Favorite Films – The 90’s

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This blog is a continuation of a series I started a week or so ago. Somebody had the idea to post a list was to consist of your favorite films from each year of your life.  So, you start with your birth year and move ahead year by year and list all the films from each year.  A post from the Avocado site came up in my “Reader” list of blogs that had the same principle, but with one exception – you can only pick one movie from each year. My last “movie” blog focused on my favorites from the 1980’s and this one will feature the 1990’s.

As I looked through the films for this decade and was actually surprised.  I thought that the as I moved forward, I’d have less films to talk about.  I was wrong.  Picking one favorite from each year is going to be tough.

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1990 had plenty of sequels, one of which will end up my pick for favorite.  Eddie Murphy was back with Another 48 Hours.  Bruce Willis offered up Die Hard II.  Almost 20 years later, The Corleone family returned in Godfather III.  The second installment of Young Guns was in theaters and Sylvester Stallone returned as Mr. Balboa in Rocky V.  Johnny Depp was Edward Scissorhands, Kevin Costner was Dancing with Wolves, while Sean Connery was underwater with the Hunt for Red October.  Julia Roberts was “hooking” in Pretty Woman, Harrison Ford was Presumed Innocent, and Macaulay Culkin was left Home Alone.  Comedies included Nuns on the Run, Madhouse, and Kindergarten Cop. The film adaption of Stephen King’s Misery will have be forever fearing sledgehammers!

I am going to catch some flack for this not being my favorite of this year.  Goodfellas is a great film!  It is.  “You’re Italian, Keith!  How can Goodfellas NOT be your pick?”  It doesn’t matter.  It’s my list.

My pick for favorite of 1990 is the conclusion of the Back to the Future series – Back to the Future Part III.

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What can I say, I love these characters.  By the end of Part II, I was wondering just how things were going to wrap up.  While the end is a bit contrived and falls a bit flat, everything else I enjoyed.  I enjoyed how in the old west we see the beginnings of the town, the clock tower (which plays such a big role in the first film), and the earlier family members of the characters.  The suspense of getting that train up to 88mph had me on the edge of my seat in the theater.  Loved this trilogy and it remains one of my all time favorites!

1991

In 1991, there were silly comedies (Naked Gun 2 1/2, Hot Shots, Soapdish, and What about Bob?), action films (Robin Hood, Hook, and Thelma and Louise), and thrillers (Backdraft and Silence of the Lambs).

It is hard to pick one favorite for this year.  As someone who has been fascinated with the JFK assassination, I really enjoyed Oliver Stone’s JFK.  I had read so many books about the various conspiracies.  What a stellar cast!   Robin Williams put on an amazing performance in The Fisher King.  I admit, when I rented this film, I expected a comedy.  It was a very powerful story.  See it if you haven’t!  Billy Crystal and Jack Palance are just great together in City Slickers.  “I crap bigger than you” remains a favorite movie quote!

My pick for this year may come as a surprise to those who have read previous blogs.  Why?  Because I have complained so often about Hollywood running out of ideas!  I have bitched about how they are remaking everything!  This is one of those exceptions.  YES – it is a remake of a TV show, but this is also an instance of a good remake. The Addams Family.

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I think what makes this such a good movie is that the cast is true to the characters of the cartoon and the TV show.  Raul Julia is brilliant as Gomez.  Anjelica Huston is spot on as Morticia.  Christopher Lloyd is great as Fester.  Christina Ricci is the perfect Wednesday.  The film is funny and fun.  I wasn’t so keen on the sequel, but this one was a blast (and a film I have to watch every October!).

1992

1992 brought the return of Michael Keaton as Batman in Batman Returns, Whitney Houston was a superstar in The Bodyguard, and who can forget Sharon Stone in basic Instinct?  Honeymoon in Vegas was ok, but had a great soundtrack! Joe Pesci and Marisa Tomei are just wonderful together in My Cousin Vinny while Tom Hanks coaches Geena Davis and Madonna in A League of Their Own.  We are also introduced to Wayne Campbell and his friend Garth in the SNL based Wayne’s World.

This almost was my pick for favorite – A Few Good Men.  Such a great story, with a great cast, and powerful performances!  Tom Cruise, Kevin Bacon, Demi Moore, Kevin Pollack, and Jack Nicholson are all superb in this film! My favorite, however, has to go to Disney’s Aladdin.

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Why?  Two words – Robin Williams!  I have heard of the many hours of voice stuff he recorded for this film that was never used.  I can only imagine the wonderful ad-libs he did in the studio!  Friend Like Me is on my iPod and it gives me chills every time I listen to it.

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1993 comedies included Mel Brooks’ Robin Hood: Men In Tights, Wayne’s World II, Loaded Weapon, Groundhog Day, So I Married an Axe Murderer, and Mrs. Doubtfire.  Another comedy that is a must watch (especially for the bloopers at the end) is Grumpy Old Men. Drama/Thrillers included John Grisham’s The Firm, Jurassic Park, and In The Line of Fire.

