2020年7月28日 星期二

Some Other Movies From 1987 (2)

For further background on the year in film please refer to the Some Other Movies From 1987 entry.

Some things that happened in 1987:
  • The Philippines got a brand new constitution.
  • President Ronald Reagan was "rebuked" for the Iran-Contra affair.
  • U2 released The Joshua Tree.
  • Hulk Hogan successfully defended his title against Andre the Giant in Wrestlemania II.
  • Platoon won the Oscar for Best Picture.
  • The governments of Portugal and the People's Republic of China agreed to return Macau to China in 1999.
  • The Simpsons shorts appeared on The Tracy Ullman Show.
  • Taiwan ended its period of martial law.
  • Michael Jackson released Bad.
Linked entries can be viewed in their entirety on YouTube. 


1. Cry Freedom

Richard Attenborough directed this look at Steve Biko's Black Consciousness movement.  Denzel Washington stars as Biko, with Kevin Cline as a newspaperman covering his rise to prominence.  In the era of Black Lives Matter I honestly can't think of a movie more relevant than this one.  Americans could also, I think, learn a lot of from South Africans' struggles with the Apartheid regime.  Even given the constants of white dominance, a lot of what one sees in South African culture is the inversion of what one sees in American culture, to the extent that matters of race become more obvious when comparing the two places.

Fun Fact 1: At one point in this movie Washington's character is standing in front of a poster of Malcolm X.  He'd go on to play Malcolm X years later.

Fun Fact 2: He had a leading role in his first movie, 1981's Carbon Copy, but Cry Freedom was the movie that truly cemented Washington's leading man status in Hollywood.  He'd appear in Glory two years later, and begin a long collaboration with Spike Lee a year after that.

Fun Fact 3: This movie wasn't actually shot in South Africa, but rather in Zimbabwe and Kenya.

Korean film about a disabled man searching for happiness.  Of all the films I've seen on the Korean Classic Film YouTube channel, this is the best by far.  You can tell the director put a lot of thought into every shot.

Some Good Ones

1. Three Men and a Baby

Three men sharing an apartment together and they're NOT gay!  No!  Don't even think it!  NOT gay!  No!

Tom Selleck, Ted Danson and Steve Guttenberg star as three dudes who find themselves burdened with an infant.  It sounds stupid, but this movie continues to exert the same breezy charm it exercised in 1987.  It's also aged better than a lot of other comedies from that year.

Fun Fact 1: This was Leonard Nimoy's third film as director, following Star Trek III and IV.

Fun Fact(s) 2: To put things in their proper perspective, at the time Selleck was still doing Magnum, P.I. and had completed the sci-fi film Runaway.   Danson was still doing Cheers and had completed the Blake Edwards comedy A Fine Mess.   Guttenberg had just filmed Short Circuit and Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol appeared in theaters the same year as Three Men and a Baby

2. Beverly Hills Cop 2

Eddie Murphy and two clueless white guys tool around Beverly Hills and solve crimes on a half intentional/half coincidental basis.  The ending is very unsatisfying, but I think it's better than the first one.

Fun Fact: Tony Scott was only hired to direct this movie because Top Gun, released the previous year, was such a huge hit.

3. Near Dark

Director Kathryn Bigelow's second movie.  In Near Dark vampires invade small town America.  Adrian Pasdar stars, with several of the cast members from Aliens.  As you might expect it's a very dark, moody kind of film.  I liked it a lot.

4. Can't Buy Me Love

Patrick Dempsey, remember him?  In this one he pays the most popular girl in school to go out with him.  You can guess the rest.  What this movie really made me think about was how vibrant malls used to be.  In 2020?  The internet has killed most of them off.

Still no idea what "Hunted Fever" is supposed to mean.  In this Australian thriller a cop comes into some money he didn't earn.  The soundtrack is terrible, and the budget was LOW, but it's surprisingly good regardless.

It's Joaquin Phoenix!  Back then he was still calling himself Leaf Phoenix.  Russkies was his second movie (third if you count the TV movie Kids Don't Tell) but even back then he had the kind of screen presence that presages superstardom.

In a way it's easy to dismiss Russkies as a latter-day Goonies.  Three kids find a Russian sailor stranded on a Florida beach, these kids proceed to capture and then befriend this sailor, and a zany repatriation plan is launched which (of course) doesn't quite work out like they anticipated.  Just the same it's a good movie, and a reminder of how much more present the Cold War was before the Berlin Wall came down in 1989.

Fun Fact 1: Whip Hubley, who plays the stranded Russian in this film, also appeared as Hollywood in Top Gun.

Fun Fact 2: During the arcade scene they're playing Rush'n Attack.  I used to love that game.

Like Switzerland, I'm Going to Remain Neutral

1. Lethal Weapon

"I'm getting too old for this shit!"

I will always love director Richard Donner for Superman I and (to a lesser extent) Superman II, but this movie?  Let's just say that screenwriter Shane Black's script has the chemistry down, but in real life those two cops would've been suspended within the first ten minutes.  Add to this the fact that Gibson's character is WAY too young to have been a Vietnam War vet, and add to this the fact that the bad guys - supposedly masters of the art of "dirty tricks" - are too brazen for words.  Danny Glover and Mel Gibson are of course great actors with many great films to their credit, but I never really understood the appeal of Lethal Weapon.

2. The Secret of My Success

Michael J. Fox stars in... Wall Street Lite.  It's harmless enough.  I just don't get why Fox's character, so intent on making it on his own steam, decides to pretend to be someone he's not.  The director, Herbert Ross, had a huge hit with Footloose three years before.

