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Posts Tagged ‘old timey adventure’

Cutthroat Island

Wednesday, September 18th, 2019

It took me nearly a quarter of a century to get around to giving CUTTHROAT ISLAND (1995) a shot. Certified by the Guinness Book as the biggest financial bomb of all time, it got poor reviews, bankrupted Carolco Pictures (FIRST BLOOD, T2) before it even came out, diverted director Renny Harlin (following DIE HARD 2 and CLIFFHANGER) from the A-list and failed to create momentum for its revolutionary notion of giving a woman the lead role and top billing on a big budget summer adventure.

But I had reason to be suspicious of its reputation. Many of Harlin’s ‘90s movies, particularly his also-starring-Geena-Davis followup THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT, deserve more credit than they got at the time. And there’s definitely precedent for mob mentality panning of movies that have been heavily covered as over budget, out of control productions. This had the additional gossip-bait of the star and director being married to each other, causing mean-spirited speculation that one was only hired because of the other one’s clout. (For example, an informative 1996 Independent article about what went wrong manages to refer to them as “Renny Harlin and his demanding wife.”) On top of all that, you know how it is with what I call the Old Timey Adventure genre. They almost always lose money, even when they’re great. That’s just how it is. (read the rest of this shit…)

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Tuesday, June 18th, 2019

When INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM came out two years after RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK it was off-putting to many, and its PG-rated monkey brain and human heart munching outraged enough parents to inspire the more hardcore PG-13 rating. So five more years passed before director Steven Spielberg and producer/story-provider George Lucas came up with the next one, INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE, for summer of ’89.

To pull it off they had to back away from everything new they’d tried in TEMPLE OF DOOM and walk right up to everything old we all loved in RAIDERS. So it’s less mean, less weird, less gross, and more directly built onto the template of RAIDERS. Not that it was a total rehash. Nazis are involved, but not necessarily in charge. Marion isn’t there, and the new love interest follows a very different arc. There’s less desert and more water. There’s a wacky old man sidekick played by Sean Connery (ENTRAPMENT). And a whole sequence from Indy’s childhood. But he steals an artifact and brings it to school and then finds out about a quest for another artifact and offers his expertise and travels to different countries and looks at ancient texts that lead him to a series of riddles that he solves while pursued by Nazis, murderers and betrayers and teamed with Brody and Sallah and ultimately when they find the thing it kills the bad guys in cool face-melting special effects sequences and etc. So it’s kind of the same thing. But they did a good job of hiding it. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Mask of Zorro

Wednesday, August 8th, 2018

You know me, I love these modern (like, 1990s or later) takes on old timey adventure heroes. For example I enjoyed THE SHADOW, THE PHANTOM, THE LONE RANGER and THE LEGEND OF TARZAN, all of which were considered flops. I suspect the generation that was greenlighting these kinds of pictures is gone, and the tradition will die out, but I appreciate their contributions to my entertainment.

There’s only one I can think of that was a genuine hit. THE MASK OF ZORRO opened at #1, made $250 million worldwide, even got a sequel. One of its biggest marks was making Catherine Zeta-Jones into a movie star. Obviously you and I already knew her as a villain who switches to the good guy side in THE PHANTOM, but executive producer Steven Spielberg (DEEP IMPACT) recommended her after seeing her in a Titanic mini-series. MASK OF ZORRO was the thing most people knew her from before ENTRAPMENT, THE HAUNTING, HIGH FIDELITY, TRAFFIC, CHICAGO, etc. For screenwriters Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio (SMALL SOLDIERS), who are credited alongside John Eskow (PINK CADILLAC, AIR AMERICA) and Randall Jahnson (DUDES, THE DOORS) it was the prototype epic-period-adventure-movie template they would use for four PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN movies and THE LONE RANGER.

