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.

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About Me

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