21st century girl

reviews – my way.

Category: 1990s

Primal Fear (1996)

‘Where is Aaron?’ 

Primal Fear is a movie based on the book on the same name by William Diehl, and it is about a lawyer called Martin Veil (Richard Gere) who solves the case of an altar boy named Aaron Stampler (Edward Norton), who is accused of murdering a priest.

Conisdering that this was Edward Norton’s first film, it was rather good. Edward Norton has become one of my favourite actors simply because his screen presence is overpowering amongst other things, and he was incredibly good in this movie. Richard Gere was rather brilliant in his role, and he fell for Aaron’s lies as he was tricked.

The movie is interesting if you look at it from a psychological perspective. I am not a psycho but I have always been fascinated by how and why murderers commit a crime-and often deny it. What I particularly find intriguing is the plot line about multiple personality disorder. In this case, you have Aaron, an angelic looking, rather quiet alter boy who has a stutter, and you have Roy, an angry, violent psychopath, maybe the hidden, unsympathetic beast inside Aaron, perhaps a personification for his insecurities that can only be taken out with rage and denial. That’s my opinion anyway. The fact that this was Edward Norton’s first role was not the point, though he was nominated for an Oscar for it, and he deserved the nomination. He brings so much emotion to the character that you could almost see the mask slipping from the guy’s face to reveal two entirely different personalities.

As for the film’s likeability, it’s not a movie that I would convientionally enjoy. However, approaching it from an analytical point of view is quite interesting. For instance, does the closeup of Aaron’s hands and face suggest the uneasy suspicion and tension of switching between his two personalities? It’s the type of film that you would watch, and it would make next to no sense, but it’s only afterwards that you start to bring all the hints and clues together. Was it Aaron behind those prison bars all along, or was it Roy? Was Aaron groomed by the archbishop, and in anger, he took revenge by killing both his girlfriend and the priest, therefore creating those two personalities to make him seem insecure? Was the quote ‘There was somebody else in the room’ a early hint into his dual personality?

The use of cross cutting interlinking the crime scene and the scene where Aaron is fleeing with blood all over him is particularly effective. The fact that mostly everything is reported on the news in the film also concludes that nothing is secret and the police and the lawyers defending you are not idiots. I am not a huge fan of prolonged courtroom scenes. I find that they all follow the same formula, yet they seem to keep the film flowing. Yet the slight twist at the end personally makes me question what I’ve just watched. The ending is also up to your interpretation.

It’s certainly not my favourite film but it is definetly a kickstart into Edward Norton’s successful career as an actor. As for Richard Gere, I’m not a huge fan of his work but he carried the film along with his charisma and his prescence on screen, and all the other actors in the film were good in their own way, though I don’t think I would be able to look at priests in the same way again.






Beauty and the Beast (1991)


‘Tale and old as time, song as old as rhyme, beauty and the beast’

Beauty and The Beast is an animated film about a girl called Belle (Paige O’Hara) who lives in a small French town and refuses to marry the arrogant Gaston (Richard White) but meets the Beast, who was originally a spoilt prince who has to learn from his wrong ways by becoming a Beast.

My sisters and I have been watching this film ever since we were both very young and aside from Sleeping Beauty, this is my favorite Disney film. I remember singing the theme song of this movie for my Year 7 music practical exam and to this day, I still really want those really cool teacups that they have in the film, and maybe that massive library.

Beauty and The Beast reverses what is expected. In most modern (made within the 21st century) Disney films, the female protagonist runs off with the hot guy and it is all a bit unoriginal. However, Belle has the obvious option to turn away from Gaston and does that anyway, and in doing so, she stands up for the Beast when they want to destroy him although he thought that she had gone.

As for the animation itself; it is beautifully detailed, everything from the scenery to Belle’s outfits to every bit of hair on the Beast and the candles and the windows etc. The only thing that I would critizize about this film is that the Beast looked better as the massive angry monster rather than the long haired prince guy who could do no wrong.

