Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Orion Files: 1995 and Beyond

The last days of Orion saw them emerge from bankruptcy in 1996 along with being merged with a few other companies by Metromedia before being assimilated into MGM (an ironic fate given what would happen to that company). Not covering all the films from this period as most of them aren't really worth mentioning. I will, however, end things with a bit of a bang.

Sort of.

Actually, it's more like the bang you get from a slightly damp firecracker that you put next to the heater in the bathroom for a few minutes...

No, I'm not stalling!

After two small releases in 1995, Orion started 1996 off with this thriller that somehow has spawned a few direct to video sequels. Tom Berenger plays a former soldier who goes undercover as a substitute teacher as his local inner city high school. As formulaic as you can imagine, this sort of reminds me of a 1987 thriller in a similar vein called The Principal that starred Jim Belushi and Louis Gossett Jr.

An urban action film that reunites a bunch of 70's stars like Fred Williamson, Jim Brown, Pam Grier and Richard Roundtree? Directed by B-movie maven Larry Cohen no less! That made it into freaking theaters! I haven't seen it, it's probably decent enough but the fact that it even exists just makes me smile. I'm also not shocked it didn't do well. It may not be The Expendables 2 but still!

Releases around the same time as Independence Day, this is a more thoughtful, generally better regarded alien invasion film, that stars Charlie Sheen as an astronomer who discovers we are not alone and naturally, there is a conspiracy that comes up.

A somewhat obscure hip-hop reworking of 80's teen sex comedies. The film got middling reviews.

An odd blend of crime thriller, science fiction time travel and black comedy, this has Kylie Travis as a young woman who hitches a ride with an abusive husband (played by Jim Belushi) and his wife. The ride turns violent and she happens upon a man who has invented a time machine. In the process she is sent back in time and tries to stop the wife's murder from happening. I generally enjoy time loop films and this one sounds like it's worth at least one viewing, maybe.

Joe Pesci, in one of his last roles before retiring stars as a mob hitman who has to deliver the severed heads of eight rival mobsters to his boss. A mix-up occurs with some tourists and wackiness ensues. I can totally see why Joe wanted to retire if this is the crap he was being offered.

Formulaic thriller starring Harvey Keitel as a retired thief who comes out of retirement for one last score (see what I mean about formulaic?).

Orion snagged one last Oscar nomination before they bent out. This time, Peter Fonda's performance in this acclaimed drama about a beekeeper raising his two granddaughters and trying to help their drug addicted mother.

Drama starring Vince Vaughn as a a drifter who comes to a small town and gets involved with some of the locals. It was not well received.

Fairly solid thriller featuring Jim Belushi and Tupac Shakur as two dirty cops, one dirtier than the other who are looking for someone to pin a killing they committed on. Belushi is in fine form as the scumbag partner, Shakur is good in his role as the cop with a conscience and any time Dennis Quaid can score a good role, I'm a happy guy.

You know how sometimes you see a film on at about three in the morning and get into it? I mean really into it, to the point where you actively enjoy it and want to seek it out again, maybe buy it? Yeah, this isn't one of those times because this film is one of the few movies so bad that it actively pisses me off. More to the point, it's the kind of movie where you watch it just to see how badly it can piss you off. A bunch of guys on their way to a wedding end up in a bank robbery turned hostage situation, perpetrated by one of the groomsmen. It turns into a standoff with the FBI and the old trope of the Idiot Plot is given a thorough working over here, mainly thanks to an idiotic FBI agent played by Raymond J. Barry (this is no knock on the actor, he was great on Justified). The characters are annoying, Dean Cain is fine on TV but doesn't work on film, ditto for Andy Dick to a lesser degree as I don't really like him anyway, and the film is too violent to be the funny light comedy. it seems to think it is. It's not good as a hostage drama either which makes it a truly pointless waste of time, effort and money.

A romantic comedy nobody really cared about from a year not many cared about.

We end things with the fourth entry in the Phantasm series. Not the best one by a longshot, this is even more surreal than the first three, sometimes not even bothering to have much in the way of a plot. I sort of like it though as Angus Scrimm is great as always as The Tall Man; Reggie Bannister is fun in his role and Michael Baldwin gets some decent screen time in the lead. It's not a great movie and to be honest, you need to have seen the others to even make sense of this one (the same can be said for the recently released fifth entry) but it's not bad.

Aside from one Orion Classics release in 1999, this was the end for the studio until 2013 when they made a surprise return as a division of MGM dedicated to smaller films. The studio now primarily releases lower budgeted genre pictures that have small theatrical releases while also being made available via video on demand services. It's rather amusing to me that a studio that strove to be old school in its mentality towards the product has been given new life by new media. They have an interesting pack of films out now with more on the way.

Told you there would be a happy ending.

Assuming that MGM doesn't get into financial trouble.


Sort of a pattern with those guys.

Weird, really.

Okay, now I'm stalling. Until next time.

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About Me

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