Darkman – Back in the nineties, there was a program they showed around Halloween for a few years called Horror Hall of Fame, hosted by Robert Englund and the Crypt-Keeper, that discussed recent horror movies. Sometimes they had to stretch a bit as to the genre; I know they included The Addams Family in there. But anyway, one of the films they mentioned was Darkman, which had the tagline “Who is Darkman?”, and that’s really all we knew about it. The movie was directed and co-written by Sam Raimi, with music by Danny Elfman. The plot involves a lawyer discovering a memo that said one of her clients, a real estate developer, had paid bribes to the government. When the client finds out, he uses his mob connections to have the lawyer’s boyfriend, played by Liam Neeson, murdered, so they can get the documents back. Someone should have told this guy that murder is prosecuted more heavily than bribery, even for rich people. Neeson is a scientist who’s working to find a way to regenerate skin cells, and he’s pretty close, but it only lasts for ninety-nine minutes except in total darkness. Medical technology is already quite impressive in this movie’s world, as after the scientist nearly dies in an explosion, the doctors manage to make him strong and largely impervious to pain, with the downside that he becomes irrationally angry from time to time. He then uses the skin-regrowth technology he invented to duplicate the faces of the people who almost killed him, so he can get revenge. So, despite the tagline, we know who Darkman is and what he wants to do quite early on, although he doesn’t CALL himself Darkman until the very end, when he’s disguised as Bruce Campbell. He also tries to rekindle his relationship with his girlfriend, only to decide that he’s way too volatile for that, as he learns when he gets violent during an argument at a carnival. I didn’t have really strong feelings toward the movie, but I liked it all right. I did think the crooked real estate guy was kind of inconsistent in character and WAY too eager to blab all his plans, and to what end? To…build some buildings? But I guess I can’t complain about the lack of realism, because our President for the next two months apparently sold out the entire country to Russia for the same reason. The sadistic crime boss is really more the main villain anyway, even if the scheme isn’t his idea.
We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story – Well, the TITLE of this one was famous back when the movie was made, but I don’t know that too many people saw the film itself. Based on a picture book I don’t know anything about, and one of only three movies made by Steven Spielberg’s Amblimation, it’s about four dinosaurs who are brought to modern-day New York by a scientist called Professor Neweyes, who is voiced by Walter Cronkite. There are a lot of famous people providing voices here, some of whom aren’t normally seen as actors, including Cronkite and Julia Child. The Professor has learned from his wish radio that a lot of kids have been wishing to see real dinosaurs, so he goes back in time and, with help from a little green alien voiced by Jay Leno, gives four of them some of his Brain Grain cereal, which gives them human intelligence and mannerisms. The main character is Rex, voiced by John Goodman, and his three companions the flirtatious pterodactyl (not technically a dinosaur) Elsa, the hungry triceratops Woog, and the clumsy parasaurolophus Dweeb. I’m not sure why two of them have what could plausibly be names, while another gets a noise and the last an insult. Apparently Brain Grain can also change dietary habits, as the herbivorous dinosaurs develop a taste for hot dogs. Neweyes drops the dinosaurs off in the Hudson River, telling them to go to the Museum of Natural History and avoid his brother Professor Screweyes, who went insane when he lost one of his eyes (it was pecked out by a crow, according to a deleted scene). The four prehistoric pals meet Louie, a street-smart but lonely kid who’s run off to join the circus; and a poor little rich girl named Cecilia, who feels neglected by her parents. The group makes their way uptown by blending in with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (which actually goes downtown, but whatever), which is why Beth had us watch this around Thanksgiving. There really was a balloon of Rex in the parade in 1993, but it somehow hit a traffic light which deflated his head, along with hope of this movie getting a good showing at the box office.
Louie finds the circus in Central Park, which turns out to be run by Screweyes, who has a screw in place of his missing eye and can use it to hypnotize people. I assume he wasn’t called that back when he had two natural eyes, so his real name also Neweyes? Or is “Eyes” the brothers’ last name? He’s devoted himself to bringing fear, and to that end has a fear radio as a counterpart to his brother’s wish radio. He employs a single clown, voiced by Martin Short, a rather sad character who just wants to make his boss laugh. Screweyes uses his Brain Drain on the dinosaurs to make them wild again. When this causes Rex to try to eat Screweyes, who isn’t a particularly great planner for a supervillain, the kids tame him and the other dinosaurs with impassioned speeches and hugs. I guess that Brain Drain wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Neweyes saves everyone thanks to Cecilia’s wish, and Screweyes is torn apart by crows.
It’s a weird scene, with the crows totally surrounding him, then flying away leaving nothing except his screw. Really, these two characters are weirdly metaphysical for a kids’ movie about funny dinosaurs. There’s sort of a God and Satan feel to them, Neweyes being able to do pretty much anything but only when someone actively wishes for it, and Screweyes using a crooked (and almost certainly not legally binding) contract that he makes the kids sign with blood. Anyway, the dinosaurs go on to stay in the museum, only showing kids that they’re alive. I’m sure this was supposed to just be a “grown-ups won’t understand” kind of thing, but it’s kind of unsettling in retrospect for a strange adult to get a bunch of children alone and ask them not to tell their parents what happened. There’s also a budding romance between Louie and Cecilia, even though I think they’re rather too young. This is a strange film, high-budget but strange in its animation, perhaps showing signs of trying too hard and wanting to include a bit of everything.