THE BIRDCAGE (1996)

Directed By Mike Nichols 
Written By: Elaine May 
Based on An Earlier Screenplay By: Francis Veber, Edouard Molinaro, Marcello Danon & Jean Poiret
Based in the play La Cage Aux Folles by: Jean Poiret
Cinematography: Enrique Lubezki
Editor: Arthur Schmidt 

Cast: Robin Williams, Nathan Lane, Gene Hackman, Dianne Wiest, Hank Azaria, Christine Baranski, Dan Futterman, Calista Flockhart, Tom McGowan, Grant Heslov, Kirby Mitchell, Ann Cusack, Trina McGee-Davis

A gay cabaret owner and his drag queen companion agree to put up a false straight front so that their son can introduce them to his fiancée’s right-wing moralistic parents.


this film at the time was a little daring or a bit of a gamble for a mainstream audience. Though it was also self-assured because of the popular cast. Though behind the scenes you had a bunch of heavy hitters. Who managed to raise the bar on a familiar tale and still knock it out of the park. 

Which shockingly had some actors playing against type. Where we have a fun yet more restrained Robin Williams while playing more of a funny conservative grouch. Seeing gene hackman in drag is certainly different and new.

The film also tries to put in some satire of the political culture at the time and while camping up gay culture at least offers a glimpse inside of it and offers representation.

This film also is really the big screen introduction of Nathan Lane as Albert the drag queen lover who has been practically a mother to robin Williams son in the film. Playing a role that was abandoned by Steve Martin last minute due to scheduling problems. Thilough broadway star Nathan lane took it and made it a star-making Role.

Hank Azaria also makes his presence felt in his supporting role as the couples maid, assistant and cook. Who is also part of the slapstick laughs later in the film.

This is one of those films that came around at the right place and right time. As the film and play was already a hit In France and waiting for an American remake for years that never got made which might have been out of fear in the 1989’s to portray a gay relationship. non chalantly with mainstream big name actors. So that when it did come along the culture was a bit more relaxed and if made today might not even bat too many eyelashes.

Luckily it is still hilarious to watch even on this day and age. Even when the Jokes are a little more obvious they still make you laugh. As there is wit on display as well as physical comedy and just plain old slapstick in the third act.

Out of the cast if anyone is flat It’s the young couple looking to get married played by Claista Flockhart and Dan Futterman though in a film filled with flamboyant and over the top characters you need some to be more quiet and seemingly normal to even it out a little. though they come off a little dull and Futterman Looks way older than Flockhart 

While the film is a laugh riot from beginning to the end it also has character moments that come off more serious and dramatic. As even after the so called Macho lesson the scene where lane tries to act like a straight male in a suit is a thing of beauty and partial pain.

You can feel its theatrical roots throughout it truly strongly in The theirs act where everything comes to a head. What truly is amazing is that while it was dating at its time it plays off so cute that now it feels like a more modern comedic classic that the whole family can enjoy. Even if there are times when it feels overloaded with stereotypes. 

It is so styled yet feels so haywire. That while it might seem like it is filling turbulence it’s always smooth sailing. 

Though there is an overwhelming comedic quality with heart and care that had me going to see it in theaters more than once or twice. 

Grade: A-

WHEN THE CAT’S AWAY (aka CHACUN CHERCHE SON CHA) (1996)


Written & Directed By: Cedric Klapisch 
Cinematography: Benoit Delhomme 
Editor: Francine Sandberg 

Cast: Garance Clavel, Zinedine Soualem, Olivier Py, Renee Le Calm, Simon Abkarian 

Chloe, a young woman, is going on holiday. She entrusts her beloved cat to Madame Renée’s care. But one day Madame Renée (an old lady of the neighborhood) can not find the cat. Chloe starts searching the neighborhood… This is the pretext for the exploration of a quarter of Paris and his inhabitants.


A French film that starts with a simple premise of a young woman looking for her missing cat. That ends up leading to a bunch of adventures and experiences that usually involve some kind of romantic entanglement

This is the first film of French writer director Cedric Klapisch that I saw that perfectly sets up his usual bohemian style. His films work more as ensemble pieces with a main character in the middle. Who this story usually either revolves around or is at the center and cause for situations

As the movie goes on this is really a film about the neighborhood and its citizens more a kind of anthropology study to a degree. As we watch how they work like a well-oiled machine. With one another. While also watching how their quirkiness helps to guide and make connections for the main female character In The middle of all of this.

