Other Natural Disasters

The Evening Star is the continuation of Terms of Endearment no one’s heard of. Sequels to Best Picture winning films aren’t very common, but author Larry McMurtry wrote many books in his Houston series. The Evening Star picks up where Aurora Greenway left off. Shirley MaClaine reprises her Oscar winning role and seems to be doing everything she can to hold the movie together. Unlike Terms of Endearment, The Evening Star was not praised by critics. I feel like the sequel tries too hard to recapture what worked in the first movie.

Aurora is once again dealing with family problems and her complicated love life. Emma’s children are grown up and just as troubled as she was. Tommy is not so surprisingly in jail, Teddy has a disrespectful son, and Melanie desperately wants to get away from her overprotective granny. Juliette Lewis has played rebellious characters like this before. Emma’s best friend Patsy is recast with a more meddlesome Miranda Richardson. Aurora is at odds with her, but maintains a small circle of friends that includes the General Hector and her maid Rosie.

The latter is also recast with Marion Ross at least deserving a Golden Globe nomination. Ben Johnson plays her neighbor/husband Arthur in his final film role after passing away. Jack Nicholson manages to steal the show despite being nothing more than a glorified cameo. Aurora’s primary romantic conquest is a creepy relationship between her and her counselor Jerry played by the much younger Bill Paxton. This time not one, but three characters die in an attempt to elicit the same emotional response. The Evening Star is a little burnt out.

The Evening Star

Aurora and Garrett look at the evening star

Preceded by: Terms of Endearment

Stuck on Christmas

Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas is the ultimate combination of Disney and Christmas. Although released direct-to-video, Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas has more effort put into it than most Disney sequels made at the time. It’s actually the first feature length Disney movie featuring Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy in decades. If you consider 1 hour & 8 minutes to be feature length. The story is narrated by Kelsey Grammer and split into 3 roughly 20 minute segments that I can only talk about separately.

Donald Duck: Stuck on Christmas – The first segment features Donald, but focuses on his nephew’s Huey, Dewey, and Louie. Daisy, Uncle Scrooge, and one off character Aunt Gertie also appear along with a quick cameo from Chip ‘n Dale. It’s my personal favorite story, because I’m a big fan of the trio. “Stuck on Christmas” is about Huey, Dewey, and Louie wishing it was Christmas every day. Similar to a short story of the same name. Since I’m also a big fan of time loops, I enjoyed the boys having fun until they start to go crazy. Like most time loops, the second to last day is mean spirited, but the last day is where they discover the true meaning of Christmas.

A Very Goofy Christmas – The second segment features Goofy, but focuses on his son Max. In terms of the Goof Troop timeline, Max is younger than he was in the show. This story is filled with the kind of goofball charm you could only get from Goofy. He’s a real saint who gives to the less fortunate in his usual slapstick way. “A Very Goofy Christmas” is about Goofy trying to convince Max there’s a Santa Claus after his meddling neighbor Pete says otherwise. Goofy and Max share a special bond that results in the real Santa giving them what they always wanted.

Mickey and Minnie’s Gift of the Magi – The third segment focuses on both Mickey & Minnie. Of course Pluto is always by Mickey’s side and Minnie even gets Figaro from Pinocchio as her companion. Daisy and Pete appear, but they’re not animated exactly the same. “Gift of the Magi” is a more literal adaptation of the famous short story. Mickey & Minnie are such an innocent loving couple that it just fits in the best way. Like the original story, Mickey ends up trading his prized harmonica for Minnie’s present and Minnie trades her precious pocket watch for Mickey’s present. Both gifts are ironic, but given out of love.

In conclusion, Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas has been a joy to watch since I was a kid. Ever since I saw it advertised on my Inspector Gadget VHS tape. The animation is refreshingly traditional and the voice cast is top-notch as usual. I suppose it is a little sappy, but sometimes that’s all a Christmas special needs to be. Only the finale brings everyone together as they sing a mashed up version of “Jingle Bells,” “Deck the Halls,” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas is a Disney movie filled with Christmas spirit.

Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas

Donald sees Huey, Dewey, and Louie opening presents

Followed by: Mickey’s Twice Upon a Christmas

Open the Door

Stir of Echoes stirs up a genuinely chilling ghost story. I never heard of the movie before, but someone special suggested I watch it. Turns out there’s a good reason I never heard of it. Stir of Echoes was released in 1999 and was seriously overshadowed by other supernatural horror movies like The Sixth Sense, The Blair Witch Project, or The Mummy. The plot is especially similar to The Sixth Sense, but A Stir of Echoes is actually a 1958 book written by famous author Richard Matheson.

Director David Koepp reworks Stir of Echoes to fit the edgier 90’s a bit better. Kevin Bacon is scary good as neighborhood family man Tom Witzky. When his sister-in-law hypnotizes him at a party, Tom begins to pick up echoes of an unsolved murder. The main similarity with The Sixth Sense is Tom’s 5 year old son Jake cryptically communicating with a ghost. A young Jennifer Morrison haunts Tom with unsettling fragments of how she died.

His wife Maggie is similarly put through a lot of stress dealing with her husband and son’s supernatural madness. Fellow Kevin, Kevin Dunn, is also important to the story as Tom’s trusted best friend. Tom sees events before they happen, obsesses over every detail, and digs a hole for unexplained reasons. The mystery of how the victim died kept me guessing until the disturbing truth was revealed. There is a made-for-TV Syfy sequel, but that’s not really worth watching. Stir of Echoes is an underrated thriller for a year filled with iconic thrillers.

Stir of Echoes

Tom receives a visit from Samantha

Hang On

Cliffhanger is basically “Die Hard on a mountain.” A totally radical idea for the totally radical 90’s. I wasn’t surprised to learn a mountain climber came up with the concept. Sylvester Stallone struggled in the early 90’s, but Cliffhanger was just the moderate success he needed. Just a cheesy action flick with a suspension of disbelief the size of a mountain. Stallone plays fearless rescue ranger Gabe Walker. A man haunted by the one mountain climber he couldn’t save. The opening fall is actually more upsetting than I was expecting.

Gabe comes out of retirement John McClane style in a desperate fight for survival. He’s joined by Janine Turner as his rescue ranger girlfriend and supported by Michael Rooker as the rescue ranger who blames him for his girlfriend’s death. I had no idea Stallone and Rooker worked together before Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Cliffhanger starts out relatively tame, then gets very profane and violent when the bad guys enter the picture. John Lithgow plays obvious Hans Gruber stand-in Eric Qualen.

While putting on a ridiculous British accent, Qualen leads a rough gang of thieves who systematically rob a plane for the U.S. Treasury. They all search for three suitcases containing money that they lose in the mountain. Walker and his crew take out each sadistic criminal one by one. I had no idea how an action movie could be set on the side of a cliff, but it’s not too over-the-top. Even in the end when Walker and Qualen face off on a falling helicopter. Cliffhanger hangs on long enough to make an impression.

Cliffhanger

Gabe Walker hangs on

Born in Darkness

Spawn has the 90’s written all over it. It’s no secret that DC and Marvel are the reigning comic book companies. Comic creator Todd McFarlane got his start making edgy Spider-Man comics and bringing Venom to life. His style was so edgy that it led to the creation of the first creator-owned superhero company Image Comics. McFarlane had been developing Spawn ever since he was a teenager. Until his anti-hero became the hottest thing in the 90’s. Though I’m always wary of hell-raising superheroes, Spawn is a badass character with a prominent red cape, edgy spikes, chains, glowing green Necroplasmic eyes, and a Spider-Man inspired black costume. Spawn’s success led to toys, video games, a mature animated series, and a terrible 1997 movie that came out way too soon. I sometimes forget the film even exists, because of how unique it is.

Apart from being the only legitimate Image Comics movie, Spawn is the first movie starring an existing black superhero. I’d say that’s a big milestone, but Spawn suffers from the same problem as Steel (released 14 days later). Spawn has over-the-top performances, a dated 90’s soundtrack, horrifically bad CGI, little faithfulness to the source material, filler that distracts from the titular hero, and a baffling PG-13 rating. Only the makeup used on Spawn and his archenemy the Violator have any comic accuracy. Spawn mostly follows CIA operative Al Simmons’ origin of being betrayed by his boss and sent to Hell where a devil turns him into a Hellspawn with a variety of superpowers. Michael Jai White tries his best, but it’s difficult to get excited when his face is always horribly disfigured. Aside from his wife Wanda and daughter Cyan, fellow CIA agent Terry and his killer are both race changed to be white instead of black.

