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Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Summer Movies of the 90s: 1994

Well, here we are, already about halfway through the 90s. Hope you all have been enjoying this throwback to the cinematic summers of the past.

For me personally, the summer of 94 finally showed some improvements after the last two, which had sort of seen me depressed. Things were finally starting to improve for me at school around that time, I was enjoying my new house and neighborhood, and I had started to write more regularly at the time. I was heavy into writing fiction at the time, which is something I am hoping to get back into very soon in the present. Back in the day, I was writing everything from movie scripts to short stories. Heck, at one point I even wrote an entire 13-episode cartoon series! I was writing every day at the time, and although I eventually fell out of it, I still hold a lot of great memories of that time.

In terms of pop geek culture, the summer of 94 is when I discovered Japanese anime, as well as video game RPGs, like Lunar: The Silver Star for the Sega CD, and Final Fantasy II and Secret of Mana for the SNES. Lots of great memories associated with those games from this summer.

But, I know what you're all here for. Let's look back at some nostalgic summer blockbusters, and see which ones make the cut, and which ones deserve to be buried in the past.

BEVERLY HILLS COP III
RELEASED: MAY 25


WHAT'S IT ABOUT?: Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy) returns to Beverly Hills to solve yet another murder of a personal friend. This time, the victim is his boss back in Detroit, and when Foley starts to dig deeper into the crime ring responsible, the trail leads him to the Wonder World theme park, where some criminals are making counterfeit money from somewhere within the park.
  
WHAT I THOUGHT OF IT THEN: I was a fan of the first two movies back in the day, but the third movie had little interest to me, as I thought the whole idea of setting the film around an amusement park sounded kind of lame. Still, a friend of mine wanted to see it, so I went with him. It was exactly what I expected. An unnecessary sequel that had run out of ideas, complete with a lead star who seemed like he could barely hide his contempt for the project up there on the screen. It was lifeless, drab and unfunny, and continued the losing streak at the box office that Murphy was experiencing at the time.

WHAT I THINK OF IT NOW: If you need a visual representation of a sell out project, you need look no further. Murphy looks bored in this one, and is hardly even trying. If you read up on the behind the scenes story behind the film, you can learn about how Murphy clashed with the film's director, John Landis, over the tone of the film. Nobody looks like they had any fun making this, the script stinks, and again, the whole idea of Axel Foley in an amusement park is just lame. The only winners in this situation are the actors from the first two movies who were smart enough to refuse to be in this one.

THE FLINTSTONES
RELEASED: MAY 27


WHAT'S IT ABOUT?: There had been talk of a live action Flintstones movie since back when I was in Elementary School in the 80s. In 94, the movie finally became a reality. Fred Flintstone (John Goodman) finds himself promoted to associate vice president of the rock quarry he's worked at for years, only to learn he's being used as a scapegoat for an evil scheme being cooked up by two crooked employees of the company (Kyle MacLachlan and Halle Berry) who plan to embezzle money. Meanwhile, neighbors Barney (Rick Moranis) and Betty Rubble (um...Rosie O'Donnell) want to adopt a kid, and the friendship of the Flintstones and Rubbles is tested when Fred and Wilma (Elizabeth Perkins) forget who they are, and shun their friends for wealth. Seriously, doesn't this sound like too much plot for a Flintstones movie?

WHAT I THOUGHT OF IT THEN: Being a fan of the cartoon when I was a kid, I remember having a mixed reaction to this film. On the one hand, the sets and special effects did a great job of bringing the world of Bedrock into live action. Really, it probably couldn't have been better. On the other hand, there was the overly complex plot, and a couple questionable casting choices (again, Rosie O'Donnell as Betty). Still, I remember enjoying it for the visuals at the time, and while I wasn't a huge fan, I enjoyed it enough. Maybe I was just in a forgiving mood after Beverly Hills Cop III.

WHAT I THINK OF IT NOW: Fun fact - The script for the Flintstones movie was in development so long, that almost three dozen (36) people worked on it over the years, with only three writers getting final credit. You would think with that many people, someone could have come up with a better main plot than an embezzling scheme. Not only do kids not care about that sort of thing, but it has no place in a Flintstones movie. Now that the novelty of the sets and effects have worn off, I find this movie hard to watch. Oh, the filmmakers got certain things right (Goodman made a great Fred), but seriously, after waiting so long, the fans deserved better than this.

SPEED
RELEASED: JUNE 10


WHAT'S IT ABOUT?: I think Homer Simpson said it best..."I saw this in a movie about a bus that had to speed around the city, keeping its speed over fifty, and if its speed dropped, the bus would explode! I think it was called 'The Bus That Couldn't Slow Down.' " All I can add to that is that it stars Keanu Reeves as the hero cop, Dennis Hopper as the mad bomber, and it launched the career of Sandra Bullock.
 WHAT I THOUGHT OF IT THEN: This movie seemed to come out of nowhere back in the day and win everyone over, and for good reason. After a disappointing start to the summer movie season, this movie was the jolt of adrenaline that audiences needed. It was exciting and relentlessly fast paced, more than living up to its title. It was the kind of escapist thrill ride that every summer movie season needs, and it worked wonderfully for me back in the day.

