Universal's May '06 Releases
Earthquake (June 24/06)
Though Earthquake is commonly regarded as one of the more memorable disaster films to emerge out of the 1970s, it doesn't really hold up all that well today - something that can be attributed to the extraordinarily slow pace and emphasis on melodrama. Featuring a cast that includes Charlton Heston, George Kennedy, and Richard Roundtree, the movie revolves around the exploits of several characters both before and after a massive earthquake hits Los Angeles. And that's really the problem here; aside from an amusing cameo by Walter Matthau as an oblivious drunkard, the individual performers are simply unable to transform their respective characters into figures worth caring about. That most of these people are essentially walking cliches certainly doesn't help matters (ie there's the one scientist who believes a major quake is about to hit, but can't get anybody to take him seriously), nor does the inclusion of several trashy, soap opera-esque plot developments by screenwriters Mario Puzo and George Fox. It's the sort of stuff one generally associates with the genre, admittedly, but there never seems to be an overwhelming reason for the film to even exist (ie the whole movie seems to have been fashioned around the big special effects set-pieces, instead of the other way around).
Miracle at Sage Creek
That Miracle at Sage Creek has a "family approved" logo right on its front cover doesn't come as much of a surprise, given the film's emphasis on themes of religion and the importance of family. And although there are a few interesting elements within Thadd Turner's screenplay, Miracle at Sage Creek is ultimately undone by its simplistic, thoroughly predictable approach. Set in the old West, the story revolves around the various relationships within a small town - including a crusty rancher's (David Carradine) feud with a neighboring cowboy over the possession of several horses. Miracle at Sage Creek unfolds at a leisurely, overly deliberate pace that admittedly does suit the material, though it's clear that less patient viewers will find little here worth embracing. The cut-and-dried approach (ie the evil character wears a black hat) is exacerbated by Turner's heavy-handed approach, something that's particularly egregious with respect to the religious stuff (after a minister's son falls ill, his wife screams, "where's your great god now!") That being said, Miracle at Sage Creek is basically entertaining - though it's fairly obvious that the film has been geared almost exclusively to the family-friendly crowd.