House Logo
Explore categories +

Summer Of 92 (#110 of 8)

Computer Nerds As Superheroes Sneakers at 25

Comments Comments (...)

Computer Nerds As Superheroes: Sneakers at 25

Universal Pictures

Computer Nerds As Superheroes: Sneakers at 25

Phil Alden Robinson’s Sneakers is a comic-book movie where the superpowers employed are mental, not physical. Its plot and structure will be familiar to anyone who’s spent any time in the Marvel or DC Universes: A group of uniquely skilled folks from different backgrounds join forces to combat a more powerful, ominous enemy. There’s an overlong yet enjoyable climactic battle where each hero gets a moment to shine; the bad guys aren’t so much defeated as they’re temporarily contained; and the film’s ending hints that the heroes will continue to fight for their brand of justice. Sneakers even has Robert Redford, whom today’s youngsters will recognize from his work in the best of the Marvel movies, Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

The Wolf at the Door Bob Roberts at 25

Comments Comments (...)

The Wolf at the Door: Bob Roberts at 25

Paramount Pictures

The Wolf at the Door: Bob Roberts at 25

Like most political satire, Bob Roberts is a time capsule of its era. Set during the fictional 1990 senatorial run of its titular character, writer-director Tim Robbins’s 1992 mockumentary is in part a critique of President Ronald Reagan’s war on drugs and the C.I.A. overreach of the ‘80s and a takedown of the moral crusades that came to a head in the mid-to-late ‘90s. But while its targets are tied rather tightly to a specific time in America’s political past, this shrewdly drawn portrait of the unsettling intersection of entertainment, business, and politics now feels surprisingly prescient.

Viewed through the funhouse mirror of America’s current political climate, there’s an intriguing and frightening through line from the conservative folk-singing politician Bob Roberts (played by Robbins) to Donald Trump. Both men have an uncanny ability to use the media for their own gains, painting themselves as the antagonized victim of fact-based reportage while crafting the image of the wealthy conservative rebel who will cut government excesses as a way to restore power to the common man. But where Trump is brash and boorish, Roberts is slick and mannered—a wolf in sheep’s clothing in an age before Americans simply welcomed in the wolf at their door.

This Used to Be My Playground A League of Their Own at 25

Comments Comments (...)

This Used to Be My Playground: A League of Their Own at 25
This Used to Be My Playground: A League of Their Own at 25

Light and airy, with only the faintest whiff of pathos or self-importance, A League of Their Own offers a refreshingly buoyant vision of America’s favorite pastime. Unburdened by the grandiose mythologizing of movies like The Natural and Field of Dreams, the film regards baseball with a breezy, wide-eyed innocence that captures the uniquely languid joy of the sport.

Working from a screenplay by Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, director Penny Marshall casts the Rockford Peaches—a founding team in the real-life All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL)—as a ragtag ensemble filled with stock comic types, including Rosie O’Donnell as a brassy New Yawk broad and Madonna as an incorrigible floozy. The performances tend toward broad caricature, particularly Tom Hanks’s at times gratingly over-the-top turn as the team’s perpetually apoplectic manager, Jimmy Dugan. All shouting, spitting, and drunken ass-grabbing, Jimmy is a cartoonish parody of American masculinity that anticipates Hanks’s similarly out-sized but more delicately modulated voice work in Toy Story a few years later.

The Bat, the Cat, and the Penguin Batman Returns at 25

Comments Comments (...)

The Bat, the Cat, and the Penguin: Batman Returns at 25

Warner Bros.

The Bat, the Cat, and the Penguin: Batman Returns at 25

The current draft of film history states that the DayGlo abomination that is Batman & Robin is directly responsible for not just putting Batman on film into an eight-year coma, but poisoning the idea of comic-book film adaptations altogether, to the point where the X-Men movie that followed three years later felt like a cowed, fearful gamble. Time, distance, and no small amount of insider stories have since provided some measure of vindication. Batman & Robin was simply a life-threatening complication stemming from a malignant fear struck into the hearts of Warner Bros. execs by letting a completely unshackled Tim Burton make Batman Returns.

Rollin’ with Kid ‘n Play Class Act at 25

Comments Comments (...)

