Wednesday, August 20, 2014

1990: The Best

An over the top year gets a fitting top ten...

10. Tremors

Fun creature feature starring Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward as handymen in a small desert town that is besieged by underground worms... Big ones.  The film is just plain fun with some terrific f/x, nice performances (Michael Gross and Reba McEntire are also fun as a gun loving couple) and nice pace.

9. Jacob's Ladder

It takes quite a bit to scare me but Jacob's Ladder gets the job done quite well.  A creepy psychological horror movie, this stars Tim Robbins as a Vietnam war vet who is experiencing terrifying hallucinations, apparently due to his experiences during the war.  As his life falls apart, the truth is gradually revealed in a nice twist that is both moving and a little creepy.  Robbins is good, as is the rest of the cast and the film's visual style goes a long way in making it work as well as it does.

8. Die Hard 2: Die Harder

While many sequels more or less cover the same bases as the original, Die Hard 2 makes up for this by excelling in the action department.  Bruce Willis goes through the meat grinder in this one with tons of fights, shootouts and explosions.  If you're going to more or less do the same movie, Die Hard 2 is a prime example of doing it right.

7. Reversal of Fortune

Fascinating comedy/drama about the attempted murder case where Claus von Bulow was accused of trying to kill his wife Sunny (she ended up in an irreversible coma and died quite recently in 2008) and got the conviction overturned thanks to law professor Alan Dershowitz.  Jeremy Irons is magnetic as Claus, giving a uniquely eccentric performance and Glenn Close is equally good as Sunny.  She not only does fine work in flashback scenes but also narrates the story fro her bed... while still in a coma.  Ron Silver is also good as Dershowitz and really, while Irons got the accolades it's Silver who really drives the plot.  All in all, this is a fascinating movie.

6. The Exorcist III

Probably the biggest surprise of the year, the third Exorcist movie is a surprisingly good, creepy horror flick with a terrific performance from George C. Scott and an equally good one from Brad Dourif.  After the second film, it took some serious cojones to make a third one but the end result is a nicely creepy murder mystery with only the tacked on exorcism scene dragging it down a little.  Still, a very good film.

5. Gremlins 2: The New Batch

Joe Dante got some good stuff before making this wild, over the top sequel to the 1984 hit.  This time, Zach Galligan and Phoebe Cates have to contend with the monsters in state of the art shopping mall owned by John Glover in a hilarious performance.  The entire is funny, in fact, with gags galore, Christopher Lee as a mad scientist and some spectacular Rick Baker f/x work.  Gremlins 2 is over the top in the extreme and it is all the better for it.

4. Marked for Death

Chock full of action and cheese, Marked for Death is Steven Seagal's best movie.  Seagal plays former DEA agent John Hatcher who gets tired of the job and retires, only to be drawn in when a friend of his is having problems with a Jamaican drug gang.  The leader of the gang is Screwface, played by Basil Wallace in an amusingly hammy performance and the film is more or less wall to wall action with a minimum of messing around.  Seagal is at his best here, looking great in the many fight scenes and his final showdown with the villain is quite fun.  Marked for Death won't win any awards for originality but it does well in accentuating Seagal's strengths and minimizing his flaws nicely.

3. Goodfellas

And now we get to the really good stuff with Martin Scorsese's masterpiece Goodfellas.  Scorsese does a fine job balancing the entertainment with the serious drama and the end result is a brilliantly fun, funny and sometimes frightening portrayal of mob life.  Ray Liotta, Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci are tremendous, the soundtrack is great and the only reason this isn't number one on my list is that the top two entertain me just a smidge more.  It's actually pretty damn close between the three of them.

2. Total Recall

Arnold Schwarzenegger turns in his best performance in this awesome science fiction action thriller that is not only a great action movie, but also a sneakily smart psychological thriller as you're not 100 percent certain what is happening is really happening.  I've written about this one fairly recently so I won't belabor anything.  Let's just say that it's an awesome film and move on.

1. Miller's Crossing

As much as I love Goodfellas, I love Miller's Crossing even more.  While the Scorsese film is a masterpiece, Miller's Crossing adds a touch of film noir to the proceedings that just makes it even better.  Gabriel Byrne is an advisor for mobster Albert Finney and he gets tangled up in a complex scheme to take down a rival gangster played by Jon Polito.  John Turturro is great as the weaselly brother of Byrne's love interest (who is also Finney's love interest) and the Coen Brothers weave their tale with effortless skill and style.  It's a real showstopper of a movie with great set pieces, dialogue and fun characters.

1990 was, as I said, the last big burst of 80's style.  The year was full of stylish movies, some good and some bad with a lot of stuff in between.  Hell of a year.


  1. After having now done my research, I would go ahead and state that, to me, 1991 was the last year that really felt like the 1980s (granted, I was too young at the time to the time). 1992 was the first real year of overwhelmingly 90s cinema, even if the 80s still had a bit of a presence that year, mostly regarding "adult" dramas (Mr. Saturday Night, Single White Female).

    T2 was a transitional film, but still felt more rooted in the style of an 80s action film, compared with the far more special-effects-heavy films of the 90s. LA Story (much less so Father of the Bride) had that light, faintly gritty/earthy, but still colorful charm that so many 80s comedies had, which were usually lacking in the 90s comedies. Riki-Oh. Just...Riki-Oh. Even the innocence of The Rocketeer seemed like the last gasp of the era of ET over the extravagance of Jurassic Park (good movie) and Independence Day (bad movie). Throw in Thelma and Louise too, because...that's a good movie. And Tony Scott's style is so 80s.

    But this is about 1990, yes. Just...responding to one facet of your post, not ignoring the rest.

    Odd to see Goodfellas so low, but I couldn't critique Total Recall (as I haven't seen it, but will expedite it on my list), or Miller's Crossing (which I adore, even if it's only my third-favorite Coens behind Barton Fink and Raising Arizona). Goodfellas is actually the first movie that got me to notice excellent film editing. And that's without any film school or other research involved. Never has an hour and a half flown by so smoothly than it did during my first viewing of this movie. After checking the clock, I had to pause the movie and think back on all I had seen, and how brilliantly put-together it was. Got to meet Thelma Schoonmaker in person a few months ago. Such a treat. And while Hugo is closer to my heart (mostly due to its romantic setting and subject matter), Goodfellas is probably, objectively, Scorsese's best.

    Tremors....God, I grew up on that film. First one of those R-ish films that I could sneak by my parents. Somehow. Maybe they just liked it too.

    Looking back on your two previous 1990 posts, you coulda totally fooled me by putting any of those movies in 1988. I woulda believed it (but not for the Honorable Mentions, for some reason). 1990 was 80s through-and-through.

    Suppose I should check out Marked for Death? I was seriously planning on renting a Van Damme AND a Seagal soon (maybe not Norris...). Was gonna pick Bloodsport and Under Siege, just based on how often I've heard them mentioned. But...Marked for Death? OK, if it's a #4 of a year. If it's the next-best-thing to Goodfellas. That's a much stronger recommendation than I've seen from anywhere else. Must be good in a totally legitimate way.

    Gremlins 2 > Gremlins. Just putting that out there.

  2. I like Gremlins but love Gremlins 2. The Brain Gremlin, voiced by Tony Randall, is a special delight.


About Me

I've been a huge fan of action, horror and comedy for as long as I can remember.