Friday, April 16, 2010

The 'Burbs

Joe Dante's dark comedy is about the suburbs and the crazy people who live there.

It begins with the camera descending from outer space, zooming in to the average American cul-de-sac. The "aliens" in this film, though, are new neighbors, whose dilapidated mansion emits a strange hum at night.

Suburbia is a seemingly-idyllic, but infernal world: Vietnam vet Mark Rumsfield, bare-chested and with military shades, raises the flag on his yard and steps in dog poop, Art Weingartner nearly kills Ray while trying to shoot some crows, and Ray is attacked by killer bees when he tries to speak with the new neighbors. Soon the mysterious Klopeks, who only go outside for nocturnal digging sessions, until the men of the subdivision are plagued with paranoia and visions of human sacrifice. At this point, it's up to the wives to get them invited into the mausoleum, where Ray is given sardines and pretzels to show what he is made of under the scrutiny of Uncle Reuben and Werner emerges from his basement in red-soaked duds. ("Sometimes I get carried away.")

Dante has a knack for finding the comedy in the normality of American suburbia. The 'Burbs isn't by any means a deep film, but it is certainly an enjoyable one, and so quintessentially '80s.

The Boy Who Could Fly

Following the death of her father, Milly moves into a new neighborhood with her younger brother and her mother. There, she sees Eric, an autistic boy who lives with his alcoholic uncle, and who has a strange habit of standing on the roof of his house pretending to fly.

Eric doesn't communicate with anyone, but with Milly he makes a slow progress. First, he mimics her movements, and eventually he smiles on his own. On a school field trip, Milly falls off a bridge while trying to pick a rose. She wakes up in the hospital with no serious injuries, and is convinced that Eric can fly, that he caught her as she fell.

As the story progresses, the audience learns that Milly's father was terminally ill and committed suicide because he didn't want to make his family go through treatment with him. Eric's parents died in a car crash, and somehow, in the instant of their deaths, he knew; he did the only thing he knew how to in order to save them (become an airplane), and he's been doing it ever since. The fact that two children have experienced such tragedy and then come together transforms what could be a depressing film into a highly uplifting one.

Clearly drawing inspiration from the Peter Pan story, The Boy Who Could Fly proves itself to be more than the usual '80s teenage fare. Sure, it may be corny at times, but somehow it manages to balance the weighty issues of suicide, mental illness, and bullying with those of love and understanding. If only all real-life stories worked out this way.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Princess Bride (1987) is an eighties movie that has elements to appeal to everyone. There is love, action, adventure, humor, and intrigue. The movie begins with an old man reading a story to his grandson. The book is The Princess Bride, and the movie unfolds from there. The main characters are Buttercup and Wesley, a maiden and the farm boy who falls in love with her. Unfortunately, Wesley is captured by the Dread Pirate Roberts and presumed dead, inducing Buttercup to marry Prince Humperdinck. However, true love prevails when it turns out that Wesley has merely become the Dread Pirate Roberts. He attempts to rescue Buttercup from the clutches of Humperdinck and a band of kidnappers.

The side characters in this film are what make it enjoyable for me. The rhyming giant Fezzik and his adoring friend Inigo Montoya are amusing and relatable. My favorite character is Billy Crystal as Miracle Max, charged with bringing Wesley back to life after Humperdinck’s sidekick Count Rugen. Coincidently, Count Rugen was also Inigo Montoya’s father’s murderer. Inigo’s search for revenge on the six-fingered man who killed his father pervades throughout the movie.

This film is distinctly eighties because of the appeal it holds for all audiences. The Princess Bride became an instant cult classic, and its relevance will continue for multiple generations. My friends who were not even alive when it was released still quote “Anybody want a peanut?”, and there are countless t-shirts with “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

I would recommend this film to anyone that hasn’t seen it, as it has elements of multiple genres. It is definitely worth two hours of time, if only to understand the countless references made to it.

Tootsie (1982)

Dustin Hoffman continues to impress me in the 80s films, which makes me wonder what the hell he was thinking when he decided to sign on for Meet the Fockers. This hilarious comedy revolves around an unemployed actor named Michael Dorsey, who disguises himself as a woman, Dorothy Michaels, in order to land a part in a TV soap opera; a role which proves incredibly successful. Meanwhile, Michael falls in love with the soap's female star, Julie, but cannot divulge Dorothy's secret or will lose his acting job. Unfolding events are further complicated by the fact that Julie's father, Les, is in love with Dorothy himself.

If you haven't seen "Tootsie", watch it. You'll never regret whiling away a couple of hours with this wonderful ensemble. And it will get you thinking about gender roles, something we as a society are still struggling with today. My personal favorite was Hoffman's moment of truth, when he explains to Lange near the end, "I was a better man with you, when I was a woman, than I ever was with any woman when I was a man." If you can puzzle through the logic you'll see that this simple statement holds a world of truth in its couple of dozen words.

Heathers (1988)

I'd seen Heathers years and years ago, but as we watched film clips in class, I realized I didn't remember one single thing about this movie. After watching it again I realize why. I know it's been compared to Mean Girls quite often, but I think the only real thing they have in common is the number of girls in the clique. Switching face cream f or foot cream is not quite the same as framing a suicide. One thing I thought I remembered was liking Christian Slater, but that must have been false because he creeped me out beyond belief. Perhaps this is due largely in part to how stressed I've been lately, but I thought certain parts dragged and others were so contrived that I got annoyed.

