I’ll be honest, 1996 may be the most difficult year I’ve had to complle. It’s not that it’s an amazing year with strength in depth, quite the opposite in fact I had to dig more and more to find entries to take it up to 35……brutal year in terms of depth of quality but hey….here are the best of the year.
Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton star in this disaster flick about storm chasers who are trying to collect data from the eye of a hurricane. Much special effects fueled carnage ensues with bodies and vehicles and houses and ….fences and all sorts flying around and smacking into things. It’s all big dumb fun written by Michael Crighton and directed by Jan De Bont.
Best Bit- The intro
34.Dr Wai In “The Scripture With No Words”
A bit of a weird one this as Jet Li movies and Hong Kong action movies in general tended to be either historical epics or street level crime affairs. Here though we have an epic fantasy with really bad special effects and monsters but it’s a hell of a lot of fun and the choreography is great.
Best Bit- Flaming swords
33. Mars Attacks
I went to the cinema to see this as a 12 year old and huge fan of b movie sci fi which this clearly took it’s inspiration from. It’s based on the trading cards from the 60s that I knew nothing about at the time, don’t know if they were even sold over here but I thought it looked like a lot of fun. While there’s some stuff to enjoy in it I found the tone incredibly confused with a mean spirited vibe taking away from the comedy and a slapstick nature taking away from the horror. Tim Burton did a great job with the look of the movie and made it stand out from his other work but the comedy is very hit and miss with cameos ranging from fun to excruciating. Still worth a watch.
Best Bit- “We come in peace”
32. Broken Arrow
Oh sweet a new John Woo movie? Which action star have they got fo rit? Chow Yun Fat?…Van Damme?….ahhh Christian Slater of course….That was an eyebrow raiser and the movie certainly falters because of it. Slater is a fine actor but completely unbelievable as a John Woo lead. That said this goofy movie about stolen nuclear missiles is dumb fun with a suitably hammy John Travolta as the villain.
Best Bit- Train fight
31. The Craft
A cult hit aimed at outcasts and goths …..who are outcasts anyway so that’s moot. A group of social misfits are tired of being bullied and so turn to witchcraft to get their own back, their new power soon consumes them and their friendships though. Robin Tunney, Rachel True, Fairuza Balk and Neve Campbell as supposed outcasts who I’m assuming are supposed to be unattractive always came off as odd as for the most part they are gorgeous. Anyway it’s a fun teen movie and it’s always good to see bullies get theirs.
Best Bit- Killing Chris
30. Mission: Impossible
Brian De Palma’s action espionage remake of the 60s tv shows was the biggest movie of the year and was a monster hit. I’ve never bought Tom Cruise as an action hero….I know I’m in the minority there but meh, I don’t know what it is. There are some great set pieces in here and of course the famous heist scene with Cruise being lowered in on ropes that#s been parodied a million times.
Best Bit- Train ride
A lot of the charm of Arnie action movies were starting to wean by this time and they were becoming something of a parody of themselves. This was probably his last good action movie before his foray into politics. It co stars the beautiful Vanessa Williams who had a smash hit single with the banger “Colours Of The Wind” the year previous. It concerns Arnie protecting a witness who is testifying about an illegal arms trade. There are some good action sequences.
Best Bit- The plane scene…..a lot of vehicle based fights on this list
28. Space Jam
There’s a simple way of knowing just how monstrously huge Michael Jordan was in the 90s. I’m from a country that as a whole couldn’t give a flying shart about basketball and the majority of young people would still know who he was. So while it wasn’t as big a deal that he was starring inn this movie, we still knew who he was. It’s a fun flick with the Looney Tunes characters recruiting Jordan to help them win a high stakes basketball game against an evil opposition. Oh and that theme tune….bellissimo.