WHAT I THINK OF IT NOW: Really, not much has changed. This is a fun and well executed movie. Sure, you can nitpick the movie to hell and back, but where is the fun in that? This is the kind of mindless action film that I can sit back and have a great time with. It helps that the movie is well made, and the cast seems to be having as much fun as the audience. A great nostalgic action film all around.

CITY SLICKERS II: THE LEGEND OF CURLY'S GOLD
RELEASED: JUNE 10


WHAT'S IT ABOUT?: In this sequel to the 1991 hit comedy, Mitch (Billy Crystal), his friend Phil (Daniel Stern), and Mitch's brother Glen (Jon Lovitz) set out to discover gold when they discover an old treasure map left behind by Mitch's mentor on the Western trail in the last movie, Curly. Along they way, they are joined up by Duke (Jack Palance), who just happens to be Curly's twin brother, and is in no way a desperate attempt by the filmmakers to bring Palance back after his Oscar-winning performance, and having his original character die in the first movie.

WHAT I THOUGHT OF IT THEN: You may remember from my 1991 article that I was a fan of the first film, so I was really looking forward to this. If Beverly Hills Cop III is a sell out project, then this is just a desperate attempt to make a sequel to a movie that didn't need one in the first place. First of all, while I love Jon Lovitz, he is no replacement for Bruno Kirby in the first film, and never quite fits in with Crystal and Stern. Second, the whole "Curly's twin brother" thing seemed desperate even when I was almost 17. Third, the movie seemed to go nowhere, and was just a bunch of aimless scenes trying to disguise the fact that the writers had no real story to tell after the first movie.

WHAT I THINK OF IT NOW: Boy, the summer of 94 is not off to a good start, is it? Catching up with these movies, I had forgotten how disappointing the season had started off. But let me tell you, after sitting throw two desperate sequels almost one after another, all the memories came flooding back. This really is a sequel that didn't need to be made, and exists simply out of corporate greed. Crystal and the writers made the original as a stand-alone film, and there was no need for a continuation. To be fair, there are a couple laughs in this film, but it's definitely a pale imitation of the original.

WOLF
RELEASED: JUNE 17


WHAT'S IT ABOUT?: Will Randall (Jack Nicholson) is a meek and aging New York book publisher who strikes a wolf with his car one snowy night. When he investigates the animal, it suddenly attacks and bites him. Ever since that event, Will's personality has changed. He is more aggressive at work and energetic, and even has the the courage to start a romantic relationship with his boss' much younger daughter (Michelle Pfieffer). But then, more terrifying and violent effects begin to take hold of Will, and it seems that he might slowly be turning into a wolf himself.

WHAT I THOUGHT OF IT THEN: To my mind back then, this movie sounded like a slam dunk. You have a legend like Jack Nicholson starring in a modern day take on the Wolf Man story. Not only that, but the film was being directed by another legend, the great Mike Nichols (The Graduate). And while the movie was certainly not bad, it certainly does not live up to the talent both on and behind the camera. I felt the movie was at its best during the first half, which focuses on Will's changes at work. There was a touch of satire here, as well as some suspense as we knew that he would have to start losing control eventually. The second half, I thought, kind of flew off the rails when it tried to be a more traditional horror film. It wasn't terrible, but it didn't match the fun of the first half, and it wasn't very scary.

WHAT I THINK OF IT NOW: This still isn't that great of a movie, but I do admire it. Nicholson is great here, and he has great romantic and erotic chemistry with Pfeiffer. And again, I really like the scenes that cover his changes on the job, and standing up to his boss and other employees who have pushed him around. I'm still not a huge fan of the second half. There are some very silly plot developments piled on during this part, and Nichols, while a great director, does not seem all that comfortable working with horror and gore. He knows how to generate suspense, but when he has to go all out and give us the monster, he kind of loses his way. Still, while the film may be uneven, it can be enjoyable for the performances.

THE LION KING
RELEASED: JUNE 17 (LIMITED), JUNE 24 (WIDE RELEASE)


WHAT'S IT ABOUT?: A lion cub named Simba (voiced by Jonathan Taylor Thomas) is born the son of the great lion king Mufasa (James Earl Jones), and is next in line to rule over the Pridelands. However, Simba's scheming Uncle Scar (Jeremy Irons) devises a plan with some treacherous hyenas to rule over the land himself by killing both Sima and his father. Simba manages to survive and escape, but goes into exile, feeling guilty over his father's death. While in exile, he meets some wacky animal friends, grows to an adult (Matthew Broderick), and eventually must battle Scar and take his rightful place as king. And an animation legend is born!

WHAT I THOUGHT OF IT THEN: I remember there being a great amount of excitement and hype for this film leading up to its release. And when the movie finally did come out, it just seemed to explode like no other Disney animated film I had ever experienced. And I was right there with the crowd. I absolutely adored this film when I saw it opening night, and would go on to see it many more times during the course of the summer. At the time, it felt like nothing else Disney had ever done, especially the opening "Circle of Life" sequence, which pretty much sold it not as an animated film, but some kind of grand epic. Everybody seemed to be in love with this movie that summer, the likes of which we probably didn't see until much later, when Disney put out Frozen in 2013.

