Tag Archives: nostalgia

Spider-Man: Homecoming

spidey11.pngSpider-Man: Homecoming may not be the best movie in the franchise (since my favourite Spidey villain is Doc Ock, I have a soft spot for Spider-Man 2) and may not even be the best superhero movie of the summer (Wonder Woman is undeniably great).  But the fact that those were the conversations the assholes were having after we saw Spider-Man: Homecoming last night shows that Homecoming is a great movie in its own right.

Most importantly, Homecoming GETS Spider-Man.  This is a movie that is fan service from start to finish.  The Marvel Cinematic Universe features prominently in the story as the events in the Avengers and Civil War are built on (and Iron Man plays a pretty big role).  There are also a ton of familiar names for fans to find, from Ned Leeds to Flash Thompson to Mac Gargan, and one or two more that I’ll let you discover for yourself.

Even better, the story calls back to several classic comic moments, including this one from Amazing Spider-Man #33 (1966), which is a defining moment for Spidey:

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I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that Spider-Man finds a way to succeed even when it seems there’s no chance, and the final battle in Homecoming is a great display of what I love about Spidey, from start to finish.  The conclusion of that battle especially reminded me of the first Spidey comic I ever read, and really, every Spidey comic since.  Spider-Man’s desire to do the right thing is what makes him my favourite and I was extremely happy to see that made a focus of the film (“with great power comes great responsibility” is never actually said, but it’s the movie’s underlying theme and that’s a far better approach than giving us another depiction of Uncle Ben’s death).

Fittingly for Spider-Man, the hero who can’t stop saying corny one-liners as he fights the bad guys, this may also be the funniest superhero movie ever made.  It captures the light-hearted, good-natured awkwardness of Peter Parker and the awkwardness of high school in general.  There are a lot of laughs from start to finish, and like Ant-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy before it, Homecoming always finds a way to entertain the audience in between the action (often at our hero’s expense, as it should be with Spidey).

(SPOILER: sometimes the humour even comes at the audience’s expense, as you will find out if you stick around to the very end.)

Spider-Man: Homecoming met my high expectations, and then some.  This is how you make a great superhero movie, by staying true to the character, and when that character is your friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man, you’re in for a treat.

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Blade Runner

Jay provides an excellent litmus test anytime I’m unable to separate nostalgia from quality.  It happened with Star Wars, it happened with Indiana Jones, and it has now happened with Blade Runner.  As I write this, it occurs to me that Jay may just hate Harrison Ford, but let’s leave that aside for now.

Yes, because Blade Runner 2049 is on the horizon, I was able to convince Jay to watch Blade Runner with me earlier this week.  Anytime I can get Jay to watch what I will call nerd-fi, a category that includes most movies I saw in the 80s and 90s, it feels like a major brunner4victory.  But only until the movie starts, because so far, about 5 minutes into each movie I proudly show to Jay, she wonders why I bothered to beg her to watch this one, asking things like, “Do you remember it being this bad?” when the flying cars first come into view.

Maddeningly, I can’t even argue against her assessments.  In 2017, Blade Runner is not a great movie.  It’s not really even a good movie.  It’s a movie with vision, it’s beautiful to look at (though the flying cars do look as horrible as Jay pointed out), it brought dystopian futures and particularly Philip K. Dick to mainstream cinema, and it has an ambiguous ending that becomes even more so with every new cut issued by Ridley Scott.  But it’s also a movie with cornball acting, disposable characters that we are barely introduced to, and a ton of sequences that are beautiful but: (a) extremely repetitive (how many times do we need to see a car fly by a Coke billboard or the offworld blimp ad);  (b) essentially silent (like Ford’s visit to a food cart/open air diner); and (c) do nothing to advance the plot (which, let’s be honest, is probably about 35 minutes worth of movie without being padded by all the beautiful shots of futuristic Los Angeles).

brunnerStill, there is something to be said about Blade Runner and something reassuring about its continued relevance.  A big reason reason that the movie feels thin today is because it has been so influential.  We’ve seen so many films build on what Blade Runner started, and in comparison, Blade Runner is like a wheel made out of stone.  In that way, it’s important but if choosing between the original or the best that the genre has to offer today, the modern film is going to be the better one.  But there is still room in my heart for the rickety original, the one that was ahead of its time (and ahead of ours, as Blade Runner is set in the “distant” future of 2019).