Rollin’ with Kid ‘n Play: Class Act at 25

Warner Bros.

Rollin’ with Kid ‘n Play: Class Act at 25

Randall Miller’s Class Act is the third film, following 1990’s House Party and 1991’s House Party 2, to star the charismatic rap duo Kid ’n Play, whose unique look, bouncy rhymes, and famous dance moves made them prime candidates for cinematic success. Christopher “Play” Martin has a slippery, lady-killing charm that he easily maximizes with a simple glance at the camera. And his sidekick, Christopher “Kid” Reid, is a limber physical comedian whose impressive, eight-inch-high top fade sits atop a rubbery face tailor-made for the silent comedies of Hal Roach. Critic Jim Emerson called them a “hip-hop Laurel and Hardy,” but their films more often brought to mind a fantasy matchup between a less hyper Jerry Lewis and an even cooler Dean Martin.

Ripley’s Got a Death Drive Alien³ at 25

Comments Comments (...)

Ripley’s Got a Death Drive: Alien³ at 25

20th Century Fox

Ripley’s Got a Death Drive: Alien³ at 25

David Fincher’s Alien³ may be the only film ever made to peak with its logo. As the 20th Century Fox fanfare crescendos over the studio’s familiar logo, the music holds on the minor chord before the usual last note, replacing jubilant bombast with a dissonant groan of strings. The alteration produces an immediate sense of discomfort and unease, setting the tone for something ominous and fearsome. It’s an ingenious shot across the bow from Fincher, ushering in a feature career dotted with immaculately ordered, carefully scored works of blockbuster entertainment that veered from audience-pleasing major keys to their grim underbellies.

The perversion of the Fox theme epitomizes a succinct grasp of horror that only occasionally surfaces in the film proper. Too often, Alien³ shows its seams, whether in its thematic arc or the design of the xenomorph, and at not even two hours it still feels weighed down by unnecessary exposition and padded suspense scenes. But blame for much of this cannot fall at one person’s feet, as the film was notoriously the product of years of production hell that saw the studio soliciting wildly different drafts from writers including (but not limited to) cyberpunk author William Gibson, writer-director Vincent Ward, and producer/filmmaker Walter Hill. Eventually, ideas from each version found their way into a Frankenstein monster of a shooting script, one further plagued by endless on-set rewrites that left Fincher so exasperated that even Fox’s officially released behind-the-scenes footage shows the director railing against the pressures of the studio’s poorly planned project.

Cross-Cultural Communion Night on Earth at 25

Comments Comments (...)

Cross-Cultural Communion: Night on Earth at 25

Fine Line Features

Cross-Cultural Communion: Night on Earth at 25

Whether due to cultural, linguistic, generational, or racial barriers, Jim Jarmusch’s characters often find themselves talking around rather than to each other. It’s no wonder that in Night on Earth, the director’s 1992 omnibus film consisting of five stories set in different international cities on the same night, the taxi cab provides the perfect visual framework, placing a spatial barrier between characters that makes communication even more challenging. Characters banter, bicker, ramble, and philosophize as they shuttle through various cityscapes like ghosts in the night, catching only fleeting glimpses of the other as reflections in a rear-view mirror. There is a natural yin/yang dynamic to each vignette that uses the dialectics of argumentation as well as visual rhymes, word play, starkly contrasting character types, and class conflict to deepen the audience’s understanding and empathy for the characters and the environment in which they live.

Born Under a Lucky Star One False Move at 25

Comments Comments (...)

Born Under a Lucky Star: One False Move at 25

IRS Media

Born Under a Lucky Star: One False Move at 25

The racism in Carl Franklin’s One False Move suggests a festering pool of standing water just waiting to be disturbed. Lawman Dale Dixon (Bill Paxton) naturally utters the word “nigger” while having a peaceful meal with his Los Angeles counterparts, one of whom is black. Lila Walker (Cynda Williams), the mixed-race outlaw trying to avoid capture in order to see her young son again, understands American inequality all too well: “Looking guilty is being guilty, for black people,” she tells her brother. Having recently shot a white Texas state trooper in the head at point blank range, the irony of her statement is hard to miss. But that doesn’t mean she’s wrong.