1993 brought two films that are considered classics that I have never seen.  One of them, I have a reason, the other, I don’t.  Schindler’s List and the Sandlot.  Schindler’s list is one that I will watch – but I have the book and I want to read it first.  The Sandlot I have heard quoted 100 times, I just have never had the chance to sit and watch it.  I will – eventually.

Twice in the same decade, I am picking a remake – a remake of a TV show again.  My pick for 1993 is The Fugitive.

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Harrison Ford does a great job playing Richard Kimball.  I loved the original series.  Tommy Lee Jones is just hilarious in this.  It truly is a great film and one I can watch over and over again.

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Jim Carrey dominated the year with three films – The Mask, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, and Dumb and Dumber.  Forrest Gump, starring Tom Hanks, was a wonderful film!  It had a great soundtrack and it was cool to see how they put his character into scenes from history.  I could watch Jamie Lee Curtis over and over in True Lies.  Dennis Leary is so funny in The Ref.  It is one of those forgotten Holiday movies that I just love.  Another forgotten film from this year is The Shadow.  It is based on the old radio show, which was based on a comic book.  Alec Baldwin stars in it and I thought it was very well done.

My favorite film from the year, hands down, is The Shawshank Redemption.

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Based on a Stephen King short story, it remains one of my favorite films.  Prior to seeing it, I knew King had wrote it.  I had always associated him with horror films, so I never saw it.  I am so glad that I was convinced to watch it.  If you have never seen it – you should!  It is a masterpiece!

1995

1995 comedies featured SNL stars Chris Farley (in Tommy Boy) and Adam Sandler (in Billy Madison).  Mel Gibson starred as William Wallace in Braveheart. Tom Hanks first uttered “Houston, we have a problem” in Apollo 13.  He also starred as Sheriff Woody in the first installment of Toy Story. Robin Williams is stuck in a board game in Jumanji.  There was a remake with a twist – The Brady Bunch Movie.  What made this work, was that the cast is still stuck in the past, while living in the present day.  It wasn’t hilarious, but it worked.

Again, here is a film that you would think should be THE pick for this year.  Casino with Robert Deniro, Sharon Stone, and Joe Pesci.  It truly is a great film, but my pick is The Usual Suspects.

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I remember my grandmother used to watch Perry Mason and guess who the killer was all the time.  Some movies, you can guess the ending, but this one caught me completely off guard.  I never saw it coming.  That is the reason I picked this one.  Watching it the second time, I noticed all the things I missed throughout the first viewing.  It is such s good film.

1996

Comedies from 1996 include Leslie Nielsen in Spy Hard, Adam Sandler in Happy Gilmore, and Jim Carrey as The Cable Guy. Drama/Thrillers included Ghosts of Mississippi, A Time To Kill, and Primal Fear.  Tom Cruise appeared in Mission: Impossible (which I hated, because it was really all about his character while the TV show was more of a team effort).  We first saw that stupid ghost mask in the first Scream movie, and Sean Connery starred in The Rock.

Before naming my pick for 1996, I will mention in passing a movie that was loaded with big name stars, but was just awful – Mars Attacks.  Urgh!

My pick for 1996 is again, a remake.  The Nutty Professor.

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I want to say first of all that I LOVE the Jerry Lewis version of this movie.  It is my all time favorite Jerry film.  When I heard that he gave his blessing to this film, I gave it a chance and I am glad I did. While Jerry’s version takes a nerd and makes him a cool jerk, Eddie’s version takes an overweight, shy man and makes him a thin pompous jerk. Kudos to Eddie Murphy, who plays his entire family!

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My list of 1997 films is a short one.  I’m not sure why.  There were some films that stood out, though.  Two presidential movies this year – Absolute Power with Gene Hackman and Harrison Ford in Air Force One.  Nicolas Cage was a con in Con Air and starred with John Travolta in Face/Off.  Jim Carrey is very funny in Liar Liar and Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith star in the first Men In Black.

Almost nabbing the pick for the year is Mike Myers in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.  It’s a funny and silly spy spoof and while many of the jokes are childish, the character is one that I found very funny.  My pick for the year, however, is Titanic.

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Let me say this – I hated the whole Jack/Rose love story BS in this film!  It doesn’t make it a bad film, I understand why it was done. I think they thought no one would go see the story of the sinking ship without something “new” in it.  At any rate, as someone who has been intrigued by the story of Titanic since I was in elementary school, I was amazed at the details of the ship.  After the film came out they had a magazine that compared the shots from the movie with pictures from the real ship – it was neat to see just how close the set was to the real ship.