And in some distant future of our own, maybe I will find a movie that I feel nostalgic for that also stands up to Jay’s critical eye.  Your suggestions are welcome!

Live in Concert

Last week I reviewed the Netflix concert documentary, Justin Timberlake and the Tennessee Kids, directed by Jonathan Demme. It was all right, but was pretty much just high-quality concert footage with almost no bells or whistles. It put me in a nostalgic kind of mood, reminding me of a time many moons ago when I was an avid consumer of concert videos myself.

When I was a very little girl, the inside cover of my unicorn diary was plastered with NKOTB stickers. That’s New Kids On The Block, for the uninitiated. I loved Joey McIntyre in particular, and practiced writing my future married name over and over as only a 7 year old could (as an old married lady, I have never signed myself as Mrs anything). My mother called me “boy crazy” but dc12b288ae1a4e8c32910bd614d7a701.jpgshe fueled the fires of my pre-lusty desires with posters and t-shirts and perfume (I have no idea how to distill an entire boy band into one scent, but they did, and I wore it). I also had not 1 but 2 Joey McIntyre Barbie dolls. I still remember the jeans and the red jacket that he wore, and the backwards baseball cap like the baby-faced faux-bad-boy he was. My Barbies loooooved to date him, enjoyed extended closed-mouth kissing with him, and were serenaded on the reg. I never owned anyone besides Joey although the whole Barbie band was available for purchase – until a certain milestone birthday when my youngest sister paid I don’t want to know how much to assemble the boys for a reunion tour in my bedroom: she tracked down every last NKOTB Barbie and sent them to me, mint in their boxes. My childhood toys are now collector’s items. I am old.

When I was still young and fresh and musically ridiculous, I wanted nothing more than to listen to my New Kids tapes on my Walkman. Being quite small at the time, I never got to see them in concert, but I did have the next best thing: their concerts on VHS. I can’t recall how many of those I had, but it was new-kids-on-the-block-vhs-lot-oflikely all of them. But they weren’t stingy like Justin Timberlake’s, they were full of priceless nuggets, like the sight of 14 year old Joey “shaving”  before a gig, proper rat tail maintenance, and the guys discussing their astrological signs. You know, really important stuff. I ate it up. And I was starved for it because the New Kids cartoon played at noon on Saturdays and I almost always missed it because it clashed with my mother’s Nutri System weigh-ins. True story. I had a rough childhood, you know. I would wait in the Ford Aerostar, playing with my 2 Joes to console myself, waiting to see if my mother was any skinnier, and if missing my favourite show would be worth it (it pretty much wasn’t).

I must sound awfully wistful when I talk about the New Kids glory days, because not only did my sister assemble the whole band in 12 inch, non-anatomically-correct plastic form, my husband bought me tickets to their real, flesh and blood reunion tour (twinned with The Backstreet Boys, who I could live without). We had floor seats so my inner 7 year old really geeked out (how I managed not to bring a glitter poster with me, I’ll never know). It was wonderful.

That had to have been the hey day of concert documentaries, though. I haven’t seen any of the recent ones, though I know that both Beiber and Katy Perry had rather successful ones. But now that I’m thinking about it, The New Kids On The Block aren’t the only concert videos I’ve owned.