Some Bad Ones

More of a Terminator ripoff or more of a RoboCop ripoff?  On the one hand you've got the rogue A.I., the gun-wielding murder robot and the Sarah Connor-type damsel in distress, on the other hand you've got the questionable lab developing the questionable means of law enforcement for questionable corporate reasons.  Part of me wants to place this in the "So Bad It's Good" category, but the characters all talk too much, and the scientific explanations are relentlessly nonsensical.  I had a tough time sitting through it.

TV movie about time travel.  William Devane stars as a historian who crosses paths with people from the future, with Klaus Kinski as the bad guy and Lauren Hutton as some kind of "time policewoman" out to stop him.  It's easier to sit through than R.O.T.O.R. above, but less memorably bad.  This was one of Kinski's last movies before his death in 1991.

Not-So-Fun Fact: Kinski was a bonafide Nazi.  He served in the Wehrmacht during WWII.

NOT the Sean Penn movie.  This one's about a plague-ridden future wherein mankind is divided into those whose days are numbered and those whose days aren't.  Between the two groups are the "Zero Men," a small, non-contagious subsection of the populace who will die within a set time.

Sounds a little like 2020, doesn't it?  Perhaps adding to the sense of deja vu is the fact that Jeffrey Combs' character is named Chaz.  The script was rock solid, it's just too bad the production values were so low.  With a bigger budget, and in the hands of the right director, this could've been a hit along the lines of The Running Man.  As it is the Verhoeven-style news inserts are both amusing and at times prophetic.

So Bad It's Good

1. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

Totally forgot Laurence Fishburne was in this.  I remembered he was in Quicksilver around the same time, but this movie was a surprise.  I believe I saw this in the theater when it came out, but Fishburne's role had vanished from my memory.

Fishburne aside, Heather Langenkamp is/was a terrible actress.  This fact becomes more obvious in her scenes with Patricia Arquette.  Scream queen she might have been, but Oscar nominee was never in the cards for her.

To top it all off, the second half of this move is damn silly.  Dream warriors?  They all dream, but they don't put up much of a fight.  They fool around with their powers for a bit, but they're never much of a threat to Freddy.

It's big, it's glossy, it's loud, but at the end of the day it's still just a movie about arm wrestling.  And doesn't Robert Loggia's Evil Grandpa have the best interests of his grandson at heart?  I mean, giving your grandson over to a guy who spends his days trucking and betting on arm wrestling bouts doesn't sound like the best idea ever.

Related Entries:

2020年7月20日 星期一

Some Other Movies From 1986 (2)

For further information on the year in film, please refer to the Some Other Movies From 1986 entry.

The following things happened in 1986:
  • Spain and Portugal entered the European Community, forerunner of the EU.
  • Great Britain and France announced plans to build the Channel Tunnel.
  • The space shuttle Challenger disintegrated seconds after launch.
  • Pixar Animation Studios was founded.
  • The Soviet Union launched the Mir space station.
  • Out of Africa won Best Picture at the Oscars.
  • The Chernobyl Disaster occurred.
  • Top Gun arrived in theaters.
  • The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was founded in Taiwan.
Linked entries can be viewed in their entirety on YouTube.


1. The Name of the Rose

Sean Connery hasn't always been the best when it comes to picking roles.  For every Dr. No there's a First Great Train Robbery, for every Finding Forrester there's a League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.  Fortunately 1986 was a good year for Connery, finding him in both this movie and Highlander.

The Name of the Rose is a murder mystery set in a medieval monastery, adapted from one of Umberto Eco's novels.  In the novel the author definitely veers toward the pretentious, but it's probably the most accessible of Eco's many books.  The movie does a great job of making this story even more accessible, and I'm tempted to say it's even better than the book that inspired it.  Critics were not loving The Name of the Rose, but I enjoyed it immensely.

A young man traveling cross-country encounters a psychopath.  Rutger Hauer is great in this movie, and C. Thomas Howell more than holds his own.  Critics at the time were put off by the violence in the film, but I think you'll find that it's aged nicely.

Klaus Maria Brandauer stars as a Russian immigrant training two American boxers.  If you're wondering how Brandauer got such a big role in an American movie, it's because Mephisto was in American theaters around that time.  You can see it on a marquee behind Meryl Streep in Heartburn (below).

Fun Fact: This was Wesley Snipes' second movie.  His first screen appearance was in Wildcats the year before.

Some Good Ones

1. Labyrinth

Eh, it's alright.  I always thought The Dark Crystal was better.  Labyrinth is a mix of puppetry and actors, more along the lines of the muppets that made Jim Henson famous.  Labyrinth was on cable all the time when I was growing up, but I've never felt that I liked it as much as I'm supposed to.  I'm a huge Bowie fan, but something about Labyrinth always annoyed me.

Fun Fact: A sequel to this movie is in development, with Doctor Strange's Scott Derrickson already announced as director.

2. Down by Law

Jim Jarmusch again.  In this one three men bond while in prison.  I liked it a lot more than Stranger Than Paradise, which I also saw for the first time recently.  Roberto Benigni, who plays the Italian convict, won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1997.

3. Poltergeist II: The Other Side

I was never a big fan of the original, not even as a kid when I first saw it.  Something about JoBeth William's histrionics always got under my skin.  I'd suggest that those enshrining that movie in their memory go back and revisit it.  It really is a little hammy.