Best Bit- Introducing the Monstars
A documentary looking at the explosive popularity of the grunge movement and how it quickly became a parody of itself and played itself out. It’s an interesting look at a scene similar to punk (but a lot less fun) in that it started out in garages and suddenly became a global trend. The most frustrating part of the doc is listening to band members who happily used the term grunge to get their success but now that it’s played out they act like they were never a part of it. Pretentious and snobby but defintely a great look at an interesting time in music history where a lot of well intentioned musicians with a diy philosophy had their scene ruined by corporate America.
Best Bit- Grunge slang
26. The Rock
It’s a Michael Bay movie so you know hwat you’re getting. Explosions, pew pew pew and lots of pachoooo powww pchooo but with this one you can actually see what’s going on. Sean Connery and Nic Cage shine in this action thriller but leaving your brain aside is a must. Alcatraz has been seized by terrorists who are threatening with nuclear missiles.
Best Bit- Mexican standoff
25. Spy Hard
Only Leslie Nielson can make terrible jokes hilarious. His past as a serious actor just adds to the gravitas he brings to these capers and the nonsense slapstick is just something he excels at. The script isn’t up there with the Naked Gun movies but Nielson helps make it a blast anyway.
Best Bit- Cliffhanger
24. Get On The Bus
An uplifting and surprisingly non violent Spike Lee movie about a group of folk taking a a bus journey to participate in the 1995 million man march which was a march to promote civil rights. There’s an honesty and tribute to human nature in the script with realistic dialogue as the group are not a hivemind, they debate and have differing life views but essentially are tere for the same reason. One of those movies that has you thinking about life.
Best Bit- Shabooya roll call
Ahhh Gina Gershon…….ahem excuse me. This erotic thriller plays out like a sexualised Thelma And Louise with Jennifer Tilly and Gershon as the lovers who have since become cult LGBT movie icons. It’s the debut feature of the Wachowskis and in my opinion their best with a sharp plot, funny and menacing scenes in equal measure and scintillating, sexy performances from Tilly and in particular Gershon.
Best Bit- “You don’t wanna shoot me”
Ron Howard directs this solid film starring Mel Gibson as a successful businessman who goes to a trade show only for his son to be kidnapped and held to…..dun dun dun…..RANSOM!. Gibson gives a typically great performance mixing false bravado with crippling fear and there’s not many that can convey facial emotions as well as Gibson, he’s incredibly emotive when he’s on form.
Best Bit- Give me back my son
As much as Kevin Bacon has often been in entertaining movies, this one really proved what a great actor he is. It’s a powerhouse performance and it take s a lot for you to hate the likeable actor but he managed it as the abusive prison guard. To stand out in a movie with De Niro, Brad Pitt, Dustin Hoffman etc is no easy task but here we are. After a group of young pals prank a hot dog vendor, an accident nearly kills a man and they are sent to juvenile hall where they are abused and raped by Bacon’s character. It’s a deeply upsetting movie from Barry Levinson.
A biopic of David Helfgott, an Australian piano virtuoso who had a severe mental breakdown with Geoff Rush in the lead roll. It gained critical acclaim and Rush was given the Academy award for his role as Helfgott. Like with all biopics it has drawn criticism for it’s portrayal of certain characters and from critics of his musical ability.
Best Bit- Flight Of The Bumblebee
19. The Frighteners
Peter Jackson’s comedy horror isn’t nearly up there with Braindead, his previous in the same genre but it’s still a very entertaining flick with the likeable Michael J. Fox in the lead tole. It’s a comedy but absolutely terrified kids…who shouldn’t have been watching it as it was for adults, tut tut. Great effects and set at a great pace, I would love Jackson to return to this kind of film making.
Best Bit- Meeting the Grim Reaper
The debut feature from Spanish fim maker Alejandro Amenabar who went on to direct the excellent “The Others”. It was made when he was a film student about film students and human nature’s obsession with violence. It leads to film makers entering the world of the snuff movie and it’s a disturbing look at an insatiable appetite for violence and real horror.