The film is eclectic and colorful and mostly fun than anything else, not Too dramatic. Yet at times romantic and showcasing how easily we can read into things and believe people at their words a little too soon before they have proven themselves.

This is a French film that was perfect for the time period and comes off as a quirky French film where you want to be in the movie or move into this neighborhood. As it is a classic neighborhood with more younger people moving in and experiencing it’s the charm. So that it feels like that French getaway you might have always wanted to experience in your 20’s so you would get the modern and old school In Equal measure. as you get an insider look at all around France and the different neighborhoods or districts as they prefer to call them

Though the film doesn’t really have too much to do with the story or plot. As you more or less follow Chloe, the main character on her journey, and get to feel or at least witness her experiences. So the film is kind of free form in a way without being experimental. As for all of its freedom, there still feels like there is structure here.

If you have seen his later films THE SPANISH APARTMENT, RUSSIAN DOLLS and CHINESE PUZZLE 

This will be a little familiar but allows you to see where it all started at least In theme. Though they are constructed they manage to surprise you and add color to the films through the characters. Who we get to know a bit about and get to spend a little time with. As they only add to the enjoyment of the picture.

GRADE: B

JACK (1996)

Directed By: Francis Ford Coppola
Written by: James DeMonaco & Gary Nadeau
Cinematography: John Toll
Editor: Barry Malkin

Cast: Robin Williams, Diane Lane, Jennifer Lopez, Brain Kerwin, Bill Cosby, Fran Drescher, Adam Zolotin, Todd Bosley, Jurnee Smollett,  Michael Mckean, Don Novello, Keone Young, Seth Smith, Mario Yedidia, Jer Adrianne Lelliott

Because of an unusual disorder that has aged him four times faster than a typical human being, a boy looks like a 40-year-old man as he starts fifth grade at public school after being homeschooled.


This is a feel-good movie that feels at times too artificial.

A kids movie, more from an adult’s point of view that families will enjoy. That tries to capture the winsomeness of youth but reeks of sentimentality and a kind of contempt with an over the top earnestness. That works for the audience but feels pointed and over intellectual at times just to try to explain things in a plausible way. While taking itself too seriously.

It attempts to be a feel-good film so much that it feels like a cop-out or set up to watch Robin Williams be wacky with kids while supposedly being a kid. Letting him loose to be wild and showcase his improv talent while still playing a character convincingly.

If you are a fan or completist of his works then this film is great. As I can admit a favorable bias when it comes to Robin Williams performances. This feels almost like the greatest hits collection. As it shows his range fully in character. As this is a role seemingly written for him. So it is perfect casting with him is the lead being unpredictable and always having a certain playfulness. Though as you watch you get a sense that he is better than the material. Even as the movie is more or less built around him. 

While Francis Ford Coppola tries to make the material and the film more enriched then it is or deserved to be. As to not embarrass himself. Plus gives him the chance to work with Robin Williams. Though the film Still feels disappointing as he tries to bring tone and atmosphere to the material. Just as he did in his previous for hire film THE RAINMAKER.

The film tries to show the joy of youth and ends up coming off more obvious than anything. While some comedic scenes seem misplaced even though they are supposed to be in a kind of reality seem silly more than anything.

Child actor Todd Bodley does his similar oddball schtick he did in the movie LITTLE GIANTS. Though he used his talents better in the kids film LLOYD then here.

Bill Cosby plays a supporting role as a child psychiatrist that feels more like a special guest star and is filmed in a warm loving way. That set the time for his reputation more. That watching the film now is almost sad and scary knowing what we know and scars the movie a bit. In which his performance and character are some of the better things in it.

The film is an interesting contrast of the two comedians working together though mostly in dramatic scenes.

As towards the end the film takes a more dramatic and sad turn, but it also ends up being a life-affirming film for the whole family. As even in It’s More adult scenes it comes off as silly and innocent 

The film in the end is definitely a crowd-pleaser. That you can’t help but smile and giggle at least once or twice.