The sequel?  It's not bad, but of course you start to wonder how a family like this could return to any kind of normalcy after the things they've experienced.  And since returning to normalcy is their primary goal, you start to wonder what the hell they're thinking half the time.  This said, Poltergeist II is a solid movie, even though it takes a while to get going.

Not-So-Fun Fact: The actress that played the older sister in the first movie did not reappear in the sequel because she was murdered.

80s Like a Motherf**ker

1. Short Circuit

Like The Goonies, and like Kindergarten Cop, also filmed in Astoria, Oregon.  I spent a lot of my early years in that town.  Not sure why it pops up in several 80s movies, but seeing that bridge over the Columbia always brings a smile to my face.

Steve "Police Academy" Guttenberg and Ally "Breakfast Club" Sheedy star in this ultra-cheesy comedy about a robot that comes to life.  It's a thoroughly, unrepentantly dumb movie, so much so that you end up liking it after a certain point.  Oh, and the fascist guy from Police Academy is also in this as the Nova Laboratory's head of security.

Fun Fact: Director John Badham also directed Saturday Night Fever, Blue Thunder, WarGames and Stakeout.

2. The Wraith

Hard rock, drag racing and a supernatural car.  Add to this mixture Charlie Sheen, ultrasexy Sherilyn Fenn and Randy Quaid as the town sheriff.  The studio involved was marketing hard toward the MTV generation, even though The Wraith (and its soundtrack) never achieved the level of popularity they were hoping for.

3. Transformers: The Movie

This movie is as hyperactive as the 7-12 year olds it was aimed at.  The plot: 

See, there's this sentient planet, and in the Transformers universe a sentient planet isn't enough of a threat so this sentient planet CAN TRANSFORM INTO A FUCKING ROBOT and then Optimus Prime and Megatron fight and Optimus Prime gets killed and Megatron almost gets killed but is instead deposed by the other Decepticons and then he comes across this sentient, transforming planet and this sentient, transforming planet transforms him into Galvatron and then he pursues the Autobots around the universe or galaxy or solar system or whatever it is because the sentient, transforming planet (Unicron) is threatened by this Matrix thing that Optimus Prime had in his chest but which he gave to the other Autobot whose name I'm forgetting and eventually he gets the Matrix thing but just after Galvatron's swallowed by Unicron for his failure he fights Hot Rod and Hot Rod unleashes the Matrix and everyone is saved.

Watching this in 2020 brought back a lot of memories.  Once upon a time I had most of those toys.  Megatron, Soundwave, Starscream, Jazz, Optimus Prime, the Constructibots, the Dinobots... ad nauseum.  By the time the movie came out I was getting a bit long in the tooth for Transformers, but yeah, there are a lot of memories there.

Mortal Fact: This movie is the last film credit for both Orson Welles (Unicron) and Scatman Crothers (Jazz).  Both actors died around the same time.

Fun Fact 1: Believe it or not, this movie is set in 2005.

Fun Fact 2: "The Touch," the theme song for this movie, was originally intended for the Stallone movie Cobra.

Good or Bad?  You be the Judge!

1. The Delta Force

Chuck Norris and the black guy from American Ninja!  Chuck Norris and Lee Marvin!  Chuck Norris and... Shelley Winters?  Yeah, this movie goes sideways like that.

The second half is a solid 80s action movie - pretty much what you'd expect from the star of Missing in Action - but the first half?  It's like being transported back a decade, back to the era of Airport-style disaster movies, wherein actors like George Kennedy, Robert Vaughn, and yes, Shelley Winters dealt with tense hostage/disaster situations.

The most fascinating thing about this movie might be Robert Forster's Arab terrorist impersonation.  You can tell he was putting it all on the line with that role, and even though it doesn't always work you have to admire the guy for trying.

Mortal Fact 2: This was Lee Marvin's last movie.

Fun Fact: Liam Neeson is in this... somewhere.

Some Bad Ones

1. Psycho III

Kinda boring, but then again none of the sequels (or remakes) have been especially good.  They all fail to think through the psychology of the first movie, which aside from some great camerawork was what made the original so good.  

Anthony Perkins directed Psycho III, and aside from a good scene with Jeff Fahey there's not much to say about it other than the fact that it focuses on the wrong character.  A failed nun?  There were a lot of other, better directions they could have gone with that, but instead of doing so this movie focuses on the less-than-interesting Norman Bates.

Fun Fact: That failed nun is played by actress Diana Scarwid, who played Joan Crawford's stepdaughter in Mommie Dearest.

2. Heartburn

Easily Jack Nicholson's most annoying performance.  He spends the early parts of this drama singing, and aspects of his character are so over the top that it's hard to sympathize with Meryl Streep, his abnormally understanding wife.  The parts of this movie without Nicholson are good in the sad/funny way that all Nora Ephron-derived movies are good.  I just wish they'd thought out Nicholson's character a bit better.

Fun (?) Fact: Kevin Spacey is in this for a bit.  It was his first movie.

Tawny Kitaen and Co. use a Ouija board to summon a demon, with predictable results.  It's amazing how little actually happens in this film.  They have a party, Kitaen messes around with the Ouija board, a few people die, and that's it.  Back in the day my friends and I would have derided this movie for lacking gore, yet in 2020 I can only throw up my hands at its lack of plot.

So Bad It's Good

"...and the Academy Award for Best Picture does NOT go to War Bus.  Go directly to jail.  Do not pass go.  You have the right to remain silent..."

