Our science fiction movie opens with an ominous musical cue and a shot of an ice cave, in light and shadow with the blue tint of the ice popping out dramatically. A helicopter appears and lands to pick up something found in the ice. It is a large block of ice that is then transported to a remote, arctic station, inhabited by scientists. You could easily infer from this description that you are watching “John Carpenter’s The Thing”. Let’s face it, that is very close to the set up of the action in the earlier movie. This movie however has no real horror elements to it, a much more plausible scientific premise and a cast that includes a lot of fine actors but none as great as Kurt Russell. This movie comes two years after “The Thing” and is a serious eco-drama that has science fiction elements but really wants to comment on the world we live in today.
Watching this movie again for this project has been one of the best experiences of the new year. It may not be the finest movie, the most challenging film or a game changer, but it is the most patriotic movie I’m going to see this year. That says something about a movie set for most of it’s first half in Russia. You will know why it mattered the U.S. stayed strong in the face of the cold war, and not a shot is fired by any soldier or warship. This is a movie about “Freedom”, from the point of view of someone who can barely contemplate the concept because of the world they live in.
Robin Williams gives a great, subdued performance as Vladamir Ivanoff, a musician from a Russian circus who comes to America and finds that “Freedom” is a lot of things, some of them painful, but in the end mostly life affirming .
Children of the millennium must think of the Disney cartoon when they think of Tarzan. It is a character that has been somewhat dormant for the last fifty years. Every once in a while, a project creeps back into the world but just as quickly disappears. It may be that since the Second World War, Africa doesn’t seem as remote or as unexplored as it once was. I used the term “Elephant’s Graveyard” in class one day, and even the kids who know “The Lion King” seemed mystified as to what I was talking about. As a kid in the sixties, I grew up on a steady diet of Johnny Weismuller, Gordon Scott, Jock Mahoney and Mike Henry. There were more Tarzan movies than there were James Bond films. So after more than a decade in retirement as a character on the big screen, I was especially excited to see that Tarzan would be coming back in 1984, which was for me, the most anticipated movie of that year (Yep, even more than Indiana Jones). Having read most of the original Edgar Rice Burroughs novels, I was especially interested in this version because it promised to hold true to the story as I’d seen in in my minds eye.
Four of the top ten box office hits of 1984 opened in the winter or very early spring of that year. That should give you a pretty good idea of how the marketing and release of films has changed. Last year only one film in the top ten opened in March and it just made it in as the number ten film on the list. If you were interested, in 1984, there were good movies opening almost every week. “Romancing the Stone” represents one of those early in the year releases that managed to make an impression and it ran most of the way through the first half of summer.
Once upon a time, movies were made about adult subjects and were serious about how they told their stories. While the stories were not always great, the actors and directors and the whole crew seemed to take the notion seriously, as if they were doing a play that would run forever on the screen. These stories featured everyday people dealing with unusual or slightly odd situations rather than end of the world scenarios and villains with superpowers. The term “middle of the road drama” would probably be appropriate to describe those films. Maybe in the indie world you still see these occasionally, but mostly they have been banished to cable movie hell. Today’s film fits this category completely.
The film was written by Steve Kloves, who is best known for writing every Harry Potter movie except “Order of the Phoenix”. He has a real feel for the characters in the movie. All of them could have been a cliche but they have enough to say and emotions so real that they transcend what might have been mundane and it is more lifelike than you might have hoped. Continue reading
Basically a remake of “Stripes” with the police in the place of the Army and Steve Guttenberg in the role of Bill Murray. It was a huge success and returned a giant profit on the amount of money they spent to make it. It was the number six film of the year, coming in ahead of both “Splash” and “Footloose”. It was followed up by six sequels and a television series, so clearly there was a market for the sort of humor the movie is based on.
The movie takes advantage of the cast and their talents to get a good amount of laughter out of silly situations and convoluted set ups. The fact that it works most of the time speaks more to the audiences desire to laugh than it does the creativity of the script. There is not a lot to be said about the story but some of the bits are worth mentioning as they are entertaining.
The romantic comedy is a much maligned genre. Too often the connect the dots storyline is a repeat of a dozen similar films that came out in the last couple of years. Every once in a while though, a rom-com has a hook and a star or two that make them irresistible. Today’s feature is one of those that cuts through the corn and gets right to the heart. It also features a fantasy theme that is in keeping with a lot of the films on my list from this glorious year of movies.
Three great starring roles, two really attractive people and a fish story that beats any tail (tale) your uncle ever told you about the one that got away. “Splash” is the perfect remedy for a dreary day or the answer to that question your wife asks when she is in a romantic mood, “What should we watch?”