His killer is now a sexy female assassin named Jessica Priest. Martin Sheen plays his overly evil boss Jason Wynn with plans of destroying the world with a deadly bioweapon or something like that. It doesn’t stand out nearly as much as John Leguizamo mugging the camera as the overweight blue-faced clown Violator. We all know how much Michael Jai White hates clowns. This was unfortunately Nicol Williamson’s final role as Spawn’s mentor Cogliostro, but it’s not too insulting. Although they try to recapture McFarlane’s unique art style, the devil Malebolgia, Hell, Violator’s demonic form, and Spawn’s cape are all awful special effects. Until MacFarlane’s reboot escapes development hell, Spawn remains one of the worst superhero movies of the 90’s.

Spawn

Spawn broods

Bangarang!

Hook asks the question, “What if Peter Pan grew up?” Much like Steven Spielberg, I’ve been a Peter Pan fan since childhood. So I’ve always had mixed feelings about the concept. Hook is arguably the weakest film in Spielberg’s illustrious career. It is strange for him to do an outright children’s fantasy after pushing so many boundaries. Though it’s gained a cult following, I never really grew up watching Hook. I always ended up seeing parts of the movie. Hook was originally meant to be a Disney and Paramount musical, but the story changed overtime. Although it’s technically a sequel to Peter Pan, Hook is the first major live action adaptation since the 1924 silent film. Of course it helps to know the original story by heart. Despite its shortcomings, Spielberg made Neverland as whimsical as possible with an enchanting John Williams score and respected all-star cast. Including several unexpected cameos.

Though I’m against the idea of Peter Pan growing up, Robin Williams is filled with childlike wonder. Peter Banning is an unimaginative lawyer who constantly disappoints his children Jack and Maggie. He’s a shadow of his former self with a fear of flying. Peter is married to Wendy’s granddaughter Moira since the former has aged into Maggie Smith. Lost Boy Tootles has also aged and lost his marbles. Captain Hook somehow kidnaps Peter’s children and challenges him to the ultimate rematch. I tend to wake up when they go to Neverland, but it’s not always the most magical location. The Jolly Roger is constantly docked at a pirate village, the colorful mermaids are seen briefly, and the Indians are only mentioned. The most imaginative location is the Lost Boys hideout.

Julia Roberts is a very cutesy Tinkerbell with a lot of manic energy and a sort of out of nowhere attraction to Peter. She helps Peter remember who he is in time to fight Hook. The titular Captain James Hook steals the show with Dustin Hoffman’s off kilter performance. When Pan turns out to be a disappointment, Hook decides to manipulate his children instead. Though his death by giant ticking crocodile corpse never made any sense. Bob Hoskins is equally admirable as Smee, but showing up in London also makes no sense. Really it’s the Lost Boys who either make or break the film. Their antics can get a little juvenile, but they are responsible for some of the best scenes. Specifically the imaginary food scene. 80’s punk Rufio is the biggest standout played by a young Dante Basco. Hook can get cheesy at times, but I’m always genuinely excited to see Peter Pan learn to fly again. “Bangarang!”

1. Hook

Captain Hook laughs at Peter Banning

Doggie Talk

Look Who’s Talking Now is a doggone mess. While the first Look Who’s Talking was cute, Look Who’s Talking Too couldn’t keep the momentum going. It was followed by a short lived TV series called Baby Talk. Look Who’s Talking Now isn’t painful to watch, but it is lazy. Amy Heckerling didn’t return to direct and the third installment ended up bombing with a rare 0% on Rotten Tomatoes. Most of the cast completed the trilogy, but it was a career low for most of them.

Kirstie Alley finished the franchise around the same time that her shows were ending. John Travolta had one failure after another, but a little movie called Pulp Fiction was released a year later. Look Who’s Talking Now trades talking babies for talking dogs. A very young David Gallagher plays Mikey and a meme-worthy Tabitha Lupien plays Julie. Mikey’s problem this time around is wanting a dog and questioning Santa’s existence. Julie wants to fly and dreams about Charles Barkley for some reason.