All I can say is wow.  They had a bus, some guns and several pounds of explosives, and they were going to make a movie goddamnit, budget be damned!  I have no idea why a group of U.S. Marines would want to drive a big, bright, yellow school bus through the jungles of South Vietnam, but hey, it was WAR and those kinds of decisions had to be made!

Pretty much Alien, yet produced in the absence of Ridley Scott, Sigourney Weaver, a budget, people who can act, and any understanding of how space travel actually works.  Several scenes throughout the movie seem like setups for porn, but to my great surprise no one ever gets naked in Star Crystal.

Related Entries:

2020年7月13日 星期一

Movies of the Early 1980s, Ranked in the Order I Enjoyed Them

I revisited the "Some Other Movies" entries from 1980-1984.  Any list like this is bound to leave a lot out, but below are the movies of those years ranked from "loved" to "hated."  Just imagine all of these movies sitting together on a shelf, and #1 below is the movie I'd pick first.

Sans Soleil (83)
1984 (84)
The Natural (84)
The Verdict (82)
Blue Thunder (83)
Dreamscape (84)
The Hunger (83)
A Passage to India (84)
Gandhi (82)
The Clones of Bruce Lee (80)
The Killing Fields (84)
The Howling (81)
Tootsie (82)
Reds (81)
Educating Rita (83)
An Officer and a Gentleman (82)
Mephisto (81)
Deathstalker (83)
Honkytonk Man (82)
Creepshow (82)
Mommie Dearest (81)
Body Heat (81)
Blow Out (81)
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (84)
Xtro (83)
The Last Starfighter (84)
The Slumber Party Massacre (82)
Tarzan the Ape Man (81)
Hopscotch (80)
Class of 1984 (84)
Missing in Action (84)
Barefoot Gen (83)
Brave New World (80)
Beat Street (84)
Atlantic City (80)
Flashdance (83)
Danton (83)
L'Argent (83)
Querelle (82)
Veronika Voss (82)
Fanny and Alexander (82)
Burden of Dreams (82)
Silkwood (83)
Cujo (83)
Basket Case (82)
Shogun Assassin (80)
Purple Rain (84)
Friday the 13th Part 2 (81)
The Beastmaster (82)
The Day After (83)
Night Shift (82)
The Right Stuff (83)
Humanoids From the Deep (80)
The Jazz Singer (80)
Altered States (80)
Private Benjamin (80)
Nighthawks (81)
Cannonball Run (80)
Ms. 45 (81)
Can't Stop the Music (80)
Inseminoid (81)
Ordinary People (80)
The Dark Crystal (82)
Stop Making Sense
The Plague Dogs (82)
Southern Comfort (81)
The History of the World Part 1 (81)
Paternity (81)
The Whale Hunter (84)
Chariots of Fire (81)
Inferno (80)
Forced Vengeance (82)
Falling in Love (84)
The Element of Crime (84)
The Long Good Friday (80)
Outland (81)
The Unseen (80)
Xanadu (80)
Condorman (81)
Somewhere in Time (80)
Airplane II: The Sequel (82)
48 Hrs. (82)
Quest for Fire (81)
Without Warning (81)
Breakin' (84)
Red Dawn (84)
Angst (83)
Against All Odds (84)
Deathtrap (82)
Stir Crazy (80)
Smokey and the Bandit Part II (80)
Cat People (82)
Pauline at the Beach (83)
Police Academy (84)
Virus (80)
Twilight Zone: The Movie (83)
The Secret of Nimh (82)
Private Lessons (81)
The NeverEnding Story (84)
Evil Under the Sun (82)
The Exterminator (80)
The Children (80)
The Philadelphia Experiment (84)
The Gods Must Be Crazy (80)
Halloween III: Season of the Witch (82)
A Nos Amours (83)
Sleepaway Camp (83)
The Man from Snowy River (82)
The Four Seasons (81)
Streets of Fire (84)
ffolkes (80)
A Night in Heaven (83)
Zapped! (82)
Full Moon High (81)
Heaven's Gate (80)
Psycho II (83)
Porky's (82)
9 to 5 (80)
Jagko (80)
Hell Night (81)
Valley Girl (83)
Carnal Olympics (83)
Gorky Park (83)
The House by the Cemetery (81)
Raggedy Man (81)
Project A (83)
Dark Habits (83)
Local Hero (83)
Firestarter (84)
Love Streams (84)
Liquid Sky (82)
Rumble Fish (83)
Raise the Titanic (80)
Threads (84)
Children of the Corn (84)
The Last Unicorn (82)
Firefox (82)
Eddie and the Cruisers (83)
A Christmas Story (83)
Victor/Victoria (82)
Under Fire (83)
Gloria (80)
Buckaroo Banzai (84)
Saturday the 14th (81)
Melvin and Howard (80)
Roadhouse 66 (84)
Inspector Blunder (80)
Paris, Texas (84)
S.O.B. (81)
My Dinner with Andre (81)
Stranger Than Paradise (84)
Give My Regards to Broad Street (84)
Possession (81)
Roar (81)
Nothing Lasts Forever (84)
Pennies From Heaven (81)
The Hotel New Hampshire (84)

Related Entries:

Some Other Movies From 1985 (2)

For further background on the year in film, please refer to the Some Other Movies From 1985 entry.