At home, somewhere in my DVD collection, is concert footage of Our Lady Peace, a band you probably haven’t heard of outside of Canada, but was the height of the alt-rock scene here in the late 90s, when I was in high school. By then I was old enough to go to concerts and boy did I. I probably saw those guys in concert dozens of times. In fact, I sang with them once. I was in the front row, singing along to every song, when the lead singer (Raine Maida), held my hand and gave me the mic. Jesus Murphy. Have all your dreams ever come true in one ecstatic moment? I remember stumbling in the door so late that night, a week night of course, and shaking my mother awake so she could listen to me recount my story in a still-trembling voice. It was golden. Our Lady Peace has stayed relatively active despite the fact that music these days seems to have shifted decisively toward a poppier sound. I saw Raine just a year or two ago at Osheaga doing some solo stuff. But this autumn they’ve banded together with another Canadian indie-alt band, I Mother Earth, to bring the 90s back. So of course someone bought me tickets. God I’m shameless. I can’t decide if I have the best life ever or … oh who am I kidding? It may be slightly embarrassing, but I’m having a damn good time.

 

What was YOUR concert doc obsession? I can’t be the only one!

The Abyss

Rewatching the original Star Wars trilogy seems to have made me nostalgic for the 80s.  And when the latest Star Wars instalment recently sailed past Avatar and Titanic to become the highest grossing movie ever in North America, I couldn’t help but think of James Cameron’s other work, the stuff that he made before appointing himself the king of the world.

Aliens, Terminator and Terminator 2 are all wonderful and all high on my list of movies to make Jay watch (a list that has shrunk considerably in the last few weeks), but the first James Cameron movie that comes to my mind is The Abyss.  To me, that’s the true precursor to Avatar and Titanic, the movie that hinted at what James Cameron was capable of (both good and bad).

The Abyss is near and dear to me, mainly because it provided one of the first signs that I was destined to become an Asshole Watching Movies.  In the early 90s I became really obsessed with letterboxed movies even though we had a 30 inch (at best) tube television.  This was before DVDs so my options

LDDVDComparison-mod

LaserDisc on the left, DVD on the right.  I have enough trouble finding shelf space for my DVDs, thank you very much.

were either letterboxed
VHS (few-and-far-between) or LaserDisc (too-expensive-for-an-unemployed-teenager).  But my parents, seeing my interest, indulged me by renting a LaserDisc player on a few occasions, and The Abyss was the first movie I ever watched on that strange format (on two 12″ discs!).

 

 

As for the movie itself, The Abyss is an underwater odyssey that is a bit of a mess, both on screen and behind the scenes.  Again, it seems obvious in hindsight given James Cameron’s later works, but at the time it seems to have been a surprise that The Abyss’s production went way over time and way over budget.  Filming consisted of 15-18 hour days and lasted 140 days total.  Total cost: a reported $70 million, which if accurate would make it the most expensive movie ever at the time (surpassed by Terminator 2, which was surpassed by True Lies, which was surpassed by Waterworld, which was surpassed by Titanic).  It is not a coincidence that all but one of those movies was made by James Cameron.  He clearly has a talent for spending money.abyss13

When you watch the Abyss, though, you can see where the money went.  All the diving scenes are practical effects and the movie looks amazing for it.  The underwater scenes were shot 30 feet deep for up to five hours at a time in 40 pound helmets.  There were
other costs than money that resulted from this underwater mayhem.  Complaints from cast and crew were rampant.  Ed Harris refuses to ever talk about the film to this day.  James Cameron almost died when he lost track of time and ran out of air at the bottom of the 7,000,000 gallon water tank, and then on his way to the surface was given a broken emergency regulator, so when he thought he would finally get a much needed breath of air, he got a lungful of water instead.  Knowing all that makes me wonder whether the end product, as beautiful as it is, was worth the trouble.  Watch it and tell me what you think.  In my view, the climactic visit to the “aliens” is a bit of a letdown and the ending seems rushed (which is particularly problematic for a movie that’s this long).

The original theatrical cut (which I have never seen) was released in 1989 and was 145 minutes long.  The Abyss is one of the first forays into CG but the technology was not quite there yet so a climactic scene had to be cut because Industrial Light & Magic just couldn’t get the world-The-Abyss-Water-Facedestroying waves to look right.  Technology had advanced significantly by 1993, and so a special edition was released with 25 minutes more footage, including the ending as it was originally conceived.  The CG effects hint at what is to come from Cameron and ILM (or, by the time the special edition was released, what had already come).  The tentacle water effects in particular are very close relatives of the T-1000’s liquid metal goodness in T2 and they seem to hold up a lot better than most early CG (maybe because CG is used so sparsely in The Abyss).

