Saturday, April 15, 2006

Don't monkey with tradition!

One of Julia Roberts's first films, Mystic Pizza is fun romantic comedy from 1988. Julia plays Daisy Arujo, a rebellious heartthrob who heats up the small town of Mystic, CT. She and her sister, Cat, work at the local pizza place, along with their good friend Jojo. Each of the girls has a significant other, though all three situations are a bit twisted.

Daisy falls for preppy out-of-towner, Charles, who was kicked out of Yale Law for cheating. They go on joy rides in his Porsche and share a romantic night at Charles's empty vacation house, but their different socioeconomic backgrounds cause tension. Cat takes a job as a babysitter, and ends up in a forbidden love with the father of the girl she watches. Jojo, whom we see faint at the altar in the first scene, has an on-and-off relationship with Bill, played by Vincent D'Onofrio.
Amidst all this romance, the girls are struggling with their uncertain futures. Cat has been accepted to Yale, but worries about how she will pay for it. Daisy fights with her mother about being less successful than Cat, and having a negative reputation. Leona, the owner of the pizza place and holder of the secret recipe for "Mystic Pizza," acts as a mother figure for all of them, encouraging them through the emotional times. When her business booms due to a superb review, she even gives Cat enough money to pay for Yale.

This film is a realistic take on the late teenage years. The acting is excellent, and the conclusion predictably happy. It is not a distinctly 80's teen movie, but it is just as enjoyable as the stereotypical high school flicks. Plus, you can't go wrong with Julia Roberts, even in her early acting years.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

"Of course you're confused. You're wearing my underwear. "

"Just One of the Guys" is very much an 80s teen movie, about surviving high school, relationships, and growing up. Only this time, there is a bit of a “Tootsie” type of twist. Well not just a bit, the movie is all about gender bending.

Joyce Hyser stars as our leading lady Terry who transforms herself into a boy modeled after her brother. Terry is a popular teenager at Sturgess Wilder High School. She is beautiful, smart, and it doesn’t hurt that she is already dating a college boy (actually, and more importantly, an attractive college boy named Kevin.) After writing a journalistic piece for a contest at her school that would guarantee her a spot working for the paper over the summer (which would help her become the reporter she desperately wants to be,) she’s devastated that her teacher won’t submit her story. Angrily, she thinks that’s it’s because she’s a girl, and thus enrolls in a different school in town, as a man, and submits her article there.

Along the way she deals with all the stuff that you would imagine one would deal with. She must defend herself from both the high school bully and a potential girlfriend, all while using the boys bathroom and attempting to hide the fact that she’s actually a girl (which her brother helps her with, comically teaching her how to properly scratch herself in public.) She befriends another outsider at her new school named Rick, and the plot twists when she realizes she actually likes him as more than a friend. As would be predicted by anyone familiar with teen cinema, the film climaxes at, of course, the high school prom where Terry reveals her feelings for Rick (and proves that she’s actually a woman by flashing him.)

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

High school drama... no way!

So there I was, searching for an 80’s movie to watch, preferably a mindless comedy because it had been one of those days, when I came across “Private School” (Aka Private School… for Girls). I was immediately intrigued. There have been so many 80’s movies about high schoolers, but private school? Going into it, I hoped it would be somewhat cynical as my approach to my private high school had been. What I got was a cross between a typical 80’s teen comedy (laden with sexual inuendos and, well, just a lot of sex) mixed with a typical 80’s coming of age story stereotypically portrayed by the opening song “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.”

The movie is set at Cherryvale Academy, which is a private all girls high school for only the wealthiest of families, run by the headmistress Miss Dutchbok. The story centers around three girls: Christine who is in love with her boyfriend Jim from the nearby private boys school, the cynical Betsy who is dating Jim’s disgusting (think Ram from Heathers) friend Bubba, and Jordan who’s Christine’s arch enemy and will do anything to steal her boyfriend (including riding a horse topless.) The girls go through a series of pranks such as leaving dog crap at each others doors as the guys attempt to dress in drag to get into the girls showers.

The movie was a pretty typical 80’s teen flick, with enough sex to make the guys want to watch it, yet enough “growing up” to make it a hit with the girls too.

Teaser? Click to watch the Trailer! [just wait out the commercial]

"...they didn't make history, they stole it!"

Time Bandits (1981) is a brilliant and wacky comedy by Terry Gilliam and Michael Palin, both members of the famous Monty Python troupe. The film’s lighthearted mockery of characters who take themselves too seriously and lampooning of Western civilization are guaranteed to bring an audience to laughter. Like any great yarn, it cleverly deals with the theme of Good versus Evil. Gilliam and Palin are masters at blending slapstick with intellectual humor, a quality that makes Time Bandits highly appealing and compelling.