James and Mollie once again have relationship problems when the former gets a flashy new job from his attractive boss. Olympia Dukakis returns, but George Segal makes a surprise appearance as well. Since Homeward Bound was released the same year, there’s nothing special about dogs with an internal monologue. Not even when Danny Devito or Diane Keaton are the voices. Rocks and Daphne become part of the family in time for a subpar Christmas story. Look Who’s Talking Now should’ve kept quiet.

Look Who's Talking Now

The Ubriacco family with their new dogs

Preceded by: Look Who’s Talking Too

Sister Talk

Look Who’s Talking Too has more babies, but less heart. After the unexpected success of Look Who’s Talking, Amy Heckerling returned to direct along with most of her all-star cast. Look Who’s Talking Too picks up a year after the first movie. James is now married to Mollie and a loving goofball father to Mikey. John Travolta and Kirstie Alley can still be charming as new parents, but there’s too much unpleasant bickering. Despite being PG-13, they somehow got away with 2 F-bombs.

Olympia Dukakis returns as the overbearing mother and Casey Jones himself stirs up trouble as an obnoxious brother. The curly haired toddler who plays Mikey looks nothing like the previous actor. Mikey talks, but Bruce Willis continues to add an internal monologue. Look Who’s Talking Too is mostly about baby Julie who was seen in the mid-credits stinger voiced by Joan Rivers. The sperm, egg, and development sequences are the same, but Julie is now voiced by a less than funny Roseanne Barr.

She was nominated for a Razzie along with Gilbert Gottfried as an annoying baby gym instructor. Mikey has two problems this time around. He tries to be a good big brother, but their strained relationship mimics their parents. There’s also a lot of attention given to his potty troubles. Damon Wayans doesn’t add much as a fellow toddler and Mel Brooks is stuck voicing a talking toilet. Look Who’s Talking Too is mostly a disjointed mess only a mother could love.

Look Who's Talking Too

James and Mollie with Mikey and Julie

Preceded by: Look Who’s Talking & Followed by: Look Who’s Talking Now

Survival is an Instinct

Mighty Joe Young (1998) brought the lovable 15 foot tall gorilla back when ape movies were all the rage. The 90’s saw the development of another King Kong remake, a Planet of the Apes remake, and of course Mighty Joe Young. Disney obtained the rights, but the defunct RKO Pictures still have their name on it. Terry Moore and Ray Harryhausen even make cameos. Like many family films released in the late 90’s, I have vague childhood memories of watching the movie. I might of even seen Mighty Joe Young (1998) in theaters, but I never got a straight answer. I didn’t realize it was a remake until I saw my parents watching the original.

Creature effects from the legendary Rick Baker are literally the biggest draw. Joe’s enormous size is addressed as a form of gigantism. He was achieved through a combination of stuntman John Alexander in a realistic gorilla suit, very convincing animatronics, and DreamQuest CGI to blend it all together. It was of course nominated for Best Visual Effects at the Academy Awards, but the rest of the movie doesn’t compare. Director Ron Underwood has a very hit or miss track record. Mighty Joe Young (1998) is more environmental with Joe never performing in shows. Joe is only ever taken to an L.A. nature preserve.

Jill Young is now orphaned the same day as Joe by a ruthless poacher that was also added to the remake. Charlize Theron was born to play Jill since she is in fact South African. Bill Paxton is a fine zoologist version of Gregg with more of a romantic subplot. Joe causes a rampage while enclosed and on the city streets, but he proves himself a hero similar to the original. It’s just a burning carnival instead of an orphanage. Mighty Joe Young (1998) is a harmless live-action Disney movie, but it’s not quite as spectacular as the 1949 classic.

Mighty Joe Young 1998

Joe Young in Africa with Jill Young

Remake of: Mighty Joe Young (1949)

On the Open Road

A Goofy Movie is the goofiest, most heartfelt father/son adventure you’ll ever see. Unlike DuckTales, Goof Troop was never a major Saturday-morning cartoon. It only lasted 2 seasons and I honestly never knew it existed for a long time. So how did A Goofy Movie gain a stronger cult following than DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp? Although Scrooge McDuck is an icon in his own right, there’s no beating a classic character like Goofy. His goofy antics have been a mainstay of Disney since the early 30’s. Along with his popular How to… series, Goofy became something of an everyman with a job and family in the 50’s.