The following things happened in 1985:
  • "We Are the World" was recorded and played endlessly on MTV.
  • Tears for Fears released Songs from the Big Chair.
  • Mikhail Gorbachev became General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party.
  • Amadeus won the Oscar for Best Picture, and no, it had nothing to do with the Falco song.
  • The Soviet-Afghan War began, famously portrayed in both Rambo III and Bond film The Living Daylights.
  • The FBI brought charges against the heads of the five Mafia families in that area.  This event has figured into several gangster movies.
  • Scientists in Antarctica discovered a hole in the ozone layer.
  • Back to the Future opened in theaters.
  • The Iran-Contra Affair took place.
  • The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) was released.
  • Steve Jobs resigned from Apple Computer.
  • An earthquake in Mexico City killed thousands.
  • Microsoft Corporation released Windows 1.0.
  • DNA was used in a criminal case for the first time.
Linked entries can be viewed in their entirety on YouTube.


1. Pee-wee's Big Adventure

People are probably going to think I'm crazy for putting this movie in the "Excellent" category, but really, it's aged extremely well.  And who better than Tim Burton to have directed this movie?  I showed it to my kids, they thought it was hilarious, and I can't think of a single bad thing to say about it.

2. Desperately Seeking Susan

A case of stalking compounded by a case of amnesia and a case of mistaken identity.  1985 was a good year for Rosanna Arquette.  She starred in this movie, and also had sizable parts in both After Hours and Silverado.  Madonna strolls in and out of the film.  It's very understated and hums along nicely.

Fun Fact: The Toto song "Rosanna" is at least partly about Rosanna Arquette.  She was dating the keyboard player at the time.  She later dated Peter Gabriel, and his song "In Your Eyes" is supposedly about her as well.

Some Good Ones

1. The Last Dragon

Vanity or Apollonia?  I'd have to go with Vanity.  Apollonia was a better actress, but Vanity just does it for me.

And while we're on the subject, how does one pronounce "Taimak" anyway?  "Tai" like "Taiwan?"  Or "tay" like in "Taylor?"

The Last Dragon is one of the most 80s movies ever.  There's kung-fu, and breakdancing, and DeBarge, and wannabe Cyndi Laupers.  There's evil arcade owners and parachute pants-wearing shoguns.  It's got it all, it's corny as fuck, and it's still unexplainably great.

2. Tuntematon Sotilas (a.k.a. The Unknown Soldier)

Finnish movie following members of the Finnish army as they invade Soviet Russia.  I'm not up on my Finnish history, so I'm guessing it takes place in the 1940s.  It reminded me a lot of the Russian film Come and See, though it's not nearly as horrific.  I liked it, but I suggest breaking it into two sittings.

3. After Hours

One of Scorsese's less-remembered movies.  Griffin Dunne stars as a man having the worst night of his life.  It gets delightfully weird toward the end, but I can't say I loved it as much as I thought I would.  It's good, but it wasn't as good as reviews led me to believe.

Fun Fact: Scorsese directed this film while he was trying to get The Last Temptation of Christ off the ground.  Not sure how this film relates to The Color of Money, which hit theaters a year later.

4. Return of the Living Dead

"Do you wanna party / It's party time!"

Romero's Law: Anything that can go wrong with zombies will go wrong with zombies.

The zombies in this movie are a little different from Romero's zombies though.  They can talk, and they're a lot more aware of what's going on around them.  This difference makes for some effective scenes, but it doesn't always work within the plot.  Overall, however, I'd have to say this movie is still good.  It doesn't take itself too seriously, and the special effects were well done.

Fun Fact: Linnea Quigley was fitted with a "cuplike vaginal prosthesis" for this film.  In those nude scenes she's never entirely nude.

5. Fletch

Hell yes Fletch.  Chevy Chase stars as Irwin Fletcher, investigative reporter.  It was a departure from what Chase had done up until that point, but it offers a good mix of comedy and action.

Fun Fact: The actress that plays Chase's love interest in this movie is the granddaughter of the guy who founded DC Comics.

6. Sans Toit Ni Loi (a.k.a. The Vagabond)

A young female drifter crosses paths with several people from various walks of life.  I recognized actress Sandrine Bonnaire from A Nos Amours.  I liked this movie much more than that one.

A year after child actor Barret Oliver appeared in The NeverEnding Story, he starred in this movie about an escaped synthetic lifeform.  It's thoroughly entertaining, even if I'm not buying the scientist's change of heart in the second half.

Fun Fact: Spinal Tap's Michael McKean is in this.  This was his first film after that one.

What a Weird Little Movie

1. Cat's Eye

It took me a while to realize this was an anthology.  James Woods tries to quit smoking via mob intimidation, a man runs afoul of a mobster and... Drew "Firestarter" Barrymore learns the value of the family housecat.  Don't ask me how the three parts fit together.  There are a lot of references to other Stephen King adaptations early on in the movie - Cujo, The Dead Zone, Christine, and on the whole it's a fun, if forgettable exercise in 80s horror.

Good?  Bad?  Undecided.

BEFORE Chuck Norris was called back into service, BEFORE he visited scenic Thailand, and BEFORE he went back into 'Nam and kicked serious ass, this movie happened.  Where the first Missing in Action was straight 80s-style cheesiness, this movie is a more dramatic affair.  Sure, for a WAY better take on similar material you'd want to see either Werner Herzog's Rescue Dawn or Little Dieter Learns to Fly - and even during the same decade you had movies like Platoon, Hamburger Hill or Full Metal Jacket - but this movie is... surprisingly not bad.  No, it's not as gloriously excessive as Rambo: First Blood Part II, but it does feature a solid screenplay and a shockingly cohesive story.  I'd recommend it.