A young boy named Kevin follows a group of dwarves as they travel through time and space on a treasure-seeking adventure, using a map the dwarves have stolen from the Supreme Being (better known as God). Along the way, they manage to rob Napoleon Bonaparte and the Minotaur-slaying King Agamemnon (Sean Connery), meet Robin Hood (John Cleese), and nearly drown with the Titanic (only to be captured by ogres). The group is lured toward a final showdown at the fortress of Ultimate Darkness, where the imprisoned Evil One is itching to get his claw-like hands on the map so that he can become the Supreme Being.

The film’s zany, delightfully silly nature goes hand in hand with its great creativity. For example, Gilliam and Palin clearly relish the humor that results from putting “serious” heroes and villains in ridiculous situations. Robin Hood, with his pasted-on smile and false joviality, is depicted as shallow and insincere. Instead of being frightening, the man-eating ogre has a bad back and is henpecked by his wife. Even the Supreme Being, a stern, elderly gentleman with a dry sense of humor, is not without his elements of comedy. When Kevin innocently asks why evil exists, the Supreme Being replies, “You know, I can’t really remember…I think it has something to do with free will.”

Time Bandits is an ideal film for those seeking light entertainment or a more thought-provoking work of art.

Here's lots of Monty Python stuff:

Why "The Breakfast Club"?

The Breakfast Club is a classic teen 80's film about five highschool kids all from completely different social backgrounds that miraculously end up in the same Saturday school for varying degrees of rule breaking. The film details there slow realization throughout the day that they are not so different. They build what seems like could be life-long friendships in the period between 7 am to 5pm, but it is all very ambiguous as to what the audience is to think about their future encounters with one another. One deep conversation among the five in the middle of the movie suggests that they dont plan on every speaking to one another when they are all back in their respective "clicks." Of course, we all hope the love between the criminal and the prep will last, but who knows?
This is a very classic movie from the 80's and a must see. Films during this decade were big into the whole "click" thing and the plight of the teenager vs. the adults. It definitely stands up over time, although I think we can all realize it was an exaggeration of social stereotypes. We see these sort of clicks in highschools today the same as then, I think it is just characteristic of human social interactions.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Chainsaw, as in "Texas Massacre"

Summer School

I caught this on t.v. the other day, and decided it would be a nice follow up to Stand and Deliver. This movie breaks the genre norms of inspirational educational movies, while still conveying the general message. The main teacher does manage to befriend a class of misfits, as is normal for this type of movie, and stands up for them against the school system (specifically the voice of authority that belittles them and calls them losers). But those are the only things that stay the same. In the beginning of the movie, the teacher for the remedial english class (who is actually a gym teacher), Mr. Shoop, could care less about the students or their education, and instead of teaching takes them on "educational field trips" to the beach. It is only after the assistant principal (a man Shoop has a grudge against) calls the class a worthless bunch of losers, and threatens to get Shoop in trouble for the "field trips" that he defends the intelligence of his students and bets that he can get the entire class to pass the end exam. In order to get the class to participate, though, Shoop has to bribe them with favors, going against the norm of students who are eager to learn just for the sake of education.
Another difference is that, at the end, most of the students in fact, do not pass the exam. With Shoop's encouragement, they have all managed to improve upon their previous scores, but not enough for most to pass. The improvement, however, is enough for the principal, and Shoop keeps his job, and wins his tenure.
This movie has many hilarious scenes to keep you entertained, especially where the class's resident sfx team is concerned. Obsessed with Texas Chainsaw Massacre, they help the class enact a lovely massacre scene to get rid of the substitute teacher the assistant principal has procured to replace Shoop.
My favorite scenes, though, have to do with Shoop's dog, Wondermutt. During one scene at the beach, Shoop is in a bad mood, and throws the dog's favorite toy, a severed doll head named Bob, away from him. The surf swallows it up and Wondermutt is seen sitting in the sand looking out into the water, and the next shot shows Shoop trying to cheer up a dejected dog by offering it a new, freshly cut head that Shoop claims is Bob. After the triumphant ending, when Shoop gets the girl and they embrace on the beach, Wondermutt also joins them in rejoicing, as Bob has washed back ashore. It was a very poigniant story arc.

