Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Orion Files: 1988

1988 was the last time Orion would be on somewhat decent financial ground. Towards the end of May, Metromedia ended up with 67% of the company, making them majority shareholders. This brought little in the way of success as while the studio had some critically acclaimed films (to be honest, they always had this right up until the bankruptcy) but not much in the way of success. They had a fairly decent slate of films, however so let's get into them.

I'm rather fond of this little loved Dan Aykroyd comedy where he plays a mental patient who escapes and ends up posing as his psychiatrist who is guest hosting a popular radio show hosted by another shrink, played by Charles Grodin. Aykroyd was never at his best when flying solo with a film (his best stuff had him playing off of guys like Bill Murray, John Candy or John Belushi) but this one has a certain manic energy I sort of like. Having Walter Matthau on hand as a crazy, plant loving priest also helps and he gets most of the better laughs in the movie.

This one is a rather obscure but popular in some circles sci-fi flick starring Melanie Griffith as a mercenary helping a sex-bot (in the future, all the guys have robot wives but let's face it, it's just an excuse to boink an android) and her owner brave the usual post-apocalyptic issues in order to get some repairs done when she  breaks down. Shockingly enough, this didn't do well at the box office and in fact, it is the second film from Orion I know of that was postponed with Back to School being the first. Initially, the world was supposed to get this in 1986, then a few dates in 1987 until finally being dumped on VHS in 1988.  This would be a trend that would become more and more prevalent, sadly.

This is a very well reviewed adaptation of a 1984 novel starring Daniel Day Lewis as a surgeon who has love affairs with two women, played by Juliette Binoche and Lena Olin. Haven't seen this... Lewis is probably good, as usual.

The tagline up top sort of lets you know what sort of film this is supposed to be. It also tells you the studio probably wasn't sold on it doing well and frantically trying to associate it with more successful dance films of the decade while they had a chance to make a few bucks.

Kelly McGillis and Jeff Daniels star in this thriller set during the McCarthy hearings era that involves Nazi fugitives and connections to senators. The film got mixed reviews and was not a huge hit.

Interesting drama with Ray Liotta and Tom Hulce as twin brothers (Hulce's character is a bit on the slow side thanks to an abusive father) and the film features some good acting from the leads and supporting cast.

This is a poorly reviewed comedy about a star football player being courted by various colleges.

Dennis Hopper makes a return to the director;s chair with this action/drama about LAPD officers working the gang detail. Sean Penn and Robert Duvall star and the film was controversial at the time.

This is probably my favorite baseball movie of all time. Kevin Costner is funny and charming as an aging catcher called in to help groom Tim Robbins as a wild rookie for the big leagues. Both end up involved with a groupie played by Susan Sarandon (in another fine performance) and the film balances the funny baseball scenes nicely with the more romantic stuff. It's just a damn fine movie.

Monkey Shines is a middle of the road George Romero thriller about a crippled young man and the monkey he has helping him get through life. The monkey is the jealous sort (the injection of human brain cells doesn't help matters much either) and it turns into something of a riff on Fatal Attraction, minus the shower sex of course. This one flopped, though the monkey f/x from Tom Savini are good.

This one is a rather notorious flop and is generally considered when talking about the worst kid's films ever made. A blatant rip-off of E.T., this subs shameless plugs for McDonald's, Coke and Skittles for Reese's Pieces and is generally thought to be one of the more obnoxious films ever made.

Jonathan Demme's relationship with the company continues to flourish with this charming, funny mob comedy starring Michelle Pfeiffer as a mob widow who falls for the FBI agent gunning for the mobster who killed her husband. Pfeiffer is good but the real prize is Dean Stockwell as the mobster. I always liked him on Quantum Leap and here. he's just funny as hell. The film isn't perfect, but it's funny and likable.

John Sayles directs this solid telling of the 1919 Black Sox scandal where several  Chicago White Sox players took bribes to throw the World Series. A strong cast and a good script make this one a decent winner.

