Some time around the mid-‘90s I took a weekly screenwriting class for a while, and the teacher loved Paul Schrader. He seemed to bring him up in every class. The guy who wrote TAXI DRIVER. The guy with the strict Calvinist upbringing. Eventually he had us watch a Paul Schrader movie, and he chose LIGHT OF DAY – the one where Michael J. Fox plays in a rock band with Joan Jett. I had seen it before and I didn’t dislike it but I thought it was a weird choice to represent Schrader. I think maybe the teacher hadn’t seen it yet.
But, you know, after THE CARD COUNTER last year and finally watching LIGHT SLEEPER this year I was kinda high on Schrader and thought it might be worth going back to this one to see if there was something I was missing. Well, no, not really, but that’s okay. It’s not in the vein of those ones I just mentioned and it’s not as powerful or as distinctly Paul Schrader, but I don’t think anybody else would’ve made exactly this rock ’n roll movie.
I used to think of it as corny because it’s a rock star acting and a sitcom star rocking, but what’s cool about it is that it’s thoroughly working class. It’s about a band, but it’s never about the record label guy is coming to the showcase and it’s their big chance and they write a hit and they get the cover of Rolling Stone but then it’s the pressures of fame or whatever. No, they’re just a small band that plays at a little tavern in Cleveland called the Euclid (“the Euc” for short) and they try to keep that gig or set up a small tour or play in a different band that will pay better. They do pull a pretty good crowd for the size of the place, but they’re not famous. Nobody knows who they are. And they gotta have jobs. (read the rest of this shit…)
Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t hate watching DOC HOLLYWOOD 30 years later. But jesus christ, this type of movie. Michael J. Fox (CLASS OF 1984) stars as Dr. Benjamin Stone, an arrogant Washington D.C. emergency room doctor who gives it all up to become a plastic surgeon on the other coast. “Okay, question: Beverly Hills, beautiful women and plastic surgery – what do these three things have in common? Me, in less than a week,” he says to another doctor, clearly convinced this is a fuckin cool thing to say. And then he puts on his LEON-style round glasses, gets a bunch of gum and toothpicks to chew on, and hops in his red ’56 Porsche Speedster to head for the 90210.
But on his cross country drive (during which he laughs at how fucking awesome he is when he drives on a shoulder to pass a bunch of traffic) he crashes literally into a white picket fence and is forced to to do community service at a small country hospital in “the Squash capital of the south” on “the buckle of the Bible Belt.” Seems like a pain in the ass at first, but then he Learns a Valuable Life Lesson and/or Discovers What He Really Wants Out of Life. (This story was later remade as Pixar’s CARS and Vanilla Ice’s COOL AS ICE.) (read the rest of this shit…)
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…)
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…)
It was July 19, 1996, and there were four new movies in theaters: the action movie with Laurence Fishburne, the genie movie with Shaquille O’Neal, the clone movie with Michael Keaton, and the ghost movie with Michael J. Fox. That last one did the best of the batch, but more people went to see previous releases INDEPENDENCE DAY, PHENOMENON, COURAGE UNDER FIRE and THE NUTTY PROFESSOR.
Not that surprising. Normal people didn’t know what the hell THE FRIGHTENERS was, or have any reason to give it much thought. Universal couldn’t make that big a deal about BACK TO THE FUTURE’s Marty McFly reuniting with Robert Zemeckis (as a producer) because it’s not that kind of movie. Whiz bang special effects movie, yeah, but rated-R, with some grossness and disturbing flashbacks to a realistic spree killing. Like the one we looked at last week, WOLF, there was no McDonalds tie-in (although the skeletal face imprint on the movie poster would’ve looked cool coming out of the side of those glass mugs!). (read the rest of this shit…)
TEEN WOLF is the story of a teen who turns into a wolf. But he looks more like those cavemen from the commercials, or the “dog-faced boy” from the cover of that old video about the different “freaks” (see diagram).
Michael J. Fox (CLASS OF 1989) plays Scott Howard, a weiner who has the hots for some bitch who hates him and who doesn’t notice that his female best friend adores him. To be fair her name is Boof so you can see why he wouldn’t take her that seriously, but still. One day when he gets a boner it brings out the changes in his body and then when there’s a full moon he turns into a wolf. So his dad reveals to him that he also is a wolf, an Adult Wolf, because it’s just this harmless thing that runs in the family.
That doesn’t comfort Scott. He’s real worried and embarrassed, but then he gets upset during a basketball game and wolfs out, and it makes him really good. Ain’t no rule says a werewolf can’t play basketball.
Being good at sports is the best thing anybody could do, so everybody accepts this wolf thing and thinks he’s cool now. They lift him up like a champion, bring him to the diner, chant his name. People cheer him on wherever he goes, they high five him. Being a teen wolf seems very similar to being Arsenio Hall. Also there’s a part where he spontaneously starts breakdancing in the hallway at school. (read the rest of this shit…)
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