Interestingly, we’ve kind of come full circle, moving away from CG in favour of practical effects (Mad Max: Fury Road being a prime example).  Kwame Opum of The Verge calls practical effects, “vinyl for cinema”, and as someone with a large record collection, that comparison feels right.  It makes me wonder where James Cameron, formerly a practical effects adherent, stands on the issue today since Avatar was so CG-heavy.  Perhaps we’ll get a sense of that if Avatar 2 ever gets made, but that’s a long way off as it’s been delayed again and will not come out until 2018 at the earliest.

In the meantime, dust off your LaserDisc copy of The Abyss and enjoy!

 

Flashback Friday – Rocky Edition

One of the things I loved most about Creed (as mentioned in my review) was how nostalgic and referential (even reverential) it was about the previous Rocky movies.  I’m still thinking about the references I caught and wanted to spend a little more time with them here.

Lots of spoilers follow, so with that said, once you’ve seen the movie come inside and let me know what you thought!

Continue reading

Creed

This is shaping up to be a rough movie season for Jay.  First, she got dragged to SPECTRE (which by all accounts is a spectacular movie).   Second, she’s been dreading Star Wars: The Force Awakens since it was a twinkle in J.J. Abrams’ eye.  And third, a whole other Sean-approved franchise makes a return and potentially gets rebooted into a whole new series of movies.  Dun Na NAAAAAA, Dun Na NAAAAAA!

That’s right, Rocky is back again, for the seventh time.  It seemed over after IV, V, and VI, but some studio exec decided we could handle more!  And it was clearly the right decision because I think MGM/Warner Brothers now has a whole new franchise on its hands, featuring Michael B. Jordan as Adonis Creed (Apollo Creed’s son).

I have always loved this franchise.  From the moment I saw Rocky III, I was hooked (yes, I started with III and have never regretted it – as recently discussed in my defence of SPECTRE, plot and character are pretty much unnecessary in franchises and here’s more proof that’s a good thing).  Based on my love for the franchise, I had high hopes for this movie but I was also nervous at how this would all turn out.  After seeing Creed, I am happy to report that this franchise’s record is still unblemished as long as we agree that Rocky V never happened.

One of my favourite things about Rocky VI (a.k.a. Rocky Balboa) was how much love it showed to the franchise as a whole.  Creed takes the same approach.  There are a number of nods to the past and they’re great to see.  The best part is that Rocky, as trainer, takes all that history and imbues Adonis with the style of boxing we’ve grown to love in these movies, namely trading head shots until both boxers’ faces look like ground beef.  Head trauma be damned, these boxers just have so much heart that they have to leave it all in the ring.  And do they ever!

As for the cast, Michael B. Jordan is great as Creed and Stallone is better than ever as Rocky.  The two characters come together naturally and it’s a great relationship to see play out, as uncle and nephew take on the world together and give us some classic Rocky moments along the way.  Especially Stallone, who really plays the old man well the whole way through (although at this point he’s almost 70 so it may not even be acting).  Either way there are some very funny moments to be found as the two leads interact with each other.
CARL

Overall, the only way this movie could have been any better is if they had worked in some Carl Weathers flashbacks where he got his stew on. I can see how that was tricky to work in to Creed since Apollo died before Adonis was born, but still, it would have been a nice touch.

Apollo v. Rocky

Want to find out who won this fight? Creed has the answer!

Other than that one shortcoming, Creed is perfect.  It delivers a great story, feels like a natural extension of the Rocky franchise, gives us a ton of nice call-backs to past events, and even answers some burning questions (including who wins the fight at the end of Rocky III).  Those fan-service moments were definitely my favourite aspect of the movie and they added so much to it.  They’re not just winks and nods, they are tools used successfully to remind us of Rocky’s mindset as he tries to pass on his winning ways to a new contender.

