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Posts Tagged ‘Summer of 1985’

Weird Science

Monday, August 3rd, 2020

August 2, 1985

I’m no expert on the films of John Hughes, but I’ve seen enough to know WEIRD SCIENCE (which he wrote and directed) is pretty different from the other ones. It’s still a teen movie, like he was known for at the time, but it’s his only foray into science fiction unless you count his screenplay for JUST VISITING (the 2001 flop remake of LES VISITEURS) for involving time travel.

It feels a little off to call WEIRD SCIENCE sci-fi though. It’s more like computer magical realism, I think. We’ll get to that in a minute.

Much like EXPLORERS, we have two oft-bullied nerds, the main character Gary (Anthony Michael Hall, following SIX PACK, VACATION, SIXTEEN CANDLES and THE BREAKFAST CLUB) and computer genius best friend Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith, HOW TO BE A PERFECT PERSON IN JUST THREE DAYS, DANIEL, THE WILD LIFE). Going by the actors’ ages, Gary and Wyatt are about 2 or 3 years too old to be Explorers or Goonies. So they’re different in that they do not dream of adventure; they are entirely consumed by horniness. And the girls they like to stare at in school ignore them, so Gary’s big idea is to make a woman. He’s inspired by seeing BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN on TV (colorized! what the fuck!?) and figures his smart friend should be able to do something like that with his fancy computer machine. (read the rest of this shit…)

Follow That Bird

Friday, July 31st, 2020

August 2, 1985

THE MUPPET MOVIE (1979) is a one-of-a-kind American family film masterpiece, followed by several enjoyable sequels. FOLLOW THAT BIRD (a.k.a. SESAME STREET PRESENTS FOLLOW THAT BIRD) is sort of the younger kids’ version of that, and it never quite caught on the same, but it’s worthy of sitting on the same shelf. It depicts Sesame Street (the street) on film, in cinematic terms, and takes some of its Muppet inhabitants out into the real world for adventures both goofy and heartfelt, with guest appearances by a few Canadian comedy stars.

It all happens because of a well-meaning but clueless all-bird organization called The Society of Feathered Friends, whose mission is “to place stray birds with nice bird families.” Somehow they receive a dossier about Big Bird living on a vacant lot with no bird friends, and decide to “help.” As they discuss how sad he looks in a photo an owl comments, “That’s funny, he looks happy to me,” causing outrage, because, according to Miss Finch (voice of Sally Kellerman, M*A*S*H), “We all know he can’t be happy. He needs to be with his own kind. A bird family.” (read the rest of this shit…)

National Lampoon’s European Vacation

Tuesday, July 28th, 2020

July 26, 1985

NATIONAL LAMPOON’S EUROPEAN VACATION is one of the Summer of 1985 movies I actually did see in the theater. I was young and I’m sure I thought it was funny enough at the time, but I doubt I ever rewatched it before now, and I did not feel any nostalgia for it.

While the first VACATION was directed by Harold Ramis, this one was Amy Heckerling, following FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH and JOHNNY DANGEROUSLY. She occasionally brings what probly were considered “MTV style” flourishes to montages and stuff, but is fairly anonymous. John Hughes returned as writer/producer, but for the first one he’d been able to adapt a short story he’d already written for National Lampoon. This one had no such basis, so he had to bring in a serious, heavy hitter, not fuckin around superstar pinch hitter of a co-writer to carry his dead weight and turn this into something truly special. But that person must’ve been busy so he got Robert Klane, writer/director of the disco movie THANK GOD IT’S FRIDAY (1978). Klane had previously been a novelist, but in 1970 adapted his book WHERE’S POPPA? into a movie, which led to writing some episodes of M*A*S*H, an unproduced GREASE sequel called GREASIER, the Summer of 1985 movie that I skipped THE MAN WITH ONE RED SHOE, etc. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Heavenly Kid

Monday, July 27th, 2020

July 26, 1985

THE HEAVENLY KID is another mildly-watchable but understandably forgotten also-ran from the overflowing Summer of 1985. It’s kind of a teen comedy and kind of an adult romance, with a fantastical/supernatural type gimmick.

