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Posts Tagged ‘Summer of 1985’

Summer of 1985 wrapup

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2020

As September 1985 began, summer movies were still in the public consciousness. Turn on the radio and you were likely to hear Pat Benetar’s “Invincible (Theme From The Legend of Billie Jean)” (#12 on the Biilboard charts), Tina Turner’s “We Don’t Need Another Hero (Thunderdome)” (#4), John Parr’s “St. Elmo’s Fire (Man in Motion)” (#2) or Huey Lewis and the News’s “The Power of Love” (#1). August 30th had seen the release of AMERICAN NINJA, a culturally important b-movie and perfect bookend to a season that had started with GYMKATA. Unfortunately I really can’t get away with doing another review of it, because I’ve already done it twice; for my definitive take, read this review of THE 400 BLOWS and click through as I alternate between the five Antoine Doinels and the five AMERICAN NINJAs (a series I retroactively call The 400 Death Blows).

After AMERICAN NINJA, the summer movie season disappeared into the fall like a ninja into a puff of smoke. I know technically I could keep going until September 22nd, but I’m gonna guess nobody’s waiting for me to review PLENTY or SMOOTH TALK. So it’s time for a wrapup. (read the rest of this shit…)

Godzilla 1985

Monday, August 31st, 2020

August 23, 1985

“Godzilla. I was hoping I’d never hear that name again.”

Near the conclusion of the Summer of 1985 – a movie season that attempted to bring back James Bond, the Vietnam War, pirates, Dorothy Gale, Clint Eastwood westerns, Mad Max, Walt Disney animation, the Griswolds, Dr. Frankenstein and two different types of Living Dead – America welcomed back a very large visitor from overseas. Godzilla had not had a movie since THE TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA in 1975, so this is about the same as the gap between REVENGE OF THE SITH and THE FORCE AWAKENS, and it was a similar case of a younger generation being entrusted with reinventing and continuing an iconic series for modern audiences. Original producer/creator Tomoyuki Tanaka was still in charge, but director Koji Hashimoto (SAYONARA JUPITER) and writer Shuichi Nagahara (STRAY CAT ROCK: DELINQUENT GIRL BOSS) were both teenagers when the first film came out. (Hashimoto got his start as an assistant director on Toho movies in the ‘60s, including GODZILLA sequels).

This one ignores all the previous sequels. There’s no Mothra, no Minya, no Monster Island, only the events of 1954’s GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS, so in that sense it’s less FORCE AWAKENS and more David Gordon Green’s HALLOWEEN. It was made for the 30th anniversary, so think about the films of 1990. In terms of time, if not cultural relevance, it’s like if this summer had a big new event sequel to TREMORS or DARKMAN, I guess? Or, to put it another way – GODZILLA 1985 is five years older today than the original GODZILLA was at the time. Shit. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Protector (35th anniversary revisit)

Thursday, August 27th, 2020

August 23, 1985

Here we are again. THE PROTECTOR – Jackie Chan’s widely panned second attempt at an English-language starring vehicle. I reviewed it in 2011 and my opinion hasn’t changed much, but as one of the very few straight ahead action movies of Summer of 1985, it seems important to address in this series. Action-wise, the summer was all about RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II. Otherwise you just had the two westerns, PALE RIDER and SILVERADO, and three cop movies – CODE OF SILENCE, YEAR OF THE DRAGON, and this. YEAR OF THE DRAGON is less actiony and has so much more production value it doesn’t seem like a fair comparison, so the one to really hold it next to is CODE OF SILENCE.

And yeah, it makes sense. Chuck Norris and Jackie were both martial arts stars – in fact, guys who had early roles in Bruce Lee movies – who were now expanding their portfolios in the medium of post-DIRTY HARRY American cop movies. CODE is set in director Andrew Davis’s textured and gritty Chicago, but director James Glickenhaus begins THE PROTECTOR in a preposterously exaggerated b-movie vision of the South Bronx where crime is so bad it has literally become a post-apocalypse movie. (read the rest of this shit…)

Teen Wolf

Wednesday, August 26th, 2020

August 23, 1985

TEEN WOLF is another Summer of 1985 movie that I already reviewed but wanted to revisit. Now I feel like an asshole that I didn’t find time to do the same for the much better movie LIFEFORCE, but life isn’t fair, is it? I thought it might be interesting to look at TEEN WOLF in the context of the other teen-oriented movies of the time, including the other one with Michael J. Fox. I saw both BACK TO THE FUTURE and this one at the time (one drive-in, one indoors, I believe) but I did not remember that they came out only a few months apart.