Grade: C

BIG BULLY (1996)

Directed By: Steve Miner 
Written By: Mark Steven Johnson 
Cinematography By: Daryn Okada 
Editor: Marshall Harvey 

Cast: Rick Moranis, Tom Arnold, Julianne Phillips, Faith Prince, Curtis Armstrong, Don Knotts, Jeffrey Tambor, Tony Pierce, Stuart Pankin, Blake Bashoff, Carol Kane, Cody McMains

David Leary was bullied by Rosco when he was in elementary school. But he got even on the day his parents moved out of town. Now twenty years later, David, who is a successful writer, is invited back to his home town to teach. Everything is great until Rosco, who is still in town, recognizes him. Now suddenly someone is playing mean practical jokes on him. Isn’t David a little too old to be running to the Principal saying “Rosco’s picking on me.” ?


This film reminds me of the Sunday afternoon family Films, Enchanting on that last day of rest where you are recovering from the day before. You don’ t want to waste the day yet want to go easy. Still want to remember every bit of it as you want it to go by slowly as you know what awaits the next day. Back to the rat race.

So films of this are not that good, but I find them relaxing. Not to vital. There are plenty of acclaimed films that go on this day to as they seem so sudden and important on a day full of rest that they stand out. I wish I could say which day I prefer to watch films as each day brings their own mood and a certain kind of magic to whatever you screen. They are like flavored some go better, but mixing and matching also works out well. Leading to strange and aquired tastes. That usually are memorable.

I only wish this film was better overall. It is done in a broad style and is high concept. Yet feels like it was done on a budget. Where things were supposed to be bigger and grander, but things got changed at the last minute and sent the production scrambling.

It sets up a romantic subplot only to sabotage it as a running gag, but then abandon it to a certain degree. Only to reignite it to tie a bow around the ending.

Now while the scenes of rivalry between the two leads are fun. They never seem to rise to a demented degree that is hinted at. It might be because this film is obviously intended for a more family friendly audience. Though it gets partially dark to a degree.

It would seem like perfect casting Tom Arnold as the bully and Rick Moranis as the victim who begins to strike back.

They both play to their strengths. That feels like it could have gotten more mileage if made today or even letting the actors go a little off script and improv their scenes. As they stick to the script they do what is required yet feel handcuffed to the script. Even when some flair is all that is needed to make the scenes feel more alive.

Considering it is directed by Steve Miner a noted horror director. This film could have easily gone a darker more terrifying way like the film NEXT DOOR by James Woods

Tom Arnold is a rare screen actor. He plays Midwest and hulking bullies well. Yet he can also play oversized nerdish characters. Either way the characters he plays are usually full of bluster and talk too much. Yet they always work. Just look at him in EXIT WOUNDS the Steven Seagal movie. OR FROM THE CRADLE 2 THE GRAVE with Dmx and Jet Li. Sure he has a type but he also plays that type extremely well. Though unfortunately he seems more judged for his past personal life and the manner in which he achieved fame and notoriety. Though if given the chance he proves to be quite humorous. Even if not quite over the top funny. He can also play drama look at the films animal factory where he plays his usual type and GARDENS OF THE NIGHT which is really stretch for him playing a mothering pedophile. To this day though not a huge hit, I am shocked he never played the bully in The Tim Allen film JOE SOMEBODY (no offense to Patrick Warburton who was good in that film)

Just as Arnold is good so is Rick Moranis who seemed to be stuck playing these type field though he is better then this one. Which might be one of the reason why he stepped away. Playing the same type on different films that offer no new directions for him. I don’t have to justify his talent as he has a more pedigree career that is evident in most of his roles. As he plays what is required but might be the most interesting character who you want to know more about as there seems to be more then what is shown. All due to his performance. Even if they come off as cliche. And he seemed to be the prototypical nerd stereotype, but also seems to have had been a prototype for the modern day hipster. Just look at half they hairdos he has in his films like STREETS OF FIRE and THE WILD LIFE. Including the fact that is his retirement he has become a noted musician with actual Grammy’s.

The only other cast member who really makes an impression are Curtis Armstrong as a fellow teacher with a nervous condition and Tony Pierce as Moranis’ fireman buddy Ulf, Who is obsessed with fire and flames.

At least the script gives a logical reason for all of the action as the characters slowly go back to their old roles. As Tom Arnold having become weak after going to juvenile jail for an innocent crime. Has been humbled and jot owed. But once his old victim comes back into town. He finds himself empowered and redirected. As he feels like a new man due to this change of events.

As Rick Moranis Ducks him due to a secret from then past he still feels guilty about. That is what keeps him scared at first. The. Finds the strength to fight back. This struggle is mirrors by the leads children basically mimicking this relationship only in reverse roles.

