April 2024



The Terminator (1984)

DIRECTOR: James Cameron


Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Biehn, Linda Hamilton, Paul Winfield, Lance Henriksen, Bess Motta, Rick Rossovich, Earl Boen


The stars were aligned for the cast and crew that came together to make the original Terminator. Arnold Schwarzenegger, former Mr. Universe, had made his break into the movie business with 1982’s Conan the Barbarian. Together with this and 1986’s Aliens and 1989’s The Abyss (both also directed by James Cameron), Michael Biehn seemed set to become a major star, but never again reached his nearly A-list heights after the 1980s. Linda Hamilton was a relative newcomer (and future, now ex Mrs. James Cameron), and like Biehn, Terminator and its sequel would be the high point of her career. And bringing it all together was a then-unknown filmmaker named James Cameron, who was previously art director for zero-budget B-movie legend Roger Corman, and his previous directorial effort had been the inauspicious Piranha 2: The Spawning. Inspired by two television episodes written by Harlan Ellison (who sued for and later received official credit), the Outer Limits episode “Soldier” (about two time-traveling soldiers who travel back in time to 1964, where they fight to the death), and the Twilight Zone episode “Demon with a Glass Hand” (about a time-traveling robot that looks human), and his own nightmare about a killer robot sent from the future to murder him, Cameron wrote the original story for what became The Terminator while sick and bedridden in Rome. Working alongside him to bring it to fruition was producer (and another ex-wife-to-be) and fellow Corman alum, Gale Anne Hurd. In the hands of this cast and crew, The Terminator exploded from the cult film it was expected to be into a sci-fi/action classic that revolutionized the genre.

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Places in the Heart (1984)

DIRECTOR: Robert Benton

CAST: Sally Field, Danny Glover, John Malkovich, Ed Harris, Lindsay Crouse, Amy Madigan


Places in the Heart is two-thirds of a strong, involving Depression-era drama about a widow finding the wherewithal to do whatever she must to support her family with the help of an assortment of colorful characters. Alas, it’s also saddled with a superfluous third of a soap opera-esque love triangle between characters only tangentially related to the main storyline. What’s onscreen is still worth watching for fans of these kinds of low-key, true-to-life dramas, but a little more focus could have made for a more singularly powerful experience.

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Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

DIRECTOR: Steven Spielberg

CAST: Harrison Ford, Kate Capshaw, Ke Huy Quan, Amrish Puri, Roshan Seth, Philip Stone


Just as the near-perfect action-adventure of 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark virtually guaranteed that more installments in what became the Indiana Jones series would follow, it was also perhaps inevitable that they would fall short of its high water mark. Temple of Doom is by no means a bad movie, and parts of it are as wildly entertaining as the best Raiders had to offer, but it lacks the perfect pacing and tonal balance of the first installment, and suffers by comparison. Continue reading