It may be because this movie is held in such high regard, but I wouldn't consider it a classic at all, mostly because it's so dated already. The dialogue is amusing at times, and has certainly spurned a few catchphrases, but I just felt that there were so many other lines trying to be catchphrases that they lost their charm. I also wanted more cheerleader Heather and more Martha "Dumptruck." I also wish Veronica was a bit more developed because she felt kind of flat for me, even though we essentially get inside her head when she writes in her diary. All in all, Heathers is not a bad movie, but I have a hard time understanding why it's made out to be such a "classic".

La Femme Nikita

La Femme Nikita (1990) is one of the few famous eighties movies from a different country. Though I am not normally a foreign film buff, I am always up for a spy/assassin movie. La Femme Nikita did not disappoint. However, it is not a movie to watch expecting a happy ending or hoping for a positive outcome. Nikita, the main character, starts out as a cop-killing drug addict. When she is sentenced to death through lethal injection, the “government” decides to give her another chance. She is trained in a secret facility to become a government agent. Lessons involve fighting, shooting, and feminine advantages. Though her progress seems null at first and she is rude and belligerent to her teachers, her supervisor Bob convinces her to keep trying.

This is not a happy film. There is a lot shown about killing people and the psychological consequences that it eventually leads to. Being an assassin is a great job until you fall in love and have to keep a secret, or your mission messes up and you find out what assassins needs to be capable of. While I enjoyed this movie, it definitely wasn’t what I was expecting. Though I could see the similarities to Pretty Woman in Nikita’s transformation, Pretty Woman was uplifting and hopeful. La Femme Nikita just made me feel pity and sadness.


"Buddha says, 'A child without courage is like a night without stars!'"

Sure, I'm a theatre major. Sure, I enjoy the occasional, OCCASIONAL, musical. But this! This is the best the 80's has to offer in terms of musicals! What crap! What utter crap! I somehow escaped this filmic version of Annie, as most of my professors prefer to show good musical adaptations such as The Sound of Music or My Fair Lady. But, of course, I felt the need to pay homage to this oft-lauded musical. Fifteen minutes in, I wanted to throw the DVD out of my second-story Pinehurst window. I fought the good fight however, and for the sake of this blog, I suffered.

Perhaps it is due to the fact that my bull-shit meter is very sensitive, or maybe it's just because this musical is dripping banality and trite philosophy, but I had a hard time stomaching the through-line of this film. Granted, we all love to see little orphan Annie struggle to usurp her horrid circumstances and to finally end up in the arms of Daddy Warbucks (played by Albert Finney, you know the cigar-smoking, tommy-gun weilding, bad-ass from Miller's Crossing). But this film believes far too much in sunshine and daisies to warrant anything more than a facile, glossy view of our modern, and their 80's, times. Perhaps, people in the 80's needed a little more sunshine in their lives and a little more hope, but this was certainly not the way to go about it.

On another note entirely, Albert Finney, Tim Curry, Carol Burnett, and Bernadette Peters (the latter three having solid Broadway careers, as well) turn out impeccable performances. It is odd to see these three performers finding nuance and subtlety in a script that is devoid of complication and intrigue. These performances make the musical stomach-worthy at points, but once little Annie opens her's all over. Perhaps I am being unduly harsh, but the 80's turned out some of the greatest films of all time, this is one of those exceptions. What a waste of talent...

Warning: Small children singing in falsetto and dancing *shudder*

See No Evil, Hear No Evil

"Today I threatened to shoot a naked woman with my erection."

Ever wondered what might occur if a blind man and a deaf man were partial witnesses to a murder and were subsequently swept up in the investigation, tagged as suspects, and then acted as vigilantes attempting to clear their own names? I give you 1989's See No Evil, Hear No Evil. This movie stars the nearly unstoppable (and quintessential 80's dynamic duo) team of Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder. Apart they are comedic geniuses, separate they are comedic gods.

With all honesty, it is the acting of this solid duo that saves this rather lackluster film: The plot is a little meandering, and begs the audience to make a lot of allowances for the two leads; the script, if removed from the performance context, is rather trite and borderline handicap-advocacy. All of that aside, the film does raise some interesting questions about the portrayal of handicaps on screen and our reaction to them.

I truly felt that Wilder, in particular, went to great lengths to create and simulate the accuracies of being deaf, with Pryor taking a more comedic blind route. But the script asks us to view the men both as stereotyped but also very humanized. At moments in the film the two men, taking considerable time out of their crime-escaping endeavors, sit and talk to one another. What the audience is privy to are one, some beautiful acting, and two some very heartfelt dialogue that truly paints a unique picture of the two men, of two handicaps. But it also seems that the writers want us to view them as bumbling fools at times, that their handicaps have turned them into idiots and then in the next they are total geniuses as they outwit cops, hotel maids, and hardened criminals.

Ultimately, I found the script a little unbalanced and lacked finesse in the creation of the characters. But this film is more about the slapstick and the comedy and in those two arenas it excels to an immense degree. Oddly enough, Pryor's character Wally espouses an interesting moral philosophy, which is summed up in the phrase, "Fuck it." Much of the journey of the piece, for the two characters (part of the script which is solid) is their learning when to say, "fuck it," and throw their handicap to the winds and when saying "fuck it," may be less than appropriate.