WHAT I THINK OF IT NOW: While some later Disney animated films have surpassed this film to me, it still holds a place in my heart. I view this as the last great Disney (not Pixar) animated film of the 90s, as they were never able to quite top this one in the years to come for quite a while. Some people have turned on this film, or find it and its songs annoying, but I still admire it a great deal. The animation is still beautiful, the voice acting top notch, and I still love the characters.

THE SHADOW
RELEASED: JULY 1


WHAT'S IT ABOUT?: It's another attempt to update an age old hero from the 1930s, and give them a dark and edgy 90s movie adaptation. This time, the hero is The Shadow, a man with the ability to "cloud the minds" of criminals (aka control them), and seemingly make himself invisible. Alec Baldwin portrays The Shadow here, as he tries to save New York City from Shiwan Khan (John Lone), a descendant of Genghis Khan, who wants to finish what his ancestor started and (say it with me) conquer the world.

WHAT I THOUGHT OF IT THEN: This is one of those movies that got a lot of hype before it came out, and then quickly fizzled almost the instant it was released. And for good reason. This felt like a desperate attempt to mimic a formula that had worked previously with Batman. Heck, a lot of the sets looked like they are left overs of the Gotham City ones from Tim Burton's films. And not only did Baldwin look extremely silly in his Shadow getup, he wasn't that interesting of a character. This is one of those movies I remember seeing back in the day, but remember little about.

WHAT I THINK OF IT NOW: I'm serious when I said I did not remember anything about this movie when I caught up with it. Heck, I had forgotten this movie had even been made. I was looking up movies of the 90s, came across The Shadow, and I vaguely remembered seeing it, but couldn't remember anything about it other than I didn't think it was that great. Watching it today, it's easy to see why. There's so little suspense or tension in this film, and the performances are kind of silly, despite having some notable names in the cast like Baldwin, Peter Boyle, Sir Ian McKellen, and Tim Curry (giving another over the top villain performance). This is yet another movie from the summer of 94 that deserves to remain forgotten in the past.

FORREST GUMP
RELEASED: JULY 6


WHAT'S IT ABOUT?: It's the recent history of America as seen through the eyes of a simple man with a below average I.Q. (Tom Hanks). As a child, he is under the watchful and caring eyes of his mother (Sally Field), who teaches him he can do anything, despite his mental handicap. He also builds a long-lasting love for a young girl named Jenny (played as an adult by Robin Wright). As he grows into adulthood, he experiences Vietnam, meets various Presidents, becomes the wealthy owner of a shrimp corporation, and becomes the witness or participant of just about every major American event of his time.

WHAT I THOUGHT OF IT THEN: I had a whirlwind of emotions surrounding this movie when I was young. I liked it when I first saw it, and thought it was a sweet and heartfelt movie. But then, the movie just exploded. Everybody kept on going on about it, was quoting it, and it just became this cultural phenomenon. Over time, I kind of got sick of it. The fact that it went on to win Best Picture at the Oscars for that year over two movies I felt were better (Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption) made me even more bitter toward it. Eventually, I grew to despise the movie, and for a while I refused to watch it.

WHAT I THINK OF IT NOW: Now that the attention has long died down and it's just another movie, I have come to enjoy it once again. I think the overhyping of the film really kind of turned me against it for a while. Regardless, this is a fine film with great performances, and much like Jurassic Park the previous summer, this was a revolution in special effects at the time, seamlessly adding the actors into archival news footage. I again find this to be a gentle and sweet movie that kind of got oversold by its fans. If this had just been a regular movie that got some fans and played for a while, I never would have gone through my "despise" phase with this film. Instead, everyone treated it like it was some kind of masterpiece. It's a good movie, don't get me wrong, and I enjoy watching it. But I do think it definitely got oversold back in the day.

TRUE LIES
RELEASED: JULY 15


WHAT'S IT ABOUT?: After Last Action Hero bombed the previous summer, Arnold Schwarzenegger reteamed with Terminator director, James Cameron, for this comedic action film. Here he plays Harry Tasker, a secret agent battling terrorist forces, while also leading a double life to protect his wife (Jamie Lee Curtis), pretending that he's a dull and boring computer salesman. When Harry finds out that his wife is having an affair with a slimy car salesman (Bill Paxton), because she feels she needs more excitement in her life, he decides to give it to her by letting her into his secret life, all the while trying to stop a plot to nuke the U.S. with some stolen weapons.

WHAT I THOUGHT OF IT THEN: I remember this movie took me by surprise, as it was much sillier and comedic than anything we had seen from James Cameron before, while also mixing his traditional big budget action sequences. The combination worked for me, and I had a lot of fun with this one. It was a good vehicle for Schwarzenegger to show off by his action and comedy (much better than in Last Action Hero), and both he and Jamie Lee Curtis got off some really funny moments together. It was thrilling, funny and had some very good action sequences, so I was pleased.

