Tuesday, February 6, 2024

24 Hours of Movies: 1994!

by Patrick Bromley
1994 week is now 1994 month!

Every year for F This Movie Fest, we dedicate the week of the fest to the year we're celebrating that year. Because this year's fest is honoring 1994, and because there are too many good movies released that year to be contained by just a single week, I've decided to dedicate an entire month to covering the movies of 1994. Let's kick things off with a 24-hour marathon!

10 am - The Pagemaster (dir. Joe Johnston/Maurice Hunt)
You know, for kids.

11:30 am - Blown Away (dir. Stephen Hopkins)
Because Pagemaster might not grab everyone right off the bat, it's important to program a real banger in the second slot of our 1994 marathon. That honor belongs to the great Stephen Hopkins, who finally got his shot to make a big, original (non-sequel) studio movie this year and swung for the fences with Blown Away, the story of a retiring bomb squad cop (Jeff Bridges) called back into action when an escaped IRA terrorist (Tommy Lee Jones) comes gunning for him. The movie is big and stupid in the way that studio movies in the '90s could be (which is different from how they are big and stupid now, IYKYK), with lots of practical explosions and U2 on the soundtrack because Irish.

1:30 pm - Airheads (dir. Michael Lehmann)
If it were more widely available for streaming (it's only on Hulu and not rentable elsewhere), this would have made it into this year's F This Movie Fest lineup. It's got the right mix of goofy comedy, a huge and likable cast, good music, and a short run time. Alas, it wasn't meant to be so we'll program it into our marathon instead.

3 pm - The River Wild (dir. Curtis Hanson)
I only saw this for the first time about a year ago and it totally rules. Curtis Hanson (RIP) was a great director in literally any genre, here calling the shots on a terrific action adventure film in which Meryl Streep (who can also do anything, as evidenced by her performance in this) must guide her family down a river when they're held hostage by a pair of criminals (Kevin Bacon and John C. Reilly). All of the actors are great, but it's the scenery and practical locations and stunts that make this special. Another example of a three star movie in 1994 that has become a five star gem in the hindsight of 2024.

5 pm - The Chase (dir. Adam Rifkin)
Adam Rifkin's major studio debut remains his slickest and arguably most accessible movie even though it's still full of weird and silly touches that only he would bring to a movie. Charlie Sheen is an innocent man wrongly accused who goes on the run with Kristy Swanson as his heiress hostage, pursued by dozens of cops (including a very funny Henry Rollins) and two Red Hot Chili Pepper, among others. There are gross out gags mixed with sharp satire, broad comedy mixed with pure physical anarchy. It's one of the wildest studio movies of a very good year.

6:30 pm - Bad Girls (dir. Jonathan Kaplan)
The premise for this one is almost offensively simplistic: what if a western, but women? Thankfully it's put in the hands of the great Jonathan Kaplan, who got his start making great exploitation movies before moving into studio fare like The Accused and here reunites with his Unlawful Entry star Madeleine Stowe as the leader of a band of prostitutes (who also include Drew Barrymore, Mary Stuart Masterson, and Andie McDowell) who who kill an abusive john and go on the run from Pinkertons. I wish Kaplan had let the movie be a little more trashy and a little less polished, but the cast is so good (Hot Stowe!) and I'm such a sucker for a western that I want it represented in our marathon.

8:15 pm - The Getaway (dir. Roger Donaldson)
The primetime slot goes to this underrated remake of Sam Peckinpah's 1974 classic, which recasts real-life couple Steve McQueen and Ali McGraw with real-life couple Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger as a pair of criminals who find themselves in a bloody mess when a job goes bad. In Quentin Tarantino's book Cinema Speculation he writes that what makes the original Getaway fascinating is that it's the story of its two stars falling in love. This remake might instead be about the dissolution of Baldwin and Basinger as a couple (it's not really, as they stayed together until 2000 but fail to generate much on screen chemistry). They're both good, as is the screenplay by Walter Hill (who wrote the original) and Amy Holden Jones (Slumber Party Massacre), which trades in the spareness of the first film for some extra character work. It's slick, violent, studio product. Of course I love it. As of this writing, there is still no Blu-ray.