I had read the story of the Titanic many times.  We read Walter Lord’s A Night To Remember in high school.  The minute by minute account was so accurate.  When I saw Titanic, I was left speechless.  There were all the people I had read about.  I will never forget watching it and seeing a passenger falls and hit the propeller on their way into the water – wow.  I left the theater in complete silence.  I got in the car and wept.

1998

1998 saw Stephen King’s Apt Pupil come to the big screen, Robin Williams was wonderful as Patch Adams, and Pixar showed us A Bug’s Life.  SNL and SNL actors were prominent in comedies.  Will Ferrell and Chris Kattan starred in A Night at the Roxbury, while Adam Sandler was The Wedding Singer (with Drew Barrymore) and The Waterboy (with Henry Winkler and Jerry Reed).  Norm MacDonald and Artie Lang star in one of my favorite comedies (though many people found it NOT funny) – Dirty Work.  Finally, Antonio Banderas is excellent in The Mask of Zorro with Catherine Zeta Jones!

My pick for 1998 is the powerful D-Day film – Saving Private Ryan.

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This movie is about as real as it gets.  D-Day was a bloodbath.  This is such a powerful movie.  It leaves me in awe every time I see it.

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As we reach the end of the 90’s, there are plenty of great movies in this final year of the decade.  Comedies included the return of Austin Powers in The Spy Who Shagged Me, Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo,  Big Daddy, Analyze This, and Office Space.  Adventure films included The Mummy, True Crime (the book was better), Sleepy Hollow, and Deep Blue Sea (Love the scene where Samuel L. Jackson gets it!).  For kids (and adults) Woody and Buzz are back in Toy Story 2 and Episode 1 of Star Wars (The Phantom Menace) graced the screen (and left adults wanting to kill Jar Jar Binks!).

My pick for favorite is based on the Stephen King novel – The Green Mile.

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This remains one of my favorite films.  I cry like a baby at the end every time!  What an amazing story!  This is one of those rare instances where I have seen the movie and never read the book.  I am not sure how different the film is from the book, but the book remains on a shelf at home in the “to be read” stack.  Writing about it for this blog has just moved it up to the top of my list to read.

In closing

I have a feeling it will become easier to pick films in the decade ahead.  As I move into the 2000’s, I know for a fact that I have seen less movies.  I got to the point where I didn’t want to go to the movies to pay $10 to see a crappy movie.  It was happening was too often so I started watching less movies.

19 more years to go …. See you next time!

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The Innocent Man

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I love to read.  Finding the time to read is always a challenge.  My stack of physical books to read is large. Many of my friends have posted pictures of their “summer reading” lists on Facebook.  Of those friends, many are teachers who have the summer off and spend it reading.  I don’t have that luxury.

It has become hard for me to find the time to read physical books as of late, unless I am driving.  Don’t misunderstand, I mean books on tape/CD.  I picked up a few audio books at the used book store recently and  have been listening to them in the car on my hour drive to work.  The one I just finished was John Grisham’s The Innocent Man.

Grisham is a very good author and has written some amazing books including A Time To Kill, The Firm, The Runaway Jury, and The Pelican Brief (just to name a few).  What intrigued me about The Innocent Man, was that this book was non-fiction.  It was a true story.

To be honest, I was unfamiliar with the story.  I guess it was pretty big news at the time.  It takes place in Ada, Oklahoma.  It tells the story of a former minor league baseball player who is wrongly convicted of the rape and murder of a young woman in 1988.  He is sentenced to death and was on Death Row for 11 years.  (SPOILER) With the advent of DNA evidence and the help of an organization called The Innocence Project, he is eventually freed.

I found the book to be a very interesting read.  I was amazed at the incompetence and mishandling of things by the police and authorities.  There was so much weak circumstantial evidence and unreliable witnesses involved in the case, I found it hard to believe that he was found guilty.  There were times that I just shook my head at the things that were NOT done and the things that were overlooked or not even considered.  If you enjoy legal stories, courtroom dramas, or true crime stories, I think you will enjoy this book.

I have always enjoyed listening to old radio shows and watching movies where the plot involved someone who was framed for a crime.  They often gave you all the proof that the suspect was INDEED innocent, and you had to listen or watch in hopes that the truth would come out.  The TV show (and later movie) The Fugitive used that premise for their entire series!  This book feels like one of those shows – except it’s a true story!

I was telling a friend about this book, and he told me that there was actually a 6-part Netflix series based on the book.  That will be something I need to check out.  I will be interested to see just how true to the book the series is.

Check it out and let me know what you think!  Any other true crime books/stories I should look into??

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Vacation Review

Vacation is never long enough!  I was off for 5 days last week and while I had some great moments to relax, I still don’t feel like it was enough.  We live in a society where people are overworked and underpaid.  I don’t think anyone would mind if the United States adopted the mindset of France, Brazil, or Finland who average 30 days of paid vacation!