Fun Fact 1: This movie was filmed at the same time as the first Missing in Action, and was originally intended as the first movie in the series.

Fun Fact 2: Professor Toru Tanaka, who plays one of the baddies in this film, appeared in Pee-Wee's Big Adventure the same year.  He also played Subzero in The Running Man.  He led quite a life.

Some Bad Ones

1. St. Elmo's Fire

I'd like to take every character in this movie, place them together on a bus, weld the doors of the bus shut, and then slowly cook the contents of the bus with horrifying levels of microwave radiation.  OR I'd like to buy them all a nice dinner, and then, just after the meal, announce that I'd laced the food with a lethal neurotoxin.  OR I'd like to transport them to the graveyard in Return of the Living Dead, and watch from a nearby tree as they're consumed by a horde of zombies.

I hated this movie.  It's full of the most contrived conversations.  It's full of the most contrived situations.  It reminded me a little of The Hotel New Hampshire - another movie featuring Rob Lowe - and also another movie I hated.  What infuriated me about this movie is that none of the "moments" in it are earned.  The plot just skips along, heedless of chronology or explanation, and by the end you feel like you both watched a movie and didn't watch a movie at the same time.  There was one movie - the one you just watched (and hated), and there was another movie, composed of all the scenes they left out of the movie you just watched.

2. Silverado

The characters in this Western aren't interesting.  There's Kevin Kline, who's some kind of "man with a past," there's Scott Glenn and Kevin Costner, who play a pair of brothers headed to California, and last of all there's Danny Glover, playing a rancher fighting against the attitudes of the day.  It doesn't help matters that most of their backstories are introduced halfway through the movie, and that you can see the real villain foreshadowed from a mile away.

A high school student discovers a piece of alien technology that warps space and time.  It's remarkable how unscientific this movie is, and the hero's sidekick offers up some of the weirdest quips in the history of movies.

Fun Fact 1: Dennis Hopper is in this.  After emerging from the vortex near the end of the film he's wearing his Easy Rider outfit.

Fun Fact 2: In Sweden this movie was marketed as TimeBusters.  It resembles Ghostbusters in parts.

Animated Star Wars ripoff with a splash of cgi.  It's uh... not awesome.

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2020年7月10日 星期五

Movies of the late 1970s, Ranked in the Order I Enjoyed Them

I looked at the "Some Other Movie" entries from 1975-1979 again.  Of course lists like this tend to leave a lot out, but I'd rank the movies in those entries thusly:

Sorcerer (77)
The Fury (78)
Deep Red (75)
Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (79)
Grey Gardens (75)
Blue Collar (78)
3 Women (77)
Night Moves (75)
God Told Me To (76)
Starcrash (78)
The Hobbit (77)
The Man Who Loved Women (77)
The Tenant (76)
Picnic at Hanging Rock (75)
The China Syndrome (79)
Straight Time (78)
The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (78)
Anyplace but Here (77)
The Making of Star Wars (77)
Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom (75)
Gator (76)
The Passenger (75)
Hooper (78)
Semi-Tough (77)
The Shaolin Invincibles (77)
Message from Space (78)
Zombi (79)
Coma (78)
Joseph Andrews (77)
Cross of Iron (77)
Switchblade Sisters (75)
Obsession (76)
The Driver (78)
Stay Hungry (76)
Demon Seed (77)
House (Hausu) (77)
Watership Down (78)
Psychic Killer (75)
The Car (77)
The Man With No Name (77)
Doctrine That Divides (76)
F.I.S.T. (78)
Black Emmanuelle (75)
The Amazing Spider-Man (77)
Capricorn One (78)
Slap Shot (77)
Killer Fish (79)
Cuba (79)
The Boys in Company C (78)
China Girl (75)
Futureworld (76)
Remember My Name (78)
The Black Stallion (79)
Scum (79)
The Boys From Brazil (78)
Silent Action (75)
Sholay (75)
Yeong-ja's Heydays (76)
The Ultimate Warrior (76)
Rollerball (76)
The Gauntlet (77)
Caligula (79)
The Medusa Touch (78)
Salem's Lot (79)
The Initiation of Sarah (78)
The Killer Elite (75)
Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell (78)
Escape to Athena (79)
Jaws 2 (78)
Meteor (79)
...And Justice for All (79)
Black Sunday (77)
The Giant Spider Invasion (75)
The Story of O (75)
The Image (75)
Mother, Juggs and Speed (76)
Mahogany (75)
Car Wash (76)
The Food of the Gods (76)
The Warriors (79)
Spider-Man: The Dragon's Challenge (79)
In the Realm of the Senses (76)
That Obscure Object of Desire (77)
Escape from Alcatraz (79)
Spider-Man Strikes Back (78)
The Electric Horseman (79)
The Amazing Howard Hughes (77)
Hera Pheri (76)
An Unmarried Woman (78)
Death on the Nile (78)
The Ascent (77)
God's Gun (76)
Voyage of the Damned (76)
The Rose That Swallowed a Thorn (79)
Friday Foster (75)
The Shootist (76)
Murder on Flight 502 (75)
Carry On Behimd (75)
The Other Side of the Mountain (75)
Trilogy of Terror (75)
Mad Max (79)
The Legacy (78)
Wizards (77)
(Battle of) Midway (76)
Man Friday (75)
Once is Not Enough (75)
Let's Do It Again (75)
The Eiger Sanction (75)
The Cassandra Crossing (76)
Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo (77)
Cannonball! (76)
Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw (76)
Hustle (75)
Lipstick (76)
Beyond the Poseidon Adventure (79)
Alien Prey (77)
Dogs (76)
Goodbye Emmanuelle (77)
Tourist Trap (79)
Convoy (78)
Hot Stuff (79)
Ashanti (79)
Night Journey (77)
Vigilante Force (76)
The Champ (79)
Shout at the Devil (76)
The Town That Dreaded Sundown (76)
The Ritz (76)
The Apple Dumpling Gang (75)
Silver Streak (76)
The American Friend (77)
Equus (77)
The First Great Train Robbery (78)
FM (78)
Rock n' Roll High School (79)
The Greek Tycoon (78)
Plague (79)
Breakthrough (79)
Jubilee (78)
California Suite (78)
Quintet (79)
The Last Waltz (78)
Kid with the Golden Arm (79)
Quadrophenia (79)
Gulliver's Travels (77)
A Small Town in Texas (76)
Mr. Sycamore (75)
Night of the Ghoul (75)
More American Graffiti (79)
Eraserhead (77)
The Turning Point (77)
I Wanna Hold Your Hand (78)
The Muppet Movie (79)
Bugsy Malone (76)
Murder by Death (76)
Pretty Baby (78)
Faces of Death (78)

