George Lucas’s story for this made-for-TV spin-off from the Star Wars films involves a spacecraft that crash lands on Endor. The mother and father spend the film looking for their two children, a fourteen-year-old named Mace Towani and his four-year-old sister, Cindel, not knowing that they’ve been taken in by the kindly Ewoks whose village lies a bit of a distance away from the crash site. Cindel befriends the Ewoks instantly, but Mace is not too sure about their intentions, concentrating more on finding the monstrous, ax-wielding Gorax might have captured the whereabouts of their parents, who the Ewoks begin to suspect. They set about building a caravan to head to the Gorax lair on the hope they can rescue the parents before it’s too late.
In this follow-up to the 1984 hit, Romancing the Stone, it’s hard to live up to a “happily ever after ending”, especially for a successful romance novelist like Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner), who has learned more about romance in the chase than she does in the union of the two would-be lovebirds. It’s affecting her work, as she struggles to come up with new dreams and situations to fuel her romance novels, resulting in a prolonged bout of writer’s block. As Joan and her hunky man of adventure, Jack Colton (Michael Douglas), have spent their time living the life of luxury partying in Cannes and sailing on their yacht off the French Riviera, boredom begins to set in, realizing the excitement in their lives lie more in reminiscing, causing them to wonder if their good run of romance has run out as they near the expectation of their marriage in Greece.
When a well-known leader within the fictional North African country of Kadir, a supremely wealthy sheikh named Omar (Spyros Fokas), approaches her to write his life’s story, on the hope of elevating his status among his people to become the new emperor there, Joan sees new possibilities to change her scenery, her outlook, and her horizons as a writer. Jack and Joan reluctantly split up, but when Jack catches wind that Omar may be in possession of the mysteriously alluring “Jewel of the Nile”, his soldier-of-fortune ways get the better of him, so he decides to get a closer look in Kadir, as does the diminutive lowlife named Ralph (Danny DeVito), who insists that Jack owes him enough for them to help each other get the jewel and split their fortune. Meanwhile, Joan discovers that Omar’s dark side and his attempt at a bloody power grab, leading her to try to get the scoop, as well as help spring a valuable prisoner who is seen as a folk hero to the people of the region, and therefore, Omar’s greatest threat to be respected as leader.
Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner), a best-selling writer of romance novels, has little romance in her own life. She dreams of a tall, dark and handsome man to rescue her and whisk her off her feet, much like the hero in her series of sexy adventure novels, though her waiting for her idealized man may be the reason why she is still single. When Joan’s sister is kidnapped, Joan must travel to Colombia to give some baddies a mysterious map she was sent by her recently butchered brother-in-law to free her. Unfortunately, the corrupt local police are after the same map and when Joan takes the wrong bus upon arrival, she soon finds herself on the run for her life. She comes across a local soldier of fortune named Jack Colton (Michael Douglas), who agrees to escort her to the nearest phone booth (for a price), but soon discovers the journey will be harder than they bargained for. Jack has the idea that they should follow the map to get to the treasure it points to, because it is the treasure and not the map that is the true bargaining chip. Could this be the adventure she has searched for all her life? Danny DeVito co-stars in this Robert Zemeckis film.
Last Crusade begins with River Phoenix playing a young Indiana Jones, even at a young age, having a thirst for adventure. His father (Connery), who is also professor of Medieval literature, is acutely obsessed with tracking down any information he can get regarding the whereabouts of the legendary Holy Grail, the cup used by Jesus at the Last Supper, and, as a result, little attention is paid to young Indy. Flash forward to 1938, where Indiana (Harrison Ford) finds that his father has been kidnapped by the Nazis, who are also looking for the Holy Grail, and the legendary powers of immortality it may hold. Indy and his dad have never quite seen eye to eye, which makes Indiana’s subsequent rescue attempts all the more interesting, as he tries to impress a man who only lives for the Grail. Steven Spielberg directs, with another memorable John Williams score in what was intended to be the iconic character’s final cinematic adventure.
While INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM is a sequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark, it’s really a prequel, set in 1935, a year before. Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) finds himself in Shanghai on the hunt for a precious diamond, but gets in over his head, chased out of town with his assistant, a young boy nicknamed Short Round (Jonathan Ke Quan), and Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw), a ditsy, blonde, nightclub singer. Having to make a hasty exit into the Himalayas from a crashing airplane, Indy and friends find themselves in a starving village in India, who see their visitors as saviors destined to save their children who they believe have been taken away by resurrected forces of evil at a formerly abandoned palace. The trio set off for the palace in search of lost children, a sacred stone…and fortune and glory.
The year is 1936, just before the rise of Hitler and the Nazi regime. Hitler has been seeking the long-lost Ark of the Covenant, the container for the original tablets containing the Ten Commandments, reportedly used by God’s people in the days of old to crush their enemies using its vast powers. For over 2,000 years, the Ark has been completely hidden somewhere, and the Nazis are digging in one of the sites reported to be a resting place for it. The American government seeks fame and fortune hunter, Dr. Henry Jones, to find the Ark before it ends up in the wrong hands, but it’s easier said than done, as he must not only face peril at every turn, he must bring along an old flame who no longer has much tolerance for the likes of Indiana Jones.
Harrison Ford would catapult to super-stardom after this one, with Steven Spielberg and George Lucas solidifying their place as they greatest blockbuster filmmakers of their generation. Can’t forget that amazing John Williams score, either.