It was, in fact, a time of total and complete Foxamania sweeping the nation. He wasn’t a movie star yet, having only done MIDNIGHT MADNESS and CLASS OF 1984, but was in his third season playing young Republican Alex P. Keaton on Family Ties. He was on a break from filming the show so Meredith Baxter Birney could give birth, and got the job to replace Eric Stoltz on BACK TO THE FUTURE during TEEN WOLF. So he was filming this during the day and BACK TO THE FUTURE at night. Meanwhile, The Cosby Show had started and brought way more viewers to the show playing after it. So basically this is Fox at the precise moment he was exploding from child actor to superstar, and at the exact same age as when we saw him as Marty McFly. On the same day, basically. (read the rest of this shit…)

Better Off Dead

Tuesday, August 25th, 2020

August 23, 1985

The success of movies like FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH and SIXTEEN CANDLES kicked off a wave of teen films in the ‘80s, but the ones that came out in the Summer of ’85 were not typical of the genre. Most of the season’s movies about high school kids involved some sort of fantastical element (BACK TO THE FUTURE, THE HEAVENLY KID, WEIRD SCIENCE, MY SCIENCE PROJECT – and I guess the younger GOONIES and EXPLORERS count too). The most straight ahead, down to earth teen movies were THE LEGEND OF BILLIE JEAN and REAL GENIUS, neither of which were exactly standard issue.

And BETTER OFF DEAD is an even odder one. It has a pretty normal premise (high school kid gets depressed when his girlfriend dumps him for the captain of the ski team, thinks he can get her back by defeating said captain in a ski race), but it’s filtered through the distinct humor of first time writer/director Savage Steve Holland. Though I don’t personally hold it in nearly the same reverence, I think it has a little bit in common with PEE-WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE, in that it’s a comedy with its own distinct tone and deadpan presentation of absurdity brought to us by a rookie whose ignorance about how to make a normal movie works as a strength. On a more superficial level, it uses little bits of animation (including stop motion), and jokingly applies thriller film techniques to silly things (for example, using horror movie synths and atmosphere whenever the paperboy shows up looking for his $2). Burton and Holland are also the same age, both went to CalArts, and both worked as animators before becoming live action directors (in Holland’s case creating the famous “Whammy” animations for the game show Press Your Luck). (read the rest of this shit…)

The Return of the Living Dead (35th anniversary revisit)

Monday, August 24th, 2020

August 16, 1985

THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD is a movie that I already reviewed thoroughly for Halloween 2015, but it’s such a classic I felt it would be wrong to exclude from this retrospective. So feel free to click on that link for a straightforward piece about some of the reasons I love the movie, but this one will zero in on a few aspects I feel are interesting in context with other movies we’ve discussed from the Summer of 1985 movie season.

As a horror-comedy that’s more of a real horror movie than a parody, RETURN arguably has a kinship with FRIGHT NIGHT. But obviously its closest comparison is its brother from another producer, George Romero’s DAY OF THE DEAD. Earlier in the summer I wrote about some of the ways DAY fit the specific moment of 1985. RETURN does it in a totally different way. Romero’s takes a grey, grim approach to railing against the Reagan era, while RETURN writer-director Dan O’Bannon does the EC Comics and punk rock version. Like so many of the movies we’ve been looking at, it’s a very soundtrack-oriented movie, embracing music of the time. But it’s not Huey Lewis, Cyndi Lauper or even Oingo Boingo – it’s punk rock bands like T.S.O.L., The Cramps, The Damned and The Flesh Eaters. (read the rest of this shit…)

