Fall and Holiday Movies of the 90s - 1992
92 is making a comeback!
Greetings once more, my retro friends. It's time to grab some popcorn, an unnecessarily large sugar carbonated beverage of your choice, and enjoy a look back at some of the big movies that hit in the Fall and Holiday months of 1992.
The movies were especially important to me around this time, as I definitely needed escapism from my day-to-day life. I was 15, and had just started high school that fall. After the awkward years of Middle School, I was hoping for some improvement. Yeah, I know, I was a hopeless optimistic. Without going into too much personal detail, the first couple years of high school were some of the hardest for me emotionally, and I had quite a few moments where I wanted to break down. It didn't help matters that my parents had recently divorced, so there was turmoil going on at home as well as in school.
So, I went to the movies when I could. I even went by myself, if I had to. I sometimes just needed the escapism they provided. Looking back, I didn't see as many movies as I thought I did back then. Still, I remember the experience of just getting out of the house was important to me.
So, let's not waste any more time. Here is what Hollywood was offering our young minds back in 1992...
THE MIGHTY DUCKS
RELEASED: OCTOBER 2
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?: Gordon Bombay (Emilio Estevez) is a hotshot lawyer who seems to have it all, until he is busted for driving drunk, and is forced to perform community service. The court orders him to coach the worst youth hockey team in the city. Gordon is reluctant and not very involved at first, but he gradually warms up to the kids on the team, and begins forming them into a winning team, leading them to the championships against the leading team, who just happens to be coached by Gordon's former hockey coach from his own days in the youth sport.
WHAT I THOUGHT OF IT THEN: Despite a familiar "underdog kids sports team" theme that had been done many times before, I remember this was a big movie with a lot of kids and teens back in the day. Maybe the idea hadn't been done in a while, so it didn't seem so old hat to us at the time. Regardless, I remember finding it to be a fun movie when I saw it. I had played some youth hockey back in elementary school, so I remember enjoying that aspect, and finding I could relate to it, since I wasn't exactly the best player, but still enjoyed it.
WHAT I THINK OF IT NOW: It's funny to think just how huge this brand became for a while. Not only did it inspire two theatrical movie sequels, but an actual professional hockey team owned by Disney, and even a really out-there animated series about actual ducks from outer space who fight aliens and play hockey on the side. All that from a low budget kid's movie about youth hockey. Catching up with the film, it's obviously cliched, but it's okay for what it is. It's a harmless kid's movie with a lot of 90s kids cliches, and some cute moments. Nothing memorable, but nothing terrible either.
OF MICE AND MEN
RELEASED: OCTOBER 2
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?: Based on John Steinbeck's classic American novel, it's the story of two drifters wandering the country during the Great Depression, seeking work. One is the short-tempered George (Gary Sinise, who also directed the film as well), while the other is a large and simple-minded man named Lenny (John Malkovich). They find work on a ranch, and during their time, they seem to come close to achieving their dream of having their own patch of land and a farm they can work on. However, fate steps in, and threatens to tear their dream apart.
WHAT I THOUGHT OF IT THEN: This was one of my favorite novels growing up. I remember I just picked it up one summer day when I was 12 years old, started reading it, and finished it that same day. After reading the book, I had tracked down the early 1939 film with Burgess Meredith and Lon Chaney, Jr. in the lead roles, and while it was fine, I wasn't a big fan of it. So, I was anxious to see this new film version, and it didn't disappoint in the slightest. Sinise and Malkovich are fantastic here, and the film was a wonderful and faithful adaptation of the novel.
WHAT I THINK OF IT NOW: I don't think this movie got a lot of attention back in the day, and that's a shame, as I consider this to be one of the more underrated films of the year. There is a lot of emotional power here, and the wonderful lead performances really sell not just the characters, but also the relationship between them. Outside of the performances, this is a wonderful film all around - Beautifully shot, and with a wonderful music score. If you're a fan of Steinbeck or the novel in general, and you haven't seen this, you owe it to yourself. Even if you're not, this is a great and ultimately tragic drama with a lot of power behind it.
RELEASED: OCTOBER 9
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?: A band of mercenaries led by a ruthless CIA operative (Tommy Lee Jones) and a crazed military commander (Gary Busey) take control of a battleship the day the President is visiting, and during a lavish birthday party for the ship's Captain. The mercenaries plan to remove all of the ship's warheads, and use them for their own purposes? The only one who can stand in their way? The ship's cook (Steven Seagal), who is actually a former S.E.A.L., and more than capable of handling the situation.