Michael Caine and Ben Kingsley are quite fun as Sherlock Holmes and Watson respectively in this funny yet uneven comedy. The premise of the film is solid in that Holmes is actually a washed up actor Watson has hired to play the part while he solves the crimes but the film doesn't quite kick things into the next gear. It's fun though, and as noted, the leads are great.

The obligatory Woody Allen film for this year is another drama, this time about a woman, played by Gena Rowlands, having a mid-life crisis. Not even going to try and pretend this is anywhere near my scope of interest.

Well reviewed drama starring Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe as FBI agents investigating murder in the deep south in 1964. Based loosely on a true story, this got the expected Oscar nominations but won only one for cinematography.

Orion closed out the year with this hilarious comedy that I reviewed a while back. Put bluntly, Steve Martin and Michael Caine are at their best and this is one of the funniest films of the year.

1988 was the last consistently good year for the company. They would end the decade with financial issues and while there would be a few more bright spots, the road is long and dark from here on. In other words, look for shorter articles with more humor as I'd like this to not end up as dreary as the Carolco series did.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Orion Files: 1987

1987 was another good year for the studio with a solid lineup of fourteen movies. There is some business stuff that can be covered in the next part of this series so let's just get to the good stuff!

First off is Woody Allen's nicely nostalgic Radio Days. Narrated by the director, it tells the story of Joe (played by Seth Green)as he grows up in Queens during the late 30's/early 40's. Allen narrates as an adult Joe and there are numerous plot lines and vignettes in this warmly received slice of life film.

John Malkovich has a dual role in this offbeat comedy, playing both an emotionally repressed scientist and the android he builds for the purpose of deep space exploration. Said android develops emotions and falls for a PR rep played by Ann Magnuson. overall a likable, easygoing comedy.

Burt Reynolds squares off against a racist scumbag played by Cliff Robertson and his gang of fellow racist scumbags in this by numbers action flick. Burt was in his "I give up" phase here and the film didn't do very well.

Martin Sheen stars in this thriller as a police psychiatrist who moves to New York with his son after the tragic (and sort of goofy, though being that milk is a liquid I suppose it is entirely possible a person could be electrocuted by touching a broken coffee maker while standing barefoot in a puddle of it) death of his wife. He becomes embroiled in a sinister plot revolving around Hispanic black magic and the upper crust of New York. Sheen is fine as usual but the plot is predictable (naturally, every person close to the Sheen character, for the most part, is involved with this plot in some way) and overall, the film is sort of dull. Damn shame as director John Schlesinger had some pretty solid flicks in the 70's like Marathon Man.

This was probably the studio's best film of the year of not for their entire existence. RoboCop is well known enough today that I don't have to get too deep into things so let's just say that it is a sci-fi/action classic that holds up pretty well today with good action, a great villain in Kurtwood Smith and some nicely gross Rob Bottin f/x (the melting man still is one of the most disgusting things I've ever had the pleasure of viewing). An essential film for fans of the genre.

As I wrote in one of my pieces on 1987 in general: Solid thriller with some nice twists that sees Kevin Costner a a Navy sailor investigating the death of a woman he's been sleeping with who is also involved with politician Gene Hackman, the man who killed her.  At the same time, there is also a manhunt going on for a Russian spy that pays off in shocking fashion at the end.  Good cast, some nice tense moments and overall, this one is a real winner.

Can't really think of much else to say about it. It's a good movie.

Mot to be confused with the Jean-Claude van Damme film from a few years later, this is an obscure adventure film about the Children's Crusade starring Eric Stoltz as a young knight. Not given much of a release, this is probably better known for the Jerry Goldsmith score than the actual film, and even then...

Even more obscure is this one which sports a pretty solid cast, and apparently not much else. It's apparently sort of a riff on Heart of Darkness or something.

