This weekend sees the much anticipated release of the trilogy capper War of the Planet of the Apes. It’s the only big release this weekend, but The Big Sick is expanding and last week’s Spider-Man: Homecoming is still going strong. Go see ’em all! I’ve fallen a bit behind over the last few weeks so we’re going to catch up in one fell swoop with the last three weeks of releases. Some big ones in here.
June 27, 1997
Big News Story: Disney was facing protests by a coalition of Latino and community-based organizations that vowed to take action for alleged discrimination against Latinos. Today, veteran character actor Alfred Molina joined the cause.
FACE / OFF
Stars: John Travolta, Nicolas Cage, Joan Allen, Allesandro Nivola, Gina Gershon
Director: John Woo
IMDB Synopsis: In order to foil an extortion plot, an FBI agent undergoes a facial transplant surgery and assumes the identity and physical appearance of a terrorist, but the plan turns from bad to worse when the same terrorist impersonates the FBI agent.
Domestic Box Office: $112M
Worldwide Box Office: $245M
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 92%
IMDB User Rating: 7.3/10
Critics Consensus: John Travolta and Nicolas Cage play cat-and-mouse (and literally play each other) against a beautifully stylized backdrop of typically elegant, over-the-top John Woo violence.
What I Said Then: Oh my god. Is this the greatest action movie of all time? It’s certainly the best acted one. Travolta and Cage are perfect together and really tear into this concept. They do an expert job playing each other. John Woo is amazing. After Broken Arrow and this, he can do no wrong. I love the slow-mo pigeons flying! I love the Mexican stand-off! I love the use of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” during a dramatic gunfight! Yeah, I kind of flipped for this movie.
What I Say Now: Slow your roll, 1997 John. Face/Off is a fun action movie, but it’s utterly ludicrous and way over-the-top. Woo’s visual flourishes don’t really hold up and have become a parody of themselves at this point. The stunt people on the boat during the final chase sequence are clearly not Cage or Travolta – watch it again. It’s really distracting. Still, I like Travolta in this role. I like the high concept of its story. And, I’ve continued to revisit this movie over the years. Maybe not the masterpiece I originally thought, but certainly one of the more quality entries in the action genre.
Stars: Tate Donovan, Susan Egan, James Woods, Danny DeVito
Director: Ron Clements, John Musker
IMDB Synopsis: The son of the Greek Gods Zeus and Hera is stripped of his immortality as an infant and must become a true hero in order to reclaim it.
Domestic Box Office: $99M
Worldwide Box Office: $252M
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 83%
IMDB User Rating: 7.2/10
Critics Consensus: Fast-paced and packed with dozens of pop culture references, Hercules might not measure up with the true classics of the Disney pantheon, but it’s still plenty of fun.
What I Said Then: How Disney got its groove back. After disappointing efforts like Pocahontas and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Disney took a less ambitious and more comedic film that plays to all of the studio’s strengths. Zippy animation and a clever script make it an easy watch, and the new tunes are pretty fantastic. The movie may be aimed at kids but the older set will get just as much delight out of it.
What I Say Now: Pretty much the same. I’m a big fan of the song, “I won’t say I’m in love” and I know Julie is too. James Woods does stellar voice work here, but he’s such a tool in real life that you kind of hate to have to listen to him now.
July 2, 1997
Big News Story: Actor Jimmy Stewart has died of blood clot on his lung at his home in Beverly Hills, California. He was 89.
MEN IN BLACK
Stars: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Vincent D’Onofrio, Linda Fiorentino
Director: Barry Levinson
IMDB Synopsis: A police officer joins a secret organization that polices and monitors extraterrestrial interactions on Earth.
Domestic Box Office: $250M
Worldwide Box Office: $589M
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 92%
IMDB User Rating: 7.3/10
Critics Consensus: Thanks to a smart script, spectacular set pieces, and charismatic performances from its leads, Men in Black is an entirely satisfying summer blockbuster hit.
What I Said Then: Who’da thunk it? Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones are perfect together. Smith is on a roll. Hell of a one-two punch with Independence Day and this. I love the “Men in Black” song! I gotta learn all the dance moves and then show off when I start freshman year of college in the fall. Yeah, that’ll make me look cool.
What I Say Now: Great, breezy sci-fi comedy. Excellent concept. Jones’ minimalism is exceptionally funny. He steals the show from Smith. The sequels would dilute some of the potency of the brand (especially Part 2), but this movie holds up. And, Barry Levinson’s direction is frisky and fun, with one interesting camera set-up after another.
OUT TO SEA
Stars: Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Dyan Cannon, Brent Spiner
Director: Martha Coolidge
IMDB Synopsis: A failed gambler, intent on meeting a rich widow, tricks his widowed brother-in-law into boarding a cruise ship as dance hosts.
Domestic Box Office: $29M
Worldwide Box Office: $30M
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 38%
IMDB User Rating: 6.0/10
Critics Consensus: A weak but genial romp.
What I Said Then: It’s no Grumpy Old Men, much as it tries to tap into the same reservoir of affection we have for Lemmon and Matthau together. Maybe I’m just too young to appreciate the ol’ geezers find love on a cruise concept.
What I Say Now: Have only seen it the one time. Surprised to see that Coolidge directed this, as she had better luck with Valley Girl and Real Genius. The supporting cast is stacked with talent though: Donald O’Connor, Elaine Stritch, Gloria DeHaven, Rue McClanahan- I mean, wow.
Stars: Jonathan Taylor-Thomas, Devon Sawa, Scott Bairstow
Director: William Dear
IMDB Synopsis: Three brothers who are obsessed with animals are given permission from their parents to travel around America with a camera documenting wildlife.
Domestic Box Office: $7M
Worldwide Box Office: N/A
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 27%
IMDB User Rating: 6.3/10
Critics Consensus: Plays like a relic of Disney family films of yesteryear.
What I Said Then: I think I saw it with my brother, J.J.,, in the theater but couldn’t tell you a damn thing about it. Hard to get too excited about it when I could just go see Men in Black again (which I definitely did).
What I Say Now: JTT crushing it with the star power! Remember when Devon Sawa was a thing? Idle Hands, anyone? And, where is Scott Bairstow now and why did he ever get above-the-title billing? Looks like he’s been M.I.A. from screens since 2006.
July 11, 1997
Big News Story: Ron Howard reportedly in talks to direct Jim Carrey in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. That project never panned out but the two did team up for 2000’s Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Mitty would eventually be made into a movie directed by and starring Ben Stiller.
Stars: Jodie Foster, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Skerritt, David Morse
Director: Robert Zemeckis
IMDB Synopsis: Dr. Ellie Arroway, after years of searching, finds conclusive radio proof of extraterrestrial intelligence, sending plans for a mysterious machine.
Domestic Box Office: $100M
Worldwide Box Office: $171M
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 62%
IMDB User Rating: 7.4/10
Critics Consensus: The film has a more philosophical portrait of the science fiction genre than other films of its ilk, but still manages to satisfy audiences who just want to be entertained.
What I Said Then: It’s really slow and takes its sweet time getting there, but once Ellie blasts off into the cosmos, the movie kicks into high gear and you realize you’ve been fully invested in this movie the whole time. You really do walk away satisfied. Not what I pictured Robert Zemeckis doing after Forrest Gump, but the man is a master director.
What I Say Now: It’s a strong film from a strong director. Love the opening where the camera travels through space, and sound comes and goes. Though obviously inspired by 2001, it seems to have itself inspired other movies in its wake – both Interstellar and Arrival share some DNA with Contact.
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