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.

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About Me

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