Excellent music composition and the theme song was my favorite song at one point, detailed animation, love able and often flawed characters.

Also stars Angela Lansbury.




Schindler’s List


Oskar Schindler, they say. Everyone remembers him’

Schindler’s List is a powerful Spielberg film and true story about a doctor called Oskar Shindler (Liam Neeson) who saves over one thousand Jews from being gassed and killed at the infamous Auchwitz concentration camp in Poland in World War II. On the other side, there is the evil Nazi Goeth (Ralph Fiennes) who lacks sympathy for anyone.

I watched this a long time ago and I only started watching it all the way through recently with my older sister as we discussed the camera angles. Ralph Fiennes stood out as an actor and a character as he reminded me of Colonel Hans Landa in Inglorious Basterds and vice versa. Fiennes’ prescense, that evil look and knowing that he did not care if he shot down a whole crowd of innocent Jewish people, no matter what age or gender they were. He was also very aware of his authority and acted on that as well. However, he deserved his consequences in the end and I’ll have to save the Hans Landa/Goeth comparison for another time.

Anyway, this movie is one of those movies where you would need your full attention span, patience and your analytical brain on. It is also one of the ones that can change your life forever. I cannot watch a film anymore without pointing out the effective closeups, over the shoulder shots, POV shots etc, all of which I learnt at college but you would notice that Shindler’s appearances are shown through closeups, mostly of his face and hands.

There’s a great deal of contrasts between Shindler and Goeth. Shindler gave up his life and sanity to save all the Jews, while Goeth killed them all and didn’t care. Shindler often showed off his masculine side but there was something very feminine about Goeth despite being one of the toughest movie villians in history. Although Shindler did go off with a fair few women, he had never beaten them, unlike Goeth, but he did abandon them. It was also nice that Oskar was remembered and known long after his death, and the confrontation scenes between Goeth and Oskar are shot in the over the shoulder camera angle. Anyone can do a film about a man who has a list of names, but the fact that it was directed by Speilberg, heavy on the propaganda and approachable on so many levels makes it a fantastic movie.

Another actor to praise for this movie is Ben Kingsley, who was so brilliant as his character in this movie, as he is with all the other films that I’ve seen him in. Watching this movie has inspired me to read the original book and find out the backstory that they had no time for in the film.

Overall; fantastic cinematography, an epic soundtrack, amazing cast, to also include Embeth Davidtz, great symbolism and brilliant performances from Ralph Fiennes (who was either nominated or won an Oscar for his role as Goeth), Liam Neeson and Ben Kingsley.




Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone


‘You’re a wizard, Harry’

Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone is the first film of the popular ten year long series and part of the phenomenon and it is based on the original series written by J.K Rowling. It follows the story of an eleven year old boy called Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) who learns that he’s a wizard and he soon attends Hogwarts.

Harry Potter has slipped into our popular culture. People wish that they were at Hogwarts, studying potions and making friends with Ron (played by Rupert Grint) and Hermoine (played by Emma Watson) while there is the Harry Potter studio in London. I have read the original series and seen the films many times over and it seems to be a rather imaginative story but I am nowhere near obsessed with Harry Potter as much as my sisters are, or indeed some of my friends. Even in the unlikely circumstance that I had never seen any of the Harry Potter films or read any of the books, I would know it by reputation.

I like how the series was long enough to go on for over the cast’s late childhood and teen life. Although most of the lines sound as if they’re being directly read off the script (the ‘you’re a wizard, Harry’ line was improvised), they were only 11 at the time and I suppose that we all have to start somewhere. I remember finding this movie really scary and I used to get scared of Voldermort (played brilliantly by Ralph Fiennes).

A brilliant start to a successful film series with further cast to include John Hurt, Maggie Smith and Alan Rickman.




The Secret Garden (1993)


‘Can I have a bit of earth?’

The Secret Garden is an adaptation based on the Frances Hodgson Burnett book of the same name. It is about a little girl called Mary (Kate Maberly) who gets sent to her uncle’s manor in North of England from India after her parents died. While at her uncle’s manor, she makes friends with an ill boy called Colin (Heydon Prowse) and her maid’s younger brother called Dickon (Andrew Knott) and discovers a secret garden that hadn’t been unlocked in years.