As the credits rolled, I reminisced about all the other great Rocky moments (see my list HERE but be warned, it contains tons of spoilers) and at the same time was excited for Creed II.  And mark it down, there will be a Creed II.  The seeds are sown here for at least two more movies and I hope they come to pass, because Creed is not just a great addition to the Rocky franchise, it is an excellent movie in its own right.

Creed scores a knockout: ten triumphant underdogs out of ten.

 

The Peanuts Movie

The Peanuts comic strip ran in papers for nearly 50 years – from 1950 right up until 2000 – 17,897 strips in all, making it (arguably) the longest story ever told by a single person, Charles M. Schulz. Schulz wrote and drew every strip himself.

First_Peanuts_comic

 

This is the very first strip, featuring the original Patty and a character called Shermy. More popular characters appeared later: Schroeder (May 1951), Lucy (March 1952), Linus (September 1952), Pig-Pen (July 1954), Sally (August 1959), “Peppermint” Patty (August 1966), Woodstock (introduced April 1967; given a name in June 1970), Franklin (July 1968), Marcie (July 1971), and Rerun (March 1973).

Franklin appeared in 1968 at the urging of a schoolteacher who thought it might help normalize friendship between a black kid and a white kid. Schulz was initially worried it would seem patronizing, but the strip was published and was ahead of its time.

first-franklins-lo

 

 

 

 

Schulz was pretty wily about gender discrimination too, once having Charlie Brown refuse sponsorship of his team when they wouldn’t allow girls (or dogs!) to play. Although some of the holiday specials on TV mentioned God, the strip itself tended to stay fairly neutral.

Schulz necessarily always wrote several panels in advance, so when he retired in 2000, there were still a few to be published and he actually passed away one day before his final strip ran.

Last_peanuts_comic

 

 

 

 

This weekend The Peanuts Movie hits theatres, looking better and brighter than ever. The Schulz family is ever in control of the Charlie Brown empire; Schulz’s son Craig and grandson Bryan wrote the script and hand-picked Steve Martino to direct because they felt he’d shown a “faithful to classics” with his adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who! They’ve used archived music and classic settings so even though this movie is rendered in 3D CGI, it should still feel familiar to old fans of the strip and the movies we’ve watched on TV every year since infancy. Animator Bill Melendez provided the voice of both Snoopy and Woodstock ever since the first Peanuts cartoon, 1965’s A Charlie Brown Christmas. He died in 2008, but the new movie uses archival samples of Melendez’s Snoopy and Woodstock voices from previous cartoons. Musician Trombone Shorty will even be providing the old “wah-wah” of the adults in the Peanuts universe with a plunger mute as always.

Sidebar: I have a tiny head. Yeah, I said it. I no longer wear glasses, but my sunglasses are either XS if I can find them, and children’s when I can’t. Back when I did wear eyeglasses, in the dark ages before Prada, my first pair were Nintendo brand, but my second and third were Peanuts brand. They were even more awful than you’re imagining, and no, I will not be posting a picture. I find it interesting that Charles Schulz actually disliked the Peanuts name. He didn’t come up with it, an editor did “It’s totally ridiculous, has no meaning, is simply confusing,” he said. “And has no dignity. I think my humor has dignity.” And I think he’s right. Except for my glasses. Those were hilarious but totally without a shred of dignity.

As you may have guessed, the boys are dragging me to see Spectre tonight, but my heart will be in the theatre down the hall. So to soothe myself a bit, here are a couple of fun things I’ve come across while in serious-research-mode:

  1. Which Peanuts character are you? I can’t vouch for its authenticity because it just called me a Sally Brown (Charlie’s little sister) and I’m nobody’s second banana. Still, if you take it, be sure to share your results in the comments!
  2. Peanutize yourself! Ever wondered what you’d look like if you made a cameo in the strip? Now you don’t have to. May I present:
Sean

Sean

Matt

Matt

Jay

Jay

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I’m late to the party but the trailers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens have been so good. I cannot wait to see this movie but I will not be paying hundreds of dollars for an opening night ticket (at least, that is what I keep trying to convince myself).  Be strong, Sean!

