We are in the middle of the summer blockbuster season and July 1997 comes out swinging hard.
Aliens are the main theme this month with some good action thrown in. Two of the movies break into the top five highest grossing movies of the the year.
Let’s see what hit the theaters in June 1997.
Movies from July 1997
Men in Black
The first of two alien movies this month. Men in Black is by far the more popular and fun alien movie. Starring Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith as government agents in the super secret Men in Black organization.
Will Smith was on a roll in 1997. Men In Black is his third blockbuster in a row. Bad Boys came out in 1995, Independence Day in 1996 and now Men in Black.
Agent K (Jones) is looking for a new partner after Agent D retires. NYPD detective (Smith) is recruited by Agent K and accepts a job with the Men in Black, taking the name Agent J.
Agent J soon discovers there is more to the universe than he could ever imagine. New York City is filled with aliens disguised as humans. It’s up to Agent K and J to stop the aliens from starting an intergalactic war.
Men in Black is a fun action comedy movie. Will Smith was a the top of his game and carried the movie. Tommy Lee Jones holds his own as the straight man and the two make a great on screen duo.
I saw Men in Black multiple times in the theater. It was also a go-to rental when it was released on VHS. Yep, VHS was still the main source for home video in 1997. DVDs wouldn’t be main stream until the early 2000s.
Siskel and Ebert both loved the movie. Siskel called it “a smart, funny and hip adventure film in a summer of car wrecks and explosions.”
Men in Black was nominated for three Academy Awards and won one for Best Makeup.
Men in Black is the third highest grossing movie in 1997.
Men in Black made $590 million on a $90 million budget. Despite earning hundreds of millions of dollars Sony claims the movie never made a profit. It’s what they call ‘Hollywood accounting’ it’s a scam used by the studios to avoid paying actors, writers and other crew a percentage of the profits. If the movie doesn’t make a profit, nothing is paid out.
Huge blockbusters like Forrest Gump, Return of the Jedi, Spider-Man (2002) and Bohemian Rhapsody are all listed as losing money.
I’m a big fan of the hard science fiction and read a lot of books in the 90s from the genre. Authors like Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Heinlein and Kim Robinson are a few of my favorites. Contact is adapted from a hard science fiction novel of the same name written by acclaimed astronomer Carl Sagan. It’s the only work of fiction Sagan wrote in his career.
Contact stars Jodie Foster, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Skerritt, Angela Bassett and Rob Lowe.
Dr. Ellie Arroway (Foster) works for SETI (Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence) hoping to discover intelligent alien life.
After four years of listening to benign radio signals Arroway discovers a repeating sequence of prime numbers originating from the Vega star system. Hidden inside the repeating sequence is also a video signal, Hitler’s opening speech for the 1936 Summer Olympics.
Arroway announces her discovery and the government quickly gets involved and tries to take over the project. As Arroway investigates the signal she discovers schematics to build a machine that can transport one occupant.
The machine is built and after a series of events Arroway is picked to make the journey. Where will the machine take her? What will it reveal? Aliens, of course. The sequence when Arroway travels in the machine is OK. Something seemed to be missing, not sure what but I needed something more.
Roger Ebert gave Contact three and a half stars saying “Sagan’s novel Contact provides the inspiration for Robert Zemeckis’ new film, which tells the smartest and most absorbing story about extraterrestrial intelligence since Close Encounters of the Third Kind”
Air Force One
If Harrison Ford only made six movies (Original Star Wars and Indiana Jones Trilogies) he would still be a beloved actor. Thankfully he made numerous other movies in his career.
In 1997 he starred in two movies, The Devil’s Own in March and Air Force One. The Devil’s Own was a good movie but not a blockbuster like Air Force One.
In Air Force One Ford plays the President of the United States, James Marshall. He, his family and cabinet members are flying back from Russia when Air Force One is hijacked by Russian loyalist. The goal is to get a Russian general released from prison.
Marshall is also a Vietnam veteran and a Medal of Honor recipient who doesn’t take the threat lightly. He comes up with a plan to have passengers parachute to safety while he plans to stay on board and fight the hijackers.
I’m always intrigued with movies set on an airplane. I’ve flown a lot and all I ever see is a small galley, a couple of bathrooms (heads) and lots of seats. But in the movies there are multiple trap doors to the cargo area, hidden compartments, guns stash in ever corner and special communication devices. There’s definitely some movie magic working.
I understand it’s Air Force One, which isn’t a normal airplane but with all the areas on the plane you’d think it was a high-rise building.
Ford is convincing as the President but there’s always the question in the back of your head as to whether he is the best at hand to hand combat as opposed to his security detail. Gary Oldman does a good job as the head hijacker too.
Putting all that aside Air Force One is a good action movie. There’s nothing new in the formula but it’s delivered well and is enjoyable to watch.
Air Force One made over $315 million at the box office making it the fifth highest grossing movie in 1997.
You can watch Air Force One on Pluto TV.
One Eight Seven
Samuel L. Jackson may be the hardest working man in show business. From 1988 until 2019 he starred in at least two movies a year, some years (1990 & 2008) he starred in seven movies. In 2019 he starred in eight movies. During the 31 year period he averaged over 4 movies a year, every year.
In 1997 he starred in three movies, two coming later in the year, Eve’s Bayou and Jackie Brown and this movie, One Eight Seven.
This isn’t one of Jackson’s better movies. I saw it once in the theater and never again. It wasn’t anything special, the plot and writing is a bit disjointed.
Jackson plays an inner city school teacher who deals with gang members threatening other students and teachers. The school administration turns a blind eye on all incidents so Jackson takes matters into his own hands.
There are other average teacher-vigilante movies that do it better than this one, The Principal and The Substitute come to mind. The Substitute even launched a four movie franchise.
One Eight Seven was a box office flop, making less than $6 million on a $20 million budget. If you can find it streaming it’s an OK movie. Or go watch The Substitute on Roku TV or The Principal on Fubo TV. I think both are better examples of the genre.
Other movies released in July 1997
Here are the other movies release in July 1997. I’ve seen bits and pieces of a few of them; Nothing to Lose, Good Burger and George of the Jungle.
The rest I haven’t seen and probably never will.
If you watched any of the movies below let me know in the comments, maybe I’ll add them to my list.
Not a bad month for movies. Aliens and a bad-ass President were a big draw. Contact was good but it’s a slow burn.
What are your favorites from July 1997?
Next week we’ll look at August 1982.