This is a great scene from the film, where the two men are interrogated. You don't get comedy like this outside of the 80's:

The Breakfast Club

The Breakfast Club is the story of five high school students who are all different, yet all find themselves in the same Saturday detention. However, they all come to realize that the people around them aren't who they thought they were and the stereotypes and high school are not always accurate.

I loved this movie. I can see why it has been talked about and adored over the years. It is a very entertaining movie, but also seems to have a stronger message rather than a surface high school film. I think the movie succeeds in showing there are more to kids than meets the eye and the only way to find out what that is, is to get to know them.

As I said before, this movie has been talked about since it came out in the 80s. I would say this movie is even more popular today than some movies that have been created in the past decade. I assume it will continue to remain popular among generations now and generations to come.

This movie is also done in an obvious 80s style. The point is to show stereotypes of kids in the 80s, so therefore the movie is done in the most obvious 80s fashion as possible. The clothes, the music, the personalities are all very much part of the 80s staple.

I would recommend this movie to everyone. I think there is something in this film for everyone to laugh at, cry at, or relate to.


Poltergeist is the story of a typical American family whose daughter can hear voices coming out through the TV. The small disturbances start out as being amusing to the family, but quickly turn into much more when Carol Ann, the youngest daughter, is sucked into the TV by a Poltergeist. Now the family must find a way to get their daughter back without having her die within the walls of their own home.

I had heard this movie was one of the most frightening movies ever made. If I had seen it when it came out in the 80s I would probably have agreed. However, due to the way technology has grown and special effects are done now the film was not as frightening as all the hype made it out to be. With that said, I really did like the movie. It told an interesting and scary story that kept me entertained and wanting more.

This movie absolutely stands up over time. Even today, movie fanatics still talk about the influence of Poltergeist on the cinematic world. This movie is also done in a distinctly 1980s fashion. It is set in the 80s, the fashion is of the 80s, as well as the decor of the home etc.

If you like scary horror films, I absolutely recommend watching Poltergeist. It is an interesting and different story line than I have seen in other horror films and is a fun way to spend two hours.


Caddyshack, starring Chevy Chase, Bill Murray and Rodney Dangerfield is a comical film revolving around an upscale country club, gophers and a scholarship opportunity. Danny, a young man, applies to work as a caddy for Bushwood country club, where wealthy individuals gather. Danny needs to earn money for college and perhaps be fortunate enough to win the next scholarship. He caddies for Ty, Chevy Chase, who shares life lessons while on the green. Danny determined to receive the scholarship, caddies for Judge Smails, co founder of club. Smails niece, Lacey arrives for the summers break and immediately catches the attention of Danny. Al Czervik, Dangerfield, is introduced when he makes a bet that Smails will miss his putt. Czervik is automatically revealed to be an ostentatious person with his wealth and likes putting money on the line. Danny begins acquiring respect from the judge and later during the caddy day tournament wins the prize. Lacey and Danny share an intimate moment, only to be caught by Smails. Smails offers him the scholarship in return for not mentioning the incident that occurred with Lacey. Czervik informs Smails he wants to buy the club, in which they set up a golf match with $20,000 at stake. The next day the match begins and Czervik doubles the pot. Czervik is hit in the head by a ball and has to have a replacement, which Ty chooses to be Danny. At the final hole, the score is tied and Czervik raises the pot again to $80,000. Danny’s ball reaches the hole only to stop at the edge. Meanwhile, Murray’s character, Carl Spackler, is a grounds keeper whose objective is to eliminate a gopher that has become a nescience to the course. At the end, Spackler detonates an explosive to scare the gopher out, which rocks the course and nudges Danny’s ball into the hole, thereby winning.

I decided to watch Caddyshack because my father told me it was one of his favorite 80s movies and was a classic. I had never seen the film before so I watched it. The movie was sort of “stupid funny,” but did provide comical scenes, such as…

Overall I enjoyed the movie and would recommend it to my peers.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Bill &Ted's Excellent Adventure

Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure is arguably one of the best worst movies of the 80s. For some inexplicable reason it launched Keanu Reeves' career, despite all of his most salient lines containing 'dude.'

The plot follows two lovable stoners on their quest to make a good grade on their history presentation the following day. Should Ted fail his history presentation, he will fail class, resulting in him being shipped off to military school in Alaska. If this happens, Bill and Ted can not form their band, the Wyld Stallyns, which obviously is imperative to both of them.

A man from the future shows up with a time machine to help them realize this goal, as the music the duo creates later would somehow become the basis of the future society of the world. The wonder twins travel back in time to collect historical figures for their presentation, managing to obtain Napoleon Bonaparte, Genghis Khan, Socrates, Billy the Kid, Abraham Lincoln, Joan of Arc, Sigmund Freud, and Ludwig van Beethoven.

Some of the most humorous parts of the movie are close to the end, when the historical characters are in real time (1989) and in the San Dimas shopping mall. Genghis Khan ravages the sporting goods store, Beethoven places four keyboards at once, Joan of Arc interrupts a work out program, and Socrates and Billy the Kid try to pick up girls, only to be interrupted by Freud, eating a corndog (perhaps an attempt at subtle humor). All of the characters wind up in jail.