Since watching the official full length trailers and then the slightly-different-but-really-almost-identical TV spots, I have seen a ton of speculation about who’s who and who’s related to who and I don’t know what else.  Thankfully these trailers have no answers.  I like that I have no real idea what is going on.  Too many trailers nowadays are just a shortened version of the movie, spoiling everything.  I’m glad that for The Force Awakens, Disney seems to have actively avoided spoilers to the point of everything being mysterious.  It’s good.  It’s also clearly driving fanboys insane, which only adds to my satisfaction – is that terrible of me?

I’m an original trilogy guy.  I hated the prequels.  Jay says that’s because I wasn’t six years old when they came out and she’s right.  Despite me being even farther from the age of six than I was in 1999, this trailer captures my imagination again and reminds me .  I really like the old school ships and the design of the robots (especially the little R2-D2-like orange ball).   I’m so relieved to see the blocky X-Wings and the busted-up Millennium
Falcon instead of the way-too-slick prequel ships.  I especially liked the speeder rolling by the crashed Star Destroyer.  What a great image.

And best of all, the trailer makes me want to watch the movie!  I need to find out what has happened.  I need to see why Han Solo has to explain that the old stories are all true when really, it hasn’t been THAT long, has it?  And why is Leia crying?  And who is that creepy Vader-like guy with the crazy lightsaber?  But I guess I’m old enough that I can manage to wait.  Especially with so many other movies to watch before then!

Celebrate Good Times – Come On!

1981, year of my heart: 700 MILLION people tuned in to watch Princes Charles marry the Queen diwedof puffy sleeves, Lady Diana; President Ronald Reagan nominates the first woman, Sandra Day O’Connor, to the Supreme Court of the United States; MTV, the first 24 hour music video channel, is launched with Video Killed The Radio Star by The Buggles; the Boeing 767 makes its first flight; the Dodgers won the World Series over the Yankees after a shortened baseball season due to striking players; Simon & Garfunkel perform their Concert in Central Park to half a million fans; the Edmonton Eskimos win their record 4th consecutive Grey Cup by the skin of their teeth; Donkey Kong makes its delaurawedbut; Eli Manning, Britney Spears, Alicia Keys, Justin Timerberlake, Pitbull, Beyonce, Roger Federer and Georges St-Pierre are born; the first DeLorean rolls off the production line; the Raiders became the first
wild card playoff team to win a Super Bowl after defeating the Eagles; Walter Cronkite signed off the air; the first heart-lung transplant is performed at Stanford’s Medical Center; the original Model 5150 IBM PC with a 4.77 MHz Intel 8088 processor was released in the U.S. at a base price of $1,565; the Islanders took home the Stanley Cup; Luke and Laura got married on General Hospital. It was a banner year.

On the radio

1981 sounded super cool, of course. Disco was reluctantly loosening its grip on the mainstream, making way for radio hits like:

Rick Springfield’s Jessie’s Girl

The Rolling Stones’ Start Me Up

davidbQueen ft David Bowie’s Under Pressure

Rick James’ Superfreak

Air Supply’s The One That You Love

Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’

Kool & The Gang’s Celebration

Kim Carnes’ Bette Davis Eyes

On TV

Dynasty, Hill Street Blues, The Smurfs, and Entertainment Tonight made their debuts.

The Incredible Hulk was suddenly cancelled. Charlie’s Angels, The Waltons, and Eight is Enough also ended their series.

selleckChuck Woolery hosted his last episode of Wheel of Fortune after a salary dispute, and Pat Sajak took over.

Tom Baker made his final appearance as the Fourth Doctor on Doctor Who, and Peter Davison stepped in as the Fifth.

MASH, The Jeffersons, Dallas, The Dukes of Hazard, Taxi, Diff’rent Strokes, Laverne & Shirley, WKRP in Cincinnati, The Facts of Life, and Magnum P.I were the finest in television.

