Sunday, August 10, 2014

1991: The Best

An offbeat year ends with an offbeat top ten.

10. The Silence of the Lambs

Little needs to be said about this one as it has since become iconic.  Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster are great in their parts, the film is tense and well made and it still is one of the best serial killer thrillers ever made.

9. Hot Shots!

The first of two spoofs on the list, this is a very, very funny parody of Top Gun with all the usual refinements one finds in films from the Airplane! team.  Charlie Sheen is funny as hell, as is the rest of the cast and while it's not quite as funny as the first Naked Gun movie (or the second, for that matter), it's still pretty damn funny.

8. L.A. Story

From silly spoofs, we move on to smartly written romantic comedy from, Steve Martin.  Steve plays a wacky weatherman looking for Ms. Right.  While this is going on, Martin is having a blast poking fun at Los Angeles and all of its quirks from the odd cuisine to the odd people.  Funny, intelligent and sweet, this is certainly one of Martin's best scripts and one of his best movies.

7. Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse

This is a fascinating look behind the scenes of one of the best war movies ever made.  Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse consists of behind the scenes footage shot by Francis For Coppola's wife Eleanor during the shoot and it is simply mesmerizing.  We see such sights as Marlon Brando being difficult yet brilliant ever, Martin Sheen muscling through a heart attack while shooting, Dennis Hopper going off into his own world and the director having a breakdown.  It's all brilliantly done and in some ways, it's even more harrowing a viewing experience than the actual film.

6. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

Not the best thing the franchise has ever done (some of the character stuff feels strained at times), but the sixth Trek movie is still a worthy outing and a nice sendoff for the original crew.  Taking a page from the recent thawing of the Cold War, the story finds Kirk and company escorting the Klingon Chancellor to a peace summit when Kirk and McCoy are framed for his murder.  The rest of the film is a nicely taut political thriller as the rest of the crew tries to clear their friends while they try to survive an arctic prison.  Apart from some dodgy dialogue here and there (the prejudice against Klingons is a little over the top at times) and an obvious twist at the end, this is still a fine entry in the series with a fun, hammy turn from Christopher Plummer as the main villain.

5. The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear

As good as the first one is, I think the second may be even better.  Hitting more or less the same notes, The Naked Gun 2 1/2 packs in more gags and laughs and the cast is even better.  Leslie Nielsen was never this good after this one.

4. Point Break

This gets onto the list just by sheer virtue of how silly the plot synopsis is.  A movie about an FBI agent who goes undercover to bust a bunchy of surfing/skydiving bank robbers shouldn't be as good as this one is.  It is though, and Kathryn Bigelow proves herself to be a terrific action film director, getting good work from Patrick Swayze as the main robber and Keanu Reeves as the FBI agent. Lots of good action and some cheesy laughs, plus a fun Gary Busey performance make this a real gem of a movie.

3. Dead Again

I love a good, twisty, over the top mystery thriller and Dead Again is one that definitely fits the bill.  Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson play both a long dead couple whose marriage ended in a lurid Hollywood scandal and a private detective looking into the background of a woman with amnesia.  Past lives come into the picture along with some dark secrets and the real fun of the film is watching it all unfold in front of you.  Branagh and Thompson are good in their roles, as is Andy Garcia as a reporter with a link to the murder in the past.  Derek Jacobi is also fun as another character linked to the past but it would be a crime for me to tell more.  Dead Again is a well crafted, funny, entertaining thriller with a great cast.  Well worth checking out.

2. Barton Fink

One of the finest from the Coen Brothers, Barton Fink is a pitch black comedy about a writer played by John Turturro who goes to Hollywood to write a wrestling picture and, for a variety of odd reasons, can't get the job done.  That's the simple version but the real joy of this film is watching it unfold in all its bizarre glory.  The 1941 setting is captured quite nicely and the cast is quite good from top to bottom with John Turturro and John Goodman standing out.  It's one of those films that is a little hard to talk about as to list what makes it great sort of kills the joy of discovering it.  Take my word for it, this is one to seek out.

1. Terminator 2: Judgment Day

As with Who Framed Roger Rabbit? in 1988, the best film of the year is the one that ended up being the most important for the industry.  Terminator 2 isn't just an awesome action movie, it also heralded a breakthrough in special effects technology with some amazing CG work that still holds up fairly well even today.  Of course, apart from the f/x work, the film, as a whole is simply amazing with great action sequences, some nice work from Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger and a neatly constructed script from James Cameron.  Terminator 2 was the big film of 1991 and it certainly earned it.  It's just simply the best of the year.

And that's 1991, the good bad and otherwise.  It was an off beat year, but in the end a very rewarding one.

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About Me

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