Saturday, November 5, 2016

The Orion Files: 1989

1989 was, to put it bluntly, a financial disaster for the company. Flops all year round with one or two bright spots. Still, a generally miserable year for the company. Let's survey the wreckage.

Orion started off 1989 with a minor bright spot in this affable, silly comedy starring Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves as two idiots who get hold of a time machine to help them pass a history class exam. Reeves and Winter make for a strangely likable comic duo and George Carlin is fun in a supporting role. Out of the fourteen films we'll cover here today, this probably ranks in the top five in terms of popularity. Funnily enough, this was initially supposed to be released by Dino DeLaurentiis' company DEG in 1988 but their own financial woes ended up getting the film sold to Orion. When we cover the sequel in 1991, I'll cover just how much of a bitch irony can be.

Interesting sounding drama from John Milius that features Nick Nolte as an American soldier who deserts his unit during World War II and ends up leading a tribe of natives in Borneo. Milius is a filmmaker whose work fascinates me and this film ended up getting some okay reviews but not much else. Gotta hand it to the studio for taking on ambitious projects like this, if only they had been successful more often.

On the flip side of the ambition spectrum, we find this. Speed Zone is Cannonball Run 3 (an alternate title is Cannonball Fever). I kind of liked the first one, I can even sort of tolerate the second one if it's about three in the morning and I'm about to fall asleep anyway, but a third one? Judas Priest! Even I have standards.

This is an obscure drama about a young man who ends up in a psychiatric hospital where his doctor (played by Donald Sutherland) also has some issues. This was director Hugh Hudson's first movie since the debacle that was Revolution in 1985. Needless to say, this didn't help him much.

Dennis Quaid does pretty well as rocker Jerry Lee Lewis in this biopic that covers his early carer right to the point where he married his cousin. That's about it, really. Alec Baldwin has a supporting role as Lewis' televangelist cousin Jimmy Swaggart but there just isn't a hell of a lot to talk about here. I think that's what happens when you do a film about a guy who was almost the next king of rock and roll.

This is really the best thing Orion put out in 1989 (I only say that because I haven't seen the Woody Allen film below which got good notices) and it's a damn shame it flopped as hard as it did. UHF is a bright, funny parody of oddball TV channels with some really funny gags and a terrific cast. Orion thought this film would save them from their financial issues. Spoiler alert: it didn't.

Cheech Marin and Eric Roberts star as hippies who flee New York to Central American in 1969 and twenty years later, come back and experience the culture shock that comes from being off the grid for twenty years. This one didn't get good reviews, it sounds pretty dumb and I really don't have the time or energy to find out if it is is or not. Let's move on, shall we?

This one is actually pretty solid as it stars Gene Hackman as a soldier trying to track down an escaped prisoner (played nicely by Tommy Lee Jones) before he carries out an assassination. Andrew Davis directed this one and it's got a lean, muscular pace to it that is helped by the energy of its cast and the script. The Package is a very good, underrated action movie.

Drama about life in the fifties as seen through the eyes of three young women.

This is a failed comedy from Monty Python Terry Jones about a viking and his adventures. I saw this once way back and don't remember much about it.

Woody Allen's 1989 contribution to the world of film was this very well received comedy/drama that follows two plotlines (Martin Landau plays a family man who feels guilt after he has his mistress killed before the affair can be discovered while Allen is a documentary filmmaker who is trying to find love). The stories dovetail into each other in the last scene and by all accounts, this is one of Allen's finest works. Got three Oscar nominations too.

The Oscar bait continued with this adaptation of a French novel (also adapted into Dangerous Liaisons in 1988 which took from the stage version more than the book). It was not as acclaimed as the earlier version.

Family film about a young girl who befriends one of Santa's reindeer. It got decent reviews, didn't do much at the box office though.

Lastly is this dark comedy about a spurned housewife (Roseanne Barr) who seeks revenge on her husband after he dumps her for a successful novelist played by Meryl Streep. This got mixed reviews (Streep and Barr were praised mostly) but flopped.

As noted in the opening, 1989 was a disaster for the company from a financial perspective (and if we're being honest, apart from, a few films, an artistic one) and things would only go downhill from there. I'll try to minimize the pain.

Coming as soon as humanly possible: Orion in 1990

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About Me

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