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2020年7月1日 星期三

Some Other Movies From 1984 (2)

For further background on the year in film, please refer to the Some Other Movies From 1984 entry.  

It probably goes without saying, but by 1984 a lot of the trends seen in earlier years coalesced into what most people now think of as "the 80s."  This development can be seen in the movies of that year.

Some things that happened in 1984:
  • Brunei became an independent nation.
  • Astronauts made the first untethered space walk.
  • The Winter Olympics were held in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia.
  • The U.S. Marines were pulled out of Lebanon.
  • Teachers at a preschool in California were charged with Satanic ritual abuse.  These charges were later dismissed as completely unfounded.
  • Ronald Reagan called for a ban on chemical weapons.
  • Terms of Endearment won the Oscar for Best Picture.
  • The AIDS virus was discovered.
  • The Soviet Union boycotted the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.
  • Bruce Springsteen released Born in the U.S.A., featuring the most misunderstood title track of all time.
  • Tetris was released in the Soviet Union.
  • Ghostbusters and Gremlins were killing it at the box office.
  • Metallica released Ride the Lightning.  (Oh yeah.)
  • People in the Philippines demonstrated against Ferdinand Marcos.
  • Jeopardy and the animated Transformers aired on TV.
  • The UK and the PRC agreed to a handover in 1997.
  • The IRA tried to kill Margaret Thatcher.
  • The Vatican officially forgave Galileo for that whole "Earth orbiting around the sun" thing.
  • Reagan won a second term over Walter Mondale.
  • A famine raged across Ethiopia, triggering later aid efforts from Western pop stars.
  • Crack cocaine appeared in Los Angeles.
Linked entries can be viewed in their entirety on YouTube.

1. The Natural

Robert Redford stars as an over-the-hill baseball player given one last shot at glory.  But what makes this movie great is that it's about a lot more than baseball.  It's also about the value of integrity in the presence of the corrupt.  This was director Barry Levinson's second film, following Diner by two years.  I applaud its idealism.
Some Good Ones

1. Threads

The Day After, Barefoot Gen and this movie.  In the mid 1980s the threat of nuclear war had an immediacy it just doesn't have now.  If you don't believe me, just look at the metal albums of the time.  That theme presents itself over and over again.  Yet of such books, movies and songs Threads has to be the most relentlessly depressing.  I got about 3/4 of the way through and had to skip through the rest.  It was just too depressing to watch straight through.

If you were looking to make a big movie on a small budget, however, Threads is worth seeking out.  What they achieved with minuscule resources is indeed something to behold.  The only films which approach it in that respect are some of the Russian war movies like Come and See, which were also made in the absence of appreciable funding.

2. The NeverEnding Story

Probably the best movie you could see after watching Threads above.  Where that movie's all dark and depressing this one's very upbeat - at least toward the end.

I was nine when this appeared in theaters, so of course I saw it in the theater.  Watching it in 2020, I remembered the flying dog thing and the theme song, but aside from that my memory of this movie was very hazy.

The plot?  Uh... something Fantasia something princess something The Nothing something.  The story ranks a distant second behind the visuals, though it's still an entertaining film.  Weirdly enough, director Wolfgang Peterson did this between Das Boot (!) and Enemy Mine.  It marks his transition into Hollywood movies.

Fun Fact: This movie was adapted from a German children's book.  The NeverEnding Story covers the first half of this book, while The NeverEnding Story II covers the second half.

3. Stop Making Sense

Today I learned that P-Funk alumnus Bernie Worrell was also a member of Talking Heads.  This fact makes more sense (ha ha) after watching this movie.  You could regard Talking Heads as an offshoot of the whole P-Funk thing.  As with all such concert movies, I'm not sure where director Jonathan Demme is to be found in this film, but it's still very good.

4. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind

Anime by Topcraft, the studio that would later morph into Studio Ghibli.  It's set in a future where radioactive insects dominate the Earth, and wherein a young princess tries to teach her people how to live in harmony with nature.  Director Hayao Miyazaki would go on to direct several celebrated films, the best known being Spirited Away.  I watched the restored version, released long after the anime appeared in Japan, and while it's on the slow side it's definitely worth watching.