Brian Dennehy and James Woods star as a cop turned writer (think Joseph Wambaugh) and the hired killer who wants him to write a book about him, respectively. The two actors are the best reason to watch this fun little thriller which sees Woods get Dennehy to more or less take down his former employer, a shady company headed by Paul "Raw Deal" Shenar though the story isn't the best it could be and is quite predictable. Still, it's a fun time waster of a thriller directed with low key style by John Flynn and, as I noted, sporting two good performances from the leads.

Like No Way Out, House of Games made it to my Honorable Mentions section when I covered 1987 in full. As I wrote then: Playwright David Mamet directs his first film here, and the results are quite excellent. House of Games is a twisty little gem of a thriller with excellent acting from Joe Mantegna and Lindsay Crouse as con artist and mark respectively. The film is full of surprises and really, it needs to be seen cold to really appreciate its charms.

Charlie Sheen is the murderous head of a car theft ring with D. B. Sweeney as the cop after him. This got fairly okay notices and really, Sheen could do no wrong at this point.

Danny DeVito directs and co-stars with Billy Crystal in this wickedly funny dark comedy take on the Alfred Hitchcock thriller Strangers on a Train. Crystal plays a frustrated author whose ex-wife has just stolen his work and published it under her name. DeVito is a student in the creative writing class he teaches who is plagued by his harridan of a mother (played brilliantly by the late Anne Ramsey) who gets the idea he and Crystal should kill the other guy's main problem and the comedy rolls on from there. The performances are fun; the script is darkly wonderful and DeVito even adds a little heart to the proceedings. It's not the best thing either man has ever done (Ruthless People and When Harry Met Sally are both better) but it still ends up being an entertaining comedy.

Woody Allen's second film of the year is this dreary sounding drama that takes the Chekov play Uncle Vanya and toys with it a little. It's... It's not for me.

Orion's last film for 1987 is this pickup from Italy. Opera is one of Dario Argento's better later efforts with a decent plot (lunatic obsessed with an opera singer goes on a rampage) and there are some nicely nasty bits here and there. The only real flaw is the oddly huge gap in time leading to the last sequence which hurts the flow a bit.

Orion would have one more decent year in 1988 before getting into an unstoppable free fall. But for now, stay tuned for 1988.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Mill Creek Madness: A Time to Watch Crap

Time to once again delve into the wild world of those bargain movie packs I've written about from time to time. Mill Creek Entertainment is a pretty terrific company when it comes to getting good value for the money and if you're an old school VHS buff, their releases actually replicate the VHS experience rather nicely. And by nicely, I mean that by DVD standards, the picture quality usually stinks and your chances of getting a widescreen print of whatever film you're looking at are not good (at least for the older stuff). They've also branched out into more mainstream fare for their releases (a butt load of catalogue titles from various studios that I will get into at a later date) but for now, we're sticking with the crap.

We got quite the lineup for this piece, so let's not waste any more time.

Savage Weekend is an early Cannon release (I think this was right before it was bought by Golan and Globus) that is an early slasher film that came out in 1979 (though it was filmed a few years earlier), more or less right between Halloween and Friday the 13th. A recently divorced woman and her friends go to a secluded vacation spot for the weekend only to be menaced by the obligatory psycho killer who turns out to be her politician ex-husband. The cast isn't too bad with William Sanderson and David Gale turning in decent performances (though most of the characters are unlikable as hell) but the pacing is typically slow for a 70's horror movie (nearly an hour passes in this 85 minute movie before the first person gets killed). The mask the killer wears is pretty neat though, real creepy. Savage Weekend is an undemanding little bit of sleaze with an interesting cast that's probably worth at least half a glance if you like early slasher films.

Mad Dog (not listing all the alternate titles, we'd be here all day) is an Italian crime flick along the lines of your standard "scummy criminal kidnaps a couple and they have to fight to escape" film only with that patented aura of grime and sleaze that you can only find in this sub genre. Helmut Berger is the titular Mad Dog, a slimy piece of work named Nanni Vitali who we first see breaking out of prison with three accomplices.