Bill and Ted manage to bust them out of jail just in time for their history presentation, with the help of their time machine telephone booth. George Carlin plays Rufus, the man sent from the future to help the two stoners with their history project. The futuristic scenes that are shown are ironically dated, with a strong 80s/90s look prevalent in the characters.

Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure is a right of passage for every young film buff. Because it is such a bad movie, it is an excellent film. Or in the words of Bill and Ted, a 'most excellent' film.

The Dark Crystal

My older brother is 11 years my senior, so he grew up in the 80’s. He loved Transformers and wearing lime green shorts to school, but he also looks back fondly on the film The Dark Crystal. I remember him watching it when I was younger and thinking that I should watch it someday, especially since I have adored the movie Labyrinth practically all my life, but I never got around to watching it until now. It was definitely a film that required more concentration than others, which I think would have been easier the looming deadline of the FAFSA and other financial aid forms hadn’t been hovering in my mind while I was watching this film. But over all I was impressed.

While some people may scoff at the puppetry and special effects of the film, I can actually admit that I kind of prefer it to all the clearly animated computer graphics of today. No one would make a film like this today with so many hand crafted artistic detail, and that is definitely something I miss in films today (I was really disappointed when Yoda became computer animated).

Anyway, Dark Crystal is a fantasy tale of Jen, who lives in a different world that has been misplaced by the destruction of the dark Crystal, which for so long kept peace and balance in the land. Thinking that he is the last of his race, the Gelflings, Jen is raised by a benevolent mystic, who, on his deathbed, gives the young adventurer the assignment of finding a shard of the crystal to restore order in the world.

Jen eventually fins the shard and meets another Gelfling, conveniently the beautiful Kira, who joins him on his journey as they battle the evil Skeksis race in order to reinstate order with the return of the crystal shard. After several trials and an epic battle, Jen returns the shard to its rightful place and peace and beauty is restored to the land.

The Dark Crystal is a unique film with a complex plot and intriguing and creative cast of characters. This is definitely a film for Jim Henson fans as well as anyone who appreciates the theatricality of 80’s film.

The Princess Bride


Not only was Rob Reiner's The Princess Bride (1987) a great watch, but it is also packed with characters who seem to have an interesting set of ethics. Westley begins as the farmboy on Buttercup's farm. The two fall in love with each other until Westley must leave her to go after his fortune. Buttercup hears that he was killed by the dreaded Pirate Roberts, but he actually became Pirate Roberts. Thinking Westley is dead, Buttercup moves away and is to be wed to Prince Humperdink, a egotistical and power hungry prince who is ready for his father to die so the throne can be his own. In his quest to find Buttercup, Westley joins forces with the three characters above, Fezzik the giant, Vizzini the short bald guy, and Indigo Montoyo, the sword-wielding Spaniard looking to seek revenge for his father's murder. Indigo lives his entire life looking for the 6-fingered man who killed his father and gave him scars on his face.

Each of these characters has their own moral motivation. It appears that Westley and Buttercup essentially live solely to be together. At the end, before Buttercup realizes Westley is in the room with her, she tries to kill herself because she cannot be with him and is stuck with Humperdink. But sometimes Westley's sarcastic carefree tone makes him appear to be an ethical egoist. But he does certainly seem to love her. Humperdink is completely an ethical egoist and does everything for his own appearance and to feel more powerful. He seems to be a ruthless man that will do anything for himself. Fezzik is a carefree character who seems to simply be happy to be free. I would say that he values loyalty because he looks out for his friends and even sticks with Vizzini, who is terrible to him, because he knows that Vizzini had once helped him out. Indigo Montoya is motivated by revenge, courage, honor, and loyalty. Some may tell him to forget about his father's death and put it behind him, but he lives his entire life for the quest of revenge. Whether or not the revenge is cold blooded and evil, he is courageous in his final victorious battle, when he fights after being stabbed by the six-fingered man. This is just a few of the characters and just a glimpse of their morals and ethics behind their actions. I strongly suggest watching The Princess Bride to whoever hasn't seen it.

Field of Dreams

Given the start of baseball season, I found it appropriate to watch an 80’s film to get me in the spirit. I had the opportunity to watch 1989‘s Field of Dreams, which I had heard a great deal about. The protagonist, Ray Kinsella, is an average American who is suddenly plagued by whispers in his newly acquired corn field. The whispers suddenly become more and more frequent as they utter; “If you build it, he will come.” He takes it to mean a baseball field and he to be Shoeless Joe Jackson of the infamous Chicago Black Sox. Ray decides to plow under his corn and use all of his savings to follow the voice and build a baseball field. Before long, he finds himself on a utilitarian quest to bring several figures from the Chicago Black Sox back to the game of baseball as well as a famous author (Terrance Mann) and a doctor (Doc Graham) who missed out on his dream. The issue of the Black Sox was interesting to me because this movie glorifies one of the largest scandals in baseball history and turns a team of ethical egoists into heroes. Ray then risks everything in his life along with family and his own reputation in following the voice and his perception of it. He struggles with differing right from wrong but ultimately decides to follow his heart in lieu of everyone else around him.