As far as I know nobody ever talks about THE MASK OF ZORRO anymore. But they should. It’s fucking great. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Rocketeer

Wednesday, May 31st, 2017
a survey of summer movies that just didn’t catch on

June 19, 1991

THE ROCKETEER has all the right ingredients for an aw schucks old timey circa-1938 super hero yarn. The hero, Cliff (Billy Campbell, FAT KID RULES THE WORLD), is a pilot for air shows – small time enough to be an underdog, but cool enough to strut around in his brown leather pilot’s jacket and clock a guy when necessary.

The setting is Los Angeles, so his girlfriend Jenny (Jennifer Connelly, CREEPERS, LABYRINTH) is an aspiring ingenue, the villain is suave, swashbuckling “#3 box office star” Neville Sinclair (Timothy Dalton, BRENDA STARR), and the experimental technology they’re fighting over was originated by Howard Hughes (Terry O’Quinn, THE STEPFATHER). Also involved are mobsters (because Sinclair hired them), Nazis (because he is one), G-men (led by Ed Lauter, DEATH WISH 3, THE ARTIST) and a giant named Lothar (former Austrian basketball pro Tiny Ron Taylor [ROAD HOUSE, SASQUATCH MOUNTAIN] made up by Rick Baker to look like Rondo Hatton).

The random way Cliff becomes a jet-packing hero is pretty cool. During a test flight of the craft he and his mechanic/mentor Peevy (Alan Arkin, FREEBIE AND THE BEAN) have been working on for years, he flies over a chase between the mobsters and the FBI. The mobsters think he’s with the feds and turn their tommy guns on him! Some kind of mixup causes the gangsters to get away without the jetpack they stole from Howard Hughes, but Cliff accidentally finds where they stashed it. (read the rest of this shit…)

Tarzan and the Lost City

Monday, July 25th, 2016

summer2016originstn_tarzanBefore there was THE LEGEND OF TARZAN there were over 200 other Tarzan movies, and before those there were 26 books by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and books by other people, and radio plays and cartoons and records and cereals and pajamas. But for the purposes of Summer 2016: Origins I wanted to watch the previous live action Tarzan, the Tarzan movie of the ’90s, TARZAN AND THE LOST CITY (1998) starring Casper Van Dien (followup to his debut STARSHIP TROOPERS).

It turns out some of the things I liked about LEGEND’s approach had already been done in this one. LOST CITY begins with Tarzan already a lord and having to return to the jungle and his old ways to help somebody. It also has a respect for the native African characters, showing them as his close friends who he comes to help. And it has bad guys who are arrogant European assholes plundering Africa (although they’re just stealing diamonds, not abusing workers/enslaving people like in LEGEND). They start by stealing from graves, which does not go over well with the locals. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Legend of Tarzan

Wednesday, July 13th, 2016

tn_legendoftarzanI’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: THANK YOU studios for continuing to make these expensive old-timey adventure character movies even though they are always financially disastrous. I for one appreciate the gesture!

Of this type of movie, Gore Verbinski’s THE LONE RANGER is far and away the most entertaining and masterful. THE LEGEND OF TARZAN is closer to the level of the last major Edgar Rice Burroughs adaptation, Andrew Stanton’s JOHN CARTER. It’s a little slicker than that one, but also a little more normal since it takes place on Earth with Earth type animals. Yet it’s not what I expected at all. It knows that you already know the basics about Tarzan, so it tries to walk that delicate line of giving you a different spin without sacrificing the classic Tarzan shit you expect. It also tries to capture some of the feel of stories written a hundred years ago while looking at matters of race, gender and culture with today’s eyes. And it does these things fairly successfully.

In the opening we meet Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz, INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, THE GREEN HORNET), a cruel Belgian mercenary searching for the fabled diamonds of Opar, and Mbonga (Djimon Hounsou, AMISTAD, LARA CROFT: TOMB RAIDER: THE CRADLE OF LIFE), a menacing cheetah-masked Chief willing to trade the diamonds for the capture of his greatest enemy, name-withheld-but-cut-to-the-title-THE-LEGEND-OF-TARZAN®. (read the rest of this shit…)