The film comes alive a few times. Especially whenever Moranis’s character is dealing with his old friends from grade school who are all grown up. Which again introduces something interesting then seems to abandon it. As it seems like there are some interesting ideas that are never explored or feel cut out to trim the fat. As this film barely makes ninety minutes. There were plans to do a sequel which never materialized.

The film isn’t deep but it is a nice time waster that you will forget immediately after watching it. If anything it’s a film to watch with your kids to teach a lesson about bullying. And it’s dangers

Grade: C

FLIRTING WITH DISASTER (1996)

Written & Directed by: David O. Russell

Cinematography: Eric Alan Edwards

Editor: Christopher Tellefsen 

Cast: Ben Stiller, Patricia Arquette, Tea Leoni, Josh Brolin, Richard Jenkins, Mary Tyler Moore, Alan Alda, Lily Tomlin, George Segal, Celia Weston, David Patrick Kelly, Nadja Dajani 

Five months after the birth of his son, Mel Coplin remains unable to name the child until he has met his own biological parents and discovered who he “really is.” He, his wife Nancy, and his social-worker-in-training Tina Kalb jet off to California to meet his birth mother–who turns out not to be his mother, due to an error with the agency’s adoption records. The quartet sets out in search of Mel’s real parents, with tensions growing because of the sexual chemistry lacking between Mel and Nancy and growing between Mel and Tina.


This film is made in a classic screwball comedy type manner, but it feels more intellectual than these films. As it swings from out and out wacky comedy to more witty humor. So that it feels like a modern for that time Woody Allen movie. Only with his earlier anarchic spirit behind the camera.

The film often goes for shocks in it’s comedy but doesn’t feel blatant and ends up more subtle at times.

Each of the characters perfectly complements the ensemble as each of them appears fairly normal, but as we get to know then their dysfunctions or freaky side is revealed and they are so one of a kind many of them. Could have a whole film built around them.

Though the film is shot small and more like an independent film. Where at first we are in The cramped apartments of New York where it feels overwhelming and tight. As there are scenes that take place more indoors and feel closed off. Once they hit the open road it offers more abundance.

Though the way the camera keeps moving and shooting. It’s shots make it look like the camera like the performers are always exploring be it themselves, space, or boundaries. Which as a viewer excites you as you are never quite sure what will happen next and it keeps you laughing.

The timing And delivery of the jokes and performances as well as the direction are all on point.

The ensemble cast that would be seen as an all-star cast now. Seem more like they are improving like a jazz standard jam. Riffing off of one another and carrying the beat. Though while sure improv was involved it seems like the film was actually tightly scripted. Though when dialogue as said. It seems like it was thought up on the spot.

This is a comedy that delivers real surprises when you don’t expect them.

The strength behind the film is writer/director David O. Russell. He pulls the film together. Cinematically It’s impressive, script-wise it’s impressive and the performances he gets from his cast are amazing. As they go from serious to wacky in an instant. He usually can find laughs and comedy in situations that are not the usual places most would even go looking. Especially in dire depressing situations. Not only with this film but with films

Like his directorial debut SPANKING THE MONKEY (a rather depressing comedy about incest) I HEART HUCKABEES, THREE KINGS, AMERICAN HUSTLE, JOY, THE SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK, and THE FIGHTER. He shows range, talent, and a certain composite. Where you can’t say there snot if his films are the same.

The casting in this movie is inspired as ben Stiller doesn’t seem as in control here nor are his reactions with his usual acting tics in this movie. This seems like one of the last times he would be this pristine performance. Though he usually plays this type of character.

Tea Leoni and Patricia Arquette get to show off their talents. Tea Leoni in a more offbeat styled character who was usually played at that time by Parker Posey. She really shows her chops in a role she rarely gets to do these days more the neurotic sex pot who dresses more like a femme fatale. Who always seems in control but might be just for appearances.

Patricia Arquette has an almost leading lady form and is that attractive girl next door quality as Stiller’s wife.

Mary Tyler Moore as his overbearing Jewish mother. Who likes to show how good her body still is in shape. She tries to steal the movie but is in her realm in a role that at first looks like stunt casting but actually works out well.

Josh Brolin being more comedic and open than usual as a gay/bi FBI agent who tags along on the ride.