10:15 - Serial Mom (dir. John Waters)
We should start getting weird going into the overnight section, so who better to get weird with than John Waters? His '90s "studio" period is fascinating and this is one of the best films of that period, a blacker-than-black comedy with a brilliant Kathleen Turner performance as the quote-unquote perfect suburban housewife who also happens to murder anyone that messes with her ideas of perfection. This mid-'90s period is where the crossover between indies and studio movies really began to overlap, and Serial Mom is a great example of that.

Midnight - Night of the Demons 2 (dir. Brian Trenchard-Smith)
I know I've seen this follow-up to Kevin S. Tenney's seminal '80s horror classic Night of the Demons, but I can't remember a thing about it. This is a great chance to revisit it! I was positive we owned the Blu-ray from Olive Films but it's not on our shelf, so I must have dreamed it. Good thing there's a new Scream Factory disc! Now to take up a collection to buy it.

1:45 am - Cemetery Man (aka Dellemorte Dellamore) (dir. Michele Soavi)
Speaking of taking up a collection, I'm going to have to sell an organ to afford Severin's new 4K release of Cemetery Man, arguably the greatest Italian horror film of the '90s. Based on the Tiziano Sclavi novel, the adaptation casts Rupert Everett as a cemetery worker responsible for taking care of the dead bodies who keep coming back to live. It's so beautiful and weird and, yes, sexy, thanks in large part to the casting of Anna Falchi, one of the most gorgeous actors ever captured on film. I love that we will have a truly great Italian horror film in our customary Italian horror slot. 1994 was the best, wasn't it?

3:30 am - Color of Night (dir. Richard Rush)
Now that we're all horned up from Cemetery Man, it's time to watch one of the craziest erotic thrillers of the decade. I also love following up a great Italian horror film with one of the wildest American giallo films ever made, in which Bruce Willis can't see the color red and leads a therapy group that has nothing in common except that they're all character actors and are being killed off. There is virtually nothing sexy about this sex mystery, but it's so insane and entertaining that we'll barely even notice. Barely.

5:30 am - PCU (dir. Hart Bochner)
This seems like exactly the kind of stupid college comedy we want to wake up to. Best known these days for the "don't be that guy" exchange, PCU is the typical "slobs vs. snobs" comedy pitting David Spade's preppy against Jeremy Piven as the oldest college student ever. The supporting cast (which includes a young Jon Favreau and the always welcome Megan Ward) is super likable and it runs under 80 minutes, making it perfect for this placement. Plus, it's directed by Ellis from Die Hard!

7 am - With Honors (dir. Alek Keshishian)
Patently ridiculous, they-actually-made-a-movie-about-this drama about an Ivy League jagoff (recent Oscar winner Brendan Fraser) who takes in a homeless man (Joe Pesci) and, of course, learns life lessons that can't be taught in a Harvard textbook. I cannot defend liking this movie but I'll be goddamned if just a few notes of Madonna's "I'll Remember" don't immediately turn me into a pool of mushy goo.

9 am - Radioland Murders (dir. Mel Smith)
We're no doubt exhausted by this point and in need of a massive jolt of energy. That's exactly what Radioland Murders will be. This underrated screwball mystery assembles an insane cast (maybe the most star-studded of 1994?) led by Mary Stuart Masterson making her second appearance in the marathon (after Bad Girls) and Brian Benben (Mr. Madeleine Stowe!) as a bickering, possibly splitting couple running around a 1939 radio station as a series of murders take place during a live broadcast. Conceived and produced by George Lucas, Radioland Murders is breathless and inventive, hurling every joke and slapstick gag it possibly can in the service of making us laugh. What a great way to wrap up this marathon and celebrate one of the great years for movies.

1 comment:

  1. love this lineup! Airheads is AWESOME, of course. Andy introduced me to The Chase, which is delightful and wacky and unexpected. Cemetary Man deserves love outside of culty corners, and Color of Night deserves love inside of culty corners. I have not seen the rest of these movies, so I have some catching up to do!