Berger is good in the lead role (think the average Jimmy Cagney bad guy minus the charm and wit) and B-movie vet Richard Harrison does well enough as the lead inspector hunting Vitali. The story though is pretty predictable, however. Psycho criminal escapes, cop pursues, psycho goes on crime spree and eventually gets killed at the end (in this case he's captured and taken back to jail but you get the point). Apart from Berger's unhinged performance, it's nothing you haven't seen before.

This is the R rated cut of Mountain of the Cannibal God (1978), one of the many Italian cannibal adventure/horror films to come out in the late 70's/early 80's. Like most cannibal films from the period, it's from Italy and ends up being one of the more mild entries in the genre. And by mild I mean I got, as noted, the R rated cut which chops out most of the bullshit animal abuse (in terms of the animal kingdom, this genre is essentially a bunch of snuff films), which I need to see like I need to see my own death. It also drops the running time from about 99 minutes to 81 (from the looks of it, mostly the gory stuff from the climax and a scene where Andress is stripped nude and painted which means most of the real animal torture is kept in while most of the fake stuff done to the human characters is trimmed in this version).

Fantastic! I can use that eighteen extra minutes to wash after viewing this piece of crap!

Former Bond Girl Ursula Andress and Stacy Keach star in this one as a woman looking for her missing husband and a scientist helping her out, respectively. The Andress character has also brought her brother along and of course, more potential entrees end up joining the adventure which takes them to the expected cannibal tribe. Sergio Martino directs things just fine (the animal abuse was forced on him by the producer though there some other tales that paint a less than savory picture of the man) but as tends to be the case with this genre, the film is a bit too mean-spirited to be truly fun and enjoyable. The characters are reprehensible (Keach is the most likable guy in the film and he gets offed), the violence is nauseating (the animal abuse in these films is really sick and needless) and while the film has a good jungle atmosphere, it's just a slog to get through.

Ugh, I need something at least slightly better after that.

That'll do, pig. That'll do.

Count Dracula and his Vampire Bride (also known as The Satanic Rites of Dracula) is the final Hammer Dracula movie to star Christopher Lee (there would be a final entry in 1974 without him) and if nothing else, you have to say they go out with a bang. An odd, sort of muddled, deeply stupid bang that sort of resembles a wet fart at times, I'll grant you. But a bang nonetheless.

Like the previous entry (Dracula A.D. 1972), this puts the titular count in the middle of swinging 70's London. This time it's a bizarre blend of spy thriller and horror film (think an episode of The Avengers TV series crossed with a typical cult horror movie from the 70's with Dracula and Van Helsing tossed in) as Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) gets pulled into investigating a satanic cult that turns out to be run by Dracula (posing as a reclusive Howard Hughes type with a cheesy Bela Lugosi accent for some reason) who plans to unleash a plague that will wipe out the entire population, sort of a suicide by way of mass murder.

While many dislike this film to the nth degree, I find it endlessly amusing and fun. It's silly and cheesy; Dracula takes about thirty minutes or so to show up in his own damn movie as tended to be the case with this series and to say Lee is phoning it in would be rather kind as he makes it abundantly clear that he is tired of the role and barely gives a crap. Still gives a decent performance because it's Christopher freaking Lee but still! Cushing is fun as well, giving the dialogue his usual gravitas and even though the script is actually quite shoddy, it is still fun to see Cushing and Lee squaring off against each other one last time.

Hammer never quite got Dracula just right in my opinion. While Lee and Cushing were always fine whenever they showed up, both were far too often given short shrift, especially Lee who often was hindered by bad scripts and limited screen time. It's not very shocking he finally got tired of the role and ended up returning just for the money. In the case of this film, as noted, he turns up 31 minutes in, has one or two scenes with Cushing and ends up dying in a less than impressive manner. Still, the film is watchable enough if you set your expectations low.

That's all for now. Next time I hit Mill Creek, the films will be... Well, newer at any rate. Until next time.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Esoterica XVII: Autumn Randomness

Some random items for your amusement.

 The song is solid enough, the music video is endearingly cheap as only a mid-80's music video can be but that werewolf design is just plain cool. No idea how they got Ozzy to sit still long enough to get the damn thing on but it must have taken something pretty strong.