At the end of the movie Ray comes to the realization that everything he had done in building the stadium was to bring back his own father from the dead and have the chance to right his relationship with him. Not only was Kinsella able to reconnect with his father, but also he created a place where everyone could envision their favorite heroes. Those who believed that the field was a magical place could see the games which were played there. Terrance Mann has an epiphany and tells Kinsella to turn the field into an attraction which people will play for the chance to see something extraordinary. Just before the credits, the camera pans out over the field and dozens of cars are seen driving to Ray’s field symbolizing the end of his financial problems and the utility of many about to greatly increase. And I was also very happy to see Ray Liotta, my all time favorite actor, as Shoeless Joe Jackson.


Big: Who doesn't Love Tom Hanks?

As I was watching Big I couldn’t help but think of it as a more universal version of the notorious romantic comedy (okay, chick flick) Thirteen Going on Thirty. I loved Tom Hanks performance as the innocent thirteen-year-old Josh Baskin, who is transformed into his adult self overnight after his wish to be big is granted by mysterious fortuneteller machine. Hilarity ensues as he is mistaken for a kidnapper and chased out of his home by his mother.

After realizing that the grown man before him actually is Josh, his best friend Billy helps him to enter into the adult world by getting a job at Macmillan Toys and renting an apartment. Through Josh’s playful attitude and unparalleled understanding of toys, he is promoted and enjoys the luxuries of corporate earnings to finance every child’s dream home, complete with a trampoline and fire-engine red bunk bed. However, despite the benefits of adult life, Josh quickly learns of the hardships life has to offer as he is forced to grow up quickly in the business world as well as with his coworker, Susan, who takes romantic interest in the unsuspecting young man. After developing their relationship and formulating a plan for an electronic comic book, Josh tells Susan the truth behind his childlike demeanor, although she fails to understand the reality of the situation. Josh eventually finds out where the fortuneteller machine is and quickly runs to regain his childhood. Susan follows him and accepts Josh’s identity. Josh is reunited with his family and best friend to enjoy the rest of his childhood.

Big is an endearing film that easily withstands the test of time because of its universal themes and casting choice of Tom Hanks. If you’re are looking for a funny, heartfelt film that will enable you to remember your own childhood, Big is definitely the 80’s film for you.


Robocop is a futuristic action thriller set in Detroit, when the city privatizes most of its services to a large corporation, Omni Consumer Products (OCP). The OCP is hard at work trying to militarize the police force through replacing the need for humans, however, lead CEO Dick Jones' (Ronny Cox) primary prototype fails in a demonstration test. The project is replaced by a new prototype led by young CEO Bob Morton (Miguel Ferrer).

When cop Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) is shot on the job and is soon declared dead, the OCP turns his body into "Robocop," attaching "state of the art" legs, arms, and a torso to Murphy. He retains a few murky memories and characteristics from his life as a human, but mostly lives as a robot.

Trouble starts when Robocop recognizes one of his killers and looks up the criminal's profile in the police database. In the file, one of his crimes is listed as killing Alex Murphy. Robocop soon pieces together who he used to be, before the OCP turned him into a walking piece of machinery.

The movie is a vintage 80s film, particularly given the "state of the art" technology it uses, which dates the film now considerably. The robotics used are laughably prop-like and the characters are distinctly 80s-- with uber nude make up and uniforms. The robotics and outfits used resemble others used in similar futuristic films made during the 80s, such as Star Wars and Tron. All in all, it is a timeless piece of vintage 80s action, and can be used as a warning of the evils of corporate power.

Breakfast Club

The movie ‘Breakfast Club’ is one of those all-time classic 80s movies that will stand immortal in time as the face of the 80s. In the movie a group of high school students have been sentenced to Saturday detention that lasts all day. The group of kids is quite dynamic and serves to encompass the majority of stereotypes of high school students in the 80s: the jock, the brain, the criminal, the kook, and the princess. At the beginning all of these students pretty much hate each other solely due to their stereotypes, but as the movie progresses the students get to know one another much better, as a result of being forced to spend so much time together, and eventually become friends.

This movie is timeless in the way that it illustrates the effect of stereotypes and breaks them down to show that people can always get along and find something in common if they just look for it. Most of these stereotypes are also not time sensitive as we still have the jock, the princess, the nerd and the badass stereotypes in most American high schools. The ‘Breakfast Club’ is one of the many high school films depicting rebellious youth fighting against oppressive staff and faculty, such as ‘Ferris Bueller.’ These movies paralleled much of the rebellious punk culture that was spreading throughout the 80s as well as the development of computer technology. It is movies like this that will always make us remember the good days of our youth in high school.

Animal House

‘Animal House’ is a great 80s flick set in the 1960s about fraternity life during the peak of its rambunctiousness. In the movie two freshmen want to join a fraternity so they go through rush in order to decide which fraternity to join. After visiting many including the snobby, ‘rich’ fraternity on campus they go to a house party thrown by the Delta fraternity. This party is absolutely insane and persuades them to pledge that fraternity. Throughout the rest of the movie we see these two kids go through their pledging process which includes ridiculous activities, parties and adventures. This film is great in its commentary about fraternity life during the ‘good old days’ when rules were loose or non-existent and greek life thrived.

