Quick Movie Review: Clueless (1995)

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Clueless does something interesting. It’s a complete social satire, but director Amy Heckerling makes it so that the jokes can also be taken at face value. On one hand it begs you to notice the commentary it’s making on society, while on the other hand relishes in the idea that the jokes may be all on you. In fact, that’s what makes Clueless so great. It’s a film that makes fun of people who take themselves too seriously, but also accepts the fact that those same people will take IT too seriously. Some satires are too transparent, but what makes this one brilliant is the fact that it’s not.

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Quick Movie Review: Jumanji (1995)

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As a kid, I watched Jumanji more than almost any other movie. Perhaps become numb to the adventure that lies underneath the grandeur effects and habit-forming experience. But it slowly came back to me upon watching it now, all these years later. It was like uncovering the mystery all over again.

Jumanji has become sort of a pop culture mainstay. It’s one of few films that adequately goes hand-and-hand with the ’90s. At least as far as kids movies go. There are very few that stand above it as representing the decade for children who grew up in it. Aladdin, Toy Story, Space Jam, Jurassic Park, maybe a couple others. So, watching it now, you wonder if it holds up well (like some), or feels dated (like most).

It starts off with a brief opening scene set in 1869 with two boys burying a chest, talking about how they hope no one ever finds it. One hundred years later in 1969, a boy, Alan discovers the box, opens it, and finds an old-looking board game called Jumanji.

We get some good character background in the few minutes we see Alan as a child. His relationship with his father is an important theme throughout the film.

Soon Alan realizes the game has a mind of its own. He takes his turn and the game gives him a command that traps him inside of it until the next player (his friend, Sarah) rolls a five or an eight. Sarah gets freaked out and leaves, trapping Alan indefinitely.

Then we get another time lapse to modern day 1995 where kids Judy and Peter get sent to live with their aunt after their parents die. They move to the same house Alan lived in 26 years prior when he “went missing”. They discover the game in an old abandoned room and start to play. Weird things start happening, including a roll of the dice that brings Alan back out of the game as an adult.

That’s just the first 20 minutes or so. The premise is really great, and just keeps building on itself from there.

For a kids movie it’s pretty mature. The gimmicks are even really funny, holding up very well to this day. Even the minute details are clever, like the cop (David Alan Grier) who keeps getting his car inadvertently messed up from the effects of the game, yet continues to drive it anyhow.

Jumanji is like a twisted Wizard of Oz–a fact that it even alludes to at one brief moment.

I love this film. Watching it now after a long drought, I was possibly even more entertained than I was as a kid. Even finding myself laughing out loud. Other than the special effects, Jumanji is anything but dated. It’s fresher than any kids movie coming out today, reminding us, yet again, how much live action family films are missed nowadays.

Twizard Rating: 96

Quick Movie Review: Showgirls (1995)

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Nomi is watching Cristal from the audience for the first time. She mimics some of Cristal’s hand motions perfectly. She gets it! I’m excited! …Those are the types of transparent notions that this film is hoping to pass along to its audience. The aspects of Showgirls that are most laughable aren’t the things on the screen, but the blatant expectations of the filmmakers that what they present will evoke certain emotions from us. This is why there is no shortage of drama in Showgirls. It’s induced at every possible moment, constantly trying to make us react–like a soap opera…or a Tyler Perry film.

But exploited drama isn’t the only cancer in this movie. Besides the distractingly jarring and clanking dialogue, the most annoying aspect is Nomi herself. She’s so fragile and bipolar, like the crazy girl your friend dated while you questioned why he stayed with her for a year. Her emotions are so up and down that it becomes annoying and almost insulting to her gender. The character is written as though she is supposed to have a chip on her shoulder, but then she has the confidence of an olympic athlete. She is our main protagonist, yet she’s so unlikeable that you’re not even rooting for her. In fact, you don’t know who you’re really rooting for at all–I guess the ending?? None of the characters’ motives make any sense and are ridiculously inconsistent. Nobody is set in stone. Even Molly, the only one who doesn’t really do anything wrong, sees her best friend and trailer-mate (who apparently she doesn’t  know very well) obviously going down a bad path and barely makes any effort to give her support of any kind.

Regardless of everything I’ve said so far, it’s a pretty entertaining bad movie. There’s actually a good overarching story here, and if you stick it through, you’ll actually appreciate the ending. It might even inspire or teach a lesson now and again. I heard someone say that Showgirls is like the Cocktail of dancing movies. Although I don’t like it as much as I like Cocktail, I don’t hate this movie. There’s something about it that keeps you watching. They wisely (and annoyingly) make you wait until the end to find out about Nomi’s past. It all ties in nicely by the time the credits roll.

Twizard Rating: 62

Quick Movie Review: Desperado (1995)

Not as consistently entertaining as the first installment and feeling a tad bit recycled in the plot area, Desperado is still a fun movie in its own right. Highlights include some scene-stealing bits from Tarantino and Buscemi. However, its hard to favor this film over El Mariachi since the only improvements in this sequel are the acting, the visual aesthetics, and slightly more appealing dialogue. The 2nd act feels very repetitive and even unexplained at some parts, but the setup and resolution are what makes you not help but further your appreciation for this franchise. The characters are much thinner and it doesn’t seem to have quite as much heart, but Desparado is still worth the watch!

 

Twizard Rating: 75