Saturday, June 4, 2011

Miramax, Part Three: Dimension Films and Genre Franchises

In addition to the prestige and specialty films mentioned in the earlier posts, Miramax also made quite a bit of money with various genre franchises with its Dimension Films subsidiary.  The bread and butter here of course was the Scream franchise, but Robert Rodriguez also provided a range of genre films as well (Spy Kids is scheduled for Netflix Instant View on July 1).  With the exception of the Scream and Jackie Chan sequels, I don't necessarily recommend the sequels listed here, but I included them as a reminder that Miramax was always just as interested in making money the old fashioned way as any other studio.

Scream (Wes Craven, USA, 1996, 111 minutes)
Netflix: Horror maven Wes Craven -- paying homage to teen horror classics such as Halloween and Prom Night -- turns the genre on its head with this tale of a murderer who terrorizes hapless high schooler Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) by offing everyone she knows. Not your average slasher flick, Scream distinguishes itself with a self-parodying sense of humor. Courteney Cox and David Arquette co-star as a local news reporter and a small-town deputy.  Netflix link.

Scream 2 (1997) is also available on Netflix Watch Instantly.  Dimension Films also distributed the Scary Movie parody franchise, and Scary Movie 2 (2001) is currently streaming as well.

From Dusk Till Dawn (Robert Rodriguez, USA, 1996, 107 minutes)
Netflix: Robbers-on-the-lam Seth (George Clooney) and Richard Gecko (Quentin Tarantino) take an ex-preacher (Harvey Keitel) and his kids hostage. On a race to the Mexican border, they rendezvous at a cantina, not knowing the owners and clientele are bloodthirsty vampires. That's when director Robert Rodriguez (Desperado) abruptly switches from hostage drama to tongue-in-cheek, vampiric melee, creating a blood-stained ode to 1960s Mexican horror movies. Netflix link.

The so-called sequel From Dusk To Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money (1999) is also available on Netflix Watch Instantly.

Mimic (Guillermo del Toro, USA, 1997, 105 minutes)
Netflix: In this cinematic kissing cousin to the giant-radioactive-ant flick Them, etymologist Mira Sorvino eradicates disease-carrying cockroaches only to create a new breed of lethal, man-sized insect in the sewer systems of New York City. Co-starring Charles S. Dutton, Jeremy Northam and a nest of creepy, computer-generated bugs, Mimic will send you running for the Raid. Netflix link.

This early Guillermo del Toro is pretty good and worth checking out.  Of course as part of the package deal Netflix Watch Instantly is also streaming Mimic 2: Hardshell (2001).

Operation Condor (Jackie Chan, Hong Kong, 1991, 90 minutes)
Netflix: In what many consider to be one of Jackie Chan's best roles, he plays a secret agent embarking on his biggest mission yet: To find the fortune in gold that the Nazis buried in the Sahara Desert during World War II. This recut American version of Chan's 1991 hit (also known as Armour of God II) features stunning locations from Spain, Morocco and the Philippines as well as some of Chan's greatest set pieces, including the famous wind tunnel climax. Netflix link.

Dimension Films re-cut Chan's 1991 film Armour of God II and released it as Operation Condor in 1997.  To make things even more confusing, they re-cut the original Armour of God (1987) and released it on DVD as Operation Condor II: Armour of the Gods. Both are available on Netflix Instant View, which gives you the strange option of starting with II, which is actually the first film in the series.  In addition to the Armour of God confusion, Dimension also released Chan's Police Story 3 as Supercop,  In each case, I'd recommend finding DVDs of the original Hong Kong editions, but these certainly do the trick if you're looking for instant gratification.

The Crow (Alex Proyas, US, 1994, 101 minutes)
Netflix: Exactly one year after young rock guitarist Eric Draven (Brandon Lee, son of martial arts icon Bruce Lee) and his fiancĂ©e are brutally killed by a ruthless gang of criminals, Draven -- watched over by a hypnotic crow -- returns from the grave to exact revenge. Based on a graphic novel of the same name, this Gothic action thriller features Lee's last performance before his untimely death. Ernie Hudson and Ling Bai co-star  Netflix link.

To end on a sad note, who knows what could have happened to The Crow as a potential franchise if it were not for the death of Brandon Lee.  There was still an attempt at a franchise, and the sequel / re-boot The Crow: City of Angels is also available on Netflix Watch Instantly.

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