5. The Last Starfighter

Must have watched this dozens of time when I was a kid.  Arcade game + Star Wars = The Last Starfighter.  The early-stage CGI is memorable - and was cutting edge at the time - even if the plot is an afterthought.  Still an entertaining movie, though they probably could have spent more money on the sets.

Fun Fact 1: Lance Guest, who stars in this movie, was 24 at the time of filming.  WAY too old for high school.

Fun Fact 2: The director of this movie played Michael Myers in John Carpenter's Halloween.  He also co-wrote Escape from New York.

Fun Fact 3: Actor Robert Preston, who carries most of this movie, frequently collaborated with director Blake Edwards.

Fun Fact 3: Dan O'Herlihy, who plays the Alex's co-pilot, was an Irish actor who also played the villain in Halloween III: Season in the Witch and the chief executive in RoboCop.

Fun Fact 4: Atari planned to release an arcade version of this movie, but decided against it after seeing an early cut of the film. 

6. The Philadelphia Experiment

Michael Pare stars as a man accidentally sent into the future.  It's similar in many ways to John Carpenter's far superior Starman, which came out the same year.  Carpenter was also one of the producers of this movie.

7. Purple Rain

Poor Prince.  He just wants to play his music and sexually dominate Apollonia, but his father is abusive, and Morris Day is trying to steal his spotlight.  I remember seeing parts of this movie as a kid, and I was happy to learn that it still holds up.  Especially the sex scenes with Apollonia.  That woman could've given a dead man a hard-on.

And as much as I hate to say it - Bolan being my favorite of the two - I think Prince had the kind of rock/pop stardom Marc Bolan was always striving for.  Bolan of course enjoyed tremendous success in the U.K., but his fame (and talent) never approached what Prince enjoyed in the mid-80s.

Fun Fact 1: The director of this movie went on to direct Tango & Cash.

Fun Fact 2: Morris Day and Prince went to the same high school in Minneapolis, and were frequent musical collaborators.  The Time, Day's backup band in the film, started as one of Prince's side projects.

8. The Element of Crime

Lars von Trier's first movie, and also the first movie in his Europa Trilogy.  It's early Trier, so expect a lot of people saying cryptic things against multiple screens - shots within shots within shots.  It requires a certain kind of patience, but I liked it a lot more than the later Europa.  The murder mystery plot makes it more accessible.

9. The Whale Hunter (a.k.a. Whale Hunting)

South Korean men rescuing women from lives of prostitution.  This seems to be a popular theme in older South Korean movies.  The Whale Hunter explores this theme a bit less seriously, with touches of Hong Kong-style slapstick throughout.
Well That Escalated Quickly.

A high school band teacher tries to reach a group of psychopathic young learners.  The teacher goes from reasonable to unreasonable in a surprisingly short amount of time, but this movie is nothing if not entertaining.  Michael J. Fox appeared in this before Family Ties aired, and it's a lot of fun to see an earlier version of him, long before he was a household name.

I'm not sure how this film compares to later genre offerings like 187 or The Substitute - it's been a while since I've seen those two - but I'm sure Class of 1984 has a special place in many people's hearts.
Some Bad Ones

1. Stranger Than Paradise

Jim Jarmusch is 50/50 for me.  On the one hand I loved Ghost Dog, on the other hand some of his movies have bored me to tears.  Stranger Than Paradise falls into the latter category.  It's slow, nothing ever happens, and the "surprise" ending isn't really a surprise.  Critics loved it, and it won a lot of awards, but its appeal was lost on me.

2. Firestarter

To be fair, only Drew Barrymore could have carried this movie, but the director and the script weren't doing her any favors.  It's something of a spiritual successor to 1978's The Fury, though it's not nearly as good as Brian De Palma's film.  Everyone involved does their best John Carpenter impersonation, but this movie lacks the dramatic insight of Carpenter at his best.  The biggest problem is "The Shop" organization, which doesn't seem to operate in the most practical manner.

Fun Fact 1: Director Mark L. Lester would go on to do Schwarzenegger's Commando the following year.

Fun Fact 2: John Carpenter almost directed this movie.  He was involved in its early development, but the studio replaced him with Lester after The Thing proved to be a financial disappointment.

Fun Fact 3: Blumhouse has plans to remake this movie.  I'm not optimistic about these plans.

Like Firestarter, another Stephen King adaptation.  This one is the worst of the two.  It has three major flaws, which are, in descending order: 1) It starts off from the children's point of view.  This destroys a lot of the mystery which should surround them.  2) Peter Horton's character is a thundering dumbass.  3) The "corn demon" at the end should have been hinted at in the beginning.  As it is it just seems to appear out of nowhere, and its presence isn't that necessary to the overall plot.

Fun Fact: Linda Hamilton is in this.

Oooh... "exotic Mezcal."  These days you can buy that in most Walmarts.

Judge Reinhold and Willem Dafoe star in this lifeless attempt to resurrect American Graffiti-style nostalgia.  At no point is it interesting, and this movie has some serious continuity issues.

Paul McCartney and co. lipsync their way through a plot that's just barely there.  It's self-indulgent in the way all of the Beatles' movies were self-indulgent, and this kind of self-indulgence is only more annoying two decades after the British Invasion.  Just compare this to Stop Making Sense and Purple Rain above.  It's obvious which two of the three movies are better.

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