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The Best & Worst of 1995

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TOP 10

#1 Braveheart
Mel Gibson proved to be a man of many great talents with this spectacular three-hour historical epic. Director-star Gibson adeptly mixes comedy, intense action, romance, and drama into an outstanding, unforgettable whole, one that packs a sizeable emotional wallop that is not easily shaken.

#2 Casino
Those who dismissed Martin Scorsese's latest effort as a rehash of GoodFellas failed to take notice of what it was--a fascinating recreation of a bygone era, the mob rule of Vegas in the 1970s. Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci, and especially Sharon Stone are excellent, but this is Scorsese's show all the way, dazzling with his incredible command of cinema, crafting a mesmerizing marriage of stunning visuals and an engrossing story.

#3 Toy Story
A funny, clever script; well-cast lead actors; skillful direction--all-around first-class entertainment. Oh--and it's entirely computer animated.

#4 The Bridges of Madison County
I'm a sucker for a good romantic tearjerker, and Clint Eastwood's adaptation of the Robert James Waller bestseller is a great one: unapologetically sappy, intelligently written, very well-acted--and incredibly moving. If the final 20 minutes don't get to you, nothing will.

#5 Nixon
Natural born filmmaker Oliver Stone, filmmaking tactics as frenzied as ever, takes on another presidency--and no one cared. Those who did get around to see this Citizen Kane-esque biopic of the late, lamented president saw a very captivating depiction of one man's rise and fall, made all the more powerful by Anthony Hopkins's soaring performance.

#6 Leaving Las Vegas
After I saw this downbeat Vegas love story, I was so emotionally drained that my initial reaction was blunted--very favorable, but not overly enthusiastic. But its raw emotional power has strongly lingered in my mind in the month and a half that has elapsed since then, and it will quite likely continue to haunt me for a long time.

#7 The Postman (Il Postino)
A truly bittersweet film, this Italian comedy is more than just the story of the friendship between exiled Chilean poet Pablo Neruda (Philippe Noiret) and his shy postman (the late Massimo Troisi), it's a love story between the artist and his art, between people and beauty in general. A lovely piece of work from British director Michael Radford.

#8 Crimson Tide
Popcorn entertainment at its finest. Tony Scott is at the top of his game with this incredibly tense, exciting thriller about the battle of wills between a submarine commander (Gene Hackman) and his second-in-command (Denzel Washington). Summer blockbusters don't get better than this.

#9 Sabrina
Who says all remakes can't live up to the original? This is the rare reworking of a beloved film that treats its parent material with dignity and respect while spinning the story in new, updated directions. Julia Ormond is fine as the title character, but, granted, she is no Audrey Hepburn; that hardly matters, though, when a better-than-ever, Oscar-caliber Harrison Ford is filling the shoes of the original's miscast Humphrey Bogart.

#10 While You Were Sleeping
Sandra Bullock's classic star performance elevated what could have otherwise been a by-the-numbers romantic confection into a frothy, immensely charming, funny, romantic, and utterly irresistible treat. A fun flick, pure and simple.

Honorable Mention:
The American President; Clockers; Dead Man Walking; Devil in a Blue Dress; Get Shorty; Heat; Pocahontas; Smoke; Strange Days; A Walk in the Clouds

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#1 Congo
Ugh. That's the word that immediately comes to mind when I think of this ineptly written, feebly acted, clumsily directed yawner of an adventure yarn. How sloppy is it? The already-unconvincing gorilla suits are visibly loose on their wearers; the computer-generated lava looks like tomato sauce. The fact that this piece of crap made over $80 million domestically must be a sign of the Apocalypse.

#2 Billy Madison
Adam Sandler's mugging was only slightly amusing at best on Saturday Night Live, but stretched over the course of a feature--even one running at a paltry 90 minutes--it is unspeakable torture. Wipe that smug grin off your face and go home.

#3 Showgirls
This hideous tribute to the rigors of lap dancing would be the hands-down worst of the year... if it weren't so knee-slapping, rolling-on-the-floor hilarious, thanks in no small part to Joe Eszterhas's "script" and the talentless eyesore Elizabeth Berkley, who in one fell swoop of an alleged performance proves (1) she can't act; (2) she can't dance; and (3) she has absolutely no business being on the big screen, let alone in the nude. "You have more natural talent when you dance than anyone I've ever seen"--puh-leeze. There's a joke if I ever heard one.

#4Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls
I never thought that any more adventures of Jim Carrey's pompadoured pet detective could be worse than his truly horrendous initial outing. Boy, was I wrong. This alleged comedy is disgusting, offensive, and not at all funny. Painful to sit through.

#5 Johnny Mnemonic
More bad acting, this time courtesy the reliable Keanu Reeves, who showcases his considerable thesping skills in a climactic monologue about... room service.

#6 Destiny Turns on the Radio
A real head-scratcher. I dare anyone to explain what exactly goes on in this "romantic adventure of mystical proportion" that isn't such an adventure nor particularly romantic. Quentin, what possessed you to take part in this junk?

#7 Lord of Illusions
Gore does not necessarily equal excitement, and Clive Barker's ridiculous, pretentious, nonsensical bore of a bloodbath proves that point all too well.

#8 Fair Game
Russian mobsters hunt down lawyer Cindy Crawford. That's all well and good, but somewhere along the way first-time director Andrew Sipes and neophyte scripter Charlie Fletcher forgot to explain why (not to mention why Crawford needs to shower three times in one night, but who's complaining about that...).

#9 The Scarlet Letter
"Go ahead. Put it on. For it is a symbol of your shame but not my own!" Uh, sorry, Demi, but this ludicrous feel-good version of the tragic literary classic is your (and director Roland Joffé's) cross to bear.

#10 Dangerous Minds
I'm sure ex-Marine-turned-teacher Louanne Johnson has an interesting story and that story could make an interesting film, but this glossy, aggressively "Hollywood" teacher-inspires-students vehicle isn't it. None of it rings the slightest bit true; all of it insults the intelligence. Michelle Pfeiffer deserves better than this.

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all movies graded out of four stars (****)

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Images courtesy Paramount Pictures, Universal Pictures, Walt Disney Pictures, Warner Bros., Hollywood Pictures, MGM/UA Pictures, Miramax Films, Alliance Releasing, and HBO Home Video

The Best & Worst of 1995/© Michael Dequina
Presented by A-Frame Studios

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