WHAT I THINK OF IT NOW: This is one of those movies were not much has changed. The movies that Cameron would go on to do after this like Titanic and Avatar would ultimately eclipse this movie to the point that many don't remember much about it. Heck, even I didn't until I caught up with it for the sake of this article. But, rediscovering it was a lot of fun. The combo of action and humor works here, as it never gets too silly or too serious or violent to kill the mood that the movie is going for.

THE MASK
RELEASED: JULY 29


WHAT'S IT ABOUT?: A meek and shy bank clerk named Stanley Ipkiss (Jim Carrey) discovers an ancient mask that seems to have the power to make the wearer's wildest fantasies come true. And since Stanley is a fan of classic cartoons, the mask transforms him into a green-faced living cartoon character who has the abilities to get back at all the people who torment him. Eventually, Stanley will have to use his new powers to save the city and the woman he has fallen for (Cameron Diaz, making her acting debut) when an evil crime boss gets a hold of the mask, and tries to use its powers for evil.

WHAT I THOUGHT OF IT THEN: Has any comedian or actor ever had a year like Jim Carrey had in 1994? He kicked off the year with Ace Ventura in February, followed it up with The Mask during the summer, and ended it with Dumb and Dumber in December. All three films were massive hits, and made him one of the biggest comedic stars to come along in a while at the time. I was one of the few of my age group who wasn't a fan of Ace Ventura, but I remember liking this one a lot more. I loved the special effects, and I found Carrey to be very likable and funny in the lead role. Being a fan of classic animation, I also loved the Tex Avery influenced gags throughout the film. This was a big movie back in the day, and at the time, I completely understood why.

WHAT I THINK OF IT NOW: This movie has not aged well to me. While Carrey is still likable here, the movie itself feels kind of slow and dead whenever he's not wearing the mask. It's a movie of extreme highs and lows, and my interest kind of sags for long periods when he's not The Mask. The movie's not bad by any means, and I can see why I enjoyed it back in the day. It's just that its flaws are much more visible to me now. The scene-stealing dog is still cute, though, and the best part of the film outside of Carrey.

NATURAL BORN KILLERS
RELEASED: AUGUST 26


WHAT'S IT ABOUT?: Mickey (Woody Harrelson) and Mallory (Juliette Lewis) are two lovers who go on a cross country killing spree. At each stop they make during their deadly road trip, they kill everyone but one person, who can tell their story. Over time, the two become sensationalized by the media, and become almost heroes to the nation. It's a highly stylized and gory satire on how the current news media can glorify criminals, and make them into celebrities.
 

WHAT I THOUGHT OF IT THEN: I remember there being a lot of attention and controversy surrounding this film when it came out. It was extremely violent and gory, but it also used some really interesting film style choices in order to tell its story, such as the scenes depicting Mallory growing up with an abusive father (played by Rodney Dangerfield) being depicted as a sitcom, complete with off camera laugh track. There's animation, black and white film, as well as old TV clips, which gave the film a highly kinetic and kind of manic energy. I remember really getting sucked in by the film's vision, and finding this to be a fascinating film.

WHAT I THINK OF IT NOW: Again, I don't think this is a movie that has stood the test of time. Oliver Stone (who directed the film) tries to do so much that the movie kind of becomes too chaotic for its own good. This also comes across as a one-note movie, hitting the same points over and over again. In my later years, I have seen other movies that have handled the idea of "criminals as media celebrities" much better than this. Still, there are some effective moments here. The "sitcom" scenes are still very powerful and hit the right note, and the performances are strong. But there is just simply too much here vying for the audience's attention, and it gets to be a bit much.


And that will wrap up the summer of 94. What does 95 hold for us? Well, we get a new direction for Batman, Tom Hanks continues his winning streak, and Disney tries to repeat their Lion King success with an animated film about a Native American Princess.

Come back next time for these films and many more!

1 comments

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Summer Movies of the 90s: 1993

So, welcome to the summer of 93. I turned 16 that summer, and much like the previous year, things were rough for my family. With my dad gone and my brothers off in college, my mom decided we needed a smaller house. She started plans to build us a new house. Unfortunately, that would mean that we would have to live somewhere else that summer, as our old house had been sold, and our new one wouldn't be completed until December.

And so, during the summer, we lived at my grandmother's old house which had been empty at the time. It's not that it was a bad house, my problem with it was that there was no central air conditioning. And of course, the summer became one of the hottest on record. And due to the street repair job that was going on right outside most of the summer, not only did we have construction sounds most of the day, but the wonderful smell of pavement tar would always be on the breeze. We couldn't close the windows and turn on the air, so we just had to live with the heat, noise, and smell.

I remember three things about that summer. One was I was kind of depressed, due to the home situation and troubles at school I had during the previous year. Another was that I spent most of that summer sleeping on the floor of the living room in a sleeping bag, because that room was the coolest at night, and we had a plug in fan in that room, so it was fairly comfortable in there. The final thing I remember is that I got into walking that summer. The house was in close distance to some stores, the library and the movie theater, so I decided to walk to a lot of these places. I became hooked on walking, and I still do it regularly to this day.

But enough about me. Time to look back at the summer movies that served as my escapism from the heat and construction that summer. We've got quite a few to cover this time around, so let's get the ball rolling.