It is somewhat appalling, though, to see the kind of ridiculous behavior exhibited by this group of frat boys. Even though it is somewhat of a spoof on college greek organizations, it does make us step back and take a look at the current greek life on campus and how beneficial/crazy it may be. The movie also shows some interesting ideas of what college was during the 80s. Since greek life was so prominent during that decade and rules were so lax, college was more of the stereotypical party scene and we can see many of these stereotypes come out in this movie. Overall this is a hilarious80s movie and must see for anyone in college and/or greek life. Just don’t get any funny ideas of pranks to play on friends.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High

This classic tale of teenage sexuality centers around a group of teens all going to Ridgemont High. Stacey Hamilton (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is coming of age and grappling with her newly found sexuality, looking to the expert older girl, Phoebe Cates (Linda Barrett) for guidance. Brad Hamilton (Judge Reinhold) is trying to gain control in a dying, sexless relationship in order to preserve his masculine, senior dignity. Mark "Rat" Ratner (Brian Backer) seeks advice from "experienced" Mike Damone (Robert Romanus) on the ways of women, and specifically, how to attract Stacey. Jeff Spicoli (Sean Penn) humorously punctuates the film as the stoner stereotype, battling unpopular teacher Mr. Hand (Ray Walston), as best he knows how.

The movie is the penultimate guide to 80s high school sexuality, where every character seems concerned primarily with how to attract it, keep it, and use it. Hamilton's missteps guide the film as she thrusts herself into purely sexual experiences without the jaded understanding needed to assume truly casual sexual encounters. First, she's disappointed when it becomes clear she lost her virginity in a one-night stand; second, she winds up pregnant from another disappointed one-time (one-minute) encounter with Damone. By the end of the film, she finally realizes she can't get the relationship she wants without pursuing love, instead of sex. Her discussions with Cates in the meantime, however, are humorous:

Stacy Hamilton: When a guy has an orgasm, how much comes out?
Linda Barrett: A quart or so.

These kinds of conversations run throughout the film. Damone's conversations with Ratner are more humorous after his sexual encounter with Hamilton shows the extent of Damone's experience, all total five minutes of it.

Mike Damone: I mean don't just walk in. You move across the room. And you don't talk to her. You use your face. You use your body. You use everything. That's what I do. I mean I just send out this vibe and I have personally found that women do respond. I mean, something happens.
Mark Ratner: Well, naturally something happens. I mean, you put the vibe out to 30 million chicks, something is gonna happen.

The movie does portray the results of Hamilton's sexual missteps when she appeals to Damone, asking for money for her abortion. The storyline is odd given its mostly-humorous premise, though any emotional consequences or reflection on abortion in general from Hamilton is non-existent. The film, however, is a good piece of 80s bubble gum cinema, fairly superfluous and entertaining all in one.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Rain Man (1988)

Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman star in this 80s drama. Cruise plays Charlie Babbitt, a selfish yuppie whose distant relationship with his now-deceased father leaves him unaware of his autistic savant brother Raymond (Hoffman).

More or less, he movie's premise is one heard time and time again: a selfish man finds himself in the company of a pseudo-enemy until the pair finally rubs off on one another and the selfish man learns the importance of thinking about others. Charlie only wants to "bond" with Raymond to get a part of his father's $3,000,000 estate, which was left to Raymond alone. Throughout the film, he uses his brother for his own gain. By the end of the film, though, Charlie does not even want to accept the $250,000 offering that Raymond's doctor offers him as a parting gift.

"Rain Man" is definitely a film that can stand the test of time. Though it's a drama, the integration of light-hearted humor (provided by Raymond) helps make "Rain Man" painless enough for any movie-goer to see. Hoffman does an amazing job portraying Raymond, and the movie is worth a watch simply for his performance alone.

The movie, however, did not strike me as quintessentially 80s. Raymond lives in an institution and Charlie's life revolves around his car business, leaving the mis-en-scene yearning for more Michael Jackson and less nature. The 80s are personified, though, in the form of Charlie Babbitt, with his yuppie values and "Wall Street"-like focus on selfishness and money.

I would definitely recommend this movie to anyone willing to be swept away by Raymond's touching personality and for anyone simply willing to watch a top-notch film.

Porky's (1982)

I decided to watch this movie for two reasons. One, the VHS had been lying around my house for probably 13 years; two, this movie was written and directed by Bob Clark (of "A Christmas Story" fame).

A period film featuring a young Kim Cattrall, "Porky's" follows the lives of a group of friends as they try to do what most teenagers in 80s films set out to do: lose their virginities. The teenagers attend the fictional Angel Beach High School, but they decide to go to the next town over to Porky's, a bar where the boys can supposedly have "a night to remember" (i.e., accomplish their goal of de-virginizing themselves). All they have to do is slip some money to Porky himself. Porky, however, has something else in mind and decides to make an example of the boys by humiliating them and dumping them in the swamp that surrounds Porky's. The rest of the film revolves around getting revenge on both Porky and his crooked-cop brother.

At the surface, "Porky's" is not a distinctly 80s film, and most of it has to do with its setting in the 50s. Hence, there are (unfortunately) no synthesizers, legwarmers or crimped hair-dos. However, it is still enjoyable and can easily stand the test of time because teenagers will always be willing to laugh at sex, racism will always be an issue, and older generations will always want to reminisce on what was. The movie has some awkwardly funny parts, but it also has some pretty serious undertones: good vs. evil, racism, prejudice and growing up in 1950s Florida.