In addition to seeing A View to A Kill on VHS, one of the big things that fueled my passion for all things James Bond was the ABC Sunday Night Movie showings of the films. The main one that sticks out for me is Thunderball. My overall favorite of the series, this cut of the movie is s;lashed to pieces with all the great bits of violence (if released today it would probably net a strong PG-13 for the underwater battle alone) and nudity and also, by default, led to my affection for edited for TV cuts of R rated movies.

To finish things off, I would like to give you the reader, a small glimpse into the awesomely, hilariously insane world of the late and lamented supermarket staple Weekly World News. I've always found it to be amusing but a post on Facebook this week inspired me.

 Probably their best known cover. This one is good, but there are two that me smile even more.

 Can't go wrong with a horny Bigfoot story, can you? Everything about this is just wonderful from the brazenly obvious photoshop job on the images to the large headline. Crap like The National Enquirer and The Globe may still be around, but this stuff is true gold.

To end, I present you with this gem from October of 2001 that inspired me to do this post today. Just about everything about this cover made me laugh so let's go story by story.
  • Up top we have another Batboy story as the little guy has finally gone out and gotten himself a real job.
  • Bottom right is fairly pedestrian for the mag as you could probably have gone to their offices and tossed a coin in any direction and knocked over a stack of morbidly obese fat people stories.
  • Bottom left makes me chuckle just for the sheer randomness of it.
  • And lastly, we have the tale of a man. An ordinary man, an Everyman who just wanted a simple tuna sandwich with extra mayo. But that is not what happened, my friends. What he got instead, was a mini mermaid. No word on whether or not he got the extra mayo. I would imagine you have to read the whole story and that issue isn't available online. No idea what they used for the mermaid photo but I gotta say it makes a huge increase in the production value when compared to the Bigfoot love slave issue. The promise that the reader can find out where to get a mermaid sandwich of their own is just the icing on the cake.
And that does it for me today. Until next time...

Sunday, September 11, 2016

VHS Memories XXXXII: The Amazon Prime Edition

I use Amazon Video for much of what I do for the blog and Amazon Prime is especially useful when there is a movie you don't necessarily want to pay money to watch. With that in mind, here is a stack of four movies that for the most part are better off watched free of charge, if at all.*

*In other words, I'll be damned if I'm gonna pay three bucks to watch New Year's Evil! I don't care how much I love old school Cannon Films! You hear me? I ain't getting paid for this at all! Not shi-!

Ahem, sorry about that. Let's get started.

 Speaking of which, our first contestant is this sleazy slasher from Cannon Films about a woman-hating maniac who promises a woman who does a show on the punk/new wave scene (ah, the early 80's) he'll kill one woman every hour on New Year's Eve, right as it hits midnight in the correct time zone. Not a bad plan as far as diabolical murder spree plots go but it never works at all in the film, nor do we ever learn why the killer is going to all this trouble. All we learn is that its her husband doing the killing and he has some serious issues with women (played by Kip Niven) and her son probably also has some mental issues (he's the obligatory red herring who we see little of ). There is a fair amount of 80's cheese on display and the killer is enjoyably ridiculous (the first scene where he taunts the lead over the phone has him using a voice scrambler that makes him sound silly and in general his murder spree sees him going from, disguise to disguise which would be done better in Terror Train) but the overall film is sloppy (see the lack of motivation for the killer which could come off as scary in a better movie), poorly acted and generally dull to watch. Cannon's later slasher Hospital Massacre is better.

 David Gale of Re-Animator fame plays another mad scientist in this 1988 horror flick which sees him as an insane TV show host who has a giant alien brain he uses to control his followers. Naturally, the only ones who can stop him are a couple of teens since this is a late 80's horror movie. This is a low budget Canadian film from the tax shelter days and it has a cheerful, spoofy sense of humor that makes it rather endearing. Performances are about one would expect with Gale coming off the best and the giant brain is a fun, cheesy special effect.