It opens in the early ‘60s when Bobby Fontana (Lewis Smith, SOUTHERN COMFORT), a super cool James Dean type leather jacket wearing rebel, drives off a cliff during a dangerous challenge race over some macho bullshit (or “honor,” he calls it). He comes to on a crowded subway car that he doesn’t seem to realize is his transport to the afterlife. He’s stopped at the train station escalator to “Uptown,” and angel/bureaucrat/whatever Rafferty (Richard Mulligan, TEACHERS) puts him back on the train until he can receive his assignment to earn his way up.

So yeah, there’s some DEFENDING YOUR LIFE and BEETLEJUICE type satirical fantasy in here, but he’s on that train until 1985, when he’s finally given his mission to help out clueless high school nerd Lenny Barnes (Jason Gedrick right before IRON EAGLE). (read the rest of this shit…)

The Black Cauldron

Thursday, July 23rd, 2020

When it comes to Summer of 1985 fantasy movies that might be a little too dark and scary for their family audiences, RETURN TO OZ was not all Disney had up their sleeve. They also had an animated feature about swords and quests and undead armies that tried to push their artform into new territory. It was the most expensive animated movie that had ever been made, the only one besides SLEEPING BEAUTY that was shot on 70mm, Disney’s first that was rated PG, and the first to integrate some computer generated imagery. It’s adapted from a series of children’s novels called The Chronicles of Prydain by Llloyd Alexander, and they chose not to turn it into a musical (which took some restraint, since one of the main characters is a bard who carries a harp around). It has a mostly serious tone, with a score by Elmer Bernstein and a willingness to start out quiet and ominous, with slow fades between scenes.

Its hero is Taran (Grant Bardsley, George Cukor’s THE BLUE BIRD), a dorky young “assistant pig-keeper” unhappy with his weird job of helping his boss Dallben (Freddie Jones, FIREFOX, FIRESTARTER, WILD AT HEART) take care of one single pig named Hen Wen. He thinks he should be “a famous warrior” having adventures and shit, which he practices for by swinging a stick at imaginary enemies, narrating about how fearless he is and how scared and cowardly they are. (read the rest of this shit…)

Day of the Dead (35th anniversary revisit)

Friday, July 17th, 2020

July 19, 1985

DAY OF THE DEAD – like MAD MAX BEYOND THUNDERDOME – is a favorite movie of mine that I’ve already written about thoroughly (click here for my review from 2013), but that still felt important to revisit in my analysis of the Summer of 1985. I could watch it every year regardless, but even more than OMEGA MAN this is a movie that I’ve thought of repeatedly since the pandemic lockdown started four months ago. And sure enough, the movie rings true in new ways in 2020. George Romero knew what he was doing.

Before we get to that, let’s talk about it in the context of ’85. Obviously DAY is a little niche  – another one of the many interesting movies coming out on the sidelines, not necessarily trying to capture the culture like BACK TO THE FUTURE or something. In a way it goes hand in hand with THUNDERDOME. Both are by visionary genre directors with the first name George, the less-well-received part 3s in the series each director is best known for, which has new chapters spread across decades, drastically reinventing its world each time. But THUNDERDOME was pitched for a wider (and younger) audience than THE ROAD WARRIOR, while DAY continued on the low budget/super-gory path of DAWN OF THE DEAD. And while THUNDERDOME has a larger scale and far more meticulous world-building than its predecessor, DAY mostly just has advances (huge ones) in its special effects makeup. (read the rest of this shit…)

Explorers

Monday, July 13th, 2020

July 12, 1985

Director Joe Dante came up in the world of Roger Corman – first cutting trailers, then directing PIRANHA – before his success with THE HOWLING (1981) brought him to the attention of Steven Spielberg, who produced TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE (1983) and GREMLINS (1984). So it’s notable that Dante’s Summer of ’85 entry EXPLORERS is another that (like D.A.R.Y.L. or especially COCOON) seems like it wouldn’t have existed without the influence of Spielberg’s films.

In an interview with Podcasting Them Softly, screenwriter Eric Luke confirms, “The thing that sold it, that Paramount thought, let’s make this was like the one sentence concept, because E.T. had just come out and been the biggest hit ever, so my answer to that was three boys build their own space ship and go into space and it all works, it’s not just a fantasy, there’s some scientific underpinning.”

