Saturday, June 11, 2016

The Carolco Files Part IV: 1990-1991

The most successful period for the company saw a partnership with New Line Cinema through a company called Seven Arts, some of their best movies and the biggest success of 1991. It also saw some cracks beginning to widen. First off, Andrew Vajna left the company in 1989 citing creative differences with Kassar and split off to form Cinergi Pictures (we will look at their output later, it won't take long at all). Top that off with even more ludicrous spending on film budgets while also making low budget independent films that made nothing and you can see that while the company is about to have a ton of profit, its also setting itself up for one hell of a fall.

It's a long road we got ahead of us (in other words, don't look for long reviews), so let's not waste any more time.

This is a Bob Rafelson movie about an 1857 expedition by Sir Richard Burton to discover the source of the Nile River. It sounds pretty interesting and seems to have gotten good reviews from the time it came out. Damn shame I can't get a hold of it cheap (as in free, I try not to make cold purchases unless I'm reasonably sure it's a worthy investment).

One of two movies covered in this post that I've already reviewed on the blog (the other is Terminator 2), this fantastic sc-fi action flick is one of Arnold Schwarzenegger's best. Smartly written, wonderfully cast and awesomely violent, this is just plain fun and one of the best action films of the 90's. It ended up being one of their most successful movies.

Mel Gibson's second film in the summer of 1990, (his first was the adequate Bird on a Wire) Air America is a fun, sort of sloppy action comedy about pilots flying for the CIA in Laos, 1969. Mel and Robert Downey Jr. are fun and there is some great stunt flying but the film runs a little too long and the plot is not that compelling.

The first collaboration with Seven Arts is this rather terrible parody of The Exorcist. Leslie Nielsen plays the lead along with Linda Blair more or less reprising her role as the possessed girl. There are some laughs here and there as Nielsen is usually funny and Blair does well enough but for the most part, this is just lame and predictable. Sort of fun to see Ned Beatty doing a televangelist routine though. Sadly, this will prove to be one of the better Carolco/Seven Arts team-ups. In fact, depending on how you feel about some of their other titles, it might be the best. That ain't good, folks.

Los Angeles ADA played by Gene Hackman has to protect a potential witness to a murder played by Anne Archer in this loose remake of a 50's noir film of the same name. Peter Hyams directs with his usual skill (and his usual taste for plunging every scene he shoots into darkness) and as tends to be the case with late 80's/early 90's thrillers, the cast is littered with great character actors. The plot is fairly rote as Hackman and Archer end up on a train followed by the bad guys but what makes it fun is watching Hackman do his thing. He's brash, cocky and energetic and he's always made for an interesting action hero. The film is just dumb fun. Really dumb.

The second joint effort with New Line and Seven Arts, this is a pretty solid gangster thriller directed by Abel Ferrara and starring Christopher Walken. Walken is a big time New York drug lord and the film details his rise and fall. An eclectic cast (in addition to Walken, you also get Laurence Fishburne, David Caruso and Wesley Snipes among others) and solid direction make this a worthwhile viewing, though a grim and violent one as Abel's films tend to be.

As I noted in my Best of 1990 post, it takes a lot to scare me but Jacob's Ladder gets the job done quite efficiently. An utterly creepy psychological horror movie, this is probably the best acting Tim Robbins has ever done and in terms of artistic achievement is high on the list of the best things Carolco ever made.

Not the funniest Steve Martin movie there is (Roxanne is my favorite of his) but this sly romantic comedy is a solid satire of Los Angeles as well as a decent romantic comedy. Martin plays a weatherman who is looking for love which he finds in a few places. First with a goofy wild child played by Sarah Jessica Parker and then with a more mature woman played his then current wife Victoria Tennant. The film is chock full of laughs and no small amount of heart though it feels a bit uneven at times. Still, a solid flick.

Oliver Stone's biopic on Jim Morrison (though it has the band name as the title, it's more focused on Jim Morrison than anything else) has a strong performance from Val Kilmer as Morrison but really not much else as the over the top mythology of the group takes over and leaves the real stuff behind. You get the bread for the sandwich but Stone leaves the actual stuff inside that makes it a good sandwich out. Stone can make good films from time to time but he tends to let things go too far over the top (see Natural Born Killers) and seems to be more interested in making a "statement" than a good movie. Sometimes it works out, here it doesn't.

I'm not the biggest Andrew Dice Clay fan out there (in fact I think a slow death from an incurable disease is funnier than he is, more entertaining and the end is certainly a showstopper, literally) but this concert film warrants mentioning simply because it generated tons of controversy and was probably the final nail in the man's professional coffin after the failure of his film The Adventures of Ford Fairlane. One of the most important things in comedy is structuring your material and for some inexplicable reason, this guy found success with an act that was loosely structured in the severest sense of the term. Some of his stuff barely registers as a joke, really. Just childish vulgarity mixed with some rampant bigotry and sexism and an unpleasant delivery topped off with a total lack of self-awareness. He's referred to as being a satirical character but even subtle satire is recognizable as such. Sam Kinison was light years better, and even then I'm not the biggest fan.

The big hit of 1991 represents the true zenith for the company. An all-around awesome action movie, Terminator 2 was a massive success as well as influential in terms of special effects and still holds up today. It would never get this good again for the company, in spite of one or two bright spots. As with Total Recall, I reviewed this a while ago and honestly there isn't a whole lot more I can say about it. It would never get this good again.

Apart from some somewhat obscure titles, Rambling Rose represents the capper to a very good 1991 for Carolco. An Oscar nominated drama (Laura Dern and Diane Lane for their roles) about a young woman in Depression era Alabama who turns the life of a family upside down, this got good notices for its cast and is one of the better things Carolco and Seven Arts did together.

1990 and 1991 were huge years for the company, bringing them their biggest successes. Unfortunately, save for one or two bright spots, it was all downhill from there.

1 comment:

  1. I have a fondness for LA Story (my favourite Steve Martin film is All of Me, even if it looks like it was made for television), but holy crap, the same company made Dispossessed, and Total Recall and T2?


About Me

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