At the movies:

Oscar winners Jennifer Hudson and Natalie Portman were born in 1981, along with Chris Evans, Amy Schumer, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Elijah Wood, Jessica Alba, Hayden Christensen, Josh Gad, and Tim Hilddleston.

indyIndiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark debuted in 1981 and was the highest-grossing movie that year. Other popular films included:

Stripes

Chariots of Fire

For Your Eyes Only

The Cannonball Run

Superman II

Blow Out

My Dinner with Andre

Natalie Wood drowned in a boating accident. We also lost Beulah Bondi (actress, It’s A Wonderful Life), William Holden (actor, Sunset Boulevard), William Wyler (director, Ben-Hur) and Paddy Chayefsky (screenwriter, Network).

The Oscars in 1981 looked like this:

Chariots-Of-Fire-2Best Picture: Chariots of Fire

Best Director: Warren Beaty for Reds

Best Actor: Henry Fonda for On Golden Pond

Best Actress: Katharine Hepburn, also for On Golden Pond

Several actors made their film debuts in 1981, including:

Ben Affleck – appeared in a local independent called The Dark End of the Street at the age of 7, directed by a family friend. He meet 10 year old Matt Damon later this year.

jason-alexanderin-the-burningJason Alexander & Holly Hunter – both appear in The Burning, a slasher film written by Bob Weinstein. This low-budget horror flick is about a summer camp caretaker, horribly disfigured from a prank-gone-wrong and newly released from the hospital with severe deformities, who seeks revenge on those he holds responsible, starting with the kids at a nearby summer camp. The film is notable for being Miramax’s first.

MCDHACO EC001Kim Basinger – she makes her first appearance in a forgotten drama called Hard Country where she had a starring role as a young woman longing to escape small-town Texas to pursue her dreams, but held back by a factory-working boyfriend.

Tom Cruise – Brook Shields and Martin Hewitt star as star-crossed teenaged lovers torn apart when bad advice from his buddy Tom Cruise (age: 19) lands Martin in jail. Watch Endless Love carefully and you’ll spy some other soon-to-be-famous faces. You might also know the Oscar nominated song of the same name, performed by Lionel Richie and Diana Ross. Tom Cruise would have a larger supporting role this year, in Taps.

atapsSean Penn – speaking of which – Sean Penn makes his acting debut in Taps alongside him. Taps stars Timothy Hutton as a cadet in military school who is aided by fellow student cadets Sean Penn and Tom Cruise in taking over the school in order to save it.

Kathleen Turner – she stars with William Hurt as a cheating wife in this “erotic thriller” directed by the writer of Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Empire Strikes Back. It launched her career, established her as one of the sexiest stars in film history, and identified her as frankly sexual and…rather robust.

James Cameron – he got to sit behind the director’s chair for the first time, and his stunning debut: Piranha II: The Spawning, a shameless low-budget horror sequel. He was originally hired cameronas the special effects director, but took over when the the original director, Drake Miller, was fired. But Cameron isn’t comfortable with this credit. He claims “I was replaced after 2 and a half weeks by the Italian producer. He just fired me and took over, which is what he wanted to do when he hired me. It wasn’t until much later that I even figured out what had happened. But when I saw what they were cutting together, it was horrible. And then the producer wouldn’t take my name off the picture because [contractually] they couldn’t deliver it with an Italian name. So they left me on, no matter what I did. In actual fact, I did some directing on the film, but I don’t feel it was my first movie.” Good thing James, since critics called it one of the world’s worst movies, belonging on “anyone’s list of all-time horror turkeys”, the piranhas resembling “haddock with dentures.” Cameron, however, maintains it’s “the best flying piranha film ever made.” So there.

So this is why 1981 will always be quite precious to my little heart. And it just so happens that on this day, back in 1981, one of the funnest Assholes I know, and one of my best friends in the world, was born. Happy Birthday.

Do you have any particular memories to share from 1981?