This is a really, really (deservedly) obscure British comedy from 1983 that stars Tony Curtis as an inventor who wants to sell his latest invention (a laser skywriter) and ends up having to deal with a dinner party for potential buyers put non by his wife. The buyers range from Erik Estrada as a gangster (with Peter Lawford in his last role) to Donald Pleasence as a Scottish guy to Orson Welles as a gypsy who appears in the last ten minutes. The eccentricity is through the roof in this one and in general, that makes for a rather painful viewing experience if not handled well. Sadly, in spite of having a very good director on board (Terence Young did three of the first four James Bond films), this just ends up being wacky for the sake of being wacky and its a little hard to take, really. Curtis is a mess of anxieties (he's broke and a hypochondriac), his wife is an oddball and the rest of the cast... Well, you can imagine given the short descriptions I gave how subtly they play their parts. Granted with material this bad I wouldn't blame them if they were all plastered during the shoot but still! Just painfully unfunny, it's not hard to see why it wasn't given either a UK release or an American one. I couldn't get through this one without skipping ahead.

Lastly, we have this delightfully odd, cheesy flick from the late, fairly decent William Girdler. This was his last film, sadly but boy is it one hell of a film to go out on! Susan Strasberg plays a young woman who is worried about a growth on the back of her neck that is growing and eventually turns out to be the reincarnation of a 400 year old Native American medicine man who is more than slightly pissed off at the white man. He is opposed by Tony Curtis (for some reason, my brain always wants to write Tony Randall whenever I think about the guy) as Strasberg's ex-boyfriend who is a phony psychic and Michael Ansara as another medicine man. What ensues is essentially The Exorcist with a Native American spin until the last few minutes when it turns into a bizarre light show as Strasberg starts shooting laser blasts at the evil medicine man and his spirit boss. It's quite the showstopper and one hell of a fun good.bad film. I was going to save this for a future studio seri4es piece but it's just too good to pass up.

That's all for now, until next time.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Orion Files: 1986

1986 was a major step up from the previous year. Financially, the studio did very well but critically, they knocked it out of the park with several award winning movies. They also partnered up with TV production house Metromedia and beefed up their TV division the following year.

Tim Conway and Harvey Korman reunite (along with Jack Weston and Ted Wass) as a quartet of losers who end up in debt to some gangsters after using some of their money to place a bet on a horse race. This was Orion's first release of 1986 and, well, January is generally considered a dump month for movies which should give you an idea of how funny this one is. Tim Conway is a funny guy most of the time but this is just sort of dull. It's the kind of thing your grandmother takes you to when she's got you for the day and there's no way in hell you're talking her into watching Return of the Jedi for the fifteenth time, and she's not sadistic enough to subject you to the Merchant-Ivory film she can't get Gramps to take her to.

I have no idea what that means, but it's about as funny as the movie. Love the poster though. Next!

First off in the cavalcade of quality is this really, really good thriller starring Australian actor Bryan Brown as a special effects artist who is enlisted by shady justice department agent Cliff DeYoung to fake the death of a noted mobster, played by Jerry Orbach. Things get complicated (as in Brown is framed for a real murder and gets big Brian Dennehy up his arse) and the end result is a modestly stunning, twisty, exciting little thriller. I really love this one.

Woody Allen knocked it out of the park creatively with this one. this comedy/drama about three sisters and their family and love lives netted Dianne Weist a Best Supporting Actress Oscar and a Best Supporting Actor one for Michael Caine (Which he was unable to receive in person because he was making Jaws: The Revenge. Well, at least he had a nice house to put the award in afterwards). Allen also snagged a Best Original Screenplay Oscar and I have to say that while I'm not the biggest fan of the film (if not for film school, I probably would never have seen it), it's still a good movie. If I had to take a Woody Allen movie with me to a deserted island, I'd at least consider it.