Maybe it was all those years of building expectations staring at the cover of the tape, but I think I expected a bit more from the film. It was enjoyable, yes, but most of the characters seemed too much like stereotypical 50s personas than actual teenagers living in the 50s. And it still makes me cringe to think of what might have happened to the characters after they get their revenge and the movie ends (Porky would not just disappear quietly). Yet perhaps the that-would-never-happen-in-real-life element of the movie is what makes it so enjoyable in the first place.

With its lowbrow humor, distinct time period and raunchy subject matter, this movie could probably be anybody's guilty pleasure. But under all of that, it is still important to see what this movie is really about: growing up and having fun while in the presence of friends.

"Diplomatic Immunity." Lethal Weapon II

The second of the four film installment of Richard Donner's Lethal Weapon, Riggs and Murtaugh are at it again in Lethal Weapon II (1989). While working another drug case, an arrest turns violent when the escapee crashes his BMW through a store window, spilling thousands of South African Krugerrand. Though Riggs and Murtaugh are assigned to keep watch over the very annoying Leo Getz, played by Joe Pesci, Leo's inside information on the S. African criminals is just to good to let slip by.

Featured scenes include car chases, nailgun fights, Riggs taking down a helicopter with a gun and falling a house on stilts with his truck, exploding toilets, and of course diplomatic immunity. The two buddy cops could not be more different, black and white, young and old, rule follower and suicidal maniac, but they somehow manage to work together and take down the villain in the end.

Lethal Weapon II, though fantastical in nature, is highly entertaining as both an action and comedic film. It is recognizably 80's due to the fashions and soundtrack, but stands up over time as a timeless heroic cop flick. I would recommend this movie to anyone who enjoyed the first film, or films such as Die Hard or Beverly Hills Cop. It also holds one of the corniest one-liners of all time:

"You've been de-kaffirnated!" - Murtaugh.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Just One of the Guys

Terry Griffith is about to go where no woman has gone before...

Terry, a popular girl and a talented writer at her school, enters one of her articles to receive a summer internship at the local newspaper. Her teacher informs that her article is not up to par, opposed to other writings, from boys, he has sent in. Convinced sexism plays a part in the selection she is determined to enter her article and will do anything, even secretly disguising herself as a boy. She enrolls at the rival school and goes undercover with the help from her brother and best friend. Her brother, Buddy, a sex obsessed teen, gives her tips on how to walk, talk and act like a guy. A couple times she forgets who she is suppose to be portraying and has some close moments, especially in the boys locker room. Her pursuit for her internship is shifted when she meets Rick, a nerd with no fashion sense. She decides to give him a makeover and eventually starts to fall for him. During her new experiences as a different gender, she tries to manage her boyfriend Kevin, her new love interest, Rick and the girls who are swooning over her. The senior prom approaches and Rick escorts the popular girl, while Terry takes her best friend. Kevin and Buddy show up and Kevin breaks up with her in front of everyone. Terry pulls Rick aside confesses her love and confirms she in fact is a woman. Confused, shocked and angry he walks off after Terry later kisses him in front of everyone. Days past and Terry returns to her normal life as a girl, upset she did not get the boy, and writes the article that will win her the internship. In the end, of course, she gets her man and they drive off.

I decided to watch Just One of the Guys because I love the Amanda Bynes movie “She’s the Man.” I found there was a 80s take on the whole scenario of a girl disguising as a boy. I found the movie very entertaining and though certain scenes were predictable, it was fun. There is nothing really special about the movie, but I would recommend it. There are definitely some humorous lines.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

In 1936, treasure hunter/archaeologist Indiana Jones braves an ancient temple in the Peruvianjungle filled with booby traps to retrieve a Golden Idol. Upon escaping the temple, Indiana is confronted by rival archaeologist René Belloq and the indigenous Hovitos people. Surrounded and outnumbered, Indiana is forced to surrender the idol to Belloq, and flees from a jungle chase aboard a waiting seaplane.

Shortly after returning to the college in the United States where he teaches archeology, Indiana is interviewed by two Army intelligence agents. They inform him that the Nazis, in their quest foroccult power, are searching for his old mentor, Abner Ravenwood, who is in possession of the headpiece of an artifact called the Staff of Ra and is the leading expert on the ancient Egyptiancity of Tanis. Indiana deduces that the Nazis are searching for the Ark of the Covenant, the biblical chest built by the Israelites to contain the fragments of the Ten Commandments. The Staff of Ra, meanwhile, is the key to finding the Well of Souls, in which the Ark is buried. The agents subsequently authorize Indiana to recover the Ark with the promise of displaying it in a museum. Indiana travels to a tavern in Nepal, only to find that Ravenwood has died and that the headpiece is in the possession of his daughter and Indiana's embittered former lover, Marion. The tavern is suddenly raided by a group of thugs commanded by Nazi agent Major Toht. The tavern is burned down in the ensuing fight, during which Toht burns his hand on the searing hot headpiece as he tries to grab it. Indiana and Marion escape with the headpiece, with Marion declaring she will accompany Indiana in his search for the Ark so he can repay his debt.

