Flashback: Assessing Premiere Magazine’s 1994 Summer Movie Predictions (Part Two)

 
#15
 
Premiere’s Pick:  Beverly Hills Cop III
 
Seven years after last playing Detective Axel Foley, comedian Eddie Murphy returned to his first successful franchise to complete the trilogy, “this time investigating murders at ‘WonderWorld'”, a fictional amusement park.  Producers like the late Don Simpson, along with his partner, Jerry Bruckheimer, and Joel Silver were briefly attached to the project at separate times until the ongoing issues of budgeting and scheduling convinced all of them to work on something else.  Director John Landis was surprised that Murphy wanted to work with him for a third time after what he told Premiere Magazine in its June 1994 issue was “a falling-out on Coming To America“.  (Premiere, itself, referred to it as a “meltdown”.  Trading Places was the other film they collaborated on, by the way.)
 
Ultimately, Premiere sized up its chances:  “[It’s t]he kind of movie that could make $150 million or $50 million.  We’re betting on the latter.”
 
Pretty close.  Beverly Hills Cop III ended up earning just 43 million.  And the magazine was only off by one number with its predicted placement.  Incredibly, a fourth BHC is in the works.
 
Where The Movie Actually Finished:  Sixteenth
 
The Real #15:  City Slickers II:  The Legend Of Curly’s Gold
 
 
#14
 
Premiere’s Pick:  The Client
 
A suicidal attorney confesses something criminal to a young boy in a parked car just before he offs himself in this third adaptation of a John Grisham bestseller.  Following on the heels of The Firm and The Pelican Brief, both audience pleasers, The Client had its work cut out for itself.  But Joel Schumacher and his casting director, Mali Finn, hired the late Brad Renfro as the kid, Susan Sarandon as his attorney and Tommy Lee Jones as her opponent in the courtroom which resulted in another box office hit.
 
Despite Sarandon’s Best Actress Oscar nomination, the film is considerably weaker than the earlier Grisham pics.  Nonetheless, while Premiere was correct in saying it wouldn’t make “$100 million-plus”, it still performed solidly, taking in a grand total of 92 million.
 
Where The Movie Actually Finished:  Ninth
 
The Real #14:  Angels In The Outfield
 
 
#13
 
Premiere’s Pick:  Baby’s Day Out
 
Easily, one of the worst movies of 1994.  Dangerous, repugnant and cheap.  Premiere described it thusly:  “A baby unwittingly outfoxes a trio of bumbling kidnappers and spends the day solo in a big city.”  Is it any wonder why the magazine also called it “Kevin McAllister in regression”?  It didn’t sound much different from Home Alone which was far funnier and more charming, not to mention far more profitable.  Despite the presence of Joe Mantegna and Joey Pants (as two of the kidnappers), and a much healthier looking Lara Flynn Boyle (as the kid’s mom), three good actors who should’ve turned this one down, the film deservedly tanked.  It earned a mere 17 million.  Hard to believe John Hughes wrote this garbage.  Yeah, whatever happened to that guy?
 
Where The Movie Actually Finished:  Out Of The Top 20
 
The Real #13:  Natural Born Killers
 
Oliver Stone may have upset Quentin Tarantino by making changes to his original screenplay and he may have driven more conservative-minded people batty with the premise (who knows if their outrage was inspired by actually seeing the film), but he made a wonderful late summer satire filled with striking performances and pretty sharp observations.  Woody Harrelson is Mickey and Juliette Lewis is his lady love, Mallory.  Their cross country killing spree strikes a chord with America (one deluded fool holds up a placard that reads, “Murder me, Mickey!”) and that catches the attention of tabloid TV news reporter Robert Downey Jr., an Australian slimeball determined to get an exclusive interview.  Tommy Lee Jones gives another memorable performance as a prison warden.  The much missed Rodney Dangerfield is downright scary playing Mallory’s sexually abusive father.
 
Funny but mostly chilling, which is the whole point of its existence, despite Tarantino’s public complaints, it was the best film of the summer of 1994.  The fact that it was released not too long after OJ Simpson murdered two people in cold blood was unintentionally perfect timing.  It earned 50 million in theatres.
 
 
#12
 
Premiere’s Pick:  Speed
 
A high concept action flick written by the son of the guy that used to host Saturday Night At The Movies on TV Ontario which featured an actor in a genre he had yet to prove himself in.  But when Keanu Reeves signed on to recite dialogue originally constructed by Graham Yost (son of Elwy), no longer would he just be known as Ted Theodore Logan.  In the aptly named Speed, he plays LA cop Jack Traven whose mission is to keep a transit bus moving at no less than 50 miles per hour.  Why?  Because vengeful mad bomber Dennis Hopper has planted a bomb on it that is scheduled to detonate the very second it travels a mile slower.
 