Goof Troop similarly turned Goofy into a single father with a son named Max. Since A Goofy Movie was made in the middle of the Disney Renaissance, soon to be fired Walt Disney Studios chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg gave it the same treatment. Turning Goofy into a loving father just trying to connect with his son. Even though Walt Disney Feature Animation worked on the movie at the same time as The Lion King, no one believed in the project. Making it the second Disneytoon production. A Goofy Movie wasn’t an instant hit, but thankfully my generation has given it a second chance…

A Goofy Movie

Goofy on the road with Max

A Goofy Movie is just as much a childhood favorite as the rest of the Disney Renaissance. My brother and I watched it on VHS before it was cool. Something about A Goofy Movie really speaks to millennials such as myself. Maybe because it was one of a few contemporary Disney movies made in the 90’s. A Goofy Movie is filled with 90’s slang, pop songs, modern technology, and celebrities like Pauly Shore. Sure it’s dated, but timeless at the same time. A Goofy Movie picks up years after Goof Troop when Max is an average 14 year old dog. Jason Marsden replaces Dana Hill a year before her untimely death. Marsden gives Max all the attitude and awkwardness of a teenager. His biggest fear is turning into his father. Which is especially embarrassing when his dad is literally Goofy. Although strangely asked to tone down his goofy voice, Bill Farmer manages to make Goofy sincere without losing his “Hyucks.” Cartoony antics are maintained, but the story remains relatable. Goofy also remains a single father, but Pete is a different story.

In Goof Troop, longtime Disney villain Pete was Goofy’s brutish neighbor with a son named P.J, a daughter named Pistol, and a wife named Peg. Only Jim Cummings and Rob Paulsen return as Pete and P.J. in order to enforce the themes of fatherhood. Pete rules by fear, while Goofy prefers affection. All Max wants to do is impress his crush Roxanne. Roxanne has nerdy friends like Stacey and is just as shy as Max, but she does return his feelings. Max & Roxanne are honestly one of the cutest Disney couples. It’s literal puppy love. With the help of his friends, Max manages to put on a concert at his school dressed as their favorite popstar Powerline. Singer Tevin Campbell voices Powerline as a cross between Michael Jackson and Prince. P.J. is still Max’s best friend, but they’re joined by Bobby aka Pauly Shore as himself. Wallace Shawn voices the mildly villainous Principal Mazur who worries Goofy to the point of starting a father/son fishing trip. Max doesn’t want to go, but he makes things worse when he tells Roxanne he’ll be at a Powerline concert. A Goofy Movie is a particularly wacky road movie with references to Walt Disney and cameos from Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.

Even a movie as zany as this isn’t exempt from creepy Disney moments. The opening is a dream turned nightmare that somehow manages to make Goofy’s laugh scary. Goofy taking Max to a corny hillbilly possum show always upset me when I was younger. Goofy later tries to bond over teaching Max the perfect fishing cast, but it only succeeds in finding a vicious, albeit rambunctious Bigfoot. Leading to a genuinely heartfelt connection ruined by Max changing the map. As they start to compromise over the things that they enjoy, Max starts to have second thoughts. When he doesn’t act on them, it leads to an appropriately goofy father/son talk that sends their car off a canyon, plunges them in a river, and nearly takes them over a waterfall. Max performs a perfect cast and Goofy takes his son to the concert. Ending with Max telling the truth, getting an innocent kiss from Roxanne, and fully embracing his dad.

A Goofy Movie may have outsourced its animation, but I honestly can’t tell the difference between other Disney movies of the era. The open road feels grand and concerts feel like actual events. A Goofy Movie is a contemporary musical with a seriously underrated soundtrack. “After Today” highlights the high school experience and Max wanting to stand out. “Stand Out” is a fun Powerline single that helps Max get noticed. “On the Open Road” gives Goofy his silly showstopper, while the “Lester’s Possum Park” theme is just cringy. “Nobody Else But You” is the right song to bring Goofy & Max together. Until the much more energetic and catchy “I 2 I” performed by Powerline on stage. A Goofy Movie took a forgotten show and made something special out of it.

A Goofy Movie 2

Max sings to Roxanne

Followed by: An Extremely Goofy Movie