Best Bit- The chase
17. The Long Kiss Goodnight
What a weird year for unexpected action heroes….Sam Jackson? ok I guess I can see that, Geena Davis?…..WHIT?. It somehow works though and Renny Harlin’s action written by the king of buddy films Shane Black is a lot of fun. Davis plays a teacher with no memory of her life before she washed up on a beach 8 years previously. Safe to say she was up to some crazy stuff and her past life comes back to haunt her. Oh and it’s got Dundee’s own Brian Cox which is always a good thing.
Best Bit- On the bridge
16. Independence Day
Another one I went to the cinema to see with the Boys Brigade (big up lads) and it was a good time. It’s typical huge budget 90s action fare with stunning effects for the time and Will Smith as the charismatic hero. It’s a Roland Emmerich movie and he’s the master of the disaster movie so there’s lots of bang pow explosions all over the place and if you enjoy that then there’s a lot to love here.
Best Bit- Attack the white house
15. A Time To Kill
A Joel Schumacher film based on John Grisham’s novel of the same name about a father killing the rapists of his daughter and the subsequent trial. It’s a little heavy handed in it’s black and white stance but in some ways it needs to be to suit the story. Some very strong performances from the likes of Mathew McConaughey, Sam Jackson, Sandra Bullock and more.
Best Bit- Revenge killing
Sexy car crashes…..that’s the theme of this David Cronenberg thriller. No I’m not joking, this is about an underground fetish for people who love to crash cars and have sex at the same time, getting off on the thrill and pain. Obviously due to that premise it was hugely controversial and presumably the conservative art police thought that people would be unable to sto themselves copying the acts in the movie as soon as hey left the cinema. There’s a standout performance from Elias Koteas who played Casey Jones in the original Turtles movie. Howard Shore’s hypnotic score is also a high point. Cronenberg is a legend and while it’s far from his best movie it’s certainly an interesting one and pushes the envelope sexually.The Adam and Joe toy version was also ace.
Best Bit- The ending
13. Happy Gilmore
Feels weird this being so high considering it’s a Sandler movie and out of the million he has been the main star in, this is the only one I liked. I watched this with dad and he’s a massive golf fan so he got a real kick out of this comedy about a failed hockey player with anger issues trying to raise money for his gran by entering golf competitions. It’s a funny movie and it’s well remembered for some excellent scenes and cameos.
Best Bit-Crazy golf
12. Kids Return
A coming of age drama from the legendary Beat Takeshi with music from Joe Hisaishi, one of the greatest composers in the game. Two young dropouts take different turns in their lives as one starts working for the Yakuza and the other becomes a promising boxer. It’s melancholic, heartwarming and funny in equal measure.
Best Bit- Reconciliation
11. Black Mask
Jet Li pays homage to Kato from the Green Hornet who was originally played by Bruce Lee. In parts of Asia the show had been edited to make Kato the star of the show. As always with Jet Li the fight scenes are a thing of true beauty with incredible athletisism and choreography. I’m truly running out of superlatives for the legend.
Best Bit-Final battle
10. The Hunchback Of Notre Dame
Despite the songs and bright colours, this adaptation of Victor Hugo’s tale is one of Disney’s darkest movies with themes of racism, prejudice, fanatical religious extremism infanticide……Jeeeeeesus. I always relate to these, ugly people with good hearts trying to make their way in world stories…..don’t know why.
Best Bit- The ending
9. Primal FearI was up late one night with my dad and this came on. I’d never heard of it but we thought we’d give it a go and it ended up being brilliant. A standout debut performance from Ed Norton and a typically understated but impressive turn from Richard Gere give this crime thriller real gravitas. Norton plays a young, mentally challenged altar boy accused of murdering an abusive Archbishop. It hangs on it’s brilliant twist at the end of the movie that had me and my dad’s jaws on the floor.
