affair meets all these criteria. Producer/leading man Pierce Brosnan knows his audience well by setting himself in situations where his brain and charisma gets him out of trouble, sort of like a familiar British spy he plays every two years or so like in The World is Not Enough, which does not make this list because it was on the excellent Bond 50 last year. The function of Crown's social stature represents the only negative element of this film because it's used as an excuse for him to steal.  The moral question of the act of stealing is quelled by his millionaire status which allows him to fulfill his desire to live life on the edge.  In this case, the act of stealing is allowed because Crown doesn't "harm" anyone or embarrass the police, so the police don't "foul" or treat Crown as most thieves would be treated.

·         Three Kings – Director/writer David O. Russell follows up his 1996 film Flirting With Disaster with amazing visuals and a great acting trio (George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, and Ice Cube) and filmmaker Spike Jonze amid a military situation after the Persian Gulf War.

Other possibilities worth mentioning: The Straight Story, Galaxy Quest, Sleepy Hollow, Office Space, Tarzan, Stuart Little, The Green Mile, The Mummy, 10 Things I Hate About You, and She's All That (even with that unnecessary cafeteria food sabotage sequence).

Definitely not my choice: Baby Geniuses, Pokémon - The First Movie, Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo, and Dogma.

Other notables that defined that year in film: The Best Man, American Beauty, Boys Don't Cry, Cruel Intentions, Double Jeopardy, Cider House Rules, Varsity Blues, Anna And The King, Never Been Kissed, Entrapment, Blue Streak, Being John Malkovich, Man On The Moon, Big Daddy, South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, Eyes Wide Shut, The Talented Mr. Ripley, The Adventures Of Elmo In Grouchland, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, Inspector Gadget, Message In A Bottle, The Messenger: The Story Of Joan Of Arc, Muppets From Space, Mystery Men, and The 13th Warrior.

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