Another chick flick (let's be honest folks, for all the laughs it has, Hannah and Her Sisters is a frigging chick flick), this drama deals with two friends who have to deal with tragedy. Needless to say, it didn't do so hot and that's really all I got to say about it.

Two classic nutcases (though Walken has the decency to confine those tendencies to when he's on the clock) go at it in this tense crime drama based on a true story. Sean Penn and Christopher Walken play father and son, respectively, with Walken being a crime boss and Penn trying hard to not become like his old man. In spite of good reviews, this didn't make a lot of money.

Orion handled the US distribution for this British musical that flopped quite badly and caused its production company Goldcrest to collapse. It didn't do much better stateside either.

The surprise hit of the year was this funny Rodney Dangerfield film that stars the man as a self-made millionaire who goes back to college to make sure his son doesn't drop out. The expected hijinks ensue but Dangerfield gives the film his own sense of energy and timing while Sam Kinison turns in a funny bit part as a psychotic professor.

Bit of a dry spell here as we move through the middle of the year and there's good stuff to follow so let's plow through the dross.

A divorced couple is having trouble staying the hell away from each other. It's got Teri Garr so chances are if I did see it, I'd be annoyed...

Though not as annoyed as I am when I think that this was one of the first films I saw in a movie theater. Gene Wilder (R.I.P., man. You were awesome.) wrote, directed and starred in this rather bad horror comedy with Gilda Radner as a pair of radio announcers who decide to get married in a spooky old castle/mansion only for the blessed event to be tarnished by a rampaging werewolf and Dom DeLuise in drag. Sadly, this was the last thing Gilda did before she died.

Orion went the Cannon Films route for this exploitation action film. Tom Skerrit and Lisa Eichorn are two of the elite soldiers chosen to do some heavy duty training related to enduring a POW camp. The commander in charge of the camp is played by Anthony Zerbe (slimy as usual) and things quickly take a dark and nasty turn as the training gets a little too real for comfort. This didn't get much of a release and the reviews I've read are mixed. But that is one hell of a poster.

This is a British romantic comedy about a young man from India who comes to England, poses as a doctor and falls in love with a young woman there. Overly long (111 minutes for a romantic comedy?) and fairly drab, this sort of tells you why the British film industry was flailing in the late 80's.

The year for Orion ended with four terrific films, however. Well, three legit ones and one I love, though the critics sure as hell didn't.

First off was this charming comedy starring Jeff Daniels as a banker who falls in with a cute girl played by Melanie Griffith. The film follows their burgeoning romance which is jeopardized by Ray Liotta as Griffith's dangerous ex-con husband. The film got good reviews and has became a cult hit.

Gene Hackman delivers his usual solid performance in this classic sports film, loosely based on a true story. Hackman is the coach of an Indiana high school basketball team looking to win the state championship. This got good reviews and also netted Dennis Hopper a Best Supporting Actor nomination at the Oscars, sealing the deal on his comeback.

Not too many critics liked this one, but I've always gotten a kick out of this goofy Western comedy from John Landis that sees Steve Martin, Martin Short and Chevy Chase as silent film action stars who mistakenly end up defending a small Mexican village from real life bandits. Is it dumb? Oh yeah, really dumb! It's also very, very funny with great work from the three leads and Alfonso Arau as the bad guy El Guapo.

Orion ended the year, however, with another eventual Best Picture winner in Platoon. The end result of a good partnership with Hemdale Film Corporation (another studio I'll be checking out at some point, though with the redundancies it might be a one-shot deal), this Oliver Stone war film is a gripping drama about Vietnam, as seen through the eyes of a young soldier played by Charlie Sheen. Featuring a fantastic cast and a distinct lack of fun to the battle scenes (which heightens the reality and horror of war), this still stands as one of the best war movies of all time. It's tough to watch at times, but that's sort of the point.

1986 was probably the best year Orion ever had. When Oscar time came around they scored eighteen nominations with Platoon taking home the Best Picture trophy. It signaled, one would think, good times in the future. To be fair, there were, but I don't think it ever got this good again.

Next up, 1987.

About Me

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