Best Bit- Twist
A dark comedy thriller from the Coen brothers that has recently been adapted into a tv series of the same name. It’s one of their most critically lauded movies and probably my favourite of theirs. It’s certainly up there with Barton Fink although the two are vastly different. Steve Buscemi and Willaim H. Macy shine in this story of a down and out salesman who hres criminals to kidnap his wife in order to extort money from her wealthy father.
Best Bit- Wood chipper
7. Beavis And Butthead Do America
This was the first movie I went to the cinema to see without my folks. Me and my classmate Chris Isaacs (bi the Wicked Game singer) went through to Dundee absolutely buzzing and weren’t let down. I was a huge fan of the tv series at the time and I love Mike Judge’s sense of humour. I really enjoy the fact he knew he had to up the tempo for a theatrical release so all these big action movie tropes are happening but our heroes are still just wandering through it all oblivious to all the dangers surrounding them. A then married Demi Moore and Bruce Willis play the villains.
Best Bit- The plane ride
6. Don’t Be A Menace To South Central While Drinking Your Juice In The Hood
By far he best of the Wayans brothers parodies and it takes on the hugely popular hood movies of the time. Directed by Paris Barclay and starring Marlon and Shawn Wayans it has some laugh out loud stuff, especially if you know the source material. It’s just laugh after laugh and even though some of the jokes don’t land there’s alwwas another one coming up.
Best Bit- Racist cop
5. When We Were Kings
A documentary looking a”The Rumble In The Jungle” which was a heavyweight boxing championship held in Zaire between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in front of 60 000 people in 1974. The film shows the buildup as Ali expertly rallies the people of Zaire to get behind him with his charisma and outspoken nature whereas George Foreman, who was a quiet and intimidating giant couldn’t gain the people’s love. The fight itself is legendary with Foreman dominating most of the fight and Ali offering little resistance until Foreman gasses out and becomes exhausted. Ali then springs to life and wins with the upset knockout. It was a masterful tactic but ultimately may have caused his illness a few years later. The documentary looks at the cultural impact of the fight and what it meant to the people of Zaire. When this won the Academy Award, Foreman helped Ali up the stairs to accept it in a touching moment.
Best Bit- Fight analyisis
4. Police Story 4: First Strike
The Police Story series is great although this was released over here as Jackie Chan’s First Strike so I didn’t even know it was part of the series until later. Some of Chan’s most stunning and elaborate scenes are in here but also a lot of his close quarters combat style that he is known for is here too with great use of props.
Best Bit- Ladder fight
This is largely considered the movie that saved horror in the 90s. It really was in a dire state and then Mirimax, a major studio put their faith in Wes Craven, who was trying to get away from the genre at the time but was convinced to come in based on the strength of Kevin Williamson’s script. An all star cast. a clever plot and a brilliant twist made this an all time classic and started a new franchise. Building on Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, this takes the meta horror to new levels with the characters knowing the rules of horror tropes.
Best Bit- Intro
“It’s shite being Scottish”A cultural phenomenon based of Irvine Welsh’s novel looking at life on the streets of Edinburgh though friends gripped by heroin addiction. The movie made Ewan McGregor a star and featured the acting debut of Kelly MacDonald with director Danny Boyle becoming one of Hollywood’s most wanted. It combines biting comedy with harrowing scenes depicting the effects of heroin.
Best Bit- Dirty sheets
1 From Dusk Till Dawn
Has a movie ever taken as sharp a turn halfway through it’s plot than this?. My brother rented this and came through to my room after watching it to say “You have to see this”. What starts off as a crime drama ends up as a b movie love letter to horror with vampires and gore galore. There are so many quotable and memorable moments in the movie with George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino playing brothers who kidnap a family and force them to drive them to Mexico. Robert Rodriguez was on fire when he directed this baby.
Best Bit- Enter the vampires
Another year down so join me next time for 1997 and in the meantime catch me @swing_kinker cheers. x