Sean Astin stars as Mikey, the youngest of two brothers who are about to move from their home in Astoria, Oregon because their family lacks the funds to stop a developer from taking over the area to expand a lush country club. This would end many friendships with the other children in the area, which they’ve dubbed “the Goondocks”, and their crew call themselves The Goonies, who are united in their quest for adventure and shenanigans. Things take an interesting turn when a map is discovered in Mikey’s father’s collection of antiques in their attic, which promises to lead to the secret fortune of the infamous One-Eyed Willy, whose cache of jewels promises to make them rich beyond imagination, once they get though all the pirate booty-traps (er, I mean, booby-traps). The gang end up finding the entrance to the caves where the loot is hidden, but a rival group of thieves threatens to get there first, and to kill anyone who gets in their way. Steven Spielberg produces, Chris Columbus scripts, and Richard Donner directs. Also features Josh Brolin, Jeff Cohen, Corey Feldman, Jonathan Ke Quan, Kerri Green, Martha Plimpton, Anne Ramsey, John Matuszak, Robert Davi, and Joe Pantoliano.
The Cannon Group took a bath with the failure of MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE in 1987, a film that had gone over budget and well beyond schedule.
The film starts off in the mythical land of Eternia, where the ruthless villain Skeletor (Frank Langella) has managed, with the help of a powerful musical cosmic key, to capture Castle Grayskull, the source for a wealth of magic and power in the region. Skeletor has taken the powerful good Sorceress (Christina Pickles) prisoner and has been draining her of her essence to channel into his own, making him more powerful as time goes on. However, the great hero of Eternia, He-Man (Dolph Lundgren), is still free, and with his cronies, the faithful Man-at-War (Jon Cypher) and his daughter Teela (Chelsea Field), he seeks to thwart Skeletor’s plans for dominion over Eternia and restore Castle Grayskull back to its original state.
Their plans go awry when the cosmic key’s creator, the dwarven creature known as Gwildor (Billy Barty), opens up a portal to modern Earth with a prototype of the same key for them to escape Skeletor’s clutches. The key is lost on arrival to Earth, soon found by a couple of high school aged teens named Julie (Courteney Cox) and Kevin (Robert Duncan McNeill), who activate it thinking it must be some newfangled musical device. However, using the device alerts Skeletor as to its whereabouts, and once he has pinpointed its location, he sends a band of mercenaries to recover the key and ensnare He-Man, of whom he plans to make an example of in custody to break the will of any would-be heroes left in Eternia.
John Boorman’s polarizing but highly ambitious take on Arthurian legend is a visually and aurally striking look into the myth, the fantasy, and the haunting imagery that the medieval Thomas Malory tale has evoked over the last several centuries. A then-nobody, but now all-star cast that includes Helen Mirren, Liam Neeson, and Patrick Stewart appears alongside stars Nigel Terry and Nicol Williamson to spin this sword-and-sorcery take on this well-known tale unlike any other that has seemingly come before or since.
Disney collaborated with Paramount Pictures to make a fairly adventure for audiences that were a bit older in DRAGONSLAYER, a rousing but somewhat brutally dark tale of a sorcerer’s apprentice who must undertake the treacherous journey of slaying a dragon that regularly consumes the women of a nearby village as a peace offering. Adventure and one amazing dragon, perhaps the best ever put to film, make this a notable entry for lovers of 1980s fantasy flicks.
Ray Harryhausen’s final film marked the popular early 1980s adventure based on ancient Greek myths, CLASH OF THE TITANS. Harry Hamlin stars as Perseus, the illegitimate mortal son of Zeus who ends up falling for the beautiful princess Andromeda, having to overcome puzzles and a variety of vicious beasts in order to gain her hand in marriage. If only she weren’t slated to be sacrificed to the giant (and reportedly invincible) Titan known as the Kraken…
Laurence Olivier, Maggie Smith, and Burgess Meredith are in supporting roles in this dated but charming fantasy flick.
The Disney Renaissance kicked off with this smash hit animated feature that brought the studio back in a major way, THE LITTLE MERMAID! Featuring great vocal talent, quality animation, and a killer score and soundtrack, it delighted a generation, and will delight many more, with its story of Ariel, a teenage mermaid who dreams of love with a hunky sailor prince, Eric, only made possible through a bad deal with a sea witch named Ursula.
Following up two sci-fi masterpieces in ALIEN and BLADE RUNNER, Ridley Scott turned his gaze toward the realm of fantasy with LEGEND, starring Tom Cruise and Mia Sara. Critics greeted the film with a shrug upon its initial release, but it has gained a cult following over the years, and the Director’s Cut release has had some re-evaluate it. Is it still problematic, or is it a film that has aged well over time?
Rankin and Bass, the team that brought us Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer as well as the ThunderCats, brought this charming animated feature featuring Japanese animation from the team who would go on to form Studio Ghibli, and voiced by stars like Mia Farrow, Jeff Bridges, Alan Arkin, and Christopher Lee. Peter S. Beagle adapts his own children’s book, tapping into the metaphorical journey from the safety and security of youth to the strange and perilous odyssey of growing up, with the last unicorn as our guide. Featuring folk-rock tracks sung by America and written and composed by Jimmy Webb, the nostalgia is strong with this one.
Jim Henson conceived of this elaborate realm of fantasy in which two competing races vie for the destiny of a faraway planet, as the evil Skeksis try to thwart the Gelflings of prophecy from uniting the planet yet again and bringing equilibrium to life there for those enslaved. This imaginative film had been a disappointment on early release but has gained a rabid following among fantasy fans. Frank Oz co-directs this film done entirely with puppets, and is a rare film that doesn’t a human character in sight.