Clue

A few weeks ago we were at the cottage with our friends when someone pulled out a dusty old board game – Clue. Although the game is basically part of our cultural lexicon, I had never actually played it (although I vaguely remember seeing some clips from a VHS version that must have come out in the 80s – does anyone else remember this?) so around the board we went. I knew fairly quickly that it was Mrs. White in the kitchen with the wrench, but the trick is that you must get to kitchen to finger the murderer, and I couldn’t get there to save my life (so to speak).

This past weekend, my friends and I went to something I tentatively described to Sean’s grandmother as a “live version of Clue”, although that’s not a very precise analogy. It’s called Escape Manor, and it has several rooms into which people pay to be locked, and then they spend 45 sweaty minutes scrambling to decode clues to get themselves out. In our “scenario” , the 5 of us were locked into a prison cell (Matt hand-cuffed to the bars) and we were given the customary 45 minutes to escape, or meet our death via electric chair. The game is designed so that less than 10% of people succeed. It’s a real thinker, and we were really impressed with ourselves for figuring out cyphers and codes and puzzling out all kinds of clues, and being willing to stick our hands down a prison toilet, just in case.

Surprisingly, during neither of these encounters did Matt once bring up a man I once dated very VERY briefly, but who stayed a consistent punchline between us for the 6 or 7 years hence. Let’s call him Garrett. We joke about him for so many reasons – because he affected an Irish accent mid-way through our date, disappeared regularly for a “dart”, regaled me with his Rideau actor’s award (while conveniently avoiding the fact that while he described his employment as “acting” , it was actually “waiting tables” that failed to pay his bills – I found that out when grabbing burgers with a boyfriend, during which time Garrett flirted with me AGGRESSIVELY in front of said boyfriend in between refilling our drinks and despite the fact that I had not returned his calls in a year). Usually if Matt finds a way to bring up this guy (or a lengthy string of others, let’s face it), he pounces on it. And the thing we reminisce about most often is this weird text I once received from him that pronounced, out of the blue, that Clue (the movie) was “Tim Curry at his best.”

I watched it today, annnnnnd. Sorry, Garrett, wherever you are, but I must disagree.

Clue-clue-the-movie-3822096-600-338The movie Clue is set in 1950s New England. Six strangers have been invited to a mansion for a party. They are met by a butler (Tim Curry) who gives each their pseudonym to protect their true identities. During dinner, Mr. Boddy arrives, and it is revealed that he is their connection – indeed, all are being blackmailed by him for various unpatriotic behaviours (Mr. Green’s offense is to simply be a homosexual employed at the State Department, so you get some real 1980s flavour included in the price of your ticket).

Professor Plum: Christopher Lloyd

Mrs. Peacock: Eileen BrennanClue-clue-the-movie-3822403-600-338

Mrs. White: Madeline Kahn

Miss Scarlet: Leslie Ann Warren

Colonel Mustard: Martin Mull

Mr. Green: Michael McKean

Clue-clue-the-movie-21766153-500-283Mr. Boddy, for reasons the script fails to justify, gifts each one with a weapon. Then the lights go out for a five count, a throaty scream is heard,  and the first body is found. Then another, and another. The group tries to solve the murder but of course they all suspect each other – rightly. The script is paper-thin, as I mentioned, and the movie is pretty terrible. Leslie Ann Warren spends the movie Jessica Rabbiting around, making her bosoms heave in a bad impression of a middle-aged sex kitten. None of the wounds bleed. No one can explain why they haven’t called the cops. An actual quote: “Three murders! Six altogether. This is getting serious.”

 It flopped when it was released but has since garnered an implausible cult following by weird dvd-clue-splshredheads named Garrett. There were three different endings filmed, and they were distributed to different theatres, which means that there’s no possible way to watch the movie and actually sleuth things out. There are no clues in Clue. There’s just a jumbled explanation at the end that could be immediately invalidated simply by rewinding the movie. But nowadays you can watch the movie and see all three endings, through the magic of bonus features, and decide which is most absurd. A little hint: “Communism was just a red herring.”