(read the rest of this shit…)

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome

Thursday, July 9th, 2020

I am a devotee of MAD MAX BEYOND THUNDERDOME. Obviously I love the whole series, some of them even more than this one, but there are many special qualities particular to this installment. I wrote about the movie in 2007 and I think that review does the job of describing many of the reasons it’s great. But I really felt like I needed to revisit it both in the context of the Summer of 1985 movie season, and as a movie to watch in 2020, so that’s what I’ll do in this supplemental review.

July 10, 1985

Like all of George Miller’s work, THUNDERDOME boldly stands out from other films of its era. Though RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II was the action movie causing the biggest stir at the time, it didn’t have anything approaching the inventiveness or filmmaking prowess of the Thunderdome duel or the train-track chase. And yet I don’t even think of THUNDERDOME primarily for it’s action – it’s more like a fantasy film – and in a season that includes RETURN TO OZ and WARRIORS OF THE WIND, it still might be the most imaginative movie of the summer, the most detailed fictional world, the most evocative mythmaking.

It’s very much an Australian production, and a continuation of Miller’s previous films. The stunt coordinator is the legendary Australian stuntman Grant Page, who we also know from his parts in THE MAN FROM HONG KONG, DEATH CHEATERS, STUNT ROCK and ROAD GAMES. Cinematographer Dean Semler, co-writer Terry Hayes, art director Graham “Grace” Walker (now production designer) and costume designer Norma Moriceau, among others, returned from THE ROAD WARRIOR. But in the four years between MAXes, Miller had some dalliances with Hollywood, and THUNDERDOME does seem aware of its place in a blockbuster landscape largely shaped by fellow TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE segment director Steven Spielberg and friends. According to the Mad Max wiki, “on one wall [of the Bartertown set], there’s a picture of a Gremlin. Not far away, the feed and grain store has a few words painted over its front entrance – ‘Proprietor: E.T. Spielberg’.” (read the rest of this shit…)

The Lift

Monday, July 6th, 2020

“I don’t much like the lift, I prefer to take the stairs, it’s much safer.”

July 3, 1985

THE LIFT (DE LIFT) is a 1983 Dutch horror film, the feature debut of music video, TV and short film director Dick Maas, who would later direct AMSTERDAMNED. According to The New York Times it played the Waverly starting July 3rd, but I don’t know if it played other cities on that day, or later, or what. It was not in the top 25 at the box office for that weekend, which means it made less than the $2,723 that MOVERS & SHAKERS starring Walter Matthau made on the one screen it had left in its tenth week. So, as with WARRIORS OF THE WIND and THE STUFF earlier in this series, I’m unsure about the exact time and size of the release, but there’s enough evidence to be convinced it was played on some screens in the Summer of 1985.

So this was a season when adventurous filmgoers in certain American cities might’ve been able to see horror movies about killer yogurt and a killer elevator. THE STUFF treated its concept with a straight face, but there were jokes, and some very clear satire. I will trust the various reviews of the time that THE LIFT is a black comedy, but to me it plays serious.

(read the rest of this shit…)

Back to the Future

Wednesday, July 1st, 2020

July 3, 1985

There was only one movie in 1985 that was bigger than RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II, at least box office-wise, and it was considerably bigger. It would inspire two sequels, a cartoon and a movie ride at Universal Studios, though you could argue that its cultural impact was smaller than RAMBO’s merely because it couldn’t really be copied as much. How would you imitate something as high concept and specific as BACK TO THE FUTURE?

Its success surely comes from a combination of factors – the zippy direction of Robert Zemeckis, the unusual squeaky-voiced-nerd-who-carries-himself-as-a-rock-star appeal of Michael J. Fox (after MIDNIGHT MADNESS and CLASS OF 1984), the heart-pumping score by Alan Silvestri, the comic support of Christopher Lloyd, Crispin Glover, Thomas F. Wilson and Lea Thompson – but all of that hangs on the ingenious premise: kid gets sent back in time to his parents’ high school days and endangers his own existence when his mom gets eyes for him instead of his dad. (read the rest of this shit…)