HOT SHOTS! PART DEUX
RELEASED: MAY 21


WHAT'S IT ABOUT?: Charlie Sheen is back as Topper Harley, only this time, the satirical target of the film is the Rambo franchise. Even veteran character actor and Rambo regular, the late Richard Crenna, shows up to spoof his image in those films. Topper has fled to a Tibetan village, and must be coaxed out of retirement in order to rescue some Iraq war prisoners. Much like the first film, it's pretty much wall to wall silliness here, with plenty of jabs at the late 80s and early 90s action cliches. Everything from Terminator 2 to Apocalypse Now to even Lady and the Tramp gets kidded here.

WHAT I THOUGHT OF IT THEN: Boy, did I feel smart when this movie came out. You see, I had taken French class for my foreign language in high school, while my friends had taken Spanish or German. So, they had no idea what "Part Deux" meant when it came out. So, for one brief shining moment, French class paid off. That being said, I remember liking this movie quite a lot. I was really into these silly spoof films at the time, and I thought this one hit its satire targets better than the first one.

WHAT I THINK OF IT NOW: This is a fun movie. Again, it's not one of the classics of the genre, like Airplane! or Top Secret, but it still has more than its share of laughs. The most memorable moment for me is easily the body counter during a major action sequence, which dubs the film to be bloodier than Total Recall and Robocop. Has anyone actually checked if that was accurate? I've often wondered.

CLIFFHANGER
RELEASED: MAY 28

WHAT'S IT ABOUT?:
Sylvester Stallone is Gabe Walker, a professional mountain climber who is still haunted by the memory of how he was unable to save a friend, and she plunged to her death during a climb. One year later, Gabe is asked to go back to the same mountain in order to save some stranded people, only to learn that the people are actually criminals led by a psychopath (John Lithgow), who are seeking a fortune that is lost within the mountains. Gabe will have to survive and outwit the criminals who have no intention of leaving him alive once they get their money.

WHAT I THOUGHT OF IT THEN: To say that Stallone has had a spotty movie record would be kind at best. Heck, even back in 93 when he was still one of the leading action stars in Hollywood, he was still struggling pretty bad. I remember at the time, this movie cemented a bit of credibility back to his career, at least for a short while. This was one of the better action films he had done at the time. It delivered exactly on what it promised, had plenty of action and thrills, and was simple yet exciting enough to work as summer entertainment.

WHAT I THINK OF IT NOW: Not much has changed, really. I still view this as one of the better later Stallone films, or at least one I don't enjoy on a guilty pleasure level. Yes, the plot is completely off the wall, and some of the actions of the characters don't make a lot of sense outside of the plot. But the mountain setting is beautifully shot and novel, Lithgow makes for a good over the top villain, and the movie does have a kind of Die Hard feel, with a regular guy in over his head premise. It's certainly not great or a classic by any means, but it stands as one of Stallone's more watchable later outings.

SUPER MARIO BROS.
RELEASED: MAY 28


WHAT'S IT ABOUT?:
The first in a long line of disappointing movie adaptations of video games kicks off with this loose interpretation of Super Mario Bros., which finds the famous duo of Mario (the late Bob Hoskins) and Luigi (John Leguizamo) warped to a gritty urban world filled with human/lizard hybrids run by the tyrannical King Koopa (the late Dennis Hopper). The brothers must save Princess Daisy (Samantha Mathis), defeat Koopa, restore order to the alternate world, and save the Earth in the process.

WHAT I THOUGHT OF IT THEN: I was looking forward to this movie, as I liked a lot of the actors who were going to be in it when I started hearing about it. Then the trailers came out, and while it didn't look anything like Super Mario Bros., I was kind of intrigued by the special effects and again the cast, so I was still looking forward to it. My best friend and I went to see it opening weekend, and we didn't really know what to make of it. We didn't quite hate it as much as everybody else seemed to, but there was definitely something off here. There was no magic or fun that you would associate with a Super Mario movie. And despite the movie squeezing in numerous references to the games, it just did not feel like a Mario movie to me.

WHAT I THINK OF IT NOW: This is far from the worst movie to be made from a video game, but it is one of the more confused and muddled movies I've seen. And if you look up the behind the scenes story, you'll know why. Much like Cool World in my previous article, this is a movie that was radically changed and altered. The actors had signed on to the original script, which was a fantasy comedy adventure film in the style of The Princess Bride. When they showed up on set, the film had completely changed to a gritty Sci-Fi special effects comedy, with an entirely new script, and nobody had informed the actors. Nobody knew what was going on, the movie was constantly being rewritten every day it seemed, and the whole thing ends up being a bloated effects-heavy mess. Bob Hoskins and Dennis Hopper would both go on to say that this was the worst film they ever made. At least John Leguizamo kept his sense of humor about it. He hosted a 20th anniversary screening of the film a while back, and the stories and anecdotes about the troubled shoot are incredible.