Favorite quote:
[about sobriety]
Chainsaw: Reality is so unreal.
Dave: But it is a nice change.
Chainsaw: True. Two thumbs up.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Coming to America....80s style

Coming to America, really just a 1988 masterpiece of a film with the notoriously foul-mouthed Eddie Murphy playing a simple sweetheart just looking for love in the big city, documents one African prince's (Akeem, played by Eddie Murphy) journey to find a wife, a queen for his kingdom, in the ever-appropriately named city of Queens, New York. Rather than settling for his parent's choice for a wife, Akeem decides to travel to Queens, New York, because clearly, in his mind, a place named Queens must have only queens living in it. Unbeknownst to Akeem, Queens is just a sub-par borough of New York, with no affiliation with royal queens of any type, however, he continues on his merry way, looking for "true love" as opposed to what he would find in an arranged marriaged by his parents. Accompanied by his trusty sidekick, Semmi, Akeem makes the trip to the Big Apple, both men fabricating their identities and traveling incognito. Almost as soon as they arrive in New York, Akeem falls in love with the daughter of a hamburger franchiser, Lisa McDowell, whom he meets at a church, a place he heard is good for meeting "nice girls" from an elderly man. He really only falls in love with her because she is one of the only people that is actually nice to him in the big city of New York and is one of the first people he meets.

The movie continues on it's comic route as Lisa's father disapproves of their interest in eachother because he beleives Akeem to be nothing more than a dead-end immigrant with no future or money to offer his daughter, little does he know Akeem is exactly the opposite of that. Akeem's parents come to New York to see what exaclty their son is up to after Semmi repeatedly asks them to send money. This, of course, turns into quite a disaster. It is here that Semmi and Akeem's identities are revealed, a whole hodge-podge of disaster ensues, and Cleo McDowell, Lisa's father, does a complete 360 in terms of his view of Akeem. Cleo now approves of the relationship, however, it is Akeem's parents who wish to bring their son back to their native land so he can marry their chosen wife for him. At the end it comes down to what Akeem and Lisa want to do, not their parents.

This is an entertaining movie that showcases Eddie Murphy's talents as more than just a explicitive-ridden funny-man. Here he is a sensitive man who just wants to be loved.

Nobody Puts Baby in the Corner

Dirty Dancing (1987) starring Johny Castle (Patrick Swayze) and Baby Houseman (Jennifer Grey-before her unfortunate nose job) headline this coming of age film. It is a rather lame tale of kids from different backgrounds finding each other (she the Jewish princess and he the dance instructor for guests like herself).

Baby (what a name) goes to the Catskills summer holiday camp with her parents where she meets Johny the rebellious dance teacher. Baby falls in love with Johny and this is where this coming of age film becomes tiresome. Baby's father does not approve of Johny because he mistakenly thinks that Johny is responsible for another dancer's pregnancy and subsequent abortion.

Meanwhile, the "sick" girl can not dance in the big show so Baby volunteers to take her place. Does Baby turn out to be a great dancer? Of course! Does Baby's father realize his mistake and accept Johny as his daughter's boyfirend? Of course!

Swayze is a great dancer and so is Grey. The dancing is "dirty" because of the rather explicit dancing moves. That is why the last scene is by far the most memorable.

A chick flick for sure but you will leave the multiplex singing "The Time of My Life."

Tom Cruise Before TomKat!

Top Gun (1986) is the ultimate thrill ride. Tom Cruise was already on the way to being a star after his appearance in Risky Business but Top Gun made him a superstar!

Maverick (Cruise) along with Ice (Val Kilmer), Goose (Anthony Hopkins-way before his ER fame), Viper (Tom Skerritt), Jester (Michael Ironside) Carole (Meg Ryan) , and Charlie (Kelly McGillis) rounded out a cast that insured box-office success.

This pro-war film focuses on Maverick (Cruise) who is a talented hotshot flyer with a chip on his shoulder and a deep need to prove himself. He enters the prestigius training school at Miramar Naval Air Station in San Diego. His best friend, Goose (Anthony Edwards) is soon involved with Carole (Meg Ryan) and Maverick sets his sights on their astrophysics instructor Charlotte Blackwood (Kelly McGillis). "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" is one of the songs that made part of the movie a mushy love story. Life in the fast lane and unfriendly skies includes their romance as well as Maverick's competition as "Top Gun" with Ice (Val Kilmer).

Maverick proves himself by shooting down Russian aircrafts in a action-packed sequence that helped to make the film a blockbuster. Two thumbs up for a film that is one of the most interesting and well-made movies about the flying experience. Too bad Cruise doesn't stick to acting in movies instead of acting out in public!