There were highs and lows during my week.  One of the lows was not being able to get my boys for a couple days.  I was supposed to pick them up on Sunday, but due to circumstances beyond my control, I wasn’t able to get them until Wednesday.  I was very happy to get them prior to the Fourth of July.

Without the boys, that gave me some time to get a few things done around the house.  I was able to mow the grass, straighten up the house, and work a little bit in the garage.  I have had some things out there that I have wanted to go through.  I have some boxes out there with books in them.  I probably need to get a book case to put them in, but we really don’t have the room.  Maybe I can put it in the basement??

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On Monday, my buddy Shawn messaged and said he had 18 holes of golf (with a cart) and wanted to know if I could join him.  Naturally, I jumped at the chance.  It’s about an hour drive to Mt. Pleasant and on the drive there, I finished listening to a book on CD I started a while back (The Innocent Man by John Grisham).  There was some concern as to whether or not it was going to rain, but the weather cooperated and I had a good round.  I actually made par on about 6 holes.

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We golfed with a couple radio guys Shawn works with.  There were a lot of laughs and it was a good time.  While in the pro shop, one of the guys pointed out these golf balls with a matted finish.  They are brighter than your normal yellow or orange golf balls.  He kept saying, “You just can’t lose these balls!”  I was curious and got one.  I actually hit it very well.  I hit it off the tee on one of the holes on the back nine and we all saw it go slightly right through a big tree.  We never saw it come down.  We drove up to where the ball should have been and checked the vicinity.  We had all four of us looking for this extremely bright red ball.  “You just can’t lose these balls,” he said again!  Well, I proved him wrong.  It was lost.  We really wondered if it got stuck in the tree!  It was crazy!

Thanks, again, Shawn!  Always a great time on the links with you!

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Thursday was the Fourth.  We normally have a big bash at the house, but with all we had going on, we just didn’t get around to inviting a lot of people.  We ended up with my in-laws and a couple of friends from college (Hope and Matt) and their spouses.  I threw some hot dogs and brats on the grill, cut up a HUGE watermelon, we had mac and cheese, and loads to snack on.

There is a family fun day with many events.  They also have a concert at the amphitheater, which we can hear from our backyard.  Also from our backyard, we have great seats to watch the town’s fireworks.  It is all funded through the fireman’s homecoming carnival.  They also take donations in town.  This year the show was about 25 minutes.  After the show was over, the guests started to leave.  We got the boys to bed, and we sat with our friends Hope and Kevin at the bonfire and BS’d for a while.

Great company and great conversation!

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Friday, there was a bit of drama (which is not even worthy of writing about).  My wife had one big paper that needed to be written for school and she was working on that.  I took the boys to play mini-golf.  There was a place just south of the house that I had never been to.  They have golf and ice cream.  The course has a train/mine theme to it.  It was actually very cool.

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I got the first (and my only) hole in one.  Each of us got one, which always makes mini-golf fun!  The wind picked up as we reached the end and we were lucky to finish before a HUGE downpour!  Must not have been my day, Dimitri shot 40, Dante’ shot 42, and I shot 44.  It didn’t really matter who won, though – it was about having time with the boys.

Whenever we play mini-golf, and I help them with their swing, I still flashback to those days at the Caseville Putt-Putt course.  I remember my dad, or my grandpa, reaching over me and helping me with my grip and my swing.  It’s one of those “generations” things – my dad and grandpa helped me, now I am helping them.

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Saturday I worked on the air at the radio station.  I was on from 9a-2p.  When I got off work, it was 86 degrees out.  I wanted to take the boys swimming somewhere.  There are a couple places that have pools where I could have gone.  One of the places had an indoor pool, which kind of defeats the purpose on a hot summer day.  The other place has outdoor pools, but because of the holiday weekend, they were not doing day passes (they were doing their fireworks that night).

Sam suggested this little place in Davison called Lake Callis.  It’s a little recreation complex with a splash pad, pavilions, and a beach.  I had never been there, so we went.  It was actually a very nice place.  There were many birthday parties going on that day, and it was fairly busy.  We found a picnic table on the beach and went in to the water.  It was not freezing (which is always nice), and the boys swam for a while.

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For no reason in particular, I tend not to swim much in a lake.  Maybe it’s the “lake smell” or the fact that there are fish in there, I really don’t know.  This lake was man made, and as far as I could tell, there were no fish.  The water was warm and swimming with the sun beating down on us was awesome!  It was a bit breezy that day and when you got out of the water, it got chilly!!

It was fun to watch my boys making new friends with other kids out in the lake.  I loved watching them run around at the splash pad.  It was also fun to just sit at the picnic table eating Cheez-It’s and potato chips and talking about whatever they brought up.  It was great father-sons time!  We will definitely be going back there – we had a blast!

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Tonight is my first night back to work – and I am already ready for another vacation!!!