JURASSIC PARK
RELEASED: JUNE 11


WHAT'S IT ABOUT?: If you don't know the plot to this one, I say, "Welcome to Earth, strange visitor from another world!". An eccentric billionaire (the late Sir Richard Attenborough) and his team of scientists have found a way to genetically create their own dinosaurs. The goal is to create the ultimate theme park on a distant island around these creations. A group of scientists and experts and invited to the island for a sneak preview, and naturally everything that can go wrong does. The dinosaurs escape, the visitors are trapped on the island with no power, and the movie itself ushers in an at the time revolution in special effects technology.
 WHAT I THOUGHT OF IT THEN: Long story short, to this day, this remains the best experience I've ever had in a movie theater. I just remember the entire audience being into the movie the likes of which I had never seen before, and that feeling carried right through me and lifted my spirits, which had been pretty low at the time. To me, this is the perfect summer movie. It was thrilling, funny and offered visuals that we had never seen before. I saw it three times at the theater during the course of the summer of 93, and I know I wasn't alone. The world seemed enamored with this movie that summer.

WHAT I THINK OF IT NOW: Is this movie perfect? Heck, no. Does it have flaws? Oh my goodness, yes. Do I care? Nope. Do I still watch this every time I see it on? You bet. Do I still consider seeing this movie opening night the best movie theater experience of my life? No other movie viewing experience even comes close. You can nitpick this movie all you want, but you can never take away the sheer fun this movie brings me. When I think of summer movies, I think of Jurassic Park.

LAST ACTION HERO
RELEASED: JUNE 18


WHAT'S IT ABOUT?: A kid (Austin O'Brien) obsessed with an action movie character named Jack Slater (Arnold Schwarzenegger) finds himself transported inside the latest Slater movie with the help of a magic movie ticket. As the kid wanders about the movie's world, pointing out the cliches and impossibilities usually associated with action films, the villain of the movie discovers a way to cross over into the kid's real world, and plans world domination by bringing an army of movie villains and monsters out of the screen and into reality.
 WHAT I THOUGHT OF IT THEN: This was the first big stumble for Schwarzenegger after a string of smash hits. The movie was hyped up to be the big summer movie event of the year. Heck, the movie was even advertised on the outside of a space shuttle for crying out loud! However, behind the scenes talk of the movie was very worrisome. For one thing, they were actually shooting and working on the movie up to one week before it was released. The stories of the troubled production are legendary, and they're all up there on the screen. As a kid, I thought this was a fun idea that never came together. It didn't know if it was going for whimsy, satire, spoof, fantasy, adventure or if it was a kid's movie. It tried to juggle all this, and the end result left most audiences cold, including myself.

WHAT I THINK OF IT NOW: This movie just has so many weird ideas. I mean, why is there a cartoon cat voiced by Danny Devito working at the police station in the movie world? I know it's supposed to be a movie where anything can happen, but it just makes no sense! The satire isn't sharp or funny enough, and the characters aren't written well enough for us to care about them when the movie wants to be a fantasy adventure. This is another case of a script (which was supposedly much better and funnier) being altered so much that it barely resembled a coherent final product, and just ended up being a bloated commercial product that fell flat on its face.

SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE
RELEASED: JUNE 25


WHAT'S IT ABOUT?: A young boy (Ross Malinger) calls a radio call-in show, wanting help for his dad (Tom Hanks), who is grieving over the death of his wife. On the other side of the U.S., an engaged but lonely woman (Meg Ryan), hears the radio show, and becomes fascinated by him. Despite the distance between them, the two seem destined to meet and fall in love in this old fashioned romantic comedy heavily influenced by An Affair to Remember.

WHAT I THOUGHT OF IT THEN: It was usually tough to get my mom to see a movie (she preferred to rent movies on video, as it was cheaper), but I don't remember having much trouble convincing her to see this one. This became the surprise small movie that eventually became a hit that summer, and it's easy to see why. It was a sweet natured and unquestionably romantic film that served as the perfect antidote for people who weren't interested in CG dinosaurs. (I mean, I suppose those people have to exist...) It helped that the movie was genuinely funny at times, and never became so sappy that guys couldn't enjoy it as well as their dates.

WHAT I THINK OF IT NOW: Not much has changed. I hadn't seen this movie in years, and catching up with it was a pleasant surprise. The film's writer-director, the late Nora Ephron, excelled at making romantic comedies that were smarter than the norm (she was best known for writing When Harry Met Sally), and this is no better on display than here. The cast is charming, the script is funny, and it's just a very nice small movie to watch on a couch.

DENNIS THE MENACE
RELEASED: JUNE 25


WHAT'S IT ABOUT?: The little blond-haired trouble making tyke from the funny papers (played here by Mason Gamble) gets his first theatrical movie. The first hour or so is more or less built around the relationship he has with his grumpy neighbor, Mr. Wilson (Walter Matthau, great casting there), as well as a lot of slapstick gags. But, because this is a John Hughes screenplay from the 90s, there has to be a burglar and/or kidnapper to be abused in a series of pratfalls, so the last half is devoted to Dennis being kidnapped by a drifter named Switchblade Sam (Christopher Lloyd), and having the kid abuse him in a series of forced gags.