WHAT I THOUGHT OF IT THEN: Back in the day, I was not a huge Seagal fan. He never struck me as much of a charismatic action star, and the few films of his I had seen had not won me over. Still, I found myself seeing this one with my dad, as he wanted to see a movie during one of our visits, and he was a fan of action films. In all honesty, I thought this one was fun. It had great action, a sense of humor, and some surprisingly strong tension. It helped that it had a great villain in Tommy Lee Jones, as well. I wound up liking this one more than I thought.
WHAT I THINK OF IT NOW: I still have a lot of fun when I catch up with this one, which isn't very often, as I still am not a Seagal fan. Still, I consider this to be his best film of the ones I have seen. Yes, the plot is absurd, but the movie does use its battleship setting to great use, and creates some genuine tension as the heroes and villains track each other down below deck, and all about the ship. This is not really a great movie, but it's well made for what it is, and definitely one of the more fun action films from the 90s.
RELEASED: OCTOBER 16
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?: A college student (Virginia Madsen) is investigating local legends for a school project. One of the legends she hears about from the poor side of town is of the Candyman - a murderous spirit with one arm who appears if you say his name in front of a mirror five times. The people of the area seem genuinely afraid of the legend, and as she investigates, she begins to question if maybe the legends really are true. Eventually, she will come face-to-face with the Candyman himself (Tony Todd), and have her reality shattered.
WHAT I THOUGHT OF IT THEN: I was not very familiar with the works of horror writer, Clive Barker, whose short story had inspired this film. Still, the trailers for this one intrigued me, so I went with a group of friends to this one. I remember my companions the night we saw this were a bit disappointed - They were expecting a Jason or Freddy-level slasher. And while this movie is definitely very violent, it's much more cerebral and psychological than most mainstream horror films at the time. I wound up being the most vocal supporter of the film of my group when it was over. And yes, when I got home, I just had to do the whole "say his name five times in front of a mirror" thing. You just have to do it after seeing a movie like this.
WHAT I THINK OF IT NOW: This is a movie that has been tarnished by the disappointing and unnecessary sequels that came after it. And while it doesn't stack up as one of my favorites of the horror genre, I still find it very effective. I hadn't seen this one since back when I saw it in the theater, so I was curious to catch up with it. I still find this an effective thriller with some better performances than the norm in the genre, and a true sense of tension. Much like Under Siege, this one is a pleasant surprise.
BRAM STOKER'S DRACULA
RELEASED: NOVEMBER 13
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?: Acclaimed filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola brings his vision of the vampire novel. Young lawyer Jonathan Harker (Keanu Reeves) finds himself a prisoner of the vampire Dracula (Gary Oldman). Dracula heads for London seeking Jonathan's fiance, Mina (Winona Ryder), hoping to make her his undead bride. As Dracula seduces Mina, Jonathan must find a way to stop the vampire, with the aid of famed vampire hunter, Van Helsing (Anthony Hopkins).
WHAT I THOUGHT OF IT THEN: This was one of the most hyped movies of the Fall 92 season, and I remember being particularly excited for this one. My best friend at the time and I went to see this with a huge opening night crowd, and while I did have fun, I also remember finding the film uneven. Some of the actors (especially Reeves as the protagonist) were a bit too modern to be appearing in a period horror film such as this. Still, the visuals and effects captivated me, Oldman and Hopkins were great in their respective roles, and the movie was fun for me.
WHAT I THINK OF IT NOW: I still admire the craft that went into the effects, costumes and set design - They're the reason why this movie is worth watching today. But, my sense of fun while watching this film has faded just a little. I still can't get over Reeves' performance here. He takes you out of the movie whenever he's on camera, and seems completely out of place. Oldman is still fantastic, naturally, and there are moments of greatness throughout the film. But, it's a much more uneven movie in my current eyes, and one that doesn't completely hold up. It's not unwatchable, but it definitely isn't as thrilling as it could have been.
RELEASED: NOVEMBER 13 (LIMITED)/ NOVEMBER 25 (WIDE)
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?: Common "street rat" Aladdin (voice by Scott Weinger) dreams of living the good life where he doesn't have to steal to live. Royal Princess Jasmine (Linda Larkin) dreams of a life of freedom beyond the palace walls. Ordinarily, they would never have a chance of meeting. But, thanks the magic of a comical shape-shifting Genie (Robin Williams), they just might have a chance at love. But, with the scheming Royal Advisor Jafar (Jonathan Freeman) lurking in the shadows, nothing is going to be easy.