The film also features Jeff Daniels as Reeves’ partner and Sandra Bullock as a passenger stuck with the thankless task of driving the bus.  Not nearly as great as critics made it out to be (Reeves doesn’t always nail his line readings, particularly the ones meant to be funny, and the romantic subplot involving him and Bullock is an unconvincing, unnecessary distraction) but it is indeed a solid thriller, far more ambitious than most action films these days.  Just when you think it’s over, it keeps on going, building even more tension.  Hopper is a clever villain, Reeves is mostly effective as the hero cop and cinematographer Jan De Bont makes a notable debut as director.  Alan Ruck, who plays a fellow passenger stuck in this high stakes situation, has a hilarious moment during the scene where Reeves locates the bomb.  While on the phone to the LAPD, he translates the hero’s emphatic “Fuck me!” into “Oh darn!”
 
Speed performed far better than Premiere expected it to.  It was one of eight summer movies to reach the 100 million dollar mark.  Its overall total:  121 million.  The film’s success guaranteed a sequel but Reeves was replaced by Jason Patric and the resulting follow-up, Speed 2: Cruise Control, was neither well reviewed nor popular.  Reeves would go on to far greater heights playing Neo in The Matrix Trilogy.
 
Where The Movie Actually Finished:  Sixth
 
The Real #12:  The Crow
 
How sad that a second generation action hero never got to savour the fame this film brought him because of a preventable accident late in the shooting.  (Jeffrey Goodell’s thorough account of the incident in the July 1993 issue of Premiere expertly details how it all happened.)  Brandon Lee, the charismatic son of Bruce who also died young (in his case, it “was caused by brain swelling due to an allergic reaction to a painkiller”, as mentioned in Goodell’s story), plays the title character, a vengeful man in black resurrected from death to take care of those responsible for his demise as well as the murder of his fiance.  It’s a good movie.  And yet, Premiere never mentioned it at all in their 1994 summer preview.  With the exception of an ad (really, the poster) for it on page 115 (right next to the last page of the “It Could Happen To Them” article, coincidentally), it failed to get even the smallest mention.  Originally made for Paramount, Miramax Films, through its Dimension imprint, bought the rights to release it after Lee’s death made the former owner squeamish.  They made a nice, tidy profit.  When all was said and done, The Crow raked in 51 million.  Sequels like The Crow: City Of Angels (featuring the great Iggy Pop) and The Crow: Salvation never garnered the same commercial and critical respect.  Had he lived, Lee would’ve reprised his role for both of those follow-ups.
 
 
#11
 
Premiere’s Pick:  Forrest Gump
 
“This could be the summer sleeper.”  And yet, Premiere seriously underestimated just how successful this heartwarming and very funny epic dramedy would become.  Although there were naysayers (notably Owen Gleiberman in Entertainment Weekly and later, filmmaker John Waters, who goofed on it in his dreadful 2000 flop, Cecil B. Demented), most were deeply affected by this Robert Zemeckis smash which had remarkable staying power.  Already an Oscar winner for Best Actor, Tom Hanks would enter a new realm of superstardom when he captured a second one for playing the adult version of the title character, a rare repeat.  And the film would beat out Pulp Fiction for Best Picture, as well as taking other deserving trophies.  It was that rare moment when the people’s favourite was warmly embraced by the industry.
 
Who knew this “summer sleeper” would make 330 million?  Premiere sure didn’t.
 
Where The Movie Actually Finished:  First
 
The Real #11:  The Little Rascals
 
Maybe you have to be a certain age to appreciate a film like this.  Personally, it was hard to sit through.  With the exception of a couple of effective jokes near the end, this reimagining of Hal Roach’s famous gang of overly precocious troublemakers, like Rob Reiner’s North, is the very definition of torture.  Directed by Penelope Spheeris (who made Wayne’s World, for Christ’s sake!), it’s a horrible waste of time.  Understandably, Premiere didn’t think it would find an audience but sadly, it did, to the tune of 52 million.  It got a brief mention in its “It Could Happen To Them” article.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
8:10 p.m.
 
CORRECTION:  In the section devoted to The Crow, it was originally noted that the deaths of both Brandon and Bruce Lee were “mysterious” and “puzzling”.  Having read Jeffrey Goodell’s terrific article, about that fateful day in 1993 when the former was accidentally killed during a pivotal take, in the July 1993 issue of Premiere Magazine, I’ve learned that this isn’t the case at all.  In painstaking detail, Goodell lays out how and why Brandon is no longer with us.  Basically, cost cutting, inexperience with weaponry, awful shooting conditions and negligence were the culprits.  That same article sums up the autopsy results of his father’s death which his widow, Linda Lee Cadwell, accepts to be the truth.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, August 16, 2008
4:10 p.m.
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Published in: on August 12, 2008 at 8:10 pm  Leave a Comment  

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