WHAT I THOUGHT OF IT THEN: Even as a kid, I kind of knew that I was watching the downfall of a great writer here. While it's not a terrible movie by any stretch of the imagination, as someone who grew up on John Hughes' 80s film catalog, this felt like stale leftovers of his success with Home Alone. Heck, we had just had Home Alone 2 the year before, and that was just a pale imitation of the first. Now here was Hughes pretty much selling out again, and writing a family comedy on autopilot. If only I knew how regular an occurrence this would be throughout the rest of the 90s. I remember liking some of the scenes between Mr. Wilson and Dennis, but a lot of the movie just felt like a good writer was cashing a paycheck, especially during the last half.

WHAT I THINK OF IT NOW: The guy who brought us Ferris Bueller and Planes, Trains and Automobiles should not have ended his career doing nothing but uninspired family films (Flubber, the live action 101 Dalmations) and remakes that we did not need (A Miracle on 34th Street). Still, of the films that mark Hughes' "sell out" period, this is watchable, mainly for Matthau's performance. If the movie had just focused solely on the relationship between Mr. Wilson and Dennis, the movie would probably have worked. Instead, it separates them for the last half, and has an unnecessary villain hijack the entire movie. There is some good stuff here (I like the music score by the great Jerry Goldsmith), but it's also pretty forgettable overall.

IN THE LINE OF FIRE
RELEASED: JULY 9


WHAT'S IT ABOUT?: A secret service agent (Clint Eastwood) is still haunted by the memories of the fact that he was not able to save John F. Kennedy the day he was shot. Now a madman (John Malkovich) has taken a personal interest in him, and has started taunting him with his plans to assassinate the current President. The agent is determined not to let the past repeat itself, and track the killer down.

WHAT I THOUGHT OF IT THEN: This was really my first introduction to Eastwood. My dad was a big fan of Westerns, so I would sometimes see some of his old movies on TV a lot growing up, but I never really paid much attention to them. This movie, however, really grabbed my attention and made me a fan, which I remain to this day. This was a tight and very well executed thriller that really knew how to build up the suspense. Eastwood and Malkovich made great enemies here, and the way they play off of and toy with each other is what I remember enjoying the most.
WHAT I THINK OF IT NOW: This is still a great thriller that sadly has kind of gone forgotten by most people today. I remember it kind of being overshadowed by another thriller (The Firm with Tom Cruise, which had come out the week before), but still finding an audience back in the day. I still feel this was a great introduction to Eastwood as an actor, and that this is une of the relatively unsung gems of 93.

HOCUS POCUS
RELEASED: JULY 16


WHAT'S IT ABOUT?: In modern day Salem, a group of kids on Halloween night accidentally resurrect three witch sisters (Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy), who immediately set about their ancient plan of earning eternal youth by stealing the souls of children. The kids team up with a talking black cat (who has a history with the witches) in order to stop their plan.

WHAT I THOUGHT OF IT THEN: What in the name of the Great Pumpkin was this movie doing being released in the summer? Even back in the day, I thought it was weird that the studio couldn't have just waited three months, and released it in October, which would have made more sense. As for my thoughts on the film, while there were some moments I smiled at, I found this to be a fairly aimless movie. The kids never come across as interesting heroes, and the witches are never threatening, as the movie is too concerned making them into bungling Three Stooges-types, always slapping each other around and acting silly. I remember thinking this was a good idea that just wasn't executed as well as it should have. It seemed more concerned with being loud and silly than making sense.

WHAT I THINK OF IT NOW: The movie was a flop back in the day, but has since built a very big and vocal fanbase. So much so, that there is talk of a sequel. Honestly, I can't see why people love this movie so much. It always comes across as a waste of a good idea whenever I watch it. The antics of the witches just does not make me laugh, and the movie just seems to be trying too hard. Still, I know lots of people who love this movie, so I guess I'm never going to escape it.

CONEHEADS
RELEASED: JULY 23


WHAT'S IT ABOUT?: After the surprise success of Wayne's World, Saturday Night Live head honcho, Lorne Michaels, dug deep into the show's past for the next feature length film. This is more or less the untold origin story of how aliens Beldar (Dan Aykroyd) and Prymatt (Jane Curtin) came to Earth, and began trying to mingle in our society. They raise a family, having a teenage daughter named Connie (Michelle Burke), and try to avoid Federal Agents who think that the Coneheads may not be from around here.

WHAT I THOUGHT OF IT THEN: I remember back then thinking it was kind of weird for them to be doing a Coneheads movie, as the characters had not been in the public eye for years. Still, I remember liking it back then. It wasn't as crazy or as funny as Wayne's World, but it was never meant to be. This movie was more laid back, and kind of like a feature length sitcom. It had a certain silly gentleness that kind of appealed to me.

WHAT I THINK OF IT NOW: Again, this is not a great movie by any means, but I really don't get a lot of the hatred it seems to get from most people. It's a simple, laid back and goofy movie that's not very engaging, but never offensive, either. It's the kind of movie that you can have on in the background when you're doing something else, and kind of look at and smile at what's going on once in a while. I can see why the movie never caught on or became a hit (it's not as funny as it could have or should have been), but it's certainly nothing unwatchable.
 