They travel to Cairo where they learn from Sallah, Indiana's friend and a skilled digger, that the Nazis are currently digging for the Well of Souls with the aid of Belloq and a replica of the headpiece modeled after the scar on Toht's hand. In a bazaar, Nazi operatives kidnap Marion and fake her death in front of Indiana, strengthening his resolve to find the Ark. While deciphering the markings on the headpiece, Indiana and Sallah realize that the Nazis have miscalculated the location of the Well of Souls. Using this to their advantage, they infiltrate the Nazi dig and use the Staff of Ra to correctly determine the location and uncover the Well of Souls, which is filled with venomous snakes. After Indiana obtains the Ark, Belloq and the Nazis arrive to take it for themselves. They proceed to toss Marion, who is alive, down into the well with Indiana and seal them both in. However, they manage to navigate the underground temple and escape. After a grueling fist fight with a German mechanic, blowing up a flying wing ready to ship the Ark to Germany, and chasing down a convoy of trucks, Indiana manages to take it back before it can be shipped to Berlin.

Indiana and Marion leave Cairo to escort the Ark to England on board a tramp steamer. The next morning, their boat is boarded by the Nazis who once again steal the Ark and kidnap Marion. Indiana stows away on the U-boat and follows them to an isolated island where Belloq plans to test the power of the Ark before presenting it to Adolf Hitler. Indiana reveals himself and threatens to destroy the Ark with a rocket launcher, but Belloq calls his bluff.

Indiana surrenders and is tied to a post with Marion as Belloq performs a ceremonial opening of the Ark, which appears to contain nothing but sand. Suddenly, spirits emerge from the Ark; aware of the supernatural danger of looking at the opened Ark, Indiana warns Marion to close her eyes. The apparitions suddenly morph into demonic creatures. Lightning bolts begin flying out of the ark, killing the Nazis. The fires rise into the sky, then fall back down to Earth and the Ark closes with a crack of thunder.

Back in Washington, D.C., the Army intelligence agents tell a suspicious Indiana that the Ark "is someplace safe" to be studied by "top men". In reality, the Ark is sealed in a wooden crate labeled "top secret" and stored in a giant government warehouse filled with countless similar crates.

First Come, First Staked...

In honor of Corey Haim's death my friends and I decided to watch The Lost

Boys, which tells the story of Michael Emerson and his younger brother, Sam,

who move with their recently divorced mother, Lucy, to Santa Carla, a coastal

California town plagued by gang activity and unexplained disappearances.

The family moves in with Lucy's father, an eccentric old man who lives in the

outlying suburbs of town, with a taxidermy hobby and no television.

The liveliest part of town is the boardwalk/amusement park, on which Lucy

secures a job at a local video store run by a man named Max. Meanwhile,

Michael encounters a young girl named Star who lives with the leader of the

local gang. Michael meets her the next night and is provoked by the gang

leader into a motorcycle race, in which he is tricked into almost going over the

edge of a cliff.

David invites Michael to their lair, where he is put through an unsettling
initiation that includes drinking blood from a wine bottle. He joins the gang in hanging from the underside of elevated train tracks, watching in horror as each willingly drops into a foggy gorge below. Unable to hold on any longer, Michael falls... waking up in his bed, groggy and disoriented.

In the meantime, Sam meets brothers Edgar and Alan Frog, self-proclaimed vampire hunters who give Sam horror comics to teach him about vampires. Sam scoffs at them until Michael's developing vampirism becomes clear; their dog Nanook is forced to fend off Michael's bloodlust-driven attack on Sam, who notices that Michael's reflection has become transparent.

Sam turns to the Frog brothers for help, but refuses their advice to kill Michael. He turns their suspicions to Max, who has begun dating Lucy, suggesting that he is the head vampire whose death will free half-vampires such as Michael, who have not yet killed anyone. At a dinner party help by Lucy, they put Max through a series of tests (including the use of garlic and holy water), which appear to indicate that he is normal, and also embarrass Lucy greatly.

Michael resists joining the gang when they enter a feeding frenzy. Star reveals to Michael that she too is a half-vampire, and wants his help. The next day Michael leads Sam and the Frog brothers to the gang's lair, where they intend to kill the vampires in their sleep. But the killing of one vampire awakens David and the two others, and the Emerson brothers, Frog brothers, Star, and Laddie, a recently abducted child half-vampire, barely escape with their lives.

That evening, while Lucy is on a date with Max and her father is out of the house, the teens arm themselves with weapons based on traditional defences against vampires. David and the others attack, and are each killed spectacularly, with Michael ultimately impaling David on a pair of mounted deer antlers. However Michael doesn't transform back to normal with David's death, as they expected.

Max and Lucy arrive, and Max is revealed as the head vampire, having passed the Frog brothers' tests only on the technicality of having been invited into the house. Max's objective all along was to get Lucy to be a "mother" for his "lost boys", but his grand plan is ruined by Grandpa, who has been aware of the vampires all along, crashing his jeep through the wall of the house, impaling Max on the wooden fence posts he was carrying. Michael, Star and Laddie return to normal. The film ends with Grandpa calmly retrieving a drink from the fridge, seemingly oblivious to the carnage around him. He then declares, "One thing about living in Santa Carla I never could stomach...all the damn vampires".