Though heralded as a game-changer at the time, Jan de Bont’s Speed has since been hobbled by the director’s overall lack of quality output and overtaken by superhero movies as the action flavor of choice. It remains breakneck popcorn entertainment, however, and though hardly the most plausible scenario, it holds up to multiple screenings remarkably well. It also made Sandra Bullock a star as well as inexplicably establishing Keanu Reeves as a viable action hero. It opened today in 1994.
Most people view Octopussy as a decidedly second-tier Bond adventure, citing its ridiculous plot and Roger Moore’s advancing age as a reason to turn it off in favor of more enticing 007 fare. For me, the film represents the high point of the Moore era, as the outlandishness mixes with some surprising grit to deliver one of the most thoroughly entertaining entries in the franchise. An intriguing opening (in which a clown is killed dead in Berlin with a Faberge egg in his hands) gives way to a richly engaging central plot, marked by a number of series high points. Moore’s confrontation with baddie-du-jour Louis Jourdan over the backgammon table is one of the vaults (liberally cribbed from the Ian Fleming novel Moonraker), and watching Moore periodically shed his broad playboy routine for some real fear and ferocity is a rare treat. With Maude Adams, the series found a Bond girl more than capable of keeping up with 007, and while Moore clearly went a step too for with A View to a Kill, this entry feels like a well-deserved finale to an underrated era in the long-running franchise. It opened today in 1983.
And if we must, there’s Pocahontas, Disney’s well-meaning bit of bowdlerized history that showed the first real signs of bloom coming off of its Renaissance rose. The songs work and the message is well-meaning, but its heavy-handed delivery starts to great on the nerves, and the retrograde Mel Gibson unpleasantness leaves a sour taste in the mouth. Nevertheless, Disney classic, part of their canon, yadda-yadda. It opened today in 1995.