ROBIN HOOD: MEN IN TIGHTS
RELEASED: JULY 30


WHAT'S IT ABOUT?: Mel Brooks turns his satirical touch to the Robin Hood legend, taking aim mostly at Prince of Thieves from two years earlier, but also poking fun at the earlier Errol Flynn film. Cary Elwes steps into the tights of Robin this time around, as he teams up with the Merry Men (which includes a pre-fame Dave Chappelle) to battle the evil Prince John (Richard Lewis) and the Sheriff of Rottingham (Roger Rees), and of course fall in love with Maid Marion (Amy Yasbeck), and find a way to unlock her chastity belt.
WHAT I THOUGHT OF IT THEN: I was a big fan of Brooks back in the day, particularly Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein and Spaceballs. I was looking forward to his skewering of Prince of Thieves, especially since I wasn't a fan of that film, and thought it was ripe for parody. In the end, I walked away disappointed. Oh, there were laughs, but there were also a lot of dead spots that I thought the movie was being very lazy, or just crude for the sake of being crude. I remember my friends liking it back then, but I did not consider this to be Brooks at his best.

WHAT I THINK OF IT NOW: I actually like this less than I did back then. The movie has not held up for me. The jokes are just far too obvious, and never hit as hard as they should. There was a time when Brooks was one of the sharpest parodists out there, but his humor had gotten kind of dull by this point. The movie is slow and kind of plodding, when people like the Zucker Brothers were throwing in jokes in just about every frame. This is just a big misfire all around for me.

THE FUGITIVE
RELEASED: AUGUST 6


WHAT'S IT ABOUT?: Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford) is a noted medical doctor whose world is thrown into chaos when someone breaks into his home and murders his wife. Even worse, all the evidence at the crime scene seems to point to him. He is found guilty at trial, but while he is being transported to prison, a freak accident gives him a second chance at freedom and at proving his innocence, as well as tracking down the real killer. All the while, a manhunt for Dr. Kimble led by the relentless Samuel Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones) is constantly on his tail.

WHAT I THOUGHT OF IT THEN: The 90s had a slew of movies based on old TV shows from the 50s and 60s, thanks largely in part to the success of 1991's The Addams Family film. This was one of the more successful and popular films to come from that trend, and it's easy to see why. I found this to be a tight, suspenseful and wonderfully executed action thriller. I particularly remember the train crash scene (the sequence where Kimble gets his freedom back) being a particular highlight. There was just so much right here. The performances from Ford and Jones were pitch perfect, the action was intense, and the movie just had a relentlessly exciting tone.

WHAT I THINK OF IT NOW: While Jurassic Park probably remains my favorite summer movie, this is definitely the best made and most rewarding summer movie of 93. Even over 25 years later, this remains as exciting and well done as back in the day. Heck, it's better than a lot of the action thrillers we get today. Everything just came together for this one in a special way that has seldom been topped. If you haven't seen this one in a while, or missed it when it was in theaters, it's well worth checking out.

NEEDFUL THINGS
RELEASED: AUGUST 27


WHAT'S IT ABOUT?:
Based on the novel by Stephen King, an elderly man named Leland Gaunt (Max von Sydow) moves into the small town of Castle Rock, and opens an antique shop that seems to have something for everyone in stock. However, his items come with a terrible price, as the people who buy his items have to perform a "favor" for Mr. Gaunt in payment, which usually means pulling a prank or doing something horrible to someone else in town. The entire town eventually becomes a war zone as the townspeople turn against each other, wanting to hold onto the precious "needful things", while the local Sheriff Alan Pangborn (Ed Harris) begins to suspect that Mr. Gaunt is not as harmless as he seems, and may even be a force of supernatural evil who has come to claim the souls of the innocent people of his town.
 WHAT I THOUGHT OF IT THEN: The novel Needful Things was the book that got me into reading Stephen King back when it came out. It was darkly funny, while still keeping an edge of suspense, and a lot of action that kept the massive novel moving at a quick pace. I was excited to see it get adapted into a movie, so I saw it opening day, and was met with great disappointment. Certain elements and characters were changed, key plot points were dropped, and the whole thing just felt like a pale imitation of the novel. The actors were fine, and the movie was well done, but it just lacked the energy of the book.

WHAT I THINK OF IT NOW: While I still find this to be a disappointing adaptation of the novel, there are some nice touches here and there. I particularly like a sequence that is staged perfectly to the classical music piece, 'In the Hall of the Mountain King". The performances are also pretty good here. Really, I have nothing to object to the filmmaking, rather it's the script that's at fault here. It cuts out too much, makes some changes that just don't make any sense at all, and really just does not do a good job of creating the same feeling of dark comedy and menace that King did with his original story. This remains a big disappointment to me, as I'm still a fan of the novel, and still have my old hardcover book that I bought back in the day.

And with that, we close out the Summer 93 movie season, or at least the movies I saw back in the day.

We have a lot of great stuff coming up in 94, where the world learned what "Hakuna Matata" meant, Jim Carrey seemed to take over the world, and "Life is like a box of chocolates" became the catchphrase that seemingly would never die.

Join me next time as I look back on those and many more films. Until next time, I appreciate your support for this series, and I will be back soon!

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