I read the original novel many years ago and I remember reading it several times and liking it because you felt as if you went to the manor and garden with Mary and her friends. Certainly, watching it recently brought me back to the daily multiple viewings of it. For some reason, it left me really wanting to live in a manor/mansion. It is also the sort of film that anyone could watch, whether you are a child or an adult.

I wouldn’t exactly call this a guilty pleasure to watch because it is one of the only films that has stayed with me since I was younger and it hasn’t really changed very much. I like how Mary changes and she learns to behave and respect other people although she is presented as being rather spoiled and bratty. It was set shortly before the war so perhaps they are all caught up in a world of dreams before the war struck.

The cast is good. Maggie Smith, who plays Mrs Medlock, is an incredible actress who has been in nearly everything and the actors who played the children were also brilliant. Andrew Knott later went on to play one of the students in the movie ‘The History Boys’. If only I had some unlocked doors leading to a secret garden in my garden and although Colin is meant to be ill, he’s a bit of a drama queen.

Somewhat magical, good cast and a successful adaptation of an interesting book.


Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace


‘I don’t think so. Nobody can kill a Jedi’

George Lucas directs the first of this prequel trilogy, which is about the young Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd) who brings balance to the force. It has alot of familiar faces, to include Natalie Portman as Queen Amidala/ Padme, Ewan McGregor, Samuel L. Jackson, Terence Stamp and Liam Neeson.

My knowledge of anything involving Star Wars is next to nothing. I am not very interested in the movies because I haven’t seen the originals and most of the fans would say that they prefer the original movies like The Empire Strikes Back etc and nearly all of the performances seem odd and robotic. I liked Natalie Portman’s range of costumes, and one of the things that the star wars trilogy supplies is good costumes and she seemed to be rather lovable but she wasn’t as good as she had promised with her pre-Star Wars roles i.e Leon: The Professional, but most of it was not really her fault. I also suppose that Jake Lloyd looks rather cute and angelic at the time but my interest in Star Wars does not expand beyond that.

However, I liked the costumes, and the idea of holograms and people fighting each other with light sabers has slipped its way into film culture and merchandising, so there is always light sabers and R2-D2 and a range of Yoda stuff in the shops, but holograms should stay well within the world of Star Wars. I don’t really care enough about the Star Wars franchise to obsessively love it, but I suppose the costumes, the famous soundtrack and some of the actors were good.


Philadelphia (1993)


‘Explain it to me like I’m a four year old’ 

Jonathan Demme directs this drama about a homosexual former lawyer called Andrew Beckett (Tom Hanks) who has AIDS, and teams up with a lawyer called Joe Miller (Denzel Washington) to back him up against wrongful dismissal as a result of being fired.

I suppose that AIDS and HIV is an uncomfortable thing to talk about, mostly if it is exploited in media forms such as film. Philadelphia was also done around the time when nobody knew much about it, but the movie makes it perfectly clear.

From a glance, it looks like an ordinary film that lectures you about that sort of stuff and involves dreary court room scenes. However, that is where you are wrong. The director allows all the court of scenes to come to a conclusion and leaves you asking questions.

As for the cast,I am a huge fan of Tom Hanks’ work, so it came to no surprise that he was going to give it his all, and it was sad to see him decline in health as the character until he is merely a body on a hospital bed, but Hanks was convincing throughout the whole performance simply because he is Tom Hanks. Denzel Washington was also very good and it wasn’t surprising that he would put 100% into his character. Mary Steenburgen and the young Antonio Banderas also gave impressive performances.

The theme song ‘Streets of Philadelphia’ by Bruce Springsteen is a good but sad song when you apply it to the context of the film. Overall, a great cast and a brilliant director who really knows how to make you emotional.