WHAT I THOUGHT OF IT THEN: After the rousing success of Beauty and the Beast the previous year, expectations were high for this year's Disney animated musical. By all accounts, I think this movie took a lot of people by surprise. It was fast, frequently hilarious, and very different from the usual Disney fairy tale formula. In fact, it seemed to borrow more from the Warner Bros. animation technique, with rapid fire gags and visual jokes about. This was a huge hit back in the day with just about everyone, and I was right there with the crowd, as I remember loving this one back then.
WHAT I THINK OF IT NOW: I still greatly enjoy this one, though honestly, it's not one of my favorites. The energy from this movie seems to come and go. There are some really great, very funny moments, but there are also some moments where things kind of slow down a bit much. Not enough to hurt the film, but it's still noticeable. Also, the music (provided by Alan Menken, Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, who took over after Ashman passed away the previous year), while good, isn't quite as memorable as Beauty's score. Still, it's a good movie, and one that has proven to stand the test of time with many fans. I still have fun whenever I catch up with it, but I don't love it as much as I used to.
HOME ALONE 2: LOST IN NEW YORK
RELEASED: NOVEMBER 20
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?: One year after the events of the first film, young Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) once again finds himself on his own when he arrives at the airport with family for a Christmas holiday in Florida, ends up getting separated, and gets on the wrong flight which takes him to New York City instead. At first, the kid enjoys being on his own in one of the biggest cities in the world, and even manages to con his way into staying in a suite at the Plaza Hotel, where he briefly gets to meet future Republican Presidential Candidate, Donald Trump, who owned the Plaza at the time. But, when he comes across his old enemies the burglars (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern) from before, who are out of prison and looking for revenge, he'll have to spend another Christmas Eve battling for his survival with comical slapstick results.
WHAT I THOUGHT OF IT THEN: After the enormous success of Home Alone two years ago, this was the one that most kids were excited the most for of the fall movies. I remember I couldn't even get in to see it the first time I tried, as it had been sold out, so I had to see it the following day. When I finally did see it, I remember finding it awfully familiar. Writer John Hughes basically gave us a carbon copy of the first film, only in a different setting. That being said, there was stuff I liked. As I mentioned in my 91 article, I dreamed of visiting Manhattan at Christmas time, so I liked that aspect. But, for the most part, I remember this being exactly like the first, only slightly less.
WHAT I THINK OF IT NOW: Not much has changed. This was obviously a lazy cash in sequel for just about all involved. That being said, there's still some elements that I do enjoy. Tim Curry as the concierge at the Plaza Hotel is a brilliant addition, and probably the best part of the movie. One thing I have noticed whenever I catch up with the film is how much more violent this one is compared to the first. The climax with Kevin taking on the burglars seems incredibly brutal, and seems to go on for almost a half hour or so. It gets to be a bit much. That being said, this is not really a bad movie. You can just tell that the heart and effort of the first one isn't as strong here.
A FEW GOOD MEN
RELEASED: DECEMBER 11
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?: Based on the hit Broadway play, this courtroom drama follows a young and inexperienced Navy lawyer (Tom Cruise) who must defend two Marines accused of murdering one of their fellow soldiers. He is joined on his legal team by Lt. Cdr. Galloway (Demi Moore) and Lt. Weinberg (Kevin Pollak). As they gather evidence, they begin to learn that the situation may not be what it seems, and that Col. Jessup (Jack Nicholson) may know more than he lets on.
WHAT I THOUGHT OF IT THEN: This was the movie I saw with my mom for Christmas this year, and I remember finding it quite riveting. Everybody remembers the famous "You can't handle the truth" line, which was in every single promo for this film and became a pop culture catchphrase, and kind of makes the movie look melodramatic and bombastic. But, I remember finding it fascinating, and a wonderful character study of a military court case. This was a big hit back in the day, and it definitely deserved to be.
WHAT I THINK OF IT NOW: I hadn't caught up with this one in a while, and when I did for this article, I found it has aged very well. I've never really followed the justice system, so I can't say how accurate this movie is. But, it feels fairly reasonable, and doesn't have a lot of moments that seem implausible. The performances are strong here, and in my opinion, it ranks as one of the better films from this year's list. Check it out if you haven't seen it, or haven't watched it in a while.
THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL
RELEASED: DECEMBER 11
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?: It's the first Muppet film since the passing of Jim Henson, and as the title suggests, it's an adaptation of Charles Dickens' immortal Christmas tale of redemption. Because when you think of A Christmas Carol, you immediately think of frogs, pigs and bears. Michael Caine fills the role of Scrooge, while the Muppet characters play the other characters, such as Kermit as Bob Cratchit and even Gonzo as Charles Dickens himself, providing the narration.
WHAT I THOUGHT OF IT THEN: The Muppets have always been a huge part of my childhood, so I was really curious to see how this movie would turn out without Henson's involvement. Overall, I was pleased. The musical numbers were not that memorable to me, but I felt the humor and heart of the characters were still there, and I loved how the movie did not shy away from some of the darker elements of the story, and even had some of the characters acknowledge the darker elements in typical Muppet fashion of breaking the fourth wall.
WHAT I THINK OF IT NOW: This may not be my favorite version of A Christmas Carol, but I honestly think Michael Caine ranks as one of my favorite portrayals of Scrooge. He's fantastic here, especially when you consider he has to perform all of his scenes with little felt creatures. Caine has gone on to say that this is the most fun he ever had acting in a movie, and you can tell he's having a blast here. This must have been a hard movie for the Muppet team to work on, as it was their first big film project without Henson, but they pulled it off wonderfully.
RELEASED: DECEMBER 18
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?: In this offbeat comedic fantasy, a whimsical toy factory finds itself in jeopardy when its original owner and founder (the legendary Donald O'Connor) passes away, and leaves the company in the care of his brother, a strict and uptight military man (Michael Gambon). Under the control of the brother, the company starts producing violent and potentially dangerous war toys that are actually training young children for combat. It is now up to Leslie (Robin Williams), the child-like and imaginative son of the original owner, to make sure his father's dreams of magic and fun can survive in the new environment.
WHAT I THOUGHT OF IT THEN: I remember this movie getting a lot of hype pre-release, as the film's director Barry Levinson (who had won an Oscar a few years ago for directing Rain Man) had said that this film had been a passion project for him, and that he had been working on the script in some form for over 10 years. Then the movie came out, and promptly died at the box office almost immediately. I don't think a lot of people knew what to think of the film, as it's very bizarre and certainly not like any conventional movie ever made. I remember seeing it, and while I didn't think it fully worked (the humor wasn't as strong as it could be, and it got kind of preachy with its anti-war theme), I remember also finding it kind of fascinating, thanks to its wonderfully detailed and intricate sets, and the whole design of the world the movie exists in, which is kind of like a child's view of the real world, with bumper cars that drive down the street, and a toy factory in the middle of what appears to be a vast, grassy field.
WHAT I THINK OF IT NOW: You know, I cannot say this is a good movie, as it's very flawed. But man, is it ever beautiful to look at. Even if I am not captivated by the script or the plot, some of the images in this movie are just unforgettable. I also love the music in this film. This is definitely a case of style over substance, and the style almost makes this movie worth watching. Should you watch this, you probably won't remember much about the story that was told, but you will definitely remember the world that the movie transported you to.
RELEASED: DECEMBER 25 (LIMITED)/JANUARY 8 (WIDE)
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?: Acclaimed director, the late Richard Attenborough, tells the story of comedic actor and filmmaker, Charlie Chaplin (played by Robert Downey, Jr). The film follows Chaplin's early years in England, to his high success in Hollywood, as well as the personal demons and scandals that plagued him for most of his career.
WHAT I THOUGHT OF IT THEN: Having long had a love for silent comedy, and of course for Chaplin, I was excited and somewhat skeptical about seeing this one. I was kind of nervous about how Downey would do in the lead role. As it turned out, he was sensational, and even got an Oscar nomination for this performance. For fans of Chaplin and his films, this movie is hotly debated, as it supposedly leaves some things out, and some thing this movie could be better. But, I remember find it to be completely compelling when I saw it back in the day.
WHAT I THINK OF IT NOW: Robert Downey Jr's performance is what truly makes this movie. He really did deserve all the acclaim he got from this film, and it's a shame that his well publicized drug and alcohol abuse problems prevented him from going further at the time to larger roles until he finally got sober. As for the movie itself, it still holds tremendous power to me. I know some people find it flawed, but I greatly enjoy it every time I watch it. If you have any interest at all in Chaplin or his films, it's worth watching at least once.
And that will do it for the Fall and Holiday Movies of 1992! I'll be back soon with the 1993 films. I hope you're all enjoying these articles, and that they are taking you back to a certain time in your life.
Until next time, Retro Junkers, keep the past alive!