This film is a treat I regret not seeing in theaters. As I tried but disappeared fast. Though luckily saw it as soon as it was available on home video. Though I will admit It was A film that had to grow on me. Like the first time, i saw it. I thought it was funny but not hilarious. As I watched it over the years it has won me over. As I began to notice the layers and construction of Jokes, scenes, shots, and characters. It’s an underrated film that needs to be revisited and Given more credit.

Definitely an addition to the home library.

Grade: B+

FEELING MINNESOTA (1996)

feelingminnesota

Written & Directed By: Steven Baigelman
Cinematography: Walt Lloyd
Editor: Martin Walsh & Thom Noble
Music By: Los Lobos 

Cast: Keanu Reeves, Cameron Diaz, Delroy Lindo, Vincent D’Onofrio, Tuesday Weld, Courtney Love, Dan Aykroyd 


Freddie is a former stripper marrying Sam to repay a debt owed to nightclub owner Red. But Freddie is in love with Jjaks, Sam’s brother. Jjaks and Freddie run off together, and Sam finds where they have been hiding and calls the cops. Meanwhile someone calls to blackmail Sam and Jjaks. In the end will it all work out?

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SHE’S THE ONE (1996)

shesthe1

Written & Directed By: Edward Burns
Cinematography: Frank Prinzi
Editor: Susan Graef 

Cast: Edward Burns, Jennifer Aniston, Cameron Diaz, Amanda Peet, John Mahoney, Mike McGlone, Leslie Mann, Frank Vincent, Maxine Bahns 

The love lives of two brothers, Mickey and Francis, interconnect as Francis cheats on his wife with Mickey’s ex-girlfriend, while Mickey impulsively marries a stranger.

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TALES FROM THE CRYPT: BORDELLO OF BLOOD (1996)

Bordello-of-Blood

 

Directed By: Gilbert Adler
Written By: A.L. Katz & Gilbert Adler 
Story By: Bob Gale & Robert Zemeckis
Based on the Comic Books “TALES FROM THE CRYPT: By: William M. Gaines Cinematography: Tom Priestley
Editor: Stephen Lovejoy 

Cast: Dennis Miller, Angie Everhart, Erika Eleniak, Chris Sarandon, Corey Feldman, Aubrey Morris, Phil Fondacro, John Kassir, William Sadler, Robin Douglas 


The old bag of bones ‘Cryptkeeper’ returns for his second full length feature flick about a funeral home that’s a front for a whorehouse run by vampires

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THE GREAT WHITE HYPE (1996)

greatwhite

Directed By: Reginald Hudlin
Written By: Ron Shelton & Tony Hendra
Cinematography By: Ron Garcia
Editor: Earl Watson 


 Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Jeff Goldblum, Peter Berg, Damon Wayans, Jamie Foxx, Salli Richardson, Jon Lovitz, Cheech Marin, Michael Jace, Corbin Bernsen, John Rhys-Davies, Rocky Carroll, A.J. Johnson, Reno Wilson, Art Evans

When the champ’s promoter, Rev. Sultan, decides something new is needed to boost the marketability of the boxing matches, he searches and finds the only man to ever beat the champ. The problem is that he isn’t a boxer anymore and he’s white. However, once Rev. Sultan convinces him to fight, he goes into heavy training while the confident champ takes it easy and falls out of shape

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THE CROW: CITY OF ANGELS (1996)

crowcity

Directed By: Tim Pope 
Written By: David S. Goyer
Based on the Comic Book Series By: James O’Barr
Cinematography: Jean-Yves Escoffier
Editor: Michael N. Knue & Anthony Redman 


Cast: Vincent Perez, Mia Kirshner, Richard Brooks, Iggy Pop, Thomas Jane, Thuy Trang, Beverley Mitchell, Vincent Castellanos 

Some time ago, Ashe Corven and his son Danny were killed when they stumbled across a pack of drug dealers murdering a fellow dealer. The dealers work for Los Angeles drug kingpin Judah Earl. Local tattoo artist Sarah, who has great knowledge of the crow legend because of what happened with her late friend Eric Draven, has been having dreams about Ashe and Danny. One night when a crow leads her to the scene of the murders of Ashe and Danny, Ashe appears before her. The crow has resurrected Ashe, so Ashe can go after Judah and his right hand man Curve. With the guidance of the crow, Ashe starts killing off Judah’s men one by one, on his way to Judah.

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