Year of the Dragon

Wednesday, August 19th, 2020

August 16, 1985

This may be surprising, but YEAR OF THE DRAGON is one of the Summer of 1985 movies that I hadn’t seen before. So today I have officially entered the post-having-seen-YEAR-OF-THE-DRAGON section of my life. For those of you who are still in the first section, let me explain: this is the Triads-in-New-York’s-Chinatown movie directed by Michael Cimino as his followup to the financial disaster of HEAVEN’S GATE, and he wrote it with Oliver Stone. So it’s quite a movie. Aggressively stylish, go-for-broke filmmaking, astonishing production design and camerawork, epic in scope and detail, clearly heavily researched, also completely macho and full of shit, easy to see as racist and misogynistic, or at least very sympathetic toward a protagonist who is, and who by the way is played by weird, handsome, hungry Mickey Rourke, with all that that entails. So it’s hard to quantify YEAR OF THE DRAGON in the standard “good” or “bad” type terms most people insist on. I’m pretty sure I would run from it if I saw it on the street, but also I think it’s pulsing with entertaining pulp and cinematic greatness. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Bride

Tuesday, August 18th, 2020

August 16, 1985

Two John Candy movies in a row, and now all the sudden we’re back to weird science? THE BRIDE asks the question “What if WEIRD SCIENCE happened not in the modern day with teenagers, but with adults a long time ago, and instead of Gary the main guy’s name is Frankenstein?” Or “What if FRANKENWEENIE was a Franken-adult-human-lady?” Or I guess if you want to be a wet blanket you could call it a riff on BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN. But it’s totally different. The hair is not even the same, to name only one example.

Director Franc Roddam had done QUADROPHENIA (1979) and THE LORDS OF DISCIPLINE (1983) and was attempting his first big mainstream movie. According to his refreshingly frank DVD commentary track, he had Sting (who had been in his first film) originally slated to play the small part of Josef, but “we said to ourselves this could be a great movie for young people” if they had it star this huge rock star, with his first solo album coming out in June, alongside Jennifer Beals, the hot newcomer fresh off the massive success of FLASHDANCE. So they gave the Josef role to some schmuck named “Carrie Elways” or some shit and Sting played Baron Charles Frankenstein opposite Beals as the titular Bride. But it’s only modernized in some of its themes, while being fairly classical in form and content. It’s not rock ’n roll or flashdancy at all. So I’m not sure the young people much noticed. (read the rest of this shit…)

Volunteers

Monday, August 17th, 2020

August 16, 1985

VOLUNTEERS is a Summer of 1985 comedy that takes place in 1962 – about the same time Bobby Fontana died in THE HEAVENLY KID, when George and Lorraine McFly must’ve been a few years out of college. But it doesn’t really offer much commentary or even nostalgia for the era – the period detail is so understated (or half-assed) I thought for a bit that the JFK/Castro/Ed Sullivan/“Blue Moon” montage at the beginning was just a fun history leading up to the Peace Corps. I don’t know, maybe it was the ‘80s Tom Hanks hair that prevented me from being transported through time.

This is the fifth Hanks film, the fourth where he’s the star, and the second of the summer (I skipped THE MAN WITH ONE RED SHOE, released in July). It’s different from what we expect from him now, because he plays a total asshole. He’s Lawrence Bourne III, entitled rich jerk pursuing his hobby of high stakes gambling as he’s about to graduate from Yale. He’s introduced in a card game staring down five older Black men, meant to be scary in the same way as Steve James and friends in the Kandy Bar scene of WEIRD SCIENCE, but he’s not going to bond with them. (read the rest of this shit…)

Summer Rental

Friday, August 14th, 2020

August 9, 1985

I don’t review that many straight ahead comedies, but I admit sometimes there’s something kinda comforting about watching a mediocre one from when I was younger. I thought maybe I’d seen this one at the time, but if so it didn’t seem familiar. But it’s not the kind of movie you necessarily remember for 35 years.

It’s the story of Jack Chester (John Candy, THE SILENT PARTNER), an overworked air traffic controller – pushing tin, you know – who has a bad day on the job and is compelled by his boss to use the five weeks of vacation he has saved up. So he packs up the family – his wife Sandy (Karen Austin, S.O.B.), teenage daughter Jennifer (Kerri Green, who had only been in THE GOONIES), younger son Bobby (Joey Lawrence, Gimme a Break!) and toddler Laurie (Aubrey Jene, didn’t take up acting) – and heads for the beach town of Citrus Grove, Florida.

(read the rest of this shit…)