The Good Son (1993)


‘I’m sorry that you don’t want to be friends’

The Good Son is about a boy called Mark (Elijah Wood) who goes to stay with various members of his extended family after his mother dies. However, his angelic looking cousin Henry (Macualay Culkin) soon displays suspiciously violent behavior.

Admittedly, I found that this film was not very good. Despite that, the director does toy with the viewer’s fear of heights, mostly because most of the camera shots take place well above solid ground e.g on cliff edges or up in trees. It is a shock watching a movie starring Culkin which is not aimed at children, but it was a relief when he got what he deserved in the end, because if the mother let go of Elijah Wood’s character, in the fictional world- there would be no Frodo/movie adaptation of Lord of the Rings.

What didn’t help was the fact that this movie was created as one of Macualay Culkin’s final movie credits and released around the same time as a notorious 1993 murder in Britain. It is also easy for an innocent looking child to lie to his parents to cover up his disturbing, slightly schizophrenic mind, and I don’t think I would be able to watch Home Alone in the same way again.

Also stars Macualay Culkin’s sister Quinn Culkin.


Leon: The Professional


‘Is life always this hard, Or is it just when you’re a kid?’

Luc Besson directs this thriller about a milk drinking hitman called Leon (Jean Reno) who takes in Mathilda (Natalie Portman), a rebellious twelve year old girl whose family were killed by a drug addict/ DIA agent Norman Stansfield (Gary Oldman). Mathilda is then hellbent in getting the killers who killed her brother as Leon begins to teach her the craft.

Natalie Portman is one of my favorite actresses and it is safe to say that she has been kicking ass since she was twelve (the age she was when doing this movie). I liked how she brought out the charecter of a young girl who seems to be secretly in love with an older man at such a young age. Portman, who is now in her early thirties, has carried on doing successful movies and we feel like she has been around forever. Despite this, she is not in rehab as a result of being successful and considering that this was her first film role, it is a good one to start on because it is serious and can be approached from so many angles and it foresees her thriving film career.

As for Jean Reno’s character, I thought that he seemed so innocent, casually drinking milk in nearly every scene that he is in, but he still have the ability to blow up a whole building or kill everyone using a disguise (his dark glasses) and a gun. His softer side makes him considerably likable. His relationship with Mathilda does not cross any odd boundaries as far as I know, although she does challenge his affections and sometimes I found it all a bit weird, something that can never be produced nowadays.

Apart from that, the soundtrack was good, but in all fairness, I don’t really understand the storyline. On various occasions, I forgot previous bits and the director does know how to build suspense and make Natalie Portman seem alot older than she really is, but I just didn’t really understand it and various sites ruined it for me.

Promising start for Portman, I haven’t seen any other Luc Besson films so I cannot compare this to any others and Gary Oldman actually plays a very good creepy villain.


Proof (1991)


‘Everybody lies, but not all the time’

Proof is a  movie about a blind photographer called Martin (Hugo Weaving) who gets others to describe his photographs for him despite having trust issues, until a young man Andy (played by a baby faced Russell Crowe) and his talent in descriptions comes along, and a friendship develops between the two.

I tend to review alot of Hugo Weaving films, and the only reason is because the man has different things to offer with every role that he plays, and he can literally play anyone, usually when usual comfort blankets of using eyes is reduced, and later the use of facial expression when he plays V 14 years later. The movie was made long before he was Elrond and slightly before he was in Priscilla, and as for Russell Crowe, this film shows exceptional promise for a long future film career for the both of them and it was made before he played a gladiator. It will simply be wrong to compare or typecast them into future roles as they show alot of promise in this movie and they are more than an elf or a gladiator.

However, what I did not like about the film is that all the good bits are in the beginning and the middle, and they cram in some sort of character into Celia the housekeeper towards the end, as if they were in a hurry for time. I did not expect it to be too  much of a ‘wow’ film, yet it showed potential for them and foreshadowed a long future career in stage and film.

Reasonably good film, great choice of the then-young cast and a ever developing story, but do not expect this to be one to watch with your parents.

Directed by Jocelyn Moorhouse.